Feelin' Hot Hot Hot
As the sultry days of summer kick in, here are 20 classic movies that really make you feel the heat, even in an air-conditioned theater.
"Cool Hand Luke" (1967)
Although he plays it cool in a poker game, Luke (Paul Newman) can't maintain that facade when he's working on a chain gang in the blazing Florida sun. Fun fact: In the very first episode of "Cheers," the crowd at Sam Malone's bar agreed that this was the sweatiest movie ever made.
"Rear Window" (1954)
A wheelchair-bound photographer (Jimmy Stewart) passes the time peeping on his neighbors and winds up solving a murder in this Hitchcock classic. It all happens in the middle of a heat wave: A couple sleeps out on the fire escape, a young woman dances in her underwear and a thermometer reads 94 degrees. Yet Grace Kelly, the director's favorite icy blonde, looks as cool as ever.
"The Seven Year Itch" (1955)
Hot town, summer in the city. The girl (Marilyn Monroe) keeps her underwear in the icebox. The guy (Tom Ewell) thinks the girl is warming up to his advances. In fact, she's only hanging in his apartment because it's air-conditioned. The movie's iconic moment comes when they venture out and she stands over a subway grate—to catch the breeze from a passing train.
"Body Heat" (1981)
Even hotter than the South Florida heat wave in this steamy film noir is Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), the femme fatale who seduces lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt). Too bad she has an ulterior motive.
"The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957)
There's no escape from the tropical heat in this David Lean epic set in a Japanese prison camp in Burma during World War II. The only moment of relief comes when Commander Shears (William Holden) somehow survives his flight through the jungle and lands in a British military base on a beach in Ceylon. But then he's forced to go back and blow up the bridge.
"Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)
Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) set out to rob a Brooklyn bank to finance a sex-change operation for Sonny's boyfriend, but wind up trapped inside with a group of hostages while the police have them surrounded. Then the cops turn off the A/C, using the sultry summer weather to their advantage. In the end, Sal gets a bullet in the head in an air-conditioned patrol car.
"12 Angry Men" (1957)
An all-male jury must decide the fate of a teen accused of stabbing his father to death. A guilty verdict will mean a mandatory death sentence and only Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) wants to deliberate after the initial 11-1 vote to convict. The temperature keeps rising as the hours pass inside the stuffy chambers—until the last holdout is finally persuaded to change his vote.
"Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
What's hotter than a journey through a sweltering Middle East desert? How about a journey that goes on for 222 blistering minutes? Peter O'Toole plays the title role here, portraying T. E. Lawrence's key role in the real-life revolt against the Ottoman Empire.
"A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)
Elia Kazan's adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play takes us to hot and sticky New Orleans. It's the middle of summer, which is why the iconic ripped T-shirt worn by Marlon Brando is so damp and sweaty when he yells, "Stella-a-a-a!"
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958)
Another Tennessee Williams drama, this one takes place on a plantation in Mississippi, in the oppressive summer humidity, and tensions among its three main characters doesn't exactly cool things down. Big Daddy (Burl Ives) is dying of cancer, his son Brick (Paul Newman) won't stop drinking and Brick's wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) is fighting to keep from losing everything—her husband and the money they stand to inherit. Families!
"Inherit the Wind" (1960)
The movie depicts the Scopes "Monkey" Trial of 1925, when high school teacher John Scopes was tried for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution. Just get a load of Spencer Tracy's sweat-soaked shirt, would you? It's July in the South, the courtroom is packed and there's no air-conditioning. No wonder the attorney asks the judge's permission to argue his case in his shirtsleeves.
"Do the Right Thing" (1989)
The summer heat in Brooklyn is as much a star of this movie as anyone in its cast, which includes director Spike Lee. Bedford-Stuyvesant residents resort to all the tried-and-true methods of cooling off, from opening a fire hydrant to sticking your head in ice water. But in the end, the soaring temperature helps to drive race relations to the brink, sparking a full-blown riot.
"The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" (1966)
As "Blondie," Clint Eastwood has good reason to squint in Sergio Leone's epic spaghetti western. especially when Tuco (Eli Wallach) forces him at gunpoint to march through the desert until he drops.
"The Long, Hot Summer" (1958)
We're back in the South, in Mississippi this time, where handsome drifter Ben Quick (Paul Newman) makes it his mission to hook up with Clara Varner (Joanne Woodward), the daughter of the richest man in town. Woodward and Newman got married during the film's production. Now that's hot.
"The African Queen" (1951)
Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn didn't have to fake it when they starred in John Houston's classic adventure-romance. The movie was shot on location in Uganda and the Congo.
"Dirty Dancing" (1987)
It seems like a mild summer when Baby (Jennifer Grey) arrives with her parents and sister at Kellerman's, a family-friendly resort in the Catskills. But then she takes dance lessons from Johnny (Patrick Swayze) and suddenly the heat is on.
"In the Heat of the Night" (1967)
A black detective from the big city (Sidney Poitier) is mistakenly hauled in on a murder rap by the bigoted white sheriff of a small town in Mississippi (Rod Steiger). The racially sparked tensions between the two causes heat on its own, but the summer weather in the Deep South inflames matters to the boiling point.
"The Day the Earth Caught Fire" (1962)
In this British flick, both the Americans and the Soviets detonate nuclear devices, which throws Earth off of its axis and puts it on a collision course toward the sun. It doesn't get much hotter than that.
"Baby Doll" (1956)
Tennessee Williams yet again. Set in the hot and humid Mississippi Delta, "Baby Doll" is a dark comedy about a sweaty, middle-aged cotton gin owner (Karl Malden) who has waited two years to consummate his marriage to a puerile teenager (Carroll Baker). Fun fact: The babydoll nightgown got its name from this movie.
"Apocalypse Now" (1979)
Filmmakers sometimes use Vaseline to make characters look sweaty on screen. In the case of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic, that wasn't necessary. The movie was filmed in a steamy Philippines jungle, which meant Marlon Brando and everyone else in the cast was drenched in sweat. The heat is palpable.
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