There are hot days, and then there are hot days that seem to change your perception of the world: days when the debilitating sun seems to make things in the distance shimmer, to distort the flow of time and to blur the line between what's real and what's imagined. Here's a list of movies that do an excellent job of capturing that sultry suspension of reality.
1. Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee's debut takes place in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood on the hottest day of the summer. The heat exacerbates the racial tensions running through the neighborhood and gradually precipitate the movie's explosive, astonishing conclusion. Some critics charged that the film would foment violence, with dire predictions that audiences would go wild or by comparing the film to dynamite under every seat. The warnings proved to be unfounded, and Do the Right Thing, with a memorable cast of characters including Mother Sister, Radio Raheem and Sweet Dick Willie, endures as a classic.
2. 12 Angry Men (1957)
We've seen plenty of courtroom drama in recent months, as a nation fixated on the Casey Anthony trial reacted with outrage to a not guilty verdict many people believed to be wrong. 12 Angry Men focuses on a trial in which everyone believes the young defendant, accused of murdering his father, is guilty. (Sound familiar?) The jury is ready to render a quick verdict and escape a sweltering deliberating room, but the idealistic juror #8 argues forcefully that they must remain until the boy gets a fair shot.
3. Rear Window (1954)
Jimmy Stewart is sequestered in his New York apartment while recuperating from a broken leg, numb with boredom and bathed in sweat from a stifling summer heat wave. His only diversion comes from watching his neighbors through a telescope, but what begins as an exercise in casual voyeurism turns into something much more sinsister when he thinks he witnesses a murder.
4. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
The inimitable Sidney Poitier plays a detective, Virgil Tibbs -- that's MISTER Tibbs -- who is sent to a small Mississippi town to investigate what appears to be the racially motivated murder of a black man. But Tibbs soon finds that the respect and safety he is afforded in his hometown of Philadelphia melts away in the steady bake of a Southern town not happy with an African-American digging up secrets.
5. Summer of Sam (1999)
In the summer of 1977, New Yorkers lived in terror of the brutal serial killer known as Son of Sam. In this film, another Spike Lee joint, that fear spurs violence and distrust amongst residents of a South Bronx neighborhood.
6. The Wayward Cloud (2005)
Set in Seoul, the Wayward Cloud centers on the strange relationship formed between two neighbors brought together during a water shortage caused by a suffocating heat wave. The quirkiest of the movies on this list, it favors musical numbers over dialogue and features some adult situations (to put it diplomatically) arising because of the male protagonist's profession.