20 Films we Hope to See In Cannes

We're over a month away from the mid-April announcement of the Cannes Film Festival's 2016 lineup, and likely weeks away from the opening film being revealed, but with the Berlin International Film Festival in the rearview and cinematic tumbleweed blowing across this week's releases, we thought we'd begin to speculate about what we might see crop up. And we're very glad we did, because just when we might have been starting to feel a little dog-day-ish, we got to scoot through some of the year's most enticing prospects and in the process fell a little bit back in love with 2016 at the movies. Not all of these films will end up in the lineup, of course —there are always notable exclusions and erratic inclusions, to say nothing of the somewhat arbitrary way the films can be categorized (it really is a scandal that previous Palme d'Or winner Apichatong Weerasethakul's gorgeous "Cemetery of Splendour" was in Un Certain Regard last year, for example).

READ MORE: The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 

But despite all that, those of us who get to cover Cannes must never forget how very, very fortunate we are to be able to do so, and if even half the below titles show up, there'll be some lucky stars being thanked come May. Here are the 20 titles we're most excited about that we think have a good shot at being in the selection.

 American Honey (Andrea Arnold)

“American Honey”
Director: Andrea Arnold
Synopsis: A teenage girl joins a traveling magazine sales crew and crosses the midwest with them.
What You Need To Know: Even if every other movie released in theaters this year involved superheroes, we’d still welcome 2016 if it means that it sees the return of the British filmmaker Andrea Arnold. Her first two films “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” screened in competition at Cannes in 2006 and 2009, with both films winning the Jury Prize, but third feature “Wuthering Heights,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, was more coolly received. But Arnold’s been on the comeback trail, helming a couple of episodes of season 2 of the transcendent “Transparent” as a warm up and then returning in force with “American Honey,” her first American movie. Starring “Heaven Knows What” breakout Arielle Holmes, “Mad Max” star Riley Keough and perhaps inevitably Shia LaBeouf, it promises to be a gritty coming-of-age picture set among the phenomena of ‘Mag Crews,’ and the promise of Arnold turning her acute feeling for young people displayed in “Fish Tank” onto a classic American landscape is hugely exciting. Given her run of success with the festival, and that the film shot last summer, we’d be shocked if the film wasn’t in competition again this time.

Elle
"Elle"

"Elle"
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Synopsis: When a seemingly indestructible career woman is victim of a home invasion, she becomes determined to track down her assailant, and a deadly game begins.
What You Need To Know: We're not sure what it was that Verhoeven did to be banished from the big screen for over a decade (not counting the 1-hour crowdscoured TV project doodle "Tricked"), aside from turning in consistently entertaining, brazenly unapologetic genre hit after genre hit. Fine, and "Showgirls" and "Hollow Man," but still. In any case, we're delighted that he's back, and with a typically salacious sounding project that nonetheless has attracted the Greatest Actress Alive™ to star. Isabelle Huppert will play the part of the menaced woman who tries to turn the tables on her attacker, and since she'd make the reading of an internet comments section seem cogent and intelligent, she'll surely do the same for Verhoeven's splashier tendencies. It could be a trifle, but it could also be the triumphant return of a genre master in a year when George Miller chairs the jury. And hey, "Basic Instinct" played In Competition, so all bets are off.

Cristian Mungiu

“Family Photos”
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Synopsis: A drama about parenting set in a small town, with a doctor as the main character.
What You Need To Know: Last year saw a pretty decent turnout from the Romanian New Wave contingent at Cannes, with Radu Muntean and Corneliu Poroumboiu premiering their latest movies “One Floor Below” and “The Treasure” in the Un Certain Regard section. But Cristian Mungiu, perhaps the biggest name to come out of the country’s movement over the past decade or two, was absent, as he was just getting underway on filming his latest film, but we wager he’ll be Croisette-bound this year. Mungiu has a long, successful history with the festival: his debut “Occident” was in the Director’s Fortnight,” his second film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” won the Palme D’Or in 2007, and 2012’s “Beyond The Hills” won both Best Actress and Best Screenplay. His latest sounds like it’ll be less harrowing than his acclaimed abortion and exorcism-themed dramas from the logline alone, but we’re sure it’ll be as meticulously and powerfully made nevertheless. Mungiu wrapped the film, which stars Lia Bugnar, The White Ribbon” actress Maria-Victoria Dragus and returning “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” star Vlad Ivanov, back in July, so a competition slot feels like a dead cert.

Free Fire

"Free Fire"
Director: Ben Wheatley
Synopsis: Boston, 1978 —a meeting between rival gangs in a deserted warehouse devolves into a shootout and turns into a game of survival.
What You Need To Know: Boasting a now-trademark elegantly minimalist logline, Wheatley's sixth feature was already a hot property before one of its ensemble of up-and-comers won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Actress. Starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor and Michael Smiley, the film promises more of Wheatley's particular brand of distilled-down thriller/horror-tinged crime drama, and while his Tom Hiddleston-starring JG Ballard adaptation "High-Rise" has proven immensely divisive (even in our normally harmonious ranks: Kevin's review was negative , while Oli had it on his Best Films of 2015 ), so has almost every other movie from the director, and we kind of love him for that. Even if he doesn't love us back! (Kidding! He so does.) It's apparently done and dusted now, and Wheatley's increasingly uncompromised, esoteric approach should see him graduate from Fantastic Fest, SXSW, Karlovy Vary, TIFF and the Cannes Directors Fortnight sidebar, where his previous films have premiered, though whether he can sidle into the main competition with a genre-leaning title is another question.