For parents and caregivers with kids who are yearning for camp, there are countless joyful things you can do at home to recreate some summer magic. Sometimes nothing seems better than playing outside and doing fun and energetic activities. For those times, we came up with eight fun suggestions in this earlier blog post, all that can be done with supplies around the house.
Realistically though, there are days when the weather doesn’t cooperate or days when you just want to chill on the couch and enjoy a little screen time. The good news is that even in times like these you can still have summer camp front and center.
Knowing this, the CampMinder team pulled together 10 of our favorite movies and television shows about camp, listed here in no particular order. From a few classics, to a new thriller, to a heartwarming documentary, check out these suggestions and mini reviews to see which ones will work for your camp kids and family. Hop on the couch, grab some popcorn, and start watching!
1. The Parent Trap
With two versions to choose from, the question is not if you should watch The Parent Trap, but rather in which order. In both editions, summer camp is the setting where twin sisters shockingly meet each other, only to discover that they were separated by their parents during a divorce. Naturally, the sisters switch places and hatch a complicated plan to get their parents back together. If you like a classic feel, the original 1961 version starring Hayley Mills might be more your speed. But if your family needs something more modern, Lindsay Lohan nails the lead role in the 1998 remake. We recommend watching both, but either way you’re sure to have ‘Let’s Get Together,’ stuck in your head for days.
2. Rim of the World
Summer camp plus Aliens? That’s hard to beat. A 2019 Netflix original, Rim of the World features a group of friends who meet at summer camp. While the bunch sets off on their own, the camp is evacuated due to an alien invasion. This means that it’s up to this small and diverse band of unlikely heroes to save the day – and the world. While some camp movies keep the excitement limited to typical camp activities, Rim of the World is more of an action movie that will get your adrenaline pumping. It’s an excellent blend of kid-friendly and sci-fi that will have you rooting for the good guys and maybe even believing that there’s life in outer space.
3. Crip Camp
Strictly for an older audience due to adult language and references to sex and drugs, this documentary offers an inspirational look into the connections between summer camp and the disability rights movement. Many of the activists who helped with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act met at a camp for disabled youth in upstate New York in the 1970’s. For these young people, Camp Jened was their first experience being part of a community in which they were not treated as inferior. And it was this community that brought together a generation of movement leaders. The film was directed by James LeBrecht who was himself a camper, and our only suggestion is to grab a box of tissues before you watch this one as you might find yourself crying on and off through the whole hour and 48 minutes.
Available on Netflix.
4. Camp Nowhere
Camp Nowhere begins with a group of kids whose parents are all sending them to camps they hate. Instead of going along with their parents’ plans, they decide to create a completely made up camp. Each kid tells their parents that it’s a different kind of camp – from computers to acting and everything in between. This is all well and good until the parents demand to come visit. The big question is, can the “campers” do enough to convince their parents that the camps they think where they are sending their kids are real? You’ll just have to watch this one to find out.
5. Camp Rock
Yes, Camp Rock has a 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – we’re not making the argument that it’s critically acclaimed or that it will be the highest quality camp movie you watch. On the other hand, it is a chance to see the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato in their Disney Channel days. That pop culture throwback is why this one makes our list. Plot-wise, Camp Rock is about a music camp for posh and gifted musicians, which Lovato’s character is only able to attend because her mom gets a job working there. Things get tense leading up to the end-of-camp competition because the winner will have the opportunity to record a song with Joe Jonas’s egotistical character, Shane. There’s teenage angst and a little romance, all set to the tune of some happy and cheesy pop songs.
Judd Apatow has produced and directed some recent blockbusters and cult classics, but don’t overlook Heavyweights as you explore his filmography. When a fitness guru takes over a weight loss camp, and implements some extreme rules, the campers do what you’d expect and fight back. While the plot is built around the concept of weight loss and fitness, the lessons about friendship are really what come through in this movie. If you need another reason to check it out, watching Ben Stiller in his role as the villainous, exercise-obsessed Tony Perkins makes this movie worth a watch on its own.
7. Salute Your Shorts
This early 90’s Nickelodeon show only lasted two seasons, but the theme song has lived on for decades. The kids at Camp Anawana are experts at pranks, much to the chagrin of their uptight counselor. That’s basically the entire approach for this show. You’ll get your standard episodes about camp ghosts, sneaking in outside food, and hijinks at the camp social, plus a few surprises, like the plot line about the camp overflowing with garbage. All that is to say, this is a goofy show with short episodes that will make you laugh. And you’ll definitely be happy that someone like Budnick wasn’t assigned to your bunk last summer.
Some episodes available for purchase on Amazon.
8. Camp Takota
A solid pick for teens, Camp Takota tells the story of how camp can save you, and how sometimes you have to save camp. Three old friends find themselves reunited at camp, with one having a hard time adjusting to her role as a counselor. While she came back because her life wasn’t going to plan, camp becomes more than just a fall back option. When they find out that the camp is in danger of closing, this trio take it upon themselves to do everything they can to keep it open. This is a pretty wholesome story that will give you all the feels, and remind you of the long-lasting positive impact camp can have on your life.
9. Addams Family Values
Another 90’s classic, this sequel to the original Addams Family movie introduces viewers to Pubert, a new baby brother for Wednesday and Pugsley. In order to protect the infant from his siblings, the Addams parents hire a nanny named Debbie. What they don’t know is that Debbie has actually hatched a plan to marry and then kill Uncle Fester, in order to get his inheritance. To do this, she has to get rid of the ever-suspicious Addams teenagers, so she has them shipped off to – you guessed it – summer camp. As you might expect, regular camp is no match for the Addams kids who wreak havoc on all the typical camp activities. Their only hope is that they can get home in time to defeat Debbie.
There’s nothing parents love more than sending their kids off to camp, especially when it’s the camp where they met years ago. But this isn’t a tale of summer romance – it’s about three city kids who end up in Maine, at Camp Kikiwaka. The show follows their adjustment to spending time outdoors, all at a camp that isn’t known for adhering to rules and safety codes. Over three seasons, and countess absurd situations, friendships form and characters move into leadership roles as counselors. Our favorite episode is in season one, where a secret hike in the woods leads to a dangerous fall into a mine shaft and a pretty impressive rescue. Word is that there’s a new season on the horizon, so now would be a good time to binge watch and catch up.
Available on Netflix.
Camp Time Plus Screen Time
There are so many shows and movies to watch, but why not pick a few that are about your kids’ favorite place and favorite time of year. There are plenty to choose from, but hopefully this list we put together will get you started. Watching shows and movies about summer camp is a fun way to get in the camp spirit – as long as the pranks don’t give your kids any crazy ideas!
Did we miss anything essential on our list? Let us know what you would add in the comments.