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The 20 Most Anticipated Movies of Summer 2012

By  · Published on April 11th, 2012

Nothing says “summer at the movies” quite like a metric ton of big name blockbusters flooding theaters near you – superheroes on top of superheroes, classic television series brought back from the dead, animated gems about finding yourself – oh my! But with the cinema summer growing ever-larger, the stakes being pushed ever-higher, and enough content to keep audience members in their seats ever-longer, a line has to be drawn somewhere.

Which is why all the members of the Voting Body of Film School Rejects gathered together in our secret chambers to vote on just which films have won our Most Anticipated nod. Twenty films emerged from our complicated, decades-old voting process (read: a Google doc) to be crowned winners. Why twenty? Well, there are twenty weeks in the cinematic summer season (if you count May, which we do – April will be included next year if Hollywood keeps this up), and that should give you movie-lovers a reasonable goal to meet for the viewing season.

We’ve even managed to pinpoint our most anticipated movie-going weekend of the summer – June 22nd, when four films open in theaters, all of which made our list. But beyond the mathematics that went into picking the summer’s best weekend, there were also some genuine surprises on the list – including big tentpole films missing completely (sorry, Battleship and Dark Shadows), some indies that sneaked in with lots of votes, a battle royale that went down between our number one and number two picks, and the shock of our number four pick (one that will likely surprise more than a few of you – especially when you see the number five film it stuck an arrow in before emerging victorious).

After the break, check out the Officially Official List of the Twenty Most Anticipated Films of Your Movie-Going Summer, 2012 Edition.

20. Step Up Revolution (July 27th)

Okay, stop laughing. Did you Step Up 3D? It was one of the most enjoyable theater experiences of last year. Sure the story was laughably ridiculous and the whole point was just to string plot points together in an effort to get from one dance scene to the next. Who cares? It was a lot of goofy fun. There was a room with a wall of boomboxes for Cthulu’s sake! And dancing in 3D! They even used the 3D to send CGI Icee particles at the screen. You already know if this is the type of thing you’ll enjoy or not. The trailer shows more of the same for the fourth time around, but on an even bigger scale. Hugely complicated choreographies and set pieces include an Inception-looking sequence, people dancing on top of cars on hydros, and even a shipyard scene. Of course it will be in 3D again, so all this dancing will be flying right at your face, but the best (read: most hilarious) part of any Step Up movie are the points where the kids try to convince each other that dance is a viable career and life choice. Screw college, let’s all just dance! It will totally put food on the table. Can’t wait to see how they shoehorn that into the new script. Plus, Moose is back! -Luke Mullen

19. Take This Waltz (June 29th)

Actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley first explored crumbling marriages in her gorgeous and heartbreaking Away From Her in 2006. While that film centered on the effects of illness (mental and physical) on a decaying relationship, in her next film, Polley aims at something much more common (and possibly even more wrenching) – a marriage destroyed by boredom and wandering eyes. Michelle Williams stars as Margot, unfulfilled in her marriage to Seth Rogen’s kind (but basic) Lou. When the alluring Daniel (Luke Kirby) moves in next door, the cracks in Margot and Lou’s marriage become unavoidable, and the desperate Margot strays. This is the anecdote to the popcorn movie blockbusters filling the theaters this season – after all, will The Avengers make you cry? -Kate Erbland

18. Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 29th)

To say “you’ve never seen a movie quite like x” is a tired reviewer’s cliché. But you’ve really never seen a movie quite like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s fascinating Cajun fever dream that wowed Sundance audiences and stands to make quite an impression upon its theatrical release. With extraordinary lead performances by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis and New Orleans baker Dwight Henry and a visual scheme that incorporates Louisianan imagery in a way that’s both fantastical and hard-hitting, the film is hard to shake. -Robert Levin

17. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29th)

Finally, the G.I. Joe film franchise has some action stars to go along with all that nostalgia. Sure, Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans were fine as Duke and Ripcord, but The Rise of Cobra had that overall plasticized feel that so many toys-turned-blockbuster-films have a habit of taking on. With Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis on board as Roadblock and Mr. Joe himself, Retaliation has already stepped up the action game just with its casting. What director Jon M. Chu seems to have brought is a sense of scope – surprising since Step Up 3D and the Justin Bieber doc don’t exactly seem like massive actioners – and about 10,000 bullet casings all falling out of that gigantic gun Johnson is carrying. He’s surely mowing down a battalion of Cobra agents with the bullets coming out of that gun, and every child’s fantasy, at least those of us who grew up “making movies” with our G.I. Joes, looks to finally come to life this summer. Hell, some of us might even buy some of the toys. -Jeremy Kirk

16. To Rome With Love (June 22nd)

Once upon a time the world was saying that Woody Allen’s career had bottomed out; that all of his brilliant work was a thing of the past. But then he moved his focus out of New York City and took it on a whirlwind tour of movies set in Europe’s most beloved cities, and suddenly he looked like an artist reinvigorated. Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and especially Midnight in Paris have become some of the most successful and best reviewed films of the man’s legendary career (okay, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was kind of a black sheep), and now he’s looking to take that momentum into his next project, To Rome With Love. It’s got a star-studded cast (Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penélope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, the list goes on and on), a gorgeous setting, and it’s being brought to us by a beloved filmmaker who seems to be tapping into the deepest well of creativity he’s found in years. What’s not to love? –Nathan Adams

15. Lawless (August 31st)

The formerly-titled The Wettest County in the World doesn’t need to do much more than list the talent involved to get cinephiles pumped, but its true-life tale of Depression era bootleggers gone wild in Franklin County, Virginia sure doesn’t hurt matters. Now titled Lawless (sorry, Malick!), the film comes to us from director John Hillcoat, reunited with scribe Nick Cave (who has adapted Matt Bondurant’s book, which is based on his own family’s exploits), and stars Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, and Jason Clarke. Drink up, this one will go down smooth. -Kate Erbland

14. Savages (July 6th)

The cynical, fun, and hard biting Oliver Stone has been missing for a while. Although he hasn’t made what could be criticized as “safe” choices lately, his recent films have been lacking the energy of his greater works. Having spoken to someone who has seen the film, apparently Savages marks Stone’s return to that high-energy filmmaking, the kind best shown in U-Turn, Natural Born Killers, and Any Given Sunday. We rarely get down and dirty R-rated summer movies, so even if Stone’s name wasn’t on Savages, it would still be one of the most intriguing pictures of the summer. -Jack Giroux

13. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22nd)

Steve Carell and Keira Knightley make for an unlikely pair, but they’re fitting for a film that sees humanity’s last moments tick away as these two find each other and perhaps find love before the end. Maybe. The film looks to be a dark, romantic comedy riff on Miracle Mile, which alone is enough of a reason to watch, but a supporting cast that includes Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel, Gillian Jacobs, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, and William Peterson just seals the deal. -Rob Hunter

12. Safety Not Guaranteed (June 8th)

Having already made names for themselves on the small screen (with Aubrey Plaza as the deadpan April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation and Jake Johnson as Nick, the lovable grump with a heart of gold on New Girl) the two take to the big screen in this indie comedy about time travel (you heard that right.) Safety Not Guaranteed has gotten mixed reviews as it as made the festival rounds so far this year (FSR’s own Kate Erbland and Rob Hunter had different impressions of the film), but the idea of a guy (Mark Duplass) seeking someone to go back in time with him (brought to life within the constraints of a smaller budget) should be both charming and inventive. While the cast certainly has comedic chops, Safety Not Guaranteed looks like it will also bring a good dose of heart to an idea most people have all longed to do – go back and change the past. -Allison Loring

11. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22nd)

The revisionist monster history genre keeps threatening to break into film, as well as song and dance. With a variety of books in the pipeline waiting to become moving images, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter wins the race to theaters, coming this summer from Fox and Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov. What could easily be a horrible idea actually looks pretty righteous, filled to the brim with iconic Lincoln images, ax swinging, tree smashing, brooding, slow motion, vampires, and honest Abe riding a rampaging horde of stallions against an undead menace while brandishing his weapon of choice. Bekmambetov is adept at action, if overly reliant on slow motion imagery, but there is a strong vibe to this historical (haha) tale that has us all intrigued. -Robert Fure

10. Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1st)

From the stunning visuals to what looks to be a terrifying performance from Charlize Theron, Rupert Sanders’s Snow White may be coming out in the same year as Tarsem Singh’s vision, but the that is where the similarities between these two films end. Theron has proven her chops in films such as Monster and last year’s Young Adult, but Snow White and the Huntsman looks to provide a new side from Twilight’s Kristin Stewart and a less-superhero polished Chris Hemsworth in this gritty tale that looks like it was ripped from the pages of Game of Thrones rather than a fairy tale. The story of Snow White may be well-known, but this film looks to bring a much darker and more violent version of the tale to life while also helping to continue the idea that not all summer blockbusters have to be light and easy to digest (see: The Dark Knight Rises). -Allison Loring

9. ParaNorman (August 17th)

Ever since CGI became the market standard for animated films, the classic techniques all but faded into obscurity. Sure, that include ink-and-paint cell animation, but it also includes stop-motion. In recent years, films like Coraline and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit showed how innovative stop-motion animation can be. From the first trailer for ParaNorman, it was clear this would be a fun ride through a fantastic world…a world where a boy must save his town from a curse of the undead. It is also fascinating because it’s a stop-motion animated film about a creepy boy in a horror setting that has nary a fingerprint of Tim Burton on it. -Kevin Carr

8. Total Recall (August 3rd)

With the right story, something Total Recall unquestionably has, director Len Wiseman could craft a firecracker of a summer movie. The director’s got an eye, now all he needs is that pesky thing called a great story. Based on the trailer, he may very well be surpassing most of doubters’ expectations. The trailer sold a big scope and slick style, which we don’t get often enough from summer blockbusters. Plus, it looks as if Wiseman has made enough deviations from Paul Verhoeven’s adaptation: having an actual human playing Quaid and his interesting take on Total Recall, a sketchy and opium den-like version. Hopefully Wiseman will deliver the brains of Dick’s story, the mayhem of Verhoeven’s original, and give us an original sci-fi actioner. -Jack Giroux

7. Moonrise Kingdom (May 25th)

Like Prometheus, Wes Anderson’s latest film is made unmissable simply by the fact of his presence in the director’s chair and a fantastic roster of names in front of the camera including Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Bruce Willis. Fantastic Mr. Fox, combined with the trailer for this new one show him hopefully rebounding from the misfire that was The Darjeeling Limited and back in control of his style (instead of simply aping it). -Rob Hunter

6. The Bourne Legacy (August 3rd)

Remember back in 2002 when we were all skeptical about Will Hunting trying to play a badass highly trained operative? Fast forward to 2007 and we were loosing our collective minds for the NYC chase scene in the trailers for The Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon silenced any fears we may have had in the first Bourne film and made the series his own in the following two films. So, of course Jeremy Renner has some big shoes to fill. Luckily, his badass status is not in question. His portrayal of a loose cannon bomb squad sergeant in The Hurt Locker solidified that, and his take on Hawkeye in the upcoming Avengers film should take care of any lingering detractors. Fortunately, Tony Gilroy is settling into the directing chair this time around, having previously written the screenplays for each of the first three Bourne films. He’s the perfect choice to continue the gritty feel of the franchise. With a solid supporting cast around Renner, including Edward Norton, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Stacy Keach, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, and Scott Glenn, look for this one to rise above the sea of summer movies this season. -Luke Mullen

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3rd)

There are two key reasons to anticipate the newest Spider-Man entry. One is cynical – Sony is rebooting one of the franchises responsible for the superhero boom of the past decade with all new personnel and claiming that something universally familiar is an “untold story.” The other is genuine – Marc Webb showed pure talent with (500 Days) of Summer, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are both engaging talents, and maybe there’s something to a new angle on an old hero. And at the end of the day, is familiarity such a bad thing? Maybe we’ll have a new Spidey to cheer loudly for in a few months. –Cole Abaius

4. Brave (June 22nd)

“I am Merida, and I’ll be shooting for my own hand.”

So says the defiant, feisty Princess Merida in the new Pixar release Brave about a Scottish lass who is no shrinking violet. Merida isn’t a princess waiting for her Prince Charming, but a self-reliant young woman. A skilled archer who can outshoot any man, she longs for her freedom from tradition and convention. Merida is determined to find her own way in her world. And one thing for certain, Pixar’s first Princess wouldn’t be caught dead in a glass slipper. -Robin Ruinsky

3. The Avengers (May 4th)

An omnibus collection of many of Marvel’s finest creations, The Avengers is the ultimate superhero movie. Joss Whedon’s flick represents the apex of the explosion in Comic-Con-fueled entertainment that began in earnest with X-Men (2000) and it will, at the very least, be a fascinating experiment that poses a wealth of interesting questions: Can Iron Man, Captain America, and their cohorts co-exist onscreen? Who, exactly, are the villains that could possibly threaten such an impressive team of good guys? Has Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark act completely worn thin? -Robert Levin

2. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20th)

Ever since Christopher Nolan’s second Batman movie shattered multiple box office records and was near-unanimously praised as one of the best film’s of 2008, the refrain of “In Nolan We Trust” has been oft repeated by those following the development of this next film in the series, The Dark Knight Rises. Is it really necessary to explain why this one is hugely anticipated, when the entirety of the Internet has been poring over every detail of its production for what seems like an eternity now? It’s Christopher Nolan directing a battle between Batman and Bronson; come July 18th let’s all just put the spy photos of the set aside, stop doing frame-by-frame analyses of the trailer, sit back, and enjoy. -Nathan Adams

1. Prometheus (June 8th)

There’s not a single aspect of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film that isn’t exciting in some way. It’s the director of Alien and Blade Runner’s first science fiction film in thirty years. It’s a return to one of the genre’s most well known franchises (to some degree anyway). It boats a cast that includes Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, and Patrick Wilson. And the trailers have been nothing short of amazing. Screw the Bat. This is the epic to beat this summer. -Rob Hunter

Reflect back with our list of the 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

Header image created using the art of Arco2002, Pixar Animation Studios, Johan Renklint and Malcolm Reynolds.

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