The beginning of a New Year signals a point of endless potential in the year ahead. That’s especially the case when looking at the hundreds of films that will be released over the course of the next 365 days. Nothing is yet overrated or underrated, nor revealed itself as Academy Award or box-office flop material. It’s just a matter of what looks exciting. With that enthusiasm in mind, we’ve picked 15 movies — from big-studio blockbusters to Sundance hits — that we can’t wait to see in 2017. Check them out below, and add your own most-anticipated flicks in the comments!
Screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd) made an impressive directorial debut in 2015 with Ex Machina, one of the best science-fiction films in recent memory. This year, he’s returning to the genre with Annihilation, an adaptation of the first part of Jeff VanderMeer’s great Southern Reach Trilogy about an otherworldly place called Area X. It’s a tricky novel to adapt, but if anyone can do it justice, it’s Garland.
Alex Garland directing Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina
Release Date: TBD
It’s been a long three years since Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim) gave us his last film, The World’s End, but the wait for his new project is finally over. Baby Driver is about a getaway driver and a heist, and features an impressive cast including Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and Jon Hamm. But, ultimately, the star is Wright himself, whose past work has proven he knows how to perfectly capture (and send up) the best parts of a genre with subtly sturdy screenwriting structure.
Jamie Foxx and Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Photo by Wilson Webb © 2016 TriStar Pictures
Release Date: August 11
Christopher Nolan has become one of our most successful and accomplished directors, in good part by being unpredictable. With magicians, superheroes, dream-landscape robbers, and interstellar astronauts behind him, he’s now taking on a war film. Based on the true story of the daring evacuation of pinned-down Allied forces in World War II, Dunkirk is our chance to see how Nolan applies his unique vision to a movie unlike anything he’s previously done.
Release Date: July 21
They may be small films you might have missed, but Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip (2014) and Queen of Earth (2015) were two of the best films of their respective years. So, naturally, we’re excited to see what this master of American independent cinema has in store next: a story about two Brooklyn families whose lives are shaken up by a visitor from abroad. Given Perry’s knack for portraying dysfunctional people, Golden Exits seems a safe bet not to disappoint.
Emily Browning in Golden Exits
Release Date: TBD
John Wick: Chapter 2
If you dismissed 2014’s John Wick as a direct-to-video style Keanu Reeves movie, you missed out. The feature debut from former stunt performer Chad Stahelski is one of the best action movies of recent years — an exquisitely choreographed and edited piece of filmmaking, featuring the added bonus of some extremely inventive world building. A hundred hitmen couldn’t keep us away from the sequel and the promise of more gun-fu.
Release Date: February 10
If you’ve seen writer-director Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, you probably understand why we’re so excited for her next project. A romantic comedy about abortion should never have worked, but Obvious Child did because of its charm, nuance, empathy, and, most of all, Robespierre’s masterful handling of all of the above. It’s that tremendous talent we’re so eager to see at work again with Landline. Set in the 1990s, the film focuses on a young teenager who discovers her father is having an affair.
Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn in Landline
Release Date: TBD
The Lost City of Z
Journalist David Grann’s best-selling account of British explorer Percy Fawcett and the true story of his disappearance while searching for a famous lost city in the Amazons reads like a movie, so it’s no surprise that it was turned into one. What is a (welcome) surprise is that James Gray (Little Odessa, The Immigrant) would take the job. Often overlooked, Gray has made some of the most interesting and beautifully composed films in recent years, so the promise of him training his camera on the wilderness of the Amazon should prove a lush experience. What’s more, Gray has always approached seemingly conventional material in unconventional ways; an exciting prospect for the story of Fawcett.
Release Date: April 21
When Hulk Hogan sued Gawker Media for publishing part of his sex tape, the trial represented different things to different people. For some, it was a long overdue comeuppance for Gawker and its sometimes less-than-noble practices. For others, it was a threat to nothing less than freedom of the press. So we’re curious to see how documentarian Brian Knappenberger will dive into the trial and all its implications. If nothing else, it should prove fascinating to get a much closer look at the players and the very high stakes.
Hulk Hogan in Nobody Speak
Release Date: TBD
A darling of Sundance in 2016, Sleight has been intriguingly described as a mix of Go, Now You See Me, and Chronicle. Written in five days and shot in seventeen, the film follows a street magician who is forced to sell drugs to make ends meet, then finds himself caught in a gang dispute. The concept certainly is hard to resist, but so is the always appealing (and inspiring) prospect of seeing ambitious genre ideas pulled off successfully on small guerrilla shoots and budgets.
Release Date: April 7
The most popular novel in bestselling Norwegian author Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole detective series gets the big-screen treatment in 2017. The source material and cast (with Michael Fassbender in the lead role) are both strong, but the real enticement is the person behind the camera: Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), who hasn’t directed a movie in six years. What has marked the director’s best work isn’t just how successfully he adapts challenging material, but how he also always seems to elevate it.
Director Tomas Alfredson
Release Date: October 31
Star Wars: Episode VIII
How can we not be excited for the next chapter in the new Star Wars saga? What’s especially appealing is the promise that The Force Awakens, which — for better or worse — treaded over familiar New Hope ground, is likely to finally move forward into its own with the new characters it set up. What’s also not to be underestimated is the fact that avowed film (and Star Wars) fan, Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) is both writing and directing the movie. Of course, anticipation of the film also can’t help but be marked by sadness, considering it will be our last chance to see the wonderful Carrie Fisher performing in the role that made her famous to generations of fans.
Release Date: December 15
Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Detroit Project
It’s been five long years since Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, itself a long awaited follow-up to Best Picture-winner The Hurt Locker (2008). As great as both films are, we’re looking forward to Bigelow’s next project breaking away from military films — although she’s clearly not turning her back on compelling and topical subject matter. This time, she’s making a movie about the 1967 Detroit Riot, which no doubt will feel familiar in the wake of many of the events of 2016.
Kathryn Bigelow directing Zero Dark Thirty
Release Date: TBD
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson/Daniel Day-Lewis Project
The collaboration between Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis on There Will Be Blood produced one of the best films of the 21st century – if not all time. The promise of a creative reunion can’t help but make our film-loving hearts beat faster. Very little may be known at this point about their next project, but we do know this: it’s a drama set in the fashion world of 1950s London. Honestly, we don’t really need more than that.
Paul Thomas Anderson directing Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
Release Date: TBD
Song to Song (aka Weightless)
Terrence Malick’s work may have become more divisive since he became more prolific post-The Tree of Life, but that doesn’t change the fact that we remain eager to see what he does — especially as he’s started diving into more contemporary subject matter. In the case of Weightless, Malick ventures into the heart of the Austin music scene with a typically stellar cast that includes Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Benicio Del Toro, and Holly Hunter.
Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, and Ryan Gosling in Song to Song © Broad Green Pictures
Release Date: March 17
We’ve been waiting for a Wonder Woman film ever since Joss Whedon’s plans for one fell apart in the 2000s. All due respect to Whedon, now that Diana is finally coming to the big screen, we’re especially happy that she’s in the hands of a female director. Most notably, a terrific one: Patty Jenkins, who directed Charlize Theron to an Oscar in the excellent Monster. We’d also be remiss not to mention that our enthusiasm for Wonder Woman was especially sparked by Gal Gadot’s scene-stealing moment in the much-maligned Batman v Superman, and how perfectly she fits the role in the trailers we have so far.
Release Date: June 2
Of course, there are many more films we’re looking forward to this year that didn’t make this list — The Dark Tower, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Ghost in the Shell, T2 Trainspotting, Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049, War for the Planet of the Apes, to name just a few. How about you? What’s at the top of your list for 2017? Tell us in the comments!
Top image: Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Photo by Wilson Webb © 2016 TriStar Pictures