The best movies for summer vibes

Something Borrowed

Summer is on its way! I am an absolute fiend for summer. It is by far my favourite season. I love being outside, swimming, eating simple, delicious food, feasting on strawberries and ice cream…summer to me is sunscreen and sweat and salt, skin that’s always a bit hot and togs that are always just a little damp, champagne and rosé and strawberries, starting the day outside and ending it outside and going inside as little as possible in between, tangled hair and swimming and beaches and barbecues and absolute freedom from the everyday. It’s amazing that that is still my sense of summer, given that I’ve been an adult for a long time now and with adulthood comes responsibility that can’t just be turned off no matter what the season…but it is, and moreover, that’s what I remember when I look back at every summer, regardless of the reality of responsibilities that I know must have been present. I think I’m just very good at remembering the ideal and dismissing the rest! And that delights me.

But summer is not here yet and spring in the upper half of the North Island of New Zealand is an absolute tease. Just enough hot, sunny, settled days to make you fill the fridge with stacks of rosé, strawberries and lemonade and move all your sandals to the front of the wardrobe…followed by rain and wind and clouds and rain and wind (there really can be an awful lot of wind). Around this time every year I reach a point where I’m determined to make summer happen, no matter the actual weather. In the past, that’s meant throwing on my summer dresses and accessorising them with a large number of goosebumps, but I’m older now and have become far less tolerant of being uncomfortably cold. And that is where the summer vibe movie comes in. It reminds me of what’s coming and gets me through this last little stretch of spring.

Here are a bunch of excellent summer vibes movies. I’ve seen and loved all of these, most of them more than once! If you have any faves that aren’t on my list I’d love to know!

The Way Way Back

After a couple of amazing summer holidays on Cape Cod when we lived in the States, and years of reading copious amounts of Jennifer Weiner and Elin Hilderbrand books, the Cape for me has peak summer vibes…and so does this film. It’s like the Instagram Valencia filter in movie form. I think the lazy summer days it depicts are meant to convey the absolute ennui of being a teenager in a place where you don’t really want to be, but for me, it just looks like a dream summer break, even with all the problems hiding in this beautiful place (there have to be problems or you don’t have a movie!) I love this movie, and not just for its aesthetic – overall it’s fun, heartwarming, and perfectly summery.

The Way Way Back

Adventureland

Summer when you have to work! There’s a certain magic in being a teenager, surrounded by other teenagers, all working your way through those long summer days, that this movie illustrates so incredibly well. I worked in an outdoors store and hire place in my late teens (yes, alongside a bunch of other teenagers), and can confirm that work has never felt less like work than it did then. Other platonic summer jobs include (I imagine) ice cream stores, water parks, and amusement parks, just like the one in Adventureland. All the better if they’re slightly down-at-heel I’d say.

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson at his Wes Anderson-finest. If we’re talking summer aesthetic this movie has it in absolute droves. I am desperate to somehow give my summers the exact visual appeal of the Scout camp in Moonrise Kingdom, without actually having to go anywhere near a Scout camp, of course. Also, I’d very much like to dress like Suzy if I thought I could get away with it (I cannot). I didn’t connect the two things up until a recent rewatch of Moonrise Kingdom, but Suzy’s outfits remind me a lot of Astrid’s outfits in The Politician, which I also loved. This is my favourite Wes Anderson film, and also the summeriest, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those two things were related.

Dirty Dancing

More summer camp vibes, but this time it’s a family camp and it’s kind of rustic and fancy all at once! Funny story about Dirty Dancing – I was about eleven when I first saw it, at my Nana’s house with my cousin, and as we watched I recall her face getting tighter and tighter until the first dance scene in the staff cabins (the first lot of dirty dancing, I suppose). “This isn’t nice dancing,” she said, sounding upset, and then she either turned it off or let us keep watching?! It has to have been the former, right? Anyway, she had nothing to worry about as I understood exactly none of this movie the first couple of times I saw it (including the abortion plot which is, you know, the hinge point of the entire movie). It did make me want to go to a family camp on a big lake! It says a lot for how visually perfect Dirty Dancing is that it could make me want to go to camp, but there you have it.

Jaws

We’re back on the Cape…Jaws being famously filmed in Martha’s Vineyard of course. Hayden and I watched Jaws and Jaws 2 happily last summer, but I refused to watch Jaws 3 because it takes place in Florida, and I don’t really believe in Florida (certainly not as a summer movie destination). Is Jaws a good film? I mean, not really, not by the standards of today. But I think it’s great and considering there’s an awful lot of deaths, it’s rather fun. And again – those summer vibes are spot on!

Wet Hot American Summer

So clearly I have a thing with summer camp. Too many American books growing up? Very possibly. It was a big disappointment for me when I took off to work at a summer camp in the States right after graduating uni, and it was far from the delightfully quaint yet highly stylish experience I had subconsciously been expecting. Wet Hot American Summer isn’t exactly stylish either, but it is hilarious. This is less a ‘dreamy summer movie’ à la The Way Way Back or Adventureland, and more, well, ridiculous. Watch if you’re in a silly mood.

Something Borrowed

This is mostly set in a city, and not just any city, but New York – and if you’ve ever been in New York in the summer you know it’s not exactly a dream, unless you’re thinking of an incredibly humid fever dream or something. However, Something Borrowed’s Hamptons scenes redeem it enough to bring it into my top summer movies! This is kind of different from most of the other movies on this list because it’s not a coming-of-age story (which seem only possible in summer, oddly enough) but is about full-grown adults (including John Krasinski, who is just my sort of full-grown adult, haha). Anyway, the scenes where they go away to the Hamptons pretty much represent a perfect summer with friends in my mind, from Darcy poking her head out of the roof of the car when they’re picking up Rachel, to the game of badminton on the beach – minus the cheating, lying, backstabbing and general bad behaviour, of course.

The Parent Trap

Summer camp! Again! I have only ever seen the original 1960s Parent Trap, with Hayley Mills, but I can confidently say I’ve seen it enough to make up for never having seen the 1998 one with Lindsay Lohan (which I will watch one day – after all it’s Nancy Meyers and I love Nancy Meyers!). This might be the movie that kicked off my summer camp obsession, come to think of it. I’d be surprised if anyone doesn’t know the plot – a mother and a father, parents to identical twin girls, split up when the girls are young and somehow decide the best way to deal with that situation is to take one child each and never speak of or see the other one again?! Until they meet up years later when attending the same summer camp and realise that their parents are monsters. Anyway, the plot is ridiculous but the film is still excellent, and gives off absolutely perfect summer vibes.

The Parent Trap

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