Fat Camp has to be one of the saddest collection of words in the English language. It's hard to imagine the humiliation of leaving home at the most fun time of the year in order to attend a place designed to make you feel bad for who you are, and that probably bans ice cream. As if the kids in Heavyweights didn't have it bad enough already, they also have to spend the entire summer hanging out with Ben Stiller, which is just the final straw. Obesity is a growing problem in the world, and diet/exercise is important for any young person, but without fat kids, Heavyweights would never have existed, and that's a much more worrying concern.
9. Dirty Dancing
There are two main rites of passage for any young person: going to camp, and watching Dirty Dancing with your parents, not realizing how racy things get for a while. The film documents its fair share of smutty affairs, theft, abortion and, yes, more than a fare share of Dirty Dancing. It's as much a coming-of-age teen romcom as it is a wacky caper comedy about the worst run summer camp of all time.
8. Camp Nowhere
Taking over summer camp is a childhood fantasy up there with "Christmas every day" and anyone taking you seriously ever. Set in a place made up by kids who didn't want their parents to send them to a real fat/military/band/whatever camp, the film reinforces the importance of friendship, teamwork, and lying to your parents.
7. The Parent Trap
Camp is merely the jumping off point for The Parent Trap, a film based on a plan so stupid that only two Lindsay Lohans could come up with it, and that only Dennis Quaid would believe. The film has a few logical problems: are we really supposed to believe that two long-lost twins, one from England, would coincidentally end up at the exact same summer camp? Why the hell would a seemingly well-adjusted and smart divorced couple decide that estranging their twin daughters for the hell of it is a good idea? Still, the scene where the mean stepmother eats a lizard is cool, so all is forgiven.
6. Indian Summer
When a retiring camp director invites adult former campers back to say goodbye, they begin to reminisce and reconnect in a way they never again thought possible. The heartfelt honesty of Indian Summer makes it one of the best summer camp movies ever, which is saying something, considering how many opportunities for wild parties and drugs and boning this premise wasted.
5. Friday the 13th
Ah, summer camp. Fireside sing-alongs, whirlwind romances, s'mores, the systematic murder of each and every child in attendance. The good old days. Though the sequels got a little out of hand, Friday the 13th is one of the most important horror movies ever made. It succeeds because camp is actually pretty fucking scary, and it taps into the most terrifying little details. The dark woods, the mysterious noises at night, hoping no-one notices you keep your shirt and bathing suit on in the communal showers. That happens in this movie, right?
4. Addams Family Values
This movie earns major respect points because "The kids are sent to summer camp" seems like a hacky plot line that would come up in maybe the seventh Addams Family film. Instead, coming up in only the second (and final) installment, it works, which has to count as one of the main miracles of the 20th Century.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
Looking at the release dates for the films in this list, it would seem summer camp movies as a genre played themselves out in the previous decades and fell out of fashion. Moonrise Kingdom is not only a 2012 not-bad summer camp movie, it's one of the best ever, capturing the nostalgia and hopefulness of young love, the hard work and compromise of marriage, and the lighthearted romance of straight-up kidnapping. Sigh.
As far as summer camp movies go, Meatballs is a pretty straightforward version of the theme. There's the pursuit of sexy ladies, a fierce sports rivalry with a financially superior camp, and Bill Murray smirking in every scene like he's the king of the goddamn cabin or something. Its message is simple: no matter who you are, go have fun this summer, you shithead. Nothing wrong with that.
1. Wet Hot American Summer
Opinions change from person to person, but I defy anyone to justify anything but Wet Hot American Summer being the greatest summer camp movie ever made. Just imagine if that cast list was for something being released this year. People would be beside themselves with anticipation. It's hard to describe the film to a newcomer, because it doesn't so much follow a plot as it does just throw a collection of scenes together, the end result being a long montage of the funniest things that could possibly happen at any summer camp. As with any piece of comedy entertainment that people greatly enjoy nowadays, a sequel's always being discussed, but who needs it? Just go watch the first one again. It's the best, and always will be.