Pop Culture

My 5 Favorite Summer Camp Movies


There have been a number of bad, and really bad, summer camp movies, but there have also been some really good ones. Here are my 5 favorite, for one reason or another.

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1. The Rainbow Tribe (2008)
In the midst of dealing with a personal crisis, middle-aged Morgan Roberts returns to his childhood summer camp. He soon begins counseling a group of offbeat kids and learning some life lessons along the way in this tale based on a true story.

Moose says: This is a little known gem of a movie and the most recent one on this list. As camp professionals, most of us have dealt with the type of troublemakers we find in this story. These are the kids the parents send to camp so they (parents) can get a break. This is a family friendly film that captures the heart of summer camp so well. I like that the camp counselor doesn’t have slick and witty dialogue for the shenanigans the campers get into. You feel his frustration with the kids, especially since most of us have been there. A feel good movie that I highly recommend.

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2. Meatballs (1979)
Murray plays Tripper, the wisecracking, rule-bending head counselor at Camp North Star. Whether playing pranks on Camp North Star’s clueless director, wooing a female counselor, or scheming against the rich brats of a rival camp, Tripper delivers fun and mayhem in a laugh-filled summer his campers will remember forever!

Moose says: A classic summer camp movie that most of us have seen. As a camp professional you may cringe at some of the things the staff do, or the things they let the CITs get away with. However, if you just watch it as an entertaining movie and not as a documentary (because it’s not), then you should really enjoy Meatballs. Bill Murray is at the top of his game in this film and there are those heart warming moments that give this movie a punch of character.

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3. Indian Summer (1993)
Settle back for a delightful INDIAN SUMMER — the heartwarming comedy about eight friends who reunite at their summer camp after 20 years! Starring an impressive ensemble cast including Elizabeth Perkins (CATS AND DOGS, 28 DAYS) and Alan Arkin (AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS, GROSSE POINTE BLANK), no sooner do the visitors arrive than they return to the best summer of their lives — practical jokes, midnight kitchen raids, boat races, campfire stories, and secret romances pick up right where they left off! And with so much hilarity and excitement, the fun never stops. Pack your gear, this week at camp is sure to be a hilarious, feel-good treat for everyone.

Moose says: My favorite part of this movie is the camp director, “Unca” Lou, played by Alan Arkin. He is the camp director I wish I could have had as a camper or even as a staff member. There are no kids in this movie, which is kind of a shame. In fact there are not many people in the movie at all. There are the 8 adults that have returned and a few staff. Despite the small cast, it is a character driven film that will make you smile. I have seen this movie half a dozen times and always enjoy it. Oh, and it has a Moose in it…Bonus!

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4. The Parent Trap (1998)
Identical twins, separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.

Moose says: While I enjoyed the original 1961 version, this version, with a young Lindsay Lohan playing both sisters, is my favorite of the two. It’s more modern. Lohan is adorable at this point in her life, the music is good and the directing is good. This is a family friendly film that has those tender and funny moments that most good family films have. A fun, light-hearted movie that is worth watching.

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5. Space Camp (1986)
Zero gravity meets zero fear in this cosmic comedy-adventure about a summer camp where regular kids check in and real astronauts check out! Starring Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Leaf Phoenix and Tate Donovan, SpaceCamp is a wild and wonderful thrill-ride packed with ‘special effects’ spectacular moments (Film Journal) and a gripping climax (Time Out) that’s out of this world! For five typical teens, NASA’s space camp promises to be a fun way to blow off the summer. But when a space shuttle exercise misfires, they find themselves launched into orbit, facing the adventure of a lifetime. Now, the only way back to Earth is to take command of the ship and control of their destinies, before time and oxygen run out!

Moose says: Maybe it’s because of my age (I’m totally an 80’s kid) and I feel nostalgic when I think of this movie, but Space Camp is awesome. It’s just plain fun and has a great 80’s cast. It’s not your typical camp movie (if there even is a “typical” camp movie). Space Camp is more of a space/astronaut type of adventure film. I suspect it influenced many kids to want to attend the U.S. Space Camp in Alabama since it was filmed there.

Your thoughts?

What would be your top 5? Have you seen these films? Did you like them as much as I did?

2 Comments

  • I think you’ve overlooked what I would believe to be the #1: Heavyweights.

    There is also another one that didn’t get great reviews called Camp Nowhere.

    Both of those are incredible Camp movies!

    • Thanks for weighing in, Brent. I wasn’t a fan of either one of those, but I know that Heavyweights is a favorite for some when it comes to camp movies. What would be your other 3 favorites?

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