2011 had its share of disappointing movies, but among the good we had our favorites and it’s not dampening our spirits as we look forward to 2012 – where again, there are more major films releasing than there are weeks in the year.

From comic book, sci-fi and fantasy epics, to prequels, sequels and reboots, many of film’s iconic characters and actors make their way to the big screen again this year, and have earned their place among Screen Rant’s most anticipated movies of 2012.

Release Date: June 15, 2012
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor Bill Nighy, Stanley Tucci, Eleanor Tomlinson

The first Jack the Giant Killer trailer showcases an epic fantasy adventure based on the classic fairy tale, in which Jack (Hoult) unwittingly grows a beanstalk to the land of the vengeful Giants, where he must venture to rescue a princess (Tomlinson).

With Singer at the helm for his first go at the fantasy genre, and a strong cast in his hands, it’s hard not to find intrigue in the movie that pulled him out of directing X-Men: First Class.

Release Date: June 29, 2012
: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Ray Park, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Bruce Willis, Ray Stevenson

A director change, combined with a clean-sweep of the cast from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, gives Paramount Pictures what amounts to a quasi-reboot of the action-packed franchise based on the popular Hasbro toy line. With Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking the spotlight and a clear emphasis on grittier, harsher action, we hope Retaliation improves on the good parts of its predecessor. The sequel follows the remaining Joes working off the grid to overthrow Cobra Commander and his plans of world domination.

Release Date: August 31, 2012
Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska

The man behind the adaptation of  author Cormac McCarthy’s bestselling novel The Road  heads to the Old West with an all-star cast for Wettest County, a crime-thriller about three brothers and their bootlegging gang  forced into violent action when their moonshine operation becomes threatened. It’s based on the novel by Matt Bondurant, which in turn is based on his grandfather and great-uncles.

The under-the-radar film has undergone a pair of name changes and a production halt due to financing, before switching studios and being picked up for distribution. We’re riding the Tom Hardy train high and have strong expectations from Hillcoat and this talented cast.

Release Date: January 20, 2012
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton

After bringing together an impressive cast for Contagion, Soderbergh assembles another impressive ensemble for Haywire, an action-thriller about a Black Ops elite soldier named Mallory Kane (Carano) who takes on the missions that governments pretend don’t exist. While on assignment in Ireland, Kane is double-crossed and the situation for her and her family goes… haywire.

There’s no doubt in Carano’s martial arts abilities giving the film credible action sequences – as evidenced in the Haywire trailer – our only concern is the film’s plot being too standard.

Release Date: October 19, 2012
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Pence, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi, Frank Grillo, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña

Ruben Fleischer steps away from comedy (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less) to offer a serious take on the mafia presence in 1940s Los Angeles. With the cast involved and an interesting premise about the LAPD doing their best to keep East Coast gangsters out of LA, we can only hope Gangster Squad delivers on its promise.

Release Date: December 21, 2012
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Brad Pitt, Eric West, Matthew Fox, David Morse, James Badge Dale, Mireille Enos

Based on Max Brooks’ best-selling novel but offering a radical departure from its style for the film adaptation, World War Z (the movie) follows a  UN official (Pitt) as he travels around the world attempting to stop the zombie pandemic from destroying the world. While we were hoping for a documentary style collection of first-person recountings from survivors of the zombie outbreak, more in line with the style of the novel, we’re still hopeful that Forster’s take on the material will be something unlike any other zombie movie.

Brad Pitt’s production company eagerly won the film rights to the property and Pitt himself stars, in what Paramount Pictures hopes is the beginning of a World War Z trilogy.

World War Z fan poster from Movie Cultists.

Release Date: December, 2012
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Tommy Lee Jones James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Sally Field, John Hawkes, Walton Goggins

Spielberg’s had his eye on this historic biopic about President Abraham Lincoln for a decade, ever since acquiring the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography. Liam Neeson was previously cast as Honest Abe, where he did extensive research to prepare for the part before eventually dropping out and paving the way for two-time Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis and an all-star supporting cast.

With Spielberg’s War Horse debuting as Oscar bait at the end of 2011, expect the same quality of work on Lincoln when it hits at the end of this year.

Release Date: June 22, 2012
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie

Before Spielberg’s biopic on the 16th American President, theatergoers will have the opportunity to witness a younger Abraham Lincoln… hunting vampires. Seth Grahame-Smith is adapting his own novel into a screenplay, with the help of Simon Kinberg, to be produced by Tim Burton.

The story of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter also takes the shape of a biopic, but with the twist that it’s based on secret diaries kept by Lincoln (Walker) and given to his vampire friend (Cooper), a “good” vampire who rescued Lincoln and taught him how to fight and hunt. The novel offers alternative and hidden explanations behind real-world events, making it one of the most interesting films coming in 2012.

Release Date: August 3, 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke

The Columbia Pictures’ remake of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger follows Screen Rant’s 5 golden rules for movie remakes by taking the Philip K. Dick short story in an entirely different direction, and we’re on board for the virtual trip. This Colin Farrell starrer drops the Mars and alien story of the original (along with the cheesy one-liners) in favor of a grittier and more realistic take on the near future. Expect lots of action and beautiful visuals in this sci-fi adventure.

Release Date: August 3, 2012
Director: Tony Gilroy
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen

Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne trilogy ended on a high note with The Bourne Ultimatum but it didn’t end the franchise. Although Damon and director Paul Greengrass are not involved, screenwriter Tony Gilroy returns as the writer and jumps into the captain’s chair to helm the fourth installment in the Bourne franchise. Similar to what’s occurring in the Mission: Impossible series, Jeremy Renner steps in to take over the established franchise as a new character (a CIA operative) with a new story set in the same universe based on the Robert Ludlum novels. We expect another smart thriller from The Bourne Legacy, with a lead character who uses his brain over brawn, and we hope the series continues long enough to see the titular character eventually return.

Release Date: June 1, 2012
Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

Of the two Snow White films coming out next year, the one with Thor star Chris Hemsworth as the titular Huntsman is the one to be excited about. We’re happy to see Kristen Stewart as the lead in a big budget non-Twilight film, and with the supporting cast (especially the dwarves)  filled out with likable and recognizable stars (including Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Ian McShane), this movie and its stylistic aesthetic is easily one of the go-to fantasy movies of 2012, offering a unique twist on a classic fairy tale. You also can’t go wrong with Chris Hemsworth wielding a medieval weapon.

Release Date: December 25, 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sacha Baron Cohen, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell

Although not the typical Christmas-type movie, the formula of Quentin Tarantino + incredible ensemble cast always yields great results. Django Unchained is a spaghetti western revenge flick about a freed slave (Foxx) trained to be a bounty hunter from his mentor (Waltz), who goes on a mission to save his enslaved wife. This is right up Tarantino’s alley, so expect great things from the dialogue and characters – many of whom are played by Tarantino regulars.

Release Date: March 23, 2012
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Based on the successful novel – and first of a trilogy – by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games tells the tale of Katniss Everdeen, who must fight for her life in the annual main event, the key piece of entertainment for the post-apocalyptic future America. Lionsgate is banking on this franchise becoming the next big young adult hit as the Twilight series winds down, and with the talent involved, combined with our fondness for the books (the first two, anyway), we have high hopes for this spring release.

Release Date: November 9, 2012
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw

Whether or not Daniel Craig signs on for another five James Bond films, he’ll finally be back next year for Skyfall and we’re thankful the MGM situation was resolved so it could happen. Quantum of Solace let a lot of us down after Casino Royale successfully rebooted the series, giving fans a believable and enjoyable take on Agent 007. Craig, and those involved, promise big things from Skyfall, which boasts a strong cast of talent and an entirely original story not related to any of Ian Fleming’s novels – and thankfully and not associated with Quantum of Solace.

SkyFall poster art by AndrewSS7.

Release Date: August 17, 2012
Director: Simon West
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Scott Adkins and Novak Djokovi.

The cast list, trailer and poster for The Expendables 2 is literally a dream come true, and a decade ago, it was unfathomable that a single movie could contain so many iconic action stars. The Expendables was Stallone’s tribute to ’80s action movies, and for the sequel, he’s bringing back everyone and everything we loved about that and (literally) blowing it up with so much more.

Add the fact that Con Air director Simon West is taking over the helm from Stallone (who didn’t exactly impress with the last film) and there’s reason to be excited that the sequel could surpass the original.

Release Date: July 3, 2012
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary

When Spider-Man 4 was canned and Sony immediately pushed ahead on development of a 3D reboot, there was a collective groan from moviegoers and comic fans at the thought of  seeing another origin story. But with the direction they took – bringing Marc Webb into the director’s chair, casting Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, drawing more from the comics, and all the steps following – production has been on the up and up and we’re genuinely excited from what we’ve seen from The Amazing Spider-Man trailer and footage at Comic-Con, so much so that it’s one of our most anticipated films of the year.

Release Date: June 8, 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce

Originally a prequel to Alien (still is?) but now only set in the Aliens universe, Ridley Scott is back to bring us what we love most here at Screen Rant. The cast, story and mystery surrounding Prometheus, as well as the script by Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts, has us so intrigued that we were sold on the concept alone. When the Prometheus trailer hit, our high hopes were justified and we couldn’t be more excited about a return to Alien-style sci-fi horror, with this tale about explorers heading to a distant planet searching for the origins of our species.

Release Date: December 14, 2012
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lily, Elijah Wood

It’s impossible for any fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to not be ecstatic about returning to Middle-Earth for the story of Bilbo Baggins. The Hobbit  tale will be told over two movies and will serve as a prequel of sorts to the Lord of the Rings films, so much so that when it’s all said and done, the five movies can be watched back-to-back as a consistent and complete pentalogy. Much of the cast and crew return from the trilogy, with many of the same locations in New Zealand used again for familiarity.  Gandalf, we’re ready for this adventure.

Release Date: May 4, 2012
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard, Cobie Smulders

Arguably the most ambitious film project ever, no studio has ever succeeded in doing what Marvel Studios has constructed with their shared cinematic universe and lead-ups to The Avengers. Five individual superhero films over four years laid the foundation for this big superhero team-up, directed by geek icon Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly). And while some of the more recent Marvel superhero films didn’t quite meet our expectations, we have the highest of hopes for The Avengers. Much of the film remains shrouded in mystery (and rumors), but from what we’ve seen so far of our favorite heroes in costume and in action, this should be the epitome of epicness.

Release Date: July 20, 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard

The Dark Knight Rises comes this summer with the highest of expectations after the financial and critical success that was The Dark Knight, but there’s no question that Christopher Nolan can pull this off as the conclusion to his Batman story. The already impressive returning cast is boasted with the help of a few new characters played by Nolan regulars in what will undoubtedly be a complex and rich Batman adventure that runs full circle with Batman Begins. Few movies have earned this much excitement and anticipation – fewer still have actually delivered on it. For our money, we suspect Nolan will meet that challenge.

There are many other high-profile films (we started with over 60) that interest us this year, but didn’t make the list either because of  negative early reviews or us simply finding them not as exciting as the 20 above. Now that you know what the Screen Rant team is looking forward to this year, let us know what you are anticipating.

For a comprehensive look at all of the movies coming out this year, be sure to check out our massive 2012 movie preview.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.