It usually takes about a week after the kids get out of school for summer to kick in, and if there was ever an official starting line, it's Fourth of July weekend. Maybe you're hitting up a barbecue with some friends this weekend, relaxing by the pool or shooting off some fireworks -- and that's cool. Enjoy yourself. Me? I'll be doing a little of the BBQ, but I'll also enjoy a screening of at least one of the following seven films. See, what's summer without a memorable summertime flick ... or several?

This year's best summertime film (according to me), The Wackness, hits theaters in limited release tomorrow before rolling out to other cities. That film caters a bit more toward a specific time period (1994) and a specific location (NYC), but those summer-in-the-city flicks are rare, especially a good one. Instead of following all those kids who left town, went to camp, traveled abroad, what have you, The Wackness remains with the one dude who didn't leave town. The kid who was stuck spending his summer on hot pavement, dealing pot to his therapist while chasing the girl of his dreams.

But perhaps that's how you remember summer growing up. Or maybe you spent most of your summers in camp, or on the baseball field, or with a few of your best pals on another bizarre adventure. Those summer months hold a lot of memories for you, I'm sure, as they do for me. And what's up with summertime movies and awesome soundtracks? Ever notice that? Anyway, here are some of my favorites ... feel free to tell me yours. span style="font-style: italic;">(Note: This was a ridiculously hard list for me to make, so I went with those movies I grew up with and hold closest to my heart.)

1. Stand By Me

Some kids don't get to go on extravagant summer vacations, or spend time playing games at camp. In Stand By Me, four dysfunctional youths decide to embark on an overnight adventure to find the dead body of a missing boy. What first starts out as an exciting mission of sorts quickly turns into something a lot more ... personal, therapeutic and important. Somewhere between the train tracks and their homes, these boys lost their innocence and gained their manhood. (P.S. I still can't watch that damn "throw up" scene, and who doesn't squirm when the leeches arrive?)

2. The Sandlot

There are tons of baseball movies more memorable than The Sandlot but, for me, this is the summertime film I keep going back to. Perhaps it's because I moved to a new neighborhood at about the same age, had to make a whole bunch of new friends, and did so through summertime sports like stickball and manhunt (remember that one?). The Sandlot also does a good job of showing how much fun summer can be when you're young, naive and looking for a little mischief. One of my favorite scenes comes when, on July 4th, the boys play their one and only night game using the fireworks for light. (And, of course, the kissing lifeguard scene.)

3. National Lampoon's Vacation

Ah, the family vacation. Growing up, everyone had at least one "memorable" family vacation. I recall one driving trip from NYC to Disney World when I was a youngster, and while there definitely was plenty of family bonding, it's not something I would ever do again. Nothing beats this original National Lampoon effort, in which Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) gets it in his head that he and his family will drive to Walley World and succeed no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Oh, and there are obstacles ... tons of them.

4. Dazed and Confused

When you're a kid, you have two favorite days (three if you're into the whole Santa thing): Your birthday and the last day of school before summer vacation. And when you're a teenager with a set of wheels and a hardcore attraction to the opposite sex, then summer vacation takes on a whole new meaning. Case in point: The kids from Dazed and Confused, who, on the last day of school, decide to throw a party at the moon tower; full kegs, everyone's gonna be there. Great ensemble cast (featuring my favorite Affleck role to date), great music and a great film to kick off your own summer vacation.

5. Wet, Hot American Summer

There are tons of summer camp movies, and it's almost impossible to pick just one, but since I kinda have to I'm going with Wet, Hot American Summer -- because it's crazy, ridiculous, hilarious, over the top, raunchy and everything a summer camp flick should be. The film itself, which was directed by David Wain, parodies other flicks like Meatballs and Porky's (both of which probably deserve a spot on this list too), and it gets a lot right in the process.

6. Jaws

The late, great Roy Scheider attempts to defend his small, summertime community from a ruthless Great White shark about the size of a truck from devouring a slew of folks looking to enjoy a few dips in the water with their hot, sweaty suntan. Steven Spielberg directed this masterpiece where man is the real monster, and, subsequently, freaked us all out in the process. Anyone still staying away from the water?

7. Dirty Dancing

Because on any summertime movie list, there needs to be at least one film about those all-too-important summer romances. And Dirty Dancing -- with its hot cast, its equally-as-hot soundtrack, its bare chests and its sexy short-shorts -- is definitely the kinda flick you wanna watch when you're crushin' on some dude (or dudette) and looking for ways to romance them. Swayze was in his prime, Jennifer Grey looked fine -- the days were hot and the nights were even hotter. Does it get any better?

Films that almost (but didn't) make the list: Caddyshack, The Parent Trap, The Endless Summer, Summer School, One Crazy Summer, The Long, Hot Summer, The Great Outdoors.

Your turn ...
categories Cinematical