Even with some of the best movies of 2015 still to come in the next several weeks (Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight; Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russell’s Joy; a little thing we’ve heard about called Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), there’s a whole lot to look forward to in the year on the horizon. Already we’re salivating for the ambitious returns of Martin Scorsese and Richard Linklater, not to mention all the blockbusters, Oscar hopefuls, sci-fi movies and romantic comedies that a well-balanced cinematic diet requires. Here are 25 of 2016’s must-sees.
RECOMMENDED: More 2016 predictions
The ultimate smackdown? Anyway, superhero team-ups are all the rage these days, so it was inevitable that some bright spark would think of putting the most recent caped crusader, Henry Cavill from Man of Steel, up against the reigning Dark Knight. Sadly, Christian Bale didn’t want anything to do with this, so they’ve turned to Ben Affleck instead (nope, we still can’t get our heads around it either). The basic thrust is that Batman is mistrustful of Sup’s unchecked, godlike power. Expect wall-to-wall thumping and grunting. We can’t wait.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens March 25, 2016.
The big news with this blockbuster adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved fairy tale isn’t that Steven Spielberg is making his second motion-capture animated movie after 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin, or that he’s hauled in a super-impressive cast, including Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant, plus Bill Hader and Rebecca Hall. No, the real story is that Spielberg has re-teamed with Melissa Mathison (R.I.P.), the legendary screenwriter of E.T the Extra-Terrestrial. Expect magic.
The BFG opens July 1, 2016.
Renee Zellweger has been spotted with a baby bump filming in London’s foodie-friendly Borough Market. The new film follows Bridget’s journey into motherhood. Colin Firth is back as love interest Mark Darcy, but Hugh Grant won’t be returning. Even if the character feels like a chick-lit relic, there’s no denying Zellweger’s charm in what still may be her signature role.
Bridget Jones’s Baby opens September 16, 2016.
The Sony hacking scandal gave us a taste of the lovably inappropriate jokes we can expect from Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest—he plays a British soccer hooligan whose brother (Mark Strong) is a suave MI5 spy. According to the leaks, one joke features the Queen contracting HIV and passing it on to the Pope. What else were you expecting?
The Brothers Grimsby opens February 26, 2016.
Ready for another Marvel superhero movie? Wait, come back! This one could actually be pretty great. The cast is the main draw: Benedict Cumberbatch brings his usual squirrelly awkwardness as the odd Doctor, a caped neurosurgeon who battles supernatural threats. He’s backed by the likes of Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen and (we love this idea) Tilda Swinton as some kind of ancient Himalayan philosopher-wizard. Director Scott Derrickson has an iffy track record—he was the one responsible for that rotten remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still—but overall, Doctor Strange looks like a weird winner.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016.
It’s 1980. Summer comes to a close as a gang of college baseball players assemble at their Texas university to break in the team—and, of course, to break as many rules as possible. A beautiful, hilarious, deeply relaxed film about male bonding, Richard Linklater’s latest is glorious, ranking right up there with his masterpieces Dazed and Confused and Boyhood. It’s a ridiculously fun romp about intense competition and game-playing, but also a deceptively deep tale about embracing the future. And yes, it takes its title from a Van Halen song—the soundtrack also includes the Cars, Devo and basically every great band that ever existed.
Everybody Wants Some!! opens on April 15, 2016.
In the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts is a fictional guide to magical creatures penned by Newt Scamander, a bold 1920s explorer and (super)naturalist. For her first original screenplay, Potter author J.K. Rowling tells Scamander’s story as he romps around Depression-era America tracking mythical monsters. The crew may be Potter veterans—David Yates returns as director, along with producers David Heyman and Steve Kloves—but the cast is all new. Eddie Redmayne plays Scamander, joined by Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens November 18, 2016.
Meryl Streep stars as famously terrible opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins, a real-life 20th-century heiress who used her wealth to pursue her dream of professional singing despite being tone-deaf. Hugh Grant plays Jenkins’s much-younger husband, an aristocratic English actor determined to shield her from the truth. Does Meryl have any room left on that Oscar shelf?
Release date to be confirmed.
Was remaking Ghostbusters a good idea? Not really. Was remaking Ghostbusters with some of the world’s finest female comedians under the direction of Bridesmaids creator Paul Feig a good idea? That’s a big ten-four. Purists on the Internet seem hell-bent on pre-emptively hating this big-budget reboot, but we can’t wait. Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Kristen Wiig battling the supernatural? Chris Hemsworth co-starring as their long-suffering secretary Kevin? Cameos from Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver and Dan Aykroyd? What about this doesn't sound completely amazing?
Ghostbusters opens July 15, 2016.
Does it matter that the producers of this adaptation of Paula Hawkins’s London-set amnesia thriller are transferring it to suburban America? Not if they manage to re-create the suspense and ingenious twists—and don’t pull a Hollywood cop-out by softening its unlikable, stalkery female lead character. Emily Blunt stars in what could be the next Gone Girl.
The Girl on the Train opens October 7, 2016.
This one’s got us seriously stoked: Matt Damon stars in a fantasy-inflected action-adventure inspired by myths surrounding the building of the Great Wall of China. He’s joined by Willem Dafoe and Infernal Affairs star Andy Lau, heading up a huge international cast. Best of all, the director is Zhang Yimou, the crown prince of modern Chinese filmmaking, whose work ranges from award-winning dramas like Raise the Red Lantern to wild kung-fu flicks Hero and House of Flying Daggers—and even the Beijing Olympics’s opening ceremony. The word “epic” may not quite cover it.
The Great Wall opens November 23, 2016.
It’s impossible to watch the trailer of the Coen brothers’ latest without a big goofy smile on your face. The star-studded comedy is set in 1950s Hollywood, with Josh Brolin playing a fixer whose job is to keep the private lives of the stars hush-hush. George Clooney is a matinee idol kidnapped for ransom. Elsewhere, expect the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.
Hail, Caesar! opens on February 5, 2016.
There are two adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved novel on their way, and while the second one (due in 2017) might be a little darker, this one’s got the star wattage. Iron Man director Jon Favreau helms a motion-capture cartoon on an epic scale, with voices provided by the likes of Bill Murray (perfectly cast as Baloo), Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and Scarlett Johansson. Expect something a little grittier than Disney’s goofy original.
The Jungle Book opens April 15, 2016.
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) is one of the most interesting genre specialists working today. Doubling down on his usual actor, Michael Shannon, Nichols does extremely well by sci-fi, resulting in a film that bears flattering comparison to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Adam Driver plays a kindly scientist, and young Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent) is a boy with special powers hunted by the government.
Midnight Special opens on March 18, 2016.
It’s J-Law…in space! Now that she’s done saving the future from President Snow, Jennifer Lawrence is free to take a pleasure cruise in this sci-fi anti-romance from The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum. Chris Pratt plays a cryogenically frozen passenger on a deep-space liner who wakes up 90 years before he’s supposed to (we’ve all had those days). To relieve the boredom, he selfishly decides to defrost a companion.
Passengers opens December 21, 2016.
Can’t bear the thought of waiting two years for each new Star Wars movie? You won’t have to: Sandwiched between each film in the continuing saga, Disney will release an additional “anthology” installment—a stand-alone feature exploring the backstory of the Star Wars universe. Directed by Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards and featuring a top-flight international cast including Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One tells of how, in the weeks before the first Star Wars, a brave band of rebels stole the plans to the Death Star out from under the nose of Darth Vader.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens on December 16, 2016.
The first unofficial set pictures have emerged from Martin Scorsese’s 17-century priest drama, revealing a super-skinny Andrew Garfield, who lost nearly 40 pounds for the role. He plays a Jesuit missionary who travels to Japan after hearing rumors that his mentor (Liam Neeson) has abandoned the Church. Silence is based on a 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo, the Japanese Graham Greene. Expect a Cannes world premiere.
Release date to be confirmed.
No, this isn’t a behind-the-scenes look at David Lynch’s Paris nightclub Silencio (though we’d like to see that, too). This is a new film by genius director Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her). All we know: It stars Spanish actors Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as the older and younger versions of the lead character. Almodóvar is also calling this his “return to the cinema of women.” Sold.
Release date to be confirmed.
Like, totally beyond. Leading men Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are back in the figure-hugging suits, but the behind-the-camera team is new for this third movie in the rebooted franchise. Director J.J. Abrams has jumped starship for a galaxy far, far away, leaving Fast and Furious alum Justin Lin holding the reins. Screenwriting duties have fallen, in part, to costar Simon Pegg, who cowrote Shaun of the Dead. Will it be warp speed ahead, or one of those annoying wormholes?
Star Trek Beyond opens July 22, 2016.
Imagine The Dirty Dozen on a night out at an underground fetish club, and you’ve got the general idea of this bizarre supervillain mashup. It’s basically The Avengers for bad guys, as raving loony the Joker (Jared Leto), psycho marksman Deadshot (Will Smith) and numerous other leather-clad nutjobs team up to take down a force even more evil than they are. Expect cartoon violence galore.
Suicide Squad opens August 5, 2016.
Rumors of a Trainspotting sequel have been raging for years. Complications arose when director Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor famously fell out after Boyle cast Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. Now, finally, Trainspotting 2 is happening. All four leading actors are back—McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle and Ewen Bremner—and the plot is loosely based on Porno, novelist Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting sequel. Filming starts in early summer, and Danny Boyle has said he wants it in theaters by Christmas 2016.
Release date to be confirmed.
Matt Damon returns to the franchise that made him an action hero—though the film itself is still untitled. Will they bow to the obvious and call it Bourne Again? Plot details are thin, but we assume it would have taken a pretty strong script to tempt both Damon and Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass back to the spy game. A terrific international supporting cast includes Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander, plus Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel, one of whom has to be playing the villain.
Untitle Bourne Sequel opens July 29, 2016.
It’s been many months since Robert Eggers’s astonishing horror debut first cast its spell on us at Sundance 2015, but few movies are so worth the wait. The story of a 17th-century family banished from a village and forced to resettle on the border of some very haunted woods, The Witch isn’t being released close to Halloween. But when a film is this scary, it doesn’t matter.
The Witch opens February 26, 2016.
For those who haven’t been keeping up, this one focuses on the Michael Fassbender/James McAvoy band of mutants, rather than the Ian McKellen/Patrick Stewart brigade (yes, it’s getting confusing). The specifics of Bryan Singer’s latest X-buster are being kept under wraps, but in the comic books, Apocalypse is a creature of unimaginable power who awakens from centuries-long slumber and decides to wipe out the human race. Jennifer Lawrence returns as slinky shapeshifter Mystique (even though, let’s face it, she’s better than this now), along with franchise newbie Oscar Isaac as the titular villain.
X-Men: Apocalypse opens May 27, 2016.
The big question: A full 15 years after Zoolander, does anyone still care about the ridiculously good-looking supermodel and pioneer of the male pout long before Daniel Craig? Actually, that’s not such a big question—of course we do. Ben Stiller is back as Derek Zoolander, alongside original cast members Owen Wilson (tousle-haired knucklehead Hansel) and Will Ferrell (megalomaniac fashion tycoon Mugatu). Kristen Wiig also joins the cast.Zoolandler 2 opens February 12, 2016.