- OnScreen Chief Film Critic
Last year, I listed my 50 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017. I’m scaling back this year and keeping it to 20, whittled down from a list that started with 70 titles that caught my eye. I’m also not including obvious blockbusters. So yes, of course I am looking forward to Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, A Wrinkle in Time, The Incredibles 2, Ready Player One, New Mutants, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, Mission: Impossible 6, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Predator, and other several other titles. But people already know about them.
20. The Kid Who Would Be King (9/18)
Director Joe Cornish hasn’t made a movie since 2011’s Attack the Block, but it introduced the world to John Boyega, who went on to do Star Wars. This film is about a modern day kid who finds the famed sword Excalibur, and has to defeat Morgana. Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Morgana, said in an interview that she turns into a dragon.
19. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (N/A)
This film is on the list solely because in my mind it is one of the ultimate passion projects in the history of filmmaking. Terry Gilliam has been trying to make a Don Quixote film for years and every time it was met with disaster and obstacle after obstacle. It may be an impossible standard of expectations to live up to considering how long it has been in development, but it is at least in the proverbial can.
18. The Nightingale (N/A)
The Babadook was a surprise horror hit a few years ago as Jennifer Kent’s feature film directorial debut. Her follow-up, The Nightingale, is a period drama set in 1825 Tasmania about a woman seeking revenge for the murder of her family.
17. Bad Times at the El Royale (10/5)
A handful of unsavory characters cross paths in a run-down Lake Tahoe hotel in the 1960s. The selling point for this thriller is that Drew Goddard is the writer/director and the cast includes Chris Hemsworth and Jeff Bridges.
16. Boy Erased (9/28)
This could sure be a controversial movie in Trump’s America, particularly with his base. A pastor’s son is sent to conversion therapy when it is discovered that he is gay. It stars Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton (who also directs), and Russell Crowe. One of two dueling gay conversion movies planned for 2018, with The Miseducation of Cameron Post being the other.
15. The Sisters Brothers (N/A)
Adaptation of a popular 2011 novel, this western about two hitmen brothers sent to kill a prospector stars Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard and is his first English-language film.
14. Sorry to Bother You (N/A)
Sorry to Bother You is the directorial debut of rapper Boots Riley. It stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, and Danny Glover. A telemarketer discovers the key to business success and learns the dark secrets of business too. It sounds like a social satire comedy and is premiering at Sundance in January.
13. Roma (N/A)
Anytime Alfonso Cuaron makes a film, it’s notable. After Children of Men and Gravity, he is on that list of directors that you definitely check when you’re crafting a list like this to see if he is doing something in the upcoming year. This film is about a year in the life of a middle class Mexican family in the 1970s.
12. Radegund (N/A)
His last few films have gone a bit pear-shaped, but I still hold out hope that Terrence Malick will recapture the magic he had with so many of his films, and when I thought he reached his zenith with The Tree of Life. This film is a biography about an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis. By the sound of it, it should be much more narrative-driven than anything he has made since The New World.
11. Under the Silver Lake (N/A)
I love me a good crime thriller, especially a neo-noir. Under the Silver Lake is David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to one of my favorite films of 2015, It Follows. Starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough, not much is known about the plot except that it is about a man’s obsession with a billionaire’s murder. Also, Disasterpeace returns to score the film, as he did with It Follows.
10. First Man (10/12)
After Whiplash and La La Land, writer/director Damien Chazelle is moving away from the music to explore space in this biopic about Neil Armstrong and the build-up to the Apollo 11 mission when Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon. First Man re-teams Chazelle with La La Land male lead Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, and will also feature Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, and Jason Clarke.
9. If Beale Street Could Talk (N/A)
To the victors go the spoils, and because Moonlight memorably beat out La La Land at the Oscars, I’m putting Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to Moonlight one spot ahead of Chazelle’s First Man. This is an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel of a pregnant woman who fights to prove the innocence of her fiancé. Moonlight was a worthy Oscar Best Picture winner, and I’m excited to see what Jenkins brings this time around.
8. Widows (11/16)
Speaking of worthy Oscar winners, Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, has a new film coming out this year. Widows is thriller where four widows attempt to finish the job when their four husbands are killed attempted a robbery. The screenplay is from McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. McQueen has wowed with all of his previous films (Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave), so he is a must-see director.
7. The Death of Stalin (3/18)
Is the funniest man in entertainment Armando Iannucci? After The Thick of It on British television and the spin-off film In the Loop, Iannucci has left his mark on political satire across the pond with HBO’s Veep. Based on a French graphic novel, this film is a political satire about the power vacuum in the wake of Stalin’s death in 1953. It features a loaded cast, and has already come out in the UK with a 97% T-meter. It’s supposed to reach stateside in March, after being teased for 2017, and I can’t wait.
6. The Favourite (N/A)
Yorgos Lanthimos is just simply one of my favorite directors. Even if I didn’t love The Killing of a Sacred Deer as much as The Lobster, I love how he pushes the envelope and twists reality and makes mundane dialogue patently absurd. This film is a period piece in 18th century England starring Emma Stone, Rache Weisz, Olivia Coleman, and Nicholas Hoult. Weisz has described it as All About Eve in the royal court. I can already envision how twisted this film is going to be.
5. Sicario 2: Soldado (6/29)
THIS IS A LAND OF WOLVES!!!! I loved Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 film Sicario. It was my #1 movie of that year. I was anxious when I heard that a sequel was in the works almost immediately after the critical success it achieved and even more concerned when I learned that Villeneuve was not directing. However, this sequel, which furthers the story of Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro’s escalation of the war on drugs, is written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Sicario and has since penned the terrific Hell or High Water and Wind River. And while the director, Stefano Sollima, is largely an unknown, he has done several episodes of the crime drama Gomorrah and a handful of Italian crime thrillers.
4. Isle of Dogs (3/23)
Wes Anderson is an acquired taste for some. His filmmaking style can be a bit particular and precise and some people don’t care for it. I find it highly entertaining. I think his last two films. Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, are among his best. Isle of Dogs is Anderson returning to stop motion animation, which he did for Fantastic Mr. Fox. About a boy who goes looking for his lost dog on an island of exiled dogs, the trailers for this have looked very promising.
3. Hold the Dark (N/A)
Blue Ruin and Green Room are two great indie films that have come out in the last few years from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. Saulnier makes visceral films where violent actions have real-world consequences on characters. Hold the Dark is an adaptation of a book about an Alaskan family that hires a writer to track down their missing son after wolves are suspected of having killed other local children. Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgard, Riley Keough, and James Badge Dale star.
2. Apostle (N/A)
Ask someone who only watches Hollywood movies what the best pure action movie of the decade is, and the answer may very well be one of the John Wick movies. Anyone who has seen The Raid: Redepmtion or The Raid 2 from Indonesia will tell you otherwise. Gareth Evans, the man behind those films, is making Apostle. Starring Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen, it’s set in 1905 and is about a man who goes to an island where a religious cult has kidnapped his sister. No idea if this is an action thriller or a drama thriller, but if Evans’ past filmography is any indication, it could be awesome if it is if former.
1. Annihilation (2/23)
It’s truly weird to have your most anticipated film of the year scheduled to come out in February, normally a slow period of the movie calendar where studios dump some of their garbage that isn’t good enough for summer or awards season. But Annihilation looks like a smart sci-fi trip from Alex Garland, the writer/director of Ex Machina, one of my favorite films of 2016. Based on a book from a sci-fi trilogy, Annihilation is about an expedition featuring a biologist, anthropologist, psychologist, surveyor, and linguist heading into an environmental disaster area where the laws of nature don’t apply. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, and Jennifer Jason Leigh star. The studio made a deal with Netflix to make it available for streaming mere weeks after the theatrical release. Apparently there was a difference of opinion between the producers over the final cut being “too intellectual” and “too complicated.” Sorry, but that’s exactly how I like my sci-fi. I’m glad Garland is sticking to hi