The summer-movie season may feel like it starts earlier and earlier every year, but it is now truly upon us, which means franchise-starters, epic revivals, and superheroes galore almost every week. On top of the big-budget fare, there are plenty of indie sensations waiting to be discovered—read on for a comprehensive look at the most exciting projects coming over the next three months.
The Mummy (June 9)
What It Is: This straightforward-looking monster movie, the umpteenth attempt at reviving the vengeful Egyptian villain of Hollywood yesteryear, pits Tom Cruise against Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is kicking up the requisite sandstorms and clouds of evil birds in an attempt to destroy the world.
If You Need Convincing: This is the first in a never-ending series of monster movies Universal Studios has planned, which it’s dubbing the “Dark Universe.” Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jekyll here ahead of a planned spin-off, and we’re also going to get Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many more. Considering the stars they’ve recruited so far—Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Javier Bardem—this “universe” is making a big play for international dollars, like so many other franchises.
It Comes At Night (June 9)
What It Is: A post-apocalyptic horror movie set entirely within a desolate home, It Comes At Night follows a family who take in some desperate strangers to protect them from the horrors that lurk outside. Unsurprisingly, paranoia begins to set in. Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott, and Riley Keough are among the cast, and the film has drawn praise at horror festivals.
If You Need Convincing: Krisha, the debut film from this movie’s director/writer Trey Edward Shults, was a micro-budget phenomenon in 2015, earning raves for the way it racked up tension at a seemingly normal Thanksgiving gathering. It Comes At Night should be just as assured, but with a professional cast and more money up on the screen.
Rough Night (June 16)
What It Is: A bawdy, gender-flipped remake of R-rated ’90s comedies like Very Bad Things from writers Paul Downs and Luica Aniello, who have scripted several episodes of Broad City and the (similar ’90s throwback) miniseries Time Traveling Bong. It follows a bachelorette party that goes horribly wrong when a male stripper is accidentally murdered.
If You Need Convincing: The cast is a solid mix of comic talent (Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon) and stars having fun (Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Demi Moore). The movie looks like a 2017 update of Weekend At Bernie’s, with more cocaine. Surely that’s appealing to someone?
Cars 3 (June 16)
What It Is: The third in an increasingly surreal series of Pixar movies about a world populated by sentient cars. This time, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) tries to get back on the racing circuit after a potentially career-threatening crash, aided by a trainer called Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonso).
If You Need Convincing: The first Cars came out 11 years ago; Pixar now seems to be playing for a slightly more mature audience (the trailers have been weirdly dark), hoping that the films’ original audience, having grown up a little, will be eager to return for another adventure. Others may sigh at the studio’s increasing reliance on sequels.
Transformers: The Last Knight (June 21)
What It Is: The fifth (yes, fifth!) Transformers movie unites an Arthurian legend, Anthony Hopkins, a purpose-built Stonehenge, Mark Wahlberg, and robots that turn into cars for one last epic hurrah. Just kidding—Paramount is already planning a sixth movie and a spinoff about the yellow robot Bumblebee.
If You Need Convincing: The director Michael Bay promises this is his last go-round with the giant, profitable toys. Of course, he said that after the third and fourth movies, too.
The Big Sick (June 23)
What It Is: A rom-com starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) as a Pakistani comedian who falls in love with an American woman (Zoe Kazan), much to the disapproval of his family, and then is forced to spend every waking minute with her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) when she experiences an unexpected medical crisis.
If You Need Convincing: A hit at Sundance, this film (produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Michael Showalter) is one of the most winning comedies in recent years, which mines powerful emotion and big laughs from a familiar culture-clash dynamic. He wrote the movie with his wife Emily V. Gordon, based on the incredible circumstances of their relationship.
Baby Driver (June 28)
What It Is: An electrifying caper flick directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) about a baby-faced getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who gets mixed up with a bunch of cold-blooded gangsters (including Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm).
If You Need Convincing: The film got raves at the South by Southwest festival, and it lives up to the hype—marrying Wright’s love for crisply-choreographed action and expertly curated soundtracks into an action film with the vibe of a Technicolor musical.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
What It Is: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, doing whatever a spider can, as per usual. This time he’s Tom Holland (so charming in Captain America: Civil War) and the villain is the fiendish Vulture (Michael Keaton).
If You Need Convincing: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is in it, and in case you didn’t get the message, Marvel put him on the poster twice. After a fairly lackluster run of films for the web-shooting hero, this might be the one to harken back to his early 2000s glory days. Or are audiences Spidey-ed out?
A Ghost Story (July 7)
What It Is: A haunting (pun intended) tale of a nameless man (Casey Affleck) who dies but returns to the home of his wife (Rooney Mara) to haunt her, then all the subsequent occupants of their house. Affleck plays the ghost by wearing a white sheet with two eye-holes, in an almost entirely silent performance. Rooney Mara eats a pie.
If You Need Convincing: It’s from the director David Lowery (who made the excellent Pete’s Dragon remake last year), and, well, it’s a unique and wonderful film, a Sundance hit that is certainly unlike anything else you’ll see this summer. Honestly: The less you know going in, the better.
War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)
What It Is: The third in the epic, rebooted Apes saga after Rise and Dawn, promising a little more open warfare and plenty of motion-captured performances. Caesar (Andy Serkis) remains our ape hero. The new human villain this time is played by Woody Harrelson.
If You Need Convincing: Watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, also from the director Matt Reeves (who will next make a Batman movie for DC). It’s very good! These films can be a little humorless, but they also wring real pathos from their simian heroes.
Dunkirk (July 21)
What It Is: An epic re-creation of the evacuation at Dunkirk during World War II, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and One Direction’s Harry Styles among many others.
If You Need Convincing: Nolan is one of the only blockbuster filmmakers not tied to Hollywood’s franchise churn anymore, and whether you think he’s the next Spielberg or an overrated, overblown, antiseptic storyteller (I lean toward the former), his films increasingly stand out as the only self-contained summer tentpoles.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
What It Is: A bonkers-looking sci-fi yarn based on a French comic-book series, starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as universe-trotting superheroes tasked with saving a city of, well, a thousand planets. It’s reportedly the most expensive European film ever made.
If You Need Convincing: Director Luc Besson (who last gave us Lucy) is hit-or-miss, but even his misses are visually spectacular and grandly ambitious. Valerian will struggle to stand out in a summer of big brands, but it might be the best-looking action movie of the year.
Atomic Blonde (July 28)
What It Is: A 1989-set spy thriller that takes place during the fall of the Berlin Wall, following an MI6 agent (Charlize Theron) hunting a ruthless espionage ring. James McAvoy co-stars as a local station chief; much finely-choreographed action ensues.
If You Need Convincing: Atomic Blonde got good critical notices at South by Southwest, and its crisp fight sequences are apparently major standouts; the director David Leitch is one of the two brains behind 2014’s gun-fu stunner John Wick.
The Emoji Movie (July 28)
What It Is: An animated film about Gene (T.J. Miller), a “multi-expressional” emoji, who lives inside someone’s phone and wants to become a “meh” emoji to satisfy his parents. This is the plot of The Emoji Movie, a major work of cinema coming this summer to theaters everywhere. It will gross hundreds of millions of dollars around the world.
If You Need Convincing: Pretty sure everyone already knows where they fall on this one, but Patrick Stewart plays a poop emoji.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (July 28)
What It Is: The most topical film of the summer is a follow-up to the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, again following former Vice President Al Gore as he tries to warn the world about global warming and enact international change.
If You Need Convincing: The film already apparently added one post-script about the election of Donald Trump; now it plans to add another after he announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
The Dark Tower (August 4)
What It Is: A long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel series about a mysterious gunslinger (Idris Elba) who does battle with a mysterious man in black (Matthew McConaughey) in a mysterious dimension called “Mid-World.” It’s all very mysterious.
If You Need Convincing: The Dark Tower series has many loyal fans who have waited decades for a movie version, and Nikolaj Arcel’s film looks quite visually spectacular in the trailers. Its reported running time of 85 minutes might be cause for concern, though.
Detroit (August 4)
What It Is: A dramatic re-creation of 1967’s 12th Street riot in Detroit, a major and provocative moment in the civil-rights movement, starring John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, and Jason Mitchell, among others, and centered around the Algiers Motel Incident.
If You Need Convincing: It’s from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), and it’s sure to stir up a fair bit of chatter as it depicts the murder of three young black men by members of the Detroit Police Department, the State Police, and the Army National Guard, an event that spiraled into a larger civil disturbance.
Good Time (August 11)
What It Is: A buzzy crime drama following roustabout Constantine (Robert Pattinson) as he tries to get his brother out of jail after a bank robbery goes wrong. Oscar nominees Barkhad Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh co-star.
If You Need Convincing: It’s from up-and-coming indie director duo Ben and Josh Safdie, and it was well-received at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, especially Pattinson’s performance.
The Glass Castle (August 11)
What It Is: A drama based on Jeannette Walls’s 2005 memoir, which recounted her unconventional, nomadic adolescence with her siblings and her alcoholic father and artist mother. Oscar winner Brie Larson plays Walls, with Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson playing her parents.
If You Need Convincing: It’s from the director Destin Daniel Cretton, whose last film Short Term 12 helped launch Larson to fame and was a moving, even-handed depiction of life in a group home for troubled teenagers.
Logan Lucky (August 18)
What It Is: An anarchic-looking crime caper about a trio of inept siblings (Adam Driver, Riley Keough, and Channing Tatum) and an unhinged gangster (Daniel Craig) who try to rob the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 race to reverse a family curse.
If You Need Convincing: It marks the official return of the director Steven Soderbergh, who announced his retirement from filmmaking four years ago (and then proceeded to work on the great HBO series The Knick and do everything but direct Magic Mike XXL). He remains one of Hollywood’s best and most idiosyncratic artists, and it looks like a welcome return.
Other films to look out for: Sam Elliott gives a moving performance as a washed-up movie star in The Hero (June 9); the Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow’s follow-up The Book of Henry (June 16) is a smaller-scale thriller featuring Naomi Watts; Sally Hawkins stars in the tear-jerking biopic Maudie (June 16) about painter Maud Lewis; the A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night director Ana Lily Amirpour’s new film The Bad Batch (June 23) is a dystopian love story starring Keanu Reeves and Jason Momoa; Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler topline the illegal suburban casino comedy The House (June 30); period drama Lady Macbeth (July 14) got raves at last year’s Toronto Film Festival; Yiddish-language film Menashe (July 28) follows a Hasidic widower trying to gain custody of his son; indie romance Columbus (August 4) stars John Cho and is directed by the Korean visual artist Kogonada; Ingrid Goes West (August 11) is a dark social-media comedy starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen; Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return for The Trip to Spain (August 11), the third of their improvised restaurant-review romps; Crown Heights (August 25) won the Sundance Audience Award for its true-story tale of a wrongful murder conviction in Brooklyn.
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