2018 was a great year for film, featuring a solid combination of trailblazing blockbusters and indie gems. Now that 2019 is here, it’s time to look at what’s coming to a theater near you this year, from the franchise tentpoles to potential Oscar contenders. These are my most anticipated films, ordered by release date:
Glass (January 18)
M. Night Shyamalan’s body of work has been inconsistent to say the least. Yet, few can deny that when he is at the top of his game, the results are astounding. At the end of Shyamalan’s 2017 film Split, the director reveals in the final moments of the film that this story exists in the same world as his 2000 film Unbreakable — an understated superhero film years ahead of its time. This year’s Glass is poised to close out the unconventional trilogy of films by uniting Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass, Bruce Willis’ David Dunn and James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb in a showdown between villains and heroes. Although the critical response for Glass has been lukewarm thus far, I look forward to making up my own mind about Shyamalan’s latest directorial effort a week from now.
Chaos Walking (March 1), Captive State (March 29)
I chose to lump these films together because they, like last year’s Annihilation, are two high-concept science-fiction films with a promising cast and crew behind them (plus, if one of them disappoints, hopefully the other one will be good).
Based on the novel The Knife of Never Letting Go, Chaos Walking stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley as two young heroes who live in a world where all women have supposedly been killed off by a viral germ, a disease that then allows people to read minds. As a concept, this one could be hit or miss, but I’m interested not only in the inclusion of Holland and Ridley, but also the film’s director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and co-screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). The talent involved could pave the way for an intriguing sci-fi venture.
Captive State involves an alien force that inhabits the world, promising peace for humanity while their true motivations remain much more nefarious. Directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) it stars John Goodman as a police officer who recruits a young man (Ashton Sanders) for the resistance against the extraterrestrial entities. The premise invokes similar ideas explored by the sci-fi show V a few years ago, and that could prove more fruitful on the big screen.
Captain Marvel (March 8)
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel will officially mark the first solely led female superhero film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and it’s about damn time. Brie Larson leads the way as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, a former US fighter pilot who joins an intergalactic military force. The events of this film will lead her to join forces with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in order to defend the world against an alien species called the Skrulls. Larson is a supremely talented actress, so I’m confident that the titular role is in good hands. The trailers promise some action-packed sequences and an in-depth character study of Captain Marvel, and I hope the film delivers on these fronts.
Us (March 22)
Jordan Peele made waves in 2017 with his directorial debut Get Out, a horror film that earned him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This year, he will return with Us, in which a family vacations to a beach house only to encounter a group of sinister figures who bare striking resemblance to themselves. While Get Out serves as a social commentary on race relations, Us will focus on the idea that we are our own worst enemy. A stellar cast comprised of Lupita NYong’o, Winston Duke and Elizabeth Moss was enough to intrigue me, but a recently released trailer packed with plenty of scares and striking imagery positions Us to be a breakout hit for Peele this year.
Avengers: Endgame (April 26)
How could I not put this on the list? The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to dominate both financially and critically, and every installment the studio has ever released is leading up to the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of this superpowered universe as we know it. An emotional trailer gives us a glimpse at the characters that remain after Thanos succeeded in wiping out half of the universe. A lot rides on this film, with many questions remaining as to who will live, who will die and how we move forward from here. I, for one, am excited to watch it unfold.
The Lion King (July 19)
I can’t wait to see exactly how director Jon Favreau trained actual lions, monkeys and wildebeests for this live-action reimagining of The Lion King. Sounds pretty dangerous….
With this updated take on the popular 1994 animated film, Favreau looks to bring similar CG effects utilized in 2016’s The Jungle Book to create a fully imagined African landscape complete with the anthropomorphic characters we all love. The trailer has me convinced that this will be a stunning venture from a visual standpoint, but it remains to be seen whether the narrative will be a simple rehash or if something new will be brought to the table. Regardless, The Lion King will feature a pitch-perfect voice-acting cast that includes Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Chitewal Ejiofor and James Earl Jones (!!). I can’t imagine a scenario in which this won’t be a universal success for Disney.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 26)
Quentin Tarantino remains a prominent auteur in the filmmaking business, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will mark his ninth directorial effort. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a struggling actor in Hollywood during the time of the Manson Murders. The cast also includes Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, Dalton’s stunt double, Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Charles Manson, and a slew of other prominent actors. Due to the nature of the story, the film could run into problems in terms of how sensitively it addresses these tragic, real-world events — especially when taking Tarantino’s distinct style into account. However, few can deny Tarantino’s talents, and his name is enough to earn my ticket purchase come summertime.
It: Chapter 2 (September 6)
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed 2017’s It. The film blends horror with an endearing coming-of-age story, which elevated it above standard genre fair. The sequel, It: Chapter 2 looks to build off of the franchise’s successes by depicting the second half of Stephen King’s popular novel. This time, we’ll revisit with the members of the Losers Club as adults as they are forced to confront Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) once more. Andy Muschietti returns to direct this sequel, with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader joining in to depict the adult versions of Bill, Beverley and Richie, respectively. The casting decisions made for this film have been stellar, and this, combined with Muschetti’s proven command over the story and source material, should make for a scary good time at the theaters.
Knives Out (November 27)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, director Rian Johnson was known for directing innovative, thought-provoking genre films like Looper and the criminally underseen Brick. While I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnson is at his best when unencumbered by heavy franchise expectations. With Knives Out, a modern take on the “whodunit” mystery genre, Johnson will return to original content. Not much is known about the premise itself, but Johnson has recruited some incredible talent such as Daniel Craig, Lakeith Stanfield, Chris Evans, Toni Collette and more. Whether you agree or disagree with Johnson’s style, he is nothing if not daring, and I hope he brings that sensibility to the table with Knives Out.
Star Wars: Episode IX (December 20)
Speaking of Star Wars, we have another episode film looming on the horizon. JJ Abrams will return to direct the currently untitled Episode IX, which will close out the Disney-era trilogy of episodic films. The state of the Star Wars universe has been in flux recently, with the successful yet divisive The Last Jedi and the fun but financially underwhelming Solo: A Star Wars Story. I confess that my anticipation is not as sky-high for this one as it was going into The Last Jedi, but I would also be lying if I said I didn’t need to know how this story (in its current iteration) comes to an end. The pressure is on like never before for Episode IX, but nothing short of a First Order invasion on Earth could stop me from seeing this film.
Little Women (December 25)
We’re barely into 2019 and writer/director Greta Gerwig has already given me a Christmas present. Little Women, based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, is Gerwig’s next film after 2017’s critical darling Lady Bird — itself one of the best films of that year. Little Women will follow three sisters in 19th century Massachusetts. The film will reunite her with Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet; it also stars Meryl Streep, Emma Watson and Laura Dern. Gerwig proved herself to be a director to watch moving forward, and I have every confidence in the world that Little Women will only add to Gerwig’s successes.