The sad part of movie awards season is that it sort of serves as the previous year’s final epilogue. Because, while we still need to hand out a few trophies, 2015 is formally behind us, and we want to make sure there’s no lagging cinematic depression. So, we are re-purposing this week’s What We’re Watching feature to look a little farther down the road than is normal. We posed the question to our staff and our Twitter followers: What 2016 films are we all looking forward to? Below, we have provided a list of our most anticipated films and some of your answers.

What We’re Watching

The Witch
Release Date: February 26

A24

A24

Every year, film circuit buzz suggests the discovery of the next big thing in horror. And right now, after the stellar output from horror directors in 2015, it might finally make sense to let one’s self get excited about the early rumors. When I spoke with Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson last year for our #Horrortown interview series, the young filmmakers shared the same optimism, a belief that this time, it might be the “real deal.” Having already earned the anticipation though a stellar trailer, this pre-endorsement was enough to set me over the top for Robert Eggers’ The Witch. – David Shreve

Midnight Special
Release Date: March 18

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

If pressed to name what active director has the best three-movie streak going, I would have to pick Jeff Nichols. Check that. I wouldn’t even have to be pressed. It’s Jeff Nichols. And the crazy part? The streak he is currently on consists of his first three movies! No director has his or her fingers more prominently placed on the pulse of working class America, and no filmic storyteller offers applications of those measured results in more visually precise and tonally certain terms. Midnight Shelter sees Michael Shannon return as Nichols’ lead man. Nichols has the skill and courage to use Michael Shannon beyond his trademark madness, employing him once again as an average everyman seeking to protect his family against more than he can calculate, a formula that warranted two of the best movies of the 2000s in Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter.– David Shreve

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Release Date: May 20

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

I am beyond excited for this movie, a sequel to 2014’s Neighbors, which pitted new dad Seth Rogen against Zac Efron’s hot frat boy in what amounted to a hilarious, perfectly executed comedy. Neighbors was driven by its characters’ increasing antagonism and an energetic tit-for-tat rhythm that was organically produced by the actors’ chemistry. Rose Byrne was, as usual, a standout as Rogen’s wife, also stuck between immaturity and the new role of being a parent. The fact that all three lead actors return along with the likes of Chloë Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez should make this sequel very interesting, indeed. Whether or not the inclusion of new characters and a sorority angle will actually end up making this film funnier, better or even any different at all than the first film, we’ll just have to wait and see. But if the first image released from the film is any indication, this sequel is going to deliver at least as many laughs as its predecessor did, if not more. – Sara Grasberg (Redhead at the Movies)

The Nice Guys
Release Date: May 20

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

Christmas is coming early this year. Known for films such as Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3, Shane Black knows how to find the perfect mix between noir, action, buddy crime, and comedy. And by the looks of it, he’s struck that same perfect balance with his next film, The Nice Guys. Ryan Gosling looks like he’s going to steal a lot of scenes, his and Russell Crowe’s relationship looks appropriately imperfect, the action sequences look wacky and extremely entertaining, and the ’70s Christmas vibe it’s giving off is just music to my ears. I’m ready for the next Shane Black Christmasterpiece. – Anton Reyes

X-Men: Apocalypse
Release Date: May 27

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Our cinematic landscape is increasingly inundated with comic book movies; for some, this is an exciting prospect and for others, it leaves nothing but superhero fatigue. The X-Men movies have always seemed to bridge this gap though, maybe because they started slightly before the recent influx, or perhaps it’s because they’re just so fun. Another possibility would be that the franchise has been given new life thanks to an awesome cast including James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto and by putting those same beloved characters into new faces and past times. In this film, the third of the new generation, we follow the X-Men as they face what seems to be one of the scariest foes yet: Apocalypse, the world’s first mutant, played by the incomparable Oscar Isaac. I’m very excited to see Isaac as a villain, and I’m looking forward to the fact that this film is set during the 1980s, which should lend itself nicely to the X-Men movies’ built in aesthetic (which has remained a bit cheesier than some more polished Marvel movies of late). The trailer alone instilled a sense of glee in me, from seeing McAvoy’s Xavier start to look a lot more like Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, and from the look of the effects shown in the trailer. This movie might just be the most epic, exciting X-Men movie yet. – Sara Grasberg (Redhead at the Movies)

Finding Dory
Release Date: June 17

finding-dory51e670a0e6804-800x400

Disney Pixar

To be fair, nearly any Pixar new release is at the top of my must-see list, but when they announced a sequel to Finding Nemo, one of the greatest films to come out of the studio, it was instant, overwhelming dread. (Which was not unlike my reaction to the soon-to-be Toy Story 4, which will ruin the greatest trilogy of all time by no longer letting it fall into the trilogy category.) But shortly after my “please don’t!” knee-jerk reaction, excitement crept in. After all, this is the studio responsible for Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. Despite the 13 year gap between the two films, Director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) returns, along with Director Angus MacLane. Stanton wrote the screenplay for the first and has penned this one as well, so Dory is bound to be just as captivating as Nemo. While I generally try not to learn too much about a movie before my first watch, I do know that the premise is based on forgetful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) suddenly remembering her family doesn’t know her whereabouts, and she, along with Marlin (Albert Brooks), will be embarking on another cross-ocean quest to find lost relatives or, rather, to be found. Though Finding Dory already has so much to live up to, I have no doubt Pixar will deliver. – Grace Porter

Ghostbusters
Release Date: July 15

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

There has been talk of various reboots and sequels of Ghostbusters for decades, but if one had to be done, I’m not sure they could have picked a better director for the job than Paul Feig. The man has made some of the greatest modern comedies in the form of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy with the latter two also proving his adeptness at directing action. He is the perfect choice. Here he is reuniting Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, who, along with Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, form a quartet of some of the most funny and talented women in the business in order to round out our new team of Ghostbusters. We have yet to see a trailer for the new movie so for now all we have to go on are a few neat on-set photos and some truly awesome character posters. Of course, I must admit that a big reason why I am so excited for Ghostbusters is so that we can rub its success in the faces of the garbage misogynists who are still crying about women taking the lead. To see the ridiculous sexist backlash against the movie refuted would be worth the price of admission alone. But other than that, we are all but guaranteed a great movie thanks to the caliber of the team involved. Feig has yet to let us down so it is nigh impossible not to have high hopes going into Ghostbusters. Come July, we should expect to see a worthy follow-up to the original classic. – Ryan MacLean

Suicide Squad
Release Date: August 5

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see the DC Extended Universe begin in earnest. Warner Bros. has the potential to tell plenty of new stories and take risks to push the genre forward. I’m eagerly anticipating Batman v. Superman, but those two properties are the same ones Warner Bros. has mined for decades; Suicide Squad is an opportunity to go in a new direction, to showcase the versatility of DC Comics. I love that Ayer is bringing his own vision and aesthetic to the film, fearlessly diverging from the look of the source material but staying true to the concept and characters. (I can debate all day in favor of the Joker’s “damaged” tattoo.) If Ayer can successfully mesh his filthy urban aesthetic with a plot that hinges on magic, and the larger mythology of god-like superheroes, he may end up creating the boldest piece in any cinematic universe puzzle thus far. Every photo, trailer, and press release for this movie has only added to my anticipation, creating a level of intrigue I haven’t felt since eagerly awaiting Nolan’s The Dark Knight. There’s a level of predictability to many superhero films, a level of comfort to be found in plot beats, characters, and survival rates. With this film I want to be blindsided, to be denied guarantees, and find pleasure in discomfort, and with everything we’ve seen so far, it looks like Suicide Squad will provide exactly that. – Richard Newby

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Release Date: November 18

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

I never miss a Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family, even though every Blu-ray is sitting on my shelf, so needless to say I’m itching to return to the wizarding world, which I consider to be my true home. Eddie Redmayne seems to be able to do no wrong these last couple years (let’s just ignore the Jupiter Ascending backlash), and passing the torch to him as the lead for this new trilogy just feels right. Fantastic Beasts promises to bring creatures and magic we’ve never seen before, but that will hopefully feel familiar at the same time. The most exciting aspect about this new film, however, comes from behind the screen, as J. K. Rowling is making her screenwriting debut.  With both the screenplay and the production resting in the careful, passionate hands of its creator, it’s safe to say Potterheads won’t be disappointed. – Beth Reynolds

Moana
Release Date: November 23

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

When sketches of Moana started popping up last year, beyond thrilled is not enough to describe how much I want to see Disney’s upcoming South Pacific “Princess.” Moana is an adventure tale, following her journey as she searches for a mythical island, infusing ancient folklore. With Moana, Disney is building up their princess lineup with a person of color. I am not overlooking Tiana, Mulan, Lilo, or any of the past women of color characters because I cannot overemphasize the importance of representation. I am celebrating Disney’s possible growth in their casting, character design, and the fact they chose Auli’i Cravalho who is close to the same age as Moana. There’s none of the adult-playing-a-teen nonsense. One aspect caught me off guard: Moana will have singing. Maui, a demigod, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, aids Moana. Ergo Johnson will be singing? Disney may encounter some bumps in how it approaches polynesian culture, even so, it will open up conversations. – Teaira Lacson

Rogue One
Release Date: December 16

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

My favourite thing about Star Wars is the X-Wings and this movie, arriving just one year after The Force Awakens, is all X-Wing. Directed by Gareth Edwards who is following his game-changing Godzilla, Rogue One tells the story of the brave pilots who stole the Death Star plans which kicked off the whole damn original saga. The premise along sounds awesome and then when you see the cast list it begins to look foolproof. Led by Felicity Jones (loving this trend of female leads in Star Wars) it also stars Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelson, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker and Donnie Yen. If Edwards can manage to inject it with the fun and adventure of The Force Awakens and the original trilogy while adding his own unique vision, we’re looking at something really special next Christmas. And if it leads to a trilogy of Rogue movies then the more the better. – Sean Fallon

The Neon Demon
Release Date: TBA 2016

Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios

After Drive was such a hit with audiences, Only God Forgives bewildered and disappointed a lot of fans, but not me. I felt that it was a movie that, whether you like it or not, shows that Nicolas Winding Refn has a fresh, specific, and strange vision that he follows without hesitation. His next film is horror/thriller The Neon Demon, which tells the story of aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) moving to Los Angeles, where her youth and vitality are preyed upon by a group of beauty-obsessed women. I’ve been looking forward to Fanning getting to work on some interesting projects after she blew me away in Somewhere and Ginger & Rosa. The cast looks great, and is significantly female-led with the exception of Keanu Reeves – who is a strange but somehow perfect choice to work with Refn. Their particular roles haven’t been revealed yet, but Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road), and Jena Malone have been confirmed to star. I loved Jena Malone in the Hunger Games series, but what has me interested in her is her performance in Inherent Vice, where she made a fairly small role brilliantly dark and funny. While it may only be a small part, Bella Heathcote has also been cast. Though she may be unknown to most, she was spectacular in the little-seen film Not Fade Away, from The Sopranos creator David Chase. The plot synopsis given leaves a lot to the imagination, but this sounds like the kind of film I want Refn to make. The lone, stoic male hero has been utilised well in his last three movies, but it’s refreshing to move on to a new tone and a female protagonist. Amazon Studios acquired the distribution rights to the film back in November, so it will have a larger streaming platform for us to see it later this year. – Jack Godwin

A Storm in the Stars
Release Date: TBA 2016

Hanway Films

Hanway Films

This feels like a movie made for me. I’m a huge fan of both Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley, and Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels. A Storm In The Stars, is about the meeting between the the two, the ensuing love affair, and the creation of the aforementioned classic book. The film stars Elle Fanning (this will be her year) as Mary Shelley, Douglas Booth as Percy Shelley, Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) as Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, and is written by newcomer Emma Jensen. The most exciting part for me is the director. Haifa Al-Mansour wrote and directed Wadjda, which was my favourite film of 2013 (an outstanding year for film). As well as being a wonderful film, it was first film made by a female Saudi-Arabian director, and Saudi Arabia’s first official submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. Because of restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia, Al-Mansour was not allowed to interact with the mostly-male crew, so she had to direct the street scenes from a nearby van, watching a monitor and giving instructions via walkie-talkie. Even in the strained, disconnected environment, she still made a compelling and heart-warming film, so I have the highest hopes for this. – Jack Godwin

 

What YOU’RE Watching