The 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2019
With new films from Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Peele, and Bong Joon-ho, 2019 promises to be a great year for movies.
For all of the constant talk about “the death of cinema,” 2018 was yet another incredible year at the movies. Some of the most remarkable films could be seen coming a mile away (e.g. “Black Panther”) while others seemingly came out of nowhere (e.g. “Madeline’s Madeline”) to remind us that we’re still scratching at the surface of what this medium has to offer. In that light, it’s hard not to get excited about what 2019 might have in store. We’ve already seen 22 great films that are slated to hit theaters in the next 12 months, and those titles will soon be joined by new efforts from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Dee Rees, Mia Hansen-Løve, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, and Josephine Decker, in addition to major franchise releases like “Star Wars: Episode IX” and — of course — “Detective Pikachu.” We can’t wait to start watching.
From “Ad Astra” to “Zola” and everything in between, here are the 20 movies that the IndieWire team is most excited to see in 2019.
“Ad Astra” (James Gray)
James Gray gets more ambitious with each new offering, so after traversing the jungle in “The Lost City of Z” he’s naturally heading to space in next year’s science-fiction drama “Ad Astra.” The movie stars Brad Pitt as an Army Corps engineer who signs up for the same mission to travel through the solar system that led to his father’s disappearance. Expect Grey’s usual theme of wounded masculinity to fit perfectly into a large scale space epic, which is territory Grey has never traveled down before. If Gray can pull off “Ad Astra,” which has the backing of major studio 20th Century Fox, he should be able to open up his career to newfound heights. — ZS
“Beach Bum” (Harmony Korine)
It’s been six long years since “Spring Breakers,” and Harmony Korine is finally back with another Florida-centric odyssey about outcasts living by their own rules. Matthew McConaughey is such a natural fit for Moondog, the wandering stoner poet at the center of Korine’s latest, that the character has already become something of an icon on the basis of production photos alone. Korine’s riff on the lowbrow humor of the Cheech and Chong variety is bound to thrill fans of his work as well as the genre itself — a peculiar and exciting kind of overlap not unlike the way “Spring Breakers” broadened the “Trash Humper” director’s appeal.
The cast also includes Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, and Martin Lawrence, who is long overdue for a return to film comedy. Then there’s Snoop Dogg — because of course this movie needs Snoop Dogg — as Moondog’s right-hand man Lingerie, who helps the artist piece his life together even as it goes up in smoke. With “Spring Breakers” cinematographer Benoit Debie back behind the camera, expect a riveting blend of sumptuous visuals, off-beat locales, and quirky plot twists, tied together under a singular vision of society on the margins as only Korine can tell it. — EK
“Bergman Island” (Mia Hansen-Løve)
Fårö Island is sacred cinema ground. The wind swept, remote Baltic Sea island was the location for a number of Ingmar Bergman’s films in the 1960s (“Persona,” “Through a Glass Darkly”) before he moved there permanently and developed an envied and highly romanticized daily routine. Director Mia Hansen-Løve (“Things to Come,” “Eden”) has long been obsessed with Bergman, and not just his films, but the artist and his process. Her visit to Fårö, (one assumes possibly with her former husband, filmmaker Olivier Assayas, based on the plot), produced a rather meta-Bergman-premise for her upcoming film: “The picture revolves around an American filmmaking couple who retreat to the island for the summer to each write screenplays for their upcoming films in an act of pilgrimage to the place that inspired Bergman. As the summer and their screenplays advance, the lines between reality and fiction start to blur against the backdrop of the Island’s wild landscape.” Greta Gerwig was slated to star and was later replaced by “Phantom Thread” standout Vicky Krieps. — CO
“The Irishman” (Martin Scorsese)
The release of a new Martin Scorsese film would already be a cause for celebration, but “The Irishman” re-teams Scorsese with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, making this a must-see for anyone who has long pined for a “Goodfellas” reunion. With “The Irishman,” Scorsese dives back into the mob world he does best, exploring a hitman’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. From “The Aviator” to “Raging Bull,” no one brings biopics to life with quite as much flair as Scorsese, and the much-talked about CGI de-aging of De Niro is already making this an intriguing one.
It must be said that “The Irishman” marks another instance of Netflix luring a master auteur into their web by promising unlimited resources and the creative freedom to tell even the most personal stories on a grand scale. Hopefully, “The Irishman” gets an proper push and an expansive theatrical release, allowing cinephiles to enjoy it as intended — on the big screen. But, at the very least, it can’t be worse than the marketing for “Silence?” — JR
“Jojo Rabbit” (Taika Waititi)
Truth be told, if anyone could tackle a movie featuring Adolf Hitler in the year of our lord 2019, it would be Taika Waititi. And, as Waititi himself so eloquently put it, “what better fuck you” to Hitler than to have him played by the half-Maori, half-Jewish director who single-handedly saved the MCU? With “Jojo Rabbit,” Waititi will explore the story of a young German boy who, struggling to find his own place in a fascist regime, creates his own imaginary friend: Hitler. Unbeknownst to him though, his mother is hiding a Jewish child in their own home.
As Waititi has proven in “Boy,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” and even his Oscar-nominated short, “Two Cars, One Night,” the director is incredibly skilled at poignant and truthful examinations of childhood, in all of its wonderment, naivety, and heartbreak. And so, despite a subject that might seem especially taboo, Waititi can be trusted to deliver something both hilarious and thought-provoking. With a cast featuring Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and “Leave No Trace” breakout Thomasin McKenzie, “Jojo Rabbit” promises to be one of 2019’s most interesting films. — JR
“Knives Out” (Rian Johnson)
Unfortunately not a feature-length adaptation of the Radiohead song of the same name, Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” is still worth getting excited about, not least of all because it’ll be fascinating to see what the guy behind the gutsiest “Star Wars” movie ever made decides to do with his first genuine blank check. From the sounds of it, the film is something of a good, old-fashioned palate cleanser in between space operas.
Described as a contemporary riff on Agatha Christie, “Knives Out” has already finished shooting, and stars literally every famous person you’ve ever heard of, including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Christopher Plummer. Lionsgate will release the movie on November 29, though it may very well appear at a festival a bit earlier in the fall. — DE
“The Last Thing He Wanted” (Dee Rees)
Writer-director Dee Rees follows up Oscar-nominated “Mudbound,” which was picked up at Sundance by Netflix, with a bigger-budget political thriller for the streamer adapted by Rees and Marco Villalobos from the terse 1996 novel by Joan Didion. In the movie, Washington Post reporter Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway), who is covering the 1984 presidential primaries when her mother dies, goes home to look after her dying father (Willem Dafoe). When she takes over his role as an arms dealer for the U.S. Government in Central America, she suddenly finds herself dealing with spies and the American military complex and flying to a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica. Ben Affleck costars. — AT
“The Lighthouse” (Robert Eggers)
Robert Eggers’ 2015 debut “The Witch” was an astonishing accomplishment in atmospheric horror, transforming the setting of 17th century New England into a disturbing landscape of supernatural circumstances and invisible dread. It was one of the most confident debuts in years, indicating the vision of a filmmaker fully in control of his material. For his long-awaited followup, Eggers is once again venturing into ambitious terrain, with another innovative period piece and a promising cast. Set in 1890, “The Lighthouse” stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as characters in a remote part of Nova Scotia contending with a new set of supernatural circumstances (this time, the plot is reportedly inspired by old seafaring myths).
However, the real star of the show may be its elegant look: Eggers shot “The Lighthouse” in black-and-white 35mm film to give it an ancient, lived-in feel. Pattinson has described the appearance of the movie as resembling a Buster Keaton film; he also said the conditions of the isolated shoot were so harsh that he nearly punched the filmmaker. Nevertheless, he sounds pleased with the end result. Changes are strong that audiences will, too: If “The Lighthouse” lives up to its otherworldly reputation, it might just be one of the most memorable movies of the year. — EK
“Little Women” (Greta Gerwig)
What’s that you say? Yet another remake of yet another beloved intellectual property? Only someone like Greta Gerwig could pull that off, and she’d have to rope in most of the “Lady Bird” cast, like Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet. Oh, she did? And she thre in Meryl Streep and Laura Dern? As Louisa May Alcott put it herself, there is always light behind the clouds. While few details are known beyond the much-salivated-over behind-the-scenes sneak peaks from Instagram, it’s safe to say that Christmas, 2019, when Sony plans to release the movie, will be a very good day at the box office indeed.
With Ronan playing the writerly tomboy Jo March, she will merge her sharp-tongued “Lady Bird” persona with the period gentility that first raised her profile in Oscar-nominated films “Brooklyn” and “Atonement.” Aside from a supporting part in 2017’s “Hostiles,” “Little Women” will mark Chalamet’s first meaty period outing, unless you count Italy in the 1980s as period. We can’t wait to see what he can do with a waistcoat. — JD
“Lucy in the Sky” (Noah Hawley)
Inspired by astronaut Lisa Nowak’s bizarre 2007 true story (which the tabloids dubbed the “NASA love triangle”), Noah Hawley’s psychological sci-fi thriller brings stressed-out astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) back to earth from space, where she was romantically involved with another astronaut (Jon Hamm). When he starts dating another woman (Zazie Beets), Cola does not take it well. Wearing a diaper like the ones the astronauts wore in space, she takes a deranged non-stop road trip across five states — with lethal weapons in her trunk. Fox Searchlight will release the anticipated film from “Fargo” series creator Hawley in the second half of 2019. — AT
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Quentin Tarantino)
Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” will center on the Manson Family murders, but don’t call it a “Manson movie.” The period piece’s ambitions are broader in scope, exploring late 1960s hippie culture and Hollywood of the era, with the Tate-LaBianca murders serving as more of a backdrop. Intimating at more of a portrait of a locale that the filmmaker is intimately familiar with, Tarantino said in the official announcement of the project, that he is “very excited to tell this story of an L.A. and a Hollywood that don’t exist anymore” — an L.A. he’s lived in for most of his life, including the year the film’s story unfolds, 1969, when he was seven years old.
Directing the film from a script that took him five years to develop, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” boasts one of the most impressive and eclectic ensemble casts of 2019, led by A-listers Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, appearing in their first feature film together, with Margot Robbie and Al Pacino bringing up the rear. Describing it as “very, very, very Quentin,” cinematographer Robert Richardson further shared that the tone of the film is “not easily describable,” while promising something that’s “very fresh.” Tarantino’s ninth feature film, it just might be his last, as the 55-year-old director has famously said that he plans to retire by his 60th birthday. — TO
“Parasite” (Bong Joon-ho)
After the intense labor involved with delivering the worlds of “Okja” and “Snowpiercer,” director Bong returns to the type of smaller scale, Korean language film that put him on the map. Despite the film’s title inferring a sci-fi genre element, “Parasite” is a drama about a family of four, in which “each member has unique characteristics.” The film features a Bong-regular (“Memories of Murder,” “The Host”). – CO
“Queen & Slim” (Melina Matsoukas)
One of the most exciting music video directors around (she’s collaborated with both Beyoncé and Solange, among a killer array of other artists), as well as the driving creative force behind some of the best episodes of “Insecure” and “Master of None,” Melina Matsoukas is a major film director waiting to happen. The waiting is over, as Matsoukas is set to shoot “Queen & Slim” in January. Billed asan exploration of “America’s social and political climate through the lens of a genre-defying love story,” the movie will star Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith (“Nightflyers”) as a black couple on a first date whose lives are turned upside down when a routine traffic stop ends with them killing the cop who pulled them over. Universal plans to release “Queen & Slim” in late November. — DE
“Shirley” (Josephine Decker)
Given the unique and highly fluid nature of Josephine Decker’s creative process, it seemed like the world might have to wait a long time for the “Madeline’s Madeline” filmmaker to break ground on a worthy follow-up to that virtuosic indie sensation. Lucky for us, that won’t be the case; on the contrary, Decker was already hard at work on her next film before “Madeline” even hit theaters: a hyper-subjective biopic about author Shirley Jackson.
Working with a cast of major stars for the first time in her career (Elisabeth Moss is playing Jackson; Michael Stuhlbarg is her husband), Decker’s new feature might seem like a big leap, but she insisted that it was familiar territory: “It’s weird how often Jackson’s work resonates with themes of my own,” she told IndieWire last summer. “Themes like ‘What is exploitation? What is taking advantage of someone? What is the beating heart of friendship between two women?’ And the script goes from this third-person perspective to inside the minds of her characters, and it just gives me so much permission to be really bold with my own narrative voice.” Look for “Shirley” at the major fall festivals. — DE
“The Truth” (Kore-eda Hirokazu)
When Kore-eda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters” at Cannes, the Japanese auteur knew that he had to make the most of things and strike again while the iron was hot. So he got on a plane (trophy in hand), flew to New York, plopped the Palme on Ethan Hawke’s desk, and asked the actor to star in Kore-eda’s first English-language film. Hawke agreed. Based on an unproduced stage play that Kore-eda wrote 15 years ago, “The Truth” wrapped production in Paris earlier this month. Hawke stars opposite Juliette Binoche, who plays a woman who returns to France when her famous actress of a mother (Catherine Deneuve) publishes a controversial autobiography.
According to Kore-eda, who spoke to IndieWire last summer, the film will kick off a new phase of his career, but won’t represent the the complete sea change it might appear: “Making a film while trying to overcome the language barrier is something that will be a huge challenge for this production,” the director said, “but at the same time, the basis for it is still a kind of family drama. It’s a film where I feel like I can dig into the question of ‘what is acting?’ ‘What is a performance?’” Look for “The Truth” to bring Kore-eda back to the Croisette in May. — DE
“Uncut Gems” (Benny & Josh Safdie)
The one-two punch of “Heaven Knows What” and “Good Time” confirmed Josh and Benny Safdie as two of the most exciting filmmakers working today, so it’s only fitting their 2019 offering features none other than Adam Sandler. “Uncut Gems” is a crime drama set in New York City’s diamond district and should offer Sandler the chance to show off his unpredictable side. That’s what the Safdie brothers allowed Robert Pattinson to due to in “Good Time” and it’s what has many cinephiles anxiously awaiting “Uncut Gems.” The film reunites the Safdies with A24 (“Good Time”) and features their first partnership with acclaimed DP Darius Khondji. — ZS
“Us” (Jordan Peele)
Continuing to build on the momentum provided by his 2016 horror-dramedy “Get Out,” Jordan Peele and his Monkeypaw Productions add to a growing slate of big and small screen projects with another socially-conscious horror-thriller feature titled “Us.” Details on the project have been kept mostly under wraps, encouraging all manner of speculation based on the few specifics that have been teased out thus far, including a poster, a rather vague synopsis, and a first trailer that reveals enough to whet the appetite without giving much more away.
Promising an exploration of the nature of duality, with a seemingly unsuspecting family of four as its protagonists, led by former Yale Drama School colleagues and “Black Panther” co-stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, Peele lists “Poltergeist,” “The Shining,” and “The Amityville Horror” as influences. All films that center on average families beset by strange and sinister occurrences, what audiences know of “Us” thus far suggests a similar kind of psychologically terrifying, if claustrophobic ride. — TO
“Wendy” (Benh Zeitlin)
It’s been eight years since Benh Zeitlin’s dreamlike “Beasts of the Southern Wild” took Sundance by storm, heralding the arrival of a major visionary filmmaker. Zeitlin made the lyrical portrait of a New Orleans community with a delicate, DIY approach in the confines of his film collective, Court 13; while the movie’s Oscar nominations and critical acclaim brought him more resources, he has continued to take his time working on his own terms. At long last, 2019 will see the release of his “Peter Pan” riff “Wendy,” the story of a young girl kidnapped and taken to a destructive ecosystem where mystical pollen breaks the relationship between aging and time. We were hoping “Wendy” would be ready in time for a grand return to Sundance, but Zeitlin still has a few odds and ends left to shoot. Perhaps the film might premiere in France a few months later. — EK
“Zola” (Janicza Bravo)
Given that we live in a time where a movie borne of a Twitter fantasy can actually get the green light, it’s no surprise that one based on an insanely entertaining viral Twitter thread is already looking like one of the most inventive movies of 2019. “Zola” is the story of Aziah “Zola” King, who began an epic story with the now-infamous intro: “Y’all wanna hear a story about how me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” It only escalated from there, but with such an enticing log line, the movie version of “Zola” was off to the races. The film stars newcome Taylour Paige as the titular Zola in what is sure to be a breakout role opposite established talents like Colman Domingo and Riley Keough, in what is sure to be her most “American Honey”-like role since impressing in Andrea Arnold’s 2016 masterpiece. But the smartest thing producer and Killer Films founder Christine Vachon did was hire Janicza Bravo, Sundance favorite and director/co-writer of “Lemon,” to helm the project. In between her debut and sophomore features, Bravo has notched on her director’s belt an impressive collection of prestige TV gigs, including episodes of “Atlanta,” “Dear White People,” and “Love.” Working with Killer on “Zola,” Bravo joins the ranks of indie film royalty. — JD