From long-awaited sequels to stories so fresh they’re already blowing our minds, 2020 is shaping up to be another stellar year for movies. But though plenty of beloved franchises are continuing on, the lack of Star Wars movies, direct Avengers sequels, or Harry Potter installments makes the year feel like a bit of a pause, a moment to catch our breaths before the next big emotional sucker punch. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we can even try something new — or at least discover an old favorite that we may have forgotten about.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at ten of the films audiences are most looking forward to, in order of release date.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (February 7)
Following the success of Joker, Birds of Prey takes a stab at what a film about an unhinged, tragicomic clown figure would look like with a woman at the center. And I am here for it.
Unlike in the stories centering on the Joker, Harley Quinn looks less like an outright villain than a twisted anti-hero: someone trying to save herself, and her newfound friends, from the threat of a domineering man. (That man? None other than Ewan McGregor — Obi Wan himself — in a role that looks to be both hilarious and terrifying.) The trailers present a film about friendship and sisterhood and, yes, emancipation. In other words, it’s as much about finding yourself as kicking ass.
Plus, Harley was easily one of the best characters in the less-than-stellar Suicide Squad. It’s immensely gratifying to see her get a starring role, especially without the toxic relationship she had with that version of the Joker. You go, girl. We’ll see you in theaters.
Mulan (March 27)
Disney’s been on a kick of remaking their classic animated films as live-action versions lately. Mulan follows up the recent box office successes of Aladdin and The Lion King.
While critics have had mixed reactions to some of the previous offerings, it seems fair to say that Mulan should do well in the box office when she finally reaches audiences in March. Going back to some of the story’s roots and dropping several of the main characters from the first Mulan film, this version isn’t as beholden to the animated feature as some of the others. If the trailer is anything to go by, this should be a spectacular, epic adventure that inspires young girls across the globe. What better continuation can you ask for than that?
No Time to Die (April 10)
James Bond has been a cinema staple since 1962. There’s just something compelling about the suave superspy that’s brought audiences back for twenty-five movies, starring seven different actors.
No Time to Die seems like it’s going to be another stellar entry in the already impressive catalog of Bond films. The trailer promises to tackle (and hopefully fix) some of the less-than-popular decisions made by Spectre, the franchise’s previous installment. Meanwhile, the roster of faces both familiar and fresh is packed with names to get excited about. One notable addition is Lashana Lynch, who’s character has, in the wake of James Bond’s retirement at the end of the previous film, taken up the title of a “00.” But whether that news thrilled you or made you wary, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
The release of this movie will be a bittersweet moment for many of us, as it marks Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as Bond. A fan favorite since his debut in Casino Royale, Craig brought a level of realism to a franchise that was often said to suffer from a bit of over-the-top cheese, and it will be sad to see him finally pass the mantle to someone else.
In the meantime, we’ll be sure to enjoy his swansong to the fullest.
Promising Young Woman (April 17)
In an era where generations of assaulted women are finally finding their voice, a movie like Promising Young Woman becomes somewhat inevitable.
As such, this movie makes the list for being timely and fated: the story of a woman on a quest for vengeance against the so-called “nice guys” who escort a fall-down-drunk woman home, only to take advantage of her. It’s a natural revenge-thriller setup, with a cast perfect for conveying the nuance needed for such an emotionally fraught story.
The trailer — see below — is powerful and chilling, eliciting feelings of both terror and righteous rage. If the movie itself manages to strike that balance even half as well, we’re going to have a film that breaks hearts as much as it heals them. It’s sure to become required viewing in women’s studies courses for decades to come.
Black Widow (May 1)
This is a movie that fans have been clamoring for since Phase 1 of the MCU, and to be honest, it’s a little hard to believe it’s really almost here. When most of the other original Avengers are on movies 3 or 4 (or, tearfully, have wrapped their storylines completely), it seems truly bizarre that Black Widow is only just how headlining her own film.
Still, better late than never. In the trailer that finally dropped, we get a basic sense of the plot: Natasha, aka Black Widow, returns to her home in Russia in order to confront a lingering aspect of her past. There, she gathers her former family in a reunion that promises to be tense, hilarious, and probably heartbreaking — especially if their circumstances foreshadow her ultimate fate.
Whether it’s traumatic or healing to see her onscreen one more time, finally headlining her own film, one thing is for sure: we’ve waited so long for it, there’s no way we’re missing out now.
Fast and Furious 9 (May 22)
Coming now from the halls of Franchises That Will Never Die, Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto returns in the ninth installment of what’s apparently now being called “The Fast Saga.” Starting in the early naughts with a movie about undercover cops, street racing, and questionable fashion choices (we’re looking at you, frosted tips), these movies just keep getting bigger and more ridiculous — and we love them just as dearly.
This time, Dom and the gang find themselves facing off against “a master thief, assassin, and high-performance driver” who, in a twist that should surprise no one, turns out to be Dom’s younger brother. The trailer gives us what we can hope are only a few of the utterly absurd situations that this team races through, including driving straight off a cliff and swinging around on a rope like some sort of vehicular Tarzan.
There’s no doubt the stakes will be intensely high and the payoff intensely huge in this story about fast cars, family, and finding yourself. As all good Fast and Furious movies should be.
Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5)
While Marvel has been churning out hit after hit, DC’s offerings have tended to be somewhat lackluster by comparison — at least until Wonder Woman hit the screen. Released in 2017, the blockbuster featured Gal Gadot, capturing audiences with her strength, charisma, and dedication to justice.
Now she’s back, rocking those ‘80s looks — including a glamtastic gold suit — and ready to go toe-to-toe with Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord and Kristin Wiig’s Cheetah. Add the unexpected return of Chris Pine as love interest Steve Trevor, and you’ve got a mashup of casting and costumes that has us counting the days until the release.
Even just the trailer is a thrill to behold, with all the signature heartbreak and humor we’ve come to expect from Wonder Woman. You can already tell the action sequences are going to be a thing of beauty. Plus, it seems like a lot of the movie is just going to be Chris Pine staring in open-mouthed admiration of Gal Gadot — which, let’s be real, is something a lot of us can relate to.
Soul (June 19)
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Pixar’s earlier film Inside Out with this one.
In Soul, we’re presented with a character whose soul becomes separated from his body following an accident. He ends up in the “You Seminar,” a place where souls learn how to be people, before they’re placed in a newborn child. The film is supposed to take us on a “cosmic journey” as it tackles the big questions in life, namely: what do you want to be remembered for? And how do you really want to spend your limited time on this little blue planet?
Those are huge topics for any movie to take on, but Pixar has been proven to be one of the finest studios to consistently produce stories that tug at our heartstrings in the same way that the best children’s books do. That said, hopefully the movie won’t make everyone cry quite as hard as some of their other titles. Still, given the subject matter… bring a whole box of tissues to the theater, just to be safe.
Top Gun: Maverik (June 26)
It’s perfectly common for a sequel to pick up the threads of a story several years down the road, but it’s not often that we’ll see one taking place more than thirty years later — especially not with a real-life wait to match.
The delay itself would have been enough to build anticipation, but add in the fact that the original was one of the beloved ‘80s action movies, and you’re sure to have plenty of audiences ready with their tickets come opening day.
But even moviegoers without much attachment to the original should find something in this movie to enjoy. The trailer paints a nostalgic picture of an era of cinema where the military was fast, shiny, and fun. It’s sure to be the perfect summer moviegoing experience, cocky can’t-fail pilot and all.Yet plot details also reveal a story about the changing world of fighter pilots in the drone era. With any luck, it’ll be a film that plays our love of the past against the reality of the present, wrapped in a shiny package of super speed, high-stakes maneuvers, and plenty of swagger.
Tenet (July 17)
How to even begin to describe this movie? It might be impossible to do so even once we’ve finally seen it.
Tenet looks like it may be the most mind-bendy movie of the last decade. Any story that deals with time travel is probably at least a bit of a trip (both literally and metaphorically), but there’s time travel and then there’s time travel. One type of movie simply utilizes it as a plot device, a means of getting characters in the right place at the right moment. The other… well, let’s just say that Tenet is set to make the concepts in Inception look like child’s play.
Plus there’s the fact that Tenet is in the hands of noted director Christopher Nolen. So, in between the looming threat of World War 3, top-notch action sequences, and what looks like a potential afterlife or perhaps a resurrection, one thing is for sure: this is going to be a wild ride, and not one we’re likely to stop talking about anytime soon.
This top-ten goes to eleven
We can’t leave without talking about Eternals, due out in early November 2020. There isn’t much news about it yet, and no trailer has been released, but this is the movie that will throw us into the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase IV. (Technically Black Widow launches Phase IV, but that is a look back to events prior to Endgame. Eternals will shape the MCU going forward.)
Eternals has a huge cast: Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Gemma Chan, Kit Harington, Dane Whitman, Barry Keoghan, Dong-seok Ma, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff. And the story spans thousands of years — they’re not called “Eternals” for nothing.
Fingers crossed that the trailer drops with the release of Black Widow.