Spanning Generations: 20 summer films by women

Courtesy of New Line Cinema.
Courtesy of Universal Studios

Ducking into an air-conditioned movie theater for a few hours is weaved into the fabric of summer, and many of our favorite summertime flicks were written and directed by women.

From stories of aliens to superheroes to small towns, from Oz in the 1930s to Themyscira of 2017, these 20 stories are perfect for summer-night viewing.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) 

Screenwriter: Florence Ryerson

Why we love it: Though this American classic has more than a dozen credited writers, Ryerson is the only woman who made a mark on the iconic screenplay.

Favorite scene: “It wasn’t a dream, it was a place.” 

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Screenwriter: Melissa Mathison

Why we love it: Though more synonymous with the name Steven Spielberg, Mathison’s script about unconventional friendship and loss makes E.T. a summer classic. Pass the Reese’s pieces.

Favorite scene: I’ll be right here, crying

Courtesy of Vestron Pictures

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Screenwriter: Eleanor Bergstein

Why we love it: A timeless story filled with romance, scandal and one memorable watermelon.

Favorite scene: Do you even have to ask

Big (1988)

Director: Penny Marshall

Why we love it: Tom Hanks stars as a young boy in a grown-up body, forced into the adult world after he makes a wish to be big. Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?

Favorite scene: The space goes down down baby…

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Screenwriter: Nora Ephron

Why we love it: It answers questions about friendship between men and women, but it’s also supremely real, witty and clever along the way.

Favorite scene: Too many to pick, but we wouldn’t complain if Billy Crystal crashed our next New Year’s Eve party

My Girl (1991)

Screenwriter: Laurice Elehwany

Why we love it: If we lived in a funeral home, we’d plug our ears and hum Do Wah Diddy Diddy, too. The adventures of young Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) and her childhood friend Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin) will forever be a nostalgic – and really dark – summer favorite.

Favorite scene: Not the one with the bees.

A League of Their Own (1992)

Director: Penny Marshall

Why we love it: Two sisters batter up as professional baseball players on the Rockford Peaches during World War II.

Favorite scene: Dottie (Geena Davis) leaves her sister behind to play ball. “How many sisters do you think I have?

Courtesy of New Line Cinema.

Clueless (1995)

Director: Amy Heckerling

Why we love it: Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) has become a staple of ‘90s pop culture, but viewers forget that she wasn’t just boy-crazy – she was funny, smart and actually cared deeply about her friends. Remember when movie characters did that? And still had time to break in their purple clogs?

Favorite scene: Those LA freeways

Now and Then (1995)

Director: Lesli Linka Glatter

Why we love it: The female Stand By Me has a lot going for it, from the cast (young Thora Birch and Chrisina Ricci) to the wonderfully nostalgic soundtrack.

Favorite scene: Old-school bikes, transistor radios and best pals

The Parent Trap (1998)

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Director: Nancy Meyers

Why we love it: Lindsay Lohan plays dual roles as twins who meet for the first time at summer camp in this delightful remake.

Favorite scene: T-h-e-m. Them

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Director: Nora Ephron

Why we love it: If Joe hadn’t been Fox Books and Kathleen Kelly hadn’t been The Shop Around the Corner, then maybe this Nora Ephron classic wouldn’t be one of the best romantic comedies of the 20th Century.

Favorite scene: Go to the mattresses and ballet shoes for as long as we both shall live

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Return to Me (2000)

Director: Bonnie Hunt

Why we love it: From the Chicago setting to the genuinely moving plot, Bonnie Hunt’s directorial debut is unlike anything else.

Favorite scene: We don’t want swiss water

My Dog Skip (2000)

Screenwriter: Gail Gilchriest

Why we love it: A boy and his dog in 1940s Mississippi make for a lovely coming-of-age tale.

Favorite scene: Willie (Frankie Muniz) grows up and Skip stays behind.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Miss Congeniality (2000)

Screenwriters: Katie Ford & Caryn Lucas

Why we love it: In one of Bullock’s most memorable roles, the the dorky, unkempt FBI agent goes undercover in a national beauty pageant. She taught us to S-I-N-G, to glide and to advocate for world peace.

Favorite scene: We’d have to say April 25, because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.

John Tucker Must Die (2006)

Director: Betty Thomas

Why we love it: Ah, the mid-2000s, when we’d get dropped off at the movie theater to watch teen comedies with plentiful party scenes and revenge plans. Brittany Snow and Sophia Bush lead a cast of high schoolers trying to get back at their douchey two-timing boyfriend in this not-that-great-but-we-thought-it-was-great teen movie.

Favorite scene: Pre-Gossip Girl Penn Badgley belts Cheap Trick in the middle of the high school library. So bad it’s good.

Courtesy of Marvel

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008)

Director: Sannaa Hamri

Why we love it: The main cast of the Sisterhood films are still tight in real life, and their chemistry is still apparent in this meaningful sequel.

Favorite scene: “I suck at relationships. I should’ve been a guy.” “A guy wouldn’t worry about sucking at relationships.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Screenwriter: Nicole Perlman

Why we love it: From the humor to the music to Chris Pratt, Guardians is pure summer fun.

Favorite scene: Ooo child, that out-of-this-world dance-off

Big Stone Gap (2015)

Courtesy of Universal

Director: Adriana Trigiani

Why we love it: Ashley Judd and Patrick Wilson’s small Virginia town is its own charming character in this sweet feature.  “Life was simple in Big Stone Gap,” and that’s just the way we like it.

Favorite scene: Basically any scene with Whoopi Goldberg as Judd’s sassy co-worker.

Sleeping with Other People (2015)

Director: Leslye Headland

Why we love it: Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis have off-the-charts chemistry in this romantic comedy about two good friends who are obsessed with sex.

Favorite scene: Spoiler alert: Mousetrap.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Why we love it: Jenkins’ fantastic film was the first blockbuster of this summer, starting conversations about strong women at the helm both off and on camera. Critical acclaim and record-breaking ticket sales are merely aftershocks of a well-told story and great cast.

Favorite scene: Wonder Woman crossing no man’s land like a boss. “We can’t save everyone in this war. This is not what we came here to do.” “No. But it’s what I’m going to do.”

© Georgiana E. Presecky & Brigid K. Presecky



Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky and Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky have been reviewing film, television and entertainment for the past decade. Avid pop culture consumers, the Chicago-based sisters continue to develop their writing skills and occasionally collaborate on film-centric editorials.

Tags: Big, Dirty Dancing, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Summer movies, The Wizard of Oz, When Harry Met Sally

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