To be perfectly honest, 2016 has not been a great year in general and that is reflected in the quality of cinema in the past twelve months. It was a year plagued by mediocrity and disappointment; a year with very few awful movies not many that were fantastic either. But now that it is coming to a close, there’s no better time than now to look forward to what is to come in 2017. As usual, allow me to explain the ground rules:
- Movies that release in the UK in 2017 but released overseas in 2016 aren’t on this list. They still count as 2016 to me, so don’t expect to see Silence, Live by Night or The Founder here. If they’re good, they may end up on my Favourites of 2016 list come February.
- This is going by what films are currently set to debut in 2017 with confirmed release dates. There are certainly movies that aim to release in 2017, mainly awards-type movies, but they don’t have dates yet and could fall into 2018. Several movies here may end up getting delayed as often happens, but they have set releases as of writing and therefore count.
- This is not me predicting what will be the best movies of 2017. I’ve had movies appear on my most anticipated that ended up in my most despised list by the end of the year, and most of what will probably end up being my favourites will be surprises or films I haven’t even heard of yet. This is about me telling you what movies I’m most excited to see 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:
- The Dark Tower
Release Date: 28 July (US, UK)
2017 is going to be a big year for Stephen King, with both the first instalment of a two-part film adaptation of It and the long-awaited beginning of a multimedia series based on The Dark Tower. The first part in a planned series of films and a television series, the film will apparently serve as a sequel to the book series, which makes me question how accessible to new audiences the film will be; we don’t need another Warcraft on our hands. Regardless, bringing King’s grand multiverse series to the screen should at least make for a visually spectacular movie, and with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey leading the charge it has a lot of promise.
Release Date: 12 May (UK), 26 May (US)
From the star and writers of Deadpool comes…a sci-fi thriller that essentially looks like a more realistic version of Alien? Yes, it’s an odd change of direction for the creative team responsible for #driveby, but the interesting premise and a stellar cast including Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson means this has the potential to be the sleeper sci-fi hit of the year in a similar vein to 10 Cloverfield Lane or Ex Machina.
- Paddington 2
Release Date: 10 November (UK), TBC (US)
The first Paddington was a lovely surprise back when it came out in 2014, bringing the lovable bear to life with respect rather than typical Hollywood pandering. Now the same creative team is back for the sequel and hopefully they can prove the first time wasn’t just a fluke.
- The Mummy
Release Date: 9 June (US, UK)
Universal’s first real step in creating a shared universe out of their Monsters stable (we can all forget about Dracula Untold thankfully), this modern reinvention of The Mummy pits Tom Cruise against a female mummy (played by Sofia Boutella of Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond fame) and sets the stage for the future films with Russell Crowe appearing as Dr. Jekyll. It’s a cool concept if it can be pulled off just right, and the trailer shows off an interesting mix of blockbuster action and traditional horror, but I’ll admit it could easily fall flat on its face too. In any case, it can’t be any worse than that last Mummy film with Brendan Fraser.
Release Date: 22 November (US), 8 December (UK)
The second of Pixar’s releases next year (the other being Cars 3, which shows potential with its teaser but I’m still highly skeptical), this animated musical fable from Toy Story 3 helmer Lee Unkrich dives into the world of The Day of the Dead and its mythology. It’s subject matter that’s been already heavily explored in works like Grim Fandango and The Book of Life, but I’m hopeful Pixar have come up with a fresh spin on the concept that’ll stand out from its spiritual brethren.
- Beauty and the Beast
Release Date: 17 March (US, UK)
After The Jungle Book turned out so well, I’m far more open to Disney’s obsession of adapting their animated classics to live-action than before, and Beauty and the Beast is a perfect candidate for translation. The casting is absolutely fantastic across the board (well, except maybe Luke Evans as Gaston, but I’ll wait and see), and from the trailers it looks like it’s following the original film very closely but giving it a darker visual makeover. I just hope Disney doesn’t take it too far considering how many more of these things they’ve announced in the past six months. But if this movie in any way ruins the original (which remains my absolute favourite Disney animated film) like how Maleficent ruined Sleeping Beauty for me, this trend needs to be put to bed pronto.
- Justice League
Release Date: 17 November (US, UK)
Justice League is a movie I should be way more excited about given how much I’ve wanted to see it since I was a kid, but Batman v Superman has put a damper on my anticipation. But if the film is anything like the footage they showed at Comic Con, it seems like they might have learnt their lesson. If they can lighten the mood and let this be a fun blockbuster rather than overly grim and deconstructive, perhaps this can save the DCEU from total annihilation. Then again, if the post-BvS tampering is as jarring and obvious as it was in Suicide Squad, this would certainly kill the franchise quicker than any kind of Kryptonite.
- Ghost in the Shell
Release Date: 31 March (US, UK)
American live-action adaptations of manga have a worse track record than video game movies (Speed Racer, anyone?), but if the gorgeous visuals present in the trailer are any indication this could be the one that breaks the mould. The casting of Scarlett Johansson aside, this perfectly captures the look of Ghost in the Shell and if it can deliver some solid action whilst retaining the original’s thematic heft then it could be a winner. On the other hand, director Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman was the queen of “all style, no substance”, so this could easily go the other way too. Curious to see it how it pans out regardless.
- John Wick: Chapter 2
Release Date: 10 February (US), 17 February (UK)
The first John Wick came out of nowhere and showed the world how action movies should be done in the modern age: with top-notch choreography, intelligent cinematography and editing, gratuitous violence and a strong dose of self-awareness. Topping that is going to be a hard task, so I’m excited to see them attempt it in Chapter 2. This is the kind of role Keanu Reeves excels at playing, and reteaming him with Laurence Fishburne for an unofficial Matrix reunion doesn’t hurt things either.
- Captain Underpants
Release Date: 26 May (UK), 2 June (US)
The Captain Underpants books were big favourites of mine as a kid (in fact, I think that’s where I really first developed my peculiar sense of humour), and so I’m more than curious to see how DreamWorks adapts the stories to a feature film. I’m a little mixed on the casting choices however. Ed Helms as the Captain doesn’t sound so bad and Nick Kroll as Professor Poopypants is perfect, but Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as George and Harold? Why can’t the kids be played by, you know, kids? Practically nothing has been revealed beyond the below teaser poster, but rumour has it that the visuals will be something akin to The Peanuts Movie, and if that’s the case I’m certainly interested.
- Thor: Ragnarok
Release Date: 27 October (UK), 3 November (US)
After The Dark World proved to be a satisfactory but ultimately forgettable second chapter, the third Thor film really needs to pick up the pace. How are they doing that? Teaming Thor up with The Hulk and sending them on a cosmic road trip, having Cate Blanchett play the main villain, plus a mini Jursassic Park reunion with both Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill. Yep, that ought to do it. Taika Waititi is an inspired choice to helm what currently looks to be Marvel’s oddest film yet, and considering their last film was Doctor Strange that’s saying a lot.
Release Date: 21 July (US, UK)
Christopher Nolan is finally getting away from the worlds of superheroes and speculative science with a war epic that could be this generation’s Saving Private Ryan. The prospect of seeing Nolan apply everything he’s learnt from years of blockbuster filmmaking into something more grounded is going to be interesting to watch, and the cast is a pretty stellar mix of talent like Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and…Harry Styles? OK, now that’s just weird.
Release Date: 22 December (US), TBC (UK)
I’m always up for whatever Alexander Payne has cooking, and this sci-fi comedy that has been his pet project for years certainly sounds like some ripe material for his brand of humour. In what sounds like a farcical take on Fantastic Voyage, the movie features an odd assortment of serious actors like Matt Damon and Christoph Waltz paired with comedians like Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis. Whatever it ends up being exactly, it’s probably going to make me laugh and maybe even cry.
- Blade Runner 2049
Release Date: 6 October (US, UK)
Ridley Scott returns to another of his classic films, but instead of taking the reigns is allowing a new generation to continue the story. Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve directs what looks to be the gritty sci-fi answer to The Force Awakens, teaming a returning Harrison Ford with Ryan Gosling for another dive into the world of the Replicants. So many films have ripped off Blade Runner since its release, so creating something truly new is going to be tricky, but they’ve certainly got the right creative team to make it possible. It might be too early to say, but I’m so confident in Villeneuve and co that I believe 2049 has the potential to be an even better film than the original.
- Kong: Skull Island
Release Date: 10 March (US, UK)
How do you make King Kong more terrifying for a modern age? By making him even bigger! This new take on the classic ape monster looks incredible just from the trailers, promising an intense ride that mixes Apocalypse Now with Godzilla. Top it all off will an gigantic all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and many more, and this has a chance of becoming king of the Kong movies.
- The Lego Batman Movie
Release Date: 10 February (US, UK)
“Darkness! No parents!” The Lego Movie was a genius piece of satire through and through, and one of the many things that made it awesome was Will Arnett’s deconstructive take on Batman. Now the Bricked Crusader is getting his own spin-off and it looks just as funny and self-aware as the film that spawned it. The cast is fantastic, the animation looks beautiful, and the humour looks to capture that same tongue-in-cheek wonderfulness that Lord & Miller brought us with the first movie.
- Alien: Covenant
Release Date: 19 May (US, UK)
Now Prometheus certainly wasn’t what every Alien fan wanted, but Ridley Scott looks like he’s trying to make up for that with this interquel that’s going to start bridging the gap between the 2012 prequel and the original 1979 film. Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace return along with a bunch of newcomers including Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride, and it looks like this time we’ll actually be getting something a lot closer to a Xenomorph! If it succeeds, Scott will have successfully resurrected the franchise he started so long ago. If it fails, then perhaps Neill Blomkamp’s shelved Alien 5 will finally get off the ground.
- War for the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: 14 July (US, UK)
Rise and Dawn were already fantastic sci-fi movies that elevated the Planet of the Apes franchise back into modern relevance, so I’m excited to see War for the Planet of the Apes continue to up the ante for what looks to be the finale to an epic trilogy. I’m hoping for bigger action and higher stakes whilst still retaining that moral ambiguity that made Dawn transcend the typical Hollywood blockbuster, and I’m excited to see Andy Serkis’ Caesar develop further as we approach the inevitable beginning of the original franchise.
- Wonder Woman
Release Date: 2 June (US, UK)
If any movie is going to give Warner Bros and DC the kick up the backside it needs, Wonder Woman looks like it has its boot primed already. Everything so far has exuded this is going to be a fun but badass piece of superhero action, and to see The Spirit of Truth finally get her own movie is a satisfaction long overdue. Gal Gadot showed promise in her brief screen time in Batman v Superman, so here’s hoping she can carry an entire movie across the finish line, and if this does well then we can expect to see more female-led superhero movies in the future. If not, this movie is going to end up on the same pile as Catwoman and Elektra.
Release Date: 2 March (UK), 3 March (US)
Hugh Jackman is retiring the role of Wolverine and Fox looks like it’s finally going to hard reboot the X-Men franchise, but if Logan is how this 17 year old franchise is going to bow out then I’m happy. The trailer for this alone is gloriously satisfying, bringing in fan favourite elements like Old Man Logan and X-23, finally delivering a bloody R-rated Wolverine experience, and going out on a sombre note fitting of a well-worn franchise ready for rejuvenation. If nothing else, this movie should reset the ratio of good to bad Wolverine movies to 2:1.
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Release Date: 29 September (UK), 6 October (US)
Kingsman: The Secret Service was the best spy movie of a year that include both a Bond flick and the best Mission: Impossible film so far, so you know it’s good. With Matthew Vaughn and company returning for a sequel, I’m very excited to see where they can take the franchise next. Bringing in some new talent like Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore (hey, Big Lebowski reunion!) is certainly cool, but I’m more interested to see where they take Eggsy as a character and how, as the below poster hints at, they can bring Colin Firth back into the fold.
- Baby Driver
Release Date: 11 August (US), 18 August (UK)
Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man was certainly saddening, but if he’s instead going to use that time to do something totally his own I’m fine with that. Loosely inspired by a music video Wright directed years ago for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song”, Baby Driver sounds like a mix of 1970s car chase movies and the insanity of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World with its tale of a music-obsessed getaway driver involved in a bank robbery gone wrong. Whatever it ends up being, I’m sure it’s going to be signature Wright and that’s all I really need to be pumped.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
Release Date: 7 July (US, UK)
The Wall Crawler is finally back in the hands of Marvel Studios (creatively, at least) and it looks like Homecoming is going to be the most truthful adaptation of the Spider-Man mythos to date. Tom Holland showed the potential of being the best screen version of Peter Parker to date, and here’s hoping this flick can cement that position for him. I’m also loving that we’re going to see some classic villains like Vulture and Shocker come into play, what looks like a meaty supporting role for Tony Stark, and a light-hearted tone that mixes the teen comedies of John Hughes with Marvel’s signature stylings.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Release Date: 28 April (UK), 5 May (US)
How do you top Guardians of the Galaxy? I have no idea, but I hope James Gunn has figured it out. With the first film having gotten everyone used to the idea of a talking raccoon and a sentient tree, Vol. 2 now has full license to go absolutely nuts, and judging by everything so far they are certainly taking advantage of that license. In no sane world should we be getting a movie featuring Mantis, Ego the Living Planet and Taserface, but Marvel really no longer needs to take chances anymore so why not? And c’mon: if you’re not sold on this movie based on Baby Groot alone, you have no soul.
- Star Wars: Episode VIII
Release Date: 15 December (US, UK)
Yes, obvious choice is obvious, but after The Force Awakens left fans with so many questions, I can’t help but be most excited about the film that’s going to settle at least some of the arguments fanboys have been darting back and forth for the last year. Rian Johnson helming a Star Wars movie is as much a dream come true for me as I’m sure it is for him, and I’m looking forward to the prospect of Episode VIII forging some new ground in the saga after the previous film was more of a reunion tour to ease us back in. All of this is speculation on my part, but I’m hoping that VIII will go really dark and completely flip the status quo. This film needs to find a way to match the legendary twist in Empire, and I think whatever Lucasfilm has cooking is going to get fans even more pumped moving forward and maybe even retroactively fix a lot of the problems present in The Force Awakens. Again, all fanboy rambling, but that just shows how excited I am to see where Star Wars goes next.