Star Wars: Rogue One
With ambitious film studios dating some films five or six years in advance these days, it's easy to know which blockbusters are lurking out on the horizon. But there's plenty to be excited about in 2016, too.
We've already had a handful of great flicks in this year, namely Deadpool, Zootopia, and Captain America: Civil War, but there's so much more ahead: a new Star Wars! Another Marvel flick! Things that aren't part of gargantuan, proven franchises! We're starting to get a sense of what next year's likely Oscar contenders will be, as well.
The lineup for the rest of the year looks superb, and we can't wait to take in these hopeful cinematic wonders (while stuffing our faces with popcorn, obviously). These are the flicks which we're most looking forward to for the rest of this year, in expected release-date order:
Shin Godzilla (11 October)
We just got a great American reboot of the legendary giant monster franchise in 2014, but Shin Godzilla is the latest (and separate) reboot of the original Japanese franchise – and it hails from Hideaki Anno, the infamously bonkers creator of anime classic Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The result is something of a back-to-basics affair for Godzilla, and it received largely positive reviews following its release in Japan this year. A limited U.S. release begins on 11 October, although there's no timeline for a UK debut just yet.
Doctor Strange (4 November)
Now that Captain America: Civil War has kicked off Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's time for a whole new cast of characters to get their own films – and Doctor Strange is up first. Don't know the Doc? He's not a typical hero: rather, he's a brilliant neurosurgeon who discovers a world of mystical powers after a brutal car wreck.
It's a new twist for the Marvel flicks, dipping into magic and spirituality – and with Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead, we're assured of at least one captivating performance. Director Scott Derrickson's career has mostly been spent in middling horror fare, however, so we're cautiously curious to see how he tackles this one.
Arrival (11 November)
Most films use a coming alien presence for big-budget action and explosive thrills. Arrival, meanwhile, uses it to shine a light on interpersonal and international conflicts and its main character is a linguist. Bit a change of pace, no?
It's more of a thinking man's sci-fi movie then, showing the struggle of humans to try and understand the mysterious visitors and convey the right messages to avoid a messy outcome, but it's from the director of the tense Sicario and has received absolutely glowing early reviews so far.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (18 November)
After eight Harry Potter films… Warner Bros. is doing its damnedest to add a bunch more to the heap. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them serves not only as a prequel chapter to the whole Potter universe of witchcraft and wizardry, but also the first film of a new trilogy, with J.K. Rowling-penned sequels due in 2018 and 2020.
Set in the 1920s in the United States and with an all-new cast of characters, Fantastic Beasts finds a heap of magical creatures unleashed upon New York City, with magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) at the heart of the adventure.
Moana (23 November)
Zootopia? Big Hero 6? Frozen? All great, and proof that Disney's in-house animation efforts can hang with what Pixar's putting out these days. That's why we can't wait to see what Disney is cooking up with Moana, which hopefully continues the studio's impressive streak.
From what we've seen so far, the film oozes the immense charm of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and is sure to be elevated by songs contributed by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. We have to believe this one could really be something special for all viewers, not just tykes.
La La Land (9 December)
Amidst a lot of blockbusters and sci-fi fare, La La Land looks like a marvelous break from the action. From Whiplash director Damien Chazelle comes this romantic musical about a musician and aspiring actress making a bit of magic together in Los Angeles.
Beyond the stellar cast of Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and J.K. Simmons, the original songs are sweet and the cinematography looks dazzling, plus critics are already going gaga for La La Land in early screenings. Call it welcome counter-programming for the holidays.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (16 December)
The Force Awakens was undoubtedly one of 2015's movie highlights, with Disney showing that it can make a tremendous Star Wars film by teaming up with great talent. And the first trailer for the franchise's debut side story, Rogue One, has us eagerly anticipating another success.
You know how the original Star Wars began after the plans for the Death Star were stolen? Well, Rogue One will finally show us that adventure, with a band of Rebels (led by actors Felicity Jones and Diego Luna) teaming up for an epic sci-fi heist flick. And if the first teaser here isn't enough to get you excited, the fact that Godzilla and Monsters director Gareth Edwards is at the helm should do the trick.
The Founder (16 December)
Michael Keaton is on a run with some really special flicks, and Birdman and Spotlight could be followed by The Founder. It tells the origin story of McDonald's, but this isn't just about flipping burgers and frying potatoes.
It's a tale of deceit and corporate shenanigans, in which Ray Kroc manages to worm power away from the founding McDonald brothers and turn it into the American (and international) institution it is today. Keaton's presence should elevate this one, making it as irresistible as one of the company's sweet, sweet apple pies.
Passengers (21 December)
You could do a lot worse than being stuck on a massive spaceship with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, two of the most charming and charismatic young actors today. But with 90 years left on the journey and no other human soul in sight? Well, even that could get tedious.
That's the premise of Passengers, which finds those two awakening early from hibernation on a 120-year quest to a distant colony. They're all alone in there, but they're not going to spend the better part of a century just amusing each other, as the later action in this trailer shows.
Assassin's Creed (21 December)
Video game movies are historically - and often, legendarily – terrible, but we're holding out hope that Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed can make the big-screen transition with some grace. As the trailer shows, some elements have been tweaked but the general premise seems intact.
Michael Fassbender is a fantastic actor, so maybe he can ground this big-budget action-fest about a man reliving the memories of his blade-wielding, death-defying ancestor. Given history, we admittedly expect to be disappointed… but hope against hope that we're not.