All the Best Summer Movies Streaming, On Demand and (Fingers Crossed!) in Theaters
By John Boone
Netflix / Walt Disney Studios / Warner Bros. / Universal Pictures
Welcome to the strangest summer movie season ever. The days of flocking to the cinema for the latest superhero movie or seasonal indie hit are gone -- or at least, put on hold -- but just because you aren't taking your seat with your bucket of popcorn in a theater full of strangers doesn't mean Hollywood has nothing to offer. We'll be seeing movies this summer, one way or another.
And those ways are these: Streaming, with Netflix and Hulu rolling out their newest movies as planned alongside offerings from Disney+, HBO Max and more. Via VOD or other on-demand options, with new titles skipping theaters altogether for you to rent or buy at home. And, if all goes according to plan, in socially distanced theaters within the next few months. (In the meantime, look into your local drive-in.)
So we may have to adjust the way we're used to watching movies for the time being, but you can still count on blockbusters about superpowered people and far-off fantasy worlds, plus a slate of rom-coms, dramedies, rom-drams and good ole comedies -- with a few scary movies thrown in for good measure. Here is a guide to what movies are must-sees this summer (sorted by how you'll be watching them).
Elisabeth Moss never passes up the chance to chew scenery as a woman who may or may not be going mad, and her turn as The Haunting of Hill House author Shirley Jackson might be her magnum opus. Michael Stuhlbarg co-stars as Shirley's philandering husband, with Odessa Young and Logan Lerman as young newlyweds who become the objects of their fixation. (Shirley will also be available on demand.)
Artemis Fowl (Disney+)
Fans of Eoin Colfer's beloved book series finally get to see the world of fairies, goblins and preteen criminal masterminds brought to life. The Kenneth Branagh-directed film stars newcomer Ferdia Shaw as the titular Artemis, who gets mixed up with a con artist dwarf (Josh Gad) and the fairy police force (led by Judi Dench) as he goes searching for his mission father (Colin Farrell).
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Spike Lee's new joint will stream globally. The director's first film since winning his long-overdue Oscar for BlacKkKlansman is the story of four African American veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) who return to Vietnam to recover the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) and perhaps dig up some buried treasure, too.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix)
In lieu of this year's canceled Eurovision, we'll get our fix of over-the-top pop anthems in The Story of Fire Saga. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play aspiring musicians Lars and Sigrit, who are given the opportunity to represent their country in the competition. Pierce Brosnan, Demi Lovato and Dan Stevens also star in the comedy, from Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin.
The Old Guard (Netflix)
We may have to wait a bit longer for Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984, but our summer is not without a female comic book hero to kick a** and take names: Charlize Theron's Andromache of Scythia (aka Andy) is an immortal mercenary and leader of a group of vigilante soldiers tasked with protecting humanity in this action-epic from director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
An American Pickle (HBO Max)
It's best to just let Seth Rogen explain this one himself: "I play an immigrant in 1920s New York who falls in a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. When I wake up, I seek out my only family, my great grandson, an app developer named Ben, who I also play in the film. That old story..."
The full streaming calendar:
Out Now: The Lovebirds (Netflix)
May 29: The Vast of Night (Amazon)
June 3: Spelling the Dream (Netflix)
June 5: The Last Days of American Crime (Netflix), Shirley (Hulu)
June 12: Artemis Fowl (Disney+), Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
June 19: Dads (AppleTV+), Disclosure (Netflix), 7500 (Amazon)
June 24: Athlete A (Netflix)
June 26: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix)
July 3: Desperados (Netflix)
July 10: Palm Springs (Hulu), The Old Guard (Netflix)
July 17: We Are Freestyle Love Supreme (Hulu)
July 24: The Kissing Booth 2 (Netflix), Radioactive (Amazon)
Aug. 5: An American Pickle (HBO Max)
Aug. 7: Boyz In the Wood (Amazon)
Aug. 14: Charm City Kings (HBO Max), Project Power (Netflix)
Aug. 21: Chemical Hearts (Amazon)
The High Note
In addition to being a Golden Globe winner and three-time Emmy nominee, Tracee Ellis Ross is daughter to the legendary Miss Diana Ross. So can you believe we're only now getting to hear her sing? Late Night director Nisha Ganatra looks at the music biz through the eyes of superstar diva Grace Davis (Ross) and her assistant (Dakota Johnson). Come for the feel-good comedy, stay for the acting debut of Diplo.
The King of Staten Island
Pete Davidson's life story gets the Judd Apatow treatment in this comedy about "love, loss and laughter on Staten Island." Davidson plays Scott, a wannabe tattoo artist who never moved on after the death of his firefighter father. (Davidson's own firefighter father, Scott, died on 9/11.) When his mother (Marisa Tomei) starts dating again, he's forced to finally grow up. Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi, Bel Powley and Maude Apatow also star.
Director Channing Godfrey Peoples' coming-of-age drama centers on Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie), a hard-working single mother and former beauty queen. When her rebellious teenage daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), enters the Miss Juneteenth pageant, Turquoise sees a chance to guide Kai to the crown -- and, hopefully, a better life than her own.
Based on Jake Tapper's bestseller about 2009's Battle of Kamdesh and helmed by soldier-turned-director Rod Lurie, this Afghanistan War drama stars a buzz cut Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood, the latter portraying Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Clint Romesha. (The Outpost will also be in theaters, should they be open.)
Counting Jake Gyllenhaal and the Russo Brothers as producers, Natalie Erika James' Sundance standout is both a haunted house horror movie and family trauma drama. Robyn Nevin plays an elderly mother whose disappearance lures her daughter (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter (Bella Heathcote) back to the family's increasingly spooky country home. Relic is also set to open theatrically.
Dave Franco makes his directorial debut with this thriller fronted by wife Alison Brie, who co-stars alongside Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White as two couples who rent a house for a weekend away but end up getting far more than they'd bargained for. To reveal much more would be to spoil the fun.
The full VOD and on demand calendar:
May 29: The High Note
June 5: Becky, Dreamland, Judy & Punch
June 9: Here Awhile, You Don't Nomi
June 12: Exit Plan, The King of Staten Island
June 16:Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth
June 19: Babyteeth, Miss Juneteenth
June 23: The Ghost of Peter Sellers
June 26: Irresistible
June 30: Viena and the Fantomes
July 3: John Lewis: Good Trouble, Mr. Jones, The Outpost
July 7:The Medicine
July 10: First Cow, Relic
July 24: Most Wanted, The Rental
July 28: Nose to Tail
July 31: Summerland
Aug. 4: CRSHD, Star Light
Aug. 7: The Tax Collector
Aug. 14:The Silencing
Aug. 21: Tesla
We...don't know what Tenet is about, but we know one thing it is not about: Time travel. (It does, however, apparently deal with "inversion"?) We're on board for anything Christopher Nolan does, though, especially with this cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Michael Caine, among others. Nolan shot this with a mix of IMAX and 70mm, so an in-theater viewing is essential.
Disney's live-action Mulan reimagines the 1998 animated classic, with a few notable changes: It's not a musical, for one, and doesn't see Mushu brought to life. It also incorporates elements from the original source material, the 5th century fable of a Chinese warrior, as this new take on Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) disguises herself as a male soldier to take her father's place in battle. Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Tzi Ma and Li Gong co-star.
Wonder Woman 1984*
Gal Gadot's Diana Prince, the titular woman of wonder, returns for a sequel set in the titular '80s. Chris Pine's Steve Trevor is also back, somehow? (As you'll remember, he didn't make it out of the first movie alive.) This time, director Patty Jenkins has them facing nefarious businessman Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and friend-turned-nemesis-turned-actual cheetah, Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig).
Between Homecoming's second season and Antebellum, Janelle Monáe is having a thriller of a summer. Here, she plays a successful author who finds herself mysteriously transported back to the days of slavery and must escape the Civil War South of her mind-bending new reality. Antebellum hails from the same producers as Get Out and Us, so fully expect to have your mind blown.
The New Mutants
Though theater closures delayed its release yet again -- the fifth time, by our count -- The New Mutants is finally, actually coming out. The Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone puts a horror spin on the X-Men franchise, dropping a handful of young superheroes (played by Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Blu Hunt and Henry Zaga) into a psych ward full of scares.
A Quiet Place Part II
John Krasinski's sequel to his best-of 2018 horror film was among the first films delayed due to the pandemic. Now, it closes out the summer season, revisiting the monster-hunting family from the first film (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) as they leave safety behind for an uncertain future and come across new friends and foes (played by Djimon Hounsou and Cillian Murphy) and, of course, an alien or two.
The full theatrical calendar:
July 17:Cut Throat City, Saint Maud
July 31: The Informer, Summerland, Unhinged
Aug. 7: The Broken Hearts Gallery, Tesla
Aug. 12: Tenet
Aug. 14: Greenland, The Personal History of David Copperfield, The Secret Garden, Sound of Metal
Aug. 21: Antebellum, Let Him Go, Mulan
Aug. 28:Bill & Ted Face the Music, The Courier, The New Mutants
Sept. 4: A Quiet Place Part II, The Beatles: Get Back, Monster Hunter
Hollywood got inventive to ensure there was even a summer movie season to be had, but many films were also pulled from their planned release dates to hit theaters later this year or in 2021. This summer should have been packed with volleyball-playing pilots and kids who ain't afraid of no ghosts, Minions and Living Vampires and Dwayne Johnson as a punny riverboat captain.
Here are some of the movies you should've been seeing in theaters this summer but won't -- as well as when you will be able to see them:
Pixar's latest moved from June 19 to Nov. 20, 2020.
Top Gun: Maverick
The Tom Cruise-starring sequel moved from June 24 to Dec. 23.
The Ghostbusters II follow-up moved from July 10 to March 5, 2021.
In the Heights
The Lin Manuel-Miranda musical moved from June 26 to June 18, 2021.
Disney's theme park-inspired adventure moved from July 24 to July 30, 2021.
Find a complete list of postponed movies and their new release dates here.