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11 Movies To Inspire Your USA Summer Holiday

11 Movies To Inspire Your USA Summer Holiday

For most Americans, Memorial Day in May means the official start of summer. The sticky heat of an American summer can be stifling, but the long hot days and warm nights have been inspiring filmmakers for generations and unlike any other country on earth, an American summer is the time and a place that means teenage awakenings, coming of age, and proud nostalgia. If the cold winter of Australia is getting you down then warm up with these titles and daydream of a world filled with carnivals, fireworks, skinny-dipping and more.


#1 Wet Hot American Summer


Nothing is quite as symbolic of the American summer as the summer camp where hordes of kids and teenagers leave their parents and embark on several weeks of sun-drenched mischief. Starring a delightfully odd-ball cast of comedians and dramatic actors as counsellors that act every bit as childish as the youths they’re been tasked to supervise, David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer trumps another summer camp classic, Meatballs, for number of laughs. Watch now in preparation for the Netflix series featuring the returning cast of Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd.

#2 Sleepaway Camp


While Wet Hot American Summer spoofs the genre, this 1983 horror relic is the genre. Robert Hiltzik’s somewhat goofy and endearing slasher flick is iconic for its twist ending (routinely hailed as one of the most shocking of all time – and they’re right!), but it’s so much more than that. It’s scary, yet also fun and colourfully sunny in a way that really amplifies the lakeside innocence of youth. Make it a marathon with The Burning and Friday the 13th for a night of summer campfire frights.

#3 Dance Party, USA


The American “mumblecore” movement saw a flurry of filmmakers turn on their digital cameras and make films heavy on character and dialogue, made with minuscule budgets. Many were indulgent, others enlightening to the 20-something experience. One of the best, however, was Aaron Katz’s short but sweet examination of a teenager named Gus at the cusp of adulthood. With a dark past but a hopeful future thanks to a girl called Jessica, the two find their kindred spirits over the balmy Fourth of July weekend full of parties and bike rides.

#4 Adventureland


If movies are to be believed, America’s countryside is full of carnival amusement parks that lay derelict throughout the year until their heir gates fly open at the start of summer to an onslaught of families desperate for entertainment. Full of barely functioning rollercoasters and rides plus miserable staff, this very American tradition is no better exemplified than in Greg Mottola’s Adventureland. The poster hails it as “the worst job they ever imagined… and the best time of their lives”, which is about right for the characters played by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as they fumble through their summer college break trying to find themselves amidst the screaming babies and selfish employers.

#5 Edge of Seventeen


Gay audiences should definitely check out this charming coming out drama about a young closeted teen in Ohio, 1984. Working at a (you guessed it) local amusement park, Eric meets a sexually confident college student named Rob and makes friends with a brash lesbian manager named Angie played by Orange is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria. The themes of coming-out-of-age are prominent in Dave Moreton’s award-winning 1998 comedy, but most importantly it puts a spotlight on gay stories that are usually forgotten about when dealing with such American traditions as this.

#6 The Myth of the American Sleepover


On the last weekend of summer, four American youths navigate the confusing terrain of love, sex and friendship. Director David Robert Mitchell blew audiences away recently with his stylishly scary It Follows that followed on from this film’s themes of suburban dissatisfaction and moral corruptibility. Sounds like heady stuff, but Mitchell’s imbues it with the dreamy atmosphere of the last gasp of summer and the desire to make it truly memorable before adulthood comes tearing around the corner.

#7 Stand By Me


Boys will be boys in this 1986 drama from Rob Reiner. Somewhat surprisingly adapted from a story by Stephen King, there are no ghouls or goblins in sight, but there is a body as as four boys set out on a hike in search of a missing child. Sounds morbid, but it ultimately works as the boys navigate that tricky period between being a child and being a teenager in 1959.

#8 Dazed and Confused


Despite being set in the ’70s, Richard Linklater’s comedy gem is universal. Dazed and Confused takes what many critics have called an anthropological look at teenagers all based around the ritualistic clichés of life based on the last day of school in Austen, Texas. With a cast that includes early performances by Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Milla Jovovich, Quentin Tarantino labeled it one of the top ten films of all time.

#9 Do the Right Thing


Hopefully your own summers don’t mirror Spike Lee’s American masterpiece as his highly-charged characters deal with race tensions on the hottest day of the summer. As tempers rise to boiling point as hot as a Brooklyn pavement at midday, the drama comes to a violent head. The film shined a confronting light on a country that many didn’t want to pay attention to in 1989, instead the winner of the Oscar for Best Picture that year was the much more polite Driving Miss Daisy; Lee’s film wasn’t even nominated. Also try Spike Lee’s more maligned Summer of Sam, about the hunt for a killer in a working glass neighbourhood during a sweat-drenched summer heat.

#10 Woodstock


Take a trip (figuratively, of course!) back to August 1969, the summer of love, in this four-hour Oscar-winning documentary that observes the performers like Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker and the crowds at the iconic Woodstock Festival. Everybody, whether they be a half-dressed music lover in the audience or a musician rocking out on stage, is constantly covered in a thin film of dewy sweat brought on by the tough August heat of upstate New York. So much so that you can almost feel it (or smell it!) and it adds to the excitement of this monumental concert film.

#11 Jaws

Make yourself feel better than you can’t go to the beach in the middle of winter by watching Steven Spielberg’s eternal classic from 1975, Jaws, about a shark terrorising the coastal region of a popular summer holiday destination. Those famous music beats are only the beginning of the frights that ends with our three lead characters in desperate need of a bigger boat.

Inspired? Check out Qantas flights to the USA here.

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