Top 25 Most Anticipated Studio Films of 2019
And between the remakes, prequels, sequels, reboots and rehashes pouring out of the Hollywood studio system, we sift through the detritus of continual superhero output to celebrate auteurs and innovative up-and-comers who will be presenting studio material in 2019.
#25. It: Chapter Two – Andy Muschietti
#24. Hellboy – Neil Marshall
#23. The Goldfinch – John Crowley
#22. Miss Bala – Catherine Hardwicke
#21. The Good Liar – Bill Condon
All eyes are on Andy Muschietti with It: Chapter Two, the follow-up to the lauded 2017 chapter which partially adapted Stephen King’s celebrated horror novel. This time around, Muschetti’s working in the modern-day portion of the narrative and has assembled a glitzy cast which includes Jessica Chastain (who headlined Muschietti’s Mama, 2013), James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Xavier Dolan with Bill Skarsgard returning as Pennywise. Though it’s a reboot of a character initially originated onscreen by Guillermo Del Toro (sacrilege!), the upcoming remake of Hellboy will be the first cinematic offering we’ve had from Neil Marshall since 2010’s Centurion, and any reason to get the master filmmaker of The Descent (2005) behind the camera is cause for excitement. Following the massive success of 2015’s Brooklyn, John Crowley nabs Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson in The Goldfinch. Next, we have two Twilight luminaries with new projects on deck—Catherine Hardwicke remakes Gerardo Naranjo’s 2011 breakout Miss Bala with Gina Rodriguez, and Bill Condon reunites with his Gods & Monsters star Ian McKellen for The Good Liar (which also features Helen Mirren).
#20. Ford v. Ferrari – James Mangold
#19. Grudge – Nicolas Pesce
#18. Triple Frontier – J.C. Chandor
#17. The King – David Michod
#16. 1917 – Sam Mendes
James Mangold has the high-profile Ford v. Ferrari up next in 2019, and Nicolas Pesce, who with quick succession went from breakout debut The Eyes of My Mother in 2016 to a Murakami adaptation with Piercing (2018), tries his hand at franchise glory with a reboot of Grudge, which originally unfurled in the 2000s J-horror craze (with Takashi Shimizu remaking 2002’s Ju-on in the 2004 Sarah Michelle Gellar led English version). Can you believe it’s been five years since J.C. Chandor premiered A Most Violent Year (2014)? Well he’s back with the oft-delayed man-heavy Triple Frontier. Australia’s David Michod stays with Netflix (following 2017’s critical misfire War Machine) for The King, which is populated by a slew of contemporary headliners (included Timothee Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, who was in Michod’s 2014 film The Rover). And then Sam Mendes, finally free of the James Bond shackles, will return to something more original with his WWI drama 1917.
#15. Untitled Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis Project – Danny Boyle
#14. Knives Out – Rian Johnson
#13. Gemini Man – Ang Lee
#12. Flarsky – Jonathan Levine
#11. The Woman in the Window – Joe Wright
Danny Boyle’s untitled new project, about the only remaining musician who remembers The Beatles, was penned by writer director Richard Curtis. Rian Johnson, taking a break from Star Wars, gets around to the peppy sounding murder mystery Knives Out, which might be fun considering he’s amassed a cast featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer and Toni Collette. Though his 2016 visual experiment Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk might have been the most interesting thing you should have seen in a theater but likely did not, Ang Lee returns with a sci-fi assassin drama, Gemini Man, featuring Will Smith and Clive Owen. And while Jonathan Levine resurrected Goldie Hawn with mixed results in 2017’s Snatched, he scores Charlize Theron in Flarsky. Joe Wright helms The Woman in the Window, with the supreme Tracy Letts adapting A.J. Finn’s novel for a thriller starring Julianne Moore, Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, who won Best Actor for Wright’s The Darkest Hour (2017).
#10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Marielle Heller
#9. The Turning – Flora Sigismondi
#8. The Rhythm Section – Reed Morano
#7. Dolemite Is My Name – Craig Brewer
#6. Little Women – Greta Gerwig
While she may have been unfairly overlooked during 2018’s award season for directing Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Marielle Heller has the high-profile Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks on the horizon. Though she’s been incredibly active in music videos and television since 2010’s The Runaways, 2019 will see the return of Italy’s Flora Sigismondi with a new take on Henry James with The Turning. Following her 2017 indie sci-fi I Think We’re Alone Now, Reed Morano helms the big-budget revenge thriller The Rhythm Section starring Blake Lively, Sterling K. Brown and Jude Law. And though his 2011 remake of Footloose seems a forgivable hiccup, we’re beyond thrilled to see the return of Craig Brewer with Dolemite Is My Name, starring Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore, the actor who embodied Blaxploitation icon Dolemite in a series of 1970s films. A stellar supporting cast includes Wesley Snipes, T.I., Craig Robinson, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, Titus Burgess and Keeghan-Michael Key (and promises to be a return to meaningful territory for Brewer, as evidenced by early titles Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan in 2005 and 2006). And while Louisa May Alcott had plenty of other novels worthy of adaptation, we’re of course curious to see what Greta Gerwig does with her high-profile remake of Little Women, which has a lot to live up to considering the many various remakes, which include notable turns for Katharine Hepburn in the 1933 George Cukor version and Winona Ryder in Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version.
#5. Queen & Slim – Melina Matsoukas
She’s directed music videos for Ludacris, Lady Gaga, Eve, Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé (including the iconic “Lemonade”). Cutting her teeth in television with “Master of None” and “Insecure,” director Melina Matsoukas makes her directorial debut with Queen & Slim, written by Lena Waithe and starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith (of Janicza Bravo’s Lemon) as a couple whose first date heads south when they’re pulled over by a police officer.
#4. The Irishman – Martin Scorsese
And Netflix scores again with its funding of Martin Scorsese’s one-hundred-million dollar The Irishman, the high-profile, high-caliber project featuring all the director’s old favorites, including Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino (playing Jimmy Hoffa). It’ll be interesting to see if the Netflix/Cannes drama of 2018 will pave the way for Palme d’or winning Scorsese to enter the competition, which is a distinction this would presumably deserve.
#3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino
And Tarantino returns with the highly anticipated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is an expose of 1969 La La Land amidst the terror of the Charlie Manson murders. The film’s focus is a faded TV actor and his stunt double (Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio) but a slew of notables enliven the infamous victims and perpetrators, namely Margot Robbie as the tragic Sharon Tate, Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme and Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring while Tarantino mainstays Kurt Russell and Tim Roth are also on hand.
#2. Ad Astra – James Gray
Three years after the underrated The Lost City of Z (2016), James Gray’s sci-fi epic Ad Astra is finally ready for 2019, promising to be in the vein of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and featuring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga.
#1. Us – Jordan Peele
And who could not be excited for Jordan Peele’s follow-up to 2017’s Get Out, which contemporized notions behind The Stepford Wives for one of the most successful executed social commentaries of recent memory? Slated to open SXSW and starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss, Peele brings us Us, something resembling a violent cross between Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, 2007) or David Moreau & Xavier Palud’s 2006 title Them (which was more-or-less the basis for the US title The Strangers, 2008) with Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.