Despite a few expensive flops scattered throughout the year, 2013's total box office haul managed to narrowly beat 2012's, thanks to big-budget franchise sequels like Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Despicable Me 2 - the latter of which also broke the record for home video sales. It was another year of comic book films and sequels grabbing the attention of moviegoing audiences and 2014 looks to follow the trend.
The Screen Rant editorial staff has perused through all of the films debuting in theaters in 2014 and narrowed down a list of 20 that we're most anticipating. From familiar franchises, ambitious comic book projects and a few interesting adaptations - 2014 is looking to be another promising year for movie geeks.
Keep in mind, these are not films we necessarily expect to be the "best" - these are movies at the time of this publication (some don't even have a trailer yet!) that we are most excited to see and cover on the site. They're genre films we discuss and analyze most on Screen Rant and ones we hope to enjoy along with our readers and podcast listeners. Let's begin our countdown of the 20 movies we're anticipating most in 2014.
21 The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Release Date: December 17, 2014Director: Peter JacksonCast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitage
After continued mixed reviews and a drop at the box office with 2013's The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson needs to knock it out of the park with the trilogy-closing third installment in the drawn-out adaptation of The Hobbit. With the return of the incredibly animated and voiced Smaug and an epic war about to be had, we are excited to see how The Hobbit leads into The Fellowship of The Ring and hope it can make up for the lower points of its predecessors.
20 Edge of Tomorrow
Release Date: June 6, 2014Director: Doug LimanCast: Bill Paxton, Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise
Matt Damon powered up in a powered exoskeleton combat suit in 2013 with Neill Blomkamp's Elysium - and in 2014, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt will do the same in a war against alien invaders (and time). The footage at Comic-Con and the film's cast make Edge of Tomorrow an interesting sci-fi followup, albeit an unrelated one, to 2013's Oblivion - which we dug here at Screen Rant.
19 The Expendables 3
Release Date: August 15, 2014Director: Patrick HughesCast: Antonio Banderas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes
While The Expendables 2 left much to be desired, seeing even more action stars sign up for the three-quel with a new director at the helm has us excited at the potential for improved action, and more plain ol '80s action fun.
Release Date: April 18, 2014Director: Wally PfisterCast: Cillian Murphy, Johnny Depp, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall
With a cast of elite talent, Hollywood A-List cinematographer Wally Pfister - a regular on Christopher Nolan's works - makes his directorial debut with Transcendence - a story about a dying scientist (Depp) who manages to put his mind into a computer to become all-powerful.
17 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Release Date: January 17, 2014Director: Kenneth BranaghCast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner
One of author Tom Clancy's most beloved characters (Jack Ryan) returns to the big screen in this franchise reboot. Chris Pine (Star Trek) takes over the role previously occupied by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in what Paramount hopes to be the beginning of a large franchise, continuing forward with Kevin Costner's character William Harper (who, assuming that things work out, will appear in the spinoff Without Remorse by Christopher McQuarrie).
16 22 Jump Street
Release Date: June 13, 2014Directors: Phil Lord & Chris MillerCast: Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Jonah Hill
An easily desired sequel to the hilarious and successful adaptation of 21 Jump Street sees the comedic re-teaming of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. This time moving across the street to a new HQ and again going undercover, the pair finally get to attend college - and again try to fit in.
15 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Release Date: August 8, 2014Director: Jonathan LiebesmanCast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Whoopi Goldberg
Although we've yet to see any official marketing materials on the latest live-action adaption of the beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the project which once dropped "teenage" and "mutant" from its title is seemingly back on track to deliver what fans love most about the green warriors.
14 Need for Speed
Release Date: March 14, 2014Director: Scott WaughCast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton
With Fast & Furious 7 delayed a year and the franchise's last two installments favoring borderline-superhuman, over-the-top action sequences, Disney and Dreamworks attempt a risky video game adaptation of a property that generally doesn't embrace story or characters but do so with a desire to deliver authentic, real-life stunts with supercars. Tapping Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul to lead the chase and having seen one of these action sequences shot up close and personal on set, we're excited to see if Need For Speed can break the molds of both the racing and video game genres.
13 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Release Date: November 21, 2014Director: Francis LawrenceCast: Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson
Director Francis Lawrence managed to not only deliver a successful followup to the smash hit The Hunger Games, but managed to do so by improving upon nearly every aspect of the original film. Catching Fire knocked it out of the park and we're dying to see where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) takes us next.
12 The LEGO Movie
Release Date: February 7, 2014Director: Phil Lord & Chris MillerCast: Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell
Who would have thought that a movie could be made based on LEGO toys and licensed properties? Phil Lord and Chris Miller blew us away at Comic-Con with footage from The LEGO Movie and again with its trailers. Combing Robot Chicken-esque stop-motion animation and a hilarious cast, concept and story, The LEGO Movie is one of the more unique and exciting new franchises to hit cinemas in 2014.
11 How To Train Your Dragon 2
Release Date: June 13, 2014Director: Dean DeBloisCast: Cate Blanchett, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig
One of the most fun and heartwarming animated films in recent memory, How to Train Your Dragon managed to offer the closest experience to actually flying while sitting in a theater seat ever - even more than James Cameron's Avatar, arguably. The entire voice cast, and our favorite dragon Toothless return for the eagerly anticipated followup.
10 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: July 11, 2014Director: Matt ReevesCast: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell
We're still bitter about Andy Serkis not getting some sort of Academy Award nomination for his incredible motion-capture performance as Caeser in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In the followup, which takes place many years later after the catastrophic events of Rise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes introduces a new cast of human characters to surround the scene-stealing Serkis.
9 The Raid 2
Release Date: March 28, 2014Director: Gareth EvansCast: Donny Alamsyah, Iko Uwais, Raiden Integra, Yayan Ruhian
Gareth Evans impressed us with The Raid: Redemption and its mindblowing action sequences, and the fact that its getting a sequel is reason enough to get excited about seeing more of Rama (Iko Uwais) kicking butt on screen. The Raid 2: Berandal sees Uwais (and director Evans) return for the main role in a story that takes place just hours after the original.
8 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Release Date: May 2, 2014Director: Marc WebbCast: Andrew Garfield, Dane DeHaan, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
While The Amazing Spider-Man brought us a wonderful cast, its story was lacking and in some respects, incomplete. With the 'setup' out of the way and plans for multiple sequels and spinoffs officially announced by Sony, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has high expectations and a cast array of characters from the comics all (seemingly) carefully placed for the future of the series. With so much riding in the next Peter Parker adventure, we can't help but get excited about the potential of another Marvel Cinematic Universe.
7 Transformers 4
Release Date: June 27, 2014Director: Michael BayCast: Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci
Despite saying otherwise for quite sometime, Michael Bay decided to return to the director's chair for Transformers: Age of Extinction. The franchise's fourth live-action installment introduces new lead human characters led by Mark Wahlberg as well as plenty of new Cybertronian vehicles, including the fan-favorite Dinobots. After Bay improved upon the action sequences and visuals for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, we're amped to see more of Optimus Prime and company destroying more villains in the followup. Maybe this time we'll get to know some of the supporting bots?
Release Date: November 7, 2014Director: Christopher NolanCast: Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley
With The Dark Knight trilogy behind him and Inception proving director Christopher Nolan's creativity when it comes to science fiction, it's impossible to not get excited about Chris Nolan and his brother's screenplay about astronauts travelling through the first discovered wormhole.
5 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Release Date: April 4, 2014Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe RussoCast: Anthony Mackie, Chris Evans, Cobie Smulders, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
Our insiders told us long ago that the script for Captain America 2 was something to get excited about and when we saw the footage for The Winter Soldier at Comic-Con we couldn't believe how impressive the action sequences, characters and visuals looked. After Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World attempted to deliver standalone experiences, we're excited to get back to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the other, less-super heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a film that's hyped up to be the bridge between The Avengers and 2015's The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
4 X-Men: Days of Future Past
Release Date: May 23, 2014Director: Bryan SingerCast: Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage
X-Men: Days of Future Past serves not only as a sequel to X-Men: First Class, but as a followup to the original X-Men movie trilogy that brings almost every hero and villain back. Bryan Singer returns to the director's chair to tell a time travel story that has the potential to "fix" the continuity of the long-running superhero franchise and help launch all sorts of sequels and spinoffs. In fact, a sequel is already in the works with a confirmed release date in 2016.
3 Guardians of the Galaxy
Release Date: August 1, 2014Director: James GunnCast: Benicio Del Toro, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Karen Gillan, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana
The riskiest and most obscure project from Marvel Studios to date, Guardians of the Galaxy attempts to not only take the Marvel Cinematic Universe into space, but aims to do so with several sets of all-new heroes and villains and an all-new cast. Having seen the teaser footage at Comic-Con and having read all of the comics writer-director James Gunn is drawing inspiration from, we're pumped that Marvel is taking a chance on this property.
Release Date: May 16, 2014Director: Gareth EdwardsCast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins
Two years in a row, Warner Bros and Legendary stole the show at Comic-Con with footage for the reboot of Godzilla, and with an all-star cast and amazing special effects - not to mention a variety of monsters for Godzilla to battle - we're most excited about the return of Godzilla to the big screen. The official Godzilla trailer helped reinforce our anticipation.
1 Honorable Mentions
Early on in 2013 films including Mad Max: Fury Road and Fast & Furious 7 would have easily made Screen Rant's list of most anticipated movies of 2014 but both have been delayed into the epic release schedule of 2015 - a list which at first glance is even more impressive than what's coming in 2014.
Still, despite listing our top 20 films here, we began with a list several times as large. It's never an easy process removing a film from these lists, but it must be done and we wanted to name a few special outliers that we're excited about but that didn't quite make the top 20.
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Ride Along (January 17, 2014) - one of our favorite funnymen Kevin Hart gets a lead role alongside Ice Cube in Ride Along, one of the few films in January worth getting excited about.
RoboCop (February 12, 2014) - taking a weak release date in 2014 after a delay, RoboCop has much to overcome in addition to the '80s remake stigma, but what we've seen in footage, the trailers and cast so far has successfully managed to pique our interest against all odds.
Veronica Mars (March 14, 2014) - The wonderful but short-lived TV series starring Kristen Bell gets a film adaptation thanks to the power of fans and the Kickstarter crowdfunding service.
Jupiter Ascending (July 18, 2014) - Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski - and their visual eyes - take a key summer weekend to take moviegoers into an interesting future where humans are the lower class and Channing Tatum plays a genetically engineered super soldier on a mission to save Mila Kunis, the destined savior of humanity.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (August 22, 2014) - we've yet to see a trailer, but the sequel too-long-in-the-making brings back much of the original cast along with its signature black-and-white visual style for another Hard R set of intertwining stories.
These are just our picks so make sure to tell us what movies you're getting ready to geek out about in 2014!
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.