Calendars will tell you that summer does not officially begin until June 20, but movie fans know the true start to the season is usually sometime in late April or early May. This is the time of the year when Hollywood shifts from a ho-hum winter release schedule of mixed offerings into a non-stop parade of tentpole titles, sequels and similar films with ridiculously oversized budgets that aim to draw big crowds with easily accessible films and plenty of CGI. Summer 2016 is shaping up to be no different than in this respect, with Captain America: Civil War more or less kickstarting the season when it opened on May 6, but unlike recent years there are a number of smaller titles on the horizon that have us equally if not more excited for the future of film as well.
We are going to do our absolute best to cover everything worth seeing this summer, but we already know there will be a few titles we might not have time to write about down the line. With this in mind, we decided to throw together this list of noteworthy upcoming films in hopes of helping you decide what you’ll pay to see this summer. Some titles are probably fairly obvious, like Ghostbusters or Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, but there are likely some films you’ve never heard of in here as well. We know time and money is typically tight for everyone, so make sure you take time to read about everything before deciding where to spend your money. The number of options awaiting moviegoers this summer is larger than it has ever been before, but that does not mean the quality of the films being made is at an all-time high. All we ask is that you support the art you believe in, especially if it comes from an independent filmmaker.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
A film that really needs no introduction, Captain America: Civil War kicks open the gates of summer movie season with a battle between the heroes of the Marvel Universe. The trailers make the film out to be more of an Avengers film than a true solo adventure for Cap, but we’re willing to go along for the ride considering the Russo brothers are the ones at the helm. The pair’s work on Winter Soldier helped rejuvenate interest in superhero films as a whole, and we cannot wait to see what they do when allowed to use all the characters of the MCU.
Money Monster (May 13)
The film that has been selling you on essentially one trailer for the better part of 2016 is finally rolling into theaters with an all-star cast of people who were famous before social media existed. George Clooney plays a fast-talking TV host who is held hostage on air by a man desperate to see those who cause economic turmoil brought to justice. Julia Roberts appears as the show’s producer, doing her best to keep calm amidst an unimaginable situation. If the story is half as good as the cast the film will be worth seeing, but if it’s even better there may once again be an argument for mid-budget, non comic book inspired summer blockbusters.
The Darkness (May 13)
There are several high-profile horror films arriving in theaters this summer, and The Darkness has the honor of setting the pace for everything that follows. Wolf Creek filmmaker Greg McLean directs a cast that includes Kevin Bacon in a story that follows a family who unknowingly welcome a supernatural force into their home that feeds off their fears and vulnerabilities. Everything that makes up a parent’s and child’s worst nightmare is possible, but whether or not the film can deliver on such a tantalizing promise remains to be seen.
The Lobster (May 13)
The Lobster is one of those films the rest of the world got to see long before U.S. audiences, but we shouldn’t complain too much because A24 has blessed us with a theatrical release for the incredibly offbeat title. Colin Farrell delivers the performances of a lifetime as a man who enters a program intended to help him find a partner in life. If he fails to meet Mrs. Right in a short period of time he will be transformed into the animal of his choosing for the remainder of his days. Colin’s desired creature gives the film its title, but that premise barely scratches the surface of the surreal alternative universe filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos presents in this one of a kind film. John C. Reilly and Ben Wishaw also appear.
Search Party (May 13)
There are never enough movies about road trips gone awry, and Search Party offers just enough man-child humor to keep you and your inner child giggling between sips of soda and fists of popcorn. Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch plays a groom who runs into trouble while trying to win back his would-be bride after one of his best friends (played by his Silicon co-star T.J. Miller) ruins his wedding. Middleditch’s character calls his other best friend (played by Adam Pally) for help, but he cannot make the drive unless the friend who ruined Middleditch’s wedding can tag along. Hijinks, crime-sprees and drug references soon ensue.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (May 20)
Did Neighbors, the 2014 film about a young family fighting a fraternity for suburban bliss, demand a sequel? No. Not at all. We were pretty shocked when second film was announced, but after catching ourselves recalling the De Niro sequence for the 25th time, we actually wanted to know what Mack, Kelly and Teddy would do next. The answer, at least from the title, appears to be that the fraternity and family will now join forces to battle a sorority who has recently moved into town (featuring Chloë Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez). We’re in, but our expectations are low.
The Nice Guys (May 20)
You know a movie is going to be good when rumors of a possible sequel begin circulating more than three months before the film even hits theaters. The Nice Guys tells a retro crime story a private eyes who investigate a murder and discover a conspiracy. It’s a setup as old as action movies, but it’s made to feel new with performances from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, not to mention the creative mind of writer/director Shane Black (Iron Man 3). Aside from Central Intelligence, which we will address in a moment, this is one of the last non-sequel, non-reboot action films of the summer and that is a damn shame. If nothing else, buy a ticket just so studios know people still believe in taking a chance on new ideas.
Weiner (May 20)
Anthony Weiner is a name most people probably associate with sexting and/or the negative consequences of having your sexts go viral, but as a new documentary reveals that is only one part of a man who remains a positive force for change to this day. Weiner examines the career of Anthony Weiner and the scandal that now stains his name, as well as how the attention given to that story in the media forever changed the political landscape. The film opened to rave reviews at festivals and overseas throughout 2015, but was held until 2016 here in the states (probably to leverage the popularity of the election and the renewed interest in politics it tends to breed).
Holy Hell (May 20)
There is no hard data on the number of cults existing in America today, but estimates range from the low thousands up to as many as one million unique groups. Will Allen belonged to a West Hollywood cult formed in the 1980s for more than 20 years of his life, and through it all he carried a home video camera that he used to capture his journey. Holy Hell is Will’s attempt to share his story with the world, as well as the stories of others who believed as he did for decades. He also hopes to warn people of the dangers of the hive mentality, and how blind faith in another can lead a person to do things they never would have thought possible, let alone desired. It’s an incredibly unique cinematic adventure that will chill you to your core, and we wouldn’t be at all a surprise to see the film make the Oscar shortlist for best documentary feature later this year.
X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
Once you’ve seen Batman fight Superman and Captain America fight Iron Man you can pay to see the entire X-Men gang battle an ancient mutant played by Star Wars and Ex Machina star Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s the sixth X-men film to date, and somehow it looks bigger than all the rest in terms of both scale and cast. Every actor you have loved from the series is here, with the exception of Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen (as far as we know), and there are a few new recruits along for the ride as well (Olivia Munn is a perfect choice for Psylocke).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows (June 3)
We will be the first to tell you that the initial reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a bit of a disappointment. We didn’t want anything to do with another entry in the unnecessary reboot, but then we saw Be-Bop and Rock Steady in the first trailer and the child from the 1990s in all of us squealed with joy. Then Casey Jones appeared and we momentarily lost consciousness. Out Of The Shadows looks to embrace the sheer absurdity of the TMNT universe with reckless abandon, and that has convinced us it’s worthy of our time.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (June 3)
This movie is for anyone who ever spent three-and-a-half minutes giggling to one of the Lonely Island’s hilarious songs and music videos. The comedy trio of Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone have finally created a feature-length film that leverages their gift for song, and as far as we know it’s the only mockumentary receiving a wide release this summer. The film follows the rise and fall and potential rise again of Conner4Real, a singer/rapper who faces something of an identity crisis when faced with the realization his popularity is beginning to fade. Conner will try anything to remain on top, but should he? Probably not.
The Conjuring 2 (June 10)
Filmmaker James Wan was offered the chance to continue spearheading the Fast And The Furious franchise, but he chose instead to return to a franchise he brought to life. The Conjuring 2 finds Lorraine (Vera Farming) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) traveling to London to investigate what will go down in history as one of their toughest cases. A single mother is living with her four children in a home that is plagued by malicious spirits. The Warrens assume the case is just like any other, but they’re wrong. Probably not dead wrong, as that would squash all hope for a third film, but wrong enough to raise the bar for suspense across the board. Until something else proves otherwise, this is the must-see horror film of 2016.
Now You See Me 2 (June 10)
The movie about magic that had no actual magic is back, and this time the magic is even more spell-bindingly unreal. Still, the extremely likable cast and the addition of Daniel Radcliffe has us curious to see if the Four Horseman can indeed ride again. The initial trailers have not explained why Isla Fischer is no longer part of the cast, but we assume all will be explained when the film rolls into theaters this June.
Warcraft (June 10)
How do you turn a massive multiplayer video game designed with freedom of choice in mind to life with a single narrative and characters even those who play the game that serves as source material will recognize? Duncan Jones, the same man who gave us Moon and Source Code, believes he has the answer. Warcraft is a fantasy epic set in the peaceful realm of Azeroth as it stands on the brink of war. Is civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.
Finding Dory (June 17)
Pixar has a number of sequels in their product pipeline right now, and Finding Dory is the next due to come off the editing bay hard drive. Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish will leave her life with Nemo and his family in search of her home. The only problem is, she doesn’t exactly know where that place is…Yet.
Central Intelligence (June 17)
We love movies about geeks who overcome the ridicule of school-aged peers and that is the story the lies at the heart of Central Intelligence. Bob (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a former high school loser, is now a lethal CIA agent on his way home under the guise of preparing for his reunion. Upon arrival, he recruits the help of former big man on campus Calvin (Kevin Hart) for help with a big case. Shootouts, car chases and a whole lot of unpredictable behavior soon will no doubt ensue.
Swiss Army Man (June 17)
This is a movie about a suicidal man (Paul Dano) who, after a failed attempt to end his life, discovers quickly becomes best friends with a farting corpse played by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. We know that reads like the description of your younger sibling’s latest fever dream, but it’s real, and the early praise out of Sundance has been deafening. We’re told every years that dozens of movies are quote “unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” but that appears to actually be true this time around.
Tickled (June 17)
What begins as just another story for journalist David Farrier quickly escalates into an exploration of tickling fetishism, bullying, and possible criminal wrongdoing in this shocking documentary. Tickled is one of the best true stories set to film in years, if not of all time. Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve have crafted a taut and endlessly compelling investigative feature that is as gripping as any true crime story could hope to be, and in the process they have pulled back the curtain on one of the internet’s more peculiar communities without pulling or throwing a single punch. The fact this movie even exists is a miracle, and that it will soon be available for mass consumption is almost impossible to believe. That said, it deserves to be seen, and if we’re lucky there will be many more films like it produced in the coming years. Tickled sets a new standard for investigative journalism in film, and it does so with such vigor that it’s hard to imagine anyone walking away unchanged by the experience.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)
It’s still incredibly hard to believe Independence Day spawned a sequel after 20 years, but after two promising trailers with dazzling special effects we’re ready to give Roland Emmerich another $12. The aliens are back, and this time they have a bigger ship—a much bigger ship. Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller is dead, but Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson lives, and he now stars opposite franchise newcomer Liam Hemsworth. Maika Monroe, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Bill Pullman all appear as well. The premise has all the promise of another Sharknado entry (which also arrives this summer), so even though we’re excited we advise you keep your expectations low and your hopes high. This may be the Transformers of 2016, but god help us, we’re in.
The Shallows (June 24)
Sharks: Everyone fears them, few ever really encounter them, and only a handful of movies have accurately conveyed the kind of unstoppable terror their presence can bring. The Blake Lively-led horror film The Shallows seems to tease a tale of one woman’s battle against mother nature and the water beast that made Jaws a critical hit, but we’re still unsure if there is enough material here to keep us engaged for 90 minutes or more. Still, sharks scare the life out of us, so you can count on our staff filling theaters when his rolls into cinemas opposite Independence Day 2.
The BFG (July 1)
Steven Spielberg could announce the film adaptation of our high school algebra book and he would still find a way to make it onto this list. Several giant films have come and gone in recent years to very little acclaim, but this adaptation of 1982 the children’s book written by Roald Dahl has us buzzing with excitement. The story follows a young orphan, Sophie, who befriends a gentle giant that is considered an outcast by the other giants because he refuses to eat boys and girls. Sophie only learns this after arriving in the land of the giants, and soon she must rely on her new friend in order to make it home in one piece.
The Purge: Election Year (July 1)
Third time is rarely a charm when it comes to horror movies (we’re talking about you, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary), but The Purge may be an exception. The limitless possibilities for stories set during a night when all crime is legal has us foaming at the mouth for more information on the popular franchise’s next entry. We do know Frank Grillo will return, and though his role in this title will no doubt be overshadowed by his turn in Civil War we know he has the skill needed to carry this series to a new, more enticing level. How they can up the violence is beyond us, but we certainly want to see them try.
The Secret Life Of Pets (July 8)
Louis CK leads a star-studded voice cast in this tale of the lives our pets lead when we’re busy doing other things. Did you really believe your beloved Spot or Paws simply slept the day away while awaiting your return? That is what your pets want you to believe. The truth is far more interesting, and this new animated film will tell reveal the truth you’ve been hoping was real all your life.
Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates (July 8)
Between Dirty Grandpa, Neighbors 2 and Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, Zac Efron will become the only mainstream actor in Hollywood to find an excuse to be shirtless in three major studio films in one calendar year (four if you include last fall’s dreadful We Are Your Friends). That promise alone makes this film worth noting, but the real reason to go is the rest of the amazing cast. Workaholics star Adam Devine plays opposite Efron as his equally immature brother, and together they make a plan to find dates to their sister’s upcoming wedding. The women who catch their eyes are none other than Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick, a pair of best friends who have a scheme all their own. Add a trip to Hawaii and you have a recipe for the fifth or sixth (but still very good looking) R-rated comedy of 2016.
Captain Fantastic (July 8)
Who doesn’t want an excuse to cry in the middle of July? Captain Fantastic finds Viggo Mortensen as a widowed recluse who must return to modern society with his children to bury his wife. The reappearance sparks concern from his wife’s extended family over the well-being of the children, and soon an already difficult decision becomes incredibly complicated as various relatives try and impose their will on the tight-knit unit. Whether they remain together or get torn apart remains unknown, but there will certainly be plenty of tears along the way.
Ghostbusters (July 15)
Who ya gonna call? We know there is a lot of talk about the avalanche of haters that felt indifferent or outright mad about the first trailer for Paul Feig’s reboot of this beloved franchise, but the subsequent footage has us believing this film will be a monster hit. Feig has never made a movie that received marketing that properly sold his work (see The Heat and Bridesmaids), and we’re hoping with all fingers crossed that is the case again here. After all, how can a cast that includes Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon disappoint? The opportunity for comedy gold is everywhere, and we believe this film will find it.
The Infiltrator (July 15)
Bryan Cranston can and should play anyone he desires. Whether he’s raising a crazy suburban family, creating a meth empire, writing screenplays under pseudonyms or working as a U.S. Customs official who stumbles upon a drug ring connected to Pablo Escobar, Cranston is an unstoppable talent that seems to only improve with age. That last role is the one he fills in The Infiltrator, which is based on a book by Robert Mazur with the same name. The 1980s-set crime thriller finds Cranston rocking a bad attitude with a killer mustache, and he’s surrounded by incredible supporting characters brought to life by John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Ryan and more. Before you see Jason Bourne (which we’ll get to in a minute), see this.
Star Trek Beyond (July 22)
Fast And Furious savior Justin Lin has set his sights on breathing new life into one of the world’s most beloved science-fiction franchises. It is clear from the initial trailer this is not the same kind of film JJ Abrams presented with the last two Star Trek entries, but we hate to question Lin’s vision before we see it in full. He did make us care about the Toretto clan as if they were the modern day Corleones, after all, so we might as well go in with high hopes and open minds.
Lights Out (July 22)
Remember when you were little and you were scared of the dark? You probably grew up and grew out of those worries, but they may soon return because this terror from David F. Sandberg and his co-writer Eric Heisserer already has us feeling uncomfortable in our seats. A woman, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), is haunted by an evil spirit that only comes out when the lights are off. If you flick the switch, the spirit in question will appear and disappear with the darkness. If the lights are off for too long then you may never see them again (if you catch our drift)
Jason Bourne (July 29)
After a brief time away Matt Damon is returning to the spy franchise that helped establish him as something more than a damn good dramatic actor. Damon has never been more of a badass than he is when working under the guise of Jason Bourne, and we can only imagine the kind of over-the-top action he will find himself in when this film hits theaters in late summer. No word yet if Jeremy Renner will appear, but to be honest we don’t really care either way.
Bad Moms (July 29)
Bad Moms wants to be the spiritual sequel to Mean Girls crossed with just a dash of the debauchery found in films like Neighbors or The Hangover. Mila Kunis leads a cast of hilarious and often underutilized women in this tale of suburban moms who decide they are sick and tired of living by the standards everyone imposes on their lives. These moms are done playing by the rules, including the ones they set, and they’re looking to cut loose with a good time. Moms everywhere need a franchise all their own. Let’s hope this is it.
Suicide Squad (August 5)
David Ayer more than proved his ability to showcase man’s most violent ways in Fury, and now he will attempt to bring that sense of visceral storytelling to the world of comics. Suicide Squad tells of a group of evil does recruited by the government to stop even worse evildoers. Margot Robbie (Focus, The Wolf Of Wall Street) has the responsibility of carrying the film in the role of Harley Quinn, but she has a more than capable supporting cast at her side to help keep things interesting. That said, we’re still not sold on Jared Leto’s Joker.
The Founder (August 5)
Michael Keaton appears to be destined for Oscar consideration once again when he becomes Ray Kroc, the man who founded McDonald’s, in The Founder later this year. As his name may lead you to believe, Ray is not actually part of the McDonald family tree, but he does meet the brothers responsible for the burger joint that would inspire a modern empire. Ray’s participation in the company is as a consultant of sorts, but when the opportunity for big profits begins to reveal itself he decides to make several questionable business decisions to ensure he makes as much money as possible, and in doing so distances himself from the people around him.
Cafe Society (August 12)
Woody Allen’s 47th film takes us back to Los Angeles in the 1930s after a young man (Jesse Eisenberg) arrives in town with dreams of making it big. He’s a writer, and while his drive to succeed is great he soon becomes distracted after meeting his match in a curious young woman played by Kristen Stewart. We don’t know everything that follows, but we assume sparks fly, white men in suits wax poetic about the golden age of cinema, and various characters make observations on life and love while referencing the great philosophical thinkers of the period. Did we mention Steve Carrell appears as well?
Pete’s Dragon (August 12)
Last summer Bryce Dallas Howard faced off against dinosaurs in Jurassic World, but even those digitally rendered beasts are no match for the magical creatures she and fellow castmates Oakes Fegley, Karl Urban and Robert Redford will meet in this film from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints filmmaker David Lowery. The film tells the story of Pete, an orphan boy, and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. Adventure awaits.
Sausage Party (August 12)
Seth Rogen’s second shot at dirty comedy gold this summer is the animated feature Sausage Party, which finds Rogen voicing a talking sausage who becomes aware of his purpose in man’s world and sets to freeing his friends—who also happen to be food—so that they might live their lives. Those lives, of course, involve partying, smoking weed and causing all sorts of punny chaos. Think Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatball meets Inside Out, but strictly for adults only.
Kubo And The Two Strings (August 19)
The latest film from ParaNorman creators Laika Entertainment is sure to be one of a kind. Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.
The Space Between Us (August 19)
A young man raised by scientists on Mars returns to Earth to find his father. We don’t know much else about this film just yet, but we do know we need to see it as soon as humanly possible.
War Dogs (August 19)
Based on a true story, War Dogs tells of two 20-something nobodies who somehow secured a $300 million government contract to supply weapons for U.S. allies in Afghanistan in 2007. It’s a dream come true for the pair, allowing them access to a lifestyle of excess they had previously only dreamed of, but soon things go sideways and they end up in a world of trouble. Hangover creator Todd Phillips is bringing this quasi-political comedy-thriller to life, and while the genre may not be his forte, we’re confident the brilliant pairing of Miles Teller and Jonah Hill will be too good to resist.
Southside With You (August 19)
The first film about President Barack Obama to receive a wide release is one that has almost nothing to do with how he has spent the last eight years of his life. Southside With You is a little film about the first date between a young Barack Obama and his future wife Michelle. The pair explore Chicago, engage in local politics and discuss a wide array of topics over the course of a single day. We all know where the story is going, but word on the street is that writer/director Richard Tanne has created something so charming it simply must be seen.
Don’t Breathe (August 26)
Ah, to be young and naive. The latest from filmmaker Fede Alvarez delights in the ignorance of youth and uses it to tell a story of bad decisions that are met with terrible consequence. A group of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong. Don’t Breathe was an immediate hit with attendees at this year’s SXSW, and we have no doubt it will be equally embraced by genre fans worldwide when it arrives at the end of summer.
Hands Of Stone (August 26)
Robert De Niro is returning to the boxing genre, but not in the way you might think. After throwing punches in Raging Bull and Grudge Match, De Niro is now stepping outside the ropes to play legendary trainer Ray Arcel in his quest to make the equally legendary Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramírez) a household name. Duran did not retire until 2002 when he was 50 years old, but we’re betting the bulk of the story will revolve around his win over Sugar Ray Leonard in June 1980, as well as the subsequent rematch that November. If you don’t already know the story don’t bother with a Google just yet. Go in with as little knowledge as possible and allow yourself to be wowed.