As the weather shifts in most parts of the country, the calming breeze of summer also brings with it all the audible booms, laughs and spectacle associated with blockbuster season at the movies.
Viewed in Hollywood as a time to present some of the biggest and most expensive films produced all year, the sheer number of returning franchises, A-list directors and stars showing up this season feels like there is more available to consume than is humanly possible.
Have no fear. We’ve sifted through the summer slate to guide you towards the 20 films that should be on your release radar this year — no matter if you favor remakes, reboots or originals.
When: May 19
According to its official synopsis, Alien: Covenant follows the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy when they discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world whose only inhabitant is David (Michael Fassbender), the sole surviving member of the Prometheus expedition.
Many view Ridley Scott’s film as the bridge between what occurred in Prometheus — a tepidly received film that still made $400 million USD worldwide — and the events of the film that introduced him to the filmgoing public in 1979, Alien.
“I thought I’d left science fiction for too long, that I had better climb back in. Prometheus was a great experience for me,” Scott told Empire. “Chasing number two, we can start evolving the grand idea.”
According to an early review, “[Scott’s] latest Alien: Covenant is really an Alien spinoff in name only — it is basically a sequel to Prometheus. But clearly Fox thought it might have more commercial potential going out under the Alien franchise. All that said, Scott’s latest effort in the genre is a decent, extremely well made but not startlingly different version of all that has come before.”
When: May 25
Baywatch seems to be cut from a similar cloth as the 21 Jump Street reboot starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. In both cases, the sensibilities and plausibly seems distinctly 80’s/early ’90s, but that doesn’t really matter because these type of films rely solely on the chemistry between the leads.
In the case of Baywatch, The Rock dons the signature red swimsuit and finds Zac Efron playing his quizzical, right hand man.
With humor and raunchiness seemingly ratcheted up to a 10, it looks like the type of film where you can laugh with and at it.
When: May 26
The entertainment slate if certainly changing when one of the most bankable movie stars in recent memory, Brad Pitt, is starring in a war-based film that is available to Netflix subscribers as opposed to theatergoers.
War Machine finds Pitt playing a thinly fictionalized story of the fired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, a general who was profiled in Rolling Stone which played a large part in his undoing.
As “General. Glenn McMahon,” Pitt takes the absurdity of war to new heights — without ever teetering on mockery of those on the ground or in the trenches.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
When: May 26
Although there is a little bit of malaise when it comes to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (this is the fifth installment), the films are never dull and you never once feel like the actor is merely phoning it in.
With Javier Bardem installed in the role as chief nemesis, Captain Salazar, the plot involving the unlikely bond between Sparrow and two unlikely heroes definitely evokes feelings of the first film in the series, The Curse of the Black Pearl.
When: June 2
A lot of the criticism about the superhero universes — whether it be Marvel or D.C. — is that it lacked any perspective other than that of a white male.
That’s all changing.
Director Patty Jenkins, has joined three other females filmmakers, Kathryn Bigelow and Lana and Lilly Wachowski, as the only four women helmers to ever to be handed a hundred million dollar production budget.
Best known for Monster — which starred Charlize Theron in an Academy Award–winning role — Jenkins hasn’t been shy about the arduous journey to bring legitimacy to Wonder Woman who is getting her first live-action standalone feature.
In an interview with Empire, Jenkins was asked about her thoughts about female representation — both in front and behind the camera — stating, “I think it’s pretty significant, but I also didn’t think about it that way at all. I tried not to think about it, and that’s the great thing about being a woman director doing it, is I was like, “Oh, I’m just making a superhero movie.” I’m not looking at her as being any different than any other superhero. And that’s the victory. I think the reason that there wasn’t a woman superhero made for a long time is because people were assuming that it had to be a different kind of thing. Or more rarefied, or something. This is Wonder Woman. There’s nothing different. There’s Batman, there’s Superman, there’s Wonder Woman,” she continued. “She’s the full-blown real deal. So it’s very significant, but I also just went forth trying to make a great superhero film the same way I would have with any of them, which was great.”
When: June 9
It may seem head scratching to some that Tom Cruise is joining another franchise when he’s already got Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher. But with an impeccable taste for smart and high-octane action, clearly he saw something in The Mummy which last hit theaters in 2008.
Unlike other installments, the titular nemesis will be played by a woman — Sofia Boutella — while Russell Crowe takes on the infamous role of Dr. Jeckyll/Mr.Hyde as Universal Pictures looks to expand into what industry insiders have called a “Monsters Universe” that will featured the notable doctor, Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and Van Helsing.
Director Alex Kurtzman has commented on the tone of the film and his hero, stating, ” I think that our goal is to make a movie that’s full of suspense, full of adventure, that has moments of horror but that isn’t defined as “a horror movie,” and that will ultimately scare the shit out of you. This goes back to the requirement, I think, of having an unpredictable Tom Cruise in the movie. Because if you remove from the audience’s mind, “Oh I know he’s going to save the day,” and in fact go, “He really might not, he has no idea what to do here,” now I’m in a situation where I’m kind of scared FOR him because I don’t know what he’s going to do and I don’t know what’s coming.”
All Eyez on Me
When: June 16
Music biopics can certainly be hit or miss. For every Ray, there is Notorious. For every Walk the Line there is Nina.
As one of the most notable hip-hop artists ever, here’s hoping that Tupac Shakur’s life story falls in the former category.
Newcomer actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. is in the role of Tupac and Walking Dead star, Danai Gurira, is Tupac’s activist mother, Afeni Shakur — two casting choices that feel based in natural fit as opposed to relying solely on biggest name recognition.
But theatergoers should still be weary. The Benny Boom-directed film hasn’t received full support from the Shakur estate.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Insiders say they view the film as a lightweight movie that isn’t particularly accurate.”
Here’s holding out hope that the film is steeped in truth; even if that means painting Shakur in a negative light in certain circumstances.
When: June 16
Directed by Lucia Aniello — in her directorial debut — and written by Aniello and frequent collaborator, Paul W. Downs, with whom the pair has shined as some of the chief creatives behind Broad City, Rough Night focuses on five female best friends who gather for a wild bachelorette party in Miami and end up killing a male exotic dancer.
With Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz as the friends in question, the trailer has hints of Bridesmaids but with a much darker tone to it.
Transformers: The Last Knight
When: June 21
You know if Michael Bay is calling this Transformers film his swan song, he’s going to go out in an explosive manner with more over-the-top pyrotechnics and CGI-laden madness than a person can manage.
With Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci reprising their roles from Age of Extinction — alongside Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro from the first three films — The Last Knight focuses once again on humans and transformers are at war — but with one major caveat: Optimus Prime is gone and the key to saving Earth lies in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.
When: June 28
Although the “one last job” is a tired trope — even in Hollywood — the congregation of talent assembled for Baby Driver makes it certainly one of the most intriguing films of the summer.
Spearheaded by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Ansel Elgort is installed in the role of “Baby” — a seasoned getaway driver who finds himself overwhelmed by the demands of a criminal kingpin (Kevin Spacey) and introduces him to a band of characters played by the likes of Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm.
What makes the film so different is that the action is fueled by Baby’s love of music. Its not that he enjoys music, it’s that he’s obsessive about it — so much so that it threatens to derail tasks that have dire consequences.
As The Atlantic noted, “The heist scenes and car chases are expertly matched to these songs, turning Baby Driver into a sort of jukebox musical-slash-caper movie.”
The Hollywood Reporter echoed their sentiments, calling it, “a Gone in 60 Seconds for the La La Land crowd.”
When: June 30
Playing off the notion that parents will do just about anything to ensure a better life for their children, The House centers on a married couple (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) who resort to opening an underground casino in their own residence as a means of finding enough cash to send their daughter to college.
While it would be one thing to simply invite a few people over to play games of poker in the garage, the hilarity seems to stem from the idea that if you cultivate an experience more akin to Las Vegas — despite being restricted to a single family home — the money will come that much quicker.
When: July 7
Everything you know and remember about the previous five Spider-Man films should be thrown completely out the window. There’s no place or relevance after Sony managed to bring the webbed one back to Marvel after the superhero factory sold away the rights for $7 million USD in 1999.
What’s particularly fresh about this new iteration is that although Peter Parker is indeed special, filmmaker, Jon Watts, is focusing more on what it’s like to tell a coming-of-age story in a world where superheroes already exist.
“What’s great about Spider-Man is that he’s a regular kid,” said Watts. “So by showing his story you also get to show what the ground level is like in a world where the Avengers exist, which is already, I think, a great premise for a movie.”
Actor Tom Holland steps into the role previous held by Andrew Garfield and Toby McGuire, while Michael Keaton assumes the role of his chief nemesis, Adrian Tomes.
For those wanting a little substance and nuance with your heroes, this seems to be the film for you.
“We will not see him swing down Fifth Avenue in this movie,” said producer Eric Carroll. “We will not see him 40 stories off the ground, acting like that is not the most terrifying thing he will do that day. It’s something we’re going to show him working up to. He’s going to work up to being the Spider-Man we know he’ll become someday.”
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
When: July 12
As both a writer and director, Luc Besson is responsible for some of the biggest action spectacles in recent memory like The Fifth Element, The Transporter, Taken and Lucy.
His latest — Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — in which he assumes the duties of both writer and director, the film adaptation of one of the most successful graphic novels in Europe centers on Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) who are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing their race in great danger.
With a budget of €197.47 EUR, — making it the most expensive French production ever — the film has over 200 different alien species and has all the makings of an immersive a world as presented in The Fifth Element.
War for the Planet of the Apes
When: July 14
What continually keeps the Apes franchise so fresh and exciting is that the it’s the animals like Caesar — and not the humans — who audiences root for. This radical idea completely turns genre tropes on their head and creates a new template for what it means for the fate of the world to be at stake.
Simply put, who’s world is it?
That question with be answered in the third film of the franchise as filmmaker Matt Reeves (who is taking over the Batman franchise) and producer, Peter Chernin, have stated that this will be the final chapter in Caesar’s story.
“We made a very conscious decision, frankly, when we started thinking about this seven or eight years ago, to look at these three movies as a trilogy in a lot of ways,” said Chernin. “It was inevitable from the moment apes gained intelligence that apes and humans were going to be on a collision course for what would be the dominant species on Earth. And this movie is the war to resolve that dominance. We’ve always looked at this as a three-part story. And the appropriate ending of that story is to see which species dominates.”
When: July 21
When it comes to filmmakers like Christopher Nolan who choose their projects very carefully, there’s a certain amount of trust that he’s already established thanks to a nearly flawless track record which spans multiple genres.
Trading the allure of space or Gotham City for an epic World War II drama, Dunkirk in Nolan’s own words, “is not a war film. It’s a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So while there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films.”
Splitting the film into sections relating to exploits in the land, air and sea, the film is supposedly light on dialogue and boils down to one central idea: which of these men will make it out of this harrowing experience with their lives?
When: July 28
With a precedent already set thanks to kick-ass heroines like in Salt, Hanna and Lucy, Atomic Blonde follows in that tradition and stars Charlize Theron as an undercover MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent to Berlin five days before the Berlin Wall falls to uncover a conspiracy that led to the death of a fellow agent.
Highly stylized, energetic and featuring a soundtrack featuring the likes of George Michael, New Order and Flock of Seagulls, the film is directed by John Wick helmer, David Leitch, who has also taken over the Deadpool franchise and who supposedly achieved a six-minute fight sequences without ever yelling “cut.”
The Dark Tower
When: August 4
People have been clamoring for a film adaptation of Steven King’s popular Dark Tower series since the late ’80s. For every stride forward — thanks to attachments/commitments from filmmakers like JJ Abrams and Ron Howard — any hope would ultimately be derailed when they fell out and pursued new projects.
Not only are we finally getting a Dark Tower film, but the two chief thespians in the role of Roland Deschain and The Man in Black, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, suggest that all of our patience will ultimately lead to a version that can actually live up to the hype.
For those that have read the books, it’s believed the story will pick up where the first novel starts.
“I expect that the movie will start where the book starts,” King explained. “You know, ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,’ so I think that nails it right in place for people. I’ve been pretty insistent about that, and I think everybody’s pretty on board with it.”
However, the story will bridge many novels and may jump to the third book of the series, The Wastelands.
“It starts sort of the middle of the story rather than the beginning,” King added, “which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it because it is the story.”
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
When: August 18
With an A-list pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a film ripe with irony thanks to an arrangement which finds two rival bodyguards forced to work together after years of being on opposite sides of the bloodshed.
While the film could have steered into a more serious tone, instead it’s decidedly more comedic as the new and unexpected union certainly bares fruit as they take on a ruthless European dictator.
When: August 25
Based off the Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Death Note is Netflix’s attempt to bolster their supernatural/thriller fare.
When a teenager gets possession of a mystical notebook, he soon learns that whoever’s name he writes down inside will die. Thus, he decides to take on a hoard of evil men and do away with the poison they are injecting into the city.
But when a detective begins to put the pieces together, it sends the two on a collision course for one another.
When: September 15
With revenge deep-seeded in his heart due to his childhood upbringing and later the death of his fiancee, Dylan O’Brien’s Mitch Rapp is certainly a lost soul until he is given new direction for a specialized assignment within the CIA to top a mysterious operative who is intent on starting a world war in the Middle East.
For a broader look at the best movies coming to cinemas this year, check out these 45 movies releasing in 2017.