15 films to watch this summer - Selected by Nick Hartman, UICA's Film Coordinator

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It was one rough winter, and I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I'm enjoying the sunshine, blue skies, and summertime fun. That is, of course, enjoying that summertime fun through my TV set while I sit on my couch drinking a cold margarita.


Here’s a list of my favorite 15 films to watch this summer.


1) Dazed and Confused (1993)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R

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Remember that feeling you got when the last school bell rang that kicked off summer vacation? It's one of the best feelings you can experience as a kid. Dazed and Confused captures that feeling better than any other summer break film I can think of. Everything from the soundtrack, the fashion, and the tone of the film captures that summertime feeling perfect.

Synopsis
This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of a group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high school in 1976. The graduating class heads for a popular pool hall and joins an impromptu keg party; however, star football player Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London) has promised to focus on the championship game and abstain from partying. Meanwhile, the incoming freshmen try to avoid being hazed by the seniors, most notably the sadistic bully Fred O'Bannion (Ben Affleck).


2) Summer School (1987)
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13

Summer School

Not sure about you, but I had to attend summer school at one point in my life, and I can honestly say that it was absolute torture. To know that everyone was on the beach enjoying the warm summer sun while I was doing mathematics in a stuffy classroom really put my behind in gear. However, if my summer school experience had been anything like they portray it in Carl Reiner's cult classic Summer School, I'd want to spend every summer in class.

Synopsis
A pathetic gym teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) is ready to take the summer off in Hawaii, but he's forced to either teach summer school English or risk losing his tenure. Now he's stuck teaching a group of unmotivated students as disappointed to be stuck in school over the summer as he is. But with the help of a friendly history teacher (Kirstie Alley), Shoop is at least learning how to act the part of a supportive mentor and perhaps even learning something about himself as well.


3) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Directed by: John Hughes
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13

Ferris Bueller

I was never one to skip out on school and I took my studies very seriously. I know what you’re thinking - “Didn’t you just say you had to go to summer school?” Okay, you caught me. I ditched out every once in a while, but I blame that behavior all on Ferris Bueller. Let’s be honest, he made ditching school seem way cooler than it actually is. Sure, I may have been cruising the streets on my skateboard, but I wasn’t driving a Ferrari, going to baseball games and singing/dancing in parades on my days off.             

Synopsis
Ferris Bueller has an uncanny skill at cutting classes and getting away with it. Intending to make one last duck-out before graduation, Ferris calls in sick, "borrows" a Ferrari, and embarks on a one-day journey through the streets of Chicago. On Ferris' trail is high school principal Rooney, determined to catch him in the act.


4) Do the Right Thing (1989)
Directed by: Spike Lee
Genre: Drama
Rated: R

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This film is hot – it literally makes you sweat when you watch it. The film takes place in New York City on a day/night that's over 100 degrees and every person on screen is dripping sweat and looks miserable. However, the 100-degree day is the least of their worries and what their community has to deal with throughout the picture is what should make you really sweat.

Synopsis
Salvatore "Sal" Fragione (Danny Aiello) is the Italian owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. A neighborhood local, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), becomes upset when he sees that the pizzeria's Wall of Fame exhibits only Italian actors. Buggin' Out believes a pizzeria in a black neighborhood should showcase black actors, but Sal disagrees. The wall becomes a symbol of racism and hate to Buggin' Out and to other people in the neighborhood, and tensions rise.


5) The Sandlot (1993)
Directed by: David Mickey Evans
Genre: USA
Rated: PG

If The Sandlot doesn’t capture the feeling of summer for you then I don’t know what film will. This film is so much more than a story about kids playing baseball; it's about being there for one another, about overcoming the odds, and truly enjoying your youth while you have it. 

Synopsis
When Scottie Smalls moves to a new neighborhood, he manages to make friends with a group of kids who play baseball at the sandlot. Together they go on a series of funny and touching adventures. The boys run into trouble when Smalls borrows a ball from his stepdad that gets hit over a fence.


6)  Jaws (1975)
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Drama | Horror
Rated: R

Jaws

Besides baseball, I'm pretty sure of going to the beach and swimming is America's favorite pastime. There's nothing like a day in the summer sun while listening to the waves crash upon the shore, the smell of suntan lotion, and just the fact of knowing you have nothing but hours of relaxation ahead of you. That is until you hear the screams of men, women, and children running to the shore due to the fact a 25-foot shark is feasting upon people. Jaws is one of those movies that takes one of the most pleasurable moments and turns it into a full-blown nightmare, and I can't even describe how fun the nightmare is.

Synopsis
When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it's up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.


Weekend at Bernies

7) Weekend at Bernies (1989)
Directed by: Ted Kotcheff
Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG- 13

The ‘80s were weird, and Weekend at Bernie’s is solid proof. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to be a film executive and have a writer pitch an idea for a movie that’s about two party boys who are invited to their boss’s beach house for a weekend of partying and upon their arrival, they find his dead body. Instead of calling the authorities in fear of losing their weekend of luxury they maintain the illusion that Bernie’s still alive and carry him from party to party. Honestly though, how could you turn down an idea like that…?

Synopsis
Fun-loving salesmen Richard and Larry are invited by their boss, Bernie to stay the weekend at his posh beach house. Little do they know that Bernie is the perpetrator of a fraud they've uncovered and is arranging to have them killed. When the plan backfires and Bernie is killed instead, the buddies decide not to let a little death spoil their vacation. They pretend Bernie is still alive, leading to hijinks and corpse desecration galore.


8) Friday (1995)
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R

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One of my favorite things to do in the summer is just sitting on the porch and be one with my neighborhood. Whether it's watching the neighbors grill, mowing their lawn, or kids running up and down the street. Friday takes place over one day while two friends sit on their porch and watch their neighborhood come alive.  However, their neighborhood has a lot more excitement than mine.

Synopsis
Smokey (Chris Tucker) and Craig (Ice Cube), smoke a dope dealer’s weed and try to figure a way to get the $200 they owe to the dealer by 10:00 PM that same night.


9) Apocalypse Now (1979)
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Genre: Drama | War
Rated: R

apocalypse now

I’m a sucker for Vietnam films, but Apocalypse Now takes the cake. Extremely unfortunate that war even happens, but the only good thing to come out of them is the art they inspire. Movies like Platoon, Schindler’s List, Full Metal Jacket, and The Pianist are timeless and will be there not only to entertain but to educate us on the horrors of our past. Apocalypse Now may not be a cheerful summertime flick, but the fire of the napalm sure makes you feel like you’re sitting in the hot summer sun.

Synopsis
In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer (Robert Duvall), and a crazed freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.


10)  Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Genre: Crime
Rated: R

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There was a string of gritty detective films in the ‘70s that always took place in NYC in the hot summer sun and honestly I pretty much love them all, but Dog Day Afternoon stands out due to the fact it’s based off a true love story about one man robbing a bank in order to get sex reassignment surgery for the man he loves.

Synopsis
When inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) leads a bank robbery in Brooklyn, things quickly go wrong, and a hostage situation develops. As Sonny and his accomplice, Sal Naturile (John Cazale), try desperately to remain in control, a media circus develops and the FBI arrives, creating even more tension. Gradually, Sonny's surprising motivations behind the robbery are revealed, and his standoff with law enforcement moves toward its inevitable end.


11) Point Break (1991)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Rated: R

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There have been so many great "bromances" on screen throughout the history of cinema, whether it was between Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun (1986) or Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in Wayne’s World (1992), but the one that tops them all is between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break. The unspoken bro love they share between each other just makes you want to call up your best friend, get some president masks, rob a bank, and then hit the beach to shred some waves.

Synopsis:
After a string of bizarre bank robberies in Southern California, with the crooks donning masks of various former presidents, a federal agent, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), infiltrates the suspected gang. But this is no ordinary group of robbers. They're surfers -- led by the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) -- who are addicted to the rush of thievery. But when Utah falls in love with a female surfer, Tyler (Lori Petty), who is close to the gang, it complicates his sense of duty.


12) The Warriors (1979)
Directed by: Walter Hill
Genre: Drama | Action
Rated: PG-13

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Imagine every violent street gang in New York City is trying to track you and your crew down because you were framed for a murder you didn’t commit. Just the thought of it makes me sweat more than running a 5k on a hot summer’s day.

Synopsis:
A turf battle between New York City street gangs that rages from Coney Island to the Bronx. The Warriors are mistakenly fingered for the killing of a gang leader. Soon they have every gang in the city out to get revenge and they must make their way across the city to their turf.


13) Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R

Fast times

Call me crazy, but I’m going to have to say that Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli may be his best role; or at least his most memorable. Fast Times is yet another film that captures the high school experience and overall what it feels like to be young, to make mistakes, and overall to learn from them.

Synopsis:

Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty, but inexperienced, teen interested in dating. Given advice by her uninhibited friend, Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates), Stacy gets trapped in a love triangle with nice guy Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) and his more assured buddy Mike Damone (Robert Romanus). Meanwhile, Stacy's classmate Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), who lives for surfing and being stoned, faces off against Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), a strict teacher who has no time for the slacker's antics.


14) Stand By Me (1986)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Genre: Adventure | Drama
Rated: R

Stand By Me

I’m a sucker for coming of age films but Stand By Me is arguably the best of the best. It’s compassionate and has outstanding performances that capture the real heart of youth and the fears of life that lay ahead. A film that blossoms the nostalgia of youth as well as what it means to be alive.

Synopsis:
After learning that a stranger has been accidentally killed near their rural homes, four Oregon boys decide to go see the body. On the way, Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) and Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) encounter a mean junk man and a marsh full of leeches, as they also learn more about one another and their very different home lives. Just a lark at first, the boys' adventure evolves into a defining event in their lives.


15) The Lost Boys (1987)
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Genre: Horror
Rated: R

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There's something about Michigan summers that make me a night owl. I assume it's due to the fact our winters are so cold and dark that they put us to bed by 8 PM. As soon as that warm weather starts to peak I find myself lurking the city streets after dark until the dawn just like a vampire. The Lost Boys is one of those films that embrace the celebration of summertime nightlife but also gives you tips on saving your mortal soul against a gang of vampires.

Synopsis:
Teenage brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) move with their mother (Dianne Wiest) to a small town in northern California. While the younger Sam meets a pair of kindred spirits in geeky comic-book nerds Edward (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander), the angst-ridden Michael soon falls for Star (Jami Gertz) -- who turns out to be in thrall to David (Kiefer Sutherland), leader of a local gang of vampires. Sam and his new friends must save Michael and Star from the undead.


Now I encourage you to go recline, crack a cold drink, and soak up the rays from your television set.

Question is, what’s your favorite summer film?