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Top Five Obvious ‘80s Summer Movies to Watch this Season

I’m a sucker for seasonal viewing. The habit started early with Christmas movies being aired on television. Every year, as soon as Thanksgiving was over (and sometimes sooner), the networks would begin to play holiday fare, often sprinkling some newer selections into the mix. This is how I first saw A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, the Rankin/Bass specials, and so many more. Though we had a VCR, we didn’t own a sprawling movie collection in those early days, when VHS tapes still cost upwards of $89.95. Even when prices began to fall in the late ‘80s, we generally stuck to renting tapes or recording television programs.


In this way, the networks' habit of playing the same Christmas movies every year created a tradition of seasonal viewing. As time went on, I began to curate seasonal viewing for other holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter: they all had their own movie play list. Soon after, I thought why relegate these lists to holidays? Why not create movie lists for the seasons too?


What follows (in no particular order) is my top five obvious ‘80s summer movies to watch this season[1]. The rules for this list is simple. The movie had to be made in the ‘80s, and it had to take place during the summer. All the better if the season played some integral role in the plot, but it wasn’t necessary.

The Great Outdoors


I tasked myself with choosing only one John Candy summer movie for this list, and while Summer Rental has its moments (“What do you think of these?”), I had to go with The Great Outdoors. Both movies can be a little frustrating, what with the constant pitfalls to a perfect vacation, but we also get Dan Aykroyd in The Great Outdoors, and an overall more enjoyable movie. Though this one is never elevated to "classic" for me, it’s sometimes the first movie I think of when summer rolls around.

The Lost Boys


The Lost Boys is the other, darker side of summer. The nighttime version of the usually sunny and happy season. And yet, out of all the movies on this list, The Lost Boys feels the most like summer to me. We have the boardwalk, the ocean, the fair, and endless blazing nights. Those scenes in the comic shop never fail to ease me into a warm bath of nostalgia. Not only an obvious ‘80s summer movie, but easily my favorite ‘80s summer horror movie as well.

One Crazy Summer


I am an unapologetic fan of pretty much every movie John Cusack made in the 1980s. Though Savage Steve Holland’s other John Cusack movie (Better Off Dead) tends to garner more attention, One Crazy Summer has the same absurdist sensibility and just as many laughs. I will never not watch this movie every summer. And hey, bonus points for having the word “summer” in the title!

Stand By Me


Do I even have to explain this choice? Just watching the trailer gives me chills. Stand By Me[2] is another one of those prime examples of circular nostalgia. At the time of release, this movie would have been nostalgic for our parents, but being a movie we saw as kids, we now have a strange nostalgia for the ‘50s too. And though the action of the film doesn’t take place in the ‘80s, there’s something so keenly universal in the adventure, friendship, and loss depicted here. This is summer. This is coming-of-age. This is classic.

The 'Burbs


It’s not lost on me that Corey Feldman appears in three of my selections. Perhaps that’s why I decided to leave The Goonies (another perfectly fine addition to summer viewing) off this list. The ‘Burbs is a quintessential dark comedy that still brings the summer vibes, albeit in a very different way. You may have noticed some attention to eliciting various summer moods in this list. Different perspectives. Different atmospheres. Yet all distinctly summer. This final choice is a personal favorite because it focuses on that all too relatable boredom that can sometimes descend upon us during a vacation at home. Those moments when, despite our insistence that we just want some time to relax, our brains crave a mystery to solve.


I hope this list of movies helps to keep you from descending into boredom as the summer of 2022 approaches. Memorial Day Weekend is nearly upon us, and for most it signals the official start to summer. As the months roll on, I’ll be back with more obvious (and not so obvious) seasonal movie lists to keep your entertainment beasts fed.


Until then, I leave you with a few honorable mentions that didn't make the list for various reasons. But let’s be real. You know you’re gonna watch them.

Honorable Mentions

Came out in the '70s: Jaws and Jaws 2.

Maybe a little too obvious: National Lampoon's Vacation



 

[1] Fear not. There will be an upcoming “not-so-obvious” list as well. [2] Based on the novella The Body written my Stephen King.

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OldSchool80s
OldSchool80s
23 may 2022

All outstanding choices. One that I would add for sure is Summer Rental. I know you said you forced yourself to only have one John Candy movie, but I think both deserve to be on the list. And it's also hard not to include the original National Lampoon's Vacation (which also has John Candy in it). I can watch all 5 of your choices over and over (and actually have).

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Contestando a

Thanks! Yeah, I agree. I almost made the list a "top ten" just so I could fit them all on. Instead, I cheated and found ways to mention the movies without technically putting them on the list 😎 I still may also end up doing another couple lists with slight twists...we shall see.

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Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
23 may 2022

I can definitely get on board with this list! One Crazy Summer is a mostly forgotten classic. Like the stepbrother to the slightly more well known Better Off Dead. Both are equally enjoyable though. There are not enough films out there by Savage Steve Holland.

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Contestando a

Agreed! I love his sensibility. That absurdist, surreal style comedy is right up my alley.

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