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The Movies You Need to Watch Before You Go to the Movies in 2020

Our annual backwards guide to the remakes, reboots, and franchise returns of the coming year.
Movies To Watch
By  · Published on January 9th, 2020

Venom Smile
Columbia Pictures

Venom (2018)

There are too many confusing cinematic universes these days where we have no idea if movies are connected or how. Morbius will be the second entry of Sony’s new Spider-Man adjacent franchise that doesn’t feature Spider-Man, the first being Venom. Will Jared Leto’s living vampire antihero meet Tom Hardy’s symbiotic antihero Venom? Maybe in a post-credit scene? Anyway, Venom 2 also comes out this year, so you’ll be ready for that with this as well.
Due date: July 31st (or October 2nd for Venom 2)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1988) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Those most excellent dudes Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted (Theodore) Logan are back and headed for more awesome and bogus adventures in this year’s long-awaited sequel Bill & Ted Face the Music. Go back more than 30 years to the original and then follow it up with the underrated Bogus Journey, which introduces some of the most important characters in the franchise.
Due date: August 21st

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

This action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson was a surprise hit a few years ago, and obviously any kind of hit spawns a sequel. Before the release of the expanded title sequel The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife, which refers to Salma Hayek’s character, see what all the fuss was about with the original.
Due date: August 28th

The Conjuring (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016)

If you aren’t paying enough attention, you might accidentally go see something titled The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and not know it’s also The Conjuring 3. That’s why this list! Indeed, this eighth installment of the Conjuring Universe brings back Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens for an all-new paranormal investigation. Maybe it’s fine to go into it unfamiliar with the events of the other two main Conjuring movies? Maybe not.
Due date: September 11th

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Prequels can be tricky. They happen earlier, so do you even need to see the movies they’re connected to? Often the answer is yes because they reference so much that happens chronologically later. But do you need to see all the movies or just the first one? For the upcoming action movie The King’s Man, I’m going with you only needing to watch the more enjoyable original, which is based on a comic book.
Due date: September 18th

Chicago 10 (2007)

There have been a few movies based on the court transcripts of the conspiracy trial of the Chicago 7, related to the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, including the award-winning 1987 HBO docudrama Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 and the 2010 drama The Chicago 8. The most interesting, however, is Brett Morgen’s mostly animated documentary Chicago 10, which depicts the ridiculous proceedings better than any live-action movie could. Of course, Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming The Trial of the Chicago 7 should be pretty great, too.
Due date: September 25th

Death on the Nile (1978) and Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Kenneth Branagh will return as Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot in the murder mystery Death on the Nile, which he is also directing. This is the second Christie adaptation in a series that began with the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express remake. Death on the Nile has also been done before quite well with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. See that before the new one.
Due date: October 9th

The Witches (1990)

For his next trick, Robert Zemeckis leaves behind remaking documentaries for an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s dark fantasy children’s novel The Witches. The book has been adapted before, by Nicolas Roeg with a fabulous performance from Anjelica Huston, so Zemeckis’ version is also a remake.
Due date: October 9th

Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul (1988)

Before seeing Jennifer Hudson’s portrayal of music legend Aretha Franklin, all you really need is some footage of the real queen of soul. Perhaps you could just watch the newly finished documentary Amazing Grace. But if you want to know her life story overall before going into the biopic Respect, this American Masters documentary will do the trick.
Due date: October 9th

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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.