Summer does not officially begin until June 20, but any fan of cinema knows the summer movie season kicks off in April. Fate of the Furious kicked things off with a bang this year, and before long Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will be here. To say we’re excited would be an understatement.

Competition at the summer box office is tougher than ever this year, so we had two of our best film writers – James Shotwell (JS) and Leigh Monson (LM) – comb over every release calendar to find the absolute best film that deserve your hard-earned money. Their initial list was somewhere around 60 films, but we convinced them to cut it down to 45 so no one had to go broke trying to see everything in a single season. Here’s what they chose:

The Circle (April 28)

The Circle Summer Movie Preview

Any film that stars national treasure Tom Hanks and rising star Emma Watson is quite enough to get my attention, but with the strong writing of Dave Eggers backing up this adaption of the same name, we’re likely in for a good time. In a near future where a tech corporation has control over everything in its employee’s lives, The Circle poses the question of what exactly the price of advancement is. This also marks the final film appearance of Bill Paxton. – LM

Sleight (April 28)

Sleight Summer Movie Preview

J.D. Dillard has done the impossible. In a time where films about teens overcoming adversity are increasingly in quantity exponentially, Sleight reinvents coming of age films for a new generation. I find it hard to imagine another original film having the thrills, inventiveness, or craftsmanship of this movie being released in 2017. What we have here is a gritty, often surprisingly dark tale that thrusts audiences into an underbelly of society that feels uncomfortably grounded in reality and forces viewers to join star Jacob Latimore in his fight to make it out alive. The twists come fast, and as the body count begins to rise you’re left to consider whether or not anyone survives a life in crime. – JS

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 GOTG Summer Movie Preview

Obviously. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the best films of 2014 and marks a high point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and by every indication it seems that writer-director James Gunn has no plans to pull back on the insanity and charm. Even if Vol. 2 ends up being just more of the same, that’s a great thing. – LM

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12)

King Arthur Summer Movie Preview

Guy Ritchie’s films are hit and miss with folks. Some love his anachronistic eccentricities, some hate them, but his films always at least offer something pretty unique. His take on the King Arthur legends is the first time in a while we’ve seen the character on the big screen, and this version at least looks better than almost every pathetic attempt that’s been offered so far. This is one to keep an eye on. – LM

Everything, Everything (May 19)

Everything Everything Summer Movie Preview

Hoping to cash in where movies like The Fault in Our Stars have in years past, Everything, Everything is the perfect summer movie for teens (and adults) in need of a good cry. It’s like Bubble Boy but serious. A young woman who is unable to leave her home for medical reasons falls in love with the boy next door and decides to run away with him. What could possibly go wrong? – JS

Alien: Covenant (May 19)

Alien Summer Movie Preview

Does anyone else think it’s weird that Ridley Scott is returning to Alien after all this time? Prometheus was a stealth Alien prequel, but discounting that this is Scott’s first proper Alien film since the original in 1979, and he claims to have more planned. Fingers crossed that we get Martian Scott rather than Gods and Kings Scott as the Xenomorphs abandon their rubber suited origins for a more computer-generated ability to move quickly in open daylight. – LM

Baywatch (May 25)


Can The Rock continue his long-running string of box office hits with a reboot of a television show from the 1990s? Considering the fact he also has Zac Efron at his side, who has found moderate success with filthy humor in recent years, our guess is a resounding maybe. Baywatch will either be the next 21 Jump Street or a movie everyone refuses to admit having seen for the next 2-3 years. Here’s hoping it’s great. – JS

Berlin Syndrome (May 26)

Berline Syndrome Summer Movie Preview

Passion becomes obsession in this film of young love gone awry. The plot synopsis details a blossoming romance that takes a twisted turn when an Australian photographer wakes up in an apartment he is unable to leave. Why he’s there and what he must do to regain his freedom remain a mystery, but we like it that way. – JS

Wonder Woman (June 2)

wonder woman trailer

Let’s not pretend that the DCEU has been anything other than crap up to this point. That being said, though, if there’s any hope that one of these films can be good, it’s in Wonder Woman. Seemingly colorful, action-packed, and not entirely devoid of humor, it might just be that Warner Brothers has learned their lesson and just let director Patty Jenkins make a good movie without too much executive interference. Wait with bated breath. – LM

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (June 2)

Captain Underpants Summer Movie Preview

Anyone else remember reading these books as a kid? Did anyone really need an animated version of them? This adaptation comes from Dreamworks, so go ahead and flip a coin to guess whether this is going to be one of their good franchises, but if nothing else the kids might get on board for the franchise’s trademark absurdist toilet humor. – LM

Dean (June 2)

Dean Summer Movie Preview

Demetri Martin is the latest comedian to make the move from stage to screen in this little indie about a father and son doing their best to deal with the grief of losing the woman they both loved more than anything in the world. Martin does not have an extensive history in the world of drama, but early trailers for this film lead us to believe he may be onto something special here. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Kevin Kline and Gillian Anderson appea, or that Martin also wrote and directed the film as well. – JS

The Mummy (June 9)

The Mummy Summer Movie Preview

Universal really wants this monster movie cinematic universe to take off, and The Mummy at least seems like a relatively inventive way to make that happen. Making the titular mummy a woman is a strikingly progressive development, and having Tom Cruise star as a still-mysterious lead that may or may not be the Wolfman would be at least an interesting way to try to tie these disparate properties together. Only time will tell if this is anything more than a cynical attempt to cash in on the shared universe experiment. – LM

It Comes At Night (June 9)

It Comes At Night Summer Movie Preview

Set in a world like our own, this new horror film from A24 tells of a family hiding in the woods while an unnatural threat terrorizes the world. There is tension in the home from the jump, so when unexpected guests arrive things go from bad to worse at an alarming rate. Everyone may want to get along, but paranoia threatens to make peaceful resolution next to impossible. – JS

All Eyez on Me (June 16)

All Eyez on Me Summer Movie Preview

After many delays and a questionable marketing campaign, the long-awaited Tupac biopic is finally hitting screens. Producers are probably expecting this film to be the next Straight Outta Compton, and we’re right there with them. The story of Tupac is one ripe for big screen adaptation. Our fingers crossed Pac’s complex personality and unique perspective on life are handled with the respect they deserve. This man was one of the greats, and his movie deserves to be great as well. – JS

Cars 3 (June 16)

Cars 3 Summer Movie Preview

Despite its insane popularity, Cars has always been the Pixar franchise that has felt the most creatively bankrupt. That being said, the first trailer for Cars 3 was shockingly dark and promises a more adult story wherein Lightning McQueen will be put to the test physically and emotionally as he struggles with racing past his prime. And Larry the Cable Guy is back too, I guess, if that’s your thing. – LM

The Book of Henry (June 16)

The Book of Henry Summer Movie Preview

The trailer for The Book of Henry is weird. Why the story necessitates a child of godlike intelligence to understand that his neighbor may be a victim of abuse at the hands of her stepfather is not exactly clear, but considering that the trailer concludes with the boy’s mother looking down a sniper rifle, this might be a film that goes so far off the rails that it ends up being miraculously good. It’s a gamble, but it looks like a fun one. – LM

Rough Night (June 16)

rough night

This is a film that looks like it could be either really funny or a complete dud. Centered on a bachelorette party wherein Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Ilana Glazer accidentally kill a male stripper, the film’s premise is a fairly problematic representation of sex workers as comedic props. However, the cast is comprised of some incredibly talented and funny women, so maybe we can give this one the benefit of the doubt until we see it in full. – LM

47 Meters Down (June 16)

47 Meters Down Summer Movie Preview

Due to a scheduling mix-up in late 2016, when this film was originally set to be released, our staff actually had the opportunity to see this feature in full. We don’t want to give too much away, but this could easily be as big as The Shallows if given a proper marketing push. It’s just as terrifying as that Blake Lively thriller, only this time the action takes place entirely underwater while the protagonists are running low on oxygen! Mandy Moore delivers in a big way here. Do not miss out. – JS

Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23)

Tranformers 5 The Last Knight

We’re still making Transformers flicks, huh? Well, they have been getting progressively better as the series goes on, and the Fast and/or Furious franchise famously took five installments before the insanity of them finally overtook the over-serious stupidity. Maybe this will be the one to turn this franchise around? (I doubt it, but James has limitless faith in this one for some incomprehensible reason.) – LM

The Big Sick (June 23)

The Big Sick Summer Movie Preview

A darling of the SXSW film festival, The Big Sick sees Michael Showalter return to the director’s chair to tell a story based on star Kumail Nanjiani’s real-life courtship with his wife Emily. Dealing with the complications of his traditionally Muslim family’s expectations and a mysterious illness that Emily develops, Showalter’s and Nanjiani’s comic chops are sure to elevate this emotional tale. – LM

The Bad Batch (June 23)

The Bad Batch Summer Movie Preview

This is a movie about about a missing girl and a community of cannibals set in a post-apocalyptic United States that stars Keanu Reeves and Jason Mamoa. Do we really need to say more? – JS

The Beguiled (June 23)

The Beguiled Summer Movie Preview

Sofia Coppola is back in the director’s chair for this remake of a classic 1971 Western. This is a setting and a genre we have yet to see Coppola tackle, but with a strong female-led cast of Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Kirsten Dunst, this looks to be a sort of feminist Western we don’t usually get. I’m all for that. – LM

Baby Driver (June 28)

baby driver

Edgar Wright has made another movie. That’s really all you need to know. Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx is a definite plus, but all you need in order to put your faith in this film is to know that the director of Scott Pilgrim and Shaun of the Dead is at the helm. This one is going to be awesome! – LM

Despicable Me 3 (June 30)

Despicable Me 3 Summer Movie Preview

Ahhh, Despicable Me. The franchise that gave the world Minions and propelled Illumination Studios into the Hollywood stratosphere is bringing back Gru for another battle that will test his ability to remain a good guy by reminding him of his villainous past. Will it be good? Who cares! These films print money as if it’s going out of style, so as long as it’s watchable you can rest assured it will be a global sensation. – JS

The House (June 30)

The House Summer Movie Preview

If there is any hope for a truly great original comedy from a major studio this summer it lies entirely in The House, a movie where average suburban parents open an illegal casino to help pay their daughter’s tuition. The movie wrapped production nearly a year ago, but word from early test audiences has been practically through the roof. All we know for certain is that Jason Mantzoukas is third billed behind stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, which is more than enough to convince us this title is one worth the price of admission. – JS

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)

Spider-man-homecoming Summer Movie Preview

Now that Sony has finally allowed Marvel to play with their own toys again, we finally get to see how the MCU handles the popular webslinger in the third attempt at this franchise within two decades. If Tom Holland’s performance in Captain America: Civil War and the MCU’s overall quality are any indication, this is going to be a fun take on Spider-Man that we haven’t really seen before on the big screen. And hey, Michael Keaton is reprising his role as Birdman, so that’s pretty neat. – LM

A Ghost Story (July 7)

A Ghost Story Summer Movie Preview

David Lowery is nothing if not an interesting director, rooting his films in a sentimentality purer than most other film-makers can pull off without dipping in to melodrama. Here we see Casey Affleck don a white sheet as a recently deceased person who meditates on lost life and love as time passes around him. Alright, I’ll bite. Let’s see if you can push the waterworks, Lowery. – LM

War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)

planet of the apes war Summer Movie Preview

If we were the decision makers in Hollywood there would be a new Planet of the Apes film every summer. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, there is a decent chance this summer will be the last opportunity to see Caesar and his family on the big screen for the foreseeable future, but that only adds emphasis to why this movie matters so much. War picks up years after 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to find Caesar and his apes forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). The battle we’ve known was coming since the first film is finally about to begin, and it just might be best big screen action we see all year. – JS

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)

Valerian Summer Movie Preview

I know next to nothing about the graphic novel Valerian is based on, but if the trailers are any indication of what to expect from Luc Besson’s upcoming space opera, this might just be the acclaimed director’s most ambitious film since The Fifth Element. Even if it amounts to little more than a light show with a multitude of inventive creature designs, I’m on board for the psychedelic thrill ride. – LM

Dunkirk (July 21)

Dunkirk Summer Movie Preview

I’m almost surprised that Christopher Nolan hasn’t made a war film yet. His focus on theme and mood rather than character or development seems like the perfect fit for a period battle film, and Dunkirk looks to deliver exactly that. Never mind the fact that this film is going to be shown on 70mm film in IMAX, which should immediately excite anyone familiar with Nolan’s eye for composition. “Fun” might not be the right word for this particular blockbuster, but you can at the very least expect it to be intense. – LM

Atomic Blonde (July 28)

atomic blonde Summer Movie Preview

We all love John Wick, right? Well, what if (gasp!) John Wick were a woman!? All kidding aside, the basic promise of Atomic Blonde is to see Charlize Theron kick all sorts of ass in excellently choreographed fight scenes. If it can deliver on that as much as the trailer seems to indicate, we’re in for a good time. – LM

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (July 28)

An Inconvenient Sequel Summer Movie Preview

An Inconvenient Truth rocked the world back in 2006, and now Al Gore hopes the same will happen with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. In a time where the scientific community as a whole has come under renewed scrutiny, there may be no title on this list with more urgency than this film. All the facts and data presented in the first film will be reviewed and revised, with new information being presented to remind us just how screwed we are if massive, global changes are not made. – JS

Detroit (August 4)

detroit trailer Summer Movie Preview

There are some filmmakers we’ll give $13 to without needing to know a thing about their next project, and one of them is Kathryn Bigelow. Detroit recreates the summer of 1967 in the Motor City and the civil unrest that ensued. Viewers will watch as police and military leap into action in response to rioting, as well as the violence that came from it. When young people today visit Detroit and wonder why sections of the community look torched or abandoned, this is the movie that will tell them what the rest of us tend to forget or ignore for the sake of not admitting how the country at large allowed the city of Detroit to slip through the cracks. – JS

The Dark Tower (August 4)

The Dark Tower Summer Movie Preview

Stephen King fans are rightly worried that we haven’t seen a trailer for The Dark Tower yet. Somehow claiming to not be a direct adaptation of the acclaimed book series yet still a faithful adherent to the series’ storyline is beyond me as a non-fan, but hopefully the pedigree of the source material gives us something good. – LM

Wind River (August 4)

Wind River Summer Movie Preview

Low budget crime dramas are being made less and less these days, so we feel it’s important to highlight the select titles that do manage to reach theatrical release. Wind River, from writer-director Taylor Sheridan, find the FBI teaming up with a veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jon Bernthal star. – JS

Annabelle: Creation (August 11)

Annabelle Creation Summer Movie Preview

The first Annabelle film was nothing to write home about, but the first trailer for Creation has us willing to give the possessed doll James Wan created a second chance. After all, Ouija 2 was far superiors to Ouija (which was basically unwatchable). Anything is possible. – JS

The Trip to Spain (August 11)

The Trip To Spain Summer Movie Preview

We’ll watch Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon do anything, but there is nothing we enjoy seeing them do more than having dinner. The Trip To Spain is the latest installment in The Trip franchise that finds the pair exploring a beautiful countryside while sampling some of the best food in the world and trading Michael Cane impressions. It’s rarely a good thing when a sequel is exactly the same thing as the movie before it, but in this case that is precisely what consumers expect – us included. – JS

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (August 18)

The Hitman's Bodyguard Summer Movie Preview

Ryan Reynolds teams up with Samuel L. Jackson to get Jackson safely to an international court to testify against a dictatorial Gary Oldman in a farcical film that seems to be leaning heavily into the comedic stylings of Reynolds’s newly adopted Deadpool persona. And yeah, it looks like a light, fun romp what won’t be light on the violence or cursing. This is one to give a shot. – LM

Death Note (August 25)

Death Note Summer Movie Preview

Netflix’s adaptation of the popular anime and manga property is already catching flack for its primarily white cast, and divorcing this story from its Japanese roots does cause of problems in its translation. However, if Adam Winguard’s take on the tale can retain the mystery story cat-and-mouse charm of the original series, we might have a winner here in spite of its inherent problems. Only time will tell. – LM

IT (September 8)

It Pennywise Summer Movie Preview

Unlike The Dark Tower, this King adaptation offers a lot more hope for King fans. At once promising to be a truer adaptation of King’s novel than the TV movie and even more frightening, IT looks like it has the potential to be the big hit of the late summer. If nothing else, Bill Skarsgård makes for a terrifying take on Pennywise. – LM

All I See Is You (September 15)

All I See Is You Summer Movie Preview

This one is going to hurt. All I See Is You follows the evolution of a blind woman’s (Blake Lively) relationship with her husband (Jason Clarke) after she regains her sight and discovers disturbing details about themselves. Could she find him revolting, or perhaps she simply sees other men? We don’t know for sure, but with Lively and Clarke involved we imagine special lies in store with this film. – JS

The Lego Ninjagogo Movie (September 22)

The Lego Ninjagogo Summer Movie Preview

The third Lego movie to date, this one adds ninjas and moves the setting around the globe. Will it be enough to keep people hooked on the building blocks turned movie stars? We think so. – JS

Stronger (September 22)

Stronger Summer Movie Preview

Patriot’s Day was just the start of movies based on the true story of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Stronger is the second film to touch on that fateful day, only this time the protagonist is an actual person who really lived through that horrific experience. The film follows Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), as Boston man injured in the attacks who helps the police track down the killers while struggling to recover from devastating trauma. Is it too soon for another movie about the bombings? We’ll have to see how consumers feel when the leaves begin to change. – JS

Granite Mountain (September 22)

Granite Mountain Summer Movie Preview

This movie could have Oscar contender written all over it. Not only does the cast include half a dozen of today’s biggest silver screen stars, but the story based on real events is guaranteed to have viewers on the edge of their seats. Granite Mountain recounts how an elite crew of men battled a wildfire in Prescott, Arizona in June 2013 that claimed the lives of 19 of their members. A word to the wise: Bring tissues. – JS

Battle of the Sexes (September 22)

Battle of the Sexes Summer Movie Preview

The only sports biopic on this list, Battle of the Sexes promises the true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs. Best Actress winner Emma Stone stars opposite funnyman turned dramatic powerhouse Steve Carrell, with direction from Little Miss Sunshine filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. This may be the only group of people who could make the majority of moviegoers give a damn about tennis, and we are very excited to see what they have in store for us. – JS