2015: A pretty good year for movies! Sure, in terms of both smarts and spectacle, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road drove right over just about everything else. But even when Imperator Furiosa wasn’t tearing across screens, there were plenty of other movies that demanded to be seen, considered, and argued over—from Sicario to It Follows to Room, from Magic Mike XXL to Creed to The Night Before, from Ex Machina to Tangerine to Spotlight to Carol.
Those highlights aside, 2015 was still, depressingly, dominated by male directors—and, depressingly, 2016 looks to be much the same, with women writers and directors finding far more work in television. (If you’re looking for new stuff from Lynn Shelton, Lisa Cholodenko, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Michelle MacLaren, Lena Dunham, or Nicole Holofcener, look to Netflix and HBO; if you’re wondering why Obvious Child’s Gillian Robespierre doesn’t have a billion movies lined up, join the club.) But even with Hollywood’s longstanding misogyny—and even when, apparently, we’ve all done something terrible as a species to deserve the karmic retribution of the forthcoming The Angry Birds Movie—there’s still a ton of stuff coming out in 2016 that’s well worth getting excited about. Or curious about. Or both.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi—Michael Bay takes on Benghazi! Absolutely nothing could go wrong with this scenario.
Anomalisa—Adaptation and Being John Malkovich writer Charlie Kaufman’s last film was waaay back in 2008. He’s back with the stop-motion animated Anomalisa, which boasts the most Kaufman-esque logline ever: “A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.”
Bad Santa 2—Hey, look, a sequel nobody asked for!
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange and Suicide Squad and X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool and probably 40 other comic book movies I’m forgetting—Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel-quel tries to up the appeal by dragging in Wonder Woman and Batman. The third Captain America flick pits Cap against Iron Man. Benedict Cumberbatch says “fuck it” and takes another paycheck to play another creepy genius. A bunch of DC Comics villains team up. Etc. If we haven’t hit comic book movie overload by now, we never will. Welcome to your new reality.
The BFG—All I remember about reading Roald Dahl’s book as a kid was that the big friendly giant talks about farting; seeing Spielberg realize this onscreen, with all the subtle grace he managed in Bridge of Spies, will surely be one of 2016’s cinematic highlights.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny—Debuting simultaneously in theaters and on Netflix, this sequel loses director Ang Lee and star Chow Yun-fat—but it still features Michelle Yeoh, and it’s directed by Crouching Tiger’s action master, Yuen Woo-ping.
Downsizing—”A guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself” sounds like a latter-day Sandler pitch—but when the guy in question is Matt Damon (a TEENY TINY Matt Damon) and the director is Alexander Payne (Nebraska), chances are Downsizing will be better than a latter-day Sandler pitch.
Everybody Wants Some—Richard Linklater’s follow-up to Boyhood looks quite a bit like Dazed and Confused, which is excellent news for anybody else who wore out their VHS of Dazed and Confused.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—A Harry Potter prequel! Prequels are always great.
Ghostbusters—A questionable remake with an unquestionable cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones (plus Chris Hemsworth as their secretary).
Green Room—The latest from Blue Ruin’s Jeremy Saulnier was shot in Portland, stars Patrick Stewart (as a pissed-off white supremacist, no less), and, according to early screening reports, is excellent and terrifying in equal measure.
Hail, Caesar!—New Coen brothers! LET THE NATIONAL CELEBRATION BEGIN.
High-Rise and Free Fire—Holy shit, 2016 might give us two movies from Ben Wheatley, the guy behind Kill List and Sightseers. High-Rise, based on J.G. Ballard’s book, is set in a building where things go very, very wrong; Free Fire looks to be an all-out action flick, with Cillian Murphy and Brie Larson. Both will be... intense.
Independence Day: Resurgence—See Bad Santa 2, this page.
The Intervention—Director Clea DuVall’s debut feature—in which a couple realizes their friends have staged an intervention about their marriage—features a fantastic cast: Melanie Lynskey, Alia Shawkat, Cobie Smulders, and Natasha Lyonne.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back—Christopher McQuarrie’s Jack Reacher was criminally underrated in 2012—a clever, tough, funny adaptation of one of Lee Child’s 20,000 Jack Reacher novels. Presumably, this time Reacher will once again outsmart everybody and then beat the crap out of everybody else.
John Wick 2—”The continuing adventures of former hitman John Wick” might not be the most telling sentence, but given that John Wick was one of the best action films in years, it’s a very beautiful sentence.
Julieta—New Almodóvar. Enough said.
Keanu—A comedy starring Key and Peele but—appallingly, shockingly, inexplicably—not Keanu Reeves. Which is okay because look up like a single inch. No, not at Julieta. One more. See? All is right with the world.
Knight of Cups—New Malick. Enough said.
The Little Prince—The world’s most obnoxious book gets turned into another goddamned movie. This one features James Franco, and THAT IS ALL I CAN WRITE ABOUT THIS MOVIE WITHOUT BEING DRIVEN INSANE BY ANNOYANCE
The Magnificent Seven—It’s been 55 years since John Sturges’ western (and 61 years since Kurosawa’s samurai classic), which I guess means no one can get too mad about a remake. This one stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ethan Hawke.
Midnight Special—Mud and Take Shelter’s Jeff Nichols riffs on the ‘80s films of John Carpenter. One for Midnight Special please!
The Nice Guys—Shane Black’s last film was Iron Man 3—but before that, he was the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and 2005’s fucking perfect noir comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The fact he describes The Nice Guys—starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe—as a spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss is some of the best film news of the year.
Passengers—Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are in a sci-fi romance and it is going to make 800 billion dollars.
Planetarium—Writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski’s third feature (following Belle épine and Grand Central) features Natalie Portman in a story about “sisters who are believed to possess the supernatural ability to connect with ghosts.” This... this will probably be better than Ghostbusters.
The Revenant—Portland won’t get Alejandro González Iñárritu’s survival/revenge flick until January! It is definitely a movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio gets brutally tortured for three hours.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story—Yeah, we just got a star war. And we’ll get another star war in 2016. And another one the year after that, and another one the year after that, every year, until eternity, until all we have is Star Wars, until everything is Star Wars, until Star Wars is all that we are and all that we do, until you and I and our children and our children’s children do nothing but wait in line for Star Warses, all of us dead-eyed and slack-jawed, forgetting that we once had names, that we once had lives and hopes and drea—
Sausage Party—This animated tale of “one sausage’s quest to discover the truth about his existence” features the voices of Seth Rogen (as “Frank, a sausage”), Jonah Hill (as “Carl, a sausage”), Michael Cera (as “Barry, a sausage”), Salma Hayek (as “Theresa Taco, a taco”), Kristen Wigg (as “a hot dog bun”), and Edward Norton (“as Sammy Bagel Jr., a bagel”). Cinema is a beautiful and versatile art form.
Silence—The Wolf of Wall Street was Scorsese’s best film in decades; his follow-up stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, and Andrew Garfield, and tracks Jesuit priests to Japan. “Violence and persecution” ensue. Scorsese’s been wanting to make this movie for almost a decade; chances are it’ll be worth the wait.
Snowden—Oliver Stone takes on Edward Snowden! Absolutely nothing could go wrong with this scenario.
Star Trek Beyond—Fast & Furious director Justin Lin takes on Star Trek—with a script co-written by Simon Pegg, a bad guy played by Idris Elba, and what looks like a return to the original series’ blend of bright allegory and goofball adventure.
Story of Your Life—Sicario and Prisoners’ Denis Villeneuve makes a sci-fi with Amy Adams. (After this, he’s doing a Blade Runner sequel—which’d be a horrifying threat from anyone who wasn’t the guy who made Sicario and Prisoners.)
Tallulah—Orange Is the New Black writer and producer Sian Heder snags Ellen Page and Allison Janney for her debut feature.
Warcraft—A video-game movie that might actually not be a giant piece of shit, thanks to Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot—Based on Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this film features Tina Fey as Barker, a reporter embedded with troops in the Middle East. And she hangs out with Margot Robbie! I wish there were more movies like this on this list, instead of...
Zoolander 2—See Bad Santa 2, this page.