While the tropes of the summer camp movie genre are burned into our collective memory, there aren’t as many movies about summer camp as you probably imagine.
There’s probably some deep-seated psychological stuff going on there—the kind of stuff about which the nation’s multitude of young, currently unemployed liberal arts majors could pontificate for hours.
The Daily Caller can only presume to judge the movies themselves, of course. Without further ado, then, here is the definitive guide to the best movies about summer camp. Ever.
Some people don’t get this satirical comedy that takes places in 1981 on the very eventful last day at Camp Firewood. Those people are probably just mad because they don’t know how to French. Anyway, West Hot American Summer is quite obviously the best summer camp movie ever made.
It’s been said that all of Wes Anderson’s movies are remakes of the same oddball story told in wonderfully vivid colors. That may be true, but it’s a pretty awesome story. Moonrise Kingdom is the one about summer camp. It involves a 12-year-old orphan who attends Camp Ivanhoe, a Khaki Scout summer camp in New England. He runs away with his pen pal. There’s a huge search party. There’s a storm. Bruce Willis and Bill Murray are involved. Eccentric hilarity ensues.
Meatballs is a wacky summer camp movie starring a 29-year-old Bill Murray. He looks at least 38 and sports a glorious, flowing mullet. He’s head counselor Tripper Harrison at Camp North Star, a blue-collar camp across the lake from ritzy Camp Mohawk, which costs $1000 each week. The flick spawned many imitations including three crappy sequels that had little if any connection to the original.
The only made-for-tv flick to meet our stringent specifications, Poison Ivy is a comedy starring Michael J. Fox. It appeared a few months before Back to the Future turned Fox into a bona fide movie star. He plays a camp counselor who works at Camp Pinewood doing the things camp counselors in movies do and trying to convince Rhonda (Nancy McKeon), the camp nurse, to ditch her fiancé for him.
Ki ki ki, ma ma ma! In the original Friday the 13th, the killer isn’t Jason Vorhees. Spoiler alert: It’s his mom, Pamela. She’s a former camp-cook at Camp Crystal Lake (known as “Camp Blood” by locals). She’s mad because her son (presumably) drowned at the camp in 1957. So, between 1957 and 1980, she killed a couple people, poisoned the water and set some fires. This terrorism apparently went mostly ignored by multiple levels of law enforcement. Anyway, when the camp is set to reopen, Jason’s mom goes on a brutal killing spree. Kevin Bacon is a part of the action.
Disney’s Heavyweights was ahead of its time. It was a commercial and critical flop in 1995, when America apparently wasn’t ready for movie about Camp Hope, a weight loss camp for boys — even one starring Ben Stiller and co-written by Judd Apatow. The ensuing years have been much kinder, though. Heavyweights is now a minor cult classic. It garners a “fresh rating” of just 29 percent among film critics. However, the corresponding audience rating is 74 percent.
Back in the day, before home movies were ubiquitous, and before computer-animated schlock took over, it was possible to enjoy a quaint little Charlie Brown movie on the big screen. This one, the third of three Peanuts movies, has the gang attend Camp Remote, where life is rigorous for everyone but Snoopy and Woodstock. A big, treacherous raft race involving some mean, cheating bullies is the focal point of much of the film.
The original version of The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills is better than the 1998 remake starring Lindsay Lohan, and not just because anything related to Linsday Lohan is by definition awful. The hopelessly convoluted plot involves identical twins who meet at Camp Inch and then proceed to sabotage their father’s wedding—in a generally lighthearted Disney way, of course.
This flick features Kristy McNichol, Tatum O’Neal and a young Matt Dillon. In a nutshell, two campers (McNichol and O’Neal) from the same cabin at Camp Little Wolf bet on which one will lose their virginity first. Coming of age ensues. It’s all terribly dramatic, but it’s a lot less hokey than it tends to be in such movies.
In the original version of Piranha, the scientist leading a defunct Vietnam War project — Operation: Razorteeth — has maintained a voracious strain of piranha. Some of the mutant fish survived, because of course they did. Now a school of the man-eaters is swimming in a dam that could flow into the Lost River water park and summer camp. Spoiler alert: the fish actually attack the summer camp during a swimming marathon and apparently kill a bunch of kids. “Piranha 3D,” a 2010 remake, involves no summer camp but adds many more boobs and a quickly-devoured Richard Dreyfuss.
More macabre than its 1991 predecessor, Addams Family Values involves a few subplots including one in which children Wednesday and Pugsley to Camp Chippewa. Comedy ensues. And a revolt. And the wanton destruction of the first Thanksgiving.
Arm-chair pop-culture anthropologists seeking understand the year 1987 are likely to focus on the band Bon Jovi and the film Dirty Dancing. People who dig deeper — like, way deeper — might encounter Ernest P. Worrell. The once-ubiquitous character, portrayed by actor Jim Varney, was sort of rubbery-looking and liked to say “KnowhutImean?” to some guy named Vern. He hawked a number of products including Mello Yello and Taco John’s. He also was in a series of films. “Ernest Goes to Camp,” the first to feature Ernest, find him serving as a maintenance man at Kamp Kikakee.