There’s now less than a month until Christmas, and after a start last week with our look at the Best Posters and Best Trailers of the year, this week commences in earnest our annual smorgasbord of movie love that is our annual Playlist year-end features marathon. We’ll be looking at the best and worst of films, performances, sequences, cinematography, soundtracks and more across the next few weeks, which will serve as a reminder that 2016 was a pretty strong year at the movies.
But before we get to that, we’ve decided to look forward, with a peek at the movies that we’re most excited about in 2017. Below you’ll find the films we’re most keenly anticipating in the year to come, and the good news is that it looks like we’re in for a belter — even at a hundred, it’s all killer, no filler, and we could have gone much longer too.
They range from the biggest blockbusters to tiny micro-budget indies, from first-time filmmakers to veteran directors with five decades in the business under their belts, and with moviemakers from virtually every corner of the globe involved. Take a look at the full list below, and start marking your 2017 calendar.
100. “Brawl In Cell Block 99”
Director: S. Craig Zahler (“Bone Tomahawk”)
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, Marc Blucas
Synopsis: A former boxer becomes a drug runner, only to end up in prison and forced to fight for his life.
What You Need To Know: We went into 2015’s “Bone Tomahawk” with fairly low expectations and came out overjoyed — it was a pulpy, poetic, darkly funny horror/Western that could be strangely beautiful and moving for a movie where someone gets bisected through the asshole by a mountain man who looks like a Predator. As such, it bought our undying loyalty to writer/director S. Craig Zahler, and we’ll be very much there for his next one, which has now wrapped. A more contemporary story of brutality, it seems to involve crime and prison boxing in some way, and while some might shirk from it, given that Vince Vaughn’s in the lead role, we’d remind them politely that Zahler is the man who got an interesting performance out of Matthew Fox in his last film. Matthew. Fox.
Release Date: Nothing yet, and no distributor either, but we imagine this could be a TIFF Midnight Madness contender.
Director: Gillian Robespierre (“Obvious Child”)
Cast: Jenny Slate, Abby Quinn, Edie Falco, Finn Wittrock, John Turturro
Synopsis: In the Manhattan of 1995, three women in one family have to negotiate their relationships with each other, and with the outside world.
What You Need To Know: Four years ago, Gillian Robespierre’s “Obvious Child” proved to be one of the freshest and most enjoyable romantic comedies we’ve seen in a long while, as well as proving a vital corrective to the if-you-are-pregnant-that-you-must-have-the-baby narratives of “Knocked Up” and “Juno.” Things have been quiet since (she was developing a TV show that doesn’t appear to have gone), but she’s back at Sundance this year, reuniting with Slate for a film that seems likely to build on the strengths of its predecessor. Slate, newcomer Abby Quinn and Edie Falco have the leads in this family drama, and while the logline suggests that it could lean too heavily on the like-how-did-people-even-function-without-cellphones nostalgia, we have faith that Robespierre could bring us something special.
Release Date: Premiering in competition at Sundance, where it’ll likely be one of the hotter tickets.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”)
Cast: Louis Garrel, Berenice Bejo, Stacy Martin, Gregory Gadeboise, Micha Lescot
Synopsis: The story of Jean-Luc Godard’s affair with actress Anne Wiazemsky
What You Need To Know: Plenty of filmmakers follow a Best Picture-winning peak with a fairly major trough, but few slumped so hard as Michel Hazanavicius did after “The Artist” — the French director followed his delightful silent movie homage with a remake of Fred Zinnemann’s “The Search,” a film so dreadful it barely got a release in the U.S at all. For his next trick, he appears to be deliberately trolling Film Twitter by literally making a biopic of Jean-Luc Godard, focused on his romance with actress Anna Wiazemsky (who also reportedly had an affair with Bresson too, something we definitely hope makes it in). We’d expect something formally playful in its homage to Godard’s work, and potentially a tin-eared disaster, but we’re undoubtedly fascinated to check it out.
Release Date: If “The Search” didn’t burn bridges with Cannes, this could well turn up there.
97. “The Coldest City”
Director: David Leitch (“John Wick”)
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones
Synopsis: On the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an MI6 agent must take down a secret operation to kill undercover agents.
What You Need To Know: Few action movies of late have been better directed than “John Wick,” so it’s no surprise that its former stuntmen and second-unit helmers have become much in demand, though they’ve divided their efforts. Chad Stahelski has helmed the upcoming sequel on his own, in part because partner David Leitch (who also recently landed the “Deadpool 2” job) was busy on this project. Based on a graphic novel, it’s a retro spy thriller with a very promising cast, including Charlize Theron’s first big post “Mad Max” action role, and if Leitch can bring half the style and panache to this as he did to his Keanu vehicle, we should be in for a treat.
Release Date: Focus recently moved it up to July 28th, the heart of summer, a bullish move that suggests real confidence in the picture.
96. “The Dark Tower”
Director: Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”)
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Katheryn Winnick, Jackie Earle Haley
Synopsis: An 11-year-old boy is transported to a dimension called Mid-World, where he aids gunslinging knight Roland on a quest to the titular dark tower as they’re pursued by a malevolent sorcerer.
What You Need To Know: After seemingly years in development — J.J Abrams had a go at adapting it, then Ron Howard came close twice, first with Russell Crowe and then with Javier Bardem — we figured the movie version of Stephen King’s beloved fantasy series “The Dark Tower” would never come to pass. But filming finally got underway last year, with Howard producing and Danish helmer Nikolaj Arcel writing and directing. It’ll pit Idris Elba against Matthew McConaughey, and Arcel’s taken an interesting approach, treating the story as much as a sequel as an adaptation (this makes sense for spoiler-y reasons), which should let them have some latitude to change things and keep things fresh for fans. It’s the kind of movie that could turn out to be a swing and a miss, but a delay to a prime summer release suggests that the studio is happy with what they’re seeing.
Release Date: July 28th
95. “The Mercy”
Director: James Marsh (“The Theory Of Everything”)
Cast: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Jonathan Bailey, Sebastian Armesto
Synopsis: The true story of Donald Crowhurst, a round-the-world yachtsman who wove a tragic web of lies.
What You Need To Know: While Oscar voters clearly responded to his last film, we have to say that we found it hard to recognize the James Marsh who made “Man On Wire,” “Project Nim” and “Red Riding” among the saccharine, surface-level Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory Of Everything.” But while his next film “The Mercy” looks to be made of similar prestige stuff on the surface, we suspect it’s going to be a little more interesting. We won’t spoil it here, but Donald Crowhurst’s story is one of darkness and madness, and a screenplay by the great Scott Z. Burns (“Contagion”) suggests it isn’t going to be glossing over any of that. Firth goes from strength to strength too, and this should be a great role for him as well. Could it take him back to the Oscars?
Release Date: Filmed back in the summer of 2015, so it could be ready to go for Berlin.
94. “In The Fade”
Director: Fatih Akin (“Head-On”)
Cast: Diane Kruger, Numan Acar, Siir Eloglu
Synopsis: A man is tipped over the edge by his experiences of prejudice
What You Need To Know: Back in 2014, the great German-Turkish director Fatih Akin made the most ambitious film of his career with “The Cut,” and dropped the ball hard, with the movie receiving mostly toxic reviews. But with this year’s coming-of-age comedy “Tschick” seemingly serving as something of a palate cleanser, he’s ready for the big stage again, and this provocative-sounding drama sounds like it could be a return to form. Akin has described it as akin to “Taxi Driver,” but dealing with issues of immigration and racism as well, which certainly seems topical. And he’s got a big name on board as well, with Diane Kruger starring in the film — interestingly, it’s the first German-language movie for the actress, who’s mostly worked in French and American film up to now.
Release Date: Venice seems like the likeliest bet.
93. “Untitled Woody Allen Project 2017”
Director: Woody Allen (“Scoop”)
Cast: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi, Max Casella
Synopsis: A drama set in New York.
What You Need To Know: While accusations over his personal life continue to make him a divisive figure to say the least, and he’s now over 80, Woody Allen has shown no signs of slowing down or being distracted. In fact, he’s only getting busier — while many thought his Amazon series might cause a break in his movie-a-year schedule, it hasn’t been the case, as he’s recently filmed his 48th movie, albeit a touch later than usual. As usual, everything from the title down is still secret, but we do know that it’s a drama (a period one, judging from set pictures), and that it stars Kate Winslet in her first collaboration with the director. We also know that someone, somewhere will probably describe it as a “return to form,” and they’ll probably be wrong.
Release Date: A later shoot might mean that a Cannes bow will be out, but expect it in the late summer or early fall.
92. “A Fantastic Woman”
Director: Sebastian Lelio (“Gloria”)
Cast: Daniela Vega
Synopsis: A waitress and singer struggles to recover from the death of her boyfriend.
What You Need To Know: The Chilean film scene is thriving, and while Pablo Larrain, soon to break through to the mainstream with “Jackie,” is the leading light of that, there’s plenty more beyond that going on. Like the work of Sebastian Lelio, whose 2013 film “Gloria” became a Playlist favorite, and won Best Actress for Paulina Garcia (more recently seen in Ira Sachs’ “Little Men”) at Berlin. Four years later, he’s ready to go with his follow-up, another drama centered on women, albeit a younger one this time, and it should help make his name known internationally even further. In part because Larrain is producing, just at the moment where his name will start to mean more to people.
Release Date: A return to Berlin seems likely.
91. “Alien: Covenant”
Director: Ridley Scott (“Alien”)
Cast: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Amy Seimetz
Synopsis: The crew of the spaceship the Covenant discover a world that might be a paradise, but its sole inhabitant, android David, the only survivor of the doomed Prometheus mission, has a dire warning for them.
What You Need To Know: The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And yet here we are, five years on from “Prometheus,” hoping that Ridley Scott’s latest “Alien” prequel is the follow-up we deserve. A strong marketing campaign meant that “Prometheus” was feverishly anticipated, which only made its mediocrity (and that’s being generous) stand out all the more when it arrived. But Scott’s coming off his best movie since “Gladiator” in “The Martian,” and this looks to move closer to his 1979 original, right down to the blue-collar spaceship vibe and a decidedly Ripley-ish heroine in Katherine Waterston. But can the script justify the existence of the franchise? Fingers crossed…
Release Date: May 19th