2016 is rushing swiftly upon us, so to kickstart celebrations, here’s a heads-up on 18 of the most exciting female-centric/women-directed films to watch out for in the coming months. Do note that this list is by no means exhaustive. There’s plenty more to look forward to in 2016 — these are just some of the highlights. For comprehensive coverage on upcoming films starring, directed by and written by women, check out our monthly previews, sign up for the weekly update and refer to the Films By and About Women page.
Jane Got a Gun – January 29
Natalie Portman stars in 2016’s most anticipated action-drama Western as determined gun-slinger Jane Hammond. Forced to call upon an ex-lover (Joel Edgerton) in a desperate attempt to protect her outlaw husband (Noah Emmerich) and daughter from the vicious, Bishop Boys gang, Jane must navigate the merciless, male-dominated Western landscape in order to survive.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – February 5
In “Hello, My Name is Doris,” Sally Field stars as Doris, an eccentric middle-aged hoarder from Staten Island, who makes friends and falls in love with her new young colleague, John (Max Greenfield). They become friends, and he introduces her to the hipster crowd in Williamsburg, where her original style immediately makes her popular. “You’re from Staten Island? How ‘first mover!'” one of his friends shrieks. “Hello, My Name Is Doris” tackles ageism — an issue Sally Field also brought up in brought up in the press at the SXSW premiere: “They don’t write roles for women… and they certainly don’t write roles for women of age and women of color,” said Field, who hasn’t had a leading role in 20 years. We’re glad she’s back.
The Bronze – Co-Written by Melissa Rauch – March 18
Melissa Rauch stars in the R-rated comedy as Hope Greggory — a former Olympic gymnast with only a bronze medal to her name. When a promising new athlete (Haley Lu Richardson) appears on the scene, Hope’s celebrity status in her small town is threatened. Then, when asked to train “the new girl,” jealousy subsequently ensues. “There are a lot of male anti-heroes, and that’s not always the case with women,” Rauch explained regarding her decision to create the character of unapologetically green-eyed Greggory. “People still aren’t okay with women talking this way.” This is certainly something that the comedienne sets out to change in this fun, foul-mouthed film.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – Written by Nia Vardalos – March 25
The bold Portokalos family are back for another spin on the wedding movie. Nia Vardalos returns as both writer and lead protagonist after more than a decade since we first met Toula and her boisterous Greek family. While Vardalos co-stars alongside some other familiar faces (Lainie Kazan as Maria Portokalos and John Corbett as Ian), what is most exciting about film Number 2 is the its introduction of Toula’s now-teenage daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), who feels as frustrated with her intrusively traditional Greek family as her mother did. In addition to some lighthearted laughter, we can also hopefully look forward to the exploration of a mother-daughter relationship.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – April 22
While Snow White is off making some really awesome indiess (all hail Kristen Stewart, the new indie queen), there’s a new fairy tale in town — and this time, there are three leading female characters to rival the Huntsman. Theron is back in all her golden glory as the ageless Ravenna, except this time, she’s getting ready to rule the land with her ice-wielding sister, Freya (played by Emily Blunt). As if that wasn’t enough to get you excited for the new year, Jessica Chastain co-stars too, as brazen-haired beaut Sara — aka “The Warrior.” The trailer shows an effortlessly cool Emily Blunt crafting her icy empire: “Men have forgotten what it means to be afraid,” she says. “We will show them fear.” Go get ’em, girl.
Maggie’s Plan – Written and Directed by Rebecca Miller – May 20
Rebecca Miller’s fifth feature is a twisted rom com starring an ever-charming Greta Gerwig as Maggie, who has her mind firmly set on having a baby on her own. Then she falls in love with her university colleague and writer John (Ethan Hawke), who unfortunately is already married to pretentious academic Georgette (Julianne Moore with a questionable Danish accent). Everybody is delightfully self-involved, and nobody sticks to the plan in this talky New Yorker love-triangle comedy full of bite and surprising turns.
A lot has happened with Mia Wasikowska’s career since she starred in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” in 2010. “Jane Eyre,” “Stoker,” “Maps to the Stars” and most recently “Crimson Peak” are among the highlights. In “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” she will reprise her role as the wide-eyed Alice, who must battle Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the entire Wonderland. The sequel has an impressive cast, including Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Andrew Scott, Michael Sheen and Toby Jones. Linda Woolverton (“Maleficent”) returns as screenwriter.
Finding Dory – June 17
It’s been 12 years since Nemo, Marlin and Dory swam into our hearts, and we’ve missed them. Now Ellen DeGeneres’ fast-mouthed, friendly and forgetful blue tang fish will blessedly embark on her own adventure, where she, according to Pixar’s description, “learns a few things about the true meaning of family.” We’re enjoying Pixar’s move to feature more female protagonists, as in the great “Brave” and especially “Inside Out.” “Finding Dory” will also feature the voices of Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy and Ty Burrell.
Ghostbusters – Co-Written by Katie Dipplod – July 15
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Feminist Ghostbusters! Armed with proton packs and ready to rock, Ghostbusters Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian (Kate McKinnon) and Patty (Leslie Jones) will show the all-male Ghostbusters group from the last century how it’s done. We’ve been waiting with almost unbearable anticipation for Paul Feig’s feminist revivification of the Ghostbusters franchise — and it’s about time women were represented as more than just the sidelined eye candy. Move over, Murray. It’s our turn to take out the Marshmallow Man.
Bridget Jones will no longer be all by herself. In the third installment about the beloved singleton, she’ll unexpectedly find herself pregnant. It’s not yet clear if the father is Mark Darcy, again portrayed by Colin Firth, or the unnamed character played by Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey. With her clumsy, awkward and self-exposing charms, Bridget Jones — come to life through Renée Zellweger’s lovely performance — was an icon to many women in the early 2000s, lovable for her imperfections. It will be interesting to see how Bridget has aged. The film is based on some of Helen Fielding’s columns prior to her latest novel, “Mad about the Boy.” Sharon Maguire is back in the directing chair for Round 3, and Emma Thompson has worked on the script, which automatically boosts our expectations.
Next year’s “Gone Girl”? We have the ingredients: A smart thriller written by a woman about a dark female character played by an excellent actress. The always excellent Emily Blunt will play the alcoholic Rachel, a woman devastated by her recent divorce who becomes involved in a murder mystery. Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney, Luke Evans and Lisa Kudrow also star.
No Release Dates Yet:
Queen of Katwe – Directed by Mira Nair
In this upcoming biopic set in Uganda, Lupita Nyong’o plays the mother of a female star chess prodigy Harriet Mutesi and David Oyelowo plays the girl’s coach. Directed by Indian-born filmmaker Mira Nair, the film will document Mutesi’s journey in becoming a Woman Candidate Master after unparalleled performances at the World Chess Olympics. Developed by Disney, the film appears to be a profound, female-centric project that will celebrate the talents of a woman whose people and country are so often absent from cinematic narratives.
Since “Bend It Like Beckham,” Gurinder Chadha has explored the tension between British and Indian cultures. She takes a dramatic turn with “Viceroy’s House,” an upstairs-downstairs drama set in 1947 New Delhi in the home of the last British ruler of India, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville, echoing his role as a patriarch dealing with change in “Downton Abbey”). He’s charged with giving India back to its people — including the 500 servants living downstairs. Gillian Anderson co-stars, and Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi are among the South Asian cast.
After “Belle,” we couldn’t be more excited for another historical interracial romance from Amma Assante. Based on true events, “A United Kingdom” stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike as a couple whose love inspires hate. Their marriage — between an African prince and a white Englishwoman — causes not only scandal, but international outrage. A gripping love story, a dramatic scandal and relevant political and racial issues will make for a great mix.
Beat-up Little Seagull – Co-Written by Darci Picoult
Michelle Pfeiffer stars in this upcoming independent film about a conflicted woman whose life changes irrevocably after the death of her mother. “Beat-up Little Seagull” will demonstrate a survivalist spirit by following a broken woman determined to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.
With the masterly “Red Road,” “Fish Tank” and “Wuthering Heights” among her credits, it’s impossible not to be excited for Andrea Arnold’s next feature. “American Honey” is the British director’s first film in the U.S., and it will take on the all-American road-movie genre, following a teenage girl working as a travel-magazine salesgirl who parties hard on the way. As we’ve seen in “Wuthering Heights” and especially “Fish Tank,” Arnold has a rare eye for capturing the emotions of teenage girls — and in the case of “Fish Tank,” the filmmaker struck gold by hiring a brilliant inexperienced actress. We’re excited to see her new lead, 19-year-old Sasha Lane, who’ll also be making her debut.
During World War II, Antonina Żabińska (Jessica Chastain) and her husband (Daniel Brühl) saved the lives of 300 Jews who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto by sheltering them in their zoo. Niki Caro’s film is based on the 2007 nonfiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman, which itself is based on Żabińska’s diary. Caro is one of the only seven women who directed a film in the top films of 2015 (she helmed the sports drama “McFarland, USA.”) We hope “The Zookeper’s Wife” is equally successful.