Get excited for the best lineup of movies in over a decade
We'll admit it: we had a hard time getting excited about many of the films released in 2011. Apparently, many of you felt the same way; U.S. attendance last year dropped to the lowest level in 16 years. But a quick glance at the 2012 release schedule is all that's needed to revive your interest in heading to the cineplex.
Indeed, the next 12 months look ready to provide an embarrassment of riches for movie fans. A new Batman movie? Check. A big-budget Ridley Scott sci-fi thriller? Sure. Quentin Tarantino's latest opus? Why not. Throw in Joss Whedon tackling The Avengers, the first of two Hobbit movies, James Bond's next adventure, the opening chapter of The Hunger Games, new films from Wes Anderson, David O. Russell, Judd Apatow, P.T. Anderson, Alfonso Cuarón, Whit Stillman, the Coen brothers (maybe), and more of our favorite directors, and we can't imagine a better year for movies. It may even rival 1999, the most recent year we can remember that boasted so many intriguing films.
Below, we run through 50 of our most-anticipated films that look likely to be released in 2012.
2 Days in New York
Dir.: Julie Delpy | distributor tbd | date tbd
French actress Julie Delpy proved her versatility with her 2007 comedy 2 Days in Paris 67, a film that found her not only starring, but also directing, writing, editing, and even composing the soundtrack. This follow-up finds Delpy's Marion living in New York with a new boyfriend (Chris Rock, replacing the first film's Adam Goldberg) when they are visited by her off-kilter family members for the weekend. A modest plot description, to be sure, but we are eager to see what funnyman Rock can do with good material for the first time in at least a decade. The film is still awaiting distribution in the U.S., but that should change when it premieres at Sundance this month.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Dir.: Timur Bekmambetov | 20th Century Fox | June 22
Okay, so you'll have to allow us one completely ridiculous film in our list of 50. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was published first, but it will be Seth Grahame-Smith’s second mash-up novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, that will take the lead in theaters. In this re-writing of history, Lincoln, driven by his mother’s death at the hands of vampires, kills (and befriends) vampires on his path to the presidency. Benjamin Walker stars in his first feature, having earned the role in part due to his Broadway performance as another president, Andrew Jackson, in the musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted 64) has promised historical accuracy (save for the vampires), along with plenty of bloody effects. Of the two Lincoln movies due in 2012, we're pretty sure this is the one with the most gore.
The Amazing Spider-Man View trailer
Dir.: Marc Webb | Columbia | July 3
So how do director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer 76) and Sony hope to entice moviegoers back into theaters for a Spider-Man reboot five years after Sam Raimi wrapped up his trilogy? Here’s what we know: Andrew Garfield will play Peter Parker / Spider-Man, and if Comic-Con is any indication, the role is something he’s dreamed about his whole life. Emma Stone will co-star as new love interest Gwen Stacy, while her father, an NYPD captain, will be played by Denis Leary. For the first time on the big screen, Spider-Man will battle The Lizard (aka Dr. Curt Conners), who will be played by Rhys Ifans, and our hero's web-shooters will be mechanical, not organic. You can also expect his father, played by Campbell Scott, to play a key role. On the official website, Sony promises “a different side of the Peter Parker story,” but considering that the last trilogy grossed nearly $2.5 billion worldwide, how different do they really want it to be?
Dir.: Ben Affleck | Warner Bros. | September 14
Ben Affleck moves away from the comfortable confines of Boston, grows a beard, and tackles a true story in Argo, his third feature as director. The drama is based on the plainly titled Wired article by Joshuah Bearman, "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran," and takes place during the 1979-80 Iran hostage crisis. Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, one of the architects of the “Canadian Caper,” and the strong supporting cast includes Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Taylor Schilling, and Clea DuVall. Expectations are high considering the success of Affleck’s previous directorial efforts, The Town 74 and Gone Baby Gone 72.
The Avengers View trailer
Dir.: Joss Whedon | Disney | May 4
Avengers assemble! Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have all been introduced in their own movies and are now joining up with their fellow Avengers in one of the biggest comic book movies of all time. Fan favorite Joss Whedon (Serenity, TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) co-writes and directs this Marvel team-up that has Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans joining Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) as they try to stop Thor’s angry brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his army from destroying Earth. And The Avengers won't be Whedon's only movie this year; you can also expect his quickly-shot take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (starring Whedon veterans like Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, and Amy Acker) to surface on the festival circuit, while the delayed, Whedon-penned scarefest Cabin in the Woods will finally get a release on April 13.
The Bourne Legacy
Dir.: Tony Gilroy | Universal | August 3
Producing a fourth Bourne film has been quite a struggle for Universal. First they wanted another film with Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, but Damon would only work with Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Supremacy 73 and The Bourne Ultimatum 85. When Greengrass was unable to produce a workable script, Tony Gilroy, who shared writing credit on all three Bourne films and directed the excellent Michael Clayton 82 and much less excellent Duplicity 69, was selected to write and direct a fourth film that would star a new operative but leave the door open for Damon’s Bourne to return in the future. So what we get in The Bourne Legacy is Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, an operative spawned from the same system as Jason Bourne. Returning to the Bourne universe are Joan Allen, Albert Finney, and Scott Glenn and appearing for the first time are Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz. While it seems like a busy summer for Renner, it'll actually be lighter than originally planned; his Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters just got delayed until early 2013.
Brave View trailer
Dir.: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman | Pixar | June 22
While the cool critical reception to last year's Cars 2 57—a first for Pixar—didn’t hurt the studio’s bottom line, it falls to Brave to prove it was just a bump in the road. The story of a 10th century Scottish princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the first Pixar film to have a female lead. It was to have a female director as well, but Brenda Chapman was replaced by Mark Andrews. The 3D Brave will be Pixar's first non-sequel since 2009’s Up 88 and the only one until 2014, since Monsters University will follow in 2013.
Dir.: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Warner Bros. | tbd October
The Matrix creators The Wachowskis are teaming with Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer for an ambitious adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed 2004 novel Cloud Atlas, comprised of six separate yet vaguely connected narratives that take place in locales as varied as the Pacific Ocean in 1850 and a clone-inhabited, post-apocalyptic future. The cast includes Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, and Susan Sarandon in what may be multiple roles (and genders). Sequels aside, the Wachowskis are never not ambitious—their last project was the winning yet overlooked Speed Racer 37—and Tom Tykwer mostly marches to the beat of his own drum. Projects this unpredictable and risky rarely come down the pike in Hollywood these days, and that alone is reason enough to be excited.
Dir.: Andrew Dominik | The Weinstein Co. | date tbd
Director Andrew Dominik and star Brad Pitt, who teamed up on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 68, will reunite for this adaptation of George V. Higgins’ 1974 novel about a mob enforcer called in to hunt down the robbers of a high stakes, mob-sponsored poker game. Like Higgins’ other novel that made it to the theaters (The Friends of Eddie Coyle), Cogan’s Trade should provide an unflinching look at the Boston underworld. The strong cast includes James Gandolfini, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, and Richard Jenkins.
Dir.: David Cronenberg | distributor tbd | tbd fall
A year with a new David Cronenberg film is usually a good year. Last year saw A Dangerous Method 76, his first historical drama, come to theaters; the year ahead will bring Cronenberg back to modern times as he attempts the difficult task of translating Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel Cosmopolis to film. The story looks at an eventful 24 hours in the life of a young billionaire asset manager as he traverses Manhattan in his luxury stretch limo. Robert Pattinson stars, and the supporting cast includes Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, and Samantha Morton. Hopefully Cronenberg finds the cinematic key to a novel which received mixed reviews upon its release.
Damsels in Distress View clip #1 Clip #2 Clip #3
Dir.: Whit Stillman | Sony Pictures Classics | date tbd
Talk about a rare event. With just four features to his name in a decades-long career, Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona) makes Terrence Malick seem like Woody Allen in comparison. Damsels in Distress, Stillman's first film since 1998's The Last Days of Disco 76, managed to sneak onto a few critic top 10 lists at the end of 2011 despite screening only at festivals. A theatrical release for 2012 should be announced soon for the unconventional comedy, which adds song and dance to Stillman's usual smart, stylized dialogue as it explores the lives of a group of college girls led by Greta Gerwig. Adam Brody also stars.
The Dark Knight Rises View trailer
Dir.: Christopher Nolan | Warner Bros. | July 20
Christopher Nolan follows his acclaimed Inception 74 with the final chapter of his Batman trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises picks up a few years after Batman’s depressing showdown with the Joker and Two-Face and finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in an Occupy Gotham-like scenario in which he must save his hometown from the mush-mouthed Bane (Tom Hardy) and angry Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). The rumored $250 million production features even more scenes filmed in the IMAX format than 2008's The Dark Knight 82 and will once again see the return of Alfred (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). They'll be joined by franchise rookies Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple, Matthew Modine, and Aidan Gillen. Even thought the film's release is over six months away, some midnight screenings are already on sale and sold out.
Dir.: Tim Burton | Warner Bros. | May 11
If anyone (other than original creator Dan Curtis) is going to adapt the gothic soap opera that aired on ABC in the late 1960s, Tim Burton would seem the man to do it. With Burton, of course, comes star Johnny Depp (it's their eighth collaboration), and he'll be joined in the large cast by Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jonny Lee Miller, who play some of the many supernatural occupants of a run-down New England manor. The script comes from Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter author Seth Grahame-Smith. The subject matter may be a little too in his wheelhouse to break him out of his recent creative rut, but Burton also has a second film due in 2012: Frankenweenie (October 5), an impressive-looking, black-and-white, stop-motion animated remake of his own 1984 short.
The Dictator View trailer
Dir.: Larry Charles | Paramount | May 11
Yes, that's Sacha Baron Cohen dressed as the dictator of fictitious third-world country Wadiya in the third collaboration between the comedian and director Larry Charles (Borat 89, Bruno 54). Unlike their previous two films, The Dictator is structured as a conventional scripted comedy rather than a mockumentary, which comes as a relief after Bruno suggested the format had run its course. The story finds Baron Cohen's Gaddafi- and Saddam Hussein-inspired General Admiral Alladeen deposed from his leadership position and exiled to America. Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris also star.
Dir.: Quentin Tarantino | The Weinstein Company | December 25
It’s a pretty safe bet to assume that only Quentin Tarantino could convince a studio to release a film set in the slave-owning South that follows a freed slave who, under the guidance of a German bounty hunter, becomes a deadly assassin hellbent on rescuing his wife from an evil plantation owner. While the script has been leaked online, don’t expect any spoilers here; this is one Christmas gift best kept a surprise. Tarantino’s typically eclectic cast includes Jamie Foxx as Django, the freed slave, Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Shultz, the German bounty hunter, Kerry Washington as Django’s wife Broomhilda, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie, head of the Candyland plantation. Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Don Johnson and Sacha Baron Cohen will also make appearances in this Southern revenge tale, the first Tarantino will direct without his friend and trusted editor Sally Menke.
Dir.: Jay Roach | Warner Bros. | August 10
While the 2012 presidential election may not generate many laughs, a campaign showdown between aspiring congressmen played by Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis has our vote. True, director Jay Roach hasn't been associated with many winners recently, but a script by Eastbound & Down's Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy, and a cast that also includes Dan Aykroyd (in his first live-action film in four years), John Lithgow, and Jason Sudeikis, is change we can believe in. We'd be surprised if this isn't the best election comedy since, well, Election.
The Gangster Squad
Dir.: Ruben Fleischer | Warner Bros. | October 19
With this true crime drama set in late 1940s Los Angeles, director Ruben Fleischer looks to make the jump from modestly budgeted action-comedy (Zombieland 73, 30 Minutes or Less 49) to serious dramatic filmmaking. His success may hinge on his impressive cast. Sean Penn plays gangster Micky Cohen whose hopes to bring the East Coast Mafia to Los Angeles sparks the formation of a special until of LAPD officers to oppose him. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, and Emma Stone also star.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
Dir.: Roman Coppola | distributor tbd | date tbd
The identity of Sofia's next film isn't finalized yet, and Francis Ford's latest, Twixt, won't get much of a rollout in the U.S. (which may be a good thing, judging from the tepid response at last year's TIFF). That leaves Roman as the Coppola family's best representative in 2012. Returning to directing for the first time since 2002's underrated CQ 56, Sofia's older brother has enlisted an intriguing cast—including Charlie Sheen (in his first acting gig since Two and a Half Men), Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Aubrey Plaza—for a 1970s-set comedy about a successful graphic designer who's life falls apart when his girlfriend leaves him. It could be a big year for Roman; he's also the co-writer of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, due this summer.
Dir.: Wong Kar Wai | distributor tbd | date tbd
Will Wong Kar Wai’s version of the Ip Man story finally reach theaters in 2012? Let’s hope. His last new feature was My Blueberry Nights 52, a rather disappointing effort from a director that created Days of Being Wild 96, Chunking Express, In the Mood for Love 85, and 2046 78. So far, we’ve only seen a rain-soaked teaser, but the film, which has been in production since 2009, did secure financing in 2011 that will hopefully lead to completion and a premiere at Cannes 2012. The Grandmasters stars the director’s frequent collaborator Tony Leung as the legendary martial arts master who instructed Bruce Lee, and features action sequences choreographed by Yeun Woo-ping (the man behind The Matrix, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and countless other films).
Dir.: Alfonso Cuarón | Warner Bros. | November 21
Alfonso Cuarón’s first feature since 2006’s thrilling Children of Men 84 returns the director to the science fiction genre. The ambitious thriller Gravity features two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) trying to get home to Earth after their space station suffers a crippling accident. Their journey will unfold in groundbreaking 3D that James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, and David Fincher were all consulted on; having the incredible Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life) back as cinematographer doesn't hurt, either. The film also reunites Cuarón with his Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban producer David Heyman and was co-written by Cuarón, his son Jonás Cuarón, and writer/director Rodrigo García (Albert Nobbs).
The Great Gatsby
Dir.: Baz Luhrmann | Warner Bros. | December 25
The last (but not the first) time The Great Gatsby hit the big screen it was 1974. Francis Ford Coppola wrote the adaptation, Jack Clayton directed, and the film starred Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan, Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan, and Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway. Of course, you've never seen the story in three dimensions. This year, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tragic look at love, class, and the American dream in 1920s Long Island gets the 3D treatment by director Baz Luhrmann (hoping to rebound from the disappointing Australia 53) along with a new set of stars including Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Joel Edgerton as Tom, and Tobey Maguire as Nick.
He Loves Me
Dir.: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris | Fox Searchlight | date tbd
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris have directed only one feature film, but it was a surprise critical and commercial hit: Little Miss Sunshine 80. Six years later, they're finally back with a second project, a quirky romantic comedy from first-time screenwriter Zoe Kazan. He Loves Me stars Paul Dano as a novelist suffering from writer's block who wills the woman of his dreams (played by Kazan, Dano's real-life girlfriend) into existence. The eclectic cast also includes Antonio Banderas, Alia Shawkat, Steve Coogan, Annette Bening, and Elliott Gould.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Dir.: Peter Jackson | Warner Bros. | December 14
Purists may be dismayed that the story has been split into two films (The Hobbit: There and Back Again follows in 2013), but there's no arguing with Peter Jackson's track record in adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy novels; his three Lord of the Rings films earned Metascores of 92, 88, and 94 and collected 30 Oscar nominations combined. It remains to be seen how The Hobbit's more lightweight story and tone will translate to the big screen, but casting Martin Freeman (the original UK version of The Office) as a young Bilbo Baggins is certainly a great start. Freeman's Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch joins Richard Armitage, Stephen Fry, Bret McKenzie, and Evangeline Lilly among the new faces, while Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf, and Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom are among the other actors reprising their roles from the original trilogy. Despite a troubled production history that saw Jackson only reluctantly taking the reins after Guillermo del Toro dropped out, of the three 2012 movies featuring large groups of dwarves, this is the one on our calendar.
The Hunger Games View trailer
Dir.: Gary Ross | Lionsgate | March 23
Lionsgate hopes to capture some of Summit’s Twilight box office magic with this adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collin’s best-selling young adult trilogy. While it doesn’t involve vampires or werewolves, the post-apocalyptic world that is home to main protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) does have room for two love interests: Gale Hawthorne, her friend and hunting partner, and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow tribute in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between two dozen kids aged 12-18. (It's not quite as dark as Battle Royale, but it's dark.) Director Gary Ross (Pleasantville 71, Seabiscuit 72) will be tasked with setting the visual tone of the planned three- or four-film series, whose next installment (Catching Fire) is already scheduled for release on November 22, 2013.
Hyde Park On Hudson
Dir.: Roger Michell | Focus | date tbd
Need more proof that 2012 is shaping up to be a great year for film? The coming 12 months should bring not one, not two, but three Bill Murray movies, and none features more of the actor than Hyde Park on Hudson, in which he stars as Franklin Delano Roosevelt (and certainly looks the part). The based-on-a-true-story drama takes place during an eventful 1939 weekend in upstate New York when England's King and Queen pay a visit to solicit America's help in the coming war with Germany, and FDR begins an affair with his distant cousin. Laura Linney and Olivia Williams also star for director Roger Michell (Notting Hill 66), who is attempting to rebound from a rare mediocre effort (Morning Glory 57).
On the next page ...
Continue to the next page to preview 25 additional upcoming movies (as well as a few extras), including films from Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, two of the best Andersons (Paul Thomas and Wes), Nicholas Winding Refn, and more.