Top Ten Summer Camp Movies
Would you send your kids to any of these camps?
As Summer looms, it’s that time of year to send the little ones off to camp. Some fictional camps are far better than others. I myself spent many summers away camped out in the woods, building fires, swimming and shooting arrows. In my adult life, I got to be a counselor at Tech Camp. So the Summer Camp movie is a genre close to my heart.
It’s a genre with a lot of range. Going from slapstick zany comedies, to blood curdling horror. I wanted to take a moment and share my Top Ten Summer Camp movies with you.
I enjoyed both “Addams Family” movies. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston play Gomez and Morticia to perfection. In the sequel, Adams children Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) get sent off to Summer Camp. It’s not the most traditional camp movie. And only part of the movie takes place at one, but I still feel it belongs on the list.
It’s great to see the clean and crisp counselors, who only want order and control, become villainized. Wednesday and Puglsey fall into the classic summer camp “fish out of water” gimmick. The scene where they are forced to watch cute cartoons like it is torture cracks me up every time. And their revenge for said treatment by hijacking the camp’s musical production of the First Thanksgiving is equally great.
As a kid, I could always catch this movie on syndication (thanks Ted Turner). I feel like this and C.H.U.D. were always on (Camp C.H.U.D. needs to happen!). “Piranha” is a parody of “Jaws,” but instead of shores of Amity (Amity, as you know, means “friendship”) a school of military engineered piranha terrorize… you guessed it… a summer camp!
Produced by the legendary Roger Corman (James Cameron somewhat owes his career to this man), the film is what it is for a B-Movie. The scene where the pool the piranha have been stored in is drained and a skeleton lies at the bottom is what I remember the most. It also made swimming at some of the camp lake’s a little more perilous for my younger self.
8) “Camp Nowhere”
Every kid’s dream, a camp without adults. The 90’s were a hotbed for great kid centric movies. “Camp Nowhere” stars Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson. Yup Doc Brown and Biff Tannen are reunited (and felt so good). There is also a qucktastic cameo by Burgess Meredith.
This movie epitomized a rash of 90’s flicks where smart kids outwitted dumb parents. I mean what parent would really send their kids to a camp without counselors? Probably the same level of moron who thought despite it’s reputation that this was the year that “Camp Crystal Lake” turned things around. But more on that later.
7) Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway Camp fallows the vein of slasher films that arose in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It’s got some gore effects that still hold up pretty well. Certainly one of the darker films on the list as it deals more with bullying. And most of the way through you will think you know what’s going.
If you haven’t seen it, then I won’t spoil it. Those that have know it contains one of the more shocking moments in cinema history.
6) Heavy Weights
I’ve always thought this film could serve as a prequal to “Dodgeball”. Ben Stiller pretty much plays the exact same character in both. Further more the character of Tony Perkis could easily have become White Goodman. That observation aside “Heavy Weights” tells the tale of some portly children trying to shed some weight at a fat camp.
There is a lot of homage paid to older camp movies. Mainly a Murray driven film that will come up later. Judd Apatow was one of the writers, his influence is certainly felt. To boot in contains two of my favorite TV dad’s in Jeffrey Tambor (George Bluth) and Jerry Stiller (Frank Costanza).
5) Ernest Goes to Camp
I love Ernest. I’m a massive mark for Jim Varney. So it took a lot not to rank this higher. I believe this is the first summer camp movie I ever saw. When a group of troubled kids come to camp, it’s up to good ol Ernest to take them under his wing.
It also contains one of my favorite comedic villains of all time. Dean Vernon Wormer…I mean John Vernon. That man had a stone cold gaze that could petrify even the bravest of heroes.
My favorite Wes Anderson summer camp movie. This also marks the first (but not last) time Bill Murray pops up on the list. Wes did a great job of taking the “prison break” theme and applying it to summer camp.
Like most Anderson films there’s a certain weirdness to it. I give it full marks for being the most artistic film on this list.
3)Friday the 13th
Legendary. I love this film (and a few of the others in this franchise). Whilst walking back to my tent at many a summer camp, I would be sure to watch over my shoulder in fear a deranged Vorheese might be stalking me.
Think about what these movies did for the hockey mask sales community (outside of goalies).
The archetype for all Summer Camp movies. It’s got it all, a misfit camper, charismatic counselor, evil rival camp, pranks. If you were to tell me this belongs at the top of the list, I would say you have a valid point. It just doesn’t matter, all glory to the Murray.
This was the movie that more or less put Bill on the map. It was also written by Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman. Those guys would go on to make some of the best comedies of all time.
1) Wet Hot American Summer
Many summers ago I rented a movie called “Shadow of the Vampire” on VHS from a place called “Blockbuster” That statement made me feel very frakking old. That’s not the point though, before the movie started a trailer for an offbeat looking summer camp comedy played. They had me with a Skylab joke...
Seriously this movie is loaded. Here is the cast Amy Poehler, Janeane Gerafalo, David Hyde Pierce, Micheal Ian Black, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino (Ron Donald!), Joe lo Truglio (DRON!), Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Micheal Showalter and the voice of Jon Benjamin.
Despite all those names, it’s Christopher Meloni who manages to steal the whole show. Rather he was “fonduing his cheddar”, checking in on his “Bud in class” or practicing with his “steam team” he brought the funny in copious amounts. David Wain directed and wrote (with Showalter) this monument to summer camp movies. It’s my favorite and I’ve damn near wore out my DVD watching it over the years.
They aren’t movies, but I wanted to give a shout out of love to Camp Candy and Salute Your Shorts. Salute Your Shorts will not make it to DVD soon enough.
What’d ya think of my list, did I leave out a movie? Do you agree or disagree with my rankings? Please share below in the comments section.