With the Oscars (and the January/February doldrums) out of the way, your local multiplex’s offerings are about to get interesting. From buzzy blockbusters like Captain Marvel and Jordan Peele’s Us to stranger, smaller films like Her Smell and High Life, spring is packed with exciting premieres.
Of the upcoming slate, we’ve picked out the 40 most interesting titles to add to your must-see list this spring, covering all genres and tones so you can be sure there’s something for everybody.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, opening March 1
After gracing screens in films ranging from Love Actually to 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor establishes himself a triple threat with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Ejiofor wrote, directed, and starred in the film, which he adapted from the memoir of the same name by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. As a teenager, Kamkwamba (portrayed here by Maxwell Simba) provided electricity for his village through wind power, hence the book and film’s name.
Directed by Gaspar Noé, opening March 1
French filmmaker Gaspar Noé is the known provocateur behind such affecting films as Irréversible, Enter the Void, Love, I Stand Alone. Climax is no exception to the rule, though there’s more beauty in it than one might expect. The film almost entirely takes place in a single compound as a dance troupe’s rehearsal goes south due to a batch of spiked sangria. If you didn’t believe in the power of body language before, you will now.
Directed by Neil Jordan, opening March 1
When Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) finds an abandoned purse on the subway, she’s quick to return it to its rightful owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert). The two of them become fast friends, Frances having just lost her mother and Greta a widow. But things quickly spiral as Greta’s motives are revealed to be ... not what they seem. Director Neil Jordan — of The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire, and more recently the vampire thriller Byzantium — has concocted a film that may have a familiar premise, but also has a corker of a cast.
This Magnificent Cake!
Directed by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels, opening March 1
Story aside, the eye-poppingly lovely stop motion animation in This Magnificent Cake! worth a recommendation. The film, directed by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels, is an anthology film, pulling five stories set in the Belgium-occupied Congo that pull at that colonial history. The title of the film itself refers to that history; in a statement as to Belgium’s ambitions to get in on the colonization of Africa, King Leopold II referred to the continent as “this magnificent African cake.”
The Wedding Guest
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, opening March 1
Like The Trip films done with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, Michael Winterbottom’s The Wedding Guest features a road trip, but it’s a much more somber, much less improvised affair. Dev Patel plays Jay, who arrives in Pakistan to kidnap Samira (Radhika Apte), who puts up no resistance as she is about to enter into an arranged marriage she doesn’t want. As the two travel through Pakistan and India, they begin to learn more about each other, for better or worse.
Woman at War
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, opening March 1
There’s already an English remake of Woman at War in the works with Jodie Foster, but in the meanwhile, try the original, which takes place in the Icelandic highlands. Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir stars as Halla, a choir conductor who decides that something must be done in order to stop a Rio Tinto aluminium plant. Also on her plate is the prospect of parenthood, as her application to adopt a child from Ukraine is approved. As she juggles the two responsibilities, so too does the government increase their efforts to catch her.
Directed by Khalik Allah, opening March 8
The footage in the documentary Black Mother ranges from black and white 16mm film to digital recordings, all in the service of painting a cohesive picture of Jamaica. Filmmaker Khalik Allah captures testimonies from residents of all generations on the island, grappling with the nation’s turbulent past — as well as its present. City and countryside; sacred and profane; subjective and objective; it’s a film that’s full of contradictions, and yet presents a cohesive whole.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, opening March 8
Marvel’s first woman-led superhero movie flies into theaters in March on the back of a not-insignificant amount of hype. With Brie Larson in the title role and a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson (also: a cat) co-starring, the film will properly introduce the Skrulls and Kree to the big-screen Marvel universe (following brief appearances from Ronan the Accuser and Korath the Pursuer), and dig into the origins of SHIELD.
An Elephant Sitting Still
Directed by Hu Bo, opening March 8
An Elephant Sitting Still is the first and last film by Hu Bo, a former novelist who committed suicide soon after finishing the movie. Based on a story of his of the same title, the film centers on four people who travel to see a mythical elephant at the Manzhouli zoo. The pilgrimage to see the creature is an effort to find hope, as they struggle to feel any in their mundane everyday lives.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio, opening March 8
With Gloria Bell, Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman) joins the ranks of directors, including Michael Haneke (Funny Games) and Hans Petter Moland (Cold Pursuit), who have helmed the English language remakes of their own films. The original Gloria, released in 2013, starred Paulina García as the title character; Gloria Bell stars Julianne Moore as the divorcée, who works in an office by day and goes dancing by night. A new romance with Arnold (John Turturro) shakes things up.
Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, opening March 8
Billy the Kid returns to the big screen, this time in the form of A Cure for Wellness star Dane DeHaan. Directed by and co-starring Vincent D’Onofrio, the film follows Billy the Kid as he’s looped in to help a boy (Jake Schur) save his kidnapped sister (Leila George). The film also stars D’Onofrio’s The Magnificent Seven co-stars Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt, both back in Western garb, though Pratt is playing against type as a villain.
Ash is Purest White
Directed by Jia Zhangke, opening March 15
Though Ash is Purest White is nominally a gangster film — against the backdrop of 2001 Datong, Qiao (Zhao Tao) and Bin (Liao Fan) are staking their claim against rival mobsters, and pay the price for it — it is, like all of Jia Zhangke’s work, more of a record of the way that modern China has changed and grown. Comedic and tragic in equal measure, the film takes on an epic scope as it travels through time, chronicling a relationship and the forces (of their own making or of pure circumstance) that affect it.
Directed by Rupert Wyatt, opening March 15
If you’ve always wanted to see John Goodman lead a rebellion against an extraterrestrial occupation, boy have I got good news for you. Captive State is a sci-fi crime thriller that pits human against alien and has Goodman take on the responsibility of uniting humanity against their oppressors. First on the call list is Gabriel (Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders), as the Chicago neighborhood they live in starts to broil with tension between collaborators and dissidents.
The Hummingbird Project
Directed by Kim Nguyen, opening March 15
The pairing of Alexander Skarsgård and Jesse Eisenberg may seem unlikely, particularly when it turns out that Skarsgård is playing the brains, and Eisenberg is playing the muscle. But that’s the core of The Hummingbird Project, which sees the actors cast as cousins Anton and Vincent, who enter into the world of high-frequency trading as they attempt to build a straight fiber-optic cable between Kansas and New Jersey. Naturally, however, there are those who would seek to stop or exploit them, thrusting the pair into thriller territory.
Directed by Jordan Peele, opening March 15
After throwing audiences for a loop with his directorial debut, 2017’s Get Out, Jordan Peele is back with another horror humdinger: Us. The first trailer should be enough to give you a sense of the plot — doppelgangers run amok, terrorizing Adelaide and Gabe (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children — as well as scare the living daylights out of you. Never has Luniz sounded so ominous.
The Beach Bum
Directed by Harmony Korine, opening March 22
The mind behind Spring Breakers delivers what looks like a spiritual sequel: The Beach Bum, which features Jimmy Buffett, the Mayor of Margaritaville, as himself. In case you need a little more persuading, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as a beach bum named “Moondog,” as well as rapper Snoop Dogg as “Lingerie,” Zac Efron as “Flicker,” and Martin Lawrence as “Captain Wack.”
Directed by Tim Burton, opening March 29
Of all of the reboots and remakes coming out of Disney, Dumbo looks to be the strangest, which may have a little to do with the fact that it’s helmed by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands). He’s cast two of his Batman Returns stars (Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito) in the tale of a little elephant who learns how to fly, as well as Colin Farrell and Eva Green, who round out the human cast.
Directed by Julia Hart, opening March 29
Fast Color is the rare, small-scoped superhero movie, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a woman whose supernatural abilities attract pursuers. Complicating matters is the discovery that her young daughter (Saniyya Sidney) possesses powers, too. At first glance, the film has more in common with Jeff Nichols’ superb Take Shelter than any of the Marvel or DC stable, suggesting that the superhero genre is one that is rife with potential, whenever we have filmmakers keen enough to mine it.
Directed by Sarah Daggar-Nickson, opening March 29
The revenge fantasy film takes on a novel angle in Sarah Daggar-Nickson’s debut feature. Sadie (Olivia Wilde) is a domestic abuse survivor, and as she connects with the people in her support group, decides to take action into her own hands. She stops just short of killing perpetrators of domestic violence in her quest for justice, training in and then using Krav Maga to make sure they’ll never cause harm again.
Directed by Claire Denis, opening April 5
French director Claire Denis’ first English-language film is also space-bound, and lands with a splash following its world premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film follows a group of criminals (including Mia Goth and André Benjamin) sentenced to a mission to deep space. Robert Pattinson plays the sole survivor, and as the film unfolds, the mystery of exactly what happened on the ship unravels, as does the ultimate purpose of their journey.
Directed by Mike Leigh, opening April 5
Absolute ledge Mike Leigh’s latest feature, Peterloo, is about what its title implies, i.e. the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Two-hundred years after the fact, the film is appropriately epic in scope (unusual in relation to the smaller scale Leigh is better known for) as it deals with an event that sent significant ripples through British history, including the founding of The Guardian. Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake are among the film’s (expansive) cast.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, opening April 5
Though the mileage you’re likely to get out of Shazam! depends in some small part on what you make of flossing, DC’s attempt at bringing its Big-esque hero to the big screen looks like a charm. When 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) encounters an ancient wizard, he’s given the power to transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) simply by uttering a magic word. Hint: It’s the title of the film.
Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, opening April 5
As the Stephen King-aissance continues, Pet Sematary comes back to life with a second film adaptation (the first premiered in 1989). For anyone unfamiliar with the source material, Pet Sematary revolves around a cemetery for pets that has the power to bring those buried there back to life. Naturally, things spiral out of control when the newly arrived Creed family discovers just what’s going on. Just remember: Sometimes, dead is better.
Directed by Matteo Garone, opening April 12
The cartoonishness of leading man Marcello Fonte’s features performances is once again deployed to devastating effect in Matteo Garrone’s Dogman. Fonte plays a dog groomer who falls upon trouble when one of his friends, the thuggish Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce), becomes increasingly aggressive and exploitative. As Simoncino’s behavior grows worse, the events of the film grow more harrowing, a far cry from the affability that Fonte projects at the beginning of the film.
Directed by Neil Marshall, opening April 12
This particular version of Hellboy seems more Deadpool than del Toro, but the important part is that everyone’s favorite big, red, candy-loving half-demon is back on the big screen. David Harbour stars, with Ian McShane as monster dad (monster daddy?) Professor Bruttenholm, and Sasha Lane, Milla Jovovich, and Daniel Dae Kim in roles yanked from the comics. Thomas Haden Church has also been cast as Lobster Johnson, which is now the only thing I will be able to think about until April.
Directed by Alex Ross Perry, opening April 12
The last year has been unusually rife with films about rock stars, but the best of the bunch may be Her Smell. Elisabeth Moss is electric as Becky Something, the lead singer of ’90s, all-female, punk-rock band Something She. Now on the other side of Something She’s glory days, Becky struggles with motherhood, friendship, and sobriety, straining the relationships that are most important to her and threatening to throw off the fate of her band.
Directed by Tina Gordon, opening April 12
A sort of reverse Big or 13 Going on 30, Little zaps tech mogul Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) back into her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin). Along for the ride is her assistant April (Issa Rae), whose relationship with her tyrannical boss naturally takes on a new spin as Jordan is forced to play the part of a child (and, naturally, reassess her attitude). The idea for the film was Martin’s, who also serves as executive producer on the film in a move that would make Sanders proud.
Directed by Chris Butler, opening April 12
The stop-motion animation studio Laika has perfected the art of “extremely cute and yet somehow still slightly creepy,” as evidenced by Coraline and ParaNorman, and it’s bringing that talent to bear with Missing Link. Though Laika’s newest film has a less inherently spooky premise — Sir Frost (Hugh Jackman) sets off in search of a legendary creature named Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) — it still looks plenty kooky, as Link seems to be half monkey, half man.
Under the Silver Lake
Directed by David Robert Mitchell, opening April 19
David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to It Follows is just as colorful, but not nearly as malevolent. Sam (Andrew Garfield) develops a crush on his neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough), and when she goes missing, he takes it upon himself to find her and figure out what’s going on. As he digs further into her disappearance, he finds himself in the middle of a much larger conspiracy.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, opening April 26
Watching half of the world’s population get snapped out of existence by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War may have been upsetting, but there’s no point in pretending we don’t know that that’s somehow going to be resolved in Avengers: Endgame. The whole gang will presumably be back; I refuse to believe that anyone is permanently dead.
Directed by Chris Addison, opening May 10
Every iteration of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a delight, whether it’s the 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, or the 2005 musical. The latest take on the material is The Hustle, starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway as two con artists determined to out-con each other, with Alex Sharp, soon to be seen in the Game of Thrones prequel series, as the subject of their efforts. If you need any more insight as to what the vibe of the piece is meant to be like, just know that the working title was Nasty Women.
Directed by Rob Letterman, opening May 10
I know that, logically speaking, furry CG Detective Pikachu is better than smooth CG Detective Pikachu, but ... I don’t know, I have questions that need answering. Beyond that: Ryan Reynolds is Pikachu. Pikachu is a detective. Detective Pikachu solves crimes (presumably). I will retract everything negative I’ve ever said about him if he arrests Mr. Mime.
Directed by Zara Hayes, opening May 10
Occupying this year’s Mamma Mia- and Book Club-adjacent feel-good spot is Poms. Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, and Phyllis Somerville star as the residents of a retirement community who decide to start up a cheerleading squad — and compete with their routines. So, yes, Poms is short for pom-poms.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, opening May 17
John Wick is back, baby! The first John Wick introduced us to the Continental Hotel and the assassins’ underworld, the second expanded the mythos, and John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum looks to capitalize on all of that craziness as John fights his way out of New York, with Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, and Jason Mantzoukas (as “Tick Tock Man” — give him the Oscar already) joining the cast.
Directed by Joanna Hogg, opening May 17
That The Souvenir stars Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne as mother and daughter would be exciting even if it weren’t one of the most anticipated movies of the year, with a star-making turn from Swinton Byrne. Centered on a romance that grows more and more difficult as one of the pair succumbs to drug use, the film is a remarkable study of a disintegrating relationship, creating a cogent picture of a tangled rapport.
Directed by James Gray, opening May 24
Over and over, James Gray has proven himself to be perhaps the most sensitive filmmaker of our time (see: Little Odessa, The Immigrant). His last film, the tremendous The Lost City of Z, was his first to take place outside of New York, and his latest, Ad Astra, travels even further afield, taking Brad Pitt up into outer space. James Gray hive, where you at?!
Directed by Guy Ritchie, opening May 24
No matter what you make of Will Smith’s Genie, or how much you trust Guy Ritchie to do the remake justice, there’s no denying that the original score to Aladdin rules and the lush orchestral arrangement of “Arabian Nights” and segue into “Friend Like Me” in the trailer is ... awesome. Give me more of that! Make this story of a boy and his genie as outsized as possible!
Directed by Michael Dougherty, opening May 31
Even if Godzilla and company aren’t your bag (and if that’s the case, who are you?), the use of a souped-up version of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” in the trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters easily vaults it up the year’s most-anticipated list. Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra — the gang’s all here! Is Mothra soft, like Detective Pikachu? Only one way to find out!
Directed by Tate Taylor, opening May 31
It’s difficult to tell based solely on the trailer whether or not Ma will be a sharp addition to the canon of black horror (it has been called a reaction to and subversion of the “mammy” stereotype in Hollywood films) or totally oblivious to that context, but the involvement of Octavia Spencer (hopefully) indicates the former. Spencer stars as Sue Ann, who takes the local teenagers under her wing, allowing them to party at her house. At first, it’s a dream come true for the teens, but Sue Ann’s intentions aren’t as pure as they seem.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, opening May 31
Bohemian Rhapsody (coincidentally, also sort-of directed by Dexter Fletcher) may have put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth as far as musical biopics are concerned, but Rocketman looks genuinely transporting. The film tackles Elton John’s life, with Kingsman’s Taron Egerton taking on the singer’s iconic oeuvre and costumes. It’s reportedly more of a “fantasy musical” than a straightforward biopic, which sounds pretty perfect as far as John’s music is concerned.