1 of 29
STARRING: Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon
DIRECTED BY: Gaby Dellal
RELEASE DATE: May 5
Naomi Watts connected with the protective mother she plays in 3 Generations, one who cautiously endorses hormone treatments for her transgender son, Ray (Elle Fanning), amid reservations from his pushy lesbian grandma (Susan Sarandon). After the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015, director Gaby Dellal (Angels Crest) spent two months reediting it, eventually finding each character's voice while still tapping into Ray's feelings of pre-op isolation. "It's about how we're all transitioning into this new world," Watts says, "and how we're struggling with how we do this comfortably and stick together as a family."
2 of 29
STARRING: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn
DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Levine
RELEASE DATE: May 12
There's plenty of bawdy laughs, high jinks, and pratfalls in this comedy about a recently dumped woman (Amy Schumer) whose vacation to South America with her scaredy-cat mother (Goldie Hawn) turns into a zany kidnapping adventure. Think prison breaks, outrunning bad guys through a jungle, and a particularly lethal dance move. But at its core, it's a tender relationship study of the often complicated bonds between mothers and daughters. "As a new parent, it's what got me excited to make this movie," says Jonathan Levine (The Night Before). "It's what I gravitate towards — real character stuff in the midst of funny."
The script and its subject similarly held appeal for Hawn, who hadn't been in a film since 2002's The Banger Sisters, but the real lure was her costar, whom she'd come to admire after seeing Trainwreck. "I loved it," Hawn says. "I saw Amy's range and her brilliance. She's a funny, smart person who can also make you cry. I didn't care about doing something that doesn't stimulate me. But this is Amy. To be matched with someone so deeply instinctive, naturally funny, and incredibly brilliant? It's a great coup." For the audience, too.
3 of 29
STARRING: Brad Pitt
DIRECTED BY: David Michôd
RELEASE DATE: May 26
War Machine may sound like a violent military drama in the vein of Zero Dark Thirty, but it's actually a pitch-black satire about the war in Afghanistan, led by a broadly comedic performance from Brad Pitt as a decorated general brought in to salvage the operation. Director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) admits Machine is "tonally schizophrenic," and that's the point. "There was something so wildly crazy-bordering-on-absurd about the machinations of that world," he says. "I was immediately attracted to making a movie not just about a general who's kind of detached from the world but also making a movie that was kind of bats--- crazy." Smells like victory.
4 of 29
STARRING: Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish
DIRECTED BY: Malcolm D. Lee
RELEASE DATE: July 21
Girlsjust wanna have fun... especially at Essence Fest in New Orleans. That's the basic gist of this hard-R-rated comedy about a group of old friends — Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish — who attempt to rekindle their friendship at the epic summer festival and find a bit of trouble. "It's The Hangover meets Sex and the City," explains director Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man Holiday). "Women are just as lascivious and sexual as men, and they want to let loose and have fun." The film also reunites Latifah and Pinkett Smith, who haven't been together on screen since the 1996 cult hit Set It Off.
5 of 29
All Eyez on Me
STARRING: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Jamal Woolard
DIRECTED BY: Benny Boom
RELEASE DATE: June 16
The new music biopic aims to give viewers a comprehensive understanding of Tupac Shakur's life, from his childhood to his time in jail to his rivalry with the Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard, reprising his role from the 2009 biopic Notorious). It also seeks to shed light on why Tupac remains such a cultural icon almost 21 years after his murder. "He was real, he had a message, and he spoke for the people — impoverished people of all classes," says newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr., whose resemblance to Shakur is startling. "He questioned what was going on."
6 of 29
STARRING: Demian Bichir, Gabriel Chavarria, Eva Longoria
DIRECTED BY: Ricardo de Montreuil
RELEASE DATE: May 12
In this intergenerational drama set in East L.A., a gifted teenage street artist, Danny (Gabriel Chavarria), is torn between his father, Miguel (Demian Bichir), and ex-con brother Ghost (Theo Rossi) as they square off in a lowrider competition. Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) stars as Danny's love interest, and Eva Longoria plays Miguel's wife. "I hope that the film shows a different side of who Latinos are in the States," Peruvian director Ricardo de Montreuil (Máncora) says, "and that people understand that lowriders should be considered part of American folklore, such as jazz or rock."
7 of 29
STARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz
DIRECTED BY: Lucia Aniello
RELEASE DATE: June 16
Lucia Aniello is no stranger to raunchy female comedy, having directed multiple episodes of Broad City, but her film debut would make even Abbi and Ilana blush. Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Ilana Glazer play old friends whose bachelorette party goes off the rails, resulting in a dead male stripper. Also starring? Aniello's partner Paul W. Downs, who co-wrote the script with her and plays the fiancé of Johansson's character. "It is kind of a unique experience to direct your boyfriend, who you have made the choice to cast as Scarlett Johansson's love interest," Aniello says. At least he's not the dead stripper.
8 of 29
STARRING: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr.
DIRECTED BY: Jon Watts
RELEASE DATE: July 7
In 2002, director Jon Watts (Cop Car) was a sophomore at NYU and could look out the window of his dorm room to see the bright lights on the Brooklyn Bridge, where scenes from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man were being filmed. "We went down and shot one of our projects nearby," Watts says. "It looked pretty well-lit for a student film." He laughs. "To now be on the other side and be the one making a Spider-Man movie feels pretty surreal." His movie about our friendly neighborhood webslinger sees a tonal shift — more wisecracks, more high school — that harks back to the '60s-era comics. "We've seen the Marvel Universe from the very dramatic penthouse perspective of Tony Stark; now we see what it looks like on the ground through the eyes of a 15-year-old," Watts says. Holland (The Impossible), 20, says that his time on Captain America: Civil War was great training. "I was able to see how professional Chris Evans behaves, how Robert Downey Jr. is always on time and always prepared — it gave me a blueprint of what to do and how to act." With that kind of responsibility comes great power.
9 of 29
STARRING: Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell
DIRECTED BY: Andrew Jay Cohen
RELEASE DATE: June 30
What middle-aged suburban dad with a love for gambling hasn't dreamed of opening his own casino? In Will Ferrell's mind, the premise for The House isn't that far from real life, considering he and Amy Poehler's characters need some quick cash to send their daughter to college. "It's only five steps away from being short of reality," Ferrell jokes. "Any parent faced with that circumstance would take desperate measures to achieve things for their kids. We just take it to a very exaggerated place."
That place is a debaucherous basement casino hiding behind a leafy suburban enclave, complete with strip club, extravagant poolside scene, and MMA fight night. Lording over his operation with comic ruthlessness, Ferrell's financial nitwit Scott quickly grows comfortable with his new power, channeling Robert De Niro in Casino. Poehler's Kate is complicit in the action — and the humor. It helped that the two were synced from the first "Action." "We had no rehearsals. We just started filming," Ferrell says. "And we were beautifully in the pocket with each other. It didn't surprise me, but that is so rare." That left first-time feature director Andrew Jay Cohen, who co-wrote Neighbors, with the task of pulling the best bits from hours of improv'd footage. "The constant question was: 'Is it too stupid?'" he recalls. Sometimes, you have to roll the dice.
10 of 29
The Book of Henry
STARRING: Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay
DIRECTED BY: Colin Trevorrow
RELEASE DATE: June 16
Eleven-year-old genius Henry (Midnight Special's Jaeden Lieberher) concocts a plan to right the wrongs that have befallen the troubled girl next door (Maddie Ziegler). "It's about how our reactions to life's worst parts define us," says director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World). Part thriller, part emotional whirlwind, the movie walks a tightrope of tone. Placing cute kids (Jacob Tremblay also stars) in peril keeps audiences on edge. It's a smaller story than Trevorrow's dino epic but still feels like summer entertainment. "Not all mythic stories have to span kingdoms and galaxies," he says. "They can happen in your own backyard."
11 of 29
STARRING: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston
DIRECTED BY: Patty Jenkins
RELEASE DATE: June 2
Becoming a superhero is no easy feat. It takes patience, a bit of circumstance, and more than a dash of wisdom. Such is the case with Princess Diana (Gal Gadot), who must first leave her idyllic homeland of Themyscira, gain an understanding of mankind in war-torn 1918 Europe, and discover her true power before she can become Wonder Woman. But that sequence, which occurs about halfway through director Patty Jenkins' highly anticipated DC Comics stand-alone, happens here, in the grim no-man's-land between English and German battlefield trenches. Though Diana has been told she can't cross it and must play by man's rules, she takes it upon herself to save women and children threatened by the Germans. "It's a very powerful moment," Gadot says. "We have a character committing to her true self, doing what she believes needs to be done."
Diana is thrust toward her destiny after American intelligence officer Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes near her island, pursued by the German army. Trevor has discovered that German general Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) has plans to release a chemical superweapon, potentially killing millions.
Diana escorts Trevor to England, where she initially has to conform to the era's antiquated social and gender norms. This battlefield scene marks the first time Diana reveals her iconic garb—a moment that Jenkins (Monster) equates to Superman ripping apart his dress shirt to unveil the S across his chest: "It's when she says, 'Enough is enough.'"
Executive producer and chief creative officer of DC Entertainment Geoff Johns goes a step further with the Superman analogy. "[This scene] reminds me of when Superman caught Lois and caught the helicopter [in the 1978 movie]," he says. "But this one is even more visceral." And more beautiful.
12 of 29
STARRING: Owen Wilson, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo
DIRECTED BY: Brian Fee
RELEASE DATE: June 16
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has his best days behind him, but salvation has a name: Sterling (Nathan Fillion), a savvy businesscar who helps McQueen embrace modern racing in Pixar's third Cars flick. "The world has been changing, and Sterling's been at the forefront of that change," Fillion says. "He's charming, as in someone who can gain your trust. He's not 'Hey there, I'm great.' He's 'Hey there, you're great.'" As first-time director Brian Fee puts it, "Sterling's the kind of car that just makes you think, 'Hey, I could have a pint of oil with that guy.'" In other words, he's slick.
13 of 29
STARRING: Danielle Macdonald
DIRECTED BY: Geremy Jasper
RELEASE DATE: July 7
Newcomer Danielle Macdonald wowed Sundance audiences with her self-assured portrayal of Patricia Dombrowski, an aspiring rapper from a dilapidated New Jersey town. However, that swagger took time, because the role required the Australian actress to learn not only how to rap in a Jersey accent but also how to perform. "I really understood [the character], but I didn't know how to physically be her," says Macdonald, who studied rap with Brooklyn-based performer Skyzoo. "He just got me out of my head and helped me find how I move to the rhythm of it. A lot of it was just finding the confidence." Jersey Strong forever.
14 of 29
STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra
DIRECTED BY: Seth Gordon
RELEASE DATE: May 25
Zac Efron has the perfect way to describe his Baywatch costar Dwayne Johnson ("He just gets better as he goes, like a flower that never stops blooming"), the perfect way to describe walking in heels for a scene ("I was crying on the inside"), and the perfect way to describe Baywatch itself ("It's like a high five from the summer!"). He also has the perfect abs to play an elite lifeguard — but he won't describe those.
That's a task for Priyanka Chopra (ABC's Quantico), who plays the film's villain Victoria Leeds. "I didn't think they were real," she marvels. "I was looking at them like, 'How is that even scientifically possible?' But these guys trained for four hours a day." She laughs. "I mean, they were doing a film called Baywatch."
15 of 29
Transformers: The Last Knight
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins
DIRECTED BY: Michael Bay
RELEASE DATE: June 23
The Transformers are about to go medieval on moviegoers. It turns out the war between Hasbro shapeshifting robots extends all the way back to Arthurian legend. In this fifth movie, an astronomer (Anthony Hopkins) tracks these connections to Oxford's Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock), a fellow scholar who has no idea she harbors a genetic secret that could destroy (or save) the world. "[The humans] are empowered in a way that is very different than we've experienced before, and honestly, it's not easy figuring out how to empower the six-foot human versus the 35- or 45-foot robot," producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says.
Wembly comes face-to-face with a friend she didn't even know she had—the Autobot Hot Rod (a nod to the 1986 animated movie), who has been serving as her protector in the form of her father's vintage Citroën DS. "It's a rickety old thing, but she can't part with it because she adores it," says Haddock, whose character connects with Mark Wahlberg's salt-of-the-earth mechanic. "This car has actually been put there to watch her and feed back information to Anthony Hopkins's character about what she's up to and her life. So she gets [surprised] in a really funny, dramatic way by this Hot Rod." With director Michael Bay in charge, her life is about to blow up.
16 of 29
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Hilary Swank, Riley Keough
DIRECTED BY: Steven Soderbergh
RELEASE DATE: August 18
Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, and Adam Driver plot a heist during a NASCAR race in Steven Soderbergh's high-speed thriller.
17 of 29
It Comes At Night
STARRING: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott
DIRECTED BY: Trey Edward Shults
RELEASE DATE: June 9
A father (Joel Edgerton), mother (Selma's Carmen Ejogo), and their teenage son (The Birth of a Nation's Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are attempting to survive a civilization-destroying pandemic in a remote house in the woods. So when an intruder (Christopher Abbott) arrives, pleading for help, they are forced to choose between kindness and potential infection. And this is one killer sickness.
In an early scene, the family is faced with the deteriorating condition of Ejogo's character's father, who has fallen victim to the virus. To depict the grotesque physical effect of the contagion, writer-director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) suggested that makeup department head Sasha Grossman and special-effects makeup artist Jessie Eden use real-life illnesses as references. "We looked at whatever photos we could find that related to the bubonic plague, related to Ebola virus," Eden says. "We took a little bit of every gnarly disease." The pair created a look that featured boils and blackened veins. And for the coup de grâce? "To be even scarier, we added solid black demonlike eyes," Grossman says.
The film's inspiration, though, comes from an emotional place: the cancer-related death of Shults' father, who had addiction issues and had reunited with his son only shortly before passing away. "It was a hugely traumatic, life-changing moment in my life," Shults says. "I started writing the opening scene and then this whole fictional story burst out of that."
Edgerton considers It Comes at Night one of a new breed of horror films that engages brains as well as raises hairs. "Let's be honest, horror movies have a bad rap," says the Australian actor, whose own directorial debut, 2015's The Gift, won high marks as an unsettling thriller. "It's up to movies like Get Out and It Follows — and this movie, I hope — to [remove] the stigma of what I refer to as the 'blood porn' nature of horror. Horror films can be incredibly intelligent." In other words, don't expect his movie to give the genre a black eye.
18 of 29
47 Meters Down
STARRING: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt
DIRECTED BY: Johannes Roberts
RELEASE DATE: June 16
When it comes to summer terror, aliens and monsters can't compete with the jaws of circling sharks, and sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) find themselves surrounded after a cage-diving accident strands them below the surface. "The majority of the movie is us completely freaking out," Moore says. "It's the most terrifying nightmare on the planet. Most of the time I was shooting, I would be going through my [oxygen] tank in two seconds because I was hyperventilating." Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies...
19 of 29
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario
DIRECTED BY: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
RELEASE DATE: May 26
Fourteen years have elapsed since Johnny Depp's rum-soaked Capt. Jack Sparrow first boarded the big screen, but if the fifth film in the franchise has its way, audiences won't know a day has passed. "The first Pirates was my biggest inspiration because it's a comedy with great heart, and that structure was something I wanted to try and reinvent," says Joachim Rønning (Kon-Tiki), one of the film's directors. "It's a period piece about real people falling in love, [with] Jack Sparrow coming in now and then and crashing the party." Certainly, some things haven't changed. Jack's once again on the hunt for a lost treasure (the trident of Poseidon) while a terrifying villain — Javier Bardem's Salazar, burned by a younger Sparrow and out for revenge — is on the hunt for him. But new to the franchise is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the inquisitive son of Orlando Bloom's blacksmith-turned-buccaneer. For Thwaites, 27, Jack Sparrow is no average scene partner: "My first scene was Henry trying to convince Jack to team up, and I remember being terrified, thinking, 'How am I going to talk to Johnny Depp for three minutes opposite a character I'd grown up with? It's not going to be possible.'" Aye, but we all must take the plunge sometimes.
20 of 29
STARRING: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
DIRECTED BY: Stella Meghie
RELEASE DATE: May 19
"Growing up is weird, and then in the context of acting and movies and being in the public eye, it gets weirder." That's why you haven't seen much of Amandla Stenberg since she appeared as Rue, that cute District 11 kid in 2012's The Hunger Games. Since then, Stenberg, now 18, has spent her high school years mostly in high school, keeping busy with her website and making videos like her YouTube sensation "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows."
Now that she's got her diploma, she's hitting the big screen. In Everything, Everything, based on Nicola Yoon's best-selling YA novel, Stenberg stars as Maddy, an isolated teenager with a frail immune system who falls in love with her new neighbor (Jurassic World's Nick Robinson). The catch? She can't set foot outside her doorstep. Her doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose) is stiflingly protective, even when it comes to this long-distance love for the boy next door. "Maddy's in this terrible situation, but she makes the best of it and has a center that's strong," Yoon says. Which is why Stenberg felt like the perfect choice to play her. "Amandla has a real strength, but she's optimistic and positive."
Stenberg, whose father is from Denmark and mother is from the Bronx, hopes the story strikes a nerve with anyone who has felt trapped — by parents, by the things that make them different, even by the things that make them feel the same. "It's about that creepy feeling when you feel really isolated, or you're surrounded by people and wanting to escape," she says. "Sometimes [escape] can be risky. Sometimes you learn the most beautiful lessons."
21 of 29
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe
DIRECTED BY: Alex Kurtzman
RELEASE DATE: June 9
Meet the hero and the villain of The Mummy. Fun twist: They're both already dead! Well, dead-ish: By the time Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) meets Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), he's woken up in a body bag after a plane crash, and she's been in a coffin for a few millennia. "They're finally face-to-face," says director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us). "He's realizing that he's deeply, and desperately, cursed."
Long ago, Ahmanet's father reneged on his promise to make her pharaoh after he sired a son. That betrayal led her toward becoming the shuffling terror first embodied by Boris Karloff in the 1932 Mummy, but the gender flipping of this reboot offers a radical new perspective. Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) researched Egyptian myth and history to give Ahmanet a particular air of royalty. "These people never shouted," she says. "They were the most powerful people, but they were just calm."
Things don't stay calm around Ahmanet for long. And while Morton confronts her in modern-day London, Russell Crowe appears as Dr. Henry Jekyll, teasing a classic-monster cinematic universe. But don't expect The Monster Avengers right away. "The movie's called The Mummy, not The Mummy Meets 12 Other Monsters," Kurtzman says. "If we create a world that feels interesting and scary, then we will have succeeded in setting up the larger universe." And this Mummy is more than a pile of decomposing fury. She's "a woman who wasn't content to be put in her place and wanted something more," Kurtzman says. Who can't relate to that?
22 of 29
STARRING: Florence Pugh
DIRECTED BY: William Oldroyd
RELEASE DATE: July 14
Sold into a loveless marriage in 19th-century England, Katherine (Florence Pugh) begins an affair to quell her boredom in this tale based on Nikolai Leskov's 1865 novella Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. The film refreshingly forgoes the trappings of period dramas, opting for austerity in design and tone. With no music for emotional signposting, it's still full of sound and fury (and madness and murder). "We amplified sounds: the brushing of hair, the slamming of doors, the shutters, the clock," says first-time director William Oldroyd. "That stillness compounds Katherine's isolation and drives her newfound freedom." As in Shakespeare's play, the men don't stand a chance.
23 of 29
Despicable Me 3
STARRING: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker
DIRECTED BY: Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin
RELEASE DATE: June 30
If you like Steve Carell, you're going to love Steve Carell's new Despicable Me 3 costar, Steve Carell. The actor pulls double duty, voicing dastardly dad Gru and his long-lost twin brother, Dru, in the latest installment of Universal's wickedly popular series. "I'm always excited to see what they have in store for the next step of Gru's life, but finding out he has a twin brother and playing opposite the character I'd already established was really, really fun," Carell says. "I admire how we touch on sibling rivalries and what you find out about yourself through your own biological connections with people."
To that end, reformed supervillain Gru is as biologically connected as ever when Despicable Me 3 picks up. He's nestling into newlywed life with his three daughters and secret-agent wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who's stepping into stepmotherhood with slightly different struggles than the ones her husband navigated in the original 2010 movie. But Gru's life is uprooted when a botched mission leads to his unceremonious firing from the Anti-Villain League — and a subsequent chance encounter with his well-coiffed twin, Dru, who tempts Gru with a return to his erstwhile criminal ways.
24 of 29
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
STARRING: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne
DIRECTED BY: Luc Besson
RELEASE DATE: July 21
As space cops solving an intergalatic mystery, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are the headliners of this neon sci-fi extravaganza from director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). But the film's biggest star is right there in its title: the bulbous and beautiful City of a Thousand Planets, named Alpha, which sparked into creation in 1975. "That was when the U.S. and Russian spacecrafts first docked together," Besson says. "We see that in the opening credits of Valerian. Then we see the International Space Station today, and it's getting bigger in 2100 and 2200, all the way up to the 28th century." Thus, the "thousand planets" refer to all the extraterrestrials that have linked up with Alpha. "It is definitely a next-level melting pot," DeHaan says. "Everybody is so different, but they're all riding it out there together for the greater good." Those include human affiliates in the west, robots in the east, Gasland (for methane-partial aliens) in the north, and Aqualand (for marine Martians) in the south.
The tall cylindrical buildings, shown here in the concept art of a neighborhood on the way to Gasland, are offices and residences, and the large silver spheres are air locks filled with various atmospheric makeups for the different species. Besson points to a gas bubble. "Oh, that's just like Tribeca in lower Manhattan. Or Wall Street. It's just a little area where aliens live." The director enlisted multiple graphic artists (a symbolic consortium from places such as Singapore, France, and the U.S.) to jump down rabbit holes and funnel him concepts for Alpha. "They were all insane and I loved them," he says, laughing. "Sometimes I'd see their ideas and I'd want to call the police to say, 'Um, keep an eye on that guy.'" Concept designer Ben Mauro, who's worked on Valerian for eight years, says, "There's nothing on Earth that looks like this. It's cohesive but all meshed together, and Luc always preferred the most fascinating and most cool." And the most square footage. Alpha, according to Besson, is approximately 18 miles from end to end, but Mauro adds, "Actually, it's as big as Luc wants it to be." Savvy. Never contradict the boss — whether he be director or president — about his real estate claims.
25 of 29
STARRING: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender
DIRECTED BY: Ridley Scott
RELEASE DATE: May 19
With this latest chapter of his deep-space franchise, a sequel to the 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus, Ridley Scott continues to do what he likes most — giving terrified audiences chest palpitations. But Alien: Covenant is much more than a mere frightfest. Its central mystery is a cerebral puzzle, toying with the ideas of creation and human nature. "This is Ridley at his best," Michael Fassbender says. "[On top of] action and humor and characters you become invested in, there's these very real questions about life and the origins of life and what happens in the afterlife — if there is an afterlife."
Fassbender reprises the role of David, the android ruled by such human-seeming emotions as vanity and ambition (and by Lawrence of Arabia). In this scene, he's peering over the edge of the Engineer's ship we last saw Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) pilot in the final moments of Prometheus. The events of Covenant take place a decade later (and 20 years before Ripley's first Alien encounter), and the whats and wheres and whys of David's actions are a twist we don't dare spoil. What we can reveal is that Fassbender also plays a newer, updated model of the android, named Walter, who is a crew member on the titular colony ship. "I wanted Walter to be more Spock-like — devoid of human characteristics or emotional contents that are programmed into David," Fassbender says. "I want him more like a blank canvas one can project things upon." Costar Katherine Waterston, who continues the Alien tradition of strong heroines, says of the Fass-bots: "It was genuinely fascinating. He's so convincing! It felt like time-traveling into the future." Ridley Scott promises this film will help solidify the franchise timeline that will presumably link up to the 1979 original. "Prometheus opened that door and now we're into the corridor," Scott says. But even Fassbender hasn't gotten all the answers. "I don't really press Ridley too much," the actor says. "He'll reveal all at the right time." Like the Creator himself.
26 of 29
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law
DIRECTED BY: Guy Ritchie
RELEASE DATE: May 12
Guy Ritchie isn't new to the cinematic reboot game. Having already updated Sherlock Holmes into a Robert Downey Jr. franchise, taking a crack at pulling Excalibur from the stone with King Arthur may seem like a logical fit. But according to the director, the jobs are only similar in that they're just like any other movie. "You just sort of commit with a couple hundred million of someone else's money and hope you find your way," Ritchie says. (So easy, right?)
For King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, finding his way meant balancing giant attack elephants and Arthur's well-worn Round Table legend. "It was challenging to begin with because there was an uncertainty about the tone," says Charlie Hunnam, whose hero battles Jude Law's warlord. "Guy's [initial] intention was to make something that was outside of his wheelhouse, and make a more classic, straightforward, and somewhat somber film—which is obviously not what we ended up with."
What they ended up with is full-blast swords and sorcery told with a Cockney accent. Or as Hunnam puts it, "Arthur and his pals, the tone of those interactions is very much the way Guy is. We were just doing our best Guy Ritchie impersonations."
27 of 29
War for the Planet of the Apes
STARRING: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
DIRECTED BY: Matt Reeves
RELEASE DATE: July 14
When Andy Serkis started playing Caesar in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the ape was essentially a rebellious teenager. Two films later, Caesar's aged into a family man—and the commander in chief of a society of evolved apes. "It's very rare that an actor can get to play the whole life of a character," says Serkis, who again donned a performance-capture suit. "It's Boyhood, but for apes. It's my Apehood!" War picks up two years after 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with a brutal conflict raging between Caesar's apes and soldiers led by Woody Harrelson's mysterious Colonel. "It finally cracks Caesar," returning director Matt Reeves says. "It sets him on a revenge mission. The movie goes from being this grand war movie to an almost Josey Wales-like Western." Caesar even has a posse, complete with a human girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), and Bad Ape, a talking chimp (Steve Zahn). The film opens with a stunning ape-versus-human battle through the forest, and Caesar's journey carries him to the snowy Sierras, but War's war is ultimately an intimate battle of wills. "The Colonel comes across as someone who's psychotic," Serkis teases. "But he is fighting for the survival of humanity, as Caesar is fighting for the apes." Expect one loser, but no winners.
28 of 29
STARRING: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy
DIRECTED BY: Christopher Nolan
RELEASE DATE: July 21
Christopher Nolan doesn't do things halfway. When Heath Ledger's Joker blows up a hospital in The Dark Knight, the filmmaker found an actual building his crew could demolish in Chicago. So for Nolan's movie about the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk, France — a crucial moment in World War II when more than 300,000 cornered Allied soldiers retreated safely across the English Channel — the typical war-story treatment wasn't going to do. Nolan set out to tell a survival story, one where the danger and immense scale of the evacuation were baked into the filmmaking. "I kept coming back to the firsthand accounts, with people describing the sights and sounds of being on that beach, or being up in a plane above that beach, or being on a boat coming across to help the situation," Nolan says. "I think the confusion, not knowing what's really going on, was one of the most frightening and disturbing things for people."
Beyond hiring thousands of extras to stand on the actual Dunkirk beaches, Nolan and his director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema used unwieldy 54-pound IMAX cameras in ways that had never been done on a feature film. "Hoyte hand-held the [IMAX] camera for a few sections of Interstellar very effectively, and then on this I had to break the news to him that he was going to be doing it for a massive amount of the film," Nolan says. "We definitely bought him a lot of massages along the way." The large-format cameras were able to follow the cast wherever they went—whether it was newcomer Fionn Whitehead lugging a wounded comrade on a stretcher across the beach, as in the scene shown here, or Tom Hardy inside the cockpit of an actual Spitfire fighter plane. The shooting style allowed for an intimacy not typically associated with IMAX. "We could get on a small boat with a number of characters and just shoot IMAX as if we were shooting with a GoPro camera," Nolan says. It sounds beyond intense, and for a Christopher Nolan film, that's saying something.
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STARRING: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella
DIRECTED BY: David Leitch
RELEASE DATE: July 28
Back in 2012, Charlize Theron and her producing partner Beth Kono were sent a couple of pages from an upcoming graphic novel, The Coldest City, by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. They sparked to it immediately, specifically the film's unapologetic protagonist, British secret agent Lorraine Broughton, who's dropped into 1989 Berlin just as the wall is poised to crumble. It's no longer clear who is friend or foe. "You threw me into a hornets' nest," Broughton says to her superiors. As Theron and Kono developed the script over the years, that line stuck in Theron's head. "How would a woman respond in such a situation?" Theron wondered. "And how do you make it real?"
The Oscar winner found her answers with stunt choreographer-turned-director David Leitch (John Wick), who'd once been a stunt double for both Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme. He put Theron through her paces during an intensive three-month boot camp where she trained four to five hours a day to tackle stunts she initially thought were impossible. "We worked our balls off on this movie," says Theron, who simultaneously worked with screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (300) to turn The Coldest City into what Leitch calls "punk-rock noir." This is a spy with serious edge. "I didn't want to just play some straightforward agent," Theron says, "because how boring to watch is that?"