I’ll get the hang of this eventually, trust me. As I prepared another top ten list of upcoming movies, it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea how to rank them. For the first five years of this blog, I always found it fairly easy to pick one movie about which I was excited above all. Not so this time, and consequently I threw my hands up and decided just to put out an alphabetical list. Having crossed that threshold, I discovered that the entire concept of ranking unseen movies suddenly felt quite pointless. Whether this new sense of liberation will carry over into next year’s installment is a complete mystery at this point.
That I feel especially vague about my levels of excitement for the films doesn’t mean I have no enthusiasm for the list as a whole. There is some very intriguing material. The theme of the year, showing up in more than half the films, is war. For the most part, it’s a violent and somber lineup. But there are a couple magical, ambitious children’s films in there, too. And I guess Episode VIII could be all of the above.
There are always three kinds of anticipation I feel when December rolls around, and maybe the one I habitually write about is the least interesting. Once again, there are some major films from 2016 that won’t get released anywhere near me until January or later. At this moment, the three movies I’m most excited to see from that category are Silence, Paterson, and Jackie. My excitement for those films is more concrete because I already have feedback from critics. I could do a list of movies I “need to catch up with,” but that would just be an arbitrary grocery list rather than a snapshot of what the new year looks like from here. The third kind of list would be of older movies I’m planning on watching at home. I might name some of Luis Buñuel’s films or, with an eye toward my upcoming thirtieth birthday, some of the major films from 1987. That kind of list would say, “Hey, look at all my blind spots.” Restricting myself to upcoming releases, then, protects against navel-gazing. Instead, I’m surveying what’s in front of all of us and singling out those films for which I have the highest hopes. My expectations could be quite different in only a few months, and by this time next year I probably will not have seen all of these. Nevertheless, here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2017.
Honorable Mentions: Julieta, A Quiet Passion, Weightless
- The Beguiled
- Release: June 23
- With Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Angourie Rice
- Director: Sofia Coppola
I love the original Don Siegel film, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Coppola’s perspective on the material (a Civil War psychosexual thriller), and possibly seeing Siegel’s and Clint Eastwood’s perspective get challenged.
- A Cure for Wellness
- Release: February 17
- With Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth
- Director: Gore Verbinski
- Darkest Hour
- Release: November 24
- With Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, John Hurt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James
- Director: Joe Wright
Peering over the horizon, this movie looks tailor-made to be part of “the Oscar conversation.” It’s yet another Great Man Biopic with a major actor becoming “unrecognizable” in the attempt to imitate an icon. But Oldman as Winston Churchill is such a crazy idea that I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
- Release: July 21
- With Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles
- Director: Christopher Nolan
Yes, I put two different movies about British crises during the first year of World War II on my list. I did this because Wright and Nolan remain two of my favorite filmmakers, and also because the most likely alternative was to put two superhero movies on the list. More on that later.
- Last Flag Flying
- Release: Not set
- With Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, J. Quinton Johnson
- Director: Richard Linklater
I plan on catching up with Hal Ashby’s film of The Last Detail (both films are adapted from novels by Darryl Ponicsan). Until I do, my expectations for the film rely entirely on Linklater, who has been having a tremendous decade.
- Mary and the Witch’s Flower
- Release: Not set
- Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Studio Ghibli might be essentially defunct, but the people who worked there are still making films — even Miyazaki, apparently, is coming out of retirement yet again. The first film from the brand-new Studio Ponoc is coming out in Japan next summer. Its director made The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There, so I have high hopes indeed.
- Star Wars: Episode VIII
- Release: December 15
- With Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, not Harrison Ford because his character died in the last one
- Director: Rian Johnson
Even though I ended up being a tad underwhelmed by The Force Awakens, nothing was going to keep the next chapter off this list. I feel like the franchise is in good hands. Right now, there’s nothing more tangible that can be said. We don’t even know the subtitle, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with knowing almost nothing until December 15.
- Untitled Detroit project
- Release: Not set
- With John Krasinski, Will Poulter, Anthony Mackie, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, John Boyega
- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
The third collaboration between Bigelow and writer Mark Boal (after The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) will take on the story of the 1967 Detroit riot, one of the most violent episodes in our nation’s history.
- Wonder Woman
- Release: June 2
- With Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Danny Huston
- Director: Patty Jenkins
There’s very little chance that this movie will be able to carry all the weight we’re putting on it. Will it be “feminist,” and fun, and the precise alchemy of exciting and uplifting needed to make the whole DC franchise seem like a good idea now? At this point, I’m just looking for something different. All the other superhero movies coming out next year look like more of the same. Maybe some will be good. I’ll probably see all of them. But this is the only one that might really mean something.
- Release: Not set
- With Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Millicent Simmonds, Oakes Fegley, Tom Noonan
- Director: Todd Haynes
The whole conceit sounds fascinating — two parallel stories about children living fifty years apart. In lesser hands, the fact that one of those stories will be presented as a silent film could be gimmicky, but I have absolute confidence in Haynes. This could definitely be something special.