The last time a movie free of any and all franchise trappings topped the summer box office was 2003. Little did anyone know then, "Finding Nemo" would be the last title not based on a pre-existing property to swim its way ahead of the Hollywood glut. Ever since, the terrain that once belonged to "Jaws," "E.T.," "Ghostbusters" and "Forrest Gump" has been monopolized by sequels and rebooted pirates, superheroes, dinosaurs and Jedis.
Can an original movie dominate this year's summer lineup for the first time in 15 years? Not if "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" (June 22) has anything to say about it. Or "Deadpool 2" (May 18). Or "Mission: Impossible 27 ― Because Why Not?" (July 27). Or "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" (July 13). (Just kidding about that one. I think?)
As if often the case at the multiplex these days, the non-franchise offerings opening over the next four months put the more garish blockbusters to shame ― which, of course, isn't to say there's no promising big-budget fare. But keep a watchful eye on "Under the Silver Lake," "Sorry to Bother You," "Eighth Grade," "Hereditary," "The Little Stranger" and "Crazy Rich Asians," all of which could be massive sleeper hits.
Whatever flavor you prefer for your summer entertainment, here's a variety of options, assembled according to sensibilities. (All release dates are subject to change.)