The 15 Must See Summer Movies of 2015

By  · Published on April 28th, 2015

One of the most anticipated summer movie seasons in as long as I can remember begins this Friday. In the summer of 2015, we will get yet another explosion of Marvel hero movies, an update on several beloved franchises, some ambitious new takes on familiar stories and even some wonderful smaller movies that might spoil the big budget party. By all estimations, it’s going to be a very fun ride.

With that in mind, the staff of Film School Rejects has come together to form our list of the 15 must see summer movies of 2015. Ranked from 1 to 15, this list represents the films we don’t think you should miss for any reason. It includes a number of titles for which we have very high hopes as well as a few gems that we’ve already seen and for which we can actively vouch. We spend so much of our time digging into the great Coming Soon pile on the horizon that we’re pretty confident in our recommendations.

Without further ado – because we’re not so fond of ado – here are the Must See Summer Movies of 2015:

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Marvel Studios

We’ve already published our review of Age of Ultron. It’s an exhausting but ultimately rewarding experience that throws you right into the fight alongside a host of familiar characters. In facing their greatest challenge yet, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must come together with faces old and new to save humanity from a threat of their own creation. Every single frame of this movie contains a hero you love (or a new character you may grow to love) doing something cool. The supposed final Marvel project from Joss Whedon has big action, it has levity and it raises the stakes for Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and the rest of the crew. In a summer full of big budget action movies, it’s rare that the biggest (and likely most expensive) also stands to be the most interesting and well-acted, but that’s the magic of what Marvel Studios has done.

Release Date: May 1

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Warner Bros.

In a post apocalyptic wasteland, one filmmaker has always risen to the challenge of making the most ambitious, crazy-as-hell vehicular chaos movies. He’s been doing is since 1979’s Mad Max. Now George Miller is back 36 years later with a new take on the character made iconic by Mel Gibson. This time he’s got all the modern upgrades: new visual effects, cameras that can be placed in unique places while stunt cars do crazy movements. Even Tom Hardy in the role of Max is a modern upgrade. Everything about this movie, including the bonkers trailers they’ve released, says that it’s going to be one of the most uniquely wild experiences we’ll all have in a theater this summer. I say “we” because of course we’re all going to see it, right?

Release Date: May 15

3. Pitch Perfect 2

Universal Pictures

The first Pitch Perfect was a delightful surprise. Anna Kendrick and crew were immensely charming as they led their audience into the world of competitive a cappella and it was, for lack of a better term, aca-awesome. Now we can’t aca-wait to return to their characters for another go-round. The sequel will see the Barden Bellas take their talents to an international competition where things will undoubtedly become fierce. Based on its trailer, Pitch Perfect 2 has the same kind of moves as the first film. And that’s good enough, as that first film was great.

Release Date: May 15

4. Tomorrowland

Walt Disney Pictures

George Clooney stars in The Incredibles director Brad Bird’s vision of Disney’s world of tomorrow. It’s the story of a young girl and a former child prodigy who embark on a mission to find a place that exists somewhere else in space and time. A place where anything is possible. Based on the previews, Tomorrowland is imagination run wild with a side of Clooney charm. It even has a dash of Hugh Laurie. If the ambitious visuals weren’t enough of a selling point (and they are), the cast should be more than enough to get us into a theater.

Release Date: May 22

5. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Fox Searchlight

It isn’t all going to be big budget sequels and action movies. There are little movies that leave a big impression upon their audience coming this summer. Such is the case of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a dramedy about friendship and loss that won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. We reviewed it at Sundance, saying that it “deserves a spot in the home and hearts of anyone who loves movies and loves life.” We’ve also gushed over its trailer in a similar fashion. For this particularly charming, heart-felt film, we are beginning to run out of superlatives. This is hands down one of the best movies of the year, regardless of season.

Release Date: June 12

6. Jurassic World

Universal Pictures

The collective interest in Jurassic World has seemingly waned recently. It may have something to do with the outcry over Joss Whedon calling a clip from the film sexist (an observation that was pretty spot-on). It could also have something to do with Whedon’s movie, Age of Ultron, being the brightest shining light of summer and also its first participant. It’s hard to look past the behemoth of the Avengers sequel and really get excited about anything else. None of that has deterred our interest in Jurassic World. The most recent trailer makes it look like an all-out dino war film, which will undoubtedly be different. We have faith in the likes of director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) and leads Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt. We’ve been yearning for dinosaurs on the big screen for years. Yes Jurassic World, we’re still in. And we have a feeling that by the time June rolls around, everyone else will still be in, as well.

Release Date: June 12

7. Inside Out

Disney/Pixar

After dabbling in sequels and then taking 2014 off completely, Pixar is returning to your local cineplex in a big way this year. Their first of two 2015 releases drops in the middle of a crowded summer, but Inside Out is born of the kind of pedigree that should compete well for our attention. It’s got one of Pixar’s most impressive voice casts (including Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Diane Lane and Mindy Kaling), it’s the long-awaited next project from Up director Pete Docter, and it looks absolutely adorable. Combine all of that with the ambitious premise – it takes place inside the mind of a teenage girl – and we’ve got ourselves an animated break in our otherwise live-action-heavy summer.

Release Date: June 19

8. Aloha

Columbia Pictures

It’s been four years since the uncool have received a new Cameron Crowe film. And dependent upon how you felt about We Bought a Zoo, you could say that it’s been about 15 years since we’ve seen a really great Cameron Crowe film. There’s a chance that Aloha could bring back the best of Crowe. He’s loaded it with a wonderful cast – Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone, for starters – and he’s set it in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Hawaii. From its trailer, we see a story about love, redemption, more love and how handsome Bradley Cooper is. It’s like the charming, heartwarming, delightful distant cousin that American Sniper would immediately disavow. We like this one much better.

Release Date: May 29

9. Ant-Man

Marvel Studios

Once the high-pitched buzz from the months of May and June die down, after all the biggest of blockbusters have released into theaters, what will we have to keep us inside the air conditioned confines of a theater? How about Marvel’s smallest superhero to-date, Ant-Man. Despite a long road of script and directorial changes – perhaps that most troubled Marvel Studios production to date – Ant-Man still has the combo of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas leading the way for one of its underdog heroes. They’ve released a very cool trailer recently that has us thinking that our trust in the Marvel Studios process is not misplaced. Ant-Man may be small, but we’re not ruling out the potential for his movie to be very big.

Release Date: July 17

10. Trainwreck

Universal Pictures

Here is another movie that we’ve already seen and loved. After its unfinished work print screening at SXSW, I personally heaped praise upon Amy Schumer’s breakout film. She wrote and starred in the film, which is directed by Judd Apatow, and it’s relentlessly funny and surprisingly full of heart. If you see this movie for any reason, it should be to bear witness to the rise of Amy Schumer, one of the most dynamic comedic talents working today. You may also want to see it because it is very funny and sports a wonderful cast that includes Colin Quinn, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, NBA superstar Lebron James, Tilda Swinton and a very unexpectedly wonderful performance from wrestler John Cena. Yes, John Cena and Lebron James deliver comedy in a Judd Apatow movie. We’re living in a new world, friends. Amy Schumer’s world.

Release Date: July 17

11. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Paramount Pictures

They’ve made another Mission: Impossible movie. We shouldn’t be so surprised, as the last film in the series, Ghost Protocol, grossed nearly $700m worldwide. People still want to see Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in the line of fire, hanging from buildings and using very cool spy toys. Based on the first trailer alone, we can see that Rogue Nation delivers at least that much. It’s another team-up between Cruise and Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie, who has kept busy by writing one of the best sci-fi movies of this half-decade in 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow. When these two get together to make a movie, recent history tells us that it’s going to be good. So no matter how fatigued we are with Mission: Impossible, we can’t help but hold out hope that McQuarrie and Cruise will once again deliver.

Release Date: July 31

12. Ricki and the Flash

TriStar Pictures

Later in the summer season, the great Jonathan Demme will bring to life the latest script from Diablo Cody. If that pairing wasn’t consuming enough, the film also stars Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s Sebastian Stan alongside legends Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep. We haven’t seen a trailer, but we do know that Streep plays a guitar player who “returns home to make amends with her family.” This guitar playing includes covers of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Lady Gaga. Based on the logline and cast alone, we are drawn to this film. There’s nothing like a little musical Meryl Streep action to keep summer diverse.

Release Date: August 7

13. Self/Less

Focus Features

Using a technology that allows him to port his consciousness into a younger, more attractive body, a wealthy man (Ben Kingsley) becomes what he believes to be the best version of himself (Ryan Reynolds). This body-swapping becomes a nightmare as he begins to discover that the miracle being sold by a mad genius doctor (Matthew Goode) isn’t quite what it seems. We learned that much from the first Self/Less trailer. We can add to that the knowledge that this vision comes from the warped mind of The Fall director Tarsem Singh, who at the very least has always made interesting films. The premise has promise, the cast is solid and Singh is as ever, a wildcard. Toss in a supporting role for Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) from Downton Abbey and we’ve got ourselves a movie worth some attention.

Release Date: July 10

14. Straight Outta Compton

Universal Studios

There may not be many more socially relevant movies to hit theaters this summer than F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton. This one comes with the added benefit of being the origin story for NWA, the group that gave us some of the most influential hip-hop artists of all-time. Produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, this biopic will undoubtedly be a faithful look at the birth of a movement that spoke truth about life in the hood. Beyond its story, Straight Outta Compton also has some cinematic prestige with cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Iron Man, Black Swan) behind the camera and The Italian Job’s Gray in the director’s chair. It’s just the kind of production that should faithfully honor one of the most significant pop culture entities of the last 35 years. A story told by the men who lived it, through the performances of a talented young cast.

Release Date: August 14

15. Fantastic Four

20th Century Fox

Not to be outdone by Marvel Studios, Fox is also releasing a superhero movie this summer. So much of what we’ve heard about Chronicle director Josh Trank’s take on the Fantastic Four sounds problematic. But based on this most recent trailer, we’re starting to see this darker, broodier version of the story come to life. After the two Fantastic Four movies from the middle of the last decade did their worst to tarnish the brand, this movie will undoubtedly be different. For better or worse, the tone of this Fantastic Four is far different than we’ve seen before. Will we finally get a Fantastic Four film that pleases the team’s legions of comic book fans? That remains to be seen. What we do know is that with every new look we get, we become more and more interested in what Trank and his young cast have to say.

Release Date: August 7

We’ve shown you our list, now it’s time for you to show us yours. What are your 5 must see movies of summer 2015? Let us know in the comments below.

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the upcoming One Perfect Shot TV show (HBO Max, 2021) and the co-host of The Storm: A LOST Rewatch podcast. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)