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Posted at 2:40 PM ET, 06/21/2010

Five perfect movies to watch on the first day of summer

By Jen Chaney

It's the first day of summer, even if it seems like the season of extreme humidity got underway, oh, back when "Iron Man 2" came out. (Remember all that hype and hope about how massive this summer movie season was going to be? Man, those were the days.)

In honor of the summer solstice -- the official kick-off to two months filled with complaints about the heat registered by people who spend their days inside air-conditioned offices --here are five films that are perfect for a first-day-of-summer movie marathon. Feel free to watch them on your computers while sitting inside those air-conditioned offices. Your boss won't notice -- he's totally on vacation.

"Dazed and Confused"

I rarely need an excuse to watch a movie -- set on the last day of school in a Texas town circa 1976 -- that I have been quoting incessantly since the mid-1990s. ("I want to dance!") But if I needed an excuse ("All right, all right, all right!"), the first day of summer ("Hey ... I know you. We had geography together.") would be a pretty darn good one. ("Air raid!")


The movie that gave birth to the summer blockbuster -- and, coincidentally, celebrated its 35th anniversary yesterday -- is still a brilliant piece of smart, tense popcorn fare. Thanks to what "Jaws" did for the movie industry, and for our fear of what could be lurking in the ocean beneath our happily kicking feet, no summer has ever been the same since.


From its "Are You Ready for the Summer?" theme song to its cabin high jinx involving Spaz to Bill Murray's virtuoso delivery of the "It just doesn't matter" speech, this 1979 comedy favorite remains the summer camp movie that every other summer camp movie aspires to be.

"Riding Giants"

Even those who have never placed a pinky toe on a surfboard will find immense, summery pleasures in this documentary, made by skateboarding legend Stacy Peralta, about the history and artistry behind the catch of a tasty wave.

"Do the Right Thing"

Spike Lee's milestone film about tensions that boil over in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood remains one of the most memorable cinematic conversation-starters about race, and one of filmdom's most accurately sweaty portraits of an unbearably sticky summer day. If you don't have the AC on, watching this will immediately create a desire to crank it up.

By Jen Chaney  | June 21, 2010; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  | Tags:  Movies, Summer Movies  
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"Endless Summer"?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 21, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"American Graffiti"!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 21, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Great Top 5 there. I'd have to add:

Star Wars (ep. IV, okay?)
Raiders of the Lost Ark

I viewed them both while vacationing at the beach, two separate summers, with my Dad. Totally summery to moi.

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | June 21, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

National Lampoon's Vacation
One Crazy Summer

Posted by: MStreet1 | June 21, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Jen, just a word of advice, when you tell people there's a party at the moon tower, you need to specify which one.

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | June 21, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Well, I did see Jaws. It was one of the more tolerable Speilberg movies. But I never had any interest in the others and still don't.

Posted by: kabuki3 | June 21, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

An oldie but goodie is "Picnic" based on William Inge's 1953 Pulitzer-Prize winning play about a drifter, played by a too-old-but-nonetheless-hot, William Holden, who comes between the "good girl" played by gorgeous Kim Novak and her stuffy fiance only to have Rosalind Russell tear off his shirt in a frenzy of drunken lust. It was one the biggest hits of the 50s.

As was "Long Hot Summer" adapted from Faulkner's stories, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They fell in love on screen and coincidentally in real life. At the end of the filming, they got married.

Posted by: jhbyer | June 22, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

1979's "Breaking Away" follows the summer trials and triumphs of a group of American teens, who've just finished high school and are faced with having to decide what to do with the rest of their lives. Funny, moving, inspiring, etc.

Posted by: jhbyer | June 22, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

I second Breaking Away.

And add


Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 22, 2010 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Late to the party, but I just cannot believe nobody's mentioned this:

Dirty Dancing

Posted by: northgs | June 22, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Love North Shore for the start of summer. Very underrated movie. Laird Hamilton is awesome as the jerk surfer.

Posted by: halexta1 | June 22, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

"Do the Right Thing"?
yeah, do the right thing and cosign this poor movie to the bin of out-dated,self pitying, and boring movies

Posted by: newagent99 | June 22, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Bill Murray (again), what about "What About Bob?"?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 22, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

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