Today’s excruciating weather seems like a fitting tribute to the film everyone loves to hate-watch in the summer: Jaws . We say hate with a grain of salt, obviously, because the tale about a great white terrorizing an island community is one of cinema’s greatest hot weather movies — tapping into our universal fears like few can.
Steven Spielberg’s second feature film — which set the standard for summer movie blockbusters and is essentially an updating of Melville’s Moby Dick, based on Peter Benchley’s novel — first hit theaters today in 1975. For a film that’s almost 40 years old, Jaws is just as suspenseful and unnerving now as it was back then. Spielberg’s horrific shark Bruce is surprisingly scarier than most CGI monsters currently packing theaters.
With shark-filled beaches in mind, let’s take a look back at other movies that make us cringe when the temperatures rise. Tell us about the films that get your vote below.
Riots, death, and racial tension: these are a few things a neighborhood in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn endures during one of the hottest days of the summer. Tension amongst the larger than life personalities at war with each other eventually becomes unbearable, the scorching heat and hatred enough to send you searching out air conditioning no matter the cost. Lee’s production designer emphasized the boiling point — of the characters and the temp — by using a lot of reds and oranges for the urban color scheme.
Masked killer Jason Vorhees stalked and slashed his way through Camp Crystal Lake for the first time in the summer of 1980. Since then kids of all ages at summer camps and outdoor excursions everywhere have been quaking in their flip-flops wondering if the disfigured psychopath would make an appearance in the woods. Archery and bunk beds haven’t felt the same since Jason impaled Kevin Bacon in the throat with an arrow.
Hitchcock’s Rear Window opens on a sweltering day at an apartment complex in Manhattan — hot enough to make its residents crawl the fire escapes with frustration, the rising thermometer a harbinger of things to come. A wheelchair-bound photographer spends his recovery watching the neighbors from his apartment window. He becomes convinced one of them is a murderer and is obsessed with uncovering the truth. The director’s voyeuristic tendencies are center stage in the 1954 film, particularly during the window gazing scenes featuring a Hitchcockian blonde dancer. We’ll be keeping our curtains closed all summer long.
Al Pacino’s unstable Sonny almost seems fuelled by the boiling heat in Dog Day Afternoon. He robs a bank to pay for his lover’s sex reassignment surgery and ends up taking hostages and causing a media frenzy. We feel every bead of sweat — and Sonny’s increasingly heartbreaking frustration — as the day wears on in Sidney Lumet’s fevered classic.
Don’t get between an unemployed defense engineer and his hamburger on a hot day in Los Angeles. You might find a gun pointed your way, especially if the disgruntled and unhinged man is Michael Douglas in Falling Down. When we first meet Douglas’ Foster he’s trapped in a traffic jam with cruddy air conditioning. After losing his job and family, the otherwise average Foster completely snaps. Of course, the irony is that we can relate to a few of Foster’s frustrations, but most of us won’t be threatening any fast food employees over it.
Nothing can ruin your summer faster than your grief-stricken, emotionally unstable aunt trying to force you to have a lobotomy. Katharine Hepburn’s Violet Venable in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Suddenly, Last Summer tries to do just that to her niece (Elizabeth Taylor) after the young girl witnesses a tragic family incident. Mrs. Venable will do anything to cover the truth behind the strange and horrific incident, which only forces Taylor’s Catherine to relive the moments over and over again. The film is based on a play by Tennessee Williams who always manages to make hot, sticky days and long summer nights feel dizzying.
Remember that summer your friends hit a man with their car, dumped his dead body in the ocean, and vowed never to talk about it again? (Hint: it was that time before Jennifer Love Hewitt became worryingly addicted to vajazzling and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze, Jr. still had careers.) I Know What You Did Last Summer remembers, and the film conjures up memories of warm weather bestie hang outs where things went terribly wrong and ruined your vacation completely. The worst part is that you know there’s bound to be a sequel next year.
It’s all wide-eyed love and romantic indie dreams until someone gets dumped. Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer might remind you of that relationship you had with that one person who had a major existential crisis over a movie that was probably The Graduate. You can’t remember though, because your summer of love and heartbreak is just a giant, nonlinear mishmash ruined by their constant navel-gazing. It all worked out in the end, but man, that summer really sucked.
Summer is the perfect time for outdoor adventures, like camping — or canoeing down the rivers of North Georgia. That’s what four businessmen in Deliverance try to do during their off time. Problem is, they run into a group of toothless hillbillies who make life a living hell in a variety of unspeakable ways. Soon, blood is on everybody’s hands, and terror overwhelms the men who fight for survival. We can imagine the looks on audiences’ faces in July 1972 leaving the movie theater.
Spike Lee can certainly paint a troubling portrait of stifling friction and disquiet when he wants to, and Summer of Sam is no exception. The film follows a group of people in a Bronx neighborhood during the summer of 1977 when real-life serial killer David Berkowitz was dominating the headlines. The murderer — known as Son of Sam — was captured that August, but Lee’s movie details the mounting anxiety several fictional couples deal with in the days leading up to his arrest. We watch them turn on each other as distrust and fearfulness intensifies. A 100-degree blackout makes everything worse.