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Jaws

1975 | Rated PG
directed by Steven Spielberg
As a teen, I spent many hot days on the beach; after Jaws, we were all scared to go back in the water. Spielberg's first blockbuster captures not only summer's heat but also the white-hot terror of what lurks beneath the surface—and reminds us that some of our own fears are well worth heeding.

In the Heat of the Night

1967 | Not rated
directed by Norman Jewison
Winning five Oscars, this aptly titled film drips not only with the sweat of a Southern summer, but also with racism, rednecks, and raw tension—and exposes the prejudicial potential that lurks within us all. A brilliant sociological study and murder mystery with Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier at their best.

Rear Window

1954 | Rated PG
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
The temperature is a sultry 94 degrees in Greenwich Village as this tense, macabre mystery opens. One resident (Jimmy Stewart)—confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg—sweats it out as he watches his neighbors, particularly one very suspicious man. Hitchcock offers keen insights into our tendencies toward voyeurism and hasty conclusions.

To Kill a Mockingbird

1962 | Not rated
directed by Robert Mulligan
You know the story: White lawyer defends wrongly accused black man in the Deep South; even "church folk" are ready to see a good lynching. But Atticus Finch—and truth and justice—ultimately triumph with his closing argument: "In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson."

12 Angry Men

1957 | Not rated
directed by Sidney Lumet
Shot almost entirely in a 16-by-24-foot room in the oppressive oven of a New York summer, one can almost feel the stifling claustrophobia as 12 jury members debate the fate of a teen boy accused of murder. It provides sizzling dialogue, superb camerawork, and incisive insights into the value of human life.


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My Top 5 Movies in the Heat of Summer