Five Films That Will Make Your Summer Sizzle
From arthouse to camp, let the good times roll
Impossible to define or resist, summer movies are a special kind of cinematic indulgence that appeal to all of our sensations, be they silly, thrilling, or sultry.
So we’ve put together a slate of summer films that are sure to celebrate the season and keep you entertained.
Asteroid City | A Summer Spectacle
Set in the summer of 1955, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City is, according to The Film Stage, “a sultry, creamy western that feels more like a vacation.” An extraordinary group of characters—played by Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jason Schwartzman, Bryan Cranston, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Carell, Hope Davis, and Maya Hawke, among others—gather in the desert whistle stop for the Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention and, quite by accident, share a miraculous experience together. Their surreal summer reverie is enhanced by Anderson’s impeccable production design. RogerEbert.com writes, “The orange of the desert and the cloudless blue sky create the visual equivalent of eating a Creamsicle on a sunny day.” For Pioneer Press, “Funny, profound Asteroid City feels like the movie of the summer.”
Dazed and Confused | School’s Out
Calling Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused “still the best summer movie ever made,” Digital Trends was highlighting the film’s full-throttle exuberance. Set on the last day of classes at Lee High School in 1976, the film interweaves the lives of various characters as they prepare for summer. From a fun-loving quarterback (Jason London) to a sadistic cheerleader (Parker Posey) to a perennial slacker (Matthew McConaughey), everyone is out for a good time. When the film was released in 1993, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Once every decade or so, a movie captures the hormone-drenched, fashion-crazed, pop-song-driven rituals of American youth culture with such loving authenticity that it comes to seem a kind of anthem, as innocently giddy and spirited as the teenagers it’s about.”
Wet Hot American Summer | Pure Camp
Set in 1981 on the last day of Camp Firewood’s season, David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer is a hilarious spoof of both the reality and fantasy of summer camps. While the film borrows from such adolescent fare as Meatballs, Wain told Vanity Fair, “Wet Hot was much more inspired by my and Michael Showalter’s real-life camp experiences.” With a stellar group of up-and-coming actors—including Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, and Bradley Cooper—the filmmakers let the cast go wild at an abandoned summer camp in Pennsylvania. The result is inspired mayhem. Entertainment Weekly gives the film an “A” for its “loving and meticulous re-creation of the last moment before American youth culture went permanently ironic.”
Swimming Pool | Heat Wave
In François Ozon’s sultry thriller Swimming Pool, Charlotte Rampling plays a London mystery writer who borrows her publisher’s home in the south of France for a summer hiatus from her imaginative world of murder and mayhem. Instead, she finds unexpected inspiration in a mysterious young beauty (Ludivine Sagnier) whose uncertain background and seductive behavior spark the writer’s imagination, melting the line between fact and fantasy in the hot afternoon sun. For the Austin Chronicle, “Swimming Pool is as atypical a summer film as they come—no explosions, no car chases, no Arnold—but immensely more pleasing than films with all three of those summertime staples.” And like any good summer thriller, SFGate notes, it “mesmerizes long after the movie is over.”
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris | A Summer Delight
In Anthony Fabian’s Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Lesley Manville’s winning performance, according to Deadline, “shines in fashionably smart and stylish summer delight.” A charwoman in 1950s London, Mrs. Harris finds a purpose in her life when she spies a Dior couture gown one afternoon in a client’s apartment. Determined to have one for herself, she barrels past every challenge, from financial handicaps to a haughty design manager (Isabelle Huppert), to travel from England to Paris to realize her dream. Along the way, her infectious spirit convinces others, from a model (Alba Baptista) to an accountant (Lucas Bravo), to believe in her as well. Sumptuous, sweet, and stirring, the film, according to Vanity Fair, “is a nourishing, if fleeting, summer holiday that can be enjoyed for far less than the cost of couture.”