All Star Summer Movie 2020 Watch List

While the traditional summer movie season may not happen this year, you can still have your own at home. We curated a list of favorite classic summer films to watch this summer while in quarantine.

Well, this is a bummer.

For many, the summer movie season is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. The biggest blockbusters get released this time of year, and the act of going to a cool air-conditioned theater is a nice escape from the blistering summer heat. The movies released during the summer become tied up with other memories: cookouts, holidays, summer love. They become so intertwined and integral; the idea of there not being a summer movie season this year seems hard. We published a list of new releases you can watch during this summer to curate your own summer movie watch along.

But we also decided to do another film fest you could do this summer. An all-star line up of past summer hits. The ultimate summer movie mixtape if you will. One movie to watch each weekend, to give oneself a sense of structure but also a way to relive and remember a simpler time.

May 1 – The Avengers

There are certain realities of life. The sun rises in the east, what goes up must come down, and a Marvel movie should kick start the summer movie season.

Every summer movie season since 2007 has started off with a movie based on a Marvel superhero film. Two of them actually opened on May 1st (X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009 and Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015) but why not go with the big one, the first Avengers movie which opened on May 4, 2012. This movie started off summer 2012 with a bang, and at the time had the biggest opening weekend of all time with over $200 million dollars. It was the highest-grossing film that year and it changed the way movies were made. It felt like there was a movie world before the Avengers, then we all woke up in a new reality where every studio is chasing this one movie. The Avengers became a cultural moment, a landmark shift that belongs up there with Jaws, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park as movies that showed we were different afterward. Plus with the MCU having wrapped up the Infinity Saga last year, it is a nice little reminder of the first big ‘wrap up.’ While by today’s standards The Avengers seems smaller scale, it holds up well. While Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were already established, this movie reinvented the Hulk to what we now know and love, and gave new dimensions to Black Widow and Hawkeye.

Start the summer season with a party and watch The Avengers.

May 8 – Star Trek

Star Trek opened in theaters on May 8, 2009, so it is now 11 years to the date that J.J Abrams and company relaunched the Star Trek brand. Star Trek was a bright spot when it came out in summer 2009 among tent pole films, as many of the big ones like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra were hit due to the writers strike. Luckily Star Trek was developed and finished filming for a December 2008 release but the studio decided to delay it for summer 2009.

Star Trek felt like the Iron Man of its summer. In a time where most films were chasing dower realism, here was an optimistic lighthearted adventure that made movies fun again. It is exciting, fast-paced, and does the impossible: recasting some of the most iconic characters in fiction with new actors that live up to their predecessors, and making Star Trek appealing to an audience that had dismissed it as niche entertainment.

Plus a fun game now to play when you watch it: see all the small cameos by famous celebrities. Chirs Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, Tyler Perry, and Rachel Nichols, just to name a few.

May 15 – Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road opened on this date five years ago – May 15, 2015. It was the unexpected surprise of that summer. The long-awaited reboot/sequel in a franchise that hadn’t been popular since the 1980s? From the original director that most people by that point associated with Happy Feet? Yet it was a shot in the arm for many film fans and it rode the critical acclaim to ten Academy Award nominations and six wins. A rare summer blockbuster that also becomes an awards darling. Jaw-dropping practical stunts and a stunning visual palette make Mad Max: Fury Road a watch for the summer.

May 22 – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

All six of the original Star Wars films opened on Memorial Day weekend, so why not make this Memorial Day weekend extra special with a rewatch of what many fans agree is the best film in the Star Wars franchise (agree now, at the time many fans were split on it). And why should you pick The Empire Strikes Back over any other Star Wars film? 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the film’s release.

May 29 – This Is The End

Every summer needs a comedy. Really that period of time from 2007 to 2010 was a gold mine of comedies released by Judd Apatow and associates. It was difficult to choose one, but This is the End seemed both weirdly relevant (a movie about being stuck inside during the end of the world) and just that funny. Some of the biggest names in comedy playing exaggerated versions of themselves make for some laugh out loud moments.

Staying home for so long is starting to wear on a lot of people, so why not try and watch a film that gives a comedic spin on the premise. We could all use a laugh right now, so why not laugh at the most extreme end of the world?

June 5 – Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman 1984 was originally supposed to open on June 5th of this year, so to make up for that lack of Diana Prince in your life, rewatch the first installment to get ready for the sequel coming in a few months (hopefully). This film was the surprise hit of summer 2017, outgrossing even more established superhero films like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. and Spider-Man: Homecoming. There still hasn’t been a superhero film quite like Wonder Woman, and it still might be the best installment in the DCEU.

June 12 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Fun fact: Raiders of the Lost Ark opened in theaters on June 12, 1981. So why not watch the film on its 39 year anniversary. Crazy how it lined up, right?

Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of, if not the, best action films of all time. It launched a film franchise that is set to have a fifth film due out in 2022, a high mark in Steven Spielberg’s already impressive filmography, and inspired an entire generation to become one of the most influential films of the 1980s. One of the most quintessential summer movies, pairing it a week after Wonder Woman you get a real sense of adventure period pieces.

June 19 – Inside Out

Pixar originally slated Soul to release on this date. Soul looks like the spiritual sequel to Pixar’s Inside Out, even down to the fact that it would have opened on June 19th, five years to the date of the release of Inside Out (June 19, 2015).

While Pixar was first known for their original films, starting in the 2010’s they started revisiting many of their classic films with sequels and prequels. Of the eleven films released in the past decade, only four were original ideas, and one of the bright spots was Inside Out. A delightful sweet touching film that no matter the age can somehow make you smile and cry at the same time. Honestly, it is a movie I think many of us may need a good rewatch of right now.

June 26 – Jaws

Remember when the Mayor of Amity Island, who wanted to ignore the public best interest because he valued dollars over lives and was the ultimate embodiment of a spineless politician, was a character in a movie and not the role model for certain senators who want to open up business during a national health crisis?

Anyway, Jaws is the first summer blockbuster, is one of the best movies ever made as well as one of the most influential. Combine that with its strange cultural relevance now, why not give it a watch before the Fourth of July? It’s exciting but also has the horror elements that can give you that summer movie scare fix.

July 3 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day

The best Terminator movie (yes I said it!) was released on this same date 29 years ago (July 3, 1991). Terminator 2: Judgement Day is everything you want from a summer movie, more specifically a movie on the 4th of July weekend. It is big, bombastic, and has some jaw-dropping practical action with awe-inspiring explosions to make up for lack of fireworks. It has quotable dialogue, iconic imagery, and an awesome movie tie in song, ‘You Could Be Mine,’ by Guns N Roses. So grab a hot dog, a cold drink, and watch Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron in their prime.

July 10 – (500) Days of Summer

Not all summer movies have to be big action films. Sometimes studios drop films they acquired from Sundance that may have more mainstream appeal to serve as counter-programming to the big blockbusters. (500) Days of Summer opened in theaters on July 17, 2009, and was a sleeper hit, earning $60 million worldwide. Obviously, because of the name, it fits the summer movie season, but it also from an aesthetic level it feels like a comforting summer day, capturing the warmth of a summer bbq with friends at night. Take a glimpse back to where Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel were in their careers eleven years ago.

July 17 – Inception

Warner Bros. typically marks the third weekend of July as their prime spot, saving this date for a big summer film of theirs. This year they have given it to Tenet, and despite many other films getting pushed back, they have kept Tenet on this date for the time being. They obviously want this to be the first big summer movie people can see in theaters after being stuck home for so long. Warner Bros. has given Nolan this prime July date four times before. Dunkirk in 2017, The Dark Knight in 2008, The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, and Inception in 2010. Inception opened in theaters on July 16, 2010, and much like Tenet sold itself as a high concept original science fiction film in a summer filled with sequels and adaptations.

July 24 – Pacific Rim

Giant robots fighting giant monsters….what more could you want? Pacific Rim was a summer movie made for kids and the child in the hearts of every adult. It takes a B-genre and with state of the art visual effects blows it up to the big massive proportion that the imaginations of young kids knew it could be. A movie about canceling the apocalypse? Think we can all get on board with that idea.

July 31 – Funny People 

When Funny People was released in 2009, it was not the film many people expected. Coming off Judd Apatow’s previous two films, 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, people were expecting a more traditional comedy. Given the title and presence by comedic actors like Seth Rogen (who at that time was THE go-to comedic actor) and consistent comedic money maker Adam Sandler, audiences were not expecting this more introspective film about comedians. It has funny moments for sure, but this was not the traditional Judd Apatow film, nor the traditional Adam Sandler or Seth Rogen film. It feels more at home in the works of Paul Thomas Anderson or Robert Altman than one would expect from Judd Apatow (that is not a knock on him as a director by any means). I think the film has aged better as time has gone on, and more people are open to a different type of comedy. A more nuanced layered and sometimes tragic sense.

August 7 – The Iron Giant 

Iron Giant was released on the same weekend in 1999 as The Thomas Crown Affair, Mystery Men, and a little known movie called The Sixth Sense. Iron Giant was a box office bomb but since then has gained a cult following. It’s now considered by many a modern animation classic. It celebrates its twenty-first anniversary this year and it still is as entertaining, moving, and impressively animated as it was the day of its release.

August 14 – Rough Night

While I was tempted to put this film on the list to kick-start the summer to fill in the spot left by Black Widow, I decided to save it towards later in the summer season. Rough Night was released in the summer of 2017 in a crowded market and sadly was overlooked by many audiences. Many filmgoers saw it as another Bridesmaids or The Hangover but with women. Yet the film had more in tone with Arsenic and Old Lace or a modern hard R riff on Weekend at Bernie’s.

This Is The End is the all-dude stuck in isolation film of the summer, so let Rough Night be the all-women version of it. Some of the best comedic actresses gathered together for a fun summertime romp with a dark twisted sense of humor.

August 21 – Inglorious Basterds

Tarantino’s sixth film was released on this date 11 years ago: August 21, 2009. Inglorious Basterds was a different type of summer movie, but just what people wanted and might be Tarantino’s best film. It was a star-making role for Christoph Waltz and the film went on to gross $321.4 million worldwide and was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It is different from everything else on the list. Celebrating its the eleventh year anniversary watching Nazis get what is coming to them is always a pleasure.

August 28 – Little Miss Sunshine

Hopefully, by this point, things will have settled down a bit, but if you need one final movie to close out the summer I would say Little Miss Sunshine. It makes for a good segway from the bigger summer movies to the more award season films that will come later in the year. The entire premise of the film: a family forced to be stuck together learning and growing from one another seems pretty relevant right now. Watch a sweet heartfelt film to close out the summer and appreciate your family; you got through this all with them.

There you have it, our summer movie season watchlist. Let us know what you think? What would you add? Any recommendations? Hopefully, you are able to have some semblance of a summer movie season.