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Your Ultimate Guide to This Summer’s Best Movies

Don’t miss any of the action with our critics’ picks of what’s coming and where to catch 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 | Yes, movies are back this summer, and that means screens big and small are lighting up 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 and what’s already opened. (Keep an eye on this page for updates, as COVID-19 may rejigger studios’ best-laid plans to make your summer cinematic.)


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

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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

Ride the Eagle (Decal, July 30)

A comedy about Leif (Jake Johnson), who’s about to inherit a beautiful Yosemite cabin from his late, estranged mom (Susan Sarandon) — but only after he completes her rather demanding, if not unreasonable, to-do list from beyond the grave.

Check it out: Ride the Eagle


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

CODA (Apple TV+, Aug. 13)

The Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner about Ruby (Emilia Jones), a child of deaf adults — that is, a “CODA” — who’s torn between attending a prestigious music school and staying to work on her family’s fishing boat and serving as everyone’s interpreter.

Check it out: CODA

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

Reminiscence (Warner Bros., Aug. 20)

In a thriller by the creator of Westworld, Hugh Jackman and Thandie Newton offer Miami clients a chance to escape reality by reliving their past. What could go wrong?

Check it out: Reminiscence

Candyman (Universal, Aug. 27)

Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) presents a sequel to the 1992 horror classic about a haunting in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project.

Check it out: Candyman


Summer of Soul (Hulu)

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

F9: The Fast Saga (Universal)

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

Fatherhood (Netflix)

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

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

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

The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (Lionsgate)

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

Queen Bees (Gravitas Ventures, Universal)

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

The Misfits (The Avenue)

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

In the Heights (Warner Bros.)

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

Dream Horse (Bleecker Street)

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

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.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 11, 2021. It has been updated with additional movie releases coming in July and August.

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