We blast away the gloominess with a list of our favourite summertime movies
Just as we were getting into the summer spirit, yet another cloudburst hit the country, but we’re not quite ready to give up hope. There’s something very special about summertime that makes us wish it lasted forever. It may be the fresh watermelons or the higher levels of vitamin D, it may be the sound of the ice cream truck or the fact that we make plans that get us excited – whatever the reason, in summer sunshine sparkles inside and out. As the temperatures get warmer and the days longer, an aura of anticipation and infinite chance starts to linger that makes our hearts race for the pool times and our dreams seem a little more reachable. It’s a wonderful season that leaves us sooner than we’d like, so let’s embrace it while it’s here! And for these overcast days when popcorn supersedes Pimms, we cheer for the sun with a selection of our top ten summer films.
Zabriskie Point (1970)
In his sun-glazed portrayal of 1960s America, Michelangelo Antonioni follows two students as they “meet, touch and blow their minds” to a masterful Pink Floyd soundtrack in the remote lands of the Death Valley. After getting involved in a student protest, shooting a cop and flying to the desert aboard a stolen plane, Mark, a college drop out, meets Daria, a hippie anthropology student, and together they live their revolutionary summer reveries amid the desolate peaks of Zabriskie Point. Unappreciated at the time of its release, Antonioni’s poetic depiction of a carefree and radical love affair has overcome criticism to be hailed as a masterpiece of counterculture cinema.
The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
From the nostalgic Tuscan hilltops to the golden beaches of the Amalfi Coast, nothing says summer better than a sun-kissed Italy. Nominated for five Oscars, Anthony Mingella’s unforgettable thriller is the clever, twisted tale of good-boy-turned-killer Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), who is sent to Southern Italy to convince spoiled millionaire Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to return to America, ultimately appropriating his life and identity. In a story of class envy set in a glorious 1950 Italy, Vespa rides, boat trips and terrace lounging take an unexpected dark turn in Minghella’s forceful, flawlessly performed cinematic portrait of the Italian Dolce Vita.
Little White Lies (2010)
It’s not for his remarkable performance as the free-spirited Étienne in Danny Boyle’s The Beach that Guillaume Canet makes it to our list of best-ever on-screen summer tales, but with his own directorial endeavour, Little White Lies. Released in 2010, Canet’s comedic drama explores the falsehoods of friendship and humanity on the backdrop of a summer vacation. As tragedy strikes a group of friends and the little white lies they’ve been telling one another for years are revealed, relationships are profoundly tested. Set to a wistful soundtrack of classic hits – including Janis Joplin, The Band and David Bowie – Marion Cotillard, Jean Dujardin and Francois Cluzet come together in this exuberant and honest take on a traditional summer holiday.
Death in Venice (1971)
Luchino Visconti’s film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s eponymous novel tells the moving story of composer Gustave von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) who travels to the Venetian seaside in search of rest and inspiration and becomes obsessed with the ideal beauty of a teenage boy named Tadzio (Björn Andrésen). While Aschenbach fights his personal battle against death, he’s consumed by passion in this poignant masterpiece, one of the most seductive and decadent depictions of Venice ever put on film.
Over the Edge (1979)
Referred to by Kurt Cobain as the film that “pretty much defined my whole personality,” Jonathan Kaplan’s summertime classic chronicles the lives of a group of teenagers in pleasantville suburbia. A coming-of-age movie capturing the angst of a generation pent up in the manufactured community of New Grenada, Over the Edge explores the dangers of growing up with no release besides sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and violence. Starring a 15-year-old Matt Dillon in his big screen debut, the film’s universal theme of outsider youth has made it a cult classic that still resonates today.
Alice in the Cities (1974)
Summer is a time of chance encounters in places of transit and that’s what happens in Wim Wenders’ compelling black-and-white film. When journalist Philip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler) decides to fly home to Germany after suffering writer’s block in the US, he meets a woman and her nine-year-old daughter, Alice. After the mother inexplicably disappears, Winter is left to look after the girl, and together they embark on a journey across various German cities in search for her grandmother. Shot during summer 1973 and based on a very loose script, Wenders’ road movie explores the growth of an unlikely friendship, while investigating the phenomenon of the Americanisation of Europe, a recurring theme throughout the German filmmaker's work.
Famed American auteur Terrence Malik’s feature debut is a disturbing dose of summer bedlam. Based on the real-life story of Charles Starkweather, the film follows Kit (Martin Sheen), a can-kicking James Dean wannabe who steals teenage girlfriend Holly (Sissy Spacek) away from suburbia to go on a killing spree across the Midwest. Set in the late 1950s and narrated by Holly in third person, Badlands is an odyssey of love, death and quest for freedom – a true pictorial masterwork of American cinema.
Stealing Beauty (1996)
Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1996 romantic drama follows angel face Liv Tyler in the role of Lucy, a teenage American girl who embarks on a personal journey to find her real father, and reconnect with her first love. Following the death of her poet mother, 19-year-old Lucy decides to spend her summer in Tuscany to get her portrait made. But really, Lucy is in search of her remaining parent, whose identity is hidden between her mother’s mysterious verses that suggest that Lucy was conceived in a villa in Tuscany. From nude sunbathing by the pool to dreamlike landscapes and romance under the shade of a tree, Bertolucci captures the essence of a languid and beautiful Italian summer.
The sun should be a strong presence in all of our summers, and in Barbet Schroeder’s More you can almost feel the heat coming off the screen. German student Stefan (Klaus Grunberg) finishes his studies and sets off on his European adventure by hitchhiking to Paris, where he encounters bohemian American girl Estelle (Mimsy Farmer) who takes him to Ibiza and introduces him to heroin and LSD amid sunrises and sunsets.
Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
Based on the acclaimed novel by Françoise Sagan, Otto Preminger’s film takes place in the beautiful blue haze and breathtaking scenarios of the French Riviera. Cécile is a libertine schoolgirl played by Jean Seberg who sees her undisciplined lifestyle being threatened by her wealthy playboy father’s (David Niven) new partner and does her spiteful best to put an end to their summer romance.