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Donna Sheridan-Carmichael (Meryl Streep) and her daughter Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) in Mamma Mia!

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17 of the best summer-themed movies

One movie for each week of summer, and then some

Image: Universal Pictures

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What is a summer movie, anyway? Often, the term is used to refer to movies that come out in the summer (and there are plenty to get excited for this year). Studios will often save their biggest and boldest movies for that time of year, where you can cool down in a theater during warm days.

But that’s not what we’re here for today. We’re here to talk about movies that feel like summer. Beach parties, summer camp, hot days — it’s more than a season. It’s a vibe.

So our team of Polygon movie scientists has pulled together the following 17 movies for you to enjoy this summer. That’s 17 movies for 13 weeks of summer, so the adventurous among you can space it out accordingly. Enjoy!

What are you looking for?

Comedy Horror Drama Musical Action

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s endearing coming-of-age comedy takes place at a summer camp.


Several girls decide to spend summer vacation in a mansion in the countryside. Too bad it’s haunted by ghosts, spirits, and monsters that perfectly blur the lines between silly, surreal, funny, and scary.

Do the Right Thing

Long-simmering tensions between the Black and Italian American residents of the neighborhood Bed-Stuy boil over on the hottest day of the summer.

Mamma Mia!

Nothing says summer like dancing around an idyllic Greek island with Meryl Streep.

High School Musical 2

What time is it? Time to head over to Lava Springs Country Club for the most fabulous Disney Channel original movie sequel.

Whisper of the Heart

If there’s a movie that will make you nostalgic for experiences you’ve never had, it’s this film about one girl’s summer in 1995 Tokyo.

Recess: School's Out

A group of rowdy fifth graders teams up to save summer vacation from a dastardly former principal and his army of ninjas.

Stand By Me

Four young boys embark on a hike in search of the body of a missing child and form a lifelong bond of friendship.

A League of Their Own

This fictional version of the real story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was a smash hit and has an all-star cast, including Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna.

Stray Dog

One of the first collaborations between Toshiro Mifune and Akira Kurosawa, two legends of Japanese cinema, Stray Dog follows a young police officer who loses his gun on a sweltering summer day and gets more and more panicked as the heat and danger set in.

Girls Trip

This uproarious raunchy comedy follows a group of friends who take a summer trip together, and was a breakout role for Tiffany Haddish.


Relive childhood summers with your best friend in this Pixar fantasy.

Spirited Away

Your summer will probably be less eventful than Chihiro’s, but that doesn’t mean you can’t journey to the Spirit World with her.

The Parent Trap

Summer camp has never been cooler than in the Lindsay Lohan-led Parent Trap.

Dog Day Afternoon

Al Pacino robs a Brooklyn bank on one of the hottest days of the year and things go wrong, leading to a long hostage situation and a very tense movie.

Rear Window

A suspense-filled Hitchcock classic about a man, recovering from a broken leg, who spends his summer watching other people’s apartment windows and becomes convinced he’s witnessed a crime.

Everybody Wants Some!!

Technically an end-of-summer movie, Richard Linklater’s comedy is set in the 1980s and follows a college baseball team on the last days before school starts.

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