10 Best Summer Camp Movies and Shows

Summer is among us and that means it’s that time of year when people love to visit beaches, go camping, swim a lot, and travel. School is out and kids are sleeping late, playing video games, and hanging out with friends. Another iconic summer tradition is summer camp. A place where ghost stories are told and marshmallows are roasted. A place where Lindsay Lohan found her long-lost twin in the Parent Trap. Where teenagers break into song and dance for no apparent reason in Camp Rock. To celebrate summer, here are some of the best movies and shows that revolve around summer camp.

10: Friday the 13th (Part 6)

Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees are both iconic in the horror world. Camp is pretty important to the plot as we usually get counselors who arrive early to set up things and Jason has to take care of them. I want to put a shine on part 6 specifically though.

It is the only movie in the franchise to have children enter the camp. It gives the movie an edge because there are kids involved now in the middle of Jason’s killing spree. Part 6 is also my favorite Friday film as it is all around the most pleasing. It has some of the best kills, some of the best dialogue, a great soundtrack, and well-written humor. Part 5 was such a disappointment to so many, the studio and writers had to make sure they bounced back with something strong. They definitely succeeded.

9: Heavyweights

One of the funniest comedies that revolves around camp is Heavyweights. A Disney movie was written by the guy who made The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Figure that.

The movie is about a young kid named Gerry who is forced by his parents to attend Camp Hope which is a fat camp.  Among him are other kids around his age and they all seem to support each other. It seems like it’s going to be a great summer until Tony Perkis arrives. He is a psychotic health nut that is ready to torture these kids into losing weight no matter what. It is up to Gerry and his friends to stand up for themselves and take back their camp.

Ben Stiller stars as Tony and he is phenomenally insane. One of his best roles for sure. Kenan Thompson plays a young camper and adds a lot to the comedy. The movie is well written with tons of jokes and great performances. The Mighty Ducks have a lot of the same cast here which is fun. Definitely check out this childhood favorite if you haven’t.

8: Wet Hot American Summer

Wet Hot American Summer was released in 2001 to mixed reviews but over the years has become somewhat of a cult classic. Even a Netflix show was made in 2015 to capitalize on the newfound popularity.

This is just a simple easy movie to watch. The plot takes place on the last day of summer camp as all the counselors just go about their day trying to get everything done before the day is over. That is it. It might not sound super interesting at first but the performances from this star-studded cast definitely stand out. The cast includes Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, and Christopher Meloni just to name a few.

There really isn’t one plot throughout this movie. It seems like it is just random scenes but damn is it funny. The dialogue is great and the characters are memorable. It definitely gives off summer camp vibes.

7: Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway Camp is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. A movie full of great kills, fun memorable dialogue, and a twist, unlike no other.

The story is about a shy young girl named Angela Baker and her cousin Ricky who attend summer camp. When they get there though people begin to die one by one and all hell breaks loose.

Just about every scene in this horror movie is great. There are ridiculous over-the-top characters throughout and it’s just such a good time. Plenty of camp staples such as swimming, baseball, and archery appear throughout. This is a mixed bag of good acting and bad acting. High concepts and sleaze. Sleepaway Camp is one to watch if you want a fun summer horror film.

The ending is iconic among horror fans. Watch it, take in the ending, and rewatch the movie all over again.

6: Meatballs

When people talk about Bill Murray, you hear Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, and for some reason Garfield. Meatballs should definitely be talked about more.

Meatballs is about lead camp counselor Tripper who befriends some campers and helps them get ready for their annual competition against their rivals.

This is a funny surprisingly heartfelt movie that doesn’t necessarily add anything new but because of Murray’s charm and some endearing characters definitely makes this one recommendable.

5: The Haunting Hour: Dreamcatcher

If you grew up in the 90s, Goosebumps might have been a staple for you. The books were written by R.L. Stine extremely successful and still sell like crazy. A television series was also made and gave a lot of young kids their first dip in the horror genre.

Another book series that Stine put out was called The Haunting Hour. A series meant more for teens than for kids and a show was created as well in 2010. The Goosebumps tv series while great for its nostalgia isn’t exactly scary these days and the acting isn’t always great. The Haunting Hour since meant for a somewhat older audience has darker tales and can be legit scary for anyone. The episode titled Dreamcatcher from season 2 is easily one of the scariest.

The story is about a girl named Lisa who is going to summer camp for the first time. She makes friends with a girl named Amelia and meets a bully named Meg. Things start to go wrong when Lisa hears the campfire tale of a creature called the Dream Catcher. A monster similar to Freddy who kills you in your sleep.

This is basically a Freddy Krueger story for teens but for 22 minutes it is done really well. The imagery in the dream sequences is shot great. The creature itself looks like a mix of a giant spider and something from The Grudge. Look at the picture above me. I wouldn’t want to see that thing at any age. Also, the ending is so dark and mean-spirited, it immediately sent me to search after more episodes of the series.

Dreamcatcher is a great horror episode. Definitely check out The Haunting Hour if you haven’t before. Don’t knock it because it’s supposedly for children. Be warned though, most of the episodes are dark without a happy ending in sight.

4: Ernest Goes to Camp

Ernest Goes to Camp was the first feature-length movie in the Ernest franchise and was released in 1987. This led to 8 more sequels throughout the 90s. The first one had our loveable hero at camp.

Ernest plays a janitor at a summer camp who gets his chance to be a counselor to a couple of juvenile delinquents. He is able to share his wacky knowledge and be a friend to them throughout the movie.

This movie has a lot of slapstick and harmless family fun as Jim Varney throws out random catchphrases. It’s just a silly good time. If you are an Ernest fan check it out. If you have never heard of him, this is a good place to start.

3: The Burning

At a summer camp, a bunch of teens decide to play a prank on the caretaker. The prank goes horribly wrong though when the teens accidentally set the caretaker on fire and leave him for dead. After a few years, the caretaker returns and is ready to get his revenge on the campers.

Many copycat slasher movies tried to take advantage of the popularity of Friday the 13th. The Burning is probably the best of the bunch. It is simply a lot of fun. The gore and kills are plentiful. Cropsey who is the caretaker is a great villain and the movie overall is stylish. We also get some early appearances from actors such as Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter.

2: Camp Cretaceous

You might be looking at this pick and wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Camp Cretaceous is indeed a summer camp show.

The show is about 6 teens from all walks of life who get the chance to be the first ones to attend a summer camp that takes place in Jurassic Park. Of course, things go bad, dinosaurs break out and the teens have to survive after the whole island is evacuated.

This is an animated show on Netflix and it’s really good. One of my two favorite movies of all time is Jurassic Park. I think it is a perfect movie. With all the sequels that are out, I will proudly say that this is my second favorite Jurassic Park anything.

The story takes place between Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The writing is great. The emotion is top-notch. The action and suspense are heavy and tense. I wish I had a show like this growing up but I am so happy it exists now. There are tons of dino action and powerful messages throughout.

I cannot stress enough that just because something is animated automatically makes it childish or just for kids. Animation is just another medium to tell a great story.

1: Fear Street: 1978

The Fear Street trilogy came out on Netflix in 2021 and became a fast hit. Another thing based on the works of R.L Stine. My favorite of the trilogy is 1978. Why? Because it’s a slasher in a summer camp. It is awesome!!!

The story involves teens and children at camp, where a killer is on the loose who may or not be possessed. It is a pretty wild ride.

Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) is excellent in this and the whole cast really gives you their all. There are two things that this movie really has going for it. One is the sister connection. In slashers, a lot of the time, you don’t care about the teens. It’s more fun to watch them get picked off. We do care about the main siblings in this and it adds a layer for sure. The second thing that works is the gore. This is a brutal movie. You feel every stab, every hit and it does not hold back.

About Martin Maruri

Martin Maruri is an avid fan of pop culture and movie trivia. In his spare time, Martin loves to watch horror movies, watch baseball and spend time with his lovely girlfriend. P.S...He also loves spending time with his French Bulldog named Tobin.

View all posts by Martin Maruri

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