Psycho Beach Party -- Not only does the title live up to expectations -- there is a psycho, plenty of skin 'n' sand, and a party complete with dance-off -- but it also has plenty of goofy adult humor, courtesy of drag queen Charles Busch, whose, ahem, ballsy style is best described as pure (summer) camp.
Lilo & amp; Stitch -- For all Disney's faults, they can get animation spectacularly right, particularly in this Hawaii-based cartoon of a little girl who winds up with an alien pet. The story is cute, the pictures beautiful, and Lilo is proof that some children can out-hijinx even an alien invasion.
Endless Summer -- Part of this 1960s-era documentary's charm is how cheesily "American documentary" it can seem. But the subject -- two surfers going around the world to find the perfect wave -- is actually exciting, and the locations they find (particularly in Africa) are beautiful.
National Lampoon's Vacation -- A lowbrow, funny classic stars an over-the-top Chevy Chase as a dad with a mission: to take his family on the ultimate summer vacation. As dated as it looks, the jokes are timeless for all of us who have ever endured a prolonged stretch of time with our families.
Goodfellas -- Can't get enough of the Sopranos? Goodfellas, which is Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, is an even meaner, more brutal, equally mesmerizing look at the dark, complicated world of the Mafia. Among others, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci kill, eat, snort, and swing their way through the film's kaleidoscope of back rooms and bars.
Purple Noon -- This French version of The Talented Mr. Ripley from 1960 tops the recent remake by being not only moodier and scarier, but sexier. Rent it, and check out a nearly-naked Alain Delon sweating and sipping cocktails in the Mediterranean sun just before he murders his best friend.
The Thing -- Summer heat getting you down? Seek out the early (1951) version of this film, rather than John Carpenter's 1982 remake. This proto-typical monster film is set in a polar research station, but most of the film's exteriors were filmed near Cut Bank, Montana -- a little town that has occasionally been the coldest place in America.
The Matrix -- Old-school film critics -- you know, the ones for whom anime is still an occasional indulgence and who consider Citizen Kane to be the defining film of all time -- seem to have missed the milestone this film marks. Released in 1999 amid mindless spectaculars like The Mummy and major disappointments like The Phantom Menace, The Matrix proved that mainstream filmgoers actually can think abstract, complicated thoughts. It also showed us a new style of mainstream filmmaking that brought together the influence of modern philosophy, cutting-edge technology, and the stylings of world cinema. Uh, yeah, it's a classic.
Publication date: 06/10/04