Lists · Movies

The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014

By  · Published on January 2nd, 2014

The #1 and #2 most anticipated movies that emerged from our staff nomination process this year are, taken as a pair, indicative of the site’s philosophy as a whole. We’ve always worked to promote an environment where it’s okay to love both Psycho and Sound of Music, where going from the multiplex to the art house is normal, where no genre or scale are left out of conversation. In other words, we like both kinds of music: country and western.

It’s not like the top choices this year offer a twist ending or anything. Both are brimming with the potential to be excellent, so it’s unlikely that you’ll throw up your arms in disgust or anything. However, the full list itself might elicit some strong reactions – particularly because it reflects a growing need to look outside of studio pictures to fill a spandex-lined void. There’s franchise love here because the big stuff is still able to light our fire, but the number of smaller, more intimate films is growing against a monolithic tide. On that front, what you might notice most of all is what big-buzz blockbusters didn’t make the cut.

As usual, we’ve chosen 52 because it represents the optimism that there will be at least one great movie, on average, per week. Some we’ve watched and are excited to see launch from the festival circuit, others have the right combination of concept and collaborators. At the very least, we offer this as a guide for filling your calendar and as a beacon of hope for a fantastic new cinematic year.

52. The Final Member

When You Can See It: TBA (via Drafthouse Films)

The Hook: What better way to kick off a list than with penises? (Note: it’s incredibly difficult to kick with a penis.) One of the fortuitous hazards of attending Fantastic Fest, this engaging documentary features Siggi Hjartarson, the founder of the Icelandic Phallological Museum who has collected members from all creatures great and small. The only one missing? A human’s. Back-of-the-class snickering aside, the movie is a compelling look at obsession. Hopefully it will be released with information on how to donate.

Read our review

51. Life Itself

When You Can See It: TBA

The Hook: We’re film critics, so naturally we tilt toward Roger Ebert. Scratch that. We’re human beings, so naturally we tilt toward Roger Ebert. This documentary about his life – executive produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Hoop Dreams director Steve James – is currently in post-production and has a few days left on a crowdfunding campaign, but we’ll see it at Sundance. After that, it’s certain for a theatrical release, critics will critique a movie about a critic, and the world will implode.

50. RoboCop

When You Can See It: February 12th

The Hook: This reboot from Jose Padhila has the potential to be a violent satirical punch or a Total Recall-style trainwreck, but it’s the sense of nostalgia that keeps bringing us back. If by some miracle it hasn’t be studioed to slick death, it might blow minds while blowing up buildings.

49. Child’s Pose

When You Can See It: February 19th (NYC)

The Hook: Earning high praise from a lengthy festival run which saw pit-stops at the Berlinale, Karlovy Vary, Toronto and more, this drama from Calin Peter Netzer is a raw look at a mother’s love when it’s applied to dangerous extremes. Luminita Gheorghiu plays a woman whose son has killed a child in a car accident, responding to the tragedy with smugness and bribery even as her son resents her meddling.

48. Mojave

When You Can See It: TBA

The Hook: We’d be basing this film’s inclusion solely on the script from writer/director William Monahan (and it’s a good one), but the film also features Oscar Isaac coming off a stellar turn in Inside Llewyn Davis. The plot involves a suicidal artist heading out to the desert…where he runs into his homicidal Doppelganger.

47. The Interview

When You Can See It: October 10th

The Hook: Ah, the Pineapple Express is rolling again. Seth Rogen and James Franco are joining forces alongside Lizzy Caplan for a comedy about a talk show host and producer who get stuck in the middle of an assassination attempt (featuring a dude that looks suspiciously like Kim Jong-un). Plus, Rogen and Evan Goldberg are also directing after the ridiculousness of This is the End. Worth it for the inevitable cokehead Michael Cera cameo alone.

46. The Giver

When You Can See It: August 15th

The Hook: Finally, Lois Lowry’s indispensable novel about a painless society will see the big screen. Taylor Swift sounds like stuntcasting, but Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges help legitimize. Director Phillip Noyce is probably best known in the modern era as the guy behind Salt, but it’s his work on Rabbit-Proof Fence that earns the emotional trust here.

45. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

When You Can See It: January 17th

The Hook: Speaking of which, Noyce also directed Patriot Games which saw Harrison Ford playing Jack Ryan. Plus, Kenneth Branagh starred in Rabbit-Proof Fence, and he’s directing Chris Pine as Jack Ryan here. It’s a small cinematic world for this holdover from last year’s list which fell prey to a scheduling change. Fingers crossed that the January release isn’t the usual kiss of death.

44. The Immigrant

When You Can See It: TBA

The Hook: For whatever reason, James Gray is a divisive filmmaker, but his Two Lovers was a calmly destructive drama and proved him capable of patient filmmaking with power. His latest features Marion Cotillard as a young woman forced into prostitution by a man played by Joaquin Phoenix. It promises to be a fierce genre blend.

Read our review

43. The Boxtrolls

When You Can See It: September 26th

The Hook: Laika is a group of true magicians, churning out stunning visual work and endearing adventures. This one, based off the book “Here Be Monsters,” boasts a stellar voice cast including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Elle Fanning and more.

42. 300: Rise of an Empire

When You Can See It: March 7th

The Hook: The guy who did Smart People is doing the sequel to 300? Yes, and there’s no telling how that wildcard will turn out, but it should be fun to be kicked back into the world of brave soldiers and mythical war. Going this long without a sequel was madness.

41. Big Bad Wolves

When You Can See It: January 17th (limited)

The Hook: This gem from Israel made our list of favorite foreign films in 2013, and it’s featured here because it finally sees a non-festival public in a few weeks. It involves a string of murders, tool-based revenge and some wickedly dark comic moments.

Read our review

40. The Fault in Our Stars

When You Can See It: June 6th

The Hook: Featuring a standout from 2013 in Shailene Woodley, this drama focuses on two teens who meet and fall in love in a cancer support group. It’s based on the novel by John Green and was adapted by the screenwriters behind (500) Days of Summer. Naturally, we’re expecting equal doses of sarcasm and warmth.

39. Blood Ties

When You Can See It: March 21st

The Hook: Check out that barn-burner of a trailer. Guillame Canet is following up Tell No One and Little White Lies with this 1970s-set story about two brothers on either side of the law, and he’s got a hell of a cast to do it with: Clive Owen, Zoe Saldana, Marion Cotillard, James Caan, Billy Crudup and many more.

38. Maleficent

When You Can See It: May 30th

The Hook: The “Wicked”-ing of the Sleeping Beauty witch, Angelina Jolie plays the title sorceress as we get to know what drove her to such despicable evil. All of that sounds fantastic, and with Linda Woolverton, Paul Dini and John Lee Hancock, it’s clear Disney pulled out the big writing guns for it.

37. Open Grave

When You Can See It: January 3rd

The Hook: Imagine waking up in a giant hole with a bunch of dead bodies. Now stop thinking about it. It’s weird. Fortunately, it’s what Sharlto Copley’s character is dealing with as he attempts to unravel the mystery of who killed all those people. Is it one of his rescuers, or is it him?

36. The Wind Rises

When You Can See It: February 21st

The Hook: Presumably the only reason Hiyao Miyazaki’s final film isn’t higher up on the list is that it’s been in the public eye for so long. We’ve certainly dissected it completely following its Summer 2013 Japanese release and a brief stint in NYC. It finally comes to the US in February, so that a wider audience can see what everyone else has marveled at.

Read our review

35. Under the Skin

When You Can See It: April 4th

The Hook: Another fest favorite, you had the date circled on your calendar the moment you heard it featured Scarlett Johansson as an alien seducing Scotsmen. Admit it.

34. Deliver Us From Evil

When You Can See It: July 2nd

The Hook: Originally called Beware the Night, this story of occult murders and the New York City cop investigating them is the next thriller from Sinister director Scott Derrickson.

33. Dom Hemingway

When You Can See It: April 4th

The Hook: A while back, a poster emerged featured Jude Law slumped into a bright red chair below a giant print of a Macaque. If that encapsulates the tone of this crime comedy about a safe cracker busting heads around town to collect what he’s owed, then we’ve already bought our tickets.

32. Muppets Most Wanted

When You Can See It: March 21st

The Hook: Okay, so the trailers have been fairly lame so far, but in Kermit we trust. It was a thrill to see the band get back together with Jason Segel’s help, and being able to see them on a new adventure makes life a filet of fish.

31. Jodorowsky’s Dune

When You Can See It: March 7th

The Hook: The “Dune” adaptation went through development hell for years before David Lynch eventually made it. A decade earlier, Alejandro Jodorowsky was set to bring the sandy universe to life, and this doc digs deep into what he had planned. In an alternative reality, the man behind El Topo made Dune. Try not to lose your head over that.

30. Veronica Mars

When You Can See It: March 14th

The Hook: What a strange, wondrous world we live in. If you’d said two years ago that we’d get a movie reuniting the amazing (yet criminally underwatched) crew from Rob Thomas’ show, we would have duct taped you to the flagpole. It’s hard to imagine anyone but fans caring, but for those of us who do, this will be something special.

29. Divergent

When You Can See It: March 21st

The Hook: If it seems like we’re in the tank for Shailene Woodley, it’s because we are. Divergent – like many before it – is trying to become the next Hunger Games, but even though the YA craze hasn’t translated all that well to film, this feels more like Equilibrium than anything else.

28. Cheap Thrills

When You Can See It: March 21st

The Hook: Apparently you’re going to be very, very busy on March 21st. A crazy amount of potentially great movies lands that day, and this midnight movie is definitely one of them. The dark comic thriller features a pair of men in economic need who agree to do terrible things to delight a wealthy couple.

Read our review

27. Snowpiercer

When You Can See It: TBA (via Weinstein Company)

The Hook: After an experiment to stop global warming mucks everything up, the world is plunged into a virtual new ice age, and civilization is biding time on a train powered by perpetual motion. Even at the end of history, class warfare still reigns, and a group led by Chris Evans battles back against a terrifying Tilda Swinton. The tricky thing with this Bong Joon-ho project is whether we’ll get an uncut version in the States or not. If not, we may have to settle for a Korean import on the small screen.

26. Edge of Tomorrow

When You Can See It: June 6th

The Hook: Doug Liman doing a sci-fi action version of Groundhog Day? Perfect. Hopefully this will be a fresh experience, especially considering that Source Code was so recent and Tom Cruise sci-fi flicks seem more than happy to steal from Duncan Jones these days.

25. Big Hero 6

When You Can See It: November 7th

The Hook: When Disney bought Marvel, we knew it was only a matter of time before they’d swap projects. This is an interesting first step in that process (although it won’t technically take place within the Marvel/Avengers universe). Instead, we’ll have a bright young hero and his robot pal fighting crime alongside people with names like Wasabi No-Ginger.

24. Only Lovers Left Alive

When You Can See It: April 11th

The Hook: The latest work from Jim Jarmusch focuses on two vampires (Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee blood. Regardless of what beverage, it should wash the taste of Twilight from everyone’s mouths.

23. Cesar Chavez: An American Hero

When You Can See It: March 28th

The Hook: A look at a national icon, Diego Luna directs Michael Pena in a role whose time has come. In fact, it seems long overdue.

22. Noah

When You Can See It: March 28th

The Hook: Seriously, what’s with March. It’s crazy this year. Added to the pile is the launch of a new wave of Biblical epics. We didn’t get a Wolverine movie from Darren Aronofsky, but we’re going to get a flood and Anthony Hopkins as Methusala.

21. That Awkward Moment

When You Can See It: January 31st

The Hook: Two friends vow to be single in order to help out their recently single friend in a romantic comedy that could prove to be overwhelmingly bro-tastic. However, the trailer makes it feel like they’ve aimed for something deeper, and the inclusion of Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan doesn’t hurt at all.

20. The Hobbit: There and Back Again

When You Can See It: December 17th

The Hook: Curiously, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug didn’t make our anticipated list last year, so I wonder if it earned back some good will for the bloated franchise. That seems to be the case all over – a lot of fans reinvigorated by a sequel that didn’t spend 45 minutes in the kitchen singing songs.

19. The LEGO Movie

When You Can See It: February 7th

The Hook: When news of a LEGO movie dropped, the cynicism took over and lambasted it as nothing more than plastic marketing, but with Clone High creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller at the helm, and a handful of absurd trailers, it seems like a crazy endeavor that could have all the right building blocks. I’m so, so sorry. Sincerely.

18. Transcendence

When You Can See It: April 18th

The Hook: Johnny Depp is everywhere. That’s a career reality, and the premise of the film. Tapping into Ray Kurzweil’s happiest fantasies, the real thrill of this picture is the man directing it. After years of stunning cinematography, Wally Pfister is putting on a new hat. We know it looks great, and with any luck he’ll have learned a thing or two about storytelling from Christopher Nolan.

17. Gone Girl

When You Can See It: October 3rd

The Hook: David Fincher directed it. You need more? Fine. It’s an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s superb novel which focuses on the disappearance of a young woman (Rosamund Pike) on her wedding anniversary. Plus, it’s another chance to see Ben Affleck chew into a dramatic role before he puts on the Batsuit.

16. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

When You Can See It: November 21st

The Hook: We’ll end up waiting over a year to see what happens to Katniss Everdeen after the events of Catching Fire and its cliffhanger ending. It would be easy to be angry with the production team for splitting up the final installment, but so far each film has been a stark, compelling adventure with a bold hero, so some slack will be cut.

15. Jane Got a Gun

When You Can See It: August 29th

The Hook: All of the production drama aside, this Western project featuring Natalie Portman trying to save her husband from a ruthless gang is endlessly fascinating. Part of it lies in the passion for bringing it to the big screen – which has been no easy task – and part of it lies in seeing what Warrior director Gavin O’Connor can do with the material.

14. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

When You Can See It: August 22nd

The Hook: We’re still not convinced that this is happening, although every sign points to either a movie release or the biggest cinema hoax of the decade. Here, like 300, is another case where a sequel should have been out years ago, but all of that frustration will hopefully melt away when the Peter Gunn-flavored beat drops and we’re back inside the noir gloom of Basin City.

13. Nymphomaniac (Parts 1 & 2)

When You Can See It: March 21st and April 18th

The Hook: Lars von Trier simply had too much movie to make it a singular experience, so we’re expecting the Charlotte Gainsbourg-starring flick to be the sexual equivalent of Kill Bill. Epic in scope, everything about it is tantalizing.

12. Jupiter Ascending

When You Can See It: July 18th

The Hook: You didn’t see Cloud Atlas! Why didn’t you see Cloud Atlas?! If you did, that message is for the person next to you because the low turnout for that masterwork was disappointing. Everyone will have another shot at doing right by the Wachowskis this summer as they dip back into Matrix-feeling fairytale territory with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum.

11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

When You Can See It: April 4th

The Hook: The first outing for the star-spangled hero was a fun throwback thanks to Joe Johnston. It’s unclear how the co-directors of You, Me and Dupree will fare on this scale, but so far everything looks appropriately epic. It’s one more outing before the new breed of Phase Two starts toddling forward.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy

When You Can See It: August 1st

The Hook: And here’s that new breed now. It’s slightly telling that this beat out Captain America because it echoes a sentiment that we’re all more than ready for Marvel to move on. They’ve done a fantastic job slowly building their universe from the metal helmet up, but it’s impossible to ignore the next big thing on the horizon. Because it’s a sentient tree hanging with a talking raccoon. We love how bonkers this is, and we also love that they’ve turned to James Gunn for it. A perfect pick.

9. Godzilla

When You Can See It: May 16th

The Hook: Gareth Edwards did so much work on Monsters that he’s earned the opportunity to deliver an old monster for a new audience. It’ll be particularly intriguing to see it a year after we watched the kaiju of Pacific Rim tearing our world apart. If the challenge for blockbuster filmmakers is scale, Edwards has a unique advantage and challenge ahead of him.

8. How to Train Your Dragon 2

When You Can See It: June 13th

The Hook: Our first adventure with Toothless and Hiccup was a surprise delight, so this is a welcome one. Plus, beyond the typical expectations for animated sequels, it’s encouraging to see them jump ahead in time for the story (and to keep the same writer/director who surprised us).

7. Monuments Men

When You Can See It: February 7th

The Hook: Here’s something interesting. Maybe it was the trailer, or maybe it was the buzz, but the George Clooney pro-art, anti-Nazi picture was on last year’s anticipated list, but it wasn’t this low in the count. Somehow, we’re looking forward to it even more.

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past

When You Can See It: May 23rd

The Hook: Another sequel to a surprise hit, this return into the mutant world sees Bryan Singer back in the mix. That’s overwhelmingly cool, and if they can juggle the time travel element alongside a crowd of old familiars and newcomers, this could be one for the ages.

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

When You Can See It: July 11th

The Hook: Can we get Andy Serkis that Oscar now? There’s a sort of pattern emerging here with sequels to surprisingly great movies, but while the inclusion of Gary Oldman is exciting, and the continuation of a terrible saga gets the heart beating, it’s really Matt Reeves as director that’s most electrifying. After Cloverfield and Let the Right One In, an intimate monster movie seems perfect for his talents.

4. Inherent Vice

When You Can See It: 2014

The Hook: Paul Thomas Anderson directed it. Need more? Why? You did this with David Fincher, too. The point is that Anderson is delivering a detective story (set, like all movies are legally required to be now, in the 1970s) with Joaquin Phoenix, Jena Malone, Josh Brolin and more. BASED ON A THOMAS PYNCHON NOVEL. Just absolutely incredible.

3. 22 Jump Street

When You Can See It: June 13th

The Hook: Phil Lord and Chris Miller nab another spot on the list, fulfilling our theme of sequels to surprisingly fun movies and continuing to prove their ability to beat back reboot cynicism. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill owned 21 Jump Street, making it a smart, funny send-up that could have been a bland nightmare in the wrong hands. It’s time for Another 48 Hrs. to go to college.

2. Grand Budapest Hotel

When You Can See It: March 7th

The Hook: It’s like Wes Anderson read a book about Wes Anderson before writing the script on a mirror. Everything about this feels like Royal Tenenbaum is about to roll up and ask if his room is ready. Regardless, Anderson is on a whimsical hot streak from Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom, all the usual suspects are here, and so are we – camping outside the box office waiting to buy tickets because we’ve never heard of the internet.

1. Interstellar

When You Can See It: Not soon enough (November 7th)

The Hook: Let’s try this one more time: Christopher Nolan directed it. Need more? No? Didn’t think so.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.