Familiarity is a trait many studios are banking on given the titles that make up the 2019 summer movie slate. If The Lion King (2019) doesn't remind you of The Lion King (1994) with a fresh (arguably eerie) coat of paint, it will have failed. Likewise, the success of Rocketman would seem to depend more on Elton John's discography getting people into theaters than his actual life story. Everything original, then—from campy horror to returning auteurs to bicultural dramas—feels a bit like counterprogramming.
Hence, our summer movie breakdown is threefold: the intellectual property goliaths, the original works that could turn into gems, and the unpredictable middle ground fighting for space. Here's to spending summer in dark, air-conditioned rooms.
The Great Inevitabilities
Godzilla: King of the Monsters, May 31
Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla is a sleeper favorite among self-appointed blockbuster connoisseurs. But can the ecological themes and breathtaking scale hold up as Godzilla gets a new director and battles, count 'em, 17 foes?
Dark Phoenix, June 7
The final act of the current X-Men franchise will depend on whether Sophie Turner, in the title role, can strike the world's hottest iron and become a movie star just weeks after Game of Thrones concludes.
Toy Story 4, June 21
"Are toys actually prisoners?" is a somber pitch for the fourth trip around the toy chest with Woody and Buzz. This could be the latest example of Disney unintentionally critiquing itself on the way to a windfall.
The Lion King, July 19
Will it rake in a billion dollars or make us realize jabbering, photo-realistic warthogs actually scare kids? Could be both!
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Fire up the Tom Holland charm machine.)
Men in Black: International (Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth don the suits.)
Shaft (This one has three generations of sex machines.)
The Potential Stunners
The Last Black Man in San Francisco, June 14
A Sundance winner for direction and creative collaboration, this A24 drama written by and starring Jimmie Fails looks like a stirring treatise on gentrification, shot entirely during Bay Area golden hours.
Midsommar, July 3
Hereditary director Ari Aster tries to fry your nerve endings again this summer, only now in blinding daylight via a cryptic dance around the Swedish maypole.
The Farewell, July 12
Lula Wang has a brilliant premise for comedy and drama on her hands: A Chinese American family reckons with whether to tell their ebullient grandmother she has cancer, which could spoil the short time she has left. Awkwafina stars in her first role not as someone's crazy friend.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, July 26
Whatever you think about late-period Tarantino, Leo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie strutting around Manson-overcast Hollywood could well be 2019's strongest hit of pure star power.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Beloved writer gets her doc.)
Sword of Trust (New Lynn Shelton, starring Marc Maron.)
One Child Nation (Amazon documentary on China's brutal reproductive policy.)
The Wild Cards
Ma, May 31
Octavia Spencer, of all people, lures rowdy teens to party at her house for nefarious ends. It won't be Get Out, but this Blumhouse Productions tale may detonate Spencer's constant typecasting as the wise black sidekick.
Late Night, June 7
This Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling two-hander gets top billing in a thin field of summer comedies. With Thompson as a Jay Leno approximation and Kaling as the young writer who drags her humor into 2019, we'll see if audiences can suspend disbelief about the cutting and absurd climate of actual comedy.
Yesterday, June 28
Here's your goofball premise of the summer: After a mysterious global blackout, the world is replaced by one where the Beatles never existed, causing a turbo fan (Himesh Patel) to pretend he wrote their songs. Danny Boyle's latest could be an interesting ponderment on unearned spoils or an excuse to license Beatles hits that could easily stand to be forgotten.
Crawl, July 12
Every summer has its shark movie…except for the ones with gator movies. This creature feature nobly refuses to choose between killer critters and killer weather and traps a father-daughter duo in a nest of irate reptiles while a hurricane rages.
The Dead Don't Die (Jarmusch does zombies.)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Horror anthology books from the '80s come alive.)
Stuber (Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista riff on Michael Mann's Collateral.)