After highlighting 50 films that are most certainly worth seeing this year, it’s time we venture into the unknown. While a multitude of 2016 previews simply regurgitate a list of dated releases, we’ve set out to focus on 100 films we’re genuinely looking forward to, regardless of their marketing budgets. While some might not have a release date — let alone any confirmed festival premiere — most have wrapped production and will likely debut at some point in 2016, so make sure to check back for updates over the next twelve months and beyond.
It should be noted that there are a number of films we’re greatly looking forward to, but whose release we aren’t confident about, including the next features from Claire Denis and Michael Haneke. (Rest assured, however, that we’ll have updates as they come in.)
Lastly, despite not coming out last year, as was planned, Orson Welles‘ unseen final film The Other Side of the Wind might finally debut in 2016, and in that case it should certainly be at the top of this list — but, unfortunately, we don’t have enough details yet. Regardless, be sure to keep the following one-hundred films on your radar (with release dates, where applicable). If you want to see how we did with our picks last year, head on over here.
100. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards; Dec. 16th)
Bringing a sense of vision and directorial control all but absent in the current state of blockbuster filmmaking (save for last summer’s Fury Road), Gareth Edwards‘ Godzilla was an incredibly staged spectacle. With his follow-up we sincerely hope he brings the same level of detail, even if it’s difficult to muster up a great deal of excitement for a relatively narrow-minded prequel story. With a wonderfully varied cast (including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, and Mads Mikkelsen) we’re curious to see what the Star Wars franchise’s best director (at least until Rian Johnson) can deliver. – Jordan R.
99. Triple 9 (John Hillcoat; Feb. 26th)
The screenplay for Triple 9 ended up on the 2010 Black List and has been on my radar ever since. With John Hillcoat at the helm, the film looks to enhance the grimy, sweat-stained and raw feel he is known for in this cops-and-robbers merry-go-round. Not only does the film seem extremely complex to pull off, juggling eight main characters and their stories, but it has an energy and speed that we haven’t seen from Hillcoat before. It will be interesting to see how Hillcoat’s past films (Lawless, The Road, and The Proposition) influence his style this time around. Regardless, a February release of a Black List film with the likes of Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Clifton Collins, Jr., and more should definitely be on your radar. – Bill G.
98. Passengers (Morten Tyldum; Dec. 21st)
If a late December release of a science-fiction drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt isn’t enough to anticipate, how about having Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street, Brokeback Mountain) behind the camera? This is yet another strong Black List screenplay (from Jon Spaihts) that should be bolstered by the humanity and charm of Pratt, along with Michael Sheen. With director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game and Headhunters) at the helm, the film is sure to balance high drama with a slick presentation and sly sense of humor. – Bill G.
97. Morgan (Luke Scott)
Backed by Ridley Scott, his son Luke Scott made his feature directorial debut with Morgan last year, hopefully set for a theatrical release soon. Starring Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy (who is fantastic in the Sundance hit The Witch), Paul Giamatti, Toby Jones, and Boyd Holbrook, the Fox project follows a corporate risk-management consultant who is summoned to a remote research lab to determine whether or not to terminate an at-risk artificial being. Hopefully more Ex Machina than Transcendence, it’s written by Seth Owen, who earned a spot on the Black List for the script. – Jordan R.
96. Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Even though we were among the few who liked both Real and Journey to the Shore, a modern master of horror returning to the grounds he’s trod so well is very welcome news. Kurosawa’s feature appears to live up to its name, likely a self-aware turn from someone whose trajectory, much like the films themselves, can never be predicted exactly. – Nick N.
95. HHHH (Cédric Jimenez)
While we wouldn’t be surprised if friendlier title arises before it makes its way to theaters, the WWII drama HHHH is worth noting for its cast alone. Led by Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike, Jack O’Connell, Mia Wasikowska, and Jack Reynor, the film directed by Cedric Jimenez (The Connection) follows the rise and fall of Reinhard Heydrich (Clarke) in Nazi Germany and his assassination thanks to a pair of resistance paratroopers (O’Connell and Reynor). Based on Laurent Binet’s novel, the Gone Girl star plays Heydrich’s wife, who had a major influence on his rise to power, and Wasikowska is a Czech resistance fighter. With the director getting some acclaim for his recent crime drama, hopefully Weinsteins have a hit in their hands. – Jordan R.
94. The Woods (Adam Wingard)
Over the past few years, director Adam Wingard and his long-time writing partner, Simon Barrett, crafted two masterful takes on modern horror conventions, the intruder romp You’re Next and the woefully underrated thriller The Guest. Based on early reports, it seems their next release, The Woods, will continue their fascination with the genre. The limited plot description teases a familiar set-up – a group of campers confronted with an unknown terror – but unfortunately, no additional information has surfaced since the project was announced last February. The film is believed to be completed, so hopefully more details will soon emerge. Until then, we’ll have to be confident that Wingard and Barrett will have a few clever tricks up their sleeves beyond the usual blood and gore. – Amanda W.
93. Una (Benedict Andrews)
Teaming two of our best actors, Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, Una is described as a provocative love story that unfolds like a thriller about two people forced to revisit a passionate yet illicit relationship they had years ago. Coming from Australian theater director Benedict Andrews, we imagine the drama, also starring Riz Ahmed and Tara Fitzgerald, will find its debut on the fall festival circuit. – Jordan R.
92. American Pastoral (Ewan McGregor)
How does one adapt Philip Roth‘s seminal, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel? We didn’t think it would be Ewan McGregor — making his directorial debut, no less — but we’ll find out this year. Scripted by John Romano (The Lincoln Lawyer), the ’60s-set story follows Seymour “the Swede” Levov, an idealistic American do-gooder whose family is torn apart when his rebellious teenage daughter commits a heinous crime in protest of the Vietnam War. With Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Rupert Evans, David Strathairn, and more in the cast, we can see this going either way, but we’ll certainly be watching. – Jordan R.
91. Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel; Dec. 21st)
Considering their track record in Hollywood, it’s safe to not build up much anticipation for the next videogame adaptation. However, this year will bring one that seems to have perhaps the most promising elements yet. Reteaming after the jaw-droppingly beautiful Macbeth, director Justin Kurzel and stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard recently completed production on Assassin’s Creed. If Kurzel can bring the level of visual scope of his previous features with at least a decent script, this could clear the low-hanging videogame adaptation bar and prove with the right team, there is something to mine from the field. – Jordan R.
90. Little Men (Ira Sachs)
One of the premier independent directors making films about relationships, LGBT or otherwise, Ira Sachs has proven himself to be a keen observer of the fluidity of relationships. 2014’s Love Is Strange honed in on the naturalistic realities of a decades long relationship threatened by financial issues whether it’s the need to live apart, or abandon art for a living. His latest film, Little Men, which premieres at Sundance later this month, again deals with the repercussions of money issues on a relationship. In this case, it’s the budding friendship of Jake and Tony, two teenagers who are pushed to a shared vow of silence by a disagreement between their parents. After the death of his grandfather, Jake’s family is in disrepair, and moves back to their old family home in Brooklyn. Jake’s dad is a flailing actor (Greg Kinnear), and his mom is a psychotherapist (Jennifer Ehle), an already volatile combination, but their home is located directly above Tony’s single mother’s (Gloria‘s Paulina Garcia) dress-shop. Soon, they decide to raise her rent, and an all out battle begins. – Michael S.
89. The Body Artist (Benoît Jacquot)
Given the complexities of his descriptive passages and the affectless, bizarrely comical tone of his dialogue, Don DeLillo is scarcely adapted for good reason. But Benoît Jacquot is tackling material head-on, and perhaps adapting one of the man’s shortest and least-liked books – David Cronenberg’s position with the outstanding Cosmopolis – will make for an easier translation. If nothing else, Mathieu Amalric as a mysterious, spectral figure in conversation with a grieving woman (Julia Roy, who’s also co-writing) should be a fine actor’s showcase. – Nick N.
88. The Circle (James Ponsoldt)
Author Dave Eggers blended the ideologies and product lines of companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple to create his paranoia-inducing novel, The Circle. The book chronicles Mae Holland’s rise through the corporate entity known as “The Circle” and her unwilling role as surveyor to the digital life of the public. Director James Ponsdolt looks to extend the success he had in 2015 (with The End of the Tour and the Master of None pilot). The Circle, undoubtedly, poses Pondolt’s biggest challenge to date as it combines a labyrinth plot with an emphasis on the technology used by the characters. The talented cast includes Emma Watson as the vulnerable heroine Mae, John Boyega fresh out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Tom Hanks in his first of two Eggers film adaptations this year, and the much adored Dr. Who companion Karen Gillan as Mae’s seductive friend/foil. – Zade C.
87. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone; June 3rd)
Movies coming out of Saturday Night Live have surely swung the pendulum when it comes to quality. Stretching out the thin plotting of a sketch to feature-length material comes with its challenges, but after Jorma Taccone‘s hilariously absurd MacGruber — an outright bomb on release, but a film that has since gained a cult following — we have faith in his follow-up: the Top Secret Untitled Lonely Island Movie, according to the studio. Rumored to actually be titled Connor4Real, it’s said to poke fun at the recent glut of rise-to-stardom music documentaries featuring Justin Bieber and Katy Perry as we follow a rapper (Andy Samberg) who has no choice but to reunite with his former boy band (featuring Taccone and Schaffer) after his latest album is a dud. – Jordan R.
86. A Cure for Wellness (Gore Verbinski)
After enjoying the excess of Johnny Depp-led mega-blockbusters, Gore Verbinski is returning to the horror genre for his next feature. The Ring director will helm A Cure for Wellness with Dane DeHaan and Mia Goth leading. Coming from Revolutionary Road scribe Justin Haythe, the horror film follows DeHaan’s character as he tracks down his boss at a wellness spa in Europe, only to see its dark purposes. Although no release date has been set, we wouldn’t be surprised if 20th Century Fox put this out in time for Halloween. – Jordan R.
85. Wilson (Craig Johnson)
After his Sundance break-out The Skeleton Twins, Craig Johnson is adapting Dan Clowes‘ graphic novel Wilson for his next feature. Starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer, and Cheryl Hines, the film follows a misanthrope who attempts to bring his long-estranged family back together following his father’s death. With a mix of comedy and drama, Clowes seems like a strong fit for the material. Produced by Alexander Payne, here’s another one to expect on the fall festival circuit. – Jordan R.
84. Trespass Against Us (Adam Smith)
Rising in the ranks the last few years, Michael Fassbender has achieved the sort of weight to get projects moving forward based on his attachment alone. While he’s sought after for what seems to be every major tentpole, thankfully he’s using some of his powers for good, giving light to international independent projects. Following Frank and Slow West, he’ll be seen in Trespass Against Us this year, which is coming from commercial and music video helmer Adam Smith. Co-starring Brendan Gleeson, it follows a family of Irish Travellers and Fassbender as an outlaw named Chad Cutler who is looking to escape his life of crime. With an original score from The Chemical Brothers, production has wrapped for some time, so hopefully it lands soon. – Jordan R.
83. The Promise (Terry George)
Cornering the market on love stories set in the Ottoman Empire, Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) have partnered on The Promise. Co-written by Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha), the film concerns Chris, an American journalist, Michael, a medical student with “old-world traditions,” and a woman named Ana, the three of whom find themselves in a love triangle as the Ottoman Empire crumbles around them. Soaring romance, love triangle, historical setting, and war? Some check marks are being hit, and hopefully properly. – Nick N.
82. Sierra Nevada (Cristi Puiu)
Cristi Puiu played a large part in introducing Romanian Cinema to the world with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and that film remains a radical, blackly funny condemnation of bureaucracy and corruption. Five years later, Aurora pushed the Romanian New Wave’s techniques to an extreme and showcased an increased interest in narrative experimentation. Not much is known about Sierra Nevada, but Puiu describes it as “a story about those who choose to escape into fiction and hide their fears behind ‘concrete reality’ when overwhelmed by a grief they cannot understand,” primed to be another peak in the nation’s cinema. – Forrest C.
81. Jason Bourne (Paul Greengrass; July 29th)
After handing the reigns over to Tony Gilroy and Jeremy Renner, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon are back with the fifty entry into the Bourne franchise this summer. Although not much is known about the story, it does feature a few promising newcomers, including Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, and Vincent Cassel. “There’s been the financial collapse, the great recession, all these issues of cyberwarfare and civil liberties,” Damon tells EW. “We find him in a dark and tortured place.” – Jordan R.
80. A Monster Calls (Juan Antonio Bayona; Oct. 14th)
You might not have heard of him, but novelist Patrick Ness is an outstanding writer with a number of stunning works under his belt already and is gaining momentum in the TV and film world. Ness was given the chance to flesh out and finish a story idea by the departed writer Siobhan Dowd and it turned into A Monster Calls, a short novel that made waves in 2011. It’s a dark drama focusing on the struggles of a young boy, played here by unknown Lewis MacDougall. MacDougall will be visited each night by a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) with his family filled out by Sigourney Weaver as his grandmother and Felicity Jones and Toby Kebbell as his parents. Director Juan Antonio Bayona has a past with fantasy elements from his first film The Orphanage and tense drama elements from The Impossible. This could be a huge missed opportunity or a stunning feature. With Ness adapting his own work for the screen and a mid-October release, this is one of my most anticipated films of the entire year. – Bill G.
79. The Secret Scripture (Jim Sheridan)
If this were the early aughts, the coming of a new Jim Sheridan film would be automatically exciting and cause for celebration. At that time Sheridan was known as the chronicler of Irish woes, with the likes of My Left Foot, In the Name of Father, and The Boxer to his credit. However, since 2002’s In America, Sheridan’s directorial talent has been mostly in service of mediocre Hollywood pictures like Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Brothers and the woeful Dreamhouse. All the more reason, then, to anticipate Sheridan’s adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture, the tale of a young woman who finds herself at the mercy of the notorious Irish ‘troubles’ and landed in a mental hospital where she spends more than half a decade. Intriguing not just because it reconnects Sheridan to the Ireland he’s most familiar with, Secret Scripture also features Rooney Mara and Vanessa Redgrave as two versions of the lead character at two different places along the line and offers the director another crack at exploring an incarcerated life, this time from a female perspective. – Nathan B.
78. Boris Without Beatrice (Denis Côté)
Earning acclaim for Vic + Flo Saw a Bear and Bestiaire, Canadian director Denis Côté is back this year with his next feature Boris without Beatrice. Set for a world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival next month, it follows a man who commits adultery while his wife is a bedridden victim of depression. Despite not the most appealing of loglines, hopefully something special is in store. – Jordan R.
77. A United Kingdom (Amma Asante)
Following up Belle, Amma Asante‘s next project teams David Oyelowo with Rosamund Pike. A United Kingdom is about the true story of Prince Seretse Khama from Botswana who roused controversy when he decided to marry a white woman from London in the 1940s. With two actors at the top of their game, and a director deserving of a drama with a bigger scope, this is quite promising and we expect it to arrive on the fall festival circuit. – Jordan R.
76. Planetarium (Rebecca Zlotowski)
It may deal with a pair of sisters who can see the apparitions of the dead and take place in a 1930’s Paris ripe with superstitious promise, but if one expects something along the lines of The Conjuring from Rebecca Zlotowski’s Planetarium, they might be barking up the wrong genre tree. Although we haven’t seen anything from the film that suggests exactly what tone Zlotowski plans to take, if her previous films are any indication, the dark spirit world that siblings Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Melody Depp channel will probably take backseat to the tumultuous emotional and relational concerns of the characters. Whether will manifest as a nerve-jangling horror, a light, wispy fantasy, or a feverishly dramatic period piece is yet to be determined, but what additionally makes Zlotowski’s film promising is its use of the French cinema and its forbearers in the story, as the girls team-up with an ambitious director ready to capture the world’s first ‘true ghost story’ on film. – Nathan B.
75. The Commune (Thomas Vinterberg)
While it might not have been as widely praised as some of his other films — namely The Hunt — I found Thomas Vinterberg‘s adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd earlier this year to be a highly entertaining, engaging film. Rather than going further down the direction of star-studded, English-language features, he’s returned to a drama in his native homeland. The Commune, adapted by Tobias Lindholm (his partner on The Hunt and Submarino, and a great director in his own right with A Hijacking and A War) from one of Vinterberg’s plays, is described as a Nordic, dark Scandinavian version of Ice Storm. It follows a family whose move into a tiny community ends up tearing them apart. Living here, amongst new faces, they find themselves more concerned with what others are up to than the lives of those they know so well, in the process losing their sense of and focus on what’s important in life. Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Trine Dyrholm, Fares Fares, Julie Agnete Vang, and Lars Ranthe, it’s in theaters in Denmark this week, with hopefully a U.S. release to follow. – Jordan R.
74. Complete Unknown (Joshua Marston)
Following the Criterion-approved drama The Forgiveness of Blood, Joshua Marston tried his hand at a few major TV shows, but he’s now back with his next feature, set to debut at Sundance Film Festival. Starring Michael Shannon, Rachel Weisz, Michael Chernus, Danny Glover, and Kathy Bates, Complete Unknown follows a man who becomes intrigued by his dinner guest, leading to an all-night odyssey. – Jordan R.
73. Frantz (François Ozon)
With his rapid output, it may feel difficult to fully get a grasp on the films of François Ozon (Young & Beautiful, In the House). While often hit-or-miss, his next one sounds quite promising. Taking place after WWI, Frantz follows a young German (Paula Beer) who grieves the death of her fiancé in France, and a mysterious French man (Pierre Niney) who visits the fiance’s grave to lay flowers. Likely set for a Cannes Film Festival debut, hopefully it picks up U.S. distribution soon. – Jordan R.
72. Comancheria (David Mackenzie)
David Mackenzie has had a checkered past (Spread is a hard thing for anyone to come back from), but if there was any doubt about his skills, they dissipated with Starred Up, 2014’s fantastic two-hander about a father and son forced to hash out their differences in prison. As a showcase for Jack O’ Connell and Ben Mendehlson’s raw energy, it felt vital, but it also heralded a director who knew how to stage and harness these performances for something greater. This year’s follow-up, Comancheria, expands the scale dramatically, attracting established stars like Chris Pine and Ben Foster to lead the story of two brothers — a divorced father and ex-con — who plan a bank robbery to save their farm, and the illustrious Jeff Bridges as the Texas ranger who’s soon on their heels. The premise may sound a bit familiar, but with that cast, Mackenzie’s direction and a script from Taylor Sheridan, who wrote one of our favorite films of last year, this has the distinct possibility to be one of the sleepers of the year. – Michael S.
71. The Light Between Oceans (Derek Cianfrance; Sept. 2nd)
One of the most bold and sweeping films of intimate and personal scale in recent memory was The Place Beyond the Pines. With captivating detail and texture, the film followed a story of fathers and sons that truly let the audience feel the sweep of time and impact of choice. Now, director Derek Cianfrance brings us a a new film, based on an acclaimed novel, starring some of the most talented actors currently working – Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. With that much raw talent on board, and with a director like Cianfrance to form it, this is undoubtedly a movie to anticipate. – Brian R.
70. A Hologram From the King (Tom Tykwer; April 22nd)
Dave Eggers’ novel A Hologram For The King may not have quite captured the intended zeitgeist of a modern-era Death of A Salesman, but his sharp and evocative writing style made the story, following a middle-aged American businessman trying to reignite his star in Saudi Arabia, soar when the tale itself remained frustratingly earth-bound. With director Tom Tykwer and Tom Hanks teaming back up after the greatly underrated Cloud Atlas, Hologram becomes an interesting proposition to speculate on. If Eggers managed to use the basic and somewhat cliched bones of this story to excavate issues with the psyche of the modern male, then it will be interesting to see these two talented artists find a way beyond the commerce to find the beating heart of the King. – Nathan B.
69. I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)
Legendary U.K. director Ken Loach will not be retiring, as previously planned. Following up Jimmy’s Hall, he recently shot his latest drama I, Daniel Blake, which finds frequent collaborator Paul Laverty behind the story which stars Dave Johns in the title role and Hayley Squires. Following a family up against the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy, it promises to be another moving social drama from the director, and likely Cannes debut. – Jordan R.
68. The Great Wall (Zhang Yimou)
Update: The film has moved to February 2017.
Zhang Yimou‘s long-gestating English-language debut The Great Wall looks to finally be arriving just in time for Thanksgiving. Led by Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal and more, the story centers on British warriors traveling through 15th Century China and happen upon the hurried construction of the massive wall. As night falls, the warriors realize that the haste in building the wall isn’t just to keep out the Mongols. There is something inhuman and more dangerous. Hopefully bringing the director’s majestic touch, we look forward to see if this translates to Hollywood. – Jordan R.
67. War Machine (David Michôd)
Netflix isn’t shying away from films with controversial content or high production costs. War Machine, poised as the company’s prestigious follow-up to 2015’s Beasts of No Nation (sorry, Adam Sandler), chronicles the fallout of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal after a controversial Rolling Stone article in which he lambasted members of the Obama administration. Starring Brad Pitt, Scott McNairy, and Topher Grace, War Machine is described as a dark satire thus echoing the description and critical themes of Pitt’s 2012 film, Killing Them Softly. Behind the camera is director David Michôd, following the interesting but flawed genre-reimagining that was The Rover. With a purchase price of $60 million, War Machine sounds like a risky title for any studio. If it should succeed, however, it’s one more reason that Netflix stands at the forefront of content creation. – Zade C.
66. Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont)
Coming off one of last year’s best films, Clouds of Sils Maria, Juliette Binoche has teamed with Bruno Dumont (Li’l Quinquin) for Slack Bay. Also starring Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, it’s described as a quirky, dark comedy which follows an investigation into a series of mysterious disappearances on the beaches of northern France. Binoche, reteaming with Dumont after Camille Claudel, will take the role of a matriarch in the town. With production already wrapped up, perhaps we could find this one at Cannes Film Festival. – Jordan R.
65. Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)
Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo recently wrapped his Anne Hathaway-led sci-fi film Colossal, which also includes the impressive mix of Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell. Following a woman who moves back to her hometown after losing her job and boyfriend in New York, she discovers that she is somehow strangely connected to a giant creature that has materialized over Seoul and is wreaking havoc on the city. Vigalondo has excelled in being able to sell off any premise he offers up in his films and this looks like to be his most exciting yet in both scope and dramatic caliber. – Jordan R.
64. Café Society (Woody Allen)
Death, taxes, and an annual Woody Allen movie. These are a few of the things that have become certainties since 1969, and while as usual we know little about what the film will be about, we can rest assured it will contain a rightful amount of neuroses, emotional turmoil and haunting one liners. The cast, always impressive, never not surprising, includes Steve Carell, Parker Posey (reuniting with the Woodsman after her pitch perfect turn in 2015’s Irrational Man), Jesse Eisenberg, Paul Schneider, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin, Kristen Stewart (can we all pray she’ll be the Woody surrogate?) and Blake Lively. 2016 might also be the year Allen delivers his first television series to Amazon, can it be the film and the series will be related? The suspense is as anxiety provoking as anything out of Crimes and Misdemeanors… – Jose S.
63. Viena and the Fantomes (Gerardo Naranjo)
After crafting one of the best-directed films of the last few years with Miss Bala, helmer Gerardo Naranjo will finally be returning this year with a new film. The English-language Viena and the Fantomes follows a roadie who travels across North America with a punk band during the 1980s. Starring Dakota Fanning, Joe Bernthal, Zoë Kravitz, Evan Rachel Wood, and Caleb Landry Jones, perhaps Naranjo will return to Cannes to debut the project. – Jordan R.
62. After the Storm (Hirokazu Koreeda)
A recurring figure amongst the Cannes Film Festival competition line-up, it’s not much of a surprise that Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s next film will be ready in time for a premiere at the festiva. Titled After the Storm (Umi yori mo Mada Fukaku, which literally translates to Still Deeper Than the Sea), it follows an author turned private detective who is attempting to regain contact with his estranged ex-wife and their young son. While we await the U.S. release of his latest film, Our Little Sister, hopefully we see this one soon after. – Jordan R.
61. Sully (Clint Eastwood; Sept. 9th)
Clint Eastwood has always defied expectations with his directorial choices. Sully, the follow-up to American Sniper (Eastwood’s most financially successful film) seems like an unusual choice. Based on a true story, Sully follows the American pilot who was able to land a packed commercial aircraft on the Hudson river. Given that Robert Zemeckis already expanded pilot heroism and the subsequent public fall-out to feature length in Flight, we are curious to see what Eastwood can elaborate on with this material. Perhaps the collaboration between star Tom Hanks and Eastwood, the first time they have worked together, will be the defining element of the drama. – Zade C.
60. The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn; Summer TBD)
Between Drive and Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn has evinced a keen interest in the color and corruption and beauty of the dark metropolis. His characters and the actors who play them often feel like models for ideas more than real people, in the best of ways. In The Neon Demon, this particular stylistic bent could pay big dividends. The story of a model moving to Los Angeles, the fiendish proclivities of Refn stand to be exercised to their terrifying fullest. – Brian R.
58 and 59. John Wick 2 (Chad Stahelski) and Coldest City (David Leitch)
Update: John Wick 2 has been set for February 2017.
John Wick was a film that took many, myself included, by surprise in 2014. Keanu Reeves was perfectly cast as a stoic former assassin for a Russian mob boss in New York who goes on a blood-soaked path for revenge. Written by Derek Kolstad and further worked on by Reeves and debut co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski — though Leitch was never given credit by the DGA — the film was a success in blending stunning action setpieces with a simple story and intriguing world building. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Lionsgate thinks it has a franchise on its hands and is making a sequel with Kolstad scripting, Keanu starring, and Stahelski back in the director’s chair. Ruby Rose of Orange is the New Black will star alongside Common as the film’s big bads with a release set for sometime later this year and will definitely be a film to look forward to.
Meanwhile, David Leitch is helming his own film — one with quite the impressive background. Set in Berlin during the Cold War, a female agent (Charlize Theron) is sent to investigate the murder of a fellow MI6 agent and find a list of double agents he was helping. Written by Kurt Johnstad (300), the film is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Antony Johnston that released in 2012. While details remain slim, James McAvoy and John Goodman will fill out the cast alongside hot commodity Sophia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service and upcoming Star Trek Beyond). The release date is currently unknown but principal photography should be nearing completion and should hit later this year. Theron alone makes this a film to keep an eye on and I look forward to seeing what Leitch can achieve on his own. – Bill G.
57. Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight; Aug. 19th)
Since 2009’s Coraline, Laika Studios has been a rising star to watch in the animation arena; their follow-ups ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls may not have garnered the same box office as the likes of Pixar, but they propelled the team forward as classically styled storytellers and light-bearers for the forgotten art of stop-motion. Although Trolls felt a little slight compared to their previous supernatural fables, that film is never less than beautiful in regards to the loving and feverishly inventive construction of its fantasy world. Now, drawing from the rich and beguiling well of Japanese folklore, Laika embarks upon a film that looks to expand its ambitions and epic, storytelling scope. CEO Travis Knight, who served as animation lead on the previous features, takes the helm for Kubo and the Two Strings and has emphasized that under the fantastical story of a street singer caught up in a quest filled with gods and monsters, there is an heartfelt exploration of how we deal with loss. If that doesn’t draw you in, how about a rich and enticing voice-cast that includes Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, and George Takei? If you’re still not convinced, there’s the achingly lovely animation that looks to push Laika forward into a whole new league while perfectly evoking the dazzling but melancholic world of this story. – Nathan B.
56. Insects (Jan Svankmajer)
Arguably one of the most well respected figures in the world of stop motion animation, Czech born Jan Švankmajer is best known for his surrealist visions born of clay and other trinkets. At the age of 79, the filmmaker continues to work on his already impressive body of work with a loose adaptation of From the Life of Insects, a 1922 play by the Čapek Brothers. It is expected to be a mixture of traditional filmmaking and Švankmajer’s unique brand of animation, in the vein of previous films such as Little Otik, Lunacy and Surviving Life (Theory and Practice). Revolving around the relationships between human and insects, the film will undoubtedly be another phantasmagorical mind trip into the imagination of one of the world’s most interesting and important animators. – Raffi A.
55. Christine (Antonio Campos; October)
With some of the best independent dramas each year, from Martha Marcy May Marlene to Simon Killer to 2015’s James White, if you aren’t paying attention to Borderline Films, you should be. Their latest feature, Christine, comes from Simon Killer‘s Antonio Campos and is based on a true story of a news reporter who committed suicide on live television. Led by Rebecca Hall and Michael C. Hall, it’ll soon have its premiere in competition at Sundance, where they note, “bathed in dread and peppered with sharp humor, Christine is a hypnotic and arresting portrayal of a woman at a crossroads.” – Jordan R.
54. On the Milky Road (Emir Kusturica)
It’s hard to know what to expect or even hope for with the new Emir Kusturica film. The Serbian renaissance man hit career highs early on with the likes of The Time of Gypsies and Underground, with a few strange dalliances into American filmmaking like Arizona Dreams along the way. In recent years his film output has been overshadowed by stranger projects, like the village of Drvengrad, which he had built for a film and now has taken up residence in. Still zeroing in on the unrest in the Balkans, Kusturica finds himself extrapolating on his short segment from Words with Gods to explore different critical junctures in the history of his country. There’s not much else we currently know about On the Milky Road, and outside of a few set shots of a luminescent Monica Belluci frolicking in water, there’s little to go on. With a talent like Kusturica, the sky may be the limit, and here’s hoping that this time it’s the film itself that emerges as the most talked-about, intriguing aspect of the production. – Nathan B.
53. The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Wim Wenders)
While Wim Wenders will be shooting Submergence with James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander this year, he also has another project already wrapped. The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez, starring Reda Kateb, Sophie Semin, and Nick Cave, is adapted from Peter Handke‘s play which follows a man and a woman conversing over a summer night. In taking on a seemingly smaller scale than some of his other features, hopefully it’s a return to form for the director. – Jordan R.
51 and 52. Neruda and Jackie (Pablo Larraín)
When’s the last time a director had three films in the same year? With the highly recommended The Club arriving in February, Pablo Larraín recently shot Neruda, the biopic on the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, played by Luis Gnecco. His No star Gael Garcia Bernal plays Inspector Oscar Peluchoneau, who led the police manhunt for the title character, and we imagine it’ll get a festival debut shortly. After that, he’s currently shooting the Natalie Portman-led Jackie Kennedy biopic which is set the first four days of her life after the assassination of her husband, President John. F. Kennedy. It’ll be difficult for both to measure up to The Club, but we greatly look forward to the results. – Jordan R.
50. War on Everyone (John Michael McDonagh)
Over the course of The Guard and Calvary, the perpetually underrated John Michael McDonagh has distilled his brand of flawed but sympathetic morality plays down to a science. Like his brother, Martin McDonagh, he’s enamored with tar black humor, but John is methodical in his considerations of justice and ethics. The leads of War on Everyone sound like they will fit right in with the band of rogues, sinners, liars, and villains of John Michael McDonagh’s past films. Premiering at Berlin next moth, the film focuses on two corrupt cops who make a living of blackmailing everyone they come in contact with until they meet a character who’s shifty and dangerous enough to be too much to handle. Starring Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña, who stole every scene he was in of last year’s Ant-Man and The Martian, along with an ironclad supporting cast of Tessa Thompson, Caleb Landry Jones, and Stephanie Sigman, War On Everyone could finally be McDonagh’s breakout moment. – Michael S.
49. Untitled Howard Hughes Film (Warren Beatty; Fall TBD)
Warren Beatty has been developing a film on Howard Hughes since the height of his career, and considering he is a quality over quantity filmmaker, it’s taken a while for this project to come to fruition. This marks the return of Beatty both in front of and behind the camera, and his return to the big screen is more than welcomed. Let’s hope he hasn’t lost his touch since his last directorial effort, the criminally overlooked Bulworth. – Jack G.
47 and 48. Midnight Special and Loving (Jeff Nichols; March 18th and Nov. 4th)
Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and Mud are so different in tone that it is easy to miss that all are domestic dramas at heart. With Midnight Special, a film director Jeff Nichols describes as a “sci-fi chase film” and Loving, about an interracial couple imprisoned in 1958 Virginia, he looks to continue the trend. Michael Shannon will return to work the director in major roles for both, and given that the director-actor combo has been one of the most fruitful in American cinema’s recent years, there is little need to be worried about these next two. – Forrest C.
46. Free Fire (Ben Wheatley)
Until a U.S. release date is set for Ben Wheatley‘s High-Rise, we’ll have to settle for news about his next project, an action thriller about an arms deal gone wrong in 1978 Boston. Details so far are enticing – besides boasting an executive producer credit from Martin Scorsese, the film also showcases Room star Brie Larson in a major role, and an eclectic cast featuring Noah Taylor, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Wheatley regular Michael Smiley. Wheatley has promised a stylish, hard-boiled crime movie, and considering his past efforts with writing partner, Amy Jump, Free Fire should make for a satisfyingly dark, violent offering. – Amanda W.
45. Family Photos (Cristian Mungiu)
Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was a visceral gut-punch, so much so that less obvious virtues sometimes went unseen, but Beyond The Hills revealed him to be a sociologist of tremendous nuance and subtlety. Family Photos, which wrapped shooting last August, will see Mungiu change gears with a focus on a male protagonist in a small town, and the setting is rife for Mungiu’s discerning eye and meticulous plotting. – Forrest C.
44. Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair; Sept. 23rd)
After breaking out in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o quickly jumped aboard the blockbuster train with a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but for those hoping for a more substantial role from the actress, it will arrive this year. Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding director Mira Nair recently adapted Tim Crothers‘ book, based on his own article for ESPN, with Queen of Katwe. The Disney drama follows the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who comes from the slums of Kampala, Uganda and became a chess prodigy as a teenager. Nair’s relationship with the actress goes far back, as Lupita Nyong’o actually interned for the director awhile back, meeting due to mutual family acquaintances, so it should be quite a reunion come this fall. – Jordan R.
43. Mascots (Christopher Guest)
Thirteen years have passed since Christopher Guest directed his last mockmentary feature, A Mighty Wind, and frankly, his return to the sub-genre is way overdue. His latest marks a welcome comeback to the days of Best in Show and Waiting For Guffman, with many Guest regulars — including Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, and John Michael Higgins — poking fun at yet another eccentric subculture, in this case the world of professional sports mascots. The comedy will release exclusively through Netflix, making it an appealing streaming selection to look forward to in the coming months. – Amanda W.
42. Gold (Stephen Gaghan)
Syriana helmer Stephen Gaghan is finally back in the director’s chair with Gold. Led by Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez, the story follows a geologist and prospector who venture into the Indonesian jungle where they start mining and a scandal erupts. Also starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, and Toby Kebbell, The Weinstein Company will likely distribute it this fall. – Jordan R.
41. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ang Lee; Nov. 11th)
After winning Best Director for the technical achievement that was Life of Pi, Ang Lee is further pushing the limits with the forthcoming Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Shot in 3D and using the high frame rate of 120FPS, the film follows Billy Lynn and his flashbacks to an Iraq War battle while on a return trip home to the U.S. Starring Joe Alwyn, Steve Martin, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker, we’re quite curious about this one, considering the varied cast and just how it will be executed. – Jordan R.
40. Pete’s Dragon (David Lowery; Aug. 12th)
One of my favorite Sundance films of the last few years was Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a sublime drama starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster, which marked the break out for director David Lowery. When his follow-up was announced a few years ago, it caught us all by surprise. Yes, he jumped to a reboot of Disney’s 1977 Pete’s Dragon, tasked with reinventing “the core story,” but this time without the musical numbers of the original animated/live-action hybrid family film.If you’ve never seen the Disney original, it follows a orphan kid who brings his magical dragon to a new town and hijinks ensue. With a cast featuring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, this is one of the most promising, and curious, studio features of the year. – Jordan R.
39. Allied (Robert Zemeckis; Nov. 23rd)
While it’s unfortunate that Robert Zemeckis‘ thrilling drama The Walk didn’t get its due this past fall, we thankfully won’t have to wait long for his next feature. He’ll soon begin production on an untitled WWII thriller starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The Steven Knight-scripted feature concerns a pair of killers whose mutual infatuation and eventual marriage — one that started on a mission to assassinate a Nazi — comes crumbling down when she’s revealed to be a German agent who he must kill. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl ends up being a part of the Third Reich — a story as old as World War II itself. – Jordan R.
38. Stay Vertical (Alain Guiraudie)
You don’t follow a tightly controlled masterpiece and not get my attention, and so Alain Guiraudie’s Stay Vertical can take a spot on this list despite almost nothing being known. The Stranger By the Lake helmer is developing something that has “the aim of making the implausible plausible, the impossible possible and to go on a long journey close to home, to bring elsewhere closer and escape around the street corner.” – Nick N.
37. The Trap (Harmony Korine)
Harmony Korine has been a major name in independent cinema since Kids, his first feature screenplay was made by Larry Clark in 1995. Despite the media attention Korine has received, his films never managed to break through with mainstream audiences until Spring Breakers in 2012. By employing bankable teen stars such as Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, Korine successfully pulled off a beautiful cinematic con-job, subjecting unassuming audiences to his trademark cinematic chaos. Korine has hinted that his next film, The Trap, will continue in the liquid-neon narrative tradition of Spring Breakers. The filmmaker described The Trap on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast as a “complete sensory bombardment,” the plot following a successful hip hop artist who learns that a former rival is soon to be released from prison. The stellar cast includes Idris Elba, Benicio Del Toro, Robert Pattinson and of course, James Franco. If we’re lucky, perhaps Werner Herzog will cameo as a wise Bavarian drug lord. – Tony H.
36. The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour)
Since Ana Lily Amirpour burst onto the scene with her bold, minimalist Iranian vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, we’ve kept an eye out for her follow-up, and the details so far certainly don’t disappoint. But really, what more can you say about a film described as a Texas-set “post-apocalyptic cannibal love story” with a “dope soundtrack,” especially when it stars the likes of Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves? With its mind-boggling concept and stellar cast, The Bad Batch should have no problem attracting attention. – Amanda W.
35. The BFG (Steven Spielberg; July 1st)
When it was announced that Steven Spielberg would be adapting Roald Dahl‘s The BFG, it made perfect sense as his first Disney feature. The story is right up the filmmaker’s alley: Sophie, a young orphan journeys to Giant Country with her new friend, the Big Friendly Giant, or BFG for short. In this magical world, Sophie discovers there are other giants who are just as big, but unfortunately much less friendly than the BFG. Spielberg beautifully conveys the scale and size of the Giant, which should come as no surprise to cine-literate audiences. Say what you will about Spielberg, but the man is a master of visual storytelling. The scope of The BFG will be equally vital, as Sophie and her giant companion will also be forced to enlist the assistance of the Queen of England along the way. With Mark Rylance in the titular role, Spielberg has rounded out the cast with terrific performers such as Bill Hader, Rebecca Hall and Jemaine Clement. The teaser trailer is a lovely hint at the film’s visual wonders, employing cinematography from Janusz Kaminski which simultaneously evokes memories of both E.T. and Hook. Meaning, let’s hope The BFG is more of the former than the latter. – Tony H.
34. The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter (Jody Hill)
After delivering one of the best dark comedies of the last decade with Observe & Report, we’ve been waiting for many years to see when Jody Hill would finally make another film. Keeping busy on Eastbound & Down and the forthcoming HBO show Vice Principals, he’s now finally in production on his next feature. The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter. Scripted by John Carcieri and Danny McBride, who’ll co-star alongside Josh Brolin in the film, it’s said to father a father and a son who forge a bond through outdoorsmanship. Although no release date has been set yet, hopefully it’ll get picked up for a release later this year. – Jordan R.
33. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman; May 13th)
Whit Stillman’s films have always maintained a sense of Austen-ian idealism, highlighting the importance of writing as a way to best express one’s feelings, not to mention also as the most polite. So it was about time Stillman took on Jane Austen directly, and his adaptation of the deceivingly simple Lady Susan sees him reunite with his The Last Days of Disco stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny. Beckinsale will play Lady Susan Vernon, a widow rumored to make men fall for her with little effort. Trying to stay away from rumors, Lady Susan decides to find a suitable husband to make her respectable again, Sevigny plays her confidante, Alicia. Lady Susan was never submitted for publication by Austen, and as such remains the most “controversial” of her works. Expect Stillman to be especially poignant, and to honor Austen’s witty social dissections with equal doses melancholy and reverence. – Jose S.
32. It’s Just the End of the World (Xavier Dolan)
Following the release of Mommy and before kicking off production on The Life and Death of John F. Donovan this spring, Xavier Dolan got another film under this belt with the incredible cast of Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Nathalie Baye and Gaspard Ulliel. The French-language It’s Only the End of the World, translated from Juste La Fin Du Monde, is based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce. Specifically, it follows a writer who goes back to his hometown, “planning on announcing his upcoming death to his family. As resentment soon rewrites the course of the afternoon, all attempts of empathy are sabotaged by people’s incapacity to listen and love.” We wouldn’t be surprised if Dolan returns to Cannes with this one. – Jordan R.
31. Everybody Wants Some (Richard Linklater; April 15th)
How do you expand on the thematic and aesthetic concerns of a seminal work like Boyhood? I don’t know if Richard Linklater is dodging that question or defiantly answering with Everybody Wants Some. Described as a spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, Linklater’s newest shaggy-comedy chronicles the first weekend for a group of incoming college freshmen athletes. Did we mention it is set in the 80’s? We expect entertaining monologues centered around Linklater’s pop-culture musings, faithful period details, and a killer soundtrack. Equally exciting is the prospect of young cast that hasn’t yet exploded into superstardom. – Zade C.
30. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
It’s been ten years since the last proper Paul Verhoeven feature, Black Book, and it showed that nothing’s been lost on his part. It almost goes without saying, then, that our greatest purveyor of seedy cinema taking on the seediest of topics, the rape-revenge thriller, with Isabelle Huppert in tow should be a very fine thing. – Nick N.
29. A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)
Terence Davies has a reputation of being a somewhat slow worker, so that A Quiet Passion, a story about Emily Dickinson, is set to follow Sunset Song so soon is surprising. A Quiet Passion spent years in development hell, however, so any worries that the director has gone commercial or is rushing his work should be appeased. On the contrary, Davies will almost certainly inflect this biography with something special – and not just his beautiful images – so the only real worry is that American distributors may pass on either this or The Sunset Song. Fingers crossed. – Forrest C.
28. How to Talk to Girls at Parties (John Cameron Mitchell)
Based on a hilarious short story by Neil Gaiman, the film sees two teenagers struggle with meeting girls at social gatherings, only to realize that their differences come from the fact that they are literally aliens. After the harrowing Rabbit Hole, it will be refreshing to see Mitchell not only reunite with Nicole Kidman, but also deal with adolescence in a much more light hearted manner. The impressive cast is rounded up by Elle Fanning, Joanna Scanlan, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas and Tony-winner Alex Sharp. – Jose S.
27. Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader)
Paul Schrader and Nicolas Cage are attempting to collaborate once again. Their previous effort, conceived as an existential C.I.A. thriller called Dying of the Light, was reassembled without their input. Ultimately, Schrader, Cage, and producer Nicholas Winding Refn publicly denounced the film. Dog Eat Dog, however, offers Schrader a shot at creative redemption. The film is about three criminals struggling to readjust to civilian life in California where a “three strike” law hangs over their head. This triptych of stories and characters reminds of us Schrader’s work in his excellent late 70’s drama, Blue Collar. Also starring Willem Dafoe as a character named “Mad Dog,” the prospect of Cage and Dafoe squaring off against each other is reason enough to seek out this piece of grit. – Zade C.
26. Weiner-Dog (Todd Solondz)
Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures has swooped in and saved the day for many contemporary filmmakers whose brilliant work does not always attain mainstream box office success. Ellison has produced films for the prestigious likes of P.T. Anderson, David O. Russell, Andrew Dominick, Spike Jonze and Bennett Miller. You can also add the one and only Todd Solondz to that list, as his newest film landed a green-light after Ellison and company jumped on board in mid-2015. So far, all we know is that the plot follows a lovable Dachshund whose life intersects with several different people, spreading comfort and joy. The title, Wiener-Dog, is also a playful reference to the character of Dawn Wiener from Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, who also appears in the new film, played this time by Greta Gerwig. For those keeping track at home, yes, we learned that Dawn committed suicide in Solondz’s Palindromes, which suggests a possible direction that her path could take after meeting said Dachshund. Solondz’s film’s often tackle decidedly taboo subjects, exquisitely relishing in making his audience laugh when perhaps they should weep. From the outside, perhaps the addition of a cute dog to the cast indicates a warming change of trajectory for the filmmaker. On the other hand, it could be a mischievously misleading touch, akin to Gaspar Noé making a film titled Adorable Kitten. – Tony H.
25. Paris is Happening (Bertrand Bonello)
Following Saint Laurent, my pick for last year’s greatest film, Bertrand Bonello has shifted towards a project that, sadly, couldn’t be more relevant. The story of young men and women who decide to blow up landmarks around the eponymous city, Paris Is Happening will undoubtedly spark a conversation — in no small part because Bonello has never shown himself to flinch away from the worst things people can do to each other. Based on what he recently told me, this could make for one of the first significant films of the terrorism age. – Nick N.
24. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan; Nov. 18th)
After a painful five year battle to bring his previous work, Margaret, to the big screen, Kenneth Lonergan‘s newest project will finally be screened this January at the Sundance Film Festival. Titled Manchester by the Sea, the film indeed takes place in the sleepy Massachusetts town of the title, a setting not dissimilar from that of Lonergan’s first masterpiece, You Can Count On Me. Casey Affleck stars as Lee, a shiftless plumber who must return to his hometown in the wake of his older brother’s death. Back home for the first time in years, Lee is forced to take care of his brother’s teenage son, while also reconnecting with his own separated wife, played by Michelle Williams. Lonergan is a master of character, able to effortlessly imbue his protagonists with a deep sense of authenticity and nuance. His characters are imperfect humans, stumbling around in search of love, or anything closely resembling that all-powerful, redemptive feeling. It’s refreshing to know that we won’t have to wait another five years to see it. – Tony H.
23. La La Land (Damien Chazelle; Dec. 2nd)
What was the last original musical you were excited for? Damien Chazelle seeks to overcome the apathy surrounding the musical in this original film centered around a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress. The final sequence of Whiplash was a good indication of how skillfully Chazelle can handle theatrical and musical sequences. Equally important, the young writer/director has attracted Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in lead roles ensuring the film will be plenty charismatic. Little else is known about the music or the plot but we’re excited by the supporting cast which includes a reunion with Academy Award winner JK Simmons, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt. – Zade C.
22. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)
Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and, of course, Michelle Williams: could there be a better cast for a new Kelly Reichardt film? Certain Women, adapted from a short story collection by Maile Meloy, will see Reichardt keep focus on small-towns in the Pacific Northwest, this time with a tale of intersecting lives ranging from married couples to lawyers and hostage situations. Reichardt’s career has been one of revising genre and locating similarities across different genres, and Certain Women looks to continue that tradition in a bolder, further-ranging manner. – Forrest C.
21. The Handmaid (Park Chan-wook)
After trying out the world of Hollywood with his English-language debut Stoker, Park Chan-wook has returned to South Korea for his follow-up. Adapting Sarah Waters‘ novel Fingersmith, the period crime drama was initially set in Victorian London and follows young female thieves (aka fingersmiths), but the Oldboy director switched the location to his native country (as well as Japan). Titled The Handmaid, it stars Ha Jung-woo, Kim Min-hee, Jo Jin-woong and Kim Tae-ri, and with production wrapping up recently, expect to see this by fall on the festival circuit. – Jordan R.
20. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills)
With twee touches like subtitled dogs, an initially mute romantic interest, a hipster California setting, and a pop art style that often had a thin veneer of irony, Mike Mills‘ 2010 film, Beginners, wasn’t to everyone’s taste. But if viewers could move past the self-conscious A-Z encyclopedia of indie tropes, there was an affecting, well-acted story about pushing away loss and embracing identity, told through the eyes of whimsical dreamers. Set in 1979 in a time of societal exploration, Mills’ follow-up, 20th Century Women, sounds again like it has colorful characters and noble aspirations. The film follows a single mother named Dorothea (Annette Bening) who struggles to raise her son, but finds help from two other women, and later, a man. These figures shape her son’s view of men, women, and love. Billy Crudup, a former hippie and current blue collar worker, plays her love interest while Elle Fanning is reported to be a boundary-pushing friend, and Greta Gerwig is a worldly photographer immersed in the punk culture. – Michael S.
19. American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
With it being around five years since her last feature, a striking update on Wuthering Heights, we’ve been looking forward to Andrea Arnold‘s follow-up for quite some time. She finally shot American Honey last year, the directors’ first feature in the U.S., which is a road movie that follows a runaway teenager selling magazine subscriptions around the country. Played by Shia LaBeouf, he gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard-partying, law-bending and young love. Also starring one of last year’s biggest break-out actors, Arielle Holmes, we simply can’t wait to see what Arnold has in store. – Jordan R.
18. Zama (Lucrecia Martel)
The previous features of Lucrecia Martel have made it clear that she is a radical aesthete with a knack for political observation, and Zama, based on Argentine Antonio di Benedetto‘s landmark novel, seems at once like a perfect match and a giant leap forward in scale. Set just prior to the independence movements of the 1800s, Martel will likely impart a great deal of allegorical meaning in the film — but if her previous work is any indication, viewers will need to be on their toes to catch it. – Forrest C.
17. The Nice Guys (Shane Black; May 20th)
When the trailer for The Nice Guys debuted, we found there were many things about which to get excited. For starters, the cast, which includes Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, playing their ’70s tough guy protagonists with more than a hint of irony. Another highlight is the film’s writer-director Shane Black, delivering his first original film (I’m still madly in love with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) in over a decade. An incredibly influential genre screenwriter, Black’s script for Lethal Weapon still remains a pivotal entry of ’80’s action films. All fine reasons for anticipation, yet the element which intrigued me more than any other was the film’s R-rating. Black’s previous feature foray, Iron Man 3, was a decidedly underwhelming use of the larger, mainstream canvas. For my money, Black’s at his best when his creative sensibilities are free from restrictions, allowing his loose-cannon characters to curse and kill as they please. – Tony H.
16. Story of Your Life (Denis Villeneuve)
Every film that Denis Villeneuve has recently made has come close to or has topped my personal end of the year list. He thrives on suspense, unanswered questions, and moral complexity. All of these themes should serve the plot of Story of Your Life well, seeing as it is the tale of a linguist trying to determine the intent of alien visitors. With a strong cast and Bradford Young, the cinematographer of Selma and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, to bring the story to life, it’s an almost certain best that this film with continue Villeneuve’s streak of thoughtful, beautiful films. – Brian R.
14 and 15. Salt and Fire and Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog)
One of the most prolific filmmakers of his generation, Werner Herzog has spent much of his career alternating between narrative and documentary forms with unusual grace and fortitude. 2016 should prove to be another fruitful year for the philosophical German, shrugging off the negative reception of his previous film, Queen of The Desert starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Pattison. First up is Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World a Sundance-bound documentary about the advent of digital technology and humanity’s increased reliance on it, a perfect marriage of modern issues for the director to wrestle with. Secondly, a narrative feature starring Michael Shannon and Gael García Bernal entitled Salt and Fire, about an impending ecological catastrophe set against the eruption of a super volcano. On the face of it, it sounds like a disaster spectacle clone but Herzog usually focuses on unexpected thematic elements of the narrative, which hopefully will elevate it above similar Hollywood fanfare. – Raffi A.
13. 24 Frames Before and After Lumiere (Abbas Kiarostami)
As was announced at last year’s Marrakech International Film Festival, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami will finally follow-up the absolutely sublime Like Someone in Love. The title lends itself to the format, an anthology style collection consisting of 24 four-and-a-half minute short films that Kiarostami has been working on over the past three years. Each scenario is either based on a painting or photograph, and this film should mark his first foray into green screen special effects. While the filmmaker usually plays with deceptively simple premises, he has also been known to experiment with more avant-garde techniques (e.g. Ten and Five Dedicated to Ozu), so it’ll be interesting to see what types of themes the well-respected director chooses to explore. – Raffi A.
12. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)
Following last year’s melancholic meditation on a failed artist, Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve (one-half of modern cinema’s greatest power couple), returns with a thematic companion in L’avenir (Things To Come). Starring Isabelle Huppert, the film is about a woman who faces a series of hardships in her 50s — she’s fired from her job, her mother passes, and she discovers her husband is cheating — and how she copes with these changes. Just announced for premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February before a release in France in March, L’avenir (Things To Come), stars the aforementioned Huppert, Edith Scob (Eyes Without A Face, Holy Motors), Roman Kolinka (Eden), and André Marcon. – Michael S.
11. Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)
A Single Man was a film that seemed unheralded in its time and forgotten too soon. A movie whose beauty and style somehow managed to play up rather than drown out its emotional core, Tom Ford‘s directorial debut should have been the start of a fruitful directing career. It’s taken seven years, however, for the fashion designer to bring us another picture. Still, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams as just two names in a photogenic and talented cast, one can only hope that Nocturnal Animals manages the same stylistic and emotional triumphs as Ford’s first effort. – Brian R.
10. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)
Although it has already finished shooting, very little is known about Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s latest feature, which stars Adam Driver. He’s likely either a school bus driver or a poet in the eponymous New Jersey town, and will be joined by the other, but that’s about it. Yet given that Jarmusch’s last two films are showcases of formal experimentation and auto-critique, it’s safe to say he has something new up his sleeve. With a director of Jarmusch’s talent, that’s enough. – Forrest C.
9. The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
2011’s masterful potboiler, A Separation, cemented Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi in the upper echelon of arthouse royalty, the writer-director constructing a film that narratively could be summarized in three sentences — but like fellow countrymen Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi — held untold meta-textual layers waiting to be peeled apart. Farhadi has, time and time again, shown his ability to make emotionally moving, interlocking puzzle boxes out of the most inauspicious scenarios. Scheduled for release in 2016 in Iran, The Salesman reunites him with regulars Shahab Hosseini (About Elly, A Separation) and Tareneh Alidoosti (About Elly, Fireworks Wednesday), but if early reports are to be believed, this could be a much headier version of Farhadi. We reported last year about a scoop from the Iranian film podcast Hello Cinema, which claimed that The Salesman will center on a couple performing together in Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman. Whether it’s true or not, the malleability of the relationship between Hosseini and Alidoosti will surely be tested, and with the possibility that Miller’s canonical ode to failed dreams will be the backdrop, Farhadi will certainly have weighty material to work with. – Michael S.
8. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
After pairing her with Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria, it seems Olivier Assayas can’t get enough of Kristen Stewart. And who can blame him? Her performance in that film rightfully announced the arrival of a talent that had been hidden for far too long in spineless vampire blockbusters. In his next picture, which traverses the Parisian fashion world, Assayas has Stewart play Maureen, a personal shopper who becomes involved with… ghosts! Sils Maria was already rather eerie and metaphysical, so it’ll be fascinating to see what he does when literalizing this sort of material. Interestingly enough, it’s also a return to the supernatural for the actress, who in Sils Maria even poked fun at movies about werewolves. Are we in store for a trilogy of self-awareness? – Jose S.
7. Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar)
After a decade of critical hits, Almodóvar’s previous film, I’m So Excited, proved to be quite divisive and was unjustly dismissed as “fluff,” when in fact it was his most political work to date. Its very Spanish idiosyncrasies and condemnation of local scandals were perhaps missed in translation by wider audiences. Having ejected political comedy from his system, he returns to “women’s pictures” with the simply titled Julieta, which will see two actresses (Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suárez) play the lead at different ages. As usual, the premise remains quite mysterious, other than for the fact that Julieta’s misfortunes will come from “silence” — the film’s original title. Ugarte and Suárez are Almodóvar neophytes, but this will see him reunite with one of his original muses: the enchanting Rossy de Palma. – Jose S.
6. The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
By now, a film from the Dardenne brothers needs no real reason to be anticipated. Jean-Pierre and Luc employ naturalism and humanism like no other filmmakers working, never straying into rote melodrama or excess, all the while still spinning stories that are compelling and deeply rich. Their most recent films, Two Days, One Night and The Kid with a Bike, have spare, unadorned titles that both speak to their low-stakes story ambitions while also belying their emotional depths. The Unknown Girl, a somehow even more spare and enigmatic title, should follow a similar path. – Brian R.
5. Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen; Feb. 5th)
How lucky are we to get a Coen brothers film so early in the year? Any fan of cinema should be overjoyed at the sound of the name alone, but more reasons to be excited are not in short supply. The story of a studio fixer in Golden Age Hollywood trying to recover a missing star, it plays into all of the metatextual farce that the Coens love so much. And, in keeping with its story, half of Hollywood is starring in this. The anticipation is high and can only get higher, so thank God we don’t have long to wait. – Brian R.
4. Silence (Martin Scorsese)
As with any Italian-American who came up in New York (present writer included), Martin Scorsese‘s relationship with Catholicism and Christianity could be described as “complicated.” It is interesting, then, to find that his newest film follows two Jesuit priests on a mission in Japan in the 17th century. In all of his films the tenets of faith — be it moral, religious, or otherwise — come into conflict with reality and what must be done, and one can only imagine how this film will plumb similar depths. Liam Neeson, taking a break from rescuing people with shootouts and shouting, stars alongside newest Hollywood It-Boy Adam Driver, who at the very least can play “fraught” very well, in addition to Andrew Garfield with Spider-Man finally in his rearview. For intense, thoughtful cinema, you couldn’t come up with a better melding of plot, director, and cast. – Brian R.
3. Lost City of Z (James Gray)
With a botched release by The Weinstein Company, The Immigrant didn’t make nearly the amount of money or receive the attention it deserved, but thankfully writer-director James Gray is back sooner than expected. His adaptation of David Grann’s 2009 novel Lost City of Z tells the true story of the adventures of explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who searched the Amazon for a mysterious city in the 1920s. It’s a harrowing tale that details horrendous hurdles and obstacles he had to get past. The book is long-winding and full of exacting details about the multiple adventures Fawcett made into the Amazon in search for the fabled city and his eventual disappearance. Starring alongside Hunnam will be Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller, while cinematographer Darius Khondji (The Immigrant) will return to shoot the lush jungles that Pattinson and Hunnam will explore. Gray has shown a deft handling of tragedy and the surreal, so this is certainly a film to pay attention to later this year. – Bill G.
1 and 2. Weightless and Voyage of Time (Terrence Malick)
With Knight of Cups finally hitting theaters this year, we could be seeing a grand total of four (!) new Terrence Malick films before 2016 concludes. His Austin-set drama Weightless, (potentially) featuring the eclectic mix of Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benicio del Toro, and, yes, even Val Kilmer (not to mention the host of musicians rumored to take part), promises to be quite a different, exciting direction for Malick. Then there’s his long-developing, Ennio Morricone-scored Voyage of Time. The project — which is technically two films, one a more educational 40-minute IMAX version narrated by Brad Pitt and the other a feature-length cut narrated by Cate Blanchett — is described as a celebration of the earth, from the birth of the universe to its final collapse, which should please fans of his magnum opus The Tree of Life. With multiple confirmations that both are arriving this year, we won’t be holding our breath if the director wants a bit more time to tinker — but 2016 could indeed be the glorious year of Terrence Malick. – Jordan R.
What are your most-anticipated films of 2016?