Essays · Movies

The Movies You Need to Watch Before You Go to the Movies in 2019

Our annual backwards guide to the remakes, reboots, and franchise returns of the coming year.
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By  · Published on January 13th, 2019

Pigeon: Impossible (2009)

This animated short is credited as the loose basis for the new animated feature Spies in Disguise, though there are obvious differences. The original film is about a spy dealing with a pigeon trapped inside his secret agent gadget-filled briefcase. The extended version sees its spy hero turned into a pigeon as the ultimate undercover disguise. Pigeon: Impossible is only six minutes and can be watched on YouTube.
Due Date: September 13th

Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001)

Technically a two-part miniseries, we can also think of this Judy Garland biopic as a four-hour movie. While it’s a much more comprehensive portrayal of the famous actress and singer, the Emmy-winning network TV production serves as good setup for the Renee Zellweger-led Judy, which depicts Garland’s final years. Life with Judy Garland features a terrific performance by Judy Davis as the eponymous icon in her later period.
Due Date: September 27th

To Watch Batman

Batman: The Movie (1966), Batman (1989), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), The Dark Knight (2008), and Suicide Squad (2016)

There have been other animated films featuring portrayals of iconic DC Comics villain The Joker, but these five features showcase the most notable screen incarnations of the Clown Prince of Gotham. Cesar Romero reprises his version from the Batman TV series in Batman: The Movie, Jack Nicholson donned the face paint for Tim Burton’s Batman, Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his performance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and Jared Leto recently took on the role for Suicide Squad (and future DC Extended Universe projects). For the theatrically released animated feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Mark Hamill voiced the character he began portraying in Batman: The Animated Series. All these varied Jokers are worth watching before seeing Joaquin Phoenix’s turn with the Batman nemesis for the Martin Scorsese-inspired, origin-telling Joker.
Due Date: October 4th

The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993)

The new animated feature The Addams Family is directly based on the comics by cartoonist Charles Addams of the kooky clan of macabre characters, but certainly, for comparison sake, we want to watch the old TV series as well as the two live-action movies from the ’90s, the sequel being arguably the better installment.

Zombieland (2009)

A sequel to this cult classic horror comedy is arriving in theaters a whole 10 years after the original. Zombieland is a lot of fun and stars Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone before they became prestige Oscar-caliber talents (and Woody Harrelson, who has tripled his nomination count since this movie). Maybe Zombieland 2 will seem like a showcase for serious dramatic thespian performances (Abigail Breslin is also an Oscar-nominee, but hers came before Zombieland‘s release) — nah, it will be another funny and bloody good time.
Due Date: October 11th

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Marielle Heller’s upcoming biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood stars Tom Hanks as iconic children’s television host Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) at a very specific point in his life and career, as he befriends journalist Tom Junod in the late 1990s. Still, you have to check out the hit documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for a perfect piece of biographical context beforehand. Maybe it’ll even be an Oscar winner by then.
Due Date: October 18th

Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

Experience the epitome of early 2000s action movies specifically focused on women being depicted as tough and sexy (and for some, smart) with the two movie installments of Charlie’s Angels. Similar to those movies, Elizabeth Banks’ upcoming film starring Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Naomi Scott, also simply titled Charlie’s Angels, is a continuation of the famed 1970s TV series more than it is a rebooting adaptation.
Due Date: November 1st

The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Forget Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Forget Terminator Salvation. Definitely forget Terminator Genisys. And even forget the TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Those are all being retconned away as the still-untitled sixth feature installment is bringing back Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and following directly from just the first two movies. They’re the only two directed by James Cameron, who is back overseeing the franchise with the new movie, and they’ve long been the only two essentials anyway. Arnold Schwarzenegger is also reprising his iconic role as the titular android from the future, this time again helping to stop other Terminators from assassinating Connor and her future-leader son.
Due Date: November 1st

Midway (1976)

We could go back to John Ford’s short documentary The Battle of Midway or the 1949 war drama Task Force as the antecedents to Roland Emmerich’s attempt at going full Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor with the war blockbuster Midway. But this star-studded 1976 epic of the same name, which depicts the same titular World War II campaign, will provide the most direct parallels. Woody Harrelson plays Admiral Nimitz, portrayed in the earlier movie by Henry Fonda. This time, Lieutenant Commander C. Wade McClusky seems a bigger part, now played by Luke Evans in place of Christopher George. Patrick Wilson plays a man who inspired Charlton Heston’s role in the old movie. And Mark Rolston takes on Glenn Ford’s part. Maybe the 43-year-old dramatization doesn’t have the quality of effects we have for this kind of thing today, but it’s still spectacular.
Due Date: November 8th

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

It’s still unclear if the next Kingsman movie is another sequel or a spinoff focused on the American group introduced in the first sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, or the prequel announced depicting the early years of the special agency. All we really know at this point is there’s an installment scheduled for late 2019 and Taron Egerton says he’s not in it.
Due Date: November 15th 

Frozen (2013)

If you have a little girl (or if you are a little girl), you’ve probably seen this one a billion times already. And you’re probably counting down the days until Frozen 2 finally arrives six years later — well, maybe the parents aren’t looking as forward to it as their kids. The rest of you need to see what all the fuss and merchandising is all about with the original animated tale of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf the snowman.
Due Date: November 22nd

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Technically the upcoming Jumanji movie is Jumanji 3, but it’s also really just a sequel to the 2017 movie, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The cast of that second installment is all returning for the next one (joined by Awkwafina and Danny DeVito). So, you probably don’t need to also have seen the 1995 Jumanji starring Robin Williams. That’ll just be extra credit.
Due Date: December 13th

Cats (1998)

No, there wasn’t already a movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. The one coming out next December is a unique production, especially as it unites Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Dame Judi Dench, and Sir Ian McKellen. But in 1998, a direct-to-video “film” of the stage production was put out. It’s not exactly like watching a show in a Broadway theater, but otherwise, it’s pretty much a recording of that incarnation.
Due Date: December 20th

To Watch Kylo

Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), Revenge of the Sith (2005), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

This is it, the Skywalker Saga is coming to an end with Star Wars: Episode IX, the latest installment of the most famous movie franchise of all. If you haven’t seen any of these already, you probably just hate things. Give them a try already, fancy pants. Yes, even the prequels. At least we’re not making you watch all the animated series and the animated feature and the recent Star Wars Story spinoffs that don’t feed through as much to the third episode of the third trilogy.
Due Date: December 20th

Little Women (1933), Little Women (1949), and Little Women (1994)

Fans of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women all have their favorite adaptation. Some also go with the miniseries versions instead of any of the theatrical features. Nobody ever really goes for the old silent film. But since it’s one of those stories without a definitive adaptation — until maybe Greta Gerwig’s new take coming in 2019? — we’re giving you all three previous major sound film productions to watch and decide for yourself. With 1933, you’ve got Katherine Hepburn and Joan Bennett among the March sisters, with 1949, there’s Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh, and in 1994, there was Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, and a young Kirsten Dunst.
Due Date: December 25th

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.