11 of Hollywood's Most Memorable Films About Summer Camp

5:57 PM 8/19/2018

by Cashen Conroy

Take a look back at some of the most iconic movies about the beloved hot-weather tradition.

Lindsay Lohan (and Lindsay Lohan) in 1998's 'The Parent Trap'
Lindsay Lohan (and Lindsay Lohan) in 1998's 'The Parent Trap'
Photofest

For decades, filmmakers have attempted to capture the magical combination of awkwardness, romance, excitement and absurdity that defines the summer camp experience. When done right, camp movies can practically conjure up the quintessential summer scent of sunscreen mixed with bug spray.

Now, with a few weeks left in this year’s camp season, revisit the classic blockbusters, thrillers and indie films that take viewers back to their days of food fights and skinny-dipping.

Find a list of some of the most iconic camp-themed films below.

  • Wet Hot American Summer

    'Wet Hot American Summer'
    'Wet Hot American Summer'
    Netflix

    This satirical comedy documents a drama-filled last day at the fictional Camp Firewood. Since its release in 2001, the film has become a cult classic, in large part due to the later success achieved by many of its cast members — namely, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd. Since its release, the film has been revived by two Netflix series: One serves as a prequel and the other depicts the camp 10 years later.

  • Meatballs

    'Meatballs'
    'Meatballs'
    Courtesy of Everett Collection

    With practical jokes, excruciating crushes, strange nicknames and an outrageously intense rivalry against another camp, this Canadian comedy film — which features Bill Murray in his first starring role — possesses all the elements of a classic summer camp movie.

  • The Parent Trap

    1961's 'The Parent Trap'
    1961's 'The Parent Trap'
    Photofest

    The romantic comedy-drama, adapted from a book by Erich Kästner, follows two identical, separated-shortly-after-birth twins who discover each other’s existence for the first time when they end up at the same summer camp and set out to reunite their parents. The book has been adapted multiple times, including most recently on Disney Channel, but the two most memorable are likely the 1961 original starring Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith and the 1998 version starring Lindsay Lohan in her breakout role. The latter also went down in history because it led many '90s kids and conspiracy theorists to mistakenly believe, at least for a little while, that Lohan had a twin who died.

  • Camp Rock

    'Camp Rock'
    'Camp Rock'
    Photofest

    Camp Rock is one of a few camp movies that fails to feature any canoeing, friendship-bracelet-making or even hiking. In this Disney Channel Original Movie, Demi Lovato plays a hopeful but financially limited young musician attending music camp, while Joe Jonas showcases his voice as the cocky lead singer of a popular band called Connect 3.

  • Addams Family Values

    'Addams Family Values'
    'Addams Family Values'
    Photofest

    The supernatural dark-comedy sequel to The Addams Family involves a serial killer named Debbie who seduces and attempts to murder Uncle Fester for his inheritance. Meanwhile, Wednesday and Pugsley are sent away to Camp Chippewa, where they’re forced to deal with their own nightmare: overly peppy camp directors.

  • It Takes Two

    'It Takes Two'
    'It Takes Two'
    Photofest

    In this film with a storyline that more than a little reminiscent of The Parent Trap, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen play two unrelated but identical girls who cross paths at summer camp. After realizing that wealthy Alyssa’s father and orphaned Amanda’s kind social worker would be perfect for each other, the girls decide to switch places in order set them up.

  • Little Darlings

    'Little Darlings'
    'Little Darlings'
    Photofest

    In Little Darlings, two teenage girls spending the summer at camp make a bet over who will lose their virginity first. With different backgrounds and opposite mindsets when it comes to romance — Ferris (Tatum O'Neal) is a starry-eyed dreamer and Angel’s (Kristy McNichol) a cynic — they each experience an eye-opening summer that completely transforms their views about love and sex.

  • Heavyweights

    'Heavyweights'
    'Heavyweights'
    Photofest

    This comedy opens with young protagonist Gerry being shipped off to a weight loss camp by his parents. Upon arrival, he and the other campers learn that, due to the original owners' financial woes, the camp has been taken over by a ruthless, possibly psychotic fitness guru (played by Ben Stiller). Ridiculousness ensues.

  • Friday the 13th

    'Friday the 13th'
    'Friday the 13th'
    Courtesy of Photofest

    According to some, this 1980 film originated the “slasher” subgenre. Friday the 13th takes place at the eerie Crystal Lake, an abandoned campground infamous for its “death curse.” Despite warnings from locals, a group of teenage counselors attempt to revive the camp, only to be murdered one by one.

  • Camp

    'Camp'
    'Camp'
    Photofest

    Featuring a memorable rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch” by Anna Kendrick in her film debut, Camp depicts the daily dramas of a New York performing arts camp. Writer and director Todd Graff based the film on his own experiences at Stagedoor Manor.

  • Moonrise Kingdom

    'Moonrise Kingdom'
    'Moonrise Kingdom'

    This colorful coming-of-age film directed by Wes Anderson follows an orphan boy as he escapes from camp to unite with his pen-pal-slash-love-interest, with whom he continues his adventures. This creative tale of young love received critical acclaim and became Anderson’s highest-grossing film in North America.