2018 has finally come to an end. Despite the political hellfire it raged for its 365-day duration, 2018 brought us films like Shoplifters, Roma, Cold War, The Rider, and Revenge (you can check out all of our favorites of 2018 here). It was a year for badass women on screen. It was a year for horses. But, it was also a year that brought us disappointments and tragedies, such as Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody, who both won Golden Globes.
Despite that tragedy, 2019 still holds a treasure trove of cinema, from Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Star Wars: Episode IX to High Life and Jojo Rabbit. Jordan Peele is releasing another horror movie, Edward Cullen is going to space, Isabelle Huppert is going to try and kidnap Chloe Grace Moretz. That’s just a taste of what this year will bring to the big (and sometimes small) screens.
Without further ado, here are our most anticipated films of 2019.
Ad Astra, dir. James Gray
Like this year’s First Man, the story centers on an emotionally repressed astronaut played by a suspiciously handsome A-List actor (Brad Pitt). Unlike First Man, the adventure doesn’t stop at the moon! In Ad Astra, or as I like to call it, Brad Astra, Pitt’s character travels around the solar system on a mission to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones) and save the Earth. (Ruth Negga is also cast, probably as Pitt’s wife because it is usually the woman’s job to stay behind and look sad in space movies, but here’s hoping I’m wrong!)
It’s an acutely generic logline, but James Gray’s position at the director’s helm helps to dissuade worries of superficial studio fare. Pitt is also producing the film through his three-time Best Picture Academy Award-winning company Plan B, just as he did for Gray’s last film, The Lost City of Z (2016).
Brad Astra was intended to be released this January. In October, it was quietly pushed back to May 24, and the rumor mill optimistically suggests that this new date implies a Cannes premiere.
Detective Pikachu, dir. Rob Letterman
I am as much a fan of Nintendo games as I am a fan of modern film. Whenever the possibility of combining those two things arises, it straight up excites me to no end. Nintendo, as a company, is notoriously protective of their lovable, family-friendly brand of characters, stories, and worlds. Previously, you’d only see Mario and Zelda characters outside of their games in obscure cartoons, plush and McDonald’s toys. But now, those walls are slowly coming down. Recently, Nintendo made a deal with Universal Studios to make Nintendo theme parks, Illumination to create a Super Mario movie, and now Warner Brothers has teased Detective Pikachu, the first live-action Pokémon movie!
And wow, that trailer made quite the impression. It’s all Twitter talked about for the whole week of November 12th, 2018. I am extremely pumped for this. Despite the gripes I might have about the photo-realistic Pokémon designs and the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu, I think the trailer screams a real and sincere love for the Pokémon franchise, from the hidden easter eggs to the futuristic neo-noir production design. There’s so much potential here, as this could very well be the first film to break the video game movie curse and set a standard for future ones to come. And looking at the trailer, seeing how deeply it portrays how Pokémon living alongside humans, placing an emphasis on their bond at the center of its story, this might well be the very best—like no video game film ever was.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters, dir. Michael Dougherty
During the last year I have become a die hard fan of the Godzilla franchise, particularly its films made in the 1960s at its peak cheesy-yet-fun. Watching Godzilla kick the hell out of monsters like King Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, and more has brought me a childlike joy. So, when I heard that the newest Godzilla film was going to feature all three of those classic monsters, I could barely contain my excitement. The film’s trailer reveals an absolute badass roster of monsters that have been reimagined from puppets and men in costume to life-like CGI. Just from the trailer, the film looks like a thing of beauty, with certain frames resembling some kind of bastardized Renaissance painting. There are even theories that King Ghidorah, a three-headed dragon, will constantly be surrounded by a massive storm.
The cast is nothing to frown at either, with Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobbie Brown playing the troubled mother and daughter at the center of the human narrative. Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, and Charles Dance will also star in the film, but all I really care about is the epic monster showdowns between these kaiju. Yes, the hype train is full steam and perhaps the film will not live up to expectations, but one thing is for sure: I may cry when Mothra first appears on screen. Godzilla: King of the Monsters crashes its way on screen May 31.
High Life, dir. Claire Denis
For her hotly-anticipated English language debut, Claire Denis has crafted an enigmatic sci-fi horror starring the incomparable Juliette Binoche, renowned cinephile Robert Pattinson, and Suspiria fan favorite Mia Goth. In a role originally intended for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Pattinson portrays a felonious father who struggles for survival alongside his daughter in deep space. Various themes include artificial insemination, the ultimate isolation of the cosmos, the expression of sexuality, but the bizarre is standard for Denis — her 2001 film Trouble Every Day, a quietly bloody love story about sex cannibals, is fascinatingly challenging and teeming with the taboo. The bits and pieces I’ve heard from the lucky few who caught High Life during its fall festival run tell me that her latest work promises to up the ante.
Although the film technically already premiered at TIFF and screened at NYFF this year, film Twitter darling A24 has scheduled its official US release date for April 12. If you can wait the extra week, the out-of-this-world setting and arresting visuals will make High Life the perfect 4/20 flick.
It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, dir. Marielle Heller
With 2018’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor poised to have a decent chance at winning big this awards season, as well as our culture’s current tendency to cling to the pure we can find, the late Fred Rogers is currently in high demand. Enter Marielle Heller, coming off a string of recent successes in 2015’s Diary of A Teenage Girl and 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? Heller has mentioned that It’s A Beautiful Day will not be a biopic of Mr. Rogers, but rather a story of the effect he had on journalist Lloyd Vogel, who wrote a famous profile of Rogers.
I’m always in support of remembering Rogers, as well as his message of kindness and emotional maturity. Hopefully this film makes us feel as warm as Rogers himself did. Casting Tom Hanks, one of our collective fathers, to play Rogers is certainly a promising start. He stars alongside TV heavyweight Matthew Rhys with a script from the minds that brought us Transparent. I’m confident Heller will be able to lift us once again and help us remember that it is us that he likes. It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is set for release on October 18, 2019.
Jojo Rabbit, dir. Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi is one of our most beloved masters of cringe comedy — from his debut Boy to his vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, the Kiwi director finds warmth in the most awkwardly hilarious of situations. It’s a testament to his talent that he never lost his singular style when he moved to the blockbuster machine, helming one of Marvel’s best, Thor: Ragnarok. It didn’t take long for him to return to his roots — the World War II satire Jojo Rabbit is due in 2019, and Bubbles, his stop-motion animated film about Michael Jackson’s pet chimp, is also on the way.
Inspired by the “great satires of the past like Doctor Strangelove or The Great Dictator,” Jojo Rabbit sounds like peak Taika Waititi: a young boy in World War II Germany has an imaginary friend in the form of “an ethnically inaccurate version of Adolf Hitler” (played by Waititi, naturally.) He begins to question his patriotic beliefs when he discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. The film also stars Leave No Trace breakout Thomasin McKenzie and everyone’s favourite Asian Scarlett Johansson. Call me hyped!
Knives Out, dir. Rian Johnson
With The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson established himself as one of the boldest, subversive filmmakers working today. He made a film within the studio system that challenged the audience, the legacy of the Star Wars franchise, and reinvigorated the mysticism of the force, giving it back to the people. So obviously, I am excited to see what he does next. And to my delight, he’s not doing another franchise film, but instead delivering his own original film! Not a sequel, not a reboot, no pre-existing notions, Knives Out is his new murder mystery film that will be released in the last quarter of 2019.
Boy, what a cast attached to this one. You have Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jaimie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, AND Lakeith Stanfield all together and you’re bound to make something good. His trusty DP, Steve Yedlin, who has shot every Johnson film since Looper, is returning as well! We don’t know anything about the plot just yet, but I’m sold on the notion of seeing this star-studded ensemble working with such an exciting creative force on an original film. We don’t get many of these today. I’m ready to savor it.
Little Women, dir. Greta Gerwig
Usually, I would be staunchly against another Little Women remake. I adore Gillian Armstrong’s version with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale looking the cutest. Plus, it feels like we just had a Little Women remake yesterday. But then Greta Gerwig signed on to direct and now it’s just about the only thing I care about right now — my sole source of joy in a world full of awfulness. Gerwig’s first solo feature Lady Bird is one of the best debuts in recent years — held together by a tight screenplay, Gerwig’s story of a relationship between a mother and a daughter in early 00s Sacramento became instantly remarkable for its combined universality and specificity. It also brought us “hella tight” and our future Kate and Leo, Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet. I have no doubt that she’ll do Louisa May Alcott’s timeless story justice.
The film has had a bit of a rocky journey from its humble beginnings to Film Twitter heaven, where it is now. Sarah Polley was initially hired to write the screenplay and possibly direct, then Gerwig was hired to rewrite Polley’s script in 2016. Later, after Lady Bird’s success, Gerwig joined as a director. The cast is stacked: Lady Bird holdovers Ronan and Chalamet are joined by Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep. Little Women recently wrapped filming in Boston and will be released on December 25 — a true Christmas miracle.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, dir. Quentin Tarantino
Yes, I’m looking forward to a Quentin Tarantino film in the year 2019. Yes, he is one of my personal favorite directors. And yes, I deserve to be cyberbullied! But come on, the cast is ridiculously stacked with stars — Margot Robbie, Leonardo DiCaprio, and my man Brad Pitt round out the three leads, and will have ample support from Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden, and Margaret Qualley, as well as Tarantino regulars Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, and Zoë Bell. Whew!
The few details we know about this comic drama allege that the plot revolves around a washed-up TV star (DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Pitt) as they attempt to make it big in 1969 La La Land. Also, real life person Sharon Tate is there for some reason (knowing the auteur’s oeuvre, it’s probably just an excuse for gratuitous shots of Robbie’s feet). Though I’m highly prone to ragging on Tarantino, I do admire how his burning passion for cinema seeps into every frame of his work, and the idea of viewing Hollywood through his gritty-yet-stylish lens is irresistibly intriguing. I will concede that the casting of Lena Dunham as a character named “Gypsy” does not inspire confidence, however!
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is set to swagger its way into theaters on August 9.
Star Wars: Episode IX, dir. J. J. Abrams
What can I say? I LOVE Star Wars. The Force Awakens was a special, formative movie for me and lots of people my age. The Last Jedi was more controversial and ambitious, but kept its mind on re-centering the themes of the franchise and opening the Force to everybody. The sequel trilogy, in its very nature, is the most inclusive Star Wars has ever been. And for that, I have a special, personal attachment to it. It’s our trilogy, and it’s ending with Episode IX. At the end of 2019, all our speculation, theories, anxieties, and love for our favorite space gang will all come to a conclusion. It’s so exciting, but it’s honestly a little scary as well.
I think what makes Star Wars: Episode IX particularly exciting is that J.J. Abrams is returning to conclude the main Skywalker storyline. He might not have been the boldest or most subversive creative force in the franchise, but closing a story will be a first for Abrams, whose work is mainly concerned around rebirthing old nostalgic properties to their formal glory. Which means that Episode IX doubles as not only the conclusion of the sequel trilogy and a send off to these characters, but also an opportunity for J.J. Abrams to finally show off his creative voice in a new, interesting way. I can’t wait to see what he does. But mostly, I can’t wait to be sitting in a line outside the theater in mid-December, drinking hot chocolate, dressed as Poe Dameron, awaiting the cathartic end to my own Star Wars story.
The Truth, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of the most reliable auteurs working today, and a bonafide expert in examining unconventional families. From the switched-at-birth tearjerker Like Father, Like Son to his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, his intimate family dramas are at once heartwarming and soul-crushing, the kinds of films that instantly make you want to call your parents and tell them you love them. For his English language debut, The Truth, Kore-eda has gone all out, enlisting a mind-blowing cast that includes Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. The film treads familiar terrain, telling the story of a stormy relationship between a daughter and her actress mother. For Cannes regular Kore-eda, a premiere on the Croisette is all but confirmed — I expect they’re engraving the Palme d’Or trophy already.
Us, dir. Jordan Peele
“I’ve Got 5 On It” has been forever changed by the trailer for Jordan Peele’s next foray into horror, Us. Peele earned his place as an exciting and creative new voice in horror with his 2017 film, Get Out, and Us seems like it will build on his love for the genre. Following the typical home invasion plot, a family of four on vacation is attacked by a group of strangers. But this is where the film deviates from normal horror tropes. These strangers are doppelgangers of each member of the family. The rest of the plot has been left intentionally vague, but Twitter has already taken to wild theories and speculation.
From the trailer alone, it looks like Lupita Nyong’o, who plays mother of the family, Adelaide, may be horror’s newest Scream Queen, which I am extremely ready for. Just her performance in the trailer has me routing for the increasingly violent ways she’ll be defending her family (or so I theorize). Winston Duke will star alongside Nyong’o as the father, with Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex playing their children. March 14 cannot come soon enough.