The Best Summer Movies of 2011

on June 16, 2011

Bridesmaids

Gaggles of girlfriends will flock to Bridemaids (May 13), a raunchy, riotously funny comedy starring Kristen Wiig as a luckless-in-love maid of honor caught in the middle lane of a crazy ride on the estrogen-slick road to her best friend’s big “I do.” Wiig’s former Saturday Night Live cast mate Maya Rudolph costars along with Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, and more “seasoned” (older) moviegoers will enjoy seeing what became the final film appearance of veteran actress Jill Clayburgh, who died last year after a struggle with leukemia.

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20), the fourth installment of Disney’s swashbuckling adventure franchise. Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa, teaming with Jolly Jack to find the fabled Fountain of Youth before a new villain, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), and his daughter (Penelope Cruz) beat them to it.

Super 8

The new collaboration from producer Steven Spielberg and writer-director J.J. Abrams, Super 8 (June 10), has been shrouded in secrecy from the start, but this much is known: The setting is 1979, and a group of kids (including Elle Fanning) film something unsettling on a home-movie camera—the derailment of a military train carrying some very scary cargo out of Area 51, where the U.S. government has supposedly been conducting covert space-alien investigations since the 1950s. Abrams, the creator of TV’s Lost and the director of 2009’s Star Trek movie, has teased a few details. “It’s sweet, it’s scary,” he says. And given Spielberg’s magic touch with aliens (anyone remember E.T.? Close Encounters?), it could be a blockbuster.

Larry Crowne

Two big stars hitch their Hollywood wagons for Larry Crowne (July 1), a heartwarming comedy-drama about a downsized middle manager (Tom Hanks, who also wrote and directed) who develops a crush on his burned-out community college teacher (Julia Roberts). Audiences will likely warm to the movie’s hopeful message: Just when you think your life has stalled out, an unexpected jolt of joy can get your heart pumping and thumping again.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It’ll be the beginning of the end when the curtain opens on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July 15). The boy wizard and his Hogwarts mates Ron and Hermoine wage an epic good-vs.-evil smackdown that will finally wrap up the long-running, hugely successful series based on the fantasy-adventure books of author J.K. Rowling.

Cowboys and Aliens

Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford saddle up to fight extraterrestrial invaders in the Old West in Cowboys & Aliens (July 23), a promising-looking sci-fi twist on an old shoot-’em-up staple. It’s from director Jon Favreau, who steered both Iron Man and its sequel, so expect some exciting, eye-popping, heavy-metal thunder. And in this high-noon matchup, the smart money’s on James Bond and Indiana Jones!

Conan the Barbarian

Conan The Barbarian (Aug. 19) features newcomer Jason Momoa flexing his muscles to fill out the sword-and-sandal role that Arnold Schwarzenegger turned into a campy, pop-cultural punch line in the 1980s. Momoa, 31, says he was mindful of his big-screen predecessor, but more inspired by the fantasy art of Frank Franzetta, whose iconic depiction of the Paleolithic warrior on comic-book covers stoked the imaginations of several generations of fans—especially teenage boys. Franzetta’s Conan, he recalls, had “a chick on his leg, and he’s standing on a bunch of skulls with his sword, and he’s just ripped. Cool!”

Cars 2

There’ll be lot of familiar voices in Cars 2 (June 24), the computer-animated sequel to Pixar’s miles-of-smiles tale of a Western town populated solely by automobiles. Keep your ears peeled for Michael Caine, Owen Wilson, Tony Shalhoub, Bonnie Hunt, John Turturro, Cheech Martin and Larry the Cable Guy.

Captain America

After being deemed unfit for World War II military service, geeky Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers for a top secret research project that bestows him with the alter-ego powers of Captain America (June 17), another superhero making the leap this summer from comic book to cinema screen. Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci co-star in this pulpy tale of a nerdy runt transformed into an imposing slab of Nazi-hunting beefcake.

Thor

Thor (May 6) marks the big-screen debut of the newest Marvel Comics superhero. British actor Kenneth Branaugh directs and Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth stars as the hunky, hammer-swingin’ Norse god banished for his arrogance to Earth, where his skill set proves handy when out-of-this-world evil comes calling.