At first glance, it’s hard to imagine 2016 being a bigger year for movies than 2015. Four films released in the last 12 months made more than $1.5 billion each at the box office, which lead the domestic film industry to a record-setting $11 billion year. That is a lot of money (a good portion of which is owed to The Force Awakens), but we have a feeling 2016 may raise the bar even higher thanks to a solid mix of big sequels, reboots and original ideas that will offer something for everyone who loves going to the movies.
We sat down to collect our most anticipated films of the next year and initially jotted down more than 75 titles, many of which still did not have an official release date. We went back and forth over what titles we actually believe we will pay to see on opening weekend and that is how we ended up with the number we have now: 41. If you are willing to go to the cinema twice in one weekend two or three times in the next year, you can use this guide to have a movie calendar that puts all your friends’ nightlife activities to shame.
To make the most of this list, jot down the titles and releases dates in your personal calendar. Then, make a New Year’s resolution with your best friends to see at least a movie a week for the next year. That way, you can make time for every title on this list and still have 11 weeks to fill with any new/indie titles that may arise between now and December 31, 2016. Your friends will appreciate the planning you’ve done, and your relationship will benefit from all the added time you spend together. Just don’t overdose on movie theater “butter.” Trust us.
The Boy (Expect it: January 22)
We want so desperately to believe The Boy will be a good horror movie that we felt compelled to add it to our list. It has been far too long since Hollywood delivered a doll-related horror film that wasn’t attached to the Chucky franchise, but a strange little boy known as Brahms could turn the tide. The film follows an American nanny who is sent overseas to care for a child who is not really a child at all. Brahms is a doll, owned and cared for by a couple who lost the son several years prior to the start of the film. They believe he is real, and soon you will too.
The Finest Hours (Expect it: January 29)
The first of what will be many 2016 titles based on true stories, The Finest Hours tells the story of brave men pitted against nature in the midst of a deadly storm. The CGI-fueled disaster movie stars Casey Affleck and Chris Pine, one with a far more believable New England accent than the other. Chances of success seem high for the film, but a late-January release for big-budget films like this usually means the studio doesn’t have much faith in the title.
Hail, Caesar! (Expect it: February 5)
You know who never allows moviegoers to leave the cinema disappointed? Joel and Ethan Coen. Their latest film, Hail, Caesar! probably won’t be an exception. The story follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood fixer in the 1920s who springs into action when a movie star (George Clooney) gets kidnapped and an actress (Scarlett Johansson) becomes pregnant during production of an epic blockbuster. The film has been planned since 2004, but a busy movie slate has kept production out of reach until now. Expect a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor mixed with random spurts of violence and profanity, otherwise known as a typical Coen bros. affair.
Deadpool (Expect it: February 12)
The decision to cast Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool may be the best decision anyone working in comic book movies has made in the genre’s history outside the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Reynolds embodies the character of Wade Wilson, otherwise known as the merc with the mouth, to a degree we haven’t seen in adapted storytelling in quite some time. Series creator Robert Liefeld has already give the film his seal of approval, and that is more than enough to sell us on giving Deadpool our hard-earned cash one or six times beginning February 12. Don’t believe us? Watch the latest trailer now.
Triple 9 (Expect it: February 26)
Lawless director John Hillcoat returns to the big screen with this gritty heist thriller starring an all-star cast the includes Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet. Twisting the old cops versus robbers story, this film pairs hardened criminals with corrupt cops against a dangerous Russian mob.
The Witch (Expect it: February 26)
In early New England there lives a witch who is nothing like the one you read about as a child. This witch doesn’t ride a broom or command an army of flying chimps, but she does make the hair on the back of our neck stand on end. It’s easy for well-edited trailers to make any scary movie look good, but early reactions to writer/director Robert Eggers’ latest creation have been positive across the board. We trust our industry peers and you should too. This is the scary movie to beat in early 2016.
The Lobster (Expect it: March)
The Lobster was a festival hit in 2015, but unfortunately most audiences won’t have a chance to see this wonderfully constructed sci-fi story until early March. Colin Farrell stars as a man who is faced with an impossible task: find someone to spend his life with in 45 days or be turned into an animal for the rest of his life. If he fails to find a lover, Farrell’s character will choose to become a lobster. The concept is complex, but the execution is surprisingly simple, and the performances of everyone involved are great.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Expect it: March 18)
Someone in the office spoiled the finale of this series for everyone else, but we’re so committed at this point we’re going to ride out the adaptations. Jeff Daniels has replaced Kate Winslet as the powerful authority figure with good intentions and nefarious plans, but everyone else is back. Will Tris and Four find time for love in the face of war? Will they ever ziplane through the city again? Only time (and probably one more sequel) will tell.
Midnight Special (Expect it: March 18)
We wholeheartedly believe filmmaker Jeff Nichols to be a young cinema icon. Take Shelter and Mud are each quiet works of art, and so far his latest film looks to be no different. Featuring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kristen Dunst, Adam Drive and young Jaeden Lieberher, the film follows a father on the run from various nefarious groups with his young son—who just so happens to have super powers. This may sound like something you would find in a Marvel title, but Nichols is delivering an original tale with this film, and it’s poised to be his biggest release to date.
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Expect it: March 25)
We’ll be the first to admit that the previews for Batman V Superman were more than a bit underwhelming, but we would be lying if said we were staying home the weekend of March 25. Zack Snyder has accepted the challenge of launching the DC cinematic universe, and we are willing to give his vision a chance. Plus, Ben Affleck is already a strong contender for cinema’s best Bruce Wayne. His take on the character, at least from what we have seen, is the perfect mix of a confident asshole and sly playboy. As long as Snyder keeps his penchant for destruction porn to a minimum there is a chance Dawn Of Justice could be better than we all believe it’ll be. Probably not, but mediocre Batman movies are still better than no Batman movies, right?
Elvis & Nixon (Expect it: April)
Michael Shannon will appear in at least 11 films this year, and three of them have made this list. Of them, Elvis & Nixon is perhaps the most peculiar. Shannon stars as Elvis opposite Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon. The story tells of the day these two historic icons met at the White House, but unfortunately few additional details are available. Colin Hanks, Johnny Knoxville and Evan Peters also appear.
The Jungle Book (Expect it: April 15)
If you had told us two years ago we would care to see The Jungle Book rebooted we would have spit out our coffee in disgust. If that same timeline were indeed true, we would now be apologizing because the upcoming CGI-reliant creation from Jon Favreau has us wishing to return to our childhood all over again. Everyone from Scarlett Johansson to Bill Murray lent their voices to a bold new vision of Mowgli’s timeless journey, and the brilliant animation has us open to any changes Justin Marks may make with his screenplay.
Everybody Wants Some (Expect it: April 15)
Richard Linklater calls Everybody Wants Some the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed And Confused. We’re not 100 percent sure what that means, but the ’80s-set college film does feel born of the same coming-of-age concept that drove the director’s biggest work. Linklater has seemingly avoided setting films in college up to this point (D&C takes place in high school, Boyhood ends just as the first semester begins, etc.), so we have to believe his decision to explore it now comes from a well reasoned place. The film will premiere at SXSW, which is a match made in heaven, before rolling out nationwide in April.
Captain America: Civil War (Expect it: May 6)
Marvel is giving us two potentially great films in 2016, and the first of them is Captain America: Civil War. Based on the best-selling graphic novel of the same name, Civil War will divide the MCU’s beloved cinematic universe by pitting Tony Stark’s Iron Man against Steve Rogers’ Captain America in a battle involving the rights of those special abilities. The title may have Cap’s name, but essentially every Avenger will take part in the film (except the Hulk—allegedly), as well as the first appearance of both Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Like Dawn Of Justice, this film pretty much carries the full responsibility of launching the next phase of a large universe, but we fully believe the Russo Brothers (Winter Soldier) are more than up to the task.
Snowden (Expect it: May 13)
There was a time when Snowden was scheduled for Christmas 2015, but an overcrowded market forced the film into early summer 2016. This means star Joseph Gordon-Levitt probably won’t receive the awards buzz he may have hoped for, but with Oliver Stone at the helm we still have high expectations for this modern day spy story. 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.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Expect it: May 20)
Did Neighbors, the 2014 film about a young family fighting a fraternity for suburban bliss, demand a sequel? No. Not at all. We were pretty shocked when second film was announced, but after catching ourselves recalling the De Niro sequence for the 25th time, we actually wanted to know what Mack, Kelly and Teddy would do next. The answer, at least from the title, appears to be that the fraternity and family will now join forces to battle a sorority who has recently moved into town (featuring Chloë Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez). We’re in, but our expectations are low.
The Nice Guys (Expect it: May 20)
Ryan Gosling? Sold. Russell Crowe? Sold (as long as he’s not going to sing). The Nice Guys brings together two hollywood heavyweights for a California crime caper set in the 1970s. The chemistry between the leads had us sold from the first trailer, but knowing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 scribe Shane Black is behind the story has us believing this film could be the big surprise of summer 2016.
X-Men Apocalypse (Expect it: May 27)
Oscar Isaac is the new Chris Pratt. First he brings Poe Dameron to the Star Wars universe, and now he’s bringing one of the greatest comic villains in history to life for 20th Century Fox and Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Apocalypse is the granddaddy of all mutants, and he will use his incredible power to bring about a new age of existence, free of mankind. That is, if Xavier and his team of mutants don’t stop him first.
Now You See Me: The Second Act (Expect it: June 10)
Those mischievous magicians are back once again, and this time they’re bringing along Daniel Radcliffe for more CGI-aided slight of hand. The Four Horsemen will have to work together to clear their name after being framed by a tech giant (Radcliffe) with a bad attitude and a hint of jealousy. How or why magic will be needed to do that is beyond us, but that is part of the fun. If you can’t enjoy the ridiculous nature of these films for what they are you’re really missing out.
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (Expect it: June 10)
James Wan passed on other, likely bigger projects to helm the sequel to The Conjuring because he couldn’t bare to leave the budding horror franchise in the hands of anyone else. If we could, we would buy Wan a drink for being such a good dude. His unique vision for the world of horror, paired with the fine acting talent of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, makes for an intoxicating cinematic experience. The plot for The Enfield Poltergeist is currently under wraps, but rumors of the Amityville horror case playing into the story have circulated online.
Finding Dory (Expect it: June 17)
Pixar has a number of sequels in their product pipeline right now, and Finding Dory is the next due to come off the editing bay hard drive. Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish will leave her life with Nemo and his family in search of her home. The only problem is, she doesn’t exactly know where that place is…Yet.
Central Intelligence (Expect it: June 17)
We love movies about geeks who overcome the ridiculous of school aged peers and that is the story the lies at the heart of Central Intelligence. Bob (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a former high school loser, is now a lethal CIA agent on his way home under the guise of preparing for his reunion. Upon arrival, he recruits the help of former big man on campus Calvin (Kevin Hart) for help with a big case. Shootouts, car chases and a whole lot of unpredictable behavior soon will no doubt ensue.
Independence Day: Resurgence (Expect it: June 24)
The aliens are back, but this time they’ve brought a bigger ship. This could very well be the best-worst idea for a movie sequel, but our love of the original has us hoping for the best. No Will Smith, but we will follow Jeff Goldblum wherever he chooses to go.
The Purge 3 (Expect it: July 1)
Third time is rarely a charm when it comes to horror movies (we’re talking about you, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary), but The Purge may be an exception. The limitless possibilities for stories set during a night when all crime is legal has us foaming at the mouth for more information on the popular franchise’s next entry. We do know Frank Grillo will return, and though his role in this title will no doubt be overshadowed by his turn in Civil War we know he has the skill needed to carry this series to a new, more enticing level. How they can up the violence is beyond us, but we certainly want to see them try.
The Secret Life Of Pets (Expect it: July 8)
Most of us have pets, and as anyone with creatures living in or around their home knows there is a point every day when we must leave those tiny bundles of joy and venture into the cold, boring world. Do you really believe your beloved Spot or Paws simply sleeps the day away until you return? That is what your pets want you to believe. The truth is far more interesting, and this new animated film will tell reveal the truth you’ve been hoping was real all your life.
Ghostbusters (Expect it: July 15)
Who ya gonna call? Paul Feig is keeping the trailer for this highly anticipated reboot under wraps for the time being, but there is no way a cast that includes Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Chris Hemsworth can disappoint.
Star Trek Beyond (Expect it: July 22)
Fast And Furious savior Justin Lin has set his sights on breathing new life into on of the world’s most beloved science-fiction franchises. It is clear from the initial trailer this is not the same kind of film JJ Abrams presented with the last two Star Trek entries, but we hate to question Lin’s vision before we see it in full. He did make us care about the Toretto clan as if they were the modern day Corleones, after all, so we might as well go in with high hopes and open minds.
Untitled Bourne film (Expect it: July 29)
After a brief time away Matt Damon is returning to the spy franchise that helped establish him as something more than a damn good dramatic actor. Damon has never been more of a badass than he is when working under the guise of Jason Bourne, and we can only imagine the kind of over-the-top action he will find himself in when this film hits theaters in late summer. No word yet if Jeremy Renner will appear, but to be honest we don’t really care either way.
Suicide Squad (Expect it: August 5)
David Ayer more than proved his ability to showcase man’s most violent ways in Fury, and now he will attempt to bring that sense of visceral storytelling to the world of comics. Suicide Squad tells of a group of evil does recruited by the government to stop even worse evildoers. Margot Robbie (Focus, The Wolf Of Wall Street) has the responsibility of carrying the film in the role of Harley Quinn, but she has a more than capable supporting cast at her side to help keep things interesting. That said, we’re still not sold on Jared Leto’s Joker.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Expect it: September 2)
The end is nigh? Fourteen years after Resident Evil rolled into theaters, Milla Jovovich and husband Paul W.S. Anderson are closing their long-running zombie franchise with a film that has been anticipated by fans since 2012’s Retribution. While the quality of these titles has varied from picture to picture, the love of the genre has never been put into question. If you want to see the undead meet their fate, this is the number one film you need to see in the new year. There will be blood. Oh yes, there will be blood.
The Magnificent Seven (Expect it: 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 reimagining. That said, true movie fans should make it a point to witness the 1960 original before September.
Gambit (Expect it: October 7)
Channing Tatum said he wanted to star in this movie, and this year he gets his wish. The Alabama native will use his best New Orleans accent to embody the smoothest X-Men character in his own solo adventure under the direction of Doug Liman (Edge Of Tomorrow). Gambit is a charming master thief-turned-hero. He possesses the mutant ability to charge inanimate objects with kinetic energy, causing them to explode, and is perhaps best known for throwing playing cards. The plot of the film remains unknown, but an origin story is likely.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Expect it: October 21)
The other Tom Cruise action 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 where the character could go next. We assume he’s not going backwards, but really that’s just a hunch.
Inferno (Expect it: 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.
Doctor Strange (Expect it: 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. Lead 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.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (Expect it: 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 man 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.
Moana (Expect it: November 23)
There is very little information known about the latest film from Ron Clements and John Musker at this point, but what we do know has us excited. The story revolves around a young women who must rely on her navigation skills to journey across the sea to be with her family. Joining her is her hero, Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who we’re sure will provide comedic relief.
Bad Santa 2 (Expect it: December)
Thirteen years after cussing and drinking his way through the holidays, Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie is coming back to theaters with a new tale of lewd and crude Christmas fun. Plot details are thin right now, but the entire lead cast is expected to return, including Kathy Bates. Can the magic happen again? Our fingers are crossed.
Star Wars: Rogue One (Expect it: 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.
Passengers (Expect it: December 21)
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?
Assassin’s Creed (Expect it: December 21)
A major star (Michael Fassbender) steps out of their comfort zone for an adaptation of one of the biggest selling video games of all-time. What could possibly go wrong? All kidding aside, there are few people we would trust more to bring Callum Lynch to life. Outsiders to the game may be surprised to learn the full plot, which includes elements of time travel, but in the end this movie will live or die based on the its action. Assassin’s Creed offers players a very particular form of stealth combat, and if executed correctly it could make for brilliant theatrical entertainment. Here’s hoping Macbeth helmer Justin Kurzel is up to the task.