There’s a million things to love about summer, but the nostalgia factor is pretty high up on our list—and watching movies about summer camp can take us right back to the freedom-filled seasons we enjoyed during childhood.
If you’re someone lucky enough to have been to sleep-away camp, you’ll know what a unique—sometimes life-changing—experience it can be. Between swimming, playing sports, bunk raids, arts and crafts, singing and dancing, and simply making friends that last a lifetime, heading to camp for the summer is one experience that sadly can’t be replicated in adulthood.
It’s not surprising that the subject of summer camp is rife for storytelling—how could it not be, when you have a bunch of adolescents all in one place?.
We’ve chosen our 15 all-time best movies that take place at summer camp, from classics like 1961’s “The Parent Trap” and 1979’s “Meatballs,” to modern favorites like “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Stagedoor.”
What are some of your favorite movies about camp?
Originally published June 2015. Updated May 2017.
"The Parent Trap" (1961)
No camp movie is quite as classic as this one, starring British actress Hayley Mills as split-at-birth twins who meet at sleep-away camp. Though they initially despised each other (pranks abound, obviously!), the two eventually become friends and conspire to switch places—one lives in tony Boston and other on a California ranch—and get their parents back together.
Walt Disney Productions
"Parent Trap" (1998)
While the thought of two modern-day Lindsay Lohans is a bit scary, two young LiLos was charming and entertaining. Like the 1961 version before it, Lohan plays twins who meet for the first time at summer camp. Shot at the real Camp Walden in New York, the two plan to switch places and reunite their parents, played by Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson.
Walt Disney Pictures/Buena Vista Pictures
"Camp Nowhere" (1994)
What happens when kids create their own camp with no parents, no counselors, and no rules? They have the summer of their lives, of course. That's exactly what went down in this wacky cult classic that served as Jessica Alba's film debut.
"Wet Hot American Summer" (2001)
It's 1981 at Camp Firewood and the counselors are Amy Poheler, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, and Elizabeth Banks. Where do we sign up? This 2001 film follows the unruly behavior of the camp staff and the summer hijinx they get themselves into.
Follow it up with 2015's Amazingly ridiculous "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp" on Netflix.
Eureka Pictures/North Coast Group
"American Pie Presents: Band Camp" (2005)
"One time, at band camp..." Yeah, you know the drill. The fourth film in the raunchy series gives viewers the quintessential "American Pie" experience, but this time it's at summer camp.
"Moonrise Kingdom" (2012)
The critically acclaimed Wes Anderson indie tells the story of two 12-year-olds who falll in love and run away from summer camp in the summer of 1965. Starring Bill Murray and Bruce Willis, "Moonrise Kingdom" is definitely a must-see.
"Camp Rock" (2008)
Hey, everyone is entitled to a guilty pleasure, right? This Disney Channel film stars Joe Jonas at the height of his Jonas Brothers fame, and Demi Lovato in her breakout role. The movie essentially takes "High School Musical" to summer camp, so cue the cheesy songs and dance routines.
If you thought "Pitch Perfect" was the first time Anna Kendrick showed off her vocal chops on screen, think again. The actress debuted in this 2003 independent film that tells the story of a number of unique teens who attend Camp Ovation, a camp for the performing arts.
This Canadian classic film follows the antics of head counselor Tripper Harrison (Bill Murray) and a group of CITs at Camp North Star, a laughably cut-rate summer camp.
"Little Darlings" (1980)
This summer camp classic stars Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol in a race to loose their virginity. If that storyline doesn't pique your interest, the film is totally worth the watch for a cute young Matt Dillon alone!
Stephen Friedman/Kings Road Productions
Ben Stiller nails it as the workout-obsessed camp director in this Judd Apatow directed film in which the kids strike back to have the summer of their dreams.
Caravan Pictures/Walt Disney Pictures
"Indian Summer" (1993)
If you've ever been nostalgic for camp, watch this movie immediately. It was shot and set at Camp Tamakwa in Canada where the film's writer and director was a camper. Alan Arkin stars are a retiring camp director who invites eight former campers to reminisce about the good old summer days. Of course, many trips down memory lane ensue.
Outlaw Productions/Touchstone Pictures
This documentary heads to Stagedoor Manor, an illustrious performing arts summer camp in the Catskills. The film offers viewers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of five young Broadway hopefuls, and what it takes to train to be the best.
"Addams Family Values" (1993)
Wednesday Addams at camp? Yup, she's just as miserable as you'd expect. Leave it to Wednesday (Christina Ricci) to lead the camp's social outcasts in a revolt, making us love the feisty gal even more than we already do.
Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions
"It Takes Two" (1995)
Okay, there's no denying the similarities between this Disney flick and "The Parent Trap," but that doesn't make us love this Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie any less. The best part? The incredible mess hall food fight started by none other than Kirstie Alley.