Summer blockbuster season, once strictly limited to May through to July, has gradually expanded beyond the sunnier months. Once popular franchises started dropping entries in April and August to great success, we were set on a path that lead us to huge movies like Kong: Skull Island and Logan released as early as March.
The steady expansion of this spectacle-heavy phase of the film year means we now have more tentpole entertainment to look forward to than ever before. With that in mind, here’s our essential guide to this year’s biggest blockbusters, which promise to take us from the beaches of World War Two to the farthest reaches of outer space.
Released 14 April
The journey from the street racing of The Fast and the Furious to the superheroics of the franchise’s later instalments is about as bewildering as the inconsistency of its naming conventions. This spiral into entertaining melodrama has done it some favours though, as the car stunts are kept fresh through the some pretty audacious forays into different genres. Fast and Furious 8 presents us with the mystery of why Dom (Vin Diesel) has gone rogue, betraying his makeshift family to join Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a villain with the technology to remote control cars and some kind of hold over Dom. Jack Godwin
Released 28 April
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was one of Marvel’s best, a joke-stuffed space romp that provided welcome comic relief amid a glut of self-serious Avengers movies. The fun quotient and killer soundtrack both look to have been ramped up for the sequel. We catch up with the crew a few months after the first film ended, as they journey across the cosmos in hope of finding Star-Lord’s father, Ego (Kurt Russell). With James Gunn penning the script and returning to the director’s chair, expect more mixtape-worthy tracks and humorous intergalactic misunderstandings. Oh, and Baby Groot. John Wadsworth
Released 12 May
Set 10 years after 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant follows a group on the colony ship Covenant as it lands on an uncharted planet seeking a new home. The stability of the planet and its Earth-like crops suggest that there’s already intelligent life here, one that may not be so friendly to the new settlers. As expected, things go south soon after, and the crew find themselves fighting for survival against what appears to be a new strain of xenomorph creatures.
However disappointing its clumsy attempts to solve the mysteries at the heart of the Alien mythos were, Prometheus showed a lot of promise, and it’s hard not to get back on-board with the brilliant trailers released for its sequel. Covenant looks to return to the sci-fi slasher premise of the original Alien and a form of xenomorph that’s much closer to the timeless HR Giger designs. JG
Released 12 May
Having tackled one British literary legend with his pair of Sherlock Holmes films, Guy Ritchie has delved into folklore for his next feature. The story of the boy who drew the sword from the stone is a familiar one, but this King Arthur – who lives in a brothel and runs the back streets of Londinium – is a great deal grittier than previous interpretations. The trailers released so far have been decidedly varied in tone, with songs from Led Zeppelin and folk troubadour Sam Lee soundtracking a mishmash of different moods and camera tricks. We’re interested to see how this one turns out. JW
Released 2 June
The DC Extended Universe is still holding out for a hero following last year’s two critical duds, the bloated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the tonally erratic Suicide Squad. Call us overly optimistic, but we think Wonder Woman might just save the day. The plot sees Princess Diana of Themyscira (Gal Gadot) leave her Amazonian island home with plans to end World War One, with the help of intelligence officer Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Director Patty Jenkins has described the film as Superman meets Casablanca meets Indiana Jones. We’re not exactly sure what that adds up to, but count us in. JW
Released 2 June
Based on the long-running action drama TV series, Baywatch is being revived by Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon. Dwayne Johnson is the no-nonsense leader of ‘the elite of the elite’, the LA Lifeguard team that in a bid for more funding employs the disgraced Olympian athlete Matt (Zac Efron). When the two mismatched partners come across a criminal conspiracy they have to put their differences aside. The hook with Baywatch is the self-aware comedic tone inherited from the 21 Jump Street reboot and its sequel. Hopefully this will be another case of a bad idea turning into a great movie. JG
Released 9 June
Thousands of years ago, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella) was mummified and entombed deep underground. When she awakens in the contemporary world she acts on a millennia-old grudge against humanity. There to discover her sarcophagus and eventually run briskly away from her conjured sandstorms is Nick, played by Tom Cruise. Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Jon Spaihts, and directed by Alex Kurtzman, The Mummy will also be the first instalment in the Universal Monsters shared universe. The power that these monsters’ hold mean they are always worth seeing new versions of, particularly when behind the makeup and CG is an actress as charismatic such as Sofia Boutella has recently shown herself to be. JG
Released 23 June
With four films already under its belt, two of which surpassed $1bn at the box office, the Transformers series shows no sign of slowing down. The fifth entry does mark the end of an era, though, with Michael Bay set to take the helm for the final time. It seems like a safe bet that his last robo outing will be packed with big emotions and bigger explosions, and the premise –which sees humanity and the Transformers locked in a war for survival – is an intriguing one. Mark Wahlberg stars, with Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci and John Turturro in supporting roles. JW
Released 4 July
Given its bottom-tier standing in Pixar’s estimable back catalogue, Cars seems an odd choice to receive a threequel. Still, we’re confident that the franchise will get back on track after its shaky second instalment. The latest addition follows Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) reluctant retirement from racing after a dramatic crash. Overtaken by a new generation of high-tech vehicles, he must work twice as hard to make a comeback and secure another podium finish. The visuals look to be typically excellent, and fans of the first film will appreciate the return to the race course after the second’s spy story. JW
Released 7 July
Tom Holland’s I’m-just-happy-to-be-here attitude added a comic touch to Captain America: Civil War’s best, most breathless sequence – the action-packed landing strip spar. Now Spidey is set to swing back into action with his sixth solo film (and third incarnation) in 15 years. The trailer promises a playful affair befitting of the fresh-faced, light-hearted Peter Parker familiar to fans of the comics. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) returns as his begrudging mentor, as does Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), whose role as caring, concerned guardian will hopefully be a little more substantial this time around. We’re also keen to see how Michael Keaton fares as antagonist Birdman – sorry, Vulture. JW
Released 14 July
As far as reboots go, the prequel series that began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the least workable and predictable ideas to come out of Hollywood. To everyone’s surprise both Rise and its 2014 sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, were great darn great. Living up to modern action expectations while staying in line with the ethics of the original films, this new series has also been a place of pioneering motion captured CGI. It also holds the unique position of being one of the few current action franchises that abhors rather than delights in the violence of its set pieces. The year’s entry chooses not to opt for another synonym for ‘Rise’, as director Matt Reeves tests Caesar’s strained pacifism even further. JG
Released 21 July
Most coverage of Christopher Nolan’s latest film has focused on its cast, which features a host of British acting heavyweights – Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh – alongside newcomer Fionn Whitehead and One Direction’s Harry Styles. There’s plenty to look forward to beyond the famous faces, though, from Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography to the high likelihood of seat-gripping suspense. The action centres on the Dunkirk evacuation during World War Two, as witnessed from three perspectives: air, land and sea. Nolan has revealed that dialogue and exposition will be minimal – rather than unravelling the stranded soldiers’ pre-war backstories, the focus is on who survives, and how. JW
Released 28 July
Based on Stephen King’s supposedly unfilmable ‘The Dark Tower’ book series, Nikolaj Arcel’s sci-fi/horror/western will supposedly be a quasi-sequel to the ending of the books rather than a typical adaptation. The plot follows an 11-year-old boy who is caught up in an adventure with Idris Ebla’s lone gunman, whose quest to reach the Dark Tower is in hopes of saving his world. Along the way, they will face threats from a villainous sorcerer (Matthew McConaughey). The vast changes from the original story means that this film will be as much of a mystery to fans of the book as newcomers, making this one of the most intriguing films of the year. JG
Released 4 August
Despite their influence within sci-fi circles – they are widely considered to have inspired elements of Star Wars – the Valérian comics remain little-known. First published in 1967, the series has had to wait 50 years to reach the big screen. Though the teaser trailer keeps plot details to a minimum, we know that the film will trail two space-and-time-travelling agents, Valérian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), as they arrive at the multicultural megacity of Alpha. Besson previously worked with the comics’ artist Jean-Claude Mézières on The Fifth Element, a blockbuster that polarised critics but is generally held up as one of the filmmaker’s best works. We’re curious to see whether Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets will follow suit. JW
Released 29 September
Kingsman: The Secret Service had a boisterous reverence for the spy films of the ’60s, shoving the sub-genre into the 21st century with a rebellious disrespect. Its vulgar takedown of Bond and his ilk was scattered with moments of brilliance, in particular an expertly-choreographed ultra-violent fight set in a Westboro-like church that was as deliriously exhilarating as it was perversely excessive. Director Matthew Vaughn’s anarchic style is an unpredictable yet welcome presence in The Golden Circle, which sets its satirical vision on the US as Eggsy and co are introduced to their American counterparts: The Statesmen. The American side of the cast include Halle Berry, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges, with Julianne Moore reportedly upping the ante as their shared villain. If it’s anything as wild and brazen as its predecessor, we’re in for a thrilling experience. JG
Published 19 Mar 2017
Must-see films coming your way over the next 12 months, featuring Claire Denis, Edgar Wright, Yorgos Lanthimos and more.
Twelve writers pin their colours to the tentpole in our survey of the best summer movies of the modern era.