Is Summer Camp Really Like the Movies?


By Adrian Rawlings

It goes without saying that Hollywood flicks can be a little over the top, particularly when it comes to the always entertaining summer camp genre. But how far do movies go in their depiction of the typical summer camp? While rampaging, hockeymask-wearing murders and scantily clad, overly promiscuous counselors are exaggerated for the sake of our amusement, they are based on some truths that many of us have experienced one summer or another.

Here are a few summer camp movie tropes that Hollywood has gotten right time and time again.

You Do Make Friends

While most of your school friends get to enjoy the summer by the pool or on vacation in the tropics, you get stuck spending a summer fighting off mosquitos and bad cafeteria food. The good thing is, other kids just like you are going through it as well. You bond over your shared experience and, as a result, form great newfound friendships.

Wet Hot American Summer does a good job depicting the friendships that form at summer camp. The counselors cherish their friendship with one another so much, they decide to have a 10-year reunion.


You Do Despise a Counselor

There’s always that one counselor. No matter how good your arts and crafts look and how many fires you successfully start, nothing you do is ever good enough. They were born to make your life miserable. No one represents the dreaded counselor better than Ben Stiller in Heavyweights. His over-excited and senile temperament made life for the poor kids of Camp Hope a living hell.


You Do Have to Participate in Stuff You Don’t Like

Summer camp has to tailor its activities to different types of kids with different interests. For that reason, you may not enjoy mornings filled with basket-weaving or frog catching. That’s ok. The fun activities usually outweigh the bad ones.

Though Wednesday didn’t enjoy much of any of her summer camp experience (and was forced to participate in a not-so-politically-correct Thanksgiving show), burning the stage to the ground at the end of Addams Family Values got her the pyro-fix she had been craving—making it all worth it. Check out the film on Netflix and with most On Demand providers.


You Do Pull (or Fall Victim To) Pranks

During your first year out at camp, you were probably the victim of various pranks, be it the shavingcream-while-sleeping” prank, or worse. It’s all part of the experience that newcomers must accept.

But it gets better in returning years when you’re a camp veteran with the power to “initiate” freshman campers to your own delight. The little menaces in Parent Trap (1998 remake) pull off some great pranks on their camper-counterparts in this nighttime cabin raid. The victims never saw it coming.


You Do Hear Scary Stories

It’s dark. You’re surrounded by dense woods miles away from civilization. It’s the perfect breeding ground for scary stories. And what would summer camp be without a little fireside spook-telling?

Though your tales probably won’t stir up a restless spirit from the nearby lake hell-bent on killing innocent campers, you’re sure to have some sleepless nights. Tripper Harrison (Bill Murray) tells one of the best campfire scary stories, inducing both scares and laughs, in the summer camp classic Meatballs.

You Do Have a Great Time

Despite kicking and screaming and flashbacks of your first summer camp, by the end of it you realize how much fun you actually had. It’s a few months that turn into a lifetime of memories and stories.

Enjoy them while you can. Free summers don’t last forever.

Adrian Rawlings is a TV and entertainment blogger for Look to him for the scoop on hit movies and TV shows, sports, tech reviews, how-to’s, and more.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at and I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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