May 9, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

While the school year can sometimes feel endless, there’s no denying it: The end of the academic year is upon us! Whatever your plans for summer break, there’ll certainly be time to catch up on a movie or two. We can think of no better way to get into the swing of summer than by checking out these seven films that celebrate the many wonders of sunshine, the sea, and so many other summer feels. 

1. Couples Retreat

Need a good laugh? We challenge you not to LOL during this star-studded movie featuring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis and many others. The critics may not have loved it, but the fans say otherwise. Enthuses one enthusiastic Amazon viewer, “Absolutely love this movie. Fantastic cast, fantastic lines, absolutely fall down laughing every time I watch it.”

And then there’s the scenery. If you don’t have a tropical resort vacation of your own planned before you watch Couples Therapy, you’ll probably be planning one afterward -- just be sure to double-check that couples therapy isn’t a mandatory part of the trip before booking your trip.

2. Moonrise Kingdom

If you’re longing for simpler times, this coming-of-age film directed by Wes Anderson tells the “eccentric, pubescent love story” of two 60s-era  tweens who run away together from their coastal New England town to a secluded cove they dub Moonrise Kingdom.

Says Odyssey of this fantastical flick, “Wes Anderson definitely knows how to capture all the innocent childhood fun of summertime on film. This movie will make you want to run away from home and dance beach-side in your tighty-whities.”

3. Tomboy

We all remember the blissful feel of the start of summer, when anything seems possible.  Says The Guardian in including Tomboy on its roundup of the 25 Greatest Summer Films, “With this sensitive, understated study of a transgender child, [director] Céline Sciamma beautifully captures the suspended reality of summer. No school, no routine, new friends. For a few short months, [10-year-old] Laure/Mikael is perfectly free.”

4. The Way Way Back

A 14-year-old boy goes on vacation with his mom and her boyfriend, gets a job at a local water park, and learns some life lessons along the way.

Screen Rant enthuses, “There haven’t been a lot of movies set at water parks, which makes The Way Way Back rather unique in summer cinema. You’ll learn all kinds of things, not least of which is how male employees prolong the amount of time they can ogle the female patrons. There are lots of laughs here, but there’s also some real heart as young Duncan gradually develops much-needed self-confidence. The movie says that summer can be fun, games, and water slides, but that doesn’t mean it can’t bring some personal growth, too.”

5. Summer With Monika

This one also claims a spot on The Guardian’s list of amazing summer films.

“People only casually acquainted with the work of Ingmar Bergman wouldn’t think of him as an especially summery filmmaker: chilly despair may seem the characteristic temperature of his oeuvre, until you get to the spry, glinting warmth of Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), the serenity of Summer Interlude (1951), and, best of all, this airy, tender and finally bittersweet seasonal romance between two beautiful working-class kids, which still tingles with the kind of open sensuality that shocked non-Swedish audiences back in 1953. To watch it is akin to feeling a late-summer breeze on the back of your neck,” rave writers Wendy Ide, Mark Kermode, Guy Lodge, Jonathan Romney and Simran Hans.

6. Y Tu Mamá También

What do you get when you combine two teenage boys, one beautiful older woman, and a road trip? This critically acclaimed movie directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Proposes Roger Ebert, “The movie, whose title translates as "And Your Mama, Too," is another trumpet blast that there may be a New Mexican Cinema a-bornin'. Like Amores Perros, which also stars Gael Garcia Bernal, it is an exuberant exercise in interlocking stories. But these interlock not in space and time, but in what is revealed, what is concealed, and in the parallel world of poverty through which the rich characters move….It is true, as some critics have observed, that Y Tu Mama is one of those movies where ‘after that summer, nothing would ever be the same again.’ Yes, but it redefines ‘nothing.’”

7. The Endless Summer

If you think documentaries are stuffy and boring, you haven’t seen Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer, which follow two young surfing budies as they travel the world on the quest for the perfect wave.

Wrote NPR's Ian Buckwalter in revisiting this movie in 2014 50 years after its debut, “It's a little amateurish, eye-rollingly hokey, and yet irresistibly endearing in its aw-shucks wholesome sincerity. It's those qualities that have allowed the film to improbably endure as the most influential adventure sports documentary ever made.”

And while it may not be aimed at saving the world, it offers its own kind of cure, proposes Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic, “If the movie were food it would be your favorite dish at the local diner. If it were a song it would be the sort people pay to listen to in order to fall asleep. If I were a doctor, I would prescribe it to my patients,” he says.

But these seven are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the bounty of feel-good summer films out there just waiting to be discovered. Do you have a must-watch summer flick of your own?  If so, please share it in the Comments section below. 
Looking for even more summer movies to choice from? Make sure to check out Six Films to Watch Before Summer Break is Over, too!




Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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