We’re now at the halfway point of 2020 and while this year has seen some excellent films get a release, it’s been a tumultuous time determining the exact release calendar each month. As distributors are deciding often on-the-fly what strategies work best, as we look towards July, we’ve gathered our most-anticipated new arrivals based on what is currently scheduled.

We’ll also note that as of this publishing date A24 still has Saint Maud on its theatrical release schedule for July 17th, but we’ll be surprised if that takes shape, so we’ll only mention it at the top here. However, the company will definitely release at least one of their acclaimed features this month, which we’ll kick this list off with.

Special Mention: First Cow (Kelly Reichardt; July 10)

Following up career-best work in her triptych tale Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt is back with a masterfully-directed, tender tale set in the American wilderness. Technically a March release (where it was our #1 pick of the month), its run was cut short due to the pandemic and now A24 are releasing First Cow digitally this month. Based on The Half-Life by Jonathan Raymond and starring John Magaro and Orion Lee, the story follows a pair trying to make a life through not exactly legal means in the 1820s in the Pacific Northwest. One of the very best films of the year, Vikram Murthi said our NYFF review, “In First Cow, Kelly Reichardt carves out space for friendship and generosity amidst an otherwise selfish landscape… Reichardt probes at the limitations of self-preservation as a life philosophy, even though it’s basically required to survive such a hardscrabble existence. What’s the purpose of survival if life doesn’t incentivize assisting your fellow man?”

Where to Watch: VOD

11. Hamilton (Thomas Kail; July 3)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s record-breaking musical Hamilton, which explores the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, premiered on Broadway in early 2015 and needs no introduction. If you weren’t among the lucky ones to secure tickets during its run, a filmed version featuring the original cast as captured in June 2016 is now premiering on Disney+ over an entire year earlier than it was intended to. Now, with theaters both of the movie and performance variety largely shut down due to the pandemic, it’s arriving perfectly timed for July 4th weekend.

Where to Watch: Disney+

10. The Rental (Dave Franco; July 24)

After first appearing on screen ever so briefly in films like Superbad and Milk, Dave Franco has since gone on to impress in If Beale Street Could Talk, Neighbors, Nerve, and more. Now, he’s following in his brother’s prolific directing footsteps and has helmed his first feature. The Rental is a new horror-thriller starring Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White. Set to arrive follows two couples who plan an oceanside getaway, but the host of their rental house might be up to no good.

Where to Watch: Drive-Ins, Theaters, and VOD

9. We Are Little Zombies (Makoto Nagahisa; July 10)

We Are Little Zombies, a Sundance hit last year where it picked up the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award, is the kinetic directorial debut from Makoto Nagahisa. Following four orphans who band together to make music to heal, Dan Mecca said in his review, “The sheer amount of style that writer/director Makoto Nagahisa shows off in We Are Little Zombies is impressive. Aesthetically, there is a lot going on here. Four children–Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura–meet and befriend each other in the days after they’ve all been orphaned. In their grief and confusion, they form a rock band. They call themselves “Little Zombies” in reference to their collective inability to show much sadness given the circumstance.”

Where to Watch: Select Theaters and Virtual Cinemas

8. Yes, God, Yes (Karen Maine; July 24)

Stranger Things star Natalia Dyer is breaking out of the family-friendly Netflix mold for Yes, God, Yes. Directed by Karen Maine (co-writer of Obvious Child), the semi-autobiographical debut explores sexuality for one girl growing up in the Midwest. At SXSW, where it won a Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble, John Fink said in our review, “Similar to last year’s inclusive comedy Blockers–which proved teen girls deserve their own kind of high school sex comedy like the boys have enjoyed for years–Yes, God, Yes continues to evolve the genre while remaining completely grounded in its complexities and contradictions. Obvious Child co-writer Karen Maine’s directorial debut is a witty comedy with nearly no false beats, trading crude comedy for smart insight without forgoing laughs.”

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas and VOD

7. Family Romance, LLC (Werner Herzog; July 3)

Following a Cannes debut last year, Werner Herzog’s peculiar new film Family Romance, LLC is getting a release, with a special free event this Friday on MUBI, followed by a release on the platform starting July 4. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Herzog self-financed the film, shot it guerrilla-style in Tokyo and cast non-professionals to act out a handful of jobs, for want of a better word, that Family Romance performed in the past. There is, for instance, a great scene involving a reclusive woman who once won the lottery and now wishes to experience the surprise and the brief spotlight of that moment again. In another’s eye–or lens–this could all seem tragic, but there is something beautiful to Herzog’s humility. Indeed, whatever makes you happy.”

Where to Watch: MUBI (for free on July 3 only, then MUBI subscribers starting July 4)

6. The Shadow of Violence (Nick Rowland; July 31)

Going under the title Calm with Horses when it premiered at TIFF last fall, Nick Rowland’s new drama starring Barry Keoghan and Cosmo Jarvis is now known as The Shadow of Violence. Jared Mobarak had high praise for it, saying in his review, “I’ve already mentioned Jarvis—who expands upon his breakout turn in Lady Macbeth—but I don’t want his delivering one of the year’s best performances to be diminished. It’s a role that could have easily been ruined by angst-fueled mumbling and frustration without the necessary heart to earn empathy. He instead lets us know about the pain inside and the never-ending struggle to be good that appears less winnable each and every day. Arm is a man whose purpose was stripped away and reclaimed by monsters doing everything possible to also steal his conscience.”

Where to Watch: VOD

5. Black Is King: A Film by Beyoncé (July 31)

Four years ago, Beyoncé dropped the film version of Lemonade, which brought together directors Kahlil Joseph, Jonas Åkerlund, Mark Romanek, Melina Matsoukas, and more to deliver a visual album that, like many of her works, had an immense cultural impact. She is now returning with Black Is King, a film in production for an entire year that reimagines the tale of The Lion King through the perspective of the Black experience. After an intriguing first teaser, it’ll arrive by the end of the month, and we wouldn’t’ be surprised if it’s the most talked-about film of the summer.

Where to Watch: Disney+

4. Relic (Natalie Erika James; July 3)

A Sundance horror hit will bring some scares to the summer lineup this month. Relic, the debut feature from Australian-Japanese director Natalie Erika James, stars Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, and Bella Heathcote in a haunted house story. Announcing the arrival of a strong genre voice, praise was high upon its debut and we’ll have to see if that carries through as it opens in drive-ins starting this week followed by a digital release next week.

Where to Watch: Drive-Ins (July 3) and VOD (July 10)

3. Palm Springs (Max Barbakow; July 10)

One of the most entertaining films I saw at Sundance this year was Palm Springs, the new time loop comedy from the Lonely Island crew and directed by Max Barbakow. Following Andy Samberg, who is eternally stuck on the day of a friend’s wedding, in our review, Jake Kring-Schreifels said, “For most of its runtime, Palm Springs doesn’t get bogged down by extemporaneous storylines and marginal characters, traits that often plague small comedies like this. In a lesser script, the movie might have put more people into the time loop, diverting attention away from its two leads. It might have veered onto a coarse detour and shifted the tone. Barbakow knows what he has in Samberg and MIlioti, and he rarely lets competing sidebars lead the movie astray. “

Where to Watch: Hulu

2. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross; July 10)

One of the best films from Sundance and Berlinale this year is arriving this month. I said in my review, “With their latest film Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, brothers Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross turn their lens on that warmly inviting, idyllically dingy, and endlessly lively microcosm of society: the dive bar. Premiering in the U.S. Documentary Competition section at Sundance, the filmmakers behind Western and Tchoupitoulas once again break the boundaries of such a programmatic box, using a casted ensemble, a scouted location, a vérité style, and the loosest of scripted ideas to explore community, pain, and regrets in America circa 2016—and particularly the unfiltered honesty in which these themes can be conveyed when a ceaseless stream of alcohol is involved. This collection of lost souls and inquiry into their perspective on life results in a tale of profound authenticity and devastating heartbreak.”

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas

1. Boys State (Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss; July 31)

Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’ stellar new documentary Boys State, the top winner in its category at Sundance this year, explores how a group of young people gather to be immersed in and perform the step-by-step process of American democracy in a condensed yet exhaustive period of time. I said in my review, “As they did in their prior film The Overnighters, Moss and McBaine are able to subtly sink into the fabric of their surroundings. Working on a bigger canvas his time around, they mainly focus on these four subjects, and it’s remarkable that not only do they seem to capture every crucial moment as events happen across the campus, but it’s how they intimately capture everything vital on the fly with a genuine dexterity and craft. As these boys give speeches to hundreds or have private conversations about their planning, the camera always feels like we’re directly next to them.”

Where to Watch: Select Theaters (followed by August 14 debut on Apple TV+)

Honorable Mentions

John Lewis: Good Trouble (July 3)
The Truth (July 3)
Bungalow (July 3)
Mucho Mucho Amor (July 8)
The Beach House (July 9)
The Old Guard (July 10)
Greyhound (July 10)
Guest of Honor (July 10)
The Painted Bird (July 17)
Radioactive (July 24)
A Girl Missing (July 31)
Summerland (July 31)
The Fight (July 31)
Sibyl (July 31)

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