Our 20 most anticipated films of 2020

Tail-ended by superb new offerings from the likes of Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) and Greta Gerwig (Little Women), 2019 has been a vintage year for not only American filmmaking but world cinema. Our top picks of 2019 reflect some of the quality and variety of this year’s film offerings. Now it’s time to look ahead to see what 2020 has in store.

The global box office continues to be dominated by Disney’s major IPs – Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm – with six of the ten films to have crossed the $1 billion mark originating from the house of mouse, and The Rise of Skywalker well on its way after just over a week in play. Sequels, spin-offs and remakes remain, as ever, the name of the game, so with that in mind, we have tried to single out upcoming releases that are either original concepts or – in the case of Denis Villeneuve’s eagerly-anticipated Dune – likely to be a huge departure from previous big-screen incarnations.

1. Dune (dir. Denis Villeneuve)
It won’t be hard to improve on David Lynch’s much-maligned 1984 version of Frank Herbert’s best-known epic. Still, given how well-handled Blade Runner 2049 was, Denis Villeneuve might just be the one director to finally bring audiences a satisfying adaption of Herbert’s seminal work. Joseph Walsh

2. Tenet (dir. Christopher Nolan)
Despite a full trailer dropping before Christmas, little is still known about Christopher Nolan’s return to the time-bending espionage of Inception. The palindromic title would certainly suggest some chronological high-jinks, and it’s refreshing to see Nolan regulars such as Michael Caine alongside first-time collaborators John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. Daniel Green

3. Annette (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 leaving the project (replaced by Michelle Williams and finally Marion Cotillard), and star Adam Driver’s commitment to the latest Star Wars trilogy, we’re finally going to get to see the result. Christopher Machell

4. The French Dispatch (dir. Wes Anderson)
According to a press release back in September, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs follow-up The French Dispatch is “a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city, and brings to life a collection of stories published in The French Dispatch magazine.” A typically excellent ensemble is headline by Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux and Tilda Swinton. DG


5. Blonde (dir. Andrew Dominik)
The first Netflix Original on this list comes from Andrew Dominik, best-known for crime dramas Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward John Ford and Killing Them Softly. A departure for the Kiwi director and based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde looks set to offer “a deeply moving portrait of the woman who became Marilyn Monroe”. Last-seen in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Ana de Armas will star as the titular blonde bombshell (real name Norma Jeane), with Bobby Cannavale as baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and Adrien Brody as playwright and Monroe’s third husband Arthur Miller. DG

6. Benedetta (dir. Paul Verhoeven)
There is a certain kind of cineaste for whom the mere mention of a new Paul Verhoeven offering – even if the director these days is a little past his best – is enough to whet the appetite. The veteran Dutch filmmaker’s latest slice of erotica Benedetta 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 textbook Verhoeven to us. CM


7. Bergman Island (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)
After quietly touring the festival circuit with Maya in the autumn of 2018, Mia Hansen-Løve looks set to continue producing some of the most emotive filmmaking in French cinema. 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 Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Alasdair Bayman

8. 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. CM


9. The Last Thing He Wanted (dir. Dee Rees)
Another Netflix-backed project with strong awards potential and based on a novel by Joan Didion, Mudbound director Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway as journalist Elena McMahon, who finds herself on dangerous ground as the Iran-Contra Affair’s arms for drugs plot reaches its tipping point. McMahon inherits her father’s position as an arms dealer for the U.S. government in Central America and struggles to cope with the spies, American military personnel, and the consequences of her father’s errors that are waiting for her on a small island off the coast of Costa Rica. DG

10. The Last Planet (dir. Terrence Malick)
Son of Saul’s Géza Röhrig as Jesus. Mark Rylance in four different guises as Satan. Terrence Malick at the helm. What’s not to like? Reuniting Malick with A Hidden Life director of photography Jörg Widmer, The Last Planet will see the master filmmaker retelling several episodes in the life of Jesus Christ. Colour us more than a little intrigued by this heavenly prospect. DG


11. Pieces of A Woman (dir. Kornél Mundruczó)
News that the Hungarian director of White God and Jupiter’s Moon will be making his English-language debut starring Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby is welcome indeed. Following a home birth that goes awry, a woman goes on an intense emotional journey that has repercussions for her husband and estranged mother. Also stars Jimmie Fails, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker and Iliza Shlesinger. JW

12. Emma (dir. Autumn de Wilde)
Autumn de Wilde is perhaps best known for her work as a photographer, shooting everyone from Elliot Smith to Death Cab For Cutie. She’s an exciting – and admittedly unlikely – choice to direct a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, but an energetic first trailer featuring star Anya Taylor-Joy does show substantial promise. JW

13. Wendy (dir. Benh Zeitlin)
It’s been seven years since Benh Zeitlin’s Sundance breakout hit Beasts of the Southern Wild. Now he’s back with a reimagining of J.M. Barrie’s most famous work, Peter Pan, focusing on Wendy. Taking place on a magical island, it should come as no surprise that the story takes a fresh angle, focusing on a young girl who must struggle against the tides of growing up. JW

14. Rebecca (dir. Ben Wheatley)
Ben Wheatley returns in 2020 with a brand new Netflix adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the story of a young woman who marries a fascinating widower only to find out that she must live in the shadow of his former wife, Rebecca, who died mysteriously several years earlier. Lily James stars alongside Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter, Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers, Tom Goodman-Hill as Frank Crawley, Keeley Hawes as Beatrice Lacy, Ann Dowd as Mrs. Van Hopper and Sam Riley as Jack Favell. DG


15. The Nest (dir. Sean Durkin)
It’s been nine years since the release of Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, and the director makes a welcome return with The Nest. Life for an entrepreneur (Jude Law) and his American family begin to take a twisted turn after moving into an English country manor. DG

16. Stillwater (dir. Tom McCarthy)
Directed and co-written by Spotlight helmer Tom McCarthy, Stillwater centres on Oklahoma native Bill Baker (Matt Damon), an oil-rig roughneck who travels to Marseille where his estranged daughter is imprisoned for a murder she claims she did not commit. He makes it his personal mission to exonerate his daughter and along the way develops a friendship with a local woman and her young daughter and embarks on a personal journey of discovery and a larger sense of belonging in the world. DG


17. The Card Counter (dir. Paul Schrader)
From the legendary pen of Academy Award nominee Paul Schrader (First Reformed) comes revenge thriller The Card Counter starring Oscar Isaac. Issac plays William Tell, a gambler and former serviceman who sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge on a mutual enemy from their past. DG

18. Shulan River (dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Taking place in modern-day Taipei, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin follow-up focuses on a lonely river goddess whose waterways have now been covered by modern roadways. Expect stunning cinematography and a possible Cannes world premiere from the Taiwanese auteur. DG


19. The Souvenir: Part II (dir. Joanna Hogg)
Coming in fifth in our roundup of the best films of 2019, Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical The Souvenir was a true breakout work for the British director – so much so that a sequel was announced shortly after its world premiere at Sundance back in January. Little is known about the plot at this stage but at least one big-name has been added to the sequel’s cast: a certain Robert Pattinson. DG

20. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (dir. Charlie Kaufman)
An unexpected detour turns a couple’s road trip into a terrifying journey through their fragile psyches. Adapted and directed by Charlie Kaufman from the novel of the same name by Canadian writer Iain Reid, Netflix’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things marks a change of tone for Kaufman and counts Toni Collette, Jesse Plemons, David Thewlis and Jessie Buckley amongst its cast. DG

Daniel Green