Every summer movie preview looks basically the same, running down all the big movies coming to theaters between May and August. But let’s get real here: You know about most of the big movies already, because they’re the ones with crazy marketing budgets. (Hey, did you know there’s a Star Wars movie coming out this summer? Well, there is. This one has a very slightly different Millennium Falcon in it!) Plus, most of the blockbusters turn out to be ... what’s the word? Crappy, right. They mostly stink.

So instead of a long and largely useless summer preview, let’s do something different: The staff of ScreenCrush picked just 15 movies (five from each editor) that they are personally excited to see. Can we guarantee they will all be good? No. But we can guarantee that our enthusiasm for all 15 of our choices is sincere. There are a few big movies in here, but there are also some picks that are way off the beaten multiplex path. So this summer, take some chances on some films that don’t have comic-book characters or dinosaurs. Here are a few options you should put in your calendar:

Kimberly French / Focus Features

Directed by Jason Reitman
Opens May 4

The team from Juno — writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman —reunite for this drama about an overworked mother (Charlize Theron) who’s mentally and emotionally exhausted after the birth of her third child. Lucky for her she gets a night nurse (Mackenzie Davis); the relationship between the two women forms the spine of the film. As the father of two young daughters, this movie looks like my darkest nightmare (Three children? Is that even legal?!?) and my deepest fantasy (I would sell my soul for a night nurse to Satan faster than he could unroll the contract) all in one. When I sent the trailer to my wife to watch, she texted back “That made me laugh AND cry.” So we’re gonna see this one together, just as soon as we can find some rube to watch our two hellbeast kids for a couple hours. — Matt Singer


First Reformed
Directed by Paul Schrader
Opens May 18

When A24 tweeted about the new Paul Schrader film, they described it as “the unholy love child of A Ghost Story and Taxi Driver.” If that isn’t enough to perk up your ears and send you straight to the theater, the glowing critical praise and the magnetic trailer for First Reformed certainly will. Ethan Hawke plays Ernst Toller, a grieving reverend who’s struggling to keep his congregation alive while dealing with the personal tragedies of his past. When called upon to help a pregnant woman (Amanda Seyfried) and her extreme environmentalist husband, Ernst is catapulted into a total crisis of faith. This looks like it might just be a career-best performance for Hawke. Plus, Nic Cage called it Schrader’s “magnum opus.” Enough said. — Oliver Whitney


Action Point
Directed by Tim Kirkby
Opens June 1

Residents of New Jersey and the surrounding Tri-State Area can tell you all about Action Park, a water park so horrifically dangerous it was jokingly referred to as “Traction Park” by all who visited. This summer comedy uses Action Park as a jumping off point for a story starring Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville; the ingenious gimmick here, sort of like Bad Grandpa, is that the film has a fictional plot but all the stunts (Knoxville launched from a giant catapult, Knoxville blasted in the groin with a water cannon) are real Jackass-style tests of the human body’s ability to absorb punishment. I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to the most dangerous theme park in history. — MS


Directed by Ari Aster
Opens June 8

Every year there’s one horror movie hyped as the new scariest thing ever. In 2018, that film is Hereditary. Ari Aster’s directorial debut packs indelibly horrific imagery into a two-hour meditation on grief, mental illness, and the terror of inheritance. Hereditary centers on a woman (Toni Collette) coping with the recent death of her mother, the consequences of which slowly begin to insinuate themselves in her family’s life in increasingly terrifying ways. Early reviews out of this year’s Sundance and SXSW film festivals has been overwhelmingly positive, but don’t let that hype dictate your expectations too much. Hereditary won’t scare the pants off of everyone, but those who find its chilling narrative effective will find it exceptionally so — and might want to bring a change of pants just in case.  — Britt Hayes

Ocean’s 8
Directed by Gary Ross
Opens June 8
Okay, it’s not a new Ocean’s movie directed by Steven Soderbergh, but that cast. And sure, the gender-swapped reboot/sequel premise is a bit gimmicky, but that castOcean’s 8 has a lot going for it (specifically that cast), including Soderbergh serving as executive producer and a clever new heist story directed by The Hunger Games’ Gary Ross (who happens to be good friends with Soderbergh). That story follows Debbie Ocean, sister of George Clooney’s Danny, as she sets about planning an ambitious heist with seven highly-skilled women — which is where that cast comes in: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter and Awkwafina. The trailers make the Ocean’s spinoff look like one seriously cool summer release, and a welcome respite from all those superhero ensembles. — BH

Jim Judkis

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Directed by Morgan Neville
Opens June 8

Few TV hosts can claim to be as beloved by your parents when they were kids as they were by you as child. Over the course of 33 years, Fred Rogers managed to make multiple generations of kids feel comforted, seen, and loved. Morgan Neville’s (20 Feet From Stardom) new documentary explores what made the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood host so undeniably special. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the title taken from the cardigan-clad host’s theme song, touches on the powerful ways Rogers connected with children through gentleness and empathy, and how his show managed to teach us simple life lessons while radically unpacking real-world issues. I cried my way through the trailer both times I watched it, so be sure to bring lots of tissues for this one.  — OW


Incredibles 2
Directed by Brad Bird
Opens June 15

I know some Pixar fans have grown weary of the studio’s increased emphasis on sequels in recent years (six of the studio’s last ten features are sequels). But if any Pixar movie deserved a sequel, it was The Incredibles, Brad Bird’s affectionate tribute to family, superheroes, and classic spy movies. Though made 14 years after the original film, Incredibles 2 is set minutes after the first movie’s ending, with the Incredibles in hiding after saving Metroville from the dastardly Underminer. Then Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) gets a job offer, which means Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) will have to stay at home with the kids. He quickly realizes saving the world is a walk in the park compared to putting an infant to sleep. (Are you sensing a theme with my summer preview blurbs this year? Is my despair too obvious?) Expect new supers, a new villain, and an Omnidroid-sized leap forward in the complexity of the animation compared with what was possible 14 years ago. — MS


Under the Silver Lake
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Opens June 22
To say that David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to the indie horror hit It Follows is highly-anticipated would be an understatement. Mitchell’s latest is a paranoiac noir that looks like it would fit snugly somewhere between The Nice Guys and Inherent Vice. Andrew Garfield stars as a man named Sam who embarks on a surreal odyssey across Los Angeles to find out what happened to the beautiful, mysterious woman who disappeared from his apartment complex. With a cast that includes Riley Keough, Zosia Mamet and Jimmi Simpson, and music by Disasterpiece (who previously scored It Follows), Under the Silver Lake looks to be one of the most intriguing and potentially original releases of a season that’s known for big-budget franchise flicks. — BH


The First Purge
Directed by Gerard McMurray
Opens on July 4

Over the course of three films, The Purge series has evolved from home-invasion horror to admittedly silly woke socio-political terror. But there’s a self-awareness to this heightened franchise that allows them to get away with cartoonish slashers and goofy right-wing cults and, in this case, a prequel. (There’s also a TV series on the way.) As the title implies, the fourth installment is set during the very first Purge Night — when all crime, including murder, is legal for 12 hours. Frank Grillo is sitting this one out, but The First Purge introduces a few new players, including Melonie Diaz, and Marisa Tomei as the mastermind behind this Purge business. — BH


Sorry to Bother You
Directed by Boots Riley
Opens July 6

It’s been an amazing year for Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson. So when the Atlanta favorite and Annihilation and Westworld actress appear in a movie together, you best pay attention. Sundance hit Sorry To Bother You follows Oakland native Cash (Stanfield), a black telemarketer who adopts a white accent when he quickly discovers it’s the key to professional success. The sci-fi satire is the feature film debut from hip-hop artist Boots Riley, and it looks like a promising one. The wacky first trailer is full of surreal visuals and a cast of zany characters played by Terry Crews, Armie Hammie, Danny Glover, and Steven Yeun. In the midst of summer movie season, this may just be the breath of fresh air and new talent we need. — OW


Eighth Grade
Directed by Bo Burnham
Opens July 13

Middle school sucks. Your body is doing weird things, acne shows up, kids are jerks, your parents couldn’t be more annoying, and it’s terrifying to just be yourself, whoever that is. Comedian Bo Burnham makes his narrative writing and directing debut with Eighth Grade, which follows Kayla (breakout Elsie Fisher), an awkward 13-year-old navigating her final week before high school. Sure, the coming-of-age subgenre might feel maxed out, but we can never have too many heartfelt and truthful looks at the woes of female adolescence, especially if they’re, you know, good. This may just be 2018’s Lady Bird. — OW


Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Opens July 27

The best ongoing action franchise on the planet resumes with its sixth feature, written and directed, like Rogue Nation, by Christopher McQuarrie. Tom Cruise returns as James McRunsrealfast Ethan Hunt in a race against time to prevent some sort of nuclear-related disaster. Or maybe Fallout doesn’t refer to nuclear weapons and the title’s an allusion to the fact that Tom Cruise literally falls out of an airplane in this movie from like 20,000 feet. Also back as Impossible Mission Force team members: Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust. Plus Alec Baldwin is Cruise’s boss and Michelle Monaghan is his long-suffering wife. Tom Cruise broke his ankle shooting this movie during one of the more difficult stunts. The least you can do is see it. — MS

Warner Bros.

The Meg
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Opens August 10

Finally, after decades of sexist killer shark movies, where only the male killer shark gets to terrorize and eat beach bums, the gender scales will finally be balanced with The Meg. What’s that? Meg isn’t her (his) name? Meg stands for “megalodon,” a kind of ginormous, prehistoric shark? Sigh. I will allow this shark-related sexism to continue, but only because this movie promises a battle between a big-ass fish and Jason Statham, who stars as an extremely unshaven deep-sea diver. Will Jason Statham kick a shark in the face? Will a shark slap Statham with its tail? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then there is no way The Meg isn’t the best movie of the summer. — MS

Getty Images

Crazy Rich Asians
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Opens on August 17

When it comes to Hollywood’s representation of Asians and Asian-Americans (or should we say, lack thereof), 2018 has been doing a pretty awful job so far. But this summer brings something to look forward to: A major studio movie with a primarily Asian cast in a film that tackles stereotypes. Director Jon Chu helms the big-screen adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-seller about an American-born Chinese woman who goes on a trip to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family, who just so happen to be stinking rich. It’s a rarity for a Hollywood film to feature so many non-white actors – the cast including Fresh Off the Boat‘s Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Henry Golding, Ken Jeong, and Gemma Chan – and this one doesn’t just sound groundbreaking, but pretty fun too. — OW

STX Films

The Happytime Murders
Directed by Brian Henson
Opens on August 17

It’s been 10 years since the Jim Henson Company first announced development of The Happytime Murders, Brian Henson’s neo-noir puppet comedy thriller — a highly-anticipated project based on that description alone. Set in a world where puppets and humans co-exist, a puppet P.I. and disgraced ex-cop named Phil Phillips teams up with a human detective (Melissa McCarthy) to solve a series of murders involving the stars of a children’s TV show from the ’80s. STX Entertainment has yet to release a trailer for the long-developing film, which also stars Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, and Joel McHale — but based on the concept art and the Roger Rabbit-esque description, we’re stupid-excited to see how this one turns out. — BH

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