Summer movies
Photograph: Time Out

Summer movie preview: the 21 movies you need to know about

Hold onto your hat for Indiana Jones, ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie’

Phil de Semlyen
Written by: Matthew Singer
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Summer’s here and that means bigger movies – and more of them – to keep us heading back to the theater. There’s something for everyone, too, including a new Pixar animation, a hero’s return for Indiana Jones, another burst of vehicular mayhem from the Fast & Furious franchise, a superhero movie or two (because… obviously), a new Christopher Nolan joint, some giant smashy robots and a dose or two of road-trip mayhem Oh, and a small character drama called Barbie. Here are summer viewing options.

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Summer movie preview

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Those giant smashy robots from outer space return to turn our cities into giant piles of rubble again in a sequel to 2018 spinoff Bumblebee. This one unleashes three new Transformers factions – the Maximals, the Predacons and the Terrorcons – and some fresh-faced new humans (In the Heights’ Anthony Ramos and Judas and the Black Messiah’s Dominique Fishback) on a mid-’90s Brooklyn that won’t know what’s hit it.

Out worldwide Jun 9 

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  • Film
  • Animation

Lately, Pixar has been at its best when it’s throwing off the storytelling shackles and embracing completely out-there ideas. Red pandas as a metaphor for puberty in Turning Red? Sure, why not! A jazz musician being body-swapped with a cat in Soul? Miaow! So a meet cute between a fiery woman (in that she’s made of fire) and an aqueous stranger in a world inhabited by the elemental beings is the kind of swing sounds like the kind of swing that tends to work for the studio. Director Peter Sohn is citing a range of intriguing influences from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to Amélie

In US theaters Jun 16 and UK cinemas Jul 7

The Flash

This DC superhero adventure comes wreathed in troubled back story but the early word is strong on the studio’s first superhero effort since Shazam! Fury of the Gods. If audiences are willing to look past the controversies that have dogged its star, Ezra Miller, The Flash has more enough selling points to avoid suffering the same fate at the box office. The multiversal storyline sees a return to the Batsuit for Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck, as well as a comeback for Michael Shannon’s General Zod. We will all be kneeling before the big man in mid-June?

Out worldwide Jun 16

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  • Film
  • Comedy

Wes Anderson is in maximum Wes Anderson mode for his eleventh film, albeit with a slight sci-fi twist. Set in a fictional desert town in the mid-1950s, it documents the strange happenings that occur during a gathering of Junior Stargazers, and you can bet there’s a ton of retro-kitschy set design, deadpan dialogue and symmetrical cinematography. As usual, everyone is in this thing – we’re talking Jason Schwartzman, we’re talking Scarlett Johansson, we’re talking Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Margot Robbie, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Geoffrey Wright and even Pulp frontman Jarvis friggin’ Cocker. 

Out worldwide Jun 23

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Every time he thinks he’s out, something makes Harrison Ford pull the bullwhip and brown leather jacket out of the closet. In this case, it’s those dang Nazis again. Set during the Cold War, his fifth adventure sees the ageing Indy – along with his goddaughter, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge – pitted against a former Third Reicher (Mads Mikkelsen), who’s somehow infiltrated the US space program. With Logan’s James Mangold taking over the director’s seat from Steven Spielberg, hopefully this final instalment will erase memories of The Crystal Skull to end the series on a high note. 

Out worldwide June 23

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Insidious: The Red Door 

Like The Conjuring, the other supernatural horror franchise created by James Wan and starring Patrick Wilson, the Insidious universe is far more popular and prolific than you might realise. To wit, this is the fifth entry in the series and marks Wilson’s directorial debut. He also continues to star as Josh Lambert, a school teacher whose son is afflicted by a touch of the ol’ demonic possession. Taking place a decade after the events of the second film – please don’t ask us to explain the chronology – that kid is now in college and still haunted by his past… literally.

Out worldwide July 7

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One 

Ethan Hunt and his IMF posse return for another adrenaline-pumped blockbuster in which Tom Cruise will again find a variety of hair-raising ways to honk death on the nose. This time, he and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie have raised the bar for Hunt’s gravity-defying exploits, with fjord freefalls, train smashes and breakneck car chases all in the mix as the spies take on Esai Morales’s superbad. Of course, for real M:I stans, none of that will be half as exciting as the return of IMF slimeball Kittridge, last seen in 1996’s Mission: Impossible.

Out worldwide Jul 12

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Barbie

When it first came out that indie darling Greta Gerwig, of all people, would be directing a live-action Barbie movie, it was hard to fathom what the final product would end up being. A smart, playful skewering-slash-celebration of the iconic doll’s place in pop-culture? A snarky satire overly impressed by its own cleverness? A glorified toy commercial? Now that we’ve finally gotten a look at the much-memed trailer, the answer might be halfway between all three. In any case, Margot Robbie looks pretty much perfect as the titular plastic-fantastic beauty, as does Ryan Gosling as her soft-headed, anatomically incorrect boy-toy, Ken.

Out worldwide July 21

Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy plays nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer in a movie that will better even Transformers: Rise of the Beasts for explosive spectacle. Christopher Nolan is donning his protective goggles and unleashing a none-more-high-stakes recreation of the race to build the A-bomb during World War II. He has a bonanza cast to help him do it, with Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr and Florence Pugh all co-starring alongside Murphy, his long-time talisman. Has he found a way to sneak Michael Caine in too?

Out worldwide Jul 21

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Talk to Me

In A24’s latest chiller, a group of Australian teens mess around with a creepy embalmed hand and find out that once you open a door to the spirit world, it can’t be easily closed. It’s the stuff of a zillion other horror films, but early word is that freshman directors Danny and Michael Philippou twist the cliches of demonic possession into some terrifying new shapes. For instance: what’s the deal with that bloody wallaby in the trailer?

Out worldwide July 28

Joy Ride

Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim makes her directorial debut with a raunchy road-trip comedy that certainly looks crazy, and stars an impressive, predominantly Asian-American cast, but otherwise appears quite different from the glitzy romcom she made her name on. Ashley Park and Stephanie Hsu are childhood best friends who set off on an ill-fated trip to China to find the former’s birth mother. Cue the lost passports, gratuitous swearing, inadvertent drug smuggling, wild sexcapades and an impromptu performance of ‘WAP’. Fun!  

Out in the US July 7 and the UK Aug 4.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director Ira Sachs specialises in small, intensely intimate dramas, and his latest continues in that vein. Franz Rogowski and Ben Whishaw play a longtime French couple whose relationship is thrown into chaos when the former has an affair with a younger woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Drawing on the likes of Rainier Werner Fassbinder, Sachs tells a quietly devastating story with a distinctly European edge. 

Out in the US Aug 4 and the UK Sep 1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Yes, they’re rebooting the adolescent, genetically-altered, martial-arts reptiles once again, because Gen X just can’t stop forcing its nostalgia on the world. This time, though, the operative word is ‘adolescent’, as co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have compared their take to coming-of-age classics like Stand By Me and Lady Bird, only with presumably more nunchuck action. With punky animation styles and an intriguing voice cast featuring John Cena, Jackie Chan and The Bear’s excellent Ayo Edebiri, this ‘reimagining’ could make the stale IP genuinely cool again – call it Into the Turtle-Verse, maybe?

Out worldwide Aug 4

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Gran Turismo 

After a series of misfires following his uber-promising debut, 2009’s District 9, director Neill Blomkamp is hoping his sixth film will get his career back on track… the race track, that is. In a departure from the sociopolitical sci-fi Blomkamp is known for, Gran Turismo tells the true-life tale of Jann Mardenborough, who somehow managed to adapt his skills at the titular PlayStation car-racing game into a career as an actual race car driver. If nothing else, it should give gamers a lot of false hope that all those hours spent in mom’s basement will eventually lead to fame and fortune.

Out worldwide Aug 11

Haunted Mansion 

For its second attempt at adapting its ooky-spooky theme park attraction to the big screen – and hopefully wash the early 2000s Eddie Murphy version from memory – Disney went out and roped in an all-star cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Winona Ryder, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson and Jared Leto. Sadly, Guillermo del Toro is no longer directing as originally reported, but with Dear White People creator Justin Simien at the helm, there should be an unexpected amount of subversive laughs sprinkled amongst the gothic goofiness. 

Out in the US July 28 and the UK Aug 11

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Blue Beetle 

The DCU introduces its first Latinx superhero in the form of Jaime Reyes, a mild-mannered kid from El Paso who ends up fusing with an alien beetle, gifting him with an nigh-impenetrable exoskeleton – think of him like a cross between Spider-Man and Iron Man. Xolo Maridueña of Netflix’s popular Cobra Kai stars the insectoid crime-fighter, while Susan Sarandon will play his first foe, ensuring deep emotional investment from legions of still-aggrieved Hillary supporters. 

Out worldwide Aug 18

The Equalizer 3 

Denzel Washington returns as Robert McCall, the former marine turned government agent turned vigilante ass-kicker, in the third instalment of director Antoine Fuqua’s action series. Here, McCall attempts to escape his past by relocating to Southern Italy, but damn it all, he just runs into more people he needs to gun down in a vengeful rage – in this case, the local mafia. Dakota Fanning has some kind of supporting role, too. 

Out worldwide Sep 1

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The Innocent

A marine biologist lets his suspicions of his mum’s ex-con fiancé get the best of him in this French crime dramedy, co-written, directed by and starring The Dreamers’ Louis Garrel. Premiering at last year’s Cannes, it gets much of its energy from Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noémie Merlant as Clémence, who’s more than game to join Garrel’s tightly-wound Abel in spying on his soon-to-be stepfather, before they all end up having to pull a job together.   

Out in the UK Aug 25

Poor Things 

Would you believe us if we told you the new Yorgos Lanthimos movie looks bonkers? Of course you would. But the Greek auteur’s latest appears to be a different kind of bonkers from The Favourite or The Lobster, leaning into a hyper-stylised, Terry Gilliam-esque direction for the story of a dead woman (Emma Stone) revivified by an eccentric scientist (Willem Dafoe) who develops a taste for wanderlust after meeting an equally bizarre lawyer (Mark Ruffalo). It looks like a psychopath’s vision of a fairy tale, and we’re very here for it.   

Out worldwide Sep 8

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  • Film
  • Romance

This swooningly romantic drama from Korean-Canadian director Celine Song has already taken Sundance and Berlin by storm and drawn comparisons with Wong Kar-wai’s great masterpiece In the Mood for Love. It gets another festival slot at Sundance London in July, before dazzling lovers of arthouse movies in autumn. As the title suggests, Past Lives is a story of lost love making tentative efforts to rekindle itself, as two old classmates from Seoul reunite in New York after 12 years and find that while life has moved on, their feelings haven’t.

In UK cinemas Sep 8

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