The 10 Best Summer Camp MoviesPublished on 04/26/2023 · 8 min readThese 10 movies about camping will be sure to get you excited for sleeping under the stars and exploring the great outdoors this summer!
Photo by_ _Efecan Efe
There's something special about summer camp movies that bring back memories of childhood, whether it's spending a week away from home, making new friends, or simply enjoying the great outdoors. While horror films about camping might keep you up at night wondering what's lurking in the trees behind your campsite, the movies on this list are sure to inspire you to get outside and explore the wilderness.
Though you won't find any horror movies on this list, you’ll be sure to find classic comedies, action-packed adventures, inspiring documentaries, and heart-wrenching dramas. Whether you're a seasoned camper or just looking to relive some childhood memories, the movies on this list are sure to inspire you to get outside and make some new ones. So, gather your friends, pack your bags, and get ready for a journey through the best summer camp movies of all time.
1. The Great Outdoors (1988)
This comedy follows the Ripley family on their camping vacation to a cabin in the woods. What was supposed to be a relaxing getaway turns into a comedy of errors when an obnoxious in-law, played by John Candy, arrives unannounced. The family must navigate their way through a series of misadventures and mishaps, including an encounter with a bear, water skiing accidents, and more. The film is a lighthearted look at the ups and downs of family vacations and encounters with nature.
2. National Parks Adventure (2016)
If you’re looking for some incredible landscape shots that will make you want to jump up from behind the TV and drive to the closest National Park, this movie is for you. This short 43-minute movie takes the audience on a breathtaking journey through the national parks of America. It features stunning footage of some of the country's most iconic natural wonders, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. It details the history and wildlife of these parks, as well as the people who work to preserve them. The documentary is narrated by Robert Redford and features a score by Bruce Springsteen. It will be sure to inspire you to explore the beauty of these parks and to appreciate the natural world around us. It’s also available for free on Youtube here.
3. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Directed by Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom is a charming and quirky coming-of-age film about two young pen pals, Sam and Suzy, who fall in love and decide to run away from their New England town to be together. The film is set in the 1960s and features Anderson's signature visual style and offbeat humor. The young couple, played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, have an adventure-filled journey as they explore the wilderness, build a treehouse, and make a life for themselves in the outdoors.
4. The Kings of Summer (2013)
The Kings of Summer is a heartwarming film about three teenage boys who decide to run away from home and build a house in the woods (seems to be a theme!). The trio, played by Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias, has to fend for themselves in the wilderness, hunting for food and building their own shelter. The film explores the themes of independence, friendship, and the desire for freedom that is common among teenagers. The film is a refreshing take on the coming-of-age genre, with a healthy dose of humor, nature, and adventure.
5. Wildlike (2016)
Directed by Frank Hall Green, Wildlike is a powerful drama about a troubled teenage girl named Mackenzie, played by Ella Purnell, who is sent to live with her uncle in Alaska after her mother goes to rehab. When her uncle becomes abusive, she runs away and meets a backpacker named Rene, played by Bruce Greenwood, who although he and Mackenzie are strangers, agrees to help her on her journey. The film explores themes of trauma, healing, and the power of human connection. Through their journey together in the wilderness, Mackenzie and Rene find a sense of peace and connection with nature. Though it is a tear-jerker and quite a bit heavier than any of the films listed above, it is one of my favorite films on this list. The incredible Alaskan landscapes really make you want to get outside, and watching Mackenzie’s journey really leaves you in awe of the healing power of nature on humans.
6. RV (2006)
Back to something more lighthearted—this film about a family's disastrous road trip in an RV will be sure to have you laughing. The father, played by Robin Williams, is a workaholic who decides to take his family on a vacation in an RV to spend more time together. The trip becomes a series of comedic mishaps and challenges, including navigating the treacherous roads of Colorado and dealing with a rival family in a campground. The film is a fun take on the family vacation genre, with plenty of laughs and touching moments.
7. The Parent Trap (1998)
This movie is an absolute classic family comedy-drama starring a young Lindsay Lohan in a double role as twin sisters, Hallie and Annie, and Dennis Quaid as their father. Directed by Nancy Meyers, the film's premise centers around the two girls who coincidentally meet at summer camp and discover that they are identical twin sisters who were separated at birth when their parents divorced. The girls then come up with a plan to switch places and reunite their estranged parents. The film has a witty and entertaining storyline and it is fun to watch Lindsay Lohan perform as the two lead characters. With iconic scenes like the girls' prank war and their parents' romantic reunion, this film has become a beloved family favorite and a nostalgic reminder of the '90s.
8. Troop Zero (2019)
Troop Zero is a 2019 comedy-drama film set in rural Georgia in 1977. The story follows an eccentric young girl named Christmas Flint, played by McKenna Grace, who dreams of traveling to space and making contact with alien life. When she learns of a local talent competition where the winners will get their voices recorded on NASA's Voyager Golden Record, Christmas forms a troop of misfit friends to compete. The film explores themes of friendship, acceptance of teenage girls, and the power of imagination. With a talented cast that includes Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Jim Gaffigan, the film is a heartwarming and inspiring story that celebrates the unique talents and personalities of its characters.
9. Leave No Trace (2018)
Based on the novel, My Abandonment by Peter Rock, this film follows the story of a father and daughter, Will and Tom, played by Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie, who live off-grid in a public park in Portland, Oregon. When they are discovered by the authorities, they are forced to integrate back into society and face the challenges of adapting to a conventional lifestyle. The film explores themes of family, trauma, and the tension between individual freedom and societal norms. Leave No Trace is a beautifully crafted and emotionally powerful film that features outstanding performances from Foster and McKenzie, who convey a deep sense of love and connection despite their vastly different perspectives on life. With its stunning cinematography and intimate storytelling, this film is a must-see for fans of thought-provoking and emotionally resonant cinema.
10. Meatballs (1979)
Meatballs is a timeless summer camp comedy that follows the adventures at the fictional Camp North Star. The film stars the iconic Bill Murray as head counselor Tripper Harrison. It centers around the experiences of a diverse group of campers, including an awkward 11-year-old Rudy, one of the main characters throughout the film. The kids learn valuable lessons about friendship, teamwork, and independence from the group of counselors at Camp North Star. Behind the scenes, viewers see that each camp counselor is just an adult trying to find their place in the world while also guiding and inspiring the campers. The film also portrays the daily life of a summer camp, from romance, wacky competitions, and pranks to the emotional goodbyes on the last day of camp.
Overall, Meatballs is a fun and entertaining movie that captures the essence of the summer camp experience. With its charming cast, humorous storyline, and uplifting moments, it's no wonder that the film has become a beloved classic.
In conclusion, these movies offer us a chance to relive the carefree days of our youth and experience the magic of the great outdoors. From comedies like Meatballs and The Parent Trap to dramas like Leave No Trace and Moonrise Kingdom, these films capture the essence of the summer camping experience in all its glory. And while horror films may try to scare us with tales of what lurks in the woods, the movies on this list remind us that there's nothing to fear in nature—only adventure and opportunity. So whether you're reminiscing about your own summer camp memories as a kid or planning your next backpacking trip as an adult, be sure to check out these classic films and experience the magic of camping all over again.