2017 is upon us, and that means an entire new batch of films in theaters. From independents to romances to comedies to Oscar contenders to blockbusters, hundreds of films come out every year, forever changing the game, tickling your fancy, or upsetting you in its offensive awfulness. Every year, we set out with expectations and hopes that the new crop will be as great as the previous-or better, if the year was as awful as 2016 was. I myself begin each year by making a list of the films that I’m excited for, and then narrow that down to a Top Ten. So, in honor of the new year, I am providing a Special “Wednesday” Listicle: my Top Eleven Most Anticipated Films of 2017 (I can’t narrow it down past that.
Now, a couple of notes on this list. First, these are the films that make me excited, and have me counting down until its eventual release date. Mostly, these are dramas and obscure films, but the occasional comedy and blockbuster can sneak through. As well, it is worth noting that because these films are artsier releases, they don’t all have release dates, so I may end up looking like a fool when these films don’t come out. Hell, as of today, I’ve only seen nine of last year’s twelve Most Anticipated-one is out and will be seen this week, one is coming out in about two weeks, and one still doesn’t have a release date (here’s hoping The Disaster Artist eventually comes out this year). And finally, this does not mean that these films are going to be good. Of my Most Anticipated films from last year, three made my Top Ten, one was in my Top Twenty, three more were entertaining if not great, and two were actually quite meh. Long story short, there’s no proof that these films will actually be good, just that there’s something about them that has me excited for them.
Now that that’s settled, my Honorable Mentions. There are a lot of movies I’m excited for. In terms of blockbusters, films I noted were King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Justice League, Logan, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. There are lots of great animated films on the docket, including The Lego Batman Movie, Blazing Samurai. The arthouse scene is giving us Mute, Stronger, Baby Driver, The Snowman, Thoroughbred, Wonder, The Book of Henry, and Wonderstruck, as well as two sequels to beloved classics, T2: Trainspotting 2 and Blade Runner 2049. I was at one point excited for Nicolas Cage’s Vengeance: A Love Story before I found out he’d given up directing. There’s some great comedies on the docket, including Table 19 and Snatched. And let’s not forget the Oscar-bait-Gary Oldman in The Darkest Hour, Brie Larson in The Glass Castle, a whole litany of stars in Thank You For Your Service, and Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. Phew, that’s a lot of movies. And there’s still eleven left. So with all that said, allow me to list the Eleven Movies I’m Anticipating in 2017.
11. The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola’s last movie was The Bling Ring, which I hated so much I retroactively disliked The Virgin Suicides. It’s a difficult hurdle to grapple with. However, I don’t want to undersell how much I love Lost in Translation-it’s a fantastic film. On that merit alone, I’m willing to still give her a chance. And her newest movie, The Beguiled, ahs me intrigued. A remake of an old Clint Eastwood film, the movie follows an injured Union soldier who is held captive by a Confederate all-girls’ boarding school. He begins to seduce and con the women to turn them against each other in order to escape. The film stars Colin Farrell as the Union soldier and Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Oona Laurence, and Coppola muse Kirsten Dunst as the girls. This has every opportunity to fail, but with that cast and a sharp writer, I can’t help but be excited for it. Plus, look at that badass photo. How great does that look? The film will be released on June 23, 2017.
10. Battle of the Sexes
Historical dramedies have always intrigued me. Obviously the high water mark is The Big Short, but other great recent examples include Saving Mr. Banks, Philomena, and Florence Foster Jenkins. So when the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, a lovely little film, announce that they are going to make a comedic drama about the Battle of the Sexes, when the talented, chauvinistic tennis pro Bobby Riggs challenged young female up-and-comer Billie Jean King to a game to prove that male athletes were superior, I’m on board. However, when you tell me that Steve Carell will play Riggs and Emma Stone, who will be hot off her Oscar campaign for La La Land (my #1 anticipated of 2016), will play King, then this goes from an exciting project to a highly anticipated project. Andrea Risenborough, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, Eric Christian Olsen and Alan Cumming round out the incredible cast, and when you add in writer Simon Beaufoy, one of my all-time favorites, this could be next year’s great Golden Globe/Oscar contender. The film has no confirmed release date, but filming has wrapped, and I would look for it around the Toronto Film Festival.
9. Murder on the Orient Express
I’m a huge fan of the mystery genre, and one of my all-time favorite authors is Agatha Christie. Her ability to write is only matched by her knack for twist endings, and there are few examples of this talent as great as Murder on the Orient Express. The book has been turned into an Oscar-winning movie, as well as a well-received 2010 episode of the Poirot television series. Truth be told, it’s sort of well-worn territory at this time, as both renditions were handled absolutely perfectly, so I don’t know why there’s a need for a new one. However, while I don’t see anything exciting about writer Michael Green, I am won over by the fact that Kenneth Branagh, an incredibly talented writer/director, is at the helm, and will be playing the role of the famous mustachioed detective. And considering this is the most impressive mystery ensembles in history, the fact the rest of the cast includes Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michael Peña, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Johnny Depp as the murder victim (an exciting prospect in and of itself), this could be an absolutely masterful film. I can assure you I’ll be at the front of the line on November 22, 2017.
Truth be told, I don’t know that much about Mudbound. All I do know about it is that there’s a love triangle involving race, class and relocation in 1940s Mississippi. However, I’m sold on this product based on the pedigree alone. The novel itself is a critically-acclaimed bestseller. Dee Rees, the director, is well-regarded after her 2011 breakout Pariah. And the cast includes Carey Mulligan as the lead, Jason Clarke as her bigoted husband, Garrett Hedlund as his PTSD-ridden brother, Jonathan Banks as the family’s racist father and Jason Mitchell as the son of the local sharecroppers. Mulligan is my favorite actress working right now, Clarke has stolen every damn film he’s ever been in, Hedlund is starting to prove himself as an actor, and Mitchell was the heart and soul of last year’s Straight Outta Compton, with his interpretation of Eazy-E stealing every scene he was in. When it comes down to it, I don’t need to know much about this film. The cast and crew it’s established stand on its own as proof that this film will be a big success. We’ll know if this is true in a few weeks, when the film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, and we’ll know shortly after that what the firm release date will be. Until then, I’ll be waiting.
Alexander Payne is one of the most bizarre directors working. He just picks a place in specific America, builds a world around the quirky characters who live there, and use it to explore universal ideas. He explored family life in The Descendants, About Schmidt, and Nebraska (all three excellent films), he explored love in the brilliant Sideways, and he explored politics in his magnum opus, 1999’s Election. It goes without saying that whatever he releases next will be riotously funny and ridiculously heartfelt. Now, if you tell me that that film will be a sci-fi dramedy, I get excited. If you tell me it’s about a man who is abandoned by his wife when he decides to shrink himself, I’m intrigued. And when you tell me the cast includes Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and Margo Martindale, I’m there in a heartbeat. The film will be released on December 22, 2017 by Annapurna Pictures, the best company in the business, and I can’t wait to see what they put together.
6. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Drama
Speaking of films that we know little about, here’s a film we know nothing about. Literally, we know only the director, star, and topic. However, there really isn’t a need to know anything about it beyond this. This is a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, single-handedly the greatest director working today. His films combine rich comedy with complex themes in order to find some hard-yet-universal truth. At least three of his films are masterpieces, and the greatest, There Will Be Blood, features one of the greatest performances of all time by Daniel Day-Lewis. So you can imagine my excitement upon discovering that Day-Lewis has signed on to play the lead in Anderson’s newest film, a drama set in the 1950s fashion world. This is bound to be one of the best films of the year, and possibly a best of the decade, assuming Anderson lands it perfectly (which he almost always does). The film has no firm release date, but Focus Features has confirmed their eyeing a late 2017 premiere, so I would look at the Toronto Film Festival, and maybe even Telluride, for more news.
I am as surprised as you are that Christopher Nolan’s newest film is only #5 on this list. However, I don’t want that to sell short how excited I am for this project. I have a very love-hate relationship with the war film genre, appreciating most but being very rarely won over. The Hurt Locker is one of my favorites of all time, and Saving Private Ryan is great, but I often feel, for the most part, that the genre leaves me saying, “Ok, that was good, or ok, or whatever.” I appreciate Platoon and The Green Berets evenly, but hate films like American Sniper with a passion. However, when the news comes in that Nolan is making a World War II film about one of the most famous moments of the entire endeavor-the rescue of thousands of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk by hundreds of commercial and privately own vessels-I am on board. And when you couple in the fact that he’s upping his own game-crashing real WWII planes, filming with his world-class crew of cinematographers and editors in IMAX, etc.-and the fact he’s working with one of the greatest British ensembles I’ve ever seen-Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, James D’Arcy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Fionn Whitehead, and Harry Styles-you end up with a film that’s destined for greatness. The film comes out July 21, 2017, and you can watch the trailer below.
4. A Futile and Stupid Gesture
Netflix has spent the past few years slowly becoming a real movie powerhouse. Their documentaries are always top-notch, and they’ve started getting quality dramas and comedies, including awards contender Beasts of No Nation and the newest Christopher Guest mockumentary Mascots. So it should come as no surprise that one of their films would make this list. However, what may surprise you is the film I end up picking: A Futile and Stupid Gesture, the National Lampoon/Doug Kenney biopic. I’m a huge fan of the National Lampoon, considering their irreverence my number one comedic influence, and their documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead was one of my favorite films of last year. So obviously a dramatic telling of the story is going to be near the top of my list of anticipated films. When you couple this with the fact that it is being directed by David Wain, the bizarre mind behind Wet Hot American Summer, The State, Role Models, and They Came Together, the film becomes a potential smash. And when you tell me that the cast is made up of Will Forte as Kenney, Domhnall Gleeson as Henry Beard, Thomas Lennon as Michael O’Donoghue, Joel McHale as former Community co-star Chevy Chase, John Gemberling as John Belushi, Matt Walsh as Matty Simmons, Jon Daly as Bill Murray, Seth Green as Christopher Guest, Matt Lucas as Tony Hendra, Paul Scheer as Paul Shaffer, Lonny Ross as Ivan Reitman, Armen Weitzman as Lorne Michaels, Natasha Lyonne as Anne Beatts, and Emmy Rossum as Kathryn Walker, you have one of the most exciting ensembles of all time. Netflix hasn’t set a release date yet, and we probably aren’t getting one for quite some time. But I will be anxiously awaiting the day, and I will be watching this film the minute it is dropped on the site.
3. Beauty and the Beast
Dammit, am I excited for Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my all-time favorite Disney films, and one of the key films in convincing me that Disney magic is real and not just a ploy to sell garbage to kids (I’m a very cynical twenty-something). While I was skeptical when it was first announced that Disney was going to make a live-action adaptation, my mind quickly changed as the facts came in. The fact Bill Condon is directing it helped give me hope. When Emma Watson and Dan Stevens signed on as the titular characters, my hope increased. When Watson brought on Stephen Chbosky, the writer/director of both the book and film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, two of my favorites across both mediums, I got excited. And when the cast was rounded out by Luke Evans as Gaston, Kevin Kline as Maurice, Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Audra McDonald as Garderobe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette (essentially Babette the featherduster), Stanley Tucci as original role Cadenza, Josh Gad as Le Fou (perfect), and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts (even perfecter), I was sold. This film could be hideous and I’ll love it. I can’t wait to see it, I can’t wait to hear these people sing these songs, I can’t wait to see Watson in that dress dancing with the Beast to Thompson’s gorgeous voice, I can’t wait for Dan Stevens to turn back into a Prince and people won’t actually be disappointed, and I can’t wait for Alan Menken’s new songs. Frankly, I can’t wait for March 17, 2017. If you’re like me, you can watch the trailer below and get excited too.
2. Star Wars Episode VIII
I mean, duh. How could you not be excited for a new Star Wars movie? And I’ll admit, it’s impossible to ever reach the level of excitement set by The Force Awakens, especially considering the fact we will be in the midst of “one new Star Wars movie every year” mode. However, if anything, The Force Awakens has set an excellent bar in terms of excitement. The film was magical, fun, and daring, just like the series ought to be. And I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I want more Daisy Ridley as Rey learning to be a Jedi. I want more Luke Skywalker kicking ass. I want more Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. I want more John Boyega–Oscar Isaac fan fiction. I want to see Carrie Fisher kick ass one last time. Quite frankly, I just want more. The fact that Rian Johnson, the man who brought us Looper and “Ozymandias,” the Breaking Bad episode often considered as the Greatest Television Episode of All Time, is writing and directing the film is just icing on the cake. Star Wars Episode VII will be released December 15, 2017, and will see the return of every character still alive at the end of Force Awakens, as well as Benicio del Toro and Kelly Marie Tran.
1. Untiteld Kathryn Bigelow Detroit Film
I grew up in Michigan, not far from Detroit. My father was also born and raised in the area. And he tells me stories of his childhood, and watching his father go into town to assess the damage from the Detroit Riots in 1967. It was an explosive incident, one of the largest uprisings in U.S. history, and one of the key moments of the 1960s. So when Kathryn Bigelow, one of my favorite directors and the director of one of my All-Time Favorite Movies, The Hurt Locker, announces that she and longtime screenwriter Mark Boal (also The Hurt Locker) are making a large-scale crime epic their follow-up to the superb Zero Dark Thirty, that alone is enough for me to declare it my Most Anticipated film of the year. I don’t even need to know that the film will star John Boyega, Jason Mitchell, Jack Reynor, Jacob Latimore, Ephraim Sykes Will Pulter, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, and John Krasinski, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The film is trying to release somewhere around the 50th anniversary, so I would expect it in July at the earliest, December at the latest.
And those are the films I am highly anticipating. I hope I gave you some inspiration for some 2017 viewing! Are there any films I missed? Any films you are excited for that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!