Another year of movies is behind us; 12 months of films, from the blockbuster to the bizarre. The voting for the 91st Academy Awards begins today, ahead of the ceremony itself on February 24, but we can begin to look ahead to the upcoming new releases and speculate about which ones will be in contention for the 92nd awards in 2020.
In this list of the biggest films to look out for over the coming year, we've stuck mostly to movies from the big studios, since we won't know more about the indies until the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals have passed in January and February.
We've also not included any Netflix films for the time being. The streamer upped its original movie game in 2018, with Alfonso Cuaron's Roma currently leading the Oscars pack, and next year looks like it will be a vintage one on the platform, too.
Highlights include a reunion of the Nightcrawler team of writer-director Dan Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo for thriller Velvet Buzzsaw, and Martin Scorsese making his most expensive film to date in the shape of mob drama The Irishman.
Most of Netflix’s 2019 offerings don’t yet have a release date, however, and we don’t yet know which will make it to cinemas, so we’ll deal with the streaming giant’s output when we know more about it.
Please note that release dates are often subject to change, so always check with your local cinema in advance.
Glass (January 17)
M Night Shyamalan was back in form in 2016 with Split, the unannounced sequel to his 2000 hit Unbreakable, following a string of critically reviled films in the 16 years in between, exemplified by 2010's five-Razzie- winning The Last Airbender. With his rough patch seemingly behind him, fans are hotly anticipating Glass, the third film in the Eastrail 177 trilogy that began with Unbreakable.
James McAvoy reprises his role as Kevin, a cannibalistic sociopath with 24 different personalities, alongside Bruce Willis's superhero-next-door David Dunn and Samuel L Jackson is arch-villain Mr Glass. As with all of Shyamalan's best films, expect the unexpected.
Mary Queen of Scots (expected in January)
Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie team up respectively as the Scottish queen, and her cousin and arch-enemy, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary was Queen of France by marriage at age 16, and widowed at 18. Despite pressure to remarry, she chose to return to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne, which had fallen under the hold of the English queen. The resulting 1569 Northern Rebellion saw a number of Scottish and Northern English nobles rise up against Elizabeth in an attempt to install Mary on the English throne. Betrayal and conspiracy abounded, and history as we know it was shaped, so history buffs should like this one. One good sign in regards to this movie: Robbie has already received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Elizabeth (as the film has already released in the United States).
Captain Marvel (March 7)
We can expect to see Captain Marvel again later in the year, when Avengers: Endgame drops in April – Nick Fury paged the almighty superhero as his very last act before disintegrating into dust in the post-credits for Infinity War. Before that, however, we get to meet the Captain properly in her stand-alone origins movie in March. This is Marvel's first film to be fronted by a female superhero. The trailers haven't given too much away so far, in typical Marvel Cinematic Universe style, although a leak last week did reveal that Jude Law will be playing Mar-Vell – an earlier iteration of Captain Marvel from the comic books, prior to Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) adopting the persona.
Us (March 14)
Jordan Peele returns to the director's chair following his hugely successful 2017 debut Get Out!, with a film that has had the internet abuzz since its first trailer dropped on Christmas Day. In the new film, Gabe and Adelaide Wilson (Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong'o) take their children to their beach house, hoping to spend time with friends. Things quickly take a turn for the weird when a family of doppelgangers turn up on their doorstep and, judging by what we've seen in the trailer, the mysterious identical family may look like the Wilsons, but they certainly don't like the Wilsons. Quite the opposite, in fact, as they appear to be intent on causing maximum carnage by the seaside.
Dumbo (March 31)
Disney seems to have decreed that 2019 will be the year of the live-action remake of its animated classics, with Aladdin and The Jungle Book also getting a rework. The most promising of the three looks set to be Dumbo. Tim Burton's at the helm, and the Edward Scissorhands director rarely drops a dud. Reassuringly, at a time when Disney is facing accusations of running out of imagination by undertaking so many remakes, Burton has said the film will be "inspired" by the 1941 original about the flying baby circus elephant, rather than a direct remake. The director already has form adapting Disney animated classics, with his successful 2010 reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Unusually for Burton, there's no Johnny Depp among the cast, though his frequent muse Eva Green is present, alongside Danny DeVito and Colin Firth.
Avengers: Endgame (April 25)
It's the most anticipated superhero movie of the year, and intriguingly Marvel is referring to it as the final movie in this "phase" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We don't know exactly what that means, although Chris Evans has made it clear in interviews and on social media that this will be his last film as Captain America. What we do know is that, with half of The Avengers wiped out by Thanos in Infinity War, the remaining Avengers – Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, Bruce Banner and a marooned-in-space Iron Man – must figure out a way to bring back their vanquished allies for an epic showdown with the evil demigod who decimated the universe.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 25)
Quentin Tarantino's films always come with plenty of hype attached, and it's usually justified. This one has a hefty dose of A-list stardom, with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie and Al Pacino among the leads, plus the promise of a creepy cult plotline – the film is set in the run up to the 1969 Manson Family Killings, and Robbie plays victim Sharon Tate. DiCaprio plays the fading star of a TV Western and Brad Pitt his stunt double. It's unlikely a film geek like Tarantino has made the titular reference to Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West by accident, and if he's comparing his film to that classic from one of his heroes, he's clearly pretty confident we're in for a treat.
It: Chapter 2 (September 5)
Andy Muschietti returns to Stephen King's two-part novel for the second half of It, the first part of which broke box-office records for a horror film when it raced to a $700 million plus (Dh2.5 billion) global box office haul in 2017. Bill Skarsgard reprises his role as Pennywise the Clown, 27 years after the events of the first film. The Losers Club are all grown up now, with James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain heading up the new version when the gang return to their childhood home and once again face the clowny terror that resurfaces every 27 years.
Downton Abbey (September 12)
Fans of ITV's historical drama depicting the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their household on a fictional Yorkshire estate were distraught when the show came to an end after six seasons in 2015. And the Baftas, Emmys and Golden Globes had to start looking for some new recipients after five years of Downton Abbey hoovering up awards for fun (season 2 alone picked up a whopping 16 Emmy nominations).
Shooting for the film only began in September, so plot details are currently thin on the ground. We last saw the Crawleys on TV in the inter-war period, as the rise of the Labour Movement and an empowered post-First World War working class hinted at the decline of the British aristocracy. We don't know whether the film will be a chronological continuation, but we can expect plenty of family drama and wider historical and political context from the returning cast, including Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern as heads of the Crawley family and Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess.
Joker (December 5)
Filming for this has started only recently, and there is usually a lot of secrecy surrounding big-ticket superhero films, so details are sparse on this origins movie of one of DC's best-loved villains. With Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role, and a supporting cast including Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz, the signs are good. The film tells the story of unsuccessful stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck, who is driven to insanity by society's failure to recognise his comic genius, and transforms into the psychotic, anarchist mastermind we love to hate. The Hangover trilogy's Tod Phillips directs, which is an interesting choice, although he does have a maniacal touch.
Star Wars: Episode IX (Dec 19)
It was a lean 2018 for the Star Wars franchise, with May's Solo: A Star Wars Story the only release from a galaxy far, far away. That film was, in Star Wars terms, a box office bomb. It took just $393m globally on a budget of around $275m, and quite probably made a loss once marketing costs are factored in. That box office flop has caused Disney to rethink its Star Wars spin-off strategy, with a number of films currently on hold. There seems little doubt fans will flock back to cinemas for Episode IX of the main story arc, particularly after being starved of the traditional December release in 2018. J J Abrams is back in the director's chair, and cast favourites, include Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, and even the late Carrie Fisher, courtesy of unused footage from previous films.
Jojo Rabbit (expected later in the year)
Taika Waititi has already proven his skill with surreal dark comedy (What We Do in the Shadows) and touching studies of disrupted childhood (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). This year he looks set to combine the two with Jojo Rabbit. The film follows the titular Jojo, a young German boy from the Second World War-era, struggling to find his place within the regime, and desperate to join up and advance the fascist cause. He works through his struggles with the help of his imaginary friend – none other than Hitler; played by the half-Maori, half-Jewish Waititi himself. Scarlett Johansson plays Jojo's mother, who is secretly anti-Nazi and takes in a Jewish girl, causing Jojo to question his beliefs and battle with his imaginary friend.