top of page
  • Jennifer Green

Summer Movies in Every Genre (SF Chronicle)

The December holiday season has its traditional films, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Elf.” But what about summer? The season may not have officially started yet, but thanks to the heat wave that recently swept the Bay Area, it feels like it’s come early. 

It’s hard to pinpoint a definitive summer flick, maybe because there are so many — and they cross every genre. From horror to romance, and from Martha’s Vineyard to Mexico to the Mediterranean, there’s something for everyone this summer on the small screen. Find a film to match your mood.

Face your fears: ‘Jaws’

The film that inspired the Hollywood summer blockbuster schedule we know and love today, Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” may not instill quite as much fear as it did in 1975, when its effects looked newer and John Williams’ iconic score wasn’t yet a meme. But you may still find yourself wondering what lurks beneath the water’s surface after revisiting this screamer. 

Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw make an unforgettable trio in shark-hunting action scenes punctuated with macho banter. Shaw’s monologue about an incident in the Pacific Ocean, involving both the atomic bomb and a pack of man-eating sharks, is haunting. If you’re feeling really brave, cue up the sequels, too. 

Watch it: Streaming on Prime Video.

Feel the drama: ‘Call Me by Your Name’

When this melodrama from Italian director Luca Guadagnino (“Challengers”) and veteran scriptwriter James Ivory (“A Room With a View”) premiered in 2017, the buzz was about the sexy scenes between stars Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer (and a peach). But the languid summer season in the northern Italian countryside is no less memorable. 

The filmmakers perfectly convey the heat and boredom of sizzling days over a leisurely, well-heeled summer. Between trysts, the boys amble rural paths, lie by the pool, flirt with local girls, linger over family meals and enjoy ice cream in the village plaza. Sure, there’s the angst of first love, but summer is palpably inviting in this film. 

Watch it: Streaming on Prime Video.

Think about others: ‘Terraferma’

This Italian feature from director Emanuele Crialese (“L’Immensità”) forms part of a growing body of European films grappling with the realities of mass migration. The 2024 International Oscar nominee “Io Capitano,” also from Italy, is another. “Terraferma” is set during summer season on the tiny island of Linosa, where locals find themselves increasingly dependent on tourist euros as their fishing traditions die out. 

But the island’s tourism is threatened when boatloads of African refugees begin literally washing up on their shores. Giddy scenes of partying vacationers fade into poignant underwater images of scattered personal items, and finally to a heartrending slo-mo sequence of beachgoers tending to parched refugees who’ve crawled out of the sea. Emotional stuff.

Watch it: Streaming on Prime Video.

Take a chance on music: ‘Mamma Mia! ’

Who can forget Meryl Streep swaying up a cliffside path to a white stucco wedding chapel overlooking the Mediterranean? How about Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård dancing on a boat perched atop the sparkling sea? Or a sexy Christine Baranski flirting with a much younger man on the beach, belting “Does Your Mother Know?”


This ABBA tribute, featuring other classics from the Swedish supergroup like “Dancing Queen” and “Our Last Summer,” filmed on location on the Greek isles. Whatever you may think of the silly plot or the actors’ dubious musical chops, the setting is undeniably alluring. You’ll be forgiven if you sing along.

Watch it: Streaming on Prime Video.

Get romantic: ‘Y Tu Mamá También’

Director Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”) returned home to Mexico to shoot this 2001 classic, which shifts from buddy film to road movie and, finally, into a story of sexual exploration, life and death. The film launched the U.S. careers of Gael García Bernal (“Cassandro”) and Diego Luna (“Rogue One”), who play best friends embarking on a journey through the Mexican countryside with an older Spanish woman (Maribel Verdú). 

They’re in search of a fabled beach, and along the way they become intimate with the woman — and each other. With a rousing soundtrack and political undertones, this is a sexy, evocative movie that might make you want to set off on the road this summer to destinations unknown. 

Watch it: Streaming on YouTube.

This article originally ran in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Call Me By Your Name still courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.


bottom of page