16 essential films about summer

A scene from 1975's "Jaws." Universal Pictures

Time to hit the beach, open the grill and embark on some road trips, because summer is almost here. But it's also time to catch up on the films that remind us why we love summer in the first place.

These 16 movies capture the nostalgia of summer vacation, complete with coming-of-age stories, patriotic undertones and classic soundtracks. So fill your cooler, set up your lawn chair, let the film projector light up your backyard and enjoy.

16. "The Parent Trap" (1998)

Starting this countdown in style is the Disney classic, "Parent Trap." When Lindsay Lohan meets her long-lost identical sister at sleepaway camp, they

begin plotting to reunite their divorced parents. Kids everywhere have been creating secret handshakes, piercing each other's ears and trying to get rid of "evil" step parents ever since.

You know it's summer when: You're fencing against your identical twin at sleepaway camp.

15. "Adventureland" (2009)

It's summer 1987 -- a college grad lands a last-resort job at a local amusement park and ends up having the time of his life. "Adventureland" is for college students who don't know what they're doing with their lives, or who have been stuck with an agonizing summer job.

You know it's summer when: Jessie Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are sitting under a sky of fireworks as Crowded House's "Don't Dream it's Over" fades in, a scene that perfectly captures summer and how we wish it would last forever.

14. "Dirty Dancing" (1987)

Who can forget the timeless story of forbidden summer love between Baby and Johnny Castle in"Dirty Dancing"? There's romance, an endless supply of quotable lines, and of course, there's dancing. Don't put this classic film in a corner this summer.

You know it's summer when: Patrick Swayze sweeps you off your feet and suspends you in the air to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life."

13. "Jesus Camp" (2006)

What would a summer movie list be without this fun camp classic? "Jesus Camp" is a terrifying documentary about an evangelical children's camp and it will make you reconsider everything you believe about religion, brainwashing and your child's summer plans. Because it's never too late to enroll! It's a cult film in a completely different respect.

You know it's summer when: Your camp counselor calls Harry Potter the devil. Summer reading is tough enough as it is.

12. "Do The Right Thing" (1989)

From a single block in Bed-Stuy on the hottest day of the summer comes Spike Lee's most forceful statement on race in America, "Do The Right Thing." You'd be doing the wrong thing if you pass up on watching this movie this summer.

You know it's summer when: Your brand new Jordan's get scuffed up by your neighbor. Spoiler alert: It's a metaphor for racism.

11. "The Sandlot" (1993)

Take a coming of age story, add a gorgeous local lifeguard, a dog nicknamed "The Beast" and a baseball autographed by some lady named Babe Ruth, and you get "The Sandlot."

You know it's summer when: Your teammate tells the rival gang that they "play ball like a girl." Burn.

10. "Wet Hot American Summer" (2001)

It's the cult film about the biggest cult of all: sleepaway camp. "Wet Hot American Summer" is a hilarious sendup on '80s teen movies and one of the most underrated comedies of the last decade. If you have ever gone to camp, you'll love the film, and if you haven't, by the end you'll much better understand those who have.

You know it's summer when: You and your co-counselors agree to a 10-year camp reunion, but can't decide whether it should start at 9:00 or 9:30.

9. "The Graduate" (1967)

A recent college grad (Dustin Hoffman) moves back home and falls into an affair with his parent's family friend. The result is a classic film seasoned with parsley, sage and Simon and Garfunkel.

You know it's summer when: You're at the bottom of your swimming pool in the full scuba suit your dad brought you for your 21st birthday.

8. "The Endless Summer" (1966)

The Bruce Brown documentary about two surfers searching for the perfect wave, "The Endless Summer" is a stunning look into the lives of beachnicks, surf cults and a lost time. It's a film that movie lovers need to see and that probably every surfer has seen already.

You know it's summer when: You and your surfing buddy are walking through the airport terminal in suit and tie and a surfboard under your arm. "The Endless Summer" reminds us of a better time when everyone dressed up to fly.

7. "Dazed and Confused" (1993)

Schools out, so now what do we do? Such is the central question of "Dazed and Confused," the quintessential high school '70s nostalgia movie. It's "American Graffiti" two decades later, just with more pot, less plot and no deep, resonating life lessons: but that's sort of the point.

You know it's summer when: You and your friends are laying out on the football field, without a care in the world.

6. "Caddyshack" (1980)

The cult comedy about golf -- that's not really about golf -- starring Rodney Dangerfield at his most hilarious and Bill Murray in his first role where his downfall is caused by an adorable rodent. This time it's a gopher, not a groundhog.

You know it's summer when: A Baby Ruth thrown into your local swimming pool results in quarantine.

5. "Grease" (1978)

One fateful summer good girl Sandy and greaser Danny fall in love, and the rest is American musical history. Three decades later, it's still just as electrifying.

You know it's summer when: You sing about meeting the girl of your dreams, drinking lemonade, splashing around, and staying up till 10 o' clock. If you don't know every word to this song, it's time to reevaluate your life.

4. "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983)

The Chevy Chase masterpiece all about the Griswold's ill-fated trip to Wallyworld, "National Lampoon's Vacation" captures the incredible hardship of a cross-country family road trip. A vicious family dog, weird cousins, and dad obsessed with having a good time: the Griswolds are a national lampoon treasure.

You know it's summer when: Your terrified family takes a detour and gets stuck in the hood.

3. "American Graffiti" (1973)

It's the last day of summer 1962 when a group of small town teenagers have the night of their lives before the real world kicks in. "American Graffiti" captures the sheer nostalgia of pre-Vietnam America, a time when people stayed married, ate at drive-ins and drove some bitchin' cars. And the film was directed by George Lucas, who uncharacteristically decided not to give it three horrible sequels years later.

You know it's summer when: You're settling the score with one final drag race.

2. "Stand By Me" (1986)

In summer 1959, four boys set out to locate a missing body in the adventure of a lifetime. "Stand By Me" is a celebration of summer, of growing up and of true friendship, marking its place as one of the finest coming-of-age films of all time.

You know it's summer when: Around a campfire, we're told the story of a local fat kid, mockingly called "Lard-ass," and how he gets his sweet, nauseating revenge on the entire town.

1. "Jaws" (1975)

Nothing says summer vacation like "Jaws," Steven Spielberg's masterpiece that changed the course of horror movies, summer blockbusters and beach-going forever. "Jaws" was the highest grossing film of all time upon its release, with unforgettable quotes and a two-note John Williams score that evoked more fear than the concept of summer school. One of the best thrillers of all time and the ultimate summer movie -- it's "Jaws."

You know it's summer when: We're going to need a bigger boat. Does it get any more classic?

Tell us: What's your favorite summer classic?

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