In the dog days of summer, it might be hard to watch a film. You’re sweating, it’s too bright, or maybe you’re just escaping the heat by being in some free air conditioning at the theater. Regardless, some films you can only watch during the summer because you feel it alongside the characters. Whether they’re set in the countryside or in a city, here are the 10 best films to watch on a hot summer day.
10. Dazed and Confused (1993) – Richard Linklater
This is perhaps the film to kick start your summer. School is officially out and the first night of the summer is finally here. What better way to spend it with a killer soundtrack from 1976, heavy dialogue of youth angst and rebellion, and figuring out the road ahead?
Richard Linklater’s big step forward after “Slacker” remains in Austin but 15 years before in 1976. We see the incoming freshman and newly appointed seniors in high school head to head with hazing, partying, and figuring it all out. What makes the film so unique is that it literally feels like a night out with your friends on a summer night.
Endlessly fascinating dialogue, constantly running into your classmates or teammates, and a party that just keeps rotating amongst all sorts of crowds, it’s hard to not love this film. Linklater truly shapes his style with several points of view from the characters, all separately introduced over Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”
Since the film shows the end of the school year transitioning to the start of the summer, it might be the best to watch earlier in the year and return to Linklater’s spiritual successor “Everybody Wants Some!!” at the end of the summer for your return to school or the start of a new year.
9. Y Tu Mamá También (2001) – Alfonso Cuaron
Sure, it’s a sexy film, a coming-of-age buddy road trip comedy, but the undertones and subtext of the film add to its summer feeling. As the opening begins with its omniscient narrator, Alfonso Cuaron shows its two leads, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, take advantage of their bachelorhood while their girlfriends are away for the summer.
What follows in the film is an exploration of friendship, sexual awakening, political observation, and social divide, to name a few elements. As one revisits the film, we start to see the layers of the narrative and its characters. Therefore, with the performances from two male leads and Maribel Verdu’s Luisa, the film is sultry and filled with physical and natural hotness.
Take the last act of the film, on the beach of Oaxaca; it makes one want to go to a deserted beach after a road trip, soon to be discovered, in a life-affirming and altering experience. Throughout the film under the hot Mexican sun, in the city, the suburbs, nature, deserts, and roads, it gives the feeling of hitting the road on those hot summer days. Regardless of air conditioning or comfortable hotels, this film shows it like what summer truly is.
Cuaron certainly bounced back his career with this film, and credit is definitely due to the hot summer Mexican days amongst these three characters.
8. Picnic (1955) – Joshua Logan
A risqué picture at the time of its release for the abundance of skin and sensuality portrayed, Joshua Logan’s film revolves around William Holden’s Hal in a small Kansas town over the course of Labor Day weekend.
Though the film came out in 1955, it screens a plethora of sexiness, flirtation, and sexual undertones. How can a film with shirtless, sweating bodies over a picnic not be sexy? And not include any type of sex? Reminiscent of Tennessee Williams and southern prowess, James Wong Howe’s Technicolor photography and the performances of Holden and a young Kim Novak and Susan Strasberg, the film continues to hold up.
Since its events take place over Labor Day weekend, it might be the best time to watch this film and still feel the final push of the summer feeling. Take the opening of Holden, shirt open, walking away from the passing train he hitched on with titles for the film stating, “This is the story of what happened that day . . . to that man and that town especially to its women . . .” A very sexy film without breaking the Hollywood codes of the era, and a fine summer film to watch at the end of the season.
7. Dog Days (2001) – Ulrich Seidl
Ulrich Seidl has never shied away from controversial topics or films that are unpleasant to watch. What better way to watch a film with despicable characters that include pimps, hitchhikers, and abusive couples during the dog days of summer in Vienna?
The mosaic-like film of vignettes casually overlaps with its characters. However, as the film progresses, you start to feel uneasy and slightly disgusted what occurs on screen, yet we keep watching it. This is the kind of film to watch on those really uncomfortable days in the summer where you want to be alone and not deal with other people. By watching Seidl’s film, you’ll either want to become a better person or realize you’re not as cynical as the characters or the film itself. It can reinvigorate your joy for those final summer days.
Seidl continues to provoke and allows the audience to come to their own conclusions with his films. Here, it is no different, and the sweat and humidity combining these characters only adds fuel to this film.
6. Call Me By Your Name (2017) – Luca Guadagnino
The most recent addition on this list, but one that feels like a long Sunday in the countryside in the middle of August. We explore the romance between Chalamet’s Elio and Armie Hammer’s Oliver in northern Italy in 1983 over the course of a summer.
What begins between them as almost a bitter relationship with a sense of jealousy or misunderstanding, soon becomes clear for these two individuals. Their chemistry is undeniable and impossible to resist under Luca Guadagnino’s direction, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s cinematography, and Sufjan Stevens’ lush original songs. There is no scene or frame that doesn’t capture that summer feeling that the best European countryside films have explored and defined before.
As the Pearlmans and Oliver continue to learn and live while conducting their academic research, we feel a sense of time casting a spell over us. It truly feels like we should watch this film on a Sunday afternoon as the summer comes to a close. The film’s tone and shifting moments of coming of age, exploration, and discovery all intertwine over this summer.
Since all art is subjective and each film deviates with different reactions, the ending of these two never fails to express a myriad of emotions. Regardless of that finale or epilogue, we will always have Elio and Oliver’s romance over the summer, and we’re just lucky a film like this was captured.