The 20 most anticipated sci-fi movies of 2011

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

Are the summer movies of 2010 letting you down? Well, don't worry, because next year's lineup—from start to finish, not just the middle three months—is already looking pretty darn impressive.

Coed magazine has already gotten a head start on what it calls "the top 20 most anticipated movies of 2011," so we checked out their list, skimmed the cream of the sci-fi crop, and added a few more titles of our own. We've also ranked them from the bottom up, and we think there's more than a few movies on here to be excited about.

Check out Coed for its entire list, but in the meantime, here are the 20 most anticipated sci-fi (and superhero and horror and fantasy) films of 2011.

20. Red Riding Hood

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez

Release date: April 22, 2011

Synopsis: A young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter even as her medieval village is tormented by a werewolf.

Our take: This could either be a dark, Gothic, Hammer-esque retelling of the classic fable—or a quick attempt to cash in on the success of Alice in Wonderland. We're not sure, but we're hoping for the former.

19. Immortals

Director: Tarsem Singh

Stars: Mickey Rourke, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, Stephen Dorff

Release date: Nov. 11, 2011

Synopsis: Mythic warrior Theseus battles demons and Titans on his way to becoming a legendary Greek hero.

Our take: Singh has created some of the most amazing visuals ever seen, even if his previous films, like The Cell and The Fall have come up short in other areas. Can his intense style break through to a bigger audience? More importantly, do we want another mythology movie so soon after Clash of the Titans?

18. The Night Chronicles: Devil

Director: Drew & John Erick Dowdle

Stars: Geoffrey Arend, Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas

Release date: Feb. 11, 2011

Synopsis: A group of people are trapped in an elevator—and one of them is the devil.

Our take: The first in a proposed series of genre pictures produced by M. Night Shyamalan, this one's lensed by the brothers who brought the frightening Quarantine to the screen. With that, they were simply remaking a Spanish film called [REC]; let's see how they fare with something original.

17. I Am Number Four

Director: D.J. Caruso

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Durand, Teresa Palmer

Release date: Feb. 18, 2011

Synopsis: Nine alien teens hide out on Earth after their race is destroyed by a malevolent enemy, but soon find themselves pursued here as well.

Our take: Not much is known yet about this Michael Bay-produced film, except that it's based on a yet-to-be-published novel (out in August) co-written by disgraced memoirist James Frey. It seems geared for younger audiences, but we remain intrigued by the premise.

16. The Green Hornet

Director: Michel Gondry

Stars: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz

Release date: Jan. 14, 2011

Synopsis: Aimless playboy Britt Reid, shaken by his father's death, enlists brilliant employee Kato to join him in his crimefighting efforts as the Green Hornet, with Kato supplying the weaponry and martial-arts skills.

Our take: Rogen and Gondry seem like odd choices to update this more obscure pulp hero, but the newly released trailer has some fun moments and a light tone that recalls the first Iron Man in some ways. The filmmakers promise a good time (in 3-D) despite rumors of trouble on the set.

15. Transformers 3

Director: Michael Bay

Stars: Shia LeBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Malkovich, John Turturro

Release date: July 1, 2011

Synopsis: It has something to do with Earth history and the Autobots' secret role in it ... but let's face it, it's still just about giant robots smashing each other to pieces.

Our take: Transformers 2 was wretched, and Bay has said that the new one will feature a stronger plot and less offensive humor. Do we take his word for it?

14. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

Director: Bill Condon

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Release date: Nov. 18, 2011

Synopsis: Bella and Edward finally get married, Bella gets pregnant and becomes a vampire, the baby poses a threat to the vampire race ... and Jacob falls in love with it. Yikes!

Our take: Not even being fans of this much-maligned franchise, we are definitely interested in seeing how this fourth book is brought to the screen (the second part will come out in 2012). By all accounts, Breaking Dawn is flat-out insane—and a little insanity could go a long way unless they tame it for the screen.

13. Contagion

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne

Release date: Oct. 21, 2011

Synopsis: An international team of doctors is assembled by the Centers for Disease Control to battle an outbreak of a deadly virus.

Our take: The early marketing positions this as more of an action thriller than an all-out sci-fi effort, but the plot is certainly reminiscent of classics like The Andromeda Strain. With Soderbergh behind the camera and that cast in front of it, this deserves a look no matter what.

12. X-Men: First Class

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender (rumored), Aaron Johnson (rumored)

Release date: June 3, 2011

Synopsis: Long before taking the names Professor X and Magneto and becoming enemies, Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr are close friends who use their newly discovered powers and those of other mutants to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known.

Our take: The casting seems cool (James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto), but the movie's getting rushed into production and follows two pretty lame X-Men installments. Can Kick-Ass director Vaughn pull this once-great franchise out of its dive?

11. Rise of the Apes

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Stars: James Franco, Don Cheadle (rumored), Freida Pinto (rumored)

Release date: June 24, 2011

Synopsis: Genetic experimentation leads to the development of the first intelligent, talking ape, triggering a battle for supremacy between humans and simians.

Our take: This could either be a gripping sci-fi thriller and origin story or a quick knockoff of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes—depending on how many rewrites the script goes through. We're not crazy about the apes being all CG either, to be honest. Let's see if Fox treats this beloved franchise with respect for once.

10. Sucker Punch

Director: Zack Snyder

Stars: Emily Browning, Carla Gugino, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Jon Hamm

Release date: March 25, 2011

Synopsis: A young woman is institutionalized as a result of abuse at the hands of her stepfather and avoids reality by retreating into a series of fantasy worlds. She must steal one object from each to make her escape.

Our take: The plot still makes us go "WTF?" and the imagery we've seen makes us think of a bizarro mash-up of Brazil, Blade Runner and Alice in Wonderland. Still, Snyder has yet to really go wrong, and it will be interesting to see how his first all-original effort fares.

9. Real Steel

Director: Shawn Levy

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis

Release date: Nov. 18, 2011

Synopsis: A struggling boxing promoter thinks he's found his champion in a future world where human fighters have been replaced by lifelike robots.

Our take: We have always loved the original Twilight Zone episode (as well as the Richard Matheson short story it was based on) and think that the premise holds potential for a feature film. But it's also a Disney effort, so let's hope we get a dark, gritty sci-fi fable instead of a high-tech The Champ.

8. The Thing

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen

Release date: April 29, 2011

Synopsis: A Norwegian research team stationed in Antarctica finds an alien spaceship buried under the ice and excavates its frozen occupant ... with horrifying results.

Our take: Prequels are always tricky, and this one has an extra challenge because you know it doesn't end well. Yet first-time director Heijningen is aiming for the same sense of dread and paranoia that made the 1982 movie such a classic, so this could be the rare prequel that works.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

Director: David Yates

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes

Release date: July 15, 2011

Synopsis: Harry, Ron and Hermione head back to Hogwarts to destroy Voldemort's final horcruxes as the endgame begins against the villainous dark lord.

Our take: If you're not on board with this series by now, it's probably too late to start. But the filmmakers are pulling out all the stops for the final two movies (Part I comes out this fall), and you can expect both epic confrontations and overwhelming emotional crescendos as this massive franchise comes to a close.

6. Battle: Los Angeles

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriquez, Michael Pena, Bridget Moynahan

Release date: March 11, 2011

Synopsis: A platoon of Marines get more than they bargained for when they are called to repel an invasion of Los Angeles ... and the invaders turn out to be from space.

Our take: Think Black Hawk Down with aliens and you might get a sense of what this original movie is going for. We got a private look at some of the action and it looks huge. Studio execs were reportedly so pleased that they moved it to a better release date. Consider this one a possible sleeper surprise.

5. Cowboys & Aliens

Director: Jon Favreau

Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde

Release date: July 22, 2011

Synopsis: The title says it all! An alien spaceship crashes near a remote Arizona frontier town, forcing the local Native Americans and the settlers to join forces against the menace.

Our take: It'll be nice to see Craig back in action, what with the next Bond movie being delayed, and we hope Harrison Ford is on top of his game too. A great premise (based on the graphic novel) and a director we trust should make this one a winner.

4. Captain America: The First Avenger

Director: Joe Johnston

Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Tommy Lee Jones

Release date: July 22, 2011

Synopsis: Army washout Steve Rogers submits to an experiment that turns him into a super soldier and a symbol of American freedom against a diabolical array of enemies during World War II.

Our take: Marvel has pulled together a hell of a cast (Hugo Weaving as Red Skull? Sweet!), and we think Chris Evans could make a fine Cap. Director Joe Johnston's mediocre track record (including this year's disappointing The Wolfman) does put up a red flag—but we're cautiously optimistic.

3. Thor

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Ray Stevenson

Release date: May 6, 2011

Synopsis: Superbeing Thor is cast out of the cosmic realm of Asgard and forced to live among humans, where he must find a way to both defend Earth and reclaim his birthright.

Our take: We've had a chance to see some of Thor live and up close (can't say how), and if anything, this movie is gonna look freakin' awesome. Whether Marvel, Branagh and company can sell the Norse god of thunder and his minions to the public depends on the script and the acting ... but praise Odin if they pull it off!

2. Green Lantern

Director: Martin Campbell

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins

Release date: June 17, 2011

Synopsis: A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that invests him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic peacekeeping force.

Our take: The first major DC character that isn't named Batman or Superman makes his big-screen, big-budget debut (we'll just forget Jonah Hex, OK?), and we're psyched to see the Lanterns come to spectacularly cosmic life. Campbell is a strong action director, and Reynolds should make a terrific Hal Jordan.

1. Super 8

Director: J.J. Abrams

Stars: Unknown

Release date: Summer 2011

Synopsis: An alien invader breaks out of Area 51 and goes on the rampage (we think).

Our take: Any time J.J. announces a new mystery project, we're immediately fascinated. We were big Cloverfield fans and love the idea of seeing a truly terrifying alien flick. Plus, he's teaming up with Spielberg on this? The pairing of those two alone make this the most intriguing sci-fi movie of next year.

What movies are you looking forward to the most in 2011? Did we miss anything?