Labor Day weekend means barbecues, shopping sprees, and sports. But it also marks the last chance for many folks to enjoy summer before it's gone. With that in mind, we're going to tip our hat to some of the coolest summer-themed movies you can watch on Netflix this holiday break.
To start, those of you who'd prefer to avoid preparing food for the grill or venturing out of the house this weekend could have themselves a killer shark movie marathon. Netflix is offering up the entire Jaws franchise for your viewing pleasure, and while it's true that none of the sequels live up to the original, it's still a fun challenge.
In the mood for an art house film instead? Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is set in the all-too-familiar environment of summer camp, but it won't be mistaken for another Meatballs (1979), Friday the 13th (1980) or Wet Hot American Summer (2001). The auteur puts his own magical, romantic spin to the setting that is a joy to watch.
Sleeping Giant, on the other hand, captures with convincing realism the lazy days of summer vacation as three teenage friends slowly come face-to-face with their personal problems.
It's hard to ignore the loud and obnoxious behavior of a group of graduating British students who take their first holiday abroad in the raucous sex comedy The Inbetweeners. If you enjoy laughing at things that would get you in trouble around polite company, this one is for you.
The final days of summer always come with the wish that the dog days will never end. And that's just what the surfers in the '60s flashback The Endless Summer set out to do, as they travel the globe riding big waves, and in the process, achieve zen-like happiness.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Jaws (1975) / Jaws 2 (1978) / Jaws 3-D (1983) / Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Dennis Quaid, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Caine
Directors: Steven Spielberg / Jeannot Szwarc / Joe Alves / Joseph Sargent
Genre: Action, Thriller, Horror, Drama
Before Star Wars there was Jaws. Steven Spielberg's highly entertaining movie about a shark terrorizing a small resort town was a box-office and pop culture phenomenon, and is credited with jumpstarting the summer blockbuster in the '70s. After Jaws, you couldn't go to the beach without someone humming the instantly famous scary music by John Williams in an attempt to scare you. Long considered a classic, the film is often humorous and also a masterful work of suspense reminiscent of Hitchcock. If that weren't enough, it's also partly an homage to Moby Dick. All in all, it still holds up today.
Jaws 2 was an unabashed cash-in. It's so flagrant, you have to laugh at the obvious plugs for Cheerios and Coca-Cola in two scenes. (The studio must have been feeling cocky. There's even a scene that takes a jab at the killer whale movie Orca released a year earlier, which many considered a Jaws rip-off.) Still, the movie is better than expected and manages to evoke a few good scares even if it does rehash a lot of the original material.
The less said about Part 3 the better. Released in theaters in 3D, not even gimmicky special effects could save what comes off looking like a badly-directed episode of the TV show Flipper. Actually, if you skip 3 and go straight to Jaws: The Revenge, you'd probably be better off since the fourth installment really feels like a continuation of Part 2, anyways.
Now make no mistake, Jaws: The Revenge is kinda ridiculous, trying to make us believe that the shark has a personal vendetta against the Brody family and has hunted them all the way from Massachusetts to the Bahamas. Yet, weirdly enough, it's the supernatural horror vibe — and not the family drama it eventually turns into — that is most enjoyable. At least it has a somewhat-satisfying ending.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy, Adventure
Film lovers already know the deal when it comes to the films of Wes Anderson. The artiste (with an "e") is known the world over for his cinematic palette full of wondrous colors, recurring actors, and meticulous detail.
So where does Moonrise Kingdom rank amongst his films? It's difficult to say. The endlessly charming, end-of-summer tale of a 12-year-old scout who runs away from camp to be with his misunderstood girlfriend is an endearing portrait of first love that stays with you long after the final credits. It's a fine piece of American filmmaking that feels like a long-lost '60s relic that has somehow captured a dream state version of Upstate New York.
The crisp pacing is unexpected for this type of film and should help win over people who think art house movies are "boring." But because it treats kids like adults, Moonrise Kingdom is likely to throw some viewers off. Yet it's hard to imagine Anderson's trademark style not winning over most people.
Sleeping Giant (2015)
Starring: Jackson Martin, Reece Moffett, Nick Serino
Director: Andrew Cividino
This impressively acted film takes place in Canada, but will hardly seem like it to most US audiences. That's because the type of summer the main characters experience in Sleeping Giant is one most people here can relate to. Which teenager hasn't spent their vacation fighting off boredom by playing video games, egging homes, or engaging in general rough housing to pass the time?
But ultimately, it's the combination of built-up angst and familial conflict that leads the three friends in Sleeping Giant in a volatile direction. The film nails what it's like to be young and inexperienced, how at that age we're all a little lost and can quickly lash out at a confusing world. Some of what ails these teens is left unspoken, but the undertones of budding sexuality and the fear of growing up are strongly felt.
The Inbetweeners (2011)
Starring: Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison
Director: Ben Palmer
Every adult knows that the reason why the famous travel ad "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" worked so well is because some people tend to get downright freaky when on vacation. Well, that's exactly how the horny young men in The Inbetweeners behave when they go on a two-week holiday to Greece. It's just not a trip, it's an excuse for debauchery. Along for the rowdy ride are the usual suspects: the book smart virgin-nerd; the sap trying to forget the girlfriend who just dumped him, the a-hole lucky to have any friends at all, and the weirdo who you're never quite sure what he's going to do next.
Even in this "grab 'em by the pussy" era, the vulgar shenanigans of these foul-mouthed buddies is bound to offend some folks. Those who love un-PC humor will most likely get a bigger kick out of this movie — that is if you don't mind the thick English accents. While "getting" British humor surely helps, there's enough outlandish jokes in The Inbetweeners to keep anyone entertained.
The Endless Summer (1966)
Starring: Mike Hynson, Robert August
Director: Bruce Brown
Genre: Documentary, Adventure, Sports
There are few movies as mellow as filmmaker Bruce Brown's freewheeling, true-life adventure about two surfers who chase the summer season around the world. You can practically feel the cool breeze and the sand beneath your feet as Brown's 16mm camera follows the daring duo from California to the beaches of Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and finally Hawaii.
Even though it's really just a super-long home movie backed by Brown's smart-alecky narration, The Endless Summer connects with people because it's a glorious depiction of the joys of freedom. These are two dude out in the open sea, one with nature, and their only worry is what next wave to catch.
Some of the film's best moments happen in Africa when locals are introduced to surfing and fall head-over-heels for it. Which is why it's a shame that Brown's narration for this section is, at the very least, condescending, and might even be seen as racist (Brown makes a cannibal joke while in Ghana). On a brighter note, the film serves as a nice primer on surfer terminology and the eye-catching scenery is bound to seduce anyone who has longed to travel extensively.