Despite all of its many faults and shortcomings, 2016 had at least one bright spot: it was a very good time for some excellent films. From blockbusters to indies, almost every genre had at least one stellar example that will stand the test of time in the minds of viewers and the hearts of cinephiles. As the dust settles on 2016 and awards are given out to the year’s best films, it’s time to look forward. While 2017 is shaping up to be another rough 12 months for all sorts of reasons, what will it hold for moviegoers? Below is a list of the most hotly anticipated films of the new year broken down by release date. These are the movies we are most looking forward to in 2017, and hopefully, they will continue the trend of a good time at the movie theater.
While the U.K. and a few other countries have already gotten a look at director Colm McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic zombie film, U.S. viewers will soon get a chance of their own to see this amazing film. Having caught it at Fantastic Fest in 2016, as well as being familiar with the original book by M.R. Carey, I can vouch that it is an incredibly original takes on the zombie subgenre that dares to ask tough questions and provide even tougher answers. It’s beautiful, impressive, tense, and it feels like something both oddly familiar yet utterly new.
The first “John Wick” was an instant action classic that featured tons of precisely choreographed violence and masterfully conducted headshots. It was a simple story of revenge and healing, but it was done really well, with star Keanu Reeves perfectly embodying the titular unstoppable hitman who comes out of retirement to score his vengeance. Hopefully, the second film in the saga will expand upon the weird world the original set up and be just as stylish and captivating as that first entry. Look for even more gun battles, more unique assassins and more scenes of Reeves mowing through bad guys on his latest quest for revenge.
Before setting sail with the many “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, director Gore Verbinski delivered one of the best modern horror movies with the U.S. remake of “The Ring.” Now it appears that Verbinski is returning to the genre with this eerie tale of a treatment spa that may be a bit more sinister than it lets on. The trailer is full of great visuals and spooky moments as star Dane DeHaan navigates a weird retro world of haunting imagery. The last time Verbinski worked in horror, he gave us a phenomenon that still plagues the nightmares of many moviegoers. Here’s hoping he can do it again.
It’s unlikely that people would have guessed that the first film of Jordan Peele (of “Key & Peele”) after his TV series would be a horror movie. Surely he would have directed a comedy? “Get Out” looks to be a brilliant ride with lots of intensity and even some dark humor in it. Mining racial tensions and insecurities for a backdrop of social commentary, it looks like Peele has created a movie in the mold of ’70s thrillers like “The Stepford Wives,” which use genre standards as a way of exploring real world issues. It just premiered at Sundance a few days ago, and already there’s a lot of buzz around this one.
To be fair, we’ve been burned before. The first Wolverine solo film was just an awful mess, and while the second had some great action scenes, it was ultimately a pretty forgettable film. Why then is there so much anticipation for this third go-round with everyone’s favorite Canuck? “Logan” promises to be a somber look at a desolate future where superheroes have failed and it’s up to a few lone people to pick up the pieces. Not only is that very relevant in today’s world, but it’s a comic book story that hasn’t been told on screen before. The movie looks like a cross between “X-Men” and “Unforgiven,” and honestly, that sounds like an amazing thing to behold.
The band’s back together! It’s been over 20 years since the last “Trainspotting,” but is there anything left to say? Based on that propulsive trailer and the fact that all the principles are reuniting – including all the main cast, director Danny Boyle and writers John Hodge and Irvine Welsh – all signs point to “yes.” The first film was a harrowing (but incredible) look at addiction and existential isolation at the end of the century. Employing that same gift for excellent musical choices and stupendous visuals, it seems like Boyle plans to mine some more insight into the modern conditions of life and its myriad addictions and distractions.
Director Ben Wheatley has long been a cinephile and film fest favorite with hits like “A Field in England,” “The Kill List” and last year’s “High Rise.” “Free Fire,” about an arms deal that goes wrong and then proceeds into a massive gunfight, looks to be his most populist movie to date, with tons of known actors (Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer) attempting to kill the competition and leave the movie in one piece (more or less). Wheatley has always shown a great ability for telling dark stories in interesting and often hilarious ways, and this appears to be another example of his violent tendencies exploding onto the screen with his unique voice telling the story.
While there are three films coming from Marvel Studios this year (including “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), as well as quite a few other comic book movies, James Gunn’s return to the cosmos is our most anticipated of the bunch. With the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Gunn delivered an original take on comic book flare, complete with astounding imagery, superb pop sensibilities, excellent musical choices and endearing characters. The best part of the first film was that all of the leads felt like a group whose adventures you’d want to follow and with whom you’d want to hang out, and audiences will get the chance to revisit some of their favorite Marvel antiheroes with the aptly titled “Vol. 2.” Plus, Baby Groot FTW.
Four years is entirely too long to go without a movie from Edgar Wright. One of this generation’s best directors, Wright got mired in the “Ant-Man” development at Marvel before ultimately leaving and moving on to this original crime caper. The movie seems like an intersection of a bunch of other crime films, blended together to create something unique and entertaining like only Wright can. Cinephiles will love all the references peppered throughout, while general audiences will be able to watch Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Ansel Elgort and others in this propulsive story of a getaway driver roped into a dangerous mission. Also, expect one of the year’s best soundtracks to accompany all of the great visuals and performances, as Wright always delivers on that front as well.
So far, the reboot of the “Planet of the Apes” film saga has delivered a pair of incredible movies that depict man’s inhumanity pitted against the gentler nature of noble beings, both ape and human. Director Matt Reeves returns for this third installment that continues the story of a world being transformed into an unrecognizable place where humanity is at the brink and the rising dominant species is learning the complexities of ruling without savagery. Woody Harrelson joins the cast as a ruthless army colonel leading the last bastion of survivors against their simian overlords, and the movie promises all the best the series has to offer: great F/X, excellent set pieces and even a moral quandary or two.
It’s been 20 years since director Luc Besson gave the world “The Fifth Element,” an imaginative sci-fi romp with iconic imagery and lots of fun moments, and the filmmaker looks ready to return to the world of high-concept sci-fi with his latest. Based on the long-running European comic book series, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is poised to deliver some dizzying visuals and a rollercoaster ride where anything can happen. There’s a ton of inventive style on the screen in the trailer, and hopefully the story and characters can match that bold, unique sense to deliver a blockbuster unlike anything else this year.
Christopher Nolan has always been obsessed with the way humans tick, almost from a removed, observant standpoint. Whether it’s the impulses of the thieves in “Following,” the way memories fail us in “Memento,” or even the dichotomy between order and chaos in his “Batman” trilogy, Nolan is intrigued by how people react to situations, even if it’s not how we hoped. Taking that same angle with a war movie should yield some interesting results about our own fears, hopes and the better part of our nature. Bringing along terrific actors like Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Kenneth Branagh, as well as some astoundingly breathtaking visuals, it looks like this could be the filmmaker’s own version of “The Thin Red Line.”
Before “Arrival,” many people were still hesitant and suspicious of anyone tackling a new “Blade Runner” movie. After that film proved director Denis Villeneuve could handle thoughtful yet emotional sci-fi, though, people were a lot more willing to give this sequel a chance. Oozing with great imagery of a stark future not so far from our present, stacked with talented performers like Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, and produced with the blessing of the original film’s creative team, Villeneuve may end up delivering a worthy successor to one of the great hallmarks of modern filmmaking. It’s a shaky premise to dare retread those footsteps, but if Villeneuve can pull it off, then it will likely be one of the best films of the year.
Not too much is known about this movie, so why is it on this list? Because it marks a return to the big screen for director Steven Soderbergh. Prior to his “retirement,” Soderbergh was one of the best filmmakers of his generation who produced a vast array of films that explored numerous subject matters with different takes and tastes, making him an adventurous director to follow. This movie, about two brothers that plan a heist during a NASCAR event, will hopefully be a return to form that will surprise audiences. Daniel Craig, Adam Driver and Katherine Waterston headline the cast, which gives the director some very strong talent to work with in telling his latest story. New Soderbergh in any format is a reason to cheer, but a new Soderbergh film is a reason to show up.
Speaking of Adam Driver, he has another, smaller project opening this year. No one needs to hype up “Star Wars” – the film is critic-proof and will pull in a billion dollars no matter what – but there is cause to get excited for this movie: Rian Johnson. The man behind “Brick,” “Looper” and many of your favorite “Breaking Bad” episodes is an inspired choice to helm this entry in the saga, as he is an incredibly talented writer and director who reveres genre but also loves finding new avenues to explore within it. Even if this wasn’t a “Star Wars” movie, we’d be excited for a new Rian Johnson picture because it means an occasion for real character work, bold storytelling and excellent filmmaking.
Most people probably haven’t heard of this film, but it’s on this list because it marks the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. The acclaimed writer of “The Social Network,” “Steve Jobs,” “The West Wing” and many other projects is stepping into the director’s chair to tell the true story of Molly Bloom, a former Olympic hopeful who fell onto the FBI’s radar when she started a high-stakes, international (and illegal) poker game. Jessica Chastain stars along with Kevin Costner, Idris Elba, Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd, with Sorkin adapting Bloom’s own memoir for the screen. This could be a dynamic look into a world not often seen in movies, with plenty of occasions for great Sorkin speeches and well-defined character work.
Alex Garland has always been a great writer to follow, from novels like “The Beach” to films like “28 Days Later” and “Dredd,” but he became a filmmaker that deserved attention and acclaim with his directorial debut “Ex Machina,” which was an instant sci-fi classic that is as beautiful to watch as it is troubling to ponder. Now, Garland is adapting the hit novel by Jeff VanderMeer about scientists exploring a region of the continent that has been closed off for years. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac and Jennifer Jason Leigh star in what will most likely be a haunting exploration of a new frontier both psychologically and cinematically.