By Matt Wood
2018 is officially in the rearview mirror, and it was a banner year for movies. With a total domestic box office haul of more than $11 billion, millions of people kept going back to the theater — even if it was just to see Black Panther for the fourth time. And while awards season is keeping our attention on last year's films, 2019 has a lot to offer other than the long-awaited conclusions of two of cinema's greatest sagas: Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Episode IX. From the anticipated big-screen return of Bill Skarsgård's terrifying Pennywise to Timothée Chalamet's Netflix reign, this year has something for everyone — and for every platform.
So let's take a look at some of the releases, big and small, you should have on your radar this year. Don't forget to mark your calendars now.
Shia LaBeouf has certainly led an interesting (and meme-able) life, but he’s returning to his roots in Honey Boy, a movie inspired by his own life and complicated relationship with his father. Written by LaBeouf, the film spans a decade and follows a young child actor (Lucas Hedges) attempting to mend his relationship with his ex-rodeo clown, alcohol-abusing father (LaBeouf). That’s a few different levels of meta, and it’s not every day that you get a movie where the subject essentially plays his dad. Directed by Alma Har’el (LoveTrue), Honey Boy will premiere at Sundance Film Festival on January 25.
Better late than never! After 10 years and 20 movies, Marvel Studios’ first female-led film will introduce fans to Brie Larson’s powerful and highly anticipated superhero, Captain Marvel. Set in the '90s, Captain Marvel follows Carol Danvers (Larson), an AirForce pilot-turned-amnesiac warrior of the alien Kree race who travels to Earth to learn the secrets of her past and stop an intergalactic war from ravaging the planet. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film also stars Jude Law, Annette Bening, and a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson. The movie arrives right before Avengers: Endgame, which will reportedly bring Captain Marvel into the fold to defeat Thanos.
Ever since the release of his smash-hit psychological horror flick Get Out, fans have been foaming at the mouth to learn more about Jordan Peele’s follow-up, Us. The unsettling film is a spin on the home-invasion genre and follows a family of four who are under attack by their creepy doppelgängers. Starring Black Panther’s Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke as #mom and #dad, Us takes the idea that we are our own worst enemy very literally. March 15 can’t get here soon enough.
If you still have a musical biopic itch that needs scratching after Bohemian Rhapsody, then look no further than Rocketman. Directed by Dexter Fletcher (who coincidentally stepped in to finish directing Bohemian Rhapsody), the movie follows the life of Elton John, from his early days at the Royal Academy of Music to his eventual musical partnership with Bernie Taupin. Taron Egerton steps into the dazzling outfits of the legendary piano man, and the actor already proved that he has the pipes to nail Elton’s iconic discography in 2016’s animated musical-comedy Sing. If nothing else, this movie is definitely a toe-tapper. It arrives March 31.
What would happen if you were to suddenly be transformed into your teenage self? That’s the general concept behind Little, an idea that was pitched by 13-year-old Black-ish star Marsai Martin. Prolific producer Will Packer (Girls Trip, Think Like a Man, Ride Along) is on board to produce, while Tina Gordon (Peeples) directs. Not content to just come up with Little and star in it, Martin is also attached as its executive producer. Issa Rae from HBO’s Insecure joins the teen multi-hyphenate in the family-friendly comedy as her overworked, underpaid assistant. Little is slated to hit theaters on April 12.
The Sun Is Also a Star
Young Adult movies don’t perform very well at the box office these days, but following the success of Netflix's To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, could The Sun Is Also a Star be the next YA studio hit? Based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, the story follows a young girl who inexplicably falls in love with a boy 12 hours before her family is set to be deported to Jamaica. Yara Shahidi (Black-ish, Grown-ish) and Charles Melton (Riverdale) star as the central couple, while Ry-Russo Young (Nobody Walks) directs. The timely romance is set to be released on May 17.
Toy Story 4
Toy Story 3 was pretty much the perfect ending, but anytime Pixar returns to its most successful (and best) franchise is worth our attention. It’s had some behind-the-scenes shake-ups — most notably, former Pixar and Disney Animation exec John Lasseter stepping down as director prior to his departure from the studio. (He has an original story credit on the film, and it's unclear how Lasseter's history of misconduct at Pixar will affect the film's press cycle.). Toy Story 4 has been described as a romantic comedy, and it finds Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the gang reuniting with the long-lost Bo Peep — the object of Woody's affection. Along for the ride is Tony Hale’s Forky, a spork-turned-toy that suffers an understandable existential crisis. Look out for it on June 21.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino is back and he’s brought the most handsome cast in Hollywood with him. While originally thought to be about the Charles Manson murders, the film instead uses the murders as a backdrop to tell a story set during that fateful summer of 1969 in Hollywood. Throw a stone at any awards after-party and you’ll probably hit someone acting in this movie. The ensemble is huge but the core cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio as TV star Rick Dalton, Brad Pitt as his stunt double Cliff Booth, and Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is scheduled to arrive in theaters on July 26.
IT: Chapter 2
Have you almost recovered from your fear of clowns? Well, call your therapist because Pennywise is back to haunt your nightmares in IT: Chapter 2. The sequel to 2017’s horror hit, the film picks up 30 years after the Losers’ Club defeated the evil entity. Now emotionally damaged adults, the Losers return to Derry, Maine to end the evil clown’s child-feeding frenzy once and for all. IT: Chapter 2 has an all-star cast that includes James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), Bill Hader (Ritchie), Jay Ryan (Ben), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), James Ranson (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stan), and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise.
Here’s a comic book movie that ditches the cape and cowl for the Irish mob and a 1970s setting. Based on the DC imprint Vertigo comic of the same name, The Kitchen follows three mob wives who must take over the family business in Hell’s Kitchen after their husbands are sent to prison. The very talented trio of Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss star as the women who take to the cutthroat mob lifestyle very quickly with Andrea Berloff making her directorial debut. The movie arrives in theaters on September 20.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
People are still drying their tears from the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, but you can never have too many movies about Mr. Rogers — especially when that movie stars America’s dad, Tom Hanks. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood follows a cynical journalist (Matthew Rhys) who is assigned to do a profile for Esquire on beloved TV icon, Fred Rogers (Hanks). The story is based on a real 1998 profile, and it’s probably going to give you the warm fuzzies before the credits roll. The film is directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and will release on October 18.
Based on the classic 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women is once again gracing screens this Christmas. As her follow-up to the critically beloved Lady Bird, indie powerhouse Greta Gerwig both wrote and directed the film, and she’s assembled quite the adored cast. Playing the March sisters are Emma Watson, Lady Bird's Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlon, with heartthrob Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep rounding out the cast. This is the eighth time Little Women has been adapted, and Gerwig's version will focus more on the Marchs' young adult life — because even those raised in the 1800s did not escape the universal experience of adolescent awkwardness.
Are you a fan of Timothée Chalamet? What about Shakespearean plays? What if Chalamet was in one of those plays? As a king? Well, do we have the movie for you. It’s called The King, which is based on William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. Chalamet stars as young, disgraced Prince Hal (a.k.a. Henry V), who inherits the crown and must learn what it means to be a king, guided by his one true friend, Falstaff (Joel Edgerton). David Michod (Animal Kingdom) directs, and the cast includes Robert Pattinson, Lily-Rose Depp, and Ben Mendelsohn. The film is poised to hit Netflix sometime this year.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Netflix continues to grow its ever-expanding library of original films with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Based on a true story and a novel of the same name, it follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba, who saves his village in Malawi from famine by learning how to build a windmill. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor wrote the script and will make his directorial debut with the film. He’ll also star as William’s father, making him a real triple threat on this feature. The movie is expected to arrive in 2019.
Netflix is going big with The Irishman, the long-gestating passion project from Martin Scorsese that follows the life of alleged mob hitman, Frank Sheeran. This thing has Oscar written all over it. Scorsese reunites with Robert De Niro, who leads a cast that includes Al Pacino and a fresh-out-of-retirement Joe Pesci. That alone is worth the price of admission — or the price of a Netflix subscription, in this case. The Irishman reportedly boasts groundbreaking technology that digitally de-aged De Niro to play the title role throughout the many phases of his life and had a budget of a whopping $200 million. Here's hoping the streamer's big bet pays off when the film hits your Netflix queue later this year.