SEATTLE — Ever since Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" debuted to gobsmacked crowds in the summer of 1975, the sunny months have been a staple of the film industry.
The summer movie season is typically dominated by high-priced Blockbusters, drawing in crowds that love superheroes, A-list actors, or demand a spectacle worthy of the big screen.
This summer's slate fulfills all of the requirements and more. We have a slate stuffed with superheroes ("Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse," "The Flash" and "Blue Beetle"), A-list actors ("Barbie," "Oppenheimer" and "Asteroid City") or spectacles ("Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" and "Meg 2: The Trench"). We even have an early Oscar contender ("Past Lives") coming this summer.
So to prepare you for the coming months, when the weather is absolutely perfect to spend two hours in a dark theater, we have a complete guide to the popular films debuting in theaters across the country this summer. And, yes, we have trailers for each film and explain why you should make Nicole Kidman proud by spending more time at the cinema this summer.
The following films are in order of release date, starting with one of the most anticipated summer movies of the season.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse
Release date: June 2
Director: Joaquim Dos Santos and Justin K. Thompson
Synopsis: Once again we are thrust back into the vast Spider-Verse as our titular character, Miles Morales, reunites with Gwen Stacy to square off against the other variations of Spider-Men across the universe.
Why you should watch: Because the first film in this franchise, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," was a genre-defining hit that garnered attention at the Oscars and is, basically, universally loved. The 2018 film ushered in a new era of animation and stretched the imagination of the genre. The success of the first film proved that, yes, it is still possible to make a legitimately good film that happens to be animated AND based around a superhero. Guillermo del Toro is shedding happy tears right now.
Required viewing before the film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Release date: June 2
Director: Celina Song
Synopsis: Nora and Hae Sung reunite 20 years after their families separated in South Korea. The pair spend one fateful week together as they navigate what it means to love and question the role of destiny in our lives.
Why you should watch: Because "Past Lives" is a near-lock to be the Best Picture nominee at next year's Oscars. Song's directorial debut has garnered praise far and wide from critics, with the real potential to claim the Oscars biggest prize next year.
Required viewing before the film: None, but bring tissues.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Release date: June 9
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Synopsis: "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" will introduce the Maximals, Predacons, and Terrorcons as they join the battle on Earth between Autobots and Decepticons.
Why you should watch: If you like mind-numbing action, with little substance, the Transformers franchise is right up your alley. It's been five years since the last film in this franchise, "Bumblebee," graced our screens but we are back, baby.
Required viewing before the film: The Transformers franchise, in order: "Transformers," "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "Transformers: The Last Knight," and "Bumblebee."
Release date: June 16
Director: Wes Anderson
Synopsis: Anderson's latest film is set in a fictional American desert town in 1955, as a junior stargazer/space cadet convention is disrupted.
Why you should watch: There are two very good reasons. 1) It's Wes Anderson! The American filmmaker is a special auteur in an industry over-saturated with intellectual property and flimsy sequels. Anderson's visual style and wide-ranging color palettes are what set him apart from anyone else in the industry. Anderson has created popular films like "French Dispatch," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and he seems poised to continue making visually stunning and daring films.
And 2) Have you seen the cast? Let's just list the "Asteroid City" stars, in no particular order: Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Steve Carrell, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Matt Dillon, Maya Hawke, Hong Chau and Jason Schwartzman. To name a few.
Pairing an excellent director with a star-studded cast, "Asteroid City" is a must-see in the truest sense.
Required viewing before the film: Any Wes Anderson film, but especially "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
Release date: June 16
Director: Andy Muschietti
Synopsis: When The Flash, also known as Barry Allen, tries to save his family he irreparably alters the future. Now he's trapped in a reality where General Zod has returned and there are no other superheroes to help him save the world he once knew.
Why you should watch: The often maligned comic book studio has struggled to keep up with Marvel's stunning pace and quality of films. But "The Flash" at least seems to be kind of good? The bar for DC films is impossibly low, but the early reviews indicate "The Flash" will be one of the few triumphs for the studio.
And, if you are a fan of the older Batman films (pre-Christopher Nolan trilogy), there may or may not be someone you're familiar with in this film.
Required viewing before the film: DC Extended Universe films, but especially films where The Flash appears like "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" (2016), "Justice League" (2017) and "Zack Snyder's Justice League" (2021).
Release date: June 16
Director: Peter Sohn
Synopsis: Set in a city where fire, water, land and air residents live together in harmony, a fiery young woman and a male from the water kingdom learn more about what binds them together rather than what drives them apart.
Why you should watch: Pixar may be on a downswing in terms of quality, following its latest releases of "Lightyear" (2022), "Turning Red" (2022), "Luca" (2021) and "Soul" (2020), but a downswing for Pixar would represent the best work for another studio. Pixar still has the emotional heft to move you to tears, while teaching you a valuable lesson about the human condition.
Required viewing before the film: Any Pixar film, but especially the peak Pixar films from the 2000s.
Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny
Release date: June 30
Director: James Mangold
Synopsis: As Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) nears retirement, he finds himself trying to fit into a world that has outgrown him. But once an old rival returns, Jones must return to his old roots to make sure a powerful artifact isn't in the wrong hands.
Why you should watch: Because it's time to say goodbye to a legend. Indiana Jones' winding story began in 1981 with Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and ends over four decades later with the fifth and final film in the franchise. It's just a shame Spielberg did not direct the conclusion of Jones' story.
Required viewing before the film: The Indiana Jones franchise, in this order: "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One
Release date: July 12
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Synopsis: Ethan Hunt (played by Tom Cruise) and the IMF team are back with another dangerous mission. Spurred by a deadly race around the globe, Hunt must track down a new weapon that threatens humanity.
Why you should watch: Because there's almost nothing better than Tom Cruise and Blockbuster action franchises. Cruise's 2022 blockbuster "Top Gun: Maverick" grossed almost $1.5 billion and a Best Picture nomination for the 2023 Oscars.
Cruise is back at it again with the seventh film in the Mission Impossible franchise, which is riding a smash hit with "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" (2018). The 60-year-old has shown no signs of stopping his age-defying stunts, and judging by the trailer, the latest Mission Impossible film is going to bend your perception of what is possible in film. Again.
Required viewing before the film: Mission Impossible franchise, in this order: "Mission: Impossible," "Mission: Impossible 2," "Mission: Impossible III," Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" and Mission: Impossible – Fallout."
Release date: July 21
Director: Greta Gerwig
Synopsis: The specifics of the film have been largely kept under wraps, but Gerwig's "Barbie" will center around Margot Robbie as one of many Barbies and Ryan Gosling as one of many Kens living in Barbie World.
Why you should watch: Because Gerwig is establishing herself as one of the best directors alive. Gerwig's latest films "Little Women" and "Lady Bird" were critically acclaimed and earned her three Oscar nominations. Her latest project is her most ambitious yet as she dips her feet into the deep intellectual property pool to craft something that stands out.
Working with a deep cast including Robbie, Gosling, Will Ferrell, Helen Mirren, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon and Emma Mackey, Gerwig is one of the better directorial choices to realize Barbie's potential this summer.
Hope you don't forget your rollerblades!
Required viewing before the film: Anything Gerwig has directed, but also any Robbie or Gosling film
Release date: July 21
Director: Christopher Nolan
Synopsis: The story of J. Robert Oppenheimer's role in creating the atomic bomb during World War II.
Why you should watch: Because Nolan knows spectacle better than any other director. Notice a trend here? The 2023 summer film slate is compromised of many talented directors working on ambitious projects tailored to their strengths. It's what makes this summer's list more exciting compared to its previous years.
Once again, we have another stellar cast including Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Gary Oldman, Rami Malek and Jack Quaid to round out Nolan's vision for his latest epic.
In "Oppenheimer," Nolan promises to stun your senses at the cinema in the best possible way. We cannot wait any longer.
Required viewing before the film: Any Nolan film, but especially "Interstellar," "Inception" and "Dunkirk."
Meg 2: The Trench
Release date: Aug. 4
Director: Ben Wheatley
Synopsis: An exploratory dive deep in the ocean unearths another terrifying discovery.
Why you should watch: Enough with the talented auteurs and star-studded casts! A peak summer film is one that is endlessly fun and, also, light on things we call plot and character development so we don't exert too much brainpower following the mechanics of the story. Those things are reserved for fall and winter.
"Meg 2: The Trench" is the sequel to the 2018 film "The Meg" and pits a giant prehistoric shark against his biggest natural rival: Jason Statham. Yes, this is backed up by science.
We are here for big sharks, big spectacle and big fun this summer – and those things only!
Required viewing before the film: The Meg (2018).
Release date: Aug. 18
Director: Angel Manuel Soto
Synopsis: Jaime Reyes, a recent college grad, returns home when he finds "the Scarab," an ancient relic of alien biotechnology.
Why you should watch: Reyes is one of the few Hispanic lead roles in the superhero genre, following in the footsteps of America Chavez in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." It's a small circle, but if DC delivers on Blue Beetle's origin story, there could be more opportunities in the future for Hispanics in superhero films.
Required viewing before the film: DC Extended Universe films
Release date: Sept. 8
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Synopsis: Bella Baxter (played by Emma Stone) is brought back to life by Dr. Godwin Baxter (played by Willem Dafoe). When she runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (played by Mark Ruffalo), her worldview opens up to many more possibilities.
Why you should watch: Lanthimos' mind is twisted in the best way. He's best known for directing films like "The Lobster" and "Killing of the Sacred Deer," because Lanthimos is capable of exploring the darker nature of the human psyche.
Required viewing before the film: Any Lanthimos film, but especially "The Lobster" and "Killing of the Sacred Deer."