Summer camp? If you’re over the age of 20 or so, you probably don’t have time or money for that. Besides, if you’re over the age of 20 and have always dreamed of going to camp, the only way to get there is going to have to be by impersonating a kid. [Sounds like a good camp movie, right? I’m adding it to my to-write list; it sounds like an ABC Family-level concept.]
While you may not have two weeks and thousands of dollars to go off to camp, these movies and TV shows can transport you there – if only for a few hours at a time.
The Parent Trap
The movie: The Parent Trap – Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan versions alike – is tween girl wish-fulfillment, served straight-up. Think about it: realizing you have a secret twin. Living in London with a cool wedding gown designer mom, or in Napa with a fun dad and horses. Divorced parents reconciling. And the big one — spending six weeks at a camp where you’re given free reign to play poker, pull elaborate pranks, pierce your ears and try out a new hairstyle. No, really — where were the counselors?
For would-be campers who: are, or ever were, an 11-year-old girl; or, who want to give 11-year-old Lindsay Lohan a hug, a copy of a 2007-era US Weekly or Star Magazine, and a stern talking-to.
Troop Beverly Hills
The movie: Not technically a camp flick, this 1989 classic follows a group of rich girls trying to become real Girl Scouts.
For would-be campers who: like camping in theory, but realistically would rather have a slumber party in a hotel.
Addams Family Values
The movie: Your typical fish-out-of-water scenario — Pugsley and Wednesday Addams go to camp, finding themselves at odds with “camp culture.” The Harmony Hut scene still cracks me up.
For would-be campers who: will not – nay, can not – sing Kum Ba Ya or participate in group bonding activities.
Wet Hot American Summer
The movie: A counselor-centric comedy, this is a pastiche of 80s teen films and summer romances. Also, Amy Poehler. Paul Rudd. Molly Shannon. Bradley Cooper. AND SO ON.
For would-be campers who: suspect that the counselors are the ones having the real fun.
The movie: With the exception of Lisa Loeb dancing the Macarena while wearing a slap-bracelet and sporting the Rachel, this is probably the most 90s thing you’ll ever see. Kids tell their parents they’re going to various fake summer camps, but actually create their own dream camp. It’s sort of a trumped-up version of the TV trope where kids tell their parents they’re staying at eachothers houses in order to go somewhere they shouldn’t.
I think there was also a wacky cop.
For would-be campers who: love summer fun, but hate the man.
The movie: A group of kids eat their way through fat camp. Most of them were “90s-fat,” not “HBO documentary series on childhood obesity-fat”.
For would-be campers who: hate-read weight loss articles or obsess over “fitspo” on Pinterest and Tumblr.
The movie: A quintessential camp comedy and a clear inspiration for Wet Hot American Summer. Classic Bill Murray vehicle.
For would-be campers who: approach competitive events with the cry of “it just doesn’t matter!”
The movie: A teenage Anna Kendrick stars in a musical comedy about teens at theater camp; complete with requisite Gay Theater Boys (TM) and acapella moments that will make you tear up.
For would-be campers who: are former, or current, drama nerds.
The movie: A very sweet, super-Wes Anderson-y tale about two kids (literal kids) in love against the odds.
For would-be campers who: enjoy a bit of visual interest and can maintain a healthy suspension of disbelief.
The movie: Part of a wave of early 90s camp movies that I never quite realized happened until I was compiling this post, Indian Summer follows a group of adults taking a last-chance stab at the camp experience. I think it wanted to be The Big Chill. It isn’t.
For would-be campers who: Are adults who think camp still sounds like a blast. (If this sounds like you, stay tuned for our post on throwing your own “camp!”)
Salute Your Shorts
The show: An anchor of the early 90s Nickelodeon schedule, Salute Your Shorts had some awesome characters and a theme song that’s probably still stuck in your head.
For would-be campers who: had cable as children.
The show: Hey Dude! was nearly interchangeable with Salute Your Shorts – again, the early 90s Camp-Based Entertainment Boom was a real thing — and probably the reason I still long to go to camp as a full-grown adult.
For would-be campers who: are pretty into horses or Southwestern decor.
The show: Bug Juice was an early incarnation of the reality show and provides a true-to-life look at what camp is really like.
For would-be campers who: are reality TV junkies; watched and can remember Kid Nation.