It might seem, from a glance, that our 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2017 covers, well, every film coming out in 2017. But that’s far from the truth. We try to keep our annual preview to the films that we’re truly excited about, which means that there’s a lot left on the table. And often, it means that we don’t include some of the films destined to be among the biggest grossers.
We love a great blockbuster, but a tentpole needs to look genuinely promising to make the cut for us, and explosion and CGI fatigue means that plenty of others don’t get there. But those movies are still coming, and to ignore that would be madness, so we wanted to shine a spotlight on what are likely to be the biggest hits of the year to come, like it or not.
Below you’ll find the 30 films we think will be the top grossers of 2017 — sadly, mostly franchises, sequels, reboots or remakes. And to tackle them on the level at which they’re mostly concerned with, we’ve focused on their box-office prospects, ranking them on how we think they’ll perform, and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to bringing in the crowds. Take a look below, and let us know what you think will hit and miss in the next 12 months.
30. “Murder On The Orient Express”
Back in 1974, the Albert Finney-toplining all-star version of Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery “Murder On The Orient Express” was the 11th-biggest movie of the year. In 2017, under a different landscape, it’s unlikely to pull off the same feat, but that doesn’t meant that 20th Century Fox’s new version couldn’t do well for itself. Directed by and starring (as Hercule Poirot) Kenneth Branagh, it struggles slightly to match the truly A-list cast of the ’70s version (Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave). But there’s still plenty of marquee value here — Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer — and we suspect there’s an audience for this kind of classy murder mystery. When even “The Tourist” can make $300 million worldwide, there’s every chance this could do better when it opens at Thanksgiving. The worst-case scenario would be failing to clear $150 million like Branagh’s “Jack Ryan” movie did, the best would be closer to the $400 million or so of an “Ocean’s Eleven” movie.
29. “Blade Runner 2049”
The long-awaited “Blade Runner” sequel is one of the tougher movies to call here, and has one of the wider ranges in which it could perform. The 1982 original wasn’t a huge hit back in the day — taking what would now be the equivalent of about $80 million, the 27th-biggest film of the year (less than “Friday The 13th, Part 3,” “Tron” and “Sophie’s Choice”). It’s undoubtedly become a cult favorite over the years, but it’s still a more intellectual kind of sci-fi than the slam-bang kind that international audiences flock to. We’re sure Denis Villeneuve will deliver plenty of spectacle here, and Ryan Gosling coming off “La La Land” (and a returning Harrison Ford) brings the star power, but Gosling isn’t necessarily a big draw, and the original film may not mean all that much in important markets like China. If the film isn’t a crowd-pleaser, or if the brand’s been overestimated, or if opening opposite “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” takes the legs from under it (don’t be surprised to see one of those movies change dates), it could end up performing closer to Villeneuve’s “Arrival” and topping out at under $200 million. But we think the hype will help it come closer to the performance of a “Tron: Legacy” or a “Prometheus” and end up around the $400 million mark.
28. “The Great Wall”
You might be surprised to see China-set Matt Damon actioner “The Great Wall” here, given that it looks like the kind of expensive folly that could end up tanking pretty hard in the U.S. It could well do that, but it’s also worth remembering that nearly six weeks before it opens here, it’s already racked up $180 million thanks to a blockbuster release in China (and a few other territories) over the holidays. Legendary have become experts at salvaging domestic underperformers with killer box office abroad (“Pacific Rim” made just 25% of its total in the U.S, and “Warcraft” just 10%, and both made over $400 million worldwide). And “The Great Wall” isn’t necessarily a write-off away from China either: Unlike “Pacific Rim” and “Warcraft,” it has an A-list star in the shape of Damon, and hits in February, when its blockbuster competition is minimal. Frankly, even if it’s a “Seventh Son”-sized disaster domestically, it could still easily crawl its way to at least $350 million worldwide, and our guess is it could be closer to $450 million in the end.
27. “Ghost In The Shell”
It’s still something of a whitewashed travesty on paper, but from a financial standpoint, “Ghost In The Shell” is looking like an increasingly wise greenlight from Paramount, even as a relatively rare non-sequel on this list. Rupert Sanders’ remake of the anime classic looks as visually stunning as it does dumb as a rock, and that’s an asset as far as its international release goes. And it stars Scarlett Johansson, who’s become a legit box-office draw thanks to the Marvel movies, and who managed to take “Lucy,” a film without an easy marketing hook or a pre-existing brand, to over $450 million worldwide. “Ghost In The Shell” is in some ways an easier sell, but even assuming that it isn’t very good, it should still benefit from being the last movie in a blockbuster-packed March, with a few weeks’ clearance before “The Fate Of The Furious” arrives. We’d be surprised if it did as well as “Lucy” in the end, but $400 feels eminently achievable, and more is certainly possible.
Coming off the successful and similarly R-rated “Deadpool,” with screenings of 40 minutes of footage winning a glowing response, and a prestigious Berlin bow, chances are high that Hugh Jackman’s third, and supposedly his last, solo outing as Wolverine will be the best. But don’t expect this to do “Deadpool” numbers just because it’s got more blood and cursing — the Ryan Reynolds vehicle exceeded expectations thanks to its disarming humor and irreverent marketing, whereas this seems to be a somber, serious film. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that this could actually be the lowest-grossing of the Wolverines, without an X or even a Wolverine in the title, with “Kong: Skull Island” hitting theaters the week after, and coming off the disappointment of “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which significantly underperformed. But assuming it’s as good as people are hoping, this should easily match or exceed the $414 million that its predecessor made, and could even get closer to $500 million if it plays well abroad.
Aside from his return for “The Fate Of The Furious,” Dwayne Johnson, one of Hollywood’s most reliable international draws, has two big reboots coming this year. The first, “Baywatch,” doesn’t make this list — as an R-rated comedy, it’ll probably perform closer to “Central Intelligence” and “21 Jump Street” than “San Andreas.” “Jumanji,” however, will likely do better — while also a comedy, it’s an effects-driven event movie as well, with plenty of CGI animals to go around. It’s got an easy comic conceit (teenagers are transformed into Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan when they enter the jungle game) that should translate fairly well internationally, too, and unlike “Baywatch,” will be getting 3D and IMAX releases. And the film it’s rebooting was a big hit, taking $262 million back in 1995 (adjusted for inflation, that’s over half a billion). If the film doesn’t work at all, and if it’s overshadowed by “Star Wars, Episode VIII” opening a week earlier, the low bar is still probably the $300 million that “Journey 2” made in 2012. And the high bar is closer to $500 million.
It’s surprisingly difficult to predict how a Pixar movie ends up performing when it isn’t a sequel to a pre-existing smash like “Toy Story 3” or “Finding Dory.” Some of their biggest movies have been some of the ones that might seem the hardest to sell, like “Inside Out” or “Up,” movies that became mega-smashes thanks to their impeccable quality. Which is to say “Coco,” a Day Of The Dead-themed original movie from “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich, could turn out to be one of those, and soar well above $500 million. But it’s been only two years since the last time Pixar released two movies in a calendar year, and in that case, the second of those movies, “The Good Dinosaur,” was the company’s first flop, taking only a little over $300 million worldwide. Middling reviews and audience reaction hurt that film, along with uncertain marketing, and “Coco” is following “Cars 3” rather than “Inside Out,” so will feel more original. As such, it should do better than that film, but we’re not sure it’ll do that much better — somewhere between $400 million and $500 million seems the most likely.
23. “The Lego Ninjago Movie”
Arguably the film that’s most under the radar at the moment, “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is certainly one to keep an eye on. Right now, Warner Bros. are focusing on the more imminent Lego Batman film, but we’re sure the marketing will ramp up once that’s in theaters. That will undoubtedly do better (see below) thanks to both the Bat-brand and the character’s appearance in “The Lego Movie” already, whereas this builds off an existing toy property, but not a movie one. Then again, ‘Lego’ has become a film brand in and of itself now, and this promises the same mix of martial arts and comedy that has made “Kung Fu Panda” a consistent animated performer (Jackie Chan is in the voice cast, too: Assuming he’s also doing the Chinese dub, that’s a boon in that market). WB did come unstuck a bit with a September release last year with “Storks,” but this is a very different proposition, and especially in a year that’s quieter with animation, we’d be shocked not to see this at least match the $475 million of “The Lego Movie” or the similarly September-released “Hotel Transylvania 2.”
22. “Alien: Covenant”
Given the expense and hype involved, some might have dismissed the $400 million haul for “Prometheus” as a disappointment. It probably wasn’t massively profitable, but we’d still characterize it as a huge victory for 20th Century Fox: In pure cash terms, it took twice as much as any previous film in the franchise, and even adjusted for inflation, it outgrossed all but the first two films, and that was even when it wasn’t really sold as an “Alien” movie. Its follow-up has some of the same downsides (few big names, an R rating), and might have been dinged by the mixed reception to its predecessor, but it also has strengths that “Prometheus” didn’t have — most notably, the presence of the word ‘Alien’ in the title, and the presence of one of cinema’s most iconic monsters in the marketing, front and center in the poster and trailer. Fox seem pretty bullish about the movie, too, pushing the release date up so it drops in the middle of May, and forcing rival “Life” to jump to an earlier date, too (it might have had a longer tail if it had stayed with its original August date, but that’s beside the point right now). It’s selling a more intense movie than “Prometheus” in some respects, so we don’t know if it’ll do that much more, but assuming it’s better, it could certainly come closer to $500 million than $400 million.
21. “Smurfs: The Lost Village”
Look, we don’t like this any more than you do. But Sony’s “Smurfs” franchise has been an absolute license to print money so far: The first film, in 2011, took close to $600 million, and while its follow-up took nearly $200 million less (and did half of the original domestically), that was still a hefty chunk of change. The third installment this year sees the live-action elements dumped entirely, and the voice-cast switched up (Mandy Patinkin, Demi Lovato, Jack McBrayer and Rainn Wilson lead this time) for an entirely animated semi-reboot. It looks, on a relative scale compared to its predecessors, more funny and charming than before, and 2016 showed what a boom time it is for animation. With an early April release, it’ll also be the only kids’ movie in theaters until the start of June, which can only be a good thing. We can see it taking $500 million pretty easily — the brand is much stronger internationally than the underperforming, similar “Trolls” — though even a number closer to “The Smurfs 2” would be a victory for an inexpensive film.