Ah, the first Monday of the year, when your alarm sounds more obnoxious than it ever has before, and you wake and brush the last of the sleep and celebration from your eyes only to see 2016 bearing down on you like a big lumbering CGI kraken. Well, never fear because as soon as your well of post-holidays water-cooler chit-chat has run dry, and assuming you’ve already pored through our practically infinite Best of 2015 coverage, there’s the first part of the Playlist’s massive 100 Most Anticipated Movies of the Year to sift through.
We’re pretty sure you’re going to have much warmer and fuzzier feelings toward 2016 at the end of it, so let’s jump right in.
100. "Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiars"
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson
Synopsis: A boy follows clues his late grandfather left him to a mysterious orphanage that spans space and time, full of children with special powers.
What You Need To Know: Tim Burton tried to step slightly away from his comfort zone with the relatively un-zany “Big Eyes,” but the film proved not much more successful than the director’s last few, and didn’t really crack the awards race either. As such, he’s back on more familiar territory with this fantasy pic, based on a (very enjoyable) YA best-seller by Ransom Riggs. It sounds on paper like it could be something close to a ‘What If Tim Burton Made A 1940s X-Men?’ YouTube video, but the cast is terrific (with a rare leading role for the great Eva dmiGreen, and Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Terence Stamp and “Mr. Holmes”’ breakout Milo Parker also featuring) and pleasingly different from the director’s usual rep company, and we’re always rooting for a Burton comeback, even if it seems less and less likely with each passing movie.
Release Date: Currently set for December 25th, but we imagine Fox will be moving it up to fill the October slot that “Gambit” looks like it won’t make.
99. “Independence Day: Resurgence”
Director: Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “2012”)
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher
Synopsis: Twenty years after surviving an alien attack, humanity has rebuilt and improved with captured technology. But the old enemy are back, and pose a far greater threat now.
What You Need To Know: This two-decades-on sequel to the mid-’90s blockbuster smash is hoping to capture into the same ‘legacyquel’ nostalgia love that “Jurassic World” and ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens” so profitably tapped in 2015. Like those films, we see older versions of original cast members, with Jeff Goldblum’s scientist and Bill Pullman’s ex-president returning (Will Smith seemingly seemed too pricy, though for some reason Judd Hirsch’s character is back), while a new generation of characters are introduced too. However, unlike those aforementioned films, the original helmer is still in charge, with destruction maestro Roland Emmerich helming. The teaser trailer suggested something dark and brooding, but was rather lacking in the iconic money shots of the first. Can it recapture the fist-pumping, dim-witted pleasures of the original?
Release Date: June 24th
Director: Duncan Jones (“Moon,” “Source Code”)
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster
Synopsis: The kingdom of Azeroth prepares for war as the orcs, fleeing their own homeland, attempt to colonize it, but a human warrior and an orc hope to forge an alliance that will avoid conflict.
What You Need To Know: Let’s be honest here: The trailer for Duncan Jones’ adaptation of the video game phenomenon “Warcraft” looks like a hot mess—like a kitchen after a house party that’s also on fire. But we’re not abandoning hope just yet. For one, the idea of a fantasy epic told from both sides of the conflict is an interesting twist on the genre, reminiscent of the recent “Planet Of The Apes” franchise reboot. And it’s worth remembering that the early trailers for the first of those movies looked pretty dire, only for the movie to come along and surprise everyone. And this new movie is directed by Duncan Jones, who had one of the more striking directorial debuts in recent memory with “Moon,” and followed it up with the very entertaining “Source Code.” So yeah, it looks gaudy and CGI-stacked, but let’s not dismiss it until we’ve seen a little more.
Release Date: June 10th, the same weekend as “Jurassic World” opened last year, suggesting that Universal has some confidence in the film.
Director: Oliver Stone (“Platoon,” “JFK”)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage
Synopsis: The story of the CIA and NSA technologist who leaked government secrets to the press, and was forced into exile in Russia.
What You Need To Know: The current Oscar season got a little lighter when Oliver Stone’s biopic of the controversial Edward Snowden — to some, a traitor, to others, a hero — was moved to 2016. Buying a little more time from the release of Oscar-winning documentary “Citizenfour,” the move might have been wise, but it means we’re still hanging on to see what the always-divisive Stone can do with this particular subject matter. Frankly, it’s a good two decades since the helmer turned out something especially worthwhile, but there’s always something interesting at play, and it should provide Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a role he can get his teeth into (the cast also includes Melissa Leo as “Citizenfour” director Laura Poitras, and, in a now-rare major movie, Nicolas Cage).
Release Date: May 13th
96. “A United Kingdom”
Director: Amma Asante (“Belle”)
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, James Northcote
Synopsis: The story of Botswanan Prince Seretse Khama, and his white, British wife Ruth Williams, whose interracial marriage in the 1940s proved controversial, but eventually saw Seretse elected the country’s first president.
What You Need To Know: It was a modest sleeper hit, but we’d argue “Belle” deserved a little more: a beautifully made and acted costume drama with much more on its mind that many films in its genre, not least a complex and nuanced take on racial and gender identity. Two years on, director Amma Asante is back for material that seems right in her wheelhouse, with a screen adaptation of an extraordinary true story. The story of Prince Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams is a rousing one that was very much ahead of their time, and Asante has an excellent pair of stars coming off recent successes — David Oyelowo, fresh from “Selma,” and Rosamund Pike, an Oscar nominee for “Gone Girl.” With a mix of romance and politics, this could well impact awards season in a way that “Belle” never quite did.
Release Date: Unclear for now, but we imagine it’ll be at one of the fall festivals.
95. “True Crimes”
Director: Alexandros Avranas (“Miss Violence”)
Cast: Jim Carrey, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marton Csokas, Vlad Ivanov, Agata Kulesza
Synopsis: A police detective solving a murder finds eerie similarities between his case and a book by a novelist and intellectual.
What You Need To Know: The phrases ‘Jim Carrey’ and ‘murder’ in close conjunction bring horrifying flashbacks to “The Number 23,” but there’s reason to think that “True Crimes” could be something much more interesting. Based on David Grann’s New Yorker article from 2008, adapted by “The Last King Of Scotland” scribe Jeremy Brock, and a one-time Roman Polanski project, this true story ended up before cameras in the hands of Alexandros Avranas, a Greek New Waver whose “Miss Violence” showed enormous promise a few years back. As for Carrey, he’s an unexpected choice for a role like this, but one that could prove the start of a McConaughey-style comeback for the comic star, and the presence of people like Gainsbourg and “Ida” star Kulesza bodes well too. A potential dark horse, we reckon.
Release Date: Unclear, but fall festivals are likely.
94. “Zoolander 2”
Director: Ben Stiller ("Zoolander," "Tropic Thunder," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty")
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Penélope Cruz
Synopsis: When celebrities begin to be killed all over the world, model Derek Zoolander is brought out of retirement, with his old friend Hansel, to solve the case.
What You Need To Know: Released just days after 9/11, the original “Zoolander” was only a middling success in theaters, but became a staple on DVD and on cable — so now, over 14 years on, a sequel arrives. This kind of late-in-the-day comedy sequel has a rocky track record (“Anchorman 2” was a big hit, but was undeniably disappointing creatively in comparison to its predecessor), but here, Stiller certainly looks to have recaptured the ingredients that made the first so popular. Stiller, Wilson, Christine Taylor and Will Ferrell (as villain Mugatu) are back, while Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Beck Bennett, Kim Kardashian (!) and Kanye West (!!!) join the cast, along with a host of cameos, including that already controversial Benedict Cumberbatch appearance. If we can get anywhere near the original’s mix of fashion-world satire and deep silliness, we’ll be pleased.
Release Date: February 12th
93. “Trespass Against Us”
Director: Adam Smith
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Killian Scott
Synopsis: Three generations of the rowdy Irish Cutler family come into conflict when the law catches up to them.
What You Need To Know: Featuring a terrific Irish/U.K. cast, shot in Ireland and marking the feature debut of director Smith, who was behind three of the best Matt Smith “Doctor Who” episodes and six of the BBC’s “Little Dorrit”: If there was one other element that could get us even more excited for this one, it would be the film’s Chemical Brothers soundtrack (Smith directed their video for “Don’t Think”). Mostly, we’re looking forward to the mouthwatering prospect of Fassbender facing off against the great Gleeson, supported by a cast full of up-and-coming talent who you’ll be catching elsewhere (Harris had a good year with “Macbeth” and “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” Scott was in “71” with him; Kinnear you may recognize from “The Imitation Game,” "Spectre" and “Penny Dreadful”), here in their natural element.
Release Date: Not at Sundance or Berlin, but don’t worry too much: A24 picked this up ages back, so we’ll definitely be seeing it eventually.
92. “The Zookeeper’s Wife”
Director: Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “North Country”)
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl, Michael McElhatton, Iddo Goldberg
Synopsis: The true story of Antonina and Jan Żabińska, who ran the Warsaw Zoo during the war, and sheltered Jews in the animal cells during the Nazi occupation.
What You Need To Know: Her career’s gone from strength to strength, with roles in box office smashes “The Martian” and “Interstellar,” and work in “Crimson Peak” and “A Most Violent Year” that numbers among her best — but it’s been four years since Jessica Chastain received an Oscar nomination. She’s got a strong possibility this year, though — not for “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” but for “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” Niki Caro’s adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction best-seller. Focus Features are backing the film, and Chastain’s being joined by some interesting bits of casting: “Broken Circle Breakdown” star Johan Heldenbergh as her husband, Daniel Brühl as a rival German zoologist who plundered their animals, and TV standouts Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton from “Game Of Thrones”) and Iddo Goldberg (“Peaky Blinders”). Caro’s an interesting choice to direct, so this could be on the more palatable side of the awards-bait scale.
Release Date: None yet, but expect it at Telluride or TIFF before a fall release
Director: Ron Clements & John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin”)
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Alan Tudyk
Synopsis: A young girl with great navigational skills sets out to find a legendary island to help save her family, with the help of a demi-god.
What You Need To Know: Disney animation reached a new level of success with the gargantuan box-office toll of “Frozen,” and they’ve got two big prospects for 2016. “Zootopia” looks like fun, but the one we really have hopes for is this South Pacific-set adventure, which delves into Polynesian mythology and, according to top-lining star Johnson, pays homage to his Samoan heritage. Directors Clements & Musker played a huge part in the late-’80s/early-’90s Disney revival with their two big hits, and “Moana” marks their first computer-animated film (their last picture was the 2D “The Princess And The Frog”). They certainly have their cartoon bona-fides; this is a pleasingly diverse premise; and most excitingly, there’s some very interesting behind-the-scenes talent involved too: “What We Do In The Shadows” writer/director Taika Waititi co-wrote the script, and songs are being penned by Te Vaka guitarist Opetaia Foa’i and “Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Release Date: November 23rd
Director: Lucrecia Martel (“The Holy Girl,” “The Headless Woman”)
Cast: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas
Synopsis: The lonely existence of the greedy, paranoid Don Diego de Zama, a Spanish civil servant posted to Paraguay in the 1790s.
What You Need To Know: Across a remarkable run in the ’00s, Lucrecia Martel proved herself to be one of the finest filmmakers working today. But since her widely acclaimed “The Headless Woman” in 2008, we’ve had nothing from the filmmaker. Thankfully, her first movie in eight years will arrive in 2016 in the shape of “Zama,” an adaptation of the book by Argentine writer Antonio di Benedetto. It’s seemingly her biggest movie in scope and scale to date, with Pedro Almodóvar among the producers, and promises to be a period epic that no one except Martel could make. “‘Zama’ brings us closer, with humor, to a man from the past — in the time of an immense unknown America — who uncannily lives the same conflicts that we are wrestling and contending with in our modern world,” she said about the project last year.
Release Date: Cannes seems a dead cert.
89. “Queen Of Katwe”
Director: Mira Nair (“Salaam Bombay!,” “Monsoon Wedding”)
Cast: Charity Rose Pimer, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Ntare Mwine, Maurice Kirya
Synopsis: The true story of Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan girl who, despite having dropped out of school, went on to be a chess champion.
What You Need To Know: Supposedly, Disney are placing a new emphasis on diversity in the coming years, and that’s starting to show this year — “Moana;” the cast of the two “Star Wars” movies; the arrival of Black Panther into the Marvel universe; and now this, one of only a few non-franchise titles they’re releasing this year. Made in conjunction with ESPN Films, this could just sound like an average sports biopic, but the same could have been said of the excellent “Searching For Bobby Fischer,” and though Mira Nair has had a couple of duff films in the recent past (“Amelia,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”), she has plenty of very fine work on her résumé too. And she couldn’t ask for two better actors to star than Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, getting much-deserved lead roles.
Release Date: Yet to be announced.
Director: Garth Jennings (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” “Son Of Rambow”)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly
Synopsis: A koala bear sets up a singing competition in order to save his failing theater.
What You Need To Know: Garth Jennings was one of the biggest music video names of the late ’90s and early ’00s, and his inventive but flawed feature debut “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” and delightful follow-up “Son Of Rambow” suggested a major future ahead. It’s taken him a further eight years to make his third movie, but it’s likely to be a much bigger endeavor when it finally arrives, given that it comes from Illumination Entertainment, riding high after the success of “Minions.” This reality-show-riffing premise could sound hacky, but Jennings has talent bursting out of him, and he’s got a glittering cast, with John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, Leslie Jones, Nick Offerman, Jay Pharoah and Nick Offerman voicing its animal cast members.
Release Date: December 21st
87. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”
Director: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (“Crazy Stupid Love,” “Focus”)
Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Billy Bob Thornton
Synopsis: Journalist Kim Barker is posted to Afghanistan, where she covers the war, and finds love and friendship.
What You Need To Know: Though it’s been overshadowed by the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Sisters” has proven to be a tidy little sleeper hit over the Christmas break, suggesting after a few missteps that Tina Fey may have proven that she’s a movie star. And she has a chance for a quick one-two punch, with the extremely promising “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” hitting in March. Based on Kim Barker’s comic memoir of the same name, produced by and starring Fey and penned by her “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” co-creator Robert Carlock, it looks to be a little more serious (though still predominately comic) than Fey’s previous movies. Tone will be the crucial thing here, but while their last movie “Focus” was a little dull, directors Ficarra and Requa are usually pretty good at that, and their cast are strong: we’re particularly looking forward to seeing how Robbie and Freeman play off Fey.
Release Date: March 4th
86. “The Great Wall”
Director: Zhang Yimou (“Raise The Red Lantern,” “Hero”)
Cast: Matt Damon, Andy Lau, Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Luhan
Synopsis: Two British soldiers travel to China in the 15th century, and discover that a wall is being constructed to fend off supernatural forces.
What You Need To Know: As you’ll have noticed, there’s increasing import being placed on Chinese elements in big tentpoles, one that might reach a peak with “The Great Wall,” which shot in China, with a Chinese director, but with a toplining U.S. star in the shape of Matt Damon. The movie’s a long-time passion project of Legendary boss Thomas Tull, and nearly shot back in 2012, with Edward Zwick directing and Henry Cavill, Benjamin Walker and Zhang Ziyi starring. In the end, in what can only be termed a major upgrade, it was the great Zhang Yimou who’s ended up helming from a script rewritten by Tony Gilroy, with Damon joined by Willem Dafoe, “Game Of Thrones” actor Pedro Pascal, and a Chinese cast including megastar Andy Lau. It could turn out to be a “47 Ronin”-sized misfire, but it’s already more interesting than most blockbusters and there’s so much good stuff here that we really, really have to hope not.
Release Date: November 23rd
85. “The Body Artist”
Director: Benoît Jacquot ("Farewell, My Queen" "3 Hearts")
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Julia Roy, Jeanne Balibar
Synopsis: Based on the Don DeLillo novella, the film is a quasi-ghost story about a performance artist who withdraws into isolation following the death of her husband.
What You Need To Know: DeLillo’s name alone has our interest piqued for this title, though just imagine how much higher it would be placed had the adaptation from a couple of years ago come together starring Denis bloody Lavant, Isabelle freaking Huppert and David fucking Cronenberg (who obviously helmed DeLillo’s "Cosmopolis"), with Luca Guadagnino in the director’s chair. Jacquot, by contrast is a little hit-and-miss, though to be fair his recent misses (for us) have been his period movies like "Diary of a Chambermaid" and "Farewell, My Queen," which bodes relatively well for this contemporary piece. It’s really all down to whether Jacquot can handle the story’s surreality, because, at least in the book’s version it is very, very weird.
Release Date: None listed yet, but Jacquot has bowed at Berlin twice in recent years, so if it’s ready it could still show up there.
84. “Money Monster”
Director: Jodie Foster ("Little Man Tate," "Home for the Holidays," "The Beaver")
Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
Synopsis: A disgruntled everyman who lost all his money due a bad tip given on a populist money management TV show takes the show’s presenter hostage.
What You Need To Know: This cast and this director taking on this kind of topical, "King of Comedy"-inflected story seems like it should hopefully make a splash. After what looks to be a goofy turn in the Coens’ "Hail Caesar!" George Clooney might relish a role that seems no less showy but a bit more serious-minded (done right, it could well have awards potential), while Jack O’Connell has something to prove after the disappointing blandness of "Unbroken." And Jodie Foster is generally underrated as a director, having had pretty chronic bad luck with the timing of her last film, the Mel Gibson-starring "The Beaver," and the release date push from April to May would suggest that Sony have some faith in what they’ve got here.
Release Date: May 13th, which is right during the first week of the Cannes Film Festival, so maybe…
83. “The Founder”
Director: John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side," "Saving Mr. Banks")
Cast: Michael Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardinelli, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman
Synopsis: The story of the founder of McDonalds, Ray Kroc.
What You Need To Know: Michael Keaton deserves every big role coming to him from now on, and with this one it looks like he might be going for broke on the Best Actor statue, taking on an Academy-friendly biopic of an American institution, amid a stacked ensemble of ringers, all under the guiding hand of "The Blind Side" helmer Hancock, who directed Sandra Bullock to her Oscar. But there’s also cause to hope it won’t be quite as obvious as that film or Hancock’s last, "Saving Mr. Banks" — "The Founder" is written by Robert D. Siegel, who is ex-EIC of The Onion, who wrote Darren Aronofsky‘s "The Wrestler," and wrote and directed the underrated "Big Fan." Siegel himself has suggested that the film is fairly dark, more on "The Social Network" end of the scale, so the real question is if Hancock can do it justice.
Release Date: November 25th (prime Oscar season).
82. “Deepwater Horizon”
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson
Synopsis: A retelling of the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent catastrophic BP oil spill, based on a New York Times article.
What You Need To Know: Say what you like about Peter Berg as a director (and mostly people like to say bad things), he can turn in a pacy action sequence or ten when on form. And this material would seem to play to his strengths, a kind of hyper-masculine, "Armageddon"-style spectacle film, at least for the explode-y parts. And it’s written by "All is Lost" director J.C. Chandor (who was previously attached as director — ah, what could have been!) along with Matt Carnahan, who was also behind Berg’s not-terrible "The Kingdom," so there’s hope. And hey, at least this one is being billed as a disaster movie from the outset, rather than, say, "Battleship" which was a movie that became a disaster. Also, this reminds me: Where the hell has John Malkovich been, and what kind of tax trouble is he in?
Release Date: September 30th
81. “American Pastoral”
Director: Ewan MacGregor
Cast: Ewan MacGregor, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, Uzo Aduba, Rupert Evans, Molly Parker, David Strathairn
Synopsis: Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Philip Roth, this is the story of Seymour "The Swede" Lvov, a successful businessman, former high-school sports star and scion of a Jewish upper-middle New Jersey family, whose life gradually disintegrates in the politically turbulent 1960s.
What You Need To Know: This is a pretty towering work of American fiction that’s been in development for more than a decade. In that time, cast and director have changed, most surprisingly with the announcement that lead Ewan MacGregor would be making his feature directorial debut here after the departure of Phillip Noyce. It’s certainly an enticingly epic story, but given that Roth adaptations seldom live up to what’s on the page, and given MacGregor’s untested nature behind the camera, this is a major roll of the dice. But like any big gamble, it could pay off, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed and stick to worrying about whether MacGregor’s going to do one of his not-wholly-convincing American accents in the role.
Release Date: None yet, but filming started in September 2015, so a fall bow seems most likely.
80. “Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice”
Director: Zack Snyder ("Watchmen," "Man of Steel")
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Synopsis: An embittered Batman, suspicious of the Man of Steel’s invincibility, goes toe-to-toe with Superman in a clash of superhero ideology, while a new threat looms in the form of Doomsday.
What You Need To Know: Dread is a kind of anticipation, right? Fine, the oncoming juggernaut that is DC doing the shared universe thing, under the all-seeing chin cleft of Zack Snyder (he’s also going to direct the two "Justice League" movies) may not exactly be our bag, but there’s no way we can beat it, so at this stage we might as well kind of join it. And while there are plenty of things in the more recent trailers to give us pause (the design of Doomsday, the CGI of Doomsday, the presence of Doomsday) there are some hopeful aspects too, like Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck doing a decent fed-up Wayne/Batman. And let’s not forget that in a time of endlessly repetitive savior stories, this one always had the potential to be a bit different and a bit more thoughtful about the whole superhero phenomenon at large. Maybe.
Release Date: March 25th
79. “X-Men: Apocalypse”
Director: Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects,""X-Men," "Superman Returns," "X-Men: Days of Future Past")
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac
Synopsis: When the first and most powerful mutant, the immortal Apocalypse, awakens, he finds he is disgusted by the modern world (of 1983) and sets about "cleansing" humanity, with only the X-Men, led by Raven and Professor X to stop him.
What You Need To Know: The relaunched prequelly retconned "X-Men" franchise has improved with each entry, and with series director Bryan Singer at the helm, and the terrific stacked cast all returning with the no-slouch addition of Oscar Isaac, there’s no reason this entry shouldn’t be as much or more fun than the last, ‘Days of Future Past.’ One of the best aspects of this relaunch idea has always been the period trappings, and this time out the early ’80s seems like it could provide a lot of nice flourishes. In fact, the only hesitation we have is around the first trailer, with its by-the-numbers-looking scenes of CG destruction, but let’s just chalk that up to first-trailer syndrome and hope for the best.
Release Date: May 27th
Director: Felix Van Groeningen ("The Broken Circle Breakdown")
Cast: Stef Aerts, Tom Vermier
Synopsis: Two brothers start up a bar and get caught up in its fortunes as part of Belgium’s nightlife scene.
What You Need To Know: It’s a great shame that just not enough people saw Felix Van Groeningen‘s last film, the almost preternaturally affecting, beautifully observed "The Broken Circle Breakdown," which won the Panorama award at the Berlinale and the screenplay award at Tribeca, among many other plaudits. (Our own review is here, and the film comes highly recommended). In that story of the rambunctious and ultimately heartbreaking relationship between two Belgian Bluegrass performers, his talent with actors and with stories giving an insider-y, lived-in sense of authenticity to the subcultures of Flemish Belgium, from where he hails, were more than proven. If they translate to this next film too (and the storyline, as much as we know of it, suggests they might), this could be something very special, and if so should kick Van Groeningen’s stateside profile up deservedly higher.
Release Date: Announced for Sundance, so not long to wait.
77.“The Magnificent Seven”
Director: Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," "King Arthur, "Olympus Has Fallen," "The Equalizer," "Southpaw")
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Haley Bennett, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Cam Gigandet, Peter Sarsgaard, Byung-hun Lee, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Synopsis: The young widow of a murdered man hire seven gunfighters to exact revenge on the villain and his gang responsible.
What You Need To Know: There’s no point getting up in arms about a remake of John Sturges‘ 1960 classic, when that film was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa‘s "Seven Samurai." And in this case the simple, classic lines of a familiar story might actually work in the film’s favor: Antoine Fuqua is not a name immediately associated with narrative originality, but there’s no denying he elicits great performances (Jake Gyllenhaal was terrific in the otherwise formulaic "Southpaw"; Denzel Washington won an Oscar for "Training Day") and knows his way around a tough, masculine action scene. Reuniting Fuqua with the two stars of his best film (Washington and Hawke from "Training Day") and fleshing out the cast with some interesting lesser-known actors too, can’t hurt. And as an added footnote, this will also feature the late James Horner’s last score — to everyone’s surprise he had completed it ahead of schedule, just before his death.
Release Date: September 23rd
Director: Charlie McDowell ("The One I Love")
Cast: Rooney Mara, Nicholas Hoult
Synopsis: A love story set a year after the existence of the afterlife has been scientifically proven.
What You Need To Know: With an intriguing, clever premise and red-hot cast, "The Discovery" would have piqued our interest even before we knew it was coming from McDowell, whose last film, the highly original Elisabeth Moss-starrer "The One I Love," was also a relationship story with slightly fantastical elements. This time out, there seems again potential for a provocative take on boy-meets-girl: Just how would knowing that you’re going to live on after death affect your relationships while alive? Mara (who has incidentally been dating McDowell since 2010), if there’s any justice, will be hot off an Oscar nom for "Carol," while McDowell’s star is in the ascendant anyway — the son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen (I know, right?), he already parlayed a successful comedy twitter account (Dear Girls Above Me) into a book deal and is currently finishing up on a Sarah Silverman TV project.
Release Date: None yet, but it sounds very festival friendly.
75. "The Commune"
Director: Thomas Vinterberg ("Festen," "The Hunt," "Far From The Madding Crowd")
Cast: Urich Thomsen, Fares Fares, Trine Dyrholm, Julie Agnete Vang
Synopsis: In Denmark in the 1970s, a married couple set up a commune in a big rambling house, but must deal with the pressures and stresses of collective living as well as its joys and freedoms.
What You Need To Know: Thomas Vinterberg‘s "Far From The Madding Crowd" didn’t find much of an audience, which is unfair. But he is back in more familiar territory, directing this film from a script he co-wrote with regular collaborator Tobias Lindholm, based on a play Vinterberg also co-wrote. It’s a personal story, and a really interesting one, especially coming from a team who proved themselves so acutely insightful about the machinations of small communities in the scorchingly provocative "The Hunt." Oh, and the trailer looks fucking terrific, beautifully shot with a mood that seems to fall somewhere between "Festen" and Bergman, as the serpents of jealousy and possessiveness enter this idealistic idyll.
Release Date: No US date yet and more surprisingly, no festival slot booked. But it’s dated Jan 16th in Denmark and Feb 24th in France, so could it show up as an international premiere in Berlin?
Director: Pablo Larrain ("Tony Manero," "Post Mortem," "No," "The Club")
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers
Synopsis: In 1940s Chile a dogged inspector is tasked with hunting down Nobel-winning poet Pablo Neruda, who is in hiding due to his communist affiliations.
What You Need To Know: Between the premieres of this film and "Jackie," as well as the U.S. release of the brilliant "The Club," 2016’s going to be a Pablo Larraín-filled year, which is absolutely A-OK by us. And while we’re very excited for his U.S./English language debut, we’re certainly confident that this story is right in his existing wheelhouse, especially as it stars great previous collaborators in Gael García Bernal ("No"), Antonia Zegers (who appeared in all three of Larrain’s ‘Pinochet Trilogy’ and is a standout in "The Club") and the increasingly indispensible Alfredo Castro (again star of the ‘Pinchet Trilogy’ and "The Club," as well as of Lorenzo Vigas’ Venice Golden Lion winner "From Afar").
Release Date: None yet, but Larraín has relationships with all three major European festivals, so, depending on its readiness, expect to see it crop up at one of those.
Director: Christopher Guest ("Waiting for Guffman, "Best In Show," "A Mighty Wind," "For Your Consideration")
Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Bob Balaban, Fred Willard, etc. (aka the Christopher Guest repertory company)
Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look at the cutthroat world of mascotry as competition hots up for the World Mascot Association’s Golden Fluffy Awards.
What You Need To Know: A Netflix mockumentary from the team who already mocked folk music, dog shows, acting-awards races and the theater scene, set in the already daft world of people who dress up in plush fabric costumes and do cartwheels for a living is such a no-brainer that it almost feels like it’s already been done. But while it might be the softest (and cuddliest) of targets, Guest and his collaborators are always worth checking out, as much for the chemistry between them all as for any particularly original plotting. The films are hit-and-miss, but the set-up here seems closest to "Best in Show," which is a certifiable classic. Plus, it’s been 10 years since the last Guest movie (he had an underrated TV show "Family Tree" in the meantime) so with luck he’s reenergized and raring to go.
Release Date: No word yet.
72. “War on Everyone”
Director: John Michael McDonagh ("The Guard," "Calvary")
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Tessa Thompson, Michael Peña, Theo James, Stephanie Sigman
Synopsis: Two extremely corrupt New Mexico cops bite off more than they can chew when they try to blackmail a high-level criminal.
What You Need To Know: When a writer/director comes to attention with a very specific style or milieu, it’s both an exciting and a dangerous thing to see them leave it to spread their wings into other worlds. McDonagh’s previous two features, the hilarious "The Guard" and the excoriating "Calvary," have both starred Brendan Gleeson, and both been set in rural Ireland, mining a brilliantly well-observed vernacular and sensibility. "War on Everyone" sees him far out of that comfort zone, with a cop comedy set in New Mexico, but we’re betting he can pull it off, especially given the good-looking (in all sense of the word) cast. Skarsgård was so good in "The Diary of a Teenage Girl;" Peña’s been a favorite of ours for ages and stole "Ant-Man" completely; while Tessa Thompson, fresh from "Dear White People," "Selma" and "Creed," deserves to take another step up. Definitely looking forward to this one.
Release Date: Already announced for the Berlinale in February.
71. “Arms and the Dudes”
Director: Todd Phillips ("Old School," "Starsky and Hutch," "The Hangover")
Cast: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, JB Blanc, Brenda Koo
Synopsis: Two American arms dealers secure a $300-million-dollar contract to arm U.S. allies in Afghanistan, soon finding themselves in dangerous geo-political waters.
What You Need to Know: Bro-maestro Todd Phillips has been mucking around in the world of “The Hangover” since 2009 (with his only non-Wolfpack-related effort in that time being the uneven buddy comedy “Due Date”) and to increasingly diminishing returns. So the idea of him venturing outside his frat-comedy wheelhouse is an intriguing one. He’s also got two of Hollywood’s hottest comedic leading men at his disposal, and an eyebrow-raising true-life story to draw upon. We can see this being a smuttier, more politically charged riff on a John Candy-style buddy farce, just as we can see Hill’s wound-up self-regard bouncing nicely off Teller’s unwound, smirking cool. Here’s to hoping that “Arms and the Dudes” will be the gonzo, go-for-broke yarn that might finally silence the director’s many critics.
Release Date: August 19th
70. “John Wick 2”
Director: Chad Stahelski ("John Wick")
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne
Synopsis: Details are rather thin on the ground at the moment, just a kind of "continuing adventures of…" type deal.
What You Need To Know: All you really need to know to judge whether to be excited for "John Wick 2" is "John Wick" — the sequel brings back most of the original’s [surviving] cast and of course Keanu Reeves as the titular hitman. Chad Stahelski co-directed the first film with David Leitch, but he’ll be solo this time (the better for Leitch to concentrate on James McAvoy Cold War project "The Coldest City"). Sequels tend to have diminishing returns, especially those that come after a surprise sleeper action hit starring an actor on a bit of a downward slide (think of the Liam Neeson/"Taken" model), but we have faith that ex-stunt director Stahelski can bring the goods again. And anyway, if you’re going to "John Wick" films for story as opposed to slick gun stunts and cool noirish spectacle, you’re doing movies wrong.
Release Date: None yet and it’s supposedly still filming, so perhaps a similar October slot to the first one?
Director: Antonio Campos (“Afterschool,” “Simon Killer”)
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Maria Dizzia, Tracy Letts, J. Smith Cameron
Synopsis: The true story of Christine Chubbuck, a Florida news reporter who committed suicide live on air.
What You Need To Know: They might not have a catchy name like mumblecore, but the Borderline Films crew — “Martha Marcy May Marlene” helmer Sean Durkin, “James White” helmer Josh Mond, and this film’s director Campos, who all produce each other’s movies — have been one of the most interesting things to happen to American independent film in a long time, with every one of their distinctive movies packing a serious punch. The latest is “Christine,” which promises to be just as provocative as their previous pictures. Telling the strange, sad, “Network”-esque true story of Christine Chubbuck, this has Campos’s biggest name cast to date, with what promises to be a killer role for Rebecca Hall and “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall as her colleague and crush.
Release Date: Playing at Sundance later this month; hopefully a distributor will step in swiftly.
68. “Captain America: Civil War”
Director: Joe & Anthony Russo (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland
Synopsis: After an incident with the Avengers causes collateral damage, the world’s government tries to regulate the world’s superheroes, pitting Captain America against his old ally Iron Man.
What You Need To Know: It’s weird to say about a pair of movies that grossed a cumulative $2 billion, but it felt like the luster came off the Marvel golden goose a little bit last year: “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” was lower-grossing and significantly less liked than its predecessor, and “Ant-Man” sold fewer tickets domestically than any film in the franchise since “The Incredible Hulk.” Can “Civil War” — theoretically a third “Captain America,” but essentially a third Avengers pic, and the beginning of Phase Three of the Marvel project — put them back on top in a year where “Star Wars” and DC are competing for the attention? It’s laden with cast members, with Black Panther and Spider-Man entering the universe and Martin Freeman and Daniel Brühl squaring off against them. We were underwhelmed by that first trailer, which was a bit drab, but the Russos (who’ll go on to the two-part “Infinity War” after this) gave us one of the better Marvels to date with their last go-round with Cap.
Release Date: May 6th
67. “Star Trek Beyond”
Director: Justin Lin (“Fast Five,” “Fast & Furious 6”)
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba
Synopsis: Finally underway on their mission to explore the final frontier, the crew of the USS Enterprise are stranded on a distant planet where they’re attacked by a fearsome new enemy.
What You Need To Know: With J.J. Abrams having moved on to another franchise beginning with ‘Star’ that we can’t quite recall right now, Kirk, Spock and co. have a new captain, with “Fast & Furious” helmer Justin Lin taking over the helm, and cast member Simon Pegg co-writing the script. We’ve been promised something closer in spirit to the original series, with distant planets and, per the trailer, something of a post-colonialist vibe, with Idris Elba buried under prosthetics as the bad guy, and “Kingsman” star Sofia Boutella, “About Time” standout Lydia Wilson and “The Raid” actor Joe Taslim joining the cast. The Beastie Boys-scored trailer divided people, but to us, there was a pleasing “Galaxy Quest”-style vibe to it, and given that “Galaxy Quest” was the best “Star Trek” movie ever [ducks a hail of latex Spock ears], that can only be a good thing.
Release Date: July 22nd
66. “Free State Of Jones”
Director: Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit,” “The Hunger Games”)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Keri Russell, Brendan Gleeson
Synopsis: The true story of the Knight Company, a group of anti-slavery Confederate deserters who turned to the union side, and their leader Newton Knight’s romance with a freed slave.
What You Need To Know: Having launched a multi-billion dollar franchise back in 2012 with the first “Hunger Games” movie, Gary Ross had the kind of momentum that can get a passion project greenlit, and “Free State Of Jones” is the result. It’s sort of remarkable that the story of the Knight Company hasn’t been brought to the screen since 1948’s “Tap Roots” (and even that glossed over the inter-race romance elements), but Ross has a big name to lead it, with Matthew McConaughey, whose comeback wasn’t injured too badly by “Sea Of Trees” last year, in the lead role, and the great Gugu Mbatha-Raw as his future wife. Ross is somehow undervalued as a director, but in the current climate, will this be welcomed, or seen as another cinematic example of white-savior syndrome?
Release Date: May 13th
65. “Little Men”
Director: Ira Sachs (“Keep The Lights On,” “Love Is Strange”)
Cast: Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia
Synopsis: A sensitive, artistic boy befriends a more extroverted kid at his grandfather’s funeral, but the friendship is put to the test when their parents become embroiled in a rent dispute.
What You Need To Know: Over time, director Ira Sachs has found an ever growing audience with his finely honed, nuanced movies: “Keep The Lights On” was a critical hit, and “Love Is Strange” even more so. His latest, premiering at Sundance later in the month, sees him return to NYC for another movie that looks to be compassionate and moving. Gentrification is the subject here (it was a subplot in "Love is Strange"), seen through the eyes of two young boys, but we’re not lacking in big-screen talent here, with Paulina Garcia, star of the great “Gloria,” making her English language debut, and Talia Shire and Alfred Molina joining Ehle, Kinnear and the two young newcomers. There’s always some risk involved at Sundance, but Sachs feels like one of the safest bets out there.
Release Date: Hits Sundance in a few weeks.
64. “Finding Dory”
Director: Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E”) and Angus MacLane (“Toy Story Of Terror!”)
Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Diane Keaton, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba
Synopsis: Six months after Nemo was found, short-memoried Dory remembers something about her lost family, and sets out with her friends to find them.
What You Need To Know: Pixar’s return to original movies had mixed success last year — “Inside Out” was one of their biggest critical and commercial successes, but “The Good Dinosaur” was probably the company’s first flop. “Finding Dory” shouldn’t have them sweating though: It’s the sequel, 13 years on, to one of their best-loved pictures. Marking Andrew Stanton’s first Pixar movie since “Wall-E” (and his hopeful bounceback from “John Carter”), this shifts focus to Ellen DeGeneres’ Memento-brained Dory, and looks to introduce a whole new school of characters, with Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olson, Ed O’Neill and Dominic West also involved. We do worry that it might be going through the motions, but if it’s closer to “Toy Story 3” than “Monsters University” or “Cars 2,” we’ll be happy.
Release Date: June 17th
63. “Top Secret Untitled Lonely Island Movie”
Director: Akiva Schaffer (“The Watch”) and Jorma Taccone (“MacGruber”)
Cast: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Imogen Poots, Sarah Silverman
Synopsis: After his last album flops, a rapper reluctantly sets out to put his old boy band back together.
What You Need To Know: Few words send a shiver up the spine like the words ‘comedy-musician,’ but over several years at SNL, Lonely Island managed to pull it off, with several best-selling albums and a plethora of viral hits behind them. Separately, their big-screen careers haven’t quite taken off: Andy Samberg has found success in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” but has faltered in theaters, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone directed comedy flops “The Watch” and “MacGruber.” But together, in this Judd Apatow-produced pic, it could be different. Rumored to be called “Conner4Real,” and apparently mocking music docs like “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” it’s got a prime summer release date, and if nothing else, should have the best/funniest original soundtrack of the year. Fingers crossed for a Michael Bolton cameo.
Release Date: June 3rd
62. “The Promise”
Director: Terry George (“Some Mother’s Son,” “Hotel Rwanda”)
Cast: Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, James Cromwell, Jean Reno
Synopsis: A love triangle between an American journalist, a French woman and a medical student set against the backdrop of the last days of the Ottoman Empire and the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
What You Need To Know: Few people have had runs like Oscar Isaac recently: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Ex Machina,” “Show Me A Hero” and, oh yeah, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” His next move, aside from blockbuster villainy in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” is sweeping period romance “The Promise,” which marks a return to directing for “Hotel Rwanda” helmer Terry George. Co-written with “Benjamin Button” pensmith Robin Swicord, it delves into a part of history that few have tackled cinematically, the genocide of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, something that the Turkish government still refuses to actually call ‘genocide.’ Unlikely to get a run in Istanbul multiplexes, then, but George did a fine job with “Hotel Rwanda,” and he’s got a killer trio here, with Christian Bale and “The Walk” star Charlotte Le Bon joining Isaac.
Release Date: None yet — could be at Cannes, Venice, Telluride or TIFF.
Director: Stephen Gaghan (“Syriana”)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell
Synopsis: Two down-on-their-luck men head out to find gold in the jungles of Borneo.
What You Need To Know: Though “Syriana” was moderately successful, it’s a decade since “Traffic” Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan directed a movie. But he’s back in 2016 with “Gold.” Michael Mann and Spike Lee were once attached to the project, penned by “Friday Night Lights” writer Patrick Massett and John Zinman, but it’ll be an interesting change of pace for Gaghan, seeming to be more of an action-adventure vibe. Matthew McConaughey (in a, um, striking bald set-up) and Edgar Ramirez topline; while the supporting cast includes ringers like Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, “Veep” standout Timothy Simons, Stacy Keach and Bruce Greenwood; and Robert Elswit shot it, so it should look great, if nothing else. And hopefully there’ll be a lot more too.
Release Date: The Weinstein Company are distributing, but haven’t set a date yet. Late summer or early fall seem most likely.
Director: David Mackenzie (“Young Adam,” “Starred Up”)
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Katy Mixon, Melanie Papella
Synopsis: Two brothers plan a bank robbery to save their family farm, and are pursued by a Texas Ranger.
What You Need To Know: Playlist writers voted “Sicario” our second favorite movie of 2015, so to say that we’re interested in what writer Taylor Sheridan does next is an understatement — particularly when that next step, “Comancheria,” has so much else going for it. The latest from director David Mackenzie, who gave his career a kick of amphetamines with the tremendous prison drama “Starred Up,” it provides another chance for Chris Pine to show his serious chops after last year’s “Z For Zachariah,” gives a welcome lead role to Ben Foster, and has the always-welcome Jeff Bridges. The set-up sounds a touch generic, but the same was arguably true for “Sicario,” and with Mackenzie and a cast like this, we’re confident this can find a fresh spin on the idea.
Release Date: This was shot last summer, and CBS Films will be releasing it: maybe we’ll see at SXSW, or if not, TIFF seems likely.
59. “The Disaster Artist”
Director: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor
Synopsis: The strange true story of the friendship between actors Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau, who together would go on to make “The Room,” often called the worst film ever made.
What You Need To Know: James Franco has directed close to a dozen movies at this point, and yet we’d wager that you haven’t seen any of them unless you’re a dedicated film festival attendee or Franco-fetishist. But that’s likely to change with “The Disaster Artist,” his first mainstream studio movie, one that documents the making of cult so-bad-it’s-good classic “The Room.” Based on Greg Sestero’s memoir, with the director/star’s brother Dave as Sestero and Franco himself playing Tommy Wiseau, it collects both some of his regular collaborators, like Seth Rogen and Ari Graynor, and some more recent arrivals like Jacki Weaver, Hannibal Buress, Sharon Stone, Kate Upton and Alison Brie. “The Spectacular Now” scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber wrote the script, and we’re expecting something closer to Franco’s comic starring roles, but given the kinship Franco may feel with the Ed Wood-ish polymath Wiseau, there could be something more, too.
Release Date: None yet, but expect it in the fall.
58. “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them”
Director: David Yates (“Harry Potter” 5-8)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell
Synopsis: Wizard Newt Scamander travels to New York with a case full of magical creatures, but when they’re let loose, he draws the attention of a sinister anti-magic group called the Second Salemers.
What You Need To Know: Given that it’s among the most successful franchises in history, Warner Bros. must have been pretty blue when the “Harry Potter” series wrapped up five years ago. Thankfully, J.K. Rowling came through, penning her first original screenplay that takes her wizarding world back in time and across the Atlantic. Promising to expand the Potter universe in a big way, this is intended to be the first of a new trilogy, with older leads than the previous movies, and an intriguing cast: Samantha Morton and Ezra Miller as the bad guys, Jon Voight and Ron Perlman as New York magic luminaries, and three exciting new leads, including Redmayne and Waterston. David Yates, director of the last four Potters, is in charge: we wish there’d been a more risky choice, but he’s a safe pair of hands that should make this live up to its predecessors.
Release Date: November 18th
57. “Untitled Robert Zemeckis World War 2 Project”
Director: Robert Zemeckis (“Back To The Future,” “Forrest Gump”)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Synopsis: During World War 2, an Allied spy discovers that the French agent he fell in love and started a family with might be a Nazi double-agent.
What You Need To Know: Since he walked away from the motion-capture world, Robert Zemeckis has had decidedly mixed success: “Flight” was a big hit but “The Walk” tanked hard. With two massive stars and a prime awards-season release, his latest, still untitled, film seems like it’ll be closer to the former category. Written by “Locke” and “Peaky Blinders” scribe Steven Knight, it’s an old-school espionage drama of a kind that seems to evoke “Casablanca,” “Notorious” and the like, though things remain mostly under wraps until then. This being Zemeckis, we imagine we’ll have some kind of big-scale effects element involved, but a return to something lower-key like “What Lies Beneath” might be a good palate cleanser. Either way, we hope it connects with audiences more than “The Walk,” which deserved better than its fate.
Release Date: November 23rd
56. “Love And Friendship”
Director: Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan,” “Damsels In Distress”)
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Morfydd Clark, Stephen Fry, Xavier Samuel
Synopsis: In 1790s England, Lady Susan Vernon tries to find husbands for herself and her daughter, as rumors fly about her personal life.
What You Need To Know: There’s always been something Jane Austen-ish about Whit Stillman’s comedies of manners, so it was probably only a matter of time before the writer-director tackled one of the great writer’s works directly. But rather than go back to the familiar sources like “Emma” or “Pride & Prejudice,” Stillman’s taken an obscure work, “Lady Susan,” that wasn’t published until long after Austen’s death (and then named it after another little-known Austen work, “Love and Friendship”). Intriguingly, the cast is led by a “Last Days Of Disco” reunion, with Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan and Chloe Sevigny as her confidante, with a mix of up-and-comers and familiar British faces joining them. The script is a lot of fun and we’ll find out in a few weeks if the film lives up to it.
Release Date: Screens later this month at Sundance.
55. “Kubo And The Two Strings”
Director: Travis Knight
Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes
Synopsis: In Ancient Japan, young Kubo must save his mother by tracking down his father’s old samurai suit.
What You Need To Know: Portland-based animation studio Laika have, from “Coraline” through “Paranorman” to “The Boxtrolls” been knocking out one beautifully crafted stop-motion animation after another, but while they’ve all been modestly successful, they haven’t yet had a breakout hit of the size of, say, “Despicable Me.” That could change with “Kubo And The Two Strings.” The first movie directed by the company’s head, Travis Knight, it seems to be a little more action-adventure-y than their previous pictures, with a Japanese-influenced fantasy style, though still just as beautifully designed. And it has easily their biggest-name cast yet, with Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes playing various characters. With Pixar just dropping another sequel this year, this could end up being this year’s big critical fave among the animated movies.
Release Date: August 19th
54. “The Girl On The Train”
Director: Tate Taylor (“The Help,” “Get On Up”)
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans
Synopsis: An alcoholic divorcée becomes obsessed with a woman she sees on her commute, only to get embroiled in a murder.
What You Need To Know: The book you see everyone reading on your commute? This year, that was, ironically, the commute-themed “The Girl On The Train,” which succeeded “Gone Girl” as the water-cooler thriller of the moment. Almost as soon as it was on the best-seller list, the film was in the works, with “Secretary” writer Erin Cressida Wilson penning the script, and “The Help” mastermind Tate Taylor directing. And boy, do they have a cast put together, with Emily Blunt in a role that could put her on the awards map this year, and “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” breakout Rebecca Ferguson as co-lead, with Justin Theroux and Luke Evans (who are fire-emoji in “The Leftovers” and “High-Rise” respectively) as the men in their life, while Edgar Ramirez and Allison Janney also pop up. We feel like Taylor’s unlikely to elevate this in the way Fincher did “Gone Girl,” but this could still end up a crackling thriller.
Release Date: October 7th
53. “Pete’s Dragon”
Director: David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”)
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban
Synopsis: A young boy befriends an invisible dragon
What You Need To Know: Even if you didn’t love it, it was clear from “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” that director David Lowery was a serious new talent, and we’ve been eagerly anticipating his next movie. But the surprise came when it turned out to be a big-budget Disney movie, a remake of ’70s oddity “Pete’s Dragon.” Moving the setting to the Pacific Northwest and giving the film an environmental theme, this seems likely to be a far more soulful film than recent Disney remakes like “Alice In Wonderland” and “Maleficent.” So far, footage has been kept under wraps, but with an impressive team including “Southpaw” standout Oona Laurence, Bryce Dallas Howard and the great Robert Redford, we’re expecting something closer to “E.T.” than most modern blockbusters.
Release Date: August 12th
52. “Una” (formerly "Blackbird")
Director: Benedict Andrews
Cast: Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Tara Fitzgerald, Riz Ahmed
Synopsis: A young woman tracks down and confronts the man who sexually abused her when she was twelve, who went to prison for the offense and has been living under an assumed name ever since.
What You Need To Know: Adapted for the screen by David Harrower from his own play "Blackbird," there’s practically no chance that the powerhouse duo of Mendelsohn and Mara will deliver anything less than riveting performances in this controversial and dramatic story. In fact really the only question mark is whether, with celebrated theater director Andrews making his film directorial debut, and the story’s origin as a two-hander 90-minute play set largely in one room, the film will expand into the medium or remain more theatrical. But frankly, even if it did all happen in a single flat two-shot, we’d be on board to see these two actors play off each other, and backers Film 4 have been on an amazing roll of late, so we wouldn’t be betting against this one figuring in awards conversations down the line too.
Release Date: No word yet, but it seems close to finished, and if it’s looking less likely for Berlin as the days tick by, that may very well be because it’s Cannes-bound.
Director: Cédric Jimenez (“The Connection”)
Cast: Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike, Mia Wasikowska, Jack O’Connell, Jack Reynor
Synopsis: The true story of Operation Anthropoid, the plan by British spies and the Czech resistance to assassinate senior Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.
What You Need To Know: This year’s equivalent to volanoes/meteors/Truman Capote appears to be the asssassination of Reynard Heydrich, with not one but two movies heading for release about it. One, “Anthropoid,” is directed by “Metro Manila” helmer Sean Ellis and stars Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy, Charlotte Le Bon and Toby Jones, and shouldn’t be dismissed. Right now, though, we’re a little more interested in “HHHH,” based on the novel of the same name by French writer Laurent Binet. We suspect that “The Connection” helmer Cédric Jimenez has dumped much of the book’s meta trickery, for better or for worse, but he’s also assembled a killer cast: Jason Clarke plays Heydrich, Rosamund Pike his wife, and rising stars O’Connell and Reynor his assassins.
Release Date: Unknown as yet, but the Weinstein Company picked up the rights, so don’t rule out an awards play in the fall.
Director: Peter Atencio (“Key & Peele” TV show)
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Luis Guzmán, Will Forte, Nia Long, Jason Mitchell, Method Man.
Synopsis: Two friends pose as drug dealers to infiltrate the street gang that stole their cat (called Keanu, we believe).
What You Need To Know: When "Key and Peele" signed off last year, there was a collective wail of grief, but the small screen’s loss is the big screen’s gain, as the brilliant comedy duo, along with series director Atencio (who already got a shout-out on our Best TV Directors feature) migrate to features. Boasting a strong cast (we’re especially excited to witness "Straight Outta Compton" breakout Jason Mitchell‘s comedy chops), and co-written by Peele, there are further reasons to be hopeful this will be a cut above the usual TV-Stars-Do-Movies thing: The show’s sketch format saw the duo grow as actors over the run, and Atencio got to experiment with a range of styles, many of them appropriated from cinema in the first place. Not only that, but New Line hopping aboard the project, which the guys were previously going to produce independently, also bodes well, and suggests that their film debut as a duo might indeed get the resources it deserves.
Release Date: April 22nd
49. “Suicide Squad”
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis
Synopsis: A group of dangerous supervillains find themselves summoned by the U.S. government to fight under the banner of Task Force X, or the Suicide Squad.
What You Need to Know: There’s been a lot of chatter about “Suicide Squad,” covering everything from Margot Robbie’s insane-looking Harley Quinn to Jared Leto’s “Juggalo Joker.” And while the comic-book juggernaut of 2016 is, unquestionably, Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad” could prove to be a gritty, hard-boiled villainy counterpoint to both that and the growing innocuousness of the Marvel studio features. Director Ayer likes his heroes bad — in films like “End of Watch” and “Fury,” he examines the toll of violence as it applies to those who live in and outside of the law. And while we’re of the opinion that the director has yet to make his masterpiece, the footage we’ve seen from “Suicide Squad” thus far suggests that Ayer is working on a larger and more impressionistic scale than he has in the past.
Release Date: August 5th
48. “Sausage Party”
Director: Greg Tiernan ("Thomas & Friends" TV) & Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2," “Madagascar 3”)
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd, James Franco
Synopsis: A raunchy animation detailing a lost sausage’s existential crisis as he tries to make it back to his shelf through the supermarket aisles after falling out of a shopping cart. No, really.
What You Need To Know: Teased by Jonah Hill all the way back 2010 as a "very hard and aggressive R," the latest venture from superteam Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (here sharing writing credits with Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir) boasts a logline that sounds like the answer to a dare developed while high in a grocery store. It could either be terrible or brilliant, but we’re holding out for the latter, especially with this voice cast, many of whom will be working within the Goldberg-Rogenverse for the nth time, so the comedic chemistry is assured. Also, it’s been a while since we’ve had an adult animation in theaters, and with the form having a moment on TV ("Bojack Horseman," "Rick & Morty" "Cowboy Bebop," "Archer," The Boondocks," "Mr Pickles" as well as ongoing favorites "Family Guy" and "South Park") maybe we’re overdue a filthy, funny, very-not-family big-screen cartoon?
Release Date: August 12th
Director: Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Take Shelter”)
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll
Synopsis: The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958, and then exiled from the state for the crime of getting married, and their nine-year fight to be able to return home as a family.
What You Need To Know: You wait years for another Jeff Nichols movie, then two come along at once… Excitingly, his sci-fi-ish "Midnight Special" is set to premiere in February in Berlin, but later in the year we can expect "Loving," which will be in a very different register. The story of a landmark anti-miscegenation case, it has a strange kind of topicality as it was used as a touchstone example during last year’s many debates around gay marriage. The casting is impeccable, featuring the always brilliant Edgerton (who is also in "Midnight Special") and Irish/Ethiopian actress Negga ("Breakfast on Pluto," "World War Z") alongside Nichols’ regular collaborator and talisman Michael Shannon, while the director’s intelligent, quiet but uncompromising style would seem perfect to elevate the film out of the "historical biopic" mire.
Release Date: November 4th
46. “Triple 9”
Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson
Synopsis: At the behest of the Russian mob, a group of crooked police officers target one of their own in staging a “999” – police code for “officer down” – so that they may execute a massive heist.
What You Need to Know: John Hillcoat is drawn towards bloody tales of macho men getting their hands dirty (see: his stunning western “The Proposition” and 2012’s “Lawless”) and upon first glance, the only thing that’s noticeably different about his next film, “Triple 9,” is the modern-day milieu and the blaring, bombastic rap tunes on the soundtrack. Otherwise, the wildly, joyously over-the-top red band trailer is chock full of the things we’ve come to associate with Hillcoat’s style of filmmaking: elaborately staged violence; cartoonish gore; a thick mood of portent; and taciturn, badass men growling vague threats at each other. Like “Lawless,” “Triple 9’s” cast is ridiculous (in a good way). Actors seem to want to work with Hillcoat, even if his post-“Proposition” work hasn’t lived up to the explosive potential of that film. It got pushed from last year, which is potentially troubling, but we’re still hopeful that this could turn out an early-year highlight.
Release Date: February 26th
45. “Salt And Fire”
Director: Werner Herzog (“Fitzcarraldo,” “Grizzly Man”)
Cast: Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal, Werner Herzog, Veronica Ferres
Synopsis: Two men on opposite sides of a clash over an ecological issue in South America must put aside their differences and work together to avoid disaster when a nearby volcano presents eruption signals.
What You Need To Know: Everyone is allowed one misfire, and after a more-than-50-year career of impeccable, idiosyncratic genius, Werner Herzog was well overdue his. We’d say it came with last Berlin’s hugely disappointing "Queen of the Desert" (you can judge for yourself when the film open in March), but not to worry, Herzog’s back with a new feature that looks to be right in his wheelhouse of man vs. the cruelty of nature (vs the cruelty of man). With an exciting cast (in which he himself features, and his presence is always a boon) and a dramatic-sounding story set against the kind of backdrop that should provide great material for Herzog’s anthropological and environmental fascinations (he also has a volcano documentary in the pipeline), we’re really hoping to see the Herzog we know and love and are terrified of, back on form.
Release Date: None yet — ‘QOTD’ played Berlin so that’s still an outside possibility, but Herzog’s stature is such that it could well be at Cannes instead.
44. “A Monster Calls”
Director: J.A. Bayona (“The Orphanage,” “The Impossible”)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Geraldine Chaplin
Synopsis: An isolated, bullied little boy seeks the help of a tree monster in dealing with his loneliness and the worsening sickness of his mother.
What You Need To Know: Based on a pretty terrific book by Patrick Ness, who also adapted it for the screen, "A Monster Calls" has the potential to be a kind of "Pan’s Labyrinth" or "Where the Wild Things Are" story. With Bayona at the helm with his proven track record with children — not just in the superlative "The Orphanage," but also in "The Impossible" where he broke out future Spider-Man Tom Holland — we can be sure the kid performances will be pretty special. And he’s fleshed out the rest of the cast with ringers, especially Felicity Jones in the key role of the ailing single mother — she has scarcely put a foot wrong as an actress since coming to prominence in her collaborations with Drake Doremus. Best of all, though it’s just a voice role, we’re excited to see what Neeson does with the part of the monster, mainly because his particular set of skills includes acting as opposed to just bashing in the heads of Armenian kidnappers. Between this and Scorsese‘s "Silence," 2016 should be the year to remind us of that.
Release Date: October 14th
43. "Things to Come" (“L’Avenir”)
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve (“Goodbye First Love,” “Eden”)
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Edith Scob, Roman Kolinka, André Marcon
Synopsis: A 50-year-old philosophy professor coming to terms with the death of her mother and the end of her career discovers her husband is cheating on her.
What You Need To Know: You don’t need to look too far to see what high esteem we hold Hansen-Løve in: The two main authors of this list both included her last film "Eden" in year-end lists (Oli in Best of 2014, Jess in Best of 2015). So of course we were panting with eagerness to see where she would point her inquisitive, intelligent, authentic camera next, even before we discovered the answer would be "at Isabelle Huppert." Seemingly another meditation on lifestage and quotidian drama, the film also stars Edith Scob — yes, that Edith Scob from "Eyes Without a Face" and "Holy Motors" — and Roman Kolinka, (Cyril in "Eden"). Denis Lenoir, the DP who made "Eden" look so extraordinary, returns here, and with as consummate an actress as Huppert at its center, this has all the ingredients of something extremely special.
Release Date: Nothing for the U.S. yet, but it’s dated March 2nd in France, so will we see it in Berlin? Please?
Director: Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes,” segments of “The ABC of Death” and "V/H/S: Viral")
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson
Synopsis: A woman returning home after her New York City job and her engagement both fall through realizes that she is somehow psychically connected to a rampaging monster laying waste to Tokyo.
What You Need To Know: A pretty wild logline, summed up nicely/hilariously as "’Lost in Translation‘ (and/or "Being John Malkovich") meets ‘Godzilla‘," "Colossal" will represent a big step up in terms of profile for the inventive Spanish horror/sci-fi director. And he’s assembled quite the cast, with established star Hathaway headlining and rising "Downton Abbey" actor Stevens having impressed on the big screen not so long ago with "The Guest." The only kink in the plan? An issue arose where Toho, who of course own the rights to Godzilla, weren’t happy with how the film homaged/referenced/ripped off their big, lucrative lizard, and sued the production. The lawsuit, which could easily have scuppered the production which doesn’t have major studio backing, has since been resolved and filming went ahead, so we should see the film, in all its (hopefully) weird, gonzo glory later in the year.
Release Date: None yet, and it only filmed in October 2015, so likely not before fall.
41. “Untitled Howard Hughes Project”
Director: Warren Beatty (“Reds,” “Bulworth”)
Cast: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin
Synopsis: The story of the affair that reclusive, eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes had late in life with a much younger woman.
What You Need To Know: He’s been absent from screens for over a decade and hasn’t directed a movie since 1998 (in fact, he’s only directed four since 1978), but given that Beatty is one of Hollywood’s most fascinating, infuriating and enduring icons, his return to movies has to be one of the major cinematic events of the year. The now-77-year-old legend has been looking to make a movie about Hughes for nearly two decades, but after being waylaid by rival project “The Aviator” and others, this project got underway in early 2014, and has been in post-production ever since. Some of Beatty’s passion projects work better than others, and he wasn’t able to convince pal Jack Nicholson to return from retirement for an appearance, but we’re dying to see how this turns out, particularly as between the lifelong womanizing and his recent reclusiveness, Beatty on Hughes could turn out to be as much autobiography as biopic.
Release Date: Beatty can take years in post (and already has, in fact), but rumors are this should be ready at some point this year.
40. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
Director: Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Life of Pi”)
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker
Synopsis: The surviving members of a squad of soldiers who served in the Iraq War experience the disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad when on a promotional "Victory Tour" in Texas.
What You Need To Know: Ang Lee has turned his hand to many genres over the years, almost always to uniquely intelligent and incisive effect (except maybe for "Hulk," but even that has its defenders on staff). And so it’s exciting that he’s now adding a "war satire" string to his bow, and has assembled a very fine cast to help him bring Billy Fountain‘s acclaimed debut novel to the screen. Stewart’s going to have a big year, still riding her ‘Sils Maria’ success and with another Assayas film due out, and there are some eclectic other choices, like Diesel, Tucker, and especially Martin, whom we haven’t seen anything great from in quite some time and is well due. Lee is shooting in 120fps and in 3D, so it should be an interesting visual experience, but with the Oscar-winning Simon Beaufoy co-writing and Lee himself a Best Director winner, expectations are a lot higher than that.
Release Date: November 11th, heart of awards season.
39. “The BFG”
Director: Steven Spielberg (“E.T,” “Jaws,” "Jurassic Park")
Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Will Forte, Jemaine Clement
Synopsis: A little girl befriends a dream-making giant who is an outcast because of his refusal to eat children.
What You Need To Know: There are things we try to maintain a level of objective remove about — and then there’s Roald Dahl‘s "The BFG." Simply one of the greatest children’s books of all time (do not even try to argue this point), hearing it’s to be made into a film fills us half with joy and half with fear. But then you hear it’s coming from Steven Spielberg, and is being written by his "E.T." scribe Melissa Mathison (who sadly passed away just after principal photography had wrapped), and you get to just relax into looking forward to it. Featuring Mark Rylance, fresh off his Globe nomination for Spielberg’s "Bridge of Spies" as the heartbreakingly goodnatured giant (courtesy of WETA vfx) and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as the little girl Sophie (so-called after Dahl’s niece, former model Sophie Dahl, trivia fans) and having found it’s natural home with Disney, we really hope this will be a kids classic for the ages.
Release Date: July 1st
38. “Personal Shopper”
Director: Olivier Assayas (“Summer Hours,” "Irma Vep," “Clouds of Sils Maria”)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Nora von Waldstätten, Lars Eidinger
Synopsis: Details are thin, but it’s apparently a ghost story that unfolds in the fashion underworld of Paris.
What You Need To Know: There are some of us around here who were not at all enamored of Assayas’ widely lauded "Clouds of Sils Maria," but even we can admit that Kristen Stewart was not just the best thing in it, she gave a really great performance, certainly her best so far. She became the first American actress to win a César as a result and obviously wants the magic to continue, signing up as the star of the French director’s next. Also due to be in English (which is maybe a little cause for concern given the dialogue in ‘Sils Maria’) but set in the heady world of Paris fashion, it does sound like an interesting direction for Assayas to go in, bringing some atmospheric, spooky elements to the mix and, most interestingly, hopefully giving his new muse a role she can really get her teeth into.
Release Date: Nothing yet, but you’d be crazy to bet against a Cannes showing.
Director: Barry Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy”)
Cast: Naomie Harris, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Trevante Rhodes
Synopsis: A young man comes of age in "War on Drugs"-era Miami, and struggles with a deteriorating home situation as well as his own sexual awakening.
What You Need To Know: Co-financed by instant heavy-hitters A24 and Brad Pitt’s Plan B, and cast with some breakout names in Harris ("Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," "Spectre") and "The Knick"’s Holland, to say nothing of the acting debut of singer/songwriter/sensation Monáe, it looks like there’s a lot of buzz around director Jenkins’ first feature since his very promising debut, 2008’s "Medicine for Melancholy." The contemplative vibe of that film, the strong performances and the intelligence of its insights into class and race bodes well that this adaptation of Tarell McRaney‘s play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" should certainly avoid the cliches of the urban coming-of-age story.
Release Date: No date as yet, and since it only shot in October 2015, don’t look for it before fall.
Director: Pablo Larraín ("Post Mortem," “No,” “The Club”)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard, John Hurt, Max Casella
Synopsis: The story of Jackie Kennedy in the first days following the assassination of JFK.
What You Need To Know: Some have suggested that Pablo Larraín‘s latest might not hit until 2017, and to be fair, he does have two other movies opening next year. But with the movie already wrapped, and awards buzz possible, we reckon this could end up hitting in the next 12 months after all. It’s Larraín’s first U.S., English-language production, based on a longtime Black List script from Noah Oppenheim ("The Maze Runner"), and it has a superb cast, led by Natalie Portman in the potentially iconic role of Jackie Kennedy. This sort of historical recreation, especially of a famously beautiful, tragic figure, can go either way (the specters of "Grace of Monaco" and "Diana" loom large), but if the drama is handled right, we’re very hopeful this will rise above the pitfalls of "but x doesn’t look like y" to deliver something insightful and compelling about one of the more enigmatic figures of American history.
Release Date: Fall festivals, then potentially an awards-qualifying release of some kind late in the year.
35. “Manchester By The Sea”
Director: Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me,” “Margaret”)
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Kara Hayward, Tate Donovan
Synopsis: A man must take care of his teenaged nephew after the boy’s father dies.
What You Need To Know: There are few movie-release tales more tortured than the story of Kenneth Lonergan‘s "Margaret," a sprawling, flawed but also quite brilliant film that took more than five years to get through a fractious post-production, and then was buried in a minuscule release. With luck, the journey of his new film will be a lot smoother, because it sounds like it could be another of his brilliantly human, deeply insightful observational dramas, this time of familial relationships and surrogate parenthood. And it’s a mouthwatering cast for this type of drama (one of two anticipated titles to feature "Moonrise Kingdom"’s Kara Hayward, incidentally, along with Jarmusch’s "Paterson") so yes, we can’t wait. Thankfully, we don’t really have to.
Release Date: Already announced for Sundance, with (fingers crossed) wide release later in the year.
34. “How to Talk to Girls At Parties”
Director: John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Shortbus,” "Rabbit Hole")
Cast: Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas, Alex Sharpe
Synopsis: In 1970s London, hapless punk wannabe Enn falls for a girl at a party only to discover she and her friends are aliens sent to prepare the way for a mysterious interplanetary ritual that will put Enn and his newfound love in mortal peril.
What You Need To Know: After two carnal classics in ‘Hedwig’ and "Shortbus‘ director John Cameron Mitchell surprised everyone with a left turn into somber drama with the Nicole Kidman film "Rabbit Hole." Kidman returns for this whimsical story, based on an award-winning Neil Gaiman short story which the director co-wrote for the screen with Philippa Goslett. It’s a punk-inflected story (so we expect a cracking soundtrack) and a romantic comedy with sci-fi-ish elements, so it’s another brand new string to Mitchell’s bow, and it’s looking increasingly like he can do anything. Plus this cast, with the destined-for-greatness Fanning, and the already-great-in-everything Wilson as well as Kidman? We’re there.
Release Date: No word yet.
33. “Nocturnal Animals”
Director: Tom Ford (“A Single Man”)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer, Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Michael Shannon
Synopsis: A woman is asked to read a manuscript for a novel by her ex-husband, but finds herself deeply drawn into the story of the book, which follows a family vacation turned violent.
What You Need To Know: After a quietly stunning and (of course) ravishing-to-look-at debut with "A Single Man," star designer Tom Ford puts his other hat (immaculate, no doubt) back on and directs this ambitious-sounding sophomore title. With quite a stellar lineup of talent involved (and seriously, is there any 2016 film that doesn’t have Michael Shannon in it?) and an interestingly involved premise, the film is based on the book "Tony and Susan" by Austin Wright, and was adapted for the screen by Ford himself, sometime presumably during all that free time he has. Focus Features bankrolled the film, granting Ford complete creative control, for $20m in one of the biggest Cannes Film Market 2015 deals, so expect to see it heavily promoted and pushed for potential awards.
Release Date: No date yet, could it get selected for Cannes?
Director: Jim Jarmusch (“Stranger Than Paradise,” “Dead Man,” "Only Lovers Left Alive")
Cast: Adam Driver, Kara Hayward
Synopsis: Set in modern-day Paterson, New Jersey, this is the story of a bus driver and a poet.
What You Need To Know: For all the snarkiness about "emo Kylo Ren," Driver’s tortured villain proved one hell of a showcase for the actor, especially since, while the others get to run around and be very charming a lot, Driver’s the one who actually has probably the acting centerpiece of the whole film. So we’re very much on board the Driver train, which is in any case next being boarded by one of our favorite directors, Jim Jarmusch, possibly the coolest man on earth. Coming off his glorious, atmospheric vampire tale "Only Lovers Left Alive," this marks a return to the present, though details are so scarce that we’re not even sure if the bus driver and poet he mentioned are two different people. Anyway, it’s maybe best that details are left to be a surprise with Jarmusch films, though we should note that with this and Kenneth Lonergan‘s "Manchester By The Sea," "Moonrise Kingdom"’s Kara Hayward is about to have big (indie) year.
Release Date: None yet, but it could very well show at Cannes.
Director: Todd Solondz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse," “Happiness,” "Life During Wartime")
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Zosia Mamet, Kieran Culkin, Julie Delpy, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Tracy Letts
Synopsis: A dachshund travels around the country and impacts the lives of all he meets for the better, bringing comfort and joy to all.
What You Need To Know: A sorta-sequel to Solondz’s wonderfully eccentric 1995 dramedy "Welcome to the Dollhouse," his new film will feature a few of those characters later in life, notably ‘Dollhouse’ protagonist Dawn Wiener, previously played by Heather Matarazzo, here by Greta Gerwig. It’s great to have Solondz, one of our most willfully idiosyncratic independent auteurs, back on screens for the first time in the five years since his underseen "Dark Horse," and he has assembled quite the cast of indie ringers for this very sweet-natured sounding canine-oriented tale (though we’re on the lookout for Solondz’s mile-wide dark streak to manifest somewhere in there). The loose-limbed sound of the narrative would give us pause ordinarily (do I get a reward for not writing "paws"?), but if these are the stars of the vignettes along the way, actually we’re more than fine with it. Also, Gerwig can do no wrong.
Release Date: Will play Sundance, so we’ll see very soon.
30. “The Circle”
Director: James Ponsoldt (“Smashed,” “The Spectacular Now,” "The End of the Tour")
Cast: Emma Watson, John Boyega, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, Karen Gillen
Synopsis: A young woman lands a job at a mysterious Google-style tech giant
What You Need To Know: Written by Ponsoldt from the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers, "The Circle" sees the director follow up his absolutely stellar but relatively low-key two-hander "The End of the Tour" with a film that’s destined, through cast alone, to have a much higher profile. As the first thing we’ll see John Boyega in after he’s done charming the pants off the world doing the rounds for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the next project for Emma Watson (replacing Alicia Vikander) before she makes cash registers ring in Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast," and the first major post-"Boyhood" role for Ellar Coltrane, the younger generation’s starriness threatens to overshadow even the presence of Tom Hanks. But really, we have such faith in Ponsoldt after just three features that we’d be on board even if the cast had half the wattage: He’s a particularly literate and intelligent director, and the novel’s heady themes will need one such to fly on the big screen.
Release Date: None set yet.
29. “Certain Women”
Director: Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy & Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff”)
Cast: Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, Jared Harris
Synopsis: The story of the intersecting lives of three women in present-day Montana.
What You Need To Know: We dug Kelly Reichardt’s last movie, the Patricia Highsmith-ish paranoid art thriller “Night Moves,” but it felt like many critics and audience members didn’t quite know what to make of the left turn from one of the indie world’s most talented filmmakers. She’s back on more familiar territory for her latest, “Certain Women,” which sees her adapt a series of short stories by author Maile Meloy, with Laura Dern playing an attorney involved in a hostage situation, Michelle Williams as a married woman trying to build a house, and Kristen Stewart as a lawyer teaching an adult-education class. Few are better than Reichardt at telling the stories of women in the American West, and she’s assembled one of her best casts to date here. The presence of Todd Haynes, hot off “Carol,” as an exec producer can only help matters further.
Release Date: Screens at Sundance in just a few weeks.
Director: Morten Tyldum (“Headhunters,” “The Imitation Game”)
Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Synopsis: On a long-distance space flight to a far-off planet, a sleep capsule malfunctions, waking its occupant. Faced with 60 years alone as the alternative, he decides to wake up one of his fellow passengers.
What You Need To Know: We were not the greatest fans of Tyldum’s Oscar-baity "The Imitation Game," but that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited for anything that unites the words "Tyldum" and "probable awards magnet." This sci-fi romance sounds right up our street in fact, with its interesting high-concept, but mainly it gives us the chance to watch two of the biggest new stars in the world in a love story. Writer Jon Spaihts may have blotted his copybook a little with "Prometheus," but he’s also behind the script for the (hopefully) weird "Doctor Strange" and will be penning the new "Mummy" film as well as possibly "Van Helsing," so someone’s got a lot of faith in him. Though make no mistake, it’s Lawrence and Pratt who have us lining up for this, as well as ace DP Rodrigo Prieto (who has just finished shooting Scorsese’s "Silence" too), and a premise that promises something a bit more thoughtful than most sci-fi, and at the very least an original film.
Release Date: December 21st
27. “The Handmaid”
Director: Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” “Stoker”)
Cast: Ha Jung-woo, Kim Min-hee, Jo Jin-woong
Synopsis: An original take on the Sarah Waters novel "Fingersmith," in which the story of lesbianism, servitude and pickpocketing is transposed from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s.
What You Need To Know: Um, hello, did you read that synopsis? This sounds just brilliant, with one of our favorite working directors taking on a terrific page-turner book and completely reinventing it for a new culture and time period. His actors, too are all potentially familiar faces, depending how au fait you are with contemporary Korean cinema (and if you’re lagging behind, boy have you a treat in store); Jo was in 2014’s brilliantly zany thriller "A Hard Day," as well as last year’s well-received "Assassination," which also starred Ha; while the top-billed female in the cast, Kim, showed up in Hong Sang-soo‘s lauded 2015 title "Right Then, Wrong Now." There are apostates on the Playlist staff who were not fans of "Stoker," Park’s English-language debut, but this sees him back at home and working with heady themes of loyalty, betrayal, deceit and desire against a fascinatingly arcane backdrop (for a Western audience anyway), so even they are excited for this one.
Release Date: Nothing announced but Cannes or STFU.
26. “The Bad Batch”
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour (“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”)
Cast: Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna
Synopsis: In a dystopian Texas wasteland, love blossoms within a community of cannibals.
What You Need To Know: "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night" was one of the most original and enjoyable debuts in recent memory, exuding not just directorial confidence and flair but outright cool, the likes of which we rarely find outside the films of Jim Jarmusch. Real-life superhero Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures was clearly as won over as those of us without a few million to invest: She stepped in to finance Amirpour’s follow-up, which sounds like a similar to her debut in its dark genre twist on a love story, but this time features an intriguingly eclectic cast of well-known faces. We’re especially delighted to see Carrey essay something a little more challenging than the comedy sequels and cameos that have been his fare of late, while Reeves is hot again after "John Wick" and seems to be entering a fruitful DGAF phase of his career.
Release Date: None yet, but ‘Girl’ made enough noise on the festival circuit last time that we’d expect a bow at one of the bigger ones.
25. “Doctor Strange”
Director: Scott Derrickson (“The Day The Earth Stood Still,” “Sinister”)
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen
Synopsis: After his hands are injured in a car accident, an arrogant surgeon travels to the ends of the earth in search of healing, discovering the Ancient One and a world of sorcery and alternate dimensions.
What You Need To Know: In order to stop the Marvel movies feeling like a series of $200 million TV episodes, the company needs to keep things fresh. And “Doctor Strange” could be their best prospect at doing so since “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” For one, the film promises to pay homage to the psychedelic mysticism of the comic-book source material, which should make for a visually interesting experience (the trippy late-in-the-game sequence in “Ant-Man” was one of the highlights there). For another, it has a better cast than most prestige pictures this year: not just Cumberbatch in the lead role, but also Ejiofor, Swinton, Mikkelsen, McAdams, the great Michael Stuhlbarg, and “Transparent” breakout Amy Landecker. The only question mark? Helmer Scott Derrickson, whose last foray into blockbuster territory with “The Day The Earth Stood Still” was brutally bad.
Release Date: November 4th
24. “Assassin’s Creed”
Director: Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders,” “Macbeth”)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Ariane Labed, Brendan Gleeson, Michael K. Williams
Synopsis: A prison is experimented on using a machine that enables him to retrieve his memory of his ancestor, an ancestor in Spain in the 15th century, who was embroiled in a war between Assassins and Templars.
What You Need To Know: It feels weird having a movie based on a video game this high on our list, but there’s a pretty good chance that “Assassin’s Creed” turns out to be the first great one, or if our faint hopes for “Warcraft” are misplaced, at least the first good one. Based on Ubisoft’s stealth-action mega-franchise, this eschews the crusades or Revolutionary America settings of the games for a brand new period, Inquisition-era Spain. That’s not why we’re excited: This marks a reunion of the cast, director and writer (Michael Lesslie, rather than Shakespeare) of last year’s terrific “Macbeth,” and this doesn’t appear to be a paycheck gig either: Fassbender’s a producer on the film, and has been developing it for four years. Maybe it turns out to be a misfire, but this is certainly shaping up as one of the most interesting blockbusters of the year.
Release Date: Currently December 21st, but we wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see it move into Fox’s “Gambit” slot in October if it’s done in time.
23. “American Honey”
Director: Andrea Arnold (“Red Road,” “Fish Tank”)
Cast: Arielle Holmes, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Will Patton, McCaul Lombardi
Synopsis: A teenage girl joins a traveling magazine sales crew and crosses the midwest with them.
What You Need To Know: It’s five years since we had a movie from Andrea Arnold: Though “Fish Tank” had appeared to place her among the top tier of international auteurs, mixed reaction to her (amazing) “Wuthering Heights” seemed to put her back a step. But hot on the heels of her helming a terrific episode of “Transparent,” Arnold’s back, with her first American-set movie. Based around the controversial so-called Mag Crews, which sees young kids exploited by their employers, it’s a road movie mostly revolving around unknown faces, but with a few familiar ones too: “Heaven Knows What” breakout Arielle Holmes, “Fury Road” co-star Riley Keough, and Shia LaBeouf. We’re there for anything that Arnold directs (especially when regular DoP Robbie Ryan is along for the ride too), but we’re particularly fascinated to see her take on the States.
Release Date: Wrapped last summer, so a return to Cannes, where “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” screened, seems like a good bet.
22. "Midnight Special"
Director: Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter," "Mud")
Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard
Synopsis: A father and son attempt to evade government officials when they learn the boy has supernatural powers.
What You Need To Know: The first to arrive of Jeff Nichols’ two movies this year, “Midnight Special” is his first real studio movie, and very intriguing it is too. Likened to a John Carpenter film and a “chase movie,” with some very Spielbergian echoes from the trailer, Nichols —who has up to now been making a series of down-to-the-bone dramas in the indie world — was one of the last people we’d think would take on a big budget original sci-fi movie. This has been in the works for ages at this point — the film was shot back in 2014, and a further push into 2015 suggests that Warner Bros don’t quite know what they have on their hands. But then, Warner Bros don’t quite know what they’re doing on multiple levels right now, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Release Date: March 18th, with a Berlin premiere before that.
21.“Everybody Wants Some”
Director: Richard Linklater (The ‘Before‘ Trilogy, "Boyhood")
Cast: Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Ryan Guzman, Zoey Deutch, Will Brittain, Glen Powell
Synopsis: A college freshman falls in with a group of baseball players.
What You Need To Know: The most obvious side effect of Linklater’s newfound heat due to the all-conquering “Boyhood,” Annapurna Pictures have finally stepped up for this long-gestating “spiritual sequel” to his much beloved “Dazed and Confused.” Starring a largely unknown cast, it seems like he will try to recapture the loose-limbed, youthful energy of its precursor. And if that first trailer is anything to go by, he’s succeeded, with the same kind of vibrant, joyful, authentic feel from his 70-set teen classic brought to a college campus in the 1980s. Linklater can, to be fair, be hit and miss, and had a patchy run in the mid-’00s, but between “Bernie,” “Before Midnight” and “Boyhood,” he’s on one of the best runs of his career, and we’re hopeful that’ll continue here.
Release Date: Premieres at SXSW in March, then hits theaters on April 15th.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Inma Cuesta, Rossy de Palma, Nathalie Poza
Synopsis: The life of the titular woman, told between two time periods, 2015 and 1985.
What You Need To Know: There’s little as heartbreaking as when a beloved filmmaker with few black spots on his track record delivers an irredemable turkey, but that’s what happened with Pedro Almodóvar’s last film, the dire, dated comedy “I’m So Excited.” Fortunately, he’s back on far more familiar territory for his latest, “Julieta,” which the director himself has suggested is a return to both the drama, and to the “woman’s picture.” A pair of newcomers to the director’s world split the title role, though fans will be delighted to hear that one of his most regular collaborators, Rossy de Palma, will appear, her first film with him since “Broken Embraces” in 2009. Beyond that, little else is known, though the film will apparently involve mental health issues in part caused by ‘silence’ — the film’s original title was “Silencio,” but Almodovar changed it to avoid confusion with the Scorsese movie.
Release Date: Hits Spanish theaters in March, but with a May 18th date in France, we suspect a Cannes bow is on the cards.
19. “The Unknown Girl”
Directors: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (“L’Enfant,” “Two Days, One Night”)
Cast: Adèle Haenel, Olivier Bonnaud, Louka Minella, Jérémie Renier
Synopsis: A young doctor sets out to discover the identity of a patient who died after she refused her treatment.
What You Need To Know: It didn’t win them a third Palme D’Or, but you probably have to consider “Two Days, One Night” one of the biggest successes in the career of Belgian greats the Dardenne Brothers — glowing reviews, healthy box office and an Oscar nomination for star Marion Cotillard. The filmmakers are already back, shooting their latest, “The Unknown Girl,” last year, and while it doesn’t have an international megastar like Cotillard in it, it’s nevertheless as promising as ever. Rising Gallic star Adèle Haenel, winner of back-to-back César Awards for “Suzanne” and “Love At First Fight,” takes the lead role, with Dardennes regular Jérémie Renier also involved after sitting the last one out. Few filmmakers are as consistent as the Dardennes, so this is probably already assured to be one of 2016’s best.
Release Date: 99% certain to be at Cannes — other than breakthrough “The Promise,” every one of their movies has screened there.
18. “It’s Only The End Of The World”
Director: Xavier Dolan (“Tom At The Farm,” “Mommy”)
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye
Synopsis: A writer returns to his estranged family with a powerful secret.
What You Need To Know: Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan upgraded himself from ‘incredibly promising talent’ to ‘major director’ with the glorious “Mommy” in 2014, and it’s led to everyone queueing up to work with him, from Adele (he directed the “Hello” video), to Jessica Chastain, who’ll star in his English-language debut “The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan.” When the latter got pushed back, he found time to squeeze in another project: this adaptation of the play by late French playwright Jean-Luc Lagarce. Fitting into the ‘family reunion’ sub-genre (see “A Christmas Tale,” among many others), it’s seen Dolan attract some of France’s best-known actors to the project, including Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux. And though there’s the risk that it could be stagey, he showed with “Tom At The Farm,” also based on a play, that he can open theatrical work up in a thrillingly cinematic way.
Release Date: After his success there with “Mommy,” Cannes seems like a certainty.
17. “Free Fire”
Director: Ben Wheatley (“Kill List,” “Sightseers”)
Cast: Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer
Synopsis: An Irish gang’s attempt to buy guns from a Boston gang goes swiftly south, leading to blood and bullets.
What You Need To Know: For a while, it seemed like we were getting a Ben Wheatley movie every year, and we couldn’t have been happier about it. But since the release of trippy oddity “A Field In England,” the helmer had been relatively quiet, with only a couple of “Doctor Who” episodes to his name. Fortunately, though, the helmer’s returned to his usual standards of productivity, shooting crime thriller “Free Fire” even before his last movie “High-Rise” had premiered. A return to the crime drama of “Down Terrace” and “Kill List,” this pairs Wheatley regulars like Michael Smiley and Enzo Cilenti with a host of newcomers, including the so-hot-right-now Brie Larson. The set up sounds decidedly “Reservoir Dogs”-ish, but the movie’s already had the thumbs up from another crime cinema master: Martin Scorsese’s on board as executive producer.
Release Date: Wrapped in the summer: Cannes, Venice or TIFF are all possible.
16. “The Nice Guys”
Director: Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “Iron Man 3”)
Cast; Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer
Synopsis: An incompetent PI and a hired muscle team up to track down a missing girl in 1970s L.A.
What You Need To Know: Shane Black was a surprising choice to direct “Iron Man 3,” but that he made one of the most distinctive and enjoyable Marvel movies to date and still ended up with a billion-dollar hit might have been more surprising. It bought him a certain amount of latitude, and that’s led to “The Nice Guys,” to all intents and purposes a tonal follow-up to his directorial debut “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (one of the best American movies of the ’00s, but a huge flop on release). Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are the unlikely buddy-buddy pair this time, and the film’s brilliant trailer suggests we’re in for an enormous treat, like “Inherent Vice” if it was an action-comedy. The marketing this time has been pleasingly confident: could this end up connecting with a much larger crowd than KKBB? We certainly hope so.
Release Date: May 20th
Director: Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”)
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth
Synopsis: When ghosts invade Manhattan, four women team up to battle them.
What You Need To Know: A new “Ghostbusters” movie has been discussed for literally decades, but when it was announced, some fans were furious, because Paul Feig’s reboot rejects the all-male line-up of the beloved original in favor of a central team of four women. Those angry fans are man-baby idiots, because Feig has a three-for-three track record of legitimately hilarious, successful satisfying comedies with “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” and “Spy,” and has four of the funniest women around donning the backpacks (and, brilliantly, Thor playing their receptionist). Barring Rick Moranis, all major surviving cast members from the original are cameoing too. Is a “Ghostbusters” reboot a symptom of a Hollywood out of ideas? Perhaps. But if anyone can make a movie that finds a new approach to the franchise, and delivers the laughs, Feig and his team might have the best chance, and we’re excited to see what he turns out.
Release Date: July 15th
14. “The Light Between Oceans”
Director: Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine,” “A Place Beyond The Pines”)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hayes, Caren Pistorious
Synopsis: A lighthouse keeper and his wife see their lives change when a baby girl washes upon their shores in a lifeboat.
What You Need to Know: Director Derek Cianfrance sure does have a propensity and flair for tragedy and melodrama — his breakthrough “Blue Valentine” was a galvanizing portrait of the disintegration of a marriage, and “A Place Beyond the Pines,” took a look at the consequences and violent actions that reverberate over generations in the lives of two very different families. So “The Light Between Oceans” should prove to be an interesting change of gears: It’s a period piece set in Australia in the years following World War I. Featuring some heavy hitters in the cast and some ace collaborators (“Animal Kingdom” and “True Detective” D.P. Adam Arkapaw will lens the film, and famed composer Alexandre Desplat will be doing the music), the film looks to be another pulverizing, pained look at the moral grey area that distinguishes people’s wants and desires from their actions. Count us in.
Release Date: We reckon a return to Cannes could be in the cards for Cianfrance — the film should certainly be done, having wrapped early last year.
13. “High Life”
Director: Claire Denis (“Trouble Every Day,” “White Material”)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Patricia Arquette, Mia Goth
Synopsis: A group of criminals agree to go on a suicide mission into space in the hope of finding alternate energy sources, and to take part in experiments in human reproduction.
What You Need To Know: If we could have guessed what arthouse queen Claire Denis would do next after the brutal “Bastards” from a few years ago, we wouldn’t have said ‘sci-fi starring R-Patz.’ And yet here we are, with Denis gearing up to shoot her first English-language movie, one excitingly penned by the great Zadie Smith and her partner, poet Nick Laird, with the ever-adventurous Pattinson and recent Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette starring. Though the subject matter is unusual for Denis, she’s never been afraid to play with genre, and it thematically should be up her street. In fact, the only reason this isn’t higher is that, depending on the amount of effects involved, it’s not entirely certain whether it’ll be ready for this year.
Release Date: Shooting begins shortly, and given that, “Bastards” aside, all of Denis’ recent movies premiered at Venice, that would be the best bet if it’s done in time.
12. “La La Land”
Director: Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”)
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt
Synopsis: Musical following the relationship between a jazz pianist and an actress.
What You Need To Know: Compared to their ’50s/’60s heyday, musicals are pretty rare these days, and when they do, they’re almost always either Broadway adaptations, animated, or jukebox musicals using pre-existing songs. That it’s a completely original musical is just one of the things that makes “La La Land” exciting, the other being that it marks the return of Damien Chazelle, who exploded onto everyone’s radar with the incredible, multi-Oscar nominated “Whiplash.” His ambition was clearly only just getting started, but he does have a history with the form: His debut, “Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench,” his Harvard thesis movie, was also a musical. His composer on that and “Whiplash,” Justin Hurwitz, returns to pen the songs, while A-listers Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone lead. This could be a famous disaster, but if Chazelle can pull it off — and “Whiplash” suggests he can — he’ll pass into legend.
Release Date: July 15th. Could we see it hitting Cannes first?
11. “Untitled Fifth Bourne Movie”
Director: Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy,” “Captain Phillips”)
Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed
What You Need To Know: Despite the best efforts of 007, Ethan Hunt, Eggsy and Susan Cooper, Jason Bourne remains the defining face of the spy actioner in the 21st century — but for a while it looked like we might never see him again. Director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon walked away from the blockbuster franchise, and a replacement was set up in the shape of Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross. But with “The Bourne Legacy” proving a damp squib, Universal went back to Greengrass and Damon, and the result is an as-yet-untitled fifth movie in the series. Little’s known about the story so far, but Damon (who co-wrote the script with Greengrass and the latter’s longtime editor Christopher Rouse: It’s only the actor’s third screenwriting credit since winning the Oscar for “Good Will Hunting”) has promised an adventure that taps into contemporary anxieties around the financial crisis and Edward Snowden.
Release Date: July 29th
10. “20th Century Women”
Director: Mike Mills
Cast: Elle Fanning, Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Alia Shawkat
Synopsis: A story of three generations of very different women living in 1970’s Santa Barbara.
What You Need to Know: With 2011’s unforgettable “Beginners,” Mike Mills took everything that was charming and promising about his terrific and idiosyncratic debut “Thumbsucker” and built and expanded upon it. Clearly Megan Ellison was a fan, as she’s bankrolled his next project, a deeply personal seriocomic passion project called “20th Century Women.” Ostensibly an ode to the women who helped to raise Mills himself, “20th Century Women” promises to be an interesting period piece — the film unfolds in the sleepy Southern California beach town of Santa Barbara, sometime in the late 1970s — in addition to another one of Mills’ indelible character portraits. Bening will play the single mother who serves as the focus of the story, with Gerwig as her daughter, an earthy artiste whose return to her hometown doesn’t sit well with her worldly ambitions, and Fanning as a teenager who learns the ins and outs of love.
Release Date: TIFF seems like the best bet.
9. “The Lost City of Z”
Director: James Gray
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Mcfadyen
Synopsis: A group of British explorers search for a colonel who goes missing trying to find a lost city somewhere in the Amazon.
What You Need to Know: Although he frequently earns comparisons to his New Hollywood buddies Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s easy to forget that James Gray is only five films into an already-impressive career. “Little Odessa,” “The Yards” and “We Own the Night” are moody, classicist crime dramas indebted to the work of Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola, while “Two Lovers” and the mesmerizing “The Immigrant” respectively tackled the romantic melodrama and the grandiose period epic. His newest, “The Lost City of Z,” looks to be his biggest, most ambitious and perhaps strangest film yet. The unforgiving jungle locale hearkens back to the early, dangerous cinema of Werner Herzog, and something about the juicy-sounding premise evokes the naturalist brutality of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and the inarguable classic film the novel inspired, “Apocalypse Now,” which is one Coppola classic that Gray’s never borrowed from. As far as we’re concerned, Gray is five for five at this point, and we can’t wait to see what the director has up his sleeve with this epic-sounding drama.
Release Date: Gray’s a favorite at Cannes, so if it’s done in time, expect it there.
8 “The Story Of Your Life”
Director: Denis Villeneuve (“Enemy,” “Sicario”)
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Synopsis: After a number of alien spacecraft crash on Earth, a linguistics expert is recruited to discover the purpose of the creatures’ journey.
What You Need To Know: Since his Oscar-nominated “Incendies,” Denis Villeneuve has become a Playlist favorite, thanks to “Prisoners,” “Enemy” and “Sicario.” 2016 will see him begin production on the much-anticipated sequel to “Blade Runner,” but first he squeezed in this sci-fi warm-up, an adaptation of a novella by Ted Chiang. In theory, it’s an alien invasion movie, but Villeneuve’s already shown that his remarkable command of tone and image can elevate tired-seeming premises, and this has a lot going for it —this is essentially a movie about language, which is pretty bold. As ever, he’s assembled a strong cast, and while Roger Deakins, busy with the Coens, sat this one out, he continues to show exemplary taste in cinematographers, with Bradford Young (“Selma,” “A Most Violent Year”) behind the viewfinder this time.
Release Date: Paramount haven’t given it one yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Villeneuve return to Cannes after “Sicario” screened there in 2015.
7. “ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Director: Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla,” “Monsters”)
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk
Synopsis: Set just before the events of "Star Wars: A New Hope," the story follows a motley band of Rebel fighters who launch a desperate bid to steal the plans for the Death Star and thereby prevent Emperor Palpatine from gaining ground.
What You Need To Know: With ‘The Force Awakens‘ still stomping through the record books as predicted, it’s hard to see through to when the dust clears at the end of 2016 and there will be another "Star Wars" film to check out —with a whole new time period, cast of characters and apparently a distinct look and feel. But this leftfield, potentially confusing move from Disney is what has us so interested in "Rogue One" (apart from the stellar cast, of course). It promises a different vibe than the had-to-please-everyone JJ Abrams incarnation, and while Edwards’ "Godzilla" may not overall have worked for us, it was one of the more beautiful blockbusters of recent years. If the success of ‘Force Awakens’ buys him and writer Chris Weitz (with rumored input from Christopher McQuarrie) the grace to put a different spin on the Star Wars universe, one evidently closer to a war movie, then all the better.
Release Date: December 16th
6. “The Neon Demon”
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcoate, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks
Synopsis: An up-and-coming model in Los Angeles becomes prey for a gang of beauty-obsessed peers who wish to drain her of her vitality and beauty.
What You Need to Know: “Only God Forgives,” the last film directed by mad Dane Nicolas Winding Refn, took such a critical drubbing that a great deal of the luster lingering from Refn’s magnificent previous feature “Drive” was ultimately lost in the hubbub. Refn’s ultra-stylized, ultra-violent films have always been an acquired taste, and “Only God Forgives” is decidedly more in line with the slow-burning, somewhat indulgent dread of earlier work than the gloriously cinematic dreamscape in which “Drive” unfolded. But with “Neon Demon,” Refn looks primed to deliver another electric, hyper-surreal masterwork in the vein of his best efforts. This time ‘round, he’s assembled a killer cast of (mostly) women to bring to life a ghoulish-sounding tale that is said to be indebted to the Countess Bathory myth, Christian cinema and the catty black comedy “Drop Dead Gorgeous.”
Release Date: TBD. Amazon Studios acquired the rights to the film in November of 2015, and they’re likely rooting for a Cannes premiere like the director’s last two films.
5. “The Salesman”
Director: Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation,” “The Past”)
Cast: Sahahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti
Synopsis: Two actors perform in Arthur Miller’s “Death Of A Salesman.”
What You Need To Know: Though a few savvy festival-goers picked up on his earlier work, for most of us Iranian helmer Asghar Farhadi is maybe the most exciting filmmaker to emerge in this decade. His Oscar-winning melodrama “A Separation” topped our list of the best of the decade so far last year, and the France-set follow-up “The Past” was terrific too. There’s been a gap of a few years since the latter, but Farhadi is lining up projects: he’s apparently going to shoot a movie produced by Pedro Almodovar in Spain later this year, but he quietly shot a film back home in Iran last month. Details are thin on the ground, except that it’s apparently linked to “Death Of A Salesman.” Some kind of theatrical-life drama? Or something more experimental? Either way, consider us there.
Release Date: Though it only shot in November, Farhadi’s apparently already submitted it to the Fajr International Film Festival in Iran. That takes place in early February —could we also end up seeing it in Berlin?
4. “Hail, Caesar!”
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen.
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum
Synopsis: A “fixer” in 1950s Hollywood finds himself entrenched in a cesspool of misunderstanding when the harebrained star of a Roman gladiator picture is kidnapped by a shadowy organization known as The Future.
What You Need to Know: Any new film from cinema’s reigning pair of court jesters is reason enough to celebrate. The Coens have a habit of following up their more grave and soulful pictures with works of fevered comic lunacy, and “Hail, Caesar!” looks to be very much a retreat into mannered slapstick silliness following the somber lyricism of 2013’s “Inside Llewyn Davis”. The cast here is one of the best the brothers have ever assembled, including returning Coen favorites like George Clooney (once again playing a mealy-mouthed idiot), Brolin as fixer Eddie Mannix and Frances McDormand in a supporting turn. There’s also some new faces being brought into the fold in the form of Channing Tatum, whose gift for conveying blissful stupidity makes him an ideal fit for the Coen-verse, a vampy-looking Scarlett Johannson and Jonah Hill. The trailer is also a treat, promising the kind of colorful, high-velocity hijinks that characterize the brother’s broader efforts, while also hinting at the potentially darker themes that the movie may have in store. Will “Hail, Caesar!” be a tongue-in-cheek Tinseltown farce played in the Coen’s signature morbid key —or will it be something more? Just a few more months until we find out for ourselves.
Release Date: February 6th
3. “War Machine”
Director: David Miçhod (“Animal Kingdom,” “The Rover”)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Topher Grace, Meg Tilly, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter
Synopsis: A veiled biopic of Stanley McChrystal, the so-called Runaway General who was put in charge of the war in Afghanistan by President Obama but who quickly alienated his allies and bosses.
What You Need To Know: It might not be a sea change that one of the movies in our top five most anticipated of 2015 is funded and will be distributed by streaming service Netflix, but it’s certainly notable. “Beasts Of No Nation” certainly made a splash, but this is Netflix’s biggest endeavor to date, with the company stepping in to fund David Miçhod’s darkly comic “M.A.S.H.” style look at the war in Afghanistan, starring one of the planet’s biggest stars, after New Regency and Ratpac took issue with the budget, to the tune of $60 million. Miçhod’s an enormous talent, the subject matter is vitally important, and the supporting cast —which along with Poulter, also includes other fast rising stars like “Brooklyn” breakout Emory Cohen, “Short Term 12” standout Keith Stanfield, “Me & Earl & The Dying Girl”’s RJ Cyler and “The Big Short” actor John Magaro— is killer.
Release Date: None yet, but look for it at a fall festival (perhaps a Netflix return to Venice?) before it hits theaters and Netflix.
2. Untitled Terrence Malick Austin Music Scene Project
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Haley Bennett
Synopsis: A romantic drama set in the music industry.
What You Need To Know: Unless you happened to be at Berlin last year, you haven’t yet seen “Knight Of Cups” (BECAUSE YOU DON’T PIRATE MOVIES, DO YOU?), but nevertheless, we’re likely to see something from Terrence Malick sooner rather than later, given that he shot this still-untitled film —originally called “Lawless,” presently rumored to be named “Weightless”— virtually back to back with the last one back in 2012. Promising to do for Austin and the music world what “Knight Of Cups” did for Hollywood, this film seemingly has Ryan Gosling in the lead role and should feature live performances from some or all of Fleet Foxes, The Black Lips, Neon Indian, Arcade Fire, Lykke Li, Patti Smith and Florence & The Machine. As ever, details are few, but it’s Malick, so we’ll be there.
Release Date: Who knows…
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano
Synopsis: Two 17th-century Jesuit priests face violent persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread the gospel of Christianity.
What You Need To Know: Scorsese has been threatening to make this passion project for several years, and it finally got before cameras early last year. Sadly, Daniel Day-Lewis (the original lead) is no longer on board, but the cast is otherwise terrific and it’ll be nice to see Neeson do something other than beat people up for a change and remind audiences he can act when he’s asked to. File this one likely under: much closer to “Kundun” or “The Last Temptation Of Christ,” religion-based Scorsese projects that don’t always light up the box-office but are nonetheless usually among his finest work. Though the cast alone will surely make it some kind of awards contender, and it sounds like it may almost be the antithesis of Scorsese’s last picture, the brash, gleefully excessive "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Release Date: Producer Gaston Pavlovich has said that if it’s done in time, they’re aiming for Cannes. Interestingly, it’d be the director’s first fiction film there since his segment of “New York Stories” in 1989.
Special Mention: We’re Not Sure If This Is Still Happening in 2016, But It’s Highly Anticipated If It Is
Director: Harmony Korine (“Trash Humpers,” “Spring Breakers”)
Cast: Idris Elba, Benicio Del Toro, Robert Pattinson, Al Pacino, James Franco
Synopsis: A gangster rapper is targeted by an ex-con recently released from prison.
What You Need To Know: As far as candidates for mainstream crossover status go, we’d have had indie world enfant terrible Harmony Korine fairly low on the list, and yet “Spring Breakers” proved to be a substantial hit in 2013, proving the eternal appeal of James Franco, as well as young women partying in swimsuits. It’s taken a little time for Korine to follow it up, but “The Trap” could end up making even more of a splash —if it’s still happening, as word’s been very quiet since the summer. A crime thriller, the director called it “sensory bombardment… a super propulsive, pretty highly violent revenge movie,” which sounds alright by us. He’s got a great cast lined up (assuming everyone’s still involved: schedules change, and if it is keeping to the original plan, it would clash with Benicio Del Toro’s “Star Wars” shoot), and we can’t wait to see what kind of bonkers fever dream he cooks up this time. If we were 100% sure that this was definitely going to be released this year, it’d undoubtedly be in our top five.
Release Date: The film was supposed to get before cameras this month. Assuming that holds, it could be ready for a Venice premiere, as “Spring Breakers” did.
There’s plenty more where the above came from, and other movies that could have made this list on a different day. We deliberately didn’t include too many Sundance titles, as we’ll be doing a full Sundance preview in a week or two, but among those we’re keeping an eye on are Nate Parker’s slavery drama “Birth Of A Nation,” Chad Hartigan’s “Morris From America,” Ellen Page/Allison Janney reunion “Tallulah,” a rare drama from “Amy” and “Senna” director Asif Kapadia with “Ali & Nino,” Viggo Mortensen dramedy “Captain Fantastic,” future “Thor 3” director Taika Waititi’s “Hunt For The Wilderpeople,” James Schamus’ directorial debut with Philip Roth adaptation “Indignation,” Joshua Marston’s “Complete Unknown” starring Rachel Weisz, another musical from “Once” director John Carney with “Sing Street,” and “Southside With You,” which is basically “Before Sunrise,” but with Barack and Michelle Obama.
Other movies that nearly made our list include comedy sequels “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” and “Bad Santa 2,” Clint Eastwood’s latest “Sully,” the biopic of the hero pilot starring Tom Hanks, James Franco and Bryan Cranston in comedy “Why Him?,” Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey in Amazon Studios pic “Elvis & Nixon,” Tom Hanks in Tom Tykwer’s Dave Eggers adaptation “A Hologram For The King,” Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in the Berlinale-bound “Genius,” Terence Davies’ latest “A Quiet Passion” starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson, Ben Affleck/Anna Kendrick thriller “The Accountant,” long-delayed Natalie Portman Western “Jane Got A Gun,” John Le Carre adaptation “Our Kind Of Traitor” with Ewan McGregor and Naomi Harris, and David Yates’ “The Legend Of Tarzan.”
From the international side, we’re hopeful that Diego Luna’s “Mr. Pig,” Christi Puiu’s “Sierra Nevada,” Andre Techine’s “When I’m 17” (written by “Girlhood” helmer Celine Sciamma), Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Umi yori mo mada fukaku,” Bruno Dumont’s “Slack Bay,” Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake,” Tran Anh Hung’s “Eternite” and Jan Svankmajer’s “The Insects” will each arrive this year. Don’t hold your breath for new films from Michael Haneke, Ruben Ostlund or Abbas Kiarostami, though: they don’t appear to have filmed yet, so will likely be headed for Cannes 2017. The same is true for Benh Zeitlin’s “Wendy,” which we don’t think has been shot, and Channing Tatum X-Man movie “Gambit,” which has finally found a director in Doug Liman, but seems unlikely to make its October release given shooting hasn’t started yet. Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” doesn’t shoot til the summer, so that’s another strong Cannes possibility for next year.
There are plenty of bigger movies that are definitely arriving, but are question marks to one degree or another, even if we remain hopeful that they’ll turn out well. They include Jon Favreau’s live-action “The Jungle Book” re-do, Ricky Gervais-directed Netflix pic “Special Correspondents” starring Eric Bana, Idris Elba actioner “Bastille Day,” M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” with James McAvoy, Edgar Ramirez/Robert De Niro boxing drama “Hands Of Stone,” Mel Gibson’s return to directing with the Andrew Garfield-starring WW2 pic “Hacksaw Ridge,” Greg Mottola action-comedy “Keeping Up With The Joneses” starring Jon Hamm, Zach Galafianakis, Isla Fisher and Gal Gadot, Jim Sheridan’s “The Secret Scripture” with Rooney Mara, and James Franco’s Hollywood satire “Zeroville.”
And let’s not also forget Bryan Cranston in based-in-fact thriller “The Infiltrator,” Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan and Christoph Waltz in period drama “Tulip Fever,” sci-fi “The Space Between Us” with Asa Butterfield and Gary Oldman, Timur Bekmambetov’s big-budget “Ben Hur” remake, sci-fi actioner “Spectral” starring James Badge Dale and Emily Mortimer, virus thriller “Patient Zero” with Matt Smith and Natalie Dormer, rom-com threequel “Bridget Jones’ Baby,” Gore Verbinski’s low-budget palate cleanser “A Cure For Wellness” starring Dane DeHaan and Mia Goth, the return of Tom Hanks as whatever he’s called in “Da Vinci Code” follow-up “Inferno,” Tom Cruise cracking heads again in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” and Owen Wilson/Ed Helms comedy “Bastards.”
And there’s Sean Penn’s aid worker drama “The Last Face” with Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, Woody Allen’s latest with Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell, Woody Harrelson in neo-western “By Way Of Helena,” Jesse Owens biopic “Race,” Sacha Baron Cohen spy-comedy “The Brothers Grimsby,” J.J. Abrams-produced thriller “Valencia” with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, potential future How In The Name Of Whatever Deity You Worship Did This Get Made favorite “Gods Of Egypt,” delayed Nicholas Hoult/Felicity Jones car-chase actioner “Collide,” Taron Egerton in ski-jump biopic “Eddie The Eagle” and Melissa McCarthy as “The Boss.”
Finally, there’s also unnecessary fairy tale sequel “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” with a killer cast of Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, Michael Bay’s sure-to-be-controversial “13 Hours,” animated sequel “Kung Fu Panda 3,” Chris Pine and Casey Affleck in coast guard drama “The Finest Hours,” period horror-rom-com “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies,” obnoxious-looking Ryan Reynolds meta-superhero pic “Deadpool,” Dakota Johnson rom-com “How To Be Single,” Johnny Depp back in a gaudy wonderland for “Alice Through The Looking Glass,” horror sequel “The Conjuring 2,” The Rock and Kevin Hart teaming for “Central Intelligence,” Zac Efron and Adam Devine teamed for “Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates,” and animation “The Secret Life Of Pets,” from the makers of “Minions.”
Whew! We’re sure there will be plenty more surprises to come. What are you most looking forward to? Let us know below. — with Nicholas Laskin