top of page

Top Five Not-So-Obvious ‘80s Summer Movies to Watch this Season

Following my list of obvious ‘80s summer movies, I thought it’d be fun to choose another five movies that, while still perfect for summer viewing, aren’t the first flicks you reach for as the weather turns hot and the ice cream truck begins to sing. I attempted to walk a pretty thin line between acceptable and potentially debatable. There may be a couple choices you feel are spot-on recommendations, and there may be a couple you question. That’s precisely the point [1].

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

I’m starting with a movie that truly does walk the line. I’d argue while Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure might take place during summer months (I’m not entirely sure it does), the real draw is the excitement of Pee-Wee departing on a road trip. In the same way the Griswold’s leave on their own summer vacation, we join Pee-Wee on his big adventure as he travels the country in search of his stolen bike. And sure, there are scenes with Santa Claus, but there are also scenes at a drive-in movie and roadside attractions. For my money, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is a perfect addition to my summer viewing list.

Sleepaway Camp

In a lot of ways, Sleepaway Camp (or any of its sequels) is a much easier sell. Though not many people think of horror movies while compiling their summer movie lists (saving these picks for the Halloween season instead), there are a slew of horror movies that take place during the summer. I could have easily chosen any number of Friday the 13th movies for this slot, but I tend to save those for the actual calendar date. Sleepaway Camp is an eccentric slasher with tons of fun moments and a classic ending that people still talk about.

Flight of the Navigator

Perhaps the movie that comes closest to being “obvious” on this list is Flight of the Navigator. This adventure, science fiction movie is about a boy who finds himself eight years in the future after being knocked unconscious. Everyone else has aged and gone on with their lives, but for David, only a day has passed. The mystery of his disappearance and time travel is discovered along with an alien space craft, which may be his only way of getting back to his own time. The movie begins and ends around a Fourth of July celebration, and there is also a clever use of fireworks for one of the plot points, making this a fun summer pick.

Big Trouble in Little China

Back to the debatable, we have Big Trouble in Little China. Whether or not the movie takes place during the summer months (it’s a bit hard to tell with all the rain and interior settings), the movie did come out in the summer of 1986. The trailer even ends with the tag line, “Jack Burton’s coming to rescue your summer.” Am I really hanging this choice on this flimsy of an argument? And by those standards, couldn’t I also argue for The Karate Kid Part II, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Labyrinth, or Short Circuit, all of which were in the theaters at the same time [2]? Well, sure…I guess. But I’m not going to. Because Big Trouble in Little China is the only “action/adventure/comedy/kung fu/ghost story/monster movie” on the list, and we need at least one of those, right?


Do the Right Thing

For my final pick, I had to go with Spike Lee’s classic, Do the Right Thing. The film takes place in Brooklyn, New York during a heatwave, and so much of the imagery here (like opening up a fire hydrant for kids to run through and cool down) reminds me of my own childhood summers. The heat depicted is both a catalyst and symbol for racial tensions, and though the film is at times funny, serious issues are tackled. Some might find this pick controversial, but I contend no summer movie list is complete without Do the Right Thing.

Is this a definitive list? Not a chance. I'm already thinking about other movies I'd like to add, and taste is subjective. But I do think this is a great list to add to my last, giving you ten films to start your summer off right.

We do have a few months though, so you never know when I might come back with another top five. Until then, enjoy!


[1] Like before, I set rules for myself. There had to be some connection, no matter how tenuous, to summer. And secondly, I attempted to provide some variety of genre throughout the list.


Recent Posts

See All


May 25, 2022

Great list, though I don't believe I have ever watched Sleepaway Camp. Trying to think of one to add to the list and the first one that came to mind was Weekend at Bernie's.

Replying to

Thanks! Yeah, that's a B-horror movie, and will not be everyone's cup of tea. I was considering Weekend at Bernie's, but as sad as it sounds, I'm not a big fan of that one. I watch it every few years thinking maybe I'll come around.

bottom of page