In Idaho, often only about a third of the summer is actually enjoyable. June is filled with pool parties, outdoor barbecues and a mad dash to claim the best suntanning areas in Boise's parks. But come July, all of that changes. You'll have maxed-out your yearly UV credit, and every store in town will be sold out of battery-operated fans. Once you've decided to make that strategic retreat into the air-conditioned arms of the great indoors, we've got your entertainment needs covered. Here is our subjective list of the flicks that we think epitomize summertime. This is a truly righteous assemblage of our favorite two flicks from each of the past five decades. So muddle some mojitos for a sweat-free movie marathon. And remember: When the giant shark's a-stalkin', don't come a-knockin'.
BEACH PARTY (1963)
Still the definitive '60s surf-culture comedy, this Avalon-Funicello double-header tells the outlandishly improbable story of an urban anthropologist studying the mating habits of California beach bums and babes. Eventually, he finds himself attracted to one of the bunnies. Can he maintain his scientific professionalism or will his cover be blown?
THE GRADUATE (1967)
If you're a Simon & Garfunkel hater, skip right on by, or better yet, go jump in a lake. The folk-rock duo's work is the sonic majority of this film's soundtrack. Anne Bancroft plays the immortal Mrs. Robinson, a sultry cougar before cougars were cool, who sets her claws in the naive, shy Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role). Their summer fling goes awry when Benjamin falls for Robinson's daughter, and the ensuing tit-for-tat romance makes this dramatic comedy a classic piece of cinematic history.
CHARLOTTE'S WEB (1973)
Kitschy renderings and stick-in-your-head songs aside, this is our pick for a slice of summer nostalgia. Beginning with springtime birth and culminating in a tiny but unforgettable curtain-pull at the county fair, this Hanna-Barbera animation is a sweet story of friendship, acceptance and the cyclical nature of life and death. Plus, it taught us the word smorgasbord, which we consider one of Sweden's finest exports.
This first great "behemoth below" film beached a generation of surf enthusiasts. We learned three things from the mishaps of Amity Island's residents: don't swim naked at night, never assume you've killed the culprit and make sure to stock explosives onboard when headed out to sea. Roy Schneider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw star in this exciting big-fish whopper about what lurks beneath.
STAND BY ME (1986)
Opening one year after the similar but less mature kiddie-favorite The Goonies, this coming-of-age tale is the story of four preteen buddies who set out to find the body of another young kid in the Oregon woods. Along the way, we discover the emotional and physical trauma that each boy suffers and what lies in each one's future. A wry, challenging and rewarding film featuring early performances by River Phoenix, Kiefer Sutherland and Corey Feldman, it's an homage to boyish brotherhood and the innocence that passes as swiftly as a summer holiday.
SAY ANYTHING (1989)
These days, Cameron Crowe is a musical narcissist, fixated on the reflection glinting off the screen of his iPod. But once upon a time, he directed this fresh, clever and earnest story about the invasion of adulthood just after high school. From the iconic boombox-held-aloft scene to the sincere performances from John Cusack, sister Joan and the great "whatever-happened-to" victim Lili Taylor, it's an endearingly charming romantic comedy with a timeless heart.
MY GIRL (1991)
After about the sixth viewing of Home Alone (1990), even those of us in the target age range wished that Macaulay Culkin would just go away. Then we ate our words in between bites of Rocky Road. Newcomer Anna Chlumsky plays hypochondriac Vada, who spends her holiday climbing trees with neighbor boy Culkin and enrolls in a community poetry class. Melodramatic at times, but just sweet enough to count as a summer treat.
GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II (1993)
Anything that can be described as "Giant lizard battles Japanese robot with nuclear pulses and psychic mind waves" sounds like a great excuse not to mow the lawn. We don't even care if it's set over Easter weekend, and the two titans sit down for a Sunday brunch midway through the final building-crushing act. Considering the multiple resurrections the series has gone through, it seems actually appropriate. We're making it our summer homework to track this one down--as well as a VHS deck to play it in--and having a guys' night in with action figures and a six-pack of Asahi Super Dry.
This lush, impeccably acted adaptation of Ian McEwan's historical novel tells the story of Briony, a precocious preteen writer whose fanciful imagination misinterprets a summer day's events, with far-reaching consequences for her sister and the estate's gardener boy. Gorgeous scenery and astonishingly deft camerawork render the film a visual feast, while the compelling story and effective performances by James McAvoy, Keira Knightley and the young Saoirse Ronan are worth an additional viewing.
THE WACKNESS (2008)
Remember that summer in 1994 that you spent peddling dope out of an ice-cream cart while trying to date your therapist's daughter? Naw, neither do we.
Josh Peck stars as Luke, whose musical proclivities and casual drug habit combine to give him a skewed and colorful take on life. Having just graduated from high school and unsure about the future, he spends his days crushing on Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) while paying off his sessions with her father (Ben Kingsley) with a special kind of green. With the start of college looming at the summer's end, Luke must decide where his priorities lie and whether he wants to be a part of the wackness of the wider world. A rocking soundtrack and music-video inspired visuals both reference the past decade's fads and update them in a fresh, exciting way.