Camp is awkward, and funny, and, at times, dangerous. For those of us a little too afraid of the outdoors (or being away from our phones,) the next best way to experience this excitement is with a classic camp movie! We put together some of our favorite camp films for you to watch and get ready for our last after-hours party of 2019, End-Of-Summer Camp, which pops up in the Smithsonian American Art Museum next Friday, September 20th!
Friday the 13th
Starting off with the most relevant camp movie of the day (HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH, CAMPERS!) The classic slasher film, later series, takes place at Camp Crystal Lake. Counselors are terrorized by an originally unseen assailant, later revealed to be Mrs. Voorhees, whose son Jason had been murdered two decades earlier. In the following films, Jason terrorizes people in other houses on Crystal Lake to Manhattan to Freddie Kreuger’s home of Springwood, Ohio to space. But Jason Voorhees’ story begins and thrives at Camp Crystal Like.
A camp with no counselors – that’s every kid’s dream! Camp Nowhere follows an unlikely group of friends from different cliques who decide to trick their parents into sending them to a camp where the only “adult” is Christopher Lloyd. Sorry, Dennis Van Welker, played by Christopher Lloyd. See if you can find Jessica Alba in her debut role, and Allison Mack, who would go onto star in Smallville, as well as becoming a key player in the NXIVM cult.
Wet Hot American Summer
A cult classic satire, chock full of pre-stardom stars. Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, and Elizabeth Banks make up part of the cast of Wet Hot American Summer. Focusing on the last night before camp, characters scramble to finish their summer goals, be it romantic connections, complex talent show performances, or losing their virginity. Wet Hot American Summer would return over a decade after the movie first premiered, as a Netflix series.
The Parent Trap
Before you ask, both versions. First released in 1961, and then remade in 1998 (with baby Lindsay Lohan!) follows a set of twins who were separated at birth. They find each other at sleepaway camp, and, desperate to meet their other parent, switch places. Dennis Quaid and the late, great, Natasha Richardson star as the long lost lovers, who the twins scheme to reunite.
Addams Family Values
When a serial killer disguised as a babysitter comes to the Addams Family’s home, she convinces Gomez and Morticia that their children, Wednesday and Pugsley want to go to summer camp. Once at Camp Chippewa, Wednesday and Pugsley are singled out for their abnormal behavior and clothing. Ultimately, Wednesday sets the camp on fire, due to their attempts to cheer her up. A wonderful, typical, Addams Family romp.
Ben Stiller stars in Heavy Weights as a fitness guru who takes over at a fat camp, back when fat camps were still a thing. Ben Stiller’s character, Tony Perkins is almost psychotic with his weight loss regimen, which fails due to the campers discovery of a food stash. Eventually, the campers take over the camp, imprisoning Perkins. With the help of a counselor, the kids actually start losing weight. A hilarious movie about friendships made at camp.
There was debate about whether or not Holes should be included on the Quintessential Camp Movies list, but ultimately we decided that it takes place at Camp Green Lake, and, while it is a juvenile detention camp, it is still a camp. Plus, baby Shia Labeouf! Not to mention, Eartha Kitt! Henry Winkler! Dulé Hill! Sigourney Weaver! Patricia Arquette! Jon Voight (before he got political online!) If the cast alone isn’t enough to sell you, the story is a mystery wondering why these boys are being made to dig up insane amounts of holes. Answer? Buried treasure. What else needs to be said?
Meatballs is a film of firsts. Not only is it the first time director Ivan Reitman and star Bill Murray worked together, but it was the directorial debut for Reitman and the film debut for Murray! A hilarious and heartwarming story of the friendship and romance that summer camp is known for. The movie follows the zany antics of campers and counselors, making Meatballs a must see.
These camp characters also make for great costume inspirations for End-Of-Summer Camp next week! Do you have your tickets yet? Better jump on them quick – it’s your last chance to party with us in a museum in 2019, so buy your open bar tickets now before they disappear!
Friday September 20th, 2019
8:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
800 G St NW Washington DC 20004