Though 2017’s holiday movies will be sticking around theaters for a while (see: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, the new Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s The Post), it’s never too soon to look forward to what’s next. The first few months of the year are notorious for being a period of drought at the movies, but the January–March 2018 release calendar offers a surprising deluge of highly anticipated films. From Marvel’s Black Panther to Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, here are 10 films to look forward to at the top of next year. (Note: Phoenix release dates may differ from the ones listed here.)
The Commuter (Jan. 12)
Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra have basically become the John Wayne and John Ford of 2010s late-winter action thrillers. Following 2011’s Unknown, 2014’s Non-Stop and 2015’s Run All Night, the actor-director team up again for the ticking time bomb thriller The Commuter, in which Neeson’s insurance salesman character must identify a train passenger who does not belong. While solving this odd puzzle, he gets caught up in a dangerous criminal conspiracy. Let’s hope this is far from the last stop on the Neeson and Collet-Serra train.
Proud Mary (Jan. 12)
Though we’ll see Taraji P. Henson in another starring role a couple of months later (in Tyler Perry’s betrayal drama Acrimony), she’ll kick off the year with guns a blazin’ in Proud Mary from London Has Fallen director Babak Najafi. Henson plays leather-clad, ass-kicking hitwoman Mary, who has drawers full of guns, a closet full of wigs and steady business from an organized crime family. But the cold-hearted killer in her starts to melt when she meets a young boy on one of her jobs.
Black Panther (Feb. 16)
Even if you’re not a Marvel movie diehard, there’s a lot to be excited for with Black Panther, notably that most of the leads are black: Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, along with Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker. It’s also helmed by Creed director Ryan Coogler — wow, what a lineup! Marvel, like the rest of Hollywood, has struggled with diversity, so this is a monumental entry to the comic-book powerhouse (especially following the success of Thor: Ragnarok, directed by another person of color, Taika Waititi). In Black Panther, our hero, who’s a king in his native home of Wakanda, must team up and fight the enemies who threaten to destroy his kingdom and set off a world war. Could it be the best Marvel movie yet?
Annihilation (Feb. 23)
Director Alex Garland follows up his debut, the indie sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, with an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s terrifying novel Annihilation. Natalie Portman stars as a biologist who goes on an expedition to a quarantined wilderness called Area X where, to put it lightly, biology makes little sense. On the mission, she’s joined by a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a surveyor (Tessa Thompson) and an anthropologist (Gina Rodriguez) — quite the dream cast.. As the days pass, the four women face the horrifying mysteries of this environmental disaster zone. Annihilation is the first book of VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach Trilogy,” which includes Authority and Acceptance — likely to become film adaptations soon.
A Wrinkle in Time (March 9)
Oscar-nominated Selma director Ava DuVernay brings a children’s classic to life with her live-action Disney adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The story centers around of a young girl named Meg Murry, who’s on a quest with her brother and friends to save her father, who’s being held captive on a faraway planet. Chris Pine plays the father, and — here’s proof of how beloved DuVernay has become — Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling turn up as astral travelers.
Tomb Raider (March 16)
Though reboots and video game adaptations tend not to be promising, we honestly can’t wait to see The Danish Girl Oscar winner Alicia Vikander change up her Oscar-drama speed and step into the iconic role of Lara Croft, a role Angelina Jolie first played in 2001. The actress has buffed up and really sunken her teeth into this muscular part ever since she was announced to play Croft in early 2016. If done right (and we’re staying optimistic), a Vikander-led action flick could do more than redeem the cheesy Jolie versions.
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Isle of Dogs (March 23)
After the charming Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson is back on his stop-motion animation game with Isle of Dogs, the story of a Japanese boy who, to find his pet Spots, ventures to just what the title promises, a quarantined island of dogs. We have a feeling things will probably go better for him than for the explorers in Annihilation. The list of voice actors is enough to gawk over; Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Greta Gerwig and Yoko Ono are just some of the famous (furry) friends who star. That’s impressive, but it is an overwhelmingly white cast for a movie set in Japan …
Unsane (March 23)
Filmed discreetly and kept under wraps, Unsane is a horror movie that the now unretired Steven Soderbergh shot entirely on an iPhone. There’s still not a lot of details about the film, but we’re hearing it called “reality horror” and compared to Get Out. It involves a woman who was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. Whatever he’s cooked up, any new project with Soderbergh attached is good enough to pique our interest. Claire Foy, Juno Temple and Jay Pharoah star.
Lean on Pete (March 30)
Andrew Haigh, the rising director behind 2015’s 45 Years, is returning with a tender coming-of-age drama distributed by A24, the studio that put out some of the best indie films of the past few years, including this year’s Oscar winner Moonlight. This adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s novel follows a teen boy named Charley (Charlie Plummer), who befriends a racehorse named Lean on Pete while working a summer job and figuring out his life. This one might require some tissues. Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny also star.
Mary Magdalene (March 30)
Will this film inspire Christian boycotting? The Mary Magdalene storyline in Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ surely did, for its vision of Magdalene and Jesus consummating their relationship. The latest from Lion director Garth Davis puts the focus on the New Testament’s most controversial woman, but Davis seems to be taking on a more traditional narrative. Rooney Mara takes on the title role and is reunited with her Her costar and now real-life beau, Joaquin Phoenix, who portrays Jesus Christ.