Our top 30 must-watch films of 2016

LATEST UPDATE: added our Suicide Squad review.

That 2016 is chock full of films potentially worth seeing is both a good and bad thing. Good, in that we’re spoilt for choice. Bad, in that we’re an indecisive bunch and have no idea how we’ll find time to watch everything.

So in an effort to sort the wheat from the cinematic chaff, here’s our attempt to draw up a list of the 30 films we’re most looking forward to in 2016. And to give the largest films and the smaller, less obvious offerings something of an even footing, we’ve tried to go for a mixture of predictable superhero flicks and lower-budget dramas, thrillers and other exciting (we hope) genre pieces.

This, at least, is why one or two promising movies didn’t make the final cut – we’ll let you argue which ones they are down there in the comments…

30. Independence Day: Resurgence

Twenty years after their first invasion, bug-eyed aliens knock on Earth’s front door once again in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence. Returning stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner are joined by newcomers Liam Hemsworth, Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Fichtner (Will Smith won’t be coming back due to his mothership-sized fee). Expect the sci-fi disaster fare of the original spliced with a bit of Robotech-style action; this time, the puny humans use alien technology from the previous invasion to help them turn the tables.


29. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

The start of the first trilogy of Harry Potter spin-off movies, Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them immediately ensures it’s on firm ground by bringing back David Yates – the director of the last four Potter flicks – to helm this one. JK Rowling, meanwhile, has for the first time penned a story directly for the screen.

Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander (leading an impressive and varied cast), and this first adventure begins around 70 years before the Harry Potter stories. Further films will follow, as you might expect…

Latest news: New behind-the-scenes clip

28. She Who Brings Gifts

Colm McCarthy, the director of hit TV shows like Peaky Blinders, Doctor Who (The Bells Of Saint John), Sherlock and Ripper Street directs this intriguing-sounding British sci-fi. A fungal infection turns humans into zombie-like “hungries”, and with a group of scientists willing to experiment on children to find a cure, a school teacher tries to save one of the young test subjects. Based on a novel by MR Carey, She Who Brings Gifts sounds like a genre thriller in the tradition of John Wyndham and 28 Days Later. There’s a great cast, too, including Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine.

Latest coverage: 8 original sci-fi films to look out for in 2016

27. Ghostbusters

Of all the films on this list, few have already attracted as much dissection as Paul Feig’s upcoming new Ghostbusters movie. It feels like it’s kept internet comments sections in business. As you more than likely know, the new film is being headlined by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. Chris Hemsworth is the new receptionist, and we’re promised cameos from Ghostbusters of yesteryear too.

In theory, this should kickstart a new collection of Ghostbusters movies, and a large part of us aches for this to be good, just to offer the best possible retort to the vile abuse that’s been aimed at the project from a vocal minority. But mainly, as much as we’re wary of digging beloved franchises back up, we just want to see another really good Ghostbusters film. Paul Feig is certainly a man up to the job.


26. The Purge: Election Year

Writer-director James DeMonaco brought us a far superior sequel with his retro, run-and-gun dystopian action flick The Purge: Anarchy. Given that DeMonaco managed to write and direct that film in just one year, it’ll be intriguing to see how he fares with a much longer gap between sequels. We know Frank Grillo’s back in the lead, but with The Purge being a single-location horror thriller and Anarchy moving into city-spanning action, will the third film switch genres once again? We’re looking forward to finding out.

Latest news: first footage, title confirmed as The Purge: Election Year

25. The BFG

Steven Spielberg is back in family movie territory for the first time since Tintin, and he’s tackling one of Roald Dahl’s most beloved books, The BFG.

Dahl’s writing has enjoyed middling success when it comes to movie adaptations (we try not to talk about Tim Burton’s disappointing Charlie And The Chocolate Factory movie, yet Henry Selick’s James And The Giant Peach is a delight). Spielberg here is directing the final screenplay from the late Melissa Mathison.

The excellent cast features Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader, Penelope Wilton (who enhances any project she walks onto the set of), Jemaine Clement and the brilliant Mark Rylance. Young Ruby Barnhill will step into the role of Sophie. In a summer packed full of sequels and franchises, we have enormously high hopes for The BFG. It feels like the right material for the right director. Touch wood.

Latest news: first trailer, lengthy synopsis

24. Eddie The Eagle

Perhaps on the surface, Eddie The Eagle’s story may look like a biopic that’s easy to write off. But just look who’s involved.

This, after all, is Dexter Fletcher’s third film as director – following the terrific Wild Bill and Sunshine On Leith – and he’s landed Kingsman‘s Taron Egerton to take on the role of the British ski jumper on his journey to the Winter Olympics. Furthermore, Hugh Jackman co-stars, and there are appearances from Christopher Walken and Tim McInnerny.

This may just be one of the comedies to beat in 2016. We suspect Fletcher will find the very human side of the story, too.

Latest coverage: Eddie The Eagle review

23. A Monster Calls

The Orphanage was Juan Antonio Bayona’s debut feature in 2007, and it was a superior, beautifully-crafted chiller. He demonstrated a similarly exacting control in 2012’s intense drama The Impossible, and now he’s back in genre territory with A Monster Calls.

Adapted from the fantasy novel by Patrick Ness, it’s about a lonely teenage boy and his uneasy relationship with an imposing, tree-like ‘monster’. Bayona’s way with cinematography and quietly effective imagery should be a perfect match for the book’s exquisite writing and illustration, while the likes of Liam Neeson (as the monster), Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell and Felicity Jones should provide the dramatic heft.

Latest news: first full trailer, teaser clips

22. How To Talk To Girls At Parties

Gradually, more and more of the work of Neil Gaiman is edging towards the big screen. And whilst we hope that 2016 will finally see Sandman before the cameras, overlook How To Talk To Girls At Parties at your peril.

It’s being adapted and directed by John Cameron Mitchell – the genius behind Hedwig And The Angry Inch – and the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Matt Lucas and Ruth Wilson.

There simply aren’t enough sci-fi romances set in the leafy, picturesque surrounds of Croydon. We’ve got high hopes for this one…

Latest news: cast confirmed, shooting underway

21. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Another adaptation from a best-selling novel, this one written by Ben Fountain. It’s the first film from director Ang Lee since Life Of Pi in 2012, and it’s a drama about a group of war heroes returning from the conflict in Iraq. Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) is handling the adapted screenplay, while the cast is intriguingly eclectic: expect to see Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart rubbing shoulders with Steve Martin, Vin Disel and Chris Tucker.

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