Good news bad news time. The bad: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens doesn’t hit theaters until December 18. And that’s if there are no setbacks. The good news? There are a ton of potentially powerful movies to fill our time as we wait.
From lumbering giants like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World – each sure to crush all comers at the box office – to more cerebral offerings from directors like Terrence Malick and Martin Scorcese, there’s really a lot to look forward to. Of course, a great trailer or exciting elevator pitch does not a fine film make, but we’ve done our homework and concluded that these are the 30 movies that need to be on your radar in 2015, listed here in chronological order.
Release Date: 1/16/2015. Even before it opened as the highest grossing January release ever, the trailer for American Sniper had people buzzing. The story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and the massive body count he racked up in the Iraq War is both fascinating and controversial, as evidenced by the sizable debate its stirred up. One thing’s for sure: at 84, director Clint Eastwood hasn’t lost a step.
Release Date: 2/6/15. The Wachowskis, of Matrix trilogy fame, are back with another over-the-top futuristic tale. We’re a little skeptical about the performances from Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in the trailer, but there’s no doubt this space opera is aiming high.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Release Date: 2/13/15.It’s the big screen adaptation of the 2011 book that every woman in the U.S. was required by law to read. And love. And post on Facebook about. Now, will their newly acquired kinky tastes be satisfied with Jamie Dornan as BDSM master Christian Grey? Eye roll all you want, guys, but it beats another mindless, shirtless, Valentine’s Day rom-com with Matthew McConaughey.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Release Date: 2/13/15. Even when they’re not producing stories with heroes in tights, comic books are still yielding a wealth of worthy material. Kingsman: The Secret Service is another example of that, with Colin Firth starring as a veteran secret agent who takes a young upstart under his wing. Some innovative action scenes and positive buzz around this one have us expecting good things.
Release Date: 3/6/15. We’re not big on the title, but if we get the Neill Blomkamp that gave us District 9 and not Elysium, this sci-fi thriller about a stolen robot’s maturing process could be a lot of fun. Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) star.
In the Heart of the Sea
Release Date: 3/15/15. Thor goes fishing. OK, so Ron Howard’s take on the real-life maritime disaster that inspired Moby Dick is much more than that, but it does star Chris Hemsworth in a major role without the big hammer. In its place? A much bigger white whale. This could be fun.
Release Date: 3/27/15. Teaching abstinence through horror movies? We might start seeing that in classrooms if It Follows blows up. This tale about a sexually transmitted creature that stalks a girl after a casual fling has been earning head nods across the film festival circuit so far.
Release Date: 4/3/15. They’re not exactly known for being enduring pieces of fine art, but The Fast & The Furious movies do have a loyal fan base that always turns out to see crazy car chases, stunts galore, and buff bodies. But Furious 7 will has even more people curious, since star Paul Walker died during the production of the film.
Release Date: 4/17/15. Stalin-era Soviet Union is the setting for this thriller involving a disgraced member of the military who’s investigating a series of child murders. The plot sounds fantastic, and the cast – Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Gary Oldman – has us legitimately stoked
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Release Date: 5/1/15. We’re thinking Avengers: Age of Ultron might bring in a few dollars opening weekend, whaddya think? The follow-up to 2012’s $1.5 billion box office beast promises more of everything we love: Iron Man’s sass, Cap’s class, and Hulk’s smash. Director Joss Whedon did a fine job the first time, and we’d be surprised if this one doesn’t live up to the hype.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Release Date: 5/15/15. If you haven’t seen the theatrical trailer for this film, pause for the cause right now and go look at that thing (watch here). Then wait an hour and watch it again. It’s nuts. Director George Miller may not have the action pedigree you’d expect (his last movie? Happy Feet Two), but man is he bringing an intense visual flair to this reboot of the famous post-apocalyptic franchise.
Release Date: 5/22/15. Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) leads this high-concept sci-fi adventure with George Clooney and young Britt Robertson as a girl who can travel to a different time and place. How much is Disney’s Tomorrowland section of its theme parks connected to the movie? Time will tell.
Release Date: 6/12/15. While there may not have been a mass clamoring for another Jurassic Park movie, it’d be impossible – and nonsensical, given the advances in CGI – for Hollywood to leave a dinosaurs-gone-wild intellectual property in the 90s. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) stars, and while one can rightly be nervous about the choice of director (relative unknown Colin Trevorrow), everybody knows it’s all about the CGI dinos.
Release Date: 6/19/15. After a Pixar-less year in 2014, the vaunted studio is delivering two films this year. Inside Out is told from the perspective of the various emotions inside a young girl’s head, and is in the hands of the very capable Pete Docter, who wrote WALL-E and directed Monsters, Inc. and Up. Amy Poehler is Joy, Bill Hader is Fear, and Mindy Kaling plays Disgust.
Release Date: 7/1/15. Forget what you know (if anything) about Terminators 3 & 4, as this film establishes a new timeline in the series’ universe. Yes, it’s laughable that a 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, and yes, it’s disturbing (but fitting) how unsexy the very sexy Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is as Sarah Connor, but if it can properly channel the vibe of T2 as it’s aiming to do, Genisys could be an enjoyable popcorn romp.
Release Date: 5/15/15. How deep down its roster can Marvel go and still strike box office gold? We’ll find out in July when Paul Rudd shrinks down to insect size to kick ass in Ant-Man. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly (Lost) co-star.
The Look of Silence
Release Date: July 2015. Far and away the most anticipated documentary of the year has to be this powerful piece about a young man – whose brother was killed during the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66 – confronting the men who murdered him. It’s earned nothing but stellar reviews from those who have seen it so far.
Release Date: 10/12/15. Remember Man on Wire, that nifty little 2008 documentary about the guy who walked between the World Trade Center’s twin towers? Well that same story is now getting the biopic treatment. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as high wire daredevil Philippe Petit, with the legendary Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) directing.
Release Date: 10/16/15. The spectacularly creative Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy), is cooking up an original horror film about an aspiring author who’s torn between her love for her childhood friend and a mysterious outsider. Not much else is known, but you can bet the farm this one will be a visual feast.
Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller
Release Date: 10/16/15. There’s no title on this one yet, but it’s the first pairing of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in more than 10 years. The plot involves an American lawyer who’s recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot being held in the Soviet Union. Bonus: The Coen brothers are handling the script.
Release Date: 11/6/15. Bond 24 will feature the excellent Daniel Craig back as 007 once again (and perhaps for the last time), along with Christopher Waltz, a sexy Aston Martin DB10, and undoubtedly a slew of gadgets, explosions, and car chases. The talented Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road to Perdition) is directing again, and we’re quite fine with that.
The Hateful Eight
Release Date: 11/13/15. Production just began on this Quentin Tarantino-led Western, but it’s already been through hell, with script leaks, lawsuits, and assorted pre-production chaos. With Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and plenty of others, this tale of a stagecoach’s journey through a wintry Wyoming will undoubtedly feature plenty of patented Q.T. violence. Maybe he’ll be even extra pissed because of the hassles he went through to make it. Yikes. Better hide the kids.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Release Date: 11/20/15. The highly successful Hunger Games series comes to a conclusion with this surefire blockbuster due around Thanksgiving time. Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen as she spearheads a revolution against the Capitol. The first two films brought in $1.5 billion at the global box office.
Release Date: 11/25/15. Not much is known about this one, other than it’s being billed as a “sci-fi chase” movie, with a father and son on the run after the dad learns his boy has special powers. But there’s a strong buzz that Jeff Nichols (Mud) has something special going; so much so that – based on his work here – Warner Bros. might want him to direct the big budget Aquaman movie.
Release Date: 11/25/15. Ridley Scott doesn’t half-ass anything, so when we hear he’s making a movie about an astronaut (Matt Damon) stranded on Mars, we take notice. We’re quite curious about spotting the hysterical Kristen Wiig in the supporting cast though.
The Good Dinosaur
Release Date: 11/25/15. Pixar’s other release set for 2105 stars the voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader, and John Lithgow, and though not much is known about the plot, it’s pretty easy to trust these guys.
Knight of Cups
Release Date: 12/11/15. Terrence Malick films are often beautiful, deep, and divisive, as his works lean much more toward the abstract. Knight of Cups looks to be typical Malick, as the only slightly less enigmatic Christian Bale plays a screenwriter who’s trying to make sense of the bizarre events occurring around him.
Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens
Release Date: 12/18/15. So, does the die-hard fan consume every teaser, trailer, and tidbit of info that comes out over the next 11 months, or does he/she go into a cocoon so nothing is spoiled when J.J. Abrams pulls back the curtain on the first Star Wars movie in 10 years? It’s a tough call. But what won’t be a tough call is whether or not to feel chill bumps when we see Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher on the big screen again in George Lucas’ iconic universe. If Abrams can improve the series’ stiff dialogue (not hard to do), leave Jar Jar-like distractions out, and manage to capture that intangible essence of what makes a Star Wars film special, he’ll have The Force with him always.
Release Date: 12/25/15. It’s official: Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of the finest directors in the world. His work on Babel, Biutiful, and Best Picture contender Birdman have fleshed that out. Now he’s at the helm of a story about a trapper (Leonardo DiCaprio) who’s out for revenge against the men who left him for dead after a bear attack. Expect big things.
Release Date: TBA 15. This Martin Scorcese film about two Jesuit priests who encounter violence when they travel to Japan to spread Christianity has been plagued by delays. It’s possible it could be pushed back to 2016, but if not, the combination of Scorcese, Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and the deep subject matter – at least on paper – should yield something memorable.
Also worth watching in 2015: Black Mass, Minions, The Fantastic Four, Entourage, Victor Frankenstein, Pixels, Trainwreck, The Jungle Book, and Ted 2.