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The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

By  · Published on December 30th, 2015

Here at Film School Rejects, we believe that a healthy movie diet is at least one new release per week. We don’t all have time to see every single one of the more than 300 feature films that will be released in the next calendar year. Our critic Rob Hunter might come close, as will an elite few whose time and finances line up perfectly with seeing a bunch of movies. For the rest of us, we’ll have to be on a diet. There will be plenty of great TV to watch, a cornucopia of titles on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and iTunes to stream, and of course, plenty of time spent reading articles on the Internet.

As we’ve done in years past, we’d like to help you navigate the oncoming tidal wave of new movies. We believe that your movie diet is best balanced by seeing one new release for every week of the year. This doesn’t mean that there will be a good new release every week, but you get the idea. It’s with that in mind that we present our list of the 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2016.

If you’d like, you can catch up on previous years below:

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

52. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Release Date: January 15

The Pitch: It’s been a while since Michael Bay has made an earnest “Rah! Rah!” movie about the military, but it’s a theme that he’s continued, albeit in a minor way, throughout the Transformers franchise. The man loves to make movies that go boom, but he also loves to make movies that are favorable to America’s armed forces. Considering the acclaim that Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper received, this should be a movie that speaks to America’s most gun-toting, flag waiving demographic. Plus, as a bonus for more Conservative viewers, it’s all about Benghazi. The possibility of seeing a Michael Bay movie that unintentionally balloons into a political quagmire is far too interesting to pass up. Plus, Michael Bay does make blowing stuff up look really fun. Harrowing. I meant harrowing. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

51. I Saw The Light

Release Date: March 25

The Pitch: Earlier this month, Jason Bailey of Flavorwire wrote a great piece on why the biopic – and the “cradle-to-grave” narrative that it implies – was a bubble poised to burst. That’s not exactly great news for Tom Hiddleston, who looks and sounds the part of a young Hank Williams in I Saw the Light and certainly hoped for better than a March release date. Still, it’s not all bad news; movies like Ray and Walk the Line have shown that that audiences and critics alike will let their guard down for a quality movie about famed singer-songwriters, and the musical numbers included in the film will undoubtedly give it some cross-genre appeal. Maybe we’re tired of biopics, but a good ol’ fashioned Country musical? That dog’ll hunt. (Matthew Monagle)

Watch the Trailer

50. The Purge 3

Release Date: July 1

The Pitch: The first film was a home invasion thriller focused on one family’s efforts to resist the Purge, and the sequel followed a small band of survivors trapped outdoors when all hell broke loose. Little is known about the third film’s plot specifics, but there’s really only one detail needed to get our butts in seats opening weekend. Will Frank Grillo be returning to kick ass for the underdogs? The answer is yes. (Rob Hunter)

49. Pete’s Dragon

Release Date: July 1

The Pitch: We wouldn’t normally be excited about a rehash of a beloved Disney family film, especially since the Witch Mountain redo was merely passable. However, the studio has turned this new take on their 1977 sorta-classic live-action and animation hybrid into a kind of prestige pic by hiring visionary indie darlings David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks. They’re the writer/director and producer, respectively, of Ain’t Them Body Saints and have also been involved with such non-mainstream efforts as Upstream Color and Listen Up Philip. And with their acclaimed short Pioneer (watch it), they’ve already kind of tackled children’s story territory. Add to all this Robert Redford cast in the Mickey Rooney role and we see this as the most exciting auteur-helmed kids movie since Robert Altman’s Popeye — and yes, we love Robert Altman’s Popeye. (Christopher Campbell)

48. Synchronicity

Release Date: January 22

The Pitch: Writer/Director Jacob Gentry’s 2007 film The Signal is a film with which we had a lot of fun. We expect a little bit of the same from Synchronicity, his new film about time travel, love and corporate interests. In his review of the film at the Fantasia Film Festival last year, Rob Hunter called it “Gumby sci-fi,” a film that (for better and sometimes worse) is too worried about being bendy and fun. It’s the “bendy and fun” part that has the rest of us interested. It promises to be a little bit of Blade Runner with a twisted sense of humor. In fact, it sounds like a movie that might make a nice reprieve from the doldrums of January. (Neil Miller)

Read Our Review

47. Eddie the Eagle

Release Date: April 29

The Pitch: In a surprise debut at Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin this past month, Eddie the Eagle was met with cheers from a weary-eyed crowd of movie marathoning nerds. That is to say that apparently it’s a lot of fun. The story of Britain’s first ever Olympic ski jump competitor, the colorful Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, Eddie brings together a number of fan favorites. Kingsman’s Taron Egerton stars in the titular role. Hugh Jackman plays his unorthodox coach. Christopher Walken is there, too. According to the vibes from the trailer, it’s going to be a rambunctious feel-good movie. One of those quirky, yet triumphant sports tales. And for those, we have a spot in our collective heart. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

46. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Release Date: May 20

The Pitch: It’s unlikely that this comedy sequel will be as good as the original, but as long as Rose Byrne is back, we’re on board, as well. We’re actually hopeful that director Nicholas Stoller and his writing collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have recognized that Byrne was the best thing about Neighbors and put her even more front and center in part two. After all, the adversary this time around is a sorority girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), and from a presumable gender-matching standpoint, she’d be the Zac Efron (who is also returning) to Byrne’s Rogen. Even if she’s not its primary lead, though, Byrne will still steal the show anyway. (Christopher Campbell)

45. Demolition

Release Date: April 8

The Pitch: Jean-Marc Vallée has been on an incredible run over the last 3 years. In 2011, he delivered Dallas Buyers Club and earned an Oscar nomination for editing. In 2013, he helmed the Reese Witherspoon soul searching drama Wild. In 2015, he took his new film Demolition to the Toronto Film Festival where it earned some praise from critics. The film tells the story of an investment banker (Jake Gyllenhaal) who struggles to deal with the loss of his wife in a car crash. Any movie that combines the eye of Vallée with talents like Gyllenhaal and his co-star Naomi Watts should be a film that deserves our attention. (Neil Miller)

44. The Accountant

Release Date: October 7

The Pitch: It feels like it’s been a few years since we spent any real time with “Ben Affleck, Actor”. Sure, we’ve spent months with “Ben Affleck, Husband” courtesy of the tabloids and the highly visible dissolution of his marriage. And sure, we’ve had plenty of time to check out “Ben Affleck, Human Action Figure” with the new publicity stills and trailers for the Batman V. Superman movie. Hell, we’ve even gotten used to “Ben Affleck, Prestige Filmmaker” thanks to Argo and the latest season of Project Greenlight. But “Ben Affleck, Actor”? Someone who reads a script, likes the character he is being offered, and does his best to play said character in an engaging and exciting way? We can’t think of a better way to get reacquainted than with a thriller about a professional killer. (Matthew Monagle)

43. Everybody Wants Some

Release Date: April 15

The Pitch: In March, Richard Linklater will bring his spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused back to Austin to kick off the South by Southwest Film Festival. About a month later, audiences around the country will have the opportunity to go back to the 1980s with one of film’s preeminent purveyors of Americana. This time it’s the story of a group of college baseball players who have recently become unburdened of supervision and make their way through the highs and lows of early adulthood. It’s not quite as ambitious as Boyhood, but Linklater’s comfort zone is riding around in cars with the good ole’ boys, so this should be a lot of fun. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

42. Zootopia

Release Date: March 4

The Pitch: If the rest of this movie is as good as the sloth-scene teaser currently killing it in theaters, we could be getting the best non-Pixar animated feature from Disney in decades. Or at least the funniest, which would make sense coming from the union of directors Byron Howard (Bolt) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph). Set in a metropolis populated by anthropomorphic mammals, the buddy cop comedy looks like the big-screen Richard Scarry movie we’ve never gotten. Zootopia stars the voices of Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin as a con artist fox teamed up with a by-the-books police officer bunny for a missing person – er, missing otter – case. (Christopher Campbell)

Watch the Trailer

41. The Free State of Jones

Release Date: March 11

The Pitch: Matthew McConaughey plays a southern farmer named Newt Knight who, during the Civil War, teams up with a group of slaves to lead a rebellion against the Confederate Army. Aside from the fact that some of the puns just write themselves for this one (“Alright, alright, all Knight” or “Alright, alright, White Knight”), there’s also a great deal of prestige behind this pic. It’s written and directed by Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games director Gary Ross and it will co-star the rising talent of Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Also, Kerri Russell. This isn’t likely to be a charming McConaughey romp, but rather a dark, thoughtful movie about a small area of the deep south that stood up against the ugliness of the slave-owning states that surrounded it. Most importantly, the McConnaisance continues. (Neil Miller)

40. X-Men: Apocalypse

Release Date: May 27

The Pitch: How did something so large as the next X-Men movie slip so far down on our list? This is a legitimate question you might be asking. Let’s just say that we’re in a very serious holding pattern around X-Men: Apocalypse. The early production stills look a little goofy – Oscar Isaac’s titular villain is looking a little too Ivan Ooze from Power Rangers for our liking. And the first trailer didn’t exactly knock our socks off. Combine that with a lack of lasting feelings from X-Men: Days of Future Past (are we still sure that movie is good?) and we’ve got a recipe for lowered expectations. Hopefully Bryan Singer’s fourth foray as an X-Men director is his best. But until we see that play out on screen (or at least get a really great trailer), you won’t find us holding our breath. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

39. Suicide Squad

Release Date: August 5

The Pitch: One of the wonderful (or maddening) things about comic books is the way that entire characters can change depending on the author and the artist. Even a DC mainstay like Batman has run the gamut from overdressed Hardy Boy to brooding vigilante, opening the door to a variety of different interpretations of a comic book property. That brings us back to Suicide Squad. Some fans may question the decision to make a group of hardened criminals look like Hot Topic employees, but the rest of us? We’ve done the realistic and the political to death; maybe David Ayer’s vision of the DC Universe doesn’t quite line up with what we’re expecting or hoping for, but either way, it’s a breath of fresh air. (Matthew Monagle)

Watch the Trailer

38. Ip Man 3

Release Date: January 22

The Pitch: Donnie Yen is half a century old, but he’s still a marvel to watch. Sure he’s been slowing down his antics some in recent years, and that’s just one of the reasons why we thought this film wouldn’t happen, but happily the pieces fell into place and we’re getting (what’s most likely) the closing chapter in Yen’s Ip Man saga. Early reviews have been positive, and not even the presence of Mike Tyson can temper our expectations. Can Yen and returning director Wilson Yip recapture the magic of their 2008 and 2010 installments? We certainly wouldn’t bet against them. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

37. Spectral

Release Date: August 12

The Pitch: It’s great knowing that 2016 will bring a handful of highly anticipated sequels and high profile films into our lives, but even better is knowing that the year also holds plenty of surprises too. Odds are in a year’s time some of our favorites of 2016 will be movies we aren’t even aware of yet. To that end this utterly unknown quantity stands out as a possible gem thanks to an interesting premise – a special ops team dispatched to fight a supernatural threat in New York City – and a cast that includes Bruce Greenwood, James Badge Dale, and Max Martini. The Adjustment Bureau’s George Nolfi is one of the writers, so color us curious and optimistic. (Rob Hunter)

36. The Untitled Bourne Sequel

Release Date: July 29

The Pitch: I’m still not entirely convinced this fourth entry in Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne adventures will actually hit screens in 2016, but if it does it’ll rest easily in my top ten most anticipated of the year. Director Paul Greengrass is set to return as well, and when you add in our Performer of the Year, Alicia Vikander, you have a recipe for must-see summer entertainment. The previous three films are smart, exciting, beautifully-crafted action-thrillers that benefit with Damon in the lead, and I’m in the bag for whatever they do next. (Rob Hunter)

35. The Witch

Release Date: February 26

The Pitch: I’ve already seen this harrowing slice of frontier horror, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again with friends and strangers alike. It’s a slow-burn that creeps up on you as the tension, mystery, and terror are methodically ratcheted up one blood-curdling notch at a time. The film is almost guaranteed to become a new Halloween favorite for watching at home with the lights off, but seeing it in theaters with an unprepared audience promises its own degree of fun. One thing is for sure. You’ll never look at a goat the same way again. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

34. The Huntsman Winter’s War

Release Date: April 22

The Pitch: Already a frontrunner for “Best Costume Design” and “Most Badass Female Characters” in 2016, Winter’s War brings back Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman and leaves Kristen Stewart’s Snow White in the past. The second film of the franchise picked up a new director (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan) and a new set of writers (Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin). Most importantly, it has set up a world in which the ice queen Freya (Emily Blunt) resurrects her sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and they do battle with The Huntsman (Hemsworth) and his knife-wielding forbidden lover, Sara (Jessica Chastain). Everyone does fun medieval violence in lavish costumes. Some trees will probably move, as well. No matter what happens, it’s going to be fashionable. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

33. The Founder

Release Date: November 25

The Pitch: The Blindside and Saving Mr. Banks director John Lee Hancock is doing another biopic. And just as he’d done in the past – to very Oscar-friendly results – he’s doing so with an excellent cast. This one will tell the story of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. It will star Michael Keaton as Kroc, Laura Dern as his wife Ethel, and Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonald brothers who started the small burger chain. Patrick Wilson and Linda Cardellini will also star. With a script from The Wrestler and Big Fan scribe Robert D. Siegel, it’s definitely a project to watch. It really begs the question: what is so interesting about the founder of McDonald’s? Michael Keaton may soon show us. (Neil Miller)

32. The Jungle Book

Release Date: April 15

The Pitch: Now that Jon Favreau has exercised his Iron Man demons by making a movie in which he gets to literally go off on his critics (Chef), he’s back to making fun movies. The early word on The Jungle Book is that the live-action CGI animals in the film are on par with the effects in Life of Pi, which is very impressive. The first trailer seems to back that up. So even though we know the story of Mowgli and his friends, we can hope for something that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. And the voice cast is off the charts – Bill Murray as Baloo, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa. Now that’s a great group of voices. (Neil Miller)

Watch The Trailer

31. Independence Day: Resurgence

Release Date: June 24

The Pitch: Unsurprisingly, there exists a fair amount of cynicism towards the upcoming sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. People who hate the original film – a once-minority opinion that now has all the contrarianism of a Die Hard Christmas selection – will point out that this is another sequel catering to adolescence nostalgia. And that might very well be true; but Independence Day: Resurgence also puts the spotlight on a trio of actors who justify a great deal of big-budget tomfoolery. Are we so flush with Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum roles that we can afford to be so cavalier with this one? And shouldn’t we be excited that Resurgence will introduce Maika Monroe to mainstream audiences (and producers)? We’ve gotten far more excited for way less. (Matthew Monagle)

Watch the Trailer

30. Knight of Cups

Release Date: March 4

The Pitch: So far as we can tell, Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups — a movie in which Christian Bale plays a screenwriter who sexes his way through the weird events of his Los Angeles life – is still a real thing. This is one of a few movies that has been on some of our previous “Most Anticipated” lists, but has yet to actually come to fruition. Some critics saw it at last year’s Berlin Film Festival. Reviews were mixed. There was a trailer, but it didn’t give up anything other than some alluring visuals. At this point, it matters less whether or not Knight of Cups is any good. Terrence Malick’s films might always be an acquired taste. We are simply ready for our seat at the table. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

29. A Monster Calls

Release Date: October 14

The Pitch: A young boy saddened by his mother’s terminal illness and bullied by kids at school calls out into the night, and what he finds looks to be both monstrous and amazing. Director J.A. Bayona has already shown immense skill at placing children in harms way for our entertainment, and as a big fan of both The Orphanage and The Impossible I know that he’s also capable of finding the emotion at the heart of the tale. Novelist Patrick Ness adapts his own beloved and best-selling book here, and the combination of this premise and these talents – also including Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, and Sigourney Weaver – promises a dark fantasy we just don’t get enough of these days. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

28. Finding Dory

Release Date: June 17

The Pitch: Pixar bounced back nicely in 2015 with two original stories, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. In 2016, they are going back to the well of established franchises to revisit the world of Finding Nemo. Only this time we’ll be searching for the talkative, absent-minded Dory (voiced by Ellen Degeneres). While recent adventures in Pixar sequels haven’t been great (Monsters University and Toy Story 3 weren’t terrible, but they also felt relatively uninspired), Finding Dory at leasts returns filmmaker Andrew Stanton and Pixar up-and-comer Angus MacLane as co-directors. It’s got a fine voice cast (Idris Elba, Diane Keaton, and Dominic West join the returning Degeneres, Albert Brooks and Willem Dafoe) and the world of Nemo is bright and beautiful as ever. There’s no reason to think that this might be the Pixar sequel that finally breaks through to feel special alongside their original stories. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

27. Warcraft

Release Date: June 10

The Pitch: The first of 2016’s two big tests for the viability of the video game adaptation (December’s Assassin’s Creed is the second), Duncan Jones’s adaptation of the Warcraft mythos is a big leap of faith for all involved. Unlike many video game properties, the world of Warcraft (ha) has a deep lore that rivals Tolkien or Star Wars in terms of its backstory and world-building. The first trailer showed us great character design and a story grounded in people, not plot devices, but fans will still be hoping that Warcraft is more than just a Blizzard-backed rehash of Avatar. Warcraft has an established lore Regardless, even skeptics know better than to doubt Duncan Jones, an ascendant talent as a director who still has the benefit of the doubt after 2009’s wonderful Moon. (Matthew Monagle)

Watch the Trailer

26. The Invitation

Release Date: March 25

The Pitch: Here’s another movie that we saw (and loved) on the 2015 film festival circuit. After her much-maligned horror flick Jennifer’s Body, filmmaker Karyn Kusama took some time away from making features. A few episodes of Halt and Catch Fire and Chicago Fire are all that grace her IMDB page since. That is, until she made The Invitation, a thriller about a man and his girlfriend who are invited to a dinner party by his ex-wife, only to find out that something a little more nefarious is really at play. It’s a riveting film that, after some boiling under the surface, explodes in unexpected and turbulent ways. To say that Kusama has shed the demons of Jennifer’s Body would be an understatement. She’s returned to a form more fitting of the filmmaker who captured our attention with Girlfight. (Neil Miller)

Read our Review

25. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release Date: November 18

The Pitch: “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus,” Latin for “Never tickle a sleeping dragon.” The motto of Hogwarts that’s repeated in the foreword of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a book that exists within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a 2001 addendum to the Potter series written by J.K. Rowling as Newt Scamander. In 2016, director David Yates (who sat in the director’s chair on the final 4 Potter films) returns to the Wizarding World to show us the story of Scamander and all the “Fantastic Beasts” for whom he is responsible in catching. Eddie Redmayne gets to play Newt, a handsome and eccentric beast-catcher. It’s set in the United States and they have a different word for muggles “No-maj,” as in, “No Magic.” Beyond this highly simplified, Americanized change, it all feels very much in line with the Harry Potter movies. Which is good news for the entire generation that grew up reading those books (and those of us who simply adore J.K. Rowling because she’s a badass on Twitter). Whatever gets you in the door, it’s likely that Fantastic Beasts will be, at the very least, whimsical. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

24. Assassin’s Creed

Release Date: December 23

The Pitch: Never fear, gamers – even if Warcraft isn’t the landmark adaptation of an AAA property you’ve been waiting for, you’ll still have Assassin’s Creed in December. Director Justin Kurzel and stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard proved they could do the whole swords-and-leggings thing with the 2015 adaptation of Macbeth; now they’ll have a chance to scale their Shakespeare adaptation up to blockbuster proportions while also making sense of the sci-fi dystopia at the heart of Assassin’s Creed’s narrative. This is undoubtedly the most talent Hollywood has ever allocated to a video game adaptation; if Kurzel and company can’t figure out a way to make it work, maybe that’ll mean it’s time to stop trying. (Matthew Monagle)

23. La La Land

Release Date: July 15

The Pitch: Anyone who saw Whiplash is undoubtedly keeping an eye out for the next film from writer/director Damien Chazelle. This is that movie. The story of “a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles,” La La Land will star Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt. Based on its synopsis alone, it doesn’t seem as though this will be as brutal as Whiplash, but you never know. What we do know is that Chazelle is the kind of filmmaker worth writing into your calendar. Because he’s the kind of filmmaker who makes the movies that everyone wants to talk about after the credits roll. (Neil Miller)

22. Triple 9

Release Date: March 4

The Pitch: A stellar cast is no guarantee of a stellar film – cough Bone Tomahawk cough – but it’s tough to argue with the onscreen talent gathered here. Casey Affleck, Clifton Collins Jr., Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Teresa Palmer, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Michael Kenneth Williams, Kate Winslet… I mean, come on, right? Now add in director John Hillcoat behind the camera and a gritty, violent story involving robbery, murder, and corruption, and the result is movie that you couldn’t pay us to miss in theaters. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

21. Star Trek Beyond

Release Date: July 22

The Pitch: The first trailer for Star Trek Beyond may have rubbed purists the wrong way, as it felt more like a trailer for Fast and Furious in Space than a classic Trek. But ever since the trailer debut, both director Justin Lin and co-writer/star Simon Pegg have gone on record to insist that this is a Star Trek movie that is as philosophical as it is physics-bending. Here’s hoping the final product lives up to those promises. Though there are some of us, yours truly included, who didn’t hate those J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek movies. Into Darkness was messy, but the first one was exhilarating. That’s not what everyone wants in a Star Trek movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good time. This one looks like it might be a good time, as well. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

20. Story of Your Life

Release Date: TBD 2016

The Pitch: “Taking place after alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat.” Here comes an esoteric indie sci-fi film from Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve. It’s going to star Amy Adams as the aforementioned linguist, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg. Considering the frenetic, tense film that Villeneuve delivered with Sicario in 2015, there are reasonably high hopes for Story of Your Life. (Neil Miller)

19. A Cure for Wellness

Release Date: September 23

The Pitch: Like Spectral above I’m looking forward to this one with very little to go on aside from some talent involved and a minimal awareness of plot. Ready? Here’s what I know. It’s a new horror film from director Gore Verbinski. That right there is enough to guarantee my excitement, and while his films are collectively something of a mixed bag his singular foray into horror was 2002’s terrifically terrifying and visually arresting The Ring. As 2015 showed the best horror films typically came with smaller profiles and budgets, but I have faith that Verbinski can deliver another memorable studio chiller. (Rob Hunter)

18. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Release Date: October 21

The Pitch: 2012’s Jack Reacher is a fantastic, old-school action film with a charismatic lead, a straightforward story, a terrific sense of humor, and plenty of fun action scenes. It’s also a film that most people skipped in theaters only to discover and love on DVD. It’s somewhat disappointing that writer/director Christopher McQuarrie won’t be returning along with star Tom Cruise, but Lee Child’s source novel is solid and I have faith that Ed Zwick – who previously worked with Cruise on the under-appreciated The Last Samurai – can deliver another entertaining ride. (Rob Hunter)

17. The BFG

Release Date: July 1

The Pitch: Following a trio of historical dramas (War Horse, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies), Steven Spielberg is going back to the well of making charming movies about kids and monsters. If we don’t count The Adventures of Tintin (and we shouldn’t, as that movie wasn’t great), we could say that Spielberg hasn’t directed a good whimsical movie since 1991’s Hook. With The BFG, he’s adapting a classic Roald Dahl story about a little girl who meets a Big Friendly Giant (played by Mark Rylance) who is an outcast among giants because he refuses to eat children. Bill Hader plays a giant that, so far as we know, is pro-child eating. The first teaser had a little bit of that classic Amblin magic. Here’s hoping the rest of the movie follows suit and we can hold it up among Spielberg’s best family films. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

16. The Neon Demon

Release Date: TBD 2016

The Pitch: The official synopsis for Nicolas Winding Refn’s next film says that it’s the story of an aspiring model named Jesse who moves to Los Angeles, only to find that her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has. As is always the case with Refn films, that’s only scratching the surface of what will likely be a visually compelling, methodical and intense ride. Refn has assembled a cast that puts Elle Fanning in the lead, surrounding her with Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone and Christina Hendricks. Okay, we probably could have just led with “The director of Drive making a movie with Keanu Reeves” and called it a day. (Neil Miller)

15. Jane Got a Gun

Release Date: January 29

The Pitch: Few films on this list have seen even half of the production woes of this female-led western, but the end result looks to be worth the wait. Natalie Portman doesn’t do much in the way of action-oriented, gunplay-filled films – The Professional, V for Vendetta, Garden State maybe – but the idea of her protecting her husband with a gun in each hand is an image I fully support. This is director Gavin O’Connor second film on this list, and if both live up to our expectations it might just be enough to make people give 2011’s Warrior another chance. He knows how to mix action and empathy, and merging those traits into the Western genre is something to be excited about. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

14. Deadpool

Release Date: February 12

The Pitch: Gene Siskel famously used to say that a movie should be better than footage of those same actors sitting around a table and talking. With that in mind, the big question for Deadpool will be if the movie is more interesting than the cast and crew and talking about how it got made. From Ryan Reynolds’s public love affair with the Merc With a Mouth, to the widely circulated screenplay draft, to the leaked demo reel that got the movie on the fast track, the behind-the-scenes story of Deadpool is nearly as flippant and meta as the character himself. We’ve got our fingers crossed that Deadpool hits the sweet spot between Guardians of the Galaxy and This Is the End. (Matthew Monagle)

Watch the Trailer

13. Snowden

Release Date: May 13

The Pitch: Another feature starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt that will remind us of an Oscar-winning documentary? Box office-wise, we could see a repeat of this year’s The Walk, and entertainment-wise there may be nothing so spectacular as that movie’s 3D high-wire act. Still, who could ignore a biopic about Edward Snowden from history provocateur Oliver Stone? Even one where the biggest draw is a reenactment of Citizenfour’s hotel room sequence with Melissa Leo playing director Laura Poitras and Zachary Quinto as journalist Glenn Greenwald? (Christopher Campbell)

12. Kubo and the Two Strings

Release Date: August 19

The Pitch: After Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, Laika Entertainment has earned a spot alongside Pixar Animated Studios as purveyors of frictionless films; in other words, they announce a movie and we buy tickets, and whatever trailers or publicity photos they choose to release along the way is a mere formality. The short teaser available for Kubo and the Two Strings promises Laika’s usual mixture of incredible stop-motion effects and unsettling imagery, harkening back to a time when “Burton-esque” meant that a movie resembled childhood nightmares, not that it starred an indifferent Johnny Depp. Laika has also brought in two of the brightest stars of this past year, Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara, to provide voices for its characters. (Matthew Monagle)

11. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Release Date: March 25

The Pitch: Zack Snyder’s upcoming superhero match-up would rank much further down on my own list – I’m thinking it’s maybe my 45th most anticipated film of 2016 – but there’s no denying I’m looking forward to it. It’s an odd interest too as his Man of Steel left me bored and I haven’t loved one of his films since 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. So why do I want to see it? It’s part curiosity about DC finally moving to create a multi-hero cinematic universe, but I’m also a sucker for dark, brooding comic book films. I don’t expect to walk away loving it, although that would be fantastic, but I do expect my eyes to be entertained with an abundance of style and mood. And honestly I just want to see how Batman can last two hours against the bland, mostly invincible Superman. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

10. Passengers

Release Date: December 23

The Pitch: Have you seen 2011’s Headhunters? If not, please rectify that immediately. I’ll wait. It’s an incredibly entertaining black comedy meets smart, twisted crime-caper, and it made me an automatic fan of director Morten Tyldum’s work. Sure he followed it up with the solidly safe The Imitation Game, but Passengers looks to be an entirely different beast. You’d be hard-pressed to find two more charismatic actors than Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and pairing them up in what sounds like an epic sci-fi tale of love and loneliness among the stars sounds like smart science to me. Neil deGrasse Tyson might disagree, but we’ll have to wait until December to find out. (Rob Hunter)

9. Captain America: Civil War

Release Date: May 6

The Pitch: Let’s be honest for a second – Avengers: Age of Ultron was messy and bloated. It spent a lot of effort to introduce a few great new characters and re-jigger the Avengers line-up just in time to kick-off some emotional in-fighting. The in-fighting, the central conceit of Captain America: Civil War could create a much better Avengers movie than the last Avengers movie. Based on the first trailer, the action is there and returning Winter Soldier directors The Russo Brothers continue to kick-ass within their clean industrial aesthetic. There are emotional stakes (“He’s my friend.” “So was I.”), new intrigue (Black Panther, a little dash of Spider-Man) and plenty of bravado. Even though we know that everyone will eventually make nice and team-up against Thanos, this film could change the character dynamics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a profound and irreparable way. (Neil Miller)

Watch the Trailer

8. The Nice Guys

Release Date: May 20

The Pitch: This is, without a doubt, my number one most anticipated film of 2016. I was nonplussed to discover that Shane Black was scaling down from his giant blockbuster Iron Man 3 and returning to his roots with a new buddy/action movie. His last foray in this direction (as writer and director) resulted in the mad perfection that is 2004’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but he’s also the writer of such ‘80s/’90s classics as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. If there were any doubts as to the casting of this one, one watch of the trailer confirms that Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are more than capable of bringing the characters and the laughs in Black’s script to glorious, gut-busting, bone-crunching life. (Rob Hunter)

Watch the Trailer

7. John Wick 2

Release Date: TBD 2016

The Pitch: Guess who’s back. Back again. John Wick is back. Grab a friend… Actually, grab as many friends as possible and follow these simple instructions: (1) show them John Wick, then (2) wait patiently as post-production on John Wick 2 is completed and a release date is announced. We’re hoping that it’s ready by Fantastic Fest in September, at the latest. What we know is that Keanu Reeves is back and he’ll be joined by Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black), Bridget Moynahan, Peter Stormare (for some Stormare Starpower), Ian McShane, Common and Laurence Fishburne. So not only do we get another John Wick, we also get a little Matrix reunion. John Wick is the gift that keeps on giving. (Neil Miller)

6. Green Room

Release Date: April 15

The Pitch: Like The Witch above, I’ve already seen and loved Green Room, and I’m more than ready to see it again. No other film this year hit me as viscerally as Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to Blue Ruin did thanks to its excruciating tension, smart use of characters, and scenes of intensely graphic violence that physically hurt – due both to the visuals and to our feelings for the characters on the receiving end. The film masterfully introduces the players, sets up the scene, and then lets all hell break loose. Apologize to your friends and loved ones in advance, because you will probably leave marks on their arms and legs from gripping so intensely and tightly. You don’t watch Green Room as much as you survive it, and even that’s not guaranteed. (Rob Hunter)

Read Our Review

5. Hail, Caesar!

Release Date: February 5

The Pitch: In the three years since the last Coen Brothers movie (Inside Llewyn Davis), we’ve gotten two serious movies written by the guys (Unbroken and Bridge of Spies) and an exceptional television series inspired by their work (Fargo). Now it’s time for the real deal. For their latest, they’re headed back to the golden age of Hollywood, specifically to the fictional movie studio last seen in their Barton Fink. This one is about a “fixer” (Josh Brolin) – based on real life MGM exec Eddie Mannix (listen to a great podcast about him here) – tasked with retrieving a kidnapped star (George Clooney). In addition to those two former Coen collaborators, the movie features some more old friends (Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand) and a bunch of new ones (including Ralph Fiennes and 21 Jump Street duo Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill), all of them taking part in a lot of classic cinema homage and pastiche. Hail, Coens! (Christopher Campbell)

Watch the Trailer

4. Ghostbusters

Release Date: July 15

The Pitch: We can trust in Paul Feig. From Freaks and Geeks to Bridesmaids to the small sci-fi show Other Space to last summer’s surprise comedy hit Spy, he’s always found a way to merge a vivacious sense of humor with a grounded sense of humanity. So even as his Ghostbusters reboot has become a lightning rod for angry misogynists on the Internet, we can’t get swept up in the negativity. This is a chance to return to a fun universe, with a very funny cast, being crafted by the steady hand of one of Hollywood’s most fun filmmakers. It’ll likely be filled with cameos, iconography and memorable supporting characters (we’re looking at you, Chris Hemsworth). There’s nothing about this that in any way tarnishes the legacy of Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, using skeevy research projects to sleep with coeds. Keep your heart open, because it’s entirely possible that this new generation of Ghostbustin’ ladies will deserve your fandom. (Neil Miller)

3. Doctor Strange

Release Date: November 4

The Pitch: 2015 wasn’t exactly a banner year for Marvel. It was a year of transition and hijinks. Age of Ultron was a loud in-between movie that got us from Phase 2 to Civil War. Ant-Man was fun, but never quite achieved the scale of Marvel’s best stuff. With Doctor Strange, Marvel is going to take us to other dimensions and show us its most vibrant magic. The first looks that we’ve seen late in 2015 are fantastic, colorful and indicative of something special. They’ve combined a cerebral director (Scott Derrickson) with an elite cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen) and will be breaking new ground. This is something that Marvel doesn’t get the chance to do very often now that they are caught in their own expanded universe web. It promises to be one of the most interesting films of the year, regardless of genre. (Neil Miller)

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Release Date: December 16

The Pitch: While it might be an understatement to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has warmed audiences to more Star Wars movies, you could make a pretty compelling argument that it’ll be Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that sets the tone for the next generation of films in the franchise. This is the first true standalone film in the Star Wars universe, the first movie that doesn’t directly tackle the Skywalker lineage, and a chance for Kathleen Kennedy and company to set the tone for the countless Star Wars spin-offs they have in the pipeline. Knock it out of the park and audiences will clamor for filmed versions of every oblique reference in the original trilogy. (Matthew Monagle)

1. Midnight Special

Release Date: March 18

The Pitch: This was our #1 most anticipated movie of 2015. Since it Charlie Brown footballed us last year, you’d think that we’d penalize it. But no! We’re doubling down on Midnight Special. Here’s what Scott wrote about it on last year’s list:

It’s high time the world learned about Jeff Nichols. After Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter and Mud, the lo-fi wizard of sepia-toned desperation has taken on his first studio assignment (and he’s brought Michael Shannon along for the ride). Honestly, it will be weird when Nichols eventually makes a movie without Shannon. They make a dynamite team.

The premise is simple enough – a man and his son have to head out on the run when they figure out that the little boy has special powers – but in a blind balloting system, nearly every single one of our staff voters included this title on their personal list. It’s captured our attention in a big way.

My guess is that it’s Nichols’ name and pedigree that has so many people this excited about a studio sci-fi drama. Not only has he never made a bad movie, he’s never a made a movie that’s below “completely fantastic” on the Completely Fantastic scale. How he’s stayed under the radar this long is baffling.

Fortunately, 2015 2016 might be his time to come out of the shadows and shine even brighter. (Scott Beggs)

Watch the Trailer

Next: 40 Movies Directed By Women to Look Forward to in 2016

What are your most anticipated movies of 2016?

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