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The 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2014

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 6, 2014 at 1:14PM

Last week we brought you numbers 100-51 of our 100 Most Anticipated Films of 2014. And while we still have several other look-ahead-to-2014 pieces in the works for the coming days, like a Sundance preview, 2014 Films We've Already Seen, and the ever-controversial Will These Films Suck? rundown of potential lowlights, today we get on to the section that really matters--the top 50 2014 films we're looking forward to most. It's a mouthwatering selection that convinces us once again that we collectively have the greatest job in the world, and has us antsy for the January doldrums to get gone, so let's dive straight in, shall we?
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Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Zach Galifianakis will star in Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s BIRDMAN.

10. "Birdman"
Synopsis: An actor best known for playing a superhero in movies tries to mount a Broadway play.
What You Need To Know: Comedy and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu are not two things that have traditionally gone together before now: the Mexican director's work, on "Amores Perros," "21 Grams," "Babel" and "Biutiful," has been gorgeous, but pretty bleak. So it's exciting to see him take a left-turn with this original comedy, which sees Michael Keaton (completing a comeback year that also sees him crop up in "RoboCop" and "Need For Speed") riffing on his own Bat-persona in a lo-fi comedy backed by Fox Searchlight.
Why Is It Anticipated: Well, it's a great premise, and set photos and the like have made this look pretty hilarious. Keaton's been long overdue for a comeback, and should get a doozy of a role here, and he's joined by a killer cast that also includes Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Amy Ryan, Merritt Weaver and Andrea Riseborough. Perhaps more than anything, though, we're excited to see what Inarritu can do when he lets his funny bone lead the way. Keep your "Captain America" and "Spider-Man" and all, this is the most anticipated superhero-related movie of the year, and in case you need convincing: these photos.
Release Date: None given yet, but given that both "Babel" and "Biutiful" premiered on the Croisette, Cannes would seem to be a good bet.

"Noah'
Paramount Pictures Darren Aronofsky's "Noah"

9. "Noah"
Synopsis: An ordinary man is warned that God is planning a great flood to wipe out sinful mankind, and builds an enormous ark to save his family, and two of every animal.
What You Need To Know: When your little $15 million art/exploitation movie goes on to win a Best Picture nomination, a Best Actress Oscar, and $300 million worldwide, you pretty much get to do whatever you want for your next move. And for Darren Aronofsky, after "Black Swan," that next move was passion project "Noah," a mega-budget retelling of the Biblical epic of floods and animals (latest pics here). Russell Crowe takes the lead role, with Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth also on board, and ILM handling the effects (including one shot that's allegedly the most complex in the company's history)
Why It's Anticipated: Look, we know there's a lot of skepticism around the trailer in some circles, which doesn't do the film a lot of favors, certainly. But this is still Darren Aronofsky with near-unlimited resources, and that's surely something to be excited about. Plus the word is that the script is more out-there than the promo makes it look, delving into serious Old Testament mythology, with giant angels and the like, which is much more interesting than the straight story we're being sold. Aronofsky and the studio are apparently feuding over the final cut, which some might take as a bad sign, but something we actually take as rather encouraging. If he gets his way anyhow...
Release Date: March 28, 2014

Noah Baumbach

8. "While We're Young"
Synopsis: A fortysomething couple befriend a younger, hipper pair of twentysomethings.
What You Need To Know: Noah Baumbach's clearly going through a fruitful period: he doesn't just have that second collaboration with Greta Gerwig, a currently untitled film which featured in Part 1 of this list) but also a bigger, more high-profile Scott Rudin-produced picture called "While We're Young." It's been in the works for a while (Cate Blanchett, James Franco and Gerwig were all attached to an earlier iteration), but finally got before cameras late last year, with "Greenberg" star Ben Stiller returning, Naomi Watts as his wife, and Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried playing the younger couple. The cast also includes Brady Corbet, Charles Grodin, "Starlet" breakout Dree Hemingway, and Beastie Boys' Adam Horowitz.
Why It's Anticipated: While "Frances Ha" might have loosened Baumbach up, we're intrigued to see how this project, written after "Greenberg" and sounding closer to that film or "The Squid And The Whale," turns out, given that he made two more run-and-gun features in the meantime. The subject matter sounds prime Baumbach territory, and the cast have either been provably great under his direction (Stiller, Driver), or seem like they'd be right at home (Watts, Seyfried, Corbet). There's the risk that it turns out as prickly and navel-gazing as "Greenberg" ultimately did, but Baumbach's success rate is high enough that we're willing to take the chance
Release Date: Shot late in 2013, so the fall festivals—TIFF most likely—are probable.

Gone Girl Ben Affleck

7. "Gone Girl"
Synopsis: Nick and Amy Dunne are seemingly the perfect couple, but when she disappears suddenly, Nick becomes the prime suspect. Could he have killed her? Or is the truth far more twisted?
What You Need To Know: After a frustrating few years which saw David Fincher try to mount his version of "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" only for Disney to get budget shy, the director makes his return with a film that, like his last effort, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," adapts an acclaimed water-cooler paperback thriller hit. Gillian Flynn's novel "Gone Girl" was a genuine literary phenomenon, and it's quite the coup that the adaptation (written by Flynn herself) landed Fincher as a director. His usual A-grade creative team are in place, with a somewhat eccentric cast involved: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike take the leads, with Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson, Missi Pyle and the girl from the "Blurred Lines" video joining them. And Fincher's famously exacting shooting style is reportedly back in play and then some.
Why It's Anticipated: Two words: David Fincher. Don't get us wrong, we'd rather he was doing something more self-generated, rather than another director-for-hire gig, but if anyone can make the page-turner book's tricksy structure and unsympathetic characters work as a feature, it's probably him. And while the casting is undeniably, uh, eclectic (Doogie Howser! Madea!), we're certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here, especially with such strong material to work from. We're especially jazzed about the chance to see Rosamund Pike, an oft-undervalued actress, get such a huge opportunity as this one.
Release Date: October 3, 2014. Could pop up at TIFF or NYFF before then, depending on its awards prospects.

Nymphomaniac

6. Nymphomaniac
Synopsis: After being found beaten in an alleyway, a woman relates her sexual life, from birth to her 50s.
What You Need To Know: After the fuss that greeted his comments at the Cannes Film Festival while promoting "Melancholia," Lars von Trier double-downed in the truest possible sense, with the film that could be his magnum opus: a two-part epic of explicit sexuality and provocation, released in two-parts (with a more explicit, uncut five hour+ take to follow later in the year). Charlotte Gainsbourg takes the lead role, with newcomer Stacy Martin as the younger version of the character, and an all-star cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBoeuf, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Udo Kier, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen and many more are also along for the... fun?
Why It's Anticipated: Von Trier isn't to everyone's taste, but no one fills that button-pushing trickster void better than he does, and there's no doubt that this is likely to be one of the talking points of moviegoing in 2014. While the things he puts his characters through can sometimes be questioned, there's no doubt that Von Trier is one of the best directors of women working, and we feel like we can trust him to tell a story like this without becoming too leery or male-gaze-y. Early footage and reviews indicate that this is more or less what you're expecting, with Von Trier's signature style blown up even larger, and your reaction to that will probably dictate how you feel about the finished product. But we're excited, ourselves.
Release Date: The shorter version of the Part One has already started rolling out around Europe, but it arrives on VOD in the U.S. on March 6, 2014, before hitting theaters on March 21st, while Part Two is in homes April 3rd, and in theaters April 18th. The uncut version Volume One premieres at Berlin in February, with Volume Two widely expected to land at Cannes.

Foxcatcher

5. "Foxcatcher"
Synopsis: The true story of schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont, who backed the U.S. Olympic wrestling team and whose friendship with gold-medal-winning brothers Dave and Mark Schultz ended in tragedy.
What You Need To Know: Having had a huge success with another dark true story of murder and obsession with 2005's "Capote," director Bennett Miller (and co-writer Dan Futterman) returns to similar territory with this remarkable true story. Channing Tatum (in probably his biggest test as a dramatic actor yet) and Mark Ruffalo play the wrestling brothers, while Steve Carell, almost unrecognizable under prosthetics, has a potentially career-changing role as du Pont, with Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave making up the rest of the cast. We nearly saw this already: it was meant to screen at the AFI Festival before going on release last month, and it had always been high on our list of anticipated Fall 2013 movies but was pulled late in the day, with Miller apparently needing more time to finish the film (though we suspect a crowded Oscar slate might have had something to do with it too).
Why Is It Anticipated: He might have two Best Picture nominations for two films, but Bennett Miller remains somewhat underrated: he doesn't have the same fanbase as some of his contemporaries, perhaps because so much time passed between "Capote" and "Moneyball," despite both being remarkable pieces of work. Still, Megan Ellison knows what's up: her Annapurna Pictures backed "Foxcatcher," and there's every reason to think that this can sit alongside the company's prior slate of "Zero Dark Thirty," "The Master," "Spring Breakers," "Her" and co. The trailer that leaked a few months back looked very special indeed, and the team that Miller assembled (including great DoP Greig Fraser) is impeccable. Whenever this lands, we'll be there.
Release Date: This is presumably close to completion, so Cannes could be viable, but Sony Pictures Classics may want to wait until closer to Oscar season.

Knight Of Cups Christian Bale Natalie Portman skip crop

4. “Knight Of Cups”/”Untitled Austin Music Scene Movie”/”Voyage Of Time
Synopsis: Knight Of Cups”: A story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess.
Untitled Austin Music Scene Movie”: The film follows two intersecting love triangles. It is a story of sexual obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.
Voyage Of Time”: An examination of the birth and death of the known universe.
What You Need To Know: For “Knight Of Cups” and the Austin movie, there’s the stacked cast (Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Isabelle Lucas plus a zillion more, not to mention the music cameos in the Austin movie), the mystery of who will survive to the final films (even Christian Bale has said he’s likely not in the music movie) and the eternal question of when Malick will actually be finished with them. The recent hire of composer Hanan Townshend to score ‘Knights’ suggests perhaps that one will get out of the gate first. As for “Voyage Of Time,” the documentary has been literally years in the making, but a recent lawsuit looks like it might be arriving close to a settlement, so that’s encouraging news.
Why Is It Anticipated: Because it’s Terrence Malick, who is in the midst of one of his most prolific periods in his career.
Release Date: Whenever Malick feels like it, but surely one of these is going to arrive sooner rather than later?

Grand Budapest Hotel, Ralph Fiennes

3. "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Synopsis: In a legendary hotel in a fictional European country between the wars, a young lobby boy falls under the spell of a famous concierge, amid plots of murder, art theft and squabbling families.
What You Need To Know: The early months of the year are so often lacking in quality fare, but this year, we're getting some Wes Anderson in the first quarter to brighten things up: his latest opens the Berlin Film Festival in February before opening in theaters at the start of March. The Anderson all-stars have been assembled, with Ralph Fiennes (replacing Johnny Depp, who bailed for “Transcendence”) leading a cast that includes veterans like Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Owen Wilson, and newcomers Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric and F. Murray Abraham, among many others.
Why Is It Anticipated: The director’s last film, "Moonrise Kingdom" stands with "Rushmore" as one of Anderson's finest achievements, and there's no sign of a drop-off here: the film, which nods to Lubitsch and Fritz Lang, looks like an absolute treat, perhaps Anderson's purest comedy in a while, but with signs of substance there as well. We suppose that the potential's there for this to be a bit of a mess, but the film has started screening to a select few and early word is that Anderson's recent run of success continues, and then some. Check out the latest clip here and the full trailer here, in all their glorious Anderson-ness.. .
Release Date: March 7, 2014, after opening Berlin on February 6th.

Interstellar trailer

2. “Interstellar
Synopsis: Scientists attempt to observe a wormhole into another dimension.
What You Need To Know: No less than Steven Spielberg had been toying with this project for years in various stages of development. The shift from Spielberg to Christopher Nolan certainly suggests that a proper focus and big-budget scope is necessary to bring it to the screen, though details are being kept heavily under wraps, and many have conceded that the project now bears very little resemblance to Spielberg’s original ideas (despite Jonathan Nolan being retained as screenwriter). The film is so massive that Warner Bros. needed an assist from Paramount for funding, an exchange that saw the WB grant them the rights to go in on future “Friday The 13th” and “South Park” movies.
Why Is It Anticipated: Batman gave Nolan the license to go HAM on the blockbuster scene, and even his detractors have to note that he’s placed a recognizable stamp on his tentpole efforts, one of the few populist directors working today that can unleash a massive moneymaker in the summer and collect award nominations in the winter. Here he’s working with a decorated cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, David Oyelowo, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley, Elyes Gabel, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow and Matt Damon joining Nolan regulars Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway. Wormholes are also one of those hard-science ideas that remain exciting and unusual to the layman, so this definitely ain’t gonna be boring, while the tone of the first, brief teaser suggests a certain philosophical/metaphysical aspect too.
Release Date: November 7, 2014

Joaquin Phoenix, Paul Thomas Anderson Inherent Vice

1. “Inherent Vice
Synopsis: In 1970s Southern California, an inept, pot-addled detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of girl who also happens to be a former girlfriend.
What You Need To Know: An adaptation of celebrated novelist Thomas Pynchon’s hilarious freakbeat detective tale, “Inherent Vice” is part noir, part psychedelic romp that unfolds a crime labyrinth for the confused, stoner lead character; a shiftless and goofy dick who gets by on luck and accidents as much as his hazy wits.It's very much “The Big Sleep” meets Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye" (another Chandler adaptation) with lots of traces of the doped-up surfer psychedelic milieu of late 1960s Malibu.
Why Is It Anticipated: Well, it’s directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson and it’s the reteaming of PTA and his “The Master” star Joaquin Phoenix. But perhaps most importantly, it could be a massive gear shift for the filmmaker if he sticks to the script (knowing his adaptations, it’s possible he may not). The closest Anderson came to making a comedy was his oddball “romantic comedy” “Punch Drunk Love” and that picture unleashed a looser vibe in his work and shed some of his easier-to-spot influences. “Inherent Vice” could be a Altman-esque riff on the gumshoe drama, but something tells us it’s going to be a little bit odder considering the direction of his work of late,and considering the shoot was, according to Josh Brolin, "absolute fucking chaos" (in a good way). The film has a sprawling cast that includes Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Benicio del Toro and musician Joanna Newsom to name a few, but like “The Master” is littered with relatively unknown actors as well.
Release Date: December 12, which may rule out an early festival bow.

Honorable Mention:
If it seems unwieldy to be anticipating 100 films over the next 365 days, spare a thought for those that didn't make the cut, and marvel at just how many there are: in any given year, there are hundreds of films that are either in the can, being edited, or currently being shot (there are probably 350+ films not even mentioned on this list that are still scheduled to arrive this year). Every new year of cinema promises a bevy of new releases and 2014 is no different, so even beyond our mammoth 2-part list, there’s still so much that we’re curious and intrigued about, even if our expectations are slightly tempered for one reason or another. Here's a quick namecheck of some of those films:

Million Dollar Arm

Fingers Crossed For These Mainstream Releases
Mortdecai” starring Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow is due sometime in 2014 and probably will feel like a glaring omission to some for not being on the proper 100 list, but director David Koepp’s last Depp-starring effort “Secret Window” was a disaster and “Premium Rush” did him few favors in our estimation. Still, it’s a solid cast, so we’ll keep it on the radar. Just missing the top 100 (because if we wrote up everything, we'd be here forever) is Jon Favreau's indie-flavored "Chef" which promises appearances by Favreau himself, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sofía Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, and John Leguizamo. Also up for consideration and something we're quite keen on is Melissa McCarthy's "Tammy,"  The Weinstein Company’s “St. Vincent” with an eclectic cast of Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Murray and Terrence Howard sure sounds interesting. Other films with locked in 2014 dates we're curious about include Seth MacFarlane's Western comedy "A Million Ways to Die in the West" starring Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and many others, Miguel Arteta's "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" with Steve Carrell, "Paddington" with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, Million Dollar Arm" with Jon Hamm and Lake Bell, "A Long Way Down" with Aaron Paul, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, the "Poltergeist" remake (though that may land in 2015), "The Judge" with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Banks' raunchy comedy, "Walk Of Shame," Jon Stewart's "Rosewater," "Wild" starring Reese Witherspoon and by the director of "Dallas Buyers Club," Stephen Daldry's "Trash" starring Rooney Mara (which again, could be 2015) and several others.

Mia Wasikowska, Madame Bovary

More Auteurs
Further anticipated auteur-driven work includes films by Ken Loach ("Jimmy's Hall" said to be his final film), Christian Petzold ("Phoenix" starring his underrated German muse Nina Hoss), Michael Winterbottom ("The Face Of An Angel" starring 2013 breakout actor Daniel Bruhl), Liv Ullman ("Miss Julie" starring Jessica Chastain) Dylan Kidd ("Get a Job," the long-awaited follow-up to "P.S." starring Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick and Bryan Cranston), Wim Wenders ("Everything Will Be Fine" with James Franco, Rachel McAdams), Alain Resnais ("Life Of Riley"), "Madame Bovary" starring Mia Wasikowska as directed by "Cold Souls" helmer Sophie Barthes (a potential festival circuit film for sure) and many more.

Low Down
Oscilloscope "Low Down"

The Sundance Film Festival
Sundance has no shortage of riches, many of which you’ll be hearing about soon, and apart from the half-dozen Utah-bound films we’ve already mentioned in this list, we’re also looking forward to things like “Low Down” starring Elle Fanning, the musical “Song One” with Anne Hathaway as scored by Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, Marjane Satrapi’s “The Voices” starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick, Mike Cahill's "I Origins," Jim Mickle's "Cold In July," Ira Sachs' "Love Is Strange," Alex Ross Perry's "Listen Up Phillip" starring Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss, the Roger Ebert doc "Life Itself," the Fela Kuti doc by Alex Gibney, new films by Gregg Araki, Jake Paltrow, Joe Swanberg, John Slattery, Adam Wingard, David Cross, Aaron Katz, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and many, many more.

Monsters: The Dark Continent

Under The Radar:
There’s a fair few films that aren’t from especially established names as yet, and aren’t yet slated for a festival like Sundance, but are still potentially something to look forward to, all being well. On the more mainstream side of things, “Crazy Stupid Love” writer Dan Fogelman makes his directorial debut with “Imagine,” starring Al Pacino as an aging rocker and Bobby Cannavale as his son. Gareth Edwards’ breakout hit gets a sequel with “Monsters: Dark Continent,” while Anna Kendrick toplines indie musical “The Last 5 Years.” Lo-fi genre fare will be in full compliment too: the makers of “Bellflower” return with “Chuck Hank And The San Diego Twins,” while Riley Stearns’ “Faults,” which placed highly on the Black List in 2013, sounds intriguing too. Hit stage play “Posh” comes to the screen courtesy of Lone Scherfig, while Shakespeare gets a re-rub from the “Hamlet” duo of Michael Almereyda and Ethan Hawke in “Cymbeline.” Berlin brings both Claudia Llhosa’s “Aloft,” and Northern Irish thriller “71,” starring rising star Jack O’Connell. And on the international circuit, we’re also intrigued by the return of “Lourdes” director Jessica Hausner with “Amour Fou,” and “Vie Sauvage,” a new film from “Roberto Succo” director Cedric Kahn. And finally, ertwhile Playlister Christopher Jason Bell makes his feature directorial debut with “The Winds That Scatter”—some of us have seen an rough cut, and it’s ace. Look for most of the above on the festival circuit in the coming year.

Mainstream Question Marks
Unlike the rest of the world, we’re not entirely convinced of the merits of/ kind of skeptical about things like the “Veronica Mars” movie, “Divergent” (or most YA adaptations these days), Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent,Kevin Smith’s “Tusk,” "Dumb And Dumber To" and “The Expendables 3,” but you might be reading about them soon in another feature. Other studio/mainstream films we don’t have anything against (in some cases we’d rather take a wait and see approach) but don’t fall quite into “anticipated” territory include “Sex Tape” with Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz, the “Robocop” remake,"Winter's Tale," "300: Rise of An Empire" and lots of others.

Under The Skin

Wait, What About…?
Finally: where are the films the Playlist has already raved about during the 2013 fall film festival season, like Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive,Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” with Jake Gyllenhaal, Jonathan GlazerUnder The Skin,Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer," Richard Ayoade's "The Double" and new films from David Gordon Green, Terry Gilliam, Xavier Dolan, Tsai Ming-liang, and Kelly Reichardt to name a few? You can find them all in our Best Films Of 2014 We've Already Seen feature. As always dig in, sound off and share if you like what you see. While you're here, check out our Best of 2013 content, features and lists, won't you? -- Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez, Jessica Kiang, Gabe Toro, Kevin Jagernauth

This article is related to: Features, Feature, Most Anticipated 2014, Noah Baumbach, Serena, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Drop, Unbroken, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge Of Tomorrow, Neighbors, The Giver, Richard Linklater, Boyhood, Jupiter Ascending, How to Train Your Dragon 2 , Suite Francaise, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., 22 Jump Street, Far From The Madding Crowd, Muppets Most Wanted, Inherent Vice


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