There are two ways you can go with summer movies: either lean in and match the sunny vibes or crank down the AC and cool down in a snowy setting. For every hot summer flick, there is a chilly antidote, and if you’ve worn all your summer outfits to death, this article spontaneously morphed into an ode to cinematic summer style, so you can make a shopping list and a viewing queue at the same time.
“Jaws” is the greatest summer movie ever and even though it’s really scary and can easily turn you off of getting in the water, it’s required and irresistible summer viewing. Plus Chief Brody’s wife sports so many great summer outfits; she’s a master class in summer scarf wearing, and at one point pairs an oversized cardigan with a classic, black one-piece swimsuit, and it’s iconic. I have to watch “Jaws” every summer and then just accept that I will feel scared to put my feet down in the Gulf the entire season.
For the opposite of a summer vacation, scare yourself with “The Shining.” Who hasn’t fantasized about freezing to death like Jack Nicholson in the maze a couple of times in the middle of Alabama July? Holed up in a snowbound summer resort in the dead of winter, sure, Nicholson’s character turns into a homicidal maniac eventually, but on the other hand, they have so much square footage to enjoy until that point. When the kids are piled up in your hot little house, the empty Overlook Hotel starts to seem less haunted and more appealing, spacious and snowy.
For a winsome summer vibe that, like “Jaws,” boasts major outfit inspo, you cannot beat “Moonrise Kingdom.” A perfect two-story summer house on an island, packed with shelves of books and records to enjoy while gazing from your window and thinking about your first love is the ideal vacation location. Bill Murray’s madras pants scream “summer” and many other things, and stubborn, lovelorn Suzy is another Wes Anderson muse in retro mini-dresses with collars.
Take the themes of adult infidelities and complications encroaching on the lives of coming-of-age children, move this action to the winter, and you have Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” a movie that also has all the 1970s style you could ever hope for. Bell bottoms are tossed aside across multiple generations in the heat of the moment, and there’s something for everyone, from Sigourney Weaver’s smoldering evening wear to Christina Ricci’s updated Red Riding Hood cape. The ensemble cast starts off telling a story about crumbling family values in the suburbs that slowly ratchets up the tension until genuine tragedy strikes; this would be an icy antidote to all this sun and skin.
“The Way, Way Back” is a new classic of summer vacation movies, and hits all the pop culture nostalgia notes, much in the same way that “Stranger Things” does, but with only human monsters. The way, way back of the title refers to that bygone station wagon space of old, the beloved rearmost compartment that faces backward.
Similarly, this sweet and funny movie gives adults the chance to reminisce about those long ago summer vacations, which were not and still aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. There must be something about summer that lends itself to reinvention, and therefore, the perfect setting for a coming-of-age film. A crappy job at a water park helps teenage Duncan grow up and come to terms with aspects of his mother’s behavior. This is one of the most reliably delightful movies from the past decade, and you are probably already wearing a hat and/or button-down, short-sleeved shirt like Sam Rockwell’s character, the quintessential loveable loser, a guy too cool and smart for his own good and his own job.
And finally, “Fargo” the Coen brothers’ classic, might give you the perspective you need to endure the next few weeks (months!) of extreme Alabama heat. Because trudging through the snow, heavily pregnant as Frances McDormand’s unforgettable, indefatigable character Marge the policewoman, does, might just be more uncomfortable. If you haven’t seen this in a while, it does not get old, and it teaches us the valuable lesson that if there is one thing worse than yellow snow, it’s red snow.
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