Our 2021 Summer Movie Guide: Superheroes, animation, horror and more


Army of the Dead (May 21; exclusively on Netflix)

<em>Army of the Dead</em>

Army of the Dead

Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Dave Bautista, Tig Notaro, Ella Purnell and Hiroyuki Sanada. Rated R.

Plot:  A team of mercenaries attempt to heist a fortune from a zombie-infested Las Vegas.

Why go:  Snyder’s an old hand with zombies, and it looks like he had some fun with this Dawn of the Dead/Ocean’s Eleven hybrid. And we can tell out-of-town friends it’s a documentary.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (May 14)



Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. Starring Chris Rock, Max Minghella and Samuel L. Jackson. Rated R.

Plot: A police detective (Rock) investigates a series of twisted, brutal murders that resemble the work of a killer long believed dead.

Why go: Chris Rock loves the Saw franchise, and with his recent embrace of dramatic work in addition to comedy, he could be the perfect star to reinvigorate it.

Those Who Wish Me Dead (May 14; also debuting on HBO Max)

Directed by Taylor Sheridan. Starring Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal and Nicholas Hoult. Rated R.

Plot: A wilderness fire warden (Jolie), haunted by past losses, finds a teenage boy who witnessed the murder of his father and protects him from assassins and the elements.

Why go: Sicario writer Sheridan knows his way around tense, Western-style standoffs.

Riders of Justice (May 21)

Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen. Starring Mads Mikkelsen and Andrea Heick Gadeberg. Not yet rated.

Plot: A former military man sets out to avenge the death of his wife, killed by a biker gang in an assassination attempt on someone else.

Why go: Hannibal/Another Round star Mikkelsen does a Taken flex in this Danish film, which balances hard-hitting action with black comedy.

A Quiet Place Part II (May 28)

Directed by John Krasinski. Starring Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Djimon Hounsou and Cillian Murphy. Rated PG-13.

Plot: Shell-shocked by loss, a family struggles to survive in a world infested by deadly creatures that hunt with a hyperacute sense of hearing.

Why go: Krasinski did such an excellent job of world-building the first time out, further Quiet Place adventures were a given. This franchise may well leg out into multiple installments.

Cruella (May 28; also on Disney+ for an additional $30)

Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Emma Stone, Mark Strong and Emma Thompson. Rated PG-13.

Plot: The dognapping villain of 101 Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil (Stone), gets a Devil Wears Prada-like origin story.

Why go: I, Tonya director Gillespie laces the film with Vivienne Westwood-inspired style and attitude—and the Emma vs. Emma showdown should be memorable.

In the Heights (June 11; also on HBO Max)

<em>In the Heights</em>

In the Heights

Directed by Jon M. Chu. Starring Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Stephanie Beatriz and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Rated PG-13.

Plot: A bodega owner (Ramos) aspires to a life beyond New York’s largely Dominican Washington Heights neighborhood.

Why go: You couldn’t ask for a better team than Crazy Rich Asians director Chu and Hamilton creator Miranda to deliver a bright, energetic big-screen musical, an adaptation of Miranda’s (first) multiple Tony-winning hit.

Fatherhood (June 18; exclusively on Netflix)

Directed by Paul Weitz.Starring Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard and Anthony Carrigan. Not yet rated.

Plot: A widowed father (Hart) struggles with his wife’s death and the raising of his infant daughter.

Why go: Hart takes a strong dramatic turn in this adaptation of Matt Logelin’s Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love. The Obamas’ Higher Ground company produces.

Luca (June 18; exclusively on Disney+)



Directed by Enrico Casarosa. Starring Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan. Not yet rated.

Plot: Two boys embark on adventures in an Italian seaside town while concealing a fantastical secret.

Why go: Cars 2 aside, Pixar’s track record is near perfect. And director Casarosa says his film pays homage to the works of both Hayao Miyazaki and Ennio Morricone—two excellent touchstones.

F9 (June 25)

Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, John Cena and Charlize Theron. Not yet rated.

Plot: Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his street-racing famiglia face off with Toretto’s estranged brother (Cena)—with the help of a friend once thought dead (Kang).

Why go: Because you’ve seen the previous eight? Also, word has it the crew somehow launches into orbit this time. Future installments will need underwater races or people who actually turn into cars to maintain the franchise’s exhilarating absurdity.

The Tomorrow War (July 2; exclusively on Prime Video)

Directed by Chris McKay. Starring Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski and J.K. Simmons. Not yet rated.

Plot: Mired in a fight against alien invaders, Earth scientists develop the means to recruit soldiers from the past.

Why go: The Chris Pratt-starring sci-fi epic is itself a soldier from the past: It was supposed to appear in theaters last December, but the virus scuttled the release.

Black Widow (July 9; also on Disney+ Prime for an additional $30)

<em>Black Widow</em>

Black Widow

Directed by Cate Shortland. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. Rated PG-13.

Plot: On the run following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) confronts a deadly adversary from her past life as an assassin.

Why go: Following a wildly successful entry into streaming TV, the Marvel Cinematic Universe returns to cinemas with a long-deserved stand-alone story for Johansson’s Black Widow—and the probable introduction of a new Avenger (Midsommar’s Pugh).

The Night House (July 16)

Directed by David Bruckner. Starring Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg and Vondie Curtis-Hall. Rated R.

Plot: A widowed wife (Hall), left alone in the lake house she built with her husband, gets visited by a frightening, mysterious presence.

Why go: This psychological horror movie debuted to strong acclaim at Sundance—and it’s one of too few scary movies screening this summer that isn’t a sequel.

Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16; also on HBO Max)

<em>Space Jam: A New Legacy</em>

Space Jam: A New Legacy

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Starring LeBron James, Zendaya and Don Cheadle. Not yet rated.

Plot: Once again, a sports legend (James) and the Looney Tunes characters save the world in an epic game of hoops.

Why go: It’s been long enough since the original Space Jam (1996) for nostalgia to take root in a past generation—and for them to bring their kids, and grandkids, to see this one.

Old (July 23)



Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Gael García Bernal, Rufus Sewell and Ken Leung. Not yet rated.

Plot: A vacationing family visits a secluded beach that causes them to age rapidly.

Why go: You never know what you’re getting with Shyamalan, both in terms of storytelling and quality. But the recent output by the Sixth Sense director has been relatively solid, and as psychological horror goes, it’s not his worst premise. (That would be The Happening.)

Jungle Cruise (July 30)

<em>Jungle Cruise</em>

Jungle Cruise

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez and Jesse Plemons. Not yet rated.

Plot: In the early 19th century, a steamboat captain (Johnson) and a scientist (Blunt) search the Amazon for a tree with healing powers.

Why go: Pirates of the Caribbean notwithstanding, Disney usually stumbles in bringing its theme park properties to the screen. But this film’s steampunk vibe, coupled with Johnson’s easy charm, could put it over.

Stillwater (July 30)

Directed by Tom McCarthy. Starring Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin. Not yet rated.

Plot: A father struggles to clear his daughter of murder charges.

Why go: This is director McCarthy’s first dramatic picture since 2015’s best picture Oscar-winning Spotlight.

The Suicide Squad (August 6; also on HBO Max)

<em>The Suicide Squad</em>

The Suicide Squad

Directed by James Gunn. Starring Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena and Joel Kinnaman. Rated R.

Plot: A group of superpowered convicts are forced by a shadowy government agency to destroy a Nazi stronghold in South America.

Why go: Guardians of the Galaxy director Gunn should bring all the humor and bat-guano lunacy that the DC Cinematic Universe has been sorely lacking. And Harley Quinn cosplayers will likely get a few new outfits out of it.

Free Guy (August 13)

Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi. Not yet rated.

Plot: An unassuming bank teller (Reynolds) discovers he’s a character in a video game, and strives to become its hero and savior.

Why go: It ain’t Deadpool 3, but watching Reynolds crack wise always makes for a fun evening.

Respect (August 13)

Directed by Liesl Tommy. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Marlon Wayans. Rated PG-13.

Plot: Young singer Aretha Franklin takes her first steps onto the path that will make her a legend.

Why go: Franklin herself consulted on the film until her 2018 death. And it’s hard to imagine a more perfect showcase for powerhouse singer and actor Hudson.

Reminiscence (August 27; also on HBO Max)

Directed by Lisa Joy. Starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandiwe Newton. Not yet rated.

Plot: Set in a Miami submerged by rising seas, a specialist (Jackman) who can help humans relive any memory they choose is caught up in a dangerous romance.

Why go: Joy, co-creator of HBO’s Westworld, excels at world-building and psychological intrigue (for about a season-and-a-half, anyway). This could be a leveling-up for her.

Candyman (August 27)

Directed by Nia Da Costa. Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris and Tony Todd. Not yet rated.

Plot: A struggling artist begins to explore what he thinks is an urban legend—and reawakens an inexplicable, terrifying entity.

Why go: A “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 horror classic of the same name, this Candyman comes to life thanks to Jordan Peele, who co-wrote the script, and ascending director Da Costa, whose next film is the follow-up to Captain Marvel.

The Beatles: Get Back (August 27)

Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Not yet rated.

Plot: After a series of experimental records, the Beatles look to rediscover their musical roots.

Why go: Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s listless 1970 documentary Let It Be painted the band as constantly bickering or simply checked out. Jackson dug into the 55 hours of footage that Lindsay-Hogg shot, restored it and produced a film that shows the musicians not only happily interacting, but excited by the work.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3)

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Starring Simu Liu, Awkafina and Tony Leung. Not Yet Rated.

Plot: The world’s greatest martial artist, trying to live a quiet life, is forced to battle with a shadowy criminal organization and its boss, The Mandarin.

Why go: Marvel’s first Asian-American superhero has a powerhouse of a production around him—an outstanding cast, a hot up-and-coming director and the cinematographer (Bill Pope) who shot the stylized action of The Matrix series and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Further Attractions

<em>The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard</em>

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (April 30; Netflix) A family fights against a robot uprising in this animated comedy. Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph provide voices.

Vivo (Release date TBA; Netflix) The first musical from Sony Pictures Animation features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a look designed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4) Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return to star in the franchise’s third film.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (June 16) Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek shoot things and swear profusely in this action-comedy sequel.

The Sparks Brothers (June 18) Ron and Russell Mael of the influential group Sparks get the documentary treatment from Shawn of the Dead/Baby Driver’s Edgar Wright.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (June 18) The Beatrix Potter animated universe grows. Voice actors include James Corden, Elizabeth Debicki and Margot Robbie.

Blue Bayou (June 25; Hulu) Justin Chon wrote, directed and stars in this drama about a Korean American man confronted with the threat of deportation. Alicia Vikander co-stars.

False Positive (June 25; Hulu) Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan and Charlize Theron star with Broad City’s Ilana Glazer in a fresh take on Rosemary’s Baby.

The Forever Purge (July 2) Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta star in the fifth (and supposedly last) installment of the Purge franchise.

Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (July 2; Hulu) This Questlove-directed documentary revisits the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

Cinderella (July 16) A modern retelling of the classic story, starring Camila Cabello, Billy Porter, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver and Wicked/Frozen’s Idina Menzel.

Snake Eyes (July 23) A spinoff from the G.I. Joe film series, starring Henry Golding.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (July 23) Adam Sandler opted out of the last installment of this animated franchise, but Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and Kathryn Hahn didn’t.

Don’t Breathe 2 (August 13) Sam Raimi and Fede Álvarez co-produced this sequel to Álvarez’s 2016 suspense thriller, with Stephen Lang returning as the murderous Blind Man.

The Green Knight (July 30) Director David Lowery and star Dev Patel revisit the King Arthur legend.

Bios (August 20) The last man on Earth (Tom Hanks) builds himself a robot buddy for a road trip. Game of Thrones vet Miguel Sapochnik directs.

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