12 movies set during summer that give us a warm glow

It's the start of May, and ordinarily, that would have us anticipating the onset of the summer season.

Of course, in this instance, we're still under pandemic conditions, so inject a bit of summer warmth into your life with our Cineworld blog list of classic films set during the summertime.

1. Jaws (1975)

Yes, Steven Spielberg's pioneering creature feature plays on the fear of being devoured by a giant shark. But it's also a movie that champions the sheer joy of the summer season, as a host of eager tourists arrive on the stricken community of Amity Island to crowd the beaches.

Of course, in one of the film's many splashes of darkly morbid humour, they have no idea they're potentially being set up as appetisers, something that John Williams' ironically jaunty (and Oscar-winning) score makes clear. By reflecting on the very essence of summer, Jaws helped define the very concept of the summer blockbuster movie, paving the way for the later likes of Star Wars.

2. Big Wednesday (1978)

Co-written and directed by John Milius (later of Conan the Barbarian fame), Big Wednesday is a sun-streaked, wave-crashing ode to summer adolescence. The film begins in summer 1962, and traces several years in the lives of a group of California friends, whose differences dissolve away when they engage in their love of surfing.

The movie, aided by a robust and beautiful Basil Poledouris score, invites us to feel the sun on our shoulders and taste the saltwater. The movie touches on a host of complex issues afflicting each of the main characters, including the spectre of the Vietnam War. But most of all, it's a celebration of how good it feels to get out and surf during the summer months.

3. Grease (1978)

Forget that tired old megamix that's always rolled out during boozy club nights. The original Grease still has the moves and the style to put most modern musicals to shame. And it's a testament to those long, drowsy summers, something that becomes abundantly clear in the exuberant 'Summer Nights', which contrasts the romantic perspectives of high school students Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John).

Of course, the relationship recounted in the song was ended when Sandy returned to Australia with her family. This sets up the memorable endgame when Sandy returns, vamped up and newly confident, to reclaim Danny's heart in the toe-tapping 'You're the One That I Want'.

4. Stand By Me (1986)

Stephen King's novella 'The Body' is an atypically measured and moving story of friendship, devoid of his usual scare tactics. The story arrived on the big screen, intact and breathlessly brilliant, in the form of Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner at the peak of his powers.

As per the novel, the movie takes place in the dog days of late summer, as four boys set out along the railroad tracks to find a dead body. Of course, the journey is more important than the destination, and the baking sunshine has a tendency to draw revelations, both good and bad, out into the open. River Phoenix, in particular, delivers a revelatory performance as the outwardly confident, but inwardly torn, Chris.

5. Dirty Dancing (1987)

The late Patrick Swayze makes a formidable duo with Jennifer Grey in this blockbusting romantic drama, one that prompted bouts of musical air-lifting the world over.

You might forget that Dirty Dancing is set during the summer of 1963, established as one of those 'it was never the same after this moment' stories. Grey's character Frances 'Baby' Houseman falls head over heels for local dance instructor Johnny (Swayze). Their resulting chemistry, coupled with the Oscar-winning theme song 'Time of my Life', spawned a host of imitators and stage reproductions. But nothing ever comes close to the original.

6. Dazed and Confused (1993)

The end of high school is a theme to which many filmmakers have returned. The promise of a long hot summer stretching out after weeks of intense exams – it's an inherently nostalgic and universally appealing premise.

However, few have executed it with director Richard Linklater's panache. The filmmaker, who would later go on to score an Oscar-winning hit with Boyhood, drifts in and out of the lives of a group of Texas school students. There's no real storyline to speak off – just an authentically observed slice of life that takes in the various high school cliques, prior to everyone breaking off for the summer. In an early role, Matthew McConaughey is a highlight as stoner David.

7. Adventureland (2009)

Amusement parks and summer go together like bacon and eggs. The hugely enjoyable Adventureland combines the conceit of the summer theme park job with a retro 1980s setting, meaning it scores highly on the nostalgia front.

It also has a charming central duo in the form of Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, who meet and bond at the eponymous Adventureland. While the park itself is a dilapidated shell of its former self, our two central characters, he neurotic, she confident, hit it off to delightful effect. Of course, there are many obstacles to this summer romance continuing, and we find ourselves rooting for them right up to the final scene.


8. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Two pre-adolescent tearaways send their island community into uproar in Wes Anderson's perfectly pitched drama. It begins during the hazy summer of 1964, in which our two lovestruck heroes first meet. Several months later, they initiate their plan to run away together, which sets in motion a mass pursuit by parents and Scout masters alike.

Anderson's usual approach of dividing the tale into chapters gives the film a magical, fairy tale sheen. There are also several fine performances from actors playing against type, including a sensitive and wonderful Bruce Willis as a lonely police captain.

9. The Way, Way Back (2013)

Like Adventureland before it, The Way, Way Back uses an amusement park as its central agent for redemption and awakening. In this movie, however, it's a water slide park, and few things scream summer more than that.

Likeable Liam James plays Duncan, a teen who's been plunged into melancholy during his latest, endless summer break. His mother (Toni Colette) has taken up with a jerk of a new boyfriend (a surprisingly convincing Steve Carell) – and the only way out of the hell is a job helping out at Water Wizz. Duncan's steady growth to self-awareness, in particular his relationship with park manager Owen (Sam Rockwell), results in a powerful emotional kick, one of those rare movies where we feel like we've engaged with real people.

10. The Kings of Summer (2013)

Who hasn't harboured a fantasy about running off into the woods to live a self-contained existence in a treehouse? Just us, then? Well, it's the central thrust of atmospheric drama The Kings of Summer, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who would later go on to direct Kong: Skull Island.

The movie is bathed in that groggy, punchdrunk sense of warmth brought on by the summer months. Love, Simon's Nick Robinson is one of a group of teens, all of whom slowly realise that their self-made utopia isn't enough to shield them from the adult world. The film's authentic sense of time and place makes it a superior coming-of-age drama.

11. Frozen (2013)

Disney's Frozen, a summer movie? Well, yes, if you think about it. Consider the evidence: the movie is about a quest to restore the kingdom of Arendelle to a lush spring/summer state, after Elsa's (Idina Menzel) powers curse it to eternal winter.

More specifically, it has a comic relief snowman character who revels in the thought of summer, without realising what heat will do to him. We are, of course, talking about the delightful Olaf (Josh Gad), whose desire to frolic on the beach gets its own musical number. Like we said, it's a summer movie in disguise.

12. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

This haunting, Oscar-winning adaptation of Andre Aciman's book frames a life-changing romance around one scorchingly hot Italian summer in 1983. Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer stun as Elio and Oliver, two men who forge a deep spiritual and physical connection that, tragically, can only last as long as the season holds out.

Luca Guadagnino's sensual, tactile direction is composed of long, steady takes, which give that distinct impression of summer days that appear to stretch on forever. That Elio and Oliver must eventually part ways is a heartwrenching but honest admission that all things must end. But don't be too downhearted: a sequel is said to be in the works, based on Aciman's follow-up novel, Find Me.

What are your favourite movies set during the summertime? Let us know @Cineworld.