With the holiday movie season coming to a close, and the cinematic dead-zone that is January just around the corner, what better time than now to look ahead to the next 12 months in film? We’ve compiled a list of what we see as the 35 most anticipated films of 2011, conveniently separated into five categories: Superheroes, Sequels, Dramas, Comedies/Family and Action/Sci-Fi. For each film, we’ve provided basic director/cast information, as well as what it’s about and why we’re excited about it. Sure to be another great year in film, 2011 has sequels galore, two Marvel films,two Steven Spielberg films, the return of Cameron Crowe, and Martin Scorsese’s first foray into 3D. So what are you waiting for? Hit the jump and check out what 2011 has in store for us movie lovers.
The films are separated into categories: Superheros, Sequels, Dramas, Comedies/Family and Action/Sci-Fi. In each category, the films are listed in order of release date.
The Green Hornet
Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz
Release Date: January 14, 2011
What it’s about: Seth Rogen stars as the playboy son of a wealthy billionaire, who inherits his father’s wealth following his untimely death. Realizing he should be doing more with his life, he teams up with his father’s employee Kato to become crimefighters, much to the chagrin of Russian criminal Benjamin Chudnofsky, who unites all of the city’s gangs to take down the Green Hornet.
Why we’re excited about it: While the release date shift to January was worrisome, early word has been positive on the flick. Plus, Rogen and partner Evan Goldberg have yet to write a bad film. Throw in the off-the-wall choice of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, and this just might be the first surprise hit of the year.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins
Release Date: May 6, 2011
What it’s about: Continuing in their successful film franchises, Marvel’s next in line is the story of Thor, a powerful and arrogant warrior who is cast down to Earth as punishment for reigniting an ancient war back home in Asgard.
Why we’re excited about it: While Branagh may seem an odd choice as director, his dramatic sensibilities just may be the perfect fit for helming Marvel’s first “other-worldly” superhero film. And did we mention Natalie Portman?
X-Men: First Class
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence and Oliver Platt
Release Date: June 3, 2011
What it’s about: A prequel of sorts to the first three X-Men films, First Class takes place in the 1960’s. The film shows Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (Magneto) working together as the closest of friends to defeat the Hellfire Club. However, in the process of working together as friends, a rift occurs between the two and an eternal war between two factions of mutants is born.
Why we’re excited about it: Though it would’ve been great to have original X-Men director Bryan Singer back at the helm of the franchise, I can think of no director better suited to “reboot” the series with a fresh take than Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn. He’s assembled a high-caliber cast of true thespians and you know his action set-pieces are going to be fantastic. This one’s got the perfect ingredients for one hell of a film.
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard
Release Date: June 17, 2011
What it’s about: Hal Jordan, a test pilot for the US Air Force, is unexpectedly recruited by the Green Lantern Corps, a brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order. The first human ever selected, Jordan must corral the superpowers granted to him by a ring in order to defeat Parallax; the fate of the universe hangs in the balance.
Why we’re excited about it: Reynolds seems a perfect fit to tackle the cockiness of Jordan with an air of likeability. Casino Royale director Martin Campbell is a fine choice as well, with a litany of fantastic action set-pieces sure to be featured.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones
Release Date: July 22, 2011
What it’s about: Marvel’s first period piece, Captain America focuses on Steve Rogers, a sickly young man who is enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States in World War II.
Why we’re excited about it: Audiences have longed to see a Captain America movie, and what better way to do it than to set up The Avengers? Joe Johnston’s work on The Rocketeer is more than enough proof that he can tackle this material, and Evans seems like a great choice to portray Steve Rogers. Plus, with this being the last Marvel film before the all-star Avengers movie, expect one hell of a tag at the end of this flick.
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panetierre, Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Aimee Teegarden, Anna Paquin and Kristin Bell
Release Date: April 15, 2011
What it’s about: The Scream franchise has always been shrouded in secrecy, so at this point little is known about the plot. Set 10 years after the events of Scream 3, the fourth installment begins with Sidney Prescott now living a new life as an author. Dewey and Gale Weathers are back, alongside a new cast of youngsters headed up by Sidney’s cousin (Roberts).
Why we’re excited about it: The wildly successful original Scream franchise began the whole “meta-horror movie” craze back in the 90’s, and Craven has been promising that this new installment has much to say on the state of horror movies today. It’s also exciting that the entire original cast is back, along with Craven in the director’s chair. The long list of talented new cast members is enticing as well.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush
Release Date: May 20, 2011
What it’s about: Captain Jack Sparrow returns, this time sans Will and Elizabeth Turner, to seek out the Fountain of Youth. On his journey, he encounters a woman from his past (Cruz), Blackbeard (McShane), and Captain Barbossa, of course.
Why we’re excited about it: No matter what your feelings are regarding the previous two Piratesfilms, they were damned great looking. This time, Chicago director Rob Marshall is at the helm and his new blood may be just what this franchise needs for a fourth installment. Adding Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane doesn’t hurt either.
The Hangover: Part II
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha and Ken Jeong
Release Date: May 26, 2011
What it’s about: In this sequel to one of the funniest/most successful comedies in recent years, Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug travel to Bangkok for Stu’s wedding (though it’s not Heather Graham he’s marrying).
Why we’re excited about it: Did you see the original? The comedic sensibilities of the lead actors made for palpable chemistry and more endlessly quotable one-liners than you can count. With Phillips back at the helm and the entire principal cast along for the ride once again, it’s a safe bet that lightning may in fact strike twice.
Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Voices: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, David Cross, Seth Rogen, James Woods, Victor Garber, and Michelle Yeoh
Release Date: May 27, 2011
What it’s about: Now a kung fu master, Po is fighting alongside Master Shifu and the Furious Five. The team must join forces with another group of kung fu masters in order to defeat the evil peacock Lord Shen, who is in possession of a weapon that can destroy kung fu forever.
Why we’re excited about it: The first film was a fun and refreshingly exciting output from DreamWorks Animation. With the addition of Gary Oldman, and a slew of other characters, it’s possible that this sequel could turn out to be just as fun. Though there is danger of DreamWorks sequel fatigue a la Shrek, I’m choosing to hope for the best.
Director: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis
Voices: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer and Jason Isaacs
Release Date: June 24, 2011
What it’s about: Racecar Lightning McQueen and tow truck Mater head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix. Along the way, Mater gets caught up in international espionage and is thus torn between completing his mission or assisting McQueen in readying for the race.
Why we’re excited about it: Though Cars is generally considered the least critically successful film in Pixar’s library, it’s also the biggest cash cow merchandising-wise for Pixar, so a sequel was all but inevitable. Pixar guru John Lasseter is back at the helm, and fingers crossed they’ve laid off the “Mater is dumb/naïve” jokes. Nevertheless, this is a Pixar film we’re talking about, and their worst is still better than 90% of the animated junk that’s out there.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich
Release Date: July 1, 2011
What it’s about: The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft on the Moon and must race against the Decepticons to find it and learn its secrets, which could turn the tide in the Transformers’ final battle.
Why we’re excited about it: Though Revenge of the Fallen was a bit of a misfire, the firstTransformers was refreshingly entertaining and engaging. With Bay saying that this film will be his and LaBeouf’s last in the franchise, and that he plans on making up for the shortcomings of the second film, he’s sure to go out with a bang and one hell of a flick. If all else fails, this should make for some fairly epic robot battles.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter
Release Date: July 15, 2011
What it’s about: Every story must have an end, and so the massively successful and one-of-a-kindHarry Potter film franchise finally comes to a close this summer. The second half of what is essentially one giant movie, as Part 2 begins, Voldemort is now in possession of one of the three Deathly Hallows and Harry, Hermione and Ron are seeking out the last of the Horcruxes to destroy. All parties involved eventually meet in what’s sure to be one of the most epic showdowns in history at the iconic Hogwarts School of Wizardry.
Why we’re excited about it: The Harry Potter film franchise began in 2001 and has gone on to create what will be 8 extraordinary and wholly original films that have managed to keep essentially the entire principal cast for every single film (save for the death of actor Richard Harris after the second film, which prompted Michael Gambon to take on the role of Dumbledore). If you’ve read the book, you know just how unbelievably epic this film is going to be. If you haven’t: start preparing yourself now.
Sherlock Holmes 2
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris and Stephen Fry
Release Date: December 16, 2011
What it’s about: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. James Watson are back, this time with newcomer Sim joining them as they take on their arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty.
Why we’re excited about it: In a climate of ho-hum adaptations and reboots, the first film was refreshing and exciting. The casting choice of Mad Men star Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty is impeccable, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace is an exhilarating addition. But at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to watch more of Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes?
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton
Release Date: December 16, 2011
What it’s about: Very little is known about this project at this moment, as no plot information has been released. What we do know is that is being viewed as a sort of reboot, with Jeremy Renner’s character expected to pick the franchise up on his own following this film.
Why we’re excited about it: Um, it’s freaking Brad Bird’s live-action directorial debut! TheIncredibles and Iron Giant director makes his first foray into live-action a big budget franchise flick, and he couldn’t be a more perfect choice. Throw in the fantastic cast (Sawyer from Lost!) and the possibility of a Jeremy Renner-fronted franchise, and this is shaping up to be a very exciting film.