When the pandemic shut down movie theaters and made streaming movies at home an enjoyable option for many, it was fair to wonder if the landscape of watching movies had changed forever. But in the past six months, the box office returns of a number of films — most notably Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — have proven that the reports of the death of movie theaters were greatly exaggerated.
That makes summer movie season in 2022 one of the most anticipated ever, both because of the types of movies on the horizon and because of the thrill of seeing movies with large crowds again. Below, in chronological order by release date, are the 15 movies most likely to entice moviegoers the most this summer.
Downton Abbey: A New Era (May 20)
You may think that a film based on a PBS/ITV TV series featuring British nobility that went off the air seven years ago would be strictly an arthouse affair, but you'd be wrong. The first film in 2019 made almost $200 million worldwide, putting it squarely in the realm of blockbusters that cost much more to make. With its release coming between two "traditional" blockbusters, it serves as solid counter-programming, so don't be surprised if it makes $100 million or more again.
Top Gun: Maverick (May 27)
The last big movie that was slated for a release in 2020 to finally make it to theaters, Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel to the 1986 Tom Cruise film that we never knew we needed. But the trailer shows the high-flying action you'd expect, Cruise in his usual top form, and a bunch of younger stars looking to make their own mark on the franchise. With a new Lady Gaga song also in the mix, it will be the rare person who doesn't want to experience what this film has to offer.
Jurassic World Dominion (June 10)
The supposed finale to the Jurassic series (though, let's be serious - it will be back at some point), Dominion will attempt to match the strong box office performances of its two predecessors. Reviews have been decidedly mixed for the series so far, and even with the return of the stars of the original Jurassic Park — Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum — they've got an uphill climb to win over the skeptics.
Lightyear (June 17)
Speaking of winning over skeptics, no one quite knows what to make of Pixar's new movie, which takes the Buzz Lightyear character from the Toy Story franchise and ... makes him real? Voiced by Chris Evans instead of Tim Allen, the movie looks like it will show Lightyear going through a bunch of space adventures with new and familiar characters. While it's best to doubt Pixar at one's own peril, the story for this film is going to have to be really good to justify its existence.
Elvis (June 24)
Also known as the movie that Tom Hanks was filming when he contracted COVID in March 2020, Elvis is the latest movie to try to add to the legend of the already mythic Elvis Presley. The first movie from Baz Luhrmann since 2013's The Great Gatsby, it's sure to have the visual pizzaz that the Australian filmmaker has displayed throughout his career. Starring Austin Butler as Elvis and Hanks in a fat suit as Colonel Tom Parker, here's hoping it will have both Elvis fans and movie fans all shook up.
Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 1)
The fifth movie in the Despicable Me series, Minions: The Rise of Gru takes fans back in time to the 1970s when Gru (Steve Carell) was just a villain wannabe hoping to get the attention of a supervillain supergroup. Naturally, he'll use his loyal servants, the Minions, in his quest, and since their name starts the title, it's more than likely that they will get at least equal billing to Gru himself. One of only two big animated films to be released this summer, it's sure to draw in lots of families.
Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8)
The next in line in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder appears like it will continue the exploration of the multiverse established in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The trailer shows a buff version of Thor's old girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman), the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and a new villain, Gorr the God Butcher, played by former Batman Christian Bale. No matter whether it's good or bad, it's guaranteed to be one of the biggest movies of the summer.
Where the Crawdads Sing (July 15)
Mid-July is where we reach the unknown portion of the summer. Everything before now was either based on a pre-existing movie property or involved a music superstar. Based on the biggest selling book of 2019, the film is a murder mystery of sorts involving Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a North Carolina woman who was abandoned as a girl and learned to live on her own. The book featured intertwining stories of Kya as a girl and an adult, so it'll be interesting to see how the film is able to handle the two different timelines.
Nope (July 22)
Writer/director Jordan Peele has become a brand unto himself following the Oscar-nominated Get Out and the perplexing-but-still-successful Us. His latest is the hilariously-named Nope, which is basically the reaction any normal person would have to anything they encounter in a horror movie. The film reunites Peele with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya and features rising star Keke Palmer, but not much is known about the actual plot. Still, there are few more intriguing filmmakers than Peele and there are few other horror movies coming out this summer, so it's sure to be big.
Bullet Train (August 5)
Another filmmaker who has a growing reputation — in a good way — is David Leitch, a stunt performer/coordinator who has taken his knowledge from that realm to make a series of action-packed films. He's directed the first John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw, and produced Nobody. This one, set aboard a bullet train in Japan as five assassins — most notably, Brad Pitt — try to kill each other, looks to be a literal non-stop thrill ride.
Bodies Bodies Bodies (August 5)
The smallest movie on this list, coming from indie studio A24, Bodies Bodies Bodies has the potential to be a late-summer breakout. It's about a group of rich 20-somethings, including Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, and Pete Davidson, who gather together for a hurricane party. But something goes very wrong during the night, resulting in a lot of in-fighting and backstabbing (perhaps literally?). With rising young stars and what looks to be a nastily fun story, this movie could be a big surprise.
Don't forget about Netflix: Of course, Netflix has not entirely ceded the floor to movie theaters. Given the overabundance of content on the streaming service, it can be difficult to tell what to pay attention to and what to ignore, but they have four big movies scheduled for release that offer up enticing stories, stars, or both:
Hustle (June 8)
Adam Sandler has made a bunch of middling-to-bad comedies for Netflix, but this is a drama that could be another award-worthy turn for the actor. He plays a longtime basketball scout in desperate need of a great discovery. He potentially finds that in a Spanish player (played by real NBA player Juancho Hernangomez), but they both have to overcome a lot of doubters along the way.
Spiderhead (June 17)
Pre-Netflix, this is the type of movie you'd expect to be a summer blockbuster. Directed by Top Gun: Maverick's Joseph Kosinski and starring
Thor Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller (who's in Maverick), and Jurnee Smollet, the film is about prisoners who are given a chance to shorten their sentences in exchange for being test subjects for new medicines. Of course, surely nothing will go wrong in that scenario, right?
The Gray Man (July 22)
Another blockbuster-type film debuting on the small screen, this one stars Ryan Gosling as a CIA agent who uncovers agency secrets, triggering a manhunt by a bunch of assassins. This is the second movie from the Russo brothers after Avengers: Endgame, and it looks like they're getting back into what they know best after the misfire that was Cherry. The film also stars former Captain America Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, and former Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page, so you know the acting will be up to snuff.
The Man from Toronto (August 12)
The world is in need of another great action-comedy, and hopefully this one will fit the bill. Starring Woody Harrelson and Kevin Hart, the story is about the world's deadliest assassin and New York's biggest screw-up who get mistaken for each other at an Airbnb rental. Not exactly sure how Harrelson and Hart could be mistaken for each other, but that's sure to be part of the movie's hijinks.