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2014 Summer Movie Preview: Our 25 Most Anticipated Films

Bryan Enk
May 6, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (Fox), 22 Jump Street (Sony), X-Men: Days of Future Past (Fox)

It might seem like only yesterday that we took our seats for 2013’s Iron Man 3, The Conjuring and World War Z, but it’s time to do it again. The 2014 summer movie season kicks off this weekend with the arrival of the high-flying The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The next few months at the cineplex have in store a fairly eclectic lineup of rollicking comedies, sci-fi extravaganzas, hopeful franchise reboots, indie darlings and, of course, plenty of superhero adventures. Really, when romances starring Shailene Woodley and Daniel Radcliffe share the season with Optimus Prime, Spider-Man and Godzilla, not even the sky’s the limit.

Here’s the scoop on the 25 films we’re most looking forward to this summer.

25. Transformers: Age of Extinction
Release Date: June 27
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor
Director: Michael Bay
The Scoop: We asked for Dinobots, and director Michael Bay is giving us Dinobots in this fourth installment of the robots in disguise series. We’re also getting Galvatron, though whether he’s an upgraded version of slain Decepticon commander Megatron (per certain TF continuities) or a brand new character (per other certain TF continuities) remains to be seen. Also, Bay’s Pain & Gain pal, Mark Wahlberg, is along for the ride. Roll out!

[Related: Meet the New Humans of Transformers: Age of Extinction in Their Poster Reveals]

24. A Million Ways to Die in the West
Release Date: May 30
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried
Director: Seth MacFarlane
The Scoop: What do you do after your R-rated talking teddy bear movie makes over $549 million worldwide? Make an R-rated western, of course! This oater comedy follows the adventures of a cowardly farmer (MacFarlane) who takes up arms to woo the woman he loves (Theron) when her gunslinging husband (Neeson) rides into town. Horse poop will likely factor into the equation at least twice.

23. Jupiter Ascending
Release Date: July 18
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
The Scoop: The Wachowskis will probably never make another film as jaw-dropping as The Matrix, but just because they’ll never top that sci-fi action classic doesn’t mean everything else they do is a “disappointment.” There’s a lot to love in Speed Racer (2008) and Cloud Atlas (2012) — and even in the Matrix sequels, too, dammit. Their new flick, featuring Mila Kunis as the rightful owner of the planet Earth or whatever, looks to at least reach for the stars even if it might never quite get there. Also, there’s a multi-tattooed Channing Tatum.

22. Begin Again
Release Date: July 4
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine
Director: John Carney
The Scoop: Sweet memories of John Carney’s Once (2006) have us excited for this follow-up, another music-based fable about a record executive (Ruffalo) who bonds with a young singer-songwriter (Knightley). This indie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, used to be titled Can a Song Save Your Life? until someone dared to ask “Should We Really Call It That?”

[Related: 14 Oscar Contenders to Watch for in 2014]

21. Jersey Boys
Release Date: June 20
Starring: Christopher Walken, Freya Tingley, Jeremy Luke
Director: Clint Eastwood
The Scoop: How did four blue-collar kids from New Jersey become one of the greatest successes in pop music history? If you haven’t seen the Tony Award-winning musical, you can find out with Clint Eastwood’s big-screen dramatization of the formation, success and eventual break-up of ’60s rock group The Four Seasons. The trailer shows that Eastwood & Co. have the sound and vision down pat with exquisite period detail, even if the direct-to-camera narration (often delivered while smack dab in the middle of a scene already in progress) might seem a little, well, stagey. Big bonus: Walken as Gyp DeCarlo, the mob boss who becomes one of the band’s greatest allies.

20. What If
Release Date: Aug. 1
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver
Director: Michael Dowse
The Scoop: Daniel Radcliffe continues to prove there’s much life after Hogwarts with interesting projects that are a far cry from the Boy Who Lived (really, the guy went from a teenaged wizard in Deathly Hallows Part 2 to a widowed father of two in The Woman in Black in about six months). What If (previously known as “The F Word”) features Radcliffe as a med school dropout who falls for a perky animator (Kazan of Ruby Sparks) who unfortunately has had a boyfriend (Spall) since, like, forever.

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If (CBS Films)

19. Deliver Us from Evil
Release Date: July 2
Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale
Director: Scott Derrickson
The Scoop: From the director of Sinister (2012) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) comes this chilling thriller about Ralph Sarchie (Bana), a New York cop who teams up with a renegade priest (Ramirez) to battle a series of demonic possessions plaguing the city. Based on the real-life Sarchie’s allegedly true memoirs, which just freaks us out all the more, this could be 2014’s answer to The Conjuring.

[Related: Deliver Us From Evil: Where the Devil Is Joel McHale in This Movie?]

18. Let’s Be Cops
Release Date: Aug. 13
Starring: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr., Andy Garcia, Nina Dobrev
Director: Luke Greenfield
The Scoop: Breakin’ the law! TV’s New Girl co-stars Johnson and Wayans Jr. play two ne’er-do-well pals who take their cop cosplay at a costume party to the next level by scoring a makeshift cruiser and proceeding with protecting and serving … sort of, anyway. Directed by Luke Greenfield, who brought us the underrated boy-meets-porn-star comedy, The Girl Next Door (2004), let this be the sleeper comedy of the summer.

17. Chef
Release Date: May 9
Starring: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Jon Favreau
The Scoop: Favreau takes a break from calling the shots on blockbusters like Iron Man (2008) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and goes back to his Made roots with this character comedy about a chef who gets fired from his restaurant job and starts up a food truck in an effort to get his creative flair back. Favreau’s Iron Man 2 buddies Downey Jr. and Johansson are on board, as are John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara and Oliver Platt — but why no part for your old pal Vince Vaughn, Jon?

16. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Release Date: June 13
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett
Director: Dean DeBlois
The Scoop: The adventures of Hiccup (Baruchel) and the cat-like Toothless continue as the boy and his dragon come across a secret ice cave that serves as home to hundreds of wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider. It’s a discovery that stirs up an epic conflict … but not before we’re introduced to "Dragon Racing," a high-flying sport involving live sheep that puts Quidditch to shame. Yes, more dragons, please.

[Related: How to Train Your Dragon 2 First 5 Minutes: The Truth About Cats and Dragons]

15. The Giver
Release Date: Aug. 15
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes
Director: Phillip Noyce
The Scoop: Not all YA books worthy of cinematic treatment were written this century, you know. This adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1993 fantasy novel tells the tale of a 12-year-old boy (Thwaites) who starts seeing the cracks in his seemingly perfect future society after he’s selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory" from an elderly man (Bridges). Co-starring Alexander Skarsgard and Taylor Swift, whom we’re assuming will also provide a song or two on the soundtrack.

[Related: Fans, Are You Happy? The Giver Goes Black and White, Officially]

14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: July 11
Starring: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke
Director: Matt Reeves
The Scoop: Eight years after the events of the quite excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), survivors of the virus that’s wiped out a good chunk of humankind (including, apparently, James Franco’s Dr. Will Rodman) wage war against Caesar (Serkis) and his ever-growing ape army. This round of evolution/revolution comes courtesy of Let Me In and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, who has signed on to direct the third installment, which is already scheduled for July 29, 2016.

13. The Immigrant
Release Date: May 16
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner
Director: James Gray
The Scoop: Gray’s moody melodrama takes place in 1920 New York City, where Polish immigrant Eva (Cotillard), alone on the mean streets of Manhattan after her sister is quarantined, is forced into prostitution by the wicked Bruno (Phoenix) … and later finds salvation in the arms of her tormentor’s cousin, the stage magician Orlando (Renner). This is the fourth collaboration of Gray and Phoenix, following The Yards (2000), We Own the Night (2007) and Two Lovers (2008).

12. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Release Date: May 2
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx
Director: Marc Webb
The Scoop: The rebooted Spider-Man series is already swinging for its own Marvel-sized universe as the first sequel features not one but three villains challenging the wallcrawer: the electricity-wielding Electro (Foxx), the brutal Rhino (Paul Giamatti in a mech suit) and the Green Goblin, as personified by DeHaan’s wily and sickly Harry Osborn. While it’s always fun to see the new bad guys, the real reason to tune in is the pitch-perfect chemistry between Garfield and Stone as they play young ‘uns fighting for love in a mad comic book world.

[Related: Early Reviews: Critics Tangled Over The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Villains]

11. Get On Up
Release Date: Aug. 1
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis
Director: Tate Taylor
The Scoop: Boseman follows up his acclaimed turn as baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013) playing another major 20th-century icon: the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. The rising star gets on the scene like a sex machine in this biopic directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), which chronicles the music man’s life from extreme poverty to international superstardom as one of the most influential performers in the history of entertainment. The rousing trailer had us getting on up and on our feet … and wondering whether Taylor will recreate Brown’s awesome cameo appearance and performance in Rocky IV (1985).

10. Neighbors
Release Date: May 9
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco
Director: Nicholas Stoller
The Scoop: The new comedy from Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) depicts the territorial war between Rogen (as a new dad/family man) and Efron (as the often shirtless alpha male of a rowdy fraternity house), a conflict that will probably involve at least one scene where Rogen gets drunk with the brothers as topless sorority sisters look on. Not to be confused with the 1981 comedy starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, nor the popular Australian soap opera.

9. Life Itself
Release Date: July 4
Starring: Roger Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris
Director: Steve James
The Scoop: This documentary of the late, great Roger Ebert’s 2011 memoir comes courtesy of director Steve James, who called the shots on one of Ebert’s all-time favorites, Hoop Dreams (1994). Martin Scorsese serves as executive producer on this look back on the remarkable career and personal struggles of the most popular film critic of all time (why argue?). Expect a lot of Ebert’s colleagues to summarize their reviews of Life Itself with a hearty “Two Thumbs Up!"

Roger Ebert in Life Itself (Magnolia)

8. Maleficent
Release Date: May 30
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Juno Temple
Director: Robert Stromberg
The Scoop: Angelina Jolie gets wicked as the live-action version of the Mistress of All Evil, who first gave audiences nightmares in animated form in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959). The trailers have us thinking that Angie’s villainous turn might be giving Charlize Theron’s performance as the evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) a run for its money (magic?) in the deliciously over-the-top department — which is, of course, just fine.

[Related: Elle Fanning Reveals the One Prop Angelina Jolie Brought to Maleficent Rehearsals]

7. 22 Jump Street
Release Date: June 13
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Richard Grieco
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
The Scoop: They taught at least one high school to Just Say No, and now Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) are deep undercover in college to fight more crime and tolerate more “You look a little old to be here” observations from their fellow, er, students. Johnny Depp got killed off in the first movie, so this time fellow TV series alum Richard Grieco is reprising his role as Officer Dennis Booker, a part he also played in the short-lived spin-off series, Booker (1989-1990).

6. Godzilla
Release Date: May 16
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston
Director: Gareth Edwards
The Scoop: Edwards (Monsters) is set to stomp all those bad Roland Emmerich memories into the ground (yes, the 1998 box office disappointment is just as bad as you remember it) as a resurrected King of the Monsters wrecks havoc in San Francisco. The trailers just keep getting better and better, showcasing a dead-serious approach to this familiar scenario that may be just the right formula in kickstarting a new disaster/monster movie franchise.

5. Lucy
Release Date: Aug. 8
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Analeigh Tipton
Director: Luc Besson
The Scoop: After experimenting with historical dramas (The Lady), children’s fables (Arthur and the Invisibles trilogy) and ill-advised mob comedies (The Family), Luc Besson is back calling the shots in the genre he knows best: kick-ass action-adventures with kick-ass leading ladies. Following in the footsteps of La Femme Nikita (1990) and The Fifth Element (1997) comes this excuse to watch Scarlett Johansson kick, punch, jump, shoot and wear sexy clothes as a woman transformed into a super-warrior after villains put some sort of crap in her stomach that kickstarts her evolution. This one’s had one of the most buzzed-about trailers of the year.

4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Release Date: May 23
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and many, many more
Director: Bryan Singer
The Scoop: The recent real-life troubles of director Bryan Singer shouldn’t keep the latest X-Men movie from being one of the summer’s biggest hits. Singer’s throwing in everything and the kitchen sink to celebrate his return to the franchise after an 11-year absence, with a time-traveling plot that’s able to incorporate both the cast of the original series and the gifted youngsters of X-Men: First Class (2011). There’s a chance it could end up being a case of ‘too many mutants’ (a la 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand), but so what? Let’s party.

[Related: Bryan Singer in Damage-Control Mode, but X-Men Immune to Allegations]

3. The Fault in Our Stars
Release Date: June 6
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern
Director: Josh Boone
The Scoop: Divergent was a hit, and Shailene Woodley’s got another YA adaptation close on its heels, one decidedly a bit more "real world" than its sci-fi predecessor. Hopefully this tale of two teenagers who fall in love after meeting in a cancer support group doesn’t get lost in the whizz-bang-boom of the summer movie season, as hopes for this one are as high as the stars.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy
Release Date: Aug. 1
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
Director: James Gunn
The Scoop: We thought bringing Marvel’s team of intergalactic weirdos to the big screen was going to be a hard sell, but the first trailer showed us that Guardians of the Galaxy is so crazy, it just might work — and work really, really well. Its strong anarchic spirit and goofy humor (set to Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, at that) makes this gonzo space opera about a group of superheroic (kind of by accident) misfits — including a gun-crazy raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, a giant walking, talking tree played by Vin Diesel and Andy from Parks and Recreation as the lead — one of the summer’s must-see-at-least-twice movies.

1. Boyhood
Release Date: July 11
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater
Director: Richard Linklater
The Scoop: Twelve years in the making (production commenced in Summer 2002), Richard Linklater’s one-of-a-kind coming-of-age drama follows the life of a young man from age 5 to 18 — as played by the same actor at every age (Coltrane). Boyhood was the toast of both Sundance and SXSW this year, and we can’t wait to see this bold, passionate and completely unique piece of filmmaking for ourselves; it might very well end up being Linklater’s masterpiece, and considering the fact that he’s the guy who also brought us Dazed and Confused and the Before Sunrise trilogy, that’s saying a lot.

[Related: Why Richard Linklater’s Boyhood Is 2014’s First Oscar Contender]

Also Opening This Summer:

An illegitimate mixed race daughter (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) of a Royal Navy officer is raised by her aristocratic great uncle in Belle (May 2); producer Katie Couric gives us the skinny on the American food industry in the documentary Fed Up (May 9); Emerald City gets animated in Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (May 9); “Bridesmaids” gets a PG remix in Moms’ Night Out (May 9); Emma Roberts leads a group of trouble-prone teens in Gia Coppola’s adaptation of James Franco’s short story collection, Palo Alto (May 9); Richard Ayoade doubles your Jesse Eisenberg in the dark thriller The Double (May 9); Jon Hamm is a sports agent in India looking for a Million Dollar Arm (May 16); a strong argument for never, ever leaving your home is made once again in Wolf Creek 2 (May 16); third time’s a charm for Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in Blended (May 23); James McAvoy goes Trainspotting-level bad in Filth (May 30).

Tom Cruise dies to fight the same day in Edge of Tomorrow (June 6); Jenny Slate gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for Valentine’s Day in Obvious Child (June 6); Clark Gregg proves there’s life after Agent Coulson in Trust Me (June 6); Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson go all Mad Max in The Rover (June 13); Laurence Fishburne isn’t 100 percent sure what we’re dealing with here in The Signal (June 13); another legal 12-hour cathartic crime spree ensues in The Purge: Anarchy (June 20); the battle of the sexes continues in Think Like a Man Too (June 20).

Cute kids meet a cute alien in Earth to Echo (July 2); Melissa McCarthy hits the road with Susan Sarandon in Tammy (July 2); “Another Earth” director Mike Cahill studies the evolution of the human eye in I Origins (July 18); last summer’s Disney quickie gets a sequel in Planes: Fire and Rescue (July 18); The Rock swings a mighty sword in Hercules (July 25); Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel save it for posterity in Sex Tape (July 25); booties shake and bodies writhe in Step Up: All In (July 25).

A priest (Brendan Gleeson) must battle the dark forces closing in on him after he is threatened during a confession in Calvary (Aug. 1); Helen Mirren serves up a feast in The Hundred-Foot Journey (Aug. 8); an enraged Mother Nature becomes a found footage star in Into the Storm (Aug. 8); heroes in a half shell slam evil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Aug. 8); old dudes blow the bejeezus out of everything in The Expendables 3 (Aug. 15); maintaining a romance after the zombie apocalypse has its challenges in Life After Beth (Aug. 15); Chloe Moretz must choose between love and Juilliard in If I Stay (Aug. 22); men do bad things and women get naked for them in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 22); a Bayou house gets haunted in Jessabelle (Aug. 29); Mos Def and John Hawkes channel “Jackie Brown” co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Life of Crime (Aug. 29); five friends who share a loft for their extramarital affairs pull up their pants right quick when a dead body spoils the party in The Loft (Aug. 29).