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Movies are (almost) back! Here are 18 summer sci-fi blockbusters we can’t wait to see

By Trent Moore
Summer Movie Preview 2021

The pandemic meant there really weren't any real blockbusters in 2020, but vaccines are rolling out and theaters are finally opening back up — and there should be plenty of new releases piled up to keep those big screens filled as we head into the summer of 2021.

Release dates have been shuffled, reshuffled, then shuffled a few more times for pretty much every big genre movie, but now we finally have some dates that might actually stick as we head into the heat of summer movie season. Major releases like Black Widow, F9, A Quiet Place Part II, Space Jam: A New Legacy, and more are all set to open wide this summer. Looking at how stacked the schedule is for the next few months, it's clear studios are champing at the bit to finally get some of these long-delayed films in front of audiences, and it's so much you almost need a color-coded day planner to keep it straight.

Of course, with the veritable pile-up of new releases hitting during the summer, there are still plenty of movies that have punted off into fall, winter, and even 2022. Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Marvel's Eternals are penciled in for November, The King's Man has pushed to December, and Morbius and Uncharted have shuffled into early next year.

Then there are the streaming blockbusters that have yet to be dated, but could drop this summer. Netflix has its Fear Street horror trilogy and the hyped assassin action flick Gunpowder Milkshake (starring genre favorites Karen Gillan and Lena Headey) coming at some point this year, and they'd both certainly make for cool summer releases. Plus Paramount+ has snagged the rights to Antoine Fuqua's upcoming sci-fi thriller Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg as a man haunted by a past life he doesn't remember. It's slated to hit around June, and certainly has that summer tentpole vibe.

So grab some popcorn, crank up the A/C, and don't forget your mask — because we're finally headed back to theaters (and in a few cases, the couch for streaming).

01. Army of the Dead (May 21)

Leave it to Zack Snyder to kick off summer movie season, and to do it at Netflix. His ambitious, wild zombie film is basically a casino heist caper meets World War Z, and it has all the hallmarks of a big, bloody summer blockbuster — with all that Snyder-y flair you either love or love to hate. Even better? If you want to see it on the big screen, it’ll be playing there, too, for a while. But seriously, what better way to open the summer than with a zombie tiger?

02. A Quiet Place Part II (May 28)

The long-awaited sequel to the hushed horror hit was delayed indefinitely last year, as director John Krasinski said the Quiet Place team wanted to wait until the film could have a proper theatrical opening. With the film, starring Emily Blunt as a mother on the run in a world overrun by monsters, back on the calendar — it means the movie business really is alive again.

03. Cruella (May 28)

Disney got some practice with its dual release model during the pandemic, and Cruella will be the latest Mouse House project to open in both theaters and for Premier Access on Disney+. The film, which looks equal parts Harley Quinn and 101 Dalmatians, tells the origin story of a young Cruella (Emma Stone) as she carves out her twisted place in the world. It looks moody, gorgeous, and a whole lot of fun.

04. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4)

We’ve been distracted by a few spinoffs, but now the mothership horror franchise is back with a mainline entry. The saga of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s real-life supernatural investigations takes on a court case, with a young man claiming a demon literally made him kill. The film is part of Warner Bros.' 2021 hybrid release plan and will hit theaters and HBO Max simultaneously.

05. F9 (June 25)

It’s all about fast cars and family in the ninth entry of the Fast and Furious saga, as the ambitious action series keeps on going — and keeps on upping the stakes. This looks to be one of the biggest, wildest rides of the summer, with the core cast of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, and Charlize Theron joined by newcomer John Cena.

06. The Forever Purge (July 2)

All crime is legal once again — but just for one day — when the Purge franchise returns with a fresh tale of terror. But this time around, it’s a rogue group looking to hold their own private Purge after the killer day is over. 

07. The Tomorrow War (July 2) on Prime Video

Originally set to be a big screen blockbuster, Amazon stepped into the fray for Chris Pratt’s new sci-fi action flick The Tomorrow War, about a modern-day man recruited to fight an alien war in the future. It looks like a big, wild sci-fi blockbuster that — in another life — could’ve been a major box office hit. But in the post-pandemic era, it’s just another tentpole on a pile of tentpoles looking to carve out some space in a slammed summer.

08. Black Widow (July 9)

Remember this one? The MCU prequel film was supposed to open last year and kick off a new era, but instead found itself punted down the release calendar until it’s now, finally, set to start things up in the heat of Summer 2021. The film brings back Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow for one last, pre-Endgame adventure. If you don’t want to see it on the big screen, the film will also debut on Disney+ with Premier Access at an extra cost. But, if you’re safely able, this one could definitely be a fun one for a theater visit.

09. Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16)

LeBron James is stepping into Michael Jordan’s big shoes for a follow-up to the hit animated/live-action hybrid from 1996. LeBron will be playing in a basketball game to decide the fate of … the animated universe, or something, joined by a few fan favorite Looney Tunes. Though it’s a follow-up to the classic basketball flick, this new installment looks to also have some Ready Player One vibes, crossing over with everything from Game of Thrones to The Iron Giant.

10. Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (July 23)

This one bounced all around the release schedule, but in a refreshing change of pace, actually found itself bumped back up the calendar from late 2021 back into summer once it became more clear that theaters were set to reopen. The film looks to put a fresh spin on the big-screen G.I. Joe franchise with a solo origin story for the fan-favorite ninja hero.

11. OLD (July 23)

M. Night Shyamalan is back with a twisty new original horror film in OLD, which follows a family on a tropical vacation at a mysterious beach that somehow causes rapid aging. We don’t know much else, but considering this is Shyamalan, it’ll almost certainly have a few fresh twists and turns along the way.

12. Jungle Cruise (July 30)

This one was originally penciled in for a late 2019 opening date but slipped a whole lot further once the pandemic kicked in. But it's back on the calendar and ready to ship off with stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt on a rollicking, period-set adventure into the jungle wilds. Based on the popular Disney ride, this has all the makings of a family-friendly franchise starter — assuming it can carve out a niche in a positively packed July release window.

13. The Green Knight (July 30)

A24’s latest project is an ambitious, gorgeous medieval fantasy film starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. It has some Arthurian legend vibes and looks to be compelling fantasy adventure story of a young knight who goes off to prove himself against a legendary warrior. The film is based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

14. The Suicide Squad (August 6)

A new director, a few new anti-heroes, and a largely new squad — that’s what’s on tap for James Gunn’s soft reboot of the DC team-up franchise. Gunn is bringing some of his trademark Guardians of the Galaxy zaniness to the project, introducing everyone from John Cena’s Peacemaker to Peter Capaldi’s Thinker to the world of live action. The Suicide Squad will premiere on HBO Max as well as in theaters.

15. Free Guy (August 13)

Another fun-looking original genre film that has been kicked all over the calendar, this video game-inspired Ryan Reynolds vehicle about a NPC who goes rogue and tries to save the day himself. The film looks like a wild ride, and even boasts Taika Waititi as a co-star. Unlike a lot of these films, it never made the jump to streaming and has remained a theatrical project throughout. Here’s hoping it’ll be worth the wait.

16. Candyman (August 27)

A revival of the classic horror franchise, this follow-up hails from Nia DaCosta and Get Out’s Jordan Peele, with a story that looks to bring the killer ghost story back to life. The cast includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, and OG star Tony Todd. 

17. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3)

Marvel Studios has been banking up big-screen superhero flicks with the pandemic delays, and this summer they start playing catch up. After Black Widow kicks things off, Shang-Chi looks to introduce a brand new hero to the MCU for an adventure steeped in Marvel Comics lore. It also looks very, very cool.

18. No Time to Die (October 8)

OK, yes — we’re cheating a bit. No Time To Die’s October release date is starting to slip out of summer and into the autumn part of the calendar. But it’s well worth a mention, considering it’s been delayed for over a year at this point — and will no doubt serve as a slightly belated wrap-up to the summer movie marathon. In case you’ve forgotten, this is Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007, where he’s now playing an older, grumpier version of the secret agent back in action for one last mission.