Summer Movies to Help Take Your Mind Off Trump: ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Dunkirk,’ and More

There are plenty of intriguing films coming out this summer that will provide some sweet—if fleeting—relief from this mad world. Here are the best of the bunch.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Look, it’s been a rough year. Every morning the people of America rise to an alarming tweet by our unstable commander in chief, and each evening we’re met with a bombshell story about one scandal or another concerning this administration. So, in this day and age of relentless unsettling news, it has become ever more important to embark on periodic escapes from reality, whether it be travel, cozying up with a good book, or taking in some television.

Movies are also a nice way to put the drudgery of living on pause. And, with Saturday Night Live’s weekly dose of comedy catharsis gone till fall, people are going to need the distraction.

Fortunately, there are plenty of films to get excited about this summer, including blockbusters (Wonder Woman), war epics (Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk), and heralded indies, like the hip-hop saga Patti Cake$. So without further ado, here are this summer’s most anticipated movies.


Legendary sci-fi master Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien) sought to correct the problematic Alien prequel Prometheus (the digital mapping guys got lost?) with this gorier, tighter sequel boasting more beloved xenomorphs and a badass new leading lady in the Ripley mold, played by the talented Katherine Waterston. While its premise—a colonization crew visiting a distant planet only to discover alien life—is nothing new, Scott’s latest exhibits sharp lensing, inspired set design, and not one, but two android Michael Fassbenders.


This blockbuster film adaptation of one of the most popular TV shows ever is far from the most ambitious movie to be released this summer, and our own Kevin Fallon is certainly not a fan, yet it does feature the inimitable Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron as a pair of buff lifeguards tasked with protecting their slice of Florida beach from a scheming drug kingpin, played by Priyanka Chopra. Expect plenty of F-bombs, bro-ing out, and attractive, swimsuited women in this R-rated action-comedy. 


Based on the late Michael Hastings’ book The Operators, this political quasi-satire tells the story of Gen. Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt), a dedicated soldier sent to Afghanistan to bring an end to the war only to discover reaching that outcome is far more difficult than he’d imagined. Director David Michod’s (Animal Kingdom) film is based on the fall of real-life Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and its big-name cast includes Emory Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Michael Hall, Will Poulter, and Tilda Swinton.


It’s been six whole years since the last Pirates of the Caribbean film, although that installment—On Stranger Tides—grossed over $1 billion worldwide, so you knew another one was coming. While Johnny Depp’s star has declined of late, what with allegations of domestic abuse and “train wreck” behavior on set, his Jack Sparrow remains a cherished creation, and one that Disney hopes will propel this $320 million epic, which also marks the return of original cast members Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, to box office glory. 


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You’re going to need to set aside plenty of weed for this sprawling, 4-hour documentary on iconic rock band The Grateful Dead, but even those who view the group and its Deadhead superfans as a bunch of hippie nonsense will succumb to their charm by film’s end. Here, filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev (Happy Valley) has crafted a loving monument to performers both tormented and consoled by the trappings of fame.


It’s no secret: The DC Extended Universe is a complete mess. But the one bright spot here, in addition to Joss Whedon’s upcoming Batgirl film, is Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Early reviews of the film, which sees the Amazon princess/superheroine help a marooned military pilot (Chris Pine) bring an end to World War I, have been uniformly strong, highlighting Gadot’s kickass turn and Patty Jenkins’ (Monster) assured direction. The all-star cast also includes Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, and surely a few other big names from DC’s superhero stable.

THE MUMMY (June 9)

Nobody can run on film like Tom Cruise. This, my friends, is settled science. And here, the gifted action hero is trying to stay one step ahead of a centuries-old Mummy (Sofia Boutella) wreaking havoc on the modern world. Expect plenty of stunts, grimacing, a few Cruise one-liners, and a plethora of CGI action set pieces. Plus, Cruise is joined in this franchise reboot by New Girl’s Jake Johnson, The People v O.J. Simpson’s Courtney B. Vance, and Russell Crowe as a character named… Dr. Henry Jekyll.


Helmed by the gifted duo of director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White, the team behind the underrated indie Chuck & Buck, this topical comedy-drama centers on a holistic medicine practitioner (Salma Hayek) who attends the dinner of a wealthy client and his well-heeled friends. There, the Hispanic working-class woman clashes with the more conservative, uppercrusty crowd, forcing everyone present to confront their innermost fears and prejudices. Call it a dark comedy for the Trump era.


The latest from filmmaker Trey Edward Shults, a Terrence Malick apprentice whose 2015 debut Krisha earned critical raves, this horror film follows a family who find themselves trapped within a home as a mysterious threat terrorizes the outside world. When another family arrives, paranoia sets in, and the two groups become locked in a battle for survival. The film stars talented Aussie Joel Edgerton, Girls’ Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, and Riley Keough.


Just as Bridesmaids was to The Hangover, this screwball comedy is to Very Bad Things. Helmed by the Broad City team of Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, the film follows five besties (Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz) who are reunited a decade later for a crazy bachelorette weekend in Miami. But the shit hits the fan when the gals accidentally kill a male stripper. This rowdy flick features a score by the Spring Breakers duo of Skrillex and Cliff Martinez, and also features Demi Moore, Ty Burrell, Colton Haynes, and Hasan Minhaj.

CARS 3 (June 16)

The third film in Pixar’s 3D animated Cars franchise, without question their least inspired series of films, should nevertheless entertain kids of a certain age while giving their handlers two hours of much-needed parenting relief. In lieu of being pushed into retirement, over-the-hill race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) teams up with a gifted race technician (Cristela Alonzo) in order to conquer one last race: the Florida 500. Directed by Cars storyboard artist Brian Fee, the movie also features music by Randy Newman and the voice talents of Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy.

ALL EYEZ ON ME (June 16)

There are, strangely enough, several Tupac projects currently in development—from a documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen to LAbryrinth, a Johnny Depp-starring drama about the murders of Pac and Biggie through the eyes of the LAPD. This film, directed by Benny Boom, is a biopic of the late rapper, chronicling his rise to stardom, imprisonment, and tragic murder. It stars newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac, The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira as his mother Afeni, Lauren Cohan, Jamie Hector, and Kat Graham.


The latest from acclaimed filmmaker Sofia Coppola is riding a wave of positive buzz out of Cannes, where it made its debut. An updated version of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film of the same name, it tells the tale of a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) during the Civil War who, in search of shelter, happens upon an all-girls school in Virginia. The women take him in, but soon become consumed by jealousy over the dashing man’s affections. The all-star cast includes Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Oona Laurence.

THE BIG SICK (June 23)

This charming romantic comedy surprised everyone when it premiered at Sundance, sparking a heated bidding war and resulting in a hefty $12 million price tag. The film, written by real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) and Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan), traces their unique courtship—from a chance first encounter to his traditional Muslim family’s struggles with him dating a white woman to his own when she falls into a coma. Along the way, it boasts heartfelt turns by Nanjiani, Kazan, and Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, who steal every scene their in as her parents.


It’s directed by Michael Bay. It’s packed with explosions. It’s got fighting robots. It has Mark Wahlberg’s biceps. It’s in IMAX 3D. There is some inscrutable-sounding plot related to the King Arthur legend. There are accomplished character actors like Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, and Anthony Hopkins in it for the paycheck. If this is your sorta thing, god bless.


Ana Lily Amirpour established herself as one of the world’s brightest young filmmakers with her spellbinding debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a self-described “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western.” Now, she’s back with a slightly bigger budget ($6 million) and far more star power, helming this demented love story set in a dystopian desert wasteland overrun by cannibals. The film boasts a star-making turn from model-turned-actress Suki Waterhouse, who is joined along her bizarre journey by Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey, and Keanu Reeves.

OKJA (June 28)

The latest from celebrated South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) is this otherworldly action-adventure centering on a young farmgirl (newcomer Ahn Seo-hyun) who takes on a powerful multinational corporation in order to save her best friend—a mystical creature named Okja. This Netflix feature, which recently premiered at Cannes, also stars Tilda Swinton as the corporation’s ruthless CEO, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Steven Yeun, and Lily Collins.


This action-adventure is a horse—or rather horsepower—of a different color for filmmaker Edgar Wright, the talented Brit known for his cheeky-brilliant Cornetto Trilogy. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is an ace getaway driver who prefers the pleasing sounds of his music mixes to screeching tires. When he runs afoul of a group of menacing robbers following a heist (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez), Baby must protect his gal (Lily James), make peace with his long-time boss (Kevin Spacey), and hopefully ride off into the sunset. 


This sequel 3D animated sequel sees Steve Carell reprise his role as Gru, a reformed baddie turned Anti-Villain League agent who squares off against Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a deranged former child star hell-bent on world domination. He’s aided in his quest by his wife Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig), twin brother Dru (also Carell), and, of course, all those lovable minions.

THE HOUSE (June 30)

There aren’t too many studio comedy offerings this summer—TV has, it seems, become the premier destination for laughs—but this one should bring more than a few laughs. Directed by Neighbors scribe Andrew J. Cohen, the film stars comedy gods Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler and a husband and wife duo who, after blowing their daughter’s college savings, decide to run an illegal underground casino in the basement of their suburban home. The movie also features the comedy talents of Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Allison Tolman, Michaela Watkins, and a Jeremy Renner in an undisclosed role.


Perhaps the biggest surprise of the excellent superhero extravaganza Captain America: Civil War was Tom Holland’s quippy, pitch-perfect take on Spider-Man. Directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car), this reboot—filmed in IMAX 3D—is set after the events of Civil War, as Peter Parker/Spider-Man tries to strike a work-life balance between his days as a high school nerd in Queens and his gig fighting crime as the webslinger—including supervillain the Vulture (Michael Keaton). The film also stars Robert Downey Jr. as Spidey’s mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Donald Glover, and Jon Favreau. Oh, and expect a juicy cameo courtesy of Chris Evans’ Captain America.


Filmmaker David Lowery’s 2013 crime robbers saga Ain’t Them Bodies Saints proved to be a lyrical meditation of love and loss, and here, he’s reunited with cast members Casey Affleck, fresh off his Oscar win for Manchester by the Sea, and Rooney Mara. The former plays a struggling musician who, after dying in a tragic car accident, returns as a ghost with a sheet over his head to watch over his grieving widow (Mara) as she struggles to cope with the loss. Lowery’s film earned critical raves at Sundance, and also features Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo, and the pop star Kesha.


Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) has transferred his lens from the drug cartels of Mexico to the ISIS-plagued city of Raqqa, Syria, focusing on the efforts of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently—a group of Syrian opposition journalists who risk their lives every day to report on human rights abuses inflicted by ISIS and the Assad regime. The film is currently sitting at a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was acquired by Amazon for a hefty $2 million following its Sundance premiere.


It’s frankly shocking how good this franchise—a reboot of a campy film series with CGI apes doing battle against warmongering humans—is. Helmer Matt Reeves is back in the director’s chair for the third entry, set after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and focusing on the noble ape Caesar (played to perfection by mo-cap master Andy Serkis) and his army versus a ruthless, ape-slaughtering colonel, played by Woody Harrelson.

DUNKIRK (July 21)

In what is without question the most anticipated movie of the summer, master filmmaker Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) sits at the helm of a sprawling war epic dramatizing World War II’s Dunkirk evacuation—which saw Allied forces trapped by the German Army on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. The film, captured in IMAX 65 mm, stars newcomer Fionn Whitehead in the lead, alongside Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and pop dynamo Harry Styles, making his film debut.


This $200+ million sci-fi blockbuster is the most expensive French production ever. Fortunately, the spaceship is being steered by Luc Besson, whose The Fifth Element is one of the better sci-fi flicks of the last twenty years. Unfortunately, it stars the model turned actress Cara Delevingne, who delivered less than stellar results in the abysmal Suicide Squad. Either way, with Besson directing and Rihanna as a shapeshifting entertainer, this epic about a pair of space agents (Dane DeHaan, Delevigne) tasked with policing species across the universe should be worth the price of admission.


Directed by David Leitch, whose Keanu Reeves-starrer John Wick revitalized the shoot ’em up genre, this Cold War espionage thriller has Charlize Theron playing an ace MI6 spy who’s dispatched to Berlin to infiltrate a crime ring assassinating her fellow agents. With its catchy ’80s soundtrack and Theron kicking ass in thigh-high leather boots, you can’t really go wrong. The film also stars James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, and Sofia Boutella.


This documentary sequel to 2006’s Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth sees host and former Vice President Al Gore return to spread the gospel of climate change and how it is affecting our planet. With a climate change-denier heading the EPA and a president who feels it’s a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, the film’s message is more important than ever.

DETROIT (August 4)

The team of Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) are back with this dramatization of the 12th Street Riot in 1967 Detroit—a tense citizen uprising that left three black men dead. The action-packed and incredibly timely crime drama features Star Wars stormtrooper John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, John Krasinski, and Anthony Mackie.


This blockbuster adaptation of Stephen King’s cherished series of sci-fi western novels is directed by Nikolaj Arcel, a Danish filmmaker whose A Royal Affair earned a Best Foreign Film Oscar nod, and stars Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers—an 11-year-old boy who finds himself in an alternate dimension called Mid-World, where he teams up with an aging Gunslinger (Idris Elba) to square off against the evil, ageless sorcerer The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). The film also stars Katheryn Winnick, Jackie Earle Haley, and Abbey Lee Kershaw.  

STEP (August 4)

Not to be confused with Step Up, this heartwarming documentary by Amanda Lipitz chronicles the senior year of a high school girls’ step dance team in inner city Baltimore. Lipitz does a brilliant job of capturing each girl’s trials and tribulations, juggling poverty, a crime-ridden neighborhood, and their passion. And the documentary received raves following its Sundance premiere, where it took home a Special Jury Prize and was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $4 million—an astronomical number for a doc.


Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza, deliciously deranged) is an unstable gal from Pennsylvania who, after finishing her stay at a mental institution, becomes fixated on Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a photogenic Instagram “influencer” living the good life in California. So Ingrid moves all the way to the West Coast in an attempt to befriend the object of her obsession. Plenty of awkwardness ensues in this fascinating study of the vapidity of social media, which also boasts scene-stealing turns by O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, and Billy Magnussen.

WHOSE STREETS? (August 11)

Directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, this documentary captures the civil unrest that occurred in the wake of killing of Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer—an incident that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. The film received great reviews at Sundance, with The Hollywood Reporter writing, “Whatever its flaws in terms of documentary craft, Whose Streets? is an essential testament to the commitment of activists whose credo is ‘We have nothing to lose but our chains,’ told in their own fervent voices.”

PATTI CAKE$ (August 18)

Her haters call her “Dumbo,” but to the rest of us she’s “Patti Cake$”—a plus-sized white girl with a preternatural gift of gab who hopes to escape the depressed environs of Bergen County, New Jersey, and become a mainstream gangster rapper. Along the way, she most conquer her stage fright, harness her confidence, and overcome society’s double standards. Geremy Jasper’s film was the biggest crowdpleaser of Sundance 2017, anchored by Danielle Macdonald’s commanding performance. It came as little surprise when it was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $10.5 million.

LOGAN LUCKY (August 18)

Thankfully for cinemagoers, celebrated filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s retirement didn’t last too long. And this summer, the Sex, Lies and Videotape director is back with a zany heist-comedy that follows two knuckleheaded siblings (Channing Tatum, Adam Driver) who hope to pull off the robbery of a lifetime at the Coca-Cola 600 Race in North Carolina over busy Memorial Day weekend. As with any Soderbergh film, this one also comes equipped with a stellar cast, including Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank, Riley Keough, Katherine Waterston, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, and Sebastian Stan.