So with 2018 drawing to a close, it’s time once again to look forward to a new year of releases. As with most years, this list is full of the usual suspects: sequels, reboots, pieces of cinematic universes, and everything in between. However, as much as I love to be surprised by original films (and don’t worry, there are plenty of those in here too), a lot of these projects do have me genuinely excited. Some of that may be down to nostalgia, yes, but there’s also a lot of promise of innovation being expressed within these well-worn ideas. So here’s hoping everything on here lives up to expectations and that we aren’t in for yet another year of disappointment.
As usual, allow me to repeat the ground rules:
- This list is based on what is scheduled to come out in 2019 as of this moment. Some of these may get delayed to 2020 for a variety of reasons, but as of now they are due for release next year. Several films on this list were actually on last year’s and got delayed, so there is plenty of precedent.
- I’m only counting films that have a confirmed release for next year. There are plenty of films, generally smaller productions, that are in production with an aimed 2019 release, but they may well end up in 2020. Bottom line: if it doesn’t have a specific date on the release calendar in the US or UK, it’s not getting counted.
- Films that will be released here in the UK in 2019 but were released in the US in 2018 don’t count, so don’t expect to see films like Boy Erased, If Beale Street Could Talk or Vice on this list. Awards-buzz films like that have already had eyes on them, and this list is all about hype for projects the public have not seen yet.
- This is not a prediction of what I think will be the best films of 2019. Some will disappoint, and usually the best movies end up being the ones I haven’t heard of yet. These are merely the movies I am most excited for and/or interested to see, and their quality will be judged when I have actually seen them.
And now, let us proceed…
- Men in Black: International
Release Date: 14th June (US, UK)
The original Men in Black had so much promise to spawn a sprawling franchise that could go in hundreds of zany directions…but instead we got two sequels that only focused on trying in vain to recapture the dynamic of the first. Hopefully, junking both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and focusing on a new team of MIB agents will help start the slate clean. Focusing on the London branch of the extraterrestrial defence agency and billed as a globe-hopping murder mystery, MIB: International looks exactly like the fresh twist on the series we’ve been waiting for. Also, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson already proved themselves a winning combo in Thor: Ragnarok, so I can’t wait to see what they do here.
- Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
Release Date: 10th May (US, UK)
Given Pokémon’s popularity over the past twenty years, it’s surprising that it’s taken until now to see a live-action film. Then again, Nintendo have up until now been super-protective of their properties since the Super Mario Bros. movie crashed in 1993. Even so, I don’t think anyone would have thought adapting Detective Pikachu was the obvious route to go. This could easily fall into the banal camp most CGI/live-action hybrids based on nostalgia properties do. However, the trailer is surprisingly promising and already shows they’ve jumped the first hurdle of faithfully bringing the world of Pokémon to life. I at least have more faith in it than the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Oh yeah, that comes out this year too.
- Hobbs and Shaw
Release Date: 2nd August (US, UK)
We’re not seeing a ninth Fast & Furious flick until 2020 at least, but this spin-off highlighting Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s characters seems like an ideal holdover. The two had remarkable chemistry in Fate of the Furious, and with Idris Elba as the villain and Deadpool 2’s David Leitch at the helm, this sounds like it could become a ridiculous guilty-pleasure franchise all on its own. Here’s hoping for more ridiculous stunts, cheesy one-liners, and hilariously unintentional homoerotic machismo between the two leads. But seriously, how are they going to top Jason Statham taking out bad guys on an airplane whilst carrying a baby?
- The Lion King
Release Date: 19th July (US, UK)
I don’t really understand the logic of this being a “live-action adaptation” given all the characters are CG talking animals, but I can’t deny there’s something intriguing about seeing a photo-realistic revision on The Lion King. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is the one the few Disney live-action films that undeniably works (we’re also getting new versions of Dumbo and Aladdin this year for some reason, but I have far less faith in those), so to see him back again to take this on is a good sign, and the phenomenal cast they’ve assembled only sweetens the deal. So glad they realised you can’t replace James Earl Jones as Mufasa and just brought him back.
Release Date: 4th October (US, UK)
I knew it was only a matter of time before Marvel and/or DC started to make Elseworlds-style films set outside the main timeline (then again, you could argue the entire Dark Knight trilogy was essentially that), and for a first attempt this sounds like a really bold take. A Joker origin story is something that is incredibly hard to do because the character is often more interesting when you know less about him. However, given the filmmakers have frequently quoted The King of Comedy (Martin Scorcese’s most underrated film) as a key reference point down to casting Robert De Niro has me intrigued, and Joaquin Phoenix certainly has the chops to deliver a distinctive Clown Prince of Crime. It can’t get any more divisive than Jared Leto, can it?
- Alita: Battle Angel
Release Date: 6th February (UK), 14th February (US)
So this one has ended up on the list again after two delays, but I’m hopeful this new February release will give this a far better chance than its previous July and December dates ever could. There is every possibility that this is going to be yet another failed western adaptation of a manga, but simultaneously there’s just something about this project I can’t deny I’m excited about. Maybe I just like rooting for the ambitious underdog, maybe I’m still hopeful Robert Rodriguez can turn his career around, or maybe I’m just a sucker for cyberpunk fantasies with badass anime women at the centre. Actually, I think it’s all of those.
Release Date: 24th May (US, UK)
OK, now this is a last-minute surprise! We were already getting a superhero horror movie with the long-delayed The New Mutants this year, but BrightBurn looks like a way more interesting and bonkers take. An on-the-nose subversion of the Superman story with little subtlety, the mere premise seems like something out of a viral fan film, but this is a real Hollywood production with a budget and stars and everything. This could easily end up being silly or overwrought, but the premise alone has me sold. Plus, I want to see James Gunn succeed after his unfortunate dismissal from the MCU. I can now only imagine what his new bosses over at DC are thinking realising they’ve hired a man who has quite literally produced a twisted remake of Man of Steel.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Release Date: 31st May (US, UK)
I thought that last Godzilla movie was decent but only got worse on repeat viewings; even though that third act was pretty damn impressive, it wasn’t worth sitting through the poorly-paced lead-up with uninteresting human characters. Hopefully, this follow-up can deliver the gonzo energy promised in that climax throughout its runtime. Bringing in more monsters from the Toho mythos is the perfect way to ramp up intensity for the sequel, and the trailers certainly promise a lot of big kaiju action whilst maintaining the artful grounded aesthetic of the previous film. Then again, the trailers for the last movie bit more off than they could chew, so I’m not going to hype it up in my mind too much. Here’s hoping it embraces more of the brazenly ridiculous elements like its sister film Kong: Skull Island did. The two beasts are going to be fighting that title match in 2020 after all…
Release Date: 18th January (US, UK)
If you told me even five years ago that I’d be highly anticipating a new M. Night Shyamalan movie, I’d have thought you were crazy, especially since five years ago was 2013 and After Earth had just come out and was awful. However, the man has made a startling career U-turn and now we’re looking at the finale of his long-promised Unbreakable trilogy. To see the worlds of Unbreakeable and Split collide is something I never thought I’d be excited about, but damn do I really want to see this!
- Missing Link
Release Date: 5th April (UK), 12th April (US)
This was also only my list last year, but back then it was just “Untitled Laika Movie”. Now we know what it is, and that knowledge has only increased my excitement. Sure, it seems bizarre to have another animated Bigfoot movie out so soon after Smallfoot (and with Dreamworks’ Abominable out in 2019 too), but Missing Link certainly stands out from its competitors already. With a stellar voice cast and Laika’s always-gorgeous animation style, something would have to go terribly wrong for this to be anything but good.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
Release Date: 5th July (US), N/A (UK)
I liked Homecoming a fair bit and it has only improved on repeat viewing for me, but it doesn’t come close to the first two Raimi movies and certainly nowhere near Into the Spider-Verse‘s brilliance. However, I’m still excited to see how Far From Home takes the character in a post-Endgame MCU, and my undying love for the character will always have me excited to see a new instalment. Sending Spidey abroad is certainly an interesting way to freshen things up, and finally pitting him against fan favourite villain Mysterio also has me immensely excited. He’d better be wearing that fishbowl though or no dice. It’s not Mysterio if he doesn’t look fabulously ridiculous.
- It: Chapter Two
Release Date: 6th September (US, UK)
It sprang up to become the highest-grossing horror film of all time, so the follow-up has a lot to live up to. Splitting the classic Stephen King story into two parts was a wise decision, but it also leaves us with the unfortunate reality that the modern day sections of the novel are, well, kinda not very good. Then again, the first film did a solid job of reinvigorating and mending the holes of the book, and along with the stellar cast they’ve assembled to play the adult members of The Losers’ Club, it makes me think they might be able to make a follow-up that won’t disappoint like the ending to the original did.
- John Wick: Chapter Three
Release Date: 17th May (US, UK)
The John Wick movies have had a huge impact on the action genre lately, reminding filmmakers that slick choreography and coherent cinematography trumps shaky-cam and quick cuts every time. Topping Chapter Two is going to be a tough task, but the tease for what is to come in Chapter Three left at the end of that movie can’t help but get me excited for this. Whether this film finds new ways to innovate the formula or just delivers the same quality level of awesome action from it predecessors, I think I’m going to be happy.
Release Date: 12th April (US, UK)
Would I have rather seen Guillermo del Toro’s vision for Hellboy 3? Definitely. But am I glad to see him back on the screen anyway? Hell yeah! (pun firmly intended) With cult favourite Neil Marshall getting the biggest shot of his career so far, creator Mike Mignola heavily involved in production, and David Harbour getting his shot at leading man status much in the same way Ron Perlman got his with the original Hellboy, there’s a lot to get excited about with what little we’ve been given so far. Comic book movies aren’t going away, so let’s at least get as many weirdy ones like this out there to mix things up.
- Toy Story 4
Release Date: 21st June (US, UK)
To be completely honest, I would have rather they let this series end where it did. As much as Pixar has claimed they don’t make sequels unless they have a good idea, we still have Cars 2 as evidence to the contrary (and considering this film was also something pushed through by the now-ousted John Lasseter, that has me worried). Then again, Toy Story has yet to set a wrong foot in any form, and I can’t deny my childish curiosity of what Woody and Buzz are up to now. They are immortal plastic beings after all, and it will have been nine years between instalments by the time this comes out, so maybe now is the time to revisit this troupe of toys yet again.
- The Kid Who Would Be King
Release Date: 25th January (US), 15th February (UK)
And here’s yet another one that was on my list last year that got delayed. I’ve been waiting on tender hooks for Joe Cornish to make his follow-up to Attack the Block, and we’re finally getting it this year. Once again, it looks like we’re getting a mash-up of high-concept fantasy falling into the hands of contemporary British youths, but this time instead of aliens we’ve got Arthurian legend. The Kid Who Would Be King seems to be aimed more at the family audience compared to Cornish’s directorial debut, but his sharp wit and his ability to mash the unreal with the mundane seems just as on point. Here’s hoping this becomes a modern family classic.
- Frozen 2
Release Date: 22nd November (US, UK)
I will be honest: I do still unashamedly love Frozen, but I am not a fan of the culture it has spawned. However, even though I know this sequel will only continue to proliferate the phenomenon that hasn’t gone away since the first film’s release, I can’t help but be excited for it. I want to know where they can take this story and these characters. I want to be surprised by how else they can deconstruct the Disney formula whilst still respecting it. And yes, I want to hear all the earworm songs they’ll inevitably get stuck in my head. Indeed, it seems after all this time, even I can’t bring myself to completely let it go.
- Zombieland Too
Release Date: 11th October (US, UK)
I know, I know: director Ruben Fleischer never managed to live up to his debut with Zombieland, especially after delivering the bizarre mess that was Venom. However, not only has its cast done phenomenally well for themselves, but its screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick have never been doing better and were the real secret to the original’s success. A decade later, there is no better time than now to return to the apocalypse. Seeing these characters after so long, how much they’ve developed over the years, and still kicking ass against the zombie menace, tickles every nostalgia itch in my body. Even if it doesn’t live up to the first, it still can’t get any worse than that ill-fated attempt at a Zombieland TV show. Yeah, that really didn’t work.
Release Date: 5th April (US, UK)
Shazam is a hero that has deserved a movie for a long time, and is definitely one that feels like it should have come out during a more innocent time. Well, it seems like the filmmakers have recognised that and gone for a tone and aesthetic closer to superhero movies from the 90s and 00s, but in a good way. Zachary Levi looks like a perfect match to bring DC’s big kid hero to the big screen, and marks yet another huge change of gear for the DCEU going forward. After Aquaman delivered on the zany aquatic action nonsense, I’m all for the universe continuing in that direction as opposed to more doom and gloom.
Release Date: 15th March (US, UK)
With his debut feature Get Out becoming an instant phenomenon, Jordan Peele has a huge task ahead of him in constructing his sophomore effort. With Us, the comedian-turned-horror maestro definitely seems to be playing with the same toybox as his previous film but with a completely unique hook. Doppelgängers have always been a creepy subject matter for horror, and Peele’s vision of an average family haunted by twisted versions of themselves is a premise ripe for both scares and Peele’s particular brand of social commentary. I was excited about Us before I even knew what it was, but now that hype is certainly confirmed.
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Release Date: 1st February (UK), 22nd February (US)
The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy finally comes to a close this year after many delays, and the wait has only increased my hunger to see where this story finally goes after nearly a decade since it began. How to Train Your Dragon 2 moved the franchise forward in a bold direction, and though The Hidden World so far doesn’t look like as bold a leap as last time, there’s still a chance it will surprise us. For all we know, this may not be the last time we see this world, but I at least hope it finally brings an end to the story of Hiccup and Toothless.
- The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Release Date: 8th February (US, UK)
Speaking of long-delayed animated follow-ups, after several spin-offs we’re finally getting a direct sequel to The Lego Movie! The lack of Phil Lord & Chris Miller in the director’s chair is worrying, but they’re still on board as writers and producers so they’re touch isn’t totally lost. There is still worry that this is a joke that can’t work twice, but The Second Part shows plenty of indication just from the trailer that they’re going to take the satirical deconstructionist approach in a new direction this time around, and I for one can’t wait to see what new wacky ideas Lord & Miller have concocted this time.
- Star Wars Episode IX
Release Date: 20th December (US), N/A (UK)
After The Last Jedi cleared the board for the franchise to go in any direction, it’s worrying that we now have JJ Abrams back in the director’s chair. Not because he’s an untalented filmmaker, but because there’s a fear he may undo all the progress made in the last film by reverting to The Force Awakens’ retrofitting approach; it’d be extra-tempting too considering the nebulous backlash to Rian Johnson’s opus. Even I fear that may happen, but I also hope Abrams is not that stupid. Star Wars has a chance here to prove it doesn’t have to bow to the whims of whiny fans who just want injections of nostalgia. The series has the opportunity to end the trilogy in a way that bucks all trends and sets the series up to go on forever in new and interesting ways. I hope they take it.
- Avengers: Endgame
Release Date: 26th April (US, UK)
And so it all comes to this. Infinity War left the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in utter despair, and every fan on Earth has been chomping at the bit to see what happens next. We still know very little about Endgame, but from the title alone it’s clear this instalment is going to have huge ramifications for the franchise moving forward. I think it’s a given that not every bad thing that happened in Infinity War is going to remain that way, but I’d just as much say there is just as much change some shocking things will endure, and with many more to add. I can only speculate at this point, but that feeling of the unknown is what makes me more excited about this movie that any other this year…except for—
- Captain Marvel
Release Date: 8th March (US, UK)
Endgame may be the big Marvel blowout of 2019, but on a more personal level Captain Marvel is the movie I’m far more invested in. After DC finally cracked the code for female-led superhero movies with Wonder Woman, all eyes are on Marvel to respond, and Captain Marvel looks like a more-than-worthy answer. Every decision here has been the smart one. Brie Larson is a perfect choice for Carol Danvers, they’ve wisely switched up the origin to downplay comparisons to Green Lantern, the 1990s setting is a unique touch that further sets it apart, and directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck are yet another bold choice from Marvel that’ll give this flick a unique flavour. Pile on the introduction of the Skrulls to the MCU and young versions of Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, and this already has everything I could want from a Captain Marvel movie. Almost all the films of on this list I have doubts about, but I feel wholly confident in saying Captain Marvel is going to be one hell of a time at the multiplex.