Summer is the time for splashing in cool, deep swimming holes (populated with toothy, tentacled monsters), staying up all night with your friends at summer camp (where a killer roams free in the woods), and hanging out with your family (before you're all killed by murderous mountain cannibals). What are your favorite movies that celebrate this season of leisure & heat?

Here are three of mine:


When I was a kid, my dad explained the plot of Jaws and I was so horrified by it that I refused to get in the ocean deeper than my waist for half the summer. Swimming in the river was ok until I read about bull sharks and their penchant for entering freshwater systems. On occasion I actually refused to take baths, which really makes no sense given that our bathroom was on the second floor. There's something primordially awful about the behemoth that rises out of the dark ocean depths to consume you. There's also a neat little political comment tucked into Jaws about politicians and bureaucrats who want to ignore the facts of a dangerous situation in favor of pleasant optics. Anyway, this is now one of my favorite movies of all time, and I consider it a summertime classic. Best time to watch: midway through a beach vacation.

The Hills Have Eyes


Okay, I realize I may be committing blasphemy by referencing the 2006 remake rather than the 1977 original — but I loved Aja's interpretation. (I like the original too.) This one strikes home for me because I live in a big, mostly-empty state in the American West. Wolf Creek-type scenarios actually happen here, so the idea that there's a bunch of mutants hiding up in yonder hoodoos waiting to pick me off when my car breaks down in the desert doesn't seem terribly far removed from reality. Also, this movie will give you the satisfaction of repeatedly thinking, "tourists! how dumb!" which is a universally favored summertime pastime. Best time to watch: the night before a drive through hot, empty basin country.

The Devil's Rejects


Depending on when you count summer as starting, setting-wise this might technically be a late-spring movie. But let's overlook that, given that this is my favorite raunchy, gross, monsters-on-a-road-trip movie of all time. (ROAD TRIP — see, thematic!) Roger Ebert somewhat famously gave this a mildly positive review and serious reviewers elsewhere turned up their noses, to which he was like WHATEVER. Because honestly, this movie is gorgeously shot. It also involves the only acceptable use of "Freebird" I've yet encountered, and includes a scene that I'm convinced is a direct homage to Lando and Han reuniting in Empire Strikes Back (nobody will back me up on this). I enjoyed "House of 1000 Corpses," but this was come-outta-nowhere-whiz-bang good. And o, that lovely gore glinting on the hot black highway. Best time to watch: when you really, really need to get rid of a couchsurfer.