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Summer 2021 Movie Preview: 18 Films You Won't Want to Miss

Movies are back! Here's what's coming and where to find them

Ellen Burstyn, Kevin Hart and Jennifer Hudson

Ray Bengston; Philippe Bosse/Netflix; Quantrell D. Colbert/MGM

(Left to right) Ellen Burstyn in "Queen Bees," Kevin Hart in "Fatherhood" and Jennifer Hudson in "Respect."

En español | At last! There will be a movie season this summer and screens big and small will relight with an exciting mix of comedies, dramas, documentaries and, yes, a Marvel sequel. Make your movie nights worth it with our critics’ picks of the best of what's coming up. (Keep an eye on this page for updates, as COVID-19 may rejigger studios’ best-laid plans to make your summer cinematic.)


Dream Horse (Bleecker Street, May 21)

In a ridiculously far-fetched (and true) story, a small-town Welsh bartender (Toni Collette) talks her neighbors into chipping in pennies to raise a racehorse to challenge the favorites fielded by the rich elites.

Check it out: Dream Horse


In the Heights (Warner Bros., June 10)

A likely highlight of the next Oscars is the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical celebrating New York's Puerto Rican neighborhood, Washington Heights, which made him a Tony winner before Hamilton. Crazy Rich Asians' Jon M. Chu directs.

Check it out: In the Heights

The Misfits (The Avenue, June 11)

Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) directs Pierce Brosnan as a master thief recruited by a gang of Robin Hood wannabes out to heist a cache of gold bars beneath a prison in the Middle East.

Check it out: The Misfits

Queen Bees (Gravitas Ventures, Universal, June 11)

A fiercely independent woman (Ellen Burstyn) temporarily moves into a retirement community while her house is being worked on, and meets more mean girls than she's seen since high school. The cast is amazing: James Caan, Ann-Margret, Jane Curtin, Christopher Lloyd and Loretta Devine.

Check it out: Queen Bees

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The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (Lionsgate, June 16)

In a movie sure to please audiences way more than critics, a bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) is forbidden to use any weapon but his wits. So he gets rescued by Sonia (Salma Hayek), the wife of a hitman (Samuel L. Jackson), whom she also rescues. With Morgan Freeman, Richard E. Grant and Antonio Banderas as the dastardly villain.

Check it out: The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (Roadside Attractions, June 18)

The first Latina to win an acting Oscar (in West Side Story), she triumphed over depression, bad boyfriend Marlon Brando and studios trying to confine her to ethnic roles (including Polynesian, Native American and Egyptian, even though she's from Puerto Rico). At 89, she's still riding high.

Check it out: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It

Fatherhood (Netflix, June 18)

Based on Matthew Logelin's bestseller Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love, it's the story of a new dad whose wife dies 27 hours after giving birth, so he raises his daughter alone. With Kevin Hart as Matthew and Alfre Woodard as his mother-in-law.

Check it out: Fatherhood

F9: The Fast Saga (Universal, June 25)

Twenty years ago, the first Fast & Furious made Vin Diesel a star. His ninth race car thrill ride flick looks F&F-er than ever. Also revving up in it: Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Ludacris and Charlize Theron.

Check it out: F9: The Fast Saga


Summer of Soul (Hulu, July 2)

Ahmir-Khalib (Questlove) Thompson won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for his debut documentary on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a huge, pre-Woodstock outdoor concert series. He unearthed 45 hours of performances by B.B. King, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Fifth Dimension and Stevie Wonder, much of it never before seen. An exhilarating cure for the summertime blues.

Check it out: Summer of Soul

Black Widow (Disney+, July 9)

Scarlett Johansson's KGB assassin Black Widow is on the run from a digitally de-aged William Hurt as Gen. Thunderbolt Ross and back in Russia in the eagerly awaited Marvel tentpole adventure.

Check it out: Black Widow

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Focus, July 16)

Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won't You Be My Neighbor) presents the triumphant, tragic life of cook-turned-author-turned-globetrotting-culinary-TV-star Anthony Bourdain.

Check it out: Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Ailey (Neon, July 23)

The inspiring and troubling story of Alvin Ailey, a lonely, fatherless Texas kid with bipolar disorder who went from picking cotton to transforming American dance, and using it to capture the Black experience when that was tough to get away with. Cicely Tyson called him the “pied piper of modern dance."

Check it out: Ailey

Old (Universal, July 23)

When M. Knight Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) turned 50, he made this eerie movie about a luxurious tropical beach paradise that makes visitors age their entire lifetime in a single day.

Check it out: Old

Stillwater (Focus, July 30)

Director/writer Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) presents Matt Damon as an Oklahoma roughneck oilman trying to spring his estranged daughter (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine) from prison for a murder she says she didn't commit.

Check it out: Stillwater


Respect (United Artists, Aug. 13)

In one of the season's hotly awaited films, Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha Franklin, with Forest Whitaker as her famous preacher daddy and Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington. Also look for Marlon Wayans and Audra McDonald.

Check it out: Respect

The Protégé (Lionsgate, Aug. 20)

No. 1 international assassin (No. 1 box-office star Samuel L. Jackson) gets killed, so his protégée (Maggie Q) vows revenge, and gets mixed up with a mysterious killer (Michael Keaton) in Vietnam.

Check it out: The Protégé

Finch (Apple TV+, Aug. 20)

Tom Hanks, whose last summer blockbuster, Greyhound, broke Apple TV+'s viewership record, plays the last man on earth, an engineer who builds a robot (Caleb Landry Jones) to care for his beloved pooch, and sets out with them on a scary journey through the American West.

Check it out: Finch

The Beatles: Get Back (Disney, Aug. 27)

Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) dug into 60 hours of previously unreleased 1969 studio footage and 150 hours of restored audio recordings to make the definitive doc on the Beatles’ last days — which were more fun than you knew. Be a fly on the wall during their last concert, and hear songs from Abbey Road and Let It Be. “We hope it will bring a smile to everyone's faces and some much-needed joy at this difficult time,” says Jackson.

Check it out: The Beatles: Get Back

Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.

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