Once upon a time, long long ago (like, an entire year ago), 2015 was but a year of legend. A place where a plethora of massive, highly anticipated films would be unleashed upon the public. Now, 2015 is a reality. The year that brings us new Star Wars, new James Bond, two new Pixar movies in one calendar year (for the first time ever), and sequels to Avengers, Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, Ted, Pitch Perfect—not to mention original works from Brad Bird and the Wachowski Siblings, reboots galore, and so much more. As the movie year ahead looks to be a bit overwhelming, now feels like the opportune time to break down the major “blockbuster” films that will be hitting theaters over the course of the next 12 months, providing a nice overview of the year ahead. Check out the 2015 Blockbuster Preview after the jump.
Note: For the sake of this article, a “blockbuster” is considered a large-scale, big budget event film. Movies are listed in order of release, which is subject to change.
Release Date: February 6th
Directors: Lana and Andy Wachowski
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, James D’Arcy, Tim Pigott-Smith, and Doona Bae
The Skinny: Originally slated to open in theaters last year, Warner Bros. pushed this original sci-fi epic back quite a bit after the studio suffered a few misfires in a row. Regardless, this is an original sci-fi epic from Lana and Andy Wachowski, a pair of filmmakers who specialize in the unique. The thing looks absolutely crazy in the best of ways, complete with inventive space battles, rocket boots, and Channing Tatum as an ex-military half-werewolf half-albino.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Release Date: February 13th
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, and Mark Hamill
The Skinny: This is the film that Vaughn gave up directing X-Men: Days of Future Past in order to tackle, and the marriage of director and material—a violent, colorful twist on the spy genre—seems perfect. This is a James Bond film by way of Matthew Vaughn, as the filmmaker brings his signature sense of explosive, somewhat naughty fun to the table with a swell ensemble to boot.
Release Date: March 13th
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Holiday Grainger, Nonso Anozie and Sophie McShera
The Skinny: Disney’s newest trend is producing live-action adaptations of beloved films that they previously produced in animated form, and Cinderella is the next out of the gate. The film looks to be a lavish retelling of the story, though from the first trailers there’s not much that separates it from its animated counterpart story-wise. Nevertheless, Branagh is well-versed in the art of period dramas, and this appears to be a sweeping romance told on a massive canvas.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Release Date: March 20th
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Daniel Dae Kim, Maggie Q, Ray Stevenson, and Jai Courtney
The Skinny: While the first adaptation of Veronica Roth’s futuristic thriller trilogy wasn’t the runaway success that The Hunger Games was, Divergent still did solid business at the box office and this franchise is on track to finish out. Based on the trailer, the tone of Insurgent is quite different, offering up more action and adrenaline-fueled sequences than Divergent’s more character and Tris-centric POV.
Release Date: April 3rd
Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou, Lucas Black, and John Brotherton
The Skinny: Due to the tragic death of Paul Walker during production, this was no doubt one of the toughest films to get completed. But after regrouping and finding a way to finish the movie while also honoring Walker and his work in the franchise, Furious 7 is poised to be unveiled to the world this spring. Somewhat impossibly, this series is the strongest its ever been six films deep, and with The Conjuring and Insidious director James Wan making his action genre debut on Furious 7, many are eager to see both if this seventh entry keeps the winning streak alive and how (if at all) Wan shakes things up.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Release Date: May 1st
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Paul Bettany, and James Spader
The Skinny: Were it not for a little thing called Star Wars, this would probably be the no contest winner for the most anticipated film of the year. Nearly three years ago, Marvel’s The Avengers was the culmination of a very risky experiment in franchise integration, and it paid off in spades. Age of Ultron marks the culmination of Marvel’s second phase while also setting up what’s looking to be a massive, dramatic Phase Three. But really, the biggest draw here is seeing James Spader play an evil robot spewing out Joss Whedon dialogue.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Release Date: May 15th
Director: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and Nathan Jones
The Skinny: In a marketplace filled with sequels and reboots, here’s something that’s in between. Director George Miller returns to the franchise that helped jumpstart his career with something wonderfully rare: a franchise blockbuster that refuses to stick to the formula. The post-apocalyptic actioner follows a single chase for its entire runtime of 110 minutes, with Hardy’s lead character appearing to be a man of very few words. Throw in a heavy focus on practical effects and one of the best trailers of the year, and you’ve got a must-see movie event.
Pitch Perfect 2
Release Date: May 15th
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Skylar Astin, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Adam Devine, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, John Michael Higgins, and Katey Segal
The Skinny: The comedy Pitch Perfect was one of the most delightfully entertaining films of 2013, and the Barden Bellas are back for more vocal shenanigans in this year’s sequel. The main cast returns with a couple of notable additions, but perhaps the most exciting thing about Pitch Perfect 2 is the fact that it marks the feature directorial debut of Elizabeth Banks. A lady director for a majorly anticipated, high-profile sequel? What a novel idea.
Release Date: May 22nd
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Serafinowicz, and Allison Janney
The Skinny: Paul Feig’s two previous collaborations with Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids and The Heat, were both box office hits, so their third film together comes with a certain degree of anticipation. They switch up genres once again, as the spy comedy finds McCarthy’s CIA analyst teaming up with another agent to track down the person responsible for the disappearance of her partner. The cast is outstanding (Byrne, in particular, has been doing great work as of late) and there’s an added degree of interest by virtue of the fact that Feig’s next film is a new Ghostbusters movie, so his handle on the action set pieces here will be particularly telling.
Release Date: May 22nd
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Judy Greer, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Pierce Gagnon
The Skinny: In a world filled with sequels, reboots, and adaptations, the mere prospect of an original studio blockbuster is somewhat mind-blowing. With regards to Tomorrowland, on top of that unique foundation we’ve got a script by Damon Lindelof, an eclectic ensemble cast, and a mysteriously futuristic sci-fi premise. Not to mention animation veteran Brad Bird in the director’s chair, whose live-action debut was the immensely satisfying Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
Release Date: May 29th
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, and Paul Giamatti
The Skinny: It’s been a while since we’ve seen a large-scale disaster film, but if anyone can make the genre feel new again it’s Dwayne Johnson. The guy exudes charisma and he’s proven himself to be quite the talented actor, but this time he faces his toughest physical challenge: an earthquake. But if Tommy Lee Jones can fight a volcano and win, I think Johnson vs. Earthquake is no contest.
Release Date: June 12th
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, and Vincent D’Onofrio
The Skinny: The potential for a fourth Jurassic Park movie has loomed large for years now, but the sequel is now finally in the can and set for release. Personally developed by Steven Spielberg himself, the follow-up finds the dream of a dinosaur theme park fully realized when–surprise!–something goes terribly wrong. Safety Not Guaranteed director Trevorrow makes a big step up from independent dramas to franchise filmmaking, and it appears that he’s swinging for the fences when it comes to switching things up. Hybrid dinosaurs, friendly raptors, and a dino splash-tank oh my!
Release Date: June 19th
Director: Pete Docter
Voice Cast: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, and Kaitlyn Dias
The Skinny: The folks at Pixar took 2014 off entirely due to the last-minute delay of The Good Dinosaur, so Inside Out will act as our first new Pixar film since the summer of 2013. The feature marks the triumphant return of director Pete Docter, whose past two Pixar features Up and Monsters, Inc. still rank among the studio’s very best. This time he sets his sights on a uniquely told story that revolves around the anthropomorphized emotions that live inside us all. If the first trailer is any indication, we’re in for a delightful ride.
Release Date: June 26th
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Patrick Warburton, and Dennis Haysbert.
The Skinny: The R-rated comedy Ted grossed a whopping $549 million worldwide, and so a sequel was a foregone conclusion. We still don’t know much about the follow-up other than the fact that a portion of it will take place at Comic-Con and Seyfried replaces Mila Kunis as the female lead, but no doubt some raunchy teddy bear shenanigans will ensue.
Release Date: July 1st
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Smith, Byung-hun Lee, Dayo Okeniyi, Courtney B. Vance, and J.K. Simmons
The Skinny: Here’s a film that is both a reboot and a sequel. Essentially pretending that Terminator: Salvation never existed, Genisys treads familiar territory by finding Kyle Reese (Courtney) once again being sent back in time by John Connor (Jason Clarke) in order to prevent his mother’s death by Terminator. However, when Reese gets to his destination (ie. the setting of the original The Terminator) things are very, very different. The first trailer for this one didn’t really go over all that well, but it’s possible Genisys packs more surprises that make this a franchise worth continuing.
Release Date: July 10th
Directors: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
Voice Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Pierre Coffin, and Chris Renaud
The Skinny: It is an undeniable fact that the Minions are the best thing about the Despicable Me franchise. This summer, the adorable, gibberish-speaking characters get their own spinoff film that not only reveals their centuries-old adventures, but also revolves around their quest to find a new potential master, from Antarctica to 1960s New York, ending in mod London. Banana!
Release Date: July 17th
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, and Judy Greer
The Skinny: We once again get a double dose of Marvel outings in 2015, and if Avengers: Age of Ultron acts as the big Phase Two finale, Ant-Man is the postscript. You’re no doubt well aware of the rocky road to production of this film, but Marvel recovered rather quickly after Edgar Wright’s departure and the July 2015 release date stuck, so everyone is eager to see what director Peyton Reed brings to the MCU in what serves as Paul Rudd’s superhero movie debut.
Release Date: July 24th
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried, Adeel Akhtar, Jack Charles, Taejoo Na, Nonso Anozie, Kathy Burke, Kurt Egyiawan, Lewis Macdougall, and Leni Zieglmeier
The Skinny: Filmmaker Joe Wright is nothing if not ambitious, and after mastering the art of the British period drama and turning in a truly unique sort of action film with Hanna, he now tackles a reimagining of the Peter Pan fantasy adventure. The trailer reveals a film that’s big, boisterous, and colorful, and we can probably rest assured that Wright has put together a Peter Pan adaptation unlike any other.
Release Date: July 24th
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Kevin James, and Brian Cox
The Skinny: This project’s been kicking around for some time, and while Sandler’s name attached to a large-scale family film doesn’t normally inspire confidence, he’s working with a non-regular director and cast this time around. The premise of alien invaders basing their attacks off of popular 80s arcade games is incredibly promising, but really the image of Dinklage sporting a mullet was all Pixels needed to sell plenty of tickets.
The Fantastic Four
Release Date: August 7th
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, and Tim Blake Nelson
The Skinny: This is an odd scenario in which we still know next-to-nothing about this film—we haven’t even seen an official (or non-official) image of anyone in costume. Odds are Trank has put together a very different kind of superhero film and Fox is being careful with the way they introduce this reboot to audiences, but nevertheless we’re curious to see what’s up.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Release Date: August 14th
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Jared Harris, and Elizabeth Debicki
The Skinny: The popular 1960s TV series comes to life by way of Guy Ritchie in this feature film adaptation, which features Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as a CIA and KGB agent, respectively, who must team up in order to confront a common enemy. Ritchie keeps the 1960s aesthetic intact for this iteration, and Warner Bros. no doubt hopes he can get the same successful results out of this material as he did with his take on Sherlock Holmes.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Release Date: September 18th
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aidan Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Barry Pepper, and Lilly Taylor
The Skinny: Should they prove successful, keeping these YA adaptations going on a yearly basis has become the norm in Hollywood, and The Maze Runner is no different. The second installment in a trilogy of books (but probably quadrilogy of films), Scorch Trials expands its scope beyond the maze as the mystery surrounding the events continues to be unraveled.
The Jungle Book
Release Date: October 9th
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, and Giancarlo Esposito
The Skinny: One of two dueling Jungle Book adaptations currently in production, Disney’s iteration comes first as Jon Favreau blends live-action with photorealistic CGI animals and environments, featuring an all-star voice cast for the friendly creatures. The adaptation puts Favreau back in family film territory for the first time since Zathura, and it’ll be interesting to see how his experience with blockbusters like Iron Man and Cowboys & Aliens informs his take on the material.
Release Date: November 6th
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, and Monica Bellucci
The Skinny: With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes crafted one of the best James Bond installments of all time, so it’s safe to say expectations are high for his return to the franchise. The title is mighty enticing for longtime fans of the series, and rumors are running rampant that the film will introduce a new iteration of classic Bond villain Blofeld. Whether that’s the case remains to be seen, but regardless, Spectre is one of the most anticipated films of the year.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Release Date: November 20th
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Natalie Dormer, Gwendoline Christie, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, and Donald Sutherland
The Skinny: Not only is The Hunger Games one of the most popular franchises in recent memory, it’s also one of the best. This is serious sci-fi dealing with thoughtful, heavy themes while also balancing entertainment value and character evolution, and it finally comes to an end with the final installment this fall. Those who’ve read the books know we’re in for an epic finale, so here’s hoping Lawrence and Co. stick the landing.
The Good Dinosaur
Release Date: November 25th
Director: Peter Sohn
Voice Cast: Lucas Neff, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, and Judy Greer
The Skinny: While 2014 went without a new Pixar film, 2015 may be the first year that we get two if things go according to plan. The Good Dinosaur suffered some significant creative changes behind-the-scenes, but all now seems to be running smoothly with a story that answers the question: what would happen if the dinosaurs never went extinct? Described as a buddy comedy, the film follows the adventures of a dinosaur named Arlo and his unlikely human companion.
Release Date: November 25th
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Michael Pena, and Sean Bean
The Skinny: Boasting a script by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), this adaptation tells the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars who must find his way home. That’s a simple enough premise, but Scott has put together a pretty stellar ensemble cast and will no doubt be crafting some impressive visual set pieces. Will the film be different enough to avoid Gravity comparisons? We’ll find out this fall.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Release Date: December 18th
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, and Max von Sydow
The Skinny: Oh this little thing? It’s only the beginning of a new era for quite possibly the most iconic film franchise of all time. J.J. Abrams kicks things off by setting up this new series of sequels and spinoffs, but the strong connection to the franchise’s history comes from the involvement of the original trio: Ford, Hamill, and Fisher. The first teaser was a fantastic glimpse at this 21st century Star Wars, and there will no doubt be a fever pitch of anticipation come December.
Mission: Impossible 5
Release Date: December 25th
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, and Simon McBurney
The Skinny: But Star Wars isn’t the only film coming out this December, as the next entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise is also poised for release. McQuarrie most recently did a fantastic job helming Cruise in the underrated Jack Reacher, so everyone is curious to see what sort of POV he brings to the Mission: Impossible series. Ghost Protocol is going to be tough to top in the set piece territory, but McQuarrie’s a gifted writer and penned the screenplay for M:I 5 as well, so we’re hopefully in for a wonderfully compelling story.