We're just two months into 2016, with 305 days left in the calendar year, which also means there are plenty of movies coming out in the 10 months ahead. With that in mind, and with today (Feb. 29) being Leap Day, we've compiled a list of 29 movies by release date that we're awaiting with great anticipation in 2016.
They span sci-fi, horror and fantasy, and while we don't expect every one of them to be mind-blowing (and in fact some of them might turn out just terrible), each of these made the list for a reason, whether it's the next chapter in a popular saga, the latest entry from a well-respected filmmaker or a reboot of a franchise left for dead -- or even, imagine this, an entirely new and original outing in its genre.
So scan the list below and see how our choices line up with yours. There may be a few missing. After all, it's going to be a busy year for genre fans, even with an extra day.
10 Cloverfield Lane (March 11)
Is it a Cloverfield sequel? Who knows? There's certainly meant to be some sort of connection to that 2008 giant monster movie, but exactly what that is has yet to be revealed. All we know is that Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up to find herself being kept prisoner in a fortress-like home by John Goodman, who says he has saved her life from the horrors of a chemical attack outside. But the truth of what is out there may be far worse. Directed by first-timer Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J. Abrams, this looks like scary fun.
Midnight Special (March 18)
There's already been a lot written about the excellent trailers for this film, which stars Michael Shannon as a man on the run from both government agents and a creepy cult, both of whom want his son. The boy, it seems, possesses great powers with staggering implications for humankind. Director Jeff Nichols has dabbled in genre before with Take Shelter, which also starred Shannon, but this is a full plunge into sci-fi and it looks terrific -- like an Amblin movie crossed with something darker.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25)
The Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) comes out of retirement to stop what he perceives as a threat to the entire planet in the shape of the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill). Industrialist and scientist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) eggs the whole thing along, but there are other interested parties as well, especially a mysterious woman named Diana (Gal Gadot). This is it, folks: Warner Bros. Pictures is pushing all its chips (some $400 million of them, reportedly) to the middle of the table and betting on this film and director Zack Snyder to launch its DC Extended Universe in a huge way. Whatever happens, this is sure to be one of the most talked-about movies of 2016.
Before I Wake (April 8)
A young couple adopts an orphaned boy whose dreams and nightmares manifest themselves in reality. That's the plot description and about all we know about this horror outing, which stars Jacob Tremblay (Room), Annabeth Gish (The X-Files) and Thomas Jane (The Expanse). It's directed by Mike Flanagan, who impressed the heck out of us a couple of years ago with the eerie Oculus, which is why this one's got our interest. One disclaimer: Before I Wake may still be caught up in the fallout from the bankruptcy of Relativity Films, so there's a chance that release date might not hold.
The Invitation (April 8)
A man (Logan Marshall-Green from Prometheus) attends a dinner party at his former home only to begin suspecting that his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister plans for all their guests. We've seen this low-budget shocker from director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) and found it to be an effective little horror thriller with a killer ending; the movie finds a nice level of dread and paranoia and stays there. Look for this one in limited theatrical release and VOD once its opening date arrives.
The Huntsman: Winter's War (April 22)
No one was really asking for a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, but if you have to have one, why not stack it with Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt in addition to the returning Charlize Theron? And, oh yeah, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is back as well. With Kristen Stewart sitting this one out, the primary attraction is going to be watching these three ladies duke it out as the CG sparks fly. This looks out of control, but we're hoping it can at least provide some nutty, fun entertainment that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
This could be the most anticipated movie on this list, if not easily in the top three. Cap (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) face off over a government plan to register and monitor all "enhanced" humans, with many of the other Avengers and other interested parties taking sides. Not only does this movie have profound implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's introducing both Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a revamped Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to the MCU. The trailers look huge and directors Anthony and Joe Russo might very well top their outstanding Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Can't wait for it.
X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
The X-Men franchise moves into the 1980s following the events of 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past as Professor X (James McAvoy) and the team are threatened by the world's oldest and most powerful mutant, En Sabah Nur a.k.a. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). With lots of new faces joining McAvoy, Michael Fassbender's Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, the imagery we've seen so far certainly suggests that this could be the most comic bookish X-Men movie yet: Apocalypse looks like he's been ripped right from the page. Can director Bryan Singer keep the momentum going from the acclaimed Days of Future Past? Our normal human brains can't predict.
The Conjuring 2 (June 10)
After fooling around with a few cars in his last film (Furious 7), director James Wan returns to his horror roots with this sequel to his popular and unnerving poltergeist shocker. In this one, also based on the real-life case files of ghost-hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), the couple journey to England to investigate a haunting there. Wan is one of the most accomplished horror filmmakers out there and we're glad to see him come home; hopefully he can make the Warrens' new adventure as fresh and frightening as the first one.
Warcraft (June 10)
The hugely popular video game franchise comes to the screen after years of development, with director Duncan Jones (Source Code) manning the tale of a massive battle between humans and orcs for the future of the world known as Azeroth. The trailer for this certainly captures an epic feel, but your mileage may vary depending on whether you buy into the mythology and video game esthetic. Jones is a talented director and this is his biggest project yet, so he might be the one to turn around the fortunes of game-based movies. With Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell and Clancy Brown.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)
It's been 20 years since we fought back and won against the massive alien invasion of the original ID4, so it seems as if we're due for a rematch. Will Smith may be MIA, but Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are back, along with new faces like Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monroe. Director Roland Emmerich is also back to his world-destroying ways as this time humanity uses the aliens' own tech against them -- but the invaders have a few new surprises as well. Emmerich knows how to blow stuff up just about better than anyone, so we'll be there.
Equals (July 1)
Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult star in this love story set in a future world where all emotions have been eradicated. The movie received a mixed reception at some festival screenings, but director Drake Doremus has shown a keen sense of relationships in his previous films Like Crazy and Breathe In, so we're looking forward to seeing him tackle the sci-fi genre. This also promises to be a visual feast and looks like a bit of a throwback to '70s sci-fi.
The BFG (July 1)
Steven Spielberg directing a movie based on a story by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)? We're sold right there. Dahl's fantasy about a little girl who befriends a Big Friendly Giant and helps him fight the evil giants encroaching on the world has been in development since 1991 and seems like slam-dunk material for Spielberg. We should also note that The BFG is the last screenplay credited to Melissa Mathison (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial), who sadly passed away last year. The fellow playing the BFG, Mark Rylance, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor just last night for Spielberg's Bridge of Spies.
The Purge: Election Year (July 1)
We liked the first Purge and the second one (The Purge: Anarchy) upped the stakes to great effect, so why not go for a third round of mayhem? Frank Grillo (Captain America: Civil War) returns to star, and writer/director James DeMonaco will no doubt give us more of his frightening dystopian America where all crime is allowed for one night out of the year. Setting it in the midst of a Presidential campaign just makes the whole thing seem scarily relevant...
Ghostbusters (July 15)
We have never understood all the "controversy" over the casting of this movie: no one said that the Ghostbusters had to be men. And with Bill Murray not interested in coming back and Harold Ramis dead, why not take things in a different direction? Our biggest hope is that director Paul Feig and the ladies -- led by Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig -- add something new to the franchise and not just remake the original. We're rooting for them.
Star Trek Beyond (July 22)
With a new director (Justin Lin) and a fresh screenwriting team (Simon Pegg and Doug Jung), the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise has a chance to make up for that abysmal mess known as Star Trek Into Darkness. Can't say that the first trailer inspires a whole lot of confidence, but Lin and Pegg have promised that there will be a lot more of what people loved about the original Trek in this movie. We hope so! At least Idris Elba is on hand as the villain, a new alien named Krall.
The Space Between Us (July 29)
A boy (Asa Butterfield, Ender's Game) and a girl (Britt Robertson, Tomorrowland) fall in love online and want to make plans to meet in person. Seems fine -- except that the girl is on Earth, the boy has grown up on Mars, and his existence until now has been a secret. Not a whole lot out there about this one yet, but it sounds like a young adult type of sci-fi story, hopefully with some real stakes and resonance added to the mix. The supporting cast includes Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino and B.D. Wong.
Suicide Squad (August 5)
Warner Bros.' second big DC movie of the year may turn out to be its secret weapon if Batman v Superman is underwhelming. Will Smith's Deadshot leads a consortium of villains recruited by the U.S. government to do its dirty work for it, and the killer cast includes Jared Leto as the Joker, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag and many more. Director David Ayer may make the grittiest DC movie yet, but possibly also the most fun as well. A great trailer has made the anticipation high for this one even higher.
Spectral (August 12)
This late summer entry is still traveling mostly under the radar for now, but it centers around a special ops team that battles supernatural threats -- this time with a major city hanging in the balance. The reliable horror factory Blumhouse Productions is behind this one, and we're always willing to take a look at what they've got to offer. The cast includes Emily Mortimer (Hugo), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek Into Darkness) and James Badge Dale (Iron Man 2).
Kubo and the Two Strings (August 19)
The amazing animation studio LAIKA (Coraline) brings us its fourth feature film, centering around a boy who must locate an anciet, magical suit of samurai armor to stop the monsters that are destroying his peaceful village. LAIKA veers away from horror and into epic fantasy with this offering, which of course looks absolutely beautiful in its first trailer. The voice cast includes Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes and George Takei.
Patient Zero (September 2)
This is a zombie movie with a twist: a worldwide epidemic changes much of the human race into an inteligent new species that speaks its own language -- and the one man who can understand and speak it himself (Matt Smith) communicates with them in order to find a cure. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games) co-star. The Comic-Con trailer for this looked quite promising.
Delirium (September 30)
More horror from Blumhouse, this time focusing on a man who is released from an asylum and immediately finds himself at a house he soon believes to be haunted. Topher Grace and Genesis Rodriguez star in what appears to be a throwback to a good old haunted house thriller. The director is Dennis Iliadis, who did a pretty decent job remaking Last House on the Left a few years back.
A Monster Calls (October 14)
Director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) is handling this adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Patrick Ness, in which a young boy befriends a monster in order to deal with his mother's terminal illness. The outstanding cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell and, in a master stroke, Liam Neeson as the monster. Bayona made one of the great tragic horror films of the past 20 years with The Orphanage, so we suspect that his take on this material will be both frightening and moving.
Doctor Strange (November 4)
The Sorcerer Supreme makes his long-awaited big screen debut in one of the year's most anticipated comic book outings. Producer Kevin Feige and director Scott Derrickson have promised to deliver the weirdest Marvel movie yet, and that cast is possibly the most prestigious ever assembled by the studio, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Strange joined by Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen. Marvel is about to introduce us to a whole new corner of its vast and multi-faceted universe.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18)
Yes, it's a Harry Potter prequel, written by J.K. Rowling herself and directed by David Yates, who helmed the last four Potter pictures. Which means that if you are a fan of the Potter franchise you will not want to miss this. Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell and Ron Perlman star in this story of a briefcase full of dangerous creatures that escape into the world and could upset the delicate balance of relations between magical folk and plain old humans.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)
The first of the Star Wars standalone/spinoff movies is a prequel, telling the story of perhaps the greatest heist in galactic history: the plot to steal the plans for the Death Star. Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) is the director and the cast includes Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker. Of course, we don't know much more about the story or whether we'll see cameos from other Star Wars tales, but this film will be the first test of whether a Star Wars movie not directly connected to the Skywalker family can hit with audiences as well. We're guessing it can.
Assassins Creed (December 28)
The year's second big video game movie comes with an A-list cast (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and Brendan Gleeson) and supposedly aims to tell an original story set within the mythology created around the game. Fassy plays Callum Lynch, a man descended from the original Assassins who must channel his ancestral memories to battle the Knights Templar in the present day. The production of this one went through some fits and starts, so we'll have to see if it, like Warcraft, can lift the video game movie curse.
Passengers (December 28)
The script for this movie (by Jon Spaihts, who wrote the original screenplay, later altered drastically, for Prometheus) has become a bit of a legend itself, earning all sorts of acclaim while the movie passed from studio to studio, with various stars and directors coming and going. It's finally gone before the cameras, with Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) directing Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two people who wake up on a generation starship halfway through their voyage under mysterious circumstances.
The Circle (undated)
This one doesn't have a release date yet but we're expecting it to arrive before the end of the year. Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega and Karen Gillan star in this adaptation of the best selling Dave Eggers novel, in which a young woman goes to work for a powerful Internet company that she soon realizes is not what it seems. We have not read Eggers' book yet, but hear it's sensational, and the subject matter couldn't be more relevant as more and more of our lives and society migrate online. Watch this space...