The 38 films to see in 2016
Feature by Rob Carnevale
AS 2016 gets underway, we run through the 38 films we feel you should have in your cinema-going diary over the next 12 months – from obvious blockbusters such as Captain America: Civil War to the not-so obvious likes of Triple 9, Story of Your Life and Passengers.
If you feel strongly about anything we may have missed, then feel free to let us know. But there will be some surprise omissions, with some higher profile films not included. So, kick back and see if you agree with our selections…
The Hateful Eight
A Quentin Tarantino movie is always an event of sorts for genuine fans of cinema, given the writer-director’s track record for creating classic movies (from Reservoir Dogs to Inglourious Basterds). And his second consecutive Western (after Django Unchained) promises to be something special. It boasts a cast including Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell and an Oscar-tipped Jennifer Jason Leigh and is said to display the filmmaker’s usual verbal bombast, as well as his usual dosage of ultra-violence. The film will be released in UK cinemas on January 8, 2016.
Having won an Oscar for Birdman last year, Alejandro González Iñárritu returns with The Revenant – which looks set to become his greatest accomplishment yet. Hit by the controversy surrounding its filming process, the film nevertheless appears to have thrust itself into the forefront of the forthcoming Oscar race, not least for the way in which it puts leading man Leonardo DiCaprio through the wringer. Inspired by true events, it follows legendary explorer Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) as he is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.
Released January 15
It may have sounded like a bad idea, or even a desperate one, when first announced but Ryan Coogler’s Rocky spin-off Creed now looks set to become one of the year’s knockout successes. The film, which finds Sylvester Stallone’s veteran champ coaching the son of his late rival Apollo Creed, has already won rave reviews in the US, as well as a collection of awards nominations. Stallone is even a pretty safe bet for an Oscar nod in the best supporting actor category. This one appears to be punching well above its weight.
Released January 15
Lenny Abrahamson’s movie has already been warmly embraced on the festival circuit, including last year’s London event, and looks set to feature prominently in the forthcoming awards season. Based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, the film follows the story of a mother (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son as they attempt to escape the room they have been living in since the latter’s birth. Described as “an unparalleled celebration of the bond between parent and child”, this is said to boast breath-taking performances from both Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay as the five-year-old Jack.
Released January 15
The Big Short
A financial comedy-drama that focuses on four outsiders who predicted the collapse of the global economy and bet on it, this star-studded true story offers a mouth-watering prospect. It’s directed by Anchorman‘s Adam Mckay and stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. What’s more, it’s already landed multiple Golden Globe nominations and considerable financial success of its own in the US. You’d be a fool to bet against this being a success.
Released January 22
Another true story courting awards success is Thomas McCarthy’s Spotlight, the astonishing true story of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Spotlight” team of investigative journalists, who in 2002 shocked the city and the world by exposing the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of widespread paedophilia perpetrated by more than 70 local priests. Michael Keaton (fresh from his Birdman success) heads a star-studded ensemble that includes Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci and John Slattery. If the buzz from the US is anything to go by, this is weighty, intelligent and utterly essential viewing.
Released January 29
Another film to attract a lot of love during its festival run, Jay Roach’s Trumbo tells the true story of successful 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (played by Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston) as his career comes tumbling down when he and other Hollywood figures are blacklisted for their political beliefs. Cranston is reportedly a safe bet for an Oscar nomination, as is Helen Mirren for her portrayal of Hedda Hopper. Further support comes from Diane Lane, Louie CK, Elle Fanning and John Goodman – none of whom can be considered slouches in the acting stakes.
Released February 5
Admittedly, this one could go either way but let’s stay positive based on what we’ve seen so far. Inspired by Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. We’re betting that this could give Ryan Reynolds the franchise movie he has long deserved and could well become the new Kick-Ass… if it has the guts to really go for it. The release date may suggest caution, given how early it is arriving, but then Kingsman was released around the same time in 2015 and look how that turned out!
Released February 10
And here we come to the year’s first action thriller. Triple 9 looks a hot prospect because it boasts an intriguing premise (a crew of dirty cops being blackmailed into a seemingly impossible heist), a to-die-for cast and a very good director. The cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie and The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus, while the director if John Hillcoat, whose resume already includes Lawless, The Road and The Proposition. And the trailer looks terrific.
Released February 19
This one’s all about the Coens… well, and George Clooney. The latest collaboration between directors and star follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer who is presented with plenty of problems to fix, including a major Hollywood star (played by Clooney) who has gone AWOL. Its trailer suggests plenty of fun, with Clooney back on idiot form. And with a supporting cast that includes Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand we’re struggling to figure out how this could fail. So, all hail the new Coens’ comedy.
Released February 26
Secret In Their Eyes
Remakes tend to be hit and miss but we’re willing to bet this one could be a good one. A remake of Juan José Campanella’s Oscar winning Argentinian thriller of the same name, this boasts a powerhouse cast headed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, as well as a very capable director in Billy Ray (who also wrote the screenplay to give things a more American spin). Ray’s previous work includes penning the screenplay for the first Hunger Games and for Captain Phillips. The story follows a tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, whose lives are suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered. The word from America thus far has been mixed but those that like it really rave.
Released March 4
Could this be the horror movie to see in 2016? Already hot following its Sundance debut and subsequent festival success, writer-director Robert Eggers’ The Witch is being hailed as an instant horror classic that genuinely disturbs. Described as a cross between The Crucible and The Shining, the film was actually inspired by the filmmaker’s own childhood nightmares. Set in New England in the 1630s, this follows the members of a Puritan farm as a newborn disappears from their midst. But has he been taken by a witch? Or is there something even more nasty at work? Dare you find out?
Disney Animation has been on its own little roll since John Lasseter started to oversee proceedings and Zootropolis looks like another pretty sure-fire winner for them. Co-directed by Byron Howard (Tangled/Bolt) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), this already boasts a fine trailer and can call upon a strong voice cast (Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman) to bring charisma. The story finds optimistic police officer Judy Hopps (Goodwin) arriving to Zootopia and discovering that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (Bateman), to solve the mystery. The trailer is a real hoot…
Released March 25
Not convinced? Try the US Sloth trailer
Anyone who has seen the films Mud and Take Shelter will know that Jeff Nichols is an under-rated indie filmmaker of the highest calibre. His latest, Midnight Special, finds him switching genres get again to tell the story of a father and son who go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers. This promises to be thoughtful and emotional and boasts regular Nichols collaborator [and ever excellent] Michael Shannon in the lead role. A support cast including Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton only adds to the must-see nature of this one.
Released April 15
Captain America: Civil War
Of all the superhero movies being released this year, Captain America: Civil War looks like the one to beat. The Captain America story is already riding high off the back of the success of The Winter Soldier (arguably, the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight trilogy), but now looks set to take things to even more epic heights. Based around the highly anticipated smack-down between Cap America and Iron Man, this looks to have an emotional edge lacking from the comics. It also boasts the return of Winter Soldier co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who did such a good job first time around. The trailer already suggests greatness.
Released April 29
Elvis & Nixon
Quite simply, this one fascinates. The film offers a recreation of the meeting between Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon at The White House at a time when the world’s greatest rock n roll star was keen to distance himself from the counter-culture he inspired and Nixon wanted to appeal to younger voters. Directed by Liza Johnson, this one is also notable for featuring the ever-excellent Michael Shannon as Elvis and the always reliable Kevin Spacey as Nixon. With early reviews suggesting that the film is as keen to revel in two great performances as it is to play up the absurdity of the whole endeavour, this could be akin to watching a stage production come alive on-screen.
Released April 29
Oliver Stone’s return to political filmmaking promises to be a typically polarising affair – but a no less interesting one at that. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the now infamous NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who is considered a traitor by some and a hero by others. The film promises to offer an insight into Snowden’s life both before and after his landmark decision to leak thousands of classified documents to the press… but is sure to be as provocative as we’ve come to expect from a director whose past credits include Nixon, JFK and W. The strong support cast includes Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Olyphant.
Released May 12
The latest in the X-Men franchise looks epic… even Biblically so. Oscar Isaac is the Apocalypse of the title, aka En Sabah Nur, an incredibly powerful ancient mutant, who awakens from enforced hibernation in the year 1983 and sets about wreaking revenge. It’s left to James McAvoy’s Professor X to stop him. But four ‘horsemen’ hand-picked by Apocalypse – including Michael Fassbender’s Magneto – stand in his way. Bryan Singer is back for a fourth time and promising something “emotional, philosophical, religious” and typically exciting. It goes without saying, it’ll be huge among the X-Men community.
Released May 19
The Nice Guys
We actually couldn’t be more excited about this. Shane Black has seldom [if ever!] out a foot wrong as writer or director… as his screenplay for The Last Boy Scout and Lethal Weapon or his writer-director projects Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 will attest. Here, he unites Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as, respectively, a down-on-his-luck private eye and a world-weary muscle for hire who are plunged into a life or death mystery in 1970s Los Angeles. Try watching the trailer without laughing at least three times! This looks to have a smart script, some muscular action and some great camaraderie, as only Black knows how…
Released May 20
Independence Day: Resurgence
OK, so the need for a sequel doesn’t automatically leap out at you. And it has been 20 years since the acclaimed original. But the trailer suggests this just might be able to tap into the same kind of excitement as that first film. What’s more, it has rounded up a lot of the original stars, most notably Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. And it has Roland Emmerich at the helm. On the down-side, Liam Hemsworth has yet to properly establish himself as a charismatic leading man capable of making a picture his own, while the format could be 20 years too late. But we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt…
Released June 24
Having impressed with his critically-acclaimed historical drama “Bridge of Spies”: in 2015, Steven Spielberg returns to a more blockbuster format with The BFG, his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic tale. Mark Rylance, who played an integral part in Bridge of Spies‘ acclaim, is The BFG, a Big Friendly Giant who is nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a giant before, has many questions. Given the storytelling prowess on show, we have every right to expect great things from this one. But will the box office be as gigantic as one expects?
Released July 22
After the relative disappointment of Bourne spin-off The Bourne Legacy, the main man is back in action for this hotly anticipated fifth movie in the series. Matt Damon reprises his role as the amnesia-ridden super assassin, while Paul Greengrass (who so memorably directed The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum) is back in the director’s chair. If that’s not a match made in action heaven, then what is? Plot details remain tightly under wraps but Damon has suggested that the story will tie in to the Blackbriar/Treadstone storyline of old. And while the memory may have returned, Bourne himself remains in a dark place with a lot of unresolved issues. On board, also, are Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander and Vincent Cassel. And here’s one last tease from Damon: “We’re definitely going big in act three. We’re throwing a lot of tin around.”
Released July 28
While Pixar’s track record of late with sequels has been merely OK at best (Cars 2/Monsters University, you still shouldn’t bet against a studio that has also delivered the likes of Inside/Out, Wall-E and The Incredibles. So, this belated sequel to “Finding Nemo”: follows forgetful fish Dory (voiced, once again, by Ellen DeGeneres) as she embarks on a quest to reunite with her mother (Diane Keaton) and father (Eugene Levy). Helping – and hindering – in equal measure are Nemo and Marlin (Albert Brooks). Andrew Stanton returns to the director’s chair, while vocal support comes from Willem Dafoe (reprising his role from Nemo) and Idris Elba. This one has to be a safe bet to appeal to fans of the original as well as children of all ages.
Released July 29
Another of the year’s superhero movies but another (like Deadpool) that could offer something a little bit different. David Ayer (End of Watch/Fury) directs this tale of a number of super-villains who are teamed up to fight an even bigger threat. This includes Will Smith’s Deadshot, Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and – most notably – Jared Leto’s The Joker (the first big screen incarnation of the iconic character since Heath Ledger made the role his own). The early trailer suggests dark, demented fun with an adult bias (plus a Batman cameo). If this has the guts to really go for it, then we could be in for a really twisted treat.
Released August 5
The Magnificent Seven
This just sounds every bit as bad of an idea to remake as Point Break (another of our all-time favourite films) but we’re still mightily intrigued. Denzel Washington stepping into the role made famous by Yul Brynner is an interest point, as is the casting of man-of-the-moment Chris Pratt in the Steve McQueen role. And then there’s a supporting cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Matt Bomer, Peter Sarsgaard and Cam Gigandet. Antoine Fuqua directs, which also means things could go either way. The story replaces Mexican villagers in peril with a woman (Haley Bennett) desperate to protect her town from rampaging bandits led by a robber baron. As dubious as it all sounds, we’re still drawn to this one… rather like a moth to a flame.
Released September 23
Peter Berg may have received a lot of [deserved] critical derision for his blockbuster flop Battleship but he did also direct Lone Survivor, which showed he could tackle real life subject matter with the grit and respect it deserved. With Deepwater Horizon, Berg takes a look at the off-shore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which exploded during April 2010 and created the worst oil spill in US history. The cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich and Dylan O’Brien. If this emulates Lone Survivor, we could be in for something truly riveting… this year’s Everest anyone?
The Girl On The Train
Paula Hawkins’ best-seller gets the all-star treatment in Tate Taylor’s keenly anticipated adaptation. Emily Blunt – so hot after Sicario – plays a troubled woman, an alcoholic whose husband left her for his mistress, who becomes fascinated by a seemingly perfect couple whose home she passes by on the train each day. However, after she thinks she witnesses a murder, she begins to realise that she may have been involved in the crime. The support cast includes Rebecca Ferguson – equally hot after Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez. The word is that The Girl On The Train could be this year’s Gone Girl.
Released October 7
A Monster Calls
Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Patrick Ness and from the director of The Impossible and The Orphanage, J.A. Bayona, A Monster Calls could well be a dark horse for autumn box office success. The film follows 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) as he attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy-tales that explore courage, loss, and faith. The film features Liam Neeson in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting monster of the title, as well as Sigourney Weaver as the maternal grandmother. The first-look trailer suggests we could be in for something special… and every bit as spell-binding as The Orphanage.
Released October 21
Another Marvel movie but one that Marvel chief Kevin Fiege promises “couldn’t be any more different than any of the films that have come before it”. Directed by horror luminary Scott Derrickson and starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, this follows brilliant but arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange as he takes on a new lease of life after he falls under the wing of a sorcerer who trains him to defend the world against evil. The words dark and psychedelic have been used already to describe what to expect… which certainly helps to raise interest levels. And the last time Marvel promised something completely different, we got Guardians of the Galaxy. This one is strangely appealing.
Released October 28
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
While the first Jack Reacher movie opened to indifferent reviews (although we could be counted among its fans), we still feel confident that this sequel will deliver the goods. Edward Zwick replaces Christopher McQuarrie in the director’s chair but Tom Cruise reprises his role as Lee Child’s central character. The story finds Reacher returning to the headquarters of his old unit, only to find out he’s now accused of a 16-year-old homicide. Cruise is not really in the habit of making bad films and this is a character – and franchise – he clearly holds dear.
Released October 21
There’s not a lot known about this action-thriller from Gavin O’Connor but it’s safe to assume it’ll boast a high pedigree. Ben Affleck stars as a financial whizz who un-cooks the books for illicit clients and who also poses as a hitman for hire. Muscular support comes from Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor and Jon Bernthal. You cannot deny that this boasts a killer potential, particularly given its early winter release (which suggests awards potential). If Affleck’s Batman Vs Superman has yet to get us that excited, we’re going to stick our necks out and say this is the one to wait for from him this year.
Released November 4
Having hugely impressed with his last outing, American Sniper, Clint Eastwood directs another true life story… this one about American pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who heroically landed a troubled aircraft full of passengers on the Hudson River. Based on the book by Chesley Sullenberger, Eastwood’s film isn’t just interested in recreating the act of heroism itself but – rather like his take on the iconic flag-raising at Iwo Jima in Flags of Our Fathers – examining the storm that followed – a storm that threatened to ruin the life of a hero. Tom Hanks takes the lead role (which is an assurance of quality in itself), while Laura Linney, Anna Gunn and Aaron Eckhart are among the support. This could easily be another of next year’s Oscar contenders.
Released December 2
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Given the excitement surrounding the success of JJ Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: it’s fairly safe to say that anything related is going to be just as keenly anticipated. And Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One looks to have plenty of pedigree. Set before the original trilogy, this follows a bunch of resistance fighters as they attempt to steal plans for the Death Star. Edwards is one of the hottest young directors of the moment following his work on Monsters and the Godzilla reboot, while the cast boasts Felicity Jones in the lead role, as well as reliable supporting players such as Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn. What’s not to like so far?
Released December 16
The Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum directs a cast headed by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence and co-starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne. If that doesn’t grab your attention, then consider this… the sci-fi drama follows an astronaut named Jim who finds his hyper-sleep interrupted, leaving him the only passenger awake on a giant space cruiser headed for a planet that’s still 90 years away. So, does he remain alone to die or wake up beautiful fellow passenger Aurora (Lawrence)? We’re thinking Passengers could be this year’s The Martian. It certainly screams quality. And while the premise sounds simple enough, it does boast a budget of $150m – so we should also anticipate something visually spectacular.
Released December 23 (tbc)
Story of Your Life
There’s one big reason why this is included on our list: Denis Villeneuve. The man behind Sicario and Prisoners. If he can bring the same level of intensity and intelligence to Story of Your Life as he has done with those two films, then we could be in for something special. A sci-fi tale (that preps him nicely for the forthcoming Blade Runner sequel), this finds Amy Adams (always reliable) playing a linguist who is recruited to uncover whether aliens have come to earth in peace or for war. The support cast includes Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg. Best described as the thinking man’s Independence Day…
Martin Scorsese remains a filmmaker whose work demands to be seen. Silence promises to be no exception to that rule. Based on the prize-winning 1966 novel by Japanese author Shusaku Endo (which has, in fact, been filmed twice before), this tells the true story of a 17th Century Christian missionary in Japan, played here by Liam Neeson, who is forced to recant his faith. At the same time, two younger priests, played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, come looking for him, only to face the same ordeal themselves. It’s weighty subject matter but one that should surely benefit from Scorsese’s touch. And while it may not get a UK release in 2016, it’s almost certain to be a part of the 2017 awards chatter (if not a leading contender).
The second release scheduled from Jeff (Mud) Nichols this year is the first to take on a big, real-life subject. Loving tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving who, in 1959, were convicted of inter-racial marriage in a Virginia court and sent to prison. However, they took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to get the ruling over-turned. Ruth Negga plays Mildred, Joel Edgerton is Richard, while Nichol’s ever-present ace in the pack, Michael Shannon, offers more stalwart support as Grey Villet, the Life photographer who covered the story and helped turn it into a key test of civil rights. Again, it may not get a UK release in 2016 but it’s undoubtedly one to look out for.
Ben Wheatley undertakes his first American movie with Free Fire and has picked a doozy of a subject. Set in Boston in 1978, this follows a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs that turns into a shoot-out and a game of survival. Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley play two Irishmen who have arranged to buy guns from mobsters played by Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley. It boasts a high calibre cast and the potential to mix Wheatley’s penchant for gut-wrenching violence with smart dialogue and killer performances. The big question is whether it will find its way into UK cinemas in 2016.