It may be early days, but we’re willing to stick our neck out and say that 2019 is going to be an incredible year for new movies. With so many of our favourite filmmakers from around the world returning with new works over the next 12 months, here are just some of the films we think you should be getting excited about. Read part one below, then check out 30 more titles in the second part of our bumper new year’s preview.
1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Eta 26 July
Taking inspiration from Sergio Leone’s 1968 western, the ninth film by Quentin Tarantino sees Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio (playing a faded TV actor and his stunt double) navigate their way through the film industry circa 1969. A star-studded comedy-drama backdropped by one of the most infamous periods in Tinseltown history, culminating in the Manson Family murders, this LA odyssey is not to be missed.
2. About Endlessness
Expect more existential larks in the latest offering from Songs from the Second Floor and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence director Roy Andersson. Said to be a meditation on the beauty of existence, as well as a cautionary tale about its fragile nature, About Endlessness could well be another standout offering from this visionary filmmaker.
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 from 2018, this might be the film to nudge Decker into the big leagues.
4. The Irishman
A complex tale of crime families and dirty dealings, it’s business as usual for Martin Scorsese. This may be overly-familiar subject matter for the veteran American filmmaker, but the casting of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino has significantly upped the ante, not to mention our anticipation. Audiences won’t get to experience it on the big screen though – it’s arriving globally on Netflix in the second half of 2019.
The bombastic director of Starship Troopers and RoboCop had audiences on the edge of their seats in 2016 with Isabelle Huppert vehicle Elle. Paul Verhoeven’s next project is set in 17th century Italy and follows a nun coming to terms with her repressed sexual orientation despite the restrictions of religion and society. Adapted from the Judith C Brown novel of the same name, Charlotte Rampling stars in the lead, with 120 Beats per Minute’s Jeanne Lapoirie on DoP detail.
6. Her Smell
Eta 29 March (US)
In a year set to be dominated by Elisabeth Moss (hey, we’re not complaining), this film from Listen Up Philip director Alex Ross Perry deals with a female punk rocker’s struggle with sobriety and desperation to recapture her creative spark. Alongside Dan Stevens and Good Time cinematographer Sean Price Williams, this looks to be an in-depth character study soaked in glorious psychedelia.
7. Zombi Child
A Haitian zombie thriller with voodoo elements and a sociopolitical undercurrent? Just another day at the office for House of Tolerance director Bertrand Bonello. The use of the fantastical to shed light on contemporary social issues is nothing new, but the considered and incisive edge Bonello brings to all his films will make this an interesting outing.
8. Freak Shift
On the lips of British director Ben Wheatley since 2014, Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer team up to vanquish Hominoidean horrors in this sci-fi adventure. Assured at both explosive action and biting social commentary, as evidenced in previous efforts Free Fire and High Rise, Wheatley’s latest will hopefully offer something exhilarating and entirely fresh.
9. Gemini Man
Eta 4 October
In a fictional future, past-his-prime hitman Henry (Will Smith) faces off against a younger clone of himself. If the impressive cast, featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Clive Owen, wasn’t sufficiently intriguing, the promise of Ang Lee tackling an original science-fiction screenplay should do the trick.
10. Bad Education
Thoroughbreds, a crime film where all illegalities occur off-screen, was about as confident a debut as they come. For his next feature, Cory Finley has paired Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney in a tale of public school embezzlement and scandal. Given his nuanced character work and razor-sharp writing, we’re fully expecting Bad Education to enhance Finley’s reputation still further.
11. Happy as Lazzaro
Eta 15 March
Having turned heads on the festival circuit in 2018, Alice Rohrwacher’s off-kilter fairy tale about a benign peasant named Lazzaro is finally getting a theatrical release this year. One of world cinema’s brightest talents tackles coming-of-age and class politics in rural Italy, and the results are spellbinding.
12. The Laundromat
The now decidedly un-retired American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is back with a political drama centred around the leaked Panama Papers. True-to-life journalistic tales have piqued the interest of many an accomplished director, with Steven Spielberg’s The Post and Todd McCarthy’s Spotlight both prime examples. This one has Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep leading the way, and a screenplay by longtime Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z Burns.
13. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
There’s original, there’s unconventional, and then there’s Charlie Kaufman. The thinking person’s dramatist has cast Brie Larson as a woman who while figuring out how best to end her relationship begins to rethink her life. If like us you were deeply affected by Anomalisa and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you won’t want to miss this one. To sweeten the deal, Jesse Plemons co-stars.
14. It: Chapter Two
Eta 6 September
Thanks to the massive success of 2017’s IT, we’re set to return to Maine for more Stephen King creepiness this year. Similar to the 1990 TV adaptation featuring the infallible Tim Curry, It: Chapter Two sees the Losers Club reunite in adulthood, intent on destroying Pennywise once and for all. Director Andy Muschietti turns to Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy to finish what he started.
Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut, Snowpiercer, was a riveting post-apocalyptic ride, carrying grim predictions of the future. Prior to this, his 2006 creature feature, The Host, proved Bong a shrewd social commentator. Despite efforts to mask his agenda behind genre, Bong remains an inherently political filmmaker. Parasite, a tale of two South Korean families, promises more of the same.
16. The Mule
Eta 25 January
In The Mule director and star Clint Eastwood tackles the Mexican cartels as an aged drug-runner in this crime drama. The veteran Hollywood icon has enlisted the tried-and-tested services of Bradley Cooper and Michael Peña. This is supposedly Eastwood’s final film, and if that proves to be the case then it’s a swansong worthy of the Man with No Name.
17. The Personal History of David Copperfield
Armando Iannucci is the Jonathan Swift of modern political satire, with The Thick of It and The Death of Stalin exemplifying this. Dickensian Britain is particularly ripe for ridicule as far as Victorian-era domestic policy is concerned, but all signs point to this being a character study. Dev Patel occupies the title role, supported by Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie and Ben Whishaw.
18. The Rhythm Section
Eta 22 February
Cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano’s third feature follows Blake Lively’s protagonist as she hunts down those who co-ordinated the plane crash that killed her family. Penned by Mark Burnell and co-starring Sterling K Brown and Jude Law, this has all the ingredients to be a gripping mystery thriller.
Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky’s experience during the 1942 Battle of Midway is the inspiration for Roland Emmerich’s next feature. The director has gained a reputation for bombastic action cinema, but there’s no shortage of talent in the ensemble cast, and Dunkirk proved audiences still love a good war flick.
Eta 9 August (US)
Following his low-budget sensation, Hereditary, writer/director Ari Aster is returning this year with what sounds like Couples Retreat meets The Wicker Man. All we know from a brief synopsis is that Florence Pugh’s trip to a remote Swedish island is hampered by cultist intervention. Jack Reynor and Will Poulter also star.
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.
Following his Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters, Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda is set to make his English language debut with this mother-daughter story set against the backdrop of a film production. Koreeda is a master at crafting low-key but powerful domestic dramas, and we’re excited to see what he does with Ethan Hawke and Juliette Binoche.
23. Ad Astra
Eta 24 May
In what promises to be a welcome injection of hard sci-fi, James Gray flings Brad Pitt to the farthest reaches of the solar system in an attempt to find his father, stumbling over something sinister en route. With Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema in-tow, Ad Astra promises to be another gorgeous voyage into the unknown.
24. Captain Marvel
Eta 8 March
This Brie Larson vehicle carries producer Kevin Feige’s assurance that Captain Marvel will indeed be the most powerful hero the MCU has seen so far. Set in the 1990s, the plot sees Carol Danvers spring into action when Earth becomes caught in the middle of a transgalactic spat between warring alien races.
25. Little Women
Having charmed both critics and audiences alike with Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig returns to the directors chair with an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s famed novel. With Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Laura Dern are on hand to help elevate the material, Gerwig could have the definitive adaptation on her hands. She’s done coming-of-age circa 2002, so let’s see how she fares in the 19th century.
26. The Lion King
Eta 19 July
John Favreau’s The Jungle Book was a huge hit with audiences three years ago, so it makes sense that the House of Mouse have turned to the ever-dependable director for a live-action animation update of the studio’s 1994 fan favourite. With Beyoncé and Donald Glover among the voice cast and Hans Zimmer conducting a brand new score, you better be prepared for the return of the king.
27. Pain & Glory
Pedro Almodóvar’s first film since 2016’s Julieta finds the legendary Spanish filmmaker in a reflective mood. Pain & Glory tells the story of a director who’s forced to reevaluate the choices he’s made in life, with Almodóvar mainstays Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas among the principle cast. This one is almost certainly a shoo-in for a Cannes Film Festival berth.
28. Honey Boy
Shia LaBeouf has been subject to widespread criticism regarding his recent public antics, perhaps unfairly so. Yet there’s no denying he’s a performer of rare presence and physicality. Helmed by acclaimed documentarian Alma Har’el and scripted by the actor himself, Honey Boy is a semi-autobiographical deep dive into LaBeouf’s formative years, with Lucas Hedges and Maika Monroe also featuring.
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.
30. Star Wars: Episode IX
Eta 20 December
As expected, little is known about the final instalment in the newest Star Wars trilogy. In the fallout of The Last Jedi and Colin Trevorrow’s unceremonious departure, JJ Abrams is back in the hot seat hoping to steer the saga back on course, while there’s welcome additions to the cast in the form of Richard E Grant and Keri Russell. In this post-Skywalker era, it’s all to play for.
Now read part two of our 2019 preview