summer movies 2021
Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist
Entertainment

37 Movies We Can't Wait to See This Summer

The blockbusters are (sorta) back!

For a long time, summer meant blockbusters: big, splashy movies filled with giant, famous faces that you go see in a packed, buzzing theater on a hot night. Last year, with movie theaters around the world closing their doors and unplugging the popcorn machines as the pandemic upended the film industry, the "summer movie" became a much more nebulous concept. Now, with theaters across the country reopening in part or in full, and major blockbuster drivers, such as Warner Bros. and Disney, employing a hybrid strategy of releasing movies online and in cineplexes, it looks like the "summer movie" is (kinda? sorta?) back. Exciting (potentially)!

We're excited about the prospect of watching movies in theaters again, and, regardless if we end up seeing them on our TVs or the big screen, it helps that many of the upcoming releases feel like must-sees. To help you make sense of the coming months, we've scoured the calendar from May through Labor Day and highlighted the 37 most essential streaming titles, major studio releases, and potential under-the-radar gems coming your way soon.

ALSO READ: The Best Movies of 2021 (So Far)

wrath of man
United Artists Releasing

Wrath of Man

Release date: May 7 in theaters
Cast: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett
Director: Guy Ritchie (The Gentlemen
Why we're excited: The reliably aggro Jason Statham plays a man with a mysterious past who gets hired to protect a cash truck in this remake of a 2004 French movie with the much better title Cash Truck. It comes from Guy Ritchie, who can either make movies that are excessively charming (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) or excessively dull (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). We're hoping this is more of the former rather than the latter. Plus, Post Malone is in this!
(Watch the trailer)

woman in the window
Netflix

The Woman in the Window

Release date: May 14 on Netflix
Cast:  Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger
Director: Joe Wright (Darkest Hour)
Why we're excited: This adaptation of a controversial bestseller was shot in 2018 and originally scheduled to come out in October of 2019. Some combination of difficult test screenings, the Disney-Fox deal, and the pandemic caused a number of delays. Now it's coming to Netflix, so we can finally find out if it's a fun Hitchcock-ian mystery or a total mess.
(Watch the trailer)

spiral
Lionsgate

Spiral

Release date: May 14 in theaters
Cast: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw IV)
Why we're excited: Chris Rock came up with the idea for the latest entry in the ever-growing Saw franchise, which spawned eight previous movies, so you can expect it to be slightly different from the stomach-churning n√ľ-metal horror of the series' peak. At the same time, director Darren Lynn Bousman helmed three previous Saw movies, known for their convoluted mythology and terrifying traps, and the original producers are still involved. And Samuel L. Jackson is in it. This could be a wild one.
(Watch the trailer)

those who wish me dead
Warner Brothers

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Release date: May 14 in theaters and on HBO Max
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jon Bernthal
Director: Taylor Sheridan (Wind River)
Why we're excited: Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan looks like he's firmly in his wheelhouse with this adaptation of a novel by Micahel Koryta, which tells the story of a teenager who witnesses a murder and goes on the run in a rapidly burning Montana forrest with a pair of assassins on his tale. Don't you hate when that happens?

(Watch the trailer)

army of the dead
Netflix

Army of the Dead

Release date: May 21 on Netflix
Cast: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Matthias Schweighöfer
Director: Zack Snyder (Man of Steel)
Why we're excited: While he was putting the finishing touches on the Snyder Cut, the Justice League director was also shooting this Vegas-set heist movie for Netflix, which will return him to his zombie roots. Dave Bautista starring in an Ocean's Eleven meets Dawn of the Dead mash-up? Sign us up. 
(Watch the trailer)

a quiet place part ii
Paramount Pictures

A Quiet Place Part II

Release date: May 28 in theaters
Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy
Director: John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Why we're excited: 2018's A Quiet Place was the type of slick, efficient horror movie with a satisfying ending that doesn't really demand a sequel. The bare-bones "mythology" of the premise could be summed up in the goofy "What is the weakness?" question scrawled on a whiteboard in the background of the first movie. Still, unnecessary horror sequels can surprise you, and Emily Blunt is returning along with director John Krasinski and adding in a bearded Cillian Murphy. Maybe this one will be less quiet?
(Watch the trailer)

cruella
Walt Disney Pictures

Cruella

Release date: May 28 in theaters and Disney+
Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Mark Strong
Director: Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya)
Why we're excited: We probably don't need a Cruella de Vil origin story. Still, we'll take Oscar-winner Emma Stone mugging about in fantastic costumes if that's what we're getting. This prequel set in the London 1970s punk scene is directed by I, Tonya's Craig Gillespie, adding a bunch more potentially intriguing question marks to the endeavor.
(Watch the trailer)

the conjuring the devil made me do it
Warner Brothers

The Conjuring: Devil Made Me Do It

Release date: June 4 in theaters and on HBO Max
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O'Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook
Director: Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona)
Why we're excited: First of all, you have to respect the third Conjuring movie for ditching the classier numbered titling of its previous sequel and going with the much more fun Devil Made Me Do It subtitle. (One can only imagine what the devil will make them do!) James Wan won't be handling directing duties here, but stars Vera Farminga and Patrick Wilson are back to do some more creepy sleuthing as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
(Watch the trailer)

in the heights
Warner Brothers

In the Heights 

Release date: June 11 in theaters and on HBO Max
Cast: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Director: Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians)
Why we're excited: Lin-Manuel Miranda made his mark before Hamilton with this musical ode to the neighborhood where he was raised. Now it comes to the screen with rising star Anthony Ramos as protagonist Usnavi, the character Miranda played on Broadway. We're most excited to see Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu back in Step Up mode, filming intricately choreographed, massive dance sequences on New York City streets.
(Watch the trailer)

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Lionsgate

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

Release date: June 16 in theaters
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Frank Grillo
Director: Patrick Hughes (The Hitman's Bodyguard)
Why we're excited: This sequel to 2017's action-comedy hit The Hitman's Bodyguard, which found Ryan Reynolds' bodyguard teaming up with Samuel L. Jackson's hitman for some banter and bloodshed, reunites the two leads, but throws a curveball in there: a wife! The wife of the title is played by Salma Hayek, and, judging from the trailer, there will be a lot of explosions, shoot-outs, and Ryan Reynolds quips. 
(Watch the trailer)

fatherhood
Netflix

Fatherhood

Release date: June 18 on Netflix
Cast: Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard, Melody Hurd, Anthony Carrigan
Director: Paul Weitz (Bel Canto)
Why we're excited: Kevin Hart hasn't gotten too many chances to show off his serious side throughout his career, but this drama, an adaptation of a memoir by the writer Matthew Logelin, should give the actor a chance to show his range as a father dealing with a painful loss. Director Paul Weitz, who co-directed 2002's Hugh Grant coming-of-age story About A Boy and directed 2015's charming comedy Grandma, clearly knows his way around stories of familial struggle.

the spark brothers
Focus Features

The Sparks Brothers

Release date: June 18 in theaters
Director: Edgar Wright (Baby Driver)
Why we're excited: This long and loving documentary from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Baby Driver filmmaker Edgar Wright will serve as an introduction to the weird and wonderful world of the experimental pop band Sparks, a duo made up of Ron and Russell Mael. If you've already been indoctrinated into their esoteric universe, it offers a rare look into their process and evolution. If you're a newbie, it will make you a fan.

fast 9
Universal Pictures

F9

Release date: June 25 in theaters
Cast: Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, Sung Kang
Director: Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6)
Why we're excited: The director of the greatest run of Fast & Furious movies is back for another round, as Dom Torretto and his crew team up once again to face off against his one weakness: his own family. Yes, we are expected to believe Vin Diesel and John Cena are brothers in this. Importantly: HAN IS BACK.
(Watch the trailer)

false positive
A24/Hulu

False Positive

Release date: June 25 on Hulu
Cast: Ilana Glazer, Justin Theroux, Pierce Brosnan Director: John Lee
Why we're excited: This eerie horror movie about pregnancy represents a change of tone for Broad City star Ilana Glazer, who both co-wrote the project and stars as a young professional encouraged to visit a creepy fertility clinic by her doctor husband (Justin Theroux). After being inseminated by a cult-like figure played by Pierce Brosnan, she starts to think that something is amiss with her marriage and her child-to-be. It's a riff on Rosemary's Baby for the wellness mommy age.

zola
A24

Zola

Release date: June 30 in theaters
Cast: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo
Director: Janicza Bravo (Lemon)
Why we're excited: We've been raving about this film ever since it premiered way back at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Now we're thrilled that this epic saga based on an incredible Twitter thread about two strippers on a disastrous road trip is finally hitting theaters. Wanna hear a story about how Zola and this bitch fell out? We definitely do. 
(Watch trailer)

america the motion picture
Netflix

America: The Motion Picture 

Release date: June 30 on Netflix
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jason Mantzoukas, Olivia Munn, Killer Mike
Director: Matt Thompson
Why we're excited: You might remember some of the details of America's Revolutionary War from history class, but we're guessing that version didn't include a robot-centaur and laser blasters. This R-rated, animated retelling of America's founding comes from Matt Thompson, who worked on Archer and co-created Adult Swim's Sealab 2021, so expect lots of wild imagery, ridiculous action, and barbed wit.

Infinite

Release date: June on Paramount+
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O'Brien, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Director: Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer 2)
Why we're excited: Mark Wahlberg re-teams with Shooter director Antoine Fuqua for this action thriller about a troubled guy who discovers his hallucinations are actually "visions from his past life." The movie is based on a novel titled The Reincarnationist Papers, which would've made for a much less generic title than Infinite, but we won't hold the boring title against it.

summer of soul
Searchlight Pictures/Hulu

Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Release date: July 2 on Hulu
Director: Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson 
Why we're excited: The Roots' Questlove has assembled a treasure trove of never-before-seen footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, featuring performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, and Sly and the Family Stone among many many others. Not only is Summer of Soul an invigorating concert feature, it's an important historical document. 
(Watch trailer)

the tomorrow war
Paramount Pictures/Amazon

The Tomorrow War

Release date: July 2 on Amazon Prime
Cast: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin 
Director: Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie)
Why we're excited: This action blockbuster starring Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic Word star Chris Pratt is set in a dystopian future where humans are getting wiped out in a battle with aliens, so the government decides to pull soldiers from the past to fight in the war.

black widow
Marvel Studios

Black Widow

Release date: July 9 in theaters and Disney+
Cast: Scarlett Johanssen, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour
Director: Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome)
Why we're excited: Nearly 10 years after the Internet began clamoring for a standalone film featuring the MCU's first female Avenger, we're finally getting one. Judging from the trailers, Black Widow looks like a lot of shooty, kicky, punchy, Russian spy fun. Not to mention the story takes place between Civil War and Infinity War, so you might want to watch out for a familiar face or two you may not expect.
(Watch the trailer)

the forever purge
Universal Pictures

The Forever Purge

Release date: July 9 in theaters
Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Josh Lucas, Tenoch Huerta, Leven Rambin
Director: Everardo Gout
Why we're excited: The dystopian idea behind The Purge series is that there's one night a year where all crime, including murder, is legal. According to the title of the latest entry, the follow-up to 2018's brutal prequel The First Purge, the Purge now lasts… forever? That news does not sound good for the weary citizens for the Purge-verse, but it could make for a pretty intense movie.

the night house
Searchlight Pictures

The Night House

Release date: July 16 in theaters
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Stacy Martin, Evan Jonigkeit
Director: David Bruckner (The Ritual)
Why we're excited: This unsettling haunted house tale, which follows a widow (Rebecca Hall) grieving her husband in a sleek home he designed himself, was one of the creepier movies at Sundance back in 2020. Director David Bruckner, who helmed Netflix's sturdy hike-gone-wrong thriller The Ritual, knows how to make a movie like this tick.
(Watch the trailer)

space jam
Warner Brothers

Space Jam: A New Legacy 

Release date: July 16 in theaters and on HBO Max
Cast: LeBron James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Don Cheadle, Bugs Bunny
Director: Malcolm D. Lee (Night School)
Why we're excited: While we're not getting the version of a Space Jam sequel directed by avant-garde filmmaker Terence Nance, which sounded very cool, we're still ready to slam with this new saga of basketball starring LeBron James and the Looney Tunes. Welcome to the jam, indeed.
(Watch the trailer)

Focus Features

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Release date: July 16 in theaters
Director: Morgan Neville (
Won't You Be My Neighbor?)
Why we're excited: Renowned documentarian Morgan Neville, who made the loving tribute to Mister Rogers Won't You Be My Neighbor?, turns his focus to Anthony Bourdain. We're still in mourning for the late television host, chef, and eater extraordinaire, so we can't wait to spend a little more time with him.

old
Universal

Old

Release date: July 23 in theaters 
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung
Director: M. Night Shyamalan (Glass)
Why we're excited: The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan looks like he's tackling a great micro-genre here: the "there's something creepy about this beautiful beach" movie. A family shows up on a seemingly idyllic spot of sandy land and find that it makes them age rapidly. Wanna bet there's a twist?
(Watch the trailer)

jungle cruise
Walt Disney Pictures

Jungle Cruise

Release date: July 30 in theaters and Disney+
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter)
Why we're excited: Based on Disneyland's beloved river cruise theme park ride, the Jungle Cruise movie brings the tale to life, dumping Emily Blunt and The Rock in the middle of the Amazon, where they must fight off dangerous wild creatures and a supernatural threat. Intrigued to see how Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of tense thrillers like The Shallows and‚Ķ Orphan‚Ķ handles this. 
(Watch the trailer)

the green knight
A24

The Green Knight 

Release date: July 30 in theaters 
Cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury
Director: David Lowery (The Old Man & The Gun)
Why we're excited: One can never have enough stylized riffs on Arthurian legend. This A24-produced medieval fantasy film from A Ghost Story and Pete's Dragon filmmaker David Lowery finds Dev Patel picking up a sword and shield to play Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur, as he sets out to do battle with the mysterious Green Knight of the title. Expect contemplative shots of nature and medieval combat. 
(Watch the trailer)

suicide squad
Warner Brothers

The Suicide Squad

Release date: August 6 in theaters and on HBO Max
Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman
Director: James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Why we're excited: No, you're not experiencing superhero movie déjà vu. There was a movie from 2016 called Suicide Squad, which starred Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto as the Joker. Robbie returns as Harley Quinn, who she played in the recent Birds of Prey movie, but most of the rest of the original movie's cast is gone and writer/director David Ayer has been replaced with James Gunn, who will hopefully find a take on these characters that doesn't require another "soft reboot" in five years.
(Watch the teaser)

kissing booth 3
Netflix

The Kissing Booth 3

Release date: August 11 on Netflix
Cast: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney, Molly Ringwald
Director: Vincent Marcello (The Kissing Booth)
Why we're excited: Netflix's teen phenomenon is finally coming to an end with a third chapter. Will Elle and Noah end up together? Will there be another dance contest? And what about... a final kissing booth?

free guy
20th Century Studios

Free Guy

Release date: August 13 in theaters
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery
Director: Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum
Why we're excited: This frenzied-looking action-comedy chronicles the existential challenges of an NPC (Ryan Reynolds) in an open-world video game called Free World. Will Grand Theft Auto and Zelda obsessives want to leave the house to see Deadpool wisecrack his way through a Ready Player One-like scenario they can't play themselves? It could be a tough sell. Still, the mix of snarky gags and goofy adventure worked for both the Jumanji movies in recent years, so it might work here.
(Watch the trailer

respect
United Artists Releasing

Respect

Release date: August 13 in theaters
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Audra McDonald, Marlon Wayans
Director: Liesl Tommy 
Why we're excited: Jennifer Hudson was chosen to star in this Aretha Franklin biopic by Franklin herself, which must account for something. Directed by Liesl Tommy, a renowned theater director making her foray into feature films, we can't wait to see how the Oscar-winning Hudson interprets one of the greatest musicians of all time. 
(Watch the trailer

CODA
Apple TV+

CODA

Release date: August 13 on Apple TV+
Cast: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant
Director: Sian Heder
Why we're excited: Arguably the biggest hit out of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, CODA is a stirring, tearful drama about a teen who is the only hearing member of her family. Ruby (Emilia Jones) acts as interpreter for her close-knit unit in a Massachusetts fishing community, yet conflict arises when she decides to pursue her love of singing, which takes her away from the family business. With wonderful performances, it's sure to be embraced by all who see it.

dont breathe 2
Sony Pictures Releasing

Don't Breathe 2

Release date: August 13 in theaters
Cast: Stephen Lang 
Director: Rodo Sayagues
Why we're excited: 2016's captivity thriller Don't Breathe was one of the more intense and disturbing horror films in recent years. This sequel finds the great Stephen Lang returning as the villainous "Blind Man" and, at least from the plot description, it sounds like he has even more of a central role this time. Director Rodo Sayagues served as a co-writer on the first movie, and the first movie's director Fede √Ālvarez (also responsible for 2013's brutal Evil Dead remake) is producing and co-wrote the script.

candyman
Universal

Candyman 

Release date: August 27 in theaters
Cast: Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo
Director: Nia DaCosta (Little Woods)
Why we're excited: Nia DaCosta's spiritual sequel to the 1992 horror classic comes with a script co-written by Jordan Peele and a trailer that will definitely freak you out. (Don't say his name!) This is one of the most anticipated movies of last year that got bumped because of the pandemic, and we remain really pumped to see how DaCosta and company have translated this story about racism and gentrification for the 21st century.
(Watch the trailer)

Reminiscence image
Warner Brothers

Reminiscence

Release date: August 20 in theaters and on HBO Max
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Wu
Director: Lisa Joy
Why we're excited: Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy dreamed up this science-fiction thriller about a veteran (Hugh Jackman) who works for a company that allows customers to relive any of their memories. Of course, he falls in love with one of his clients (Rebecca Ferguson) and then discovers she may have a dark past. It sounds like a twist-filled brainteaser in the mold of Eternal Sunshine, Inception, or, you know, Westworld.

he's all that
Netflix

He's All That

Release date: August 27 on Netflix
Cast: Addison Rae, Tanner Buchanan, Rachael Leigh Cook, Madison Pettis
Director: Mark Waters (Mean Girls)
Why we're excited: The '90s teen rom-com hit She's All That gets a gender-swapped remake in this new Netflix offering, which features TikTok star Addison Rae in the Freddie Prinze Jr. role of a popular teen tasked with transforming an outcast (Cobra Kai's Tanner Buchanan) into a prom king. The original's star, Rachael Leigh Cook, will have a role and the script comes from She's All That writer R. Lee Flemming Jr., but will it still use that one Sixpence None the Richer song? That's the important question. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Marvel Studios

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Release date: September 3 in theaters
Cast: Simu Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy)
Why we're excited: It's about time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have its first Southeast Asian superhero on the silver screen, and there are few better heroes to pick than Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, who has the power to duplicate himself into multiple Shang-Chis, as well as the knowledge of nearly every martial art. The Avengers have no idea what's coming.
(Watch the trailer)

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