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50 Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

From superhero movies and serious dramas to a new ‘Star Wars’ movie, the year’s must-sees

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Illustration by Brittany Falussy

Chances are good that most folks are still a little hungover from all the lightsaber fights, superhero flights of fancy, Western revivals and "bear rapes" that characterized filmgoing in the Year of Our Lord 2015. But the movies, like time and Black Friday shoppers, wait for no man, and the first few weeks of 2016 has already started to bring on new horror flicks, Kevin Hart comedies and, at long last, Michael Bay's take on Benghazi.

It's the beginning of what should be an interesting 12 months in the dark, which promises everything from the usual blockbuster suspects (superhero movies, sequels, star vehicles, another Star Wars movie) to big-name director projects (new films from the Coen brothers, Malick, Linklater, Spielberg, Stone — though Martin Scorsese's Silence is now looking like a 2017 release) to a handful of indie/foreign/arthouse/genre movies that border on the unclassifiable (see Green Room and The Witch by any means necessary).

So we're counting down 50 of the most anticipated movies coming out in 2016, from big-studio releases to some under-the-radar, oddball movies we're looking forward to catching.  Mark your calendars and stock up on Visine. Here's what you'll be seeing at theaters near you for the next year.

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‘The Club’ (Feb 5)

A Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Film (and almost assuredly an Oscar nominee for that category as well), this tense drama from Chilean director Pablo Larrain (No) focuses on a group of priests who've been "let go" from their respective parishes for various reasons. They all live together in relative harmony on the outskirts of town — until a ghost from one of their pasts comes calling and sets off a chain reaction. Dark doesn't begin to describe the tone of this movie, but like the fillmaker's earlier work, this multi-character study-cum-psychological thriller works its feel-bad mojo absolutely beautifully. God bless you, Mr. Larrain. DF

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‘Hail, Caesar’ (February 5)

Hollywood, USA: Tinseltown's best-known leading men has been kidnapped from the biblical epic he's been shooting; only studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) can get him out of this jam, assuming he has time in between helping out pregnant starlets, calming irritated directors and dealing with his own guilty conscience. Once again, the Coen brothers take on the old-school dream factory, embedding a crisis of faith in the middle of a broad farce. George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, and Rafe Fiennes show to mug for the cameras — and you have not lived until you've seen Channing Tatum hoof it, Gene Kelly-style, in a sailor suit. DF

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‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ (February 5)

Mixing classic literature with cheeky horror, author Seth Grahame-Smith's 2009 parody was built on an inspired notion: What if Jane Austen's demure lovers had to contend with the rampaging undead? It's taken seven years for the no-brainer film version to hit theaters — at one point, David O. Russell and Natalie Portman were attached — but writer-director Burr Steers' tongue-in-cheek satire of 19th-century English decorum stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith and a whole mess of zombies looking to transform the original novel's comedy of manners into a giddy gore-fest. This may be the one Austen adaptation that guys are more excited to see than their girlfriends. TG

southbound; 2016

‘Southbound’ (February 5)

Now that the V/H/S series appears to have run its course, it's time for a new breed of horror anthology to scratch that infernal itch — and this collection of scary stories hits the spot so well that it slips right under your skin. Knotting together five tales of terror, each directed by a different filmmaker (but set against the same stretch of desert highway), Southbound drives you straight into a strange purgatory where floating demons patrol the roads and nice married couples who are a little too eager to offer stranded motorists a free ride. DEh

A War

‘A War’ (February 12)

A few years ago, Danish director Tobias Lindholm made A Hijacking, a superb thriller about a corporation’s attempt to negotiate with the Somali pirates who had seized its cargo ship. Now, the filmmaker again tackles the personal consequences to international conflict with this stem-to-stern consideration of the conflict in Afghanistan, from the frontlines to the homefront. Stationed in a remote Afghan province, a Danish commander (Pilou Asbaek) is forced to make a consequential decision while his wife and three children struggle with his absence in Copenhagen. ST

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‘Zoolander 2’ (February 12)

Released two weeks after 9/11, Ben Stiller's comedy about a dim-witted male model tanked at the box office — only to become reborn as one of the memefriendliest films of the new century. Now, some 15 years later, the ceaseless demand for a sequel has finally paid off. Teaming up with Owen Wilson's Hansel, the director-star's Derek Zoolander helps track down an assassin who's killing the world’s most beautiful people — all with his patented "Blue Steel" look as their faces of death.And yes, Will Ferrell's Mugatu is back as well. ST

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‘Embrace of the Serpent’ (February 19)

An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year, this visually ravishing historical adventure from Colombia ventures into the Amazon for a fact-based journey that recalls Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, but with a more mystical bent. Shot in monochromatic black-and-white, the film follows parallel expeditions — one in 1909, the other in the 1940s — in which the same indigenous guide reluctantly leads different European explorers through the wilderness. There's a predictable sentiment here about white exploitation of native territory, but director Ciro Guerra expresses it in striking visual terms. ST

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‘The Witch’ (February 19)

A bona fide hit at last year's Sundance and one of the most gleefully go-for-broke horror movies in recent memory, Robert Eggers' masterful debut tells of a pious 17th-century family who are exiled from their Puritan village. The clan is forced to build a new life for themselves on the lip of a haunted forest. (Good luck with that.) Like an unnerving Grimm's Fairy Tale directed by Stanley Kubrick and tongue-kissed by Satan, it's an insomnia-inducing reminder that America has always been as scary as it is today. DEh

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‘Triple 9’ (February 26)

As demonstrated by his dark, despairing dramas The Proposition and The Road,  Australian director John Hillcoat likes to paint his movies black and populate them with desperate, often amoral characters. Which explains our excitement for this gritty crime-thriller in which a team of corrupt policeman (led by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anthony Mackie) rob banks in their downtime. Costarring Woody Harrelson as an honorable detective, Aaron Paul as a strung-out crook and Kate Winslet as a black-widow Russian mob boss, Triple 9 looks like it has the grandeur, impeccable ensemble and gonzo shootouts of classic urban cops-and-robbers thrillers like Heat. TG

The Wave; 2016

Magnolia Pictures

‘The Wave’ (March 4)

Good news for American film producers who love disaster movies but don't want to spend all that time and dough making them: You can import them now. This Norwegian hit pits a geologist — who's one day away from moving with his family, of course — and numerous tourists against an angry Mother Nature via a collapsing mountain and a massive tsunami. (See title.) The word on the festival circuit is that this modest attempt at beating Hollywood at its own catastrophe-cinema game is quite the stunner. See, you get digital effects of spectacle things being destroyed and subtitles! Plus the director's name is Roar Uthaug. You simply can not beat that moniker. DF

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‘Knight of Cups’ (March 4)

Now that Terrence Malick has gone into overdrive — cinema's most notorious slowpoke is scheduled to release as many films this year as he did between 1973 and 1998 — his new movies aren’t quite the events they used to be. But this tale of a Hollywood star (Christian Bale) who's trying to sex his way out of an existential crisis might be unique enough to spark strong attention. Given that Malick is known for making singularly introspective period dramas about the human soul, it should be interesting to see what managed to catch his eye in contemporary Los Angeles. DEh

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‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ (March 4)

Adapted from The Taliban Shuffle, Kim Barker's memoir about reporting in wartime Afghanistan and Pakistan, this Tina Fey vehicle faces the difficult task of playing up the fish-out-of-water comedy while not setting back women in journalism for decades. On the other hand, Fey pulled off the same balancing act for years on 30 Rock, which cast her as the competent center of a three-ring circus, despite a weakness for dumb lovers and off-brand Mexican cheese curls. Plus Robert Carlock, her showrunning partner on 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, wrote the script, so he knows where to draw the line. ST

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‘The Brothers Grimsby’ (March 11)

This oft-postponed British spy comedy — originally slated for a summer 2015 release, but now pushed back to March of this year — stars Mark Strong as a MI6 assassin who must team up with his long-lost football hooligan brother (Sacha Baron Cohen) in order to save the world. Directed by Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me, Clash of the Titans) and written by Cohen with Peter Baynham and Phil Johnston, the film features a promising supporting cast that includes Rebel Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane and Gaboury Sidibe. DEp

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‘The Lobster’ (March 11)

Welcome to the future, where single people are gathered together at a hotel and given 45 days to find a soulmate for themselves; if guests like Colin Farrell's paunchy sad sack don't pair up by the end of their stay, they're transformed into an animal of their choosing. Those already familiar with the droll imagination of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) will recognize his signature blending of  Michael Haneke's chilly character studies and Charlie Kaufman's oddball romanticism. For everyone else, his terrifically weird English-language debut will simply be heartbreaking from start to finish. DEh

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‘Krisha’ (March 18)

Remember that one Thanksgiving, when your uncles started violently arguing about politics at the dinner table and your sister's boyfriend got a little too familiar with the vino? We guarantee that your horrible holiday family gathering was nowhere near as disastrous as the get-together at the center of writer-director Trey Edward Shults' indie drama, when a hippy-ish, long-M.I.A. relative (Krisha Fairchild) returns on Turkey Day to mend fences. Suffice to say, not all of her personal baggage has been checked at the door — and the awards and accolades that this young filmmaker's feature debut garnered at SXSW last year were very well-deserved. DF

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‘Midnight Special’ (March 18)

Can't wait until July for that old-school Spielberg feeling? (See The BFG entry.) This sci-fi/action flick, in which Michael Shannon goes on the lam with his gifted-with-extraordinary-powers son while being pursued by government spooks and religious zealots, should scratch that itch nicely. Indie director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) steps up to the studio leagues for this one, and the trailer suggests a mixture of YA thrills, kid-in-peril spills and PG-13–ish chills that feels just the right amount of retro-blockbuster fun. DF

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‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (Mar 25)

No, the two most iconic superheroes in the D.C. universe aren't taking each other to court; instead, this sequel to Man of Steel/reboot of the Batman franchise pits Henry Cavill's Superman against Ben Affleck's caped crusader in the mean streets of Metropolis. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor and the comic-book villain Doomsday shows up for good measure, just in case the storyline involving abuses of absolute power, vigilante justice and trampled civil liberties doesn't grab the fans. Expect the D.C. equivalent of Nick Fury showing up to move future movie pieces into place and "visionary" director Zack Snyder to emphasize the darkness of it all. DF

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‘Louder Than Bombs’ (Mar 25)

A staple of director-to-watch lists for his subtle, literate dramas Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, Norway's Joachim Trier is poised to break out with his first English-language film, another perceptive look at the creative mind and the pains of young adulthood. Here the mysterious death of a war photographer (Isabelle Huppert) leaves her husband (Gabriel Byrne) to grapple with its troubling implications, all while handling the additional fallout with their two sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid). Let the Smiths reference in the title serve as a warning — and a promise. ST

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‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ (Apr 1)

Richard Linklater has been calling this 1980s-set story of collegiate baseball players using party as a verb the "spiritual sequel" to Dazed and Confused — and while the decade may have changed, that movie's song of beer drinking, driving around with the radio on and waxing philosophical remains the same. A breezy take on the pros and cons of university jock culture, the director's latest ode to the follies of youth is full of everything you want out of a Linklater joint: great performances (remember this name: Glen Powell); long scenes of musing about life, the universe and everything; a kick-ass soundtrack; and the sense that you aren't watching a film so much as life lazily unfolding in front of your eyes. Meet your new go-to hangin' out movie classic. DF

Miles Ahead; 2015

‘Miles Ahead’ (April 1)

An obvious labor of love for Don Cheadle (who directed, co-produced and co-wrote the film, as well as starring in it), this look at the life and times of Miles Davis largely eschews biopic clichés in favor of an impressionistic depiction of jazz legend — one involving gunplay, drug abuse, stolen tapes and buddy caper-style hi-jinx with (ahem) a Rolling Stone reporter played by Ewan McGregor, as well as musical set-pieces. Though it didn’t get great reviews at last fall's New York Film Festival, the prospect of watching Cheadle portray the irascible trumpet icon in his dapper birth-of-cool 1950s and unhinged 1970s periods simply sounds too enticing to pass up. DEp

Green Room; 2016

‘Green Room’ (April 15)

Take one raggedy punk band, so desperate for gas money that they'll take a gig at a racist skinhead compound. Throw in a murder, a white-supremacist mastermind (Patrick Stewart), and a green room perfect for barricading yourself when the boots-and-braces crowd want you dead. And for good measure, stir some shotguns, psychopaths, Rottweilers, baseball bats, numerous sharp objects and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Congratulations, you now have the best screw-tightening siege movie of the year, and a nasty little nugget that demonstrates how director Jeremy Saulnier has seriously upped his already impressive game since the filmmaker's breakthrough movie Blue Ruin. This is what genre perfection looks like. DF