2014 was an excellent year for all kinds of films, from blockbusters to family films to the major Oscar contenders, with some high-quality art house output to round it all out. 2015 promises to be equally exciting, not only featuring what are likely to become two of the highest-grossing movies of all time in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but also original, efforts from Disney and Pixar. We’re also getting the new films from all-time great directors like Scorsese, Tarantino, Spielberg and Terence Malick. To pick just 20 of next year’s scheduled releases was hard enough, and some honourable mentions to films that just missed out go to Trumbo, Ant-Man, Tulip Fever, Suffragette, and Mockingjay Part 2, but I could not be more excited for the following movies.
20: Crimson Peak – Dir; Guillermo del Toro, Starring; Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, UK Release Date; 16th October
The latest effort from Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak looks set to return him to his more gothic style of filmmaking, as opposed to 2013’s bombastic punch-fest Pacific Rim. Pan’s Labyrinth is a wonderful film, both fantastical and grounded, with brilliant world building from del Toro. If Crimson Peak can deliver some of that magic, then we’re in for a treat, and it’s looking promising thus far, with gorgeous sets, a cast that can be best described as ‘elegant’, and a near-Halloween release date guaranteeing some proper Gothic horror.
19: Tomorrowland – Dir; Brad Bird, Starring; Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, UK Release Date; 22nd May
Even with the releases of three new superhero films and the super-secretive Star Wars 7, the most mysterious blockbuster of 2015 is Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland. We know almost nothing about the film save that a troubled youngster (Robertson) is transported to a futuristic city with the help of a former boy genius (Clooney). Laurie is rumoured to be playing the villain, but very little is certain at this point, a rarity in modern tentpole cinema. With Brad Bird (Incredibles, Mission Impossible 4) directing this should be visual highlight of 2015.
18: Jurassic World – Dir; Colin Trevorrow, Starring; Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, UK Release Date; 12th June
Over 20 years on from the first Jurassic Park and after roughly a decade in its own development hell, the fourth instalment in the dinosaur-heavy franchise is finally almost ready to release. Featuring a mosasaur eating a shark, a pack of seemingly trained velociraptors and a genetically engineered super-Tyrannosaur, the trailer was both silly and exciting enough to evoke fond memories of the 1993 classic, aided by a haunting take on the classic theme music. With modern effects, we should expect some incredible-looking prehistoric creatures, and with Hollywood’s latest leading man Chris Pratt taking the Jeff Goldblum role, Jurassic World should be one of the summer’s funnest movies.
17: High Rise – Dir; Ben Wheatley, Starring; Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, UK Release Date; TBA
The second film starring Tom Hiddleston on this list, High Rise may lack the ghoulish themes of Crimson Peak, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be any less disturbing. Directed by Ben Wheatley, who was behind the none-more-dark Kill List and Sightseers, and based on JG Ballard’s semi-dystopian novel about class warfare, cannibalism, and capitalism gone mad, all contained within a single skyscraper, High Rise will be violent and frightening. It will also be incredibly timely, with the austerity of modern Britain serving as a parallel to the days of Margaret Thatcher in which the film is set.
16: Martian – Dir; Ridley Scott, Starring; Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, UK Release Date; 27th November
Nothing so much as a piece of concept art has surfaced for The Martian and Ridley Scott has not been on a particularly hot streak recently, so this is a risky pick for a most anticipated film. However, the book on which it is based tells a fascinating story of a man (Matt Damon) stranded on the Red Planet and having to survive until help can be sent his way. There is also an incredibly strong cast lined up, from Damon in the lead, to Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in support, so there is plenty of hope that this man vs elements tale could end up being really great.
15: Everest – Dir; Baltasar Kormákur, Starring; Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, UK Release Date; 2nd October
Another survival in the wilderness tale, although this time a bit more grounded in reality. Based on the true story of the disastrous 1996 Mount Everest expedition, in which 8 climbers were killed in a snowstorm, Everest should, like All is Lost and other such films before it, unflinchingly portray the realities of being stranded and left at the mercy of nature. A strong stable of actors will lend their talents to Everest, most excitingly Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave the best performance of his career in the recent Nightcrawler, and it could well be the film to kick off 2015/16’s Oscar season in earnest.
14: Silence – Dir; Martin Scorsese, Starring; Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, UK Release Date; TBA
The only reason that the next film from Martin Scorsese is not far higher up this list is that Silence every chance of missing the 2015 release window. It’s been stuck in development for years, with Daniel Day-Lewis initially in line to star and the complete lack of any new information on the film other than the cast is worrying. Other than that, Silence has plenty going for it – it’s the new film by one of the greatest directors alive and has a setting and story that is unique. Set in 17th Century Japan, Silence follows two Jesuit priests (Garfield and Driver) setting out to spread the word of the gospel and find their mentor (Neeson). Promising action and introspection, Silence could well end up being one of the year’s very best films if it can secure a 2015 release. UPDATE: Confirmed to have been pushed to 2016.
13: Inside Out – Dir; Pete Docter, Starring (voices); Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, UK Release Date; 24th July
Inside Out could be Pixar’s most original movie since Wall-E, and that alone is worth getting excited about. Set inside the mind of a little girl (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), with a great cast of comic performers lending voices to her conflicting emotions, it promises to be a colourful and insightful look at what it’s like to grow up. The animation style is unique, with plenty of neat touches visible in the trailer (how the girl’s mindspace is bright and colourful, whilst her dad’s is entirely grey, and how all of his emotions have the same moustache). There has been some, justified, backlash against the trailer’s use of very broad gender stereotypes, but I trust Pixar to either explain or subvert these in the magical way that only they can.
12: Sea of Trees – Dir; Gus Van Sant, Starring; Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, UK Release Date; TBA
Matthew McConaughey has had an outstanding couple of years, winning an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club and starring in one of the biggest films (Interstellar) and biggest TV shows (True Detective) of 2014. Sea of Trees looks set to continue that hot streak, with him playing a lost soul on the verge of killing himself, found and saved by Ken Watanabe as he wanders Japan’s ‘suicide forest’. Admittedly, Van Sant has a very hit and miss track record, and can definitely dip into over-sentimentality, but if he brings the raw reality of Elephant or sheer charm of Good Will Hunting to Sea of Trees, then it could a thoroughly engaging piece of prestige filmmaking, with two exceptional performers in the lead roles.
11: Fantastic Four – Dir; Josh Trank, Starring; Miles Teller, Toby Kebbell, Kate Mara, UK Release Date; 7th August
Finally dropping a trailer and some images, the first bunch of Fantastic Four promotional material did much to allay many of my fears about the film – it looks visually spectacular, and the focus on exploration more than typical heroics is very promising. An exciting young cast made up of some recent breakout stars (Miles Teller from Whiplash, Kate Mara from House of Cards) going up against the always brilliant Toby Kebbell as Doctor Doom (one of the best ever comic-book villains) should prove exhilarating if done right, and having the director of Chronicle (Josh Trank, re-teaming with Michael B Jordan) onboard is a great asset. Fantastic Four should be very different to any of the superhero movies that have come before it, and I really hope that it lives up to its very high potential.
10; Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Dir; JJ Abrams, Starring; John Boyega, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, UK Release Date; 18th December
The most talked about movie of 2015 is undeniably the seventh entry in the Star Wars franchise. Disney and JJ Abrams have taken over the reins from George Lucas, which is one of the main reasons I’m anticipating Force Awakens. I’m not a massive fan of the Star Wars series, but I can’t dispute that Lucas created a magnificent universe, so to see some more talented writers of dialogue tackle the many worlds of a galaxy far, far away is incredibly exciting. With Abrams at the helm, we already know that we can expect great action both on the ground and in outer space, and it’s very pleasing to see Attack the Block‘s John Boyega take the lead role in what is likely to be a billion-dollar epic.
9: Avengers: Age of Ultron – Dir; Joss Whedon, Starring; Robert Downey Jr, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, UK Release Date; 24th April
With Star Wars and Avengers both getting sequels this year, it is safe to say that Disney is going to make a colossal amount of money. Of the two megabucks movies, I am more excited for Age of Ultron, partly due to my general love of all things Marvel and partly because (thanks to release dates) the Avengers trailer contains so much more exciting stuff. Although we know that the eponymous super team will last in its current form until at least Captain America Civil War, the state of the relationships between each character is bound to be changed here (and I’m predicting now that Hawkeye is going to die). Ultron looks to be the most menacing comic-book movie villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker, and the casting of James Spader to voice him was pure genius. With the potential to be the biggest movie of 2015, Avengers: Age of Ultron could manage to be the finest comic-book movie ever made.
8: Sicario – Dir; Denis Villeneuve, Starring; Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, UK Release Date; TBA
Fast becoming one of Hollywood’s best directors, Denis Villeneuve (the man behind the excellent Prisoners and Enemy) returns here with a film about an FBI agent (Blunt) who joins up with the CIA to take down a Mexican cartel leader. However, this is unlikely to be a mere run-and-gun cops vs criminals action flick that we’ve seen so frequently before, with Villeneuve adept at exploring the reactions of one’s conscience to violence, and the synopsis promising boundary pushing ethical challenges. We know very little about Sicario, but the plot, director and tremendous cast are enough on their own to make me stupidly excited for this film.
7: Revenant – Dir; Alejandro González Iñárritu, Starring; Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, UK Release Date – 15th January 2016
OK, so I’m technically cheating on this one, but plenty of the more awards-y films on the list with no confirmed release date will end up releasing around the same time as The Revenant. Not scheduled for a wide UK distribution until January 2016, The Revenant is still a 2015 film, obviously making a big play for that year’s Oscars, and there will surely be chances to see it (London Film Festival etc) before its official opening. Now on to why I’m so highly anticipating it. Firstly, it’s directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the man behind my 2014 film of the year, Birdman, and secondly, it’s led by Hollywood’s brightest star, Leonardo DiCaprio. Those two powerhouses of cinematic talent will tell the story of 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a man left for dead by his companions (including Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson) after being mauled by a bear. He seeks vengeance against those who wronged him, which should make for riveting viewing, especially with Iñárritu and DiCaprio at the helm.
6: Spectre – Dir; Sam Mendes, Starring; Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Andrew Scott, UK Release Date; 23rd October
The 24th Bond film, after Skyfall made a billion dollars worldwide and was received exceptionally well, has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it seems like all the right steps are being taken to ensure that Spectre is as good as it possibly can be, from keeping Sam Mendes on board as director, to casting Christoph Waltz in the villainous role of ‘definitely not Blofeld’. All major plot details are likely to be kept tightly under wraps until the film actually comes out, but for now we can assume that the titular shadowy organisation will make for a giddily exciting and twist-filled plot as we get ready to say farewell to Daniel Craig as 007 in whatever Bond 25 turns out to be. The most exciting blockbuster of 2015, I expect Spectre to follow in Skyfall‘s footsteps and become one of the most internationally successful British films ever.
5: Macbeth – Dir; Justin Kurzel, Starring; Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, UK Release Date; TBA
The most out and out entertaining Shakespeare tragedy (sorry Hamlet) gets another screen adaptation in 2015, this time with Michael Fassbender in the lead as the bewitched king-killer Macbeth. With promises of a scale unlike any other adaptation of the ‘Scottish play’ and some very moody stills, this version of Macbeth has the potential to be one of the best big-screen takes on the Bard. Director Justin Kurzel has already proved that he can marshal a profoundly disturbing story with Snowtown and this should serve him well in tackling the very dark psyches of Macbeth and his wife (Cotillard). Not only does this look very, very interesting to me, but if it’s handled with enough grit and energy, it could be a film to get people interested in Shakespeare, which is always a positive thing.
4: Lost City of Z – Dir; James Gray, Starring; Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, UK Release Date; TBA
I love mystery stories, an The Lost City of Z has a profoundly intriguing real-life conundrum at its centre. What happened to Percy Fawcett (Hunnam), the Colonel who went questing for a fabled Amazon civilisation in 1925, before vanishing without a trace? Whilst I would be content with merely seeing Fawcett’s journey through the jungle, the reason that Lost City ranks so highly is the possibility that we could witness Fawcett finding what he’s looking for. In the same vein as Indiana Jones, or like a film adaptation of Uncharted or Far Cry, the promise of seeing a mystical ancient civilisation is particularly inviting, even if the replacement of Benedict Cumberbatch by Charlie Hunnam in the lead role tempers my enthusiasm a bit. UPDATE: Confirmed to have been pushed to 2016.
3: Hateful Eight – Dir; Quentin Tarantino, Starring; Samuel L Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, UK Release Date; TBA
One of the most exciting pieces of film news this year was the announcement from Quentin Tarantino that, following the cancellation of his latest project due to the script being leaked, he would actually make The Hateful Eight and that it would even come out in time for Christmas 2015. Tarantino is one of my favourite writer-directors and seeing him return to the western genre following the superb Django Unchained (a strong contender for my 2012 film of the year) is a treat for all cinema-goers. He’s assembled his team of Tarantino Allstars, from Sam Jackson to Tim Roth, and is shooting the whole film in 70MM cinemascope, so it should look gorgeous. The Hateful Eight could be to Tarantino what Grand Budapest Hotel is to Wes Anderson and end up becoming his quintessential work, no mean feat when you have a back catalog containing classics like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
2: Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller (St James Place) – Dir; Steven Spielberg, Starring; Tom Hanks, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, UK Release Date; 9th October
With a working title of St James Place, the as yet Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller is shaping up to be one of 2015’s finest films. Reuniting legendary director Steven Spielberg with the ever-reliable Tom Hanks, the movie is about the U2 Spy Plane Incident in 1960, a diplomatic crisis that became one of the defining events, along with the Cuban Missile Crisis, of the Cold War in the ’60s. With Hanks taking on the role of the negotiator assigned to secure the safe release of the downed spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers (Magnussen), this film could allow for some proper old-school movie magic. Spielberg gets flak for being too sentimental and at times I’m inclined to agree, but very few other directors can compete with the level of critical and commercial success, along with his knack for variety, so anything new by him is well worth following.
1: Knight of Cups – Dir; Terence Malick, Starring; Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, UK Release Date; TBA
Even though we’ve already had a full trailer for Terence Malick’s Knight of Cups, his latest project is still shrouded in a brilliant mystery. What we do know is that the story centres around Rick (Bale), a man with wealth and fame who seeks what he perceives as love. Malick is a phenomenal director, filled with the confidence to make slow, philosophical movies and yet keep them engaging throughout. Although he stumbled a bit with 2013’s To The Wonder, his other works, especially Tree of Life, Badlands, and The Thin Red Line are all undisputed masterpieces, and the incredibly striking trailer suggests that we’re going to receive something with an energy closer to those three films than his most recent effort, as well as a profound reflection on many of Life’s Big Questions. Given the way Malick works, it could well end up that none of what we see in the trailer ends up in the final cut, but no matter what does, it’s sure to be magnificent. Even if it is not the year’s best film, Knight of Cups will definitely be one of 2015’s most original cinematic visions, and with its premiere at the Berlinale in February, we won’t have to wait long to find out just how good it is. Update: According to the Berlin reviews, I got this one pretty wrong. Ah well, we all make our mistakes.