The 2019 summer movie season (that is, May through August) is right around the corner, so we’re counting down the must-see films of the frame. 2019 got off to a realtively slow start, with several movies either disappointing critically and/or struggling to take off at the box office. Fortunately, things started to pick up near the end of February, beginning with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and especially Captain Marvel, followed by a handful of hits like Us and Shazam!. And of course, April will end with a massive bang thanks to the release of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame.
Things shouldn’t slow down much when the proper summer movie season gets underway, either. Indeed, there are even more superhero tentpoles, some major live-action Disney remakes, anticipated animated sequels, and a number of exciting-looking horror films on the immediate horizon. Of course, for those who need a break from genre fare and franchises, there are some equally intriguing indie offerings, biopics, and even a new Quentin Tarantino flick to look forward to. (And before anyone asks: Endgame was on our 2019 Winter/Spring preview, which is why it’s not listed here.)
To help narrow things down, we’ve put together a list of 20 Summer 2019 movies to see (along with some honorable mentions, at the end). The films are numbered in the order of their theatrical release date, so feel free to let us know what your personal most anticipated movies are in the comments section!
- This Page: Pokémon, Titans, Mutants & Will Smith
- Page 2: Zombies, Evil Dolls, Web-Slingers & The Rock
Plot Summary: In a world where humans and Pokémon live side by side, would-be Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman joins forces with a crime-solving Pikachu to locate his father, a famous detective who’s mysteriously gone missing.
The Breakdown: Warner Bros.’ live-action Pokémon movie has gone from being a mild curiosity to one of this summer’s more anticipated (and unique-looking) offerings in recent months. The general public seems to be onboard for Ryan Reynolds’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit-style adventure by this point, with its marketing suggesting that Detective Pikachu is a playful, family-friendly romp that has just enough weirdness to satisfy fans of all things Poke-related. Nostalgia has also played an important role in building hype for the movie, but so far it looks like the strategy shouldn’t blow up in WB’s face like a Psyduck with a headache.
Plot Summary: John Wick finds himself on the run after killing a member of the international assassin’s guild, with hit men and women everywhere hoping to collect the $14 million bounty on his head.
The Breakdown: Five years in and John Wick has evolved from a one-off Keanu Reeves action movie to an international franchise with an ever growing fanbase. The fact that John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is releasing in the summer (rather than the fall or winter, like its predecessors) is a testament to just how popular the series have become since it kicked off. By the look of things, series director Chad Stahelski may’ve been saving the best for last too, with the marketing hyping some genuinely awe-inspiring set pieces, action sequences, and stunts to come in Parabellum proper… assuming this is the last John Wick film, anyway.
Plot Summary: A street urchin named Aladdin is granted three wishes by a magical Genie, after he acquires a magical lamp sought by the scheming Jafar.
The Breakdown: Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin is easily the most controversial live-action retelling of a Disney animated classic yet, thanks to everything from the design of Will Smith’s rapping blue Genie to the remake’s problematic casting, white extras being dressed in brownface, and everything in between. At the same time, the original Aladdin is still one of the Mouse House’s biggest (and most beloved) hits of all time, and the odds are good that moviegoers will turn out in large numbers to see this one on the big screen. Whether they’ll actually like what they see, well, that’s something we’re all curious to learn the answer to.
Plot Summary: A small-town couple adopt an alien infant after their pod crash-lands on earth, only for the child to grow up and become a super-powered murderer.
The Breakdown: Essentially a horror movie re-imagining of the Superman mythology, Brightburn has attracted interest since before it had a title, thanks to James Gunn’s involvement behind the scenes. The film’s marketing has drawn heavily on the iconography of Man of Steel especially, leaving many to wonder whether Brightburn will feel more like a dark superhero movie or just another evil child thriller (albeit, with a superhero twist). Horror and/or thriller-flavored superhero offerings like Glass and Hellboy have struggled to really connect with either critics or general audiences this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one fares by comparison.
Plot Summary: Two best friends, on the eve of their high school graduation, try to cram four years of misbehavior into one wild night.
The Breakdown: Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut made a big splash at SXSW in March, drawing rave reviews and comparisons to raunchy coming of age comedy classics like Superbad (only told from a female perspective). By the sound of it, Booksmart has the potential to be this year’s Blockers and further cement its young stars (Last Man Standing‘s Kaitlyn Dever and Lady Bird‘s Beanie Feldstein) as talents on the rise. With this August’s Good Boys also generating solid buzz following its SXSW debut, Summer 2019 promises to be a pretty good season for R-rated comedies about misbehaving youths and their shenanigans in general.
Plot Summary: The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off with a number of god-like monsters, including the infamous Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s ultimate nemesis, King Ghidorah.
The Breakdown: While we’ve still got a year to go before Godzilla and King Kong throw down, this year’s MonsterVerse offering is shaping up to be pretty exciting in its own right. Directed by Michael Dougherty (Krampus), Godzilla: King of the Monsters appears to blend the grounded style of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot with the brighter colors and more outlandish monster brawls featured in Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island, to overall positive effect. It remains to be seen if the story here is equally up to snuff, but a giant monster movie that syncs well with tunes like “Claire de Lune” and “Over the Rainbow” is definitely doing something right.
Plot Summary: A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and lets them party at her house, only for the kids to realize their host is not what she seems.
The Breakdown: Blumhouse has become known for producing inventive, original horror movies and/or thrillers in recent years (The Gift, Get Out, Happy Death Day) and that trend looks to continue with their latest project, Ma. The film reunites Octavia Spencer with her The Help director Tate Taylor, and promises to be one of the weirder, wilder thrill rides of the summer, with Spencer leading the way. Some people are even wondering if Ma is a direct rebuttal to the Oscar-winner being type cast as a sassy, but nuturing black supporting character in the early part of her career. Either way, this is one to watch out for.
Plot Summary: The story of Elton John’s life – from his days as a young musical prodigy to his rise to superstardom – is told through the lens of a biopic-meets musical fantasy.
The Breakdown: As far as Hollywood biopics about musicians go, Rocketman looks surprisingly creative. By the sound of it, director Dexter Fletecher and star Taron Egerton (who, yes, is doing his own singing) are more interested in making a movie that captures the spirit of Elton John’s music than a Wikipedia-style docudrama about his life (a la Bohemian Rhapsody). They aren’t shying away from the musician’s legendarily debaucherous lifestyle either, and may even wind up taking home an R rating for their efforts. Here’s hoping that’s the case, anyway, and Rocketman hews closer to something like Velvet Goldmine than a non-comedic version of Walk Hard.
Plot Summary: Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that transform her into the dangerous Dark Phoenix, forcing the X-Men to try and either save her… or destroy her.
The Breakdown: The end has come for the X-Men… that is, Fox’s X-Men movies. Yes, it’s been all but confirmed that Dark Phoenix will serve as a conclusion to the studio’s pre-Disney run on the franchise, before the X-Men are rebooted as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Prior to Disney’s purchase of Fox, however, it sounded like Dark Phoenix was designed to kick-off a whole new trilogy. The film has since gone through reshoots (presumably to change this), but it begs the question: will the new version wrap things up in a satisfying way, or is director Simon Kinberg (who also wrote X-Men: The Last Stand) about to go 0 for 2 on adaptations of The Dark Phoenix Saga?
Plot Summary: A pair of Men in Black agents from the London branch team up to tackle their greatest threat yet: a mole within the MIB organization.
The Breakdown: Although it takes place in the same continuity as the original MIB trilogy, Men in Black: International is clearly intended to serve as fresh start for the the comic book-based franchise. It’s a fairly promising continuation too, between Thor: Ragnarok costars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson playing the leads, and F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious) calling the shots as director. By the look of things, International isn’t trying to reinvent the (MIB) wheel so much as give the property a fresh coat of paint, following a seven year break between films. If things don’t work out, well, you know where the little red button is.
Next Page: Zombies, Evil Dolls, Web-Slingers & The Rock
Plot Summary: Zombies suddenly invade a small town, leaving it to the local cops and residents to try and save the day on their own.
The Breakdown: Nobody makes films quite like Jim Jarmusch, and The Dead Don’t Die seems like yet another memorably off-beat and idiosyncratic movie from the Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Only Lovers Left Alive director. It also features an all-star cast of actors, including several (Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, and so on) who have collaborated with Jarmusch to great results in the past. Of course, the filmmaker’s projects tend to have pretty niche appeal, and one imagines that won’t change with his quirky zombie horror-comedy. Nevertheless, this has the potential to be one of this summer’s best indie offerings.
Plot Summary: The toys head out on a road trip adventure that shows Woody just how big the world can be for a toy – and leaves him questioning his very purpose.
The Breakdown: Continuing the Toy Story movies after Toy Story 3 was always going to be a risky proposition, but Toy Story 4 ended up having to deal with even more challenges than expected during production. However, despite all that, the film is looking rather promising right now, with its trailers serving up a healthy blend of silly toy-related antics and hints of the poignant drama to come. Pixar sequels are typically a step down from their predecessors, but the Toy Story followups have proven to be the exception to that rule so far. Will that trend continue with the fourth (and, for real this time, final) entry? Well, as the marketing’s put it, “God Only Knows”.
Plot Summary: The Warrens place Annabelle in their cursed artifacts room for safe-keeping, only for the possessed doll to awaken the evil spirits that lie within and target their ten-year old daughter, Judy.
The Breakdown: June is going to be a peculiar month for movies about toys “coming to life”, between the release of Annabelle Comes Home, Toy Story 4, and another film we’ll get to later. That aside, the latest Conjuring spinoff has a fun premise, and appears to offer all the jump scares and pale-faced demons going “Boo!” that audiences now expect from (and enjoy about) this franchise. Longtime Conjuring writer-producer Gary Dauberman is making his directorial debut here, so it’ll be interesting to see how he compares to the best helmers that’ve worked on this supernatural horror property so far (especially, David F. Sandberg and series architect James Wan).
Plot Summary: Peter Parker tries to enjoy a relaxing summer vacation in Europe with his friends, but ends up having to save the day when an enigmatic figure named Mysterio shows up.
The Breakdown: Marvel Cinematic Universe fans won’t have to wait long for their next fix after Avengers: Endgame, what with Spider-Man: Far From Home arriving two months later. Ant-Man and the Wasp similarly hit theaters a couple months after Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, and provided a welcome change of pace from that massive crossover. Far From Home aims to do the same, but also serves as the first brick in the wall for Phase 4 and a teaser of the MCU’s future to come. Fortunately, it seems that director Jon Watts and his cast have rebottled much of the same heart and humor that they brought to Spider-Man: Homecoming in the sequel.
Plot Summary: A young woman and her boyfriend attend a rare summer festival in Sweden that quickly takes a turn for the horrifying.
The Breakdown: Ari Aster’s feature debut, Hereditary, was one of the most talked-about horror films of 2018. Needless to say, cinephiles are curious to see what he’s cooked up for his sophomore feature, Midsommar, especially given its Wicker Man-esque premise and backdrop. Much his like first movie used supernatural horror to examine generational trauma, it appears that Aster’s new offering explores grief and the process of ending a relationship through a story that involves bizarre cults and related violence. Midsommar probably won’t have much more luck crossing over to the mainstream than Hereditary did, but it certainly sounds intriguing.
Plot Summary: Lion cub crown prince Simba prepares to become king of the Pride Lands, unaware that his uncle Scar is plotting to seize the throne for himself.
The Breakdown: The Lion King is one of Disney’s most beloved titles of all time, so it’s little wonder that moviegoers are anticipating the live-action remake with a mix of curiosity, excitement, and trepidation. On the one hand, The Lion King looks like a visual feast and has the makings of a fun “live-action” adventure, with The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau at the helm. On the other hand, the film isn’t exactly promising anything new, and there are many who prefer the vibrant colors of the original 2D animated classic to the toned-down realism of the retelling. That being said: it’s The Lion King, so of course (a lot of) people are going to watch it.
Plot Summary: A former western TV show star and his trusted stunt double navigate the changing times in Los Angeles and Hollywood, circa 1969.
The Breakdown: Originally believed to be a film about the Manson murders, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is really a character piece that takes place against the backdrop of the 1960s. The movie has also been described as a return to the style and format of the writer-director’s breakout work on Pulp Fiction – something the marketing supports, with its emphasis on various players (both fictional and based on real people, like Sharon Tate) as they move in and out of one another’s lives. All in all, this one should provide a welcome break from the summer blockbuster slate, and may even prove to be Tarantino’s best project in years.
Plot Summary: Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw are forced to team up and stop a cyber-genetically enhanced international terrorist from wreaking havoc.
The Breakdown: Just when you thought the Fast & Furious movies couldn’t get any more ridiculous than The Fate of the Furious… here comes Hobbs & Shaw. The first spinoff in the shockingly durable and evolvable property looks like an over the top cartoon adventure show brought to life in live-action, but in the very best way possible. Of course, it helps to have Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham leading the way and bickering like the married couple that their characters should be, all while beating up bad guys and saving the world as though it’s just another Tuesday. Throw in Idris Elba as “Black Superman” and you’ve got what sounds like perfect popcorn entertainment.
Plot Summary: Boy genius Artemis Fowl – a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds – engages in a battle with a secret, powerful race of fairies who may be tied to his father’s disappearance.
The Breakdown: Disney’s taking yet another stab at launching a new franchise based on popular source material, this time in the form of Artemis Fowl. They’ve recruited Sir Kenneth Branagh (who also helmed the studio’s live-action Cinderella) to call the shots on the project, and so far the results seem promising enough. At the same time, the movie is arriving well after the original books’ heyday during the 2000s, and the Mouse House’s live-action moviemaking approach hasn’t worked so well on non-remakes of late (see: A Wrinkle in Time, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, etc.). Will Branagh and Disney finally crack the code together?
Plot Summary: A group of teens in a small American town read a mysterious book full of scary stories, and thereafter find themselves being haunted by the stories’ ghouls and monsters.
The Breakdown: Guillermo del Toro and director André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe) joined forces to adapt the famous Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books for the big screen – and so far, the results look as freaky and creepy as you would expect, based on the creatives involved. While this summer isn’t hurting for horror movies intended for adults, it nice to see that teenagers will have something sufficiently spooky to check out too. Fingers crossed, the Scary Stories adaptation will mange to walk the line between being scary fun and pure nightmare fuel the way the original story collections by Alvin Schwartz did.
Long Shot (May 3) – A political rom-com starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen? This one’s got pretty strong buzz at the moment, following its premiere at SXSW.
Tolkien (May 10) – This J.R.R. Tolkien biopic looks visually impressive so far – but will it prove anywhere near as memorable as the stories that the author actually wrote?
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (June 7) – Illumination’s sequel seems a bit thin when it comes to plot, but promises to deliver more than its fair share of pet-related misdeeds.
Child’s Play (June 21) – Longtime fans remain wary of this remake’s technophobic spin on the ’80s slasher classic – but hey, Mark Hamill as Chucky sounds creepy so far.
The Kitchen (August 9) – Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elizabeth Moss as mob wives-turned mob bosses? This comic book adaptation definitely has potential.
Ad Astra (May 24) and The New Mutants (August 2) – Yes, these two are still technically scheduled to arrive this summer, but we’ll believe it when we see it.
NEXT: Lion King Will Be Disney’s Biggest 2019 Movie, Not Endgame