Looking for summer movies? Josie Ortega suggests baseball flicks, westerns, vacation comedies, and island adventures—for a warm-weather Family Movie Night that both adults and kids can appreciate.
Sing it with me: Summertime! And the livin’s easy . . . until I’m overrun by mosquitoes, humidity, shorts sticking to my thighs, and the whining of my children. Time for another pep talk: Deep breaths. No complaining. Devise a plan.
And when that ambitious plan falls through: STOP. Make it a Family Movie Night!
Summer historically lends itself well to a movie theater outing, especially when things get desperate. A matinee offers the perfect air-conditioned oasis in the middle of a scorching hot afternoon. This summer, however, theater options may not be so convenient. And, anyway, I like old movies better.
Draw the shades, or head down to the nice, cool basement. Let the kids help create a comfy at-home theater. If we’re lucky, it comes complete with movie theater candy and ice-cold beverages. Grab your Milk Duds, and enjoy Family Movie Night . . . or Family Movie Afternoon . . . Summer Edition!
The Sandlot. Rare is the film that captures the spirit of childhood summer like The Sandlot. May our kids run around the neighborhood and get themselves into pickles. And may they never try chewing tobacco immediately before riding the tilt-a-whirl. (And never forget: Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez. Heart-eyes emoji!)
A League of Their Own. We love this one! A World War II Homefront setting always gets me, and the characters are absolutely funny and charming. This may be my favorite Tom Hanks. There’s no crying in baseball.
Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones star in this feel-good, supernatural, intergenerational baseball movie. A younger crowd may find it to be on the tense side, but it's perfect for dads and kids who love playing catch.
Honorable mentions (i.e. endearingly cheesy options): Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield.
Parent Trap. This classic starts off with summer camp pranks and concludes with the annual family camping trip. The kids re-watched it recently—still holds up! As for my assessment, Maureen O’Hara remains a fox, but I don’t blame Vicky for trying to get her hands on that sprawling Spanish revival estate in Monterrey. (Is it just me, or did you begin noticing the real estate in movies upon reaching adulthood?)
That Thing You Do. Set in summer 1964, the Wonders provide a bright, upbeat summer soundtrack!
Queen of Katwe. For those whose kids while away the summer hours getting super competitive with their board games, Queen of Katwe tells the true story of Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi.
National Lampoon’s Vacation. Embrace family closeness with Chevy Chase on this classic road trip to Wallyworld.
Honorable mentions in that same spirit (i.e. movies with varying levels of questionable content): Heavyweights, Caddyshack, Dirty Dancing, Grease, Weekend at Bernie’s.
Rio Bravo. My memory of childhood summers demands that I include this John Wayne classic, where the Duke takes charge as the sheriff in a Texas frontier town. Howard Hawks directs, and (bonus!) deputies played by Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson sing a guitar ballad duet that still gives me goosebumps when I hear it. It probably goes without saying, but expect gunplay, alcohol, and saloon antics—to me, all relatively mild by today’s standards. The film stands as a prime example of the Western genre to introduce to your kids. Don't take my word for it, pilgrim. It has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Support Your Local Sheriff. (Available on Amazon Prime.) James Garner stars in more of a western spoof. You’ll chuckle, and your kids will like it when people fall in the mud.
The Man from Snowy River. Here’s a romantic, Australian take on the western, with plenty of horses and gorgeous vistas.
Muppet Treasure Island. I submit that Jim Henson’s Muppets shine brightest when harnessing their talents to re-enact tales from classic literature. See: Miss Piggy as Ben[jamina]Gunn. (At Christmas time, don’t miss The Great Gonzo portraying ol’ Chuck Dickens!) The songs in this one are so funny and catchy. Your kids will have a grasp on the story after watching, and then they may be up for the classic Disney version of Treasure Island, featuring, well, just humans. And a parrot.
Swiss Family Robinson. Walt Disney himself took great care to include everything a kid would love in this loose adaptation of Johann Wyss’ book about a shipwrecked family. You’ve got tigers, zebras, pirates, an epic swimming hole, and that treehouse. Oh, that treehouse.
Lilo and Stich. If your kids love Moana, try this one next. Hawaii + aliens + Elvis = pretty much ideal.
African Queen. Not technically "island", but a river adventure with two of the Greatest Of All Time: Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. I also included it because summer sometimes feels like this:
Godspeed, parents! Let's rev up Disney Plus, and enjoy our summer of movies. I'll be down in the ol' basement home theater, thinking of you. What are your summer classics? Share your favorites and plan your next movie night using FamilyApp.