It’s been three years since we’ve written a normal summer movie preview at Boston.com. Both 2020 and 2021 were heavily impacted by COVID-19, with theaters running almost no new films from the biggest studios. The 2022 summer movie season was a relative return to form, but still fell short of pre-pandemic levels by 21 percent.
It’s still too early to say whether the 2023 summer movie season will be a triumph, but early signs are good. Studios are releasing more movies in total, with most weekends featuring several buzzworthy options competing for moviegoers’ attention.
It probably helps that studios have pumped the brakes on the streaming bonanza at the start of the pandemic, when companies like Warner Bros. and Disney pushed their best movies directly onto HBO Max and Disney Plus, respectively. While we’re still highlighting several streaming-first movies in our preview, it’s a much smaller number than 2022, 2021, or 2020. Whether viewers will get off the couch and head back to the multiplex remains to be seen, however.
Below, you’ll find info about 23 of the biggest summer movie releases, including the return of Indiana Jones, new films from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and an almost overwhelming number of roles for WWE superstar and West Newbury native John Cena.
Here are 23 must-see movies coming to theaters or streaming services from now through the end of August.
(Movie release dates are theatrical unless otherwise noted.)
“Hypnotic” (May 12)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Alice Braga, Jeff Fahey, Jackie Earle Haley, William Fichtner
It’s a little tough to know what to make of “Hypnotic,” which was originally going to be released by the now-shuttered Solstice Studios and is now being distributed by a company called Ketchup Entertainment. Affleck plays Danny Rourke, a detective whose search for his missing daughter leads to him chasing a bank robber who appears to have mind-altering powers (Fichtner). Directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids,” “Desperado”), “Hypnotic” hits theaters May 12.
“Fast X” (May 19)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Momoa, John Cena, Jason Statham
Universal is dubbing “Fast X,” the 10th film in the Fast & Furious Saga, as the “beginning of the end” of the billion-dollar franchise about cars, heists, and family. (Given the amount of money the franchise generates, we’ll believe it when we see it.) Dom Toretto (Diesel) and Co. must once again face off against a big baddie, this time played by Jason Momoa (“Aquaman”). He’s the son of the drug kingpin the Fast gang foiled in “Fast Five,” and he’s going after Dom’s 8-year-old son.
“Love to Love You, Donna Summer” (May 20 on HBO Max)
Starring: Donna Summer
Boston native Donna Summer gets the documentary treatment in this new film directed by her daughter, actress and filmmaker Brooklyn Sudano. The film, which premiered locally at IFF Boston a couple of weeks ago and begins streaming May 20 on HBO Max, is a deeply personal tribute — which makes sense, given its source. While it doesn’t provide much in the way of revelatory information, it’s a fitting dedication to the Queen of Disco.
“About My Father” (May 26)
Starring: Sebastian Maniscalco, Robert De Niro, Leslie Bibb, Anders Holm, Kim Cattrall
If you’ve been missing the comic energy of Robert De Niro in “Meet the Parents,” “About My Father” should scratch that itch. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco (basically playing a version of himself) brings his immigrant father (De Niro) to a weekend with his future in-laws, who are both super rich and super eccentric. The ensemble of in-laws include Leslie Bibb (“Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby”), Anders Holm (“Workaholics”), and Kim Cattrall (“Sex and the City”), who bring their own brand of comedic weirdness to the mixing pot. “About My Father” heads to theaters May 26.
“The Little Mermaid” (May 26)
Starring: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Jacob
Tremblay, Javier Bardem, Melissa McCarthy
Disney’s recent live-action adaptations of their classic animated films have all fallen short of the originals, with the efforts ranging from pretty good (“The Jungle Book”) to regrettable (“The Lion King”). It’s hard to tell where the Rob Marshall-directed remake will fall on that scale, but Halle Bailey (one-half of musical duo Chloe x Halle) certainly has the pipes to belt out “Part of Your World.” “The Little Mermaid” swims into theaters May 26.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (June 2)
Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Rachel Dratch, Oscar Isaac
The first “Spider-Verse” film was a massive critical and commercial hit for Sony in 2018, and the studio could use a pick-me-up after the performance of its most recent Spidey-adjacent film, “Morbius.” Miles Morales (Moore) is balancing his life as a teenager in New York City with his newfound superpowers when he ends up back in the Multiverse alongside a team of elite Spider-People. But there are bad Spiders out there as well, and the group must band together to help save those closest to Miles. Featuring a deep supporting voice cast including Jake Johnson (“New Girl”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), and Lexington native Rachel Dratch (“Saturday Night Live”), “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” swings into theaters June 2.
“The Flash” (June 16)
Starring: Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Michael Keaton
Like the rest of Warner Bros. Discovery, the D.C. superhero universe is in turmoil, with James Gunn and Peter Safran removing Henry Cavill from the Superman role, shelving future “Black Adam” films and pushing “Wonder Woman” onto the back-burner. One project they’re moving forward with is a standalone film for “The Flash,” despite star Ezra Miller’s numerous recent legal troubles. In the film, Barry Allen (Miller) uses his powers to travel back in time in an attempt to save his family. Unfortunately, his actions alter the future, bringing back “Superman” baddie General Zod (Shannon) into a world bereft of superheroes. Barry must convince an aged Batman (Michael Keaton) to come out of retirement and make everything right. (No word yet on whether Ben Affleck’s rumored cameo as the other Batman ended up making the final cut.) “The Flash” sprints into theaters June 16.
“Elemental” (June 16)
Starring: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pera
Mid-June is Pixar season, with 15 of the Disney-owned studio’s 26 titles hitting theaters in that window over the years. Pixar’s newest is set in Element City, where Fire-, Water-, Earth- and Air-residents live together — albeit with some distance between each other. When the fiery, quick-witted Ember (Lewis) meets easygoing Wade (Athie), she begins to question her preconceived notions about the world they inhabit. “Elemental” wades into theaters June 16.
“Extraction 2” (June 16 on Netflix)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa, Olga Kurylenko, Daniel Bernhardt, Tinatin Dalakishvili
One of Netflix’s biggest movies is back with a sequel, putting black ops mercenary Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) back in the line of fire. This time around, Rake must extract the family of a ruthless Georgian gangster from the prison where they’re being held captive. The film is one big Marvel reunion, with “Thor” star Hemsworth joining “Avengers” directors Joe and Anthony Russo, as well as veteran Marvel producers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. “Extraction 2” debuts on Netflix June 16.
“Asteroid City” (June 23)
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Steve Carell, Margot Robbie, Jeff Goldblum
Wes Anderson remains one of the few bankable directors working in Hollywood, with his immaculately styled films proving to be an enduring box office draw. His newest, “Asteroid City,” is set at a 1950s Junior Stargazer convention, where students and parents from across America gather for “scholarly competition, rest, recreation, comedy, drama, and romance.” Even by Anderson’s standards, the star power of the ensemble cast for “Asteroid City” is astounding. Along with regular Anderson collaborators Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Jeff Goldblum, “Asteroid City” has 20 more listed cast members, including the likes of Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, and Acton native Steve Carell. “Asteroid City” blasts into theaters June 23.
“No Hard Feelings” (June 23)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Feldman, Laura Benanti, Natalie Morales, Hasan Minhaj, Matthew Broderick, Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Amherst native Ebon Moss-Bachrach had quite the year in 2022, starring in two of the best TV shows of 2022 with “The Bear” and “Andor.” For 2023, the actor will join Jennifer Lawrence on screen for “No Hard Feelings,” a coming-of-age comedy-drama about a woman (Lawrence) who answers a Craigslist ad from a mother seeking someone to date her college-bound son. (You may have seen the viral ad campaign that graced a Mass. Pike billboard earlier this year.) Co-starring Broadway actress Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) as the boy’s parents, “No Hard Feelings” hits theaters June 23.
“God Is a Bullet” (June 23)
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maika Monroe, Jamie Foxx, January Jones, Ethan Suplee, Jonathan Tucker
Director Nick Cassavetes will likely forever best be known for “The Notebook,” but the filmmaker and actor (“Face/Off”) wants to tell darker stories as well. Inspired by true events and based on the novel of the same name, “God is a Bullet” follows detective Bob Hightower (Coster-Waldau), who quits the police force after his his ex-wife is murdered and his daughter is kidnapped by a satanic cult. Free of the badge, Hightower infiltrates the cult with the assistance of the only woman to escape its clutches alive (Monroe). Co-starring Boston native Jonathan Tucker (“City on a Hill,” “The Virgin Suicides”), “God Is a Bullet” hits theaters June 23.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (June 30)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen
More than 40 years since Harrison Ford first cracked the whip as Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the veteran actor returns for what is being billed as the final installment of the franchise. The action takes place in 1969, and Indy is leery of the fact that the U.S. government has enlisted the help of former Nazis to win the Space Race over the Soviets. Accompanied by his goddaughter Helena (Waller-Bridge), the archaeologist begins looking into NASA scientist Jürgen Voller (Mikkelsen), who may have ulterior motives. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” swings into theaters June 30.
“Joy Ride” (July 7)
Starring: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu
Arguably the raunchiest, most explicit comedy set to hit theaters this summer, “Joy Ride” centers around Audrey (Park), who is headed on a business trip to Asia alongside her wisecracking childhood best friend Lolo (Cola) and Lolo’s weird cousin Deadeye (Wu). There, they meet up with Audrey’s college pal turned soap opera star Kat (Hsu), and pivot to searching for Audrey’s birth mother. “Joy Ride” rides into theaters July 7.
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One” (July 14)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Hayley Atwell, Esai Morales
Tom Cruise proved he is still the box office king with “Top Gun: Maverick,” and it’s hard to imagine he’ll relinquish the crown with the latest addition to the “Mission: Impossible” franchise he’s helmed since 1996. As is often the case, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt finds himself making hard choices while the fate of the world hangs in the balance. This seventh “M:I” installment has most of Hunt’s supporting cast back again (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby) with Esai Morales (“Ozark”) playing the main antagonist. In what has to be some kind of record for the most punctuation used in a single movie title, “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part One” flies into theaters July 14.
“Oppenheimer” (July 21)
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey, Jr., Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Josh Hartnett, Kenneth Branagh
After a marginally successful attempt to welcome audiences back to the theaters in 2020 with “Tenet,” Christopher Nolan must be champing at the bit to unveil his World War II drama starring Cillian Murphy as the titular nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” the film also features Damon as Manhattan Project director Gen. Leslie Groves and Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife, biologist and botanist Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer. “Oppenheimer” explodes into theaters July 21.
“Barbie” (July 21)
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Michael Cera, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, John Cena, Helen Mirren
Possibly the funniest movie to see as a double feature with “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie” is a high-concept take on the classic Mattel toy. The film stars Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”) as Barbie, who is banished from Barbieland and introduced to the real world. Featuring Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) as Ken — one of several Kens, it turns out — and directed by Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”), the first trailer for “Barbie” is a strong indication to expect the unexpected when this one drives into theaters July 21.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (August 4)
Starring: Nicholas Coutu, Shamon Brown Jr., Micah Abbey, Brady Noon, Ayo Edebiri, Rose Byrne, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, John Cena
In an animated reboot of the reptilian comic franchise from “Superbad” scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” finds our titular turtles venturing out of their shells after years of being sheltered from the human world. Filming stunts on their phone and chatting with aspiring reporter April O’Neil (Boston native Ayo Edebiri), the quartet are attempting to make their mark as heroes. When they attempt to take on an NYC crime syndicate, however, the Turtle brothers are soon in over their heads. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” oozes into theaters August 4.
“Challengers” (Aug. 11)
Starring: Zendaya, Mike Faist, Josh O’Connor
Bostonians had Zendaya mania when the “Euphoria” actress filmed scenes for this romantic drama in the area last year. Directed by Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name”), Zendaya plays Tashi, a tennis player turned coach who has transformed her husband, Art (Mike Faist, “West Side Story”), into a world-class champion. When Art’s career hits a slump, he drops down a tier to play a “Challenger” event against Patrick (Josh O’Connor, “The Crown”), his former best friend and Tashi’s ex-boyfriend. “Challengers” lands in theaters August 11.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” (August 11)
Starring: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian
Universal is back in the monster business with “The Last Voyage of the Demeter,” an upcoming horror film based on a single chapter from Bram Stoker’s classic novel “Dracula.” The film takes place on the merchant ship Demeter, which is carrying cargo bound for London. Strange events begin to befall the crew at sea, as a terrifying presence only glimpsed in the shadows portends their doom. “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” sails into theaters August 11.
“Red, White & Royal Blue” (August 11 on Prime Video)
Starring: Nicholas Galitzine, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Uma Thurman, Stephen Fry Sarah Shahi
Based on the romance novel of the same name, “Red, White & Royal Blue” centers around the rivalry turned transatlantic romance between the First Son of the President of the United States (Zakhar Perez) and British royal Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine). When paparazzi catch wind of the pair’s longstanding feud, their handlers stage a press-friendly truce, which leads to the duo falling head over heels. Co-starring Boston native Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction”) as the President, “Red White & Royal Blue” begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on August 11.
“Blue Beetle” (August 18)
Starring: Xolo Maridueña, Adriana Barraza, Damián Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez
Originally slated for release directly on HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discover has bumped up “Blue Beetle” to a full theatrical release, introducing theatergoers to Xolo Maridueña (“Cobra Kai”). Maridueña plays Jaime Reyes, a recent college grad living at home and searching for direction. The universe puts him on an unexpected path when Reyes finds the Scarab, an ancient piece of alien technology that binds with a host and gives them superpowers. “Blue Beetle” crawls into theaters August 18.
“Vacation Friends 2” (August 25 on Hulu)
Starring: John Cena, Meredith Hagner, Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji, Steve Buscemi, Jamie Hector, Ronny Chieng
One of Hulu’s most successful original movies was 2021’s “Vacation Friends,” in which a buttoned-up couple (Howery, Orji) meets a rowdier couple (Cena, Hagner) while on vacation in Mexico. The original quartet returns for this sequel, which picks up with both couples taking a Caribbean vacation together. This time, the chaos is provided by Hagner’s recently incarcerated father (Buscemi), who shows up at the resort right when Howery’s character is trying too close a business deal. “Vacation Friends 2” begins streaming on Hulu August 25.