Unless you are the kind of person who easily gets fed up by high-temperature weather, swarms of pesky insects, and the sound of fireworks displays keeping you up at night, it is a shame that we only get to experience the summer just once a year. Luckily, we have the advantage of vicariously living out the season of barbecues, baseball, and – most importantly – no school, anytime time of the year with the magic of movies.
Of course, not every movie set during the summer is the best option to conjure the season’s best memories (see great summer horror movies). That is why we have compiled our favorite summer comedy movies, along with a tip on where to check them out on streaming or a digital rental or purchase, below – starting with one that is, arguably, the most essential of the bunch.
The Sandlot (Amazon Prime, Disney+)
A lonely boy (Tom Guiry) discovers the joys of the season after making friends with a of group baseball fanatics, who soon get themselves into a big “pickle” involving a prized baseball signed by Babe Ruth in the summer of 1962.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: By presenting the story entirely from a child’s perspective, co-writer and director David Mickey Evans’ 1993 family favorite captures most essential aspects of the summer with astonishing accuracy and achieves a spot among the best sports movies of all time, with credit due to the young The Sandlot cast’s wonderful performances.
The Bad News Bears (Cinemax)
A beer-swilling former major leaguer (Walter Matthau) accepts a job as the coach for a team of young misfits whom he struggles to mold into real athletes to compete against the other extremely competitive teams in their California little league.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Long before The Sandlot, the quintessential movie about youngsters running the bases during the summer (but not so much for the love of the game, that is) was 1976’s The Bad News Bears – director Michael Ritchie and writer Bill Lancaster’s hilarious and even inspiring underdog story that is still remembered as one of the best baseball movies of all time.
An 11-year-old (Aaron Schwartz) finds himself surprisingly excited to be the new guy at a beloved youth weight-loss camp for the summer, until he and his new friends learn the devastating news that it has been bought out and rebranded by a sadistic fitness guru (Ben Stiller) and his loyal crew of barbaric trainers.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Speaking of hilarious and even inspiring underdog stories, the charming and sometimes a bit dark 1995 family comedy, Heavyweights, is a story about being happy with who you are, but also learning how to improve yourself, that was co-written and produced by Judd Apatow and features a talented young cast (including future SNL cast member Kenan Thompson) alongside other future comedy superstars Stiller and Paul Feig.
Wet Hot American Summer (Amazon Rental)
A lovestruck camp director (Janeane Garofalo) struggles to keep her crew of rowdy, hormonal counselors in order while taking care of unfinished business during their final day at Camp Firewood for the summer of 1981.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Speaking of summer camp movies featuring a cast of future comedy superstars, perhaps the definitive summer camp movie (but for adults) would have to be 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer – a hilariously raunchy cult favorite that inspired two Netflix original series – one a prequel and the other a sequel – from director David Wain, who also co-wrote with star Michael Showalter.
Rent (or buy) Wet Hot American Summer on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Meatballs (Amazon Prime, Tubi)
As the annual, coveted Camp Olympics are approaching, the fun-loving head counselor (Bill Murray) decides to set aside his irresponsible, womanizing ways and try to whip his rowdy, hormonal, young campers into shape to break their longtime losing streak.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Long before Wet Hot American Summer, the definitive adult-oriented summer camp movie had to be 1979’s Meatballs – one of the late Ivan Reitman’s best movies (and his first collaboration with his friend, Murray) which went on to spawn three sequels.
The Great Outdoors (Amazon Rental)
A Chicago man (John Candy) sees his leisurely summer getaway in Wisconsin interrupted by the unexpected arrival of his snobbish brother-in-law (Dan Aykroyd) and his own family, whose struggle to share the fun of this vacation is only worsened by a series of ridiculous incidents.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Another fun movie about camping during the summer and starring a pair of Ivan Reitman movie veterans is 1998’s The Great Outdoors – a classic of the family vacation disaster comedy subgenre from writer John Hughes.
Rent (or buy) The Great Outdoors on Amazon (opens in new tab).
National Lampoon’s Vacation (HBO Max)
A Chicago food additives and preservatives expert (Chevy Chase) sees his cross-country road trip to a beloved amusement park with his wife (Beverly D’Angelo), son (Anthony Michael Hall), and daughter (Dana Barron) quickly devolve into a desperate plea for fun, stability, and sanity when they fall prey to a series of maddening circumstances.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Of course, the crown jewel of the family vacation disaster comedy subgenre has to be the first (and, arguably, best) of the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies from 1983 – a timelessly relatable and boldly uproarious laugh riot from director Harold Ramis that was also written by John Hughes and is based on his own short story.
Stream National Lampoon’s Vacation on HBO Max (opens in new tab).
Rent (or buy) National Lampoon’s Vacation on Amazon (opens in new tab).
The Way Way Back (HBO Max)
A shy teen (Liam James) spends the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her domineering boyfriend (Steve Carell) at the boyfriend’s beach house in Cape Cod, where he receives a job and some much-needed mentorship from the affable manager of a nearby water park (Sam Rockwell).
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: A more recent and more grounded instant classic of the summer vacation comedy subgenre (and one of the dysfunctional family variety as well) is 2013’s The Way Way Back – an inspiring and romantic coming-of-age story written and directed by the Academy Award-winning duo of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
Stream The Way Way Back on HBO Max (opens in new tab).
Rent (or buy) The Way Way Back on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Moonrise Kingdom (HBO Max)
A police captain (Bruce Willis), the local scoutmaster (Edward Norton), and other citizens of a small island community desperately search for an orphaned 12-year-old boy (Jared Gilman) and a girl of the same age (Kaya Hayward) who have run away together after becoming smitten with each other in early 1960s New England.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Probably the greatest romantic coming-of-age comedy I have ever seen and my personal favorite Wes Anderson movie is 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom – a visually dazzling and uniquely hilarious celebration of youth that earned Anderson and Roman Coppola an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Stream Moonrise Kingdom on HBO Max (opens in new tab).
Rent (or buy) Moonrise Kingdom on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Dazed And Confused (Peacock Premium)
On the last day of school, a group high school students on the cusp of their senior year and others who just became freshman celebrate their freedom with a night of debauchery in 1976 Austin, Texas.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Taking place at the very beginning of the summer season is one of writer and director Richard Linklater’s most acclaimed experiments with time, 1993’s Dazed and Confused – a brilliant party movie with and a wicked cast of future A-listers (such as Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey) that boasts an invigorating soundtrack of classic hits from the 1970s.
American Graffiti (Amazon Rental)
On their last night before going off to college, a group of teenagers enjoy one last night of freedom and debauchery cruising the streets of Northern California in 1962.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Taking place at the very end of the summer season is one of the best George Lucas movies outside of the Star Wars franchise, 1973’s American Graffiti – a beautiful love letter to a lost generation featuring a stunning cast of future A-listers (such as Ron Howard and Harrison Ford) and a heart-swelling collection of needle drops from the ‘50s and ’60s.
Rent (or buy) American Graffiti on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Summer School (Showtime)
A lazy, fun-loving gym teacher (future NCIS star Mark Harmon) is forced to abandon his vacation plans when he is selected to instruct remedial English for his school’s summer program.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: The only movie on our list of summer movies in which the majority of the story actually takes place during school is the aptly title Summer School – an underrated 1987 comedy directed by the legendary Carl Reiner.
One Crazy Summer (1986)
While on a Nantucket retreat with his friends before going off to art school, an aspiring cartoonist (John Cusack) crosses paths with an aspiring singer (Demi Moore) who’s on the run from a biker gang and ends up helping her save her grandfather’s estate from greedy developers.
Why it is one of the best summer comedy movies: Also starring the uproarious Bobcat Goldthwait, writer and director Savage Steve Holland’s One Crazy Summer is one of the most uproarious comedies of the 1980s and one of the best John Cusack movies for simply keeping the promise its title makes from beginning to end.
No matter what happens, your summer can always can be one of fun and laughter with any of these hilarious classics.