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The Playlist's 50 Most Anticipated Films Of 2012

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
January 4, 2012 12:02 PM
58 Comments
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Most Anticipated 2012

Well here we are; the brave new world of 2012. And at present, it's not too scary, although we swear that we'll beat the next person to death who makes a joke about the Roland Emmerich film. And after a 2011 that turned out to be a pretty decent year for cinema (if not necessarily one for the ages), we're now staring out across a few months that seem fairly barren, as the early months of the year always do.

As such, and as always, to keep you going across the "Joyful Noise"s and "Underworld Awakening"s of the world, we've rounded up our 50 Most Anticipated films of the coming year, and what a year it looks like. There's more to come, with Popcorn, Foreign-Language and Sundance picks coming over the next few days. Obviously, there's some crossover; there are tentpoles ranked right up here, and foreign films too.

And don't forget, many of the best films of the year aren't on anyone's radar just yet; show us someone who was eagerly anticipating "The Artist" a year ago, and we'll show you Jean Dujardin's mum. But surprises excluded, these are the 50 (in, for the record, alphabetical order, and with a few bonuses that probably won't, but conceivably could, hit theaters before the end of the year) that are giving us the most cinematic hope in the coming year. And coming up tomorrow are our most anticipated popcorn/escapist films (i.e. films that we're only slightly embarrassed to admit we care about. Joke... kinda...).

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina
Synopsis: Based on Leo Tolstoy's classic novel, “Anna Karenina” focuses on the titular heroine (Keira Knightley) who has an affair with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) who wants her to leave her stable husband Karenin (Jude Law).
What You Need to Know: Joe Wright (“Pride & Prejudice,” “Atonement”) gets back to his roots after venturing into new territory with the action-fairytale film “Hanna,” with this Russian period piece. He quickly attached one of his favorites, Knightley, to the main role with heavyweight Law as her husband and up-and-comer Johnson as her lover (in a pretty hefty role). The film also boasts quite an impressive supporting cast including Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, Emily Watson and Domhnall Gleeson (best known for playing Bill Weasley in the later “Harry Potter” movies). Wright proved last time out that he's more than just a costume drama expert, so we’re even more excited about his return to the pre-modern era for this one, and he always seems to bring out the best in Knightley, who's a good fit for the lead role. Barring a 'Soloist'-style disappointment, this should be the kind of sumptuous period piece that we haven't had since, well, "Atonement."
Release Date: No U.S. date yet, but slated for September 7 in the U.K., making a Venice bow a distinct possibility. An American release should follow sometime before Christmas.

Argo

Argo
Synopsis: Based on a true story, in which a CIA operative (Ben Affleck) hatched a plan to extract a group of American diplomats from Tehran in the midst of 1979’s Iranian hostage crisis, using the filming of a fake movie as their cover.
What You Need to Know: Not only is Affleck starring in this, but -- perhaps more importantly -- he’s directing it. Following up the one-two punch of “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town” won’t be an easy feat, but Affleck’s proven himself to be an assured craftsman behind the camera with both outings, so a period-set mission movie with political stakes and filmmaking itself as part of the plot seems like a sound enough, intriguing enough next step for his directorial career. And in keeping with tradition, he has assembled a considerable ensemble, including Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan, Titus Welliver (something of a good luck charm after roles in both 'Town' and 'Gone'), Clea DuVall and Adrienne Barbeau, not to mention the trifecta of John Goodman, Michael Parks and Kerry Bishé, all fresh off buddy Kevin Smith’s “Red State.” Warner Bros. sure seems confident in the project: they’ve already staked out a release date identical to that of “The Town,” clearly hopeful that fall festival buzz and solid word-of-mouth will see “Argo” following in that film’s successful footsteps.
Release Date: September 14, and five will get you ten that Warners are eying an out-of-competition bow at Venice, as with "The Town" and "Contagion."

Renner Bourne

The Bourne Legacy
Synopsis: In the wake of the collapse of black-ops program Treadstone, a new, more dangerous department emerges. But rogue agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) ends up becoming their equally dangerous target.
What You Need To Know: While Universal was keen to reunite director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon after “The Bourne Ultimatum” generated $442 million worldwide, communications somehow broke down. Perhaps it was Damon and Greengrass’ insistence that, at the close of 'Ultimatum,' Bourne had recovered his identity of David Webb and effectively ended his story. Whatever the case, Tony Gilroy has gotten a promotion from 'Bourne' screenwriter to director, which makes sense given that he proved his chops with the moody Oscar favorite “Michael Clayton,” then proceeded to lose everybody a lot of money with the stylish but empty “Duplicity.” And what’s interesting is that he’s working within the framework of the earlier films. Returning faces Joan Allen and Albert Finney will be joined by Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz, while Edward Norton and Oscar Isaac play villains of some shape. Stepping into the role of the pursued Aaron Cross is Jeremy Renner, who’ll be everywhere next summer, though this is the role meant to make him a household name; presumably he won't be sitting out the action scenes as he did in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"... Gilroy’s a director with chops, and this franchise has thus far remained visceral and exciting, so count this as one of our most anticipated blockbusters.
Release Date: August 3

Brave

Brave
Synopsis: A young Scottish princess accidentally brings a curse onto her kingdom, and she must venture into the wilderness to undo the damage.
What You Need To Know: The claws really came out against Pixar in 2011, didn’t they? “Cars 2” was the first outright Pixar quote-unquote failure, earning the wrath of critics and registering the weakest attendance of any of their films to date. But while the criticisms may sting the sensitive-seeming John Lasseter and company, it’s likely to have run off their shoulders easily: “Cars 2” outgrossed its predecessor globally and moved product like it was a damned garage sale, and signs are that they're back to their more creative side for this year's "Brave." Those focusing on the questionable firing of Brenda Chapman as director (she was replaced by Mark Andrews) neglect to admit that all Pixar films remain in a fluid state until very late in their development; even if we have yet to see if Andrews' work is up to (Bob) par(r). In any case, the production noticeably upgraded by replacing Reese Witherspoon with Kelly MacDonald, allowing a little extra Scottish flavor in this murky, somewhat ghostly-looking film. In other words, outside of “Cars 7: Retribution,” we have yet to find a reason to doubt Pixar.
Release Date: June

"Cloud Atlas"
"Cloud Atlas"

Cloud Atlas
Synopsis: Based on a terrific novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” tells six interlocking tales, each exploring a different literary genre, everything from a transpacific voyage in 1850 to a 1970s-set conspiracy thriller to a sci-fi parable set deep in the future (there’s also a bit about self-aware Korean clones and a dusty European period melodrama). Heady stuff indeed.
What You Need to Know: The word "unfilmable" is bandied about a lot when discussing difficult, knotty literary source material, so we'll just say that it's very hard to picture anyone being able to wrangle David Mitchell's sprawling novel. But if anyone can pull it off, it just might be the directorial tag team of the Wachowskis (directing for the first time since “Speed Racer”) and European director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”). The filmmakers have remained deliberately elliptical as to how they're portraying the novel, besides the fact that they’re shooting their segments in parallel, although Ben Whishaw, who stars alongside Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Jim Sturgess, let leak that the actors would play multiple characters in each section (sometimes switching gender if necessary). We're betting the Wachowskis, with their "Matrix" pedigree, will handle the more futuristic stuff while Tykwer, veteran of things like "Perfume," will be more equipped for the period sections. But like everything else involved in this movie, the specifics aren't terribly clear.
Release date: October 2012

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58 Comments

  • Connor | January 7, 2012 1:27 PMReply

    MUST SEE
    Argo
    The Dark Knight Rises
    Gangster Squad
    The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey
    Les Miserables
    Lincoln
    A Place Beyond The Pines
    Prometheus
    Frank Or Francis (2013 ?)
    Untitled Spike Jonze/charlie Kaufman Project (2013 ?)

    LIKE TO SEE
    Cogan's Trade
    Cosmopolis
    Django Unchained
    A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan
    Gravity
    The Great Gatsby
    He Loves Me
    Hyde Park On Hudson
    Inside Llewyn Davis
    Looper
    The Master
    Nero Fiddled
    On The Road
    Only God Forgvies
    Red Hook Summer
    Untitled Terrance Malick Project
    The Wettest Country

    MILDLY INTERESTED
    Anna Karenina
    Brave
    Cloud Atlas
    Magic Mike
    Mud
    Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
    Seven Psychopaths
    Under The Skin
    Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Bin Laden Project
    Welcome To The Punch

    NO THANKS
    The Bourne Legacy
    The Company You Keep
    The East
    The Five Year Engagement
    The Grandmasters
    Lay The Favorite
    Life Of Pi
    Moonrise Kingdom
    Rust And Bone
    Savages
    Sightseers
    The Silver Linings Playbook
    Stoker
    This Is Forty
    Untitled David Chase Project
    Labor Day (2013 ?)

  • Huffy | January 7, 2012 10:32 AMReply

    Pretty impressive-looking collection of films. I gotta say that I'm impressed by McConaughey's recent career choices. Its like he got tired of just taking off his shirt and smirking at Kate Hudson in every single role and decided to be an actual actor again.
    One thing you guys left out is Beyond the Black Rainbow. Technically it was released last year in the festivals but most of us won't get to see it until a few months down the road, and judging by the trailer it looks orgasmically good assuming that you like hallucinogenic Kubrick sci-fi with a strong 80's aesthetic.

  • Gena | January 6, 2012 6:39 AMReply

    Definitely so much to look forward to. What you need to know about Cosmopolis: No, there will be no head explosions or genital mutilations. For those who get Eric Packer, it might only make their heads implode...in the best of ways, Cronenberg style.

  • Gena | January 9, 2012 9:52 AM

    @Kanerwa: kill all the rats,don't deal with garbage, sh@t piles up, rats reappear. This rat implodes the system that created him, much more dangerous. Makes head explosions/mutilation so passé.

  • Kanerwa | January 8, 2012 1:48 PM

    Spoiler.
    Every f@king Wall Street rat ( very symbolic in this movie) responsible for world financial crisis should finished like Packer.Head explosion or genital mutilation are very welcome.:)

  • Misha | January 5, 2012 4:29 PMReply

    Very nice list with the added value of "What You Need to Know" segments. Some refreshing titles added compared to other "2012 titles to watch" lists I've read. Still...the offerings for Sci-Fi titles are lacking for my taste.

  • Gena | January 9, 2012 9:45 AM

    You kill all the rats, don't deal with garbage, it piles all up, rats reappear.
    Obliterating Packers without dealing with the system solves nothing. It is about imploding the system, not simply dealing with what it produces. Implosion...much more dangerous, makes head explosions and mutilation kinda passe :)

  • isabella | January 5, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    What about 47 Ronin - - I think 47 Ronin will be awesome; you did not include it probably because Keanu Reeves' on it . . . Keanu is so underrated as an action star. He is better than Tom Cruise!!

  • padre | January 5, 2012 4:58 PM

    YES! BOOYAH! 47 Ronin will rule in triumph, with Superstar Keanu Reeves!

  • Brandon | January 5, 2012 12:23 PMReply

    So why is The Expendables 2 not up here? I assure you every straight man and dyke in America wants to see it.

  • Georgeann | January 5, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    What about Carlo Carlei's Romeo & Juliet, said to be released in 2012, with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth in the leading roles?

  • Kanerwa | January 5, 2012 10:33 AMReply

    I wait only for Cosmopolis.

  • Kotomi | January 5, 2012 4:00 AMReply

    Great job,Playlist! It's very good list.But no Ashes? No Upside Down? I'm bit disappointed..(there is very little info about Ashes though..)I think Jim Sturgess will finally break this year.

  • Padre | January 5, 2012 3:33 AMReply

    "Blake Lively as the girl" <--- touche, Playlist. I don't even know if that was intentional (since the girl has a name... Opehlia) but it made me LOL. Blake Lively will most likely play her as one-note and bland as she does everything so "the girl" is an appropriate description. Regardless I hope the movie is good. Glad to see Uma T. and John T. in a film together again.

  • padre | January 5, 2012 4:55 PM

    You gonna swipe my handle dude? Seriously? Of course I may have started posting here in my sleep, and just don't remember it in the morning. Sleep-posting is real.

  • 42nd comment | January 5, 2012 3:29 AMReply

    Also Labor Day is one of my favorite books that I've read recently so I'm stoked Reitman is adapting it. Killer cast with Winslet and Brolin. I can totally picture Brolin in the role as the drifter. The key here is casting a really talented kid. The entire story is told from the kids perspective so lets hope Reitman doesn't pull a Daldry and cast the most annoying kid to grace the big screen (I'm looking at you, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). I think the kid from Super 8 would be perfect- Joel Courtney I believe is his name. I wonder if he will stick to the same ending as the book... that was the only part I didn't like. A bit lackluster but nonetheless a solid read and hopefully a damn good movie. I'm sure Reitman can pull it off-- Young Adult proved Up in the Air and Juno were no flukes.

  • 41 comment | January 5, 2012 3:25 AMReply

    Where's the Tim Burton film? Can't remember the name... Johnny Depp, draculas, the usual suspects...??

  • jingmei | January 5, 2012 2:23 AMReply

    Awesome list!

  • Jordan | January 4, 2012 6:44 PMReply

    I'm happy, but surprised to see that ONLY GOD FORGIVES is on this list, as I would assume that with Gosling already having two films set for release in mid-to-late 2012, that holding this one back until 2013 would help spread things out (though Gosling did have three films out as well last year)

  • Finn | January 4, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    Am really looking forward to director Eran Creevy's second film, "Welcome to the Punch" (James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey). Perhaps executive producer Ridley Scott can help secure a U.S. distributor!

    Also want to see writer Ol Parker's ("Imagine You & Me") "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" with an amazing cast--just pushed from February to May 2012.

  • cirkusfolk | January 4, 2012 4:22 PMReply

    Good list but the hypocrisy of leaving off most of the blockbuster type films such as The Avengers, Snow White and Skyfall while including The Dark Knight, Prometheus and The Hobbit bugs me. You can't have it both ways. The Dark Knight is still a comic book movie like The Avengers no matter how you spin it. Sure you will cover those films in your escapism piece but why play favorites?

  • Carson Wells | January 4, 2012 11:55 PM

    I side with The Playlist on this one. It's clearly The Playlist staff 's most anticipated and, if they don't care so much for fluff like Avengers, well, all the more reason for me to read this site over others. Thanks for a great list The Playlist, keep up the good work. As for me - even though no one asked nor likely cares - my most anticipated are 1) Cogan's Trade 2) The Master 3) Mud. Looks certain to be a good year regardless.

  • Tyrannosaurus Max | January 4, 2012 7:33 PM

    Thanks Playlist. I actually really appreciate your including those films on this list while excluding The Avengers and Snow White. Mainly because Prometheus, TDKR, and The Hobbit all look at the very least quite decent or exciting and have a respectable director to their name. The Avengers looks like shit. Who cares about Snow White? Probably not most of the people other than Cirkusfolk reading this article. Sorry Cirkusfolk. Thank you, The Playlist.

  • Christian | January 4, 2012 5:34 PM

    EDIT: Lol, won't deliver... :)

  • Christian | January 4, 2012 5:33 PM

    ...(continuing) Without sounding pretentious, I think the purpose of the article was to give an overview on some of the not so obvious anticipated films. But I agree that it's kinda elitist/hipster to justify TDKR, but not Spidey or Avengers? Sure, those films are not directed by Chris Nolan, but that doesn't mean the films will deliver.

  • Christian | January 4, 2012 5:30 PM

    I agree that Skyfall is one of the most promising films of 2012; Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Roger Deakins, etc. The elements are in place, that's for sure. The Avengers could also be great or at the very least very fun and entertaining. But this blog is for people who are so interested in more than JUST mainstream films. I visit this blog to expand my horizons.

  • The Playlist | January 4, 2012 4:48 PM

    We can have it any way we want because it's our burger. :)

    Plus there's a few more lists in the next few days. Keep those pants on.

  • Snag | January 4, 2012 4:11 PMReply

    No On The Road or Paperboy??

  • Edward Davis | January 4, 2012 4:45 PM

    On The Road is there son, open your eyes.

  • cirkusfolk | January 4, 2012 4:41 PM

    They mentioned it in the Mud article as well as Killer Joe and Bernie but apparently two McConaughey movies was all they could muster despite Ryan Gosling getting three.

  • Lenz | January 4, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt)
    While We're Young (Noah Baumbach)
    Lotus Community Workshop (Harmony Korine)
    Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas)
    Love (Michael Haneke)
    Holly Motors (Leos Carax)
    Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
    Open Five 2 (Kentucker Audley)
    Meanwhile (Hal Hartley)
    Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas)
    The End (Abbas Kiarostami)

  • The Playlist | January 4, 2012 4:47 PM

    Good ones, but While We're Young isn't even solidified let alone shooting this year. You'll be seeing a foreign film and indie list as well and some of those clips will be included. It's unclear whether Night Moves has funding yet (or has shot yet), but it might be on our indie-er list.

  • Marcel | January 4, 2012 3:57 PMReply

    Great List, Great Site ! Keep up the good work!

  • rodie | January 4, 2012 3:34 PMReply

    This is a pretty good list, but I don't like the premise because 50 Most Anticipated Films presupposes that, essentially, any given week there will be one new movie worth watching. I don't think that is the case. Maybe 35 or 40 max.

  • Chris | January 4, 2012 7:59 PM

    If you really think only 35-40 movies per year - MAX - are worth seeing, then you really must not get to the movies very much. Or you just go to the wrong movies. Hundreds of films come out every year - a lot more than 35 prove to be worth seeing.

  • Belgian | January 4, 2012 3:07 PMReply

    "French character actors Matthias Schoenaerts, Bouli Lanners and Celine Sallette".

    Aargh, Matthias Schoenaerts is a Belgian actor!! For crying out loud, it's the only Belgian mentioned in this article - which is very informative by the way, many thanks - and you mistake him for a Frenchman... Please rectify or no more Belgian chocolates for you!

  • Sven | January 5, 2012 3:04 AM

    Bouli Lanners is also a Belgian actor!

  • Christian | January 4, 2012 2:01 PMReply

    Impressive list and well-done research, guys, as always! This is what seperates you from other film blogs. All the other film blogs goe on and on about blockbuster sequels/reboots/prequels/spin-offs like The Avengers, Twilight: The Shit Is Ending,Wrath of the Titans, The Hunger Games, Men in Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Bourne Legacy, G.I. Joe 2, American Pie: Part 117, Ghost Rider 2, etc. Maybe some of them will surprise? I don't want to sound like an elitist hipster, but I think there are going to be some much more original films this year directed by some truly visionary masters (Chase, Malick, Dominik, Refn, Nolan, PTA, Tarantino, Hillcoat, etc) This site is truly a film fan's site! Great job, Playlist!

  • Mark | January 4, 2012 1:58 PMReply

    Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut was pretty close to a masterpiece. If you can ignore Orlando Bloom's performance.

  • Edward Davis | January 4, 2012 2:01 PM

    I can't disagree more with that statement. More like Extra ZZZZZZZZZZZ..........

  • hank | January 4, 2012 1:48 PMReply

    do we all understand that no one officially involved with the film has ever referred to it as "The Master"? That stupid title is really starting to get on my nerves. I don't see you referring to "Untitled Terrence Malick Project" as "The Burial" be a journalist for Christ's sake.

  • Mikael | January 4, 2012 1:30 PMReply

    Caught a test screening of David Chase's film last fall, and it's a big disappointment. It's an entirely autobiographical coming-of-age story, and honestly plays more like Outside Providence than Almost Famous. Anyone telling you Gandolfini "shines" is spinning things (his character is a one-note oppressive father, save for one late-in-the-film scene), and unfortunately, the main kid lacks any gravity and smirks his way through the film. Some clever moments recall the Sopranos (particularly his use of T.V. clips and music), but otherwise, it's a cliche-riddled post-war bildungsroman.

  • jajko | January 4, 2012 1:06 PMReply

    Sam Rockwell won't be in Cogan's Trade! Also The Master is set for 2013 release isnt it ? Anyway this is a pretty great list , i really hope 2012 delivers some future classics.

  • Cory Everett | January 4, 2012 1:10 PM

    'The Master' finished principal photography almost 5 months ago, so unless he's taking a Malick-ian amount of time to edit, we're hoping it'll be out by end of the year.

  • [A] | January 4, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    wow, I knew nothing about MUD or SAVAGES before reading this article so....thanks for the tip

  • Chris | January 4, 2012 12:49 PMReply

    Zoe Kazan was not in "Midnight in Paris."

  • HombreGato | January 4, 2012 12:37 PMReply

    Pretty close to my own list but for the blockbusters I'm a lot more excited for The Avengers and Star Trek than Batman, Brave, or The Hobbit.

    Pretty curious to see what happens with the untitled Luc Besson thriller as well.

  • HombreGato | January 5, 2012 12:13 AM

    (Forgot that Trek was moved to 2013)

  • kure | January 4, 2012 12:29 PMReply

    its nice to see bruce willis has 3 films on this list

  • [A] | January 4, 2012 12:28 PMReply

    Why would anyone anticipate something from Judd Apatow or The Wachowskis is beyond me..

  • HombreGato | January 5, 2012 12:15 AM

    Wachowskis plus Tom Twyker, plus a best selling novel.

  • Paul | January 4, 2012 4:45 PM

    Co-sign - Apatow lost his touch eons ago

  • Bobhoff | January 4, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Great list, as always each year, but no Skyfall?

  • k. | January 4, 2012 12:23 PMReply

    Where is Dark Shadows? It'll probably suck but I doubt it'll suck more than Great Gatsby so it should be on here!

  • alish | January 4, 2012 12:19 PMReply

    Searching for a Friend is one of the greatest scripts I have ever read.

  • JM | January 4, 2012 12:41 PM

    I second that... amazing script. ARGO has a *really* strong script as well.

    I have a friend who worked on HE LOVES ME that said it was hilariously bad and features the most annoying Manic Pixie Dream Girl of all time.

  • anna | January 4, 2012 12:12 PMReply

    I was waiting for this, thank you! Great list.

  • Glyrics | January 9, 2012 2:44 PM

    I'm waiting for Total Recall. I can't believe you included a couple on here that should go straight to video, but Anna Karenina? With Keira "Lockjaw" Knightley? I can't beieve she still gets work, much less as a fictional icon. Sex appeal??? She has no figure at all! Blasphemy!

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