The start of a new decade is always a good time to take stock. While there appears to be no end in sight to the increasingly polarising culture wars, we think there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of cinema. With that in mind, we’ve picked out 30 forthcoming releases to add to your watch list, including new work by some of our favourite filmmakers and talented up-and-comers we’re earmarking for greatness. Check back tomorrow for part two of our 2020 preview, and let us know which films you’re most looking forward to @LWLies
1. Rose Plays Julie
Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy seem to love making films, and we definitely love watching them. Expanding on themes such as identity, guilt and revenge – previously explored in Helen and Mister John – Rose Plays Julie is a taut psychodrama telling the story of a young woman’s attempt to reconnect with her biological parents who have no desire to meet her.
2. A Hidden Life
Released 17 January
Terrence Malick spent three years editing A Hidden Life, a World War Two drama in which August Diehl and Valerie Pachner fight for what is right. Profound inner silence drives this intimate story based on the real life of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector turned martyr. Prepare for astounding cinematography, intense performances and an experience that will stay with you for a while, in the typical Terrence Malick fashion.
Released 14 February
From shooting campaign videos for Prada to directing the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Autumn de Wilde’s first feature-length drama has Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Cotton tailoring the script and Anya Taylor-Joy alongside Johnny Flynn starring as Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley.
4. Little Joe
Released 21 February
The English-language debut from Lourdes and Amour Fou director Jessica Hausner was one of our highlights of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw are plant biologists plunged into a tale of horticultural horror, with themes of motherhood and fertility also coming to the fore.
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Released 28 February
Girlhood director Céline Sciamma opts for a lack of musical score to emphasise the precise choreography of the shot sequences, the rhythm of the bodies and the specific camera movements. This romantic drama revolves around a female artist asked to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman at the end of the 18th century.
6. Richard Jewell
Released 31 January
From national hero to FBI target; director Clint Eastwood tells the story of security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) whose discovery of an explosive device saved thousands of lives and changed his forever. The powerful influence of the media is heavily explored in this film driven by morality.
7. Birds of Prey
Released 7 February
Harley Quinn is back. The Joker, not so much. Margot Robbie stars alongside Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jurnee Smollett-Bell forming the group Birds of Prey, attempting to save a young girl from an evil crime lord. An (almost) all-female antihero film? Yes please.
Released 28 February
On an island where time has lost all meaning, two children must fight to secure their long term happiness. Benh Zeitlin’s second feature treads in the paw-prints of 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, merging fantasy with human drama. The promising young director has once again opted to cast unknown child actors.
9. The Last Thing He Wanted
Based on Joan Didion’s 1966 Orange-Prize winning novel with the same name, Mudbound director Dee Ree’s new crime drama stars Ben Affleck, Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe and Rosie Perez – all of whom have starred in DC films. A guilt-propelled errand for her father pushes a journalist to become the subject of the very story she is trying to break.
10. Bergman Island
Mia Wasikowska and Vicky Krieps make the pilgrimage to the same island that inspired famed Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, before the lines between fiction and reality start to blur. Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest sounds like a dream, and we’re expecting it to make an appearance at a major film festival early in the year.
11. The Invisible Man
Released 28 February
In 1993, Elisabeth Moss voiced Kimmy Ventrix in an episode of Batman the Animated Series in which an invisible man attempted to abduct his daughter. Twenty seven years later she returns to play Cecilia in Upgrade director Leigh Whannell’s latest horror, attempting to prove that she is being haunted by someone nobody can see. Coincidence?
12. West Side Story
Released 18 December
West Side Story is Steven Spielberg’s last musical following the failure of his Reel for Reel project. The latest film adaptation of Arthur Laurent’s novel, with a screenplay tailored by Fences producer Tony Kushner, tells the story of forbidden love and the rivalry between two teenage street gangs.
13. In the Heights
Released 26 June
Director Jon M Chu has drawn inspiration from Do the Right Thing and Annie Hall to create a feature-length version of the Broadway hit In the Heights. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Stephanie Beatriz star in this musical drama about a bodega owner with conflicting feelings about retiring to the Dominican Republic after inheriting his grandmother’s fortune.
14. Top Gun: Maverick
Released 17 July
Although publicly confirmed by Cruise in a 2002 interview, Top Gun’s sequel will be released 34 years after the original – meaning that Maverick is now older than Tom Skerritt’s Viper was in 1986. Expect to see plenty of high-octane aerial sequences, as Cruise’s condition for his involvement in this project was no CGI.
15. Halloween Kills
Released 16 October
The second modern instalment of the Michael Myers/Laurie Strode saga again stars Anthony Michael Hall and Jaime Lee Curtis. Announced in September 2019, indie sweetheart Robert Longstreet joins the cast as adult Lonnie Elam, who bullied Tommy and tried to make him believe that the boogeyman was coming after him in the 1978 original.
In 1840s England, a fossil hunter and a young woman develop an intense relationship that would change both of their lives. Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet star in God’s Own Country director Francis Lee’s drama, which was filmed in West Dorset where the real Mary Anning lived and worked.
Released 18 December
Director Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction follow-up to Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 boasts an awesome cast, with Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Javier Bardem among the biggest name. This adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel, which the director describes as “Star Wars for adults”, will be split into two films in order to preserve the story.
18. Raya and the Last Dragon
Released 27 November
From Crazy Rich Asians writer Adele Lim and Paul Briggs, head of story on Frozen and Big Hero 6, comes Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. In a reimagined Earth inhabited by ancient civilisations, a warrior from a kingdom known as Lumandra embarks on a journey in search of the last dragon.
There are few living filmmakers as irreverent and inventive as Leos Carax. The French surrealist’s long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Holy Motors details the life of a widowed stand-up comedian and his young daughter. Adam Driver and Michelle Williams stand to make this Carax’s most wide-reaching work. Oh, and it’s a musical.
Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodrigues and Richard Jenkins, Miranda July’s Kajillionaire is her first directorial effort since 2011’s The Future. This crime drama tells the story of a girl whose life turns upside down when her parents include an outsider in a major heist.
21. The Whistlers
Released 10 April
Expect neo-noir suspense, deadpan comedy and beautiful cinematography in Police, Adjective director Corneliu Porumboiu’s intricate crime drama. A policeman must learn an unusual regional dialect consisting of hissing and whistling to free a dubious businessman from a prison in the Canaries.
22. The Nest
Eight years after his sensational debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, writer/director Sean Durkin returns with a drama starring Jude Law, Carrie Coon and Oona Roche. An ambitious entrepreneur and his American family move to his native England, only to plunge into despair as this life altering event would change their lives forever.
It promises to be a big year for The Rider director Chloé Zhao. While there’s the small matter of her MCU offering, The Eternals, we’re more excited for Nomadland. Starring Frances McDormand, David Strathairn and Linda May, this tells the story of a woman in her sixties who loses everything in the Great Recession and embarks on a journey through the American West living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
24. On the Rocks
The Oscar-winning Lost in Translation powerhouse duo, Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray, reunite in On the Rocks, the first announced film under the new A24 and Apple partnership. The film tells the story of a young mother who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father in an adventure through New York.
Released 17 July
Almost nothing has been revealed about director Christopher Nolan’s return to the sci-fi genre, but we’re ridiculously excited all the same. Just check out the first official trailer. With Hoyte van Hoytema on DoP duties and an A-list cast, including Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and John David Washington, it doesn’t get much bigger than this.
American actor-cum-filmmaker Josephine Decker directs Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg in this adaptation of Susan Scarf Merrell’s 2014 novel. Inspiration strikes when a horror writer and her significant other take in a young couple. Following a handful of strong independent features, including the sublime Madeline’s Madeline, this might be the film to nudge Decker into the big leagues.
27. Untitled Lou Reed/Velvet Underground Project
Todd Haynes is no stranger when it comes to the non-traditionalist exploration of music legends with films like Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not Here. What makes his upcoming Velvet Underground project special is that it’s Haynes’s first examination of a music figure within the documentary genre. Haynes admitted that the film will rely heavily on Warhol films but also a rich culture of experimental film.
28. Last Night in Soho
Released 18 September
Supposedly inspired by Don’t Look Now and Repulsion, Edward Wright’s first non-comedic horror stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith. Last Night in Soho tells the story of a young woman with a passion for fashion who mysteriously enters the 1960s and meets her idol.
Depicting the twilight years of notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone, as portrayed by a prosthetic-laden Tom Hardy, Fonzo is certainly an interesting career choice for Fantastic Four director Josh Trank. He’s backed up by a supporting cast of Kyle MacLachlan, Linda Cardellini and Matt Dillon though. Fingers crossed it doesn’t turn out to be another Gangster Squad/Legend.
David Fincher means must see. Initially planned to launch after The Game in 1997, the studio did not agree with Fincher’s preference to shoot it in a Citizen-Kane inspired black and white. At the time, Fincher wanted Kevin Spacey to star, but now, almost 23 years later, it’s Gary Oldman in the title role.