John Wick, Fast and Furious, Spider-Man, Star Wars. It’s all happening in 2017.
Our human constructs of time are arbitrary. Yes, the Earth does take about 365 days to make a rotation around the Sun. But who’s to say when the beginning of the first year was? A bunch of random Roman guys who lived 2,000 years ago? The point is that even though we celebrate The New Year, it’s all pretty meaningless. It’s simply a way for humans to simplify and compartmentalize the otherwise infinite passage of time. In a similar way, lists like the one you’re about to read are also arbitrary. They represent 12 months (or so) of upcoming movies that a small group of people (our editorial board) would like to see. Some of these movies won’t make it to theaters this coming year. Some still don’t have release dates, others will be moved. It’s enough to make you wonder why we’d even spend countless hours putting together something like this. It’s all pretty pointless.
Then again, our 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year.
This year’s list features a number of films from filmmakers we like a lot – everyone from Rian Johnson to Guillermo del Toro to the filmmakers of It Follows and The Lobster. It’s a packed year that will see Duncan Jones go to Netflix and Armando Iannucci (Veep, In The Loop) take on communism. There’s a new Bong Joon-ho picture to go along with a directorial debut from Jordan Peele. We’re even giving the guy who made Bone Tomahawk another shot. Plus plenty of superhero movies, sequels, remakes, and reboots to keep us distracted.
We can’t promise that 2017 will be a better arbitrary period of time in all areas of life and society, but we’ve got hope for the movies, at least.
And now, the list…
John Wick: Chapter Two (February 10)
Rob Hunter: Our list is in calendar order, but if it was ranked based purely on our anticipation the John Wick sequel would still be sitting near the top. Keanu Reeves’ unassuming action hit is a new classic for the way it blended no nonsense plotting, superior action sequences, and a smartly-crafted approach to world-building typically absent from the genre. There’s always a risk that a sequel to a surprise success will forget its strengths, but with all the main players returning as well as newcomers like Laurence Fishburne, Peter Serafinowicz, and cinematographer Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) jumping aboard we’re thinking we’ll be happy Wick’s back.
The LEGO Batman Movie (February 10)
Christopher Campbell: If you think Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are doing a terrible job with their serious superhero movies, you have to give them credit for also allowing this thing to happen. A silly animated LEGO style Batman voiced by Will Arnett (reprising the role from The LEGO Movie) is about as far as you can get from Ben Affleck’s DC Extended Universe version. He’s the hero we need right now, irreverently tearing up its own brand with a delightful sense of humor. Robot Chicken vet Chris McKay is at the helm of the nonsense, which takes us back around to the Tim Burton days by casting Billy Dee Williams as the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face.
A Cure for Wellness (February 17)
Neil Miller: It’s always good to see a director, especially one that’s been as chewed up by the blockbuster machine as Gore Verbinski, go back to the well. His upcoming thriller A Cure for Wellness appears to be the exact kind of ambience-heavy thriller that he was making at the beginning of his career. The February release date 20th Century Fox gave it doesn’t add any confidence to the mix, but the trailer was as unsettling as it was stunning. At the very least, this should get those “Gore Verbinski for Bioshock” juices flowing again amongst the fandoms.
Get Out (February 24)
Neil Miller: Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key ended their very successful Comedy Central show despite its cult-like following in order to pursue bigger, more theatrical projects. We saw some great work this past year from Key in Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice and the duo with Keanu. In ’17, we’re getting some Peele in the form of his directorial debut, Get Out. The pleasant surprise is that he’s written and directed a horror movie that is being produced by Jason Blum. Based on the first trailer, it’s the kind of horror movie we can get into. Some racial tension, some cursed white folk, and assault with a lacrosse… what do they call those, sticks? Yeah, lacrosse sticks. File this under dark, subversive, and creepy as hell.
Logan (March 3)
Neil Miller: One more ride for the ole’ Wolverine. After making what is easily the best Wolverine film (and possibly the best X-Men film), James Mangold and Hugh Jackman are back to tell the “Old Man Logan” story. Long after mutants have been pretty wiped out, Logan and Professor X must protect a little girl who has more in common with Logan than you might expect. We’ve all already seen a trailer that looks gritty, intimate, and devastating. Word on the street is that 40-minutes of the film has been shown to select press to rave reviews. We’ve been burned before by good looking footage, but this feels different.
T2: Trainspotting (March 3)
Christopher Campbell: The world would be fine without a sequel to Trainspotting 20 years later. Do we really need to see what’s become of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, Begbie, Diane, and Gail? Need, no. Want, yes. If it was by anyone other than Danny Boyle, we could dismiss it. But he’s too much of a poignant filmmaker to dismiss it now. Choose life. Choose Trainspotting 2. Choose a popcorn size. Choose a seat in the theater. Choose enjoyment. Oh, such a perfect day.
Kong: Skull Island (March 10)
Neil Miller: There are obvious factors that work against a movie like Kong: Skull Island. One massive factor being Hollywood’s inability to really capture the magical scope of a movie about King Kong. Peter Jackson tried, but it wasn’t… great. Too much Jack Black, perhaps. That said, Skull Island has a lot going for it. The Apocalypse Now war movie aesthetic, a very talented director in Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) and a cast headlined by real powerhouses like Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman. The first trailer was wicked fun and there’s nothing to suggest that this can’t finally become the Kong movie of our time. We remain hopeful on a grand scale.
The Wall (March 10)
Neil Miller: If you liked American Sniper, this could be your next modern war obsession. If you didn’t like American Sniper, this could also work, as Doug Liman’s new film appears to be as much a psychological thriller as a war film. It’s about a pair of American soldiers (John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who find themselves at odds and at the mercy of an Iraqi sniper. John Cena has been surprising us over the past few years with his acting chops. Taylor-Johnson is good. And Liman is riding on a high from his hit with The Edge of Tomorrow. This looks like an intimate, terrifying, potentially very strong modern war movie.
Beauty and the Beast (March 17)
Neil Miller: If we’re being honest – and we are at all times – Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.
The Belko Experiment (March 17)
Neil Miller: What if the office where you work turned into Battle Royale? That’s what we’re being promised by The Belko Experiment, a film written by James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean, of Wolf Creek fame. We know this one is going to be a winner, as we’ve already reviewed it. For further proof that it looks like it’s going to be thrilling, there’s a wicked red band trailer out. It’s all splattered brains and (literal) cut-throat corporate politics. That’s an economic message we can get behind in 2017.
Free Fire (March 17)
Neil Miller: Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire is easily at the top of my own personal list. The best news is that it drops early in the year, so not much of a wait. Just watch the film’s first trailer and get a taste of the delicious, raucous shoot ’em up and this cast that includes Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, and Sam Riley. It looks like the kind of stylish actioner that you might get if you smashed Wheatley’s sensibilities together with Gareth Evans (The Raid) and Guy Ritchie (but like, good Guy Ritchie).
Life (March 24)
Neil Miller: We may be headed for the golden era of Mars movies. Which is good, because some of us suffered through the likes of Mission to Mars and Ghosts of Mars to varying degrees in the early aughts. But with The Martian in 2015 and Daniel Espinosa’s Life in 2017, we may have a nice bounce back for the cinema of the red planet. This one gets a script from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, Deadpool) and a cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson. To his credit, Espinosa deliver strong efforts with Safe House and Child 44. Even if the film isn’t great – it looks like it could be a bad monster movie set on a space station, at worst – it will further my theory that if we’re going to discover life on Mars, we might as well send someone handsome.
Ghost in the Shell (March 31)
Neil Miller: There’s plenty of controversy around Ghost in the Shell, but there’s also a lot of warranted excitement. That first trailer kicked a fair amount of ass and we’re not opposed to Scarlett Johansson in a shoot ’em up action movie. It’s true, this movie doesn’t give a f**k about whitewashing, but that doesn’t appear to bother the legions of fans that Paramount Pictures is hoping will follow it from legendary anime to big screen adaptation. It will understandably receive plenty of criticism for its lack of representation, but that’s a discussion we’ll get to have closer to its release. For now, we consider Ghost in the Shell to be unavoidable, for better or worse.
Going in Style (April 7)
Rob Hunter: There’s every possibility in the world that I’m the only person looking forward to this one. Some of you might hate the idea of rebooting Martin Brest’s bittersweet comedy gem from 1979, but more of you probably take issue with it being the third feature from director Zach Braff – he of Garden State and Wish I Was Here. I remain an unabashed fan of the former and of the belief that the latter is perfectly okay, but even if you disagree let’s look at the positives here. The three leads are played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, the supporting cast includes Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Serafinowicz, and Ann-Margaret, and Braff isn’t among the cast list at all. Here’s hoping it’s good and retains the original film’s dark reality alongside the laughs.
The Fate of the Furious (April 14)
Neil Miller: The Fast franchise won’t be the same without Paul Walker, but it will be fun with Charlize Theron. Based on what we know from the first trailer, this New York-set frame will involve some sort of mind trickery that pits Dom (Vin Diesel) against his family. It’s like the one where Michelle Rodriguez was a bad guy until someone punched her hard enough to make her remember. Let’s not expect this one to deliver a story that’s particularly innovative beyond that. But there will be car-fu! And The Rock!
The Circle (April 28)
Neil Miller: Those familiar with Dave Eggers will know him from his work in more charming, human stories like Where the Wild Things Are or Away We Go. But The Circle, a novel he wrote that has been adapted by The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt, plays out like a feature film version of Black Mirror. The film, which has a pretty creepy trailer, has a big cast. Tom Hanks plays a Steve Jobsian figure at a company that’s all about the openness of information in the digital age. He’s the big idea guy who rallies his employees – played by Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, and Nate Corddry – to go out and solve the world’s problems. That is, until they discover that there’s more to this ambitious mission than is advertised.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)
Christopher Campbell: Baby Groot. Need we say more? Probably not, but we’ll go on anyway. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a very weird gamble, or so it seemed, and yet it must have been held back at least just a little bit by Marvel. Then it made three-quarters of a billion dollars and James Gun must have been given even more freedom to surprise us with more goofy, strange, and original ideas. Like casting Kurt Russell as a character who in the comics is a living planet (sadly the character is actually humanoid here). But even if it’s on the same level as the previous movie, it’s going to be one of the most fun blockbusters of the year. Baby Groot, tho.
Alien: Covenant (May 19)
Rob Hunter: Ridley Scott’s Alien remains a horror masterpiece, and while he left both the franchise and the genre behind years ago he’s returning to both this year with a vengeance. Prometheus was just the appetizer – it helps deflect that film’s faults to view it as a necessary gateway leading to what looks to be another intense and bloody ride in the darkest reaches of space. The first trailer confirmed that Scott is going all-in for a visceral horror experience, and with talent like Amy Seimetz, Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride on the menu our interest is already threatening to burst from our collective chests.
Wonder Woman (June 2)
Rob Hunter: It’s clear that DC has no clue what they’re doing with their movie division, but as unlikable as the films have been they’ve continued to make money – so they’re not stopping anytime soon. Justice League is elsewhere on this list, inexplicably, because come on, but the one bright spot on DC’s horizon is Patty Jenkins’ period superhero flick. The first trailer was awesome, and it looks to follow the period vibe of Marvel’s first Captain America. If it manages that and mixes great action with solid character work then it could be the start of something super indeed.
The Mummy (June 9)
Rob Hunter: We all agree the idea of a Universal Monster Cinematic Universe is dumb as hell, but what this movie presupposes is… what if Tom Cruise said yes to one and raised the concept from head-scratcher to ass-kicker? There are so many reasons to expect a disaster, but on the other hand we’re getting what looks to be a Mission: Impossible monster movie. And there’s no way that’s not at least entertaining as hell. Right? Someone agree with me. I’m not crazy to think this might just work right? Cruise’s professionalism, integrity, and star-making scream plus monsters, Russell Crowe, and script touch-ups from Christopher McQuarrie?
Rock That Body (June 16)
Christopher Campbell: With all the “all-female” takes on movies being made, who expected one for Very Bad Things (and Stag)? Offering a feminist twist on movies where the stripper accidentally dies during a bachelor party, Rock That Body involves a dead male stripper at a bachelorette party. And it’s a comedy! The feature directorial debut of Broad City helmer Lucia Aniello, the movie stars Scarlett Johansson, who seems out of place but will likely be amazing, Zoe Kravitz, Demi Moore, and hilarious ladies Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer. Hopefully it’s really dark and really raunchy.
The Beguiled (June 23)
H. Perry Horton: This Civil War set story of a wounded Union soldier held prisoner in a girls’ school smack dab in the middle of the Confederacy who woos the various students until they discover his two-timing and turn on him was made into a film once before with Clint Eastwood starring and Don Siegel directing, and thus took a decidedly masculine stance. This time around expect a completely different interpretation as writing and directing duties now belong to Sofia Coppola, and she’s brought her best girls with her: Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette, The Virgin Suicides) and Elle Fanning (Somewhere). Let’s see then: white girls of privilege in a sheltered environment, jilted love, vengeful ennui…the only thing keeping this from being the perfect Sofia Coppola movie is Scarlett Johansson. She’s not here, alas, but Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman round out the cast as the soldier in question and the school’s headmistress.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
Neil Miller: Peter Parker is tired of being treated like a kid. He’s also tired of being on the outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe looking in. Spider-Man is coming home to the rest of what is known to be “Marvel” these days, the cinematic universe that’s been building for almost a decade. It’s got Tom Holland, a slick new suit, some Robert Downey Jr. star power, and Michael Keaton playing a bird, man. We’re one trailer in and we already know that this feels a bit different than your average neighborhood Spider-Man movie. At the very least, a good deal of it will take place in a high school.
War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)
Christopher Campbell: One of the most satisfying and rather low-key franchises going right now, the latest Planet of the Apes installment is one of the more dependable sequels. Whether or not you preferred Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you’ll still be happy to see the former’s director, Matt Reeves, back for more evolution-centered conflict. This time it’s really a war movie, with Woody Harrelson entering the picture as a mad colonel and a chance for more of our favorite performance-capture simians, led by Andy Serkis playing Caesar, to be killed off. As an interesting element for longtime fans, this one also has a human character from the 1968 original as a child.
Dunkirk (July 21)
Neil Miller: It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Christopher Nolan directing a movie starring Harry Styles from One Direction. Wait, I have that wrong. Ah yes, the real moment: Christopher Nolan directing a big war movie. We’ve seen him go to outer space, go inside the minds of well-dressed people, deconstruct the lore of Batman, and take on the world of magic. But for the first time in 2017, Nolan is going into the theater of the great war. The Battle of Dunkirk was a famously harrowing affair and based on the first Dunkirk trailer, Nolan and DP Hoyte Van Hoytema appear ready to do it justice in glorious IMAX.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
Neil Miller: Despite having the clunkiest title of any 2017 release, Luc Besson’s Valerian is directed by Luc Besson. It also looks like a batshit crazy sci-fi bonanza cut from a cloth similar to Besson’s breakout film, The Fifth Element. That’s what we’re hoping for with this Cara Delevingne and Dane DeHaan-led time travel adventure: a gaudy, otherworldly sci-fi romp that uses its supporting cast – the likes of John Goodman, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, and Rutger Fucking Hauer – for the purposes of good fun. The first trailer was a lot to take in and we’re okay with that. We’re ready to get weird with Luc Besson. By the time this comes out, we will have been waiting 20 years to get this weird with Luc Besson again. We believe that he won’t let us down.
The Coldest City (July 28)
Neil Miller: Longtime stunt mastermind David Leitch, who co-directed John Wick and directed the Second Unit on Captain America: Civil War, won’t have to share his director credit on this spy thriller. It’s all his. He’ll have free reign to bring his action acumen to the story of an MI6 agent investigating a murder in Berlin during the Cold War. That’s a story we’ve seen plenty of times, but we’ve never seen it told by one of the principles behind John Wick and a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Sofia Boutella, James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Toby Jones. That sounds solid. Also, if you’ve been reading all the captions this far down the list, you have to be thinking what I’m thinking: we’re primed for a big John Goodman year. And that’s never a bad thing.
The Dark Tower (July 28)
Rob Hunter: Stephen King’s IT is hitting the big screen this year, but between the talents involved and those first stills it’s not looking too promising. This King adaptation is a whole other beast though – Idris Elba as The Gunslinger is terrifically inspired casting, Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black is equally enticing, and the prospect of seeing King’s epic make its first steps onto the screen is utterly nerve-wracking. Can the strength of the source material overcome writer Akiva Goldsman’s mediocrity? Will King’s vast imagination raise up director Nikolaj Arcel’s TV-movie sensibilities? We’ll find out together next summer.
Baby Driver (August 11)
Rob Hunter: Shaun of the Dead. Hot Fuzz. Scott Pilgrim vs the World. The World’s End. And now, Baby Driver. If you need more reasons to be excited then honestly I don’t know what to tell you.
American Made (September 29)
Neil Miller: Fun Fact: Doug Liman has two movies coming out this year and they both made our list. There is the aforementioned war movie The Wall and this film, American Made. This one stars Tom Cruise, Lola Kirke, Domhnall Gleeson, and Jesse Plemons in the story of a pilot who begins working for the CIA as a drug runner in the 1980s. It’s like Narcos, but with what appears to be a far less-diverse cast. That’s something we’ll let shake out when we get a trailer and ultimately the movie. What we know is that Tom Cruise is in it and there’s likely to be some running.
Blade Runner 2049 (October 6)
Christopher Campbell: It’s hard not to be a little worried about this one. How many sequels that finally came about after a long gap have disappointed us? It’s not quite enough that Harrison Ford agreed to return as Deckard or that Ryan Gosling is the hot young new addition. It may indeed be enough, however, that Denis Villeneuve is at the helm. He’s not just some random hire. He’s not someone who should easily be compromised, especially after the success of his first sci-fi entry, this year’s Arrival. And so what if it is disappointing? The first version released probably should have problems. They can always make improvements later in a director’s cut and again in a final cut.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (October 6)
Neil Miller: Matthew Vaughn is back, Taron Egerton is back, Mark Strong is back. Even Colin Firth is back, somehow. They will be joined by Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Elton John, and others. That sets the stage for one hell of a follow-up to 2014’s most fun action movie. Honestly, we didn’t even need to know about all the additional cast. The mere fact that Matthew Vaughn is making a sequel is good enough.
The Commuter (October 13)
H. Perry Horton: Liam Neeson continues his elderly assault on the French-influenced action genre with The Commuter from director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), marking their fourth collaboration after Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. This round Neeson plays a simple businessman gets wrapped up in a criminal conspiracy on his way home from work on a commuter train. So Non-Stop on tracks, essentially. And how much do you want to be he’s a businessman with a certain set of skills that come into play? Derivative or not, nobody sells like Neeson, and Collet-Serra is riding high after the surprise success of The Shallows, so at the very least The Commuter should be as adrenalizing at the twosomes earlier efforts. Everyman Patrick Wilson is in the cast, as is Vera Farmiga (Conjuring reunion!), Sam Neill and Jonathan Banks. Your dad’s gonna love it.
Logan Lucky (October 13)
Neil Miller: Steven Soderbergh may be retired from making movies, but that won’t stop him from making movies, we suppose. In fact, we’re pretty sure that Soderbergh will be releasing movies long after he, and you, and I, and everyone are long gone. He’ll be the Tupac of filmmakers. One of the films he’s already got in the can is Logan Lucky, a story of two brothers who decide to pull of a heist at a NASCAR race. It’s like Ocean’s Eleven meets Days of Thunder, we’re guessing. As with all these Surprise Soderberghs, this one has a killer cast – Katie Holmes plays a woman named Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman, we kid you not. It also stars Katherine Waterston, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig, and Channing Tatum. Get this: Driver and Tatum play the two brothers. Seriously. And there’s more cast, including Seth MacFarlane, Hilary Swank, and Sebastian Stan. Not bad for a director who has been retired all this time…
The Snowman (October 13)
H. Perry Horton: Jo Nesbo’s surefooted gumshoe Detective Harry Hole has been keeping readers on the edge of their seats for more than a decade now and will no doubt do the same to filmgoers when the first silver-screen incarnation of the character arrives next year in the form of Michael Fassbender. The Snowman isn’t the first book in the Hole series, but it is the most popular so the perfect point to launch a potential new franchise. It tells of the investigation into a missing woman based on one very ominous clue: her pink scarf wrapped around the next of an unsettling snowman. Tomas Alfredson is directing and he’s the perfect choice. Not only is he Icelandic like Nesbo, as Let the Right One In proved he’s visually adept at capturing snow-covered landscapes, which in a film called The Snowman there are going to be plenty of. Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ) co-star.
The Mountain Between Us (October 20)
Neil Miller: Hany Abu-Assad isn’t a name you’re likely to know unless you’re fairly entrenched in Palestinian cinema. He’s made a few small, but memorable films in his home country like Paradise Now, Omar, and The Idol. In 2017 and 2018, he’s leveling up big time. First with The Mountain Between Us, a survival thriller starring Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, and the top of a mountain. Then with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a remake of a great Park Chan-wook film in 2018. This 2017 endeavor will give us an idea of his chops, as he’ll be making an intimate thriller about a pair stuck together following a plane crash in the mountains. If he can’t win with Winslet and Elba, there’s no hope for that Mr. Vengeance remake.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)
Neil Miller: The word “Ragnarok” refers to a series of events in the Norse mythology that essentially ends with the death of everyone important and the submersion of the world underwater. It’s the Norse version of the apocalypse. And with characters emerging like Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Skurge (Karl Urban), it feels like the theme is intact. Guided by director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), ole’ Handsome Hammer will be traveling the many realms in search of his father, who didn’t fair well at the end of the last Thor movie. He’ll be joined by his cast of merry marauders with promised appearances by Dr. Strange (Cumberbatch!) and Planet Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). To cap it off, Creed’s Tessa Thompson is joining up as Valkyrie and Jeff Goldblum plays the Grandmaster. Did I mention that Mark Mothersbaugh is doing the score? What even is this movie?
Justice League (November 17)
Neil Miller: Despite my feelings toward Batman v Superman and my feelings toward Suicide Squad, both of which went over like gangbusters with DC fans, I remain hopeful that Zack Snyder has learned from his mistakes and will make an engaging, entertaining Justice League movie. If for no other reason than the fact that I want Ben Affleck as Batman to succeed. Otherwise I’ll be just another hater drinking Haterade. Then again, Justice League did make this list… and the first trailer wasn’t bad…. so that’s something.
Murder on the Orient Express (November 22)
Rob Hunter: Agatha Christie’s brilliant train-set mystery has been adapted numerous times before, but the prospect of a big, meaty, star-filled retelling is the equivalent of cinematic comfort food. Kenneth Branagh directs – a talent he doesn’t often get enough recognition for – and stars as Hercule Poirot alongside the likes of Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz, Michael Peña, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Josh Gad. Okay, fine, Johnny Depp is aboard the train too, but if we’re lucky he’ll spend the film in the baggage car. And if we’re luckier he’ll remind us that he’s actually a great actor.
Darkest Hour (November 24)
Neil Miller: Yeah, we’ve got plenty of Oscar bait on this list, just in case you thought we were too into blockbusters (see the next entry for blockbuster stuff). This one comes from director Joe Wright, fresh off Pan redemption in the form of an excellent episode of Black Mirror. It tells the story of Winston Churchill (played by a transformed Gary Oldman) in the early days of World War II. It also stars Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, John Hurt as Neville Chamberlain, Kristen Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife Clementine, and Game of Thrones’ resident grammar Nazi Stephen Dillane in a yet unrevealed role. It’s certainly got all the makings of Oscar bait, right down to Amelie cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel to make it look classy.
Star Wars: Episode VIII (December 15)
Neil Miller: Forget Star Wars. For a moment. If you can. Let’s talk about how excited we are just to have a new Rian Johnson movie coming out. Sure, we’ll get answers to big questions about Rey’s parentage and we’ll get more Kylo Ren and maybe Luke Skywalker will even speak a line. But Rian Johnson, one of our best young filmmakers, hasn’t made a film since 2012’s Looper. And that film was excellent. It’s safe to expect that his Star Wars movie will be weird and wonderful and visually breathtaking. He’s had an incredible eye for fluid motion since his 2005 debut Brick. I kid you not, the fact that Rian Johnson gets to make a Star Wars movie is the most exciting thing about the notion of new Star Wars movies. Also, we finally get to find out how Captain Phasma escaped that trash compactor. I know this has been weighing on your minds, as well as mine.
Downsizing (December 22)
Neil Miller: The logline for Alexander Payne’s (Nebraska, The Descendants) new movie is as follows: “A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.” It will star Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudekis, Alex Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, and character actor Margo Martindale. Without knowing anything else, would you see this movie? We sure as hell would see this movie. It’s like a prestige version of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Maybe.
Currently without a release date:
Rob Hunter: It’s a new sci-fi/thriller from Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland, it stars Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Isaac, and that’s really all you should need to get in line. If you want to get a jump on it though I can recommend Jeff Vandermeer’s source novel – the first book in a trilogy – as a fast and fascinating read.
Battle of the Sexes
Christopher Campbell: More than 10 years since he earned acclaim for his first real dramatic turn in Little Miss Sunshine, Steve Carell is back under the direction of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for what looks to be a very fun yet also substantial biopic. Carell plays misogynistic tennis legend Bobby Riggs, who didn’t believe women could play the sport as well as men. Emma Stone, last seen on screen with Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love, plays the female pro who took him up on the idea, Billie Jean King, who (spoiler alert) won the match. You’ve got these two amazing talents, skilled in both comedy and drama, in 1970s athletic fashions and a story of female empowerment and it’s gotta be a winner. Be sure to bring a Sugar Daddy as your movie snack. You’ll see.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
Rob Hunter: If you look back at our most-anticipated lists for 2015 and 2014 you’ll see S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk sitting high and pretty. Of course we all know how that turned out – even now Patrick Wilson is still out there somewhere reading that stupid letter to himself – but we here at FSR aren’t ones to hold grudges, so in the spirit of hope and second chances we’re actually looking forward to Zahler’s next. Vince Vaughn, Don Johnson, and Udo Kier – as Placid Man (?) – star in the prison-set fight film, and we’re letting ourselves be cautiously optimistic once again.
The Death of Stalin
Christopher Campbell: The movie that took Armando Iannucci away from Veep better be great, because the series took a slight dip in writing quality after he left. But who are we kidding, a new movie from Iannucci, the first since 2009’s In the Loop, is one of the most anticipated movies of the decade and something we desperately need in 2017. How perfect is it that this movie, a period political satire about the last days of Joseph Stalin, pokes fun at the Russians? At the very least, The Death of Stalin is going to be a treat because it cast Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov, and Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Rob Hunter: Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is not only one of 2016’s best films but also one of the year’s most intelligent, funny, and creative. It’s enough to earn his follow-up a spot on this list, regardless of cast or content, but happily it gets even better knowing that Colin Farrell is returning as well. Farrell’s performance in The Lobster is among his very best, and while we know little about this film’s plot his presence (alongside Nicole Kidman, Bill Camp, and Alicia Silverstone) in the service of Lanthimos’ special brand of madness is more than enough to get us into the theater.
Rob Hunter: Warcraft was an undeniable misstep for Duncan Jones, but it seems pretty clear the outcome wouldn’t have been any better with anyone else in the director’s chair. Instead look to Jones’ Moon and Source Code for a better idea of his talents, and in that regard his latest promises to be a sci-fi/noir worth getting excited about. Alexander Skarsgård stars as a mute bartender in near-future Berlin whose search for a missing woman leads him on a dark and twisty journey and up against a pair of American heavies played by Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd. Yes, that Paul Rudd.
Neil Miller: Aaron Sorkin can certainly write with the best of them, but can he direct? We’re about to find out with Molly’s Game, the story of a former Olympic skier (played by Jessica Chastain) who earns the attention of the FBI when she sets up a high stakes, international poker game. Adapted from the memoir of Molly Bloom, Sorkin’s directorial debut will feature a cast that also includes Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, and Chris O’Dowd. Those are certainly a few people we’d have doing walk-and-talks to a poker table.
Rob Hunter: One need only look at Bong Joon-ho’s filmography to understand why his next film is among our most-anticipated. Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother, Snowpiercer – his last four features reveal a director as comfortable with monsters in the dark as he is with the hope at the end of the tunnel. Both of those extremes come into play with Okja as the story of a young girl, the creature she befriends, and the evil corporation in pursuit of them both. Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, and Giancarlo Esposito join the fun in what promises to be the biggest Netflix production yet.
The Shape of Water
Neil Miller: Remember when composer Alexander Desplat left Rogue One surprisingly late in the game and was replaced by Michael Giacchino? We were told at the time that it was due to scheduling conflicts. Which makes sense, as Desplat is scoring three films in 2017. One of them is The Shape of Water, the next film from Guillermo del Toro. Desplat will add his music to an “other-worldly story, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963.” The film has a screenplay from Game of Thrones co-producer Vanessa Taylor and will feature a cast including Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, and at least one form of Doug Jones (but who knows, maybe more).
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Rob Hunter: Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges remains a darkly comic thriller unlike any other, and while Seven Psychopaths didn’t manage to reach its heights it still left us laughing and cringing in equal measure. His latest finally puts a lady front and center with Frances McDormand taking lead here, and we couldn’t be more psyched. She stars as a grieving mother who decides to take a stand after growing fed up with the local authorities (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell). Add in Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, and a score from Carter Burwell and we’re ready to once again expose ourselves to McDonagh’s particular blend of violence and giggles.
Under the Silver Lake
Rob Hunter: It Follows was a genuine horror discovery in 2014 thanks to both its originality and the fact that it came from the filmmaker behind the wonderfully benign The Myth of the American Sleepover. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell looks to be shifting genre gears once again for his third feature, a noir-tinged crime thriller starring Andrew Garfield, Zosia Mamet, Jimmi Simpson, and Riley Keough. At this point we’re happy to follow Mitchell anywhere.