Chill With These Top Summer Movies For Families

Matt Brown
Mar 01, 2024 By Matt Brown
Originally Published on Jul 19, 2021
These summer camp movies can help you get your summer vibe on.
Age: 0-99
Read time: 5.3 Min

Summer and movies go together like cola and ice. Film studios know this, and release their big blockbusters in July and August. But outside the cinema, what classic films might you stream or download to surf the summer vibe?

We’ve picked 12 family favorites that will transport you to the beach, summer camp or some other holiday destination. It’s a list packed with sun, sea and surf (if not Smurf).

 

Finding Dory

A glorious sequel, to a glorious original. Finding Dory and Finding Nemo are both fishy quest tales, and either would make for happy family viewing. Dory feels a little more summery, though, with most of the action taking place in and around a Californian water park. If you’re watching Finding Nemo, remember to look out for this curious blooper.

The Goonies

This mid-80s classic brings together the combined talents of director Richard Donner (Superman and Lethal Weapon), writer Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1-3, Gremlins and Percy Jackson), and Steven Spielberg (just about every big film of the 80s and 90s). A band of misfit kids go on a treasure-seeking adventure, avoiding pitfalls and perils, pirates and a pratfalling crime family. It’s not the most original of plots, but the Spielberg magic holds it all together. 

High School Musical 2

Zac Efron, Gabriella Montez and co. are back for one of those rare sequels that’s better than the first installment. This time round, the gang have broken up for the summer vacation. Doesn’t stop them singing, though. This snappy film for tweens has plenty of singalong tunes, and even features a cameo from one Miley Cyrus.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Hotel Transylvania 3 is a great movie which will channel your inner summer vibe.

 

The first two films in the franchise were mostly locked into Transylvania, but this third installment sees the eerie hoteliers take their own vacation on a cruise ship for monsters. It’s a bold move, given that vampires are supposed to perish in direct sunlight. The film also sees the introduction, finally, of Dracula’s arch-nemesis Van Helsing - albeit a 200-year-old steampunk cyborg version. To be honest, the first two films are better, but this third installment still holds enough laughs to keep the family entertained. And Drac still does not say blah-bla-blah-blah-bla.

Lilo And Stitch

Strange to think that this tale of a young girl and her destructive pet alien is now a fifth of a century old. The beach-filled Hawaiian setting gives the film a holiday backdrop, complete with surfing scenes. But life’s hardly a beach for the main characters. Young Lilo has lived with her older sister Nani since their parents were killed in a car crash, while the alien Stitch spends most of the film pursued by his one-time handlers. Despite the shifting sands of an eccentric plot, the way Lilo and Stitch triumph against adversity anchors the film in solid rock.    

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid can be categorized as one of the best ocean movies out there.

 

This 1989 movie was a return-to-form for Disney. It began a new string of successes that would include Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the Lion King. The oceanic setting gives the film a summery vibe, enhanced by that catchiest of calypso songs, “Under the Sea”. It remains the only Oscar-winning song to be performed by a crustacean. 

Luca

Arguably Pixar’s sunniest film, Luca is set on the Italian coast, and plays out to a backdrop of beaches, ice creams and frolicking in the sea. As with the Little Mermaid, the seashore is at the heart of the film. Protagonist Luca transitions from a sea monster to a human whenever he emerges from the brine. Full of wit and charm, like all Pixar films, this coming-of-age movie is ideal for summertime family viewing. 

Mary Poppins

The perennial favourite needs little introduction. Despite being set in the soot-besmirched, blustery streets of Edwardian London, the film takes a decidedly summery twist when our heroes jump into the chalk pavement picture. “It’s A Jolly Holiday” remains one of the most catchy songs about going on vacation, even though few people went on holiday in 1910. Always worth a rewatch.  

Moana

Disney’s second major outing to Polynesia, following Lilo and Stitch. The titular Moana decides to leave her insular island in search of demi-god Maui. Her adventures across the oceans and beaches of the South Pacific are beautifully animated. Plus, the soundtrack contains at least three songs that might be considered Disney greats - and one of them topped our poll as the best Disney song ever. Like the Little Mermaid, Moana features a singing crustacean, though one who proved much less popular than Sebastian - a fact the after-credits scene has some fun with.

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown

The Peanuts comic strip was first adapted for the screen in the mid-60s, around the same time as Mary Poppins. Of the many TV shows, specials and films, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977) is the most apt for summertime viewing. The movie sees Charlie and the gang head off to Camp Remote for a summer adventure. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

The 23rd (!) film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also one of the best. It also shouts ‘holiday’ louder than the other installments, given that the plot involves Peter Parker and chums taking a European tour. Their travels take them to Venice, Prague and London, for a memorable finale on Tower Bridge. While this is very much for older children and teens (it has a 12A certificate), the high school cast make this a more family-friendly outing than many of the MCU films.

Toy Story 4

All four of the Toy Story movies are precious gems that you can enjoy at any time of year. However, the fourth feature has more of a summertime vibe. The toys are taken out on an RV road trip, and end up getting into scrapes at a summer carnival. Though perhaps not as sharp as its predecessors, Toy Story 4 has just as much heart and serves as a solid ending (probably) to this much-loved franchise. (That said, a spinoff film about Buzz Lightyear is in the works.)

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Written by Matt Brown

Bachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

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Matt BrownBachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

With a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Master's in Residency specializing in Biomolecular Sciences and roots in the Midlands, Matt has developed a passion for writing about London. As a former editor and prolific contributor to Londonist.com, he has authored several books exploring the city's hidden gems. In addition to his work, Matt enjoys spending time with his two preschool-aged children.

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