Blue Crush (2002)
In this Gidget revamp for the girl-power generation, a fresh-faced Kate Bosworth plays a struggling competitive surfer trying to lean in on the sport’s old boys’ club. And what’s a surfing movie without a spot of romance? Kate’s character falls for a football player (played by Matthew Davis, a.k.a. Alaric on The Vampire Diaries) while audiences swoon for the lush Hawaiian landscape.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
A raunchy ode to classic camp films, this 2001 satire has achieved cult status. See if you can spot Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper, all of whom are reuniting for a small-screen prequel (airing July 17) courtesy of that pop-culture Lazarus Netflix.
Spring Breakers (2012)
Don’t show your family this movie before your next girls’ getaway. Harmony Korine, the enfant terrible of indie cinema (remember Kids?), fashioned this masterpiece about the sweaty misadventures of vacationing co-eds. An NSFDisney Selena Gomez and pals bewitch a criminal named Alien (James Franco, in dreads) and set out on a vibrant and violent bender (think grills and neon bikinis).
Now and Then (1995)
Sisterhood. A singalong soundtrack. Devon Sawa. When we were growing up, this movie had it all. Who are we kidding? While we no longer have to watch it on VHS, we still get nostalgic for this star-studded (Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffmann, Demi Moore), ’70s-summer throwback about four preteen friends clinging to childhood innocence in fading white-picket-fence America.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
On a scorching summer day in Brooklyn melting pot Bed-Stuy, the climbing mercury threatens the shaky veneer of civility between races. Spike Lee wrote, produced, directed and starred in this terse reflection on America’s post-modern prejudices (and was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar).
Dazed and Confused (1993)
For kids, summer officially starts on the last day of school. Relive that heady feeling of liberation (but in 1976, complete with bell-bottoms, killer weed and classic rock) with this comedy courtesy of Boyhood’s Richard Linklater about an epic kegger at the Moon Tower, featuring then-newcomers Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey (plus, see if you can spot Renée Zellweger!).
Dirty Dancing (1987)
If only all our sexual awakenings were as thrilling (and toe-tapping) as Baby’s! A PG Catskills family summer vacation in 1963 takes an erotic turn when the Ivy league-bound daddy’s girl meets hunky dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze at his finest).
The Way Way Back (2013)
Think Adventureland meets The Karate Kid. In this underrated and richly emotional coming-of-age tale starring Toni Collette and Steve Carell, an ungainly and untethered 14-year-old loner finds solace from his faltering family with an unorthodox mentor—a washed-up but wise manager of a small-town water park.
Point Break (1991)
This kinetic classic stars Keanu Reeves at high levels of hotness as rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah, who infiltrates an anarchist surfer gang run by Patrick Swayze. And because everything old in Hollywood is new again, a remake starring Aussie Luke Bracey is in the works. Get some street cred with friends by watching the original, directed by badass Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), first.
The Beach (2000)
Before smartphones and social media, a film about an off-the-grid island commune in Thailand (#secretisland) didn’t seem so far-fetched. And audiences were more than willing to buy Leonardo DiCaprio, then at the height of post-Titanic stud-dom, as an American backpacker who thinks he’s discovered utopia, only to find that paradise is lost. Tilda Swinton is amazing, of course, as the island’s chief, Sal, who will do whatever it takes to keep paradise private.