In Hollywood, summer means blockbuster season. Out go the thoughtful, meaty Oscar contenders and in come the entertaining, mindless spectacles known as ‘popcorn’ flicks. That means plenty of sequels, remakes and adaptations, lots of explosions and impressive CGI and, of course, a healthy dose of sex appeal.
This summer, alone, has already served up additions to the X-Men and Captain America canons, while audiences still await another Star Trek offering, a Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart buddy cop romp, the revisiting of the Independence Day and Bourne franchises, and a Ghostbusters remake, just to name a few. As for titillating fare to heat up the big screen, well, Hollywood certainly has that covered as well. Of course, creating a steamy, sultry product for movie-goers means casting with both sex appeal and that certain, undeniable ‘it’ factor in mind.
The 2016 summer movie slate is ripe with scene-stealing femme fatales that aren’t content to sit idly by in a supporting role. Just as 2015 had Charlize Theron kicking some serious ass in Mad Max: Fury Road, 2016 brings a group of leading ladies that can more than hold their own. And yes, we are certainly talking about more than just the intriguing female-driven Ghostbusters foursome of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Here are 15 of Hollywood’s hottest who will be making film-goers sit up and take notice this summer.
15. Megan Fox
Megan Fox is used to facing pretty stiff competition in the attention-getting department when it comes to her costars. After turning the focus away from some massive robot castmates during the first two films of the Transformers franchise, she has returned to the big screen for her second go-’round alongside the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As April O’Neill in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Fox and co-star Stephen Amell might not chew scenery like their shelled colleagues but good-looking butt-kickers do tend to have a way to stand out.
14. Alicia Vikander
In just a few short years, the rest of the world has learned what Sweden already knew about the fiercely compelling presence that is Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. The 27-year-old possesses this haunting aura that makes her both alluring and unsettling, all at once. That quality helped her steal the spotlight as Ava, the complex humanoid robot, in the 2015 British sci-fi thriller Ex Machina. Now, Vikander will measure up against Matt Damon as the female lead as the Hollywood A-lister returns for the latest installment of the Bourne franchise. Vikander, who has already been tabbed as the next Lara Croft, is expected to have an action-heavy role.
13. Emilia Clarke
Not every actress on this list needs a shoot-em-up, action-packed thriller to cause audiences to sit up and take notice. Best known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke can be found this summer in a very different adaptation of a best-selling book, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. The weepy romantic drama sees Clarke, as Louisa Clark, take a job as the caretaker for disabled motorcycle victim Will Traynor, played by Sam Claflin of “Hunger Games” fame. Having already been nominated for two Emmy’s as Daenerys, Clarke now gets to put her acting chops to the test in a very different role.
12. Jane Levy
Speaking of actresses leaping from the small screen to the big screen, Jane Levy might be ready for her big break after spending a three-year run starring on the ABC sitcom, Suburgatory. Levy, who played Tessa Altman on the now-cancelled series, now looks to follow the well-worn path of little-known actress breaking through in a horror role by starring in Don’t Breathe. With her role in the film about three teens getting more than they bargain for when they break into the home of a blind man, Levy could be on her way to – pardon the pun – opening some eyes in Hollywood.
11. Kristen Stewart
Feel however you will about the divisive Kristen Stewart, but the young actress has already established a proven track record for thriving in a diverse assortment of very different roles. She rose to stardom as Bella Swan in the blockbuster Twilight series, held her own alongside heavyweights Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth in Snow White and the Huntsman and flexed some indie cred with roles in films like Adventureland and Clouds of Sils Maria. Now, she gets to enjoy something of a rite of passage for a young Hollywood actor: being part of an ensemble cast in a Woody Allen movie. She shares the screen with the likes of Steve Carell and Jesse Eisenberg in Cafe Society.
10. Jennifer Lawrence
From Stewart, we move onto another actress who, in her mid-twenties, is already a Hollywood powerhouse. The latest cash cow that Jennifer Lawrence is attached to X-Men: Apocalypse, was released in late May and is already well on its way to surpassing $300 million in box office receipts. As Mystique, she has quickly rose from supporting player to the focal point of the film over her three entries in the X-Men entries, owing at least partially to her ascendance as one of the premier A-listers on the big screen. Lawrence will next be seen alongside Chris Pratt in a sci-fi fantasy called Passengers that you can already envision making boatloads of money.
9. Sofia Boutella
The cast of the Star Trek franchise reboot is filled with actors who were already on the cusp of superstardom before the Enterprise helped them take that extra step. Now, Sofia Boutella remains more of an unknown than any of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana or Simon Pegg were upon the release of the first rebooted film in 2009. However, the Algerian star of The Kingsmen and world class dancer could make a name for herself in a hurry as Jaylah in Star Trek: Beyond. Judging by the trailers, the alien good gal is fearless and unwilling to stand down to her new allies, even going so far as to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair.
8. Kate Beckinsale
You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but the English star of the Underworld film franchise is now 42 years of age. Unfortunately, in the world of Hollywood actresses, that usually means it’s time to be put out to pasture, limited to motherly roles or Jane Austen films. In Love & Friendship, an adaptation of Austen’s Lady Susan, Beckinsale manages to cover both. However, while she does play mother to twenty-something actress Morfydd Clark, her role as Lady Susan Vernon is hardly that of an old gray mare. As Lady Susan, Beckinsale plays a flirtatious and seductive character looking to (re)marry rich.
7. Dakota Johnson
You wouldn’t know it from her sweet, girl-next-door demeanor, but Dakota Johnson has quickly gained a reputation for starring in some undeniably sexy films. The daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith first gained fame and notoriety for taking on the role of Anastasia Steele in the steamy film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, she’s set to add to the sizzle of A Bigger Splash, an erotic thriller featuring Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes set against the scenic Mediterranean countryside. Say this for Johnson, who is currently on set filming the Fifty Shades sequel: she isn’t shy.
6. Anna Kendrick & Aubrey Plaza
Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, the respective stars of Pitch Perfect and Parks & Recreation, get to flash their bad girl cards as the manipulative dates of party boys Adam Devine and Zac Efron in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. When the titular duo of Devine’s Mike and Efron’s Dave advertise their need for dates to their sister’s Hawaiian wedding on television, Kendrick’s Alice and Plaza’s Tatiana try to play the sweet and innocent role in order to be chosen. Once the four get to Hawaii, though, all bets are off.
5. Ana De Armas
Cuban beauty Ana De Armas might be a fresh face to American movie-goers, but she has spent the past decade making a name for herself on Spanish TV and movies. Now, Hollywood gets to see what all the fuss is about with her role in the hotly anticipated war-crime comedy War Dogs. As Iz, she stars as the tough-as-nails girlfriend of Miles Teller’s arms dealer David Packouz. With both Jonah Hill and producer Bradley Cooper in the cast, getting noticed will prove challenging, but De Armas, a possible breakthrough star, could be ready to prove she’s up to it.
4. Teresa Palmer
Aussie actress Teresa Palmer might seem like a new name and fresh face on the scene, but she actually has more than 20 acting credits under her belt. Unfortunately for Palmer, roles in less than well-received films like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I Am Number Four, Warm Bodies and the 2015 remake of Point Break haven’t done much to put her on the radar. Her upcoming starring role in the supernatural horror film Lights Out might change that. Playing a woman stalked by a supernatural entity that can only be seen in the dark, Palmer might just have a juicy enough role to get widely noticed.
3. Mila Kunis
Among young Hollywood elite, Jennifer Lawrence has some competition for the moniker of “America’s Sweetheart” from former That 70’s Show actress Mila Kunis. Even though the chosen roles of the 32-year-old have veered more towards dark (Black Swan) and sophomoric humor (Ted, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), she has continuously charmed audiences with sweet, funny and tender performances while remaining personable. But after letting costars like Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake and, well, a teddy bear have most of the fun, Kunis is set to have some laughs of her own as one of the titular Bad Moms alongside Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn.
2. Blake Lively
Blake Lively has reached that rarefied air in Hollywood where a project will gain importance and significance simply by her involvement in it. A film about a woman trapped on a rock bed amidst shallow but shark-infested waters seems like a shlocky, B-movie premise. Enter Lively, however, and The Shallows suddenly becomes one of the most intriguing offerings of the summer. Although hardly your standard summer on the beach fare, this survival horror movie promises to challenge Lively’s acting range, although some viewers will just be content with two hours of Lively in a bikini.
1. Margot Robbie
In case you haven’t heard, there’s this little movie called Suicide Squad coming this August. Even by summer blockbuster standards, the hype for the DC Comics anti-superhero film has been off the charts. And aside from maybe Jared Leto‘s take on the Joker, no character is more hotly anticipated than Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn. To be sure, this isn’t going to be the seductive, blonde bombshell Robbie you saw in Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short. But that version of Robbie might be found in The Legend of Tarzan, which also comes out later this summer.