To be candid, the summer of 2022 will likely not be confused with any of the greatest summer movie seasons ever. Hollywood is still digging out of a pandemic, after all, and there’s a clear indication we’re reaching the end of the backlog of high profile releases delayed over the past two years. How belated is the release of Top Gun: Maverick? Initial filming on the three-plus-decades-later sequel was completed over three years ago.
But there’s still plenty of mega-films to get excited about, including two Marvel movies (Thor 4 and Doctor Strange 2), another jaunt into Jurassic World, and the Toy Story-spinoff Lightyear. Moviegoers who bemoan the dominance of sequels and franchises should also be happy to hear there’s plenty of original fare, too, including the latest mind-bender from Jordan Peele (Nope), Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic (Elvis) and an actioner teaming Brad Pitt with a high-speed locomotive (Bullet Train) — not to mention some super-buzzy indies.
Here are our 25 most anticipated releases:
Release date: May 13 in theaters and on Peacock
Hopefully prodigy star Ryan Kiera Armstrong is still too young to feel the pressure. She’ll play the role made famous by a tot-sized Drew Barrymore in 1984’s adaptation of the famed Stephen King horror novel, which surely carries higher expectations than the lead dad role (David Keith in the original, Zac Efron this time around). Like Barrymore at that age, though, Armstrong is already a seasoned pro, having appeared in It Chapter Two, Black Widow and American Horror Story.
24. Downton Abbey: A New Era
Release date: May 20 in theaters
The residents of stately Downton Abbey may stand on the cusp of a new — and tumultuous — era, but for now it’s time to party like it’s 1929. The latest entry in Julian Fellowes’s blockbuster TV series-turned-film franchise cuts back and forth between England and France, as select members of the Crawley clan visit a Gallic villa that was willed to everyone’s favorite cranky matriarch, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). Meanwhile, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) lingers at the family’s home base to oversee a film shoot headed up by a dashing director, played by Hugh Dancy.
Release date: June 10 on Netflix
One of the many reasons we’ve long loved Adam Sandler? His bold fashion sense on the red carpet, which could often be characterized as “basketball shorts casual.” With the Netflix drama Hustle, Sandler doesn’t even have to wait until the premiere to rock his gym wear. Sandler plays a washed up basketball scout trying to revive his career with the help of an international prospect with a checkered past (Spanish Utah Jazz power forward Juancho Hernangómez). Queen Latifah, Ben Foster and Robert Duvall costar.
22. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
Release date: June 24 in theaters
Top Gun: Maverick isn’t the only movie this summer that faced a looooong road to the big screen. A feature film adaptation of the popular YouTube short trilogy was first announced by creators Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp in 2014. Eight years later, everyone’s favorite soft-spoken anthropomorphic seashell makes it into movie theaters in this certifiably adorable Fleisher-Camp-directed mockumentary that follows Marcel (Slate) on a Nemo-esque adventure across the country searching for his family.
Release date: June 14 on Netflix
Are you ready for some J.Lo?! Two years ago, the superstar singer/actress/one-half of Bennifer 2.0 slayed at the 2020 Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show alongside Shakira, setting global viewership records in the process. Amanda Micheli’s new documentary takes viewers behind the scenes of how that performance went down, mixing rehearsal footage with up close and personal interviews with a reflective Lopez as she looks back at her own career from its midpoint. This is essentially J.Lo’s answer to Beyonce’s blockbuster Coachella doc, Homecoming, and you can expect fans to play it on repeat all summer long.
20. Minions: The Rise of Gru
Release date: July 1 in theaters
It can’t be easy to keep an animated movie franchise fresh through five installments, but the minds at Illumination behind three Despicable Me movies and now two Minions are finding a way. This sequel to 2015’s Minions maintains its focus on a young Gru (Steve Carell), but adds a killer supporting cast: Taraji P. Henson! Michelle Yeoh! Jean-Claude Van Damme! Alan Arkin! Danny Trejo! They play The Vicious 6, a villain supergroup lil’ Gru aspires to join.
19. Where the Crawdads Sing
Release date: July 15 in theaters
Director Olivia Newman and screenwriter Lucy Alibar adapt Delia Owens’s bestselling 2018 novel that fuses a period coming-of-age story with a murder mystery. Breakout Fresh star, Daisy Edgar-Jones — and maybe future Oscar nominee? — plays the grown-up version of the small-town North Carolina heroine, who becomes the chief suspect in the murder of her abusive boyfriend (Harris Dickinson). Reese Witherspoon, who gave the novel her Hello Sunshine Book Club seal of approval, is onboard as a producer.
18. Senior Year
Release date: May 13 on Netflix
Imagine Never Been Kissed meets Bring It On and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what kind of vibe you can expect from Rebel Wilson’s fish-out-of-water high-concept comedy. Twenty years after suffering a head injury during a cheerleading performance, Stephanie Conway (Wilson) wakes up from a long coma — and decides there’s no way she’s not returning to high school for her final year. Justin Hartley, Sam Richardson, Zoë Chao, Mary Holland, Chris Parnell and high school comedy queen Alicia Silverstone round out an enticing cast.
Release date: May 20 in theaters and May 27 on Amazon Prime
One of the most intriguing debuts “at” January’s virtual Sundance Film Festival, director Carey Williams’s feature film adaptation of his 2018 short (both based on scripts by up-and-comer screenwriter K.D. Dávila) posits a dilemma three college guys (two Black, one Latino) face when they find a white female passed out in their house: Do they call the cops, and face inevitable accusations (or worse)? Or try to find a solution themselves? They choose the latter, digging themselves even deeper into doo-doo in this incendiary dramatic comedy that should have people talking.
Release date: May 20 in theaters
Alex Garland’s third feature film as a director has all the ingredients of an A24 horror hit in the making. Fan favorite rising star? Check: Jessie Buckley. Elevated genre premise? Check: After the death of her husband, a young woman takes a trip to the country where she encounters a series of men with the same face (Rory Kinnear). Style to burn? Check: The first trailer features a myriad of haunting images that’ll live rent free in moviegoers’ minds. All that’s missing is an instantly meme-able Oscar Isaac dance number.
15. Crimes of the Future
Release date: June 3
Beloved body horror auteur, David Cronenberg, returns to the big screen after an eight-year hiatus with a movie that’s rumored to feature some of his most gruesome imagery yet. Re-teaming with his History of Violence leading man, Viggo Mortensen, the writer/director transports audiences to a future where human biology has evolved in radical ways, and Saul Tenser (Mortensen) and his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) are at the forefront of this brave new world. But the duo’s activities attract the attention of an organ investigator (Kristen Stewart) who — based on the first trailer — gets a real eyeful when she looks into their operation.
14. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Release date: June 17 on Hulu
Emma Thompson bares her soul — and a lot more — in Sophie Hyde’s Sundance-approved dramedy. The Oscar-winning Howard’s End star plays a retired school teacher and widow who impulsively books a hotel room session with a much-younger sex worker (Daryl McCormack) that’s reluctant to divulge too much about his own personal life. Across three encounters, the two learn everything they wanted to know about sex and each other… but were afraid to ask.
13. DC League of Super-Pets
Release date: July 29 in theaters
Sure, the cast of Thor: Love and Thunder is impressive, but have you seen who all’s in DC League of Super-Pets? Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, John Krasinski, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Diego Luna, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz and, oh yeah, Keanu Reeves headline this animated actioner imagining the Justice League as house pets. We’re just not quite sure where it fits into the DCEU canon alongside The Batman and The Suicide Squad.
12. Cha Cha Real Smooth
Release date: June 17 in theaters and on Apple TV+
Cooper Raiff wrote, directed and stars in one of the biggest hits at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which plays like a mumblecore version of The Graduate meets The Wedding Singer. Out of college and at loose ends, Andrew (Raiff) finds gainful employment as a Bar Mitzvah party hype man when he meets, and immediately falls for, Dakota Johnson’s older single mom Domino. The critical buzz out of Sundance translated into a major payday when Apple TV+ purchased Cha Cha Real Smooth for a cool $15 million. Not for nothing, but the last Sundance movie that streaming service acquired just took home a Best Picture statue.
11. The Black Phone
Release date: June 24 in theaters
Ethan Hawke can’t stop, won’t stop — or we’re here for it all. Fresh off his tasty role as a villainous cult leader (is there any other kind?) in Marvel’s Disney+ series Moon Knight, Hawke continues his unsavory streak playing a character known as “The Grabber” (you know that can’t be good) in this supernatural horror entry from Scott Derrickson (Sinister). Mason Thames costars as the 13-year-old boy who tries to escape the kidnapping serial killer’s captivity when he finds a phone containing recorded voices of past victims.
10. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Release date: May 20 on Disney+
If you haven’t yet heard about — nor seen any footage from — Disney+’s upcoming Chip ‘n Dale movie, you might think it odd that the film ranks this high on our countdown, in the top 10 and just a few notches down from the latest Pixar and Marvel movies. In that case, we deplore to you immediately watch the trailer. Lonely Island comedy vet Akiva Schaffer directs this live action/animation hybrid featuring the voices of John Mulaney and Andy Samberg as the titular showbiz chipmunks mounting a comeback, and it looks not only amazingly inventive but just riotously funny.
9. Bullet Train
Release date: July 29 in theaters
He may have been invisible for most of his Deadpool 2 appearance, but rest assured that Brad Pitt is onscreen a lot in Bullet Train, the latest gonzo action movie from stuntman-turned-director David Leitch, who also helmed that superhero sequel. Set aboard a Tokyo-to-Kyoto bound bullet train, the film follows Pitt’s ace assassin as he fends off challenges from up-and-coming killers played by the likes of Joey King, Andrew Koji and Bad Bunny. Look for The Lost City star Sandra Bullock in a small role after Pitt made a memorable cameo in her rom-com hit.
Release date: June 17 in theaters
Looks like “sidequel” is the new sequel. The next installment in Pixar’s venerable Toy Story franchise rockets fans into outer space alongside the real Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Captain America himself, Chris Evans. As co-writer/director Angus MacLane has tried to explain in interviews, Lightyear is the Star Wars-esque film that made young Andy a lifelong fan of its central Space Ranger, and also inspired the animated series that gave us Tim Allen’s toy Buzz. Got that? Good: Now we’re just waiting for confirmation that Mad Max is the origin story for the Cars universe.
7. The Gray Man
Release date: July 22 on Netflix
It’s hard to think of a screen pair that packs as much star power this summer as Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. For this dream duo you can thank the Russo brothers, the Avengers directors who continue to dip back into the MCU talent pool for their post-Thanos adventures (Chris Hemsworth in Extraction, Tom Holland in Cherry, etc.). In this Fugitive-esque thriller, Gosling is a CIA black ops agent forced to go on the run after blowing the whistle, while Evans leads the manhunt.
Release date: June 24 in theaters
Leave it to Moulin Rouge maestro Baz Luhrmann to orchestrate a lavish jukebox musical biopic fit for a King… of Rock ’n Roll that is. Austin Butler swivels his hips superhero-style as Elvis Presley, whose meteoric rise to the top of the charts under the controlling thumb of Tom Hanks’s Col. Tom Parker forms the narrative spine of the movie’s 20-year timespan. If anyone can convince a new generation to get down with Elvis tunes like “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Burning Love” it’s the creator of The Get Down.
5. Jurassic World: Dominion
Release date: June 10 in theaters
Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Creed, Scream… It’s almost an expectation at this point that legacy characters will return to a major franchise at some point, typically in supporting or cameo roles. But how can anyone not be excited about the long-awaited returns of Sam Neill and Laura Dern to the Jurassic-verse in Jurassic World 3? Of course they’ll join Jeff Goldblum (who made his comeback in 2018’s Fallen Kingdom) and returning leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard for this threequel that now finds dinos living all over the world.
4. Top Gun: Maverick
Release date: May 27 in theaters
Tom Cruise’s flyboy alter ego soars again in the long-awaited sequel to Tony Scott’s era-defining 1986 blockbuster. The older, and not necessarily wiser Maverick is brought back to the Top Gun program to train a new generation of rebellious Navy recruits, including Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his fallen comrade-in-arms, Goose. Even if you weren’t part of the generation that saw the original film in theaters, the sequel promises aerial action that can only be seen on the big screen. But don’t take our word for it: Just ask co-star Jon Hamm, who promises that Top Gun: Maverick is “really cool.” Cooler than a game of beach volleyball, that’s for sure.
3. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Release date: May 6 in theaters
Sir Patrick Stewart may not know who Doctor Strange is, but there’s an entire multiverse of Marvel fans eagerly awaiting the Sorcerer Supreme’s sophomore solo feature. Picking up directly after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Sam Raimi-directed sequel finds Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) trying to put the multiverse he and Peter Parker nearly broke back together again… and encountering evil versions of himself along the way. Good thing he’s got a group of allies that includes familiar faces like Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and newcomers like America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). You’d be mad to miss this pivotal installment in Marvel’s ongoing Phase 4.
Release date: July 22 in theaters
Sure, we can admit now that 2019’s Us marked a step down from the 2017 masterpiece Get Out (big shoes…), but does that make us any less excited about Jordan Peele’s third original horror-suspense release in six years? Nope. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as sibling horse trainers on an isolated California ranch who witness a strange phenomenon in the sky and then… even with a full two-minute trailer, that’s all we really know about the plot of this Peele-ian thriller, and that’s just the way we like it.
1. Thor: Love and Thunder
Release date: July 8
Iron Man was first, but Thor becomes the first MCU hero to get a fourth standalone adventure, which should tell you how much faith Kevin Feige and company have in Taika Waititi after the filmmaker brought an irreverent remix to the series’ tone with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. The series could keep going for another couple entries, too, given the Asgardian hero (Chris Hemsworth) will likely hand the hammer off to Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) in this one, while the Guardians of the Galaxy, a returning Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum and newfound villain Christian Bale bear witness.
Teresa Palmer’s family is haunted by the ghost of their late son in The Twin (May 6)… Colin Firth and company plan World War II’s Operation Mincemeat (May 11)… Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott make a suicide pact in the comedian’s directorial debut, On the Count of Three (May 13)… Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague look after their ailing father in Montana Story (May 13)… A Swedish woman tries to make it as a porn star in Hollywood in the darker-than-it-sounds Pleasure (May 13)… Ali Larter and Ron Perlman get their Western on with The Last Victim (May 13)… Four Norwegian kids have hidden powers in The Innocents (May 13)… Hold Your Fire (May 20) explores a 1973 hostage siege in Brooklyn… Katey Sagal torments wannabe country stars in Blumhouse’s Torn Hearts (May 20)… Belcher fans will be feasting on The Bob’s Burgers Movie (May 27).
Bowen Yang, Margaret Cho and friends escape to famous gay getaway in Pride and Prejudice-inspired Fire Island (June 3)… Somebody’s watching Buchacrest newbie Maika Monroe in Sundance thriller Watcher (June 3)… Director-star Mark O’Brien is feeling the wrath of God in The Righteous (June 10)… Man-robot buddy comedy Brian and Charles (June 17) was a sleeper hit out of Sundance… Asa Butterfield’s performance artist collective makes sounds out of food in British black comedy Flux Gourmet (June 23)… A mixtape lets Clara Rugaard travel through time in romance Press Play (June 24)… Gabriel Byrne and Richard Dreyfuss get their Western on in Murder at Yellowstone City (June 24)… Ethan Hawke directs The Last Movie Stars, a six-part documentary on Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, for CNN Films.
Zawe Ashton convinces Freida Pinto to scam London’s most eligible bachelor in Mr. Malcolm’s List (July 1)… Jessica Chastain follows up her Tammy Faye Oscar win with dramatic ensemble The Forgiven (July 1)… Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen gets the feature documentary treatment in HALLELUJAH (July 1)… Big Hero 6 co-director takes us adventuring with monster hunters in The Sea Beast (July 8)… Dakota Johnson and Henry Golding pair up in the Jane Austen-based Persuasion (July 15)… A pregnant Melissa Barrera fends off ghosts in Bed Rest (July 15)… A terminally ill dad (John Cho) road trips with his teenage daughter in the surefire weeper Don’t Make Me Go (July 15)… Michael Cera leads a star-studded voice cast in animated martial arts adventure Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (July 22)… Lena Dunham’s Sharp Stick (July 29) is bound to start conversations after a divisive Sundance premiere… Director-star B.J. Novak investigates the murder of his girlfriend in Vengeance (July 29)… Dale Dickey and Wes Studi drew high praise for their intimate Sundance debut A Love Song (July 29)… A gay Latino potter struggles with mental illness in Hypochondriac (July 29).
A boy suspects his father (Owen Wilson) is a superhero when he discovers his Secret Headquarters (Aug. 5)… An unlucky girl teams up with magical creature’s in Apple. TV+’s animated adventure Luck (Aug. 5)… Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson and friends have to find the murderer among them in Bodies Bodies Bodies (Aug. 5)… Rebecca Hall wowed Sundance critics in the psychological thriller Resurrection (Aug. 5)… It’s Jamie Foxx vs. vampires in Day Shift (Aug. 12)… Tamra Davis directs 13: The Musical (Aug. 12) for Netflix… Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Hart bro up for a wild weekend in Me Time (Aug. 26)… Nathalie Emmanuel faces horror at an English countryside manor in The Bride (Aug. 26)… Another boy suspects Sylvester Stallone is a superhero in Samaritan (Aug. 26)… John Boyega is a desperate Marines veteran who robs a bank in 892 (Aug. 26).