2015 has been a pretty good year for movies, and 2016 is shaping up to be a quite a landmark year as well. So now it’s time for my annual tradition of counting down the movies I’m most looking forward to next year. As usual, let me set the rules:
- Movies that release in the UK in 2016 but released overseas in 2015 aren’t on this list. They still count as 2015 to me, so don’t expect to see The Revenant, Creed or Spotlight here. If they’re good, they may end up on my Favourites of 2015 list come February.
- This is going by what films are currently scheduled for released in 2016 with specific dates. There are certainly movies that aim to release in 2016, mainly awards-type movies, but they don’t have set releases yet and could fall into 2017. Several movies here may end up getting delayed as well (a few movies on this list were on my list last year but got pushed), but they have set releases as of this writing and therefore count.
- This is not me predicting what will be the best movies of 2016. Several of what were my most anticipated of 2015 are going to end up on my most despised of 2015, and there are a bunch of movies here I do have serious doubts about. This is about me telling you what movies I’m most interested in seeing and hopeful of their quality. I can’t guarantee any of these movies will be good. You’ll have to see them yourselves when they come out.
And so, without further procrastination, my list:
25. Star Trek Beyond
Release Date: 22 July (US, UK)
Star Trek Into Darkness was a disappointment to many (even my appreciation of it has withered since my first viewing), but third act quibbles aside it still had a lot of what made JJ Abrams’ first film work. Though Abrams has been too busy in a galaxy far, far away to command the Enterprise again, Fast and Furious vet Justin Lin is certainly an interesting replacement to venture where no one has gone before. The trailer definetly indicates a further emphasis on action over diplomacy, something I’m sure certain Trek fans lament, but at least so far this looks like an original adventure rather than reheated memories of the series’ past.
24. La La Land
Release Date: 15 July (US, UK)
Following up an impressive directorial debut can be difficult; just look at Neill Blomkamp or Josh Trank. Hopefully, Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle can get over that stigma and deliver something special with this musical comedy. Casting Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling together for the third time means there’ll be at least some semblance of chemistry, and reteaming Chazelle and J.K. Simmons isn’t a bad sign either.
23. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Release Date: 21 October (US, UK)
The first Jack Reacher was a surprise to both fans of the novels and moviegoers alike who didn’t think Tom Cruise could pull off the role of the grizzled ex-military detective, and hopefully this follow-up can deliver the same mix of action, mystery and wit the first film had. The lack of Christopher McQuarrie behind the quill and camera is a disappointment, but The Last Samurai’s Ed Zwick isn’t a bad replacement and Cruise is as ready as ever to leap back into action hero gear.
22. Kubo and the Two Strings
Release Date: 19 August (US), 9 September (UK)
Laika’s crop of stop motion kids’ films are wonderfully twisted and unique in such a PC world, and after such an underappreciated movie like The Boxtrolls maybe this venture will get the company the respect it deserves. The film features a wonderful voice cast including Matthew McConaheughy, Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara, and I can’t wait to see how Laika depicts ancient Japan with their expressionistic eye.
21. Hail Caesar!
Release Date: 5 February (US), 22 February (UK)
The Coen Brothers aren’t untouchable filmmakers, but even their disasters are interesting disasters, so Hail Caesar should be one to watch regardless. Featuring an all-star cast including Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johanssen and Channing Tatum amongst many others, this comedy about 1950s Hollywood scandal should be an interesting mix of the Coens’ trademark wit and dark humour in a fascinating period of Tinseltown’s history.
20. Finding Dory
Release Date: 17 June (US), 29 July (UK)
Of all the films for Pixar to make sequels to, Finding Nemo would probably be near the bottom of the list and I’m worried this may be just director Andrew Stanton running back to safe territory after his trip to Mars in John Carter proved less than fruitful. The prospect of focusing on Dory is also worrying; as a side character she’s great, but a whole movie of her sounds like it could go all Jack Sparrow. But Cars 2 aside, Pixar’s previous trips back to the well have been at least pleasant, so hopefully this is a story that needs to be told rather than just another attempt at cash grabbing.
19. The BFG
Release Date: 1 July (US), 22 July (UK)
Adaptations of Roald Dahl’s children’s stories have proven difficult over the years, and it’s weird to think that the better ones like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox are the ones that stray further from the books. Steven Spielberg seems exactly the right type of filmmaker to adapt Dahl’s wonderful tale of a little girl and her gigantic friend to the big screen, and the brief teaser trailer certainly has the same magic as the source book. The film also being the posthumous work of E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison makes this a tearful reunion of director and screenwriter, and the spectacular cast of Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement lends even more promise to this adaptation.
18. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Release Date: 18 November (US, UK)
Speaking of going back to the well, it was only a matter of time before we returned to the Potterverse and I’m at least glad it’s for this rather than a reboot. Featuring an original story by J.K. Rowling (with the name only taken from a plotless textbook) and four-time Potter helmer David Yates returning to direct (who also has The Legend of Tarzan opening this year), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes the appropriate prequel approach by telling a story with very little connection to Harry Potter’s adventures (as far as we know). All we can hope now is that doesn’t fall into the same traps as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings when it comes to prequels.
17. Assassin’s Creed
Release Date: 21 December (US), 30 December (UK)
2016 seems to be the year video games movies are trying to break out of their cycle of crap. With Ratchet & Clank, The Angry Birds Movie and another adaptation featured later on this list, perhaps now’s the time for video game movies to have their X-Men and break into mainstream popularity. Assassin’s Creed has promise as a movie from its interesting blend of history and sci-fi alone, but the talent they’ve assembled to create it almost seems embarrassingly overqualified. Macbeth director Justin Kurzel directs his previous collaborators Michael Fassbender (also a producer on the film) and Marion Cotillard in an original story with supposed continuity with the game series, and a great supporting cast like Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and Michael K. Williams means this could certainly have promise as an interesting film even to people who have never picked up a video game controller.
16. Kung Fu Panda 3
Release Date: 29 January (US), 11 March (UK)
This was going to make my most anticipated list last year until its delay right before the end of 2014, but now the adventures of Po can finally continue and answer the cliffhanger left at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2. These films are far better than the title would suggest and I would highly recommend them to anyone who’s written them off as silly kids’ movies, and with some luck this third instalment will contain the same mix of humour, martial arts, philosophy and heart its predecessors delivered in spades.
Release Date: 21 December (US), 23 December (UK)
The Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum directs this sci-fi romance that finally pairs Hollywood darlings Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in what sounds like a fascinating story about two people alone together on a spaceship full of people frozen in stasis, knowing they will die before the ship will reach its destination. This film is still a year out, but the concept of Pratt and Lawrence on screen together trading quips whilst in constant fear of their own mortality is enough to colour me intrigued.
14. Zootopia (AKA Zootropolis)
Release Date: 4 March (US), 25 March (UK)
After skipping 2015, Walt Disney Animation Studios returns for a double dip starting with this comedy adventure set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. The initial concept sounds basic on paper, but Disney has been great recently with taking simple concepts and putting a great twist on them, and with the respective directors of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph steering the ship this has more than enough clout to be on your radar.
13. Doctor Strange
Release Date: 28 October (UK), 4 November (US)
It’s hard to say anything Marvel Studios does is gamble anymore after turning Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man into box office smashes. At this point they’re more like escalating dares, and adapting the psychedelic mysticism of Doctor Strange is a pretty big dare on so many levels. Sinister director Scott Derrickson is certainly an odd choice as helmsman, but the casting of human otter Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme himself should help bring in an audience completely adverse to the bizarre concepts of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s quintessentially 60s creation.
12. The Nice Guys
Release Date: 20 May (US), 3 June (UK)
Shane Black returns to the director’s chair for this crime caper that basically looks like a grittier 1970s version of Black’s own Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang mixed with a little bit of LA Confidential. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe don’t immediately jump out as a natural pair on paper, but clashing personalities in a buddy environment is Black’s bread and butter and The Nice Guys looks like it will be no exception.
Release Date: 15 July (US, UK)
Ivan Reitman’s original classic Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favourite movies and a pop culture phenomenon that hasn’t waned since 1984. Rebooting the franchise is an idea considered blasphemous to most of its fans, but if you’re going to do it you’d better do something different and boy have they gone different. Genderflipping the Ghostbusters is a daring and controversial move that has the Internet in a fanboy whine crisis, but if it works it’s going to set a fascinating precedent for gender roles in future Hollywood blockbusters. The cast they’ve assembled is all around fantastic, and Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig is the perfect choice to direct these funny ladies in their quest to bust some ghosts.
10. Midnight Special
Release Date: 18 March (US), 15 April (UK)
Yep, this was on my list last year and 2015 went by without it, but Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi drama is now on the docket for an early 2016 release, and the new trailer sheds some more light on the mysterious film. The John Carpenter influence Nichols has mentioned definitely comes through here and mixes well with the director’s own subdued style; it reminded me of Looper a lot in that way. This one definitely has a chance of being the year’s sleeper hit.
Release Date: 3 June (UK), 10 June (US)
I’m not at all a fan of the Warcraft video games, but I’m excited for this film for a number of other reasons. Firstly, it’s promising to be the new flagship fantasy franchise; with Middle-earth fully plundered, that’s something we could certainly use. Secondly, Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones is behind the camera and I’m willing to support anything he does. But most importantly, Warcraft stands a chance of being Hollywood’s first great video game movie and, given the talent involved and the quality of everything I’ve seen so far, I’m on board to see how it goes. But if it fails, hopefully Assassin’s Creed will be there to pick up the pieces.
Release Date: 23 November (US), 2 December (UK)
Moana is the first CG animated film from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin directors Ron Clements & John Musker, and the concept of exploring Polynesian mythology through the eyes of Disney is a simple but alluring concept that could be one of the company’s most beautiful and unique films to date. That and it has Dwayne Johnson in it. Since when has his presence hurt a film?
7. The Jungle Book
Release Date: 15 April (US, UK)
Yet another film that was on my list last year and got pushed, and since then it’s rattled way up the ranks thanks to the fantastic trailer. The Jungle Book looks to be a visual treat on so many levels, and the fact every character and environment except Mowgli was rendered in CG is something that makes those images seem even more amazing. With a fantastic supporting cast and Iron Man director Jon Favreau behind the magic, The Jungle Book has the potential to elevate Disney’s recent obsession with adapting their animated classics into live-action.
6. X-Men: Apocalypse
Release Date: 19 May (UK), 27 May (US)
The First Class trilogy concludes next May with the arrival of ultimate X-Men villain Apocalypse, and sh*t is going to hit the fan. With a whole smorgasbord of mutants ranging from old familiars to younger versions of classic characters and even a few brand new ones, Bryan Singer has compared Apocalypse to a disaster movie and the prospect of a huge mutant on mutant battle could fulfil the promise that was botched in The Last Stand. It’s also going to be interesting to see X-Men in the 1980s, and where the franchise’s future will stand following all the carnage.
5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Release Date: 25 March (US, UK)
Whilst this is a movie I’m still highly hesitant about, I can’t deny that I really, really can’t wait to see it. I’m still not sure about the overly serious tone, I felt they showed way too much in the most recent trailer (which I have NOT posted below in case you’ve missed it), and I’m very worried that DC is rushing to catch up with Marvel. But, on the other hand, the mere prospect of seeing The Dark Knight fight The Man of Steel is something that even with my concerns I cannot deny how awesome it sounds. Throw in the screen debut of Wonder Woman and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (screw the haters, I think it’s a brilliant idea), and there’s more than enough to make me excited, even if cautiously so.
4. Suicide Squad
Release Date: 5 August (US, UK)
Now this I have a litle more faith in than Dawn of Justice. Suicide Squad seems to be DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy: a ragtag team of second-tier characters with questionable morals, but drenched in the gritty aesthetic that DC are painting their films in. David Ayer’s dour sensibilities seem perfect for this type of Dirty Dozen story, and the cast is pretty impeccable (with the exception of walking potato Jai Courtney, but he could always surprise). I’m still not fully sold on Jared Leto’s Joker from a design perspective, but Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is casting so perfect that I can’t really think of anyone better suited to the role.
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release Date: 16 December (US, UK)
With The Force Awakens now confirmed as a successful return to form for the Star Wars franchise, it’s now much easier to get excited for the massive expansion of the universe that’s about to take place with the Anthology movies. First out of the gate is Rogue One, which tells the story of the group of rebels that stole the original Death Star plans (a story told several different ways in the Expanded Universe before, but no longer canon. Sorry, Kyle Katarn). Though I haven’t been hugely impressed by Gareth Edwards’ work on Monsters and Godzilla, he’s a director that certainly knows how to sell scale and magnitude, and the concept of a gritty war film in the vein of Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down set within the Star Wars universe is irresistable.
2. Captain America: Civil War
Release Date: 29 April (UK), 6 May (US)
It’s heroes vs. heroes in the follow-up to The Winter Soldier, and the first stop on the road to Infinity War. Though the staggering array of characters crammed into this movie suggest this might as well be Avengers 2.5, this is still primarily Cap’s movie and to see resolution to his story with Winter Soldier and how he deals with this crisis of loyalty is going to be a moral dilemma that will divide both heroes and audiences. All that plus the introductions of both Black Panther and Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are more than enough to get excited for Civil War.
Release Date: 10 February (UK), 12 February (US)
Hardly a classy choice for most anticipated, but Deadpool has me excited more than any other movie in 2016 because it’s such a risky move. An R-rated action comedy based on a C-list comic book character full of self-referential humour and sex gags? It’s no wonder this film was in development hell for so long, but the fans have spoken and 20th Century Fox has finally listened. Ryan Reynolds is getting the second chance he deserves as Deadpool after getting f*cked over in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and this could be his opportunity to finally escape from the toilet his career has been in lately (I mean, did you see R.I.P.D.?). It’s certainly going to be a divisive movie and if it bombs we’ll never see another like it, but if it pays off it’s going to open up a whole new world of possibilities for comic book cinema. Have your chimichangas ready, because we only have to wait til February for this monster to be unleashed.