Checking in with last year’s list, I find that things turned out about as well as could be expected. Of the five movies I’ve seen to date, my least favorite was Tomorrowland, but the others were all quite good. Three of the films haven’t been released theatrically in the U.S. yet, and the other two are, of course, Star Wars and The Hateful Eight. In another week or two, I’ll have those under my belt as well. Still, is there a point to setting up a list of ten movies, giving myself 365 days to watch them, and then consistently failing to complete the task? I’ve always had one or two left over, for one reason or another. It can’t be avoided. Surveying the next twelve months of movies always involves some wishful thinking. I don’t mind waiting for movies that I put in the extra effort to learn about early, but I continue to get less excited about this whole anticipation thing every year.
So I’m making a couple changes, and even they might not be enough to inspire me to continue doing this. First, I’m only going to put a movie on the list once, making only honorable mention of those films that got delayed (such as the three from the last list). If I can’t come up with a brand-new top ten, it’s not worth it. Second, I’m loosening up as far as world premieres are concerned. (A movie is still technically “from 2015” if people in Cannes or Toronto saw it this year.) The whole idea is that I’m looking forward to watching these movies, and if they only show up at festivals, I can’t do that. So a movie that only played at festivals in 2015 but will get a wide release next year is eligible. This will, potentially, make the list easier to formulate by adding another criterion — festival reviews — to my slapdash calculus of interest in the films’ subjects and appreciation for the talent on either side of the camera. Ironically, though, there’s always the chance that the first rule will cancel out the second for a particular film. It’s all a bit frustrating, but let’s get to the ten movies I’m most looking forward to next year.
Honorable Mentions: Silence (Martin Scorsese, release date unnamed), Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols, March 18), Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, March 4)
10. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Release: March 25
- With Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Holly Hunter
- Director: Zack Snyder
Fifteen, twenty years ago, this would have been my most anticipated movie of all time. Now, as the somber drumbeat of the superhero movie industry drowns everything else out, it feels like something to be endured rather than cherished. The Marvel machine will be competing against it — it’s impossible not to notice the similarities between this project and Captain America: Civil War. The latter film could easily be better, but I’m more interested in this one, good or terrible. If it’s widely hated, I honestly don’t know what that could mean for the future of DC movies and superhero movies in general. I still love these characters, and I hope the movie serves them well. What an inexpressibly boring mouthful of a title, though. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if this movie makes a case for itself.
- Release: Not set
- With Tsai Ming-liang, Lee Kang-sheng
- Director: Tsai Ming-liang
This could be seen as trollish. Here I am listing a documentary that consists of two people talking — in which, reportedly, the camera doesn’t move for two hours — above a Hollywood blockbuster that I just admitted was the dream movie of my childhood. But these lists are reckonings with where I currently am as a cinephile. I’ve generally soured towards capes-and-tights films lately, and Tsai’s Stray Dogs was one of the most powerful cinematic experiences I had in 2015. In lieu of another feature film from the retired director, a conversation with the actor who’s appeared in every one of his films is the next best thing.
- Release: Not set
- With Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Priscilla Delgado, Sara Jimenez, Inma Cuesta, Rossy de Palma, Nathalie Poza, Pilar Castro
- Director: Pedro Almodóvar
This is the second and final movie on the list to reflect my year of watching foreign-language films. I saw five Almodóvar films in 2015, and all of them were very good. If Julieta comes to a theater near me in 2016 (which isn’t guaranteed), I’ll jump at the opportunity.
7. Finding Dory
- Release: June 17
- With Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Willem Dafoe, Vicki Lewis, Idris Elba
- Directors: Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane
Last year, the #7 spot went to Pixar’s Inside Out, but I was much more interested in that film than I am in this one. A belated sequel to a movie I don’t even consider top-tier Pixar (although it is excellent) is far from a surefire winner. But the talent is there. Stanton was one of the major creative forces behind some of my favorite movies of all time (the Toy Story trilogy and WALL-E), and I’m interested in seeing what he does with his first animated film in eight years.
6. A Quiet Passion
- Release: Not set
- With Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff, Joanna Bacon, Keith Carradine, Jodhi May, Yasmin Dewilde, Verona Verbakel
- Director: Terence Davies
This is my stab in the dark pick for the year. Davies is a major auteur, but I haven’t seen any of his work. The weeks and months leading up to the release of his Emily Dickinson biopic might be a great time to catch up.
5. The BFG
- Release: July 1
- With Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Bill Hader, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Jemaine Clement, Michael David Adamthwaite
- Director: Steven Spielberg
Although Spielberg’s string of serious adult dramas over the last few years has resulted in some of his best work in a long time, it will be nice to see him return to more magical material. A Roald Dahl adaptation is always intriguing, and it will be good to see the late Melissa Mathison’s final script come to fruition.
4. Everybody Wants Some
- Release: April 15
- With Blake Jenner, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Will Brittain, Forrest Vickery, Temple Baker
- Director: Richard Linklater
Before Midnight and Boyhood both scored highly on previous “most anticipated” lists, and they ended up being a couple of my favorite movies of the decade so far. Now Linklater is doing a “spiritual sequel” to one of his career’s defining achievements, Dazed and Confused. I’m not familiar with most of the cast, but this looks like a mellow movie about baseball and college. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it ends up among my favorites in 2016.
3. Certain Women
- Release: Not set (Will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival)
- With Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, Rosanna Arquette, Jared Harris, Rene Auberjonois, James Le Gros, John Getz
- Director: Kelly Reichardt
The first Williams-Reichardt collaboration since Meek’s Cutoff is worth celebrating, all other things being equal. The rest of the cast is exciting, as well. Most of all, I’m interested in seeing how Reichardt weaves together different short stories (by Maile Meloy) into a single narrative.
2. Hail, Caesar!
- Release: February 5
- With Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill
- Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Like Spielberg, Linklater, and Reichardt, the Coens have made a couple movies that I loved this decade. I’m not sure this one will join them. It appears to be on the goofy end of the spectrum, and the goofy Coen movies tend to be my least favorite. Still, there’s no arguing with that cast, it’s a movie about 1950s Hollywood, and the trailer was an absolute delight. I am sold and then some.
1. Untitled film and/or Voyage of Time
- Release: Not set (either of them)
- With Cate Blanchett, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, Natalie Portman, Holly Hunter (Untitled)
- Narrated by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett (Voyage of Time)
- Director: Terrence Malick
I’m just going to put them both on here: the “Austin music scene” movie and the brief history of everything. I know I’ll get to see Knight of Cups next year, and I’d really like to see at least one of these as well. Given the long post-productions for Malick films, I may be setting myself up for disappointment. Wouldn’t it be amazing, though, if the man who went twenty years between films that one time suddenly sprung three on the American people in the same year? Here’s hoping.