As 2011 comes to a close, it’s time to look forward to the movies set to open in 2012. While many are busy compiling their Top 10 lists from 2011, we thought it’d be a good time to run down the list of our 15 most anticipated blockbusters of the coming year. Will The Avengers deliver as the culmination of four years worth of Marvel movies? Just how much of a prequel to Alien is Prometheus? Will The Dark Knight Rises be the greatest movie ever made in the history of movies and awesomeness? There are a lot of unknowns, and we’ve learned that sometimes the best behind-the-scenes talent can still make a stinker (Cowboys & Aliens), but we’re hoping for more than a few pleasant surprises (a la X-Men: First Class) to appease us in 2012. Hit the jump to check out our list.
*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.
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Willem Dafoe, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, and Thomas Hayden Church
Release Date: March 9th, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: A feature film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs sci-fi collection John Carter of Mars has been in development for a very, very long time. Wall-E director Andrew Stanton is finally the one to bring the story to life, and while the initial teaser trailer did little to impress, the subsequent marketing materials (including the full-length trailer) have inspired much more faith in the project. The setting is vast, the effects are notable, and the sci-fi is on full display. Stanton’s work at Pixar is extraordinary, so here’s hoping he delivers on his live-action debut.
Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, and Donald Sutherland
Release Date: March 23rd, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: If you’ve read the books, you know that Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games universe is ripe for a feature film adaptation. It’s epic in scope, has multiple thrilling and unique action set-pieces, and centers on teenagers fighting each other to death with a hodgepodge of weapons/modes of murdering at their disposal. Judging from the full-length trailer, it looks like director Gary Ross has the tone down pat, but Lionsgate is keeping the second and third act close to the vest (ie. the killing, running, and fighting). Hopefully the film takes what made the books so damn addictive—intriguing characters and a twisty plot—and expands upon them, giving us an all-out dystopian adventure.
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Ruffalo
Release Date: May 4th, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: The road that began with 2008’s Iron Man comes to a turning point here with the superhero movie to end all superhero movies. As if bringing together Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk wasn’t enough, Marvel nabbed “God of Nerds” Joss Whedon to write and direct the pic. While everyone’s definitely looking forward to seeing Tony Stark trade jabs with Steve Rogers, The Avengers also provides a look into the future as it sets up “Phase 2” of Marvel’s development slate (which will presumably culminate with The Avengers 2).
Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Noah Huntley, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan and Steven Graham
Release Date: June 1st, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: While the idea of two Snow White movies wasn’t exactly the most appetizing thought, the first trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman was kind of badass. In his feature film debut, the first look at Rupert Sanders’ iteration of the classic story definitely took a lot of people by surprise; it’s much more Lord of the Rings than Alice in Wonderland. Charlize Theron is a delight any time she gets a meaty character to chew on, and she appears to be in fine form here as the Evil Queen. We haven’t seen much from Kristen Stewart yet, but turning Snow White into a sort of reluctant warrior is definitely an interesting direction. Sanders’ visuals are epic in scope, and I’m enticed to find out if this ambitious fairy tale delivers.
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pearce
Release Date: June 8th, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: This maybe-probably prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien marks a much-welcomed return to the sci-fi genre for the director. Judging by the footage seen so far, it appears that he’s returning to the horror tone that he so expertly pulled off with the 1979 pic. The cast is pretty great, with Michael Fassbender—a damn fine actor and everyone’s current obsession—playing an android and Noomi Rapace set as the lead. We still know very little plotwise, but given its connection to Alien and the fact that Scott is tackling sci-fi once more, I’m incredibly eager to check this one out.
Director: Mark Andrews
Cast: The voices of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and Julie Walters
Release Date: June 22nd, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: It’s safe to say many have been eagerly awaiting Brave ever since the project was first announced (our anticipation grew more intense as we realized we first had to sit through Cars 2). Besides the fact that the film comes from the nearly always on fire hit factory that is Pixar, Brave is a picturesque fairy tale set in the Scottish highlands. The visuals look stunning, and the movie marks the studio’s first film with a female protagonist. Fantasy is a new avenue for Pixar, and I couldn’t think of a genre better suited for the expert storytellers to take on.
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field
Release Date: July 3rd, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: All eyes are on Marc Webb’s reboot to see how it sets itself apart from Sam Raimi’s previous three films in the Spider-Man franchise. It looks as though we’re getting the origin story again, but Webb has a keen eye for visuals and he’s assembled an intriguing and fresh cast. Garfield has dramatic chops, and Stone is endlessly charming, so hopes are high on this one. We still haven’t seen too much in the way of footage, but I’m interested to see what direction Webb takes the Spider-Man story.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Marion Cotillard
Release Date: July 20th, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. With Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan ushered in the era of “gritty” superhero movies. No such imitators have come close to the earnestness that the director displayed with The Dark Knight, and Rises brings the epic saga to an end. Will Bane beat the living hell out of Batman? Can Catwoman really fit into Nolan’s reality-grounded universe? All will (hopefully) be answered come next July, and I’m already anxiously counting down the days.
Director: Tony Gilroy
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn, and Stacy Keach
Release Date: August 3rd, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: While I’d have loved to see Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return for another installment in one of the most consistently great franchises in recent memory, this “reboot” has become increasingly interesting. Set within the same universe as the previous Bourne films but lacking the character of Jason Bourne, screenwriter Tony Gilroy takes over the helm with Jeremy Renner in the starring role. Gilroy is the credited writer on the first three Bourne’s, and his directorial resume (Michael Clayton) gives faith that he’s crafted another enthralling pic. Renner’s a great choice in Damon’s wake, and Edward Norton makes for a fascinating choice as the villain, so I’m hopeful Gilroy can take this franchise in a different yet equally engaging direction.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Michael Pena, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, and Giovanni Ribisi
Release Date: October 19th, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: This 1940s crime thriller marks the first big-budget project for Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, and boy is he going all out. Besides a super cool premise—back from WWII, a cop assembles a task force to take down Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen—the film boasts an outstanding ensemble that sees Josh Brolin squaring off against Sean Penn (who plays Cohen). Fleischer has a knack for interesting action, so I’m antsy to see how he takes on this large-scale period piece.
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw
Release Date: November 9th, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: While Quantum of Solace took a bit of the wind out the “Bond rejuvenation” sails that kicked off with Casino Royale, Skyfall has all the right ingredients to get the series back on track. Generally known for his weighty dramatic material, Mendes should bring some fresh perspective to Bond, and he’s rounded up one of the more impressive supporting casts: Javier Bardem steps into another villainous role, and Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney are set to appear. Bardem is particularly exciting, as it’s hard to think of many I’d rather see as a Bond villain than the No Country for Old Men star.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Release Date: November 21st, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: The rumors about this project have become almost mythic. There are whispers of a 20-minute opening shot, never-before-seen visual effects, and groundbreaking 3D. What we know for sure is that Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut stranded in space, and she occupies most of the screentime completely alone. If Alfonso Cuaron wasn’t directing, this would still be an intriguing project, but this is his first film since Children of Men and I utterly cannot wait to see what he has in store. My mind is fully prepared to be blown.
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and Andy Serkis
Release Date: December 14th, 2012 (3D)
Why We’re Excited About It: Years in the making, this adaptation has definitely had its ups and downs. While I was sad to see Guillermo del Toro leave the director’s chair, the only reasonable replacement had to be Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings films are beloved by many, and The Hobbit offers us an opportunity to return to Middle Earth and visit our old friends once again (as well as a healthy amount of new ones). The recent trailer suggests the movie is everything we’d hoped it’d be, and Jackson is filming the two-part adaptation in 3D at 48 frames per second, which ensures that The Hobbit will be an intense visual treat.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Don Johnson, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Release Date: December 25th, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: I’m always thrilled for a new Quentin Tarantino film, but the writer-director has assembled himself one hell of a cast for his Spaghetti Western. How exactly Tarantino plans on approaching the prickly issue of slavery is a big question mark, but I’m intrigued to see how QT transports his signature touch to the 1800s. Even more enticing is the thought of the immensely talented Leonardo DiCaprio disappearing into his role as an evil plantation owner (is it too much to hope for a Colonel Sanders-esque goatee?).
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Eddie Redmayne
Release Date: December 25th, 2012
Why We’re Excited About It: Director Tom Hooper made waves with last year’s The King’s Speech, for which he won the Best Director Oscar. So how does one follow up a small period piece about the King of England? With a large-scale movie musical of course. Les Miserables certainly fits into Hooper’s wheelhouse (he also directed the HBO miniseries John Adams), and he’s assembled an incredible cast for the adaptation. Hugh Jackman is a Broadway veteran and can charm the pants off of just about anyone, so he seems a swell choice for protagonist Jean Valjean. Then we’ve got Russell Crowe as the nefarious Javert, set to go toe-to-toe with Jackman. There are still a few roles yet to be cast, but Hooper’s visual taste for period work paired with the actors cast thus far should prove for an adaptation that’s equal parts gorgeous and entertaining.