We’ll be the first to admit that drawing up a list of potentially great forthcoming movies is far from an exact science. But with 2017 so chock full of promising films both large and small, we’ve at least made an attempt to sort through the crowded schedule, pick out the ones we’re looking forward to, and sort them into some kind of order.
When the films are released we’ll also add our reviews, so that you can find out if we hit the jackpot, or were left a little disappointed.
With that in mind, then, here’s our pick of the must-see movies of this year, which, as ever, run the gamut from expensive superhero flicks to smaller dramas to mid-budget, high-concept sci-fi pictures. Some of the following will almost certainly wind up falling short of our expectations, but there’s also the fighting chance that one or two will turn out to be modern classics.
So, to get things rolling, let’s start with a disaster movie directed by the guy who produced Independence Day, and starring Gerard Butler…
We can imagine that some might already be describing Dean Devlin’s upcoming sci-fi movie, Geostorm, as a guilty pleasure. We don’t do guilty pleasures. This one simply looks a hoot.
It’s a two plots for the price of one by the looks of it. There are climate controlling satellites on the one hand, that try and prevent storms that could destroy the planet. And in the midst of that, there’s a plot to assassinate the president. Gerard Butler, no stranger to films with such plots, leads a cast that also features Abbie Cornish, Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia.
The film marks Devlin’s big screen feature directing debut, and hopefully it lives up to its B-movie presence, and gives us one of 2017’s most fun nights out at the pictures. We’ve got until October to wait for it, though.
34. Beauty And The Beast
Having proven that it can make a success – both critically and commercially – of a live action take on The Jungle Book, Disney’s reworking of its animated hits in live action arrives at another cherished movie: Beauty And The Beast.
The first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, the 1991 original is regarded as one of the very finest Disney animated features. For the live action take, Bill Condon (the last two Twilight movies, Dreamgirls, Gods And Monsters) is directing, and quite an ensemble has been recruited. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens are in the title roles, whilst – deep breath – Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Sir Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline and Josh Gad head up the support. Alan Menken – who penned the music (with the late Howard Ashman) to the original film – is on board as well.
33. A Cure For Wellness
Gore Verbinski’s last film was Disney’s unfeasibly expensive western The Lone Ranger, but with A Cure For Wellness, he returned to the creepier, smaller-scale territory he explored in his Ring remake. The movie stars Dane DeHaan, who heads to a remote clinic in the Swiss Alps to find the whereabouts of his company’s missing boss. That sounded not unlike Bram Stoker’s Dracula to us, albeit with a modern, medical twist: everyone at the clinic has some kind of illness, and it’s discovered that DeHaan’s Mr Lockhart also has the same mysterious affliction. Jason Isaacs (hello) and the brilliantly-named Mia Goth also starred.
32. Murder On The Orient Express
Kenneth Branagh’s last three films have been blockbusters of varying sizes – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Cinderella, Thor – but now he’s trying something a little smaller, and potentially a lot more playful. He’s directing and taking the lead role of Poirot in an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express.
Michael Green has penned the screenplay, and the cast includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Michael Pena, Dame Judi Dench and seemingly half of RADA. Expect a release towards the end of 2017.
31. The Greatest Showman On Earth
Founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, politician and all-round showman PT Barnum’s getting his own movie, which stars Hugh Jackman as the 19th century impresario. Bill Condon co-wrote this one, and he’s the bloke who brought us the magnificent Gods And Monsters – one reason why we’re looking forward to this musical biopic. That, and the sight of Hugh Jackman singing and waving his arms in front of an elephant, of course.
They all float down here. We have to admit, we were more in a lather when Cary Fukunaga was involved in this new, big-screen telling of Stephen King’s It, but the story’s such a magnetic one that we’re looking forward to the new treatment anyway. We’ll have to wait and see whether Bill Skarsgard can come close to matching Tim Curry’s legendary turn as Pennywise the terrifying clown, but with the director of the scary Mama behind the camera (that’s Andres Muschietti) the new It could still be good for a few shudders this summer.
29. Molly’s Game
Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut, having adapted Molly Bloom’s memoir himself. Bloom was a young skier who found herself the target of the FBI as she established a very rich international game of poker. Jessica Chastain will be playing her in the movie, leading a cast that also includes Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd.
The movie isn’t due to appear until the back end of 2017. It’ll be interesting to see whether Sorkin – who landed an Oscar for writing The Social Network – translates effortlessly to the director’s chair.
28. The Book Of Henry
Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow is moving from dinosaur theme parks to more personal territory with The Book Of Henry, a drama about a young boy (Henry, played by Jaeden Lieberher) who plots to rescue his neighbour (Maddie Ziegler) from her abusive cop father (Dean Norris). Even if you weren’t entirely convinced by Jurassic World, Trevorrow’s debut, Safety Not Guaranteed, was a great demonstration of his dramatic skill. If you haven’t seen that film yet, do seek it out – it’ll give you a good idea of why we’re so looking forward to The Book Of Henry.
27. Ghost In The Shell
Overshadowed though it was by the controversy surrounding its casting, Ghost In The Shell had some rich storytelling to draw from. Based on Masamune Shirow’s manga series and leaning heavily on the 1995 anime classic by director Mamoru Oshii, it’s a cyberpunk fable about the migration of souls to machines, and what that might mean for the future of humanity. Director Rupert Sanders said there’d be more action in his movie than the more philosophical anime movies and series. Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche made up a sterling international cast.
26. Tulip Fever
Anyone who collected comics in the early 90s will know what an asset bubble is: everyone goes nuts and buys into the next sure-fire deal, only to see the value of what they’re buying collapse as the market becomes over-saturated. Well, centuries before investors were frantically buying copies of X-Force, a similar air of fervour surrounded tulip bulbs, of all things.
Tulip Fever, written by Tom Stoppard and directed by Justin Chadwick, tells the story of a 17th century couple who buy into the exploding market for tulips – which the Dutch were punting out all over Europe for inflated prices in the 1630s – only to see the sales plummet like a piano down a mineshaft. Word is that Harvey ‘scissor-hands’ Weinstein’s been fiddling with the cut of Tulip Fever, but Chadwick and Stoppard’s previous work leaves us hopeful that the movie will survive the tinkering. Once again, the cast is also tip-top: look out for Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan, Christoph Waltz and the ubiquitous Cara Delevingne among the blooms.
25. The Circle
Dave Eggers’ novel of the same name is a high-tech, Orwellian dystopia for our times: a drama-thriller about a Google-like internet company and its gradual encroachment on its users’ privacy. The movie, written and directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) will star Emma Watson as the new employee who watches as the tech firm quietly takes over the planet. Done right, The Circle could be genuinely disturbing.
24. The Dark Tower
This one’s been a long time coming. Based on Stephen King’s formidable collection of eight novels, it promises to be the sci-fi horror fantasy western we’ve all been waiting for. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey will star as the gun-toting Roland Deschain and the evil wizard Walter Padick respectively, and they’re both on a quest to reach the magical Dark Tower of the title – a place that could decide the fate of their reality. Think The Neverending Story but with more guns and fewer luck dragons, and you’re somewhere close to The Dark Tower. If the movie’s a success, expect further movies and a TV series to continue King’s epic saga.
23. The LEGO Batman Movie
Was everything still awesome? It had been three years since The LEGO Movie by the time The LEGO Batman Movie landed in cinemas. Warner Bros still has plans for several LEGO features, with Ninjago also due later in 2017. But it was the return of Will Arnett’s wonderfully wry Dark Knight that got us the most excited.
Chris McKay, who co-directed The LEGO Movie, helmed this one. In his voice cast were Michael Cera as Robin, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl and Mariah Carey as Mayor McCaskill.
The plot sees Bruce Wayne fighting villains whilst trying to raise his newly-adpoted orphan Robin…
22. The Founder
Who made the Golden Arches? Who invented Hamburglar? We expected to get answers to those questions and lots more in this biopic about the founding of world-conquering burger chain McDonalds. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a salesman who helped turn a small chain of burger restaurants into a fast-food empire. This one’s directed by John Lee Hancock, who previously brought us Saving Mr Banks, the soft-focus story of Walt Disney’s fraught relationship with the writer of Mary Poppins, so we expected The Founder to be like The Social Network with a side-order of milkshake and fries…
21. Justice League
The pressure’s on now, Zack. Following the middling responses to DC’s two big movies of 2016 – Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad – this is a movie where director Zack Snyder really needs to deliver. It’s the one that brings together Batman, Superman, Aquaman, The Flash, Wonder Woman and more, and Snyder has already been making noises that lessons have been learned from the relentless darkness of his Batman V Superman movie.
Originally set up as the first of two movies, Justice League Part 2 has disappeared off the schedules, leaving this one to pick up the threads left behind from the DC movies to date, and provide a springboard for what’s being called the DC Extended Universe. Warner Bros needs this one to work, and it’d be fair to say there’s plenty riding on it.
20. Alien: Covenant
By now, you may have seen the teaser poster for Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott’s sequel to 2012’s Prometheus – and, by extension, prequel to 1979’s Alien. Along with the word “Run”, it shows a familiar face looming out of an inky black background: a toothsome, drooling xenomorph. For any Alien fans who were a little disappointed with Prometheus‘ somewhat kitsch space operatics, it’s a tantalising suggestion: that the series is returning to its sci-fi horror roots.
At the time of writing, a first trailer has yet to emerge, but we’ve got a half-decent handle on the plot: a new crew of explorers – including Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride – head to a distant planet, where the erstwhile android David (Michael Fassbender) has been up to no good. The place looks like a lush paradise, but there are nasty, Giger-esque creatures waiting in the wings. Yeah, we can all guess what happens next, but we’ve also heard that Covenant will answer some of the questions left over from Prometheus, so we’re intrigued to see how this new Alien will mesh with everything that came before.
It’s the final hurrah for Hugh Jackman in the role of Wolverine, as he retires his character in Logan. An adaptation of the Old Man Logan comic book story, the film sees him reunited with Patrick Stewart as Professor X. The Wolverine director James Mangold returned for this one, too.
In some respects, Marvel’s already done the hard bit: Tom Holland’s introduction as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War was widely regarded as one of the film’s highlights, so the studio can at least rest assured that it has that piece of the puzzle safely in place. The broader question is whether this new Web-Slinger movie, the first collaboration between Marvel and Sony, and the big-budget debut of Cop Car director Jon Watts, can succeed where the most recent Spider-Man movies faltered.
Our hope? That Homecoming avoids the mistakes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which heaped its basket with so many villains and plot-lines that it often felt more like a series of trailers than a coherent movie. The word that Homecoming will be as much a high-school comedy-drama as a superhero flick is a great sign, though, and with Michael Keaton starring as the feathered nemesis Vulture, this could well prove to be the return to form Spider-Man deserves.
17. American Made
The stories that emerge from the sets of Doug Liman’s productions are often as entertaining as the films themselves. During filming of The Bourne Identity, Liman reportedly paid the crew to stay late so they could all play paintball in the French countryside. While making Edge Of Tomorrow, Liman spent so long working out how to shoot a beach scene that the scheduled two-week shoot stretched on for two months.
Liman’s a unique filmmaker, alright, and few would deny that, when he’s on the top of his game, his movies are great: Edge Of Tomorrow being a case in point. That movie’s star, Tom Cruise, is reuniting with Liman for the forthcoming American Made, the true(ish) story of a former airline pilot who became a drug smuggler and then a undercover operative for the US government in the 1980s.
Cruise will play that pilot, smuggler and operative – a role which, we hope, allows him to ride motorcycles and run with his fingertips outstretched like in all his other films. Domhnall Gleeson and Jesse Plemons also star. We’re really looking forward to this one.