2016 Movie Preview: The 40 Films We're Most Excited to See

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There will be plenty of superheroes at the movies in 2016, with the Avengers, X-Men, Suicide Squad, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Gambit, Doctor Strange, and Deadpool all getting some action. But there’s also some heavyweight comedy (like Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot and a Zoolander sequel), highly anticipated animation (like the Nemo sequel Finding Dory and the new princess movie Moana), irresistible romantic pairings (like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land and Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers), and Oscar-friendly adult dramas (like biopics Sully and The Founder). Let’s count down the 40 films that have us feeling like ’16 will be extra-sweet.

40. The Boss
Release date: April 8
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Peter Dinklage, Kristen Bell
Director: Ben Falcone
The scoop: McCarthy teams up with Tammy director (and real-life husband and writing partner) Falcone again. But this time, she’s drunk with power as the golden phoenix-riding “wealthiest woman in America,” Michelle Darnell. After Darnell gets busted for insider trading, she goes bankrupt. Out to reinvent her image, she looks to grade-school girls to help her form a brownie-selling empire.

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Melissa McCarthy in ‘The Boss’ (Universal)

39. Race
Release date: Feb. 19
Starring: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, William Hurt
Director: Stephen Hopkins
The scoop: Not to be confused with a similarly plotted biopic starring Anthony Mackie that was shelved in July, this film features newcomer Stephan James as barrier-busting track-and-field legend Jesse Owens, who faced racism at home and the Aryan might of Nazi Germany during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. (Interestingly, Force Awakens breakout John Boyega was once attached to the role.) Funnyman Jason Sudeikis makes his dramatic debut as Owens’s coach Larry Snyder — well, unless you count the actor’s heralded portrayal of presidential candidate Mitt Romney on SNL.

38. Zootopia
Release date: March 4
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
The scoop: Imagine a thriving metropolis where animals rule and humans never existed. Disney Animation’s most technically intricate feature to date, Zootopia follows an ambitious meter-maid bunny (Goodwin) who teams up with a scam-artist fox (Bateman) to solve a thorny case. The duo scour the city’s astoundingly diverse neighborhoods filled with unique vegetation and colorful — sometimes very slow — citizens.

Watch the ‘Zootopia’ trailer:

37. Central Intelligence
Release date: June 17
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Aaron Paul
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
The scoop: On paper it looks like it could be the funniest big man, little man comedy since Twins. Hart plays an accountant who links up with an old school friend on Facebook, only to find himself helping his colossal former classmate turned CIA agent (Johnson) save the free world. We’re not sure what the devious plot is yet, but the trailer does feature the Rock lip-syncing Salt-N-Pepa in a fat suit.

36. Pete’s Dragon
Release date: Aug. 12
Starring: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford
Director: David Lowery
The scoop: The original 1977 Dragon was a musical about a young boy and his dragon that mixed live-action and hand-drawn animation. The 2016 remake ditches the tunes but keeps the story of a precocious orphan (Fegley) who buddies up with the fire-breathing Elliott (this time, a CG-animated creature courtesy of Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital). The new movie’s green dragon is furry, but here’s hoping they keep his famous pink ’do.

35. Whiskey Tango Fox Trot
Release date: March 4
Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman
Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
The scoop: Tina Fey produces and stars as a war correspondent in this daring comedy based on journalist Kim Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle. When Fey’s character is sent to report from the frontlines in Afghanistan, her problems change abruptly from boyfriend troubles to IEDs. The serious subject matter is a departure for Fey, but with a screenplay by 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock and the directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love, the movie has comedy cred to spare.

34. The Witch
Release date: Feb. 26
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Director: Robert Eggers
The scoop: A breakout hit at last year’s Sundance, where first-time feature filmmaker Eggers won the prize for best director, this terrifying tale is set in 1620s New England, long before Harry Potter made witches cool. The synopsis: A Puritan family is torn apart when its young son goes missing, their daughter is accused of witchcraft, and “an unknown evil” begins to haunt them from the edge of the forest.

33. Assassin’s Creed
Release date: Dec. 21
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Justin Kurzel
The scoop: Fassbender goes from Macbeth to Master Assassin and brings his previous partners-in-Shakespeare Cotillard (who played Lady Mac) and Kurzel (who directed their 2015 adaptation of the Scottish Play) along for the ride. Based on the wildly popular video game series, Assassin’s Creed finds Fassbender’s Callum Lynch discovering his familial roots as a skilled killer and enemy of the Knights Templar. Is this finally going to be the video game-based franchise that clicks with audiences, or will it be “Game Over” after the first movie?

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Michael Fassbender in ‘Assassin’s Creed’ (20th Century Fox)

32. Money Monster
Release date: May 13
Starring: Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Jack O’Connell
Director: Jodie Foster
The scoop: Ocean’s Eleven pals Clooney and Roberts reunite in this dramatic thriller that marks the fourth film helmed by Oscar-winning actress turned director Foster. Clooney plays a Jim Cramer-esque TV finance guru whose network is taken hostage by a man (Unbroken’s O’Connell) who lost everything on a bad stock tip, while Roberts appears as the host’s love interest. With an early spring release slotted in between the Avengers and X-Men, this could be just the counter-programming our summer blockbuster season needs.

31. The Girl on the Train
Release date: Oct. 7
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Édgar Ramírez
Director: Tate Taylor
The scoop: The bestselling Paula Hawkins thriller comes to the big screen next fall. Blunt plays a recent divorcée obsessed with a perfect-looking couple whose house she passes on her daily commute. Through a series of twists, she becomes deeply entangled in their mysterious lives. The novel has received comparisons to Gone Girl; will the movie merit the same?

30. Warcraft
Release date: June 10
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Dominic Cooper
Director: Duncan Jones
The scoop: After two well-received small-scale features (Moon and Source Code), Jones graduates to the big time with this massively budgeted adaptation of the massively multiplayer online game. When an interdimensional portal sends orcs cascading into a land populated by humans, the two sides have to choose between diplomacy or mutually assured destruction. Early trailers haven’t been encouraging, but we know by now to give Jones the benefit of the doubt.

29. La La Land
Release date: July 15
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons
Director: Damien Chazelle
The scoop: The Oscar-nominated writer-director of 2014’s acclaimed drama Whiplash reteams Crazy, Stupid, Love chums Gosling and Stone for another jazz-infused drama. This one’s more romantic than Whiplash though, following a pianist (Gosling) who falls for an aspiring actress (Stone) in Hollywood. Will Simmons, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Whiplash, throw a chair at either of them for waiting too long to couple up? We can’t wait to find out.

28. The Accountant
Release date: Oct. 7
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Gavin O’Connor
The scoop: Ben Affleck makes his debut as Batman in March (see No. 4 below). Seven months later, he’ll play another dark character with a secret identity. It’s not quite as sexy as a billionaire-superhero, but a story about a brilliant accountant-assassin from the director behind Warrior with a talented supporting cast in tow definitely sounds worth a look.

27. The Jungle Book
Release date: April 15
Starring: Neel Sethi, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray
Director: Jon Favreau
The scoop: Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale is being brought to the big screen again by Disney nearly 50 years after the animated original. This live-action version features newcomer Sethi as the orphaned Mowgli along with astounding CG-animated animal characters voiced by Johansson, Murray, and more, an ensemble that already has eager fans whipped up into a frenzy.

26. The Magnificent Seven
Release date: Sept. 23
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke
Director: Antoine Fuqua
The scoop: It’s a veritable Training Day reunion as Fuqua enlists Washington and Hawke to play two members of the titular seven-man squad hired to save a frontier town from a gang of marauders. Galactic guardian Pratt also joins in the Seven Samurai-inspired fun as another Magnificent gunman, while Peter Sarsgaard gets lean and mean as the wonderfully named bad guy, Bartholomew Bogue.

25. Gambit
Release date: Oct. 7
Starring: Channing Tatum, Léa Seydoux
Director: Doug Liman
The scoop: Yet another X-Men spinoff film, this flick about the card-flinging mutant has long been a passion project for star Tatum. It hit a few bumps in the road during development, but it’s now on course for an October release, though the plot has been kept a secret. Having Edge of Tomorrow director Liman in charge of the action gives us faith that it’ll be worth the wait for both Tatum and the audience.

24. Everybody Wants Some
Release date: April 15
Starring: Blake Jenner, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin
Director: Richard Linklater
The scoop: Described by Linklater as a “spiritual sequel” to two of his best-loved films, Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some (previously titled That’s What I’m Talking About) unfolds in the early ’80s during the first weeks of college. And since the main characters are baseball players, the film also gives its director — and onetime collegiate ballplayer — a second swing at capturing the joys America’s pastime after the strikeout that was his 2005 Bad News Bears remake. Here’s hoping this one is closer to a Boyhood-style home run.

23. Zoolander 2
Release date: Feb. 12
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig
Director: Ben Stiller
The scoop: It’s been 15 years since we first caught Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel McDonald (Wilson) battling on the runway and foiling nefarious fashion mogul Mugatu (Will Ferrell). All three are back in action with new additions, including the heavily Botox’d Alexanya (Wiig) and Interpol agent Valentina (Penélope Cruz) — who is tasked with stopping the killing of the world’s most beautiful people (including Justin Bieber!)

Watch the ‘Zoolander 2′ trailer:

22. Sully
Release date: TBD
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Director: Clint Eastwood
The scoop: On the heels of his surprise blockbuster American Sniper, Eastwood brings another modern American legend to the big screen: commercial airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who saved 155 lives by making an emergency landing on the Hudson River in 2009. Hanks stars as the title character (dying his hair white for the occasion), while Eckhart plays co-pilot Jeff Skiles and Linney plays Mrs. Sully.

21. Independence Day: Resurgence
Release date: June 24
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Sela Ward, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher
Director: Roland Emmerich
The scoop: The bad news is original ID4 hero Will Smith is not back to save the day again. But the good news: Jeff Goldblum is, and from the looks of the first trailer, his character, David Levinson, has an even more involved role in fending off hostile ETs exactly two decades after the first attack. Joining him for the festivities are fresh faces Hemsworth (The Hunger Games), newcomer Usher, and Ward (Gone Girl) as the new president. Just a hunch, but our money’s on humanity again.

20. Suicide Squad
Release date: Aug. 5
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman
Director: David Ayer
The scoop: DC’s demented squad of antiheroes and straight-up villains unites for the multiverse’s second film of 2016, after Batman v Superman. There’s a lot of intrigue around this one: Will Leto, who went full-Method to play the Joker, live up to Heath Ledger’s incredible legacy? Is there an appetite for a dark, twisted supervillain flick? And will it really be that dark and twisted, considering Warner Bros.’ investment in the franchise?

19. The Founder
Release date: Nov. 25
Starring: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini
Director: John Lee Hancock
The scoop: If you’ve ever wondered how the Egg McMuffin gets made, this is your movie. Hancock’s biopic stars Keaton (on a roll after Birdman and Spotlight) as Ray Kroc, the milkshake-dispenser salesman who wrestled control of the McDonald’s company from its namesake founders — and turned it into the massive fast-food brand it’s become today.

18. Untitled Jason Bourne Sequel
Release date: July 29
Starring: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel
Director: Paul Greengrass
The scoop: Bourne is back! And by that we mean the originator of the Bourne mantle, Matt Damon, who relinquished the reins of his enigmatic bruiser to Jeremy Renner for the series’ fourth installment but returns for number five. Damon, who will get one of the screenplay credits on the film, has leaked a little bit of info on the film, noting that it will exist in a “post-Snowden world,” a reference to the infamous NSA intel-leaker (Edward Snowden, meanwhile, gets his own biopic in 2016 courtesy of Oliver Stone). In the meantime, we’re just happy Damon’s career isn’t “post-Bourne” anymore.

17. The Nice Guys
Release date: May 20
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Margaret Qualley
Director: Shane Black
The scoop: There’s a lot of punch punch quip quip in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer-director Shane Black’s latest crime story. When a young girl (Qualley) goes missing in late ’70s-era L.A., a pair of not-so-nice guys (Gosling and Crowe) become an unlikely team in order track her down. How awesome would it be if they crossed paths with Joaquin Phoneix’s perpetually stoned PI from Inherent Vice?

16. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Release date: Nov. 11
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin
Director: Ang Lee
The scoop: Lee’s first film since a surprise Best Director Oscar win for 2012’s Life of Pi should put him right back in the awards race. Based on the bestselling novel by Ben Fountain, the drama follows Iraq War hero Dime (TRON: Legacy star Hedlund) over the course of his final few hours before returning to service. That includes falling for a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader played by — in one of the year’s most intriguing casting choices — Twilight vet Stewart.

15. Moana
Release date: Nov. 23
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
The scoop: Make way for Disney’s newest animated princess: Moana, a teenager from the South Pacific who sets sail to find a fabled island. Joining 14-year-old newcomer Cravalho (as the voice of Moana) is Johnson, who voices her traveling companion, the demigod Maui (and, yes, the Rock sings). Directors Clements and Musker know a little something about making Disney magic, having helmed Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Princess and the Frog, among others.

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Moana and Maui from ‘Moana’ (Disney)

14. Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiars
Release date: Dec. 25
Starring: Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield
Director: Tim Burton
The scoop: Based on a wildly popular children’s novel of the same name, this fantastical film follows young Jacob (Butterfield) as his curiosity leads him to an abandoned school for children on a secretive island. In Burton’s hands, the fantasy adventure will surely convey his special brand of enchantment as Jacob seeks to find out whether the former occupants of the school are still alive.

13. Star Trek Beyond
Release date: July 22
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg
Director: Justin Lin
The scoop: There are a lot of challenges facing the crew of the Enterprise this time around: They’ve lost their director (J.J. Abrams jumped ship for Star Wars), their last outing (2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness) received lukewarm reviews, and fans weren’t all that impressed by the film’s first trailer. But co-writer and co-star Simon Pegg promises that there’s much more to see and that Beyond is more in keeping with the Star Trek ethos.

12. Doctor Strange
Release date: Nov. 4
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Scott Derrickson
The scoop: Marvel opens the door to its cosmic realm with the introduction of the magical Doctor Strange, who joins Black Panther as the new heroes in the multiverse’s official third phase. Benedict Cumberbatch seems like the perfect choice to play the surgeon turned mysterious superhero, as does Tilda Swinton, who tackles the role of the Ancient One.

11. The BFG
Release date: July 1
Starring: Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Bill Hader
Director: Steven Spielberg
The scoop: Early footage indicates Spielberg’s latest kid flick (his first since 2011’s double play of War Horse and Tintin) has a decidedly Hugo-esque feel, à la Martin Scorsese’s 2011 crowd pleaser. But Hugo didn’t have the titular Big Friendly Giant (voiced by Bridge of Spies Oscar contender Mark Rylance) or the benefit of beloved source material from Roald Dahl. The BFG also marks the final produced screenplay of Spielberg’s E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison, who died of cancer in November.

Watch ‘The BFG’ trailer:

10. X-Men: Apocalypse
Release date: May 27
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy
Director: Bryan Singer
The scoop: The newest X-Men trilogy comes to its apocalyptic conclusion, as Professor Xavier (McAvoy) and his mutant crew — as well as freelancer Mystique (Lawrence) — prepare to go toe-to-toe with the legions of all-powerful Apocalypse (Isaac) in the early ’80s. New mutants (not to be confused with New Mutants) include Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, while Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp, and Tye Sheridan play the younger versions of original X team, Jean Grey, Storm, and Cyclops respectively.

Watch the ‘Apocalypse’ trailer:

9. Hail Caesar!
Release date: Feb. 5
Starring: George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Josh Brolin
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
The scoop: There are few 2016 films that look anywhere near as delightful as the Coens’ next opus, a raucous farce set in Hollywood’s golden age and starring some of the biggest stars in present-day showbiz. The master satirists are long overdue for another look at Hollywood, having last torched the movie industry with 1991’s Barton Fink.

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Channing Tatum in ‘Hail, Caesar!’ (Universal)

8. Deadpool
Release date: Feb. 12
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin
Director: Tim Miller
The scoop: Reynolds will be the first to tell you that he has not had the best luck with superhero movies so far (see X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern). But he seems intent on atoning for his sins with this proudly R-rated actioner about Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth.” Like the leaked test footage that ultimately got this one greenlighted, the early clips all look gory and golden. Will the third time be the charm?

Watch the ‘Deadpool’ trailer:

7. Passengers
Release date: Dec. 21
Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen
Director: Morten Tyldum
The scoop: Try to name an onscreen coupling that could be anywhere as sizzling as Pratt and Lawrence right now. In this sci-fi thriller from the director of The Imitation Game, Pratt plays a passenger aboard a spacecraft who’s accidentally awoken from his sleep chamber 60 years early. Not cool with living out those six decades by his lonesome, he decides to wake up a fellow traveler and wisely chooses one who looks like Jennifer Lawrence. If you think she’s going to be pissed, you’re probably right. But Lawrence has already spoiled the fact that there’s a sex scene. So she can’t be that pissed.

6. Finding Dory
Release date: June 17
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
The scoop: Thirteen years after Finding Nemo comes this sequel that finds our beloved characters from under the sea joined by a new and exciting troupe. This time, forgetful fish Dory (DeGeneres) is on the hunt for her family. Among the new wildlife to look forward to: Ty Burrell as a “misguided beluga whale”; Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents; Ed O’Neill as her guide octopus; and Kaitlin Olsen as a “kindhearted whale shark.”

Watch the ‘Finding Dory’ trailer:


5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release date: Dec. 16
Starring: Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker
Director: Gareth Edwards
The scoop: Given the euphoria currently felt around the galaxy from the success of The Force Awakens, Star Wars fans are extra giddy to get another taste of the new universe with the series’s first official spinoff entry. Unsurprisingly, plot details are scarce, but we do know the film takes place after Revenge of the Sith and before A New Hope (so, yes, it’s another prequel, but don’t worry). It also follows a band of rebels intent on stealing plans for the Death Star. There are also rumors we’ll see Hayden Christensen back in the flesh as Darth Vader (OK, worry only slightly).

4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Release date: March 25
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder
The scoop: Snyder’s dark and brooding style goes even darker as a grizzled Batman (Affleck) faces off against Superman (Cavill), who’s transformed into a virtual demigod. The two revered superheroes become entrenched in a war, distracting them from the impending threat of Doomsday and, perhaps, the arrival of a certain Wonder Woman (Gadot). Will they quell their quarreling for the greater good? We’ll find out in spring!

Watch the ‘Batman v Superman’ trailer:

3. Ghostbusters
Release date: July 15
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
Director: Paul Feig
The scoop: A team of female comedy all-stars fights the paranormal takeover of New York City in this highly anticipated reboot of the beloved 1984 comedy. From the director of Bridesmaids and Spy, the film also stars Chris Hemsworth as the new Ghostbusters’ secretary and promises cameos from most of the original cast.

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Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon in ‘Ghostbusters’ (Columbia)

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Release date: Nov. 18
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller
Director: David Yates
The scoop: The wizarding world of Harry Potter moves to New York in this prequel written directly for the big screen by No. 1 Muggle J.K. Rowling. Set 70 years before Sorcerer’s Stone, the story follows Magizoologist Newt Scamender (Eddie Redmayne) as he preps the titular Hogwarts textbook. With four-time Harry helmer Yates calling the shots again and an exciting new cast (also including Ron Perlman, Colin Farrell, and Samantha Morton), it promises plenty more magic.

1. Captain America: Civil War
Release date: May 6
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
The scoop: It’s been called Avengers 2.5, and understandably so: Almost all of Marvel’s A-team returns for Cap’s third “standalone” feature, which finds Mr. America (Evans) and Iron Man (Downey) clashing over the government’s crackdown on their squad’s special brand of vigilantism. But what Cap 3 will miss in no-shows Thor and Hulk it will make up for in the introduction of the highly anticipated Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the presence of Sony’s crossover gift Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Whose sides will they be on? Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to find out: For the sixth straight year, Marvel has the honor of kicking off the summer movie season with all kinds of bangs.