Our Top Films of 2016 So Far
Compared to the flurry of instant classics that distinguished the year prior, 2015 was all about going big or going home. Whether through colossal success (Jurassic World) or gigantic failure (Tomorrowland), it was a year dominated by superheroes, fury roads, and galaxies far, far, away. Academy Award hopefuls took a backseat to the blockbusters, which made for a rip-roaring if superficially fun twelve months at the movies. Fortunately, for those who require a more balanced movie diet, 2016 looks to mesh the artful and the commercial far more fairly than its predecessor.
For franchise consumers, the coming year will provide a staggering amount of sequels that will go unnoticed by Academy voters and hailed by the almighty box office. Not every upcoming release will go down as a classic, but that says very little in terms of how entertaining the coming movie season can be.
Conversely, for the more cerebral moviegoer, return offerings from reigning Oscar champs and acclaimed filmmakers are guaranteeing a stacked awards year. So without further adieu, here are the top upcoming movie releases of 2016.
There’s no denying that the superhero movie is the biggest genre in Hollywood today, and the trend continues into 2016 with some of the most anticipated matchups yet. This March, fans get to see Superman battle Batman for the heart of Metropolis, while Iron Man dukes it out with Captain America in May’s Civil War. That’s not even counting super-anti-hero Deadpool, who arrives early this year with bullets and a filthy mouth to match. Humanized heroes also get their day in the sun with the sequel to 1996’s Independence Day, forced to take on aliens twice as evil as the initial batch. Never fear, hero season is once again here.
High stakes drama won’t be doing too shabby either, beginning the year strong with acclaimed films from Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Quentin Tarantino, and Oliver Stone. Biopics galore, matched with oddball dramedies, chic neo-noir, and just flat out comedy when it comes to stuff like January’s Dirty Grandpa. Regardless of genre, making the top 25 list is about as good as it gets. Get ready to mark your calendars.
The Hateful Eight – Release Date: January 1st 2016
Blending western mythos with John Carpenter styled horror, The Hateful Eight introduces The Hangman (Kurt Russell) on his way to execute known fugitive The Prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh). A snowstorm hits, holing them up in a wayward cabin with six strangers: The Bounty Hunter (Samuel L. Jackson), The Sheriff (Walter Goggins), The Mexican (Demiån Bichir), The Little Man (Tim Roth), The Cow Puncher (Michael Madsen), and The Confederate (Bruce Dern). Only thing is, one of this men is not who they seem. As the eighth outing of celebrated writer/director Quentin Tarantino, Eight will undoubtedly be in contention as one of the year’s best films.
The Revenant – Release Date: January 8th 2016
Inspired by true events, director Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s savage tale of survival and revenge is channeled through the eyes of legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). As an expedition guide in the 1880’s, Glass is mauled by a bear and left for dead by an ornery Texan (Tom Hardy) and a morally weak youngster (Will Poulter). Barely alive, and clinging to the memory of his murdered son, Glass endures an impossible journey through wintry terrain on a quest for cold vengeance. Equal parts human drama and violent western, the director and cinematographer of Birdman return for another guaranteed highlight of the year.
The Finest Hours – Release Date: January 29th 2016
Hollywood can’t resist a good miracle story, and that’s exactly what’ll be delivered in Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours. Pulling true events from the novel of the same name, Hours stars Chris Pine as Massachusetts native Bernard Webber, the coast guard on duty the night two oil tankers are destroyed by a vicious storm. Roughly in contact with passenger Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), Webber, under the insistence of his superior Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), risks life and limb in the midst of the most daring rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history. A must for fans of The Poseidon Adventure (1974) and The Perfect Storm (2000).
Deadpool – Release Date: February 12th 2016
Talks of a Deadpool film date back over a decade, to when David S. Goyer reportedly cast Ryan Reynolds as the lead in 2004. But with growing disinterest and a horrible misrepresentation in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), the dream was dead. That is, until the studio decided to dust it off and do things the right way, resulting in the most anticipated “anti-superhero” movie of the year. Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a special force operative who subjects himself to dangerous experimentation in an efforts to cure his cancer. But one experiment goes wildly wrong, spitting Wilson out as Deadpool: regenerative killing machine with a twisted sense of humor. Especially when he catches wind of the man who nearly ruined his life. A new class of superhero, indeed.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Release Date: April 22nd 2016
Joining the notably short list of sequel/prequels, Winter’s War does nothing if not expand upon the events of 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, a dark fantasy take on the classic Brothers Grimm tale. It is here that evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murders the child of her sister Freya (Emily Blunt), who in turn gathers an army to overthrow the kingdom and seek revenge. Along the way, banished huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) joins the fight, leading to a showdown of decidedly epic proportions. Like it’s predecessor, Winter’s War plays out under director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Snow White and continues to evoke a world of eerie foreboding. Matching his actors with a natural eye for operatic tendencies, Nicolas-Troyan is allowed the opportunity to bring one of the lesser known Brothers Grimm tales to life, and the resulting moodiness ensures it will stay faithful to the downtrodden vibes of it’s source material.
The Free State of Jones – Release Date: March 11th 2016
The Free State of Jones tells the amazing true story of Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), poor Mississippi farmer and ex-soldier who trained a group of anti-slavery deserters to combat the Confederacy. Along the way, Knight makes county history as the first white man to legally marry a black woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), setting a precedent that would shake Southern bigotry to its core. Directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games), this riveting biopic is sure to nab plenty of acclaim for as one of the year’s best releases. A distinction that’ll undoubtedly rest on the acting shoulders of Oscar winner McConaughey.
10 Cloverfield Lane – Release Date: March 11th 2016
The original Cloverfield (2008) was one of the most cleverly promoted films of the decade at the time of it’s release, implanting clues and bits of info throughout a relatively new social media culture. That the film pulled in financial success and a critical shoulder shrug resulted was predicted, but the looming marketing influence has run deep ever since; a stock-in-trade of filmmaker J.J. Abrams. In contrast, this loosely affiliated sequel, also produced by Abrams, takes a wholly different approach targeting curious audience members: simplicity. The story finds young Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) trapped in a bunker with two mysterious men (John Goodman and John Gallagher, Jr.) who warn of the outside. Naturally, Michelle needs to see for herself, and the resulting claustrophobic intensity plays nicely against the expansive cityscape of the first film. Unproven director Dan Trachtenberg has a lot to prove in this high end concept, but it looks as though Bad Robot Productions will have another wonderfully mysterious thriller on its hands.
Midnight Special – Release Date: March 18th 2016
Single father Roy (Michael Shannon) is in a pickle. His son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) has a unique gift, but a ruthless government agent (Adam Driver) and an eccentric cult leader (Sam Shepard) seek the boy out for their own selfish reasons, triggering a cross country chase that requires the help of Roy’s pal (Joel Edgerton) and his ex-wife (Kirsten Dunst). If the film evokes 80’s nostalgia, it’s because that’s exactly what writer/director Jeff Nichols intended for his self-dubbed “sci-fi chase film.” Of his influences, the director of acclaimed indies Take Shelter (2011) and Mud (2013) likened the project to a “John Carpenter film like Starman ,” ensuring plenty of warm hearted intentions and dramatic chops to spare. The collection of actors involved is quite stunning for Nichols’ first studio release, showcasing not only his ability to cobble together fine talent, but capture a story that will connect for many a viewer young and old. Midnight Special, out this March, has all the makings of something indeed very special.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Release Date: March 25th 2016
As the follow-up to 2013’s franchise starter Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder and D.C. Studios drop viewers into the ultimate superhero battle: Batman v Superman. Picking up after the destruction of Metropolis, Superman a.k.a. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) faces his toughest opponents yet in the form of spoiled rich kid Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gotham vigilante Batman a.k.a. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Though both heroes seek justice, conflicting interests result in a showdown of epic proportions, with the fates of Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and Alfred (Jeremy Irons) hanging in the balance. It is truly a night in need of a dawn.
The Jungle Book – Release Date: April 15th 2016
In the wake of live-action remakes like Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015), it seemed only a matter of time before Disney got around to remodeling one of its most beloved classics: The Jungle Book. In this CGI reminaging, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by Indian wolves Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). But when terrifying tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) makes it his mission to kill Mowgli, the boy is forced into hiding with the aid of black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray). Directed by commercial favorite Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book has a steady stream of anticipation as one of April’s hottest releases.
Eddie The Eagle – Release Date: April 29th 2016
Based on the eccentric true story, Eddie The Eagle introduces Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), the wily athlete who made history as the first Olympic skier to represent Great Britain. Equal parts comedy, drama, and inspiring biopic, the films details Edwards’ miscellaneous failures and eventual partnership with Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who trains “The Eagle” on his way to international fame. In highlighting the triumph of the human spirit over physical restraints, the film will appeal heavily to fans of Rudy (1993) and Remember The Titans (2000). Directed by actor-turned filmmaker Dexter Fletcher, Eddie will carve its niche out as one of the select sports pictures to hit theaters this year.
Captain America: Civil War – Release Date: May 6th 2016
It’s all been building up to this. The segregation of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron saw Captain America (Chris Evans) training a new crop of superheroes, while Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) sank deeper into protective paranoia mode. Civil War picks up when Iron Man and the government begin regulating superheroes on earth, a denial of liberty that doesn’t sit too well with Cap and recovering pal Bucky a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). With alleys like Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) forced to choose sides, the former Avengers face off in a brutal battle that will soon change everything.
Alice Through The Looking Glass – Release Date: May 27th 2016
Despite a tepid critical reaction, 2010’s Alice In Wonderland raked in over a billion dollars worldwide; leaving the only surprise being that it took Warner Bros. this long to craft a follow-up. Gothic master Tim Burton has since been dropped down to producer, but it seems as though his bizarre concept art and eccentric stylings remain through newly appointed director James Bobin. Consequently, Alice Through The Looking Glass can’t escape being one of the year’s most highly anticipated sequels. Reuniting an endless array of performers that include Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter, this return to the mythical Wonderland is as visually expansive as the original, complete with buzzing emphasis on new characters like The Mad Hatter’s father (Rhys Ifans). Whether it’ll be able to outdo its counterpart in critical praise (or lack thereof) remains to be seen, but at the very least, the exciting possibilities of Alice Through The Looking Glass will make for an exciting trip to the movies when school gets out.
X-Men: Apocalypse – Release Date: May 27th 2016
As the impressive ninth installment in Fox Studios’ X-Men series, director Bryan Singer returns for what is being labeled the most ambitious entry yet. Awaking after several millennia, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first and most powerful mutant, is displeased with the world around him. Seeking destruction of the human race as penance for its failure to improve itself, Apocalypse recruits a team of mutants to “cleanse” the planet and start a New World Order. Naturally, he’s going to have to deal with Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and the rest of the X-Men first. The apocalypse is now or never.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows – Release Date: June 3rd 2016
Given the backing (producer Michael Bay) and money making results ($493 million) of 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was only a matter of time before Paramount greenlit a second helping of turtle soup. This time, Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) have to take on the peevish Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and the return of their archenemy Shredder (Brian Tee). Unfortunately for April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and the heroes in the half shell, these baddies prove to be the tip of the iceberg as mutant weirdos Rocksteady and Bebop creep out of the shadows.
Warcraft – Release Date: June 10th 2016
Based on the wildly popular video games, Warcraft centers around Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), leader of the humans, and Durotan (Toby Kebbell), leader of the orcs. As an Earth bound war leaves the human race struggling to recover, a portal known as the “Dark Portal” opens up and through it flee hundreds of orcs seeking refuge from their planet. Suddenly, with two species forced to inhabit the same space, an all out war means salvation for one and extinction for the other. Co-written and directed by savvy sci-fi expert Duncan Jones (2011’s Source Code), Warcraft will strike a fierce blow to the box office with its built in fanbase and lavish battle scenes.
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist – Release Date: June 10th 2016
Following suit with 2013’s The Conjuring, which surprised everyone with huge box office numbers and critical acclaim, The Enfield Poltergeist reunites paranormal husband and wife team Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). This time, the duo travels to England to investigate a house in the London Borough of Enfield, housing several councilmen and women. For fans of the original’s true story hook, The Conjuring 2 takes some artistic liberties and is ultimately based in the fictional mind of writer/director James Wan. As the horror auteur behind modern classics like Saw (2004) and Insidious (2011), Wan’s sleek style will is sure to conjure up horror’s biggest box office hit.
Finding Dory – Release Date: June 17th 2016
Though the span between Finding Dory and its original film bypass a full decade, Dory’s story takes place only six months after Finding Nemo. Living peacefully with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), the forgetful fish (Ellen DeGeneres) begins recalling bits and pieces of her childhood – resulting in a search to find her family and “the jewel of Monterey, California.” Along the way, Dory encounters a beluga whale (Ty Burrell), a whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), and an ill-tempered octopus (Ed O’Neill). The hype is real for Finding Dory, this is one of the most anticipated releases of the entire year.
Independence Day: Resurgence – Release Date: June 24th 2016
Returning two decades after one of Hollywood’s most beloved disaster movies, Independence Day: Resurgence has a one way ticket to success in being one of the year’s biggest commercial releases. Bringing together the all-star cast of the original (minus Will Smith), trouble quickly hits when knowledge that the original aliens sent a distress signal finally reaches its target. This time, an alien species from deep outer space, armed with an even larger fleet, are coming to take Earth once and for all. Which leaves salvation in the hands of science whiz David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and former President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman). This summer just got a whole lot more patriotic.
The Purge: Election Year – Release Date: July 1st 2016
The flood of sequels continue with Election Year, a follow up to 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy. Set in a society based around the notion of a yearly crime “purge,” the film follows an idealistic Senator (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her head bodyguard (Frank Grillo) as they find themselves caught in a horrifying game of political mind games. Fans of the first two will undoubtedly spot favorable similarities, most notably the return of Grillo’s unnamed Sergeant, who led the heinous fight for survival in Anarchy. But more than character development or clever dialogue, the series still focuses on its strength: a plot gimmick that hooks you in. Each film in the series has improved upon the promising notion of a night where crime is legal, and there’s no reason to think series director James DeMonaco will fail to bring the same improvements this time around. As for whether this is the final Purge, that’s something fans will have to decide for themselves this summer.
The Legend of Tarzan – Release Date: July 1st 2016
Director David Yates is going to have a busy year ahead of him with the one two punch of the Fantastic Beasts spinoff and the reboot of this classic Edgar Rice Burroughs story. Starring True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard in the title role, The Legend of Tarzan actually bypasses the origins in favor of a lesser told tale; that of the jungle man’s adjustment to civilized life. Picking up years after leaving for London with his girlfriend Jane (Margot Robbie), Tarzan is coerced into revisiting his congo roots under the guise of being a trade emissary for Parliament. A guise that comes crashing down when the villainous Captain León Rom (Christoph Waltz) reveals his true scheme of betrayal and revenge. Credit to screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer for such a unique take on the tale, a state that will be benefited further from the imaginative stylists of director Yates. And who knows, if the film does well enough, this could be the beginning of yet another rip-roaring franchise.
The BFG – Release Date: July 1st 2016
Steven Spielberg has always been the king of family fare, dating back to timeless classics like E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and Hook (1991). But in the last twenty years, the world renown director has shied away from kids stuff, focusing mostly on sturdy historical pieces Lincoln (2012) and Bridge of Spies (2015) – films that, while still great, fail to capture the magical innocence viewers have since yearned for.
Fortunately, The BFG looks to deliver on that potential and then some. Adapted from the seminal Roald Dahl novel, BFG finds Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a plucky young girl, as she befriends the title character (Mark Rylance) who just so happens to be a 24 foot tall giant with big ears and a propensity for good dreams. Shenanigans occur in the wake of this silly set-up, and the visually stunning possibilities between Spielberg and this fantastical tale seem endless. It’s nice to see him up to his old tricks again; and besides, a little throwback romanticism never hurt anybody.
Ghostbusters – Release Date: July 15th 2016
The Ghostbusters reboot has been in talks since the 1990’s, when the idea was still to reunite the core crew of Murray, Ramis, Aykroyd and Hudson for a final hurrah. But in the wake of Ramis’ death and Murray’s reluctance to return, comedy hitmaker Paul Feig has reupholstered the concept for a newer, more female-centric generation. This time, the posse consists of laughingstock authors Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), along with nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) – paired with a plot that’s pretty unimportant to the overall enjoyment. Feig, who directed recent megahits Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013), knows good and well plot is a moot point with such a talented cast, and sure-to-be killer cameos from the original actors only serve as a frightful cherry on top. Looks like it’s time to call a different number in the neighborhood.
Star Trek: Beyond – Release Date: July 22nd 2016
It’s been three years since audiences last saw Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) slamming around The Enterprise in Star Trek: Into Darkness, a relatively huge hit. But this time, with director J.J. Abrams relegated to the role of producer, Beyond is more than a title – it’s the make or break attitude of a series that will go bigger than ever to compete with resurrected juggernauts like Star Wars and Mad Max. Filmmaker Justin Lin, best known for bringing a flashy edge to the last four Fast & Furious films, will take over for Abrams, and strand Kirk and company on a planet of seemingly hostile intent. Forced to go up against the mysterious Krall (Idris Elba), the now experienced crew face their toughest challenge yet while still retaining Abrams’ patented fun; shown most notably by the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” selection in the trailer. It won’t change the game, but who doesn’t want some sleek space action with a killer soundtrack?
Jason Bourne – Release Date: July 29th 2016
Though viewers were promised they’d seen the last of Matt Damon’s brilliant agent in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), series director Paul Greengrass has seemingly stepped out of the shadows with a plot that remains as secretive as a CIA operation. Dubbed Bourne 5 by those attempting to discuss what little information has been made available, the film bypasses 2012 spinoff The Bourne Legacy in favor of a direct sequel to Ultimatum, reuniting Damon and Julia Stiles with new faces like Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, and Tommy Lee Jones. Scarcity is the current name of the game, yet given the overwhelming praise heaped upon the original trilogy, Jason Bourne isn’t going to have any trouble finding an audience eager for ambitious stunts and espionage that makes 007 look like Paul Blart. Greengrass, who was last seen helming the Oscar nominated Captain Phillips (2013), has his work cut out for him. But if anyone could overcome overwhelming odds, it’s Jason Bourne.
Suicide Squad – Release Date: August 5th 2016
Arriving months after the highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, David Ayer’s ode to the sleazy mad men and women behind DC Comics will have it’s day in the darkness. Suicide Squad has been in talks for well over a year, introducing an all-star cast (Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman) through potent preview pics and trailers set to Queen’s swooning “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Ayer, a writer/director most associated with the neo-noir movement in films like Training Day (2001) and End of Watch (2012), has quite the responsibility in compiling so many idiosyncratic personalities into one narrative – especially Jared Leto’s much buzzed about Joker. Seen only sparingly in previews, his grill sporting trickster has the fanboy world ripe with anticipation, and the Oscar winning actor will do little to nothing to squander those hopes. With a sequel already set for next year, Suicide Squad is a foul-mouthed freight train that will barrel through the competition like a prison security guard.
Doctor Strange – Release Date: November 4th 2016
In continuing with long awaited projects, Doctor Strange has been in the pipeline of Marvel Studios since the early 80’s, when Repo Man director Alex Cox sought out the weary stardom of Harry Dean Stanton for the title role. Fortunately, it seems as though all has fallen into place in the wake of the Superhero Renaissance, where every comic book character known to the casual consumer has had at least one solo outing. Granted, Doctor Strange isn’t as viable as Iron Man, but the casting of Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch has only bolstered an anticipation that rivals this summer’s Captain America: Civil War. Promoted as an artsier, more psychedelic entry in the Marvel Universe, director Scott Derrickson will infuse much of the eerie suspense that made Sinister (2011) such a surprise hit, aided by a cast that includes Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton. The magic keeps on coming out of Marvel, and given Doctor Strange’s mythic powers, the magic seems more literal than ever.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Release Date: November 18th 2016
This a tricky one. Based on the popular prequel/spinoff novel by Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts will walk the fine line between complementing and absurd rehashing. Fans are hesitant about the idea regarding a new trilogy set within the magical world, but at the very least, solace can be found in Rowling’s self-adapted screenplay and director David Yates; who helmed the final four films in the Potter saga. Set in the muggle world of the 1920’s, skittish magician Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is forced to track down a mistakenly released briefcase of vicious animals and dangerous creatures – before our world stumbles across concrete proof that magic does indeed exist. Definite aspects of Harry Potter to spot, and fans will get a keen kick out of inside jokes and clever set-ups that will reward multiple viewings. The thing that will determine whether Warner Bros. moves forward with it’s sequel plans, however, will be the response of the casual viewer in deciphering its sheer entertainment value.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Release Date: December 16th 2016
After the towering success of last year’s The Force Awakens, the frothing demand for its galaxy far, far away have reached levels unseen since the glory days of the early 80’s. As a result, the studio execs at Disney are tossing their hat into the arena of Marvel and DC by green lighting an entire barrage of spinoffs and cinematic tie-ins; to hold people over until Episode VIII returns next Christmas. Rogue One, the first announced entry in the Star Wars Anthology Series, will shake things up a bit by relocating the action to shortly before the events of A New Hope (1977) and the ragtag group of rebels who conspired to steal the Death Star plans. Helmed by recent Godzilla (2014) director Gareth Edwards, the film features a star studded cast of Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, and Mads Mikkelsen among many others, promising a truly unpredictable entry into a franchise with a new lease on life.