2015 is coming to a close and once the fervor surrounding this month’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally settles down (if it ever does), most eyes will be looking ahead to 2016 and its stable of new movies. While 2015 has been a huge year for movies, with some knockout hits and unexpected surprises, 2016 is shaping up to be just as strong, with seemingly every major franchise releasing something new. We’ll not only get to see the first live action incarnation of the Justice League (or at least its origins), but also see new films set in the Harry Potter universe and even another Star Wars. While there are dozens of movies to get excited about for 2016 (and probably some we don’t even know about yet), these upcoming blockbusters are the ones that absolutely need to be on your radar.
10. Deadpool (February 12)
Ryan Reynolds is reprising his brief, but popular stint as Marvel Comics mercenary and all-around nutjob Deadpool in the character’s first solo movie. Reynolds first played the former Wade Wilson in 2009’s disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film that totally wasted the character, but gave us an inkling of how good Reynolds could be if given more time with the role and better material. Fortunately, overwhelmingly positive reaction to leaked test footage back in 2014 and Reynold’s personal determination to do the character justice have helped make a Deadpool movie a reality and it looks to retain everything fans love about the eccentric “Merc with a Mouth.” Early trailers have been promising and with the film going full tilt in the over-the-top violence and humor department, Deadpool could very well be the hard-edged cult superhero hit we’ve been waiting for.
9. Star Trek: Beyond (July 2016)
With J.J. Abrams jumping ship to make Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s been easy to forget that that other “Star” franchise is still around and ready to come out with another movie. While Star Trek Into Darkness was a bit of a disappointment, to say the least, all signs are pointing to Star Trek Beyond delivering on the promise of Abrams’s original 2009 reboot. For one thing, Beyond has a much better screenwriting team this time out, with the film’s very own Scotty (Simon Pegg) serving as co-writer alongside Doug Jung. Pegg has a knack for blending smart humor and emotional drama in his writing, as evidenced by his many collaborations with Edgar Wright, so there’s every reason to expect a step up in the writing department this time out (and hopefully much fewer plot holes). Most importantly, Star Trek Beyond is in good hands from a directing standpoint, with Fast Five’s Justin Lin at the helm. Add in Idris Elba as the film’s mysterious villain and you have a recipe for a sci-fi hit that could rival Star Wars.
8. Finding Dory (June 17, 2016)
Pixar really likes to take its time with sequels (unless we’re talking about Cars, that is), but now one of their greatest films is finally seeing a follow-up in 2016. A sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo, Finding Dory is set six months after the events of the former film and will reportedly introduce viewers to Dory’s (Ellen DeGeneres) family for the first time. Most of the original cast, including Albert Brooks as Marlin and Willem Dafoe as Gill (Yes!), are returning alongside new unknown characters voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West. Details about Finding Dory are still minimal at this point, but given Pixar’s stellar track record and the original film’s pretty much unshakable status as an animated classic, it’s pretty easy to highlight this as the animated movie to watch in 2016. Sorry Angry Birds movie.
7. X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
Admittedly, this list is pretty heavy on comic book movies, but that’s mostly because 2016 is turning into one of the biggest years yet for superhero films and their ilk, which is really saying something considering how many have hit in the last few years. With all the hoopla surrounding the showdown between DC’s Batman v Superman and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War (the films are actually releasing months apart), it’s easy to forget that the X-Men are getting another entry in their long-running franchise too. X-Men: Apocalypse will build off the universe reset that happened at the end of 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, bringing the X-Men together against a world-threatening event in the form of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first and most powerful mutant. While X-Men Apocalypse is notable for having possibly the biggest cast ever (no hyperbole), it will also reportedly be the last time Hugh Jackman will play Wolverine in an ensemble picture (he’ll make one final appearance in the third standalone Wolverine movie), so it will be interesting to see how director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg bid farewell to Jackman’s long tenure as the iconic mutant.
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (November 18)
Although the final Harry Potter film was released almost half a decade ago, J.K. Rowloing’s fantasy series remains ever-popular and truthfully, it’s surprising we’ve had to even wait this long for a new film that’s connected in some way to the behemoth franchise. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a Harry Potter spin-off based on the 2001 book of the same name that will feature all new characters and settings never before seen in the Harry Potter series. The film will follow the adventures of Newt Scarmander, an aloof wizard played by Eddie Redmayne, who lands himself in hot water with the Magical Congress of the United States after the dangerous magical creatures housed in his enchanted briefcase escape. While it’s difficult to say whether or not the film will have the same pull as Harry Potter — the American setting is disappointing considering how distinctly British Rowling’s world is — anything even remotely associated with Harry Potter is sure to be a hit and will be one of the year’s most talked about films.
5. Doctor Strange (November 4)
While we still don’t know much about Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie at this point, it’s practically guaranteed to be one of 2016’s biggest movies considering the combined pull of it being a Marvel movie and featuring the supremely-popular Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. With no trailer or even promo images to go on yet, it’s difficult to say what exactly we can expect from the film, but one thing you can definitely count on is that Doctor Strange will be much more fantastical than most of Marvel’s other properties. Doctor Strange is essentially a space wizard who can manipulate magic and is one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel universe. In addition to Cumberbatch, the film stars Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tilda Swinton, and is being helmed by Scott Derrickson, a director known for making horror films such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. Expect Doctor Strange to be weird, but the good kind of weird that Marvel seems to excel at.
4. Suicide Squad (August 5)
Suicide Squad could very well be an unmitigated disaster, but even if it is, it’s going to be one of those ones that’s hard to turn away from. A part of DC’s attempt to establish a cinematic universe that can compete with Marvel’s, Suicide Squad focuses on a group of criminals rounded up by the government and forced to partake in dangerous missions. The big talk of course has been Jared Leto’s rendition of the Joker, who hasn’t exactly been given the warmest of welcomes by fans still attached to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the infamous Batman villain. In addition to Leto, the film’s ensemble cast features notable names such as Will Smith and Margot Robbie and whether or not Suicide Squad is actually any good or not, it’s sure to stir up a ton of discussion once it hits theaters next August.
3. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25)
To say that Warner Bros. and DC have a lot riding on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would be an understatement, as this film’s success will either make or break DC’s cinematic universe before it even really begins. The most recent trailer pretty much gave the entire plot away, but it’s worth reiterating just why Batman v Superman is among 2016’s most anticipated movies. Simply put, this will be the first live action pairing up of Batman and Superman, which in itself is a major milestone. The fact that the two heroes will spend much of the film trying to beat each other up makes things even more enticing. As the title of the film implies, Batman v Superman will be the foundation work that leads into a live action Justice League movie and Warner Bros. is hoping that the combined pull of Batman and Superman (not to mention Wonder Woman, who will be a side character in the film) will be enough to rake in some of that Avengers cash that Marvel and Disney have been swimming in for the better part of a decade. We’ll find out whether or not DC can really compete with Marvel at the cinema when Batman v Superman soars (or crashes) into theaters this March.
2. Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
Civil war is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Captain American and Iron Man are on opposing sides of the conflict. If that doesn’t sell you on this latest entry in Marvel’s ending quest for total movie domination, nothing will, but we’re still going to try. Don’t let the fact that only Captain America’s name is in the title; Marvel’s going all-in on this one. Marvel pretty much drove a dump truck full of money up to Robert Downey Jr.’s house to convince him to sign onto this film, but considering how much of a buzz the first trailer made when it was released the other week, that will probably end up being money well spent. Warner Bros. probably isn’t too happy that viewers seem to be more excited to see Captain America and Iron Man duke it out than they do Batman and Superman, but Civil War has another ace up its sleeve: Spider-Man. Yes, the latest incarnation of ol’ Web Head will be making his MCU debut in this film, making Captain America: Civil War a frontrunner for the biggest box office take of 2016. It just has one other big contender to worry about…
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)
…except that Marvel doesn’t need to worry because Disney produces Star Wars now too! Yes, we don’t even know if Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a hit yet (who’s kidding who though? It’s going to shatter box office records) and Disney is already primed to release another new Star Wars movie in 2016. Titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the film will be a spin-off of sorts set prior to the events of the 1977 original film and will follow the Rebel spies who stole the Death Star plans from the Empire that eventually led to the space station’s destruction. Not much more is known about the film at this point, but expect it to be a more intimate, character-driven film than others in the series, which should be a nice change of pace for the Star Wars brand. Rogue One is being directed by Gareth Edwards, who made the 2014 Godzilla reboot, and stars Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) and Diego Luma (The Book of Life), among a host of other relative unknowns. It’s coming out almost exactly a year after The Force Awakens, pretty much guaranteeing that Disney has the month of December locked up for the foreseeable future.