Release: April 19th
The Hook: A sprawling science fiction vision being directed by Joseph Kosinski. Tron 2 wasn’t just a triumph of story and character or anything, but the design was something to marvel at. If there are still doubts that this thing could be huge, the trailer quieted them with just a few minutes of Tom Cruise looking off into the distance.
19. Only God Forgives
Release: May 23rd
The Hook: Cementing their love with a kiss and a black eye, Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn earned the right to thrill audiences with projects after Drive. Hailed as one of the best of the year, there’s no surprise that their next has all of us on edge — especially considering that this one focuses on a policeman and a gangster getting into a Thai boxing match to settle their score.
18. This Is The End
Release: June 14th
The Hook: This is the first Apocalypse comedy to make our list, so to keep them straight, remember this one as the movie that features a bunch of comedic stars playing themselves and facing the end of days from James Franco’s pool party.
17. Upstream Color
Release: April 5th
The Hook: To be honest, if anyone else had put together a movie where a man and woman are bound by something cosmic and ephemeral, eyes might roll, but this is Primer writer/director Shane Carruth we’re talking about. Even though we’re still waiting impatiently for A Topiary, we’ll gladly enjoy new work from the heady young talent.
16. Thor: The Dark World
Release: November 8th
The Hook: Does anyone else think the logo Marvel came up with looks a little bit like the opening title from Law & Order? Yes? Everyone does? Good. Thor was a strange entry into the franchise that led up to The Avengers, but after the omnibus entertained like no other in 2012, everything the comic book studio does will be in its shadow. Fortunately, everything they do will also be on its coattails. This sequel proves to be larger and more expansive, and the inclusion of Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor at the helm is maybe the smartest move Kevin Feige has made in a sea of smart moves.
15. Twelve Years a Slave
Release: September 6th
The Hook: There’s a rawness to Steve McQueen‘s work, so the prospect of him taking on the story of a Northern man sold into slavery in the South during the mid-1800s is one that means a bold look at a complex issue. Let’s just say it might bear little resemblance to Django. We can also say that it has what might be the best cast of the decade assembled — collaborator Michael Fassbender is joined by Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Michael K. Williams, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt and a lot more. People who feared serious adult dramas were gone can breathe a sigh of gritty relief.
14. The Last Stand
Release: January 18th
The Hook: Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of film retirement in a big way now that he’s no longer a political figure, but it’s his team-up with Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil) that’s cause for the most electricity. Undoubtedly Kim will have to draw back on the violence a bit for a mainstreamier American audience, but this movie could essentially be broken down as “Ahnuld versus a large drug cartel.” That’s a movie everyone should want to see. Welcome back, Mr. Schwarzenegger. Here’s a gun that shoots infinite bullets for you to use on bad guys.
13. The Place Beyond the Pines
Release: March 29th
The Hook: The list is beginning to look a bit Gosling-heavy (sorry, ladies), but let’s use this entry to show some love to director Derek Cianfrance. His Blue Valentine is a modern masterpiece of explosive, intimate filmmaking that affects just about everyone that watches. With this new film, he’s diving back into the drama of relationships, but this time from the angle of a dedicated husband doing something illegal for the good of his family. His actions lead him into the path of a cop running for public office, and it’s a damn shame it’s only going to be in limited theaters.
12. You’re Next
Release: August 23rd
The Hook: Finally. With so many of the Rejects loving this Adam Wingard horror gem from Fantastic Fest 2011, it’s unsurprising that it would end up on last year’s list. With Lionsgate moving it back, it’s unsurprising that it’s made the list again. With some stellar performances and a nice twist of the tropes, this one plays out like an indie Scream. Looks like we’re currently in a new era of smart horror, and this one is yet another innovator that should please a lot of crowds.
11. Pain & Gain
Release: April 26th
The Hook: Either the Rejects really love steroids or they’re longing to see something from Michael Bay that’s not Transformers. Plus, The Rock is almost always excellent, Mark Wahlberg is back in an acting groove, and Bay had the keen eye to hire Rebel Wilson right before she blew up. Speaking of which, there still might be some explosives in this kidnapping drama, but there will be absolutely zero racist alien robots.