If you’re itching for longer days, warmer weather, the smell of freshly cut grass, or just barbecuing some burgers and brats, nothing beats watching a fun summer-themed movie with your kids. (Or, ya know, popping your little ones on the couch for a couple hours so you can grill those burgers.) Whether you’re away on vacation, enjoying a staycation at home, or your kids are just relaxing after an exhausting day at
summer camp, this collection of films — both classic and new — will surely keep the whole family entertained.
Some of the movies featured on this list celebrate the best things about the summer: baseball season, summer camp,
fun vacations in the sun... you name it. (Be honest, when was the last time you watched Camp Rock or The Parent Trap?) Other movies on this list — like A Wrinkle In Time or Daddy Day Care, for example — will have you revisiting those lazy school days right before summer starts.
So put on something comfy, grab an ice cold lemonade, and escape to an exotic locale or musical camp for your family’s next movie night. Here are 22 great options to choose from — enjoy!
A Fairly Odd Summer
Drake Bell stars as Timmy Turner in this live-action adaptation of the animated Nickelodeon show,
The Fairly Odd Parents. Wearing his signature red hat, Timmy has come down with a case of some major summer blues working at a yuck disposal center in Fairy World. But the potential for adventure amps up when Timmy must travel to Hawaii, where he learns that the source of all fairy magic is in dangerous hands. Fan favorites like Foop, Tootie, and Timmy’s parents have also packed their bags to join this tropical getaway. Grab your ukulele and get your piña colada ready to prep for this magical movie. Watch A Fairly Odd Summer, rated TV-Y7, on Netflix or on Paramount+. A League of Their Own
Baseball and summer go hand in hand, but what makes this movie so ahead of its time is that it centers on women’s sports. This blockbuster comedy-drama features Geena Davis in one of her most beloved roles as an athlete and protective big sis. Tom Hanks stars as a washed-up baseball player assigned to coach one of the
first professional women’s baseball teams during World War II. This film is part history lesson, part family-friendly fun that will have your kids saying “there’s no crying in baseball” through the end of August. Plus, who can resist a team with a summery name like The Peaches, and Madonna as a sassy-mouthed center fielder? Watch A League of Their Own, rated PG, on Amazon Prime. A Week Away: A Musical
When a troubled teen steals a car and is forced to attend a Christian summer camp instead of heading off to Juvie (solid choice!), he learns the powers of kindness, healing, and faith through music and new friends. As with many teen movies, something about that scorching heat always seems to have the power to transform a bad boy into a do-gooder. Throw in summer kisses and an all-night tribunal, and you’ve got all the key ingredients of camp drama. With updates of ‘90s jams like “Baby, Baby” and “Place In This World,” you’ll be tapping your feet and giving your kiddos a musical history lesson at the very same time.
Watch A Week Away, rated TV-PG, on Netflix. A Wrinkle In Time
After Meg’s father, a scientist, disappears, three mystical guides travel through “a wrinkle in time and space” to help Meg search for him in this fantastical film
based on the 1962 novel by Madeleine L’Engle. While the film does take place during the school year, Meg’s journey to the planets has plenty of sights fit for a summer vacation. A Wrinkle in Time features an all-star female cast including Oprah Winfrey, as well as celeb moms, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling. This flick is the perfect pick to watch with your kids and then follow up with a family book club of a classic. Watch A Wrinkle In Time, rated PG, on Disney+. Back of the Net
A young girl named Cory Bailey is prepared to spend a summer studying science at sea when she gets a rude awakening and accidentally ends up at an Australian summer soccer camp. A classic fish out of water story, this movie sparkles with the important lesson that you can be a Marine Biologist as well as an athlete. Whether Cory’s making new friends, crushing on an Aussie cutie, learning about teamwork or facing down her soccer rival, she learns to embrace her new surroundings, push herself beyond her limits, and even reinvent herself. As Cory wisely tells a friend: “Every day is a chance to be someone you weren’t yesterday.”
Watch Back of the Net, rated TV-Y, on Netflix. Camp Rock
Now that all the JoBros are married with kids and Demi Lovato is a bonafide pop superstar, it’s a pretty nostalgic trip to step into this musical time machine of a movie. In this Disney Channel original movie from 2008, Lovato stars as Mitchie — a teen with an opportunity to attend the rock camp of her dreams thanks to a secret scholarship and some extra kitchen work. Joe Jonas is cast as Shane Gray, a pompous teen rock star who is begrudgingly at camp too with his fellow Connect 3 bandmates (played by the Jonas Brothers, naturally). When Shane overhears Mitchie singing a solo, he is mesmerized, but she leaves before he discovers who the singer is. A mystery with great music,
Camp Rock is literally and figuratively about finding your voice. Watch Camp Rock, rated TV-G, on Disney+. Dolphin Tale Dolphin Tale tells the true story of Winter, a dolphin who loses her tail in a trap, and the 11-year-old boy who befriends her and saves her life. Sawyer Nelson is on his way to summer school when he happens upon a fisherman helping a dolphin stuck in a crab trap. When Winter is taken to an animal treatment center, Sawyer follows along and sneaks in every day to visit his injured underwater friend. Although he has no experience with animals, Sawyer is allowed to stay and plays an important role in Winter’s recovery. The end of the movie features documentary footage from the actual dolphin rescue sure to inspire any animal-lover in the family. Watch Dolphin Tale, rated PG, on Hulu. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Judy Moody, determined to have the best, most exciting summer ever, engages in thrilling dares under the supervision of her cool aunt while her parents are away. The sassy third-grader is dealing with some major FOMO when her friends are up to much cooler things like circus camp or international travel. Your kids might also be delighted to know that this movie is
based on the book by Megan McDonald. Once selected by former President Obama for Family Movie Night in the White House, if Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is good enough for Sasha and Malia, it’s definitely a dignified pick for your kids lounging in the family room. Watch Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer on Amazon Prime. High School Musical 2
Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron, Ashley Tisdale and the gang are back and tanner than ever in the sequel to this Disney mega-hit.School is out for the students at East High, which means spending their days working at a fancy country club. But things heat up when they start getting ready for the country club’s big talent night. With fun and hella boppy songs that will be immediately lodged in your brain, “
What Time Is It” feels particularly ripe for a rebooted TikTok dance challenge. Blink and you might miss a poolside cameo by reigning Disney Teen Queen, Miley Cyrus. Watch High School Musical 2, rated TV-G, on Disney+. Holes
Before Shia LeBeouf became a certified Hollywood Bad Boy, he made his film debut playing the lead in the remake of this beloved children’s book by Louis Sachar.
Holes mixes comedy with Western movie vibesand tells the story of an unlucky kid from Texas who is wrongfully convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers once owned by a famous baseball player. When Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake, he realizes it’s less of a camp and more of a prison where patrons are forced to dig a hole a day to keep the warden happy. But when he meets the mysterious camper, Zero, his life is changed forever. Watch Holes, rated PG, on Disney+. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Hotel Transylvania sequel, the family of lovable monsters take a break from running their hotel to go on a family cruise. Naturally, chaos ensues when the ship’s captain has secret motives. Like an animated episode of The Love Boat gone very wrong, Hotel Transylvania 3, follows a lonely Dracula with his sights set on love. (He even resorted to swiping on ZINGR, a monster dating app–vampires, they’re just like us!). But things get tricky when Dracula gets googly eyes for a questionable prospect. Selena Gomez, Adam Sandler, and Andy Sandburg are just three of the A-List stars to round out this spooky cartoon cast sailing the high seas. Rent Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, rated PG, on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99. It Takes Two
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen star as Amanda and Alyssa — two girls who meet at a summer camp and discover that they’re each other’s double. The duo decides to switch identities to conspire to bring Amanda’s social worker and Alyssa’s father closer together. One of many challenges standing in the duo’s way — Alyssa’s father, Roger, already has a gold digging fiancé. After swapping lives and learning what it’s like to live as their doppelgängers, the lookalikes do their darndest to play matchmakers and stop the impending wedding. The movie ends with a crowded horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, but we won’t spoil it by telling you who’s riding inside it.
Rent It Takes Two, rated PG, for $3.99 from Amazon Prime. The Karate Kid
After making a move during the summer with his family, Daniel is the new kid at a Southern California school who finds himself as the target of a group of bullies. But when Daniel befriends Mr. Miyagi, a martial arts master, takes Daniel under his wing and prepares him to compete against his bullies. While Mr. Miyaga has a pretty unconventional teaching style that suspiciously seems like a ploy to get Daniel to do his house chores, turns out the karate mentor has a plan all along to create a true champion. This ‘80s classic is the ultimate tribute to rooting for the underdog. Not only will your kids beg for martial arts classes, it might just inspire them to wash your car too.
Rent The Karate Kid, rated PG, for $3.99 on iTunes. The Lizzie McGuire Movie
While loyal Hilary Duff stans might still be lamenting her
Instagram announcement that a possible Lizzie McGuiree Reboot is definitely not happening, at least there’s always the original show and movie to return to. In this film spin-off of the uber popular tween show, Lizzie packs her bags and lands in the beautiful city of Rome, where she gets into plenty of Italian hijinks. When an 8th grade graduate is mistaken for an international pop star on her class trip, she embarks on the adventure of a lifetime in this 2003 movie sequel to the Disney Channel series, Lizzie McGuire. Watch The Lizzie McGuire Movie, rated PG, on Disney+. Moana
Nothing says summer like glittery salt water and a bit of adventure. In order to save her people, Moana sets sail on a dangerous solo mission to the center of the ocean. But along the way, she meets some pretty interesting characters — including the demigod, Maui. Like
Frozen’s feminist summer sister, this Disney movie ditches the princess-y and trite lovey-dovey stuff, in favor of a feisty girl who has goals that go way beyond landing a boyfriend. Moana will take you along for a mythical and music-filled ride of self-discovery that you won’t soon forget. An inspiring movie about a growing leader who is brave enough to be herself. Watch Moana, rated PG, on Disney+. Miss Juneteenth
A powerful and poignant exploration of the delicate complexities of mother-daughter drama,
Miss Juneteenth takes movies about beauty pageants to the next level. Turquoise, a single mother and former beauty queen, enters her 15-year-old rebellious daughter in a beauty pageant during the summer against her best wishes. The stakes are high as the prize for the winner is a full scholarship to any historically Black college. Turquoise, who formerly won the same pageant, hopes her daughter, Kai will follow in her footsteps, but Kai has dreams of being a dancer not a pageant girl. The film culminates with Kai’s surprising performance in the talent competition, where you’ll be moved by Maya Angelou’s poem, “ Phenomenal Woman,” like never before. Rent Miss Juneteenth, unrated, on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99. The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Katie Mitchell and her family members embark on an epic road trip before she starts her freshman year of college. But their plans get interrupted thanks to a technological revolution, and it’s up to them to save the world. Leave it to a self-described weirdo and her kooky family to band together and face a robot apocalypse together. Even their adorable dog gets in on the action to step up as the last family on earth, despite the fact that they’re barely functional.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is an ode to being an oddball family in the age of overwhelming technology. You will never look at a toy Furby the same way again. Watch The Mitchells vs. the Machines, rated PG, on Netflix. The Parent Trap
The only thing more entertaining than one Lindsay Lohan is two Lindsay Lohans. Identical twins, Annie and Hallie, who were separated after their parents divorce, unexpectedly meet for the first time at summer camp. Once they reunite, they hatch up a plan to reunite their beloved parents. For Lohan fans, this is the film that put the child star on the map, as the young actress made her impressive movie debut, doing double duty and impressively playing two lead roles. Especially for a Long Island native, the starlet’s British accent is pretty awesome too! This reboot of the 1961 classic starring Hayley Mills, is definitely worth checking out to compare and contrast with the original movie.
Watch The Parent Trap, rated PG, on Disney+. The Sandlot
The new kid in town befriends a group of neighborhood kids and joins their baseball team, which causes him to have the most epic summer ever. In this coming-of-age drama set in the 1960, Scotty Smalls’s mom just wants him to make some friends, but instead he ends up making memories to last a lifetime. From escapades at the summer pool to fireworks on Fourth of July, this cult classic hits a homerun. There’s even a touching father-son storyline involving a baseball signed by sports legend, Babe Ruth. Whether or not you’re a sportsfan, this gang of baseball-loving boys will steal your heart like it’s first base.
Watch The Sandlot, rated PG, on Amazon Prime. Soul Surfer Soul Surfer tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a teenage champion surfer who relies on her faith, family, and friends, after losing her arm in a shark attack. This film will transport you to the open waters of Hawaii, even if you can’t get there on your own. With a strong performance by AnnaSophia Robb and a surprising cameo by American Idol-winning superstar, Carrie Underwood, Soul Surfer goes way beyond watersports to share a journey of resistance, courage, and overcoming hardship. As an inspirational Hamilton tells her father when she is ready to reconquer the waves: “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.” Watch Soul Surfer, rated PG, on Netflix. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water
SpongeBob Squarepants makes his way to the shore to save the Krabby Patty’s secret formula in this animated film from 2015. While
SpongeBob is such a fun watch for every season of the year, it feels particularly appropriate to watch SpongeBob Squarepants and his movies during the summer, you know, since he lives in a pineapple under the sea. In Sponge out of Water, SpongeBob and his semi-dysfunctional posse are up against a heavily-bearded Antonio Banderas as a pirate supervillain, as well as some hairy sunbathing humans (one of which is hilariously mistaken for a beached porpoise). In what might seem like an unthinkable twist, SpongeBob must even consider joining forces with his nemesis, Plankton! Rent The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water, rated PG, on YouTube Movies for $3.99. Surf’s Up
Using an incredibly inventive narrative style,
Surf’s Up stars Shia LaBeouf and Zoey Deschanel, and mixes computer animation with mockumentary storytelling. (It’s kinds of like The Office, but with penguins!)Teenaged penguin, Cody, leaves his home in Antarctica to compete in a surfing competition in search of fame and fortune. Along the way he meets some new friends and learns the true meaning of success in this animated film from 2007. Although Cody’s demeanor might be a little chilly, his favorite summer appropriate activity, surfing, will have you wanting to pick up a board and head to your nearest beach this summer break. Watch Surf’s Up, rated PG, on Amazon Prime Video.
This article was originally published on
May 7, 2021