Brad and Leo are rocking tuxes, Ricky Gervais is pissing people off, and Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic are seemingly everywhere. You guessed it: the holidays are over, and we’re right back in the thick of movie awards season—which, for us plebes, really means we’re in the thick of argument season. There’s a lot to debate: Joker could win Best Picture, Rocketman could win... something, Little Women could be completely looked over. The humanity!
Here’s something we can all agree on, though: 2019 was a phenomenal year for movies. It was deep, weird, and memorable. Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino teamed up; Bong Joon-Ho made his masterpiece; Willem Dafoe did a lot of f*#ting. It’s easy to get caught up in which movies were best, but there’s a more pressing concern: Can 2020 movies live up to 2019? It’s a tough ask, but here are 11 reasons to be hopeful for 2020 movies.
Your favorite characters from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s are back, baby!
If we’re going to bring back any and everything, we might as well bring back the good stuff. That shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp, but it’s seemingly taken until [checks watch]... now. Beyond sequels to recent hits like A Quiet Place, this year will see the return of legends like Bill and Ted (Bill & Ted Face the Music), Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey (Bad Boys for Life), Prince Akeem (Coming 2 America), and Maverick (Top Gun: Maverick). Will the majority of these revivals be disappointing? Probably. But if that’s the cost of leather jackets coming back in style, so be it.
Other classic properties are back too
If the craven way Disney’s gone about remaking its catalogue has you down, here’s a remedy: listen to Denis Villeneuve talk about his new take on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi pillar, Dune (previously adapted by David Lynch). “I dream about it all the time,” he told me during a 2017 interview. “The way it explores the relationship between religion and politics, natural resources, the ecosystem. It’s very, very inspiring.” And Villeneuve’s Dune isn’t the only seemingly ambitious remake of an old property coming this year. Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus will star in Downhill, an English-language version of Ruben Östlund’s ski vacation disaster comedy Force Majeure. One of its writers is Succession creator Jesse Armstrong. This movie most definitely does not need to f**k off!
Pixar’s putting out original movies again
The closest thing to a sure bet in Hollywood is that a new, original Pixar movie will be an instant classic. The small Disney subsidiary’s batting average is remarkable. In part, that’s because they don’t take a lot of swings. Pixar’s last non-sequel was 2017’s Coco—and, before that, 2015’s Inside Out. This year, though, that little lamp is going to be doing a lot of hopping. In March, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt star in Onward, as two teenage elf brothers searching for magic in a suburban fantasy world. And in June, Jamie Foxx stars in Soul, as a disillusioned musician who has to find his way back into his body in the afterlife.
The mind behind Upgrade is taking on classic literature
Remember Upgrade, the pulpy 2018 Blumhouse flick about a man (Logan Marshall Green) who’s paralyzed in a car accident, and then becomes a superhuman killing machine with the help of a computer chip implant? (how could you not?) Upgrade writer-director Leigh Whannel (who you also might recognize from Saw) is taking his talents to the high school mandatory reading list, with an Elisabeth Moss-starring take on H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man.
Spike Lee is making a hidden treasure expedition set in Vietnam
If racial injustice wasn’t such an ingrained, persistent aspect of American history, Spike Lee might simply be one of the best craftsmen of gritty thrillers—this generation’s Sidney Lumet. It can be easy to forget that he made one of the best heist movies of all time, in 2006’s Inside Man. This year, Lee is releasing Da 5 Bloods, about four African-American Vietnam veterans returning to the country to search for one of their men, and also hidden treasure. It’s sure to be a big political statement, but also a wild adventure.
Christopher Nolan is venturing into a new (but no less confusing) dimension
Given that Christopher Nolan has messed with space, time, magic, and the subconscious mind, it’s kind of hard to believe that he hasn’t played with the afterlife yet. That’ll change, though, with this year’s Tenet—at least, we think so, based on the movie’s vague trailer. Truthfully, Nolan’s newest flick looks kind of confusing. Why is John David Washington killing himself? Why does he need to die to save the world from World War III? What could be worse than Nuclear Holocaust? Here’s what we know for sure though: Robert Pattinson drives backwards in some sort of car chase. And really, what more do you need?
Wes Anderson is going to France
If the setting of Wes Anderson’s last feature, 2018’s Isle of Dogs, turned out to be a bit problematic, the setting of his next seems kind of perfect. Cinema’s master of twee is headed to the twee capital of the world. The French Dispatch, about an American journalist who creates a magazine, will feature Anderson mainstays like Frances McDormand and Bill Murray, as well as newcomers like Bob Dylan and Benicio del Toro. It’s reportedly a “love letter” to journalism (translation: there will be pipes, typewriters, and matching newsboy caps).
Adam Driver will be in another marriage story
Leos Carax is back with his first movie since 2012’s Holy Motors. The French auteur’s latest, Annette, will be his English-language debut. And what’s more, it’ll star Adam Driver as a stand-up comedian who marries an opera star played by Marion Cotillard. If you were into Adam Driver singing Stephen Sondheim in Marriage Story, get ready for him in a full-on movie-musical.
Charlie Kaufman has a new adaptation
Charlie Kaufman tends to take a... circuitous approach to adaptation (see: Adaptation). So, who’s to say what he’ll do with Iain Reid’s recent psychological thriller, I'm Thinking of Ending Things? The book, which was released to great acclaim in 2016, follows a young woman on a trip to a boyfriend’s parents’ remote farmhouse. This will be Kaufman’s first film in five years, which seems like plenty of time for him to have gotten lost in his uniquely peculiar mind.
The romantic comedy is born again
The romantic comedy had a strange go of it in the 2010s. Thanks to streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix, there was no shortage of them—and yet, perhaps because love is dead, the gems were as few and far between as good Tinder dates. What was really missing, with a few exceptions (The Big Sick, Silver Linings Playbook), were the right leads. The actors and actresses that would’ve been rom-com superstars in past decades got sucked into Marvel movies and prestige TV. But this year, our hearts are beating faster, because Issa Rae will appear in two promising pairings: The Photograph with Lakeith Stanfield and The Lovebirds with Kumail Nanjiani. The former’s track record is virtually unparalleled, and the latter’s had chemistry with a 300lb wrestler. So far as blind dates go, these seem pretty promising.
Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway will appear in a movie that sounds like Triple Frontier but is actually a Joan Didion adaptation
Sometimes the most disparate elements combine for the best reactions (see: maple bacon donuts). Here’s hoping that’s the case when Mudbound director Dee Rees takes on Joan Didion’s 1996 political thriller about a journalist (Hathaway) who gets mixed up in a Central American arms-running scheme. Willem Dafoe plays Hathaway’s father. Ben Affleck shows up somewhere along the way. What could go wrong?