Patti Abbott: My Favorite Summer Movies

Editor’s note: Since Summer officially starts today, I asked our resident Movie Maven to take a stroll down memory lane and share some of her favorite summer flicks.

My Favorite Summer Movies

This list is not necessarily about movies released during the summer months, but more about movies set in the summer. I am eliminating movies we all know very well-Jaws, Dirty Dancing, Meatballs, National Lampoons Summer Vacation– that group of very familiar films. Please add your favorites into the comments, should you read this.

M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) a new print of this is making the rounds and it reminds its audience that a movie with very little dialog can be very effective. Mr. Hulot travels to Brittany for a summer vacation. Jacques Tati, director and star, is masterful as the bumbing, awkward Hulot. It’s a cheerful film that will set you squarely at the beach resort. There’s no possibility you won’t like this one.

Goodbye Columbus (1969) Neither Richard Benjamin or Ali McGraw went on to stellar careers, but they were perfectly suited to this vehicle-a summer romance that collapses in the autumn under the weight of a return to real life. Benjamin nails the fish-out-of-water city boy, trying to hold onto the rich girl who is a bit too pretty for him. He virtually moves in with her family in his attempt. And McGraw is sulky, whiney and gorgeous. Although there were complaints about the stereotypical evocation of Jewish culture, especially the wedding scene, it seemed fine to me. I loved the book and found the movie faithful to it. Perhaps I was the right age.

Summer (1986) This is not one of Rohmer’s more well-known films, but I love the way it captures a summer in the life of a Parisian secretary looking for love. She goes here and there to various resort-like places, disappointed by missed opportunities. She is sulky and lonesome. And just when you think she will not find what she’s looking for….well, what do you think?

Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee captured another kind of summer in his brilliant film. This conflagration of a movie is about the racial misunderstandings in a Brooklyn neighborhood brought to a head during the hottest day of the year. A good answer to Rodney King’s question, “Can’t we all just get along.” (Also good Summer of Sam)

The Flamingo Kid (1984) Jeffrey Willis (Matt Dylan) gets a summer job at the Flamingo club where he meets Phil Brody (Richard Crenna), a successful car dealer who fills Jeffrey’s head with ideas about how to make his fortune. Going to college in the fall soon loses its allure.

American Graffiti (1973) Okay this is a very well-known film by George Lukas. But it so perfectly captures the last night of summer for a group of high school students, some going off to college and some not, it has to be included. Also effective along the same lines Dazed and Confused (1993 by Richard Linklater) and a bunch of John Cusack movies-all fun.

Last Summer (1969) This is a surprisingly dark film about four teenagers on Fire Island in the last days of the sixties. Directed by Frank Perry and based on a screenplay from Evan Hunter, what starts out as an evocation of a typical summer for late teens, turns very nasty. It’s all too credible.

(2009) This film was a sleeper two years ago. Set in the Pittsburgh of the 1980s, it portrays the summer of a recent college graduate taking a job at an amusement park before going off to life in the real word. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart perfectly capture a summer romance and the director Mottola manages to get everything right. So lovely and low-keyed among the slamming and punching movies around it.

The Swimming Pool (2003) Francois Ozon directed Charlotte Rampling in this enigmatic mystery about a blocked writer who journeys to her publisher’s villa for a rendezvous with him. His teenage daughter shows up instead. Her uninhibited sex life first repels and then interests the writer. The ending is up to the viewer’s interpretation. For those who don’t mind ambiguity.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.