Awards season is at last very much behind us, and with the new year lull out of the way, and the festival circuit well and truly covered, the major studios are beginning to think about this year's films. Here, we bring you 20 of the most anticipated movies of 2020, handily divided into sections that should offer something for everyone.
All release dates given are those of the US. UAE release dates are, increasingly, around the same time, but can vary wildly on occasions, so check cinema listings in advance.
'The New Mutants' (Josh Boone, April 3)
The New Mutants has Fox continue the X-Men franchise, though this time with a new cast of younger superheroes headed up by Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane. The film promises a YA-tinged horror vibe rather than a traditional X-Men movie. It has already been pushed back once by Fox from its original December 2018 opening slot to August 2019, and since Disney's takeover of Fox's movie business, which initially cast doubt over the future of the entire X-Men franchise, the film has been pushed back again to 2020 for reshoots. Take the release date with a pinch of salt.
'Black Widow' (Cate Shortland, May 1)
Following the drama of last year's Avengers: Endgame Marvel kicks off Phase Four of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe with this origins story of one of the franchise's most-loved characters, the deadly Russian assassin Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. It also looks like this could be Johansson's swan song in the role. Little Women's Florence Pugh has been cast to play Yelena Belova in the film. In the comics, Belova's character is an ally and pupil of Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, and takes over the Black Widow mantle following Romanoff's death.
'Wonder Woman 1984' (Patty Jenkins, June 5)
Having made history with the big screen's first successful female-fronted superhero movie with 2017's Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot reunite for the sequel, set at the height of the Cold War in 1984. Little is known in terms of the story so far, but we do know that Chris Pine will somehow return to play Wonder Woman's sidekick and love interest Steve Trevor, despite having died in the 1940s last time around, and Kristen Wiig will enter the DC universe as supervillain Cheetah.
'Morbius' (Daniel Espinosa, July 31)
Sony continues with its own adaptations of the Marvel comic book characters it owns the rights to, most significantly those from the Spider-Man comics, with this stand-alone for Spider-Man villain Morbius the Living Vampire (Jared Leto). The first trailer came out in January, and in all honesty looks like a rip-off of DC's Batman, but for two major talking points – a mural of Spider-Man referring to the webslinger as a "murderer", seemingly (spoiler alert), referencing his framing for murder at the end of Spider-Man: Far from Home, and the return of Michael Keaton as Vulture, the villain from Spider-Man: Far from Home. All this suggests that, unlike last year's Venom, this Sony Marvel effort will exist in the legal and creative grey area of the MCU crossover world that has existed since Sony originally granted Marvel the rights to use Spider-Man in the Avengers films. It's a tangled corporate web, but fans are excited.
'The Eternals' (Chloe Zhao, November 6)
Disney's official MCU, meanwhile, returns in November with a new cast of superheroes in the shape of The Eternals – an immortal race of alien superbeings who have secretly lived on Earth for millennia and go public to protect humanity following the events of Avengers: Endgame. The film looks set to score particularly highly for diversity, with Chinese-American director Zhao taking the helm over a cast of Eternals including Mexican actress Salma Hayek, Chinese-British Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan and Pakistani comic Kumail Nanjiani, and Lauren Ridloff as cinema's first deaf superhero, Makkari.
'No Time to Die' (Cary Fukunaga, March 31)
Little introduction is needed for the 25th film in the James Bond franchise, in which Beasts of No Nation and True Detective's Fukunaga makes his directorial debut for the long-running spy yarn, while Daniel Craig will bow out as 007 after this outing. The movie has already done its own publicity, with directorial walkouts, the casting of an Arab villain, the ongoing "Idris Elba/black Bond" debate, misplaced internet furore over a potential female Bond and the hype over Billie Eilish's theme tune, so what can we say other than Bond's always good fun, and this should be no different.
F9' (Justin Lin, May 22)
Another year, another Fast & Furious film, and it will no doubt smash the box office like all the others. Paul Walker may have died, and Dwayne Johnson may have been sidelined to his own spin-off section of the franchise (Hobbs & Shaw) after a reported fallout with co-star and series producer Vin Diesel, but all the other favourites will be present. Expect to see Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Diesel himself, as well as the usual range of fast cars and crazy stunts, ably directed by series stalwart Justin Lin. Helen Mirren even drops into the supporting cast this time around to lend some unexpected gravitas, though we're not expecting any Shakespearean soliloquies from her amid all the revving and explosions.
'Top Gun: Maverick' (Joseph Kosinski, June 26)
Nostalgia aplenty as Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer (as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimer) reprise their roles from the 1986 classic, with Jon Hamm, Miles Teller and Ed Harris among the newcomers. Cruise's hotshot pilot, Maverick, is now training pilots in America's elite Top Gun school, and resolutely avoiding being "promoted" to a desk job. But the arrival of Teller as Rooster – the son of his former wingman, who died in the first film, takes him on an unexpected journey to both the past and the future.
'The King’s Man' (Matthew Vaughn, September 18)
Matthew Vaughn returns with this prequel to his Kingsman films in which Ralph Fiennes and Harris Dickinson take on the master and pupil roles in a fledgling version of the Kingsman spy organisation at the turn of 20th century. The pair will be seeking to stop a selection of tyrants and criminal masterminds from unleashing the world's bloodiest war, and while history suggests their fictional efforts didn't succeed in the real world, with a stellar cast including Gemma Arterton, Daniel Bruhl, Tom Hollander and Charles Dance it should be fun to watch them try.
'Godzilla vs Kong' (Adam Wingard, November 20)
Expect big-budget effects, supersized action and monsters as Godzilla and King Kong are brought together once again for what the film's producers insist is not a remake of the 1962 film of the same name. It seems certain to at least offer a nod to that overblown Japanese monster classic. Alexander Skarsgard stars, and it'll be interesting to see which of the monsters comes out as the "goodie" in this. Both have some history of sympathy with humans, but you wouldn't want to meet either one down a dark alley.
'Onward' (Dan Scanlon, Mar 6)
Pixar's animated elfin adventure has generated lots of buzz following its Berlin premiere over the festival's opening weekend. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt team up to voice two elf brothers seeking to bring their deceased father back to life through the power of magic in a world which, perhaps like our own, has forgotten its true power.
'Mulan' (Niki Caro, March 27)
Disney continues its mission to remake every single animated film in its library in live-action format with this new take on the 1998 adaptation of the Chinese folk tale. Reactions to Disney's previous remakes, including Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King, have been mixed, and it'll be interesting to see whether they actually go through with the entire slate of remakes they have so far announced as a result. But this one is definitely happening, and deserves praise for its use of Chinese actors, headed by Liu Yifei. Director Caro, meanwhile, may not be Chinese, but the New Zealander will be only the second woman to direct a Disney outing with a $100 million (Dh367m)-plus budget, following Ava DuVernay's 2018 A Wrinkle in Time.
'Artemis Fowl' (Kenneth Branagh, May 29)
Kenneth Branagh takes to the director's chair for this adaptation of Irish novelist Eoin Colfer's series of children's novels about the adventures of a young criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl lives in a fantasy world populated by humans, elves, goblins, dwarfs and more. In this particular version of events, the 12-year-old genius, descended from a long line of criminal geniuses before him, sets out to solve the mystery of his recently disappeared father. Judi Dench and Josh Gad are among an impressive supporting cast.
'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' (Jason Reitman, July 10)
Nobody needs reminding that Paul Feig's 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, which sex-swapped the lead characters and brought Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig into the Ghostbusters universe, was what could generously be described as a critical and commercial disaster. Undeterred, Sony has opted to return to the franchise with a direct sequel to 1989's Ghostbusters II. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver all reprise their roles from the original films, while Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard is among a new family with a mysterious connection to the original movies we'll meet.
'The Witches' (Robert Zemeckis, October 9)
Where better to look for a children's novel to adapt for the cinema than in the catalogue of Roald Dahl? Anne Hathaway takes on the role of the Grand High Witch, heading up a coven whose hobbies include kidnapping children, eating children and turning children into animals. Chris Rock and Octavia Spencer are among the supporting cast, and the ever-reliable Zemeckis directs. The novel has been adapted once before – Nicolas Roeg's 1990 version starring Anjelica Huston was loved by critics, but bombed at the box office so badly that it became the last film released by production house Lorimar. Let's hope it's not a witch's curse.
Off the beaten tack
'A Quiet Place Part II'(John Krasinski, March 20)
After the success of Krasinski's original, 2020 film about a world destroyed by aurally hypersensitive aliens, which introduced American Sign Language to mainstream cinema audiences, a sequel was always likely. Emily Blunt and child stars Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprise their roles, while director Kransinski, whose character died in the first film, will appear in flashback, with Cillian Murphy taking on living-male-lead duties. Krasinski also writes this time around as the first film's writers, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, were not interested in "a franchise approach".
'The French Dispatch' (Wes Anderson, July 24)
Is it narcissistic to feature a film described by its director as "a love letter to journalists" in this list? Possibly, but when the director in question is modern-day auteur Wes Anderson, and his ensemble cast includes the likes of Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Liev Schreiber and Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri, it's honestly hard to imagine it won't be worth watching. The film is set in the French bureau of a US newspaper in the 20th century, and will intertwine stories from the titular, fictional French Dispatch column.
'Bill and Ted Face the Music' (Dean Parisot, August 21)
It'll be intriguing to see how this belated return to 1989's sci-fi-comedy-rock adventure Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and its 1991 sequel fares with audiences. We all loved the original movies if we're of a certain age, but 30 years later, will we be a bit past the bodacious antics of our heavy metal-loving heroes? Equally, will younger audiences find the whole thing a bit prehistoric? We don't know yet, but there's no denying that Keanu Reeves, aka Ted, can currently do no wrong in Hollywood, while the career of Alex Winter, aka Bill, could certainly use a lift. We'll keep our fingers crossed for a successful return to a film we loved but that on the surface appears very much of its time.
'The Many Saints of Newark' (Alan Taylor, September 25)
Did you cry when the HBO smash The Sopranos came to a somewhat anticlimactic end? Did you cry again when its lead, James Gandolfini, suddenly passed away from a heart attack in Rome, in 2013, suggesting we would never again return to the world of Tony Soprano and his mafia pals? Well, weep no more – this prequel was written by Sopranos creator David Chase and casts Gandolfini's son Michael as a young Tony in a story detailing the early days of his mob. John Bernthal, Ray Liotta and Vera Farmiga co-star.
'Dune' (Denis Villeneuve, December 18)
Frank Herbert's 1965, Hugo Award-winning novel has already been the subject of one movie adaptation in the shape of David Lynch's 1984 film. It probably wasn't among Lynch's best work, though it probably didn't deserve quite the level of scorn heaped on it at the time, and at least it introduced the world to Kyle MacLachlan in his first major role. For this new version of Herbert's multilayered Game of Thrones-meets-Narcos inspace epic, Denis Villeneuve takes the reins and casts a huge ensemble of leads including Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Zendaya.