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20 Movies We Can’t Wait to See This Summer

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Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos: Netflix, Disney/Pixar, Jasin Boland/Warner Bros., Justin Lubin/A24

Summer is usually a season of excess for Hollywood, the time of the year when the studios unleash their biggest, loudest, most expensive productions. But the forecast is a little quieter in 2024. Make no mistake, the next three months will bring plenty of what we’ve long come to think of as “summer movies”: There will be sequels, prequels, animated family films, and enough explosions to keep multiplex auditoriums rumbling until the first chill of autumn. But one look at the release calendar is all it takes to see that the slate is lighter this year, with far fewer would-be blockbusters on the immediate horizon. Hell, there’s only one superhero movie opening between now and the fall!

The relative scarcity of mega-budget popcorn fare is almost surely an aftershock of last year’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which delayed shooting on movies all but designed to function as summer tentpoles. That’s probably causing some alarm among executives with shareholders to appease. But it’s not necessarily bad news for the rest of us. As the following preview should make clear, there are still plenty of exciting movies coming soon to a theater near everyone — an eclectic lineup that includes a Fury Road origin story, a two-part Kevin Costner western epic, multiple acclaimed festival favorites, a few star-powered romantic comedies, and enough promising horror flicks to fill out a “Halloween in July” movie marathon.

Below, we’ve whittled this unusually trim calendar down even further, offering a handy guide to the most notable and buzzworthy films opening from Memorial Day to Labor Day. As for excess, there’s still plenty of that to go around. We mentioned the double dose of Costner, right?

May

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Don’t let that nervous, superfluous subtitle fool you: George Miller’s latest trip to the war-torn desert future appears to be the first Mad Max movie without any Mad Max. The previous entry in the series, the exhilarating demolition-derby blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road, subversively dared to inch its title character into the passenger seat of the story, having him ride shotgun on a feature-length getaway. Furiosa finishes that passing of the baton with a years-spanning prequel that explains how Charlize Theron’s metal-armed heroine, played this time by Anya Taylor-Joy, landed under the employ of her future bad boss from hell, Immortan Joe. Thankfully, it’s still Miller behind the wheel, orchestrating what looks like another eyeball-dazzling orgy of vehicular mayhem. If Fury Road is the very definition of a tough act to follow, we still wouldn’t dream of missing his attempt. (In theaters May 24.)

Hit Man

The sleeper success of Anyone But You has finally rocketed Glen Powell to movie stardom, but that might have happened even sooner had Netflix released this crowd-pleasing romantic comedy closer to its premiere during autumn’s Venice Film Festival. Reuniting with director Richard Linklater, who first capitalized on the actor’s mustachioed charm in Everybody Wants Some!, Powell plays a Houston professor turned cop who poses as a hit man, going undercover to bust anyone who tries to hire him. He ends up getting amorously involved with one of his marks, played by Adria Arjona. Words like “sexy” and “steamy” flew fast in Venice, where Vulture’s own Bilge Ebiri called the film a masterpiece. Remarkably based on a true story, Hit Man has all the makings of a word-of-mouth summer hit — or it would, if Netflix were giving it more than an obligatory one-week run in theaters. (In select theaters May 24; on Netflix June 7.)

Also premiering in May

The Garfield Movie (in theaters May 24)
Kidnapped (in theaters May 24)
Atlas (on Netflix May 24)
The Beach Boys (on Disney+ May 24)
Ezra (in theaters May 31)
In a Violent Nature (in theaters May 31)
Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle (in theaters May 31)
Summer Camp (in theaters May 31)
Young Woman and the Sea (in theaters May 31)
Robot Dreams (in theaters May 31)
The Dead Don’t Hurt (in theaters May 31)
Jim Henson Idea Man (on Disney+ May 31)
1992 (in theaters May 31)

June

Inside Out 2

From the animation house that brought you Toy Story 4 comes another dubious attempt to continue an adventure that already reached its perfect conclusion. So why are we cautiously optimistic about Pixar’s latest? Maybe it’s that the premise of the original Inside Out, which followed the color-coded emotions inside the mind of an adolescent girl, is actually pretty amenable to the sequel treatment in the sense that the teenage years offer plenty of fresh material for a studio looking to put the whole family in stitches or reduce it to a sobbing wreck. Plus, the addition of new voice talent, such as Ayo Edebiri, Adèle Exarchopoulos, and Paul Walter Hauser, is intriguing enough to quiet the nagging voices in our heads — the ones telling us that anxiety is not, in fact, an emotion or that it’s a bad sign that Bill Hader isn’t back. (In theaters June 14.)

The Bikeriders

Exaggerated accents and macho swagger abound in this motorcycle melodrama based on Danny Lyon’s famed photo book, which was originally scheduled to hit theaters last December but got pushed back half a year after Disney sold the film to Focus — a release date shuffle that hurt Vulture Movie League participants but will probably help the movie. Those extra few months have only raised the profiles of Austin Butler and Mike Faist, now starring in two other projects, Dune: Part Two and Challengers, respectively, that also capitalized on a move from 2023 to 2024. Jodie Comer, Michael Shannon, Norman Reedus, and the reigning king of indecipherable dialects, Tom Hardy, round out the splashy ensemble. But really, it’s the talent behind the camera — namely, writer-director Mike Nichols, who made Midnight Special and Mud — that has us convinced that The Bikeriders will be worth the wait. (In theaters June 21.)

Kinds of Kindness

No rest for the wickedly funny. Mere months after his Poor Things picked up multiple Oscars, Greek provocateur Yorgos Lanthimos is back with a presumably nutty anthology picture that reunites him with Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, and recent Best Actress winner Emma Stone. Early word (vaguely supported by the cryptic teaser) is that Kinds of Kindness is closer in spirit to the more deranged films, like Dogtooth and The Lobster, that he made before his recent period-dress awards darlings — which makes sense, as he also co-wrote this one. We’re mostly eager to see how the newcomers to Lanthimos Land (the cast additionally includes Jesse Plemons, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, and Hunter Schafer) grapple with the alien-lobotomy quality of his famously deadpan dialogue. (In theaters June 21.)

Janet Planet

Moviegoers starved for a little substance this summer — an alternative to the caloric fast food in which the multiplex specializes — can likely find it in the first feature by Pulitzer-winning playwright Annie Baker, which premiered at Telluride in the fall and is coming to theaters courtesy of A24. Divided into three distinct chapters, this coming-of-age drama stars the perennially underappreciated Julianne Nicholson as a Massachusetts acupuncturist wearied by the constant attention of her 11-year-old daughter (newcomer Zoe Ziegler). Reviews from the fall-festival circuit were mostly glowing, citing nuanced performances and the kind of attention to small details of everyday life that characterizes Baker’s stage work. Remember, no one can subsist only on popcorn, even during the warmer weeks. (In theaters June 21.)

Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1

From Dances With Wolves to Open Range to the CBS smash Yellowstone, Kevin Costner has long been committed to keeping the western alive on screens big and small. The Oscar winner’s latest dabble in the genre might be his most ambitious yet: a Dad Movie magnum opus about the American Civil War and the taming of the Old West, released in two halves over the course of the summer. (Chapter 2 comes out in August.) Costner, who also directed, co-wrote, and produced the project, leads a huge cast of familiar faces, among them Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Luke Wilson, Danny Huston, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jena Malone, and many more. The whole thing looks about as old fashioned as modern Hollywood pictures come, down to the optics-be-damned decision to make an antebellum-era ensemble drama with very few characters of color. Should the Yellowstone crowd come out in droves, expect two more chapters further down the dusty trail. (In theaters June 28.)

A Quiet Place: Day One

Is 2024 the year of the horror origin story? Having already witnessed the birth of the Antichrist and the first rampage of the Strangers, audiences will get a close gander at the moment when the extraterrestrial good listeners of A Quiet Place started tearing across our terra firma. Just don’t expect any Emily Blunt or John Krasinski: This spinoff prequel shifts the action to a bustling New York City at ground zero of the invasion and follows new characters played by Lupita Nyong’o and Alex Wolff. The second Quiet Place arguably peaked with its apocalyptic prologue, so a whole movie set during that same time period is intriguing. And while our curiosity waned with the announcement that Bikeriders director Mike Nichols had left the project, it sparked again upon news that Michael Sarnoski was taking over; the guy who made Pig definitely deserves the chance to play around with a big budget. (In theaters June 28.)

Also premiering in June

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (in theaters June 7)
The Watchers (in theaters June 7)
Tuesday (in theaters June 14)
Ghostlight (in theaters June 14)
Treasure (in theaters June 14)
Black Barbie: A Documentary (on Netflix June 19)
The Exorcism (in theaters June 21)
Green Border (in theaters June 21)
Thelma (in theaters June 21)
Trigger Warning (on Netflix June 21)
Firebrand (in theaters June 21)
Fancy Dance (in theaters June 21, on Apple TV+ June 28)
Last Summer (in theaters June 28)
Daddio (in theaters June 28)
A Family Affair (on Netflix June 28)
June Zero (in theaters June 28).

July

Despicable Me 4

Independence Day used to belong to Will Smith. Now it belongs to the Minions: jabbering, godless, sexless globs of mischief, running amok across a series of harmless animated comedies, building a merchandising empire in their unholy image. Despicable Me 4 technically puts the little guys back into supporting roles, shifting focus again to their boss — Steve Carell’s reformed supervillain, Gru — and his growing family, along with new bad guys voiced by Will Ferrell and Sofía Vergara. But Universal knows what the people want. It knows that America’s blood runs not red, white, or blue, but yellow. It knows we’ll pay good money to see those goggled hench-creatures babble and caper and abuse each other. It’s a Minion’s world. We’re just living in it. (In theaters July 3.)

MaXXXine

Writer-director Ti West closes the franchise he started with the gory ’70s-set X and the vaguely Sirkian 1910s origin story Pearl. This time, aspiring movie star Maxine (Mia Goth, reprising one of two roles she’s played in those movies) goes chasing her dreams in a sleazy 1980s Los Angeles stalked by real-life serial killer the Night Stalker. Much of the fun of X lay in the creative link West identified between horror and pornography. He seems to have done the same in MaXXXine, steeping the film in the look, style, and grimy atmosphere of a new decade’s “adult entertainment.” However the story resolves itself, however mercilessly West dispatches his robust and eclectic supporting cast (Elizabeth Debicki! Giancarlo Esposito! Halsey!), it’s nice that slasher buffs now have a Godfather trilogy of their own. (In theaters July 5.)

Fly Me to the Moon

You’d have to be wearing a pretty tight tinfoil hat to believe that America faked the moon landing. It’s more plausible that we were prepared to fake it if necessary. That’s the premise of this breezy-looking, ’60s-set comedy from Love, Simon director and Arrowverse engineer Greg Berlanti, starring Channing Tatum as a harried NASA director and Scarlett Johansson as the marketing wiz who suggests shooting dummy footage of the landing in case the Soviets beat us to the lunar surface. For all the cheeky riffing on space-race history, the appeal of Fly Me to the Moon appears to be more earthbound and more tethered to the charms of these one-time Hail, Caesar! castmates. Movie-star chemistry can’t be faked, even if Apollo 11 could. (In theaters July 12.)

Longlegs

Despite directing such supremely creepy slow burns as The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, Osgood “Oz” Perkins is far from a household name even in horror circles. But that could change with his latest movie, a serial-killer thriller starring Nicolas Cage and modern scream queen Maika Monroe. The marketing team at Neon is doing a bang-up job of selling Longlegs without giving away any of its secrets; the trailers are some of the most suggestively unnerving and mysterious in recent memory. They also convey what the cult of Oz has known for years about the son of Norman Bates (a.k.a. Osgood’s father, actor Anthony Perkins): The apple didn’t fall far from the spooky tree. (In theaters July 12.)

Twisters

Helen Hunt isn’t on the cast list, and for obvious reasons neither are Bill Paxton and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Of course, computer-generated weather was the real star of Jan de Bont’s 1996 runaway-tornado phenomenon, Twister, and it appears that diva is back with a gale-force vengeance in this very belated, stand-alone sequel, directed by Minari’s Lee Isaac Chung from a story by Top Gun: Maverick’s Joseph Kosinski. Anyway, if the mantle must pass to a new generation of bickering, horny storm chasers, we could do a whole lot worse than Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones. (In theaters July 19.)

Deadpool & Wolverine

When was the last time only one superhero movie opened over a whole summer? With Kraven the Hunter officially delayed until Christmas, the Merc with the Mouth (Ryan Reynolds) and the mutant with the claws (Hugh Jackman) are now our lone source of comic-book fisticuffs over a season usually much heavier on them. This being a Deadpool sequel, expect the mismatched X-comrades to spend at least half the runtime making fun of the genre generally and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to which they now belong specifically. (We’d bet our weight in chimichangas that Reynolds gets to deliver the infamous line that Madame Web didn’t.) Capeshit remains a worthy target even as its popularity dips, but jury’s still out on whether the director of Free Guy and those Night at the Museum movies can deliver the required ratio of postmodern satire to R-rated splatter comedy. (In theaters July 26.)

Sing Sing

Newly minted Best Actor nominee Colman Domingo takes center stage again in this A24-acquired festival favorite, playing an imprisoned man who finds new purpose behind bars with a jailhouse acting troupe — a fictionalized version of the real-life Rehabilitation Through the Arts program introduced at the eponymous penitentiary in the ’90s. Colman is great, yet the real draw of Sing Sing is the supporting cast, made up largely of ex-convicts who “graduated” from the program themselves. (In theaters July 12.)

Also premiering in July

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley (on Netflix July 3)
Kill (in theaters July 4)
Mother, Couch (in theaters July 5)
Touch (in theaters July 12)
Crossing (in theaters July 19)
Skywalkers: A Love Story (on Netflix July 19)
Dìdi (in theaters July 26)

August

Trap

M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are usually greater than the sum of their surprises, but the man does love a good twist. There seem to be two baked right into the ingeniously absurd premise of his latest, about a goofy suburban dad (Josh Hartnett) who takes his teenage daughter to a pop concert … except that the dad is actually a serial killer (!) and the pop concert is actually an elaborate sting operation (!!) designed to catch him. Something tells us that’s not half of what the director has up his sleeve with Trap, though even those who manage to slip past his narrative snares can still revel in his rather Hitchcockian way with suspense and composition. The real twist is that there’s another Shyamalan movie opening earlier in the summer: the supernatural mystery Watchers, directed by his daughter, Ishana. (In theaters August 9.)

It Ends With Us

Colleen Hoover’s best-selling beach read gets a beach-season adaptation, meaning you can theoretically tear through the 2016 novel on vacation and then pop over to the tourist-town theater to see its trauma-freighted love triangle acted out onscreen. Blake Lively stars as Lily Bloom, torn between reliving her abusive childhood with an abusive new lover (Justin Baldoni, who also directed the film) or rekindling things with her childhood sweetheart (Brandon Sklenar). Comedy fans will be pleased to hear that Jenny Slate plays Lily’s sister, while age-gap scolds will breathe a sigh of relief at the decision to mature the heroine from her 20s into her 30s. After three months of summer thrills and special effects, a romance with a little bookstore pedigree might be the perfect way to transition into autumn. (In theaters August 9.)

Cuckoo

Hunter Schafer is making her bid to join Euphoria castmates Zendaya, Jacob Elordi, and Sydney Sweeney in the movie-star circle. In addition to a small role in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film, she also stars as an American teenager encountering supernatural trouble at a German resort in this buzzy, bizarre Neon chiller. Reviews from Berlin, where the movie premiered in February, praised both Schafer and costar Dan Stevens, who’s currently doing strong, funny work in another multiplex bloodbath. Opinions are divided on whether Cuckoo is too absurd for its own good, but horror fans looking for a few scares in late August would be, well, cuckoo not to decide for themselves. (In theaters August 9.)

Alien: Romulus

With apologies to the Prometheus heads, one of the most exciting things about the Alien series is how it used to function as a creative baton, passed to a new visionary with each new installment. Romulus revives that grand tradition by putting Ridley Scott’s merciless deep-space menace into the hands of Fede Álvarez, director of the Evil Dead remake and the genuinely superb blind-killer thriller Don’t Breathe. Speaking of which, you shouldn’t hold your breath for a Sigourney Weaver cameo, as the film is reportedly set between the events of the 1979 original and James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens — a.k.a. while Ellen Ripley was still floating frozen though space. But an early teaser makes it clear that the latest sequel could be much closer in ruthless, horror-flick spirit to Scott’s first Alien than his prequels were. Either way, this is one ominous blip on the radar that we’re glad to see steadily approaching. (In theaters August 16.)

Blink Twice

Channing Tatum fans are eating well this summer. A mere month after his starring turn in Fly Me to the Moon, the erstwhile Magic Mike will appear as a tech billionaire who invites his new lover (Naomi Ackie) to a big group vacation on his private island — a supposed dream getaway that takes a sinister turn. There are shades of Jordan Peele and Rian Johnson’s Benoit Blanc mysteries in the trailer, which shows off both the balmy tropical scenery and a star-studded cast that includes Alia Shawkat, Christian Slater, Adria Arjona, Haley Joel Osment, and comeback kid Simon Rex. It also arguably shows too much; Zoë Kravitz’s directorial debut seems like the type of hot-weather thriller that’s best experienced cold. (In theaters August 23.)

Also premiering in August

Harold and the Purple Crayon (in theaters August 2)
Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie (on Netflix August 2)
Kneecap (in theaters August 2)
My Old Ass (in theaters August 2)
Sebastian (in theaters August 2)
Borderlands (in theaters August 9)
The Fire Inside (in theaters August 9)
Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 2 (in theaters August 16)
The Union (on Netflix August 16)
The Crow (in theaters August 23)
Slingshot (in theaters August 23)
Between the Temples (in theaters August 23)
Close Your Eyes (in theaters August 23)
They Listen (in theaters August 30)
City of Dreams (in theaters August 30)

More films coming out later this year:

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice

The possibility of a Beetlejuice sequel has been discussed for so long that I frankly won’t believe it’s real until I’m actually watching it in a theater. But by all accounts, this is happening — production wrapped in November 2023 — with Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, and Catherine O’Hara all reprising their roles from the 1988 original. (In theaters September 6.) Jen Chaney

Joker: Folie à Deux

Much in the way that Taylor Swift is rerecording all her old albums, Todd Phillips is gradually remaking every Martin Scorsese movie but with Joker. Five years after their Oscar-winning mash-up of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix reunite for this musical sequel, which seems to be their spin on New York, New York. And who better to take the Liza part than her modern heir: Lady Gaga, seemingly playing Harley Quinn. There’s much to be curious about here, though, personally, I’m even more excited to see how they’ll put the Joker into Kundun. (In theaters October 4.) Nate Jones

Gladiator 2

Could this be any good? Sequels to old but popular properties have been a thing for decades, but they really hit hyperdrive after the success of Top Gun: Maverick a couple of years ago. Ridley Scott’s original Gladiator turned Russell Crowe into a star, made buckets of money, and won the Best Picture Oscar; this one will be deemed a massive success if it manages to come close to doing even one of those things. Of course, the original Gladiator also killed off its main character at the end, so now Paul Mescal stars. It remains to be seen whether this film will do for his career what it did for Crowe’s. But director Ridley Scott, coming off the spectacle of Napoleon, surely has some idea what he’s doing here. (In theaters November 22.)Bilge Ebiri

Wicked: Part One

If it feels like we’ve been talking about the Wicked movie for a decade, it’s because we actually have. Universal was talking about the film all the way back in 2012; after an inexplicably lengthy development process that included multiple director changeovers and an understandably rigorous casting process, filming finally began in December 2022. The actors’ strike forced the production to pause over the summer, but allegedly we will see Cynthia Erivo in the role of Elphaba and Ariana Grande in the role of Galinda this November (then wait an entire additional year to see the second movie). If it’s not clear at this point, this has been my most-anticipated work of art since the Obama years and I am losing my mind. (In theaters November 27.) —Roxana Hadadi

The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim

Fresh off a 2023 deal with Warner Bros. to make more Lord of the Rings content and more than 20 years after Peter Jackson’s LOTR earned $3 billion, New Line Cinema returns to Middle earth for the animated The War of the Rohirrim. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama (whose extensive animation work includes various Ghost in the Shell series, Star Wars: Visions, and Blade Runner: Black Lotus), the prequel takes place nearly 200 years before the events of The Two Towers. Brian Cox voices Helm Hammerhand, the king of Rohan, whose name was given to mountain fortress Helm’s Deep; also in the voice cast is Miranda Otto, who played Rohan noblewoman and sword maiden Éowyn in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Get ready to hear the horn of Helm Hammerhand sound in the deep! (In theaters December 13.)R.H.

Nosferatu

With the help of sturdy VOD sales, Robert Eggers managed not to just avoid being sent to movie jail for the box-office shortcomings of The Northman but to get Focus Features to back his new feature, a remake of the 1922 German Expressionist classic. Hollywood’s reigning murder twink Bill Skarsgård plays the vampiric Count Orlok, while Lily-Rose Depp plays the object of his obsession. Horror and rich historic detail are Eggers’s strong suits, so the only downside to this film is having to wait until the end of the year to get it. (In theaters December 25.)Alison Willmore

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A.A. Dowd , 2024-05-20 12:00:00

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