10 Great Summer Nostalgia Movies

Finals, graduations, barbecues, baseball, summer jobs, summer camp, vacations… yes, friends, summer is upon us. What’s more, summer movies are upon us — more giant robots and superheroes and pirates and Vin Diesels than you can shake a stick at. It’s all pretty depressing, frankly.

So instead of looking at those summer movies, let’s take a look at some of our favorite films that are set in the summer. Summertime nostalgia is a powerful thing, and few screenwriters worth their salt can resist the opportunity to pen an introspective voice-over about the summer that changed their lives (“Nothing was really the same after that summer of 1963…”). After the jump, a brief survey of some of our favorite slices of summer nostalgia.

American Graffiti

“Where were you in ’62?” asked the tagline of George Lucas’s 1973 smash, set on the last night of summer in Modesto, California. Challenged by his friend (and producer) Francis Ford Coppola to work up a warm crowd-pleaser following the failure of his first feature THX 1138, Lucas collaborated with screenwriters Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck for the Graffiti script, based on his teen years cruising the strip with his friends. The soundtrack bursts with terrific vintage tunes (spun by Wolfman Jack, who also turns in a pitch-perfect on-camera cameo) and the cast is stuffed with stars of the 1970s (and beyond) getting their big breaks — including Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Suzanne Somers, and Harrison Ford. Graffiti’s critical and financial success gave Lucas the clout to fund his next film, an obscure little space opera you’ve probably never heard of.