"Only Lovers Left Alive"
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin
Distributor: None, though that will surely change.
Release Date: Likely to have a Cannes premiere that results in US distribution at some point later this year.
Why Might It Be A Must See: A crypto-vampire love story starring Tilda Swinton and directed by Jim Jarmusch.  That's the only sentence you need. Truly. [Peter Knegt]

"The Place Beyond the Pines"
Focus Features "The Place Beyond the Pines"

"The Place Beyond the Pines"
Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne.
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: March 29
Why Might It Be A Must See: "The Place Beyond the Pines," Derek Cianfrance's anticipated follow-up to his 2010 indie breakout smash "Blue Valentine," was the hottest buy out of last September's Toronto International Film Festival. The recently released trailer suggests a high-stakes crime drama that delivers an emotional wallop, while still serving the action and intrigue the genre demands. Shrouded in secrecy before its world premiere save for a promotional still and a vague plot synopsis, the drama impressed critics upon its unveiling (Indiewire's Eric Kohn gave it an A-). Reuniting with his "Blue Valentine" director, Gosling plays a stunt-biker who decides to use said skills to rob banks with a partner and provide for his child. Bradley Cooper is said to make good on the exceptional promise he showed in "Silver Linings Playbook" as a cop on Gosling's tail. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Queen of the Desert"
Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robert Pattinson, Jude Law
Distributor: N/A
Release date: Nothing yet.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Just because he was recently seen onscreen as the villain in "Jack Reacher" doesn't mean Herzog has sold out. Every since "Rescue Dawn," the kooky Bavarian filmmaker has entered a compelling new stage with the narrative side of his filmmaking career, delivering bizarre, discursive dramas (can anyone really explain "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?") with the same loony poetry that often spills out of Herzog's mouth (that iguana bit in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" was something else). Herzog's new movie looks like a consolidation of his life as an adventurous documentarian and oddball fiction work: The movie stars Watts as legendary explorer Gertrude Bell and Pattinson as "Lawrence of Arabia" author T.E. Lawrence. Herzog tends to bring out the maniacal side of his actors, which means this could be a thrill ride in more ways than one. [Eric Kohn]

Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Christoph Waltz and Michael Douglas
Distributor: None yet (supported by Participant Media project)
Release Date: In pre-production.
Why Might It Be a Must See: After stunning audiences in yet another Tarantino flick, Christoph Waltz will become Mikhail Gorbachev to Michael Douglas' Ronald Reagan (!).  The film tracks the 1986 Reykjavik summit that sought to smooth the relationship between the still cold world leaders. [Bryce J. Renninger]

"The Sacrament"
Director: Ti West
Cast: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones, Kate Lyn Sheil
Distributor: N/A
Release date: Nothing yet, but it could wind up at SXSW if finished in time.
Why Might It Be a Must See: With his debut feature "The Roost," Ti West quickly established himself as a promising new filmmaking talent in the horror genre with a style both reverential to intelligent scares of the past and willing to push the genre in inventive new directions. That potential was confirmed with subsequent projects like "The House of the Devil" and "The Innkeepers," but it was "The Roost" that brought West to the attention of torture porn auteur Eli Roth, who championed West to studios. Now the two have teamed up again, with Roth "presenting" West's latest film, the details of which have remained a secret. But West, known for his perfectionist approach, always manages to deliver something worth talking about.

Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet
Why Might It Be a Must See: First off, there’s the reunion of Lawrence and Cooper, who had tremendous chemistry in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and may very well walk away with awards to show for it in February. Fans will be very eager to see them on screen together again, even if it’s in the vastly different mode of “Serena,” a dark and violent period piece based on the Ron Rash novel about a couple that moves to woodsy North Carolina in 1929 to build a lumber empire and devolves into suspicion, heartbreak and revenge in the process. The Danish Bier has yet to break through with American audiences, but she nabbed the best foreign-language film Oscar in 2010 for “In a Better World.” So the elements of this film — given its period deep-South setting — may feel incongruous, but they’re also what make the prospect intriguing. [Jay A. Fernandez]


Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: none yet, though screening at Sundance Jan. 18 in the Spotlight section
Why Might It Be a Must See: The British Wheatley is quietly becoming one of the most anticipated new voices in low-budget genre filmmaking, with “Down Terrace” and “Kill List” (a big sale at SXSW in 2011) preceding this most recent and blackest of comedies. A Cannes debut in 2012, “Sightseers” follows Lowe and Oram, who also are credited with writing the script, as a couple on a holiday road trip through the countryside that quickly takes a dispiriting turn. The film is apparently just fun as hell, and Wheatley has the aura of someone who will be rising in the industry as soon as Hollywood notices his wicked sense of humor. [Jay A. Fernandez]