50 movies to look forward to in 2019
While putting together this list I looked back at the 2018 movie preview I wrote last year. Yikes. I was high on Ocean’s 8 and The Happytime Murders, and predicted a big box office haul from Mortal Engines. I didn’t even mention any of my four favorite movies of the year, and many of the movies I did mention didn’t even end up coming out in 2018.
This is all to say that trying to predict which movies will be great in 2019 is a fool’s errand. I’m casting a wide net this year with this list of 50 films to look forward to. I’m planning on writing something twelve months from now breaking down how many of these made it anywhere near the top of my 2019 year-end list. But for now, here’s the 2019 films I can’t wait to see, broken down by category.
The exciting new directors following up their 2017 best picture nominees
Us - March 15
Us is Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, my favorite film of 2017. The trailer just dropped on Christmas day, and finds a family’s creepy doppelgängers trying to kill them. It’s another simple horror set-up rife with potential for subtext, and it’s the film I’m most excited to see this year. Lupita Nyong’o, Elisabeth Moss, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Kara Hayward, and Winston Duke star.
Little Women - December 27
Greta Gerwig follows up her solo directorial debut Lady Bird with this adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel. As another female-driven coming-of-age story, Gerwig is in comfortable territory. Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet are back to work with Gerwig, along with Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Chris Cooper.
The inexplicable adaptations/reboots that might work
The Hustle - May 10
This remake of the 1988 Steve Martin-Michael Caine comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels stars Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, and Tim Blake Nelson. Hathaway’s comedic timing was the lone bright spot of Ocean’s 8, and her presence alone is enough to convince me this might not be a bad idea.
Dora the Explorer - August 2
With Disney’s live-action adaptations of their animated classics doing so well at the box office, it was only inevitable till we got something like this, right? This live-action take on the children’s Nickelodeon series Dora the Explorer, though, has some promising talent attached. Director James Bobin previously delivered a charming children’s movie with The Muppets, and the cast includes Benicio Del Toro, Michael Peña, and Eva Longoria. Isabela Moner stars as the explorer herself.
Joker - October 4
This origin story for the ineffable Batman villain stars Joaquin Phoenix as a stand-up comedian slowly driven insane. Not sure how wise it is to take on a role that can never surpass what Heath Ledger did with it, but it will probably be worth it to watch Joaquin Phoenix try.
Charlie’s Angels - November 1
This reboot of the 1970s TV series stars Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, and Elizabeth Banks, who also wrote and directed. Noah Centineo will also show up to help you get your heartthrob fix until the To All the Boys sequel.
Cats - December 20
Cats comes from Tom Hooper, director of Les Misérables, The King’s Speech, and The Danish Girl. Those are three very self-serious movies, so it’ll be interesting to see how Hooper handles a comedy, and how this play adapts to the screen at all. Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Hudson star, along with the first leading role for Taylor Swift.
The space movies
High Life - April 12
Acclaimed French director Claire Denis helms this film about a father and daughter struggling to survive in outer space. Early buzz suggests this movie is an exciting spectacle. It stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, and André Benjamin (also known as rapper André 3000).
Ad Astra - May 24
Like High Life, Ad Astra also puts family relationships in the skies: an astronaut travels to space to find his missing father. Brad Pitt stars, along with Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and Ruth Negga.
Rocketman - May 31
Music films have been killing at the box office as of late, and expect this biopic of Elton John, starring Taron Egerton, to do well. A killer trailer suggests Rocketman will avoid convention and may even stray into fantasy.
Untitled Tom Hanks/Mr. Rogers movie - October 18
Fred Rogers is having something of a moment: after 2018’s excellent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, 2019 will bring a fictionalized tale of the children’s show hero. I can’t think of anyone better suited to play Mr. Rogers than Tom Hanks. This untitled film comes from Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller.
The big franchise sequels
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part - February 8
The Lego Movie surprised me as one of my favorite movies of the decade, and five years later we are getting a sequel. I’m a little wary that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are not returning to direct, but they did write the screenplay, which gives me hope. The star-studded voice cast includes Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, and many, many others.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - May 17
The John Wick series has gone from relative indie-action flick to big-time trilogy, and Keanu Reeves is back as the titular hero this summer. I have somehow avoided seeing the first two films in the series, so Chapter 3 will be a good opportunity to catch up.
Spider-Man: Far From Home - July 5
Spider-Man: Homecoming is possibly my favorite live-action Spider-Man film to date, and director Jon Watts is returning to helm this summer’s sequel. Tom Holland was the most believable Peter Parker there’s been, and I’m excited to get a more healthy dose of Zendaya on screen this time. Jake Gyllenhaal will play the villain, Mysterio.
Frozen 2 - November 22
Frozen was a box office juggernaut, and five years after its release it remains Disney’s highest grossing animated movie of all time. I’m not sure why they waited so long to trot out a sequel, but hopefully it’s because they wanted to get it right. If we get any musical number close to “Let It Go,” this one should be a hit as well.
Star Wars: Episode IX - December 20
Episodes VII and VIII of the new Star Wars trilogy were two of the biggest films of all time, but they were also quietly two of the best movies this decade, period. I have high hopes for Episode IX, which J.J. Abrams is returning to direct. Episode IX will close out the series, at least until we inevitably kick off another trilogy a few years from now.
The sequels that might be coming too late
Men in Black: International - June 14
The Men in Black series has declined with each new film, and when the long-delayed 2012 sequel came out it already felt like a needless cash grab. International is a completely new cast, though: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are out, and Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are in. Hemsworth is the most interesting actor of the Avengers lot, and Thompson is incredible in everything. These two had great chemistry in Thor:Ragnarok, and I can’t think of more perfect casting for this franchise. Rebecca Ferguson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, and Kumail Nanjiani round out an excellent case, and F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) will direct.
Toy Story 4 - June 21
Speaking of needless cash grabs…I don’t know about this. The Toy Story trilogy wrapped up perfectly with 2010’s Toy Story 3, and there was really no story left to tell. Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley has never made a feature film before, and there are 7 writing credits attached to this movie. Oh, and that spoon. This series has been so great that I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not hopeful for this one.
Zombieland 2 - October 11
If this sequel had come out within a year or two after the original, it might have been my most anticipated movie of that year. A decade later, I’m cautiously optimistic that Zombieland 2 can reclaim the magic of one of my favorite comedies ever. It helps that the full directing, acting, and writing cast are returning (Emma Stone’s star has grown so much since the original, and I’m actually kind of shocked she’s returning for a zombie comedy). Zoey Deutch (Set It Up) is also joining the fun (!!!).
The small dram-coms
High Flying Bird - February 8
This drama from director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Logan Lucky) follows a sports agent pitching a rookie basketball client on a business opportunity while the league is on a shutout. High Flying Bird, which will be coming straight to Netflix, stars Zazie Beetz, Kyle MacLachlan, André Holland, and Zachary Quinto.
Limited Partners - June 28
Limited Partners follows two female friends starting a beauty business together, only to grow apart as their lifestyles contrast. It doesn’t sound like much, but director Miguel Arteta has a knack for making seemingly small stories (Cedar Rapids, Beatriz at Dinner) feel important. Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish, and Salma Hayek star.
The original sci-fi
Chaos Walking - March 1
Chaos Walking might be the movie I’m most excited for aside from Us. The film takes place in a dystopian future where there are no women, and all living creatures can hear each others’ thoughts in a stream of images, words, and sounds called “Noise.” Director Doug Liman found previous success with original sci-fi in 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow, but what I’m most excited about is the screenwriting return of Charlie Kaufman, who write the whimsical masterpieces Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Cynthia Erivo lead the cast.
Gemini Man - October 4
Director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain) helms this sci-fi film about a hitman facing off against a younger clone of himself. Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Clive Owen star.
The war movies
Greyhound - March 22
We still don’t have a ton of details on this one, but any WWII movie starring Tom Hanks reserves a spot on this list. Hanks also wrote Greyhound, which co-stars…Elisabeth Shue? I’m very intrigued.
1917 - December 27
No details and no actors that I recognize here, but it’s a WWI movie directed by Sam Mendes. After Skyfall and American Beauty, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
The life-changing documentary
63 Up - May
In 1964 a group of British documentarians filmed and interviewed a class of seven year-olds. Director Michael Apted has been checking back in with those interview subjects every seven years since, and 2019 will see the release of the 9th installment of this series. The Up Series recalls Richard Linklater’s Before series, but it packs an even greater emotional punch because its subjects are real. To see these lives unfold on screen in real time is an incredible experience, and if you’ve never seen any of these films you should catch up on them all before 63 Up. Many of them are available on YouTube for free.
The big name directors
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - July 26
The latest from Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows an actor and his stunt double as they try to make a name for themselves in Los Angeles circa 1969. Tarantino’s last two films were complete whiffs for me, and his best films are still his earliest. Let’s hope a star-studded cast featuring Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dakota Fanning, and Al Pacino can help him right the ship.
Untitled Danny Boyle movie - September 13
The latest from the director of Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and 28 Days Later is about a struggling musician who realizes he’s somehow the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles. Alexander Arnold, Lily James, Ana de Armas, and Kate McKinnon star.
The Irishman - TBD
The long-buzzed-about latest from Martin Scorsese, this mob drama will be coming straight to Netflix. The usual Scorsese suspects lead the cast: Joe Pesci, Robert de Niro, and Al Pacino. Can they create anything close to Scorsese’s classics for the small screen?
6 Underground - TBD
Michael Bay has made mostly awful movies, but I have to include this Netflix release for its intriguing cast, lead by Ryan Reynolds, Dave Franco, and personal favorite Mélanie Laurent. The story centers on six billionaires who fake their own deaths to form a vigilante group and take down criminals. Billionaire vigilantes not named Batman warrant a major eye roll, but we’ll see. Like Scorsese, it will be interesting to see if his big-screen style can transfer to Netflix.
The movies I’ll probably be too scared to see
Midsommar - August 9
This horror flick focuses on a woman and her boyfriend and a summer trip gone wrong. This follow-up to director Ari Aster’s acclaimed 2018 film Hereditary stars Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh. Watch for a breakout year from Pugh, who stars in this film and Little Women.
It: Chapter 2 - September 6
It became the highest-grossing horror film of all time in 2017, and earned critical praise. I did not see it because it stars a scary clown, and I will probably not see the sequel either. But big name actors Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader are joining the cast, which could push this film even higher than the original.
Isn’t It Romantic - February 13
I don’t know if I think this parody of rom-coms will even be good at all, and it certainly can’t top the spot-on parody of rom-coms that They Came Together provided five years ago. But I chuckled during the trailer, so let’s hope for the best from this Rebel Wilson-led ensemble.
Gloria Bell - March 8
I can’t get enough of the trailer for this rom-com starring Julianne Moore and John Turturro. The rom-com genre is severely lacking in stories about anyone over 30; luckily, this one is already earning high praise. Michael Cera and Rita Wilson also star.
The Beach Bum - March 22
If you heard the description “a rebellious stoner named Moondog lives life by his own rules,” could you imagine anyone other than Matthew McConaughey playing that role? I’m not sure it would even be physically possible. Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, and Jonah Hill also star in this bizarre-looking comedy from writer-director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers).
Where’d You Go, Bernadette - March 22
I had Where’d You Go, Bernadette on my list to look forward to last year. Now that the trailer has dropped I’m a little less interested; it’s one of the more cookie-cutter, straight-to-DVD trailers I’ve seen in some time. Still, anything starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood) has high potential.
Spies in Disguise - September 13
This animated film features voice-work from Will Smith as a secret agent who gets turned into a bird. It’s a delightfully strange premise for a mainstream animated comedy. And the best part: read the title again after knowing the premise for a sweet double entendre.
Late Night - TBD
Mindy Kaling makes her feature-length writing debut with this comedy about a late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) fearful of losing her long-running show. It’s a meh premise, but I trust Kaling’s talent.
The first-time directors
The Kitchen - September 20
This crime drama stars Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, and Melissa McCarthy as the wives of New York gangsters who are forced to take over their husbands’ hustle after they are sent to prison. Andrea Berloff, who wrote the screenplay for Straight Outta Compton, is making her directorial debut with The Kitchen.
Queen & Slim - TBD
Director Melina Matsoukas is technically not a first-timer; she previously helmed Beyoncé’s Lemonade, as well as the TV show Insecure. Queen & Slim, about a couple’s first date that gets interrupted by a police pullover, is her first foray into feature filmmaking, though. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star in this drama that I hope will actually come out in 2019.
The Ben Affleck Netflix releases
Triple Frontier - March 15
This heist movie stars Affleck as a Special Forces operative trying to pull a job in South America. Writer Mark Boal previously penned the Kathryn Bigelow films The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, and director J.C. Chandor is coming off the acclaimed film A Most Violent Year. Charlie Hunnam, Oscar Isaac, and Garrett Hedlund also star.
The Last Thing He Wanted - TBD
Director Dee Rees’s previous Netflix release Mudbound was a stellar work of historical fiction, and Rees returns to the streaming platform with this drama about a journalist (Anne Hathaway) who quite her job to become an arms dealer. Willem Dafoe rounds out the top of the cast.
Velvet Buzzsaw - February 1
Velvet Buzzsaw is a movie about art collectors starring Jake Gyllenhaal and John Malkovich. I’m hoping that sounds haughtier than it actually is. IMDb lists Velvet Buzzsaw as a comedy, crime, and horror movie, and it’s written and directed by Dan Gilroy, who previously collaborated with Gyllenhaal on Nightcrawler. Let’s hope this one, coming straight to Netflix, turns out to be as weird as that 2014 gem.
The Woman in the Window - October 4
Director Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Atonement) helms this Rear Window-esque thriller about a woman spying on her neighbors, only to witness a disturbing act of violence. A packed cast includes Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry, and Anthony Mackie. Expect major Oscars buzz for this one.
Knives Out - November 29
Few details exist yet for this murder mystery from writer-director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, Looper). Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, and Chris Evans lead the top of a deep cast. (Also: with four features slated for release in 2019, this might be the year the very talented de Armas becomes a household name.)
Passing - TBD
No idea if Passing will actually be released in 2019, but as a member of the cult of Tessa Thompson I couldn’t leave it off the list. Thompson and Ruth Negga play two high school friends whose reunion sparks a mutual obsession in this directorial debut from actress Rebecca Hall.
The indie directors who don’t have an official release date yet
Uncut Gems - TBD
Brothers Benny and Josh Safdie are two of the most exciting young directors in cinema, and their 2017 film Good Time was like no heist movie I’d seen before. There’s not even a plot out for this film yet, but I’m in on whatever it is. Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, and Lakeith Stanfield star.
Untitled Noah Baumbach movie - TBD
The only existing details about this film are that it’s about a divorce and it’s directed by Noah Baumbach, two facts which are basically synonymous. Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Adam Driver, and Laura Dern lead what is basically my dream cast for a Baumbach movie.
The Dead Don’t Die - TBD
The latest from Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Only Lovers Left Alive). Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Steve Buscemi star.
The Laundromat - TBD
After High Flying Bird, The Laundromat is the second scheduled 2019 release from Steven Soderbergh. There’s no release date yet, but this one sounds like prime awards season fodder: a group of journalists uncover secret files linking political figures to secret, tax-evasive bank accounts. Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep lead the cast.