During this awful pandemic, quarantine-friendly streaming services have become important in connecting us to the moviegoing experience. But things are slowly changing. This year a lot of those summer blockbusters are still going to theaters, yes, and streaming services like HBO Max (and possibly MoviePass) eliminate the delay and bring new films home for a COVID-safe experience. There’s a lot to enjoy, this year’s slate of blockbusters are coming in all shapes and sizes.
Whether you’re itching for that big Marvel experience or in need of a healthy dose of Space Jam, Summer 2021 promises to be one of the most action-packed, big name film experience we’ve had in years. As we wait for those warmer days to take hold, these are the must-see summer films that you cannot miss.
1. Space Jam 2: A New Legacy
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: LeBron James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Don Cheadle, Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis
Distributor: HBO Max / Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Animation Group
Release date: July 16
Everybody get up, it’s time to slam once again. Future NBA Hall of Famer LeBron James makes his leading man debut as the star of the long-gestating animated-live action hybrid sequel, Space Jam 2: A New Legacy. The good kid from Akron, as a parent, finds himself cliquing up with the Tune Squad and Bugs Bunny to save his youngest son (Cedric Joe) from an evil computer algorithm named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle). This one is important to the culture, so mark your calendar and cop tickets early.
Director: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Vanessa Estelle Williams, Tony Todd
Distributor: Universal Pictures / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Monkeypaw Productions
Release date: Aug. 27
Even if you were under quarantine under a rock, you heard about the “spiritual sequel” to Candyman. This classic horror franchise, now handled by Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele, features Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as a Chicago artist whose exploration into the macabre unleashes a wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with the hook-handed killer, played by a returning Tony Todd. This hopefully will open a door for more Black-led horror films in the future, and Candyman is definitely not one to miss when it comes out.
Director: Janicza Bravo
Starring: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Colman Domingo, Ts Madison
Distributor: A24, Sony Pictures, Stage 6 Films
Release date: June 30
The streets have been waiting for this and finally we will get the cinematic version of that viral 148 tweet thread from 2015. Starring Taylour Paige (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) as a Detroit waitress who takes a trip to Florida with a stripper named Jessica (Riley Keough), Zola promises more twists and turns than a drunken game of Twister. Thanks to Jeremy O’Harris (Slave Play) co-writing the script with Janicza Bravo, this wild and rambunctious film is one to see for your own crazy weekend plans.
4. In The Heights
Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, Jimmy Smits, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Distributor: HBO Max / Warner Bros. Pictures / Likely Story
Release date: June 11
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical gets the cinematic treatment thanks to director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), as In The Heights explores three days in New York City’s Dominican American neighborhood of Washington Heights. Starring Anthony Ramos (She’s Gotta Have It) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) — this film is ripe for the summertime and has movie lovers buzzing with excitement. In The Heights promises to be a story for the people who want to see themselves on the big screen.
Director: Liesl Tommy
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan, Mary J. Blige
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Universal Artists Releasing/ Bron Creative
Release date: Aug. 13
Aretha Franklin’s life and legacy has received the golden treatment with not one, but two biopics. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson carries this film, which also stars Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, and Tituss Burgess, who plays Reverend Dr. James Cleveland. This is an immensely special project as it will arrive on near the third anniversary of the late Queen of Soul’s passing. With such a star-studded ensemble, this one has award season goals written all over it, and if you’re a fan of Hudson’s past work in Dreamgirls, you’ll want to RSVP for this highly anticipated film.
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersection of music, pop culture and social justice. Follow him @KevitoClark.