Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Screenshot: Captain Marvel (Trailer/YouTube), Ash Is The Purest White (Trailer/YouTube), Her Smell (Trailer/YouTube), Us (Trailer/YouTube), Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Trailer/YouTube), Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

Hope springs eternal at The A.V. Club, at least when it comes to pop culture. The environment may be screwed, democracy may be endangered, the world itself may be forever inching toward fiery self-destruction, but we approach every new year with the same optimism that Calvin and Hobbes expressed in their final adventure: It’s a fresh, clean start! Last January, we singled out 50 films potentially arriving in 2018, included stuff we caught on the festival circuit and a few projects that weren’t guaranteed to see the light of day before December’s end. (No big shocker: A few didn’t. We’re looking your way, Malick.) This year, we’ve narrowed the list to 25 movies with official release dates: a mix of tantalizing blockbusters, the latest efforts from name directors, and a healthy number of films we’ve already seen (and liked), which we’ve branded with a 👁️ for reference. Need still more titles for your movie queue? Scroll to the bottom, where we’ve briefly singled out 20 more that could make their debut in 2019, if we’re lucky. In the immortal parting words of Calvin: Let’s go exploring!


Glass

Theaters everywhere January 18

Though his movies often move carefully and deliberately, even when headed in ridiculous directions, M. Night Shyamalan has had a real rollercoaster of a career. His previous film, the James McAvoy multiple-personality thriller Split, was his biggest hit in years, and—twist!—a stealth follow-up to the beloved Unbreakable. Now Shyamalan is back to fulfill the promise of that last Split scene, which revealed that the super-strong Bruce Willis character from Unbreakable might attempt to bring supervillain The Horde (McAvoy) to justice. Samuel L. Jackson’s scheming Mr. Glass is back, too. Early reactions have been—twist!—far more divisive than what greeted the strange, overstuffed, and extremely enjoyable Split. But no fan of either movie will want to miss this continuation, even if it sends Shyamalan back off the rails. [Jesse Hassenger]


👁️ Climax

Select theaters March 1

From the backwards-unfurling atrocities of Irreversible to the un-simulated sex of Love, Gaspar Noé keeps it EXTREME. But French cinema’s one-man answer to the X Games always augments his provocations with breathtaking style, and in Climax, he finally locates material worthy of his virtuosic camera moves: the reportedly (if loosely) true story of a dance troupe whose late-night bash tilts into a collective freak-out when someone spikes the sangria with a powerful psychedelic. Blessed with a talented ensemble of unknowns (plus a single movie-star ringer in Sofia Boutella), it’s equal parts rowdy hangout flick, bastard Step Up spawn, and claustrophobic horror movie on the cultural implosion of contemporary Europe. In other words, a must see. [A.A. Dowd]


👁️ Transit

Select theaters March 1

At first glance, Transit would appear to return Germany’s Christian Petzold to the WWII-timeframe of his recent masterpiece, the haunting Vertigo gloss Phoenix. But though the filmmaker is adapting an Anna Seghers novel set during the war, all is not as it initially seems in this slippery throwback noir, which follows a desperate man (Franz Rogowski) who flees a rising tide of fascism in Europe, only to become entangled in a mistaken-identity quagmire in Marseilles. Marrying Carol Reed and Hitchcock to an ordeal worthy of Kafka, Petzold bends brains (and history) to get at essential truths about the refugee experience, as well as the way the horrors of the past keep repeating themselves in the present. [A.A. Dowd]


👁️ Asako I & II 

Select theaters March 1

Photo: Grasshopper Film

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi made a name for himself on the international film stage four years ago with the five-hour Happy Hour, a mammoth study of thirtysomething friendship and marriage in Japan. His follow-up is a much less demanding time commitment, unfurling a leisurely story—a young woman (Erika Karata) is abandoned by her first love (Masahiro Higashide), then starts dating his spitting image (Higashide, again)—over a more standard feature length. Met with mixed reviews in Cannes, it could find an audience in the States among anyone seeking a date movie with real insight about relationships—not just the ones between lovers, but also between our past and present selves. [A.A. Dowd]


Captain Marvel

Theaters everywhere March 8

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been around for 10 years and 20 movies, yet they’re nearly two years behind Wonder Woman in releasing their first solo female-led superhero adventure. Still, it’s hard not to get excited for a movie starring Brie Larson, Jude Law, and a magically-de-aged Samuel L. Jackson, whose Nick Fury looks to have his most prominent role in ages. Larson stars as Carol Danvers, a pilot who gets whisked away into an alien military, and eventually returns to 1995 Earth with fractured memories of her previous life (plus a Nine Inch Nails shirt and an era-defying hairstyle). It’s that lost-memories angle that looks most promising; directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made the wonderful Mississippi Grind and Sugar, movies whose skillful character work could nicely offset the usual superhero zip. [Jesse Hassenger]


👁️ 3 Faces 

Select theaters March 8

For a guy who’s been legally banned from making movies, Jafar Panahi sure is prolific: This is the fourth feature the director has shot since 2010, when he was charged with creating propaganda against the Iranian government and put under house arrest. Once again starring as himself in a tricky blend of fiction and nonfiction, Panahi embarks on a search for a teenager who appears to have filmed her own suicide—an investigation that becomes, per the title, a study of three generations of actresses in modern Iran. As with all of his post-arrest work, 3 Faces is a moving expression of the filmmaker’s irrepressible political and creative spirit, though it also doubles as a tribute to his countrymen and one-time artistic collaborator, the late Abbas Kiarostami. [A.A. Dowd]


👁️ Ash Is Purest White 

Select theaters March 15

Photo: Cohen Media Group

Every film by Jia Zhangke (Mountains May Depart, Platform) is in some way about the changing face of modern China. But in the writer-director’s latest state-of-the-nation address, that regular fixation dovetails with a self-reflexive approach, as Jia treats a years-spanning gangster romance as a window into two decades of cultural change and his own evolving filmography. Setting aside the allusions to past work (including a callback to the great Still Life), this is one of the master director’s loosest, most playful movies, bolstered by a superb, career-summative performance by Jia’s spouse and muse, Zhao Tao. [A.A. Dowd]


Us

Theaters everywhere March 22

Jordan Peele’s been spending the cultural capital he earned with the phenomenal success of Get Out in a dizzying number of ways. But the most breathlessly anticipated of those follow-ups is Us, his sophomore feature as a writer-director and the second in a series of what Peele refers to as “social thrillers.” Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, the mother of a family on vacation on the coast of Northern California who just can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Her fears are confirmed when their getaway is invaded by hostile phantom versions of herself, her husband (Winston Duke), and her two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). [Katie Rife]


Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Select theaters March 22

Richard Linklater might not seem like the most natural fit to adapt Maria Semple’s semi-epistolary, semi-comic novel about wayward architect Bernadette (Cate Blanchett), who defies her general agoraphobia by up and disappearing on her precocious daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and slightly awkward husband (Billy Crudup, in what might be thought of as the Patrick Wilson role). The trailer jettisons some of the novel’s nervous energy and fraught familial dynamics in favor of reassuringly scored uplift. But Linklater’s willingness to wander outside of his comfort zone is exactly what makes this more promising than the average bestseller adaptation. [Jesse Hassenger]


The Beach Bum

Select theaters March 22

If someone told you that Matthew McConaughey’s nickname was “Moondog,” you’d probably believe them, right? Thus is the serendipitous nature of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers follow-up The Beach Bum, starring McConaughey in a long blond wig as a perpetually addled Florida poet whose free and easy approach to living recalls a tropical version of The Big Lebowski’s Dude—albeit with a stylishly tawdry Harmony Korine twist. The colorful supporting cast includes not only Snoop Dogg as a wedding officiant named Lingerie and Martin Lawrence as a coconut-water peddler named Captain Wack, but Mr. “Cheeseburger In Paradise” himself, Jimmy Buffett. [Katie Rife]


👁️ Her Smell

Select theaters April 12

Photo: Gunpowder & Sky

Elisabeth Moss is always good, even in bit roles, but she really shows off her chops in the caustically verbose work of Alex Ross Perry, who coaxed magnetic raw-nerve turns from her in Listen Up Philip and Queen Of Earth. The two reunite for Her Smell, a claustrophobic rock drama that casts the Handmaid’s Tale star as a past-her-prime riot grrrl on the backstage warpath, taking a drugged-out blowtorch to every one of her personal and professional relationships. The theatrical vignette structure is very Steve Jobs; it also provides a worthy platform for Moss, who’s never delivered a performance so wildly, fearlessly antagonistic. [A.A. Dowd]


👁️ High Life

Select theaters April 12

Photo: A24

Are all of our greatest arthouse directors going to space in 2019? Six weeks before James Gray unleashes his trip to the cosmos (see below), Claire Denis blasts off into the inky black beyond with this disturbing, erotically charged sci-fi tale of a death-row convict (Robert Pattinson) subjected to fertility experiments during an interstellar suicide mission. The performances, courtesy of a cast that includes Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and Outkast’s André Benjamin, are uneven. But High Life is still a return to form for the French director after the uncharacteristically gabby Let The Sunshine In; as in most of her best work (Beau Travail, 35 Shots Of Rum), Denis filters genre through her sensual sensibilities and elliptical editing rhythms, largely reinventing it in the process. [A.A. Dowd]


👁️ Under The Silver Lake

Select theaters April 19

For the third January in a row, Under The Silver Lake lands on our list of the most anticipated movies of the year. Is it time to file a missing-movie report for this missing-person mystery? Truthfully, we’ve already seen one cut of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows follow-up, about a paranoid amateur gumshoe (Andrew Garfield) who tumbles into a web of conspiracy theories when his bombshell neighbor (Riley Keough) disappears without a trace. Mitchell has reportedly been reediting the film, which has moved release dates twice, since its largely negative reception at the Cannes Film Festival. Who knows how the new version plays, but the Silver Lake that premiered in France—an ambitious and sinister Long Goodbye riff, with Garfield as the off-putting millennial-dipshit answer to Philip Marlowe—was better than its reputation suggests. [A.A. Dowd]


Avengers: Endgame

Theaters everywhere April 26

The A.V. Club was less enthused than the general public by last summer’s insanely profitable superhero meet-and-greet Avengers: Infinity War, which had more characters than it did thrills, laughs, or charms. Still, even we wouldn’t dream of missing the conclusion to the cliffhanger—of passing, in other words, on a chance to see how Earth’s mightiest heroes and the galaxy’s last remaining guardian will reverse the damage space fascist Thanos (Josh Brolin) did with a climactic snap of his fingers. We’re not made of stone, after all. We’re not Korg! [A.A. Dowd]


John Wick: Chapter Three—Parabellum

Theaters everywhere May 17

Photo: Lionsgate

In another sequel-heavy summer, the third film in this unexpected Keanu Reeves series might be the best bet for a satisfying encore. It picks up right after the previous chapter, in which unretired super-assassin John Wick defied a sacred rule of his organization and went on the run from a ton of other killers. Delightfully scant additional information has trickled in from set photos and interviews: the movie will delve further into Wick’s backstory, and Reeves will ride a horse at some point. Wick mainstay and stuntwork mastermind Chad Stahelski returns to direct, with sterling-sounding support from Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas, Anjelica Huston, and John Wick 2’s hobo king, Laurence Fishburne—though, frustratingly, Carrie-Anne Moss does not appear to have been contacted for a Matrix star hat-trick. [Jesse Hassenger]


Ad Astra

Select theaters May 24

Photo: 20th Century Fox

James Gray, one our most underappreciated modern masters, heads off into space in his first foray into science fiction, which stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who leads a rescue expedition after his father (Tommy Lee Jones) disappears while looking for extraterrestrial life near the edge of our solar system. Gray’s richly developed chiaroscuro style is perfect for stories of the past; his last two films, the masterful The Immigrant and The Lost City Of Z, were both set at the beginning of the 20th century. We’re intrigued to find out what he does with the future in this mysterious project, which was originally set for a January release, but has since been pushed back to May—possibly so it can debut at this year’s Cannes. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]


Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

Theaters everywhere May 31

Those who felt that 2014’s Spielbergian Godzilla went too light on the rampaging kaiju action can take comfort in the knowledge that no less than four of Toho’s finest will stomp and soar through the sequel. Directed and co-written by Michael Dougherty, who cut his gnashing teeth on the much more economical creature feature Krampus, King Of The Monsters pits the big guy against a classic foe, the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah, possibly with help from two of his signature frenemies, giant pterodactyl Rodan and oversized insect Mothra. Of course, it’s possible they’ll mete out the destruction sparingly again, what with Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown around to monopolize screen time with their puny human problems. But why assemble an all-star team of Monstars just to keep ’em on the bench? [A.A. Dowd]


Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Theaters everywhere August 9

Photo: Sony Pictures

Going the sprawling ensemble route after 2015’s tightly contained The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film sees the director using the entire city of Los Angeles as his playground. Set in the summer of 1969, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood casts Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as an aging Western TV star and his loyal stunt double, respectively, alongside a cast of dozens of well-known actors representing multiple generations, from 82-year-old Bruce Dern to 20-year-old Maya Hawke. Margot Robbie, meanwhile, co-stars as Sharon Tate, who meets her end at the hands of Charles Manson and his infamous “family.” That the film is being released on the 50th anniversary of Tate’s murder has ruffled some feathers, to say the least. [Katie Rife]


Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Theaters everywhere August 9

Alvin Schwartz’s macabre short-story collections were nightmare fuel for ’90s kids, scaring the wits out of adolescent readers with their grim, plainly retold urban legends and the unforgettably grotesque illustrations of Stephen Gammell (which were so hideously… wrong that when the books were reprinted years later, it was with different, tamer artwork). In all likelihood, the forthcoming Hollywood adaptation will probably misplace some of the singularly spooky appeal of these children’s-lit bestsellers. Then again, director André Øvredal did make the exceptionally creepy The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, and the script is co-written by none other than Oscar-winning monster lover Guillermo del Toro, who’s spent his whole career putting fictional children in mortal danger. Anyway, if it’s half as scary as this shit, it’ll traumatize a whole new generation. [A.A. Dowd]


Midsommar

Select theaters August 9

If Ari Aster’s Hereditary was a harrowing family drama wrapped in a terrifying ghost story, his new film is, in the director’s own words, “a dark break-up movie that becomes a horror film.” Combine that with the prestige-genre specialists at distributor A24, a stellar cast led by Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) and Jack Reynor (Sing Street), a road trip through the picturesque Swedish countryside, and a Wicker Man-esque pagan cult, and you’ve got a film that will hopefully do for summer vacations what Hereditary did for chocolate cake. [Katie Rife]


It: Chapter Two

Theaters everywhere September 6

The cosmic turtle has reportedly been written out, but there’s still plenty of terrifying strangeness left to play with in this second film made from Stephen King’s enormous, decades-spanning best-seller. Where 2017’s monster smash It focused on a nerdy “Losers’ Club” for preteen outcasts, Chapter Two follows the same characters as adults, returning to their hometown of Derry, Maine to confront Pennywise The Clown, the ancient evil that loomed over their shared childhood. Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James McAvoy lead the cast of grown-up Losers, with Andy Muschietti back in the director’s chair. [Katie Rife]


The Goldfinch

Select theaters October 11

The much-anticipated adult-oriented best-seller adaptation may be more of a nostalgic artifact these days, but Warner Bros. is taking a shot at cinematic-literary glory this fall with a film based on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel involving a deadly terrorist attack and the world of art forgery. Baby Driver himself Ansel Elgort plays the lead character, whose mother is killed in an art museum bomb, with Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman, and Sarah Paulson on hand for additional prestige. Frankly, it’s exciting just to see a major studio give this kind of material the old ’90s try. It’s also director John Crowley’s follow-up to the lovely Brooklyn, which indicated a facility with characters’ internal lives. [Jesse Hassenger]


Knives Out

Theaters everywhere November 27

It was a delight to see Rian Johnson play with Star Wars and come up with something that felt both of a piece with the series and very much of his distinctive sensibility. But it’s still a relief to hear that the brilliant writer-director of Brick and Looper has stepped out of franchise-land to make another original film, reportedly a murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. Johnson is an expert genre-tinkerer, so it might be better not to know anything more about this movie, except that it stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and Toni Collette. [Jesse Hassenger]


Star Wars: Episode IX

Theaters everywhere December 20

Speaking of Rian Johnson: Following on the heels of his terrific The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams comes home to finish off the new Star Wars trilogy. It might feel like a retreat, if not for the fact that Abrams helped create Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, and many of the other characters who have reinvigorated the saga—and made a terrifically entertaining movie out of his initial New Hope cover performance. Episode IX, which has yet to be officially titled, will reportedly feature a time-jump, 65mm cinematography, and Billy Dee Williams! What else do you need to know, nerds? [Jesse Hassenger]


Little Women

Select theaters December 25

It’s been 25 years since Gillian Armstrong’s version of Little Women, which means it’s time for a new generation to take on Louisa May Alcott’s classic of American girlhood. Enter Greta Gerwig, chasing her celebrated debut Lady Bird with another coming-of-age story, this one centered on 1860s Massachusetts instead of early-’00s Sacramento. Gerwig herself adapted Alcott’s novel for the screen, reportedly focusing more on the March sisters’ lives as independent adults than their idyllic childhoods in the loving embrace of their beloved Marmee, played here by none other than Laura Dern. It should make a fine Christmas present for fans of Gerwig and this beloved literary touchstone alike. [Katie Rife]


Plus, in no particular order:

Photo: The Nightingale (IFC

Sundance opens with a contemporary update of Richard Wright’s timeless Native Son, starring Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders… Jennifer Kent chases The Babadook with the wilderness revenge thriller The Nightingale, which IFC will release in American theaters sometime this summer… Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus play a couple whose marriage is threatened by a split-second failure of nerve in Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s Force Majeure remake, Downhill… New Hollywood virtuoso Brian De Palma returns with cop drama Domino, featuring Carice van Houten, Guy Pearce, and probably some ridiculously elaborate camera moves… Mudbound director Dee Rees adapts Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted, with Anne Hathaway as a journalist looking after her dying father, played by Willem Dafoe… Dafoe also appears alongside Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse, a horror-fantasy movie from The Witch director Robert Eggers… Having already put his typically deadpan spin on vampires, Jim Jarmusch makes a zombie movie, The Dead Don’t Die, with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, and a bunch of other impossibly cool celebrities… Dear White People creator Justin Simien returns to the big screen with sophomore feature Bad Hair, a horror satire about a killer weave… After the offbeat sci-fi of Snowpiercer and Okja, South Korean visionary Bong Joon-ho takes a left turn into the family drama of Parasite… With Waves, Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night) pulls a Damien Chazelle, casting Lucas Hedges and Sterling K. Brown in a modern musical… Jude Law and Carrie Coon star in the second feature from Martha Marcy May Marlene director Sean Durkin, a psychological thriller called The Nest… Kelly Reichardt returns to the 19th-century Oregon of her masterpiece, Meek’s Cutoff, for the fur-trapping drama First Cow… Paul Verhoeven is back in his nutso-erotic wheelhouse for Benedetta, the true story of a 17th-century lesbian nun who claimed to have holy visions… Jessica Hausner (Amour Fou, Lourdes) wanders into Body Snatchers territory with the (presumably dry and strange) sci-fi drama Little Joe… Fresh off his career-best work in The Meyerowitz Stories, Adam Sandler gets serious again as a burglarized jewelry-store owner in the Safdie brothers’ Uncut GemsThe Personal History Of David Copperfield finds Veep creator Armando Iannucci leaving the cutthroat hall of power to adapt a Charles Dickens classic… Terrence Malick might finish Radegund, his first truly scripted drama in ages… In addition to the sports-world drama High Flying Bird, which Netflix is releasing in February, Steven Soderbergh is directing a drama about the Panama Papers, The Laundromat, with Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman … and Martin Scorsese has spent upwards of $200 million of Netflix’s money on The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and that has to come out sometime this year, right?

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