From Assassin’s Creed and Hail Caesar! to X-Men: Apocalypse, this year is shaping up to be a big one for Hollywood and movie fans alike, with an abundance of high-profile projects likely to make 2016 another record-breaking year at the box office.
We’ve covered the lesser-known films hitting theaters this year that we think you should keep on your radar. But what about the movies already making headlines and spawning water-cooler conversation?
Here are the 20 movies — from big-budget blockbusters to lower-profile projects — we think are shaping up to be must-see material this year.
The latest film from the Oscar-winning duo of Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, No Country For Old Men, True Grit) is always a big deal. This time around, it’s the story of a Hollywood “fixer” in the 1920s tasked with recovering a famous actor who’s been kidnapped. It’s also the third film in the Coen’s “Numbskull Trilogy” — a trio of films starring Clooney including the previously released O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty.
Ryan Reynolds’ solo debut as Marvel Comics’ mouthy mercenary has been in the works for more than five years now and, after a rocky start, the film has fast become one of the year’s most intriguing projects. From its “R” rating and its protagonist’s tendency to break the fourth wall, to its raunchy, irreverent approach to the superhero genre, Deadpool is shaping up to be a superhero film like nothing else we’ve seen.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Surprise! J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company somehow managed to keep this project a secret until the first trailer debuted, and now that the sequel is out, people are talking. Abrams has all but confirmed that the story of a small group of people living in a secluded bunker after a mysterious (and possibly non-existent) apocalyptic event is actually a pseudo-sequel to Cloverfield, Matt Reeves’ wildly popular, 2008 found-footage monster movie.
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
A big-screen brawl between two of the most iconic superheroes of all time pretty much sells itself, but Warner Bros. Pictures’ grim-and-gritty interpretation of the DC Comics universe certainly has its share of critics. Still, there’s no denying the appeal of seeing Batman and Superman on the same screen, and with the movie expected to introduce many of the other stars of WB’s burgeoning superhero movie-verse — including Wonder Woman and Aquaman — there’s a lot riding on this movie’s success.
Captain America: Civil War
The third installment of the Captain America franchise, Civil War is anything but a solo movie for Chris Evans’ solder-turned-superhero title character. Along with pitting the two most prominent superheroes of Marvel’s cinematic universe — Captain America and Iron Man — against each other, the film will also feature the debuts of the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and the African superhero, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
The Nice Guys
No one does crime thrillers like Shane Black, the writer/director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3. This film features one of his best lineups to date, with Ryan Gosling playing a tough-luck private investigator forced to team up with a brutish enforcer played by Russell Crowe in order to get to the bottom of a girl’s disappearance. As with all of Black’s films, dark comedy and violence ensues.
The conclusion to a trilogy of films that began with 2011’s franchise-rebooting X-Men: First Class, Apocalypse not only serves to introduce one of the mutant superhero team’s greatest comic-book villains, but also establish the next wave of characters for the franchise. The rebooted franchise will finally debut its own versions of classic X-Men teammates Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm, as well as other fan-favorite characters (Nightcrawler!) that were abandoned when the studio hit the “reset” button.
Moon and Source Code director, Duncan Jones, has been sequestered away working on this live-action adaptation of Blizzard’s hit video game series for the last five years and, from what we’ve seen of the film so far, his time seems to have been well spent. The film will explore the roots of the bitter conflict between the humans and orcs on the world of Azeroth, and looks to be as epic as any grand fantasy brought to life on the big screen.
Independence Day: Resurgence
The aliens are back, and with the exception of Will Smith’s character, so is most of the 1996 original film’s cast. Yes, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman will indeed return for another battle with the alien invaders who blew up the White House 20 years ago — but this time around, Earth has the benefit of two decades’ worth of alien technology that will (hopefully) have us better prepared for the assault. Say it with us now: “Welcome to Earth (again)!”
Director and co-writer Paul Feig ensured that his upcoming reboot of the popular paranormal comedy franchise would be the subject of much discussion when he chose to ignore the continuity of the two prior films and replace the original, all-male cast with a quartet of leading ladies. Whether the gender-bending is a gimmick or inspired casting has yet to be determined, but Feig is certainly under a lot of pressure to prove that he had a good reason for rebooting/remaking one of Hollywood’s most beloved comedies.
Next page: 10 more highly anticipated movies releasing in 2016
La La Land
Writer/director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 2014 drama, Whiplash, goes all-in on the musical theme with a romantic comedy about a Los Angeles jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling and an actress played by Emma Stone. Along with Gosling and Jones, Chazelle’s musical features Oscar winner J.K. Simmons in a supporting role — a pairing of actor and director that worked out pretty well last time around.
Star Trek Beyond
The fast-paced tone of the film’s first trailer seems to suggest that the third installment of the rebooted franchise is boldly going where the series hasn’t gone before, thanks to The Fast and the Furious franchise director, Justin Lin. While there’s some concern about how viable it is to blend the sensibilities of Lin’s high-octane action series with the Star Trek universe, if he draws from the best elements of both franchises, fans are in for a real treat.
The still-untitled fifth installment of the Jason Bourne franchise is taking a back-to-its-roots approach by re-teaming original star Matt Damon with director Paul Greengrass, who helmed the extremely successful second and third films in the series (The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum). It’s unknown whether The Bourne Legacy star Jeremy Renner will make an appearance in the upcoming film, but here’s hoping the new film sets up a potential team-up for Damon and Renner’s characters down the road.
Superhero group films have been all the rage lately, but this upcoming film from Fury director David Ayer takes a decidedly different approach by assembling a team of DC Comics supervillains. Will Smith and Margot Robbie portray two of the villains forced to undertake a dangerous mission, with Jared Leto making his debut as the latest big-screen iteration of the “Clown Prince of Crime,” Joker.
The Magnificent Seven
Collaborations between director Antoine Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington are generally a winning formula at this point, and the presence of Training Day co-star, Ethan Hawke, and Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World star, Chris Pratt, turn this remake of the classic western into a must-see movie. The original 1960 film — an American remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai — is widely regarded as one of the greatest westerns ever made, but Fuqua has proven himself more than capable of creating modern classics.
Beyond the obvious appeal of Benedict Cumberbatch in, well… anything, the debut of Marvel’s sorcerer supreme is notable because it opens an entirely new area of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Sinister director Scott Derrickson dives into the depths of the dark, occult regions of the MCU for this story, which will provide the origin of Earth’s most powerful defender of the mortal plane.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling stepped up to fill the void after the conclusion of both her series of novels and the films based on them with this prequel story set years before the events of the Harry Potter saga. Rowling makes her screenwriting debut with the film, which casts Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne as a “magizoologist” who scours the world studying magical creatures.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
We’ll have to wait until 2017 for a sequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but Star Wars fans can look forward to another adventure in a galaxy far, far away with this prequel film about the team of Rebel Alliance soldiers who undertake a mission to steal the plans for the Galactic Empire’s greatest weapon, the Death Star. Set just before the events of Episode IV – A New Hope, the film is directed by Monsters and Godzilla filmmaker Gareth Edwards (who’s no stranger to cinematic spectacle) and will reportedly feature the return of everyone’s favorite Sith Lord, Darth Vader, to the big screen.
Ubisoft’s wildy successful video game series is getting the big-screen treatment courtesy of Michael Fassbender and his Macbeth director, Justin Kurzel, who seem intent to make a film that bucks the “video games make bad movies” trend. In premise alone, the film has lots of potential with its story of a man who discovers that he’s descended from an ancient line of assassins engaged in a bitter feud with the Knights Templar and must live through his ancestor’s memories in order to save the future. While the movie can’t possibly cover as much narrative ground as the games in just one film, the possibility is there for this to be a very special movie.
Mega-stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in this sci-fi film based on one of the most popular scripts to make its way around Hollywood in recent years. Penned by Prometheus screenwriter Jon Spaihts and directed by The Imitation Game filmmaker Morten Tyldum, the film follows a passenger (Prat) on a colonizing ship bound for a distant planet who’s accidentally woken up 60 years before arrival. In order to avoid spending the next 60 years alone, he wakes up another passenger (Lawrence) to keep him company.
- The 50 best movies on Netflix right now
- The best movies on Disney+ right now
- The best TV shows on Amazon Prime Video right now
- The 68 best shows on Hulu right now
- The 95 best movies on HBO Max right now