Happy 2019 everyone! 2018 is now dead and buried, and while it certainly wasn’t a great year for film, it was certainly an impressively not-not great year. At any rate, it’s time we take a pause from looking back in order to look forward, at the Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019! That’s right, we’re looking at the films with the best chances to make us laugh, cry, cheer, swoon, or curse in appropriate anger as auteurs old and new, male and female all look to wow us with their newest cinematic spectacles.
As per usual, a few caveats: these are the films that I am excited for, as opposed to Joe the Plumbing MovieGoer. So while a few blockbusters will appear (there will never not be a Star Wars film on this list), mostly it will be films that I think will challenge me artistically and emotionally. Furthermore, because these films are so artsy and ill-funded, there is a good chance they won’t come out this year at all. While all of my 2018 list has been released (and some are even on my Top Ten list!), it took until halfway through last year for a good portion of my 2017 list to get released. And finally, remember that while I always hope that a film will be good, there’s always a chance that these films can be bad. Off of my 2018 list, while five are in contention for my Top Ten, and two were pretty good, two ended up being pretty meh, and one had such poor advertising and rollout I still haven’t seen it (I’ll try to fix that in the next week). Basically, just because a film is on this list means nothing, except for the fact that I really, really want to see it.
Now that all of that is taken care of, my Honorable Mentions. As per usual, I am excited about a ton of new movies, so let’s try to talk about all of them as I pare my list down to a nice round number. From Netflix, we have the J.C. Chandor actioner Triple Frontier and the Timothée Chalamet Shakespeare adaptation The King. The indie scene will provide us with an adaptation of the classic Richard Wright novel Native Son as well as a new Harmony Korine film in The Beach Bum (be still my trashy beating heart). In terms of individual performances, I can’t wait to see Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, as well as the entire cast (including Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, and Domhnall Gleeson) of The Kitchen. And when it comes to those big screen spectacles, there’s a whole variety of films. I can’t wait for the animated master classes of The Addams Family, Toy Story 4, and The Lego Movie: The Second Part. Horror-wise, M. Night Shymalan is giving us Glass while Stephen King is giving us the star-studded sequel to the 2017 hit in It: Chapter Two. The ultra-violent actioners include Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw and John Wick 3: Parabellum. The stuffy prestige scene includes Downton Abbey. And the studios are throwing their money behind Men In Black: International (that trailer was so great), The Lion King (the animation looks stunning), Avengers 4 (HOW THEY GONNA BRING BACK THOSE AVENGERS THO?!?) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (I’m all in on Godzilla). Oh, and a special WTF Award for Cats, a film that I cannot fathom being any good or seen by anyone, especially considering the insane cast and premise, but I need to see that trainwreck unfold. There. Now that that’s settled, let’s take a look at the ten films I’m most looking forward to in 2019.
10. Captain Marvel
I have been a Brie Larson stan for quite some time – since 21 Jump Street, honestly. She’s a true movie star, and films as varied as Room and Kong: Skull Island (she was the only good part of that one) prove that. And now, she’s ready to join the Marvel Universe. And not just as any superhero: as the superhero. One of the first superheroes to be committed to page, one of the strongest of the lot, and the only one capable of overturning the Snapture, Captain Marvel has been the most anticipated addition to the MCU yet. And Larson is the perfect actress to bring the heroine to life. However, while Larson alone is enough to get my butt in a seat, it is the peripheral details that have me excited. I want to see the 90s porn (Hi Blockbuster!) I want to see a young Samuel L. Jackson playing with a cat. I want to see Captain Marvel kicking Skrull ass (Skrulls are aliens that can transform into other people, hence the scene in the trailer where Larson punches an old woman in the face). And I want to see the universe building, including Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, and Lee Pace. I WANT TO SEE ANNETTE BENING IN A MARVEL MOVIE!!!! However, above all else, I want to see a good Marvel movie – they’ve been on a role recently, Avengers: Infinity Way excluded, and I can’t wait to see what they do with their first female-led superhero movie (Plus it pisses off the Chuds whenever Larson’s badass heroine beats someone up without smiling or showing skin, so I am all in on this film). The film will be released on March 8th, and you can watch the trailer below.
9. Star Wars: Episode IX
It is not a real Most Anticipated list if I don’t have Star Wars appearing here. And if the studio hadn’t buckled to troll pressure and had kept Rian Johnson at the center of the series (he is no longer writing, and Colin Trevarrow is no longer directing after The Book of Henry), this film probably would have been higher. Still, it is hard not to be excited for the end of this exciting new trilogy in the Star Wars canon. And even though the three original stars are either dead canonically (Ford and Hamill) or have tragically passed in real life (Fisher), I’m still emotionally invested in the new characters to want to see where this story goes. I want to know what happens to Daisy Ridley’s fantastic Rey and Adam Driver’s brilliant Kylo Ren. I’m intrigued by the bond between Oscar Isaac’s ever-learning Poe Dameron and John Boyega’s ever-growing Finn. And I’m incredibly excited to see what the series does with Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, one of the best characters in the new trilogy unfortunately given the shortest shrift (and attacked by the above-mentioned trolls mercilessly for it). And I haven’t even mentioned the new additions of Keri Russell, Matt Smith, or Richard E. Grant. J.J. Abrams is a capable director, as The Force Awakens proved, and I’m sure he will deliver a thrilling conclusion to the saga. Star Wars: Episode IX will be released in theaters December 20th.
8. Gemini Man
Ang Lee is one of the most thrilling directors alive. Whenever he makes a genre film, he takes risks; and even if they don’t pay off, they still make for an interesting movie, whether it’s the kung fu actioner (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the faith-based epic (Life of Pi), the Western (Brokeback Mountain), the war drama (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), or the superhero movie (Hulk). And now, he’s trying to change the storytelling and visual effects game yet again with one of the most bizarre sci-fi actioners I’ve ever seen: Gemini Man. Starring a comeback-bound Will Smith as Henry Brogen, the greatest assassin in the game, the story follows Brogen’s attempt to walk away from his life of crime. In retaliation, his company decides to send a new assassin after him to tie up any loose ends. Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s where things get tricky: the new assassin they send after him is a clone of his younger self, who can anticipate his every move and is faster, stronger, and more agile. That’s right: Will Smith is going to not only play two roles in this movie, allowing him to battle himself, but he is going to battle a Fresh Prince-era Will Smith. If anyone else was directing this movie, I would be out for sure. However, Lee is a master of digital effects, as well as of story structure. And for that reason, I am all in. Gemini Man also stars Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Linda Emond, and Benedict Wong, and will be released October 4th.
7. Knives Out
I don’t have a chance to talk about it that much on this site, but I’m a huge fan of the whodunit. I love piecing together mysteries and trying to find myself ahead of the filmmakers (I only occasionally have success). So when I heard that Rian Johnson, the director of the greatest television episode ever in “Ozymandias” (Breaking Bad) and the sci-fi hit Looper, was going to follow up Star Wars: The Last Jedi with a whodunit murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie, I was onboard. And that was before the cast filled out, with names like Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, LaKeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Riki Linhome, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Lieberher. Johnson is a master of character creation, and he’s put together an all-star cast of actors to play these parts. I can’t wait to try to figure out who was responsible for what, who knows what key information, and most importantly, who is going to deliver that standout performance a la Ingrid Bergman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sean Penn, Edward Norton, Faye Dunaway, Humphrey Bogart and Kevin Sp*cey (objectively a good turn, sorry guys). Not much else is known about the film at the moment, but honestly, what more do you need to know? Knives Out will be released on November 27th, and I think this is going to be my pick for my No-Spoiler Trailer Free Film of the Year.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out was the fifth best film of 2017. His follow-up, Us, looks to follow in his horror tradition and looks to join its predecessor on the ever-important Sacred Wall Top Ten list. The premise itself is pretty simple: Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o, Zora Wilson, and Evan Alex portray a family heading to their beach house to spend time with their friends (Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, and their twin daughters). Things start going weird, and soon a group of doppelgängers show up in an attempt to overthrow and murder the family. Playing on themes of “we are our own worst enemy” and “can we survive our own self-destructive tendencies,” Us looks to be the horror event of the year. It’s got everything: Jordan Peele wide-shots, creepy editing, Shining-esque twins, and more. And most importantly, it’s got the guiding hand of a visionary looking to make his answer to The Shining, The Strangers, and Funny Games. Us will be released on March 22nd, and you can watch the trailer below.
5. The Irishman
When Martin Scorsese makes a new film, you pay attention. When he’s closing the book on the gangster chapter of his life – the genre that made him a star with Mean Streets, the genre where he revolutionized the game in 1990 with Goodfellas, and the genre where he finally won his first Oscar with The Departed – you put yourself onboard. When it means that he is reuniting with Robert De Niro for the first time since the 90s, it makes your most anticipated list. And when he puts together an all-star cast and decides to revolutionize special effects, you put it in your Top Five. Yes, that is what Scorsese intends to do with The Irishman, the biopic of Frank Sheehan, a labor union official and hit man who confessed in the 90s to allegedly participating in the Dachau Massacre, helping the Mafia assassinate John F. Kennedy, and ultimately, performing the hit on Jimmy Hoffa. This is well-worn territory for Scorsese, but as is usually the case with the legendary director, the anticipation lives not in the “what” but in the “how.” Scorsese plans to use innovative special effects to allow three of his greatest actors – actors whom he gave their start, and whom he hasn’t worked with in years. I’m talking about De Niro playing Sheeran, Al Pacino as Hoffa, Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino, and Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno, the infamous Mafia boss. And I haven’t even listed performances from such legendary character actors as Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Ray Romano, and Jesse Plemons. This is the film that Netflix has been waiting for, and whenever it gets released this year (Cannes would have been a good bet if it weren’t for their anti-Netflix rule), you can bet I will be there front and center.
4. Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi is one of my favorite working directors. He has been on a roll recently, thanks to his decade-best comedy What We Do In The Shadows, his Best-of-2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and his 2017 sci-fi extravaganza Thor: Ragnarok. Each of these films has pushed the envelope in terms of comedy, keeping a good, wholesome heart at the center of his weird idiosyncracies. This time, however, he may have gone too far, in all the right ways. Jojo Rabbit tells the story of a young boy named Jojo living in Nazi Germany. Bullied by his peers, Jojo’s only escape is an imaginary friend based on the person he has come to believe is the kindest, smartest, bravest man in all the world: Adolf Hitler, here played by the Maori Waititi, in a hilarious political statement. However, Jojo soon finds himself in a tough situation when he discovers that his single mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their house – a girl who challenges everything Jojo has been taught both by his Führer and his imaginary friend. Scarlett Johansson plays Jojo’s mother, 2018 breakout Thomasin McKenzie plays the young Jewish girl, and Sam Rockwell and Stephen Merchant play a pair of bumbling Nazis. This film has all the signs of a massive, horrifying flop. However, based on his previous films, as well as Waititi’s smart, considerate, compassionate hand, I expect nothing less than one of the year’s best. Jojo Rabbit will be released sometime later this year – look for it to appear at TIFF, and perhaps even Telluride.
3. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
Unless Quentin Tarantino is lying like a motherf*cker (gotta speak his lingo here), he only has two films left before he hangs up his camera for good. And if he wants to pay tribute to his heroes – Sergio Leone, Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, etc. – then he’s going to have to deliver on his scathing historical-showbiz satire Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood. In what may be his most tantalizing premise to date, Tarantino paints a picture of 1969 Hollywood – when the old Studio System crumbled to make way for the avant-garde new generation, when Richard Nixon rose to power and harshed everyone’s mellow, and when Charles Manson’s reign of terror through California effectively killed the era of Free Love. The film explores the ever-changing world of Hollywood as a former Western star and his stuntman (Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt) attempt to make a name for themselves in the new era of Hollywood, in the vein of Clint Eastwood. They meet several famous figures, including Bruce Lee, Sam Wanamaker, and Steve McQueen, and live next door to a young couple named Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (the latter played by Margot Robbie), who are on a date with destiny with the infamous Manson clan (including a Squeaky Fromme played by Dakota Fanning). It’s a little tragic to know that Burt Reynolds died before filming a role in the film, but he has been replaced by the very best with Bruce Dern. And I haven’t even listed the rest of the cast, which includes Al Pacino, Damian Lewis, Luke Perry, Scoot McNairy, Austin Butler, Dreama Walker, Zoë Bell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, James Marsden, Brenda Vaccaro, and Danny Strong. The film is already mired in controversy, due to its potential exploitation of Tate’s death and the fact that this is Tarantino’s first film without best friend Harvey W*instein. Nevertheless, so long as Tarantino can march forward with dignity and respect, this should serve as one of his most mature, exciting films to date. And with all that information listed above, there’s no way for me not to be excited about this film. The film will be released on July 26th (a much better date than the original August 9th release, an attempt to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the massacre).
2. Untitled Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis Film
From La La Land to A Star Is Born and so on, it is not a Travis Burgess Most Anticipated if there isn’t a big-timey musical on the list. And this year, that love epic is a combination of all my favorite things. For starters, it’s directed by Danny Boyle, one of my favorite working directors (his Trainspotting is one of the greatest films of all time, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours are two brilliant showcases in directing, and Steve Jobs was my favorite film of 2015). For another, it’s written by Richard Curtis, whom I haven’t entirely forgiven for Love Actually, but adore for writing Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bean, and Bridget Jones’ Diary, as well as his direction on About Time. These are two of Britain’s greatest filmmakers, and they are combining forces to create a musical romantic comedy. And if I weren’t excited enough, it stars Lily James! Lily James! The next Emma Stone, who stole a Meryl Streep movie out from under Meryl F*cking Streep! I don’t even need to mention the rest of the cast – and I’m saying that about a movie that stars Ed Sheeran as himself! Not much is known about the plot at the moment, but because Sheeran can’t keep his fat f*cking mouth shut (and I love him for it), we know that the general plot follows a struggling musician (soap opera star Hmesh Patel) who wakes up one morning to discover that he is the only person on Earth to remember The Beatles, and makes a career out of stealing their music. It also stars Ana de Armas, Kate McKinnon, and Lamorne Morris, but this wonderful information is irrelevant. I was already onboard from the phrase “Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis musical romantic comedy.” You can bet your ass I will be there front row on June 28th.
1. Little Women
Truth be told, I don’t care about Little Women whatsoever. I never read the book, I’ve never seen an adaptation (not the movies, not the miniseries, not the musical), and I’m not sure I plan to in the immediate future. What I do care about are my favorite actors, directors and writers. After Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig has carte blanche in my book to do whatever she wants. And what she wants is an adaptation of one of the most iconic books of all time (it made Joey Tribbiani cry). And to bring the book to life, she’s established what may be the greatest cinematic dream team known to man. She’s got Saoirse Ronan (my favorite actress) in the role she was born to play, Jo March. For the sisters, she’s got Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen (whom I have just seen in Sharp Objects and can confirm is wonderful). For the role of Aunt March and Marmee March, the matriarchs of the family, Gerwig brought on the two most beloved actresses in America: Meryl Streep and Laura Dern. For the older men in the sisters’ lives, she cast Bob Odenkirk and Chris Cooper. And for the role of the brooding, lanky, curly haired Laurie, the ultimate boy next door, Gerwig gave the world what they wanted and hired Ronan’s Lady Bird costar and the Internet’s Boyfriend Timothée Chalamet. This is, quite frankly, perfect casting across the board. The producers have reported that Gerwig has experimented with the novel’s form, jumping back and forth in time in order to explore the themes in a new, fresh way, but that doesn’t matter to me. As I said, I’ve never read the book. All I want is for Gerwig to do what she thinks is right so that this film can live up to its own expectations. And honestly, I think she can do it – thus its choice as my most anticipated film of the year. Little Women will appropriately be released on December 25th, as a nice family treat for Christmas.
And those are the films I’m most anticipating in 2019. I hope I managed to give you some hope for the coming season. Are there any films you think I missed out on? Any that you’re excited about that I didn’t mention in my Top Ten? Let me know in the comments! And I’ll see you all very soon as we begin looking at the Best of Television!