Top up your watchlist... 18 alternative summer films

Beyond Jaws and Stand by Me, turn up the heat with this list of left-field summertime viewing – all available with a free 14-day trial on BFI Player. How many have you seen?

18 June 2018

By Sam Wigley

92 in the Shade (1975)

Director: Thomas McGuane

92 in the Shade (1975)

A dream New Hollywood cast of Peter Fonda, Harry Dean Stanton and Warren Oates butt heads in this overlooked comedy drama about rival fishing-trip guides coming to blows in the sticky heat of the Florida Keys.

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Directors: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

A Canterbury Tale (1944)
ITV Global Entertainment/Park Circus

Powell & Pressburger’s weirdest and arguably most wonderful creation is a soaring hymn to the English countryside at the height of summer, when the locals in a Kent village are being terrorised by mysterious glue attacks.

Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974)

Director: Jacques Rivette

Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974)

No film has better captured the magic of Paris in summer than this freewheeling fantasy from French New Wave master Jacques Rivette. Riffing on Alice in Wonderland, it tells of the strange adventures of two women who meet one mysterious day in the park.

A Change in the Weather (2017)

Director: Jon Sanders

A Change in the Weather (2017)

A Change in the Weather is the latest under-the-radar gem from British indie director Jon Sanders, who’s been ploughing his own furrow of improvisational relationship dramas since the late 90s. This one circles around a theatre director and his wife preparing a new play amid the sunny splendor of the Cathar region of south-west France.

Chronicle of a Summer (1961)

Directors: Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin

Chronicle of a Summer (1961)

This milestone documentary from Jean Rouch is a fascinating time capsule of French society at the dawn of the 1960s. Filming in the summer of 1960, Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin took to the streets of Paris to ask passers-by a very simple question: are you happy?

Early Summer (1951)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Early Summer (1951)

One of a number of summertime-set dramas from Yasujiro Ozu, Early Summer ranks as one of the Japanese genius’s very best films. An ensemble drama encompassing three generations of a Tokyo family, it’s the vital companion piece to Ozu’s subsequent classic Tokyo Story (1953).

The Goob (2014)

Director: Guy Myhill

The Goob (2014)

A long, sticky summer in Norfolk is the setting for this terrific teen movie about a lad returning home for the holidays, fruit-picking and finding romance with a seasonal worker. Hot, hazy nights under the big skies of East Anglia have never been so evocatively put on film.

How I Ended This Summer (2010)

Director: Alexei Popogrebski

How I Ended This Summer (2010)

By no means the hottest film on this list, How I Ended This Summer focuses on a summer job with a difference. It takes place in the frigid extremes of an Arctic outpost, where two young meteorologists lock horns for a summer of tense psychological rivalry.

Journey to Italy (1954)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

Journey to Italy (1954)

A marriage hits the skids during a summer holiday on the Italian coast in this transcendent drama from Roberto Rossellini. Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders star as the prim English couple who find their emotions rocked by the heady Mediterranean atmosphere.

Le Mépris (1963)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Le Mépris (1963)

Set against stunning backdrops on the island of Capri, Jean-Luc Godard’s most accessible and most moving film stars Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot as a screenwriter and his wife whose relationship goes sour during production of a film of Homer’s Odyssey.

More (1969)

Director: Barbet Schroeder

More (1969)

Pink Floyd scored this cult drama about a group of hippie friends taking off to Ibiza for a hard-drug and free-love-fuelled time in the sun. Steeped in the darker cosmic vibrations of the 60s, it’s also a valuable record of the party island before Paul Oakenfold and co put their flag in the ground there.

Partie de campagne (1936)

Director: Jean Renoir

Partie de campagne (1936)

Only 40 mins long, but one of the greatest films ever made. Partie de campagne, or A Day in the Country, is about a French family’s trip to the countryside for an afternoon of boating, picnicking and falling in love. Tragic and tender, Jean Renoir’s classic distills the essence of a lazy afternoon in the sun.

Stray Dog (1949)

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Stray Dog (1949)

Akira Kurosawa is best known for his samurai epics, but there’s an argument to be made that his modern-day thrillers represent his peak work. If you need convincing, try this brilliantly atmospheric suspenser about a cop who tracks the thief who stole his gun through the streets of Tokyo – all during the stickiest heatwave ever put on screen.

Stromboli (1950)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

Stromboli (1950)

It might sound like a fantasy to marry a guy who then whisks you off to live on a Mediterranean island, but that’s not how it pans out for Ingrid Bergman’s Lithuanian refugee in this scalding postwar drama. Life on the volcanic isle of Stromboli is tough and wearing, and the sun beats down punishingly. Is there any hope for a soul at the end of its tether?

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Humid tropical heat radiates out of this endlessly mysterious and beguiling film from Thai master Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2010, it focuses on the dying days of the eponymous uncle, who is visited by various ghosts from his past – including red-eyed wraiths who, once seen, are never forgotten.

Unrelated (2007)

Director: Joanna Hogg

Unrelated (2007)

No one does Brits on holiday better than Joanna Hogg. Her debut film, Unrelated features Tom Hiddleston among its ensemble of actors playing a middle-class English family whose holiday in a Tuscan villa takes a series of awkward and explosively argumentative turns.

Wake in Fright (1971)

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Wake in Fright (1971)

The sin, sleaze and slippery heat of the Australian outback are explored in this stunning 1971 thriller about a schoolteacher who falls in with the wrong crowd en route to his new job in the boondocks. It’s a masterpiece of unease that cut a path for the Australian New Wave of the 1970s.

Young Soul Rebels (1991)

Director: Isaac Julien

Young Soul Rebels (1991)

Punks, soulboys and skinheads mingle on the streets of Dalston in Isaac Julien’s Cannes prize-winning drama. It’s set during the hot summer of the Queen’s 1977 jubilee, when punk stormed the charts and a homophobic murder sends shockwaves through the community.

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