It’s August, which means it’s hot, and if you’re not spending your time in an actual swimming pool, you may want to beat the heat with movies about pools. Luckily, there are some great ones to suggest.
First up is “La Piscine” (1969), also known as “The Swimming Pool,” the ne plus ultra of pool movies. It all revolves around the cool, blue pool in this steamy, intimate drama directed by Jacques Deray. French superstars Romy Schneider and Alain Delon play a couple whose sexy vacation in the south of France is crashed by her ex (Maurice Ronet) and his daughter (Jane Birkin), and the tension simmers around the backyard pool until it erupts. Stream it on the Criterion Channel tout de suite.
Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino directed his own take on “La Piscine” with 2015’s “A Bigger Splash,” starring Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts as the couple, and Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson as the vacation crashers, this time on the island of Sardinia. The sun-baked vacation vibes are off the charts. Rent it on all digital platforms.
Guadagnino also made another instant classic European vacation movie with 2017’s romantic sensation “Call Me By Your Name,” based on the novel by Andre Aciman. It’s set in Crema, Italy, so don’t expect crystal-clear chlorinated pools, but ancient watering holes that have a cooling effect on the hot and heavy affair at the center of the film. Stream it on Prime Video, or rent it on other platforms.
Before “La Piscine,” there was Burt Lancaster in “The Swimmer,” Frank Perry’s 1968 exploration of the dark underbelly of suburban life, based on the John Cheever New Yorker short story. Lancaster stars as Ned, on an odyssey through all the backyard pools in his affluent Connecticut suburb. Rent it on all digital platforms.
Francois Ozon’s 2003 erotic thriller “Swimming Pool” stars Charlotte Rampling as a British novelist who escapes to her publisher’s French country home to work. She’s caught by surprise when his daughter (Ludivine Sagnier) shows up unexpectedly to avail herself of the pool, bringing a host of drama and intrigue with her. Rent it on all platforms.
No list of European vacation movies featuring pools would be complete without Jonathan Glazer’s 2000 crime classic, “Sexy Beast,” which features an unforgettable opening sequence of Ray Winstone roasting himself next to a rectangular turquoise oasis in southern Spain. Ben Kingsley co-stars as the erratic criminal who arrives to rope Winstone’s retiree into one last job. Stream it on Hulu.
Harmony Korine’s duo of films dedicated to the sleazier charms of South Florida are more ocean-oriented, but it’s undeniable that “Spring Breakers” (2013) and “The Beach Bum” (2019) have big-pool energy. Pour yourself a pina colada and stream both on Kanopy, though “Spring Breakers” is also available on Showtime, while “The Beach Bum” is on Hulu.
Don’t forget the teen thriller “Swimfan” (2002), in which a high school swim star played by Jesse Bradford is stalked by an obsessed fan (Erika Christensen). Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) features the young couple falling in love in a pool (stream it on HBO Max), while Billy Wilder’s classic exploration of an aging Hollywood star, “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), opens with a man face-down in her pool (stream it on Pluto or rent it on all digital platforms).