The Most Anticipated Films of 2016 (That Don’t Have Any Superheroes In Them)

By January 14, 2016

It’s hard not to think of movies this year, without titles like Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, Star Trek Beyond, and other big blockbusters instantly coming to mind. These are after all, supposed to be the big event films of this year, and will most likely be what some moviegoers remember when 2016 eventually comes to an end. However, we here at GeekNation are just as equally excited for some of the smaller, unknown films that we can look forward to as well, the films that you usually don’t hear about until we’re already deep into the Oscar season in the Fall.

Now, that’s not to say that we’re not looking forward to some of the previously mentioned titles because we’re already planning on buying early tickets for a number of them. This time though, we’re hoping to bring some early awareness and hype for the movies that don’t have the benefit that capes and cowls provide with their box office numbers, or budgetary constraints. So here are 25 movies this year that we believe you should be looking forward, that you might not have already heard about.

(Blockbuster Honorable Mentions: Batman v Superman, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Bourne 5, Suicide Squad, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Assassin’s Creed, The BFG, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange, and X-Men: Apocalypse.)

snowden25. Snowden

At this point, Oliver Stone can be very hit or miss with his projects. However, it’s hard for us not to be at least interested in his next project, Snowden. Both based on its current cultural relevance and the stunning cast he’s assembled for it (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood, Nicolas Cage, Timothy Olyphant, etc.), the film has the potential to be his best project in years. Or it could be another topic of the week political film. That’s the question.

Snowden is set to hit theatres on May 13th.

the neon demon24. The Neon Demon

Much like the previously mentioned Stone, Nicolas Winding-Refn is without a doubt, one of the most interesting directors working in Hollywood, although sometimes that’s not necessarily a good thing. With 2011’s Drive, he managed to balance style and substance fairly well in one of the most enthralling films of that year. However, his follow-up in Only God Forgives was one of the most universally despised film of its respective year, and now with The Neon Demon, a horror movie set in Los Angeles, he has the potential to make a comeback in a big way. Taking into account some of peoples’ biggest criticisms with Refn as a filmmaker though, a stylish, bloody horror film could end up being the wrong route to take with his newest project. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Neon Demon does not currently have a release date, though Amazon recently acquired the rights to the film.

kubo and the two strings featured image23. Kubo and the Two Strings

LAIKA has been consistently putting out some of the best animated films of the past few years with titles like The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline, but with this year’s Kubo & The Two Strings, they may have their most interesting yet. Mixing classic notes of a samurai story with the kind of humor and style that the studio has perfected, the film looks amazing both visually and thematically, and out of every film this year, has some of the most promise.

Kubo & The Two Strings is set to hit theatres on August 19th.

the accountant22. The Accountant

Director Gavin O’Connor blew me away with his UFC-centered family drama, Warrior, back in 2011 and while I’m still hopefully optimistic about his long-troubled Western, Jane Got a Gun, later this month – it’s The Accountant that has really captured my attention. Featuring a stellar cast led by Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick, the film’s story about a forensics analyst breaking down the books of his most corrupt clients sounds like not only a departure from some of O’Connor’s other action-led projects, but could be one of the most interesting films of the year.

The Accountant is set to hit theatres on October 7th.

money monster21. Money Monster

Outside of her acting, Jodie Foster has crafted an interesting directing career for herself over the years, with some of her best work on TV shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. With Money Monster though, she’s pursuing her most ambitious venture yet, telling the story of a high-personality TV host (George Clooney), that gives financial advice to his viewers regarding stocks and investments. When one of his most backed predictions falls apart though, he, his show crew, and his producer (Julia Roberts) are taken hostage by an irate viewer (played by the phenomenal Jack O’Connell) live on air. Also following a web of financial lies in the background, the film could be one of this year’s most tense thrillers, or its ambition could exceed its grasp. Either way, it’s hard not to be excited about this one.

Money Monster is set to hit theatres on May 13th.

passengers20. Passengers

Chris Pratt is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Jennifer Lawrence is one of the world’s most beloved actresses. Their combined star power and talent is a big reason we’re looking forward to this year’s sci-fi love story, Passengers, which follows the story of a spacecraft transporting thousands of humans across space to a distant colony planet. However, when a male passenger’s sleep chamber malfunctions and he awakens sixty years before the ship’s arrival, he decides to wake up another female passenger so he does not live and die alone. Honestly, it’s a bit of a selfish mood from the sounds of it, but the idea of an entire movie only really featuring two main actors with Pratt and Lawrence’s onscreen energies is enough to make us hopeful that it could be an interesting and exciting combination of the romance and sci-fi genres.

Passengers is set to hit theatres on December 21st.

the founder19. The Founder

Plain and simple – we’ll see anything Michael Keaton does nowadays. After being one of the best go-to actors in the 1980s, he made one hell of a comeback in 2014’s Birdman, and followed it up with an even more reserved and refined performance in last year’s Spotlight. He continues to pick interesting projects it sounds like, and him playing the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, could mean we get yet another stellar, awards worthy performance from the beloved actor. Combining that with the always reliable John Lee Hancock as director too, and this movie has suddenly made us very interested in the history of McDonald’s. Something we never thought we’d say.

The Founder is set to hit theatres on November 25th.

IMG_2135.CR218. The Lobster

Starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, and more – The Lobster was one of the biggest festival darlings of this past year, and while it wasn’t able to secure a 2015 release date, this March indie outing has remained near the top of our most anticipated lists ever since its premiere at Cannes last summer. Set in a dystopian future where single people have 45 days to find a romantic partner before being turned into an animal, the film looks goofy, terrifying, romantic, and uncomfortable in the best possible way. The buzz around it says that its one of the strangest, and romantic films of the past few years, and because of that – we’re very much looking forward to checking out The Lobster in a few months. Plus, Farrell’s mustache looks like it might even give his legendary True Detective facial hair a run for its money.

The Lobster is set to hit theatres on March 11th.

trespass against us17. Trespass Against Us

I’m going to give you two names: Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson. You’re already excited right? Following the story of a man trying to escape the ways of his criminal family, the film boasts an impressive cast of Irish and British actors, that could be one of those family crime dramas that becomes the talk of the town later this year. Not much is known about its release date, but A24 (my favorite studio) picked up it a while back and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have some interesting release plans set for it after entering into the awards category with several of their films over the past few years.

Trespass Against Us does not currently have a release date.

UNA16. Una

Adapted from a play by David Harrower, who also served as the film’s screenwriter, director Benedict Andrews’ Una sounds like it could be one of the most powerful, enthralling films of this year. Following the story of a woman tracking down the man who sexually abused her when she was twelve, and has been living under a different name ever since, the film stars Rooney Mara as Una and Ben Mendelsohn as Ray. The play was originally a 90-minute two hander set primarily in one room between these two people, and the idea of seeing Mara and Mendelsohn, two of this generation’s finest actors, bouncing off of each other like this should not only deliver amazing performances, but a film worthy of all of you truly dedicated cinephiles out there.

Una does not currently have a release date, but there are strong chances it’ll premiere at a festival sometime later this year.

demolition15. Demolition

Jake Gyllenhaal can do no wrong at this point. After a string of nonstop amazing, transformative performances in films like Prisoners, Southpaw, Everest, Nightcrawler, and more, his next film is Demolition, which looks like it could be his most reserved, and refined performance yet. Not having the weight loss or weight gain transformation going for him this time around, Demolition – which follows the story of a man struggling to live again following his wife’s death in a car crash – Gyllenhaal’s performance here could be one of the most mature steps in his career. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee as well, who’s known for his quiet, emotional dramas, Demolition is said to be a callback to some of the truly great character dramas of the 1970s, and we can’t wait to sit down and watch this in just a few short months.

Demolition is set to hit theatres on April 8th.

the zookeeper's wife14.The Zookeeper’s Wife

Jessica Chastain has just gotten better and better throughout her career, playing an amalgamation of different, polar opposite characters of the last few years, that if it weren’t for her striking red hair, you might not even recognize her. She’s basically the only reason I’m excited for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, but when it comes to her 2016 releases, it’s The Zookeeper’s Wife that’s really got me excited. The film tells the true story of Antonina and Jan Żabińska, who ran the Warsaw Zoo during WWII and helped to shelter and aid Jews hiding from the Nazi regime by giving them refuge in their animal cells. Focus Features is behind it currently, and you might want to expect an awards run from this one in the early or late Fall of this year.

The Zookeeper’s Wife does not currently have a release date.

the promise13. The Promise

Not many others actors in the industry are quite as reliable as Oscar Isaac. After a string of amazing performances in equally amazing films (Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina), The Promise might just continue his streak. Set during the final days of the Ottoman Empire, the film also stars Christian Bale and comes from director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), and with its central love triangle, intriguing setting, and even better cast – The Promise has about all that it needs in order to be good. At this point though, we’ll see anything that Oscar Isaac does.

The Promise does not currently have a release date.

nocturnal animals12. Nocturnal Animals

It’s hard to make a movie that involves writing in any way, which is probably why I ended up loving The End of the Tour so much because it was less about the writing itself, and more about the mindset of the people in front of their typewriters. However, with Nocturnal Animals, which follows the story of an ex-husband leaving his manuscript to read for his ex-wife, the film has the chance to incorporate elements of writing in a very interesting way, by telling its characters’ lives through a “story in a story” structure. Much like the previously mentioned Demolition too, we’ll be interested in anything that Jake Gyllenhaal does from now on, and with him headlining the cast alongside Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Armie Hammer, Isla Fisher, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and more too – it’s hard not to imagine the kind of film that could bring this group of incredibly talented people together.

Nocturnal Animals does not have a release date, so keep your eyes peeled for any festival announcements later this year.

the girl on the train11. The Girl on the Train

Coming off of her breakout hit in last summer’s Mission: Impossible 5 – Rogue Nation, Rebecca Ferguson’s first notable follow-up is already shaping up to be an interesting, crime adaptation rumored to be along the same lines as David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Starring alongside the usually spectacular Emily Blunt as well, The Girl on the Train boasts two of the most impressive female actresses in Hollywood today basically leading the film. Whether or not the adaptation manages to live up to its onscreen talent and source material quality though is still a mystery, but it’s hard not to be excited for The Girl on the Train.

The Girl on the Train is set to hit theatres on October 7th.

manchester by the sea10. Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan has had one of the most addled, interesting careers of any writer and director in Hollywood today. After his spectacular Margaret was finally released after years and years of post-production troubles, the writer/director is finally returning to the big screen this year with Manchester by the Sea. Featuring an all-star cast including Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and more, the film promises to be an interesting family drama about an uncle forced to take on his nephew after his brother passes away. Knowing how Lonergan has previously addressed family dynamics and emotions in his works makes this one of the films this year that has the most potential to really break out from the pack. Michelle Williams alone is enough to make us excited for any movie these days though.

Manchester by the Sea does not have a release date as of yet, but it is set to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

story of your life9. Story of Your Life

Director Denis Villeneuve has been on a streak unlike any other these past few years with Prisoners in 2013, Enemy in 2014, and the spectacular Sicario in 2015. Prepping right now to take on the long-awaited sequel to Blade Runner next year as well, the director is set to release a new project in the meantime though called Story of Your Life. It’s a sci-fi film led by Amy Adams, and considering everything that Villenueve has done up until this point, he’s given us no reason to believe this won’t simply be one of the best films of 2016. Every year he continues to evolve and grow as a filmmaker into one of the most technically skilled directors of our generation. Something tells us he’ll continue that trend here.

Story of Your Life does not currently have a release date, though you should keep your eyes peeled for it to be at a festival sometime this year including Cannes or TIFF.

the circle8. The Circle

Speaking of great directors too, James Ponsoldt has made a name for himself in the indie scene after projects like Smashed, The Spectacular Now, and The End of the Tourwhich have cemented him as a director that always manages to find the central emotion in each of his films. Now, with The Circle, it looks like he’s preparing to enter into some completely new territory with a sci-fi film featuring one of the best casts of the year including Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens break out star, John Boyega. We hate to sound like a broken machine too, but we’re willing to sit down for anything that Ponsoldt does moving forward, and with a cast like this? It’s near impossible to say no.

The Circle does not currently have a release date.

silence featured image7. Silence

Did you ever expect for this not to be on here somewhere? Any time a Martin Scorsese-directed film is on its way, it is going to be on our most anticipated list for its respective year, and Silence is no exception to that rule. Abandoning the usual urban environments in a majority of his past films as well, Scorsese is going back in time to 17th century Japan, and telling the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to a religiously strict nation to try and find their mentor and help spread the word of Christianity. Scorsese has always had an interesting way of addressing religion in his films, based mostly on his heavy Catholic background, and considering Silence has been a passion project of his for a long time, it’ll be interesting to see how he’s planning on telling this rather spiritual story. Did we mention that Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson are in it as well? Because they are.

Silence does not currently have a release date, but considering Scorsese is at the helm, you might want to look out for it in late Oscar season of this year.

midnight special featured image6. Midnight Special

After both Take Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols has announced himself in some way as one of the most specific directors of his time. Using the cultural background of his earlier life to influence his films too, Midnight Special is set to be his largest film to date. Telling the story of a boy with supernatural powers and his parents, who are forced to go on the run from law enforcement and religious radicals, the usual emotional through line of Nichols’ previous projects will likely remain present here as well, alongside the large scope and visual effects teased in the film’s initial trailer. Nichols’ has been planning on making Midnight Special for several years now, and after citing influences from both Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter too, it’s shaping up to be one of the most interesting sci-fi films of the past few years.

Midnight Special is set to hit theatres on March 18th.

20th century women5. 20th Century Women

This is a bit of a biased choice on my part if I’m being honest, but there isn’t a single bone in my body that isn’t looking forward to Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women. His last film, Beginners, has firmly planted itself near the top of my all-time favorite movies, and is perhaps one of the most emotionally complex, masterful and overlooked films of the decade so far. With 20th Century Women, Mills is again incorporating elements from his own life into the story, focusing on several generations of strong women like those that helped to raise him. Featuring an amazing female-led cast including Greta Gerwig, Laura Wiggins, Elle Fanning, and Annette Bening as well as the always reliable Billy Crudup too, and Mills has amassed yet another unique and strong ensemble for himself here, that we believe, will amount to a very interesting film from the overlooked filmmaker.

20th Century Women does not currently have a release date, though you might want to look out for any festival circuits it might make.

la la land4. La La Land

Damien Chazelle blasted his way onto the scene with the taut and gripping Whiplash in 2014. Now, the young auteur is set to follow up the dark psychological thriller with a Los Angeles musical reminiscent of films from Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, this time played by the ever-charming Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The film sounds like such a departure from Chazelle’s last film, that it’s hard not to be excited by what he might have up his sleeve with this romantic daydream. Influenced by the films from directors like Jacques Demy too, and this will likely be one of the most interesting and audacious musicals of the past few years. The only real concern is here is how well it will be able to reach a wide, non-cinephile audience considering its likely odd and playful tone. Hopefully that’s where Gosling and Stone’s combined star power will really kick in, but we’ll have to see. Either way, there’s no denying the potential that La La Land contains.

La La Land is set to hit theatres on July 15th.

the nice guys featured image3. The Nice Guys

We were already looking forward to The Nice Guys purely because it was the newest film from writer and director Shane Black. Following the somewhat disappointing Iron Man 3 though, Black has returned to his familiar territory here, following an old school crime fighting odd couple of a muscle for the mob and a private investigator teaming up to try and unravel the mystery behind a political kidnapping, and recent murder. The film’s trailer was hilarious and energetic from its very first frame, promising to be a spiritual sequel to Black’s directorial debut, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which is without a doubt, one of the most unique films of the 2000s, and a personal favorite here at GeekNation. The Nice Guys looks like its recapturing that same tone and style as its predecessor, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

The Nice Guys is set to hit theatres on May 20th.

hail caesar featured image2. Hail, Caesar!

Aside from the fact that the Coen Brothers have written and directed this old Hollywood farce, Hail, Caesar! looks like an odd, entertaining combination of some of the Coens’ previous work. Telling the story of a movie star kidnapped in 1950s Hollywood, the film follows a cast of ridiculous characters that are look like the perfect spoof of old movie stars that only really these filmmakers could pull off. Above all that too, the film’s all star cast including Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand, and more should be enough to sell most moviegoers on the film’s merits. Although, you should probably prepare yourself for the kidnapping plot to eventually be thrown away at the end, and have no ultimate resolution. If it were anyone other than these guys too, we might be worried about that.

Hail, Caesar! is set to hit theatres on February 5th.

the light between oceans1. The Light Between Oceans

After making two of the most emotionally palpable and authentic films of the decade so far with Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines, director Derek Cianfrance may be on the verge of his greatest cinematic achievement yet. Based on the critically-acclaimed novel of the same name by M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans takes place off the coast of Australia following the events of the first World War. Telling the story of a lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Alicia Vikander), the story deals with themes of parenthood, loneliness, love, and time, and following several secret test screenings in Los Angeles last year, the film has some serious buzz going for it at this point, with some reactions calling it one of the most emotional films ever made. If anyone is going to live up to that title too, it’d be Cianfrance.

The Light Between Oceans does not currently have a release date.

And that does it for our most anticipated list this year. A number of these films don’t have release dates yet as well, but when trailers and announcements are made, you can be sure we’ll be covering them.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable