Search your feelings, you know it to be true: No matter how rotten the latest crop of superhero sagas and family films about talking blobs is, summer is still the best movie season.
Yes, fall and winter are usually packed with new offerings from persnickety auteurs (this holiday season will finally see the release of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon). Still, there’s something appealing about the weirdness of summer.
At cinemas, the warmer months are an opportunity to reunite with old friends like Spider-Man, Ethan Hunt, or an ABBA-singing Pierce Brosnan. Yet surprises have a way of slipping through, like The Usual Suspects, Napoleon Dynamite or The Green Knight.
In other words, summer is a time when the Goliaths are appealingly grandiose and the Davids are appealingly strange. Hopefully, that will be true of this season. Here are my personal top picks for summer 2023 moviegoing:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Out Now): The best thing that can be said about the final installment in James Gunn’s Marvel trilogy is that his fans will probably dig it. Like the first two films, it mixes sentiment with kitsch, a combination I find grating. Still, his storytelling resonates with many moviegoers, so the film should get the season off to a blockbuster start.
Fast X (May 19): While it doesn’t bode well that franchise guru Justin Lin left this 10th installment in the Fast & Furious saga after multiple behind-the-scenes clashes, the automotive exploits of Dominic Toretto and his family remain too goofy to resist. Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) directs; Jason Momoa joins the cast as a villain.
Elemental (June 16): Last year, Turning Red proved that Pixar can still make high-concept animated films with more wit and insight that any company not called Studio Ghibli. With a star-crossed romance between fire and water, Elemental promises to be an imaginative flick in the vein of Inside Out. Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur) directs.
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (July 12): Tom Cruise rides a motorcycle off a cliff, a falling train keeps on chugging in midair, and Christopher McQuarrie (who has directed this series since 2015′s Rogue Nation) returns to orchestrate the glorious mayhem. What more do you want?
Oppenheimer (July 21): Director Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Dunkirk) gravely miscalculated when he insisted that 2020′s Tenet be released during some of the worst months of COVID-19. Hopefully, this biopic about the creation of the atomic bomb will remind the world why he remains a master of sincere, morally complex epics.
Honorable Mentions: The Little Mermaid (May 26), Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30), Barbie (July 21)