Summer Movie Preview '17: Ranking 50 must-see (or skip) films of the season, Pt. 1

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in "Baywatch."
Courtesy Paramount

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

With Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 opening Friday, the summer movie season begins to explode.

Though blockbusters are beginning to be released throughout the year these days (like smash hit Beauty and the Beast in March), the months from May to August still contain the noisest, broadest, most dynamic fun.

Though, like you, I haven't seen any of the films scheduled to head to theaters through Labor Day, I still know what I like, what generally works and what never does. I've watched all of the trailers, and I've read copious amounts of pre-season coverage, but this post and another tomorrow are esentially snap judgments — my entirely subjective rankings of the movies you can expect or hope to see on screens this summer.

Now, I don't run the theaters or the studios, so I can't guarantee that the release dates are 100 percent accurate, nor that all of the movies will be booked to screen here. But the window between the release of a film theatrically and its release for home viewing is shrinking all the time; chances are, you'll have the chance to see most of these films by the time fall rolls around.

If you disagree with my rankings or think I left out something promising, please let me know! Tweet me or comment on Facebook. I love talking movies, so let's get the conversation started!

 

 

50. Transformers: The Last Knight

"Transformers: The Last Knight" trailer

I'm not a fan of director Michael Bay's explosions-in-lieu-of-story approach in general, nor was I ever a really big fan of this franchise when I watched it while eating my after-school snack (Frito-Lays jalapeño-cheddar dip and Pace picante sauce, please). I've only had to watch a couple of Bay's franchise, but only under utter duress after they scored Oscar nominations. So I have no idea why this fifth chapter (ugh, really?) ties into Arthurian legends, nor why Mark Wahlberg is still hanging around, nor why Anthony Hopkins has signed up. And, hopefully, I never will know. (June 23)

 

49. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" trailer

Hey, I liked the first one as much as anyone. Johnny Depp's sodden Keith Richards impersonation felt new and fresh way back in 2003, those halcyon days before we knew how much of an absolute knob Depp turned out to be. I find it vaguely interesting, kind of, that Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom got hornswoggled back into the franchise for its fifth chapter. That's not nearly enough to make me want to watch Depp bumble through another one of these, though. (May 26)

 

48. The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

"The Nut Job 2" trailer

God, that title just sucks. (Aug. 18)

 

47. Amityville: The Awakening

"Amityville: The Awakening" trailer

I'm not sure why this one horror house still is considered a draw — and frankly, given that this much-delayed movie was supposed to come out in January 2015, maybe no one really thinks it actually is. But here we are, maybe, with another installment, this one starring Bella Thorne as the twin sister of a brother (Cameron Monaghan) who has been possessed by demons. (June 30)

 

46. The Emoji Movie

"The Emoji Movie" trailer

The meh emoji (voiced by T.J. Miller) can't understand why he keeps feeling other emotions and travels through other apps to try to fix himself. Wreck-It Ralph and The Lego Movie prove that a film like this can work, but I just can't help feeling ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about the whole thing, even with Patrick Stewart as the poop emoji. (July 28)

 

45. 47 Meters Down

"47 Meters Down" trailer

Listen, I love Mandy Moore. I love her as a singer, I love her in This Is Us, I freaking loved her in Saved! But this film is All. Kinds. Of. NOPE. for me. That's not a judgment on its quality. It's a judgment on the fact that the idea of being trapped underwater and surrounded by sharks — as Moore and Claire Holt are here — scares the holy poop emoji right out of me. Hard pass. (June 16)

 

44. Annabelle: Creation

"Annabelle: Creation" trailer

Thus far, I've successfully avoided all of The Conjuring films, of which this is — let me see if I've got this straight — a prequel to a spinoff of the first Conjuring movie. That's way too complicated for me to even care about. (Aug. 11)

 

43. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

"Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" trailer

I've never read any of these books, so I don't know why the man in the cape is only wearing his whitey-tighties. It's a children's book, so that throws most of my theories right on out the window. For a strictly-for-the-kids endeavor, though, this looks halfway cute. (June 2)

 

42. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" trailer

Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) fully enters Mom territory as this latest installment in the children's franchise gets a newer, younger cast. Will I see it? As if. But I don't begrudge the kids who want to. (May 19)

 

41. The Dark Tower

"The Dark Tower" trailer

This is the one area of Stephen King's work where I'm basically utterly clueless. I've tried a couple of times to read The Gunslinger, but it's been a fruitless endeavor thus far. So take it with a grain of salt when I say that it doesn't feel like there's all that much excitement over this long in-the-works film adaptation. And there's no trailer yet, so I'm just gauging that on pre-release coverage and the fact that there's no trailer or even a teaser yet for a movie coming out in about three months. That's not a good sign. Casting Idris Elba, though? That's definitely a good sign. So we'll see. (Aug. 4)

 

40. Cars 3

"Cars 3" trailer

Given that the first film in this franchise is far and away my least favorite Pixar film, and that I've never even bothered to watch the second one, I'm frankly surprised this didn't end up somewhere below 50 on this list. But that apocalypic teaser trailer has me intrigued despite myself, even though the second and third (above) trailers show that it's just going to be a typical rising-from-the-ashes comeback story. (June 16)

 

39. The Wall

"The Wall" trailer

Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Go) is an excellent action director, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson shot up in my estimation after last year's Nocturnal Animals. I'm not sure how this film — with Taylor-Johnson and John Cena as a pair of soldiers hiding behind the eponymous barrier to avoid an Iraqi sniper's bullets — will play out, but at least it has potential. (May 12 in limited release)

 

38. The House

"The House" trailer

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are a husband and wife so desperate to fund their daughter's college education that they turn their home into a Vegas-style casino. It looks awfully similar to a lot of other arrested development-type films, but having Ferrell and Poehler on board lifts its chances. (June 30)

 

37. Girls Trip

"Girls Trip" trailer

One of two similarly themed raunchy female ensemble comedies (see Rough Night, below), this one stars Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith (looking a bit unconvincing as a stick-in-the-mud), Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish as gal pals heading to New Orleans for Essence Fest. The red-band trailer looks particularly raunch. (July 21)

 

36. All Eyez on Me

"All Eyez on Me" trailer

I'm not generally the audience for rap biopics, so I don't know much about the expectations for this film about the late Tupac Shakur. I do know, though, that Straight Outta Compton whetted my appetite for more well-made films that give me context and understanding of hip-hop artists, and Shakur in particular seems worthy of the deep dive. (June 16)

 

35. The Little Hours

"The Little Hours" in Sundance

Aubrey Plaza stars in this eye-poppingly profane modern-day comedic adaptation of The Decameron. Plaza, Alison Brie and Kate Micucci are nuns in a convent who are unlike any nun I've ever seen, and I have Sister Act memorized. This one definitely won't be for everyone (I can't even embed its trailer, y'all). (June 30 in limited release)

 

34. Everything, Everything

"Everything, Everything" trailer

Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, returns to screens as a medically fragile young woman in this adaptation of a YA novel by Nicola Yoon. Stenberg's Maddie falls head over heels for new neighbor Olly (Nick Robinson, Jurassic World), but she is stuck inside her house because, as her doctor mom (Anika Noni Rose) warns, she's allergic to everything. Love finds a way, though surely not easily. (May 19)

 

33. The Mummy

"The Mummy" trailer

This Tom Cruise vehicle is the first in a planned new franchise based on the Universal Studios stable of monsters (including Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon), and yes, the last thing we need is another shared-universe franchise. And yes, Cruise is still Cruise. And yes, most of the trailers look a little too serious. But, hopefully, those glimmers of humor aren't totally annihilated in the final product, and I have to admit, I have a soft spot for all of the characters (though the 1999 Mummy will be hard to beat). (June 9)

 

32. Lowriders

"Lowriders" trailer

A young street artist (Gabriel Chavarria) feels torn between his father (Demian Bichir) and ex-con brother (Theo Rossi) in the middle of a lowrider battle in this family drama from director Ricardo de Montreuil. (May 12)

 

31. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" trailer

Director Guy Ritchie's long-awaited take on the Arthurian stories looks like it'll take his street-level sensibilities (honed in such films as Snatch) and meld them to an epic story of Arthur's (Charlie Hunnam) ascension and battle for his throne against a baddie played by a particularly plummy Jude Law. Plus, there are giant elephants, because why not? (May 12)

 

30. Despicable Me 3

"Despicable Me 3" trailer

Gru (Steve Carell) meets his long-lost twin Dru (also voiced by Carell) in the latest installment of this franchise. Dru tempts Gru back into a life of crime, pitting them against a former child star (Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Paker) who's stuck in the '80s. (June 30)

 

29. Rough Night

"Rough Night" trailer

There looks to be a high degree of difficulty with this female-led ensemble comedy about a bachelorette party gone horribly awry. Though it's one of (thankfully) several woman-centric features this summer, this one (perhaps a gender-flipped update of Very Bad Things) has a posse of friends (including Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer) partying hard ahead of Johansson's wedding — and accidentally killing a male stripper in the process. That's a tough line to walk, to be sure. (June 16)

 

28. Wind River

"Wind River" trailer

Taylor Sheridan, who wrote killer screenplays for both Sicario and Hell or High Water, makes his directorial debut with this Western drama about the rape and murder of a teenage girl on an Indian reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner stars as an investigator whose dealing with ghosts of his own path, and Elizabeth Olsen co-stars as a big-city FBI agent. It got a solid reception at Sundance, but no trailer is online yet. (Aug. 4 in limited release)

 

27. Patti Cake$

"Patti Cake$" cast at Sundance

Sundance audiences were blown away by the swagger of actress Danielle Macdonald, who stars as an ambitious aspiring rapper from New Jersey in this drama, which costars Bridget Everett and Cathy Moriarty. (July 7 in limited release)

 

26. Baywatch

"Baywatch" trailer

Here's hoping this celebration / send-up of the jiggly beach series is as fun as the 21 Jump Street movies have been. If nothing else, though, the cast (Dwayne Johnson, Alexandria Deddario, Zac Efron's abs) will be fun to look at. (May 24)

 
 
 

Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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