The 20 must-see films of Fall 2017 includes several awards contenders and the next Star Wars movie, as well as the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe installments. Following on the heels of a roller coaster ride of a summer movie season that spanned from the highs of critical/box office hits like Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Dunkirk to the lows of commercially-underperforming critical bombs such as The Mummy and The Dark Tower, the hope is that this fall’s offerings will be more consistently strong in their quality. Fortunately, this year’s crop of autumn and winter holiday seasonal releases reads as being quite promising on paper.
Every fall/early winter frame brings with it a mixture of awards-hopeful prestige films and crowd-pleasing features, so 2017 won’t be a departure in that respect. There’s still arguably as much (if not more) in the way of promising titles than usual to look forward to, over the months that remain in 2017. Case in point: in addition to the aforementioned franchise releases, Fall 2017 brings with it a long-awaited sequel to a sci-fi classic, an original Pixar animated film, a new Hugh Jackman musical and the latest original creations from auteurs such as Guillermo del Toro and Alexander Payne.
Per tradition, these films are listed in the order of their theatrical release date – meaning, we leave it to you, the readers, to decide which ones are your most anticipated releases of the Fall 2017 Movie Season. In addition, this list only includes the films that are going into wide release between September and December of this year. (Late December Oscar-qualifying releases will be covered in our next Winter/Spring Preview, instead.) With that in mind, here is Screen Rant’s 2017 Fall Movie Preview – The 20 Films to See.
IT (September 8)
2017 may go down as the year of Stephen King, based on the sheer number of movie and TV adaptations of the prolific author’s body of work that have been or will be released (see The Mist, Mr. Mercedes, Gerald’s Game, etc.). Not only is Warner Bros. Pictures’ IT film adaptation (arguably) the most widely anticipated King adaptation of the bunch, it’s also the one with the greatest potential to hit it big at the box office while pleasing moviegoing audiences, critics and longtime fans of King’s original horror novel alike.
IT, similar to The Dark Tower movie, spent several years in early development and went through some major creative changes (swapping out Beasts of No Nation helmer Cary Fukunaga for Mama director Andy Muschietti), before it finally went into production. The film only covers half of King’s source material (itself, some 1,138 pages long), focusing on the experiences of a group of young children who bond together – forming “The Losers Club” – as they find themselves terrorized by an ancient evil entity that has long resided in their hometown.
The IT trailers have broken online views records and seem to be generating much in the way of positive buzz, both in spite of and thanks to the nostalgia that many people have for the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of King’s original book (featuring Tim Curry as the eponymous monster, aka. Pennywise the Dancing Clown). Muschietti already has tentative plans to begin filming IT Part 2 next year and it’s difficult to imagine that he won’t end up doing just that either, even if IT Part 1 fails to live to the hype currently surrounding it.
mother! (September 15)
There’s a whole lot of mystery surrounding writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s mother! at the moment – including, why its title is written that way and what the movie is even about to begin with. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star in the film as a couple whose seemingly tranquil existence is disrupted by the arrival of some unexpected guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). Things thereafter go very wrong very quickly, though how and why are questions that most everyone connected to the project is remaining tight-lipped about for the moment.
For his part, mother! is Aronofsky’s first directorial effort since his big-budget Biblical retelling Noah in 2014 and comes off as something of a spiritual sequel to his Oscar-winning psycho-drama/thriller Black Swan; right down to the literal cracks appearing in Lawrence’s face on the mother! posters, a la Natalie Portman’s cracking dollface in the marketing for Black Swan. Characters who end up spiraling downwards in their efforts to transcend their everyday lives has been a thematic motif of Aronofsky’s past work, so mother! is no exception in that respect.
Whereas Black Swan was released in the prime of awards season in 2010, mother! is arriving ahead of the pack with a mid-September launch. The movie will screen at the Toronto International and Venice Film Festival before it begins its theatrical release, but the release date does raises questions about whether or not Paramount Pictures sees this one as a potential Oscar contender. For fans of Aronofsky’s previous work, however, mother! aims to deliver another stylish descent into madness that should (hopefully) be their cup of tea.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 22)
Netflix may now be partners with Mark Millar, but 20th Century Fox is releasing the next big screen version of a property created by the prolific comic book author. That would be in reference to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a sequel to director Matthew Vaughn’s surprise hit 2015 adaptation of Millar and Dave Gibbons’ James Bond-inspired spy comics series, The Secret Service. There is a new Kingsman comic arriving shortly before The Golden Circle hit theaters, but the latter is otherwise an original spin on the franchise, crafted by Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman.
The Golden Circle sees Taron Egerton’s Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin join forces with the Kingsmen’s aptly-titled U.S. counterparts, the Statesmen, in order to do battle with another twisted villain (Julianne Moore’s Poppy, to be exact) bent on achieving some sort of world-domination. Newcomers this time around include Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal, while Colin Firth is also back as Harry Hart – though beyond having an eyepatch, we’ve yet to find out what Harry is like, after having somehow survived a bullet to the head.
Whereas the first Kingsman was an unexpected smash success (grossing $414 million at the worldwide box office), The Golden Circle is more of a known “brand” now and comes loaded with higher expectations, because of that. So far though, it looks like the sequel will please those who found the original Kingsman to be a a stylishly fun secret agent adventure and should become a commercial hit in its own right, especially given the lack of direct competition that it will be facing in theaters.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie (September 22)
Warner Bros. Pictures’ LEGO Movie franchise officially became a shared universe this year, with the release of the critically-acclaimed spinoff The LEGO Batman Movie. The LEGO universe will expand further with the release of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, a film inspired by the martial arts-themed Ninjago LEGO toyline (and its cartoon TV series adaptation, Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu), that revolves around a team of ordinary teens by day, ninjas on the side, as they battle one Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) – the evil father of their leader, Lloyd (Dave Franco).
It’s not clear yet if LEGO Ninjago Movie – itself, co-directed by Charlie Bean (Robotboy, TRON: Uprising) – has any direct connections to the previous LEGO Movie releases or simply exists in the same “LEGO universe within the real-world” that was introduced in the original LEGO Movie. The film isn’t strictly a big screen version of the Masters of Spinjitzu TV show either, despite featuring many of the same characters as its protagonists. Whether LEGO Ninjago Movie‘s standalone qualities help or hurt it remains to be seen, for related reasons.
With that it mind, LEGO Ninjago Movie seems poised to uphold the standard of quality established by the previous LEGO Movie installments – offering a nice blend of kid-friendly humor and storytelling with parody-oriented comedy that will appeal more to older moviegoers. LEGO Ninjago Movie may also offer the best action sequences and set pieces of any LEGO cinematic release yet, thanks to the martial art fights here being modeled after real-life choreography designed by Jackie Chan (who also lends his voice to Master Wu in the film).
Battle of the Sexes (September 22)
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have only directed one feature-length movie (2012’s Ruby Sparks) in the decade since the duo broke out as filmmakers in 2006, with the Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine. That changes this year with the release of Battle of the Sexes, a true story-inspired sports comedy/drama that reunites the directors with their Little Miss Sunshine star Steve Carell. The latter is starring in the film opposite the newly-minted Oscar winner Emma Stone, who previously costarred with Carell in the 2011 rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Battle of the Sexes dramatizes the real-life 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Stone) – then an active World Number One professional tennis player – and Bobby Riggs (Carell), a former World Number One player and Wimbledon winner, as part of a bid on Riggs’ part to recapture his former glory. Rounding out the cast of the film are such names as Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman and Stone’s Birdman costar, Andrea Riseborough – all of them drawing from a screenplay written by Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy (Everest).
Combing the allure of a socially/politically-charged historical sports showdown with the sort of charming character-driven drama/comedy that Dayton and Faris have become known for delivering as storytellers, Battle of the Sexes has the potential to be another critical darling for its directors (and all other concerned parties). The movie’s awards season prospects are iffier by comparison, but the odds seem in favor of both Carell and Stone getting some recognition for their performances in the film – assuming it lives up to expectations, of course.
American Made (September 29)
Tom Cruise and plane stunts have (quietly?) become synonymous over the past few years – see the star’s aircraft-hanging in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and zero-gravity maneuvers in The Mummy – and will continue to be a thing in the future for Cruise, during his upcoming sequels Mission: Impossible 6 and Top Gun: Maverick. This September’s American Made once again finds Cruise performing some dangerous aerodynamic moves, in the service of a movie about real-life pilot-turned CIA recruit and eventual drug cartel smuggler, Barry Seal.
American Made reunites Cruise with his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman (before the duo re-team for the sequel to that sci-fi action film, tentatively titled Live Die Repeat and Repeat) and is shaping up to be a darkly-funny crime caper based on a stranger-than-fiction true story about the pursuit of “the American Dream”, a la Pain & Gain, Wolf of Wall Street and War Dogs. As he has been inclined to do of late, Cruise did indeed perform a dangerous plane stunt during production on the film (which was titled Mena in early development).
It remains to be seen if American Made gains some (if any) traction during the impending awards season, but the film should provide a better opportunity for Cruise to flex his acting muscles than most of his recent, more crowd-pleasing, action-oriented offerings have of late. Late September has proven to be fruitful ground for respectable fact-based drama/thrillers in years past (see Everest and Deepwater Horizon, for example), so the stage is set for American Made to become a modest success in its own right, at the very least.
Blade Runner 2049 (October 6)
Sir Ridley Scott returns at long last to the Blade Runner universe (as a producer only, this time around) with this year’s sequel Blade Runner 2049 – a movie that, as the title indicates, picks up three decades after the events of the original Blade Runner film. Director Denis Villeneuve is calling the shots on the sequel, after having first stepped into the pool of science-fiction with last year’s Oscar-nominated Arrival and made a name for himself crafting such visually-striking, moody crime drama/thrillers as Prisoners and Sicario.
Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as K, a Los Angeles-based Blade Runner who goes searching for the long-missing Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), after he uncovers a long-buried secret that could change the (futuristic dystopian) world as he knows it. The Blade Runner sequel also features such in-demand talent as Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto and Mackenzie Davis (who previously worked with Scott on The Martian) in key roles that have been partially revealed but, like the film itself, are mostly surrounded in mystery at the moment.
Between Villeneuve’s already-proven knack for cerebral science-fiction storytelling and the strong ensemble cast assemble here, there’s more than fair reason to believe that Blade Runner 2049 will be a worthy successor to its touchstone predecessor. Of course, the sequel will also address some big questions that have long surrounded the original Blade Runner (namely, if Deckard is secretly a replicant), so there is also a real risk that it will divide the franchise’s fanbase nearly as much as Scott’s Alien movie prequels have (see Prometheus and this year’s Alien: Covenant).
Marshall (October 13)
Actor Chadwick Boseman made a name for himself by portraying the real-life historical figures Jackie Robinson and James Brown in the acclaimed biopics 42 and Get On Up, respectively, before he donned his Vibranium-enhanced costume to play T’Challa aka. Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This year’s biographical drama Marshall sees Boseman return to his roots, in a manner of speaking, by bringing yet another groundbreaking American icon to life in the form of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Marshall zeroes in on a particularly-important case in its namesake’s legal career, at a point when he was still a lawyer working for the NAACP. Rounding out the film’s cast are Beauty and the Beast costars Josh Gad and Dan Stevens, along with Empire‘s Jussie Smollett, American Crime Story‘s Sterling K. Brown and Kate Hudson (Deepwater Horizon), among others. Meanwhile, the Marshall script was co-written by Michael Koskoff – a decorated attorney who even served members of the Black Panther Party in the 1970s – and his son, Jacob Kaskoff (Macbeth ).
There hasn’t been as much buzz surrounding Marshall as other impending fall releases ahead of this year’s awards season but, based on the pedigreee of most everyone involved with the project, it’s easy to imagine this one proving to be one of the more exceptional additions to the Hollywood biopic genre in awhile. Boseman, for his part, has yet to earn either a Golden Globe and/or Oscar nomination for a performance – could that change with his latest portrayal of a trail-blazing figure from the 20th century?
The Snowman (October 20)
Director Tomas Alfredson has developed a reputation in recent years for making gorgeously chilly and slow-burn genre movies, thanks to his adaptations of the vampire novel Let the Right One In and the John le Carré spy tale, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The Swedish filmmaker is back this year with what looks to be another beautifully cold and bleak dramatic thriller adaptation in the form of The Snowman, a film based on author Jo Nesbø’s book of the same name – one of the many Nesbø stories that revolve around the brilliant-but-unorthodox Oslo detective, Harry Hole.
The Snowman stars Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole and follows the top-notch investigator on a dangerous case that concerns a elusive serial killer who, as the title suggests, only strikes their victims in the wintertime (and has been doing so for many years). Swedish actor-turned Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation breakout star Rebecca Ferguson plays Harry’s younger and less experienced partner in the film, while the supporting cast is rounded out by Charlotte Gainsbourg, James D’Arcy, J.K. Simmons, Chloë Sevigny and Val Kilmer, among others.
Ridley Scott was among those considered to helm The Snowman (prior to Alfredson signing on), while Martin Scorsese was even attached to call the shots at one point, before he wound up serving as an executive producer instead. The source material has always been of interest to some prestigious talent, in other words, and could make for quite the memorably disturbing crime flick, in Alfredson’s own capable hands. With Lisbeth Salander not due to return to the big screen until next year (in The Girl in the Spider’s Web), it will be up to Mr. Hole to deliver a healthy dose of Swedish Noir in the meantime.
Suburbicon (October 27)
While George Clooney has starred in four movies directed by the Coen Brothers to date (including last year’s Hail, Caesar!), Suburbicon marks the first time that Clooney serves behind the camera on a film that was co-written by the Coens. Clooney won’t be appearing onscreen in the movie either, unlike what he did on his previous five feature-length directorial efforts. This time around, Clooney’s frequent costar and Ocean’s Eleven trilogy player, Matt Damon will be the one headlining, with Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac (both of whom have teamed up with the Coen Brothers before) rounding out the ensemble.
Suburbicon takes place in the eponymous town – which, in the 1950s, is a seemingly idyllic neighborhood devoid of any crime and general strife. Everything changes when local working-class husband Gardner Lodge (Damon) and his family are struck by a tragedy that, in turn, begins to expose the dark truths about Mr. Lodge and the sordid underbelly of the Suburbicon community at large. The film begs comparison to the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning Fargo in this respect, as Lodge’s downward descent is further fueled by his own series of bad decisions.
Since the Coen Brothers typically direct their own screenplays (with exceptions, like the Gambit remake, Unbroken and Bridge of Spies), there is fair reason to wonder if Clooney will be able to put his own artistic stamp on Suburbicon – or if the film will come off as being “Coen Brothers-lite”. Even if the latter does prove to be the case, however, now (arguably) feels like the fitting time for a not-really-a-comedy like Suburbicon to make it way to the big screen, under Clooney’s sturdy guiding hand.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)
Following the one-two punch of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming (both of which were critical and commercial successes), Marvel Studios aim to go three-for-three with its Marvel Cinematic Universe film installments for 2017, with the release of Thor: Ragnarok. The third chapter in the solo Thor film series is, technically-speaking, really a MCU crossover movie and will send Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder on an intergalactic adventure alongside Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Ragnarok, as its title implies, pits Thor and Hulk against an apocalyptic event brought on by Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is once again onboard for the ride, while the list of newcomers to the MCU this time around include Tessa Thompson (Creed) as the warrior Valkyrie, Star Trek‘s Karl Urban as the Asgardian guard Skurge and Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster – aka. The Collector’s Brother and the (literally) colorful fellow who runs the gladiatorial arena where Thor and Hulk unexpectedly reunite for the first time since Avengers: Age of Ultron.
While Ragnarok will further help to set the stage for the universe-shattering battle to come in Avengers: Infinity War next year, it looks to otherwise function as a self-contained romp across the MCU cosmos – one with its own idiosyncratic style and tone, thanks by and large to the involvement of director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). Whereas neither the first Thor nor its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, are generally considered to be the MCU’s best work, it seems that Ragnarok has the potential to be something truly special from the franchise.
Murder on the Orient Express (November 10)
Agatha Christie’s touchstone 1934 mystery novel Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted for both film and television in the past, most notably with the 1974 movie – starring Albert Finney as Christie’s famous detective character, Hercule Poirot – and in 2001, with Alfred Molina playing Mr. Poirot in a made-for-TV feature. The 2017 big screen version of the story sees Sir Kenneth Branagh pulling double-duty as both the actor playing Christie’s famous eccentric sleuth protagonist and the director calling the shots, behind the camera.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) features an all-star that includes Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Dame Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr. and more, as the passengers who are traveling aboard the eponymous train, when a murder takes place and it falls to Mr. Poirot to solve the case. Branagh has shown a flair for bringing literary classics stylishly to life throughout his career as an actor/director, as evidenced by his efforts on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Cinderella and his many, many Shakespeare adaptations. As such, the prospect of the filmmaker tackling Christie’s classic – ridiculously giant mustache and all – alongside an A-list cast, sounds very promising on paper.
In addition to all that, Murder on the Orient Express was scripted for the big screen by Michael Green: the co-screenwriter of Logan and Alien: Covenant, as well as the co-creator/showrunner of Starz’s celebrated American Gods TV show and the co-writer of Blade Runner 2049. If all goes according to plan, his screenplay for Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptation will end Green’s impressive year of output on a high note.
Justice League (November 17)
Earlier this year, the release of Wonder Woman gave the DC Extended Universe not only another box office hit to add to its growing collection, but also a proper critical darling. This fall’s Justice League aims to build on that film’s momentum, serving as both a satisfying thematic conclusion to director Zack Snyder’s previous two DCEU installments (Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) and a promising start to the next wave of DCEU solo character movies, starting with director James Wan’s Aquaman in late 2018.
Justice League, as one would expect, revolves around Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in the aftermath of Batman V Superman, as they work together to assemble a team of meta-humans (aka. superheroes) to protect Earth from an encroaching, otherworldly threat. While (spoiler?) Henry Cavill’s Superman will eventually return from the dead to help their cause, most of the movie will focus on the true introduction of three major players in the DCEU – The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) – following their brief cameo in Batman V Superman.
By all accounts, Warner Bros. Pictures is taking extra steps to ensure that Justice League is up to snuff – following Snyder stepping down to deal with a family tragedy, while Joss Whedon oversees reshoots – and the creatives behind the film have likewise been openly receptive to criticisms of DCEU movies past, while still moving forward with Snyder’s original vision as much as possible. The signs are looking good right now too (post-Justice League‘s San Diego Comic-Con trailer showing), so fingers crossed that the movie ends this year’s run of superhero/comic book tentpoles on a strong note.
Coco (November 22)
Pixar returns for its second animated offering of 2017, as well as its first non-sequel since The Good Dinosaur was released two years ago, this fall with the release of Coco. Co-directed by Toy Story 3 helmsman Lee Unkrich, the movie revolves around a young boy and aspiring musician named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) – who, through a series of unexpected and magical events, finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead and on a journey to learn the truth about his ancestors’ history and why playing music is forbidden in his family, back in the World of the Living.
Similar to last year’s Disney animated musical hit Moana, Coco has been praised for striving towards authenticity with its representation of Mexican culture, following an earlier PR snafu where Disney attempted to trademark the film’s working title (“Día de los Muertos”). In addition to having longtime Pixar animator/story artist Adrian Molina serve as both co-writer and co-director on the film, Coco boasts a primarily latino voice actor cast that includes Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal, Edward James Olmos and Gabriel Iglesias as members of either the everyday world or the afterlife.
While Coco‘s aesthetic and Day of the Dead-centered storyline has prompted comparisons to the 2014 animated film The Book of Life, the two projects seem pretty different once you look past those surface similarities. Rather, Coco recalls something more like Pixar’s Ratatouille in its exploration of artistic expression and heritage, while its version of the Land of the Dead has already been likened to Monstropolis from Monsters, Inc., by Unkrich. All things considered, the early signs are promising and suggest that Coco may yet prove to be a great piece of animated storytelling in the mold of Pixar’s best, past work.
The Disaster Artist (December 1)
Movies about making movies and/or the experience of being a film actor are pretty commonplace in Hollywood, especially when it comes to awards season fare (see previous Best Picture Oscar-winners like The Artist and Birdman, for example). This year’s The Disaster Artist is one such movie-about-the-movies that’s more in the vein of Tim Burton’s Oscar-winning biopic Ed Wood – in the sense that it’s a film about a filmmaker who is more infamous than revered and has developed a cult following for their memorably “bad” work, as opposed to a more traditionally-celebrated director (a la Hitchcock).
The Disaster Artist is based on the memoir of the same name about the making of the modern “bad movie classic” that is The Room, as was headlined and helmed by actor/director Tommy Wiseau. In something of an art-imitating-life situation, James Franco both directed The Disaster Artist and stars as Mr. Wiseau – acting alongside a cast that includes past collaborators like (his brother) Dave Franco and Seth Rogen, as well as Alison Brie, Zooey Deutch and Sharon Stone, among others. Meanwhile, the film’s script was handled by (500) Days of Summer and The Fault in Our Stars duo, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.
Although a work-in-progress version of The Disaster Artist premiered at the SXSW Film Festival to near-universal critical acclaim earlier this year, ahead of the film showing at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, the movie is currently something of a dark horse contender, when it comes to awards season predictions. However things ultimately play out, there’s something wonderful about the mere possibility that a film about making The Room could pick up some Oscar gold.
The Shape of Water (December 8)
Guillermo del Toro became a proper household name among cinephiles with the release of his Oscar-nominated fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth (back in the mid-2000s) and has continued to earn his reputation as a stylishly romantic storyteller with a soft spot for the supernatural and fantastical since then, via movies like Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak. This year’s The Shape of Water is another fairy tale offering from the filmmaker, based on an original screenplay that he wrote with Game of Thrones veteran Vanessa Taylor and decided to move forward with, after the Pacific Rim sequel took longer to land a green-light than expected.
Set in the 1960s, The Shape of Water takes place in a secret American government laboratory, where a lonely mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) stumbles upon the truth about a classified experiment at her workplace – namely, that those who run the facility where she works have captured a real-life merman/sea creature. Doug Jones has a long history of playing fantasy creatures both onscreen in general and in del Toro’s films (including, fellow merman Abe Sapien in the director’s Hellboy comic book adaptations) and is likewise the actor bringing The Shape of Water‘s aquatic subject to life.
With Hawkins and Jones leading a cast of Oscar-winners (Octavia Spencer) and decorated character actors (Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins) here, The Shape of Water could see del Toro properly enter an awards season race for the first time since Pan’s Labyrinth. Failing that though, the movie looks and sounds promising on its own terms, armed with a trailer that intriguingly sells the whole thing as being (to borrow a quote from M. Night Shyamalan) “Amélie meets Hellboy.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15)
The third Star Wars movie trilogy continues this December with Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Picking up where 2015’s Episode VII – The Force Awakens left off, The Last Jedi will reveal what comes next for young heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), in their struggle against the First Order. Meanwhile, Mark Hamill as long-missing Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will have a proper role to play in the proceedings this time around, after his (literal) last-minute appearance at the very end of The Force Awakens.
The Last Jedi was overseen by writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) and promises to be The Empire Strikes Back of the new Star Wars trilogy – less so in terms of plot beats (though, naturally, there will be some parallels) and more in terms of its tone and its deeper, psychological exploration of its characters (heroes and villains alike) and their personal flaws/issues. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Star Wars movie without some fun, brand-new alien species and worlds too and The Last Jedi will have plenty of those (see the adorable Porgs and the “casino planet” Canto Bight, for example).
While a new Star Wars film is always a major event, The Last Jedi is especially noteworthy – not only since it brings Luke Skywalker back fully into the fold (more than thirty years after Episode VI – Return of the Jedi), but also because it will serve as a sendoff to the late, great Carrie Fisher and her iconic character, (General) Leia Organa/Skywalker. So far, fortunately, The Last Jedi is shaping up to be something special and promises to make fans of a galaxy far, far away laugh, cry and otherwise enjoy themselves in equal measure, when it arrives.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (December 20)
Dwayne Johnson has already starred in two movies (The Fate of the Furious, Baywatch) and the third season of his HBO TV series Ballers this year alone, but “The Rock” isn’t done with 2017 just yet. This December’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle reunites the A-listers with his Central Intelligence costar Kevin Hart for a soft reboot of the Jumanji franchise – that is, a movie that relaunches the magical game/jungle adventure property at the same time that it pays its respects to the 1996 Jumanji film and its headliner, the late, great Robin Williams.
In Welcome to the Jungle, Jumanji is now a video game (rather than a board game) that magically sucks four unsuspecting teenagers into its world and forces them to battle wild animals, plants and everything in-between, on their quest to beat the game and return home to their regular bodies. Jack Black and Karen Gillan round out the main cast of adult actors in the film, with Jake Kasdan – Black’s collaborator on the 2000s comedy Orange County, as well as the director of the Cameron Diaz comedy Bad Teacher – calling the shots from behind the camera.
The 1990s Jumanji movie (itself, based on the illustrated children’s book of the same name) has nostalgic value for the generation that grew up on it, making Welcome to the Jungle‘s attempt to “update” the franchise all the riskier for it. As Baywatch demonstrated earlier this year, pairing “The Rock” with an established brand isn’t a surefire recipe for runaway success, either. That being said, Welcome to the Jungle otherwise seems like the sort of harmless, playful, all-ages appropriate entertainment that families will be happy to sit down for, by the time the winter holidays roll around.
Downsizing (December 22)
Oscar-winning About Schmidt and Sideways writer/director Alexander Payne returns to theaters a four-year absence (following the release of his Best Picture Oscar-nominated Nebraska in 2013) with Downsizing, an original science-fiction satire that Payne conceived alongside his frequent co-screenwriter, Jim Taylor. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star in the film as a married couple who consider undergoing a new procedure – one in which they will be shrunk down to four inches tall, in turn allowing them to lead a more generally affordable and environmentally-sound lifestyle.
Downsizing also reunites Payne with past collaborators and revered character actors like Laura Dern and Margo Matindale, as part of a larger ensemble that includes big names like Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis and Neil Patrick Harris in supporting roles. Payne himself hasn’t worked in the sci-fi genre before, but Downsizing otherwise brings to mind the overt social satires/dark comedies that launched his filmmaking career in the 1990s (see Citizen Ruth and Election) more than his comedy/drama efforts from the 2000s and 2010s, in terms of its premise.
Damon, by comparison, doesn’t appear in dark comedies/satire too often (with exceptions like The Informant!), but he will have headlined two such projects in as many months this year, between Suburbicon and Downsizing. While Payne has won a pair of Oscars for his writing in the past, he has yet to win for his direction and Damon has likewise yet to pick up an Academy Award for his acting. That may or may not change over the next six months (or so) but either way, Downsizing looks and sounds like a potential winner based on everything that has been revealed about the film, thus far.
The Greatest Showman (December 25)
Hugh Jackman is expected to be a contender in this year’s awards season race thanks to his final performance as Wolverine in the critical darling Logan – but that’s not the only Jackman film hitting theaters this year that could snag the actor some award nominations (and/or wins). Jackman is also starring in this winter’s The Greatest Showman, an original big screen musical that doubles as a biopic about the life and times of P.T. Barnum, the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus and a otherwise legendary (infamous?) figure in the history of show-business.
The Greatest Showman (with Jackman starring) has been in development going all the way back to 2009 (and maybe then some), but is finally hitting theaters this year, under the watchful eye of visual effectors artist-turned director, Michael Gracey. Joining Jackman as members of the movie’s cast are such actors as Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson as the two most important women in Mr. Barnum’s life. Meanwhile, Zac Efron and Spider-Man: Homecoming scene-stealer Zendaya costar as two key players who help to launch Barnum’s circus act into stardom.
The original songs and music in The Greatest Showman was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul: the duo fresh off Oscar wins for their efforts on another musical salute to old-fashioned show-business and artists with big dreams, in the form of La La Land. It’s a bit much to expect that The Greatest Showman will recreate the awards season success of La La Land, but musicals do tend to play well with awards voters and have proven popular around the winter holidays in years past (see also Into the Woods and the Jackman-led Les Misérables) – so that certainly bodes well here.
American Assassin (September 15) – Author Vince Flynn’s counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp is finally being bought to the big screen, with Dylan O’Brien starring in the role. Will the American Assassin film give O’Brien another movie franchise to add to his belt (along with The Maze Runner)… or will Mr. Rapp’s first cinematic mission wind up being a failed one?
Jigsaw (October 27) – Like Jigsaw himself, the Saw movie franchise cannot seem to stay dead and will return (in some form) with this year’s sequel/soft reboot. Seven years have now passed since Saw 3D: The Final Chapter was released in theaters – but is there still a place in the modern horror landscape for the property that helped give birth to the concept of “torture porn”?
Darkest Hour (November 22) – Director Joe Wright may be coming off the big-budget flop that was Pan, but his new film – a biopic about Winston Churchill’s experiences near the beginning of WWII – read as being something more in his wheelhouse, by comparison. Perhaps the bigger question is, could this be the film that finally wins star Gary Oldman an Oscar for acting?
Molly’s Game (November 22) – Aaron Sorkin is an Oscar-winning screenwriter, but Molly’s Game will finally test his ability to direct from his own script. With a cast led by Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, plus some fascinating real-life source material, will Sorkin’s latest docudrama/memoir match the quality of his previous output (even without a David Fincher or Danny Boyle guiding the way)?
All the Money in the World (December 8) – Director Ridley Scott’s second film of 2017 (following Alien: Covenant) is based on a compelling true story and is led by dramatic heavyweights Kevin Spacey and Michelle Williams. Could Scott find his way back into the Oscar race yet again this year (he was last there for The Martian two years ago), thanks to All the Money in the World?
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