Flashforward: The 35 Most Anticipated Films of 2016

Toy Story Popcorn

It’s already February but it’s still early enough to grab your calendars and look ahead to 2016’s slate of new releases. A few of the movies below are already in theaters or showing in film festivals (including the ongoing Berlin Film Festival) and a few more have already been hyped to near death but hopefully there are some you haven’t heard of yet. Let me know in the comments if I missed any!

1. Silence

Silence Scorsese

Director: Martin Scorsese

Based onSilence by Shūsaku Endō

Writer: Jay Cocks (The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York)

Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street, Argo, Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, 8 Mile, Brokeback Mountain, Broken Embraces) Also Julieta below.

Music by: Howard Shore

Edited by: Thelma Schoonmaker (frequent Scorsese collaborator)

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds

Any new Scorsese film is cause for excitement but the release of the legendary director’s long brewing passion project earns the year’s top spot. The film explores familiar religious themes common in Scorsese’s work and pulls together frequent behind-the-scenes collaborators including Thelma Schoonmaker and Jay Cocks. Schoonmaker has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing seven times. All but one of these nominations were for Scorsese films and she won the award for her work on Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed.

2. Weightless

Director: Terrence Malick

Cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant, The Tree of Life, Children of Men)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Haley Bennett, Natalie Portman, Val Kilmer, Michael Fassbender, Benicio del Toro

The fact that this movie is ranked #2 is really just a huge endorsement of Martin Scorsese. Weightless features an insane crew. First we have Terrence Malick, one of the cinema’s best directors. Then one of the best casts you could ask for, highlighted (for me at least) by Bale, Blanchett, Mara, Fassbender and del Toro. The inclusion of any one of those individuals would warrant inclusion on this list (see Asssasin’s Creed below). But even all that isn’t the most exciting thing about this movie. Emmanuel Lubezki has become one the most important watches in all of moviedom. The Mexican cinematographer is favored to win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography Award for his work on Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant. That Award would bag him his third Oscar in a row. Which is crazy. Pairing his camerawork with Malick’s direction and this incredible crew makes the movie an absolute must see.

3. Story of Your Life

Director: Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Enemy, Incendies)

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien

Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson (For his work in Sicario the Icelandic composer has been nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Original Score and already won the somewhat less prestigious Flashback Award in the same category).

Canadian director Denis Villeneueve has crafted some of the best films of the past few years and returns to direct an adaptation of Ted Chiang’s 2000 Nebula Award winning novella of the same name.

4. Hail, Caesar!

Release dateFebruary 5, 2016 (in US theaters now)

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen

Cinematographer: Roger Deakins (almost every Coen brothers film including Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and Barton Fink)

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum

It may be a little unfair to include an already released film on this list but the latest Coen brothers film was one of the more hyped movies of the early part of the year (outside of Deadpool of course).

5. La La Land

30-emma-stone-ryan-gosling-la-la-land-ew.w1200.h630Release date: July 15, 2016

Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash (which won three Academy Awards), Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench)

Screenplay by: Damien Chazelle (for his work on Whiplash, Chazelle was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award).

Music composed by: Justin Hurwitz  (Whiplash)

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, JK Simmons, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt

The followup to Damien Chazelle’s extraordinary 2014 film Whiplash would be highly anticipated regardless of the actors of storyline involved. But pairing a dancing Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with Chazelle alum JK Simmons only increases the expectations.

6. Deadpool

Release date: February 12, 2016

Director: Tim Miller

Editor: Julian Clarke (all three Neill Blomkamp feature films: District 9, Elysium and Chappie)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić

The five films taking this list’s top spots all earned inclusion based mainly on the credentials of their directors. Now our #6 pick earns a spot based on the titular character himself. Comic fans have long waited for an adaptation of the wise cracking assassin Deadpool and now the character has finally come to the big screen (We’re obviously not including X-Men Origins: Wolverine as a debut).

7. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Release date: March 11, 2016

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Produced by: JJ Abrams, Lindsey Weber

Screenplay by: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher, Jr.

Some people may remember the furor that hit the internet after the trailer of 10 Cloverfield Lane hit the internet earlier this year. The trailer itself looks amazing but the final title reveal is what blew most people away, leading to frantic internet searches trying to confirm a sequel to JJ Abrams’s Cloverfield.

8. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Release date: November 4, 2016

Director: Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil , Sinister 2)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton

The second comic book film on this list packs the strongest cast of any superhero film this year or maybe ever. Benedict Cumberbatch leads the way as Doctor Stephen Strange, one of the most interesting characters to earn a film adaptation. Much like Thor in Phase One and Ant-Man in Phase Two, Doctor Strange will push the envelope for Marvel Cinematic Universe films, this time by introducing audiences to the mystical corner of the Marvel comic universe.

9. Passengers


Release date; December 21, 2016

Director: Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Headhunters)

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street, Argo, Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, 8 Mile, Brokeback Mountain, Broken Embraces) Also Silence above.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne

Spaihts’s script landed on 2007’s Black List (a yearly list of the best unpublished screenplays) and will finally see its release this year. After several casting changes, two of Hollywood’s most loved actors will star in Tyldum’s follow-up to 2014’s The Imitation Game. Joining the mix is cinematographer Rodriego Prieto who doesn’t match Weightless‘s Lubezki in terms of awards (Prieto has one nomination for Brokeback Mountain compared to Lubezki’s eight nominations including two wins and a third expected win for this year’s The Revenant). Passengers may be this year’s requisite Space Epic. Check out the Black List summary:

“A passenger on an intergalactic spaceship is the only one prematurely thawed out from cryogenic slumber … 100 years before anyone else.”

10. Captain America: Civil War

Release date: May 6, 2016

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Arrested Development (TV); You, Me and  Dupree)

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Frank Grillo, Daniel Brühl, William Hurt

The Russo Brothers are back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in what amounts to Avengers 2.5. Almost the entire crew of Avengers related heroes (which doesn’t count Guardians of the Galaxy) meet up again but this time, instead of of creating another flimsy villain, the heroes go after each other. That’s a good sign since Marvel isn’t great at creating movie villains not starred by Tom Hiddleston. (If you want a good Marvel villain, check out Jessica Jones on Netflix). Not to be another one of “those” people but I can’t imagine the film will live up to the comic it is based on which is awesome (for the majority of its story). But comic movies rarely stick to their source material and the Russo brothers made one of the best in the genre with 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

11. X-Men: Apocalypse

Release date: May 27, 2016

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till

12. Finding Dory

Release date: June 17, 2016

Director: Andrew Stanton (A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E)

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson, Ed O’Neill, Willem Dafoe, Vicki Lewis, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Michael Sheen

13. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue OneRelease date: December 16, 2016

Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters)

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Aris

14. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Release date: March 25, 2016

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill. Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

15. Midnight Special

Release date: February 12, 2016 (Berlin International Film Festival). March 18, 2016 (US)

Director: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard

Wikipedia Synopsis: Roy (Michael Shannon) is a father desperate to protect his uniquely gifted, eight-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). Joined by his accomplice, Lucas, and his ex-wife, Sarah, this group must race to get Alton to a secret location all while being hunted by an extreme religious sect led by Calvin Meyer and a government task force headed up by Paul Sevier. It is a full-on chase, the outcome of which could bring about a world-changing event.

16. Ghostbusters

Release date: July 15, 2016

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Charles Dance, Michael K. Williams, Neil Casey, Elizabeth Perkins, Andy García, Chris Hemsworth

17. The Magnificent Seven

Release date: September 23, 2016

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cinematographer: Mauro Fiore (Training Day, The Island, Avatar, Southpaw)

Written by: Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Luke Grimes, Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer, Peter Sarsgaard

This year Fuqua and perennial partner Denzel Washington (and Ethan Hawke) remake John Sturges’s 1960 remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai.

18. Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Kim Basinger, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon. Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer

As much as I love Tom Ford (check out A Single Man, it’s awesome) this movie earns such a high spot because of its stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, two of the best actors working today. Adams and Gyllenhaal are joined by Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, two actors landing bigger and better roles every year.

19. Julieta

Release date: April 8, 2016 (Spain)

Director: Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In, Broken Embraces, Volver, La Mala Educación, Hable Con Ella, Todo Sobre Mi Madre).

Starring: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte

Many moviegoers are sadly unaware of the work of Spanish director Pedro Almovodar. In an interview early last year Almodovar describes the film as “a return to the cinema of women, of great female protagonists, and it’s a hard-hitting drama, which excites me.”

20. Lost city of Z

Director: James Gray (The ImmigrantLittle OdessaThe Yards, We Own the Night)

Based on: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland

In the last twenty year’s director James Gray’s films earned four Palme d’Or nominations and a Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. His newest film is based on David Grann’s award winning novel and stars the odd pair of Jax Teller and Cedric Diggory. Sadly we’ll only be able to imagine a film which starred Benedict Cumberbatch instead of Hunnam.

Synopsis: Explorers search for a British Colonel who disappeared trying to find a legendary City of Z, in the region of Barra do Garças, Mato Grosso, the Pantanal of Brazil, during the 1920s.

21. The Neon Demon

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives)

Starring: Elle Fanning, Alessandro Nivola, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Charles Baker, Jamie Clayton

22. Voyage of Time

Terrence-Malick-VOYAGE-OF-TIMEDirector: Terrence Malick

Narrated by: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett

Music by: Ennio Morricone

Synopsis:  celebration of the earth, displaying the whole of time, from the birth of the universe to its final collapse. This film examines all that went to prepare the miracle that stands before us now. Science and spirit, birth and death, the grand cosmos and the minute life systems of our planet – all come together in Malick’s most ambitious film to date.

23. Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World

Release date: January 23, 2016

Director: Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Woyzeck, Where the Green Ants Dream, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Grizzly Man)

Description from Sundance: Society depends on the Internet for nearly everything but rarely do we step back and recognize its endless intricacies and unsettling omnipotence. From the brilliant mind of Werner Herzog comes his newest vehicle for exploration, a playful yet chilling examination of our rapidly interconnecting online lives. Herzog documents a treasure trove of interviews of strange and beguiling individuals—ranging from Internet pioneers to victims of wireless radiation, whose anecdotes and reflections weave together a complex portrait of our brave new world. Herzog describes the Internet as “one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing,” and yet he tempers this enthusiasm with horror stories from victims of online harassment and Internet addiction. For all of its detailed analysis, this documentary also wrestles with profound and intangible questions regarding the Internet’s future. Will it dream, as humans do, of its own existence? Can it discover the fundamentals of morality, or perhaps one day understand the meaning of love? Or will it soon cause us—if it hasn’t already—more harm than good?

24. Paterson

Paterson DrvierDirector:  Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Coffee and Cigarettes)

Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani

25. The Trap

Release date: TBA (possibly 2017)

Director: Harmony Korine

Starring: Idris Elba, Al Pacino, Benicio Del Toro, Robert Pattinson and of course, James Franco)

IMDB Synopsis: An ex-con is out for revenge against a gangster rapper and former friend who let him take the fall for a robbery they committed 14 years earlier.

26. Dog Eat Dog

Not from this movie

Disclaimer: Photo not from this movie

Director: Paul Schrader (Director of American Gigolo, The Dying of the Light and screenwriter for many more films including the Martin Scorsese films Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Bringing Out the Dead and The Last Temptation of Christ).

Starring: Nic Cage, Willem Dafoe

Nic Cage and Paul Scharder team up for the third time in a film following three men following their release from prison.

27. Everybody Wants Some

Director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly)

Starring: Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin

Screenplay: Richard Linklater

Linklater’s follow-up to Boyhood is considered a “spiritual sequel” to his earlier film Dazed and Confused.

28. Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper

Director: Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria, Something in the Air, Carlos)

Writer: Olivier Assayas

StarringKristen Stewart, Anders Danielsen Lie, Lars Eidinger

29. War on Everyone

War on EveryoneRelease date: February 12, 2016 (Berlin International Film Festival)

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña, Theo James, Tessa Thompson, Caleb Landry Jones

30. John Wick 2

John-Wick-2-Unofficial-LogoDirector: Chad Stahelski (John Wick)

Starring:  Keanu Reeves, Common, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo.

The first John Wick was 2014’s runner-up as Best Surprise in our yearly awards (taking second to Edge of Tomorrow) and was one of the freshest action movies of the year. The sequel won’t be an all-time great but we can expect it to at least be a fun watch.

31. War Machine 

Brad-PittDirector: David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, The Rover)

Cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski (The Walk, The Martian, all four Pirates of the Caribbean films, Prometheus).

Based on: The Operators by Michael Hastings

Distributed by: Netflix

Starring: Brad Pitt, Scott McNairy, Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, Will Poulter

Australian director David Michôd returns for his third feature film. Michôd’s last film The Rover was one of the more visually interesting films of 2014 even if it didn’t live up to its overall potential. With the boost in notoriety he’ll likely receive after pairing with Brad Pitt and Netflix, he’ll be an interesting director to follow in the future.

Also, you can add this to the list of “movies you thought were new Marvel flicks” along with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nightcrawler.

32. The Commune (Kollektivet)

The CommuneRelease date: January 14, 2016 (Denmark)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt, Far From the Madding Crowd, Submarino)

Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty), Trine Dyrholm

The next film by Danish Director Thomas Vinterberg has already been released in Denmark but will be showcased in the upcoming Berlin International Film Festival. I’ll admit I did not love Vinterberg’s period piece Far From the Madding Crowd but his skill as a director is easily seen in that movie even if it did not fit my personal tastes. His 2012 film The Hunt starring Mads Mikkelsen has been at the top of my Netflix watch list for a while and I look forward to his take on life in a 1970’s Danish commune. I expect the film will not be released here in the US until at least the spring.

33. Trespass Against Us 

Tresspass Against Us

Director: Adam Smith

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Sean Harris, Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear, Killian Scott.

Having worked mainly in television and concert films, Adam Smith may be a relative unknown but the involvement of Fassbender, Harris and Gleeson alone are enough to garner excitement about this upcoming crime film. What intrigues almost as much as the excellent cast is the studio list on board. Trespass Against Us was produced by British studio Film4 and is being distributed here in the US by A24. Those groups have delivered some of the most interesting movies of the last four or five years and either name on movie piques my interest.

34. Independence Day: Resurgence

Release date: June 24, 2016

Director: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow 2012, 10,000 BC, White House Down)

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth

Director Roland Emmerich loves huge disaster films and while his formula rarely earns real critical praise they have done very well at the box office. The original Independence Day remains his most critically praised and highest grossing film to date. Hopefully the absence of Will Smith (who made the original so watchable) won’t slow this sequel down too much.

35. Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's Creed

Release date: December 21, 2016

Director: Justin Kurzel (Macbeth)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons

While I didn’t love 2015’s Macbeth, a new film with the same director and leads is an exciting prospect.

People making multiple appearances on this list:

  • Damien Chazelle, director of #5 La La Land and writer of #7 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Rodrigo Prieto, cinematographer of #1 Silence and #9 Passengers
  • Terrence Malick director of #2 Weightless and #22 Voyage of Time
  • Actresses:
    • Amy Adams (3): #3 Story of Your Life, #14 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, #18 Nocturnal Animals
    • Tilda Swinton (2):  #4 Hail Caesar, #8 Doctor Strange
    • Jennifer Lawrence (2): #9 Passengers, #11 X-Men: Apocalypse
    • Scarlett Johansson (2): #4 Hail Caesar, #10 Captain America: Civil War
    • Cate Blanchett (2): #2 Weightless, #22 Voyage of Time
  • Actors:
    • Michael Fassbender (4): #2 Weightless, #11 X-Men: Apocalypse, #33 Trespass Against Us, #35 Assassin’s Creed
    • Adam Driver (3): #1 Silence, #15 Midnight Special, #24 Paterson
    • Ryan Gosling (2): #2 Weightless, #5 La La Land
    • Mads Mikkelsen (2): #8 Doctor Strange, #13 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
    • Chris Pratt (2): #9 Passengers, #17 The Magnificent Seven
    • Michael Shannon (2): #15 Midnight Special, #18 Nocturnal Animals
    • Jeremy Irons (2): #14 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, #35 Assassin’s Creed
    • Robert Pattinson (2): #20 Lost City of Z, #25 The Trap
    • Keanu Reeves (2): #21 The Neon Demon, #30 John Wick 2
    • Brad Pitt (2): #22 Voyage of Time, #31 War Machine

Thanks for reading!

Damien from Flashback/Backslide

3 thoughts on “Flashforward: The 35 Most Anticipated Films of 2016

    • Thanks! There are definitely a lot of big name directors coming out with movies this year. A lot of the directors with 2014 movies (Chazelle, Tyldum, Machod, the Russos) are back plus some others we haven’t seen in a while (Korine, Refn). Initially I had the big brands much lower (Batman v Superman and X-Men were in the high 20’s) then I rewatched the trailers and fixed that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha. It’s hard to avoid the excitement of superhero flicks, especially if you already dig on them eh. It’s great to see a mix of popcorn and art though. Korine, Mallick, and Refn are definitely on one side of that equation 😉


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