Christopher Machell Features

Our 25 most anticipated films of 2019

By anyone’s standards, 2018 was a terrific year for cinema. Our top picks of the year reflect some of the quality and variety of last year’s film offerings. Now it’s time to look ahead to see what 2019 has in store for us.

This year will see Martin Scorsese return to the big screen and the genre that made his name, with mob film The Irishman, whereas Quentin Tarantino will court more controversy when his showbiz saga touches on the Manson Family murders in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

2019 will see the blockbuster crowd especially well catered to with Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel in March, quickly followed by the conclusion to their self-proclaimed long-form saga with Avengers: Endgame. Fans of DC’s patchier cinematic universe will be looking forward to (yet) another new take on Batman’s greatest foe with Joker, this time with Joaquin Phoenix in the title role as the Clown Prince of Gotham.

Action aficionados will undoubtedly be anxious for more of that sweet Keanu choreography in John Wick 3, before everyone’s favourite monster returns in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Meanwhile JJ Abrams comes back to helm the final(?) episodic Star Wars film in the as-yet untitled Episode IX. Without further ado, here are twenty-five of our most anticipated films of 2019.

1. About Endlessness (dir. Roy Andersson)

Following the conclusion of his acclaimed ‘Living’ trilogy with the 2014 film, A Pigeon Sat on A Branch Reflecting on Existence, Swedish director Roy Andersson returns with About Endlessness, a film made up of vignettes that together explore time’s endless march. If five years between films seems a long time to wait, consider that the period between his first and second picture was an epic quarter century.

2. Ad Astra (dir. James Gray)

2018 was pretty great to the science fiction genre, with Annihilation and High Life (which should hit UK screens this year) setting a high bar. Hopefully, James Gray can work similar magic with his tale about an astronaut heading to the stars to search for his missing father. With a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland, we can’t wait to see where Gray boldly takes us next.

3. Anette (dir. Leos Carax)

The prospect of the next film from the director of 2012’s Holy Motors was always going to intrigue, even before learning that it would be a musical about a comedian with an unusually talented daughter. Now after delays resulting from Rooney Mara (replaced by Michelle Williams) and Rihanna leaving the project in 2017, and star Adam Driver’s commitment to the Star Wars films, we’re finally going to get to see the result.

4. The Avenging Silence (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn inspires naught if not strong opinions, with his last three films – Drive, Only God Forgives, and The Neon Demon – being equally lauded and vilified by critics and audiences. Penned by Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, this new film looks to be the closest to a conventional blockbuster Refn has yet tackled. Though given the existential angst and penchant for high-flung style, The Avenging Silence is likely to be anything but conventional.

5. Benedetta (dir. Paul Verhoeven)

There is a certain kind of cineaste for whom the mere mention of a new Verhoeven picture – even if the director these days is a little past his best – is enough to whet the appetite. The veteran Dutch filmmaker’s new picture is based on the real seventeenth-century nun who, as well as being a lesbian, came to fame after claiming that she saw holy visions and experienced stigmata. Sounds like classic Verhoeven to us.

6. Bergman Island (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)

After quietly touring the festival circuit with Maya in the Autumn, Mia Hansen-Løve looks set to continue producing some of the most emotive filmmaking in French language film. Starring Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps with Mia Wasikowska also, the film promises to possess the mature awareness of emotion’s omnipresence throughout her filmography with an added twist of the gothic that so permeates Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (Alasdair Bayman).

7. The Dead Don’t Die (dir. Jim Jarmusch)

Just when you think the zombie film has finally groaned its last, along comes a new take on the ambling concept. Cue iconic indie director Jim Jarmusch with his take on the formula, starring Jarmusch alumni Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, and who-else-but Bill Murray in The Dead Don’t Die. This marks a return to the horror genre after Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive.

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8. Ema (dir. Pablo Larrain)

Following his outstanding Jackie and Spanish-language Neruda, the Chilean director returns with another Spanish-language offering in Ema. Billed as a film about dance, but a “melodrama, not a musical”, Ema stars Larrain regular Gael García Bernal. Larrain’s English-language The True American is also reportedly due out this year, though two of his films in just twelve months feels a little too much to hope for.

9. First Cow (dir. Kelly Reichardt)

Following the superb Certain Women, we can’t wait for director Kelly Reichardt’s next treatise on American life, this time as a period piece about a fur trapper and a refugee making their way from America to China. Interestingly, the casting call has explicitly invited dialogue with Native American talent on how to sensitively depict the film’s Native characters.

10. Frankie (dir. Ira Sachs)

Directed by the majestic Ira Sachs who has, up to this point, crafted a unique look into contemporary life in New York, Frankie represents a shift in tone for the 53 year-old director. Starring an equally majestic force in Isabelle Huppert, alongside two notable actors who have worked with the director before, Greg Kinnear (Little Men) and Marisa Tomei (Love is Strange). With the incorporation of the brooding Jérémie Renier (L’Amant Double), the themes which have made his filmography so success thus far should extend in his latest feature (AB).

11. Freak Shift (dir. Ben Wheatley)

British director Ben Wheatley’s last film, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, only premiered in October (and can still be viewed on BBC iPlayer), but he is already at work on his next project. And it couldn’t be more different from Colin Burstead’s domestic comedy-drama. Billed as a science fiction thriller involving criminals hunting for killer monsters at night, Freak Shift sounds more Guillermo del Toro film Wheatley’s usual output, but if anything, we’re all the more intrigued to see the result.

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12. Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Waititi)

If there’s any modern filmmaker that could successfully make a comedy set during the horrors of the Second World War, it’s Taika Waititi. The New Zealand director most recently delivered one of Marvel’s strongest, and funniest, films with Thor: Ragnarok, and his mock vampire doc What We Do in The Shadows is one of the best comedies of the millenium. Following in the footsteps of classic Charlie Chaplin satire The Great DictatorJojo Rabbit will see Waititi himself play an imaginary, friendly version of Hitler.

13. The Kitchen (dir. Andrea Berloff)

If you’ve ever wondered what last year’s Widows would be like as a comedy, then wonder no more: Straight Outta Compton writer Andrea Berloff has got you covered with her directorial debut, The Kitchen. Set in the 1970s and starring comedy veterans Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish, the film concerns jailed mobsters’ wives taking over their husbands’ activities and to run the underworld of New York City’s infamous Hell’s Kitchen.

14. Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson)

Following the very silly reactions from some fans on the release Rian Johnson’s 2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the title for his new film could just as well describe the posture of some of those yet to move on. Yet, despite the wailing and the gnashing of teeth from the basement-dwelling set, Johnson has proved equally adept at handling indie and blockbuster-level genre cinema, consistently offering fresh and innovative takes on old formulae. Now Johnson is tackling an Agatha Christie-style chamber piece murder mystery – if that wasn’t tantalising enough, the stellar cast includes Lakeith Stanfield, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Ana De Armas, and Daniel Craig.

15. The Lighthouse (dir. Robert Eggers)

The director of one of the best horror films of recent times, Robert Eggers now brings us The Lighthouse. Details are still a little scant, but we do know that the film is being shot in black and white, on 35mm film. That alone is surely enough to sell us, but the premise, “a fantasy horror story set in the world of old seafaring myths” in 1820, simply seals the deal.

16. Little Joe (dir. Jessica Hausner)

Eco-horror has been having somewhat of a moment of late, with recent films like The Girl with All the Gifts, Annihilation and Carolina Hellsgard’s Endzeit all positing post-human worlds reclaimed by new forms of nature. Now comes Austrian director Jessica Hausner with Little Joe. The premise – a mutated plant that can influence the behaviour of humans and animals – sounds like Invasion of the Body Snatchers by way of M. Night Shyamalan’s misfire The Happening, but there’s something about it that taps into this moment in horror, making Little Joe one to look out for.

17. Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

If you’d asked us eighteen months ago whether we’d be looking forward to another retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic American novel, you’d more likely be met with a raised eyebrow than outright enthusiasm. But with Greta Gerwig attached after her triumphant Lady Bird, we can’t wait to see the fresh take that this young director will bring to such well-worn material.

18.The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea (dir. Syllas Tzoumerkas)

Syllas Tzoumerkas’ new film, a revenge thriller set in a Greek fishing village has peaked our interest, not least because of its two leads, Angeliki Papoulia and Youla Boudali. As well as being frequent collaborators with this film’s director, both Papoulia and Boudali are veterans of fellow Greek director, Yorgos Lanthimos. If their taste in films is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat with this one.

19.Pain and Glory (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)

Iconic Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar follows up 2016’s Julieta with this psychological drama about a director reflecting on his past, which will see both Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz reunite with the acclaimed Spanish director. With Almodóvar’s penchant for introspective drama, it’s tempting to read the synopsis autobiographically; with a such a Fellini-esque premise surely there will be some element of autobiography in the film.

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20. Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-ho)

Since his breakout hit with the 2006 film The Host, filmmaker Bong Joon Ho has made a name for himself as one of the most unique and vital voices in South Korean cinema. Now, the Snowpiercer and Okja director turns his hand to grounded family drama with Parasite. Little is known as of yet, other than that the four leads have “unique characteristics”.

21.Radegund (dir. Terrence Malick)

The promise of a new Terrence Malick film is always treated with anticipation, and Radegund is no different. Despite his famous twenty year absence from filmmaking in the 1980s and 1990s, the esteemed director has been more prolific in the last ten years, directing four features and a documentary since 2005, as well as a handful of short films. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what Radegund is about – though the true historical premise of an Austrian conscientious objector refusing to fight for the Nazis is tantalising – we’ll be there no matter what.

22. La Verite (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Kore-eda’s Shoplifters topped our Best of 2018 poll, so the prospect of another effort from the prolific Japanese master is almost too much to bear. Shot and set in France, the film stars Ethan Hawke and the always-captivating Juliette Binoche as a married couple. With French screen icon co-starring as Binoche’s mother, we can’t help but feel Hirokazu is spoiling us.

23. Us (dir. Jordan Peele)

Comedian Jordan Peele blew everyone away with his 2017 directorial debut in the superlative horror Get Out. Now, all eyes are on the comic-turned-director for his sophomore effort. It looks like he’s sticking with the horror genre – no bad thing in our eyes – here with a group of people who discover that they each have a doppelgänger. Us features an all-star cast, with Lupita Nyong-o, Black Panther’s Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss and fellow funnyman Tim Heidecker.

24. The Kid Who Would Be King (dir. Joe Cornish)

British writer Joe Cornish’s debut directorial was the cracking sci-fi comedy actioner Attack the Block, way back in 2011. Finally, he’s back with his second feature, The Kid Who Would Be King. The poster hints at an Army of Darkness vibe, and we can’t wait to see what Cornish could do with such a jumping-off point.

25. Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster)

Not content with sitting on his haunches after his blistering debut, Hereditary, newly-minted horror director returns with his second feature, titled Midsommar. Florence Pugh and Will Poulter star in this tale of a young couple being abducted by a backwoods cult. It’s a well-worn trope of horror cinema, but Aster has already proved himself adroit at playing with horror formulae with the possession-themed Hereditary – and with two of cinema’s best young performers in Pugh and Poulter, there’s little reason to doubt that this won’t be special.

Christopher Machell | @Dr_Machell