Ten movies you should see this summer

It seems like the beach has some tough competition this summer with some of the best films of the year scheduled to hit air-conditioned movie theatres.
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As summer heats up and movie theatres face arduous competition from sandy beaches, cinema screens will be filled with some of the year’s most anticipated film releases for the willing, avid air-conditioned blockbuster season aficionados. Whether it is getting dizzy at 48 fps with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey or teary-eyed with Anne Hathaway’s starved Fantine in Les Misérables, this season has something to cater for everyone.

With an impending awards season hitting the Northern Hemisphere, this is also that time of year when the big guns have to fight the battle for the industry’s most coveted accolade – the Academy Award. Nominations are out on January 10 and winners will be revealed on February 24. Summer releases getting early Oscar buzz this year include Spielberg’s latest offering Lincoln, Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock, Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet, and Ben Affleck’s Argo, among many others.

However, summer is not only about Oscar hopefuls. Taking the box office by storm – no matter what it takes – is more likely. From an unbelievable North Korean takeover of the USA in Red Dawn (starring Home and Away’s Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas) to the ghastly predictable story of a biology teacher who becomes a mixed-martial arts fighter to save his school in Frank Coraci’s Here Comes the Boom, some of the flicks on offer won’t quite beat a trip to the beach.

What to see? Here are our top flicks for this summer season:

Django Unchained

before Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated homage to spaghetti
westerns hit screens there is more than enough controversy surrounding
the film, a revenge tale about a former slave turned bounty hunter,
Django, who is on a mission to set his wife free from slavery. The
recent and tragic Connecticut massacre forced producers to cancel Django Unchained’s
Los Angeles premiere, while Tarantino found himself having to defend
his ultra-violent art yet again. ‘I just think you know there’s violence
in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers. It’s a western.
Give me a break,’ said the director in New York.

aside, Australians surely will have something to look forward to as
Tarantino himself reportedly appears as an Aussie miner in the film
alongside John Jarratt (Wolf Creek, McLeod’s Daughters).
‘Initially I wanted it to be a cool little collection of all of those
cool Aussie guys from the ’70s like John Jarratt and Steve Bisley. I
thought that would be really cool.’ he said. ‘The Aussies were actually
indentured servants themselves.’

LeQuint Dickey Mining Company paid for their passage from Australia to
here (US) and they had to work for three to four years to pay them back
for them to be free. Django prods the guy and finds that out and says
“Shit, peckerwood, you a slave too. They just bought you for a boat
ride. At least they didn’t charge us for the boat ride”.’

Tarantino will travel to Australia for the premiere of Django Unchained in Sydney on January 21.

West of Memphis

Amy Berg’s powerful documentary on the notorious West Memphis Three murder case and consequent battle for justice might be hard hitting and a tough watch for some, but it is definitely one of the must-see films this summer. Produced by Peter Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh, who describe the case as ‘one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in American history’, West of Memphis is a chilling true story that will break hearts and inspire in equal measure.


Provocateur Michael Haneke won the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year for his latest masterpiece about a couple of retired music teachers who have their love tested by age and illness. Featuring truly committed performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert, Amour is a remarkable film that is not afraid to ask the big questions about the meaning of love and its delusions.

Anna Karenina

Incurable romantics should run to theatres to catch Joe Wright’s expressionistic reinterpretation of one of most highly acclaimed works of Russian literature. Although it has been adapted to film for more than 20 times, Tolstoy’s classic novel gets entirely ripped of its descriptive realism in this latest version. Wright opts to set his love epic on a decaying Russian theatre making his film a conversation between the arts and placing theatre somewhere between literature and cinema. Anna Karenina also features some of the flashiest production design you’ll see on screen this summer, while some also say Keira Knightley’s myriad of sublime costumes mashing up the 1950s with the 1870s is worth the price of the ticket alone.

Life of Pi

For anyone looking to take the kids to the cinema during school holidays, Life of Pi is by far the best family movie on offer. Ang Lee’s spectacular incursion in the world of 3D stands out for not being a cheap exploit of the technology, but for making exceptional use of it instead. Based on the homonymous novel by French-Canadian author Yann Martel, this tale of a young man’s incredible survival at sea against almost impossible odds raises big issues and a remarkable breakthrough debut performance by actor Suraj Sharma.


If the scorching summer heat gets a bit much and life in general starts feeling a bit overwhelming, hiding at a movie theatre for the 102-minute ‘non-verbal guided meditation session’ that is Samsara might just save you. The team behind Baraka and Chronos return to shine light on the links between humanity, nature and how our life cycle mirrors that of the planet we’re living in. Shot entirely in stunning 70mm across 25 countries in five continents, Samsara is a spiritual journey through life, death and rebirth. For those who are stuck with no holidays this summer, it can also prove to be quite an adventurous and immersive expedition around the globe with no airline tickets and accommodation required and exclusive access to places Lonely Planet wouldn’t dream of recommending in their guides.

Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to the Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker is one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year and its own tagline describes it best as a film about ‘the greatest manhunt in history’. While US senators get busy writing letters of complaint to Sony Pictures claiming the film distorts the truth about the operation that found and killed Bin Laden and some government officials accuse Bigelow of having access to classified information, Zero Dark Thirty has been collecting a myriad of awards (21 so far, at the time of writing), and it hasn’t even opened in cinemas yet. While accuracy can be contested, it is clear Hollywood’s most powerful woman in film is in top form and actress Jessica Chastain’s performance has been described by critics as her best yet. Chastain is joined by Aussie actor Jason Clarke, and brothers Joel and Nash Edgerton, who play Navy Seals in what is being hailed as the definite film about 9/11. Zero Dark Thirty is one of the strongest contenders at the Academy Awards this year.


Out of the summer releases, No will most likely be one of the underdogs, but it’s an intelligent political thriller that deserves to be seen. Pablo Larraín’s film about Chile’s historical 1988 plebiscite stars heartthrob Gael García Bernal as a cutting-edge ad executive hired to head the campaign against military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was forced to call a referendum after being pressured by the international community. Aside from being Chile’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film this year, when No screened outdoors at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this year, strong rain poured over the audience but hardly any people left. For 1980s’ lovers, the film is also a treat from the truly faithful cinematography to the soundtrack and production design.

Silver Linings Playbook

For those looking for the perfect date movie this summer, you can’t go wrong with Silver Linings Playbook – even if it’s just to watch what our very own Jacki Weaver has been up to in the land of the plenty. David O Russell’s latest deranged indie romance stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro and it has pleased crowds at every festival it has travelled through. Adapted from Matthew Quick’s homonymous novel, Silver Linings Playbook is the ultimate feel-good flick on show this summer with its bizarre mix of mental health issues, American football and ballroom dancing.


For those looking for controversy this summer, Craig Zobel’s sophomore effort Compliance delivers it in high doses. When it premiered at Sundance earlier this year it was met with walkouts and screaming matches during a Q&A session. Based on true events, the film is set in a fast food restaurant and focuses on a strip search prank call scam, to reveal more would be a disservice. This chilling psychodrama investigates how we respond to authority and it is not for the faint of heart. There is also Oscar buzz for actress Ann Dowd, who just won the National Board of Review’s Award for Best Supporting Actress for her take as the fast food restaurant’s manager. Squirms are guaranteed…

Leo Ribeiro
About the Author
Leo Ribeiro is an ArtsHub writer.