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Your 2016 Summer Movie Guide

Find out which kid, tween and teen flicks to see and which to skip

Published on: June 06, 2016

When the kids aren't bingeing on screen time, swimming, or (let's hope) playing outside this summer, chances are they'll be clamoring to see one of the season's big movies. But it can be hard to decide which of the big-budget sequels, superhero stories and much-hyped animated adventures you and your kids are most likely to love (and want to spend money on!).

Here's a guide to help you decide which high-profile summer movies are appropriate for you and your kids, be they the youngest of moviegoers to high schoolers on the brink of adulthood. 

June

Me Before You

Premiere: June 3
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? Me Before You is based on Jojo Moyes' deeply emotional and insightful novel. A young woman (Emilia Clarke) in a tiny English town becomes the caretaker of a paralyzed adventurer (Sam Claflin). He's bent on assisted suicide, while she aims to give him something to live for. Teens and adults alike should bring plenty of tissues for this romantic drama.

TMNT: Out of the Shadows

Premiere: June 3
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? The turtles are back. This time they must save New York City from an even bigger threat than they did in the last movie. Shredder — the nemesis of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo — comes back with a new set of evil henchmen named Rocksteady and Bebop. They're mutants created by scientist Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to defeat the turtles. Megan Fox also returns as April, and the movie is likely to once again feature suggestive and teen-targeted jokes. It will also probably have violent, computer-generated action sequences between the turtles and the bad guys.

Genius 

Premiere: June 10
Target age: Older teens
What's the buzz? Colin Firth plays Max Perkins, the legendary literary editor of famous authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Perkins must now face his most challenging (read: neediest) author, Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). Most teens may not be interested in a biographical drama about a book editor mostly famous in academic circles. But the all-star ensemble, which also includes Nicole Kidman, Dominic West and Laura Linney, should lure mature, book-loving high schoolers and adults.

Now You See Me 2

Premiere: June 10
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? In this sequel to 2013's heist flick Now You See Me, the Four Horsemen return to the stage. This time they must clear their names and accuse a young tech magnate played by Daniel Radcliffe. The illusionists no longer include Isla Fisher, who had to pull out due to pregnancy, but comedic actor Lizzy Caplan joins the crew as their female lead. Like in the original, the sequel should include some fight scenes and language, as well as witty wordplay, plot twists and entertaining "magic" performances.

Warcraft

Premiere: June 10
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? Based on the popular video games, Warcraft is a fantasy adventure set in the world of Azeroth. In Azeroth, humans face an unthinkable war against a race of orc-like warriors who are fleeing their homeland in search of a new home. As a portal opens up between the worlds, Lothar, the leader of the humans, and Durotan, the leader of the orcs, face off in an epic battle. Whichever side loses will be destroyed forever. The trailer is full of battle sequences, as you'd expect from the game-based story.

Central Intelligence

Premiere: June 17
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? Funnyman Kevin Hart and action star Dwayne Johnson team up for a buddy action-comedy that highlights their odd-couple relationship. Johnson plays Bob Stone, a once-bullied geek who turns into a fierce CIA agent. Hart plays Calvin, Bob's former high school friend, who used to be a big man on campus but is now a boring accountant. They join a supposed top-secret case and end up stuck in a dangerous situation that could get them both killed. With the popularity of the stars and the promise of the movie's humor and action, it should appeal to teens.

Finding Dory

Premiere: June 17
Target age: Young kids and tweens
What's the buzz? Pixar's highly anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo doesn't need much marketing to attract audiences of all ages. Everyone loves Marlin and Nemo's forgetful fish bestie, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). This new story takes place only six months after the events of Finding Nemo. After Dory recalls some of her childhood memories, she, Marlin, and Nemo head out to Monterey, California, to try to find her family. As with all Pixar movies, this one should be an emotional but family-friendly pick.

Free State of Jones

Premiere: June 24
Target age: Older teens
What's the buzz? Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey stars in this historical Civil War drama based on the true story of controversial Southern farmer Newton Knight. Knight led a small band of farmers, deserters and slaves in a rebellion to secede from the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Not only did he welcome slaves into his rebellion, but he also married a former slave (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). The trailer shows lots of realistic violence, as well as scenes of cruelty against slaves. As with 12 Years a Slave, this drama looks best for older high schoolers.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Premiere: June 24
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? The sequel to summer blockbuster Independence Day takes place 20 years after the events of the alien-invasion thriller. United military forces thought they had defeated the aliens that threatened to destroy Earth. But it becomes clear that there are more aliens with an even bigger fleet headed back to finish the job their friends couldn't. Starring most of the original cast (minus Will Smith), the sequel also features Liam Hemsworth as a young pilot, Sela Ward as the president of the United States and more. As in the first Independence Day, expect serious action, dangerous situations and collateral damage.

The Shallows

Premiere: June 24
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? Blake Lively stars in this ocean thriller that's been hyped as "Jaws for a new generation." Lively plays a young, injured surfer stranded on a rock 200 yards from shore. Bloody and hurt, she clings to the rock as a giant white shark begins to circle her, making escape seem impossible. Although the trailer doesn't show any violence, a shark-on-human attack could easily kill Lively's character.

July

The BFG

Premiere: July 1
Target age: Kids and tweens
What's the buzz? The BFG is directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Roald Dahl's beloved fantasy book. Academy Award winner Mark Rylance stars as the Big Friendly Giant (BFG), who prowls British streets blowing dreams into children's minds. After he plucks young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) out of her orphanage, she hatches a plan for him to stop the not-friendly giants who eat children. Although this movie looks family-friendly, sensitive kids might be frightened by the giants. 

The Legend of Tarzan

Premiere: July 1
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? The Legend of Tarzan is based on Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan series about an English boy raised by apes in the African jungle after his parents are killed. The movie, starring Alexander Skarsgård as the vine-swinging hero, follows Tarzan's adventures after he's called back to the jungle from his home in London to investigate a mining operation. Expect plenty of action and violence in this adventure, which looks like it it could be too intense for younger viewers (this isn't the Disney version!).

The Secret Life of Pets

Premiere: July 8
Target age: Young kids and tweens
What's the buzz? In a New York City apartment building, a dog named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) considers himself the luckiest of pets. But he gets upset when his human, Katie (Ellie Kemper), brings home giant shaggy dog Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the pound. Things get worse for Max when he and Duke end up lost. They're captured by Snowball (Kevin Hart), a maniacal bunny with an army of unwanted pet goons who want to make the lives of happily owned pets miserable. This animated talking-animal comedy looks fine for the whole family.

Equals

Premiere: July 15
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? In a tightly controlled utopian society, emotions have been eradicated so people can live peacefully. There's no love, and relationships are strictly forbidden. But when a handsome artist named Silas (Nicholas Hoult) starts to have feelings for his coworker Nia (Kristen Stewart), he's deemed "infected." As Nia begins to return his longing looks and briefest touches, it's clear the two "sick" lovers will have to escape the authorities if they plan to act on their forbidden feelings. A sci-fi love story akin to Gattaca and The Giver, this romance should appeal most to teens who like love stories. Expect romantic and sexual situations, as well as possible violence (love is outlawed, after all).

Ghostbusters

Premiere: July 15
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? In this reboot of the classic 1984 supernatural action-comedy, another set of four New Yorkers answers the call to fight ghosts. Directed by Paul Feig, this version stars four female comedians: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. They're friends and colleagues who discover that ghosts have invaded Manhattan (again). With their knowledge of the supernatural and their love of New York, the Ghostbusters try to save the city from being taken over by evil spirits. There's been a lot of press about this reboot starring some of the funniest actors (three of them are Saturday Night Live vets) in Hollywood. But, just as in the original, there will probably be some mature jokes and frightening situations.

Phantom Boy

Premiere: July 15
Target age: Tweens
What's the buzz? Phantom Boy is an animated French crime thriller/adventure from the filmmakers behind A Cat in Paris. The noir-like movie looks to have some violence, and the storyline focuses on a chronically ill boy who spends a long time in the hospital (he has the ghostly ability to leave his body and explore the city/help others). So it may be best suited for mature tweens who can both read the subtitles and handle the darker elements.

Ice Age: Collision Course

Premiere: July 22
Target age: Kids and tweens
What's the buzz? Blue Sky Studios is back with another prehistoric fantasy adventure. In this installment, Scrat follows his precious acorn out of Earth's orbit. This causes all sorts of natural catastrophes that threaten to destroy everyone back on Earth. Once more, Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Denis Leary), and friends unite to lead their herd to safety. Along the way, they encounter many new characters. These films have made hundreds of millions of dollars, so it's likely kids, tweens, and nostalgic teens will want to see this latest entry in the Ice Age franchise.

Lights Out

Premiere: July 22
Target age: Older teens
What's the buzz? This supernatural horror story follows a family terrorized by a monster that comes out when the lights are out for the night. Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) finds out that her little brother, Martin, is having some of the same nightmares she had as a girl. This means her childhood monster is back, ready to torment their mom (Maria Bello) and family once again. Like most movies in this horror category, there isn't likely to be much gore. But you can expect a lot of jump-worthy scares and creepy sequences that are more appropriate for older teens familiar with this brand of scary movie.

Star Trek Beyond

Premiere: July 22
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? This is the third installment in the J.J. Abrams-produced Star Trek reboot series. Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Scotty (Simon Pegg), McCoy (Karl Urban) and the rest of the crew are stranded on a distant planet, where they face a new alien threat. Directed by Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious franchise), the threequel's trailer promises the witty banter and high-stakes action of the first two movies. It's probably more appropriate for mature tweens and teens.

Jason Bourne

Premiere: July 29
Target age: Older teens
What's the buzz? Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is back in another Paul Greengrass-directed entry in the spy thriller franchise. Bourne is now older and remembers exactly who he is, but he's still a wanted man. Julia Stiles reprises her role as Nicky, the CIA operative who risked her job and life to help Bourne in the previous films. Academy Award winners Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander also star in this new installment. It should appeal to older teens ready for smarter action films with twisting plot lines.

August

The Little Prince

Premiere: August 5, on Netflix
Target age: Kids and tweens
What's the buzz?The Little Prince is an animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic fable about a pilot who encounters a planet-hopping prince in the Sahara Desert. The movie frames the tale of the Aviator and the Little Prince with the story of a little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy), whose mother (Rachel McAdams) wants to make sure she's prepared for the grown-up world, and her eccentric older neighbor (Jeff Bridges), who introduces her to the world of the the Little Prince (Paul Rudd). This book-based movie looks like fun for the whole family, if a bit less serious than the book.

Nine Lives

Premiere: August 5
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz? From the director of Men in Black comes this unusual family comedy. Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is a billionaire workaholic. He has it all — an empire he built from scratch — but forgets to make time for his family. On the day of his daughter's 11th birthday, Tom visits a mysterious pet store and gets a cat. After an accident, he wakes up somehow trapped in the body of "Mr. Fuzzy Pants." Now, as his daughter's pet cat, Tom must figure out what he has to do before can go back to being a man. Tom/Mr. Fuzzy Pants' family includes Jennifer Garner as his wife. There should be plenty of family and pet humor geared toward kids and tweens.

Suicide Squad

Premiere: August 5
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? Suicide Squad is based on DC Comics' supervillain team of the same name. It features an ensemble cast including Jai Courtney, Ben Affleck, Joel Kinnaman, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and many more. The plot centers on Amanda Waller's (Viola Davis) secret government agency A.R.G.U.S. The agency recruits imprisoned supervillains such as Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the Joker (Jared Leto) and Deadshot (Will Smith) to execute dangerous missions in exchange for shorter prison sentences. Expect plenty of action, violence and dark material as these criminals work for the good guys — or die trying. It's an edgy adventure likely suited for mature viewers.

Pete's Dragon

Premiere: August 12
Target age: Young kids and tweens
What's the buzz? Disney's remake of the classic 1977 live-action/animated movie looks to be a fantasy story for all ages. Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has told children tales of a boy and his dragon for years. But his daughter, Grace, a forest ranger, never believed him. Then she meets Pete, a 10-year-old orphan who claims he lives in the woods with his pet dragon, Elliot. Elliot sounds eerily similar to the dragon in her dad's stories. With the help of 11-year-old Natalie, Grace sets out to find out the truth behind Pete, his supposed dragon, and her father's stories. Given the source material, this is an all-ages pick for families.

Ben-Hur

Premiere: August 19
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? The story of Judah Ben-Hur returns to the big screen, this time starring Jack Huston. Ben-Hur is a noble Jewish prince in Roman-occupied Jerusalem. He's wrongly accused by his adoptive brother, Messala (Toby Kebbel), of treason. Sentenced to a life of slavery, Ben-Hur survives and trains as a charioteer under the guidance of Sheikh Ilderim (Morgan Freeman). Ben-Hur attempts to earn his revenge by challenging his brother in a grand chariot race. Meanwhile, he's personally changed by encounters with Jesus of Nazareth (Rodrigo Santoro). As in Gladiator or the first Ben-Hur, you can expect a lot of action, violence and cruelty, as well as a little bit of romance.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Premiere: August 19
Target age: Tweens
What's the buzz? This fantasy set in ancient Japan is from LAIKA Animation, the studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. Young Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) lives in a small village with his mother. Everything changes when a spirit stirs up an age-old grudge that causes supernatural spirits to chase Kubo. His mother uses magic to save him and tells him to find a missing piece of armor that used to belong to his father. On his quest, Kubo teams up with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and other characters. LAIKA films tend to be darker and more mature than most animated movies and therefore better suited for tweens and up.

The Space Between Us

Premiere: August 19
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? An interspace romance, this futuristic sci-fi love story chronicles how Gardner (Asa Butterfield), a 16-year-old boy born and raised in the first human colony on Mars, decides to journey to Earth for the first time to meet a girl (Britt Robertson) he has a crush on and communicates with online. When he makes it to Earth, he not only sees it from an "alien's" perspective, but he finally meets his girl. From there, they endeavor to find Gardner's mysterious father, whom he has never met.

Hands of Stone

Premiere: August 26
Target age: Older teens
What's the buzz? This boxing biopic stars Edgar Ramirez (Joy) as Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran. Duran grew up in a district called "The House of Stone." The movie follows his entire life, from his early years in the slums of Panama to his fierce rivalry with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). Robert De Niro co-stars as Duran's trainer, Ray Arcel and John Turturro plays Mob boss and boxing promoter Frankie Carbo. Since teens are unlikely to know about long-retired Duran, they're more likely to be interested in the movie because of its cast.

Max Steel

Premiere: August 26
Target age: Tweens
What's the buzz? Based on a cartoon series and a Mattel action figure, Max Steel is an origin story about how a 16-year-old boy named Max and a "techno-organic" alien named Steel symbiotically join to form one being with superhuman strength. Apart, neither can survive, but together they can defeat the threat chasing them. Confusing? Slightly. But expect tweens and young teens familiar with the animated series to be interested in this family-friendly sci-fi thriller.

Southside With You

Premiere: August 26
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? This romantic drama is about the first date of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Back in 1989, Obama (Parker Sawyers) was a summer intern at a Chicago law firm where Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) was already a young lawyer. The lawyers weren't supposed to date their summer associates, but Barack asks Michelle out. They have a lovely first date on Chicago's South Side — going to an art museum, seeing Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and sharing their first kiss. With its positive festival reviews, this indie drama should appeal to young fans of the president who'd enjoy seeing him fictionalized as a lovestruck 20-something.

Originally published by Common Sense Media, written by Sandie Angulo Chen

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