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23 summer movies to get excited about

From ghosts and soldiers to apes and superheroes, these are the movies to keep on your radar.

Images of faces from many summer movies.
It’s an eclectic summer at the movies.
Javier Zarracina/Vox

For many people, “summer movies” is synonymous with big-scale blockbusters, where things blow up and the world needs rescuing. And there are plenty of those on the docket for this summer, starring everything from superheroes and soldiers to aliens and apes.

But there’s a lot more on its way too. Vox’s culture staff rounded up 23 of the movies we’re most looking forward to this summer, and they go well beyond the expected blow-’em-up blockbuster fare (though there’s some of that too). Whether you’re in the mood for a weird indie comedy, a wild 19th-century revenge drama, or a hip-hop biopic, there’s something to suit every moviegoing palate — and maybe expand it, as well.

Here’s to a great summer at the movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)

Marvel’s intergalactic band of outsiders turned Guardians of the Galaxy into the surprise hit of 2014, and now they’re back for a second round. Guardians of the Galaxy was proof that Marvel could make a crowd-pleasing blockbuster out of lesser-known comic book characters and the space opera genre. It’s Marvel’s most charming movie — here’s hoping the sequel can live up to, or even surpass, that distinction. —Alex Abad-Santos

The Lovers (May 5)

The premise sounds contrived and strained: A married couple, each having an affair, start cheating on their paramours with each other. But in the hands of director Azazel Jacobs (whose HBO project Doll & Em was clever, biting, and sometimes painful, but always surprising), it seems promising: The trailer is light on its feet and aware of the film’s slapsticky setup, suggesting The Lovers might have some real things to say about the ups and downs of long-term love. Plus, it stars Debra Winger and Tracy Letts, two actors I’d love to see more of onscreen. —Alissa Wilkinson

Paris Can Wait (May 12)

Who isn’t a sucker for sexy movies set in lovely European locations? In Paris Can Wait, Diane Lane gets in a car in Cannes with her husband’s best friend, Arnaud Viard, and takes a couple days longer to get to Paris than planned. (Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin.) The movie will doubtless garner many coy critical uses of the term “lust for life,” but with a great cast and beautiful European scenery, it seems like perfect summer escapism. Plus, Eleanor Coppola is at the helm — and since she’s previously mostly directed documentaries about the work of her husband Francis Ford Coppola and her daughter Sofia, it’s exciting to see a full feature from her. —AW

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12)

Having brought his strain of frenetically edited gritty pulp to classic literature once before with his Sherlock Holmes franchise, Guy Ritchie now turns his eye to the legend of King Arthur. Well, sort of. The cast list for this movie includes few characters your average Thomas Malory nerd will recognize beyond Arthur himself, but the trailer fits the broad outline of the familiar story: Arthur is a true king raised in obscurity, and he must prove himself through the power of the sword Excalibur. And to take back his kingdom, naturally he’ll have to get to work on the kind of spectacular action sequences that Ritchie cut his teeth on. The ones in the trailer already have us craving popcorn. —Constance Grady

Alien: Covenant (May 19)

Sure, you’ve seen the monster from the Alien movies (often called the “Xenomorph”) in action before — biting off heads, bursting out of chests, and generally causing bloody mayhem. But have you ever seen it chew its way through a couples’ retreat? That might be too glib — the couples in Alien: Covenant are going to settle a new planet — but this prequel to the first few Alien movies boasts that as a premise. It’s as good an excuse as any to reveal new alien action, and the film boasts the return of Ridley Scott (who directed 1979’s Alien and 2013’s Prometheus, the immediate predecessor to this film) to the director’s chair. —Todd VanDerWerff

Baywatch (May 26)

Put on your sunscreen: Baywatch is back. All of the trappings of the ridiculous ’90s TV show appear to be in place in this big-screen adaptation — including plenty of sexy lifeguards running in slow motion, bosoms and pecs all abounce. But this time around, everyone involved appears to be a lot more self-aware. David Hasselhoff is nowhere in sight (though don’t be surprised if/when he turns up for a cameo); in his place, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presides over the most elite team of lifeguards the world has ever seen, or so he would have you believe. Once he’s joined by Zac Efron as a cocky new Baywatch recruit, the pair and their very chiseled torsos flex, smirk, and build a reluctant bromance while saving swimmers and investigating a criminal conspiracy that threatens the sanctity of their precious beach. If you think all of this sounds stupid, you are not wrong! But it’s stupid fun, and Johnson and Efron have the necessary charm and wit to pull it off. —Jen Trolio

Wonder Woman (June 2)

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman stole the show in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, her golden lasso and her will to do good providing a breath of fresh air in a rather grim superhero movie. Now it’s time for Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince, to star in her own story that explores Amazons, immortality, World War I, and the evils of man. With director Patty Jenkins at the helm, Wonder Woman is also the first female-led superhero movie since the dismal days of Elektra and Catwoman. —AAS

The Mummy (June 9)

On the one hand, a shared cinematic universe centered on the classic Universal monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, etc. — is the sort of creatively bankrupt idea Hollywood traffics in nowadays. On the other hand, this big, beautiful world of ours is full of 6-year-olds who’ve imagined the Mummy and Dracula having a fight, and these movies can bring those dreams to life with modern special effects. That Tom Cruise and a weirdly committed Russell Crowe have signed on for the ride is just the cherry on top. —TV

It Comes at Night (June 9)

After landing horror hit after horror hit — from It Follows to Green Room to The Witch — the independent production/distribution company A24 has gotten very good at capturing horror fans’ attention, carefully marketing edgy outsider films with a strong mainstream appeal. The studio’s latest entry into this horror wave is a sleek apocalyptic psychodrama starring Joel Edgerton as a man trying to protect his family from unknown terrors. With a trailer that’s stylish and mesmerizing while giving nothing away, A24 already has us hooked. —Aja Romano

All Eyez on Me (June 16)

Because it’s about rapper Tupac Shakur, All Eyez on Me will spend all summer (and longer, if it’s good) being compared with 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, because that’s how Hollywood works. The film also stars newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr., for whom this could be a huge breakout role. But setting aside those inevitable conversations around this movie, it’s simply exciting to see All Eyez on Me finally happening: A Tupac biopic has been in the works for a decade (the rapper died in 1996), and it seems like the time might finally be right for his story to reach a big audience. —AW

Rough Night (June 16)

At first glance, Rough Night isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel so far as onscreen bachelorette parties go, with a raunchy girls’ night going horribly (i.e., deadly) wrong. But we’re mostly excited about this movie because of who’s involved in it, like unlikely castmates Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Scarlett Johansson, and Ilana Glazer. Maybe most promisingly of all, Rough Night comes to us from the beautifully twisted minds of Glazer’s longtime collaborators Paul Downs and Lucia Aniello, who have co-written several of Broad City’s best episodes to date. —Caroline Framke

The Beguiled (June 23)

Civil War–era drama? Bustled, ruffly dresses? A handsome soldier? Candlelight? Romance that gives way to some kind of gothic horror? And a cast including Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, and Kirsten Dunst (plus, oh yeah, Colin Farrell)? Get in my eyes. From Sofia Coppola, who knows how to bring across jealousy and unnerving female relationships onscreen, The Beguiled — based on a novel by Thomas Cullinan, which was made into a movie once before, in 1971 — looks like it could become an instant cult classic. —AW

The Big Sick (June 23)

Amazon Studios

The Big Sick tells the real-life love story of Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) and writer Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan), centering on the expectations placed on Nanjiani as a Pakistani American and Gordon as she fell unexpectedly sick, in a big way. There’s no shortage of movies out there about comedians and/or couples resisting adulthood until they’re forced to get their shit together, but The Big Sick’s well-received Sundance debut helped it stand out in a crowded genre and make a case for itself as one to look forward to. —CF

Baby Driver (June 28)

Music has always been integral to Edgar Wright’s directorial approach, from Shaun of the Dead’s jukebox zombie battle to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s Beck-penned original songs. That’s what makes the director’s first film since 2013’s The World’s End so exciting, especially for those Wright watchers wondering how the director would follow up his high-profile 2014 departure from Marvel’s Ant-Man. Baby Driver looks to be so squarely in Wright’s wheelhouse it’s sort of ridiculous: a hyper-stylish, reference-laden heist film centered on a talented getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who lives his life under headphones, using a constant soundtrack of Wright-curated music to drown out severe tinnitus. With its adrenalized trailer and star-studded cast (Lily James, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx), Baby Driver looks like it could wind up being the personality-filled summer blockbuster Wright was denied during his short tenure in the Marvel stable. — Genevieve Koski

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 6)

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the second time Sony has rebooted the Spider-Man franchise, and with the help of Marvel, they’ve brought Peter Parker back to his roots as an awkward high school boy from Queens. Tom Holland takes on the role previously occupied by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, while Michael Keaton assumes the mantle of the Vulture, the birdlike villain of this film. But Homecoming won’t just be repeating an origin story we’ve already seen onscreen multiple times — it will also connect Parker to the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe (i.e., the Avengers), a world that Spidey fans have been waiting for him to crash since Marvel and Sony struck a deal to bring Parker back into the MCU. —AAS

A Ghost Story (July 7)

The reigning critical darling of Sundance this year was A Ghost Story, an eerie and surprising little film from director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints). But the word “little” shouldn’t be taken to describe the film’s aspirations: It feels modest at first, but then starts crossing various dimensions in ways that are hard to explain. Starring Rooney Mara and a fresh-off-his-Oscar-win Casey Affleck, it’s not a film quite like any you’ve seen before. —AW

Lady Macbeth (July 14)

Cinema is always in need of complicated female characters, but there’s almost nothing complicated about Katherine (Florence Pugh) in Lady Macbeth — and that’s how it should be. Based on an 1865 Russian novel and just off a round of festival appearances, Lady Macbeth isn’t Shakespeare; it’s a steady, scalding story about a woman who’s mistreated by men and just isn’t having it anymore. It leads her down dark paths — Katherine is not what you’d call a “sympathetic character” — and the resulting story is a study in what can happen when a mistreated woman finally snaps. Lady Macbeth is not for the faint of heart. —AW

War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)

The new Planet of the Apes movies — 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — boast two things in common: needlessly convoluted titles and a surprising streak of quality. Dawn, in particular, was one of the best movies of its year, a stark post-apocalyptic tale of the fragility of peace, the dangers of xenophobia, and apes with machine guns. That film’s director, Matt Reeves, returns for the next installment of the story. He’s brought along Woody Harrelson as the new human antagonist, and we can only hope the apes get hold of even crazier weapons. —TV

Dunkirk (July 21)

Christopher Nolan turns his camera away from sci-fi and superheroes and onto the Battle of Dunkirk, one of the fiercest, bloodiest battles of World War II. The announcement of Dunkirk surprised some — most people associate Nolan with brain-bending, eye-popping, dark intrigue, while war tends to be bloody, gritty, and blunt. But then again, Nolan has a history of infusing old genres with new life. This one could be a stunner. —AW

Atomic Blonde (July 28)

A spy thriller starring Charlize Theron as what looks to be the exact cross section of Imperator Furiosa and James Bond — what more do you need to sell you on Atomic Blonde? Fine, how about this: It’s directed by David Leitch, a former stunt coordinator who co-directed the first John Wick and is slated to head up Deadpool 2, which means there’s a strong chance the glimpses we see in the trailer of Theron kicking all multitudes of ass is just the tip of the iceberg. Atomic Blonde definitely gives good trailer, and while Leitch-as-director is still too much of an X-factor to call this one a sure thing, the prospect of an entire film of Theron in full-on action star mode is definitely tantalizing. —GK

The Dark Tower (August 4)

Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is a hybrid fantasy/Western spanning two universes — including ours, where a young boy has been on the receiving end of mysterious dreams of a parched, dying land in which one man relentlessly pursues another, hoping for revenge and a chance to save his world. A monumental epic that rivals George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series in scope, The Dark Tower has been beloved by geeks for decades. Sony has consequently been keeping details about the new film, which stars Idris Elba as the Gunslinger Roland (as in, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came”) and Matthew McConaughey as the villainous Man in Black, tightly under wraps. But early buzz for the film has been intense and building steadily, and all signs point to the adaptation being a hit for both King fans and fantasy lovers. —AR

Wind River (August 4)

The Weinstein Co.

Taylor Sheridan has been on a roll the past few years: After writing the screenplays for both Sicario and Hell or High Water (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), he’s becoming Hollywood’s go-to guy for stories about life in America close to the Mexican border. Wind River is his second feature as director, and it was selected for two prestigious festivals: Sundance and Cannes. This time, Sheridan heads north to Wyoming for a story about an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) working with a game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation. It’s sure to be gritty and more than a little philosophical. —AW

Tulip Fever (August 25)

If you are a certain kind of movie viewer, Tulip Fever is your perfect film. It combines living legend Tom Stoppard — the author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and the screenwriter for Tulip Fever — with an all-star cast that includes Alicia Vikander of The Danish Girl, Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, and Zach Galifianakis. Then it adds a judicious dose of the Dutch masters. If this is your sort of thing, then you are scribbling its premiere date on your calendar even now, and if it isn’t, then you will never know what all the fuss is about. —CG

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