13 Blockbusters That Could Define 2016's Summer Movie Season

"Captain America: Civil War" kicks things off this weekend.

It's hard out there for a summer movie not tied to a lucrative franchise. Some two dozen reboots, sequels, video-game adaptations and comic-book spectacles will hit theaters over the course of the next four months. It all begins this weekend -- a month and a half before the official start of summer -- when "Captain America: Civil War" inevitably knocks "The Jungle Book" off its box-office perch.

We'll soon find out whether there's another "Jurassic World"-sized behemoth on our hands. The 13 potential cash cows we've targeted merely scrape the surface. There are also new "X-Men," "Alice in Wonderland," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Ice Age" and "Star Trek" installments on the horizon -- not to mention "The Angry Birds Movie," "Warcraft," "The Legend of Tarzan" and, for some reason, a CGI-laden "Ben-Hur" redo. Next week we'll preview some under-the-radar titles whose noise and visual effects won't scorch your senses, but here is a handful of big-budget releases worth marking your calendar for.

  • "Captain America: Civil War" (May 6)
    Written by&nbsp;Christopher Markus&nbsp;and&nbsp;Stephen McFeely &bull; Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo<br><br>Starri
    Marvel Studios
    Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely • Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

    Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Sebastian Stan and Don Cheadle

    What to expect: Marvel ushered in 2015's summer movie season with "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which fell short of the first "Avengers" flick's grosses by about $150 million. The "Captain America" series has a lower bar to clear, especially without any dinosaurs to stampede over the dog days' No. 1 spot. Reviews have mostly praised "Civil War," which promises so many superheroes on the same screen that you literally won't be able to count them on your fingers. In this particular dawn of justice, a rift between Iron Man and Captain America pits the illustrious Avengers against one another. [Trailer]
  • "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" (May 20)
    Written by Andrew J. Cohen,&nbsp;Brendan O'Brien,&nbsp;Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg &bull; Directed by Nich
    Written by Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg • Directed by Nicholas Stoller

    Starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Ike Barinholtz, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Kiersey Clemons and Selena Gomez

    What to expect: Here's a sequel we can all support. The first "Neighbors" is one of the decade's best comedies, and its follow-up blessedly adds Kiersey Clemons, Selena Gomez and Chloë Grace Moretz to the party. They play members of a sorority that takes over what used to be Zac Efron and Dave Franco's frat house. Nicholas Stoller, who directed both films, has cited "Mad Max" as an inspiration for a crazy chase scene, but early reviews have lauded the movie's progressive humor, so we'll sign our letter of intent for this particular kegger. [Trailer]
  • "The Conjuring 2" (June 10)
    Written by&nbsp;Chad Hayes,&nbsp;Carey Hayes,&nbsp;David Leslie Johnson&nbsp;and&nbsp;James Wan &bull; Directed by James Wan<
    Warner Bros.
    Written by Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, David Leslie Johnson and James Wan • Directed by James Wan

    Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O'Connor and David Thewlis

    What to expect: Even if "The Witch," "It Follows" and "The Babadook" satiated some of our recent hunger for quality horror movies, it is still rare to find mainstream creepshows that offer something fresh. "The Conjuring" is the closest we've come in quite some time. Its more expensive sequel sends the central paranormal investigators to a public-housing complex in England, where they investigate poltergeist activity. [Trailer]
  • "Now You See Me 2" (June 10)
    Written by Ed Solomon &bull; Directed by Jon M. Chu<br><br>Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Fran
    Written by Ed Solomon • Directed by Jon M. Chu

    Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan and Morgan Freeman

    What to expect: Critics didn't find much magic in 2013's "Now You See Me," but the movie managed a major sleight of hand at the box office anyway. The sequel's events pick up one year later, with the Four Housemen in hiding and Daniel Radcliffe playing against type as a guy who is just no good at magic. Accio our money! [Trailer]
  • "Finding Dory" (June 17)
    Written and directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane<br><br>Starring Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks,&nbsp;Hayden Rolence,
    Written and directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

    Starring Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell and Idris Elba

    What to expect: After "Zoolander" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Finding Dory" is the third movie this year to net a sequel more than a decade after its original. We expect the Pixar successor will be far less fishy than those other two duds. "Dory" takes place six months after the events of 2003's "Finding Nemo," with the titular amnesiac hunting for her family. [Trailer]
  • "Independence Day: Resurgence" (June 24)
    Written by Carter Blanchard&nbsp;&bull;&nbsp; Directed by&nbsp;Roland Emmerich<br><br>Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum,
    Written by Carter Blanchard •  Directed by Roland Emmerich

    Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Judd Hirsch, Sela Ward and Maika Monroe

    What to expect: Continuing this year's infatuation with belated sequels, Fox will revisit the alien invaders of 1996's "Independence Day." Will Smith opted out, but most of the original cast is on board for the human race's latest Fourth of July threat. Why the movie isn't opening on its namesake weekend is beyond us, but we trust folks will show up in droves nonetheless. [Trailer]
  • "The BFG" (July 1)
    Written by&nbsp;Melissa Mathison &bull; Directed by Steven Spielberg<br><br>Starring Mark Rylance,&nbsp;Ruby Barnhill, Penelo
    Written by Melissa Mathison • Directed by Steven Spielberg

    Starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement

    What to expect: This adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved The BFG has been in development since 1991, when Robin Williams was attached to the title role. Many moons later, newly minted Oscar winner Mark Rylance has assumed the part in the Steven Spielberg-directed fairy tale. Rylance channeled his Jack Russell Terrier's expressions while shooting the film via motion capture, and because Mark Rylance is something of an adorable puppy dog himself, we expect a great deal of wonderment. It helps that Spielberg is working off a script by Oscar-nominated "E.T." scribe Melissa Mathison.
  • "Ghostbusters" (July 15)
    Written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig &bull; Directed by Paul Feig<br><br>Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jo
    Written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig • Directed by Paul Feig

    Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia and Elizabeth Perkins

    What to expect: If there is any justice in this complicated world, you should expect this "Ghostbusters" reboot to be the event of the summer. Angry bros have had their deplorable moment in the sun when it comes to the female-centric update, but we predict they'll by silenced by the time the movie actually opens. Just look at its credentials: Paul Feig is reteaming with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, Chris Hemsworth is stepping into Annie Potts' secretary role, and Leslie Jones gets to yell in that special way that only Leslie Jones can. [Trailer]
  • "Jason Bourne" (July 29)
    Written by&nbsp;Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse &bull; Directed by&nbsp;Paul Greengrass<br><br>Starring Matt Damon, Jul
    Written by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse • Directed by Paul Greengrass

    Starring Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Tommy Lee Jones and Riz Ahmed

    What to expect: 
    Matt Damon sat out of 2012's "The Borne Legacy," but he's back for the fifth installment in the spy franchise based on Robert Ludlum's novels. Damon and director Paul Greengrass have remained elusive about the movie's specific plot, but we do know Bourne has been hiding in the "shadows of Europe." Now he'll ward off a villainous Vincent Cassel, all while Oscar champ Alicia Vikander continues her genre-defying Hollywood takeover. [Trailer]
  • "Bad Moms" (July 29)
    Written and directed by&nbsp;Jon Lucas and Scott Moore<br><br>Starring Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Appl
    STX Entertainment
    Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

    Starring Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate, Annie Mumolo, Jada Pinket Smitt and Kesha

    What to expect: The overcooked trailer worries us a little, and the movie will need strong word of mouth to satisfy "blockbuster" territory. Still, the cast bodes well for this comedy about a few overworked moms who let loose and find themselves at odds with their PTA-perfect counterparts. [Trailer]
  • "Suicide Squad" (Aug. 5)
    Written and directed by David Ayer<br><br>Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Cou
    Warner Bros.
    Written and directed by David Ayer

    Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Cara Delevingne 

    What to expect: Jared Leto apparently went mega-Method to play The Joker, a villain so dastardly that a secret government agency has recruited a band of other supervillians to take him down. There's already a sequel in development. [Trailer]
  • "Sausage Party" (Aug. 12)
    Written by&nbsp;Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Seth Rogen and Ariel Shaffir &bull; Directed by&nbsp;Greg Tiernan and&nbsp;Conrad
    Written by Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Seth Rogen and Ariel Shaffir • Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon

    Starring Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, James Franco and Salma Hayek

    What to expect: Don't take the kids to this one. It presents a world where our food can talk, but their conversations aren't exactly Pixar-friendly. It's a ribald comedy in which various anthropomorphic groceries are so excited to be purchased by a loving customer at a supermarket, until they realize their fate is death by consumption. A work-in-progress cut premiered to laughs at South by Southwest in March. [Trailer]
  • "Pete's Dragon" (Aug. 12)
    Written by&nbsp;Toby Halbrooks and&nbsp;David Lowery &bull; Directed by&nbsp;David Lowery<br><br>Starring&nbsp;Oakes Fegley,
    Written by Toby Halbrooks and David Lowery • Directed by David Lowery

    Starring Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oona Laurence and Wes Bentley

    What to expect: Like "The Jungle Book," this Disney update will blend live action and CGI. It will likely also introduce a legion of new viewers to "Pete's Dragon," which has somehow become one of the less-appreciated Disney classics. To create Elliott, the titular reptile, the filmmakers drew inspiration from cute animal clips on YouTube. "There’s one video of a giant panda tumbling in his cave, and we looked at that again and again as our Elliott — this big animal who just doesn’t know what to do with his body,” production designer Jade Healy told Entertainment Weekly. [Trailer]


Summer Movie Preview 2015