Fire up the projector, and watch these favorites
Whether you're busting out the projector for a fancy outdoor screening, or just gathering some friends and family in the living room, hosting a summer movie night is the perfect way to enjoy the season. You can entertain the kids with a family-friendly animated film, indulge in a nostalgic classic or fight the summer heat with a horror movie that will give you chills. To help you find the best feature for your summer movie night, we've compiled a list of the best choices that are available for streaming.
Credit: Warner Bros.
This recent Disney film is a beautiful exploration of music and Mexican culture. Twelve-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming a famous musician, despite his family's ancestral ban on music. He discovers his great-great-grandfather's guitar, but once he strums it, Miguel finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead. He goes on a mission to find his music idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and enlists the help of a charming trickster named Héctor (Gael García Bernal). But along the way, he uncovers some surprising truths about his family history.
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
The Shape of Water (2017)
Guillermo del Toro's recent production is one of the most original films to have come out in recent years. The story draws inspiration from the classic monster film The Creature from the Black Lagoon to create a darkly romantic love story. Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito: a mute custodian working in a high-security government laboratory. When the facility receives a mysterious amphibian creature captured from the Amazon River, Elisa sees the humanity in him that no one else can.
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Finding Dory (2016)
If Finding Nemo had you wishing you could swim with tropical fishes, you can plunge back into that world with its sequel, Finding Dory. This film focuses on the regal blue tang, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who suffers from short-term memory loss. After having a rare flashback, Dory remembers that she used to have parents, and decides to go searching for them. Marlin and Nemo, the clownfish from the first film, join Dory on her adventure across the ocean. Dory's story will take you on an emotional roller coaster, and may even elicit a few tears.
This tale of a tropical Disney princess is guaranteed to warm your heart. Auli'i Cravalho voices Moana, the adventurous daughter of a Polynesian chief. Moana feels drawn to the ocean, and leaves her island to embark on an epic adventure. She teams up with the demigod Maui (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) to return a legendary, magical heart to the goddess Te Fiti. With catchy songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa'i, this film is a favorite among children and adults alike.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Heat waves are tough, but things could be worse: You could be living in the drought-ridden, dystopian world of Mad Max. Fury Road is a recent sequel in the Mad Max franchise, which began with the film Mad Max back in 1979. In this updated installment, Tom Hardy stars as Max: a hardened drifter trying to survive in a wasteland ruled by opposing gangs. But Charlize Theron steals the show as Imperator Furiosa, a rogue soldier determined to free five women whom the tyrannical Immortan Joe has taken as his concubines.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
This superhero film from Disney is just the right mix of adorable and heart-wrenching. Set in a fascinating world that blends Eastern and Western cultures, the story revolves around Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old robotics prodigy. After experiencing a personal tragedy, Hiro finds comfort in Baymax, an inflatable health care robot designed by his brother. When they discover that a masked villain is using one of Hiro's inventions for evil, they join with four friends to form a team of high-tech heroes. The film contains some important messages about grief, and the healthy-versus-unhealthy ways of dealing with it.
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
This comedy/horror film, written and produced by Joss Whedon, manages the remarkable feat of excelling in both genres simultaneously. It begins like a typical horror flick: Five college students decide it would be a great idea to spend the weekend in an isolated old cabin, complete with a creepy cellar. The narrative takes on a surprising new layer when it turns out that the events in the cabin are being manipulated by technicians in a secret underground facility. The manufactured horrors at the cabin pale in comparison to what awaits if the technicians fail to complete their mission.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
What kid wouldn't want a pet dragon? This animated DreamWorks film depicts the unlikely friendship that develops between an aspiring dragon hunter and an injured dragon. Hiccup, the awkward teenage son of a Viking chieftain, prefers building mechanical inventions to fighting, but he dreams of being a warrior like his father. When he manages to capture a rare Night Fury dragon, however, Hiccup can't bring himself to kill it. Instead, he comes to realize that perhaps humans and dragons can live together in harmony instead of killing each other.
Happy Feet (2006)
Cool down this summer with Happy Feet: an animated musical comedy about a community of emperor penguins in Antarctica. The film features the voices of a number of stars, including Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving. (Also keep an ear out for Steve Irwin's very last cameo role. - Editor's Note) In the film, Mumble is an outcast among the other penguins because he cannot sing, a talent which the penguins consider necessary for finding a mate. However, Mumble possesses the unusual skill of tap dancing instead. Throughout the film, he struggles to find love and acceptance within his emperor penguin community, and outside of it.
Credit: Warner Bros.
National Treasure (2004)
Independence Day may be behind us, but it's never too late to do a screening of this patriotic classic. Nicolas Cage stars as a historian and amateur cryptologist named Benjamin Franklin Gates. He's on a mission to discover a cache of treasure hidden by America's founding fathers, but the key to finding it is located on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Gates must steal the nation's most treasured document and unlock its secrets before it falls into the wrong hands. This outlandish heist film showcases Nicolas Cage in his prime.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Nothing says "summer" like an adventure on the high seas! The first installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, inspired by the Disney theme park ride, remains the best of the lot. Johnny Depp stars as the infamous pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow, who lost his ship and crew to a mutiny. Sparrow teams up with a blacksmith named Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) to rescue the governor's daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), from a crew of cursed skeleton pirates. In this film, Johnny Depp brought his most iconic role to life, and kicked off an adventure-filled franchise.
Ice Age (2002)
Here's an animated film that will cool you down during a heat wave. Set during a prehistoric era characterized by glaciers and freezing temperatures, Ice Age features a wooly mammoth named Manny and a ground sloth named Sid. The two unusual companions come across a human infant, and decide to return it to its people. A wily saber-toothed tiger named Diego joins them by spinning a yarn about tracking the humans, but he really intends to help his pack kill the baby. The humorous antics of a saber-toothed squirrel named Scrat also punctuate the adventure.
Credit: 20th Century Fox
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Set in Hawaii, this animated Disney film presents an endearing tale of friendship between a young human girl and an odd extraterrestrial creature. Lilo doesn't fit in with her peers and constantly struggles with loneliness and bullying. Her older sister, Nani, has been doing her best to raise Lilo since their parents died, but what Lilo really needs is a friend. The two adopt a pet, which turns out to be an escaped genetic experiment from outer space. Though Stitch's natural inclination is to create chaos, Lilo teaches him to care for others through the Hawaiian concept of "'ohana," or family.
Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
There are many different adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island out there, but you can't beat the one with singing Muppets. Directed by Brian Henson, this film features live actors in the main roles, including Tim Curry as Long John Silver, Billy Connolly as Billy Bones and Kevin Bishop as Jim Hawkins, with classic Muppet characters in the supporting roles. When Jim receives a treasure map from the dying Billy Bones, he sets out to find the loot before a gang of rival pirates can steal it. But he soon learns that pirates are a particularly conniving lot.
If you think board games are boring, you've never seen Jumanji. The original film from the '90s was based on a picture book by Chris Van Allsburg. In it, Robin Williams plays a man named Alan, who was trapped inside the jungle-themed board game Jumanji as a child. Twenty-six years later, siblings Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) rediscover the game. As they play, Alan is released, along with various horrors ranging from carnivorous plants to stampeding animals. Judy, Peter, Alan and Alan's old friend Sarah must play the game through to the end to set things right.
Addams Family Values (1993)
What does America's spookiest family get up to during the sunny season? Find out in this sequel to Barry Sonnenfeld's 1991 film, The Addams Family. In this film, Gomez and Morticia Addams (Raúl Juliá and Anjelica Huston, respectively) decide to hire a nanny to help take care of their newborn son, Pubert. But Debbie may not be the sweet and wholesome caretaker she pretends to be. Meanwhile, Wednesday and Pugsley get sent off to summer camp, where — unsurprisingly — they have trouble fitting in with the other kids.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Jurassic Park (1993)
The Jurassic Park franchise has seen a number of installments, but nothing beats the original film, directed by Steven Spielberg. Billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his team of scientists have built a theme park to showcase live dinosaurs cloned from ancient DNA. Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern play a mathematician, a paleontologist and a paleobotanist, respectively, who are invited to preview the park. Things begin to go terribly wrong, however, when the dinosaurs get loose. The CGI and animatronic dinosaurs, which were groundbreaking at the time, truly bring these long-extinct creatures to life.
Credit: Universal Pictures
This black comedy film has been called the Mean Girls of the 1980s, only darker. Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) is in a clique with three other popular girls, each of whom is named Heather. But when Veronica falls for bad-boy sociopath J.D. (Christian Slater), she gets entangled in his plot to kill off the popular kids — including her former friends. The film touches on some very heavy topics, such as suicide and murder, but juxtaposes them with a level of absurdity that lends itself to dark humor.
Credit: New World Pictures
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Princess Bride is the perfect bedtime story. This film, adapted from a novel by William Goldman, frames a fantasy adventure tale as a story told to a young boy by his grandfather. Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) is about to reluctantly marry the unpleasant Prince Humperdink, when she is abducted by three outlaws. Buttercup's long-lost love, Westley (Cary Elwes), returns from his life as a legendary pirate captain to rescue her from both the outlaws and the prince alike. The story blends humor, adventure and romance, with a little bit of something for everyone.
Credit: 20th Century Fox
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
This heartwarming sci-fi classic, directed by Steven Spielberg, is probably one of the best children's movies ever made. In it, a young boy named Elliot befriends an alien who has been stranded on Earth. Elliot and his siblings, Michael and Gertie, hide the alien from both their parents and the government, while trying to help it find a way to return home. Even though it comes from the 1980s, the movie remains timeless, and its iconic scenes and memorable dialogue still hold up.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Up for an action-packed romp through the hot sands of Egypt? This film introduced the now-iconic adventuring archaeologist, Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford. In the first installment of this extensive franchise, Army intelligence officers enlist Jones to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant, and prevent it from falling into the Nazis' hands. Jones teams up with an ex-lover played by Karen Allen. Together, they travel to Cairo and search for the mysterious Well of Souls, where the Ark is hidden. This movie is one of Spielberg's best.
Have you ever spent a warm summer night staring up at the stars, wondering if there's other life out there? Well, this sci-fi horror film, directed by Ridley Scott, will make you wish you'd never asked. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver's breakout role) is one of seven spaceship crew members sent to investigate a distress call from a nearby moon. A mysterious life-form attacks one of the crew, and ends up on the ship. Ripley must figure out how to get back to Earth without bringing the dangerous alien back with them.
Credit: 20th Century Fox
What better way to spend these summer nights than by watching the classic film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease? John Travolta stars as bad-boy greaser, Danny, while Olivia Newton-John plays his unlikely love interest, Sandy. After falling in love over the summer, the couple unexpectedly reunites at school. Danny, Sandy and the other T-Birds and Pink Ladies struggle to navigate relationships, identities and their senior year of high school in this colorful exploration of 1950s subcultures. But the best part is the film's catchy soundtrack, which is practically guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
No summer is complete without watching the classic film that made us all afraid to wade into the ocean. Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is an all-American thriller about a great white shark that attacks beachgoers off the coast of Amity Island. The island's sheriff (Roy Scheider) teams up with a shark hunter (Robert Shaw) and a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) to take down the giant man-eating monster. Though modern audiences may find the outdated animatronics cheesy, the film's skillful acting and directing hold up against the test of time.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
In terms of spooky summer films, this classic zombie flick is the perfect choice to send shivers down your spine. Written and directed by George A. Romero, this black-and-white film focuses on seven people who find themselves trapped in an old farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania as the dead begin to rise outside. The film was controversial when it debuted, due to casting Duane Jones, an African-American man, in one of its leading roles. Today, audiences celebrate Night of the Living Dead for establishing many of the core tropes in the zombie movie genre.
Credit: The Walter Reade Organization