3D illustrations of action figures and dolls in a toy chest covered with stickers. The action figures pictured are Miles Morales' spider man, Optimus Prime, Indiana Jones, Barbie, and the Flash. One of the stickers says "Summer Movies."
(Illustration by Andre Rucker for The Washington Post)

The 21 biggest movies hitting theaters this summer

This year’s crop of popcorn flicks includes superhero stories, horror, action-adventure, family fun, R-rated comedy, a historical biopic and Wes Anderson

18 min

An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect shooting location for a motorcycle stunt in the film “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part 1.” The story has been corrected.

It’s not quite Memorial Day, but this week’s new movie releases herald the true arrival of summer, with Disney’s eagerly awaited live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” opening in theaters. After that, the floodgates open wide, and wave after wave of film fun will crash on our cinematic shores. What’s in store for the months ahead? Read on for our annual guide to the buzziest summer movies.

Opening dates are subject to change.

This sequel to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sees the return of characters Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy as they face off against a new enemy. (Video: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

(June 2, PG)

Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni, Jason Schwartzman, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Greta Lee, Rachel Dratch, Jorma Taccone, Shea Whigham, Oscar Isaac.

What’s the story? When “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” opened in 2018, The Washington Post’s David Betancourt called the animated sci-fi adventure about parallel universes harboring multiple Spider-People (including one voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “multidimensional mind trip” that felt “less like the seventh Spider-Man movie to hit the big screen (we’re not counting ‘Venom’) and more like a one-of-a-kind, wall-crawling experience.” The playful, Oscar-winning feature cartoon was the first and arguably biggest wave in what would become Hollywood’s tsunami-like obsession with the multiverse. In the sequel, returning teenage hero Miles Morales of Brooklyn (voice of Moore) — who faced off against the villainous Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) in the original film — reunites with Gwen Stacy, a.k.a. Spider-Gwen (Steinfeld), to face off against a new enemy, widely presumed to be the Spot (Schwartzman).

What’s the buzz? Fans of the comics (as opposed to live-action comic-book movies — no shade) love this franchise for the visual and storytelling possibilities that animation presents.

2022 was the year of the multiverse, but it has a 2,000-year history

Chris Messina stars as a widower who, along with his two daughters, must confront a supernatural entity. Based on a short story by Stephen King. (Video: 20th Century Studios)

The Boogeyman

(June 2, PG-13)

Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Vivien Lyra Blair, Chris Messina.

What’s the story? Co-written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (the writing/producing duo behind the hit “A Quiet Place”) with Mark Heyman (“Black Swan”), this horror film is based on a short story from Stephen King’s 1978 anthology “Night Shift.” Two motherless sisters (Thatcher and Blair) and their recently widowed therapist father (Messina) must confront a supernatural entity after one of the father’s disturbed patients visits the house, leaving evil in his wake.

What’s the buzz? Plans for “The Boogeyman’s” straight-to-Hulu release were scrapped in favor of a theatrical opening after a positive test screening. That’s similar to what happened with last year’s “Smile,” a horror flick originally scheduled to open only on Paramount Plus, which went on to become a 2022 theatrical hit after a positive early screening suggested it would do well in theaters.

How 2022 became a huge year for horror movies

The seventh “Transformers” feature finds the Autobots teaming up with the Maximals, robots that turn into animals instead of motor vehicles. (Video: Paramount Pictures)

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

(June 9, PG-13)

Starring: Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback, Tobe Nwigwe, Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson, Liza Koshy, John DiMaggio, David Sobolov, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Colman Domingo, Cristo Fernández, Tongayi Chirisa.

What’s the story? Let this sink in: This is the seventh Transformers movie. (Kind of hits you in the gut when you see it spelled out like that, doesn’t it?) Anyhoo, that’s where we are, with the Autobots (Optimus Prime and company) teaming up with the Maximals, a new offshoot of the familiar robot warriors, but that turn into animals, not cars and trucks. (Perlman voices one of them, called Optimus Primal, soon to be known informally to wags as the King Kong Transformer.) Ramos stars as the human hero. The Beast Wars rage on. So does this franchise.

What’s the buzz? Taking a wild guess here, but the fate of the world might hang in the balance.

Pixar characters Ember Lumen and Wade Ripple navigate an odd-couple relationship in a world where elements aren’t meant to mix. (Video: Walt Disney Pictures)


(June 16, PG)

Starring: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O’Hara, Mason Wertheimer, Joe Pera.

What’s the story? Set in Element City, a place where denizens of the realms of Earth, Air, Fire and Water live in not-quite harmony, Pixar’s newest animated adventure centers on the odd-couple relationship between fiery Ember Lumen (voice of Lewis) and Wade Ripple (Athie), who is all wet. (“Elements don’t mix,” she is told in the trailer.)

What’s the buzz? Expect lots of amazing visuals and physical/conceptual gags, as well as a story about tolerance and diversity.

The best movies of 2023 so far

A group of Black friends find themselves stalked by a serial killer in a remote cabin in this meta-horror comedy. (Video: Lionsgate)

The Blackening

(June 16, R)

Starring: Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo, Dewayne Perkins, Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, Jay Pharoah, Yvonne Orji.

What’s the story? When a group of Black friends get together in a remote cabin for a weekend getaway over Juneteenth, they find themselves stalked by a serial killer in this meta-horror comedy, which aims to poke fun at the tropes of the slasher genre, including the widely cited rule that the Black character is always the first to die.

What’s the buzz?Scream” meets “Get Out.”

The Flash

(June 16, PG-13)

Starring: Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, Michael Shannon, Sasha Calle, Maribel Verdú, Ron Livingston.

What’s the story? Miller plays Barry Allen, a.k.a. the titular, lightning-fast superhero, in the troubled action-adventure film, so long in gestation that two directors (Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa) came and went before Warner Bros. settled on Andy Muschietti, director of “It” and “It Chapter Two.” The time-traveling plot of this DC Comics film, in which the protagonist is trying to save his mother (Verdú), involves two versions of Barry; two Batmans (Keaton and Affleck); the debut of Supergirl (Calle); and the return of Shannon as General Zod, a Kryptonian villain who was killed by Superman in “Man of Steel” — and later resuscitated as Doomsday in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

What’s the buzz? There’s a lot of worrisome churn at this studio, with the cancellation of “Batgirl” and allegations against Miller related to substance abuse and assault, as well as criminal charges.

Ezra Miller seeks mental health treatment as ‘The Flash’ stays the course

Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who accepts a job helping a 19-year-old “grow up” before going to college. (Video: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

No Hard Feelings

(June 23, R)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Feldman, Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti, Natalie Morales, Hasan Minhaj, Kyle Mooney.

What’s the story? In this raunchy comedy, Lawrence plays a woman who, to extricate herself from dire financial straits, accepts a job offer from a couple (Broderick and Benanti) who want her to, er, deflower their sexually inexperienced 19-year-old son (Feldman) before he goes off to college.

What’s the buzz? Can Gene Stupnitsky, a producer and writer on “The Office” and the director and co-writer of “Good Boys,” re-create that 2019 film’s mix of sex and sweetness?

‘Good Boys’ review: This R-rated comedy about 12-year-old boys is raunchy, vulgar, funny — and surprisingly sweet

Space enthusiasts in a fictional 1955 American desert town encounter aliens (or do they?) in Wes Anderson’s latest feature. (Video: Focus Features)

Asteroid City

(June 23, PG-13)

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum.

What’s the story? Shot in Spain, the latest from Wes Anderson — an auteur so idiosyncratic, his style gets imitated on TikTok and Instagram — is set in 1955, during the annual celebration of an asteroid’s landfall at a gathering of space enthusiasts in a fictional American desert town. In the retro-futuristic trailer, the putative arrival of aliens, perhaps heralded by the appearance of a distant mushroom cloud, precipitates some discussion of the meaning of life.

What’s the buzz? Anderson’s films may be an acquired taste for some viewers, but it’s one that continues to draw a stable of acting regulars — Schwartzman, Johansson, Wright, Swinton, Norton, Brody, Dafoe, Revolori, Goldblum and others — whose loyalty to the filmmaker is arguably a sign of how much fun is to be had on one of his sets. But “Asteroid City” also marks the first appearance of Hanks and Robbie, arguing that the word is still spreading.

From the archives: Why ‘Isle of Dogs’ may be Wes Anderson’s most timely film yet

The fifth “Indiana Jones” film has Harrison Ford, in his reported final appearance as Indy, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge battling Nazis while time-travelling. (Video: Walt Disney Pictures)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

(June 30, PG-13)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen.

What’s the story? Set in 1969, against the backdrop of the space race, the fifth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise — and the first film in the series not directed by Steven Spielberg, who passes the bullwhip to James Mangold (“Ford v. Ferrari”) — will also be the last appearance by Ford, now 80 years old, in the title role. (The actor has also said that he will not participate in the spinoff TV series in development at Disney Plus.) It is therefore fitting that the plot of “Dial” seems to revolve around a device with some sort of time-travel potential: Indy’s goddaughter, a new character played by “Fleabag’s” Waller-Bridge, calls it a “dial that could change the course of history.” A former Nazi working for NASA (Mikkelsen) also wants the device so he can “correct” Hitler’s “mistakes.”

What’s the buzz? Mangold wanted to more directly acknowledge Indy’s age, so the film opens in 1944 with a digitally de-aged Ford as Indy before jumping to the main action.

In a world where sea monsters are good and mermaids are bad, the titular high-schooler battles a popular — and evil — mermaid classmate. (Video: Universal)

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

(June 30, PG)

Starring: Lana Condor, Jane Fonda, Toni Collette, Annie Murphy, Jaboukie Young-White.

What’s the story? This animated adventure from DreamWorks turns aquatic fairy tale lore on its head, with mermaids being the bad guys and krakens — sea monsters — the protectors of life on land and sea. The title character (Condor) is a kraken masquerading as an adolescent human at a seaside high school who must tap into her warrior-queen ancestry when a popular classmate named Chelsea (Murphy) goes all queen bee on her, mermaid-style.

What’s the buzz?Mean Girls” under the sea.

Insidious: The Red Door

(July 7, not yet rated)

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ty Simpkins, Rose Byrne.

What’s the story? Continuing the narrative about an otherworldly realm known as the Further, inhabited by demonic entities, Wilson returns as Josh Lambert, dropping his son (Simpkins) off at college only to find that the two of them — once tethered to the Further via a mysterious gravitational pull — are still haunted by its ghoulish denizens.

What’s the buzz? Wilson, a classically trained actor who has appeared in three of the previous four Insidious films, makes his directorial debut, working from a screenplay by Scott Teems (“Halloween Kills”) based on a story by series creator Leigh Whannell, the horror maestro who wrote or co-wrote all of the earlier movies.

Joy Ride

(July 7, not yet rated)

Starring: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu.

What’s the story? A business trip to China by Asian American adoptee and corporate lawyer Audrey is the catalyst for this raunchy, cocaine-fueled road-trip comedy, which marks the directorial debut of “Crazy Rich Asians” producer Adele Lim. Audrey (Park) seeks unlikely traveling companionship from her childhood best friend Lolo (Cola); Audrey’s old college pal Kat (Hsu), who is now a Chinese soap star; and Lolo’s cousin (Wu), known as Deadeye.

What’s the buzz?Girls Trip” in Asia.

The complex history of Asian Americans in movies, from the silent era to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part 1

(July 14, not yet rated)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Mariela Garriga, Henry Czerny, Shea Whigham, Greg Tarzan Davis, Frederick Schmidt, Charles Parnell, Rob Delaney, Cary Elwes, Indira Varma, Mark Gatiss.

What’s the story? Just as star and producer Cruise seems to defy his 60 years, so too does this long-running film franchise, born in 1996 and based on the 1966-1973 TV series. Like someone who refuses to divulge their age, “Mission: Impossible” dropped numbers from the film’s titles after the third movie, in favor of such enigmatic subtitles as “Fallout” and “Dead Reckoning.” (Excuse me, make that “Dead Reckoning, Part 1.” Part 2 is due out next year. The term refers to a navigational method in which a lost traveler estimates one’s location by extrapolating from earlier known positions.) We don’t know much about this film yet, but it features the return of Czerny as Eugene Kittridge, the IMF director who disappeared from the franchise after wrongfully accusing Cruise’s Ethan Hunt of being a mole in the first film. In the trailer, we hear Kittridge tell a very upset-looking Hunt, “Our lives are the sum of our choices, and we cannot escape the past.”

What’s the buzz? In December, producers released a jaw-dropping extended behind-the-scenes video about the film’s most elaborate stunt, in which Cruise rides a motorcycle off a cliff in Norway, only to BASE jump by parachute to safety.

Why Mission: Impossible is the best blockbuster franchise right now

Barbie sets out to explore the human world to seek true happiness. (Video: Warner Bros. Pictures)


(July 21, not yet rated)

Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, John Cena, Helen Mirren, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Kate McKinnon.

What’s the story? Little is known about the plot of this live-action comedy by Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Noah Baumbach. So little that the merest rumors of a synopsis have gone viral on Twitter: One speculation is that the story has something to do with the conflict between life in the real world — inhabited by a Mattel CEO (Ferrell), among others — and the fictional fantasia of Barbieland, where the title character and her boyfriend Ken (Robbie and Gosling) rub shoulders with others by the same name.

What’s the buzz? Greta Gerwig! (Also, see entirely speculative plot synopsis above, which starts to sound plausible, given the theme of fact vs. fiction at play in Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated “Little Women.”)

Why we can’t look away from the ‘Barbie’ movie’s fever-dream-like trailer

Cillian Murphy stars in Christopher Nolan’s historical epic about the theoretical physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb as World War II raged. (Video: Universal)


(July 21, not yet rated)

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Michael Angarano, Josh Hartnett.

What’s the story? Shot on Imax cameras by Christopher Nolan (“Tenet”), this three-hour historical epic — based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Murphy), the theoretical physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II while wrestling with the ethical dilemma that the work entailed. Murphy has appeared in several of Nolan’s films — the Dark Knight trilogy, “Inception” and “Dunkirk” — but never before in the lead.

What’s the buzz? Such a serious, grown-up film may be an outlier in a season of popcorn movies. But Nolan has always been a maverick. “I’m often accused of magical thinking, of nostalgia, of daydreaming as opposed to a sound business plan,” he told Deadline. “And it’s taken the last few years for us all to realize that when you’re talking about movies, magical thinking, nostalgia, daydreaming — that is the sound business plan, it’s the only sound business plan.”

Book review: ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer’

Inspired by the Disney theme park ride, Tiffany Haddish, Lakeith Stanfield and their crew of paranormal experts tries to rid a Louisiana home of poltergeists. (Video: Walt Disney Pictures)

Haunted Mansion

(July 28, PG-13)

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, Dan Levy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto.

What’s the story? Like 2021’s “Jungle Cruise” and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies before it, this horror comedy has been extrapolated from a Disney World ride: in this case one that, over the course of a few minutes, takes visitors on a tour of a poltergeist-plagued mansion. Here, a woman and her son (Dawson and Dillon) hire a crew of paranormal problem-solvers to help rid their Louisiana home of supernatural pests.

What’s the buzz? This is not Disney’s first attempt to turn the park attraction into a movie. Eddie Murphy starred in a widely panned version of “The Haunted Mansion” 20 years ago. Fear not, says Justin Simien. The “Dear White People” director told Entertainment Weekly that he used Murphy’s 2003 film as a template to avoid.

Movie review: ‘Jungle Cruise’ invites you to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

(Aug. 11, R)

Starring: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Woody Norman.

What’s the story? Talk about undead. It was way back in 2002 when screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (“Season of the Witch”) wrote his first draft of “Demeter,” based on a single chapter of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” that charts the macabre goings-on aboard the titular ship while en route from Carpathia to London with its mysterious cargo of unmarked wooden crates. Then the project languished in development, undergoing various casting and directorial changes, for decades. André Ovredal, director of the straight-faced Norwegian mockumentary “Trollhunter,” takes over a resuscitated screenplay by Schut and Zak Olkewicz (“Bullet Train”), with Hawkings (“The Walking Dead”) playing the ship’s doctor and Franciosi (“The Nightingale”) a stowaway who doesn’t realize what she’s in for.

What’s the buzz? Universal Pictures is famous for its classic black-and-white monster movies: 1931’s “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” 1941’s “The Wolf Man” and more. But its track record of reimagining the creature feature — see 2020’s “The Invisible Man” or the recent “Renfield,” yet another Dracula reboot — has been spotty.

Gran Turismo

(Aug. 11, not yet rated)

Starring: Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom.

What’s the story? Based on the title, you might assume this is yet another movie based on a video game: in this case, the auto-racing simulation “Gran Turismo.” In actuality, the film from director Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough (Madekwe), a “Gran Turismo” player and college dropout from Britain who parlayed his gaming abilities in 2011 — via GT Academy, a “virtual-to-reality” competition run by Nissan and PlayStation — to become a professional racecar driver. Harbour plays Jann’s tough-love coach, and Bloom is a Nissan marketing executive.

What’s the buzz? The idea of putting a racing-sim gamer behind the wheel of a speeding car sounds crazy. But since his transition from gamer to driver, Mardenborough has met with continued success and is still racing today.

Video game review: ‘Gran Turismo 7’ is a great car culture sim. There’s also racing.

Blue Beetle

(Aug. 18, not yet rated)

Starring: Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, George Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Adriana Barraza, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Raoul Max Trujillo.

What’s the story? It’s complicated. First created in 1939, the title character has had several incarnations, under multiple publishers, including DC Comics, which developed this version: a kid who has sometimes been allied with the Teen Titans. In the character’s first big-screen film, Maridueña (“Cobra Kai”) plays Jaime, a recent college graduate who is transformed into the titular superhero after he finds a chunk of ancient alien biotech known as the Scarab that fuses itself to his body, granting him superhuman powers and an armored, buglike exoskeleton. Marquezine plays his love interest; Lopez is his uncle (heard saying “Batman is a fascist” in the trailer); and Sarandon is a character with the same last name as one of earlier iterations of Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, making things — let’s say, interesting.

What’s the buzz? The fact that it’s not a Justice League or Suicide Squad sequel is alone cause for celebration.

How will Marvel Studios bounce back from its wave of bad news?


(Aug. 18, R)

Starring: Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Will Forte, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Josh Gad, Harvey Guillén, Brett Gelman, Rob Riggle, Jamie Demetriou, Sofia Vergara.

What’s the story? Ferrell provides the voice of the film’s furry hero, Reggie, a border terrier with an indefatigably sunny disposition, in this raunchy, live-action talking-dog comedy. After Reggie’s reluctant owner (Forte) abandons him, Reggie teams up with a potty-mouthed Boston terrier (Jamie Foxx), who introduces Reggie to life on the streets — and an appetite for revenge.

What’s the buzz? Don’t take the kids. The film’s red-band trailer makes it clear that, despite similar subject matter, “Strays” is no “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

The Equalizer 3

(Sept. 1, not yet rated)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning.

What’s the story? Washington and his director on “Training Day,” Antoine Fuqua, created a hit with the first “The Equalizer,” a violent 2014 action movie, based loosely on the 1980s TV show of the same name, about a former government assassin who, in the manner of the Taken series, must dust off his lethal skills to protect the oppressed and avenge the wronged. Set in a small town in southern Italy, where the hero has settled in for a quiet retirement, the film follows Washington’s Robert McCall as he takes on — wait for it — the Mafia.

What’s the buzz? As the 2018 installment of this franchise proved, Washington can make even a bad movie watchable.