11 Things To Look Forward To At The Movies This Summer

The highlights include a terrifying Octavia Spencer, Awkwafina's first lead role, Leonardo DiCaprio's grooves and a very blue Will Smith.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: ANNAPURNA/Sony/Paramount/Disney/Image Eleven Productions

The summer movie season more or less began with “Avengers: Endgame,” which snapped up $2 billion in a record-setting 11 days. Can anything take its crown? “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” seem like the surest bets, but they’re hardly the most exciting titles hitting theaters over the next few months. (No offense, Forky.)

Here are 11 moments, performances and films worth seeing on the big screen.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in a high school buddy comedy
Annapurna Pictures
Put "Superbad," "Can't Hardly Wait," "American Graffiti" and "Lady Bird" in a blender, and you get Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, "Booksmart" -- a rambunctious, clever, progressive comedy about two studious BFFs who decide to cut loose on the night before graduation. This is a movie you'll watch over and over again, constantly marveling at the way Beanie Feldstein's haughty effervescence and Kaitlyn Dever's soulful intellectualism turn tired coming-of-age tropes into something fresh and relatable.

"Booksmart" opens May 24.
A blue (yes, blue) Will Smith
Maybe you've heard Will Smith is blue in the new "Aladdin"? If not, I hope you're sitting down.

"Aladdin" opens May 24.
Octavia Spencer going crazy
Universal Pictures
Always the comic relief, never the cuckoo who ingratiates herself to a group of teenagers so she can enact a long-harbored revenge fantasy -- until now. Octavia Spencer finally gets to graduate from supporting parts, and with good cause: "Ma" is a thriller the grows more bonkers by the minute. (If you haven't already, don't watch the trailer; it gives away too much.) Reteaming with "The Help" director Tate Taylor, Spencer plays a frumpy small-town veterinary assistant best left unangered.

"Ma" opens May 31.
The Beatles, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen singalongs
Universal/Paramount/Warner Bros.
'Tis the season for a good rock concert. Take your pick. There's "Yesterday," which imagines a world where only one dude (Himesh Patel) knows that The Beatles existed and uses the band's catalog to vault his stalled singing career. Or "Rocketman," a more straightforward (or should I say gay-forward?) biopic about Elton John starring "Kingsman" breakout Taron Egerton. And later in the summer we'll get "Blinded by the Light," about a teenager (Viveik Kalra) who discovers himself through Bruce Springsteen's tunes. Baby, you were born to run to the multiplex.

"Rocketman" opens May 31.
"Yesterday" opens June 28.
"Blinded by the Light" opens Aug. 14.
Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver battling zombies while wearing cute glasses
Focus Features
What else do you need to know? The movie is "The Dead Don't Die," and it's a comedy directed by the great Jim Jarmusch, whose credits include "Stranger Than Paradise," "Broken Flowers," "Only Lovers Left Alive" and "Paterson." Look at those snazzy specs!

"The Dead Don't Die" opens June 14.
A new movie from the director of "Hereditary"
Ari Aster, one of horror genre's most thrilling new talents, gifts us another summer nightmare. The scariest parts of "Hereditary" occurred in darkness, but Aster's next film, "Midsommar," is all sunshine and flower crowns, making it seem even more terrifying. Think "The Wicker Man" meets Renn Faire, with Florence Pugh as our reluctant spirit guide: a vacationer who gets seduced by a cult in a Swedish village.

"Midsommar" opens July 3.
An early front-runner for the year's best movie
It's far too early to crown 2019's best, but if any film is in the running, it's "The Farewell." Easily the highlight of this year's Sundance lineup, Lulu Wang's autobiographical drama about a young Brooklynite visiting her dying grandmother in China is a humorous, profound and utterly lovely portrait of class dynamics and generational differences. Just as importantly, "The Farewell" provides a stellar leading-lady vehicle for Awkwafina, who breaks out of the "Crazy Rich Asians" scene-stealer mode and becomes her own multi-dimensional force.

"The Farewell" opens July 12.
Leo DiCaprio dancing in a Quentin Tarantino joint
Sony Pictures
The "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" cast is so stacked it's absurd: Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, James Marsden, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Lena Dunham... the list goes on. But based on the trailer, it's all about Leonardo DiCaprio's groovy dance moves. He plays a washed-up actor pining for a comeback in 1969, right around the time of the era-defining Manson murders. We don't know much else about Quentin Tarantino's latest project -- his first since "The Hateful Eight" in 2015 -- but do we even need to? Summer is made for Leo's shimmy.

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" opens July 26.
Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish in the same movie
Warner Bros.
"The Kitchen" is a "Widows"-esque crime drama about three wives who take over their mobster husbands' business after the men are arrested. Whatever they're cooking will be worth tasting.

"The Kitchen" opens Aug. 9.
Demi Moore's comeback
Screen Media Films
Demi Moore hasn't had a moment -- a real, bona fide movie-star moment -- in years. Let's fix that. "Corporate Animals" is a deliriously funny "Saturday Night Live" sketch in movie form. Moore plays a megalomaniacal wellness CEO leading her staff on an outdoor retreat in New Mexico, where things devolve after they get stuck in an underground cave.

"Corporate Animals" opens Aug. 9.
"Where'd You Go, Bernadette?"
Annapurna Pictures
The Cate Blanchett-starring adaptation of Maria Semple's delightful best-seller was originally slated to open a year ago. Does that spell disaster? It's possible that the novel, which relies on a teenager's first-person narration, may not translate well to the big screen. But don't give up hope yet. Richard Linklater directed it, and he rarely leads us astray. Plus, the supporting cast features Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer and Billy Crudup -- what's not to anticipate?

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" opens Aug. 9.