This is part of our 2020 Preview. Follow along as we explore all the things that have us mildly hopeful in the new year.
The year 2020 has arrived and no matter how it’s been going for you so far, you wouldn’t be blamed for having a bit of anxiety. It’s an anxious year. We’re starting a new decade, entering an election year here in the United States, continuing to argue about Star Wars on Twitter. There’s a lot happening. In fact, it’s possible some of you are already worked up about the fact that we just said “starting a new decade,” as if that isn’t also a point of contention on the internet.
What we’d like to do today is slow down and remind you that there is plenty of good that may come of 2020, especially where our pop culture is concerned. Earlier this week, the horror-loving faction of our team outlined 25 horror movies that might scratch that itch this year. Val Ettenhoffer then wrote about 30 TV shows we can’t wait to watch before the year is out, including some big returns (The Mandalorian, Fargo, Bojack, etc.) and some new ones that might catch fire (Picard, Y, Avatar: The Last Airbender). Christopher Campbell rounded up 84 movies directed by women to add to your 2020 watchlist (including all four major superhero movies from Marvel and DC), while Brad Gullickson drilled down on the must-see comic book movies, Kieran Fisher delivered a tour of the year to come in animated movies, and Luke Hicks added a list of LGBTQ+ movies that will be of interest. We even have a guide for the movies you should watch before you go to the movies in 2020, which serves as a backward guide to the remakes, reboots, and re-adaptations.
We’ve covered the 2020 pop culture landscape from so many angles and now we’ve arrived here: at our list of the 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2020. Why 52? Because not everyone can afford the time and money that it would cost to get out there and see hundreds of movies every year. We get that. We also love the cinematic experience and think you should try and see as many movies as possible in theaters, as our Lord and savior Christopher Nolan intends. If you can afford to do that once per week, you can see every film on this list of 52 (which is ordered by release date, with release date to be announced (TBA) releases at the end). It’s an ideal diet for anyone who loves movies. We wish you luck on your quest and hope that we’ve been able to help guide you in the right direction as you seek out the great movies of 2020.
Underwater (January 10)
Underwater is a horror-thriller film about a blonde-buzzed Kristen Stewart & company (Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, and more) miles beneath the ocean on the run from some mysteriously freaky and unfriendly creature(s). The trailers are shrouded in darkness, blue-green LED lights, jump scares, bare skin, and absurdly bulky deep-sea suits. I’m sure that sounds contradictory, but check out a few stills and you’ll see how it isn’t. Underwater also marks the first significantly-sized budget for director William Eubank, whose past two films have been embedded with fascinating direction, but have fallen miles short of impressive whenever someone begins to speak and the abysmal dialogue drowns your enjoyment. This is Eubank’s third film and the first he didn’t also write the screenplay for, so here’s to hoping someone else’s screenwriting boosts him onto another plane of filmmaking while still allowing for his directorial senses to shine. (Luke Hicks)
Bad Boys For Life (January 17)
In 1995, we met Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, two longtime friends turned Miami narcotics detectives. We also met Michael Bay, the action cinema auteur. In 2003, we experienced a second adventure with Misters Lowrey and Burnett and we learned that when we say that we ride together and that we die together, it’s for life. In 2019, the bill is coming due. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return to the scene of the crime, where they both went from being TV comedy breakouts to legit action stars. It’s Bad Boys and it’s For Life. (Neil Miller)
Birds of Prey (February 7)
If there‘s one positive takeaway from 2016 critical failure Suicide Squad, it‘s Margot Robbie’s brazen, energetic portrayal of Harley Quinn. In Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, Robbie reprises the role, this time ditching the boys club of the Suicide Squad for a new girl gang united against a common enemy, Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Helmed by director Cathy Yan and Bumblebee writer Christina Hodson, Birds Of Prey teases a more feminist development of Quinn, trading in her minuscule booty shorts for gold suspenders and a candy-colored aesthetic. Also starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Ella Jay Basco, the glitter and cocaine dusted Birds of Prey hits theaters on February 7th, 2020. (Kristen Reid)
Downhill (February 14)
Hollywood has a draining and artistically insulting tradition of making great international films into American films that they think will be better. It’s one of several issues wrought by Americans’ intolerance when it comes to subtitles. God forbid we read! But, of course, it can be done well and there are many success stories (The Departed, Some Like It Hot, The Talented Mr. Ripley, to name a few). Hopefully, Downhill is one of those. It’s a remake of Ruben Östlund’s 2011 Swedish film, Force Majeure, in which a man on vacation with his family bails on all of them when an avalanche threatens their lives. The kicker? No one dies and now everyone knows where his priorities lie. The couple will be played by Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which sounds pretty damn fun. (Luke Hicks)
The Call of the Wild (February 21)
Jack London’s short story The Call of the Wild follows a kidnapped southern dog, Buck, through the beauty and brutality of the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. He passes from owner to owner, both cruel and kind, and connects with his primal heritage as he pulls sleds across the vast wilderness. This is far from the first adaptation of the American classic, but this time it’s on a Disney budget. Who doesn’t want to watch a grizzled Harrison Ford traverse the beautiful North American backcountry with his loyal, somewhat goofy-looking CGI canine companion? Featuring an excellent supporting cast including Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, and Canadian Indigenous actress Cara Gee, who has been absolutely crushing it lately as Drummer on Amazon Prime’s The Expanse. This family-friendly adventure will be sure to pull the heartstrings and stir our collective spirit of adventure. And people, the protagonist is a dog! (Samantha Olthof)
The Invisible Man (February 28)
There were a lot of sci-fi films in 2018, but were any of them really better than Leigh Whannel’s Upgrade? Not a chance. It was a vibrant and brutal emergence of Whannel as a directorial talent, and with The Invisible Man, he is primed to push even further. What has been described as an “Elisabeth Moss One Woman Show”, Whannel smartly takes grounded, real issues – like mental health and spousal abuse – and seamlessly juxtaposes them with the stories overt supernatural elements. But despite it being about a disappearing dude who is acting like a pissed off poltergeist, the film feels destined to spark the age-old “is this horror?” debate. Is The Invisible Man about a woman battling with post-traumatic stress after leaving escaping an abusive relationship, or is it about a see-through psycho slasher tormenting his ex? With The Invisible Man, we may be second-guessing what is real to the very last frame. (Jacob Trussell)
Onward (March 6)
After four years of putting out mostly sequels, Pixar is back with another original feature, and it’s one that looks like a bit of a goofy gamble on their part. Marvel heroes Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice a pair of elf brothers who live in a fantasy world that’s become a bit humdrum with its suburban lifestyle — despite all the mythological creatures populating this place, it’s lost all of its magic, figuratively and literally. But they have a chance of seeing their late father once again through an adventurous quest that could bring back the kind of enchantment that’s been missing. The trailers make it look like more of a low-brow comedy than we should be expecting from the premier American animation studio, but I’m sure it’ll have the usual wit and emotionality Pixar does best. And it might just have a better soundtrack if the prog-rock in the trailers are any indication. (Christopher Campbell)
A Quiet Place: Part II (March 20)
Some movies are not made to have sequels but get them anyway. And then there are others that actual show serious potential in the “to be continued” department. The first installment of A Quiet Place is staunchly in the latter category. While having potential does not always equate that potential being realized, all the signs point in promising directions as Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) is forced to take her children out of the relative safety of their homestead into monster-infested wilds. If you’ve seen the first one, you don’t need me to explain why John Krasinski will not be reprising his role in front of the camera, but he returns to both of his roles behind the camera, as screenwriter and director, which is good news. Everything that made the first one good looks set to return the second time around, along with some delightful new additions—namely, the one and only Cillian Murphy as a mysterious, grizzled recluse. Yes. Yes, please. Seeing Cillian Murphy in an apocalyptic monster movie brings back warm and happy memories of 28 Days Later. Also joining the cast is Djimon Hounsou, which ain’t bad news, either. All things considered, I’ve got a good feeling about this one. (Ciara Wardlow)
Saint Maud (March 27)
A24 acquired writer-director Rose Glass’s debut feature after a well-received TIFF premiere (albeit little-discussed in the company of more hyped TIFF competition). Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle star in this psychological horror that looks like it will align perfectly with A24’s particularly gorgeous and unnerving brand of art-horror (think: The Witch, Midsommar). Ehle plays an ex-dancer in the care of Clark, a nurse whose recent conversion to western Catholicism has her anxious about whether or not she’s possessed. It’s one of two early 2020 art-horror releases (the second being The Lodge) that seem to revolve around being pint up in a house engraved with excessively devout religiosity. It looks quite terrifying, i.e. great. (Luke Hicks)
No Time to Die (April 8)
Spy fans have had their fingers crossed that Daniel Craig’s swan song as Ian Fleming’s James Bond will be a big improvement on Spectre, and they have only months to go, although with Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective S1) shaking and stirring there’s a pretty fair chance of that. Pluses include the inclusion of Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) and Ana de Armas (Knives Out) as agents crossing 007’s path (MI6 and CIA respectively) and the DB9 with miniguns behind its headlights, although the return of Christoph Waltz as Blofeld means this is at least partially a continuation of the convoluted mess that was the previous installment. But that’s really rendered moot with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) on the writing staff, perhaps indicating that we’ll be getting our smartest Bond picture in years. (Charlie Brigden)
Antlers (April 17)
Scott Cooper directing, Guillermo del Toro producing, Nick Antosca providing the source material as well as co-writing the screenplay with Cooper. That’s three distinguished flavors that gotta taste great together. Cooper’s movies reveal a filmmaker who enjoys the grit, grime, and grotesque elements of human nature. He hasn’t tackled horror yet, but it’s a natural fit. Del Toro loves to lose himself in mythology, but he hasn’t embraced the height of terror that horror can offer. The closest straight-up fright flick he’s delivered is probably the problematic Mimic, but he obviously has the knowledge of the craft to aid in the dark, dreadful possibilities of Antlers. Atosca’s Channel Zero was a widespread of “Uh-oh, now way, get the hell outta here” nightmare fuel. Pretzel Jack, forever. The trailers for Antlers are solid, but it’s what we do not see that I’m most excited to uncover. There’s a particular devil at play in the film, and it’s one I’m always thrilled to see, but considering this trilogy of talent backing the narrative, Antlers is a must-watch for the horror hounds in the audience as well as the auteur obsessives. (Brad Gullickson)
Promising Young Woman (April 17)
TW: Sexual assault. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer for Promising Young Woman from Killing Eve showrunner Emerald Fennell, brace yourself. The revenge tale stars Carey Mulligan as Cassie, a former medical student who dropped out under “unusual circumstances” — and now spends her evenings hunting club-prowling sexual predators. Equal parts cheeky and chilling (that Britney needle drop!), the film boasts one hell of a cast: Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Max Greenfield, and Adam Brody, to name a few. But we know from a cacophony of soundbites (“It’s every guy’s worst nightmare, getting accused like that!”) that these people aren’t on Cassie’s side. To be released on April 17th, Promising Young Woman is sure to be a timely examination of the sorry excuses and turned-blind-eyes that facilitate rape culture. (Jenna Benchetrit)