Dinosaurs and superheroes roamed onscreen last summer, as they do most summers. But films about con women and wealthy Singaporeans were the biggest movie stories of summer 2018.
The box office success of “Ocean’s 8,” a female offshoot of a man’s-man franchise, and “Crazy Rich Asians,” a glossy romance with a mostly Asian cast, augured a new era of inclusion — one that carries on in 2019’s summer movie lineup. But signs of greater representation for women and people of color are more widespread this year.
These signs come in the forms of a member of the Men in Black team who is not a man (Tessa Thompson, from “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Endgame”) and in a remake of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with female leads. The signs also are evident in two films with primarily Latinx casts: “El Chicano,” a masked-avenger action thriller, and “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” the live-action adaptation of the beloved kids’ cartoon.
Movements like #OscarSoWhite and #MeToo now have been around long enough for movies, with their famously long lead times, to catch up. That this correspondence is happening in summer is especially heartening, because real progress does not occur through Oscar-season message movies like “Green Book.” Real progress happens when greater representation becomes just another part of the summer popcorn season, infusing into A-, B- and C-grade genre films, and thus the true fabric of Hollywood entertainment.
Progress is not always classy. Sometimes it’s Octavia Spencer playing unhinged in a B-movie thriller (“Ma,” out in May) instead of Katherine Heigl doing it. But for those seeking a Sundance imprimatur, there’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” which comes with indie credentials similar to those brought by last summer’s Bay Area-centric films “Blindspotting” and “Sorry to Bother You.”
The list below of 25 noteworthy summer films contains movies with inclusive casts and/or creative teams, along with blockbusters aimed at challenging “Avengers: Endgame” for the summer box office title. In a few wonderful instances, most notably with “Men in Black: International” and “Aladdin,” these two ideas coexist in the same film.
As always, release dates are subject to change. Also, we cannot vouch for the quality of these movies, because we have not seen most of them. Some don’t even have trailers yet. Anything can look good on paper. “Aloha” looked good on paper.
“El Chicano”: A Los Angeles police detective (Raul Castillo), facing the threat of a powerful cartel, transforms himself into a Batman-style crime fighter. Veteran stunt performer Ben Hernandez Bray directs and writes, teaming with fellow tough-guy filmmaker Joe Carnahan (“The Grey”) on the script. We’re most excited about Castillo, who brought a quiet grace to his low-key character on the San Francisco-set HBO series “Looking.” Opens May 3.
“Long Shot”: Seth Rogen’s journalist turned speechwriter falls for his boss, the U.S. secretary-of-state-turned-presidential-candidate (Charlize Theron). The tagline used in publicity for this film — “It’s unlikely, but not impossible” — is too close to “She’s entertaining the idea of liking you,” from “Knocked Up.” Come to think of it, this is “Knocked Up” minus the pregnancy and moved to D.C. May 3
“The Hustle”: In this remake of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Anne Hathaway takes the Michael Caine high-end crook role and Rebel Wilson the less-posh Steve Martin role. Hathaway was sneaky-great in “Ocean’s 8,” but this project’s broadly comedic tone seems like a stretch for her. May 10
“Tolkien”: Nicholas Hoult, who has given uniformly good performances since he was the boy in “About A Boy,” plays “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien during Tolkien’s school days, when he and his chums inspired a later fictional fellowship. May 10
“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”: In 2014, a tale of a hit man forced back into action gave a late-middle-aged, Liam Neeson-esque bump to Keanu Reeves’ career. In this second sequel, Wick rides a horse through city traffic — a welcome touch of whimsy, except he’s probably on his way to kill a guy. May 17
“Aladdin”: The first photo released of Will Smith in body makeup as Genie caused some alarm on social media. So you can see why the trailer for this live-action remake of the 1992 animated film plays down the presence of the film’s biggest star. Instead, it focuses on Mena Massoud, the Egyptian Canadian actor cast as Aladdin, and Naomi Scott, the British singer-actress who plays Jasmine and sounds great on a new version of “A Whole New World.” Guy Ritchie, not known for cuddly family films, directs. May 24
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”: Nothing satisfies like a gold ol’ monster stomp-down. Not a world-changing Avengers set piece nor an AARP-membership-defying Tom Cruise stunt. This sequel to the highly entertaining 2014 film gives us the big guy again and so much more — Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah. And it’s just a warm-up for next year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong.” May 31
“Ma”: Teenagers hit up a stranger (Octavia Spencer) to buy them booze, and, ignoring the giant red flag of the stranger agreeing to buy them booze, accompany her to her home to party. Good times soon roll into menace at Ma’s place. We know this because the trailer gives a lot away, including Spencer’s obvious joy in playing a baddie. Tate Taylor, who directed Spencer to an Oscar in “The Help,” directs here too. He’s on a roll with the “Help” cast. His next film, “Eve,” stars Jessica Chastain as an assassin. May 31
“Rocketman”: Rami Malek won an Oscar for his performance as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But he lip-synced. Taron Egerton, who plays Elton John in this biopic, really sings. Granted, it is easier to replicate Elton’s vocals than Mercury’s. But we still appreciate Egerton’s effort. May 31
“Dark Phoenix”: The latest “X-Men” film centers on the telekinetic Jean Grey, the most compelling mutant beside Logan/Wolverine. Sophie Turner (“Game of Thrones”) plays Jean, who becomes “possessed” by a fiery alien force. June 7
“Late Night”: Mindy Kaling plays a comedy writer who helps a longtime late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) get with the times and keep her show from being canceled. Written by Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra (“Chutney Popcorn,” Amazon’s “Transparent”), this comedy starts its forward thinking by imagining there could be a longtime female late-night host. June 7
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”: Co-written by and starring native San Franciscan Jimmie Fails, and directed by Fails’ friend Joe Talbot, this movie tracks a character named Jimmie’s feelings of cultural displacement as he dreams of reclaiming the house his grandfather built in a changed San Francisco. June 14
“Men in Black: International”: F. Gary Gray, who made the tight, propulsive “Straight Outta Compton” and “The Fate of the Furious,” directs here. Tessa Thompson plays a woman so intent on joining the alien-wrangling agency that she infiltrates its secret headquarters. She becomes partners with an agent played by Thompson’s now-frequent co-star, Chris Hemsworth. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones apparently sat this one out. June 14
“Child’s Play”: Chucky is back in this reboot of the franchise built around a murderous doll. Aubrey Plaza stars as the tormented mother of a kid who gets his desired toy, and too much more. But the trailer and marketing materials are really trying to hide the face of this plastic demon, so what’s the surprise? June 21
“Toy Story 4”: Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks) and the other toys return for a third sequel to the film that started it all for Emeryville’s Pixar Animation Studios. Here, the toys hit the road with their human, Bonnie. Tony Hale (“Veep”) voices a new character named Forky, who is actually an ignoble “spork.” June 21
“Yesterday”: In this Danny Boyle film, Jack (Himesh Patel) is the only person who remembers the Beatles after an international power outage. Armed with a guitar and a pretty good voice, he passes off Beatles songs as his own, wowing the world. June 28
“Maiden”: The summer season has documentaries, too. This one tells the story of Tracy Edwards, who captained the first all-female crew in the Whitbread round the world race, in 1989. July 5
“Spider-Man: Far From Home”: The next film in the “Spider-Man Homecoming” series brings back the charming Tom Holland as Peter Parker, whose European vacation goes awry when he is called back to work. It will be hard for this film to win as many Spidey hearts as the great 2018 animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” did. July 2
“The Farewell”: Rapper turned actress Awkwafina only became a comedic movie star last year, in “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” But she already has made the departure into drama, here playing a Chinese American woman who travels to China to be part of a family reunion and elaborate ruse to keep her grandmother’s illness a secret from the grandmother. The story comes from writer-director Lulu Wang’s own life. July 19
“The Lion King”: The animated classic gets a more photo-realistic makeover, with Donald Glover voicing Simba and James Earl Jones reprising his voice role from the original as Simba’s dad. The trailer shows throwbacks to the original, like a shot of Simba’s paw landing in a large footprint left by his father. Jon Favreau as director instills confidence, since he made the lovely live-action “The Jungle Book.” July 19
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: Set in 1969, Quentin Tarantino’s film about the Manson murders has a lot going on. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a smooth movie star, and Brad Pitt his rougher-hewn stunt double. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and Damian Lewis appears as Steve McQueen (was Daniel Craig busy?). The film’s trailer, sun-saturated and gloriously groovy, gives no indication of how the murders will be introduced. But rest assured, this is Tarantino, so it will not be subtly nor tastefully. July 26
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold”: Isabela Moner plays a live-action version of the beloved TV cartoon explorer. Sent by her archaeologist parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) away from the jungle to go to high school with her cousin Diego (Jeffrey Wahlberg, nephew of those Wahlbergs). Don’t worry: Backpack and Boots both appear here, as does Eugenio Derbez, as a friend of Dora’s parents. July 31
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw”: With all the respect to Vin Diesel, the two biggest badasses from the “Fast & Furious” franchise team up to take down an equally badass Idris Elba. Things will get smashed, faces will get punched. Aug. 2
“New Mutants”: In Marvel Comics, this band of mutants was a pack of young kids in the shadow of the X-Men. Here, they’re the focus of a horror-story-esque presentation brought to us by Josh Boone, who directed “The Fault in Our Stars.” Aug. 2
“The Kitchen”: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss star in this 1970s-set drama, based on the Vertigo comic, as mobster wives who take over their husbands’ territory when the husbands go to jail. Andrea Berloff, who co-wrote “Straight Outta Compton,” directs. Aug. 9
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”: Richard Linklater went kind of quiet after “Boyhood,” at least in terms of release bombast. But he’s always been low-key. This adaptation of a 2012 bestseller is about as flashy as he gets. He directs Cate Blanchett as an architect and mother to a 15-year-old who goes missing before a planned family trip. Aug. 9
“Blinded by the Light”: A 1980s Pakistani-British boy (Viveik Kalra) finds hope and inspiration in the music of Bruce Springsteen. Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) directs. The Boss gave his blessing for his music to be used in the film, based on a memoir by Sarfraz Mansoor. Aug. 14
“The Nightingale”: Australian actor Jennifer Kent made a stunning directing debut with the terrifying 2014 psychological thriller “The Babadook.” Her follow-up is set during the colonization of Australia and involves a woman (Aisling Franciosi) who decides to pursue her attacker in the wilderness with the help of a tracker. Aug. 30