Top 10 Summer Vacation Movies

Summer is beginning to come to a close for schoolkids. Parents are shopping for pencils and binders while the children preparing to return to the grind of another school year whine and lament the loss of another vacation. But, thanks to the magic of the movies, we can live vicariously through the summer vacations of other characters. Some of these vacations are memorable while others are horrible but all are fun times at the movies. Check out our ranking of the ten best movies set during a summer vacation and see if you agree. If not, let us know in the talk backs below.


STAND BY ME is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year and Rob Reiner's film deserves every bit of acclaim it has received. Based on a Stephen King short novel, STAND BY ME is the template for countless films and novels including the recent hit STRANGER THINGS. This is a movie about that turning point where children are forced to become adults. It is riveting and we can all relate to having gone on adventures like this when we were kids, although most of us likely didn't find a real dead body. This is the definitive summer vacation movie.


With a prequel and a sequel Netflix series, you have to admit that WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER is something special. Adults playing teens, younger and older, makes for a ridiculous comedy that sends up the tropes and cliches of every film on this list. If you attended Camp Firewood, you may not have ended up a normal human being, but that is why we like watching this batshit crazy franchise.

#3 - JAWS

The definitive summer blockbuster, JAWS literally made people afraid to go into the water. Growing up in Maryland, I would often head to the coast and go swimming on beaches that looked exactly like Amity did in this film. I am not ashamed to say that I was terrified to dip a toe in the salty water after seeing Steven Spielberg's movie and that is a testament to it's power as a film.


Released the same year as DAZED AND CONFUSED, THE SANDLOT has grown it's own massive fan following but for a very different look at childhood. THE SANDLOT embraces the love of baseball and the neighborhood kids on the verge of teenhood. Funny and relatable, this is the summer equivalent of A CHRISTMAS STORY. Smalls may be eternally killing us, but we love every minute of it.


One of my all time favorite John Candy movies, THE GREAT OUTDOORS has the big man playing the (relatively) straight man to Dan Aykroyd's bumbling brother-in-law. Whether it be the steak eating challenge or the bare-assed bear, this movie has tons of memorable moments. All together it is the funniest take on what it is like being stuck with family you don't really like during your vacation.


Before he was winning Oscars for innovating outer space and frontier filmmaking, Alfonso Cuaron was telling dramatic stories of a more intimate nature. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN is very different from any other Cuaron film and yet the filmmaker's ear for character interaction was at it's peak. Two young men take a road trip with a woman they don't know and along the way learn a lot about their own sexuality. A very provocative and unique film that encapsulates the summer road trip.


Just a few years ago, Jesse Eisenberg was playing the everyday teenager in so many coming of age movies. ADVENTURELAND rose above the pack thanks to the throwback feel of the 1987 timeframe combined with a great soundtrack and hilarious supporting cast. Usually I find Kristen Stewart grating, but she and Eisenberg have a genuine feel in this movie that makes me remember high school summer jobs.


Another certifiable classic, VACATION embodies the dreaded family road trip. There are no sexual awakenings here, unless you count the weird one Chevy Chase has. Still, you have dead bodies, police escorts, crashes, and lots of unhinged fun that only National Lampoon could provide.


The dark side of summer vacation. Thousands of kids head to camp every summer to spend time away from their families. Some stick with the approved camp activities while others engage in rites of passage like smoking, drinking, or even having sex. If this movie taught us anything, it was to stay the hell away from anything against the rules and you won't die horribly.


Richard Linklater's classic has only been around for twenty years and yet it feels as timeless as AMERICAN GRAFFITI. Seeing these teens as they begin their summer break should bring back memories for anyone who went to high school over the last three decades. I don't know how you guys started your summer, but I would be willing to bet at least a handful of you shared exactly the same events as the opening of this movie.

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