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50 Films to See This Summer

Written by on April 29, 2015 

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The summer movie season is upon us, which means a seemingly endless pile-up of superhero, reboots, and sequels will crowd the multiplexes. While a select few show some promise, we’ve set out to highlight a vast range of titles — 50 in total — that will arrive over the next four months, many of which we’ve already given our stamp of approval.

As a note, we’ve also reviewed Maggie, Good Kill, Saint Laurent, The D Train, Welcome to Me, The Stanford Prison Experiment, The NightmareManglehorn, The Cut, The Bronze, Aloft, Ten Thousand Saints, People, Places, Things, and Cop Car, but they didn’t make the cut.

There’s bound to be more late-summer announcements in the coming months, and a number of titles will arrive on VOD day-and-date, so follow us on Twitter for the latest updates. In the meantime, see our top 50 picks for what to watch this summer and let us know what you’re looking forward to most in the comments.

Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg; May 1st)

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Following his piercing, bleak drama The Hunt, director Thomas Vinterberg is clearly having a great deal of perhaps needed fun with his follow-up, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy‘s classic novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. The preeminent kind of period piece, the late 19th century tale arrives with a heightened sense of self-awareness on what makes this genre tick. With sun-kissed cinematography, a swelling score, and back-and-forth romantic yearnings, this is a drama, despite feeling rushed in sections, intent on providing satisfaction above all else. – Jordan R. (full review)

Far From Men (David Oelhoffen; May 1st)

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Writer/director David Oelhoffen has a special film on his hands because it’s powerful tale begs audience members to learn more about the subject. I’m not talking about the fictional character of Daru (Viggo Mortensen) secluding himself in the mountains to teach young Arab children how to read while civil war wages on or his unwitting ward of the state Mohamed (Reda Kateb) awaiting trial in Tinguit for murdering his cousin. I’m referencing the backdrop—where those mountains are and the “why” of the ongoing rebellion amidst them that spans two ethnicities, two languages, multiple races, and one common goal of freedom. – Jared M. (full review)

The Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Ray; May 8th)

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The films that Martin Scorsese once called “one of the great cinematic experiences of my life,” from a director Akira Kurosawa said, “never having seen [his films] is like never having seen the sun or moon,” are returning to theaters in a gorgeous-looking restoration. Satyajit Ray‘s landmark The Apu Trilogy, which tracks the life of a child in the outskirts of Bengal leading to his eventual education and young adulthood. Certain to be a more worthwhile experience than any studio release this summer, seek them out if they are coming to you. – Jordan R.

Slow West (John Maclean; May 15th)

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The treacherous landscape of the west has been captured in numerous entries in the genre, but rarely with the distinctive vibrancy cinematographer Robbie Ryan (Fish Tank) brings to it in Slow West. John Maclean — who has had a long relationship with his star Michael Fassbender in a handful of shorter form projects — makes his directorial debut here, clearly reveling in providing his twist on the genre, while still holding true to its roots. – Jordan R. (full review)

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller; May 15th)

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The first Mad Max movie in 30 years will feature a familiar face in writer-director George Miller, and a fresh star in Tom Hardy, who inherited the iconic role from Mel Gibson. The return to Miller’s post-apocalyptic universe will find our reluctant, taciturn hero (Hardy) battling desert marauders with a convoy of survivors (played by an ensemble that includes Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). And unlike previous installments, the action will start from the beginning and continue throughout the entire film. That’s around 120 minutes of non-stop explosions, stylized car crashes, and other high-speed craziness – in other words, hopefully the perfect summer blockbuster. – Amanda W.

When Marnie Was There (Hiromasa Yonebayashi; May 22nd)

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After three decades with consistent output of some of the finest animations ever made, Studio Ghibli may have no films on the horizon, but their last one for now is a pleasant way to go out. Based on the novel by Joan G. Robinson, the sophomore feature of Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty) is a more of a modest offering from the studio, but its beautiful design and heartfelt emotions will certainly win one over. A ghost story about a lonely girl named Annie who meets her first friend in the mysterious Marnie, this English-language version features voice work by Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, John C. Reilly, Raini Rodriguez and Vanessa Williams. – Jordan R.

Love at First Fight (Thomas Cailley; May 22nd)

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You perhaps aren’t familiar with the name Adèle Haenel yet, but we imagine in a few years time, you will be. Before she was recently cast in the next film from the Dardennes, she starred in Les Combattants (translated to Love at First Fight here), which is now getting a U.S. release thanks to Strand Releasing. Earning César Awards for Best Actress, Most Promising Actor, and Best First Feature Film, as well as doing a record-breaking sweep of all three of Cannes’ 46th Directors’ Fortnight prizes, the story follows a carpenter Arnaud becomes infatuated with a military fanatic and joins her in army training. – Jordan R.

Tomorrowland (Brad Bird; May 22nd)

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It looks promising enough on the page, only to be boosted significantly by the strong possibility that every film directed by Brad Bird is among the best of its kind. Coming off an espionage thriller as tightly wound as Ghost Protocol, I’m inclined to say he’s capable of working in live-action, and the initial hints of what Tomorrowland might bring — I’ve noted Bird’s advice and avoided just about anything more revealing than a poster — do much to recall the sort of retro-future classics its title brings to mind. Backed by one of the most charismatic marquee names of his generation and an unknown young lead as they go on… some sort of dimension-tripping adventure (again: this seems like the sort of film about which information should be avoided), Bird’s next film boasts a pedigree any other (unseen) film on this list would only be so lucky to have. – Nick N.

Heaven Knows What (Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie; May 29th)

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There’s a repulsion instinct that makes Heaven Knows What one of the more compelling films on the festival tour this past year. Exploring the plights of the middle-class or lower-class isn’t sparse in cinema, but it’s rare to see a seemingly accurate portrayal of homelessness in conjunction with drug addiction. Shot with a detached style, directors Benny and Joshua Safdie take a story that is ushered along by a heroin addict named Harley in New York City (played by first-time actress Arielle Holmes) and weave it into a compelling narrative that occasionally has a false sense of urgency. The collaboration between the three of them provides a narrative arc that is both heartbreaking and endlessly fascinating to watch. – Bill G. (full review)

Aloha (Cameron Crowe; May 29th)

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Cameron Crowe‘s untitled film was initially scheduled to warm all our hearts this past Christmas, but, unfortunately, Sony pushed the film back to this summer. It was a busy holiday season, so perhaps his latest has a greater chance of finding an audience come summer time. The writer-director assembled a helluva cast for this Hawaii set project: Bradley Cooper, Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, and more. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be excited for another Cameron Crowe film. Few filmmakers today make movies as warm, honest and funny as the guy behind Almost FamousVanilla Sky, and Jerry Maguire. – Jack G.

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