Celebrating Summer in Pop Culture


June 21st marks the summer solstice — aka the official start to summer and the longest day of the year. It’s especially long in Iceland, where the sun shines for a full 24 hours. Reyka Vodka, from the first distillery in Iceland (which, let’s just be clear, filters the good stuff through freakin’ lava rocks to get that smooth finish), is celebrating the holiday by flying out one very lucky sun-worshiper to experience the island in all its summer glory. Here at Flavorwire, we’re taking a look at some of our favorite films, books, and music of the summer season.

1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream Of course The Bard nailed it. Midsummer occurs in the days around the summer solstice, and in this OG rom-com, two pairs of lovers, some fairies, and a bunch of foolish bit players spend a night in the forest to maximum comedic effect. If you’re dead-set against reading the play (or if you skipped those weeks in English lit in high school), the 1999 film version starring Kevin Kline as Bottom is serviceable.

2. Dazed & Confused This indie summer comedy from Richard Linklater takes place on the last day of school in 1976. An wonderful young cast of recognizable stars (Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Ben Affleck, Milla Jojovich…) takes viewers through the trials and tribulations of high-school life — from drugs and football to hazing and first kisses — ending up at a big freakin’ party at the moontower.

3. That Summer! Soundtrack You probably missed this British drama, which marked the debut of Ray Winstone (you’d recognize him from a variety of English tough guy/”geezer” roles), and honestly, that’s OK. But don’t miss out on the soundtrack, which plays like a who’s-who of new wave. From John Peel’s favorite song, “Teenage Kicks,” to tracks from Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Elvis Costello, and the Boomtown Rats, this album is an audio snapshot of summer ’79 — and still totally danceable in summer 2013.

4. Wet Hot American Summer This satire penned by The State buds David Wain and Michael Showalter was both a critical and commercial flop when first released, but it’s since reached cult-classic status. A send-up of summer-camp movies like Meatballs (but with a distinctly Jewish twist — Wain and Showalter used their own experiences at Jewish summer camp as inspiration), the eminently quotable Wet Hot takes place on the last day of camp and boasts an impressive comedic cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, and more. Also featured in roles you wouldn’t expect: Christopher Meloni (aka Det. Stabler for you SVU fans) and Bradley Cooper.

5. “Summer in the City” Honestly, when we think of summer, this is the first tune that pops into our heads. That might just be because a summer here in NYC will indeed make the back of your neck “dirty and gritty.” But we’re pretty sure it’s also because it’s a great tune. Released by The Lovin’ Spoonful in 1966, it went to #1 on the Billboard charts in the appropriately swampy month of August of that year.

6. National Lampoon’s Vacation Arguably the best of the “Vacation” series, National Lampoon’s take on the doomed family summer vacation reminds us all that, hey, our childhood trips could have been worse! Be thankful that your family car trips never included dead pets or relatives (uh, we hope).

7. “Summertime” This 1991 single from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was inescapable that summer, and we’re pleased to still find it in heavy rotation come June as the years go on. The song samples another summer classic, Kool & the Gang’s 1974 jam “Summer Madness,” and is the perfect kick-off groove for any Summer Solstice jam.

8. Let the Great World Spin Colum McCann’s masterful 2009 novel won the US National Book Award for fiction — and with good reason. Action revolves around Philippe Petit’s real-life tightrope walk between the Twin Towers on August 7, 1974. A host of characters (there are, in fact, 11 different protagonists) tell the often intersecting/overlapping stories of their experiences around that event. It’s an incredible “slice of life” novel, examining the pathos of NYC citizens during one single summer.

9. Equinox Coming back to a direct summer solstice connection, we end with Equinox. Never heard of it? Then you aren’t a die-hard special effects fan. Dennis Muren lead the effects team on this stop-motion wonder from 1970 — before he went on to win Oscars for Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Proving that it’s not just for monster-movie buffs, The Criterion Collection recently released a double-disc special edition, which includes effects commentary by Muren.