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The 30 Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

By  · Published on January 3rd, 2011

Hope springs eternal. As we round the bases of another year, it’s important to let the average and outright crappy slough off and realize that we’re all standing on the precipice of another year of movies. The future stretches out before us full of possibilities. That cheesy trailer you saw last week could end up producing your favorite film of the year. That epic blockbuster you’ve been waiting for could be bigger than you ever imagined.

There’s hope for everything, but there’s also expectation, which is why Rob Hunter, Neil Miller and Cole Abaius painstakingly put together our list of the 30 Most Anticipated Films of 2011. It’s the stuff we’re most looking forward to this year, put together when our hope and optimism is at its peak.

The list is in as-chronological-an-order as possible keeping in mind the TBAs and complete unknowns. All releases are subject to change, but it’s nice to see so many films spread out so evenly across the year. Even in January!

See if you find something to get your hopes up for.

The Cabin In the Woods

The When: This year… maybe.

The Who: Directed by Drew Goddard; written by Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon; starring Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth

The What: A group of friends head to the titular vacation retreat and begin to die horrible deaths. Goddard and Whedon’s script is an exciting and entertaining read, and if MGM gets off their ass and finally releases the damn thing, viewers will be in for a fresh and fun take on the genre. I expect some of the film’s fresh approach to be ruined with spoiler-filled marketing, but I also don’t see any way that could be avoided. So see it as soon as possible once it opens. -RH

The Way Back

The When: January 21st

The Who: Directed by Peter Weir; Written by Peter Weir and Keith R. Clarke; Starring Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, and some extremely cold prisoners

The What: Peter Weir is a master filmmaker, and the prospect of him tackling a story as grueling as a group of prisoners escaping from the unending Winter of Russia and trying to make it to safety through the rough terrain is a gloomy and beautiful one. Weir draws some insanely strong performances from actors, and the talent here pairs some veterans with some new comers with potential. It sounds brilliant, but I’d bring a coat to the theater. -CA


The When: February 11th

The Who: Directed by Jaume Collet-Saura; written by Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell; starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella, Aidan Quinn

The What: A man wakes from a coma and finds another man has taken his place at home and work and no one will believe he’s who he says he is. If that sounds confusing to you, just imagine how the guy feels. Neeson did quite well a couple years ago with his ‘man on a mission’ flick Taken, and judging by the trailer for this one it appears he’s up to his old, ass-kicking, head knocking self. Which is awesome. -RH

Drive Angry 3D

The When: February 25th

The Who: Directed by Patrick Lussier; Written by Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer; Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, and William Fichtner

The What: Having cheated by already seeing this flick, it is with incredible ease that it makes it to this list. It is absurd, demented, and seeks to drop jaws every twenty minutes or so. Plus, William Fichtner has created a character that will become iconic – one that people will still quote from and imitate for years. Cage plays a father hunting down the Satanic cult that killed his daughter and stole her little baby – which they plan to sacrifice to the red guy with the bifurcated tail. As luck would have it, Cage’s character already knows Satan pretty well since he takes up permanent residence in Hell before busting out on his mission. -CA

Red State

The When: Sundance, then perhaps in March

The Who: Kevin Smith, John Goodman and a bunch of newcomers

The What: Even though we swear that we’re going to unfollow Kevin Smith on Twitter any day now, we can’t help but continue to listen out of pure interest in his next project. It’s a horror flick, a major departure for the traditionally funny (and recently unfunny) man. Above all things, that first teaser trailer was a zinger. It was visually on a level Smith has yet to reach, simple and chaotic. We’ll be damned if we weren’t hooked quickly by the thought of Smith changing directions and bringing us something new and fresh – especially if it gets him further away from Cop Out. Here’s hoping it’s scary as all hell, funny where it needs to be and everything that its director claims it is. -NM


The When: March 4th

The Who: Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp, Animators at ILM

The What: Imagine Hunter S. Thompson and Captain Jack Sparrow – the only two roles Johnny Depp seems to be able to play to success lately – but as a chameleon with an identity crisis, trapped in a gorgeously animated Old
Western town full of banditos led by a rattlesnake voiced by Bill Nighy. Yes, we want to find out where Gore Verbinski scores his peyote, as well. -NM

Sucker Punch

The When: March 25th

The Who: Zack Snyder and a gaggle of gun-toting gals

The What: Back in a March release-slot, where he has previously wowed with 300 and Watchmen,
raging slowmosexual Zack Snyder brings mandom another glorious gift: hot, dangerously youthful, scantily clad girls whose break-out plan from a psych ward involves machine guns, giant robots, samurai swords and fire-breathing dragons. It could be the imaginative, violent assault on our senses that we need to break free of the Oscar-season doldrums. At the very least, it will be a flashy action flick that also stars Scott Glenn. -NM

Source Code

The When: April 1st

The Who: Directed by Duncan Jones; written by Ben Ripley; starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright

The What: A soldier wakes on a train in another man’s body with no idea why he’s there. And then the train blows up. And then he reawakens on the train… the idea may seem better suited for a Twilight Zone episode as there’s a risk the repetitive nature will get old at feature length, but Ripley’s script does a fantastic job of keeping things interesting as he doles out the answers and the suspense. -RH

The Beaver

The When: April 8th

The Who: Directed by Jodie Foster; written by Kyle Killen; starring JF, Mel Gibson, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence

The What: A depressed man tries to turn his life around with the help of a beaver puppet that takes control of decisions. But what happens when the beaver decides he’s come to like the feeling of Gibson’s hand up his ass and refuses to leave? The script is darkly humorous, filled with humanity, and more than a little absurd. Will be interesting to see if the tone translates from the page to the screen intact. -RH


The When: April 8th

The Who: Directed by Joe Wright; written by David Farr; starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Olivia Williams

The What: A young girl has spent her whole life being trained to survive by her ex-CIA father, and when the two are separated she’s forced to put those skills to the test. Step one is blending in with a more traditional family. Step two is killing anyone who gets in her way. Farr’s script is a fast-moving adventure that puts a slightly more realistic spin on the Hit Girl character from Kick-Ass and adds a much stronger story as well. -RH

On the Next Page: Get excited for the Summer…

Scream 4

The When: April 15th

The Who: Directed by Wes Craven; written by Kevin Williamson; starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin

The What: Sidney Prescott is once again targeted by an unoriginal masked killer. No one seems excited for this third sequel to the original classic, but they continue to be the best films of Craven’s career. And while they do occasionally seem incredibly absurd they’re also never less than entertaining. Original scripter Williamson is back after taking part three off, so hopefully he’s brought some fresh twists with him. -RH


The When: May 6th

The Who: Kenneth Branagh, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Marvel Studios

The What: Marvel Studios begins the next leg of their Avengers initiative with the mystically powered hero who wields a giant hammer. It’s a risky proposition, throwing magic into a universe where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s science have reigned supreme, but with big time talent involved and a trailer that looks quite mega, Thor looks to be a promising next step for the kids at Marvel. Big action, big costumes, big hammer – big start to the summer if they play their cards right. -NM

The Hangover 2

The When: May 26th

The Who: The Wolfpack

The What: The Hangover was a bit of a surprise when it hit theaters in the sweaty summer of 2009, but it was a surprise that took a lot of people’s money by shaking it out of them with laughter. This time, the gang is back together to hit up the international lack of laws and ethics that comes with Thailand (and Justin Bartha will probably end up locked on a roof again). Will Todd Phillips go as far as to show us a woman with a trained snake that smokes cigarettes out of her vagina? It’s unclear, but it’s the possibility that he might that’s important. With this and Project X, it’ll be an interesting year for Phillips – one where he could potentially have two hits on his hands. -CA

Green Lantern

The When: June 17th

The Who: Directed by Martin Campbell; Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong with pointy ears.

The What: While on set, the filmmakers all kept mentioning Star Wars. I have to assume it was because of its epic, science fiction scope and not its tragic CGI racism. DC and Warners are launching their first strike into taking comic book movies to the tent pole stage, and they’re promising to do so by giving Peter Sarsgaard a gigantic forehead. That seems to be the best plan possible. Plus, Green Lantern is a beloved second tier super hero with a huge mythology to build upon – if they can summon a glowing green energy bat and knock this one out of the stratosphere. -CA

Super 8

The When: June 20th

The Who: J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Secrecy

The What: We know what it’s not – a Cloverfield prequel, another hand-held point-of-view flick – or for that matter, anything related to Lost. And what it’s not is all we’ve had to go on until recently. Speculation says that this J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg team-up film will fit perfectly into the arsenal of old school Amblin and be an aliens-in-the-heartland story akin to E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Stop right there, we need not know any more. We’ll show up for that. -NM

On the Next Page: See what else the Summer has in store…

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The When: July 1st

The Who: Michael Bay, Not Megan Fox and Giant F&*king Robots

The What: Say what you will about the first two films in the Transformers series, just don’t say that they didn’t have some awesome effects. Because they did. And with ILM back for another round and director Michael Bay promising a smaller, more focused narrative, it might just be the perfect mix of restraint and explosiveness that could make the Transformers movie you’ve wanted from the beginning. Yes, we just said restraint and Michael Bay in the same paragraph. It could happen. If all else fails, it will be a sweet gigantic mess of robot carnage – and there’s still nothing wrong with that. -NM

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The When: July 15th

The Who: Everyone from Part 1 plus a cast of thousands

The What: July cannot get here fast enough. The final film in a decade-long franchise is closing the back cover on an epic ride that has seen some silliness and some pure amazement. Director David Yates made his thoughtful road trip movie with Part 1, and now he’s set to blow everything up and unleash the war. All the characters we’ve grown to love or hate or fear will clamor together and not everyone will make it safely to the other side. This might just be the darkest, most dangerous Potter yet, and that’s something truly to look forward to. -CA

Captain America: The First Avenger

The When: July 22nd

The Who: Joe Johnston, Chris Evans

The When: Director Joe Johnston is (hopefully) bringing the same imagination he brought to The Rocketeer (and has since forgot) to an adaptation of one of the more iconic men of the Marvel universe, super soldier Steve Rogers. He’s got a charismatic lead, a U-Boat load of talented gnomes at Marvel and almost 70 years of character history at his disposal. Setting aside his recent filmography, we can’t see any reason why The First Avenger won’t be a blast of high-powered WWII action with plenty of juicy Marvel Easter eggs. -NM

Cowboys & Aliens

The When: July 29th

The Who: Directed by Jon Favreau; Written by Bob Oric and Alex Kurtzman; Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, and Sam Rockwell

The What: A science fiction/western mash-up featuring James Bond, Indiana Jones, and the only likable thing about Tron Legacy directed by the man behind Iron Man. It’s exciting just to see a Ford-style western get put up on screen, and the alien invasion angle seems like great popcorn fun. Oh, and Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard also have something to do with it. As if you weren’t already on the edge of your seat. -CA

Fright Night

The When: August 19th

The Who: Directed by Craig Gillespie; written by Marti Noxon; starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Toni Collette

The What: A young man discovers his new neighbor is a vampire, but when no one else will believe him he turns to a Vegas magician for help. This is a remake of Tom Holland’s first and best film, and it follows the original plot fairly closely. Farrell plays the suave but deadly vampire which for my money is one of the year’s best casting decisions. -RH

Next Up: Start planning for Fall…

One Day

The When: Fall

The Who: Directed by Lone Scherfig; written by David Nicholls; starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patrica Clarkson

The What: Two people meet on July 15th, 1988, and the film looks into their lives, loves, and losses on that same day for the next twenty years. Nicholls has adapted his own novel, and hopefully he’s been able to maintain the same combination of humor and pathos that made his book such an engaging read. A British accent won’t be Hathaway’s only challenge as the character is also supposed to be a mediocre looking wallflower. -RH


The When: September 30th

The Who: Directed/Written by Andrew Niccol; Starring Olivia Wilde, Johnny Galecki, Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfried, Alex Pettyfer, and Justin Timberlake.

The What: Now might be a wildcard choice, but sometimes those are the best options on the table in a world without surprises. Niccol’s name isn’t household, but he wrote The Truman Show and wrote/directed Gattaca and Lord of War. He also wrote/directed S1m0ne, but we’re forgetting that for the moment. His forthcoming film focuses on a future where the aging gene has been destroyed and Time (the abstract concept, not the magazine) has become the currency of the day. It continues the smart science fiction we’re seeing more and more of, and that’s a great thing. -CA

Real Steel

The When: October 7th

The Who: Directed by Shawn Levy; Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, and Giant Fucking Robots

The What: Although the first trailer for the film made it seem like a bunch of metal begins going after each other, the plot itself sounds more like Paper Moon with a hint of sparks flying. Jackman plays a man looking for redemption and finding it in a new relationship with an estranged son. Levy has delivered some harmlessly mindless fun with his Night at the Museum pair, so it’ll be interesting if he can mine a bit more emotion and the literary depth of the Matheson short story this is based from. -CA

The Thing

The When: October 14th

The Who: Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr; written by Eric Heisserer; starring Joel Edgerton, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Eric Christian Olsen

The What: Scientists in Antarctica discover a spaceship housing an alien life-form destined to kill them all and infect their dogs. This is a prequel to John Carpenter’s classic from almost thirty years ago. Will it be better? Unlikely. But it should hopefully be able to stand on its own as a solid alien horror thriller. If it can manage even half of the atmosphere found in the videogame from several years ago all will be right with the world. -RH

The Muppets

The When: November 23rd

The Who: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Kermit the Frog and friends

The What: It has been a great number of years since Jim Henson’s Muppets have been properly placed onto the silver screen, so it’s nice to see that Disney is putting some time and effort into the affair. They’ve brought in some big talent, including muppet enthusiast and regular funny dude Jason Segel and silly songwriter extraordinaire Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords), to steer the ship and they will unleash a bevy of cameos that may surprise us, assuming the internet doesn’t spoil them first. All that’s left is to bring that Muppets spirit. And with Brian Henson, Steve Whitmire and the masters of Henson’s workshop on board, the future has never been filled with so many rainbows (or songs about said rainbows). -NM

On the Final Page: December is heavily packed with goodness so prepare yourself…

Hugo Cabret

The When: December 9th

The Who: Directed by Martin Scorsese; Written by John Logan; Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, and Sir Ben Kingsley

The What: The personnel involved here is enough to get excited about. Even the child actors have proven their immense talents. Based off the Caldecott-winning novel, this film tells the 1930s story of a young orphan living a secret life in a Paris train station who meets a young girl that changes everything. The book itself relies heavily on pictures (which bodes well for the movie), and it has an angle on the early films and works of Geoges Melies. Very cool. -CA

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

The When: December 16th

The Who: Brad Bird, J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise, Josh Holloway, Jeremy Renner

The What: After one very well-done film, one wobbly-haired effort directed by John Woo and a so-so jaunt from a pre-Star Trek J.J. Abrams, the thought of another Mission: Impossible movie didn’t exactly sit well in our delicate nerd stomachs. Then they brought in director Brad Bird, followed swiftly by actors like Jeremy Renner, Lost’s Josh Holloway, Slumdog Millionaire’s Anil Kapoor and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist. We don’t know the mission, nor do we know how ridiculously “impossible” it will be, but we like the players. And we’re confident in the fact that Brad Bird won’t take Tom Cruise to Nicolas Cage’s barber like John Woo did. He’s simply better than that. -NM

We Bought a Zoo

The When: December 23rd

The Who: Directed by Cameron Crowe; written by Cameron Crowe and Aline Brosh McKenna; starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Angus Macfadyen

The What: A man moves his family to a rural community and buys a zoo to keep them all occupied. Crowe had a string of good to great films starting in 1989 but then released Elizabethtown in 2005. His five year sentence in director jail will end with this adaptation of Benjamin Mee’s memoir. A solid cast and a curiosity about Crowe’s follow-up to the stinking pile of dung that was Elizabethtown makes this one to watch. -RH

War Horse

The When: December 28th

The Who: Steven Spielberg and some talented British persons

The What: Steven Spielberg is everywhere this year. Whether it’s as a producer, inspiration, or whether he’s taking the reins himself, the man is leaving his mark on 2011. Hell, he’s even got two movies coming out on the same day. He’ll be battling himself at the box office. This particular project is the story of a young man and his horse. When the horse gets drafted (which apparently can happen) and sent to the trenches of WWI (which was called The Great War back then), the young man sneaks his way into the military to go be with his best friend. Essentially, it’s another war film from Steven Spielberg. What’s not to like? -CA

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

The When: December 28

The Who: Steven Spielberg and every talented British person alive

The Pitch: With this embarrassment of talent riches – including a script from Steven Moffat (Dr. Who, Sherlock), Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim) and Joe Cornish (The Adam and Joe Show), a John Williams score and a co-producer credit for Peter Jackson – Steven Spielberg may be ready to give James Cameron the ole’ “anything you can do, I can do better” with this larger-than-life CG adventure film. At the very least, he will give Robert Zemeckis a nice tutorial on how to maximize the potential of performance capture and make an entertaining movie out of it. -NM

What do you want to see the most? What didn’t make our cut?

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