The past year was a rough one in many ways, but it did give us some great movies. From the cerebral sci-fi of Arrival to the raunchy, genre-busting action of Deadpool, 2016 was a good year for imaginative, groundbreaking films — and the coming year promises a similar cornucopia of reasons to head to your theater of choice.
Whether your tastes trend more toward action-heavy adventures, eccentric humor, thought-provoking sci-fi, or even nightmare-inducing horror, 2017 should offer plenty of thrills on the big screen. There’s something for everyone, really, but here are the 12 movies we’re most excited about heading into the new year. (We’ve listed them in order of their release date, so it’s easier to mark your calendars.)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (February 10)
The first John Wick was one of 2014’s biggest surprises, seemingly coming out of nowhere to offer up a fresh spin on the action genre and re-establish its star, Keanu Reeves, as a bona fide action hero. The follow-up to that film appears to be doubling down on everything that worked for John Wick and brings back some of the first installment’s most memorable characters, as well as bringing back writer Derek Kolstad and co-director Chad Stahelski, who will fly solo behind the camera this time around. If any movie is capable of kicking off 2017 in explosive fashion, it’s John Wick: Chapter 2, and we can’t wait to see whether the sequel can capture the magic of all that bullet-riddled, fast-paced action a second time.
Logan (March 3)
New installments of the X-Men franchise haven’t exactly inspired a lot of excitement in past years — particularly when it comes to Hugh Jackman’s solo adventures as Wolverine. Logan is an entirely different matter, however, for several reasons. Not only is it Jackman’s final film as the popular Marvel Comics mutant, but it’s also the first R-rated installment to feature the bladed hero. The success of Deadpool clearly gave 20th Century Fox the courage to take one of Marvel’s most feral superheroes off the leash he’s been on for the last 16 years or so, and you can bet that Jackman and director James Mangold are going to bid farewell to Wolverine in bloody style with Logan. The fact that the film is clearly inspired by one of the most popular Wolverine stories of all time, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s 2008 miniseries Wolverine: Old Man Logan, also looks primed to raise the levels of both emotion and comic-book nerdery. At the risk of setting ourselves up for disappointment, Logan looks like the Wolverine movie we’ve been waiting for since the character first unsheathed his claws in 2000’s X-Men.
Alien: Covenant (May 19)
One of the most common complaints about 2012’s Alien prequel, Prometheus, is that the film created more questions than it answered when it comes to the mythology behind the sci-fi horror franchise’s deadly xenomorphs. Director Ridley Scott appears to have heard that criticism loud and clear, as Alien: Covenant is being framed — by Scott and the film’s screenwriters — as a significant part of the bridge between the events of Prometheus and 1979’s franchise-spawning film. The first trailer for Covenant certainly seems to support that theory, as it channels much of the same tone of the 1979 film while drawing on some visual elements from the 2012 prequel and at least one of its characters, the android David, played by Michael Fassbender. If Covenant can pull off that union between Prometheus and Alien, we’re in for a real treat (and some sleepless nights).
Wonder Woman (June 2)
We’re not sure whether our excitement about Wonder Woman says more about how good the previews for the film have been so far or how bad the other films in Warner Bros. Pictures’ superhero universe — past and future — have looked, but Gal Gadot’s upcoming solo debut as the DC Comics superheroine looks like it could very well be the critical home run that WB’s big-screen superhero universe desperately desires. Sure, we got burned by the polarizing and under-performing Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad (both of which made heaps of money, but got savaged by critics) but knowing how much potential there is in DC Comics’ stable of characters keeps us hoping that the studio will eventually figure out the best way to handle both the characters, and their cinematic universe. Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the best part of Batman V. Superman, so if we get more of that in her solo feature, it will go a long way toward getting us more excited about Justice League later in the year.
War For The Planet of the Apes (July 14)
Movie franchises typically don’t get better with each sequel (especially the third installment), but everything about the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise seems to go against conventional wisdom. The surprising recipient of a cerebral, compelling, and yes, award-winning modern makeover, the Planet of the Apes movies have combined exceptional storytelling with ground-breaking visual effects that make us question everything we knew about CGI characters. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes proved that the digitally created ape Caesar (performed by Andy Serkis) and his clan could carry a franchise from one film to the next without the company of recurring human characters, and War for the Planet of the Apes looks to up the ante by pitting the series’ ape characters against an even more ambitious cast of human characters, led by Woody Harrelson. The film is being described as a Heart of Darkness-esque story that sends Caesar into the midst of the remaining human survivors, and we’re eager to find out whether this story will be the one that finally tips the balance of power toward the apes.