After an exceptionally terrifying year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. vaccinations are on the rise, cases are in decline, and movie theaters are re-opening for new releases. For the first time in a long time, it’s movie time.
Of course, the film industry remains warped. While Warner Bros. will resume its typical theatrical release schedule in 2022, the ongoing experiment in day-and-date releases will see several tentpole films, including The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Space Jam, A New Legacy, and The Suicide Squad, hit both theaters and HBO Max. Marvel’s first big theatrical release in a year and a half, Black Widow, will also bow on Disney Plus Premier Access alongside its wide release in multiplexes.
Barring even those complicated streaming/PVOD releases, this summer promises a ton of exciting new movies to Actually See in Theaters, when one feels safe and comfortable enough to venture out and do so. From long-awaited action sequels like F9 to avant-garde fantasy epics like The Green Knight, there’ll be a lot to catch. Here’s the current 2021 summer movie calendar, along with where you’ll be able to watch each release.
Wrath of Man
Guy Ritchie returns to the heist action thriller genre — but strips away most of his razzle dazzle technique — in his new film Wrath of Man. Ritchie regular Jason Statham (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch), stars as Harry “H” Hill, a cold and mysterious stranger hired as a security driver for a cash truck company in Los Angeles. After thwarting an attempted robbery, H’s past is slowly revealed, and an elaborate plot for vengeance against a conglomerate of criminals comes into focus.
In theaters on May 7
Andrew Garfield plays an Extremely Online sociopath in this satire of viral celebrity culture from Gia Coppola (Palo Alto). The Amazing Spider-Man alum stars as Mouse, a charismatic and masterfully manipulative “influencer” who takes a young and impressionable woman named Frankie (Maya Hawke) under his wing to school her in the art of crafting content. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when Frankie realizes that Mouse’s intentions are far from sincere and euphoria of overnight fame spirals into an unseemly obsession.
In theaters on May 7
Based on Walter Dean Myers’ novel, Monster follows Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a 17-year-old honor student whose life and future quickly unravel when he is charged with felony murder. From producer Nasir Jones and longtime music video director Anthony Mandler, the film follows Steve’s dramatic journey as he navigates a contentious legal battle that could lead to him potentially spending the rest of his life in prison.
Available on Netflix on May 7
The Water Man
Actor David Oyelowo (Selma) makes his directorial debut with The Water Man. Lonnie Chavis (This Is Us) stars as Gunner, a young boy who sets out on a journey to save his sick mother (Rosario Dawson) by searching for a mythic figure who possesses the key to immortality. Joining forces with a mysterious local girl named Jo (Amiah Miller), the pair descend into the depths of a strange remote forest known as Wild Horse. As days go in the wake of their sudden disappearance, it falls to Gunner’s father (Oyelowo) to embark on his own journey to rescue them.
In theaters on May 7
Spiral: From the Book of Saw
Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson star in the latest installment/soft reboot of the long-running Saw franchise. Written by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger (Jigsaw, Piranha 3D) and directed by series stalwart Darren Lynn Bousman, Spiral: From the Book of Saw sees Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) hunting down a mysterious murderer whose modus operandi matches that of the long-thought-dead Jigsaw. When Zeke’s father (Jackson) is abducted by the killer, the investigation turns into a race against time to uncover the horrifying truth behind this new killer’s true identity and motivations.
In theaters on May 14
Army of the Dead
Zombies — we love ’em. Justice League director Zack Snyder certainly loves ‘em, which is why he’s returning to the genre after nearly two decades since his 2004 remake of George A. Romero’s horror classic Dawn of the Dead. Starring Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049), Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Omari Hardwick (Kick-Ass), and more, Army of the Dead follows a group of mercenaries enlisted to perform an elaborate heist of a heavily-fortified Las Vegas Casino. Oh, and it’s set in a post-apocalyptic future and the main obstacle between them and an easy payday is — you guessed it — a literal army of the undead!
In select theaters on May 14 and available on Netflix on May 21
A Quiet Place Part II
Following the terrifying and tragic events of 2018’s A Quiet Place, the Abbott family find themselves once again beset by a world of horrors in A Quiet Place Place Part II. Emily Blunt reprises her role as Evelyn Abbott who, along with her daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and infant child must venture from their compromised home in search of safe haven, all the while being stalked by both malicious monsters and humans alike.
In theaters on May 28
Following in the mold of 2014’s Maleficent (and maybe a little of 2019’s Joker), Cruella is the latest live-action Disney film to taking an unambiguous villain from a classic animated film and rehabilitating them as a tragically misunderstood girl-boss. The film stars Emma Stone as Cruella, a young grifter-turned-aspiring fashion mogul navigating the dog-eat-dog world of haute couture fashion. Imagine “Sweeney Todd meets The Devil Wears Prada” and that’s basically what the film is aiming for.
In theaters and available on Disney Plus Premier Access on May 28
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the third installment in the successful Conjuring horror franchise. Based on the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson — one of the most sensational and terrifying cases of the real-life Warrens — Ed and Lorraine are pitted in a fight for the soul of a young boy that will bring the pair face to face with evil incarnate itself.
In theaters and available on HBO Max on June 4
Sony Pictures Animation’s upcoming comedy musical stars Hamilton director Lin-Manuel Miranda as Vivo, a one-of-a-kind kinkajou (honey bear) that spends his days singing and dancing in a bustling Havana square alongside his beloved owner Andrés (Juan de Marcos González). When tragedy strikes amid the arrival of letter from Andres’ long-lost lover Marta (Gloria Estefan), Vivo must deliver a stirring love letter in the form of a song in order to bring the two one-time lovers together again.
Available on Netflix on June 4
In The Heights
Speaking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, before he broke through the stratosphere with Hamilton, he wrote and starred in the celebrated 2008 musical, In the Heights. This summer’s movie version, which stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, and more, seems poised for a similar reception. Set over the course of three days, the film follows a close-knit community in Washington Heights, New York as they navigate the trials and tribulations of day-to-day life in the city.
In theaters and available on HBO Max on June 11
Indian action thriller Jagame Thandhiram (“The world is tricky”) stars superstar Dhanush as Suruli, a Tamil gangster from Madurai hired by British crime lord Peter Sprott (James Cosmo) to take down a rival gangster. As Suruli lands in London with the intent to complete his mission, he quickly finds himself entrenched in a web of allegiances and dilemmas that force him to interrogate his peculiar status as a stranger in a strange land.
Available on Netflix on June 18
Pixar’s fantasy coming-of-age adventure Luca follows Luca Paguro (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) and his friend Alberto Scorfano (Shazam’s Jack Dylan Grazer), two young sea monsters who assume the forms of a pair of human children as they explore the idyllic Italian Riviera town of Portorosso. Directed by long-time Pixar animator Enrico Casarosa in his feature-length directorial debut, Luca looks like it’s shaping up to be the type of strange, heartwarming story about love, friendship, and acceptance that’s a perfect fit alongside the studio’s legacy of award-winning films.
Available on Disney Plus on June 18
F is for family in the ninth installment in long-running street racing-spy-action-heist-drama Fast and Furious series. When cyberterrorist mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron) enlists the aid of Jakob (John Cena), a master thief, assassin, and Dom’s younger brother, Dom must turn to his old friends-made-fast-family in order to fight back and (presumably) save the world from another nefarious plot. But forget about silly things like plot — look, they’re flying into space in this one!
In theaters on June 25
America: The Motion Picture
Quietly announced back in 2017, America: The Motion Picture stars Channing Tatum in the role of a chainsaw-wielding George Washington who assembles a superpowered team of farcical historical figures in order to kick Benedict Arnold’s ass and save a nascent nation from the nefarious clutches of King James. Not since Team America: World Police has there been an animated comedy that has hoped to take the piss out of American exceptionalism. If the trailer and stills for the film are any indication, it looks like America: The Motion Picture is aiming to go somehow even further over the top.
Available on Netflix on June 30
Adapted from a 2015 viral Twitter thread by Aziah “Zola” Wells, Zola features a stripper dragged into a violent maelstrom of a road-trip weekend by a sex worker, her boyfriend, and her pimp. From our preview of the A24 film’s premiere at Sundance last year,
[...] like Uncut Gems and The Farewell, Zola is the product of a new generation of filmmakers, late-age millennial auteurs who don’t need to bow down to the past and settle for pastiche. For Bravo, that means conveying the stress of our current moment, whether it’s a rap track devolving into Mica Levi-composed ambience, or letting the dialogue rip in loud, near-unintelligible ways. Zola is a confident film with a confident protagonist, and the agency on display is infectious.
In theaters on June 30
The Forever Purge
Writer-producer James DeMonaco returns for the fifth (and supposedly final) installment in the Purge series with 2021’s The Forever Purge. A year after the events of 2016’s The Purge: Election Year, the annual bacchanalian murder spree has been formally outlawed — but that doesn’t snuff out the wealthy’s desire to hunt the poor and defenseless. The Forever Purge follow a Mexican couple who, after escaping the clutches of a drug cartel and stranded in a Texas ranch house, are stalked by a vigilante group of heavily-armed outsiders who refuse to be denied their “right” to kill those who don’t look like them. With no other options, the couple must mount a defense to push back against their would-be murderers and find help.
In theaters on July 2
Summer of Soul
The Questlove-directed documentary Summer of Soul delves into the history and lasting significance of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone, the festival has gone largely unremembered and undocumented— until now. Summer of Soul is a love letter to an era and a genre of music whose distinctive sound forms the foundation of some of the most infectiously popular music of our present.
In theaters on July 2
Vigilante super spy Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow) finally gets her own standalone Marvel film, and all it took was over a decade’s worth of appearances across eight films and dying in Avengers: Endgame! Black Widow delves into the events between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War as Natasha is forced to confront a dangerous conspiracy led by a relentless mercenary known as The Taskmaster. In order to survive and bring the truth to light, she’ll need to turn to old allies from her past— fellow super spies Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), and the so-called “Red Guardian” Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour).
In theaters and available on Disney Plus Premier Access on July 9
Space Jam: A New Legacy
1996’s Space Jam, much like 1989’s Ghostbusters, is one of those oddball cinematic artifacts that’s taken on an outsized legacy as a sacrosanct pop cultural touchstone in the minds of audiences who first encountered it as children. Space Jam: A New Legacy sees Lebron James, starring as a fictionalized version of himself, transported to in Serververse, a virtual space populated by every IP owned by Warner Bros. entertainment, alongside his son Dom. When Dom is kidnapped by the rogue AI Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), James is forced to compete in a winner-takes-all basketball match alongside the Looney Toons in order to win back his son and all his Instagram followers. It’s a positively batshit fever dream of a premise à la 2018’s Ready Player One and Ralph Breaks the Internet, packed to the brim with cameos from Game of Thrones and The Iron Giant to Scooby-Doo and A Clockwork Orange.
In theaters on July 16
Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve Corporation, once claimed in an interview that every person is terrified of at least two things: the death of their children and the fading of their abilities. No more are these two elemental fears more present than in Old, the latest horror thriller from The Sixth Sense and Split director M. Night Shyamalan that follows a family on an idyllic tropical vacations that quickly sours into a waking nightmare when they quickly realize their precious few hours of relaxation cause them to age rapidly without a cure. It looks positively insane, just the kind of weird that sits comfortably in Shyamalan’s wheelhouse.
In theaters on July 23
The Green Knight
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) stars in the epic fantasy adventure The Green Knight as Sir Gawain, the headstrong nephew of King Arthur himself, who embarks on a perilous quest to confront a menace known as the Green Knight. Director David Lowery’s rendition on the classic Arthurian fable looks positively breathtaking with evocative cinematography and ominous score courtesy of his A Ghost Story collaborators Andrew Droz Palermo and Daniel Hart. Initially slated to release last year before being pushed back in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first trailer looks incredible— and with supporting performances by Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Joel Edgerton (The Underground Railroad), and Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), The Green Knight is without a doubt one of our most highly-anticipated releases of the year.
In theaters on July 30
The Suicide Squad
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s soft-reboot/sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad sees Amanda Waller’s highly disposable rogues gallery sent on a mission to the South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy Jotunheim, a Nazi-era prison and laboratory for horrific human experiments. Margot Robbie and Joel Kinnaman return as Harley Quinn and Rick Flag, this time joined by expert marksman Bloodsport (Idris Elba), murderous pacifist Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and many more. Don’t get too attached though, the movie’s called “Suicide Squad” for a reason after all.
In theaters on August 6
Don’t Breathe 2
Don’t Breathe, that absolutely bonkers 2016 horror thriller starring Stephen Lang as a blind homicidal army veteran who tried to artificially inseminate a bound woman with a turkey baster, is getting a sequel. The aptly titled Don’t Breathe 2 sees Lang return as the mysterious Blind Man, now hiding out in a secluded cabin several years after the first movie. According to Sony, Norman now lives in solace “until his past sins catch up to him.” Dun dun DUN.
In theaters on August 13
Nia DaCosta’s spiritual sequel to Bernard Rose’s 1992 horror classic Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy, a Chicago-based visual artist whose latest installation takes inspiration from the Candyman legend of Cabrini Green Housing Projects. When a series of inexplicable and gruesome murders ties back to Anthony and his exhibit, he’ll have to uncover a dark past that connects his own history to that of the terrifying apparition whose legend still strikes fear in the hearts of all those who remember him.
In theaters on August 27