Much like Polygon’s 50 most anticipated games of 2020 list, our rundown of the movies we’re most looking forward to in 2020 is limited by what the studios tell us in advance. Big companies like Disney and its subsidiaries may build out their release schedules five years in advance, but smaller companies and streaming services aren’t always as open about their plans. So while there may eventually be a lot more movies on the 2020 docket, particularly scheduled for the end of the year, here’s what we’re currently most excited about in the 12 months ahead.
Gretel & Hansel
Though “gritty” reboots of children’s stories seem to be a dime a dozen, director Oz Perkins sets his adaptation of the tale of Hansel and Gretel apart through a focus on Gretel and a knack for striking visuals. Sophia Lillis (It) and Sam Leakey star as the fabled siblings, with Charles Babalola as the hunter, and Alice Krige as the witch. Perkins’ vision takes the story of two children lost in the woods and breaks from tradition, turning their journey into a coming-of-age story for Gretel.
Birds of Prey (and the Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is free — from Belle Reve Special Security Barracks, from the Joker, from her uncomfortable male-gazey costume in Birds of Prey. She joins forces with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) in order to protect young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from mobsters. Directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), Birds of Prey is set to be not just an emancipation but a reclamation of Harley Quinn.
The Hollywood remake of Ruben Östlund’s comedy-drama Force Majeure stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a couple who, while on a ski holiday with their two children, are forced to reevaluate their relationship. When an avalanche strikes, Billie’s (Louis-Dreyfus) instinct is to protect their children. Pete’s (Ferrell) is to flee. The rest of the holiday becomes a trial as tensions rise, especially as family friends also weigh in on the nature of marriage.
Jane Austen’s funniest heroine gets a new movie that revels in the comedic nature of the original novel. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Emma — handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition — who decides that it is in everyone’s best interest if she butts her nose in their love lives. South African musician Johnny Flynn stars as George Knightley, Emma’s brother-in-law and the only one who ever calls her out for being meddlesome, with Bill Nighy as Emma’s hypochondriac father.
Fans of the “Daniel Radcliffe with two guns” meme probably shouldn’t miss the movie that brought it into the world, but fans of demented action won’t want to miss out either. Guns Akimbo takes place in a dystopia in which the internet is addicted to a live-action video game where real people kill each other in car chases, gun battles, and other explosive duels. Radcliffe plays an internet troll who’s forced into the game against his will, and ordered to take down the reigning champ, or die. It’s broad, silly, over-the-top ridiculous action from start to finish.
The Invisible Man
Master of horror Leigh Whannell is at the helm of the latest take on H G. Wells’ classic novel. This new version of The Invisible Man sets the story in modern times and centers on a woman, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), rather than the invisible man himself. When her abusive ex-boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) dies, Cecilia believes herself to be free, but increasingly strange events lead her to believe that he may not be completely gone. Will anyone believe her?
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
Netflix’s successful YA adaptation is back with a sequel that looks to be just as endearing as the first. Now that Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) are officially together, things look pretty blissful in the relationship department. Enter John Ambrose, one of Lara’s old crushes. It’s a love triangle, but handled with the pastel-tinged sweetness of the original movie. Who will she choose?
Sonic the Hedgehog
The first trailer for the blue hedgehog’s live-action appearance shocked — nay, terrified — many. The movie was supposed to come out last year, but because of the sheer horror that the trailer instilled in the masses, it was delayed to this Valentine’s Day. Sonic’s new look debuted last November, and definitely appears closer to his iconic video game design. Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz voices Sonic, who teams up with local cop Tom (James Marsden) in order to stop Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
From Benh Zeitlin, director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, comes a new take on Peter Pan. Wendy takes place on an island where pollen has disrupted the aging process, so everyone is forever young. Wendy (Devin France) gets kidnapped and taken to the island, where she meets Peter Pan (Yashua Mack) and the Lost Boys. The first trailer was full of halcyon childhood joy, but also elegiac layers of sadness folded in — and if the movie delivers on that, then remember your tissues.
Something I often wonder about Toby Kebbell is if he’ll ever get the breakout role he deserves. It’s not that he’s not a star — he’s in this movie, Bloodshot, as well as the most recent Fantastic Four movie, Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla, and the Planet of the Apes trilogy — but that, despite being one of the most compelling actors working today, he’s never gotten a real leading role. He’s sidelined in Bloodshot, too, which stars Vin Diesel as a soldier who, after he and his wife are assassinated, is brought back to life through nanotechnology and sets out for revenge.
Another classic Disney animated film gets the live-action treatment. Except this year’s Mulan seeks to blend the original Chinese folktale with the animated movie. That means some crucial changes: For one, there’s no Mushu or singing. New character additions, such as a little sister for Mulan and a witch working with the bad guy, promise that the movie won’t be a frame-by-frame adaptation of the original.
Pixar’s newest movie follows two elf brothers and the legs of their dad. Taking place in a kooky “suburban” fantasy world, Onward promises some laughs and a whole lot of that Pixar heart. Voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, the two brothers are on a quest to fully summon their deceased dad so that they can have one last conversation with him. Bring on the tears.
A Quiet Place Part II
Following the death of family patriarch Lee, the Abbott family continues its fight for survival, and comes across other survivors — and new threats. Now that his character is dead, John Krasinski returns only as director, while his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, reprises the role of Evelyn Abbott. Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe return as the two Abbott kids. Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou join the cast, presumably as jaded survivors.
Here are a few things that we do know about Antebellum: Janelle Monae stars, along with Jena Malone, Eric Lange, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe; Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz direct; it is about an author who finds herself in a “nightmarish reality” and must break free. Vague, but using context clues from the trailer and the name, we’re pretty certain this “nightmarish reality” has something to do with Civil War-era horrors, with a tinge of Southern Gothic permeating all through.
This gray, cloudy horror film takes place in a small town in Oregon, where a young boy harbors a dangerous secret. His teacher (Keri Russell) and her policeman brother must unravel it before it threatens the town. The trailers have shown us some glimpses of whatever this creepy creature living in the boy’s house could be — it’s probably a Wendigo, judging by the antlers and appetite for flesh. We’ll see just what horrors this one holds.
The New Mutants
The mysterious horror-tinged X-Men continuation/reboot has already been pushed back not once, not twice, but three times. Does this spell doom for the film, or smart timing now that the other X-Men franchise has been laid (disastrously) to rest with Dark Phoenix? Five young mutants with burgeoning powers find themselves in an institution that seems more concerned with imprisoning and controlling them than helping them. Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Charlie Heaton star.
No Time to Die
Daniel Craig’s final (final, for real this time) outing as James Bond is No Time to Die, directed by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga and co-starring Rami Malek as the latest Bond big-bad. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Léa Seydoux, and Christoph Waltz are also back to help see Craig off, putting a bow on the constant misery that’s plagued the double-oh agent ever since his career kicked off in Casino Royale.
Promising Young Woman
Killing Eve season 2 showrunner Emerald Fennell weaves a tale about #MeToo and rape culture in Promising Young Woman. Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie, who was once described as a “promising young woman” until an attack on her best friend set her on a path of revenge. Cassie spends her nights pretending to be blackout drunk, and when so-called nice guys seek to take advantage of her, she turns the tables on them.
A movie version of the 2000s children’s fantasy franchise has floated around in Hollywood since 2001. Nineteen long years and one delay later, a film adaptation finally emerges. Starring newcomer Ferdia Shaw as the boy genius and criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl, the movie follows the events of the first few books, wherein young Artemis kidnaps a fairy and quests to find his missing father. Judi Dench stars as Commander Root, with Lara McDonnell as Holly Short and Josh Gad as Mulch Diggums.
A decade after her debut in Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanoff finally gets a solo movie. Set in the time between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow sees Natasha confronting her past, in Budapest, of course. She reunites with her old Black Widow program colleagues — Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Melina (Rachel Weisz) — and must reckon with her dark past. The burning question we have, though, is this: After Natasha was killed off to make Hawkeye sad in Endgame, will Black Widow be too little, too late?
Fast & Furious 9
Each installment of the Fast & Furious franchise has gotten bigger and more outrageous, which means that Fast & Furious 9 has a high bar to clear. After all, Fate of the Furious featured The Rock changing the direction of a giant missile with his bare hands. Where will the street racing team go next? Outer space? Back in time? Who knows, but we’re excited to find out.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
SpongeBob SquarePants, the yellow sponge himself, continues his long cinematic legacy. Sponge on the Run sees SpongeBob and Patrick team up to save Gary from kidnappers. To do so, they must trek to a fabled mythical realm ... Atlantic City, baby. As per SpongeBob movie tradition, some big stars make appearances — such as Keanu Reeves starring as a wise sage made of sage and named Sage. We love this for him.
A direct sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name (but not a sequel to the two less-than-stellar sequels that followed), Candyman comes from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and is also penned by him. The original film was not just a horror movie, but also focused on segregation and class differences in urban Chicago (the short story it is based upon had similar themes, but was set in Liverpool). Tony Todd returns to the role of Candyman, with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II joining as a grown-up version of Anthony McCoy.
In the Heights
Will 2020 be the year that the movie musical is redeemed after 2019’s Cats dashed all hopes and dreams? With both In the Heights and West Side Story on the way, it’s very possible. This film version of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical (the one before Hamilton) takes place in the largely Latinx neighborhood of Washington Heights, New York City. In the Heights stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, the role that Miranda originated on Broadway, along with Leslie Grace, Stephanie Beatriz, and Dascha Polanco.
The second Pixar movie headed to theaters this year, Soul is a “metaphysical comedy” that will explore what it means to be human. In the vein of Inside Out, Soul gives emotions and feelings to ... well, souls. Joe, a jazz musician and middle school music teacher, books his first big gig — and in his excitement, he falls through a pothole, where his soul is separated from his body. He finds himself in the You Seminar, a place where souls are created and nurtured before landing on earth. Jamie Foxx voices Joe, with Tina Fey as 22, a soul trapped inside the You Seminar.
Top Gun: Maverick
Hollywood’s golden age of franchise-building continues apace as the 1986 film Top Gun gets a sequel. Tom Cruise returns as the titular Maverick, who is now a test pilot and flight instructor. His days of dodging responsibility, however, come to an end, as he comes to train the son of his late best friend and is drawn into a dangerous new mission.
Wonder Woman 1984
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is back — this time in the midst of the Cold War. It’s all tubular technicolor, but with the threat of the nuclear arms race boiling in the background. Oh boy! Kristen Wiig joins as archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva, who ends up getting possessed by a cheetah goddess and becomes one of Wonder Woman’s most notable comics nemeses. And guess what? Defying all the laws of the universe as we know it and despite definitely being blown up in a plane, Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor! That’s comic books, baby!
Video games hit the silver screen in the form of Free Guy, which takes place in an MMORPG halfway between Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite. Ryan Reynolds plays an NPC, whose job as a bank teller puts him in the line of fire every day. He takes the hits cheerfully, until one day he comes across a device that allows him to experience his world as a player, not just a character. He becomes, as it were, a free guy.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has really found his stride in the “jungle adventurer dressed in khaki” archetype. He joins Emily Blunt in a quest to find a rare flower in the depths of the Amazon. Based on Disney’s theme park attraction of the same name, Jungle Cruise seems like it will follow a similar adventure-comedy schtick as the other movies-based-on-rides. Let’s hope this one is more Pirates of the Caribbean quality than it is Haunted Mansion.
Jared Leto continues to do the Absolute Most to live up to his 2006 title “Prince of Darkness” (as bestowed by horror magazine Fangoria). In Morbius, he plays the role of Dr. Michael Morbius, who is afflicted with a rare blood disease. After doing some experiments to potentially cure himself, Morbius ends up with vampire-like abilities — and a thirst for blood. A relic of times long past when vampires could not be depicted in comics unless they were “handled in the classic tradition,” Morbius the Living Vampire is not exactly an iconic Spider-Man villain, but he’s perfect fodder for Sony to expand its universe of Marvel characters.
Christopher Nolan seems to be back at his usual tricks of time and storytelling with Tenet, which stars BlacKkKlansman’s John David Washington as a secret agent who must prevent a third world war from breaking out by manipulating time. Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Nolan stalwarts Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh also star, though Nolan has kept any other details under tight wraps.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Almost three full decades since we last saw them, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are back. Now middle-aged, Bill and Ted are once again contacted by a visitor of the future, this time telling them that they must write a song so good that it will save all life in the entire universe. To do so, they enlist everyone they know, including their own children.
The King’s Man
This Kingsman franchise prequel stars Ralph Fiennes as the Duke of Oxford, who spearheads the Kingsman superspy organization as they attempt to take down Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and his cohorts. The movie is packed with other historical figures (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand figures prominently), as well as Harris Dickinson as Conrad, this movie’s Eggsy equivalent.
Last Night in Soho
Details are slim as to what’s going on in Edgar Wright’s new film, besides the fact that it’s a psychological horror film set in London. That said, if Wright’s previous films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver) are anything to go by, it’ll be one of the smartest, sharpest offerings of the year. Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise, with Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp rounding out the cast.
It’s Tom Hanks! As the last man on earth! Poor Tom! The ailing inventor builds an android to accompany him and his dog on a mission across the country. It’s just one man, his dog, and his robot pal named Jeff, who is portrayed in motion capture by Caleb Landry-Jones. Samira Wiley is also in this, implying that the last “man” on Earth could literally mean the last male on Earth.
Death on the Nile
Kenneth Branagh directs, produces, and stars in this Agatha Christie adaptation, which is a follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express (also directed by, produced by, and starring Branaugh). We stan a king. Or rather, a detective. This new movie stars Gal Gadot, Letitia Wright, Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, and Rose Leslie, and will be the third adaptation of this specific Christie novel, wherein the magnificent, mustached Hercule Poirot must solve a murder while vacationing in Egypt.
Following a terrific revival with 2018’s Halloween, Laurie Strode and Michael Myers return in Halloween Kills, with David Gordon Green once again in the director’s chair. Halloween saw Laurie and her family struggling with the aftermath of being haunted by a serial killer, and with Michael back on the loose. Though the Strodes successfully banded together against him, it looks like their job isn’t yet done, and the sequel will bring a few characters back from John Carpenter’s 1978 original.
EDDDDIIEEEEE WE’RE BAAAAACKKKKKKK
Roald Dahl’s famous novel returns to the big screen under the direction of Robert Zemeckis, with none other than Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch. The story centers on a young boy who discovers that societies of witches exist all over the world, and accidentally comes across the most powerful witch of them all. It becomes the boy and his grandmother’s task to defeat them, and make sure the witches’ plan to eliminate all children fails once and for all.
The more mysterious MCU release of 2020, The Eternals boasts an all-star cast led by Angelina Jolie. Joining her are Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, and Kit Harington. The film will follow an immortal alien race that has secretly lived on Earth for over 7,000 years as it rises up to protect humanity from its evil counterparts. Directed by Chloe Zhao, The Eternals is shaping up to be a more eclectic addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Raya and the Last Dragon
With two Pixar films and an original Disney story — not a sequel, prequel, or franchise or IP tie-in — on the docket, this is already looking like a banner year for American animation. The concept art for this story is particularly beautiful, and has already been making the rounds, but the story, about a young woman (Cassie Steele) hunting for the last dragon in the world (Awkwafina), also sounds compelling and exciting for fantasy fans.
Coming 2 America
A follow-up to Eddie Murphy’s iconic 1988 movie, Coming 2 America sees Prince Akeem (Murphy) returning to America to meet the son he never knew he had. Jermaine Fowler stars as Lavelle, Akeem’s street-savvy son from Queens, with Shari Hadley reprising her role as Lisa, Arsenio Hall returning as Semmi, and the one and only James Earl Jones as Akeem’s father, Jaffe.
Based on the sci-fi epic by Frank Herbert, the 2020 Dune movie already has a stacked cast. The lineup right now is: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Chang Chen, and Charlotte Rampling. The movie, directed by Denis Villeneuve, will follow the events of the book, where in the far future of humanity, a feudal interstellar society made up of noble houses controls the galaxy. Think Game of Thrones, but in space.
The superhero movie formula gets a fun twist courtesy of Sylvester Stallone, who stars in Samaritan as a superhero who was thought to have gone missing after a battle two decades ago. The rumors, however, may not be true, as a young boy manages to pick up the superhero’s trail. The movie is directed by Julius Avery, whose previous film, the WWII zombie movie Overlord, was more fun than it ought to have been.
The Tomorrow War
Chris Pratt cashes in on his Marvel superhero physique with The Tomorrow War, a military sci-fi action movie in which Earth fends off an alien invasion by drafting soldiers from the past. Chris McKay, who made his directorial debut with The Lego Batman Movie, is at the helm, and Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, and Betty Gilpin also star.
West Side Story
A reimagining of the iconic Bernstein and Sondheim musical of the same name, the 2020 West Side Story comes from Steven Spielberg and stars Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zelger as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. It’s Romeo and Juliet, except between rival gangs — the white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks — in 1950s New York City. And there’s singing! And dancing! We’re here for an adaptation that uses actual Latinx actors for the Sharks (shade to the very iconic but definitely Of Its Time 1961 film adaptation).
Coming sometime in 2020
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
A new Charlie Kaufman movie might just be the crown jewel in Netflix’s 2020 slate. Adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is written, co-produced, and directed by Kaufman, and centers on a man (Jesse Plemons) whose trip to take his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) becomes increasingly strange and unsettling.
Netflix picked up this stylish, tragic Spanish import out of the festival circuit in late 2019, and hasn’t yet set a release date for it, but it should make a splash whenever it does hit the streaming service. This claustrophobic dystopian fantasy explores a prison facility where cells are stacked up in a vertical column, and every day, a platform covered in food descends from one level to another, with the people below forced to eat whatever’s left over after the levels above have their turn. It’s a sharp metaphor for wealth inequality, but more significantly, it’s a series of terse, startling surprises as the story unfolds, and it’s memorable from start to finish.
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s latest work is a “love letter to journalists,” set in a fictional 20th-century French city and centering on an outpost of an American newspaper known as The French Dispatch. The film reportedly features three storylines, with Frances McDormand leading the cast as Fabian Nürnberger. Other details are scarce, though the film is also set to feature Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, and Jeffrey Wright, among numerous others. We can also expect appearances from other Anderson standards (Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, etc.) as well as a fair amount of symmetry.
Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots are a regular young couple looking to buy their first starter home together. After touring a seemingly sleepy neighborhood, wherein the realtor promises them that this home is “forever,” they aren’t feeling it, so they decide to leave — only they can’t. They’re trapped in suburban hell, forced to stay together in an endless sea of cul-de-sacs and cookie-cutter houses. Eventually, a child is dropped on their doorstep, and they must raise it. It’s the nightmare of any young adult on the brink of True Adulthood.