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8 Hot Summer Movie Classics to Watch in 2024

Why I never grow tired of these flicks.

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summer movies, collage of scenes from classic movies to watch this summer
Eleanor Shakespeare
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I admit it. Despite all the sunshine and flowers and chirpy birds, there are summer days when I’m not enthused about going outside. I feel guilty when this happens because warm weather makes me feel obligated to go out. The truth is, I just might prefer to stay home and watch movies.

So, I compromise. I curl up on my sofa, bust out the popcorn and rewatch some of these all-time classics, movies that bring summer indoors to me.

The Parent Trap, 1961, (Disney+, Prime, Apple)

Raise your hand if you wanted to be an identical twin. Or better yet — have Hayley Mills as your twin. Two Hayleys portray the girls separated at birth, one raised in Boston and one raised in California. They meet at a summer camp and switch places in a scheme to reunite their divorced parents. The big complication — uh oh! — a gold-digger is moving in on their father (Brian Keith). There’s a 1998 version with the twins played by Lindsay Lohan, but I’m on Team Hayley. Either way — the twins save the day!

Beach Party, 1963, (Tubi, Prime, Pluto)

Who can resist a plot about an anthropologist conducting a study of wild teenage behavior (surfers! motorcyclists! young people dancing!) all while we get to watch Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello fall in love. This sexy summer movie was so popular that seven sequels followed, including Muscle Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo. And just try not to smile when even Dwayne Hickman (Dobie Gillis) and Fabian show up, too.

The Graduate, 1967, (Prime, Apple, YouTube)

How many images from this movie are still in your head? A bored Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) drifting in his parents’ swimming pool … Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) seductively crossing her legs at the hotel bar … Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross) hightailing it out of the church on Elaine’s wedding day. How many of the dialogue lines do you remember? The future is plastics! ... Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you? ... Oh no, Mrs. Robinson. I think you’re the most attractive of all my parents’ friends. Anne Bancroft was the first great Cougar. And did I mention those epic Simon and Garfunkel songs? I wish I’d aged as well as this movie.

Woodstock, 1970, (Roku, Prime, Apple)

The movie came out in 1970 but the concert took place Aug. 15 to 18 in 1969. If anyone wants to confirm that fact, ask my husband Randy who will gladly show you his tickets. What with all the rain and mud and some half-a-million hippies nobody expected to show up, tickets were never collected. Randy insists he spotted himself in this seminal documentary, but I was too busy watching performances by Jimi Hendrix, Sha-Na-Na, Jefferson Airplane and a blues-belting Janis Joplin. The music alone will keep you rocking. And what joy there is in all that peace and love.

Summer of '42, 1971  (Prime, Apple, YouTube)

You know a movie takes place during World War II when boys are named Hermie, Oscy and Benjie — and their “love interest” is named Dorothy, (Jennifer O’Neill). a woman whose husband has just gone off to fight the good fight. Meanwhile, Hermie and his buddies, all 15 years old, are intensely interested in getting rid of their burdensome virginity.

Oscy and Benjie hit on girls their own age while Hermie becomes Dorothy’s friend. He helps with the manly chores her husband did pre-war. There are ocean sunsets, a haunting music score, a tear-worthy tragedy, and yes, a tender scene fulfilling every teen boy’s fantasy of sex with an older, experienced woman, especially one who looks like Jennifer O’Neill.

American Graffiti, 1973 (Tubi, Prime, Apple)

Next year the Oscars will initiate an award for best casting. Too bad that category didn’t exist when American Graffiti introduced Ron Howard, Mackenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss and Cindy Williams. It’s the end of summer, 1962, with a night of eating burgers at Mel’s Diner, cruising the main strip in town and listening to Wolfman Jack deejaying on the radio.

Dreyfus is ambivalent about accepting a $2,000 scholarship from the Moose Lodge and leaving home, until a mysterious blonde drives by in a white Thunderbird. Then it’s goodbye, California. Hello, Suzanne Somers.

Dirty Dancing, 1987, (Prime, Hulu, YouTube)

With Patrick Swayze at a Catskills resort playing dance instructor Johnny Castle (now that’s the name of a sexy bad boy), we’re off to a great start.

Add in darling Jennifer Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman, who does a big dance number where Patrick spins her around like an airplane. All the hot and heavy dancing upsets Jennifer’s father, (played by Jerry Orbach), who five years later goes on to star as Lenny in Law & Order — not somebody you'd want to mess with.

But Patrick in his tight jeans pulls Jennifer away from her family’s table and announces: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

All together now: Sighhhhh.

Mamma Mia!, 2008, (Netflix, Prime, Apple)

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) invites her three potential fathers to her wedding, forgetting to mention that little fact to her mother, played by Meryl Streep. Mom apparently slept with three men the same week and has no idea which one impregnated her. It’s a tad difficult to imagine the esteemed Ms. Streep in such a pickle, but, hey, it’s set on a Greek island, ABBA music is playing everywhere and everyone is dancing and singing.

I won’t ruin the ending by telling you which of the three Meryl lovers turns out to be the real Father of the Bride … oh, wait! Nobody cares! We’re all too busy dancing and singing!

The best part about a great summer movie? It can make me feel like I’m right smack back in the summers of my youth — even if I’m happily lying on my sofa on the loveliest of days. And, no sunblock is required.

Thank you, Annette. Thank you, Frankie. Thank you, Patrick.

What's YOUR favorite movie from the list above? Let us know in the comments below.
 

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