Another year has gone by. I’ve done significantly better with my “most anticipated” list for this year than the previous one. As of my writing this, I’ve seen eight out of ten — with Inside Llewyn Davis opening in limited release today and Anomalisa nowhere to be found (although it appears to be still in progress). Now I set my sights on 2014, although it’s difficult to keep from looking even further ahead, given the well-publicized glut of big films currently planned for 2015. Two films that I had intended to put on this list have been pushed back a year: Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland and Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. Consequently, the coming year looks rather thin, but there are undoubtedly many discoveries to be made. Maybe remakes of Godzilla and Robocop — or sequels to The Muppets, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Amazing Spider-Man — will be among them. These will be the most heavily marketed movies; seeking them out won’t require any special effort. I’ll also keep my eye to the film festivals around the world, where many of the best movies show themselves for the first time. In a matter of months, the year might look quite different to me, but this is what it looks like right now.
(Honorable mention: Terrence Malick — he of the twenty-year gap between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line — has two new films currently in production, not counting the astronomy documentary Voyage of Time. One is untitled and the other is known as Knight of Cups. I don’t even know which of these films will end up coming out first, let alone exactly when. Any of the three would probably make this list if I had more concrete information.)
10. The Lego Movie
- Release: February 7
- With Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Jonah Hill
- Directors: Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Pixar has no movies slated for 2014. Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from directing. Disney will release Big Hero 6, based on a Marvel Comics superhero team, in November. Animation has suddenly hit a rough patch. I have no illusions that something called The Lego Movie will fix that problem, but I’m ready for it to surprise me. Lord and Miller made 21 Jump Street last year, which was quite funny and highly likable. Will this end up being an opportunistic knockoff of the Toy Story films? I can only hope not.
- Release: November 21
- With Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone
- Director: Francis Lawrence
Two films in, and they’ve still got me excited for what comes next. This makes twice in a row that a Hunger Games film takes up the #9 slot on my list. It doesn’t place any higher for two reasons. First, I’ve liked but not loved the movies so far. Second, there’s the whole “Part 1” thing. This movie will only be the prelude to the grand finale. Having still not read the books, I can’t say if the decision to split Mockingjay in two makes sense or not. But the ending of Catching Fire ensured that I will at least line up to see the next one.
8. Life Itself
- Release: Not set (Will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival)
- With Roger Ebert (and probably some other movie people)
- Director: Steve James
This is the first documentary that I’ve even considered for inclusion on a list like this. As a genre, the documentary is my biggest cinematic blind spot. Steve James is one of the most critically acclaimed documentarians in the world, and I haven’t seen any of his films yet. That explains this film’s relatively low placement. All I have to go on are his sterling reputation (not to mention Ebert’s) and the source material, a highly entertaining memoir of the same title. In 2013, I watched a handful of documentaries. 2014 might be my chance to dive in.
- Release: March 28
- With Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll, Emma Watson
- Director: Darren Aronofsky
Exodus comes out in December, but (1) that story has already been told in movie form and (2) Ridley Scott has been disappointing for a while now. This is the biblical epic for me. There are many tensions in play, which is to be expected for a movie that maybe isn’t quite sure who its audience is. Will Aronofsky’s personal (and, by all accounts, weird) vision get swallowed up in CGI and blockbuster tropes? Will Russell Crowe play Noah or just revert to playing Gladiator as he tends to in these situations? It’s tricky, but I know I want to see it.
- Release: Not set
- With Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, David Jensen, Scott Haze, Jaeden Lieberher, James Moses Black
- Director: Jeff Nichols
Nichols directed Take Shelter, one of my favorite movies of the last few years. His other two films, Shotgun Stories and Mud, were also very good. This one’s especially exciting because it’s a new direction for Nichols, a science-fiction film influenced by the work of John Carpenter. The cast looks solid, so I have high hopes for this one. The only hitch is that the movie doesn’t start shooting until early next year, so whether I get a chance to see it in 2014 is very uncertain. The film does have Warner Bros. behind it, though.
- Release: Not set
- With Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Martin Short
- Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
If this movie does indeed get released next year (or even 2015) it will be the quickest turn-around for Anderson since the 90s. With the movie currently in post-production, things are looking good. Inherent Vice will continue Anderson’s journey through American history and the history of California in particular — this time, a story set in the 1970s, based on the Thomas Pynchon novel. Pynchon is a widely respected novelist with whom I am completely unfamiliar. But I look forward to Anderson’s take on the crime genre.
- Release: March 7
- With Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Léa Seydoux
- Director: Wes Anderson
Here’s the thing: when I made my first list of this kind two years ago, I had never seen a single Wes Anderson film before. Only a few months later, I’d seen all of them, and his latest, Moonrise Kingdom, ended up being my favorite movie of 2012. So you see how this is all a work in progress. I don’t need (or really want) to know much about Anderson’s next film to look forward to it. The cast, as always with him, looks to be a lot of fun. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman will turn up as usual. Humor may ensue.
- Release: Not set
- With Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Salmon, Brad Hawkins, Tamara Jolaine, Nick Krause, Jordan Howard, Evie Thompson
- Director: Richard Linklater
There seem to be conflicting reports on when this movie will come out, with Hawke stating that there’s one more year left before filming is completed, and Linklater saying the filming is done and it should come out next year. Regardless, this is the most unusual film on the list. Like Linklater’s Before movies, it’s an experiment in the passage of time, following a boy as he grows up by filming the young actor in real time, a few scenes every year for twelve years. So, yeah, it’s been in production since 2002. I think that should be enough information for everyone.
- Release: November 7
- With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn
- Director: Christopher Nolan
Will this complete Nolan’s unofficial “In-” trilogy? If the story involves McConaughey brooding over his sense of guilt, then yes. But of course, that’s a common Nolan theme irrespective of the movie’s title. Anyway, the story is mostly being kept under wraps, but I’m very excited for an ambitious tale about space exploration. It’s the kind of feeling I had when the first teaser for J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek arrived. I’m sure this movie will turn out very differently from that star-studded franchise. It might even be a standalone blockbuster (remember those?).
- Release: May 23
- With Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage
- Director: Bryan Singer
After all that, I lay this on you — a big-budget superhero sequel. What can I say? I’m like a little boy on the night before Christmas with this stuff. Maybe what I find in the boxes will be disappointing, but the wrapping paper is my focus right now. And my excitement goes at least a little deeper than that. This film looks highly ambitious, with the casts of, essentially, two franchises joining together via time-travel shenanigans. I loved X-Men: First Class and I adore Singer’s two X-Men films. In other words, I have more of an idea of what this movie will end up looking like than I have for any other movie on this list. Unlike last year, I don’t really have any expectation that my most anticipated film will also be my favorite of the year. As my tastes mature, I become less interested in the superhero genre, but I figured it deserved at least one last triumph. I’m already unsure where I’ll rank 2015’s currently untitled Batman and Superman film, and that super-duper-high-concept idea was pretty much the apotheosis of awesomeness to my ten-year-old self. Even if Days of Future Past succeeds, I don’t think that necessarily translates to: More, please. Maybe this will be the last superhero movie I rush to see. But I will absolutely rush to see it.