Each summer, I take part in a fun game called The Summer Movie Wager, which tasks film fans to predict the top 10 at the box office for the summer. As you can see from many lists, including my own, the majority are sequels, remakes, or reboots.
Superhero films such as Avengers: Endgame and Spiderman will likely rule the summer, both sequels of their own, as well as films that tie into a larger cinematic universe. Disney continues to remake their classic cartoons such as Aladdin and The Lion King as nothing more than a blatant cash grab. Other sequels such as Toy Story 4, Godzilla 2, John Wick 3, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and X-Men who-knows-what-number all fend for summer box office dollars, as they’ve all found success previously.
Then there is the reboot/sequel Men In Black International, and the off-shoot Fast & Furious extended cinematic universe film Hobbes & Shaw who both are banking on the fond memories of audience members to jump back into popular feelings with fresh-ish faces.
The two notable outliers right now are Rocketman and Detective Pikachu, but the former is based on a true story and the latter is based on a beloved game/cartoon franchise. Both have existed for a long time, and are profiting off of fond memories from fans of both Elton John and Pokemon.
Of course, there is Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is bound to be original and enjoyable, but even that is loosely based on a true story that just so happens to be released 50th anniversary of murders performed by the Manson Family. This is not a coincidence.
All of this is to say that the majority of popularity in the film industry right now relies solely on existing IP (intellectual property). The idea is that if someone has an understanding of what kind of film they’re going into, they’re more likely to be willing to pay to see it. We as audience members know what a marvel superhero movie will deliver. We understand the mechanics of a Godzilla movie. We know what watching a pokemon movie means. We know there’s some laughs, some cool CGI and some sci-fi in Men In Black, and if we’re in that mood, we know which movie to see.
None of this is bad, per se. Some of these movies continue to deliver. There has yet to be a bad Toy Story. John Wick continues to be incredible. Marvel is great at pumping out consistently enjoyable popcorn superhero films. However, I like to find those movies that are a bit of a risk. Movies that I don’t know exactly what they’ll be going into it. Sometimes that means I don’t love the film I see in theatres, but sometimes it means I get to see something so unique, it blows my mind.
So, which unique movies are out there this summer? Well, here is my list of 10 original summer movies that are on my radar. I have only seen one of these, so some of these may be terrible. But that’s part of the fun, to me. That’s part of the adventure.
These are in order of their release date, and I’ve attached posters and trailers for each of them. I encourage you to head out and take a risk on one or two of these movies this summer.
I’ll start with a movie that you could go see right now, and that I’d highly recommend. This is the one movie I’ve seen on this list, and I can say it’s unique and completely enjoyable. Wilde is a brilliant director, and every actor delivers in this funny, heartwarming highschool comedy. Billed as this generation’s Superbad, Booksmart is well worth everyone’s time.
Release Date: Already Out in Wide Release (May 24)
Theatre Count: 577 and dwindling (this means it’s on it’s way out but is still relatively available. Go see it this weekend!)
The Last Black Man In San Francisco
This movie won Sundance’s best directing award and best creator collaboration award, as well as being nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. This film has been on my radar since February when that happened. This looks like a one of a kind movie with heart, humour and passion, all rolled into a beautiful film. Seriously, every frame looks like a painting. Can’t wait.
Release Date: Already Out in Limited Release (June 7)
Theatre Count: 36 and going up (this should continue to expand into a full limited release, and should become more available as the summer continue)
Amazon acquired this film at Sundance for a record-breaking $13 mil. They saw something in this film, so I want to go see it. Emma Thompson continues to be an impressive actor, and Mindy Kaling is a phenomenal writer, with work on The Office, The Mindy Project, Champions and upcoming Four Weddings and a Funeral. This looks to be funny, fresh, and completely enjoyable.
Release Date: Already Out in Wide Release (June 14)
Theatre Count: 2,220 (this should be at your local theatre right now! Go see it!!)
The Dead Don’t Die
This one premiered as the opening film at Cannes, which is prestigious on its own. This offbeat, deadpan comedy looks to be an enjoyable time with one of the most stacked casts in recent memory. There’s currently a small resurgence in zombie films, and this could serve as a great double feature with Shaun of the Dead.
Genre: Horror Comedy
Release Date: Already Out in Limited Release (June 14)
Theatre Count: 613 (probably won’t expand into a wider release, see it while you can!)
Aster’s first film Hereditary was ridiculous and phenomenal. Midsommar premiered for critics at the Alamo Drafthouse, and film twitter was buzzing afterwards. Regardless of whether this is good or bad, the idea of a horror film occurring in sun-soaked Swedish summer at a colour festival is intriguing and original enough to rope me in.
Release Date: July 3
Awkwafina has been on fire lately, and this looks to continue that streak. The film premiered at Sundance and was well received, and a bidding war broke out between Netflix, Amazon, Fox Searchlight and the eventual winners A24 for this film. If that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what does.
Release Date: July 12
The Art of Self-Defense
It premiered at SXSW, a festival not quite as prestigious as Cannes or Sundance, but that seems to suit this movie, as it’s not quite the prestigious arthouse film a lot of these are. This looks like a lot of fun while grappling with what it means to be a middle-class white male in America right now.
Genre: Dark Comedy
Release Date: July 12
Cold Case Hammarskjöld
This list wouldn’t be complete without a compelling documentary. Cold Case looks to uncover the circumstances surrounding the death of UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold, whose airplane crashed in Northern Rhodesia in 1961. This premiered at Sundance as well and was raved about which doesn’t happen as often for documentary films.
Genre: Murder-Mystery Documentary
Release Date: August 16
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Another one with a premiere at Sundance, where Amazon acquired its rights. This looks to be a heartwarming and enjoyable closer to the summer, perfect for families and friends alike. Jillian Bell has been having quite the career in the past few years with 22 Jump Street, Eastbound & Down and Workaholics, and this movie sees her surrounded by a great cast and with a great role to perform.
Release Date: August 23
Ready Or Not
This looks like such a fun time. This one has not been released at any festivals, and looks like an original slasher murder mystery horror comedy and that’s some fresh sounding genres mashed up into one. Also, I love to see Seth Coh–I mean Adam Brody get some more work, as he’s a great actor.
Genre: Horror Comedy
Release Date: August 23