Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Summer Movie Preview: 40 Most Anticipated Films

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist April 21, 2014 at 1:47PM

The temperatures are rising, the coats are going into storage, and the TV spots are getting more prevalent. That's right, it's almost time for summer movie season again. The months of May through August are traditionally the biggest in the multiplex calendar, but the lines have become increasingly blurred in recent years—if "Noah" and "Divergent" didn't kick off blockbuster season, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" certainly did, and that was three weeks ago.
21
Love Is Strange
SPC "Love is Strange"

10. "Love Is Strange"
Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson
Synopsis: Just as they're finally able to get married, a gay couple who've been together for decades are forced to live apart when one of them loses their job.
Why It's Worth Seeing: It went somewhat underseen, but Ira Sachs' "Keep The Lights On" cemented the director's position as one of the most vital voices not just in LGBT cinema but American indie altogether, so his follow-up was an exciting prospect even before it was revealed that it would star John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in the lead roles. When it premiered in Sundance in January, it lived up to expectations: James Rocchi's review said that if it "were nothing more than a showcase for its performances, it would still be superlative," with the two stars as good as they've ever been, and the film in general including "gentle humanity, dry wit and completely earned tearjerking moments." James concluded his review saying that he doubted he'd see "a more finely performed and beautifully crafted love story, with or without any mere modifiers, up on the big screen this year." So we're sold.
Release Date: August 22nd

Night Moves

9. "Night Moves"
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat
Synopsis: An unlikely trio of eco-activists come together to blow up a dam.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: After "Wendy And Lucy" and "Meek's Cutoff," you could be mistaken for thinking you could know what to expect from a new film from Kelly Reichardt. What we weren't expecting is a Hitchcockian and Chabrolian thriller of guilt and suspense, but it's a left turn that Reichardt makes with aplomb. At Venice, Oli found that the film kicks off with "an almost docudrama-like feeling to proceedings," before a second half that "shifts effortlessly into a portrait of guilt." As ever with the filmmaker, "the environment is just as much of a character as the people," but she also takes to the genre elements nicely, with the final set-piece being "the most claustrophobic thing she's made." And at the center, as with "The Double," is another marvelous performance from Jesse Eisenberg, "shorn of his motormouth, his assuredness and his tics, he's a revelation here," proving "sinister and vulnerable virtually within the same breath."
Release Date: May 30th

Guardians Of The Galaxy

8. "Guardians Of The Galaxy"
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly
Synopsis: On the other side of the universe, a cocky pilot from Earth falls in with an unlikely group of rogues, including alien assassin Gamora, warrior Drax The Destroyer, tree-creature Groot, and badass rodent Rocket Raccoon, going on the run with a powerful object with half the universe on their tail.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Marvel has been nothing if not ambitious with its movies so far, but "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is something else entirely: a space-set adventure based on a property that's basically unknown among the general public, with an actor best known as a lovable doofus from a little-watched NBC sitcom in the lead role, a walking tree and a wisecracking raccoon in key parts, and James Gunn, the madman behind gore-filled B-movies "Slither" and "Super" directing. But it all means that, if any of these Marvel movies can really hit the next level and turn up something truly memorable, it's the batshit craziness of "Guardians Of The Galaxy." The teaser trailer was confident and fun, and signs in general are positive that Gunn's been given the leeway to come up with something truly bonkers here. If it's not the best blockbuster of the year, it's certainly going to be the weirdest, and that's something worth cherishing.
Release Date: August 1st

Ida

7. "Ida"
Cast: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza
Synopsis: In 1960s Poland, a young orphan girl about to take her vows as a nun discovers that she's Jewish, and sets out on a road trip with her only living relative.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Pawel Pawlikowski is an undervalued filmmaker (best known for "My Summer Of Love"), who aside from his return with 2012's disappointing "The Woman In The Fifth," has been away for too long. But he came storming back with "Ida," a beautiful little black-and-white Bressonian gem. Oli caught it first at the London Film Festival, calling it "absolutely stunning, one of the year's best films," and Jess reviewed it in full in Marrakech, agreeing that it's a "small, quiet, polished film that unfolds slowly but with remarkable assurance," with some "truly remarkable cinematography," and a "striking central performance" from young Polish actress Agata Trzebuchowska. It's a little film that might not be for everyone, but winning the top prize at the BFI London Film Festival, we clearly weren't the only ones liking it.
Release Date: May 2nd

The Immigrant

6. "The Immigrant"
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner,
Synopsis: A Polish immigrant coming to America falls prey to a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: The latest from Playlist favorite James Gray, "The Immigrant" is a slow-burning emotional drama exploring the ideas of forgiveness and redemption via terrible characters that are nearly beyond salvation. Even more mature and patient than expected, especially for a filmmaker who has made a name on thoughtful and contemplative morality tales, “The Immigrant” won’t be for all audiences (it got very mixed notices at Cannes, though we loved it), but it’s still one of our favorite films of the year so far, and boasts yet another astonishing performance from Phoenix, who is late-on revealed to be just as pivotal to the film as Cotillard. Not to mention gorgeous cinematography from the great Darius Khondji.
Release Date: May 16th

Godzilla

5. "Godzilla"
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche
Synopsis: A giant radioactive lizard monster causes havoc.
What You Need To Know: Sixteen years after Roland Emmerich's disastrous Matthew Broderick-starring reboot, another attempt to revive the famous Japanese monster is stomping towards theaters, courtesy of director Gareth Edwards, who knows this sort of territory thanks to his microbudget indie breakthrough "Monsters." That was a very striking debut film, making Edwards a great choice on paper at least, for something like this. The actors certainly seem to agree: the cast are a cut above the sort of thing you'd expect for a tentpole like this, and the chance to see Cranston, Binoche and Sally Hawkins run away from reptile feet is enough to sell us on opening weekend. And the marketing campaign has been confident and striking, suggesting a real-world approach to the giant monster genre, and suggesting Edwards knows what he's doing on a big canvas. This could, of course, still disappoint like Emmerich's 1998 film, but right now, it looks infinitely more promising.
Release Date: May 16th

Boyhood

4. "Boyhood"
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Marco Perella
Synopsis: The life of a child told from age six to age 18, following his relationship with his parents before and after they divorce.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Like a cousin to his 'Before' trilogy that's both oddly compressed and slowed down, "Boyhood" might be the most ambitious thing that Richard Linklater has ever made. Following in the footsteps of Michael Apted's "Up" series and Michael Winterbottom's "Everyday," Linklater spent a few weeks every year since 2002 shooting portions of this film, which stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as the parents, and newcomer Ellar Salmon as the child. As a result, it's a literal coming-of-age film that sees Salmon, and the other actors, age before the cameras: as Hawke described it, it's like "timelapse photography of a human being." The film bowed at Sundance to rave reviews, and while we didn't completely flip for it in the way that some did, there's an enormous amount to love: a film that "shines in its engrossing, experiential understanding and it’s a special achievement that should be cherished and acknowledged." Above all else, it's something not quite like anything you've seen before, and that alone makes it one of the must-sees of the summer.
Release Date: July 11th

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

3. "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes"
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Judy Greer
Synopsis: Ten years after the events of "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" unleashed a virus that decimated humanity, the survivors square off for a final battle against the apes, as their leader, Caesar, faces a power struggle of his own.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" was one of the most pleasant surprises of the last few years: an unpromising-on-paper blockbuster that, through the solid chops of director Rupert Wyatt, and the great performance of mo-cap whiz Andy Serkis, turned out to be an engaging and involving blockbuster that successfully reinvented the franchise for the 21st century. The sequel might have lost Wyatt and original human star James Franco, but it's gained Matt Reeves as a director, and some promising new names joining the returning, and crucially, Andy Serkis. The follow-up looks to have retained much of what made it work: namely, a smart and emotional take on a very silly premise. And if Wyatt had to go (and his departure, allegedly because he felt Fox were trying to fit it to an unrealistic release date, is admittedly worrying), you couldn't ask for a better replacement that Reeves, who was behind the superb "Let Me In." Footage and buzz is good, so we're hopeful this could be even better than the original. Also, this.
Release Date: July 11th

Snowpiercer

2. "Snowpiercer"
Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt
Synopsis: In a future where Earth has been turned into a frozen wasteland, humanity's survivors are contained in a huge train, divided strictly by class, that endlessly circulates the planet. But the have-nots at the back have had enough, and mount a rebellion intended to take them all the way to the engine.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: Easily one of our most anticipated of last year, we started to worry if we'd ever see "Snowpiercer," the English-language debut of Korean master Bong Joon-ho ("The Host," "Memories Of Murder," "Mother"), given the bubbling controversy over the film and Harvey Weinstein's intentions to release a severely truncated version. But the film opened in France uncut in October, and U.K. correspondent Oliver Lyttelton hopped across the Channel to catch it and found it more than worth the trip, calling it "the best pure science-fiction film since 'Children Of Men.' " Building a "remarkably rich, coherent future world," melding "tones without them clashing," and with smart and complex politics underpinning "an inventive and exciting action film," it also features some excellent performances from an eclectic cast. With controversy over the potential recutting now over and Bong winning out, the rest of us will get to see what the fuss is about very soon.
Release Date: June 27th

The Rover Guy Pearce Robert Pattinson

1. "The Rover"
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Synopsis: In a war-torn future beset by financial collapse, a man trudges across the Australian desert to locate his stolen car and secure the mysterious cargo found inside.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: This is the first film for director David Michôd since his riveting debut “Animal Kingdom.” It’s been described as an existential western, and sees him reteam with Guy Pearce, with heartthrob Robert Pattinson and character actor favorite Scoot McNairy also on board. Michôd's debut captured the sweeping scope of early Michael Mann mixed with Werner Herzog’s anthropological analysis of human behavior, crafting a debut that was both terrifying and utterly unforgettable. While he’s taking things in a vaguely sci-fi direction here, Michôd has promised that this will be a relatively grounded affair, a crime picture in the outback that could be indicative of a contemporary mashup of “Wake In Fright” (with the idea of an outsider stranded in the outback) and “Mad Max” (with its emphasis on vehicular action). It's still under wraps beyond some impressive trailers, but more than anything else, we're hopeful that a Midnight Screening premiere at Cannes bodes for this being something truly impressive. We're tantalizingly close to finding out.
Release Date: June 13th.

Begin Again

Honorable Mentions: So, what else have we got? Well, as we said, we've already checked out and disapproved of "The Amazing Spider Man 2," though we hope you all enjoy it more than us. Also on the way, and already seen by Playlist types, are Jon Favreau's "Chef" (May 9th), John Slattery's "God's Pocket" with Philip Seymour Hoffman (May 9th), Mia Wasikowska in Australia for "Tracks" (May 23rd), James McAvoy-starrer "Filth" (May 30th), Ti West's found-footage horror "The Sacrament" (June 6th), Paul Haggis' "Third Person" (June 20th), the first of the year's two biopics of "Yves Saint Laurent" (June 27th), Keira Knightley/Mark Ruffalo musical rom/com "Begin Again" (July 4th) Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo" (July 18th), Zach Braff's belated "Garden State" follow-up "Wish I Was Here" (July 18th), Sundance zom-com "Life After Beth" (August 15th), and Ari Folman's bonkers animation "The Congress" (August 29th).

Walk Of Shame

And for stuff that hasn't yet been seen, Elizabeth Banks gets her R-rated comedy on in "Walk Of Shame" (May 2nd), Jon Hamm goes baseball scouting in India for "Million Dollar Arm" (May 16th), everyone's favorite dissident artist is back in "Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case" (May 16th), Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou reteam for "Chinese Puzzle" (May 16th), Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche fall in love in "Words and Pictures" (May 23rd), and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are back together in the abysmal-looking "Blended" (May 23rd).

In June, Mike Myers makes a music documentary with "Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon" (June 6th), Laurence Fishburne chases "The Signal" (June 13th), Kevin Hart and co. return "Think Like A Man Too" (June 20th) and acclaimed German Cannes entry "Nothing Bad Can Happen" (June 27th) arrives. Meanwhile, July has Eric Bana looking to "Deliver Us From Evil" (July 2nd), Melissa McCarthy stars as "Tammy" (July 2nd), identikit Disney sequel "Planes: Fire And Rescue" (July 18th), Dwayne Johnson with a lion on his head in "Hercules" (July 25th), Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz making a "Sex Tape" (July 25th), and "The Avengers" of dance movies with "Step Up All In" (July 25th).

Tammy, Melissa McCarthy

Finally in August, Helen Mirren and Lasse Hallström go on a "Hundred Foot Journey" (August 8th), Richard Armitage heads "Into The Storm" (August 8th) for a found-footage disaster film, Michael Bay revives the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (August 8th), documentary "The Dog" (August 8th) about the inspiration for "Dog Day Afternoon," Sylvester Stallone getting the gang back together for "The Expendables 3" (August 15th), Jack Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. say "Let's Be Cops" (August 15th), inspirational drama "Desert Dancer" (August 15th), Robert Rodriguez goes black and white again with "Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" (August 22nd), Chloe Moretz is in a coma for "If I Stay" (August 22nd), umpteenth Blumhouse horror "Jessabelle," (August 29th), foreign-language remake "The Loft" (August 29th), Pierce Brosnan as "November Man" (August 29th) and The Weinstein Company animation "Underdogs" (August 29th). Remember, there's no SPF higher than staying inside in the dark all summer.

This article is related to: Features, Feature, Most Anticipated 2014, The Rover, Guardians of the Galaxy, Snowpiercer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Boyhood, Godzilla, The Immigrant, IDA, Love is Strange, Night Moves