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Typically, the first season you would think of as the most fitting time to watch horror movies is the fall as that is when the gloriously spooky holiday of Halloween comes around. However, you may realize, upon further investigation, that summer horror movies, such as the beachside creature feature Jaws or the ironically bright and sunny Midsommar, are actually far more common and can be a fun, and even educational, way to get prepared for this time of year. To see what we mean, check out the following list of an appropriate number of 13 movies you can stream or rent digitally that truly deliver the kind of summer fun horror fans wait all year for, starting with, arguably, the ultimate example of fear under the sun.
A sheriff (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss), and an arrogant, experienced sailor (Robert Shaw) hunt a 25-foot great white shark terrorizing the local beach.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Many argue the true villain of Jaws, one of the best ‘70s movies that saw the birth of the modern blockbuster, is the mayor of Amity Island who refused to close down the beach for Fourth of July weekend, leading to one of the most devastating tragedies in director Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece that kept audiences out of the water for a while.
Guests of a popular riverside resort fall prey to an army of vicious, flesh-eating fish.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Of the many aquatic horror films that attempted to cash-in on Jaws’s success, the Roger Corman-produced cult classic Piranha (which director Alexandre Aja remade as the delightfully corny Piranha 3D in 2010) is considered the best (and morbidly funniest) of the bunch, including by Steven Spielberg himself.
The ‘Burbs (1989)
A family man’s (Tom Hanks) hopes for a quiet staycation are interrupted by chilling rumors surrounding his mysterious neighbors.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Piranha was actually one of the first movies directed by Joe Dante years before he went on to make the fun dark comedy The ‘Burbs, which perfectly captures both the challenging nature of struggling to relax in one’s own suburban environment over the summer and the influence the creepy house down the street has on the imagination.
Summer of 84 (2018)
A teenage boy and his friends find a dangerous way to pass the time while school is out after suspecting that their friendly neighborhood cop may be hiding a deadly secret in mid-1980s Oregon.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: One of the more recent examples of a fun suburban thriller is Summer of 84 - a Shudder exclusive that plays out a lot like The Goonies meets Rear Window with a fine helping of ‘80s nostalgia a la Stranger Things.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
A family is (literally) torn apart and their road trip ruined by another family of inbred, disfigured mutant cannibals lurking in the surrounding desert.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Before Alexandre Aja gave you another reason to stay out of the water with his aforementioned Piranha remake, he gave them another reason to stay home for the summer with his remake of The Hills Have Eyes, which some actually consider to be an improvement on the original directed by the late, great Wes Craven in 1977.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
A group of young friends are (literally) torn apart and their road trip ruined by a family of potentially inbred cannibals - one of which is a disfigured, power-tool wielding maniac.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Before Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes gave audiences a reason to stay home for the summer, writer and director Tobe Hooper gave audiences a reason to stay out of the Lone Star state in particular by claiming his nightmarish hit The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on a true story, which is only partially true.
The Lost Boys (1987)
After moving to Santa Cruz, California, following the recent divorce of their parents, a teenager (Jason Patric) unwittingly becomes a member of a vampire gang and his younger brother (Corey Haim) becomes a member of an amateur gang of vampire hunters.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Summer is a time when the youths of the world feel their most liberated and invincible - much like the gang of immortal bloodsuckers in The Lost Boys, from director Joel Schumacher live.
After traveling to Santa Cruz, California, for an oceanside summer getaway, a well-to-do family (led by Black Panther cast members Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) suddenly become stalked by a strange group of people who bear a startling resemblance to them.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: There is actually a cool, subtle homage to The Lost Boys during the opening scene of Us - writer and director Jordan Peele’s arguably scarier follow-up to 2017’s Get Out that forces us to reflect on ourselves but how we see ourselves in others.
Friday The 13th (1980)
After traveling to the infamous Camp Crystal Lake for a counseling job over the summer, a group of debaucherous youths suddenly become stalked and killed one-by-one by an elusive maniac.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: While it was initially developed to cash-in on the success of Halloween (hence the holiday-inspired titled), Friday the 13th - the first of one of the “best” horror movie franchises - would go down in history as the ultimate summer slasher movie, and one of the best Kevin Bacon movies, too.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
A shy girl named Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) and her cousin, Ricky (John Tiersten), are sent to a youth camping facility for the summer where the guests and counselors suddenly become stalked and killed one-by-one by an elusive maniac.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: While Friday the 13th was, essentially, a rip-off movie, it would also inspire plenty of its own slasher movie rip-offs - one of the more iconic being Sleepaway Camp, especially for its undoubtedly shocking final scene.
Also try streaming The Burning on Tubi.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
A group of four formerly close-knit high school graduates suddenly become stalked by an elusive maniac who claims to have witnessed a deadly mistake they made a year earlier.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: After the slasher movie genre was revived in 1996 with Scream, screenwriter Kevin Williamson kept the trend going with I Know What You Did Last Summer, an adaptation of Lois Duncan’s novel that, despite its campiness, can effectively inspire one to be a little more mindful of their behavior during this season.
Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
After traveling to his recently purchased mountain cabin, a friendly hillbilly (Alan Tudyk) and his buddy (Tyler Labine) suddenly become victims of a grisly misunderstanding that paints them as homicidal maniacs.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: While the aforementioned Scream was a more earnest deconstruction of the slasher genre, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is one of the best horror-comedy movies of its time as a purely silly but thoroughly clever story in which the gore is mostly by accident.
After suffering a devastating tragedy, a young woman (Florence Pugh) follows her emotionally distant beau (Jack Reynor) and his classmates to Sweden for a rare cultural festival that soon proves to be anything but paradise.
Why it’s a great summer horror movie: Writer and director Ari Aster, who became an instant horror sensation in 2018 with Hereditary, achieves what many would have claimed impossible with Midsommar - a thoroughly unsettling tour de force set mostly in a colorful, serene, daytime environment that could serve as an effective cautionary tale for anyone seeking a summer romance.
If these horror movies do not make your summer a scream, I do not know what will. However, if any of them do give you a chilling feeling under the warm sun, which one would you consider the finest example of a summer horror movie?
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.