We know you’re still getting caught up on the big Oscar contenders, but 2017 is here and we’re already blown away by some of the offerings on the schedule. Since last year was a particularly excellent year for movies, 2017 has a lot to live up to. Here are ten films we’re looking forward to this year.
The Beguiled (June 23)
Before Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel made Dirty Harry, they collaborated on the 1971 film The Beguiled: Set during the Civil War, Eastwood played a wounded Union soldier seeking shelter in a girls’ boarding school in the South, his presence causing a stir among the repressed young women. Forty-five years later, Sofia Coppola has assembled a starry cast for her remake, including Colin Farrell in the Eastwood role. Whereas Siegel’s film was more interested in the soldier’s perspective, Coppola will likely be far more attuned to the material’s focus on gender roles and thwarted sexual desire—ample thematic fodder for a filmmaker fascinated by alienation, longing and ennui. Coppola veterans Elle Fanning (Somewhere) and Kirsten Dunst (The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette) join Nicole Kidman. (This is one of two movies we’re excited to see in 2017 that costar Kidman and Farrell.)
War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14)
There were plenty of reasons to fear Fox’s decision to reboot the iconic, much-parodied Planet of the Apes series—especially when 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was screened late for critics, usually a sure sign of disaster. Instead, Rise was a thoughtful drama that reconceived the franchise as a study of how different species, despite their morphological similarities, just can’t get along. The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was an even more tragic distillation of that thesis, deepening the narrative of Andy Serkis’s honorable, conflicted ape leader Caesar. After Dawn’s dark ending, there’s little surprise that this summer’s War for the Planet of the Apes promises to be an all-out battle for total control between man and monkey. Among the new cast members, Woody Harrelson plays the intense commander of the human forces, and Dawn director Matt Reeves is back to ensure this sequel maintains the series’ sophisticated, despairing tone. Outside of Marvel, the Apes redux has been one of Hollywood’s smartest and most exciting franchises.
Dunkirk (July 21)
With The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan emerged as one of our finest blockbuster filmmakers, weaving pathos, moral nuance and emotional shading into his first-rate action sequences. Hollywood’s been chasing that film’s towering example ever since, and in some ways, so has Nolan. The three films he directed afterwards—Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar—were bursting with ambition. Nolan doesn’t just want to make a great movie, he wants each of his films to demand the total attention of our hearts and minds. It’s a laudable goal—where summer-movie season largely caters to kids, his films are refreshingly aimed at grownups—but Nolan’s execution has often been shaky. That said, we cannot wait for Dunkirk, about the evacuation of Allied troops from France during World War II, and the trailer promises the kind of craftsmanship and visual astonishment that we’ve come to expect from Nolan. Of course, there’s also a hint of the chronic seriousness that has weighed down his recent films, but consider that more of an anxiety than a legitimate beef. Christopher Nolan has never done a war movie, and who in his right mind wouldn’t be excited to see what he brings to the genre?
Blade Runner 2049 (October 6)
It is only natural that in this world of reboots and remakes one of the most beloved (and fiercely debated) science fiction films of the last 40 years would be on the docket, particularly when it means Harrison Ford can return, yet again, to another of his iconic characters. (Does he have trouble recalling which immortal 1980s action hero he’s portraying? We would.) This version features Ryan Gosling as an LAPD officer who must track down Ford’s Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for 30 years. The relaunch of a famous franchise—and a good one, for that matter—would be exciting enough, but the clincher might be the director: Denis Villeneuve, fresh off Arrival and one of the most visually arresting action directors around.
Logan Lucky (October 13)
You didn’t really think Steven Soderbergh was going to stay retired, did you? Soderbergh’s first movie since 2013’s Side Effects is a “NASCAR heist comedy” with an utterly absurd cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Hillary Swank, Daniel Craig, Katherine Waterson, Katherine Heigl, Katie Holmes and Seth MacFarlane. And look at these images from the set! Driver in a prison stripes, Tatum in overalls, and Craig looking like “a ripped Eminem.” Soderbergh is one of the best filmmakers on the planet, and he might be at his peak when he’s doing something goofy and fun. And boy, does this ever look goofy.
Star Wars: Episode Eight (December 15)
This is the big one, the sequel to the highest grossing film of all time. Episode Eight will fit into the Empire Strikes Back slot for the franchise, the film that takes our likable, plucky heroes from the Force Awakens and plunges them into something darker and more perilous. This episode is written and directed by Looper’s Rian Johnson, and there aren’t many people we’d trust more with the job. Everybody’s back, including Carrie Fisher in her final film role, and new to the cast are Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern. It’s Rey, Poe, Fin and Kylo Ren in their next adventure, helmed by one of the most exciting filmmakers around. We assume somewhere on the planet, someone is already in line.
Annihilation (release date unknown)
Ex Machina was a rare film; a smart, relatively low-budget science-fiction thriller in which suspense was more important than spectacle. Now writer-director Alex Garland returns with an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who enters a quarantined jungle region, knowing that previous expeditions have led to disappearances and death. (The biologist’s husband, played by Ex Machina’s Oscar Isaac, was part of a previous scouting party.) Garland, who previously wrote 28 Days Later and adapted Never Let Me Go, has a feel for thought-provoking, gripping fantasy, and he seems to be the ideal filmmaker for this material. If that wasn’t enticement enough, Annhilation also features Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People).
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (release date unknown)
Yorgos Lanthimos dazzled art film audiences with 2009’s Oscar-nominated Dogtooth, but he truly broke through last year with The Lobster, a dark, dry, hilarious and sad movie about a parallel universe in which people must couple up or be turned into an animal. That film featured a terrific lead performance from Colin Farrell, who’s back in this follow-up, playing a character simply known as “Surgeon.” There’s only a meager description available for the plot—“A surgeon forms a familial bond with a sinister teenage boy, with disastrous results.”—but knowing Lanthimos, this is bound to be just the beginning of the mystery. Also intriguing: Nicole Kidman as Surgeon’s Wife, and the casting of Alicia Silverstone in a supporting role. Lanthimos has a ton of juice with the success of The Lobster: It’ll be fascinating to see what he comes up with next.
Untitled Woody Allen Project (release date unknown)
Yes, we’re probably the only people outside of a couple apartment buildings on the Upper West Side to who still look forward to the new Woody Allen movie every year, As always, no one has any idea what it’s about, but the cast is fascinating as usual: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple and Jim Belushi (!) It’s pretty much the luck of the draw whether the annual Allen entry has any extra oomph in it: Allen hasn’t had a hit since Blue Jasmine, though last year’s Café Society received his best reviews since that Cate Blanchett film. Though, it’s going to take a while for people to forget the disaster that was his Amazon series, Crisis in Six Scenes.
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project (release date unknown)
Since releasing his screwy, Pynchonian stoner-mystery Inherent Vice in 2014, Paul Thomas Anderson hasn’t exactly been idle, directing the documentary Junun and several music videos for songs off of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. But Anderson will be back to features this year with his There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis. Focus Features has offered no plot specifics for this untitled project, only that it concerns London’s fashion scene during the 1950s. It’s not uncommon for Anderson to leave us in suspense—the first teaser for The Master used a scene that wasn’t even in the final film—so feel free to wildly speculate on the movie’s plot. Our completely baseless guess: It’ll be a study of the battle between art and commerce—and between the allure of celebrity and the rewards of something more meaningful—with Day-Lewis playing a magnificently complicated, magnetic figure at the center.
Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly for the New Republic and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site