12 movies to see in 2012

From a Batman blockbuster to an Abe Lincoln biopic, here are a dozen flicks we're psyched to see over the next year.

  • Elizabeth Banks, left, and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games

  • Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises

  • The cast of Dark Shadows

Elizabeth Banks, left, and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games

The year-end lists have been posted and perused, the what-did-it-all-mean? essays have been pored over, and the last of the big-name, Oscar-jockeying movies have muscled their way into theaters. Now that 2011 recedes rapidly in our rearview mirror, we look to the year ahead—which, not surprisingly, includes more sequels, prequels, adaptations of pop-lit staples and TV shows, as well as new entries from old faithfuls like Spielberg and Tarantino. Here are a dozen major titles we're itching to see in 2012. (Release dates are, of course, subject to change.)

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins's young-adult juggernaut is the kind of literary phenomenon we can get behind: one involving televised death matches between cute teenagers. The futuristic saga stars Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence, an unusually strong anchor for a tent-pole. (Mar 23)—JR

Dark Shadows
Team Edward's got nothing on Team Barnabas: Johnny Depp trades in his pirate's scabbard for bloodsucking incisors in Tim Burton's sure-to-be-oddball adaptation of the popular '60s gothic soap opera about a charismatic vampire and other groovy ghoulies. It's a perfect match of director, star and material. (May 11)—KU

The Dictator
How do you follow up creating iconically clueless B-boys, Kazakh journalists and fashionistas? Easy: Play a dense totalitarian despot. Sacha Baron Cohen and Borat director Larry Charles jettison the gonzo approach, but lines such as "Welcome to America...the birthplace of AIDS!" suggest they've retained their brilliant sense of bad taste. (May 11)—DF

Director Ridley Scott has made only two sci-fi movies during his career: Alien and Blade Runner. That's a flawless track record; Scott's long-awaited return to the squishy universe of the former (a prequel, with actors including Michael Fassbender) has us seeing stars. (June 8)—JR

The Dark Knight Rises
The final chapter of Christopher Nolan's Batman revamp swoops in to deliver the last word on the Caped Crusader as America's warped social conscience. Yes, Tom Hardy's masked Bane is apparently the Mushmouth of supervillains, but if anyone's capable of potentially taking the superhero genre to cerebral new levels, it's Nolan. Bring on the Knight. (July 20)—DF

Writer-director Rian Johnson showed plenty of promise in Brick and The Brothers Bloom. Will this time-traveling thriller—about an assassin tasked with killing his future self—be his, ahem, quantum leap to the big leagues? With Johnson's talent and a cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, we sure think so. (Sept 28)—KU

Taken 2
CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) was an unstoppable killing machine out to rescue his abducted kid in the butt-kicking 2008 revenge thriller. In the sequel, the tables have turned: Mills is now the kidnapee and his offspring has to save his bad ass. This promises to be a vengeful dish worth savoring. (Oct 5)—KU

We actually get excited about new James Bond films in this, the Daniel Craig era. Redoubling on quality control after 2008's disappointing Quantum of Solace, the latest chapter has creepy Javier Bardem playing an archnemesis; no word on his haircut yet. (Nov 9)—JR

The Hobbit
We Lord of the Rings fans crossed our fingers that Peter Jackson would eventually tackle the Tolkien trilogy's prequel. File under wish granted: The Aussie filmmaker returns to Middle Earth to chronicle Bilbo Baggins's journey from Hobbit homebody to dragon-fighting badass. For LOTR diehards, this is our new preciousss. (Dec 14)—DF

World War Z
That's Z for zombie, but can flesh chompers withstand a somber Children of Men--style treatment and faux-documentary vibe? Brad Pitt interviews survivors of a new Greatest Generation; let's hope they keep it as political as Max Brooks's novel. (Dec 21)—JR

Django Unchained
Everyone assumed exploitation superfan Quentin Tarantino would one day make a spaghetti Western, though his Django isn't a gunslinger-for-hire; rather, he's a former slave (played by Jamie Foxx), dealing out payback in the Deep South. Expect a Molotov cocktail of meta-references and enough racial epithets to give the NAACP epileptic fits. (Dec 25)—DF

We may be getting only one Steven Spielberg movie next winter, but it's sure to be a lightning rod: a look at the final months of our 16th President, starring the chameleonic Daniel Day-Lewis as Honest Abe. Thank goodness the film's a mere 11 months, and not four score and seven years, away. (December)—KU

Follow David Fear @davidlfear, Joshua Rothkopf @joshrothkopf and Keith Uhlich @keithuhlich on Twitter.

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