If the commercials for back-to-school specials have not already made it clear, the end of summer is almost here. The days of having a new tentpole film opening every other week will soon give way to a wide variety of original ideas and potential awards contenders, each vying for a bit of your time and money. We have no idea what will be good or bad, but we do know what looks promising. These are our most anticipated films for the rest of 2016, in order of release. Some smaller films may have a different release date in your area, but all of the films listed below will be playing somewhere in America before the end of the year (with an exception being possible for Rings, which we are still unsure will ever see a release).
The 45 films that follow do not represent even half of the new titles being released in theaters and through various VOD platforms this year, but they are the titles that take priority in our books. If nothing appeals to you, please seek out cinema that does offer whatever it is you’re looking for. There has never been a better time to be a fan of film than right now, but you have to be willing to do a little work to find the truly great art.
Oh, and feel free to comment and tell us anything you think we may have missed or overlooked in the comments below.
The Light Between Oceans (September 2)
For those of you needing a really good cry, The Light Between Oceans will deliver in spades. The film follows a lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Alicia Vikander) living off the coast of Western Australia as they raise a baby they rescued from an adrift rowboat. The couple views the child as something of a miracle, but problems begin to arise when the pair encounter a woman who tells them of how her child and husband were once lost at sea. The decisions the family faces, as well as the fallout from the choices, make this one of the first great films of the fall.
Skiptrace (September 2)
This movie has already been released in China, and it quickly rose to the top of the box office in a market crowded with the same big budget tentpole films now playing at a theater near you. Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville star as a pair of mismatched strangers who must join forces to fight off throngs of bad guys while learning to get along. Think of it as Rush Hour or Shanghai Noon, only with more physical humor and a complete lack of Chris Tucker.
Yoga Hosers (September 2)
The second chapter in Kevin Smith’s True North trilogy follows two Canadian teen convenience store clerks who must battle against knee-high, sentient sausages in order to save the world. The premise is just as ridiculous as Tusk, but the tone of the promotional material leads us to believe this is much lighter fare. Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and Lily Rose Depp star.
Sully (September 9)
When Clint Eastwood makes a movie it is your duty as an American citizen to support his creation. Sully tells the story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), a pilot who faces an investigation that threatens to ruin his career after he successfully makes an emergency landing in the Hudson river outside New York City. You probably remember the story this film is based on, but Eastwood’s take seems focused on the narrative that the news ignored. Think Flight, but with less cocaine (we think).
Kicks (September 9)
When his hard-earned kicks get snatched by a local hood, 15-year-old Brandon (Jahking Guillory) and his two best friends go on an ill-advised mission across the Bay Area to retrieve the stolen sneakers. This could be the Dope of 2016, only with the added benefit of writer/director Justin Tipping’s unique vision.
Snowden (September 16)
There was a time when Snowden was scheduled for Christmas 2015, but an overcrowded market forced the film into early summer 2016, which is now coming out in the fall because of yet another crowded release schedule. This means star Joseph Gordon-Levitt may still receive the awards buzz he was likely hoping for with this role, and with Oliver Stone at the helm we still have high expectations. The film will follow the life of former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, up to and including his decision to leak documents detailing the surveillance efforts of the US government. If you haven’t seen Citizenfour just yet, now would be a good time to watch it.
Blair Witch (September 16)
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have sneakily created the sequel horror fans never knew they needed. Blair Witch finds the sibling of a character from the original found footage masterpiece returning to the woods where their sister was last seen in search of answers. Unexplainable things begin to happen once night falls, and soon all hell breaks loose.
Operation Avalanche (September 16)
What if the moon landing only ever happened on a soundstage somewhere in the United States? That is the idea behind Operation Avalanche, the latest film from the creator of The Dirties. Four CIA employees pose as documentary filmmakers in order to probe NASA. What they discover will make them second guess everything they know to be true, and it just might endanger their lives.
Mr. Church (September 16)
Could the second coming of Eddie Murphy be on the horizon? All signs point to yes based on early reactions to Mr. Church, which offers the comedy veteran an opportunity to showcase his dramatic chops opposite Britt Robertson. Murphy plays a man who is hired to help a family through a rough time who begins a friendship with the family’s youngest daughter that lasts a lifetime. The trailer probably shows a bit too much, so just take our word for it and give this film a chance at an arthouse near you this September.
The Magnificent Seven (September 23)
Every generation has their version of The Magnificent Seven, the story of seven gunmen in the old west who gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves, but 2016’s reboot may be the best one yet. With a cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, and Matt Bomer—not to mention the direction of Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua—it’s hard to imagine this classic being destroyed with yet another re-imagining. That said, true movie fans should make it a point to witness the 1960 original before September.
Goat (September 23)
A fictional story about the recruiting tactics of a fraternity and all the trouble found within that includes an appearance from Nick Jonas. If this isn’t made with the millennial generation in mind, I don’t know what is.
Miss Peregrine’s School For Peculiar Children (September 30)
Forget Alice In Wonderland and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory because this is the adaptation Tim Burton was put on this Earth to create. Think X-Men, but younger, and without the bald man running the ship. Miss Peregrine’s home is a safe place for children the rest of the world would write off as outcasts, but in reality they are enormously gifted individuals just trying to be the best people they can. That is, until trouble arrives at the front door.
Deepwater Horizon (September 30)
Before they stop terrorism in Patriots Day, Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg are bringing the story of one of the world’s worst oil disasters to the big screen with Deepwater Horizon. Featuring an all-star cast, this disaster epic looks to combine the perfect amount of pulse-pounding CGI with real human emotion. Plus, any excuse to see Kate Hudson working again is one we’re willing to support.
The Birth of a Nation (October 7)
Nate Parker’s debut feature was the belle of the ball when it premiered at Sundance, and all the critical acclaim seen so far seems to point towards this historical drama being a big competitor during awards season. The premise is simple: Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising. Seeing the impact of these actions, both for those involved and our country as a whole, is reason enough to buy a ticket.
The Girl on the Train (October 7)
This could be the Gone Girl of 2016, and the source material has an equally dedicated following. The Girl on the Train is the story of Rachel Watson’s life post-divorce. Every day, she takes the train in to work in London, and every day the train passes by her old house where her ex now lives with his new wife. As she attempts to not focus on her pain, she starts watching a couple, the Hipwells, who live a few houses down. She creates a dream life for them in her head, but one day, as the train passes, she sees something shocking, filling her with rage. The next day, she wakes up with a horrible hangover, various wounds and bruises, and no memory of the night before. She has only a feeling: something bad happened.
The Greasy Strangler (October 7)
The most bizarre film on this list, The Greasy Strangler is a movie that only a handful of our readers will be able to appreciate. Early word of mouth has claimed the film is both disgusting and utterly compelling, with original ideas to spare. That’s pretty high praise for a film that involves the emergence of an oily strangler who stalks the streets at night murdering people, but it has our interest.
The Accountant (October 14)
The first Ben Affleck movie since Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice looks like a return to form for the veteran talent. Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a gifted mathematician who uses his small-town CPA office to cover his true career as a freelance accountant for some of the most villainous people on Earth. With the government closing in and a new client who has something major to hide, Wolff finds himself fighting to stay out of jail as the body count around him begins to rise. Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons also appear.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (October 21)
The other Tom Cruise franchise, Jack Reacher is an emerging action hero series in a time when many complain the genre has no new ideas. The first film kept us on the edge of our seats, thanks in no small part to the villainous talent of Werner Herzog, but we’re still not sure if there is enough interest in the character to warrant a continuation. Still, even a mediocre Tom Cruise film is better than most action epics, so we’ll gladly give Never Go Back a few of our hard-earned dollars.
A Monster Calls (October 21)
Based on a beloved children’s story, A Monster Calls is a beautifully and heartbreaking metaphor for dealing with death that people of all ages will relate to, regardless of their belief in the unknown. The monster does not come calling often, but when it does there is a reason for its appearance. This time it comes for Connor, a frustrated and angry young man, and it asks for the one thing Connor cannot bring himself to do: Tell the truth.
31 (October 21)
Rob Zombie is at it again, and this time he is not holding back. 31 is a project many years in the making, and the early promotional materials make it appear like a culmination of everything the musician turned filmmaker has done up to this point. The story follows five carnival workers who are kidnapped and forced to play a game where they must face off against a wide array of evildoers in a 12-hour battle for survival. If you hate clowns, this is definitely not the film for you.
American Pastoral (October 21)
Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera for this big screen adaptation of Philip Roth’s best-selling novel, which marks his debut as a director. The film follows a man in post-war America who watches his picturesque life begin to crumble when his daughter makes her radical political affiliations known. The first trailer was beautiful, and considering the power of the source material it is hard to imagine a world where this story does not translate to the big screen in a good way.
In A Valley Of Violence (October 21)
Ti West has made something akin to a Western, and he’s recruited Ethan Hawke to help bring it to life. You should need nothing more than what I’ve just mentioned to know you need to seek this out through any means necessary.
Inferno (October 28)
Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are the only duo in Hollywood who have spent the last decade making a franchise that appeals mainly to people over the age of 25. This is in no way a complaint, as we have been itching to see the pair regroup ever since Angels & Demons hit theaters way back in 2009. This time around, Robert Langdon (Hanks) will be scouring the city of Florence trying to uncover a past he cannot remember while the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Rings (October 28)
After numerous delays, Rings is allegedly going to be released just in time for Halloween 2016. I say “allegedly” because it is nearly September as I write this and there has yet to be a trailer or poster release. In fact, there is almost nothing known about this film aside from the promise of Samara and the mysterious video that brings her to life. We imagine the story will somehow tie into social media and the digital age, but again, we know almost nothing about this film.
Doctor Strange (November 4)
The success of Ant-Man proved the willingness of moviegoers to play along with Marvel’s wilder ideas, and now that blind faith will be put to the test with the solo adventure of Doctor Stephen Strange. Led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange will tell of one man’s battle against the forces of mysticism and magic that threaten planet Earth. It’s a story that will have to break the Marvel mold in order to be true to the source material, and we believe director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) is the man to bring such a bold vision to life.
Trolls (November 4)
To be completely honest we are just as afraid of this film as we are excited for it. The premise of Trolls is a brilliantly imagined world where tiny creatures learn to love themselves and one another while defeating some kind of evil, but whether or not there is enough material here to warrant a feature-length effort remains unknown. What we can confirm is that Justin Timberlake’s contribution to the soundtrack, “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” has been on repeat since its release over the summer. If the movie is half as fun as that song then this is destined to be a major fall hit.
Loving (November 4)
The second Jeff Nichols film of 2016 (following Midnight Special) looks to be the director’s most commercial work to date. Loving tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who must fight for their right to love whomever they choose against the state of Virginia in 1958. Michael Shannon appears as he does in every Nichols feature, but Joel Egerton and Ruth Negga take top billing.
Bleed For This (November 4)
Miles Teller probably deserved an Oscar for his work in Whiplash, but since he didn’t get one he’s going to try again with what looks to be a commanding performance in Ben Younger’s Bleed For This. Based on a true story, the film follows World Champion boxer Vinny Pazienza who fights to reclaim his spot at the top of his industry after a near-death experience leaves him not knowing whether or not he will ever walk again.
Hacksaw Ridge (November 4)
Mel Gibson can be a controversial name in certain circles, but it is hard to deny the allure of his latest directorial effort. Hacksaw Ridge tells the hard-to-believe true story of U.S. Army medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a soldier who saved 75 men during World War II without firing a single shot. Yes, Doss entered a war zone without a weapon and found a way to do what many believed to be impossible. Consider us sold.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (November 11)
Ang Lee doesn’t make a movie unless it allows him to push the boundaries of what filmmaking can be, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is no exception. Shot in 120 frames per second—the highest frame rate for a film to date—the film follows a young soldier (Joe Alwyn) and his squad as they return to the United States for a hero’s welcome at a Thanksgiving Day football game. The trailer makes it appear as if the halftime walk itself will be used as a wraparound for everything else that unfolds, but we cannot confirm that at this time.
Arrival (November 11)
All you need to know about this film is that is stars Amy Adams as a translator recruited by the US Government to establish a line of communication between the United States and an unknown alien race that has recently touched down on Earth. Jeremy Renner appears as well, but to say anything more would risk spoiling what Sicario filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has prepared for us. Don’t ask questions, just see it.
Rules Don’t Apply (November 11)
The first feature from Warren Beatty since Bulworth made a splash back in the late 1990s, Rules Don’t Apply looks like a quirky love story bathed in Tinsel Town nostalgia. Lily Collins stars as an aspiring actress who, along with her driver (Alden Ehrenreich), must learn to deal with the eccentricities of her billionaire employer (Beatty). The film doesn’t appear to be awards fodder as much as it is a rather simplistic distraction from CGI-riddled epics that will dominate theaters throughout the season, but it could prove to be more than meets the eye.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (November 18)
Every great franchise will eventually have a cinematic universe, and for Harry Potter the theatrical expansion begins with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Starring Eddie Redmayne, the film is based on a book read by the characters of the Harry Potter series during their time at Hogwarts. The story follows a writer, Newt Scamander, in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards as he searches to find amazing creatures. Chaos and wonder surely ensure.
The Edge Of Seventeen (November 18)
Hailee Steinfeld is the best young actress of her generation, but outside of Pitch Perfect 2 she has had few truly great opportunities to shine. Edge of Seventeen places Steinfeld front and center as a high school junior who forms an unexpected bond with a young man after learning her best friend is dating her older brother. That setup is littered with genre tropes, but we are willing to give it a chance due to its impressive cast. In addition to Steinfeld, Seventeen boasts turns from Woody Harrelson, Blake Jenner, and Kyra Sedgwick.
Manchester By The Sea (November 18)
We would place bets on Manchester By The Sea earning a slew of nominations at the top of 2016 if we knew where to place such a wager. Written and directed by Gangs Of New York scribe Kenneth Lonergan, the New England-set film follows an uncle (Casey Affleck) who is forced to take care of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the boy’s father (Kyle Chandler) dies. Festival buzz out of Sundance was deafening, as was the response from every screening since. This is one indie you cannot miss.
Moana (November 25)
Disney and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson seems like a match made in heaven, so don’t be surprised if this film tops a very crowded Thanksgiving weekend box office. A once-mighty demigod (Johnson) and a spirited teenager (Auli’i Cravalho) embark on an epic adventure across the ocean that promises copious amounts of thrills and fun. As an added bonus, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is credited alongside Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i as one of the film’s composers.
Allied (November 25)
Starring Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt, this film about two assassins who fall in love sounds like Mr. And Mrs. Smith if that film were set in 1942 Africa. The talent on screen is undeniable, so we can only imagine what Robert Zemeckis will deliver with the final product.
Bad Santa 2 (November 25)
It’s admittedly hard to believe we are revisiting the Bad Santa universe more than a decade after the original arrived in theaters, but Billy Bob Thornton is overdue for another commercial success. The addition of Kathy Bates as the title character’s mom should breathe fresh life into this debaucherous landscape, as should the addition of Mad Men star Christina Hendricks as the new love interest.
La La Land (December 2)
There are not enough musicals being made today, but thanks to Damien Chazelle we will have at least one more by the end of 2016. La La Land follows an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who encounters a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) in the city of Los Angeles. Love soon blossoms between the two, and viewers watch as they each struggle to make it in a city known for breaking hearts and crushing dreams. If you only have the money for one whimsical tale this December—and you have no interest in George Lucas’ creative universe—this may be the film to beat.
Office Christmas Party (December 9)
There are surprisingly few movies about corporate holiday parties that go horribly awry, but Office Christmas Party promises just that with a cast of notable funny people and no apparent goals beyond having a naughty, good time. The trailer makes this look like it could be a Project X of sorts for the upper middle class, but whether or not the film has anything original to offer beyond the site of an inebriated TJ Miller in a Santa suit remains to be seen. Here’s hoping this film from the duo behind Blades Of Glory is something great.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)
The first of numerous planned ‘anthology’ films set during the time immediately before the events in Star Wars: A New Hope, Rogue One is a big deal that needs no justification. Directed by Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards and written by Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz (from an idea by visual effects supervisor John Knol), the film will follow a wayward band of Rebel fighters who come together to carry out a desperate mission: To steal the plans for the Death Star before it can be used to enforce the Emperor’s rule. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna star.
The Founder (December 16)
Michael Keaton appears to be destined for Oscar consideration once again when he becomes Ray Kroc, the man who founded McDonald’s, in The Founder later this year. As his name may lead you to believe, Ray is not actually part of the McDonald family tree, but he does meet the brothers responsible for the burger joint that would inspire a modern empire. Ray’s participation in the company is as a consultant of sorts, but when the opportunity for big profits begins to reveal itself he decides to make several questionable business decisions to ensure he makes as much money as possible, and in doing so distances himself from the people around him.
The Space Between Us (December 21)
Originally planned for a late August release, The Space Between Us is a science fiction epic for the family crowd. A young man (Asa Butterfield) raised by scientists on Mars returns to Earth to find his father. What he encounters will challenge everything he thought he knew about life, and the efforts to stop him will likely teach us something about human nature. The trailer for this film is way too long to leave much mystery, but we are still on board for the adventure.
Passengers (December 23)
In the distant future, a spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 60 years early. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he eventually decides to wake up a second passenger. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star with direction from Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game). Need we say more?
Patriots Day (December 23)
The Boston Marathon bombing is still fresh in the minds of millions across the country, but star Mark Wahlberg and Lone Survivor director Peter Berg believe the world is ready to see the most recent terrorist attack on US soil brought to life on the big screen. The Christmas opening makes the hope for Oscar consideration known, and we believe they could very well receive the praise they seek with the right script.