Dave B’s Top Ten Movies to Watch in the Summer (and why you need to see them)

One of my favorite professional movie review websites is run by Drew McWeeny (formerly Moriarty of Aintitcoolnews).  Obligatory link HERE: http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/2008-12-6-motion-captured.  Last week, he ran a few pieces on several filmmakers and writers answering the simple question “what is your favorite summer movie and why?”  Most answers were so fantastic that it got me thinking.  What ARE my favorite movies to watch in the summer?  What movies can I watch again and again to just HAVE FUN?  Why are they so special to me personally?

 So I pondered.  I contemplated.  I established a criteria.  What defines a perfect “summer movie” for me?  Well, they need to be DIVERSIONS.  Most watch movies in the summer to transport us away from our own troubles.  They needn’t have any obvious philosophical undercurrents or deep dramatic morals.  Ultimately, summer movies need to be fun and emotionally engaging with humor and energy.  Oh, and for me it’s CRUCIAL that a true summer movie have a happy ending.  However much I ADORE The Dark Knight, it’s too heady and intense to make my summer popcorn blockbuster list.  True, TDK was released in the summer and grossed higher than any other film save Titanic.  But it’s grim and dark and gritty, not droll and bright and exciting.

 So without further adieu, I present to you my 10 absolute favorite movies to watch in the summer (and why you need to see them if you haven’t already…or see them again if you have)…

 10: Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day was awesome.  As in literally awe-inspiring.  The gargantuan flying saucers are still the definitive hostile alien invasion spacecraft in my book.  Though the plot was fairly standard and some characters (Randy Quaid’s alcoholic crop-duster pilot comes to mind) lacked compelling development, it didn’t matter.  A winning combination of charismatic leads, smart dialogue, perfect chemistry amongst the cast, a victorious score by David Arnold and glossy, gorgeous direction from Roland Emmerich swirled together to create a true sci-fi summer popcorn classic.  The entire movie is absolute bucket-loads of pure unadulterated dumb fun (which is what summer movies are all about).

 9: Jurassic Park (1993)

I dug dinosaurs as a kid.  To the point that I seriously wanted to be a paleontologist up until about age ten.  I was only 6 when Jurassic Park came out, and wasn’t allowed to see it in theaters.  BUT, JP was still the first PG-13 movie I ever saw.  I remember when my dad brought home the pink new release VHS case.  It was family pizza and a movie night, and I was completely blown away by what I saw.  Even now, those dino-effects have remained the CGI dinosaurs to beat.  Plot was great, acting was phenomenal, John Williams’ score was perfect and Spielberg had another absolute blockbuster on his hands.  JP still stands as one of the smartest, most suspenseful, funniest and scariest summer movies to date.  It’s also one of the most re-watchable movies I’ve seen.

 8: Wall-E (2008)

Of all the Pixar animated movies, Wall-E deserves to be on this list.  It’s entertaining, fun, tear-jerking, heart-wrenching, hilarious, romantic and absolutely wonderful.  Only sheer filmmaking genius could have achieved the sublime beauty of the film’s near-silent first third.  The animation is incomparable.  Thomas Newman’s score ranges from subtle to enthusiastically exciting.  And the story is perhaps the most meaningful and genuine of any film on this list.

 7: Star Trek (2009)

Read my full review to learn why I loved this movie in general.  My reasoning for its summer flick perfection is slightly different.  Star Trek is a unique spin on the hero’s journey.  The hero himself is not a naive orphan but a true rebel without a cause.  Over the course of the film, he discovers the key to greatness is not simply within himself, but in the relationships between a remarkable group of individuals destined to roam the cosmos together.  For this reason – the sheer emphasis on camaraderie, friends and good times – Star Trek deserves to be amongst the greatest movies to watch in the summer.

 6: The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Unfairly overlooked and neglected, The Mask of Zorro is a true swashbucklingly fun and finger-smackingly good movie.  Combining a pretty darn predictable (yet highly enjoyable) plot with extremely charismatic actors (SEE: YOUNG CATHERINE ZETA-JONES), multitudinous stunt-filled high jinks, the smoothest swordsman and Anthony Hopkins can only lead to a 100% fun time.  James Horner’s score is sweeping and romantic.  And the Zorro costume, as always, is possibly the best masked vigilante outfit ever invented.  I will provide a disclaimer, however: WATCHING The Mask of Zorro MAY CAUSE THE INSATIABLE URGE TO DRESS IN A CAPE AND ATTEMPT TO SWORDFIGHT ANYTHING THAT MOVES.  You have been warned.

 5: Ghostbusters (1984)

How could I not go here?  Ghostbusters is an action comedy in its purest sense.  The originality of its premise has been imitated by many and NEVER surpassed.  Though the effects are fairly dated, the extraordinary acting by a truly top-notch cast in their prime is something to savor.  Of every movie I’ve seen, I think I quote Ghostbusters the most.  There is not a single dull moment, and it has the ability to be appreciated by both youngsters and adults alike.  Impeccably cast, directed, acted, scored, and delivered in every technical aspect, Ghostbusters stands against the tests of time as one of cinema’s most entertaining achievements.  We all know who you’re gonna call.

 4: Hook (1991)

I know, I know, I know.  Hook was released in December, so it’s not technically a “summer movie.”  Please bear with me though.  Obvious holiday season references aside (they take up the first 20 minutes of the movie), once Peter gets to Neverland things are entirely SUMMER-y.  Hook is a swashbuckling, creative, wonderfully acted movie about accessing one’s inner child and defeating the embodiment of sinister – Captain James Hook.  To this day, no movie in existence makes me remember what it was like to be a kid better than Hook.  This is an extremely special achievement, which is why Hook deservingly resides at number 4.

 3: Tie: Return of the Jedi (1983)/Spider-Man 2 (2004)

We have a tie here.  I hate ties, but sometimes they’re unavoidable.  Both of these movies are sequels.  Both are slopping, epic droves of fun.  Yet what, you may ask, made me decide to place Jedi and Spidey 2 above their comparably fantastic franchise counterparts?  I’ll tell you.  Jedi is undeniably the most light-hearted of the original Star Wars trilogy.  It’s the happy ending of an epic, yet it deals with some of the most important themes the series plays with  – redemption, vengeance, fate, hope, courage against insurmountable odds.  Of all the Star Wars movies, Jedi is the most summer.  Spidey 2 is simply the best of the Spider-Man films (which are the most summer-y superhero flicks I can think of).  Crazy action spectacle, romantic issues, comedy, and spectacular effects make Spidey 2 a surefire winner to watch on a hot summer night.  It may have been the perfect summer movie were it not for…

 2: Men in Black (1997)

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are the best buddy cop team.  Period.  It’s just a fact of life.  Toss into the mix the fact that they’re interstellar cops protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe and, well, you’ve got yourself a sci-fi action comedy so brilliantly hilarious that it’s impossible to surpass in its genre.  A super stellar supporting cast, great gross-out effects, an awesomely jazzy Elfman score, brilliant direction and a really unique plot all congeal into some of the best moments of fun the movies have ever seen.

 1: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates.  Zombies.  Pirate zombies.  Wenches.  Swords.  Blacksmiths.  Ships.  Cannons.  Keira Knightley in the moonlight.  Johnny Depp in thick eyeliner doing a weird Keith Richards hybrid impression.  Geoffrey Rush saying ARRRRRR.  Orlando Bloom with long hair batting his doe-eyes.  This is how summer perfection is made.  I still remember being absolutely blown away by Pirates of the Caribbean the first time I saw it in theaters.  I had no idea what to expect, but the second that ship emerged from the fog I was glued to the screen gasping, laughing, grinning, cheering and having fun in its purest form.  Summer movie watching is about sitting back, relaxing, enjoying yourself and being swept away by spectacle.  When there’s an added dash of wit and intelligence, it’s even better.  Pirates has all this and more.  It’s the perfect summer movie, bar none, and I will argue this point to the bitter end.


One Response to “Dave B’s Top Ten Movies to Watch in the Summer (and why you need to see them)”

  1. Now they weren’t really zombies.. I didn’t see any brain eating.

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