We’ll say this with cautious optimism: the summer movie season is…back? After the coronavirus pandemic upended the 2020 release calendar, pushing back some of the year’s most hyped films and inspiring new avenues of distribution for others, the summer of 2021 is shaping up as platform for blockbusters (from the latest “Fast and Furious” to the post-apocalyptic survival of the “A Quiet Place” installment all the way through a seventh “Conjuring” film) and rife with discoveries (including some festival hits that date all the way back to 2019).
Of course, the distribution landscape has changed radically over the past year, and not every anticipated summer movie will simply head to the multiplex. This season’s lineup includes a wide variety of viewing options that go beyond the brick and mortar theater. It’s a summer defined by options — not only in terms of what you see, but how you choose to see it.
This list includes only films that have confirmed release dates from May through August, though many of IndieWire’s most-anticipated 2021 films from reliable distributors have yet to announce their release plans. These include Neon’s “Pig,” “Titane,” “Memoria,” and “The First Wave,” along with Netflix’s daring “Fear Street” trilogy. As spring and summer festivals begin in earnest, we expect a fresh round of new films to be excited about that just might sneak in their own summer release plans after bowing across the circuit.
That all means that everything remains in flux, and as plans continue to change, this list will be updated. Whether that includes changing release dates, the method of a film’s release, or adding in some of those anticipated titles that have locked in an official date in 2021, this preview remains particularly fluid. For now, however, these are the films we are most excited to see in the coming months.
Eric Kohn, Christian Blauvelt, Zack Sharf, David Ehrlich, Ryan Lattanzio, Jude Dry, Tambay Obsenson, and Chris Lindahl contributed to this article.
“Mainstream” (May 7, in theaters and on demand)
Combining the ultra-cool gauziness of her aunt Sofia’s films with a nuance and sensitivity all her own, Gia Coppola did the family name proud with her 2014 debut “Palo Alto,” which holds up as one of this century’s best movies about being young in America. Coppola’s long-awaited second feature finds her re-teaming with key collaborators (like musician Dev Hynes and cinematographer Autumn Durald) for a major change of pace: An original film that marries the snowballing narcissism of Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd” with the self-affirmation of the social media era.
Maya Hawke, in her first leading role, stars as an orphaned LA bartender named Frankie whose insular life is turned upside down when she crosses paths with a mysterious drifter named Link (Andrew Garfield in one of the year’s first “you have to see it to believe it” performances). Introduced wearing a giant rat costume and ranting at blinkered mall shoppers about how people need to look up from their phones and “eat the art” around them in real life, Link has some loftily righteous takes about the content-ification of the human experience, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a viral sensation unto himself once Frankie starts uploading his speeches to YouTube. Little does she know that she’s creating a monster.
What ensues from there is a heightened, aggressive, love-it-or-hate-it satire of a very online world that can’t stop rubber-necking at its own wreckage, and Garfield’s spectacular, loathsome performance is burning bright in the center of it all as the part of ourselves that we just can’t seem to extinguish. —DE
“Wrath of Man” (May 7, in theaters)
Guy Ritchie bounced back from the lows of 2017’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” with back-to-back box office hits “Aladdin” (2019) and “The Gentlemen” (2020). Can Ritchie make it three hits in a row? Enter “Wrath of Man,” which should be an easy attraction for action movie fans hungry for a rock-em-sock-em theater experience, as it reunites the filmmaker with his longtime star Jason Statham. The action movie veteran first teamed with Ritchie on the filmmaker’s cult 1998 hit “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” then reunited with him for the films “Snatch” and “Revolver.”
In “Wrath of Man,” a reimagining of Nicolas Boukhrief’s 2004 French heist thriller “Le Convoyeur,” Statham stars as a truck security guard who surprises his co-workers during a heist in which he unleashes unexpected precision skills. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from. Soon, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score. The film also stars Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood, Raul Castillo, and Post Malone. —ZS
“Pink Skies Ahead” (May 8, broadcast on MTV)
Best-selling author Kelly Oxford goes behind the camera for her long-in-the-making debut, which premiered at SXSW in 2020 and will debut on MTV (commercial-free!), where the accomplished first feature should reach its ideal audience. The charming and insightful ’90s-set coming-of-age dramedy stars Jessica Barden as Winona who, just as Oxford did in suburban Calgary, struggles with an anxiety disorder after dropping out of college and moving back in with her parents. The film’s supporting cast includes rising stars Rosa Salazar, Odeya Rush, Lewis Pullman, and Devon Bostick, in addition to household names like Michael McKean, Marcia Gay Harden, Henry Winkler, and Mary J. Blige.
“Pink Skies Ahead” got its start as an essay that chronicles Oxford’s own diagnosis, “No Real Danger,” which appeared in the anthology “When You Find Out the World Is Against You.” It was a moment of fresh anxiety that pushed Oxford to turn it into a script, just as she was grappling with the fallout of her 2016 divorce and trying to determine what was next for both her family and her career. The resulting film is funny, sad, and deeply honest, the kind of debut feature that makes it clear that Oxford’s newly minted filmmaking career is one to watch. —KE
“Oxygen” (May 12, streaming on Netflix)
Over the last two decades, prolific French horror director Alexandre Aja has delivered a gorier take on Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes,” crafted a funny and gratuitous B-movie homage with “Piranha 3D,” and delighted critics and audiences with disaster thriller “Crawl.” For his ninth effort, Aja is trying his hand at sci-fi horror with “Oxygen,” which stars Mélanie Laurent as a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod. As she’s running out of oxygen, she must figure out who she is and how she ended up in the potentially fatal predicament.
Best known to American audiences for her work in “Inglorious Basterds,” the Cesar-winning Laurent has a wide canvas to showcase her skills given the claustrophobic setting. Such a performance, coupled with a cerebral script and a director known for his transgressive instincts, could deliver a truly terrifying and thought-provoking survival drama. —CL
“The Killing of Two Lovers” (May 14, in theaters and on demand)
With a movie called “The Killing of Two Lovers,” one might know what to expect from the start, but Robert Machoian’s gripping thriller plays off the prediction of its title at every riveting moment. David (a disheveled Clayne Crawford) is already at wit’s end when the movie begins, hovering over his estranged wife (Spideh Moafi) and her new boyfriend as they sleep in their small-town Utah home. A gun sits in his sweaty hand, but he has yet to pull the trigger.
From that unnerving start, the movie drifts through David’s fragile existence, as he makes repeated attempts to reconnect with the love of his life and their four children, juggling his simmering rage with the semblance of sanity still percolating in his head. This material could turn melodramatic at any moment, but Crawford’s jittery performance and Machoian’s naturalistic style joins forces with an ominous sound design that brings the fragility of its protagonist’s mindset to life. The result is a fresh and bracing new look at the dissolution of a nuclear family that redefines edge-of-your-seat filmmaking through the sheer talent on display at every moment. —EK
“Spiral” (May 14, in theaters)
The “Saw” horror franchise is coming back for a ninth go-round on the big screen with the upcoming “Spiral,” starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. Rock came up with the idea himself for this reimagining, which looks like it has more in common with David Fincher’s “Seven” than with any previous installment in the long-running horror franchise. Rock stars as a detective working in the shadow of his esteemed police veteran father (Jackson) who gets drawn into a serial killer’s morbid game that somehow connects to the Jigsaw killer.
While Rock and Jackson’s involvement is sure to draw viewers, diehard “Saw” fans know “Spiral” is not one to miss as it marks the return of filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman to the horror franchise. Bousman wrote and directed 2005’s “Saw II” and helmed sequels “Saw III” and “Saw IV” before departing the franchise. Bousman’s return signals that Rock’s idea was worthy of the “Saw” legacy. Horror fans will be keeping a close eye on this one this summer. —ZS
“Profile” (May 14, in theaters)
The best and most harrowing addition to the emerging sub-genre of movies that take place entirely within the space of a computer screen, Timur Bekmambetov’s “Profile” brings a new and much-needed dimension to its conceit by using it in the service of a semi-realistic story. That’s almost uncharted territory for a type of filmmaking born out of shlock (though Bekmambetov, who produced “Searching” and “Unfriended,” has been pushing for more projects with this approach, which he calls “Screenlife”). Very loosely based on a true story about a French journalist who essentially catfished an ISIS recruiter for a story, Bekmambetov’s latest isn’t going to be confused for a documentary, but there’s nevertheless a gripping verisimilitude to watching desperate freelancer Amy (Valene Kane) flirt with and develop feelings for a Syrian jihadist (Shazad Latif) via Skype.
As broad as it is unnerving, “Profile” is one of the only films of this upcoming semi-pandemic summer that might actually be a better experienced when streamed at home on a computer monitor rather than seen on a movie screen. Watch this thing on a laptop and it inspires you to instinctively click on Amy’s Skype windows, as though the movie is being shared on your screen in real-time. That’s a terrifying, immediate sensation, and one that points to a new kind of interactive storytelling in which a guy like Bekmambetov might be able to physically meld with audiences in a way that the worst of his previous work (“Wanted,” “Ben-Hur”) has always wished that it could. In other words, this is the rare Netflix acquisition where everyone wins. —DE
“Army of the Dead” (May 14, in theaters; May 21, streaming on Netflix)
With “Justice League” behind him, Zack Snyder is jumping from Warner Bros. to Netflix to kick off what could be another massive new franchise with “Army of the Dead.” The film marks the director’s return to the zombie genre after he made the jump to features from music videos with his 2004 debut “Dawn of the Dead.” Starring Dave Bautista, Theo Rossi, Tig Notaro, Garrett Dillahunt, Raúl Castillo, Omari Hardwick, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Ella Purnell, “Army of the Dead” follows a group of mercenaries who plot a heist on a Las Vegas casino during a zombie outbreak.
With smarter zombies (Snyder imagines the undead here as capable of forming groups and being organized) and a zombie tiger, “Army of the Dead” promises the kind of R-rated violent mayhem that tends to connect in the summer season. And that’s just the beginning, as Snyder is producing a German-language prequel and an animated sequel that explains the origins of the universe’s zombies. —ZS
“There Is No Evil” (May 14, in theaters and virtual cinemas)
“There Is No Evil” spends 30 minutes establishing its premise, and another two hours taking it in surprising new directions. Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s brilliant anthology feature unfolds across four stories about military men tasked with executions as they grapple with their options, contend with the fallout, and witness the impact it has on the people closest to them. It starts with tragedy and builds to a remarkable series of last-minute escapes and morality plays. The deserving winner of the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlinale, “There Is No Evil” is the perfect opportunity for Rasolouf to expand his audience (and will satisfy anyone who has appreciated his taut storytelling before).
The filmmaker, who has been barred from leaving his country since 2017, has made an absorbing ride defined by the paradoxes of its people. Nobody in “There Is No Evil” has it easy: There’s no simple moral code when every possible option leads to a point of no return. —EK
“The Woman in the Window” (May 14, streaming on Netflix)
Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix Inc.
However good or bad “The Woman in the Window” turns out to be, it is surely destined to be one of the buzziest summer offerings from Netflix. Directed by Joe Wright and adapted from A.J. Finn’s bestseller, the film stars Amy Adams as agoraphobic woman who believes she saw her new friend murdered in the apartment across the street. Will anyone believe her?
Featuring a star-studded cast that includes Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Mackie, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Wyatt Russell, “The Woman in the Window” has had a notorious road to release plagued by delays due to the Disney-Fox merger and poor test screenings. Some will watch “The Woman in the Window” because of its star-studded pedigree. Others will watch to see if it’s the train wreck that reports out of test screenings suggest. Either way, “The Woman in the Window” is going to be a Netflix hit that will have social media buzzing this summer movie season. —ZS
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” (May 14, in theaters and streaming on HBO Max)
Taylor Sheridan returns to feature directing for the first time since 2017’s indie sleeper “Wind River” with “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” a neo-Western set amid a forest fire blazing in middle-of-nowhere Montana. Written by Sheridan with crime writer Michael Koryta (adapting his own novel), along with “Blood Diamond” scribe Charles Leavitt, the film features Angelina Jolie leading an impressive ensemble.
Also starring are Nicholas Hoult, Tyler Perry, and Jon Bernthal in this story of a 14-year-old murder witness on the run from twin assassins. Sheridan brings his deep pedigree for suspenseful Westerns grappling with a depressed America, as he earned an Oscar nomination for writing 2016’s “Hell or High Water,” and serves as the co-creator, as well as writer, director, and producer, on TV’s hit series “Yellowstone.” Sheridan’s crowning achievement remains the taut script for Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario,” another film about a deadly chase through a dark corner of the world. —RL
“Plan B” (May 28, streaming on Hulu)
Actress-turned-filmmaker Natalie Morales is on a roll: Earlier this year, she premiered her co-directing debut “Language Lessons” at Berlin and SXSW, a pandemic-era charmer she made alongside Mark Duplass that made an early claim for this particular writer’s most tear-soaked film ending of the year. Now, Morales is rolling out her next offering: her solo directing debut, a teenage quest comedy entitled “Plan B.”
Written by Prathi Srinivasan and Joshua Levy, per its official synopsis, the Hulu original picks up “after a regrettable first sexual encounter, a straight-laced high school student (Kuhoo Verma) and her slacker best friend (Victoria Moroles) have 24 hours to hunt down a Plan B pill in America’s heartland.” The film sounds like the perfect next entry into the burgeoning — and necessary — genre of girl-centric coming-of-age tales with very big, very real issues on their mind, from “Booksmart” to “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and “Unpregnant.” Just two films into her career, it seems as Morales can do just about anything she sets her mind to. —KE
“Port Authority” (May 28, in theaters; June 4, on demand and digital)
Courtesy of filmmaker
Nearly 30 years after “The Crying Game” depicted a man’s revulsion at discovering his partner was trans, “Port Authority” sets the record straight. When Paul (Fionn Whitehead) learns that ballroom dancer Wye (Lenya Bloom) is a “femme girl” soon after their romance has blossomed, he doesn’t retch or try to flee. The nature of Wye’s gender identity should be obvious to anyone paying attention to her surroundings, so the truth only comes as a twist for Paul; for most audiences, the suspense of the movie’s first half stems from watching him confront that fact and just deal with it. And then: They have in a levelheaded debate about the ethics of communication, and he more or less gets over it so the rest of the movie can go on.
Director Danielle Lessovitz’s gentle debut utilizes the template for a gritty, naturalistic New York City love story about inner-city troublemakers with a keen eye for the authentic and touching two-hander at its center. At the same time, it doesn’t negate the edginess of its metropolitan backdrop. (Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, it may as well take place in his expanded universe.) As this scrappy little movie to strike a quietly progressive note, it suggests a happy medium between “Kids” and “Paris is Burning,” building to a rousing finish right on schedule. —EK
“Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue” (May 28, in theaters)
Jia Zhangke was able to premiere his latest documentary, “Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue,” at Berlin last February, just before the coronavirus shut down most of the world, and the film will finally be released to wide audiences more than a year later. The doc finds acclaimed writers Jia Pingwa, Yu Hua and Liang Hong discussing the evolution of their craft and how it emerged from changes to the society as a whole.
“I respect them the most because they’re very, very honest and brave — not only in terms of how they write, but how they express themselves,” Jia told IndieWire last year. “Through the making of this film, I absorbed a lot of the strength of these authors. Over the decades of making films, the difficulties I’ve experienced have made me feel discouraged at times. The changes are so slow and sometimes the situation gets worse. Through my collaboration with these three authors, I felt that changes are possible if we just keep doing what we can not only individually but as a society.” —EK
“A Quiet Place Part II” (May 28, in theaters)
John Krasinski’s much-hyped followup to his smash hit “A Quiet Place” was one of the first major 2020 tentpoles to get pushed back during the first days of the coronavirus pandemic. But Krasinski and co. remained set on their desire to open the film in theaters, and while it took over a year for that to happen, the sequel should serve as a major attraction for moviegoers looking to get back into the multiplex swing of things.
While Krasinski, who also co-starred in the first film, is not back on the screen (spoiler alert to anyone who didn’t see the original back in 2018), the rest of his stars are, including his real-life wife Emily Blunt and teen breakouts Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. The trio are joined by Cillian Murphy, here cast as another survivor of the alien invasion that effectively ended the world and set the stage for the first film.
The sequel was already screening by the time it was delayed, and strong first reactions continue to pump up enthusiasm for a film that’s actually worth the wait: a worthy, world-expanding followup that builds on the original and finds its own thrills and emotional stakes in the process. Audiences should still be banned from eating crunchy snacks during any and all screenings. —KE
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (June 4, in theaters)
With seven installments and a worldwide gross nearing $2 billion, few horror franchises can compare to the impact of “The Conjuring” universe. “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” marks the third direct sequel to the original 2013 movie and once again follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The movie tracks their involvement in a 1980s Connecticut exorcism and subsequent murder trial known as the “Devil Made Me Do It” case.
This will mark the first of the sequels without horror maestro James Wan in the director’s chair; that job goes to “The Curse of La Llorona” director Michael Chaves in his sophomore effort. While “La Llorona” was far from a standout in the franchise, a story-by credit for Wan and a script from “The Conjuring 2” scribe David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick suggests “The Devil Made Me Do It” could live up to the high expectations set by the first two “Conjuring” movies. —CL
“Undine” (June 4, in theaters and on demand)
“Shape of Water” fans dying for another nymph-human love story, get ready: Christian Petzold has you covered. The German auteur behind “Phoenix,” “Barbara,” and “Transit” excels at taut, surreal thrillers about clandestine identities. Here, he follows Berlin tour guide Undine (Paula Beer) as her relationship collapses with her unfaithful partner and she falls for a curious industrial diver.
But as Undine maintains an eerie fixation on her breakup, the movie takes on a series of dreamlike twists as Petzold builds up his usual Hitchcockian suspense throughout. Undine may be losing her grip on reality, but reality has a few surprises in store for her as well — right down to a stunning fantastical ending that will keep people talking, and which further confirms that Petzold is one of the most exciting European directors working today. —EK
“All Light Everywhere” (June 4, in theaters)
“All Light Everywhere” winds its way through fragmentary observations about modern surveillance society, unearthing a wide range of amorphous connections about its subject. However, Theo Anthony’s ambitious documentary unearths one brilliant connection — a fascinating lineage between the camera and the gun — and roots it in historical fact. For that reason alone, the filmmaker’s strange and alluring rumination on the ways technology exerts control over human life is a worthy follow-up to his 2016 debut “Rat Film,” which used Baltimore’s rodent infestation as a savvy metaphor for gentrification.
“All Light Everywhere” investigates how little we see about the way the world looks back at us, careening from a warehouse that develops tasers and police body cameras, to training sessions for officers who wear the devices, the machinations of a spy plane entrepreneur, and the history of camera pigeons in WWI. In the most compelling passages, Anthony journeys back to the late 19th century, unearthing the little-known history of astrophotography and mug shots, finding a remarkable set of connections between camera technology and weapons of war. All of that comes full circle in a climactic confrontation about the nature of privacy in a world governed by corporate power, as the film coheres into a compelling riff on the ominous forces governing everyday life that’s both alarming and awe-inspiring at once. —EK
“In the Heights” (June 11, in theaters and streaming on HBO Max)
If ever there were a movie that could reignite the box office after such a down year, it’s a new musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda. Long before “Hamilton,” the hit-making multi-hyphenate wrote a more traditional musical set much closer to home: Washington Heights, the majority Puerto Rican neighborhood where he was born and raised.
“In the Heights” won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Original Score after premiering on Broadway in 2008, and just a few bars of the opening number will have audiences humming all the way to the box office. The movie version, directed by Jon M. Chu (himself no stranger to movie musical magic thanks to the “Step Up” franchise) stars “Hamilton” star Anthony Ramos as charmer protagonist Usnavi, and a host of established as well as up-and-coming names fill out his closely connected community. With Miranda’s name recognition, as well as a catchy and upbeat score that rivals “Hamilton” in melody and lyrical flow, “In the Heights” is way overdue to give the Latino community their huge Hollywood hit. —JD
“Summer of 85” (June 18, in theaters)
François Ozon’s sexy, melancholic coming-of-age romance “Summer of 85” sizzles against the banks of a seaside resort in Normandy. It’s also got a killer soundtrack including The Cure and Bananarama, pop-colored cinematography, enough Breton shirts to outfit a French New Wave movie, and a cast of easy-on-the-eyes French cinema favorites. It channels the talky, beach-set films of Éric Rohmer but with a rebellious edge, hinging on the stolen-hours love affair between introverted teen Alex (Lefebvre) and the slightly older but hardly wiser David (Voisin), the square-jawed Adonis who cuts a raffish figure on a motorcycle. The highs and lows of their summer fling collide in a sudden and mysterious tragedy foregrounded in the movie’s opening scenes, which makes their evolving connection, ignited by the actors’ volcanic chemistry, all the more suspenseful.
Adapting Aidan Chambers’ 1982 novel “Dance on My Grave,” Ozon captures the intoxicating pull of first love, and the loss of control that can make a formative erotic bond so dangerous and addictive. The evocative filmmaking is matched by the charms of its leads, who, in case you needed another selling point, enact one of the hottest guy-on-guy kisses ever thrown onscreen. —RL
“The Sparks Brothers” (June 18, in theaters)
A straightforward but delightful and unusually spirited love letter to the least straightforward (but spirited) art pop duo in the history of British-sounding American music, Edgar Wright’s 135-minute Sparks documentary “The Sparks Brothers” is a beat-for-beat celebration of the band’s deathless creative odyssey, an irresistible invitation to join their small but devoted cult of diehard fans, and a beautifully wrapped gift to anyone who’s ever had angst in their pants about Ron and Russell Mael before.
Wright’s love-in of a film is particularly enamored by the Maels’ “Prestige”-like commitment to their art, and even the most accomplished of the film’s 80 interview subjects exude an authentic sense of awe. Beck, Jane Wiedlin, Jason Schwartzman, Andy Bell, half of New Order, and “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino represent just a tiny fraction of the famous and civilian fans that Wright gathers here, and every single one of these people — including the band’s frequent collaborators — seems giddily mystified by the force of nature that is Sparks.
If Wright’s documentary is so rigidly structured along chronological lines that it can’t hope to embody the same zigzag genius that shaped the band’s career, the one-album-at-a-time approach reflects the relentlessness of Sparks’ output, as well as the sheer tenacity required to weather so many cultural sea changes over the years. Fans of the band will feel like they’ve died and gone to heaven. As for everyone else… well, by the time “The Sparks Brothers” is over, they’ll be fans of the band, too. —DE
“Truman & Tennessee” (June 18, in theaters)
Historical documentaries pose a unique challenge when it comes to dramatizing lives rarely captured on film. When it comes to literary figures, there’s no shortage of written records — whether by them or about them — to communicate the essence of a writer’s life. In the case of the new documentary “Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation,” filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland utilizes correspondence between the two monumental figures as well as public comments each made about the other to weave her tale.
Described in its opening shots as “an encounter between those lifelong friends in their own words,” “Truman & Tennessee” charts the parallel careers of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, contemporaries with similar backgrounds who faced many of the same personal and professional struggles. The film plays like a kind of live reading of both writers’ diaries, except Vreeland highlights particularly poetic bits of wisdom and framing them around a uniting theme. The visuals consist mostly of still photos and talk-show footage, which aren’t used creatively enough to justify a cinematic treatment. Framing the narrative around their relationship is a slightly more inspired choice, and if the film illuminates new sides of both authors, it has served a purpose. —JD
“Luca” (June 18, streaming on Disney+)
Pixar’s 24th feature film “Luca” hatches from the mind of Italian storyboard artist Enrico Casarosa, making his directorial debut with this summery, coming-of-age buddy movie located in the irresistibly sultry Italian Riviera. But the catch is that the friendship in play is between a pair of real boys who also happening to be seas monsters disgusting themselves in human form.
Thirteen-year-old Luca is voiced by Jacob Tremblay, making his Pixar debut, opposite “We Are Who We Are” breakout Jack Dylan Grazer, who voices his new pal Alberto. Scooter rides, Mediterranean swims, endless pasta, and gelato abound in this seaside adventure also featuring voice work from Maya Rudolph, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli, and Jim Gaffigan. Hot off an Oscar win for “Soul,” Pixar is sure to deliver another delightful family favorite. —RL
“I Carry You with Me” (June 25, in theaters)
Sony Pictures Classics
Lauded documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing made a bold leap into narrative filmmaking with a star-crossed romance based on a true story. The result is a timely romance that blends fiction and non-fiction to enact the poignant story of two undocumented Mexican immigrants in love. The film, which debuted at Sundance in 2020 before kicking off a robust run of festival screenings, revolves around aspiring chef whose burgeoning romance with another man threatens to affect visitation rights with his young son. When he decides to cross the border to the U.S., he encounters a host of new challenges.
Arresting in its specificity and real-life themes, “I Carry You with Me” lays bare the painful reality for many undocumented immigrants in the U.S. through a tender human lens. —JD
“F9” (June 25, in theaters)
It’s a “Fast and Furious” film that adds John Cena and brings back Sung Kang (justice for Han!). What more do you want to know? Okay, how about this: they go to space. —KE
“False Positive” (June 25, streaming on Hulu)
Hulu / screencap
“Broad City” scribe Ilana Glazer takes a page out of fellow comedian Jordan Peele’s book, making her mark on the “socially conscious horror” genre popularized by “Get Out.” Written by Glazer with director John Lee, “False Positive” centers around a couple (played by Glazer and Justin Theroux) undergoing fertility treatments at the hands of sinisterly handsome doctor (Pierce Brosnan). After getting pregnant, they realize their dream-come-true isn’t as perfect as it seems. Produced by A24 and with a Tribeca premiere already on the books, Glazer is coming out guns blazing with the first feature film she’s written and produced. —JD
“Zola” (June 30, in theaters)
If the evolution of creativity in the 21st century means that Twitter feeds can fuel feature-length adaptations, “Zola” is a terrific place to start. Director Janicza Bravo’s zany road trip comedy about a pair of strippers on a rambunctious 48-hour Florida adventure embodies its ludicrous source while jazzing it up with relentless cinematic beats.
Bravo, who co-wrote the movie with “Slave Play” breakout Jeremy O. Harris, applies the surreal and edgy sensibilities of her unsettling dark comic short “Gregory Go Boom” and the similarly outré “Lemon” to another jittery look at anxious people driven to self-destructive extremes. This time, their antics result in a rambunctious crowdpleaser made all the more compelling because it’s true…kinda. In October 2015, Detroit-based stripper A’ziah “Zola” King unleashed 144 tweets chronicling her madcap journey with new pal Jessica, who invited her on a quick jaunt down south to hit the clubs.
Now, that has become the template for a bawdy road trip adventure starring a terrific Taylour Page and Riley Keough as they fall in and out of their friendship over the course of a dark comic journey. The men in this movie aren’t exactly great people, but they’re fun to watch: “Succession” breakout Nicholas Braun plays a hilarious goofball boyfriend while the extraordinary Colman Domingo proves quite the menacing pimp. “You wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out?” the real-life Zola tweeted. “It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” Bravo’s raucous movie does that tease justice and then some. —EK
On the next page (click “continue reading” below), check out our picks for must-see summer movies coming out in July and August.