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Most Memorable Vacation Movies

As summer rolls in, here are 10 films to whisk you away on vacation.

Andrea Reiher
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'How Stella Got Her Groove Back'/'Dirty Dancing'/'National Lampoon's Vacation'

Courtesy of YouTube

When you think about vacation movies, National Lampoon is probably what springs to mind first. That franchise has several vacation-themed films, ranging from classics, like National Lampoon's Vacation to... not-so-classic movies, like Vegas Vacation and Senior Trip.

But there are so many more of these thematic movies to kick back with, whether you are on a trip yourself or not. You can head into the Catskill Mountains with Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) in Dirty Dancing, or have a French adventure with a silly Brit (Rowan Atkinson) in the Mr. Bean franchise, or help Stella (Angela Bassett) get her groove back on a tropical island in the aptly-titled How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Now, not all vacation movies are created equal. There are a couple of classics that have been historically panned by critics, so they are not on this list. But we would be remiss if we didn't give them a shout-out: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Weekend at Bernie's and The Great Outdoors are three '80s vacation comedies that your kids will probably love, or you might enjoy for the nostalgia factor, even if critics were not overly kind to them when they first came out.

But who doesn't want to watch Chevy Chase electrocute himself while hanging Christmas lights, or John Candy attempt to waterski, or Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy cart their dead boss around the beach? Fun for the whole family.

That being said, here are 10 vacation movies that the critics enjoyed for your summer viewing, ranked by Metascore.


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'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Courtesy of YouTube

The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Metascore: 88 
Best for: Viewers who want their vacation with a side of thrills and intrigue
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Running time: 100 minutes

This sprawling Wes Anderson movie boasts an all-star cast that numbers 17 A-listers, including Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, and Willem Dafoe. It is set in a gorgeous 1930s hotel in the Eastern European mountains where a concierge (Fiennes) and bellboy (Tony Revolori) are helping recover a priceless Renaissance painting that has been stolen as family members battle it out for the family fortune when the matriarch (Swinton) mysteriously dies after her last visit to the mountaintop resort.

"It is safe to say that The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those breakthrough moments, a movie that is so beautifully realized from start to finish that I almost doubted myself on the way home." — Drew McWeeny, HitFix


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'Jaws'

Courtesy of YouTube

Jaws 

Metascore: 87 
Best for: People who won't be terrified to go in the ocean after watching terrifying shark attacks
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Running time: 124 minutes

Fictional Amity Island, off the coast of Nantucket, is terrorized one summer by a killer shark. Only the chief of police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) sees the danger for what it is, but eventually, with help from a young marine biologist (played by Richard Dreyfuss) and a grizzled old fisherman (played by Robert Shaw), the shark is brought down. It is a slow-burn horror movie, leaving most of the terror to the viewers' imagination, but it took moviegoers by storm in the summer of 1975, earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination and setting the standard for what are now known as "summer blockbusters."

"The terror, panic and small town politics are all brilliantly done, but this is also a film about bravery and friendship and the scenes in which the trio bond as they sit out at sea waiting to fight death itself are moving and witty." — Martin Chilton, The Telegraph


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'Girls Trip'

Courtesy of YouTube

Girls Trip

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of laugh-out-loud bawdy comedy 
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Running time: 122 minutes

The cast of women playing four life-long friends is stacked: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish in her breakout role. They embark on the titular girls' trip to New Orleans where all manner of shenanigans are gotten intom, including fighting, drinking, connecting, and hooking up. Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver wrote the script, which has more than its share of crass moments, but that adds to the level of escapism.

"The movie's equal-opportunity irreverence makes for a welcome addition to the bachelor-party genre, so often aimed at the frat-boy crowds." — Peter Debruge, Variety


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Jason Segel in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'

Courtesy of YouTube

Forgetting Sarah Marshall 

Metascore: 67
Best for: Rom-com fans
Where to watch:

Google Play, , iTunes, NetflixVudu 
Running time: 111 minutes

The romantic comedy was written by and stars Jason Segel as Peter, a struggling musician who gets unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell), only to run into her and her new squeeze, a successful rock star named Aldous (Russell Brand), while on an impromptu vacation in Oahu. Peter hits it off with an employee of the resort, Rachel (Mila Kunis), as he tries to put his life back together in what those behind the Judd Apatow production called "the world's first romantic disaster comedy."

"In the Apatow manner, Segel mines a mother lode of painful personal memories for his breakup gags, and the vanity of entertainment people proves to be another rich vein." — J.R. Jones, Reader


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Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in 'Dirty Dancing'

Courtesy of YouTube

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Metascore: 65 
Best for: People who want to laugh, cry, and sing along with an excellent soundtrack
Where to watch:

, fuboTVGoogle Play, HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Running time: 100 minutes

This 1987 classic is about a girl whose nickname is "Baby," if that tells you anything in regards to where she's at in her life. One memorable summer while on vacation with her family, she sees behind the curtain of a lot of things in her life, from the class system, to her father's (Jerry Orbach) prejudice and hypocrisy, and she learns what is means to grow up, all while having a steamy romance with the resort's dance instructor (Patrick Swayze). It's set in the early 1960s and has a killer soundtrack that is both modern and of the time period. Although the movie already inspired a remakeGrey is working on a sequel that she says will have the heart of the original.

"Smart and funny, touching and unabashedly sensual." — Sheila Benson, the Los Angeles Times


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Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs in 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back'

Courtesy of Apple TV

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

Metascore: 56
Best for: Fans of sexy beach time and women coming into their own
Where to watch:

, Google PlayiTunes, Starz, Vudu
Running time: 124 minutes

Bassett plays Stella, a single mom in her 40s working herself sick as a stockbroker. Her best friend, Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) convinces her to go on a much-needed vacation, and in walks Taye Diggs in his feature film debut as Winston Shakespeare, a smoldering hunk who is 20 years Stella's junior. But meeting him and letting herself give into her fun, romantic side is just what Stella needed to come into her own as a mother and a successful businesswoman.

"Whether you regard Stella's getting her groove back as a feminist battle cry or as a silly wish-fulfillment fantasy, the movie delivers guilt-free escapism about pretty people having wicked-hot fun in pretty places." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


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Rowan Atkinson in 'Mr. Bean's Holiday'

Courtesy of Apple TV

Mr. Bean's Holiday 

Metascore: 56 
Best for: Fans of absurd British humor
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Running time: 90 minutes

If you have older kids, this is a vacation movie to put into the rotation. They'll love the absurd antics and physical comedy of Mr. Bean (Atkinson) as he leave dreary London behind for a delightful romp in the French countryside as Mr. Bean tries to get to Cannes for some fun in the sun. When he is mistaken for a kidnapper after inadvertently picking up an aspiring actress and a young boy, Mr. Bean gets into his typical shenanigans trying to avoid the police.

"Atkinson's goofball grotesquerie never lets up — right through to the inspired finale." — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly


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'Shag'

Courtesy of YouTube

Shag 

Metascore: 56 
Best for: Fans of Dirty Dancing
Where to watch:


Running time: 98 minutes

This rather obscure 1989 beach romp is about four girls who just graduated high school and are taking one last weekend together before they go off on separate paths. Luanne (Page Hannah) and Caroline (Annabeth Gish), who everyone calls "Pudge," are headed to college, while Melaina (Bridget Fonda) is off to be a Hollywood star, and Carson (Phoebe Cates) is marrying a man she's not in love with. It comes complete with dancing, a requisite party sequence, and a delightful soundtrack.

"Shag bounces through elements of farce and satire, music and romance without straining too hard and with a few more laughs than one would expect from a picture that seems patched together from such a wide variety of genre films." — Chris DaFoe, The Globe and Mail


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'Wine Country'

Courtesy of YouTube

Wine Country 

Metascore: 56
Best for: Those looking for something to stream on a weekend with the gal-pals and a bottle of wine (or several)
Where to watch: Netflix
Running time: 103 minutes

A girls' weekend away in Napa to celebrate a 50th birthday gets messier the more time goes on and the more wine is consumed. Amy Poehler directs and also stars alongside Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, and Tina Fey. The women examine their lives and figure out where they are as they head into the next decade of their lives. Each woman has her own baggage and the film dives into how hard it can be to admit that, even to your closest friends. 

"It has its ticklish grace notes, plus some first-rate second and third bananas, despite a script that seems to be working both too hard and not hard enough." — Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times


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Chevy Chase in 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

Courtesy of YouTube

National Lampoon's Vacation 

Metascore: 55 
Best for: 1980s nostalgia fans
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Running time: 98 minutes

The National Lampoon franchise really runs the gamut, but one of the highest-rated is the original. It introduced the hapless-but-lovable Griswold family to the world in 1983 and they would go on to be featured in five sequels, including a 2015 release where the son, Rusty, who was played by Anthony Michael Hall in the original, is now a grown-up played by Ed Helms and is taking his own family vacation. But in 1983, it was all about Chase and Beverly D'Angelo taking their two children on a cross-country road trip from Chicago to a fictional theme park called "Walley World" in Southern California. The load up their ugly, old station wagon, and the silly, sometimes gross, sometimes ridiculous comedic beats don't let up for 90 minutes as they get into mishap after mishap on the road.

"National Lampoon's Vacation, which is more controlled than other Lampoon movies have been, is careful not to stray too far from its target. The result is a confident humor and throwaway style that helps sustain the laughs — of which there are quite a few." — Janet Maslin, the New York Times