(CNN) Most moviegoers can pinpoint one summer movie — or perhaps, a summer of movies — in their formative years that really and truly cemented their love for going to the cinema, whether it be 1975’s “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” from 1982, or “Independence Day” in 1996.
Sure, a lot has happened since those golden years of the bustling multiplex — most notably the streaming revolution, not to mention a multi-year pandemic — but studio heads at last week’s CinemaCon (the annual convention where Hollywood shows theater owners what they have in store for the coming year) were quick to thump their chests and say, “Movies are back!”
For proof, one need only look at this year’s billion-dollar-grossing “Super Mario Bros. Movie” (not to mention last year’s “Avatar” sequel) to see that theatrical movies, as it were, never really left. And while streaming has clearly siphoned off part of the audience, particularly for more serious films, what we think of as “summer movies” still have the potential to rake in cash just like the old days.
With that said, at this juncture just ahead of the summer months, behold the list of flicks releasing “only in theaters” that are hoping to do exactly that, in order of release date:
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (May 5)
What better way to kick off summer than with the gang of Marvel-ous misfits known as the Guardians of the Galaxy? After many delays and back-and-forths with director James Gunn, the franchise-closing third installment of the trilogy is finally here, and it’s said to pack an emotional wallop, according to CNN’s critic Brian Lowry. In addition to the comic antics and the eye-popping visuals, a “Guardians” movie always delivers when it comes to a throwback soundtrack, so get ready.
Fast X (May 19)
The gang is back for, yes, a tenth time, and while some are content to amuse themselves with how the “Fast and Furious” filmmakers come up with all the artful titles for all these endless sequels, others are here for the cars. This installment, welcoming back franchise regulars Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez and Ludacris, will welcome Jason Momoa and Academy Award-winners Rita Moreno and Brie Larson into the furious fold. Jason Statham, John Cena and more Oscar-winners Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron also return from previous fast and furious forays.
The Little Mermaid (May 26)
The buzz for this latest Disney live-action “reimagining” has been bubbling for quite awhile as more is unveiled, but those faithful to the Oscar-winning 1989 animated classic have yet to deliver their final verdict. One thing’s for sure though — droves will likely go and see it, kids in tow, to decide if they want to make this new film part of their world.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 2)
A sequel to one of the most inventive animated films of the new millennium, this follow-up to 2018’s Oscar-winning “Into the Spider-Verse” has the potential to raise the bar even higher as the story of Miles Morales — a counterpart to Peter Parker and Spider-Man all his own — is expanded even further, with Spider-Gwen’s help.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (June 9)
After an impressive, franchise-launching first film in 2007 starring Shia Labeouf and Megan Fox, many of the sequels in this film series based on the iconic toys have been rather dense and hard to follow, save for the spirited spinoff “Bumblebee” from 2018 starring Hailee Steinfeld. One only hopes this one, featuring animal-like Transformers known as Maximals, doesn’t run too long, and makes even the tiniest bit of sense.
The Flash (June 16)
This one just might be the one to beat this summer, with DC bringing its universe of superheroes to an emotional and action-packed crescendo, deftly led by embattled star Ezra Miller’s super-fast Flash. The movie, previewed for attendees at last month’s CinemaCon, has more that a few incredible reveals up its sleeve that are sure to make waves, with high hopes that “The Flash” is a mainstay blockbuster throughout much of the season. (CNN and DC are both part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Asteroid City (June 16)
While a cool summer movie would be an AI-generated “Star Wars” film as directed by Wes Anderson, nothing comes close the actual work of the real auteur, who takes on a bit of the sci-fi genre in his latest film “Asteroid City.” Boasting a per-usual incredible and starry cast along with trademark Anderson-esque visual splendor, the film follows stargazers who are visited by aliens in a place in the desert called, you guessed it, Asteroid City. Expect very low-key high jinks to ensue.
The Blackening (June 16)
Directed by the accomplished Tim Story, this trope-busting slasher comedy-horror hybrid looks like it will be a crowd-pleaser and then some, featuring an all-Black cast and hinging on the premise that since they’re all Black, as the tag line says, “We can’t all die first.” Among many other talents, look for “Insecure’s” Yvonne Orji and “Saturday Night Live” alum Jay Pharoah.
Elemental (June 16)
Fire and water do indeed mix in this original story from Pixar, featuring a world in which the elements must learn to live together in the same crowded urban environment. Featuring the voices of many up-and-coming stars, the hope here is that the allegory for race relations veers more toward subtlety than heavy-handedness.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30)
For those truly looking to recreate the nostalgia of summer movies past, look no further than this fifth adventure from Indy (Harrison Ford), although for the first time, Steven Spielberg (still an executive producer) passes the director reins to James Mangold (of “Logan” and “Ford v. Ferrari”). The film brings back John Rhys-Davies of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” fame, and also welcomes “Fleabag” star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and “Legion’s” Dan Stevens along for the ride. The bar has been set rather low after the misfire that was “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in 2008, so Indiana and co. have nowhere to go but up.
Joy Ride (July 7)
This uproarious looking movie takes the girls’ trip idea made famous and successful by movies like “Bridesmaids” and “Girls Trip,” this time telling the story from an Asian American perspective, letting a quartet of gifted actresses — including “Emily in Paris” standout Ashley Park and brilliant Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — have what looks to be the best and wildest time ever.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One (July 12)
‘Savior of the movies’ Tom Cruise is back again as Ethan Hunt, faced with yet another impossible task that, somehow, we know he’ll pull off. Let’s just hope the movie isn’t as dense, or as long, as the title.
Barbie (July 21)
Another one that looks like a surefire hit, everything that comes out about “Barbie” ahead of the film’s release just makes everyone even more excited, including Ryan Gosling’s hilarious observations on harnessing his “Ken-ergy” at CinemaCon. The movie’s tongue-in-plastic-cheek feel surely has much to do with its director and co-writer Greta Gerwig, creator of “Lady Bird,” who was clearly an unorthodox but refreshing choice to helm this Mattel-themed excursion.
Oppenheimer (July 21)
For those who rolled their eyes at the previous entry on “Barbie,” head on over to the theater next door for this very serious film from the very serious Christopher Nolan, who promised attendees at this year’s CinemaCon that the movie — about the inventor of the atomic bomb — captures the life and times of “the most important person who ever lived.” Like I said, serious. Cillian Murphy stars.
Haunted Mansion (July 28)
Not content just to keep updating their animated movies with live-action versions, Disney is also continuing its let’s-turn-our-theme-park-rides-into-movies tradition, after the uber-successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and somewhat less-explosive “Jungle Cruise” from 2021. This adaptation follows a 2003 version with Eddie Murphy.
The Meg 2: The Trench (August 4)
For those looking to get their creature feature needs met this summer, look no further than “The Meg 2,” which will hopefully improve upon the strangely lackluster first film from 2018 about an insanely large prehistoric shark (read: megalodon) who is back for a second course (along with bristling hero Jason Statham).
Gran Turismo (August 11)
Surely looking to build on the hype (and big bucks) of the “Mario” movie, this flick based on the auto racing game had a little more work cut out for it, as star David Harbour pointed out at CinemaCon when he observed that the game is essentially a racing simulator and that there was no real storyline to work with. Enter Jann Mardenborough, a real-life Gran Turismo player portrayed in the new film by “Beau is Afraid” star Archie Madekwe, whose video game-playing skills landed him a shot to become an actual professional race car driver.
Blue Beetle (August 18)
Initially meant for streaming platforms, this vehicle will herald the cinematic arrival of DC Studios’ first Latino superhero, played by Xolo Maridueña of “Cobra Kai” and “Parenthood” fame. If the fast-paced trailer is any indication, the movie looks sure to whisk those dog days of summer doldrums away quite nicely.