What to Watch Before You See Any Movies in 2016

By  · Published on January 5th, 2016

It’s a new year, filled with a ton of new movies. Some of these new movies, however, are based on old movies. Yes, in 2016 we’re getting another pile of remakes and sequels and other works retelling or continuing material already previously seen in movie form.

Instead of an easy guide to the unoriginal features, we have a list of recommendations for the older essentials as either preparation for or alternative to the new releases. As always, they’re in order of when the 2016 movies are coming out, so you know the “due dates” to see these by.

13 Hours at Benghazi (2014)

An hour-long documentary produced for Fox News is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but then neither is a tragic true story being dramatized by Michael Bay. If you’re interested in first hearing the events of the 2012 Benghazi attack first hand from security personnel involved and who’ll be portrayed in Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (by Dominic Fumusa and Max Martini), this is one place to do so. Due Date: January 15th

Ride Along (2014)

Go back and enjoy the pairing of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in this buddy cop comedy, ahead of Ride Along 2, which seems to be more of the same only now set in Miami. Due Date: January 15th

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

We assume you’ll better appreciate the new parody Fifty Shades of Black if you see last year’s BDSM sensation, based on the popular erotic novel by E.L. James. Due Date: January 29th

Kung Fu Panda (2008) and Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Make sure you’re familiar with the story of Po, the surprising martial arts hero of the animated franchise, which continues with Kung Fu Panda 3 this month. Due Date: January 29th

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

There are a lot of adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic novel of manners, which you might feel the need to be acquainted with ahead of the new horror mashup version, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If you don’t want to just read the book, Joe Wright’s 10-year-old version is a great way to go, though some fans can also argue instead for the 1940 film or 1995 miniseries as the first and foremost primer. Due Date: February 5th

Dad’s Army (1968–1977)

How will you know what’s going on in the new WWII-set comedy of the same name without watching the old BBC sitcom first? Due Date: February 5th

You Must Remember This: “MGM Stories Part Eight: Eddie Mannix” (2015)

This is a podcast episode, from last season’s focus on the early days of MGM. That means there’s not really anything to “watch.” But it’s still an essential audio documentary about the real-life character fictionalized in the new Coen Brothers movie Hail Caesar! and portrayed by Josh Brolin. Listen here and just watch the screen. Due Date: February 5th

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

We’re expected to forget about the first time Ryan Reynolds played Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, but we’ll enjoy Deadpool a lot better if we’re reminded of how bad the character was portrayed in this earlier X-Men spinoff. It will also provide us with a look at how bad the franchise previously portrayed Gambit ahead of that character’s solo installment, too, whether it actually comes out this year or next. Due Date: February 12th

Zoolander (2001)

Return to a time when Will Ferrell was only worthy of a supporting villain role in a Ben Stiller comedy before the long-awaited Zoolander 2, which returns Will Ferrell to playing just a supporting villain in a Ben Stiller comedy. Due Date: February 12th

Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)

For a fuller biographical documentary of Jesse Owens, who is being portrayed in biopic form in Race, you could check out the American Experience installment Jesse Owens. But because the biopic seems focused on the 1936 Olympics, you should definitely see the first part (and really both parts) of Leni Riefenstahl’s follow-up to Triumph of the Will. It features spectacular direct footage of Owens competing in the summer games in Berlin, and considering Carice van Houten is playing Riefenstahl, we guess some of that footage will be recreated in the new movie. Due Date: February 19th

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

While not all of the year’s sequels require inclusion in this guide, because they are obvious in their following older movies, Kevin Reynolds’s Risen is not that blatant and is not even official in its link to a precursor. The Passion of the Christ ends with Jesus returning and exiting his tomb, and now Risen (formerly titled The Resurrection of Jesus Christ) follows the mystery of where his body has gone, as ordered by Emperor Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth). Due Date: February 19th

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Now that we know which of 2013’s Die Hard in the White House action movies won the battle, it’s safe to give it a viewing ahead of its internationally escalated sequel, London Has Fallen. Due Date: March 4th

Divergent (2014) and The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

We know you’ve been waiting until The Hunger Games was done to get into the Divergent movies without confusion. Well, you have a couple months until the third one, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, is released. Due Date: March 18th

Man of Steel (2013)

Don’t listen to anyone claiming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a direct sequel to this Superman movie, because it is. And it’s not as bad as you remember. Well, at least the opening is cool. Due Date: March 25th

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Remember when this made way too much money for what it is? Oh, you didn’t actually see it? Yes, you did. How else did it make so much money? And you’re going to re-watch it before My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 comes out, too. Due Date: March 25th

Your Cheatin’ Heart (1964)

There are so many music icons who still don’t have one biopic, and yet Hank Williams now has two. Word is that the new film, I Saw the Light has a great performance by Tom Hiddleston but isn’t very good beyond that. So, perhaps a 52-year-old movie featuring George Hamilton as Williams – except for the singing voice, which is provided by Hank Williams Jr. – is still the best way to go. Due Date: March 25th

God’s Not Dead (2014)

Even better than Batman and Superman in the same movie is Hercules and Superman in the same movie. We presume. God’s Not Dead 2 doesn’t have either, but it does have Sabrina the Teenage Witch and late Senator Fred Thompson. Due Date: April 1st

The Ring (2002) and The Ring Two (2005)

Also, yes, the original 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu. And maybe the 2005 short that shares its title with the upcoming sequel Rings. Due Date: April 1st

The Amityville Horror (1979)

We’re not completely sure where Amityville: Awakening fits into the Amityville horror franchise, whether sequel or prequel or remake. So just make sure you’ve seen the original. Due Date: April 15th

Barbershop (2002) and Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)

Don’t worry about Beauty Shop, as Barbershop: The Next Cut is promised to be a direct sequel to Back in Business. Due Date: April 15th

Dazed and Confused (1994)

Richard Linklater’s new movie, Everybody Wants Some, is said to be, separately, a kind of follow-up to his each of his two best features, Dazed and Confused and Boyhood. The former has the greater link, as Everybody Wants Some is more regularly referred to as its “spiritual” sequel and sort of seems like a “spiritual” remake as well, just set in the next decade and at the next level of education. Due Date: April 15th

The Jungle Book (1967)

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” has been made into so many movies, some of which are better than Disney’s animated musical version. But this is the one to see before Disney’s new live-action musical version, which is more a remake of its own movie than a new adaptation. Due Date: April 15th

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Now that we know which of 2012’s live-action Snow White movies won the battle, it’s safe to give it a viewing ahead of the even better looking Snow White-less sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Due Date: April 22nd

Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Ant-Man (2015)

We’re not sure you actually have enough time for all of this, but if you skip any of them before seeing Captain America: Civil War, you’ll have no idea who anyone is. Also, Marvel will have you murdered. Due Date: May 6th

Going in Style (1979)

Then: three old guys pull of a bank heist wearing Groucho Marx glasses in this under-remembered Martin Brest comedy starring legends George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. Now: three old guys pull off a bank heist (in Groucho Marx glasses?) in this soon to be forgotten Zach Braff comedy starring legends Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman. Due Date: May 6th

Citizenfour (2014)

In the second biopic of the year featuring a portrayal of a female documentary filmmaker, Oliver Stone’s Snowden sees Melissa Leo as Citizenfour director Laura Poitras. And much of her Oscar-winning doc’s content will surely be recreated for the new movie, seeing as it also has Zachary Quinto playing Glenn Greenwald and Tom Wilkinson as Ewen MacAskill. There’s no way the dramatization will be as riveting. Due Date: May 13th

Neighbors (2014)

If you skipped this when it came out, you missed out on Rose Byrne being brilliant. We’re hoping Neighbors 2 is also worth seeing for her alone. Due Date: May 20th

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

There are so many great actors in this movie, so why do we dislike it so much? We’ll need to revisit the Lewis Carroll adaptation before Alice Through the Looking Glass to find out. Due Date: May 27th

X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United (2003), X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Yes, we left out X-Men: The Last Stand. You’re welcome. X-Men: Apocalypse better not reference it in any way. Due Date: May 27th

Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis (1991)

I almost just listed Jaws in this slot, because Quint’s monologue about surviving the USS Indianapolis is really all the dramatic, cinematic version of that tragedy we need. But, if you’re interested in more of what you’ll be getting with the upcoming disaster movie USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, you’ll find all the war action in this TV movie starring Stacy Keach as the captain of the doomed ship, who this year is being portrayed by Nicolas Cage. Due Date: May 30th

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is going to loop in Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang and Casey Jones, so you should also go back and watch the old animated series. But for the sake of its sequelness, this reboot is probably the priority for most. Due Date: June 3rd

The Conjuring (2013)

The real Ghostbusters, Ed and Lorraine Warren are back this summer in The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist. Here’s where their fictionalized story begins. Due Date: June 10th

Now You See Me (2013)

Now you see it. Before Now You See Me 2 hits theaters. Due Date: June 10th

Finding Nemo (2003)

Find it on video. Before Finding Dory hits theaters. Due Date: June 17th

Independence Day (1996)

Honor little Mae Whitman and youngish Will Smith and maybe even pre-insane Randy Quaid by looking back at how bad the original ID4 actually is before the overdue sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, lands. Due Date: June 24th

The BFG (1989)

When Steven Spielberg takes on an already famous work, you’d think he’d suddenly own that property. But it didn’t work with “Peter Pan” in Hook nor War of the World with his remake nor even The Adventures of Tintin. Perhaps his upcoming live-action adaptation of Roald Dah’s “The BFG” will similarly be only equal to or lesser than this British animated version. Either way, you’ll need to see both to find out. Due Date: July 1st

The Purge (2013) and The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

There’s another one of these coming out, currently just titled The Purge 3, so prepare yourself. Due Date: July 1st

Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

Of all the adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novel “Tarzan of the Apes,” the most essential for your pop culture checklist is 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man and maybe some of its sequels. But you should also go back to this first movie version, which is the most faithful to the book – or, at least to its first half, while the lost sequel The Romance of Tarzan covered the second part. Due Date: July 1st

Ghostbusters (1984)

Paul Feig’s new “all-female” Ghostbusters may turn out to be as different from Ivan Reitman’s classic as that movie was to Disney’s animated short Lonesome Ghosts but it has the name and the logo and possibly Slimer. Watch the 1937 cartoon first, then the 1984 movie, then prepare to laugh even more with this year’s reboot starring funny ladies Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. Due Date: July 15th

Ice Age (2002), Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) and Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)

Can you believe how many of these there are already? Ice Age: Collision Course is coming for you next, so do as you must. Due Date: July 22nd

Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

We’re over the whole thing where we’re supposed to be familiar with the old Star Trek movies and just enjoy the rebooted series, right? Hopefully Star Trek Beyond has very minimal fan service requirements outside of these two predecessors. Due Date: July 22nd

The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

This summer’s Bourne sequel is the fifth installment, but we’ll assume you don’t need to have seen The Bourne Legacy, which didn’t star Matt Damon. Due Date: July 29th

Batman (1989) and The Dark Knight (2008)

Get ready for and probably spoil Jared Leto’s take on The Joker in Suicide Squad by watching both Jack Nicholson’s and Heath Ledger’s portrayals of the Batman villain. Due Date: August 5th

Ben-Hur (1925)

Do we need another adaptation of “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ”? Well, did we need another one after this silent feature? No, but the 1959 Charlton Heston one is pretty great. And did we need another one after the stiff 1907 version? Okay, yes. It hasn’t been as long as you think since we had a Ben-Hur movie, actually, in fact there was another starring Heston 12 years ago, but it was animated. Heck, watch them all before this summer’s latest. Due Date: August 12th

Pete’s Dragon (1977)

If you didn’t grow up with Disney’s 1977 musical version of Pete’s Dragon, which is based on a short story by screenwriting legend Seton I. Miller (Scarface) and S.S. Field, then you’ll probably have trouble getting into it. But if the story of a little boy and his cartoon dragon friend and especially Helen Reddy aren’t enough for you, then at least give it a try for Shelly Winters as the nasty villain. As much as David Lowery’s non-musical remake has us excited, we can’t believe anything in his version will top her. Due Date: August 12th

The Mechanic (2011)

Mechanic: Resurrection sounds like a reboot sequel that would arrive much longer than just five years later. Also, don’t forget the original is a remake of a 1972 film worth seeing. Due Date: August 26th

Brace for Impact: The Chesley B. Sullenberger Story (2010)

Clint Eastwood’s upcoming Chesley Sullenberger movie, Sully, may have Tom Hanks in the lead role, but this short TLC documentary has Harrison Ford. He narrates the TV special, which is eerie since five years later the actor and amateur pilot would have his own miraculous landing of a plane. Due Date: September 9th

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)

It’s been more than a decade since we last saw Renee Zellweger and her British accent. She and it and the favored apostrophe usage is back for Bridget Jones’s Baby. Due Date: September 16th

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The original The Magnificent Seven is itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, so you should see that, too, but ahead of this fall’s new Western version of the story of seven heroes defending a village from bandits, the primary essential is this John Sturges classic. Due Date: September 23rd

60 Minutes: “The Blowout” (2010)

In anticipation of the true-life disaster movie Deepwater Horizon, about the 2010 BP oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we could recommend a few documentaries, particularly Margaret Brown’s The Great Invisible. But instead here is a 60 Minutes segment on Mike Brown, who Mark Wahlberg is playing in the upcoming release. Due Date: September 30th

Monster High (2010-Present)

Technically, the live-action musical version of Monster High is originally based on toys, which themselves were inspired by old Universal monster movies. Obviously, see those classic films. But to become familiar with the teen monster characters of the upcoming movie, then check out the ongoing animated series and specials. Due Date: October 7th

The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009)

It’s time to catch up with the first two Dan Brown adaptations by Ron Howard before the release of the third, Inferno. Due Date: October 14th

Underworld (2003), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) and Underworld: Awakening (2012)

It’s time to catch up with the first four installments of the vampires vs. werewolves franchise, before the fifth, which is still currently untitled. Due Date: October 14th

Ouija (2014)

This horror movie based on the occult board “game” has a sequel out this year, titled Ouija 2. Due Date: October 21st

Jack Reacher (2012)

Tom Cruise returns as Jack Reacher this all in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which is based on “Never Go Back,” the 18th book in the character’s series from Lee Childs. Preface it with this first movie based on “One Shot,” the ninth book. Due Date: October 21st

Doctor Strange (1978)

Remember the old days of awful Marvel Comics adaptations with this TV movie about the mystical superhero, then played by Peter Hooten, and no matter how good or bad the new Marvel Studios Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch is, it’ll still be better. Except for the fact that it doesn’t co-star a young Jessica Walter of Arrested Development fame. Due Date: November 4th

Magical Super Trolls (1992)

Are you afraid of the upcoming animated feature based on Troll dolls? It surely can not be as bad as this 1992 cartoon special based on the toys. Due Date: November 4th

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Secrets (2005), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)

There sure are a lot of these. Seeing as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is sort of a prequel but really just set in the same world as the Harry Potter series, you probably don’t need to see the eight prior installments, but if not would you care about the new one? Due Date: November 18th

Moana (1926/1980)

Disney’s new animated feature Moana has nothing at all to do with Robert Flaherty’s classic documentary (the origin of the term “documentary”), but we’d like to recommend it anyway, with or without sound. Both films involve a young Polynesian character and depicts the traditional way of life for indigenous people of the South Pacific. Due Date: November 23rd

Biography: “Ray Kroc: Fast Food McMillionaire” (1998)

Michael Keaton is portraying Kroc, the guy who turned McDonald’s into the fast food empire we know today, in this fall’s awards hopeful The Founder. And as with any biopic it’s best to have a doc option on the side. For a basic info dump type, the Biography series has you covered. Due Date: November 25th

The Strangers (2008)

It’s been nearly a decade since this home-invasion horror film, so even if you have seen it, you might want to pay it another visit before The Strangers 2 comes out. Due Date: December 2nd

Star Wars (1977)

You could watch all eight other Star Wars movies before seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and maybe it’ll help put things into perspective to see the three bad prequels before seeing this new prequel, but the only one we know for sure this year’s standalone installment is linked to is the first. Actually, we’d love to see someone see just Rogue One without having seen anything else. Will it hold up on its own? Due Date: December 16th

Jumanji (1995)

People seem to like this 21-year-old adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book, and we’re still within the time where we shouldn’t dishonor anything Robin Williams did, so it’s strange that there’s a remake coming out. Is it just because CG effects are a bit better now? But will they really be state of the art in that anyway? Just watch this one, period. Due Date: December 25th

Bonus: Ratchet & Clank, Angry Birds, Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed

If you have time, you can also watch someone play these four video games before their respective movies come out this year.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.