Memorial Day is right around the corner. And while it’s a time to reflect upon history and honor our military veterans, it’s also the unofficial kickoff for summer. This year will be a little different, however. There will be few barbecues and pool parties, and no huge blockbuster hitting theaters to let us know that the season of sun and fun has arrived.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast this weekend and celebrate the start of summer! The first weekend of sunshine season should be accompanied by movies that are big, fun spectacles, the popcorn flicks that keep us hugely entertained in air-conditioned theaters while the temperature boils outside. We might be mostly doing it at home (or a drive-in) this year but we can still get into the splashy spirit of it all. Grill up some hamburgers and hot dogs, grab yourself a frothy adult beverage (or non-alcoholic, your choice), and sit down with this 6-pack of movies to get the summer party started.
1. Spider-Man 2
I opted to stay away from the two obvious franchises with the MCU and the DCEU. Still, it’s hard to avoid Marvel completely. You might be wondering why I jumped straight to the sequel rather than starting with the first Spider-Man. Fair! But there are few superhero movies that blend heart and action so seamlessly as Spider-Man 2. The first Spider-Man movie is fantastic, but the second is where the trilogy really sings (we will not speak of Spider-Man 3). Even when the stakes in Peter Parker’s world grow, it’s huge fun to spend time with Spidey as he swings through the streets of Manhattan, all accompanied by one of the last great soundtracks of the mid-2000s. As far as perfect summer movies go, it’s hard to beat this one.
2. Jurassic Park
For plenty of us of a certain age, Jurassic Park was the first movie that made us realize what was possible in movies. For parents with kids, introducing your kids to a movie that meant so much to you at their same age is a fantastic experience. For those of us without kids, revisiting it for the first time in (probably) decades is a nostalgic blast from the past. And for kids themselves, I can’t think of a better way to kick off summer than the classic Steven Spielberg movie that launched an entirely new wave of visual effects and changed the modern blockbuster forever. It doesn’t just survive on nostalgia alone, though – Jurassic Park still holds up today. That first iconic shot of the dinosaur-dotted panorama opening up right as John Williams’ memorable score swells is still chill-inducing. Welcome to Jurassic Park, indeed.
3. The Meg
Look, man, sometimes you just have to kick back with a movie that isn’t great, but is so not great that it’s actually…great. This is The Meg. Is it a good movie? N-no? Probably not? But is it a damned fun one? You betcha. What’s not to love about a super-serious Jason Statham trapped in a movie that everyone else treats like a comedy, a Jason Statham that gets to punch a giant freaking megalodon shark in the face? There is absolutely nothing not to love. The Meg is big. It’s dumb. It’s absurd. It’s absolutely implausible. And yet, it’s some of the most fun you’ll ever have with a movie precisely for those reasons. The best part? You can be 110% drunk and still able to follow it. (Ask me how I know.) Take that, Jaws.
4. The Mummy
Adventure capers. They’re great, right? It’s so rare that we get a pure adventure movie these days, but The Mummy was that movie for us in 1999. Ten years removed from the then-last Indiana Jones movie, a youthful Brendan Fraser channeled all of Harrison Ford’s dashing charm with even more humor and an even more youthful Rachel Weisz was a breakout star as not just his love interest, but a lady lead more than capable fo holding her own. Adventure. Romance. Humor. The Mummy is a throwback to the swashbuckler film era of the 20s and 30s when Douglas Fairbanks and then Errol Flynn were stealing hearts and swinging swords. As far as action-packed romps with adventurous archaeologists go, The Mummy just might top them all. Yeah. I said it.
There are few things more fun than a good, old-fashioned ’90s disaster movie and there are few examples of the genre as perfect as Armageddon. Say what you want about Michael Bay but his movies put butts in seats, and I personally will defend to the death my belief that every one of his movies prior to Transformers slays – and even the first Transformers movie is a bop. Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Rock, The Is–well, okay, maybe not The Island. But the rest are just great popcorn movies and Armageddon showcases a Michael Bay at the top of his game, balancing disaster, humor, unlikely heroes, and huge action set pieces in one big, frothy, crowd-pleasing flick.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
It might be hard to remember since the last few PotC movies have been, well, somewhere south of great, but the first few Pirates of the Caribbean movies were good. Really good. Before Johnny Depp went through his troubles. Just as Orlando Bloom was coming off the enormous success of the Lord of the Rings franchise. Right as Keira Knightley hit her breakout point. The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was captured lightning in a bottle, generating that magic alchemy that transforms a movie that might have merely been good into something great. Captain Jack Sparrow might have been a generic scoundrel if not for Johnny Depp’s full commitment to the role, playing Jack as a drunken, sashaying, guyliner-wearing homage to Keith Richards in a tricorne hat. In a career filled with memorable characters, Jack Sparrow is an all-timer on Depp’s list and arguably one of the most entertaining characters you’ll ever watch. And that rousing score? Perfection. Pop it on, raise the Black Pearl‘s sails, and let the swashbuckling fun begin.