Winter and Spring 2018 are packed with everything from Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to X-Men films, Pacific Rim and Tomb Raider installments, and multiple Steven Spielberg projects. Things will cool off a bit at the start of the new year, following December's barrage of late year awards season contenders and crowd pleasing tentpoles (led by Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). However, it won't be long before things pick back up and big franchise movies - as well as buzzed about filmmaker offerings - begin flooding theaters again.
Acclaimed storytellers like Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Wes Anderson, and the king of blockbusters himself, Mr. Spielberg, will be unveiling their latest directorial efforts over the first four months of 2018. The Last Jedi costar John Boyega and Welcome to the Jungle headliner Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson aren't resting on their laurels either and have fresh projects hitting the scene over that same period of time. From original stop-motion animated features to provocative sci-fi films, genre-blending comic book adaptations, and even a Taraji P. Henson action flick, the lineup for the next few months is varied, to say the least.
Per usual, these films are listed in the order of their release date and we leave it to you (the readers) to decide which ones are your personal most anticipated releases for the first third of the year. So, without further ado, here is Screen Rant's 2018 Winter & Spring Movie Preview - The 15 Films to See.
The Post (January 12)
Steven Spielberg is ringing in the New Year with a valuable history lesson, before he sets off on a virtual reality adventure this spring (more on that later).
Spielberg's The Post is based on the true story of how The Washington Post (circa 1971) shed a light on the infamous Pentagon Papers, revealing years of government coverups that culminated with the Vietnam War in the process. Meryl Streep stars in the film as the Post's publisher, Katharine "Kay" Graham, and shares the screen with frequent Spielberg collaborator Tom Hanks as the newspaper's editor Ben Bradlee.
The Post is currently playing in an Oscar-qualifying limited theatrical release and has already picked up several award nominations, in addition to being named the Best Film of 2017 by the National Board of Review. Early word of mouth is that the film rounds out the "trilogy" that Spielberg began with Lincoln in 2012 and continued with Bridge of Spies in 2015 - movies that reflect on important moments in U.S. history and hold a mirror up to present-day political concerns and issues. The Post is another Spielberg sermon, in other words, fueled by handsome production values and more talented character actors than you can shake a stick at. Awards season buffs and/or fans of late-era Spielberg won't want to miss this one.
Paddington 2 (January 12)
Everyone's favorite Peruvian bear is back with another live-action movie and plenty of marmalade sandwiches to go around.
Paddington 2 finds Paddington Bear (Ben Whishaw) having settled in nicely with the Brown family and become a popular member of the Windsor Gardens community. Unfortunately, Paddington's efforts to find the perfect present to celebrate his Aunt Lucy's (Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday then go terribly awry, thanks in no small part to the illicit deeds of one washed-up actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant).
The Paddington sequel, like its predecessor, was co-written/directed by Paul King and features a human cast led by Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, and Julie Walters. Word of mouth from across the pond in the UK (where the film opened this past November) is that Paddington 2 is just as charmingly whimsical and heartfelt as the first installment, thanks in no small part to the return of so many key players. The movie's U.S. release nearly veered off the rails due to the collapse of The Weinstein Company - its original domestic distributor - but thankfully, Warner Bros. has since picked Paddington 2 up. Here's to another delightful outing on the big screen with Paddington and the Browns!
Proud Mary (January 12)
This January, Taraji P. Henson will take a break from playing Cookie Lyon on the small screen to go and try her hand at being an action star on the big screen.
Henson stars in Proud Mary as (who else?) Mary Goodman, an extremely efficient and deadly hit woman who works for a powerful crime family based in Boston. However, everything changes for Mary when she crosses paths with a young boy (played by youngster Jahi Di'Allo Winston of Feed the Beast) during a hit job that - of course - goes wrong and forces Mary to make some major decisions that will forever impact her career as a killer for hire.
Directed by Babak Najafi (Easy Money II: Hard to Kill, London Has Fallen), Proud Mary sounds like an assassin drama/thriller that has more than a few things in common with Luc Besson hits like Léon: The Professional and The Transporter (as well as, naturally, La Femme Nikita). It's the sort of pulpy flick that stands to be elevated by a noteworthy cast that includes Neal McDonough (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow), Billy Brown (Sons of Anarchy, How to Get Away with Murder), and decorated veterans like Danny Glover, in addition to the Oscar-nominated Henson. Who knows? If Proud Mary proves to be a hit, it might even serve as the beginning of a Taken/Transporter-style franchise for its star.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure (January 26)
Whereas Hunger Games split its finale in two and Divergent only got to tell three-quarters of its story, Maze Runner is wrapping up with a good old-fashioned trilogy.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure picks up a year or so after the second Maze Runner installment (The Scorch Trials), as series protagonist Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow Maze survivors prepare for one final showdown with the WCKD organization. Complicating matters is Teresa (Kara Scodelario), who you may recall tried - and failed - to get Thomas and the others to join her in aligning with WCKD in The Scorch Trials.
Once scheduled to hit theaters in early 2017, The Death Cure was delayed by a year after O'Brien suffered a serious stunt-related injury on the film's set. Fortunately, the actor has since recovered in full and is ready to conclude the young adult sci-fi saga that he and his collaborators - including, series director Wes Ball - set in motion in 2014. With critical-favorite character actor Walton Goggins joining the returning Maze Runner ensemble and most of the same players involved behind the scenes, The Death Cure should be able to bring things to a satisfying conclusion without sacrificing narrative momentum or stretching things out unnecessarily in the process (a la its fellow YA dystopian properties).
God Particle/Cloverfield 3 (February 2)
Paramount's third Cloverfield installment remains scheduled to arrive in early 2018, but has yet to get an official trailer (at the time of writing this).
Once (and possibly still) titled God Particle, Cloverfield 3 revolves around a team of astronauts who work aboard a U.S. space station orbiting the earth. When the crew witnesses a Hadron collider accident that causes humanity's home planet to vanish, they are left with naught but a team of foreign space explorers to turn to for help. But is there more going on here than meets the eye? And can these mysterious new astronauts be trusted?
Similar to Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane before it, Cloverfield 3 is a thriller based around a small group of people who are tried and tested by an extreme set of circumstances. Much like its predecessors featured then lesser-knowns Matt Reeves and Dan Trachtenberg at the helm, Cloverfield 3 is being directed by Julius Onah (The Girl Is in Trouble) and is tackling a genre that's brand new to the Cloverfield franchise (here, a space based mystery/thriller). It's possible that Cloverfield 3 will connect more directly to the other films than Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane did to each other - but with costar Gugu Mbatha-Raw admitting she has "no idea" how that's possible, it's best to not hold your breath.
Black Panther (February 16)
Before Thanos goes hunting for Infinity Stones, Marvel Studios will kick things off in 2018 by giving Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa a solo movie of his own.
Black Panther finds the young King of Wakanda beset by threats on all sides, following the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. Those dangers include Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger - the son of a banished family, who wants the Wakandan throne for himself - and the now one-armed, but no less dangerous, smuggler and black market dealer Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis).
Black Panther cowriter/director Ryan Coogler has already shown he's capable of retaining his auteur sensibilities while working on a franchise movie, with his Oscar-nominated Rocky sequel/spinoff Creed. Indie filmmakers James Gunn and Taika Waititi injected their Marvel Cinematic Universe installments with lots of quirky humor, but the Black Panther trailers suggest Coogler is angling to deliver more of a geopolitical thriller. Armed with a slick Afrofuturistic aesthetic and a terrific cast that includes Oscar-winners Lupita Nyong'o and Forest Whitaker, The Walking Dead's Dana Gurrai, and Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya, the odds are in favor of Coogler hitting another home run with his third time at bat.
Annihilation (February 23)
Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland is returning to the sci-fi genre in 2018, with a movie that promises to be equal parts thought-provoking and creepy.
Annihilation, which Garland adapted from Jeff VanderMeer's novel of the same name, revolves around a biologist (Natalie Portman) whose husband (Ex Machina alum Oscar Isaac) is permanently changed after he returns from a mysterious "disaster zone". The biologist thus decides to venture into this strange new world herself, in order to try and find out exactly what happened to her significant other. Suffice it to say, things don't go as expected.
If the film's intriguing premise and Garland's involvement behind the camera wasn't enough, Annihilation is further bolstered by an all star cast of women that, in addition to Portman, includes Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), and Ex Machina's Sonoya Mizuno. The Annihilation novel is the beginning of the Southern Reach Trilogy, meaning there's source material for sequels should Garland's adaptation prove to be a hit. While the film is expected to have relatively niche appeal (see also why Netflix is handling international distribution), it seems fair to assume that most everyone who gave Ex Machina a shake will/should do the same for Annihilation.
Red Sparrow (March 2)
We may never get a Black Widow solo movie, but we are getting a film about a Russian super spy/assassin played by an A-lister... just not Scarlett Johansson.
The movie in question is Red Sparrow. Based on the 2013 novel by former CIA operative Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow stars Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorava: a prima ballerina who suffers a career-wrecking injury and is left facing a future of uncertainty. However, Dominika is then approached by a secret intelligence service and offered a shiny new career path - that of a Sparrow, a secret operative trained to kill through the art of seduction.
Red Sparrow reunites the Oscar-winning Jennifer Lawrence with her The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingbird Part 1 & 2 director Francis Lawrence. Joining J-Law onscreen is a prestigious cast that includes Oscar-nominee Charlotte Rampling and Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons, as well as prolific character actors like Joel Edgerton, Mary Louise-Parker, and Justice League's own Steppenwolf, Ciarán Hinds. Francis Lawrence is arguably somewhat under-appreciated as a filmmaker and has continuously delivered handsome genre movies throughout his career (see also Constantine, I Am Legend, Water for Elephants). That doesn't look to change with Red Sparrow either, based on the trailer footage for the spy thriller.
A Wrinkle in Time (March 9)
Disney's latest live-action fairy tale feature moves away from the studio's famous animated filmography to adapt a literary classic, instead.
A Wrinkle in Time is based on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 novel and tells the story of Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a young girl who travels through the vastness of space in order to find and rescue her father (Chris Pine). Along the way, Meg crosses paths with various celestial beings, including a trio of magical women (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling) who help guide her along on her increasingly dangerous adventure.
Directed by Ava DuVernay of Selma and 13th fame, A Wrinkle in Time boasts lots of phantasmagorical imagery to go along with its inclusive, star studded cast, and intriguing narrative (scripted by Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee, no less). A Wrinkle in Time does have a disadvantage compared to recent live-action Disney smash hits like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, in that it doesn't have the same built-in audiences as those reimaginings of cherished Disney animated features. There's plenty of positive buzz surrounding the film right now, fortunately, and who knows - if A Wrinkle in Time hits it off with audiences, this might not be the only entry in L'Engle's Time Quintet that makes it to the big screen.
Tomb Raider (March 16)
Lara Croft is returning to the big screen at long last, only now brought to life by Alicia Vikander rather than her fellow Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie.
Tomb Raider (2018) is a reboot of the video game movie franchise that winds the clock back to when Lara was in her early 20s and taking college classes in London, making her living as a bike courier. Everything changes when Lara uncovers a mystery surrounding the disappearance of her father (Dominic West) seven years earlier, and sets out to uncover the truth on an adventure that will evolve her into - what else? - a full-blooded tomb raider.
The Tomb Raider video games got a gritty makeover in 2013 and the film reboot is unsurprisingly drawing heavily from the modern Tomb Raider games for its own reinvention of the property. Whereas the Jolie-headlined Tomb Raider movies were helmed by blockbuster schlockmeisters like Simon West and Jan de Bont, the 2018 version is being directed by acclaimed Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug (The Wave) from a screenplay by up and comer Geneva Robertson-Dworet (who's also cowriting Captain Marvel). Video game adaptations are a difficult nut to crack - but between the behind the scenes talent, its down and dirty aesthetic, and Vikander leading the way, Tomb Raider may yet break the video game film "curse".
Pacific Rim Uprising (March 23)
The Pacific Rim sequel has taken longer than expected to arrive and lost director Guillermo del Toro along the way, but is finally (almost) here.
Pacific Rim Uprising picks up a decade after the Battle of the Breach, in which the portal connecting our world with that of the kaiju (and their masters) was successfully closed. Nothing lasts forever though and before long, it falls to a new generation of Jaeger pilots - including one Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of the late Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) - to rise to the challenge and face a new kaiju-related threat to our world.
While del Toro ultimately stepped down as director on the Pacific Rim sequel in order to go make The Shape of Water instead, he left the project in some very promising and capable hands. In addition to director Steven S. DeKnight (the creator of Spartacus and showrunner on Daredevil season 1), Uprising was handled by writers like Kira Snyder (The Handmaid's Tale) and Emily Carmichael (The Adventures of Ledo and Ix) and boasts an international cast of up and comers like Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Tian Jing, and Adria Arjona. Uprising will have a different look and feel than del Toro's installment, judging by the trailers, but may yet prove to be a worthy successor that opens new doors for this sci-fi/action franchise.
Isle of Dogs (March 23)
Following a couple of live-action ventures, Wes Anderson is returning to the world of stop-motion animation that he last visited in 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Anderson's Isle of Dogs is an original project that takes place in a futuristic version of Japan where, in the wake of overpopulation concerns, all the dogs in the country have been moved to a secluded island to live out their days. However, when a boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) arrives on the island looking for his beloved pup, it falls to the isle's canine residents to band together and help the young human reunite with his true best friend.
Increasingly over time, Anderson's films have become filled to the brim with A-list acting talent and Isle of Dogs is no different in that respect. In addition to frequent Anderson collaborators like Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and Edward Norton, the dogs in the film are voiced by people like Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Courtney B. Vance, and even Lady Bird filmmaker Greta Gerwig. Anderson has made it no secret that Isle of Dogs is his own idiosyncratic salute to the collective works of iconic Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Rashomon), so the hope is that the movie will also be culturally sensitive in its westernized take on Japanese cinema tropes. Thus far, fortunately, that appears to be the case.
Ready Player One (March 30)
Never one content to focus on a single genre, director Steven Spielberg is returning to sci-fi/action territory for his second offering of the new year.
Ready Player One is based on Ernest Cline's best-selling 2011 novel and tells the story of Wade Owen Watts (Tye Sheridan), a young man living in a dystopian future where the general population spends most of its time in the virtual reality landscape of OASIS rather than the real world. Everything changes when the creator of OASIS (Mark Rylance) dies and leaves behind one final game - the winner of which gains control of his fortune and OASIS itself.
The trailers for Spielberg's Ready Player One (which Cline cowrote) have been packed with pop culture easter eggs and shiny virtual reality visuals, but have also revitalized criticisms of its source material - namely, that it's an outdated "boy saves the world" power fantasy. Spielberg is at a stage in his career where even his fantastical adventure films tend to be self-reflective in their storytelling approach (see also: The Adventures of Tintin and The BFG) and Ready Player One stands to benefit from his involvement, in that respect. Those who are wary of the film can also take comfort in Rylance's claims that Spielberg's movie is almost more like "an original story" than it is a strict page-to-screen translation of Cline's own book.
The New Mutants (April 13)
Having tried their hand at raunchy self-reflexive comedy and gritty self-reflective drama, the X-Men movies are ready to tackle horror for the first time.
Enter The New Mutants, a film adaptation of the X-Men spinoff comic book property (created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod in 1982) about a group of troubled teenaged mutants. The big screen version takes the New Mutants (characters like Magik, Cannonball, and Wolfsbane) and sticks them in a classic horror movie setting - that of a mysterious medical institution, where everything is almost certainly not what it appears to be.
Josh Boone, who is both cowriter and director on New Mutants, is clearly serious about taking the X-Men franchise into full-blown horror genre territory here. The superhero property has now gone R-Rated on two occasions - with Tim Miller's Deadpool and James Mangold's Logan - and has even gotten a David Lynch-inspired surreal makeover on the small screen, with Noah Hawley's Legion TV show. Between its Nightmare on Elm Street-inspired visuals and casting of horror film veterans like Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split), New Mutants aims to mix things up in a similarly audacious manner. Whether it succeeds, fails, or something in-between, New Mutants is definitely one that X-Men movie fans won't want to miss.
Rampage (April 20)
After being trapped in a video game in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is now bringing a real video game to the big screen.
Rampage is based on the arcade/video game and features The Rock as Davis Okoye, a primatologist who must help save the day when his best friend - a highly intelligent silverback gorilla - is mutated into a gigantic, city-wrecking creature. Naomie Harris costars as a genetic engineer who teams up with Okoye when the pair discover that there are now several enormous monsters wreaking havoc (and ruining infrastructure) across the world.
The Rampage adaptation reunites Johnson with his Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas director Brad Peyton for another spectacle-fueled pice of popcorn entertainment. Depending on how you look at it, the original Rampage gaming property's lack of plot gives the movie version an advantage/disadvantage over past adaptations of video game franchises with denser mythologies (a la Warcraft and Assassin's Creed). With the exception of Baywatch, Johnson's efforts to expand his "brand" in recent years have proven fruitful and Rampage may yet prove to be another rewarding venture for the actor. It does feature The Rock doing battle with giant gorillas, wolves, and crocodiles after all.
- Insidious: The Last Key (January 5) - Yes, Lin Shaye's demon-battling Elise Rainier died in the first Insidious movie, but she's back once again for the franchise's fourth installment. Question is, as the sequel to a prequel to the original film, can The Last Key find a fresh angle on this aging supernatural horror property?
- The Commuter (January 12) - Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra are teaming up again for a movie where Neeson must solve a mystery aboard a moving vehicle (see also Non-Stop). Neeson and Collet-Serra's collaborations have provided good pulpy entertainment thus far, so hopefully their "Taken on a Train" thriller will follow suit too.
- Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built (February 2) - A movie "inspired by real events" about Helen Mirren hanging out in a big ol' weird house full of ghosts sounds like good fun. Directors Michael and Peter Spierig has an uneven track record (Predestination, Daybreakers, Jigsaw), but hopefully this one will be more The Woman in Black than not.
- Early Man (February 16) - Aardman Animations' comical caveman adventure is being sold as the studio's most ambitious claymation feature to date. That's nothing to sneeze at given their previous output (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep), but will it be enough for the very British Early Man to become a proper crossover success stateside?
- Super Troopers 2 (April 20) - A Super Troopers sequel is finally upon, after years of Broken Lizard fans asking for another outing with Vermont's worst state troopers right meow (had to be done). Can director/star Jay Chandrasekhar and his collaborators finally break the curse of belated cult comedy sequels turning out badly (see: Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander No. 2, and so on)?