Summer Wish Fulfillment Movies

Ready for some sunshine
For my heart to take a chance
I’m here to stay
No moving away
Ready for a summer romance

-Gabriella Montez, “What Time Is It?”


Summer is my favorite season. I often question if that’s because of what it holds, or because of what I blindly associate with it. Expecting these months freed from school and work, even if they aren’t, makes their stamp on the calendar so alluring. There is also often a fond sensuality associated with summer. I’ve proudly never had a summer-exclusive romance, but the idea brightens the potential of June, July, & August, and the feeling we can all expect from more sweat and less clothing.

On paper, there is nothing bad about the summer months. Bright colors, fresh foods, holiday, lazy days, sex. It inevitably inspires media that prompts us to live vicariously: in this plastic, everlasting vacation, nothing can go wrong. It’s why I love the wish fulfillment trope and stories you can ride into the sunset. Some of my favorite movies live there, in that warm, summery world.

My (summer) birthday is next week, and I plan to spend it in near comatose, windows open, watching these movies on loop. If my season shouldn’t pan out like summer of ’07, I’ll always have these fairytales to cling to.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

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One of my favorite movies of all time, and perhaps the one closest to my heart. It’s the substance that gets it to the top of those lists, but this movie could be about anything and I would love it. What makes it feel like a warm hug, or a cool glass of apricot juice on a hot summer day, is where it is and what it looks like. In the Italian summer of 1983, the CMBYN world is far enough removed in time and space from my own to seem like heaven. Even the cast is heavenly; every character is rich, charismatic, and multi-lingual. As I follow Elio and Oliver from their bike rides through a quaint European town to their parents’ getaway villa, and into the exotic stone pool, “Love My Way” starts to sound more transcendent than I’m sure it did in 1982.

Favorite scene: An impossible choice, but the dance party is both the most satisfying and torturous few minutes of my life.

The Godfather: Parts I & II (1972, 1974)

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This requires no walk arounds or circumlocution, I wish I were Michael Corleone, and these movies fulfill that wish. From his Sicilian excursion that celebrates Italian aesthetic as well as the streets and pastures themselves, to his debaucherous undoing in mid-century Cuba, this epic satiates so many of my interests. As the most dynamic characters in cinematic history bake in the sun, this familiar and comforting narrative can take me prisoner again and again.

Favorite scene: The most famous, the most unravelling, the most dazzling scene of all time: la fiesta del año nuevo.

Moana (2016)

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There is something about the ease with which Moana wicks wet hair off her face and strolls through glowing sand that so quickly whisks me away to Disney’s bastardized Polynesia. Not unlike the cool, smooth water of Finding Nemo (2002), the impossibly perfect sheen on Moana’s tropical village sucks me in. The visuals are so stunning, they numb me into thinking I’m really there, in this magically polished universe. And we love an exotic harmony.

Favorite scene: “Where You Are” is the most fun, and rings most true of the freedom and sunshine of the childhood summers I expect when watching Disney.

Grease (1978)

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Grease is my favorite movie of all time. It inspired my love of everything: movies, performance, mid-century Americana, and my sexual awakening. Intrinsic to its ability to do so is both its warm-weather arc and identity as a summer flick. While it possess the same sensuality and brightness of the rest of the movies on this list, it’s that infectious nostalgia that keeps it so near and dear. Its summertime role depends on a continuous daytime cable playback. Because it’s so funny, relatable, and sexy, you watch it, then watch it again when its on the following night. And when else are you going to stumble upon Kenickie than at your parents’ house, taking a break from the barbecue?

Favorite scene: While set more in springtime than later sequences, I’ve never had more fun than I do while watching “Hand Jive”.

Dirty Dancing (1987)

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If anything were to come close to usurping the Perlmans’ rule over the porn/cinema crossover genre, it’s Dirty Dancing. This cartoonish, adult version of High School Musical 2 invents and reinvents the summer fling trope within its runtime, setting a precedent for how vacation movies must feel. Unlike other summer romance movies, however, Dirty Dancing doesn’t hide its sweat and grass stains. That’s what makes it so lovable: Jennifer Grey is an infallible girl-next-door, and the camp in which this story takes place is the endearing set-up of my own humble suburbia.

Favorite scene: How could it not be Lover Boy, the best-enduring moment of all cinematic history?

High School Musical 2 (2007)

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One of the most transformative movies from my lifetime, this self-aware TV musical has kept for 11 years, still as crisp and sassy as the day it premiered. A diluted, more flamboyant version of Dirty Dancing, HSM2 exploits the summer fling trope, begging for young audiences to wish harder for the perfect summer it promises. The jokes still land, and the songs are still good. But what’s best about High School Musical 2 is its fulfillment of my hopes for a perfect summer. When else would I have time to watch a DCom I’ve already seen 100+ times?

Favorite scene: When I was 9, I wanted to be Ashley Tisdale. Rewatching this movie makes me realize this wish is an enduring craving only “Fabulous” can mollify.


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