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The 10 greatest cinematic celebrations of summer


Summer: sometimes it feels as though we wait all year just for those three (hopefully) sun-dappled months. When the clouds finally part and those warm tangerine beams slink down from the sky, it’s hard not to feel a wave of excitement.

These are the months of barbecues under peachy skies, cold drinks in lush parks and rambling conversations that stretch well into the darkling hour. Of course, sometimes, summer doesn’t deliver. Rain can extinguish that barbecue in a flash, and the general business of life can make those expansive conversations feel like a forbidden luxury.

Well, thankfully, there’s a way of basking in summer’s warm glow even if it’s barely stopped raining for weeks on end. That’s right: cinema. The best summer films distil the heat of the holiday season, capturing the laziness, the sprawling days, and the beauty of everything in full bloom.

Here, we’ve bought you a selection of films that celebrate the spirit of summer. From old classics to modern-day masterpieces, these ten movies all radiate vitality and can be relied upon to keep you warm even when summer seems like a distant dream. So, put on your sandals, lather on factor 30 sun lotion and join us as we step into summer.

The greatest celebrations of summer in cinema:

The Talented Mr Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)

Those eager to bask in the waters of the Bay of Naples would do well to watch this sun-drenched adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name. The Talented Mr Ripley tells the story of Tom Ripley, a young ‘nobody’ with a knack for adopting the habits and characteristics of those he meets. But when the penniless Ripley is sent to a small island in Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, the spoilt son of a wealthy New York businessman, things become much more sinister.

Apart from the scenes in New York, the film was shot entirely in Italy. From the fictional town of Mongibello (probably Procida or Ischia) to Naples, Rome and Venice, this sumptuous film simmers with a pervading sense that the good times must eventually come to a stuttering end.

Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)

Few film series make travel seem quite so appealing as Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. The director introduced us to Jesse and Celine with Before Sunrise, a film which seems to imply that humans, like flowers, are given fresh life in the summer sun.

Released in 1995′, Bore Sunrise takes place in the Austrian capital of Vienna. Having eyed each other up across a train carriage and decided that they’d rather spend their final days of freedom together than on their own, the pair decide to explore the city together. We see Vienna unfold as the pair explore its every inch during these stolen hours. From dingey rock clubs to the aristocratic climes of The gardens of Palais Schwarzenberg, every side of the city is laid bare as Jesse and Celine unravel one another.

Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)

Another Linklater offering now. Set on the even of the summer break, 1976, Dazed and Confused is saturated with the green fog of the fading counterculture movement. This 1990s classic sees Linklater eavesdrop on a rowdy bunch of high school seniors from Austin as they embark on the ‘keg party’ to end all keg parties.

The brilliance of Dazed and Confused is that it avoids falling into nostalgia. Instead, it seems to imply that the frustration and angst of teendom are timeless and that every generation should engage in a moment of spontaneous revelry. it is, after all, what being young is all about.

Roman Holiday (Dalton Trumbo, 1953)

This ode to the ‘eternal city’ has been leaving audiences hungry for a summer escape since the 1950s. At this time, Rome was at the very centre of the film world, thanks in large part to the popularity and success of Studio Cinicetta.

Roman Holiday tells the story of an unhappy princess (Audrey Hepburn) who decided to slip out of her country’s embassy in Rome and explore the city on her own steam. During her travels, she meets a charming American reporter (Gregory Peck), who, on learning her true identity, sets about trying to get an exclusive interview. Soon, the intoxicating heat of summer sends the pair spinning towards an inevitable romance.

Dogtown and Z Boys (Stacy Peralta, 2001)

This uplifting documentary from 2001 is as much a celebration of the underdog as it is a hymn to surfing and skateboarding. Crafted using a mix of film captured by the Zephyr skateboard team (Z-Boys) in the 1970s and contemporary interviews, Dogtown and Z Boys, tells the story of a crew of teenage surfers and skateboarders, tracing their impact on skate and surf culture.

The whole project bristles with the heat of the Californian sun. Indeed, many of the ‘skateparks’ captured in the archive footage are emptied backyard pools that were drained during one of California’s record-breaking droughts. These pools became hotspots for young skateboarders looking for spaces to practice razor-sharp new moves.

Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)

This sun-dappled erotic road trip movie from Alfonso Cuarón is at once a tender portrait of friendship, a meditation on impermanence and a lyrical ode to perhaps the most enduring of cinematic themes: sex.

The film follows a pair of horny Mexican teenagers from Mexico City. After their girlfriends depart for Italy during the summer, they become fixated on a sensual older woman they meet at a wedding. When she too finds herself bereft of a romantic partner, the trio sets off on a road trip to a distant beach, forming an intense sexual and emotional relationship along the way.

Il Postino (Michael Radford, 1994)

Directed by Michael Radford, Il Postino is one of the most beautiful, tender and poignant films of the 1990s. The action unfolds on the small Italian island of Procida, where Mario (Massimo Troisi), an uneducated loafer, finds himself hired as a postman just as exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda arrives. Each day, Mario cycles along the island’s lofty cliffs to deliver Neruda’s mail, and each day their friendship grows stronger, leading to a profound change in Mario.

Massimo Troisi, a huge star in Italy at the time, was severely ill during the filming of Il Postino. His commitment to the project (which he helped produce) saw him postpone heart surgery so it could be completed on schedule. The day after principal photography concluded, Troisi had a fatal heart attack and died. The actor’s body double, who had been used to film the cycling scenes, walked behind the coffin at his funeral. Radford told The Guardian “All the Neapolitans, who are superstitious as hell, assumed it was his ghost.”

Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)

Adapted from Stephen King’s 1982 story The Body, this Rob Reiner-directed masterpiece follows a group of young friends as they embark on a youthful adventure over the 1959 Labour Day Weekend, the dividing line between the end of summer and the start of autumn.

The film’s thematic weight is outlined from the off: “In all our lives, there’s a fall from innocence…” As Reiner artfully expresses, Stand By Me is far from a carefree summer romp: it is an exploration of the ever-present boundary between childhood folly and the existential drama of adulthood.

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)

Few films capture those long lazy days in mid-summer as artfully as Call Me By Your Name. Shot chiefly in the Lombardy town of Crema, Luca Guadagnino’s seventh feature film helped to redefine cinematic portrayals of Italy by locating the action, not within the urban sprawl of Rome, but in the bucolic landscapes of Northern Italy. ‘It is quintessentially Italian without being an idea of Italy,’ Guadagnino told Conde Nast. ‘It’s just Italy.”

With summer casting its orange hues over his family’s home, Elio finds himself entranced by Oliver, an older grad student whom his archaeology professor father has invited to stay. As the days melt into one another, Elio and Oliver strike up an intoxicating summer romance in this tender coming of age drama.

Mr Bean’s Holiday (Richard Curtis, 2007)

How could we not? Having spent many rainy English summers longing for the balmy climes of southern Europe, I can confirm that Richard Curtis’ Mr Beans’ Holiday really captures the joy of breaking away from the drizzle.

After winning a trip to France at a church raffle, the immortal Monsuier Bean (Rowan Atkinson) packs his bags and heads off to Cannes. However, after unwittingly separates a young boy from his father, he must find a way of reuniting them. His quest takes him on a journey through France, where he discovers the joys of bicycling, the true meaning of friendship and even true love. It doesn’t get more heartwarming than this.