UrbanMatter’s Summer Movie Watch List

Everyone is familiar with the concept of summer blockbusters; a big budget spectacle film filled with A list actors designed to make money for their respective studios. What about films set during the summer and accomplish the same objective? Instead of clamoring to see the latest Marvel release, take a peek at this list of summer movies to beat the heat.


This is both the ultimate summer blockbuster and summer movie as it singlehandedly created a reason for studios to release films during the summer months. Every aspect of the film has become iconic; the isolated setting, John Williams’ score, the lack of appearances from the mechanical shark, Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking camera work and career defining performances from each actor. It is also set during the Fourth of July weekend as a gigantic shark terrorizes a beach community that depends on tourist dollars. Jaws perfectly encapsulates that small town feeling where everyone knows each other and everyone likes to play a role in small town politics. The terror of the shark attacks perfectly juxtaposes the desire to celebrate the most popular holiday of the summer.

The Way, Way Back

Summer and coming-of-age stories seem to go hand in hand. The Way, Way Back, written and directed by the duo of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, focuses on Duncan, a 14-year-old boy who goes to a Cape Cod beach house with his mother, her douchey boyfriend and his bratty daughter. Duncan routinely finds himself the target of the boyfriend’s criticisms so he finds solace in the local town and its waterpark where Duncan manages to land a job and finds himself under the wing of Sam Rockwell’s character, Owen. Thanks to Owen, Duncan learns that sometimes it is better to go your own way and finds a way to stand up to the cheating boyfriend while helping his mother move on as well. It is a heartwarming story about growing up and finding purpose that features a great cast of Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Rob Cordry and Amanda Peet.

The Sandlot

You didn’t really think a summer movie list wouldn’t include a baseball move, right? This entry was a difficult one as there are many baseball movies to choose from but baseball is a long season starting in April and not ending until November with the World Series but The Sandlot centers on a group of boys on their summer break while they spend every free minute available at a dusty rundown baseball field. Everyone who grew up with a group of neighborhood friends can instantly relate to this film thanks to the inclusion of local legends, trips to the swimming pool, cookouts, fireworks, amusement parks and of course, baseball. Most baseball fans became fans in their childhood and it is often tied to some core memory or seeing something truly remarkable. It is a clever inventive story and features some of the funniest quotes of any 90’s film.

Dirty Dancing

The movie that made everyone fall in love with Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing has enjoyed a beloved run that few films manage to enjoy. Set in the summer of 1963 as a wealthy family travel to a resort in the Catskills, a young woman falls in love with a dance instructor as she navigates class issues and growing up in a period of massive social upheaval. Lead actress Jennifer Grey and Swayze share an incredible chemistry thanks to their familiarity after previously starring in Red Dawn. The soundtrack of Dirty Dancing is one of the best ever assembled and held the number one position on the charts for over 4 months and has sold more than 14 million copies but Dirty Dancing’s impact has gone beyond the big screen and record sales. The famous lift scene has been parodied in countless shows and the resort where shooting took place hosts themed weekends for the film and even houses a tribute to Swayze who tragically passed away in 2009.


Adulthood can be tricky to navigate especially when you are a college graduate with no job prospects. That is the premise of Adventureland as Jesse Eisenberg plays a young man named James who is forced to take a job at a local amusement park during the summer before he heads to New York to attend Columbia University. It features all sort of hijinks exclusive to young people with disposable income and time to kill; recreational drug use, near stabbings over rigged carnival games, love triangles, middle aged men trying to hold onto their youth and drunk driving. James has to navigate all of this as he tries to realize his aspirations and win the love of Kristen Stewart.

Dazed and Confused

Not only does this film have the best cast on this list but also includes the best soundtrack with classics from Foghat, ZZ Top, Sweet, KISS, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper. Set in Austin, TX on the last day of school in 1976, the film features several concurrent storylines that converge at a giant keg party for the outgoing seniors and anyone interested in having a good time. Writer/director Richard Linklater has made many brilliant films following Dazed and Confused but none have enjoyed the same cult following as this film. It is routinely listed as one of the best high school films of all time and one of the best cult classics ever made. Even Quentin Tarantino named this one of his favorite films of all time and no role has been tied to Matthew McConaughey more than that of Wooderson and his line of “alright, alright, alright” and remains his most beloved role. 

Featured Image Credit: Fox

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