Movies for Your Summer Bucket-List

Now that we find ourselves comfortably in the middle of July, it feels safe to say that summer has definitively arrived in Scotland. The thermometer is sitting above 10°C with some comforting regularity, that most days you can leave the house knowing a jacket or jumper probably won’t be necessary. Although experience should have taught you it’s always a smart move to bring one with you anyway, lest you be one of those unfortunate souls in a t-shirt caught out when the sun disappears behind some ill-timed clouds while a sudden and chilly wind blows through.

Experience should also have taught you that in Scotland, the weather is fickle and is certainly never guaranteed. 

Many a poor fool has planned a day out in the glorious Scottish sunshine only to wake up the morning of and be greeted by grey skies, heavy showers and bitter disappointment.

So, to avoid the pain and heartache of ruined plans, having a contingency in place is essential. Don’t let some gale-force winds and horizontal rain stop you from experiencing the bliss of a relaxing summer’s day. Instead, bring the summer inside to you, and watch some of these films. 

These are movies that capture the essence of a summer’s day. Sometimes aimless and carefree, spent looking for somewhere to go and something to do, sometimes busy and full of energy, going from here to there seeing people and places.

In no particular order, here are some movies which manage to portray some of these aspects of summer:

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Richard Linklater’s 1993 high-school set coming-of-age comedy is saturated in nostalgia for the hazy summers of a bygone youth. It doesn’t feature a traditional plot, instead simply showing the events of the final day of school for some high-school seniors. No high-stakes or over the top dramatic tension, just good times and some good-natured misadventures. Dazed and Confused trades the usual high-school movie tropes for a more relaxed look at teenage life, one that’s all about cruising in a car looking for the next party and scoring enough beer to keep you feeling that buzz until the morning comes. Not forgetting the sublime music; Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper. This film has one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time, and every single song on the soundtrack contributes to the immaculate recreation of a 70’s American summer. Featuring very early star-turns by Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Stand by Me (1986)

Another coming-of-age story, this Rob Reiner directed film is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella entitled The Body. Set in 1950’s small-town white picket fence America, it tells the story of 4 friends who set out on a misguided journey to see the body of a local kid who was struck by a train, along the way dealing with bullies, their traumatic pasts and dysfunctional families. This film captures what summers were like when you were young and naive, when you weren’t sure of the world and what was in it, when you had to come to terms with some of the harsh realities of life. An emotional movie that will make you cherish the friendships you have and pick up the phone and get in touch with the people you haven’t spoken to in a long time, it is anchored by some great performances, including a young River Phoenix, and Kiefer Sutherland. Watch it when you’re really in the mood to feel something deep down in that cold, dead heart of yours.

Almost Famous (2000)

A semi-autobiographical tale based on the adolescent years of director Cameron Crowe, who wrote a front-page cover article for Rolling Stone magazine at the age of just 16. The movie follows young William Miller, who cons his way into a job for Rolling Stone following and writing about fictional band Stillwater on their big summer tour. A relatively light-hearted look at the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll that never delves too deep below the surface and spoils the fun, the film shows how easily impressionable young people can be swayed by their heroes, and how the reality of the lifestyle doesn’t always match the portrayal you might read about in the pages of a magazine. Kate Hudson steals the show as Penny Lane, while the likes of Frances McDormand and Billy Crudup put their considerable talents to use filling out the rest of the cast. Another film with an incredible soundtrack that’s perfect for blasting in the car on a summer’s day bombing down the road, Almost Famous is worth the price of admission.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

The latest effort from America’s premier purveyor of pulp and violence, Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the Swinging Sixties and the golden age of cinema is just as sun soaked as it is blood-soaked. Set in late 60’s L.A, the film follows Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, an ageing and washed-up television actor desperate to make the jump into movies, and Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, his loyal stunt-double with a chequered and mysterious past, as they navigate the world of Hollywood, crossing paths with the likes of Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and the Manson Family. It is essentially a modern fairy tale, one which rewrites a brutal and bloody chapter in Hollywood’s history. The cinematography is gorgeous, L.A has rarely looked as good as it does when Rick and Cliff are cruising down the highways of the city with the likes of The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel and Los Bravos playing on the car stereo. The finale has become notorious in its own right, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the film isn’t worth paying attention to, and Tarantino has given the audience much to focus their attention on. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

What is summer without a summer blockbuster? Guardians of the Galaxy was seen as a massive risk at the time for Marvel, with the main cast featuring a talking tree and a CGI raccoon, but it is a risk that paid off massively. One of the finest moments in the entire MCU, this movie is pure, unfiltered fun. Chris Pratt’s Star lord ends up the captain of a ragtag group of miscreants and misfits, including Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista, who must put aside their differences as they attempt to save the universe from certain destruction at the hands of Ronan, a disciple of MCU arch-villain Thanos. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the action as the crew tear through the cosmos, visiting far-off worlds that are incredibly realised, backed up by the critically lauded soundtrack. The soundtrack itself is something special, with songs from artists such as David Bowie, The Jackson 5 and Redbone providing the perfect backdrop for the galaxy-spanning adventures taking place on the screen. A high point in the Marvel Universe that most other superhero films struggle to reach. Sit back and let it wash over you.

Despite being from different genres, taking place in different times or on strange worlds, all these films share something in common. They have all managed to capture something very special. That feeling you get when you wake up, pull open the curtains and see nothing but clear blue skies and beautiful sunshine. From the small-town slice of Americana portrayed in Stand by Me to the galaxy-spanning action seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, they all create that sense of warmth and nostalgia for good times. So, next time you pull open the curtains and are greeted by grey rather than blue skies, do not despair. 

Just press play instead.

Written by Logan Walker

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