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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


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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‘High-Rise’ (May 13)

Tom Hiddleston proved he play a top-notch charming villain in those Marvel movies; now he demonstrates he can do crazysexyweird just as well. British director Ben Wheatley's adaptation of J.G. Ballard's cult novel about a luxury high-rise building drops our man Tom into a Cronenbergesque creepshow of sex, death and degeneracy, complete with orgies, supermarket binges and the occasional BBQ-ed canine. After its premiere at last year's Toronto Film Festival, the filmmaker described his soon-to-be-a-midnight-movie-staple thusly: "It has a lot of well-known actors in it [Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss costar], but it's fucked up." Sounds about right. DF

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‘Money Monster’ (May 13)

Jodie Foster's first full-length directorial effort since the 2011 flop The Beaver stars George Clooney as a CNBC-style TV financial guru, who is taken hostage on the air by an angry viewer (Jack O'Connell) after the latter loses his family's money due to one of the host's "insider" tips. The dramatic thriller sounds like Dog Day Afternoon crossed with Network in the context of contemporary Wall Street: The ratings of Clooney's show go through the roof, as viewers tune in to see how the hostage crisis will play out. Julia Roberts co-stars as the show's producer. DEp

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‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ (May 20)

Of all the movies Seth Rogen has made about stoned man-children struggling through the turbulence of transitioning through life phases, 2014's Neighbors is the most sincerely bro-tastic. All of the major players are back for this short-order sequel, including Rogen, his character's wife (the miraculous Rose Byrne), and the jacked frat boy who wouldn't get off their lawn (Zac Efron). And they're all on the same team this time, joining forces against the destructive sorority sisters (Selena Gomez and Chloë Grace Moretz) who are bringing down the neighborhood. We've already decided to pledge. DEh

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‘The Nice Guys’ (May 20)

Shane Black, who earned his first Hollywood screenwriting credit with 1987's Lethal Weapon, gets back into the buddy cop game with this dark comedy/conspiracy thriller, which is set amid the smog-choked seediness of 1970s Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling plays a down-on-his-luck private eye who teams up with thug-for-hire Russell Crowe to investigate the case of a missing girl (and the apparently unrelated death of a porn star), ultimately unraveling a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Kim Basinger, who previously appeared with Crowe in 1997's similarly-plotted L.A. Confidential, co-stars as the mother of the missing girl. DEp

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‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ (May 27th)

In which our dear Alice (Mia Wasikowska), she of the tripping through Wonderland, must return to that world of rushing rabbits, color-coded queens and smoking caterpillars to rescue her old chum, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, back for more scenery chewing). Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway also return for this sequel to Disney's 2010 revisionist take on the Lewis Carroll classic; whether the Muppets Most Wanted director James Babin will retain the now-absent Tim Burton's goth-pop sensibilities remains to be seen, but it's safe to say this will still satisfy those who like their fairy tales nice and fractured. DF

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‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (May 27)

A great evil threatens the world, only Charles Xavier and his band of Homo superior superheroes can stop it, also some mutants wonder why they protect people who hate them, yadda yadda yadda. You know the drill. Except now longtime X-director Bryan Singer gets around to putting the Apocalypse storyline on the screen — yes, it's as dire and doomy as its sounds — and none other than Oscar "I'm on a serious roll" Isaac is playing the all-powerful bad guy. Plus Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique gets to be a good guy, Michael Fassbender gets to show off his magnetic personality again, and James McAvoy's young Professor X finally gets his chrome-dome. Yeah, you'll be there. DF

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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Filmmaker and writer Brian De Palma attends "De Palma" during the 53rd New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on September 30, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)


‘De Palma’ (June 10)

Brian De Palma is one of the most revered filmmakers in the history of American cinema — and easily one of the most fetishistic. A feature-length doc in which the auteur talks through his working life in chronological order, De Palma has all the makings of a glorified DVD bonus feature. But directors (and obvious devotees) Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow push their film to become so much more. As candid and revealing as artist portraits get, this isn't just a celebration of an iconoclast; it's also a character study as provocative and fascinating as any of its subject's work. DEh

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‘Finding Dory’ (June 17)

Andrew Stanton is one of Pixar's chief creative architects, blending comedy, heart and thrills while winning Oscars for directing Finding Nemo and Wall-E. He returns to animation after his wobbly 2012 live-action debut John Carter with this Nemo sequel that follows forgetful, lovable Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) as she goes on a trek to reunite with her long-lost family. Most of the original's voice cast (including Albert Brooks) are back for this follow-up; we're hoping reaffirms Stanton's place as a world-class filmmaker who knows how to take ostensible children's films and elevate them to the level of art. TG

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‘The BFG’ (July 1)

It stands for "Big Friendly Giant," and given that it's a Steven Spielberg movie, the emphasis could be on either the big or the friendly part, depending on whether he's in a Jurassic Park or an E.T. mood. Considering that legendary purveyor of blockbusters is adapting this girl-meets-giant tale from a Roald Dahl novel, we're inclined to think it's the latter. It's just the sort of outcast story wrapped in a fantasy-adventure setting that Spielberg does to a tee, plus Bill Hader is voicing the lovable behemoth. Prepare for kid-friendly wonder, people! DF

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‘Ghostbusters’ (July 15)

While news of an all-female Ghostbusters sent some Men's Rights Activists to the fainting couch, let's not forget that the original series ended ignominiously with Ghostbusters 2 and has existed mainly as a threat Dan Aykroyd had held over the country for the better part of two decades. For those uncommitted to the notion that men busting ghosts is sacrosanct, however, the reboot looks tremendously promising, with four very funny women (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones) teaming up with Paul Feig, the reliably good director of Bridesmaids and Spy. What's not to like? ST

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‘Star Trek Beyond’ (July 22)

Remember that other major science-fiction franchise rebooted by J.J. Abrams? As its action-heavy, Beastie Boys-channeling trailer suggests, the latest Star Trek movie is doubling-down on the irreverent, rock-'em-sock-'em tone that he established with 2009's initial series restarter. Abrams may no longer be in the director's chair — this one is being helmed by Fast and the Furious auteur Justin Lin, who directed four installments of that burning-rubber phenomenon — though the series continues to flout his love of improper title punctuation. And Lin's full-throttle aesthetic, paired with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto's chummy Kirk-Spock chemistry, should help the crew of the USS Enterprise continue to distinguish themselves in a newly Star Wars­-mad universe. TG

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‘Jason Bourne’ (July 29)

For the fifth, yet-to-be-named Bourne movie, Matt Damon faces his toughest assignment to date: cleaning up the previous film's mess. It's not that Jeremy Renner's franchise foray — 2012's The Bourne Legacy — was a stinker per se, but the slip in star charisma and general urgency was enough to bump the once-lucrative James Bond alternative into the dreaded George Lazenby zone. Damon and director Paul Greengrass, who shook the camera skillfully with The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, promise to send their "dark and tortured" character on an adventure through post-Snowden Europe. ST

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Michael Keaton poses for a portrait during press day for "Spotlight" at The Four Seasons on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Los Angeles. Keaton portrays Walter "Robby" Robinson is the movie which opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 6, 2015. (Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP)

Casey Curry/AP

‘The Founder’ (August 5)

The late McDonald's mogul Ray Kroc — and the acquisition and rise of his fast-food empire — is the subject of this biopic from director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and screenwriter Robert D. Siegel (Big Fan, The Wrestler). Michael Keaton stars as Kroc, an Illinois restaurant supply salesman who takes control of the small hamburger chain started by Dick and Mac McDonald, portrayed by Nick Offerman (clearly never missing a chance to work with beef) and John Carroll Lynch. The film, currently scheduled for a Thanksgiving release, will reportedly be closer in tone to There Will Be Blood and The Social Network than, say, Good Burger. DEp

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‘Suicide Squad’ (August 5)

Another year, another batch of superhero movies [cue weary sigh]. But Fury director David Ayer's contribution to the genre is shaping up to be a bit different — and a lot more disturbed — than the spandex spectacles we've come to expect. Even darker than anything Warner Bros has previously managed to draw out from the DC Comics' universe, this all-villain team-up tale chronicles what happens when the world's deadliest psychopaths are joined together and forced to work for the good guys. Featuring a murderer's row of movie stars (including Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto as The Joker), this could be the antidote for The AvengersDEh

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‘Pete’s Dragon’ (August 12)

It was only a matter of time before Disney reached into their vault and started dusting off the crowned jewels of the collection, but it's nice to see that they’re dredging up some slightly esoteric gems as well — and hiring slightly esoteric people to do it for them. Directed by indie maverick David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints), this remake of Don Bluth and Don Chaffey's 1977 stoner favorite follows the friendship between a shy kid in Maine and a massive pet dragon named Elliott. Co-starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and a legendary CG lizard, Lowery's version is poised to be a rare blockbuster with genuine soul. DEh

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‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ (August 19)

If there's one thing that Coraline and Paranorman have proven about the stop-motion wizards at Laika, it's that they only commit to movies they really believe are well worth the arthritic fingers it cost to make. With that in mind, any new film from them is cause for celebration, let alone one in which Matthew McConaughey voices a beetle and Ralph Fiennes plays the king of the moon. The story of a young boy in old Japan who can only quell a spirit war by finding his dead father's samurai armor, this sounds like Laika's most ambitious film to date. DEh

Sully; 2016

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 24: Actor Tom Hanks attends the 2015 National WWII Museum's American Spirit Award gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 24, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)


‘Sully’ (September 9)

Clint Eastwood follows up 2014's American Sniper by directing a biopic based on the life of American pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, whose heroic 2009 "Miracle of the Hudson" landing of a troubled U.S. Airways flight saved the lives of all 155 people aboard. Tom Hanks plays Sullenberger; Aaron Eckhart co-stars as co-pilot Jeff Skiles, who helped successfully land Flight 1549, and Laura Linney plays the titular character's wife. It looks to be a considerably less controversial work than his rah-rah take on Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's life, though Eastwood's use of fake babies in the new film could not be confirmed at press time. DEp

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‘Snowden’ (September 16)

Stone has made a career out of rabble-rousing on Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, gun violence, and other hot topics in America, but this biopic on world-famous whistleblower Edward Snowden seems certain to start a brush fire that will spread across editorial pages, comment boards, and countless egg avatars on Twitter. But Laura Poitras' documentary Citizenfour proved that Snowden's revelations about the NSA's domestic spying abuses could be the stuff of real-life, high-stakes spy thrillers, so the potential for greatness is there. Plus, who wouldn't want to see Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald? ST

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Actress Emily Blunt poses for a portrait at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)


‘The Girl on the Train’ (October 16)

Maybe you've stared out the subway or train window during your daily commute, wondering what all those folks in those passing houses are up to — and maybe, if you're like the alcoholic wreck of a heroine in this adaptation of Paula Hawkin's runaway bestseller, you obsess over one dwelling's occupants in particular and decide to find out for yourself. (If you just answered yes: Please seek professional help immediately.) Director Tate Taylor (Get On Up) takes the reins behind the camera, and the lovely and talented Emily Blunt plays the damaged young woman who insinuates herself into a suburban couple's lives. Readers know what happens next; for those who haven't cracked open the book, let's just say things get very, very "complicated." DF

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‘Doctor Strange’ (November 4)

Marvel's sorcerer supreme comes to the big screen, with none other than Benedict Cumberbatch portraying the Master of the Mystic Arts for the MCU. Like most projects that the comic-book company/movie production studio/Blockbuster Industrial Complex behemoth has scheduled over the next few years, details are being guarded like nuclear codes. But we do know that Rachel McAdams is on board as the romantic interest; Chiwetel Ejiofor and Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen are playing the villains; and Tilda Swinton (!) is the mentor who schools Strange in the ways of dark magic, as she has for so many of us. So long as the set design looks like co-creator Steve Ditko's lavishly lysergic bad-trip-rising artwork, we're all good. DF

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Achievement in directing, “Life of Pi” (20th Century Fox) Ang Lee This image is made available here as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 85th Annual Academy Awards® Nominations Announcement Press Kit. This image may only be used by legitimate members of the press.

‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ (November 11)

Based on Ben Fountain’s satirical novel, Ang Lee's film follows members of the Bravo Squad on a government-mandated "Victory Tour" to celebrate their heroics in the Iraq War. Their halftime honors at a football game coincides with a call to return to action and many smaller melodramas, brought to life by the year's most eclectic cast (Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, and Chris Tucker, among others). ST

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‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (November 18)

Was there anyone on God's green earth that thought, once J.K. Rowling put out this 2001 spin-off of the Harry Potter world, that it would not eventually be turned into a movie/first part of a screen trilogy? The adventures of Hogwarts textbook writer Newt Scamander (Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne) and his fellow underground wizards in New York get the big-screen blockbuster treatment, with cinema du Potter stalwart David Yates directing and Rowling herself writing the screenplay. Wave your wand and yell Attendis Most Certainius! DF

Bad Santa 2; 2016


‘Bad Santa 2’ (November 23)

After 13 years and many false starts, everyone's favorite drunk, thieving, anal-sex–loving mall Santa is finally back to spike the holiday nog. Billy Bob Thornton returns as Willie Soke, a misanthropic louse who dons a gin-soaked beard and urine-stained red pants as part of a seasonal department-store robbery scheme. Tony Cox is also back as his diminutive partner, as is Brent Kelly as the snot-nosed boy (now presumably snot-nosed young man) with the unfortunate name Thurman Murman. Losing director Terry Zwigoff and gaining Entourage creator Doug Ellin (who co-scripted) hurts, but the addition of Christina Hendricks and Kathy Bates, who plays Willie's mom, makes the trade-off a little more tolerable. Happy holidays! ST

La La Land

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 08: Emma Stone poses for a portrait at the 'Irrational Man' Press Conference at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on July 8, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vera Anderson/Getty Images Portrait)


‘La La Land’ (December 2)

Before filmmaker Damien Chazelle came to prominence with his Oscar-winning drama Whiplash, he made another music-centric movie, the 2009 indie love story Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench — and fans of that film should feel right at home with this musical that focuses on the life of a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and his actress girlfriend (Emma Stone). In his two previous works, Chazelle has explored how young artists' creative ambitions conflict with their romantic aspirations, and it appears La La Land will fit comfortably into those movies' thematic grooves. TG

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Star Wars: Rogue One L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley ©Lucasfilm 2016

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (December 16)

You'd better get used to a new film taking place in a galaxy far, far away every year now, folks — and if they all sound as good as this spin-off movie involving a team of rebels planning to steal blueprints for the original Death Star, then you can expect a slew of early Christmas gifts from now into franchise perpetuity. Seriously, the notion of a Dirty Dozen-style heist movie in the Warsverse seems like a no-brainer mash-up, and with a cast featuring Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Firefly's Alan Tudyk, martial-arts maestro Donnie Yen and the mighty Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline), you'll be there opening day. But that was already a given. DF

Passengers; 2016

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2" New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on November 18, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)


‘Passengers’ (December 21)

When a spaceship's malfunction rouses a astropassenger (Chris Pratt) from cryogenic sleep 60 years too early, he makes the selfish decision to wake someone else rather than spend the rest of his days alone in a cargo hold. Naturally, he picks Jennifer Lawrence. The script for this interstellar romance has been famous for longer than either of its stars (it's been making the rounds and blowing minds since 2007), and with Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum behind the camera, brace for a brainy love story that marries the intimacy of Ex Machina with the astronomical scale of Gravity. DEh

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