It’s June 1, which means it’s the official start to Hurricane Season and the unofficial start to the summer season. While Hollywood seems to get a kick out of starting summer movie madness earlier each year (and other seasons, too … Christmas movies, in October? Really?) we decided to look into the hallowed halls of pop culture past and share our ten favorite summer movie memories. Some are classics for good reasons, some are just classically bad, some just hit the right note for reasons not tethered to box office receipts. So, without further delay, enjoy this look at our …
Top Ten Summer Movie Memories
10. Jaws: The Revenge (July 1987)
We’ll start this review off with a bang by looking at, quite possibly, one of the worst sequels ever made. As we’ll see later, near cinematic perfection collapsed like a popped balloon after the original movie to land squarely in Hideousville with Jaws: The Revenge. The only original player left (after a two-sequel hiatus) is Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody. After the aggressively indestructible shark polishes off her husband (via heart attack) and younger son (yanked off a police boat and gobbled up as nearby islanders sing Christmas carols), Ellen decides her best bet is to fly to a shark-resistant place (the Bahamas) and visit her surviving son who works in a shark-resistant profession (marine biology). This son (played by Lance Guest of better The Last Starfighter fame) is paid to swim to the seafloor and look for shells with Mario van Peebles (whose very fake Jamaican-esque accent is mercifully hidden most of the film by being underwater). An oddly-placed Michael Caine plays rakish puddle-jumper pilot Hoagie. Featuring special effects that make Gumby cartoons look elegant and fluid, we learn that she shark (1) has a personal grudge against the Brody family, (2) understands English, (3) can swim to the Caribbean faster than a jet can fly there, (4) can stand on its tail and pretty much walk across water and (5) can roar like a lion without the inconvenience of vocal cords.
9. Red Dawn (August 1984)
Famous for its early-career gathering of Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future), Jennifer Grey (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and a pre-implosion Charlie Sheen, Red Dawn made pretty much every kid trapped in a boring high school class look at the window and wonder “would I get out of detention if Soviet paratroopers started dropping on the football field?” You can also now raise a fist and shout “wolverines!” after snagging the Boardwalk square playing Monopoly and be totally cool, to those that know.
8. Friday the 13th (May 1980)
The granddaddy of the slasher flick genre, Friday the 13th helped put spooky into the woods years before The Blair Witch Project. Here we learn many of the basic “don’t do these things and you might not get killed” rules of the game. We also meet a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon who breaks a few of those rules and pays the price. Famous for its “ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha” creepy sound and gotchya ending, Friday the 13th also launched a series of less-than-machete-worthy sequels.
7. Terminator 2 (July 1991)
A special effects bonanza for its time, Terminator 2 gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime and eternally-hip catchphrases like “Ah’ll be bach” and “Hasta la vista, baby.” When geared with a perfectly-placed rock-n-roll apocalypse of a song (Guns n’ Roses’ You Could Be Mine) and a relentless, vicious and liquid-metal villain, T2 packed a terrific summer punch. Note: the scene when the (original) Terminator self-destructs by lowering itself into molten steel is an officially sanctioned “Guy Cry Movie Moment.”
6. Meatballs (June 1979)
What’s not to love? No Friday the 13th yet to cool us off to the whole idea of summer camps, plus a pre-Caddyshack Bill Murray teasing us on just how funny he was about to get in the 80s. Rich Kids vs. Poor Kids camp side-plot and Murray chanting “It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter” make this a fun movie any month of the year. Be sure to hang on till the credits end to see what happens to kind but clueless camp director Morty Melnick (a name that practically begs pranking).
5. The Goonies (June 1985)
It’s the familiar “poor kids vs. the rich establishment” theme with a great set of character twists. The Goonies gives us pre-hobbit (and son of John “Gomez Addams” Astin and Patty Duke) Sean Astin, Corey Feldman and Josh Brolin teaming up to find the lost treasure of local pirate legend One-Eyed Willy. This movie made pretty much every kid over the age of five (even those in West Texas 600 miles away from the nearest ocean) search their backyard for old pirate treasure maps and buried treasure.
4. Independence Day (July 1996)
Independence Day, or ID4 as it later became known, witnessed an important convergence in movie history: outstanding computer-driven (CGI) special effects, megastar name recognition (Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum), large American cities destroyed in spectacular ways (see Godzilla, Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact) and next-to-no attention paid to plot. Which, if that’s what you like and you pay $8 to see it with that expectation, is cool. Note for future: if aliens invade earth and bring nuke-resistant shielding, they probably forgot to load anti-virus software on the mothership.
3. Star Wars (May 1977)
Not much can be added here. Groundbreaking in plot, special effects, cultural impact and, honestly, uber-coolness, Star Wars remains an iconic movie experience period, let alone for the summer season. The only tricky part is trying to explain the plot and characters chronologically to young kids that love to watch it but haven’t yet nailed-down the timing (Anakin is Darth Vader? When? Why is Obi Wan Kenobi so old now? Will the Rancor eat Jar Jar Binks, too? Please?)
2. Jurassic Park (June 1993)
For those that read the Michael Crichton book (and those that did not), the build-up and suspense for Jurassic Park was intense. Mind-blowing special effects, heart-stopping action sequences and seeing a lawyer chomped T-Rex style off the toilet all helped make this a summer movie experience for the ages. Essentially the “mad scientist plays God and ends up the prey of his own creations, twist” Jurassic Park also gave us the ridiculously cool Samuel L. Jackson warming up for another superb “the monster ate me” role in Deep Blue Sea.
1. Jaws (June 1975)
Action. Suspense. Horror. Humor. Terror. Plot and character. Jaws is pretty much movie perfection and permanently crashed the summer movie (and beach) season over thirty years ago. Fueled more by what you couldn’t see (as opposed to how much gore filmmakers can make you see), Jaws played on a very real, very deep and very universal human fear: I don’t want to be eaten by fish. Driven by the great Peter Benchley novel, Jaws brought together a young Steven Spielberg, a young Richard Dreyfuss and perhaps the coolest-ever “powder blue with little pink anchors” sportscoat work by the town mayor. An impeccable score by John Williams, terrific Captain Ahab-esque mania by Robert Shaw and the best one-liner in movie history (“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”), Jaws is our top summer movie memory.