You might still be catching up on the avalanche of movies released over the holidays, but here at Screening Room we're already looking forward to the upcoming year in film. Yes, when it comes to movies, 2012 is just barely under way -- The Devil Inside being the year's first release -- but it's about to gain momentum. There's a whole lot more that we're anticipating beyond The Devil Inside, of course, and in the spirit of New Year's we've got a complete reckoning of the top 50 movies you should resolve to see this year.
A few notes about the list before we dive in:
- It's ranked from first to 50th, rather than a reverse countdown -- that way if you stop reading before the end, you'll get the good stuff first.
- Release dates are subject to change, as are our feelings about the films that made the list (and those that didn't). As such, this is unlikely to be comprehensive as we learn more about what's coming out when.
All in all, 2012 is shaping up to be a pretty good movie year. There might even be enough here to make the big studios forget about what a dismal year 2011 was at the box office. Enjoy the list, and we'll see you at the theater.
1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
Sometimes the easy, obvious answer is the right one, and that's the case here. The finale in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has to be one of the most anticipated releases in recent memory. With the addition of Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway, the guess here is that The Dark Knight Rises shatters many of the box office records established by 2009's Avatar.
2. Django Unchained (Dec. 25)
Pretty much anything director Quentin Tarantino does is worthy of hype, but a Western featuring a slave-turned-bounty hunter who is seeking revenge against his former overseer? Well, that pushes things to another level. Jamie Foxx will play the titular role, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cristoph Waltz, Michael Kenneth Williams and Kurt Russell set to co-star.
3. Prometheus (June 8 )
We don't know all that much about Prometheus at this point -- just enough to be ridiculously excited about it. Ridley Scott is in the director's chair for this prequel to Alien, and he's bringing a strong cast, including the likes of Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, with him.
4. The Hunger Games (March 23)
Jennifer Lawrence was one of the breakout stars of 2011, but she could enter the stratosphere with The Hunger Games, an adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins' wildly popular young adult trilogy that details the dystopian nation of Panem.
5. World War Z (Dec. 21)
We're big fans of the source material here -- Max Brooks' innovative account of a zombie apocalypse through the prism of a UN historian -- and we've made no secret of our concerns about the film adaptation. Still, Brad Pitt has thrown his weight behind this, and that is more than enough to overwhelm our misgivings.
6. Skyfall (Nov. 9)
Even Daniel Craig thought his second turn as James Bond in Quantum of Solace was regrettable, so why are we so optimistic about the third Craig-as-Bond film? Simple. As Craig himself pointed out, Skyfall won't be disrupted by the writer's strike like Quantum of Solace was. Add director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) to the mix, and we have all the ingredients for a great addition to the 007 franchise.
7. Brave (June 22)
The best medicine for forgetting about Cars 2, the first negatively reviewed film from Pixar Studios, has to be something -- anything -- from Pixar that isn't a part of the Cars franchise. Enter Brave, which will feature Princess Merida (voiced by Boardwalk Empire's Kelly MacDonald), Pixar's first female heroine in the studio's 13th feature-length film.
8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)
Director Peter Jackson has two more trips to Middle Earth in store for moviegoers with his adaptation of the Lord of the Rings prequel by author J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. Yes, all the usual suspects will be back -- Andy Serkis as Gollum, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and so on -- but it's Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) who will star as protagonist Bilbo Baggins.
9. Argo (Sept. 14)
Our first obscure choice, Argo is a historical espionage thriller set during the Iranian revolution. Most of the early buzz surrounding this film has centered on Ben Affleck's beastly beard, but maybe it should be on Affleck's latest directorial effort. He's every bit as good behind the camera as he is on it. Affleck will pull double duty in Argo, and he's surrounded by an excellent cast that includes Bryan Cranston and John Goodman.
10. John Carter (March 9)
Disney has bet big on John Carter, with a budget of $250 million set aside for this historical sci-fi tale in which a Civil War veteran played by Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) winds up on Mars doing battle with aliens. There are lots of unknown quantities here -- even director Andrew Stanton is best known for animated Pixar features Finding Nemo and WALL-E, not live action blockbusters -- but John Carter looks visually compelling. It could be what Cowboys & Aliens should have been.
11. Casa de mi Padre (March 16)
The appeal is simple here -- it's Will Ferrell playing rancher Armando Alvarez as he comes into conflict with Mexican drug lords. It sounds like the telenovela version of Pineapple Express, and who doesn't like the idea of that?
12. The Avengers (May 4)
Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk all together on one screen? OK, to be honest it sounds like the unholiest of messes, but even if that's the case we're morbidly curious about how this turns out. All the better if it manages to exceed our low expectations.
13. Beauty and the Beast 3D (Jan. 13)
This isn't exactly fresh material (Beauty and the Beast was first released in 1991), but Disney did such a great job upconverting The Lion King to 3D that we're going to be sure to check this one out during a slow time on the movie calendar.
14. Jeff Who Lives at Home (March 2)
We weren't huge fans of the Duplass brothers' first mainstream hit -- 2010's Cyrus -- but it wasn't a bad movie, and their next offering has us salivating. In it, slacker Jeff (Jason Segel) spends the day with his brother Pat (Ed Helms) as the latter stalks his wife, whom he believes is cheating on him. They had us at Segel and Helms teaming up on screen.
15. The Dictator (May 11)
Maybe the faux-documentary stylings of Sacha Baron Cohen don't do it for you anymore, but, Bruno notwithstanding, it's still enough to get us in the anticipatory mood. In his latest, Cohen will play fictional murderous dictator General Aladeen, who looks like a cross between Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Larry Charles, who directed both Borat and Bruno, is back in the saddle for Cohen's latest bit of delightful irreverence.
16. The Great Gatsby (Dec. 25)
If we're being honest, the entire concept of The Great Gatsby hasn't excited us much since high school English. We'd rather hang out with Allison Pill's Zelda Fitzgerald from Midnight in Paris. Anyway, counteracting that ambivalence for this film adaptation is a sterling cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire. We'll be there, just maybe not with bells on and the like.
17. This Is 40 (Dec. 21)
Believe it or not, it's been three years since a Judd Apatow-directed movie (Funny People) hit theaters. Oh, he's been plenty busy with production work, but we're glad he's getting back in the director's chair -- doubly so because his next film, This Is 40, will check in on Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd), the hilarious couple who helped make Knocked Up so memorable.
18. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22)
It looks like Cowboys & Aliens paved the way for a glut of genre mashups in 2012, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just one of the many. Based on author Seth Grahame-Smith's bestselling book, there are a lot of unknowns, from star Benjamin Walker to director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted). Grahame-Smith, though, did co-write the screenplay, so fans of the source material at least should be pleased.
19. Wanderlust (Feb. 24)
Director David Wain, of Role Models fame, teams up with the impossibly charming Paul Rudd again, and this time Rudd plays part of a husband-and-wife duo that moves to a commune after he loses his job. Rudd's wife? None other than Jennifer Anniston, who actually has a number of comedic successes on her resume, including Office Space and Horrible Bosses.
20. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (March 9)
This is one of two documentaries on our list, and we're absurdly excited about it. Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicles an aging sushi master who, facing retirement, stares down the prospect of turning over his business to his less talented son.
21. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
Marvel's Spider-Man franchise certainly needed a reboot after the woeful Spider-Man 3 ruined what was two-thirds of a good trilogy. This could get it back where it needs to be, though it's bound to be overshadowed by The Dark Knight Rises. If nothing else, we like the inclusion of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.
22. Wettest County (Aug. 31)
Maybe we're drunk on Boardwalk Empire. Whatever it is, bootleggers are so hot right now, and the idea of Tom Hardy starring as part of a gang resisting corrupt G-men in Depression-era Virginia, just ratchets up our excitement level.
23. Coriolanus (Jan. 20)
Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut in a modern adaptation of one of William Shakespeare's more obscure plays. Coriolanus is the story of a Roman soldier who is banished by the people of the city and then plots his return with one of his biggest enemies. Fiennes will star in addition to directing what sounds like an epic tale from the Bard of Avon.
24. Rampart (Feb. 10)
We admit it. This is a fairly esoteric choice. But what can we say, other than that the last time Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and director Oren Moverman teamed up, they made a sterling film (The Messenger). Rampart will tread in different territory -- that of a dirty Los Angeles cop in the late 1990s -- but we're guessing the chemistry from The Messenger will carry over nicely.
25. The Gangster Squad (Oct. 19)
Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less) is branching out in a big way with this fall offering. The Gangster Squad, which will star Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, examines the LAPD's attempts to keep East Coast organized crime on the fringes during the middle of the 20th century.
26. Haywire (Jan. 20)
Steven Soderbergh is nothing if not eclectic, so it figures that he's behind Haywire, which sounds like womanhood's answer to The Bourne Identity. The curiosity here is Gina Carano, who plays a double-crossed CIA agent. She's most famous for being an MMA fighter, so her transition to acting will be interesting to say the least. She'll have a great supporting cast around her -- including Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas.
27. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (March 2)
Yes, it's another genre mashup of sorts. In this one, Hansel and Gretel are 15 years removed from their run-in with the witch at the gingerbread house and have become elite bounty hunters. That's not really why we're interested, though. No, it's director Tommy Wirkola, who stole our hearts with the kitschy and gory Dead Snow, in his first English-language feature that will have us paying close attention.
28. The Expendables 2 (Aug. 17)
The whole gang from the blockbuster hit is back, and they're mixing in Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris as well as director Simon West, who made his name with Con Air. How could it go wrong? It can't, unless you come into the theater expecting a soulful examination of the human spirit.
29. Underworld: Awakening (Jan. 20)
We know we're not supposed to care for the Underworld franchise, but we can't help it. We've enjoyed all three installments so far, and the fourth is trumpeting the return of Kate Beckinsale as Selene. Like its predecessor on this list, it won't be a thinker, but not every movie needs to be.
30. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Jan. 13)
We Need to Talk About Kevin deals with some awfully heavy material -- the mother of teen who went on a shooting spree deals with the fallout of that tragedy. But Tilda Swinton is more than capable of delivering an outstanding performance. Pairing her with John C. Reilly only increases the intrigue.
31. The Iron Lady (Jan. 13)
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher? How has it taken this long for this movie to get made? We'll watch Streep in pretty much anything, and while Thatcher isn't the type of biopic subject that ordinarily fills us with excitement, you know you're going to get a base level of excellence with Streep in the lead role.
32. American Reunion (April 6)
It's odd that Stifler (Seann William Scott) and the Band Geek (Alyson Hannigan) ended up being the biggest stars from the American Pie franchise. It's odder still that both would agree to get back together with the collection of has-beens from the original film that vaulted all of them into stardom -- more fleeting for some than others. We're glad they did, though. It's probably the cool thing to mock this sequel, but we're unabashedly kind of into it.
33. Snow White & The Huntsman (June 1)
Hollywood has two takes on Snow White coming, but this is the only one we're interested in -- all apologies to Mirror, Mirror. Kristen Stewart will play the titular character, and despite that we're still intrigued. Charlize Theron as The Queen more than makes up for Stewart's major role.
34. The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3)
So much for Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner, as CIA operative Aaron Cross, will try to breathe life into the franchise based on Robert Ludlum's books. Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz will co-star, but the real hook here, for us at least, is Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first three installments in the Bourne series, getting a chance to direct this time around.
35. Jack the Giant Killer (June 15)
Genre mashups are big in 2012, but so are fairy-tale adaptations it seems. This is a twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, and with director Bryan Singer pulling the strings and a tremendous cast that includes Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane, we have very high hopes.
36. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Feb. 17)
It's no secret that we have a ridiculously soft spot for Nicolas Cage around these parts, so even though we're expecting the second installment in the Ghost Rider series to be widely panned, we're excited for it all the same. The cast isn't terrible -- Ciaran Hinds and Idris Elba have supporting roles -- and directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) have experience making this sort of camp work on the big screen. It might surprise us all.
37. Total Recall (Aug. 3)
Ever since In Bruges, we've been driving the Colin Farrell bandwagon. He stars in this remake of the 1990 action classic, which helped to launch Arnold Schwarzenegger into the stratosphere, alongside a host of other recognizable faces (Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel). Len Wiseman is the director, and while some might not regard him highly, we think he did well with the Underworld franchise and Live Free or Die Hard.
38. The Raven (March 9)
Now that we've seen teaser images of John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven, we can't think of any other actor better suited to play the famed American author. Cusack teams up with director James McTeigue -- the man behind V for Vendetta, one of our favorite movies of the last decade -- as Poe tries to stop a serial killer drawing inspiration from his morbid tales.
39. Warm Bodies (Aug. 10)
We know very little about Warm Bodies, other than that it's some sort of zombie romance and that it's giving director and writer Jonathan Levine -- known for 50/50 and The Wackness -- a platform to continue what's been a very promising start to his career. That's enough information to crack our list with ease.
40. Dog Fight (Aug. 10)
Dog Fight could very easily turn into a gigantic mess devoid of comedy, but the premise -- two Southern politicians with major aspirations tangling -- is promising enough, especially when you consider that the film will star Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as said politicians.
41. Dark Shadows (May 11)
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up again in this tale of an 18th century vampire who escapes from his tomb after two centuries of imprisonment. Dark Shadows is based on a cult TV show that aired on ABC during the 1960s, and it sounds like the kind of quirky subject material that Depp and Burton were able to make enjoyable in Alice in Wonderland and Willy Wonka.
42. Premium Rush (Aug. 24)
A corrupt New York City cop chasing a bike messenger through the streets of Manhattan wouldn't ordinarily appeal to us, but every once in awhile the stars of a movie are enough on their own to pique our interest. In this case, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon do the trick.
43. Savages (Sept. 28)
It's been quite some time since director Oliver Stone made a great movie, but he always picks compelling subjects and as such always bears watching. Savages, a fall release, focuses on two marijuana growers who must deal with a violent Mexican drug cartel. Given how ugly things have gotten south of the border in recent months, this should be a timely look at an underreported and misunderstood issue.
44. Safe (April 27)
It was only a matter of time until Jason Statham took on the Triads and the Russian mafia, wasn't it? Statham is the undisputed king of action at the moment, and we can't wait for his latest turn as a gritty, gun-toting, reluctant hero.
45. The Five-Year Engagement (April 27)
Ordinarily a straight romantic comedy like The Five-Year Engagement wouldn't be on our radar, but with two charmers in Jason Segel and Emily Blunt set to star and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) teamed with Segel again, we couldn't ignore this one.
46. Chronicle (Feb. 3)
Our interest here is all about the concept. A trio of high schoolers discover they have superpowers and then must deal with the moral implications as they grow accustomed to their new skills. It sounds more like Kick-Ass than Green Lantern, and that's surely a good thing.
47. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (April 20)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World sounds exceedingly quirky, but we mean that in the best way. In it, Steve Carrell is abandoned by his wife with an apocalypse-inducing asteroid approaching Earth and he suddenly decides to seek out a past flame. Writer Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) makes her directing debut, and she's got plenty of star power to work with beyond Carrell, including Keira Knightly, Connie Britton and Patton Oswalt.
48. Chimpanzee (April 20)
We found DisneyNature's 2011 Earth Day release, African Cats, ever so slightly disappointing, but it was still worth watching. Here's hoping Chimpanzee, which chronicles a family of primates in the African rainforest, eclipses last year's offering.
49. Albert Nobbs (Jan. 27)
Albert Nobbs had us intrigued the moment we saw Glenn Close as the titular character, a woman in 19th century Ireland who spends the bulk of her life dressing as a man in order to gain employment. Whether that unforgettable image translates into a great film remains to be seen, but it's enough for us to want to give it a shot.
50. Fun Size (Oct. 12)
This is a bit of a personal pick, and it certainly doesn't have much to do with the stars, Victoria Justice and Johnny Knoxville. No, this is all about Josh Schwartz, who will try and make the difficult directing transition from television to movies, and about the screenplay from Max Werner, which has long languished in production hell, but has a lot of positive buzz. The movie itself? It sounds simple enough -- a teen girl must track down her lost younger brother on Halloween.