31 Movies You Should Have on Your Watchlist This Summer

Blockbusters, indies and Aubrey Plaza galore

By Kirk Miller

31 Movies You Should Have on Your Watchlist This Summer
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04 May 2017

Since summer movies are all about statistics — box-office gross, number of explosions, wasted minutes you can never have back — we thought we’d offer a few positive numbers from our annual Summer Movie Guide.

  • 31: Number of summer flicks that look promising
  • 6: Percentage of those films that star Aubrey Plaza
  • 1: Dystopian tales with cannibal bodybuilders (one of whom is Keanu Reeves)
  • 0: Number of times the new Transformers appears

But if it’s epic superhero sagas (hi, Wonder Woman), foul-mouthed nuns and the welcome return of auteurs Luc Besson, Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderbergh you’re after, we got you.

From worthwhile blockbusters to indie darlings, this is your week-by-week guide to summer’s best movies.

MAY 5: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
While early hype for the Marvel sequel touts that it offers more of the same thrills (in a good way) as the original, we're excited to see how Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone fit into the goofy intergalactic series.

Or: Get inspired by Chuck, the real-life story of a liquor salesman in New Jersey who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali (and inspired Rocky in the process).

MAY 12: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie turns the sword-in-the-stone tale into a grimier story of back alley brawlers and kinetic, Led Zeppelin-fueled battles — this looks more like a medieval Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels than a fantasy epic (Arthur even runs with a low-life “crew”).

Or: For edgier action, witness two American soldiers trapped by a sniper in The Wall, directed by action maestro Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow).

MAY 19: Alien: Covenant
Not sure about the casting of James Franco and Danny McBride to fight xenomorphs, but early, bloody trailers suggest this one rights the ship (literally) after a nearly alien-free, painfully annoying Prometheus.

Or: Figure out how to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world with The Survivalist, which is more The Road melodrama than Mad Max dystopian car porn. (Bonus: It opens in theaters and VOD the same day.)

MAY 26: Baywatch
Check your brain at the door, but Dwayne Johnson makes any movie watchable. Including this 21 Jump Street-style comedy reboot (via Horrible Bosses helmer Seth Gordon) of the David Hasselhoff lifeguard series. Also: Alexandra Daddario slo-mo running down the beach ... kind of makes the summer, right?

Or: Brad Pitt is a four-star general unhinged by the war in Afghanistan in Netflix’s satire War Machine, directed by David Michôd (Animal Kingdom).

JUNE 2: Wonder Woman
People cheered exactly twice during Batman v Superman: when the movie finally ended (ha) and during Wonder Woman’s debut. Now on her own, Gal Gadot stars as the princess of the Amazons who eventually joins the rest of mankind to kick ass in World War I. Gadot gets bonus points for doing reshoots while five months pregnant.

Or: The always enjoyable Adam Pally tries to save his marriage by starting an indie band with his wife in Zoe Lister-Jones’ Band Aid.

JUNE 9: The Mummy
First, watch this amazingly weird trailer. Now, with sound, Tom Cruise’s take on this monster classic looks actually kind of thrilling ... and far less campy than the Brendan Fraser franchise.

Or: The creepy pandemic flick It Comes At Night is positioned to be this summer’s It Follows or The Witch.

JUNE 16: Rough Night
Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer throw a bachelorette party ... and a male stripper winds up dead. Basically, Very Bad Things meets The Hangover, with a female twist (and directed by Broad City helmer Lucia Aniello).

Or: Sure, 47 Meters Down looks like pure cheese, but you can’t have a summer without a shark film, right?

JUNE 23: The Bad Batch
Talented newcomer Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) directs this mind-bending dystopian tale of skateboarders and bodybuilding cannibals. With Keanu Reeves!

Or: Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) pines for his girlfriend in a coma during The Big Sick, which wowed at festivals — and then got picked up by Amazon for a whopping $12 million.

JUNE 28: Baby Driver
Consider Edgar Wright’s getaway caper the cooler, intentionally funny take on The Fast and the Furious. Great casting too: Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey get supporting roles here.

Or: The Little Hours, aka Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza as drinking, fornicating, foul-mouthed nuns. Funniest trailer of the summer, hands down.

JULY 7: Spider-Man: Homecoming
After a great debut in Captain America: Civil War, the back-to-Marvel-basics approach to Peter Parker — dork at school, lonesome wisecracking hero outside of it — is welcome. As is Michael Keaton playing The Vulture, which is kind of reverse Birdman.

Or: An indie drama take on Ghost? That’s the loose idea for A Ghost Story, a smart, sad tale of loss and spirits with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.

JULY 14: War for the Planet of the Apes
Emphasis on war: It’s a full-on bloodfest between Caesar’s gorilla army and a human tribe led by an unbalanced Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

Or: Be inspired by the citizen journalists who take on ISIS in Syria in the harrowing documentary City of Ghosts.

JULY 21: Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic about the Allied soldier evacuation of Dunkirk, France, specifically shot and made for watching in IMAX glory.

Or: It’s certainly not an indie flick, but if you give Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) hundreds of millions of dollars to do sci-fi, you’re going to get something outside the norm — like the visual wonderland of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

JULY 28: Atomic Blonde
Basically the stylized violence of John Wick (they share a director), but with Charlize Theron kicking ass in the 80s.

Or: An oddball (Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney) attempts to film his own ending to his favorite canceled kids show in Brigsby Bear. Interesting cast: Mark Hamill, Claire Danes and Greg Kinnear co-star.

AUG. 4: The Dark Tower
Stephen King’s epic series finally gets its cinematic counterpart. Here, the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) chases the mysterious Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) across multiple words.

Or: Aubrey Plaza (again!) chases down a social-media star in the promising, of-the-moment satire Ingrid Goes West.

AUG. 11: Take a break. Go to the beach. Avoid things like the Annabelle sequel.

AUG. 18: The Hitman’s Bodyguard
An action-comedy where a bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) is hired to protect a hitman (Samuel L. Jackson) who’s about to testify. Formulaic, sure, but based the trailer and his excessive use of “motherfucker,” this could be the epitome of Samuel L. Jackson films.

Or: Welcome the unretirement of Steven Soderbergh with Logan Lucky, a heist flick with a NASCAR bent.

AUG. 25: Death Note
Horror auteur Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, You’re Next) tackles the Japanese manga about a teenager who figures out he can kill anyone by writing their name in a mystical notebook. Yes, it’s whitewashed, but Wingard’s a promising talent and this is one of Netflix’s big-budget debuts, so you can watch it at home and complain about it there. 

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