The summer is a busy time, sure, typically full of sun and sand and (hopefully) well-earned holidays, but for once you’ve exhausted all of your outdoorsy plans, the cinema beckons—it’s chock full of brand-new blockbusters, indie darlings, horror films, documentaries, and, yes, even the (extremely welcome) return of the rom-com. There’s a lot going on, to be sure, in the months ahead, and so with that in mind, we’ve selected the films that you need to know about before heading out to your local multiplex or dialing up your preferred screening service.
On Chesil Beach (May 18): A “highly literate tearjerker” adapted for the screen (from the acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan) by London theater director Dominic Cooke. Set in 1962 England, Vogue’s film critic John Powers first saw it in Toronto, where he described it as a film “about a pair of likable newlyweds—played with great charm and warmth by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle—who, despite their difference in class and temperament and taste, couldn’t be more madly in love.” And then things take a turn on their wedding night.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25): Ron Howard directs this safely enjoyable prequel, which premiered at Cannes and sets its sights on the beginnings of the Star Wars saga as well as the origins of Han Solo, the character made famous by a grizzled, grumpy Harrison Ford, and played here in his younger years by Alden Ehrenreich.
Adrift (June 1): A heartbreaking true story based on Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s book about a pleasure cruise that turned into a harrowing tale of survival at sea. Starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin.
American Animals (June 1): Bart Layton directs this true story about a group of four Kentucky college students who plan an elaborate rare books and art heist from the Transylvania University library. Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, and Jared Abrahamson star.
Hearts Beat Loud (June 8): A father and daughter (Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons) become an unlikely songwriting duo during the summer before the latter leaves for college. Sasha Lane, Ted Danson, and Toni Collette also star.
Hereditary (June 8): Billed as “the most traumatically terrifying horror film in ages,” writer-director Ari Aster makes his feature debut with a familial tragedy that turns into something seriously sinister and deeply disquieting. Starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, and Milly Shapiro.
Ocean’s 8 (June 8): A gang of ragtag antiheroes (Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, and more) attempt to pull a fast one on fashion’s biggest night of the year—the Met Gala.
SuperFly (June 15): Director X (best known for his music videos with Drake and Rihanna) takes on a remake of the 1972 film that defined the blaxploitation era. Starring Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams, Lex Scott Davis, and Jennifer Morrison.
Tag (June 15): Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Leslie Bibb, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, and Rashida Jones star in the extremely bizarre and unbelievably actually true story of a group of friends who have been playing the same game of tag for approximately three decades.
The Catcher Was a Spy (June 22): Ben Lewin directs Paul Rudd in the story of Moe Berg, who lives a double life as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and as a Major League Baseball player. Also starring Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, and Mark Strong.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22): The sequel to 2015’s Jurassic remake and the second installment of a planned trilogy. Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B. D. Wong, and Jeff Goldblum will all reprise their roles.
Under the Silver Lake (June 22): David Robert Mitchell (of the terrific horror film It Follows) casts his eye back to the 1970s in his attempt to make the great modern noir and the great modern film about Hollywood. Starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Jimmi Simpson, Topher Grace, and Grace Van Patten.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (June 29): The sequel to 2015’s Sicario opens a new chapter in the drug war, with Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro reprising their roles (as an FBI agent and the mysterious Alejandro, respectively) and an ominous tagline: “No rules this time.”
Woman Walks Ahead (June 29): Jessica Chastain, Sam Rockwell, Michael Greyeyes, Ciarán Hinds, and Bill Camp, as well as Michael Nouri and Chaske Spencer star in this Western drama about a widow who sets out West to meet Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. Students of American history will know to bring their tissues.
Leave No Trace (June 29): Director Debra Granik’s latest project—starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as a father and daughter living off the grid in a nature reserve near Portland, Oregon— got rave reviews at Sundance, where it drew comparisons to her 2010 indie hit Winter’s Bone, not least for its young star, McKenzie, who been hailed as the next Jennifer Lawrence.
Sorry to Bother You (July 6): Lakeith Stanfield stars in Bay Area rap legend and director Boots Riley’s delirious, sui generis magical-realist socio-political satire about an Oakland telemarketer who steps into a nefarious capitalist scheme. Also starring Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Steven Yeun, and Danny Glover.
Eighth Grade (July 13): Comedian Bo Burnham embarks on his first feature film, which follows an eighth grader, played by Elsie Fisher, who struggles to finish her last week of classes before embarking for high school.
Blindspotting (July 20): Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) and Rafael Casal cowrote and costar in this Carlos Lopez Estrada–directed film tackling race and class in a rapidly gentrifying Oakland.
Puzzle (July 13): Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, Gosford Park) stars in this remake of an Argentinian film about a woman who follows her talent for jigsaw puzzles into the strange world of Atlantic City puzzle tournaments. Directed by Marc Turtletaub.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (July 13): Gus Van Sant directs Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black in the film adaptation of Portland cartoonist John Callahan’s memoir of the same name. Variety calls the result a “life-affirming sweet-and-sour concoction that recalls such crowd-pleasers as Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (July 20): Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, and Dominic Cooper return (along with a new addition: Cher!) in this prequel-sequel, which picks up where the first film left off, but also jumps back in time to the 1960s. (And also may have killed off Meryl Streep!)
Mission: Impossible–Fallout (July 27): It’s possible that nobody in Hollywood works harder than Tom Cruise, who, in his latest turn as Ethan Hunt, once again finds himself in a race against time after a mission goes wrong. Expect defenestration, helicopter crashes, and exploding motorbikes. Also stars Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Alec Baldwin.
The Darkest Minds (August 3): Mandy Moore and Amandla Stenberg star in the film adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s YA novel in which teens, detained by the government after they mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, band together to fight back.
Searching (August 3): John Cho stars in Aneesh Chaganty’s new thriller told entirely through computer and smartphone screens, in which a father falls down a technologically provided rabbit hole seeking his missing teen daughter. Also stars Debra Messing and Michelle Lo.
The Spy Who Dumped Me (August 3): Two best friends (played by Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon) are accidentally embroiled in an international conspiracy when one of their ex-boyfriends shows up at their L.A. apartment with a cabal of deadly assassins on his tail. Considering the cast, hijinks are sure to ensue.
The Wife (August 3): Björn Runge directs Glenn Close in the film adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel, in which the faithful wife of a famous New York novelist decides to leave her husband on the eve he’s scheduled to receive a prestigious literary prize.
BlacKkKlansman (August 10): At Cannes, Vogue’s John Powers called Spike Lee’s latest, a riff on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado Springs cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan during the Nixon era (the sting works well enough that the two make contact all the way up to the Klan’s national grand poo-bah, David Duke), a “movie about the past that’s utterly of our present moment.” Starring John David Washington (Ballers, and son of Denzel Washington) and Adam Driver.
Crazy Rich Asians (August 17): In what looks an awful lot like the perfect summer rom-com, Constance Wu stars in this adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s mega-bestseller which promises to be just as fun and outrageous as the novel, amping up the cars, jewels, luxury homes, heartfelt romance, and crazy mother-in-law drama. Starring Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Awkwafina.
Juliet, Naked (August 17): A feel-good film adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel that’s been hailed as the “revival of the rom-com.” Starring Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne, and Chris O’Dowd.
The Bookshop (August 24): Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Bill Nighy star in Isabel Coixet’s film about a free-spirited widow who risks everything to open the first bookshop in Hardborough, England.
Destination Wedding (August 24): Winona Ryder! Keanu Reeves! A meet-cute and snark to boot! What’s not to like?
The Little Stranger (August 31): A chilling British supernatural horror film set in post–Word War II Britain (a doctor revisits a crumbling great house where his mother once worked as a maid, falls in love with one of the daughters of its owner, despite several warnings about malevolent ghosts) that stars Charlotte Rampling, Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, and Will Poulter.