×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Movies that'll surprise us in 2019

2019 is loaded with some of the most highly anticipated sequels, reboots, and adaptations in years. Sequels to huge fan favorites set to be released this year include Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, IT: Chapter 2, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Audiences will also see new entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Tarantino canon with Captain Marvel and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, respectively. All this and we haven't even mentioned the live action remakes of beloved Disney cartoon classics that are coming soon — Aladdin, The Lion King, and Dumbo

With so many high-profile releases on deck for the year, there are some really amazing movies flying under the radar that have the potential to sneak up on us. There are even some highly publicized tentpole movies that may wind up being really pleasant surprises for a number of reasons. Here are the movies poised to surprise audiences in 2019.

Beach Bum

Harmony Korine is a cult favorite director whose fans are sure to line up for each new project. His most recent release, Spring Breakers, proved to be one of the most surprising movies of 2013. The film starred James Franco (donning cornrows, tattoos, and a gold grill) as a Florida rapper named Alien, arguably one of the most unique movie characters in recent years. The film garnered critical acclaim for its unique point of view and razor-sharp social commentary.

With Beach Bum, Korine returns to Florida to tell the story of Moondog, a nomadic Sunshine State poet played by — in a bit of brilliantly obvious casting — Matthew McConaughey. The film reportedly follows the stoner adventures of Moondog in a fashion reminiscent of The Big Lebowski. The unmistakable style of Korine combined with the distinctive talents of McConaughey may very well give us an iconic character for the ages. Beach Bum is set to be released on March 29th.

Gemini Man

In the last decade, Will Smith has acted in just one movie that has a positive Tomatometer score — and that was 2012's lukewarm Men in Black III. The rest of his filmography from the past ten years is an unusual smattering of either critically reviled movies or straight-up box office losers. Gemini Man, directed by Ang Lee, could be the movie to buck this trend and deliver a critical and financial success.

The concept is certainly tantalizing. Smith stars as an assassin who battles his own clone — a younger version of himself in his prime. This property has become somewhat legendary in Hollywood as one of the great unproduced projects of the last 20 years. Originally, the movie was set up at Disney way back in 1997, but stalled due to the shortcomings of technology at the time. Jerry Bruckheimer took over as producer a little more than ten years ago, and is now co-producing with Skydance Media. Visual effects have come a long way since the movie's inception, and we'll finally get a chance to see this long-gestating vision become a reality. Gemini Man has a release date set for October 11. 

Ford v. Ferrari

It's not a surprise that Christian Bale lost a ton of weight to star alongside Matt Damon in this movie — it's hardly the first time he's made drastic alterations to his body for a role. What is surprising is that Hollywood is releasing a big budget racing movie that is neither fast nor furious. James Mangold, who had been in talks to helm a Boba Fett movie that never materialized, is directing.

Ford v. Ferrari is based on the true story of Ford Motor Company's attempt to reposition itself in the '60s by entering the world of European racing. The movie follows a team of American engineers led by Damon's Carroll Shelby and his British driver Ken Miles, played by Bale. Team Ford is tasked with the mission of designing an entirely new automobile capable of defeating the dominant Team Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans World Championship in France. Ford v. Ferrari is due to hit theaters on June 28th.

Fast Color

With MCU juggernauts Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame due out this spring, it's easy to miss this unconventional superhero genre hitting screens in March. Fast Color has been riding a wave of positive buzz since it was presented at SXSW 2018. Directed by Julia Hart from a script she co-wrote with her producer husband Jordan Horowitz (of La La Land fame), this is a rare super-powered movie not based on a pre-existing property. 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Ruth, a woman on the run due to her unusual abilities. Now, after years without contact with her family, she is forced to return home. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Hart commented on her inspiration for the script. "My husband and I came up with the idea for the movie when we became parents," said Hart. "I just felt this superhuman strength that I had never felt before when I became a mother. So, the idea for the movie came from this notion that mothers are superheroes. I realized that I'd never seen a movie where there was actually a superhero who was a mother. That was the origin of it, about these three generations of women — a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter — using their relationship with each other to understand, and accept, and use their powers." Fast Color comes out on March 29th.

The Irishman

The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, isn't flying under anyone's radar. A film with this much Hollywood royalty is pretty hard to miss. But this movie, set to be released by Netflix on a 2019 date yet to be determined, could surprise audiences for a few different reasons. 

Firstly, it might actually be a good movie! The last time Pacino and De Niro were paired together, in 2008's forgettable Righteous Kill, they didn't exactly light the world on fire. While Pacino has starred in some decently reviewed movies in recent years, De Niro has acted in more stinkers than winners. Now, re-teamed with master auteur Scorsese (who directed De Niro in such masterpieces as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), there's every reason to believe this movie will be worthwhile.

Another surprising element of this movie is the "de-aging" technology that has played a huge role in its production. Reportedly, the movie's budget has ballooned from around $100 million to over $140 million in large part due to the visual effects necessary to enable Scorsese to show De Niro's character at different points throughout his life. Industrial Light and Magic, the legendary team behind Star Wars, is handling the visual effects during post-production.

The Kitchen

This mob drama, set in 1970s New York City, is based on Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle's DC/Vertigo comic series about three housewives who take over the Irish mafia when their mobster husbands are all sent to prison. Anything but your typical comic book adaptation, Andrea Berloff — the screenwriter of Straight Outta Compton — has reportedly delivered a story that is truly unique in her directorial debut. 

The casting also cleverly plays with audience expectations. Melissa McCarthy and TIffany Haddish are two of the most popular comedic actresses working in Hollywood right now. With these comedy super talents front and center, it'd be easy to imagine The Kitchen as a wildly hilarious fish-out-of-water farce. Instead, this crime drama plays it straight, putting Haddish, McCarthy, and Elisabeth Moss in direct conflict with the underbelly of Hell's Kitchen more viciously and violently than one might expect. The Kitchen will be released on September 20th. 

Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier is an international crime drama set to be released on March 6 in select theaters, arriving on Netflix the following week. The story centers on a group of former Special Forces operatives who reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely-populated multi-border zone of South America. The film stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, and Charlie Hunnam and is directed by J.C. Chandor. While the concept has always been static, the stars, director, and studio have changed several times.

Way back in 2010, the project was originally envisioned as the high profile follow-up film for Kathryn Bigelow, who was fresh off of an Oscar win for The Hurt Locker. That version of the film didn't come to fruition, as Bigelow moved on to other projects. In 2015, J.C. Chandor, director of A Most Violent Year, entered talks to take over directing duties with Johnny Depp on deck to star. That version of the film also fizzled out, before Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy began eyeing lead roles. When that permutation lost steam, Netflix stepped in and the eventual cast started to come together once and for all. 

Typically, movies that are stuck in this level of development hell for so long lose momentum and never get made. When they do see the light of day, the final product often suffers immensely. However, with the talent assembled and Netflix coming in to right the ship at a key moment in development, Triple Frontier has a chance to be an exception to the rule.

Rocketman

Taron Egerton broke onto the scene with his turn in Matthew Vaughn's surprise box office hit Kingsman: The Secret Service. After the successful follow-up Kingsman: The Golden Circle and with a third entry into the franchise on the way, Egerton is shifting gears for his next big role. In Rocketman, he'll play Elton John in a story that follows the rise of his early career.

With music biopics like Straight Outta Compton and Bohemian Rhapsody performing well critically and at the box office, one can't help but wonder if the genre is at risk of becoming predictable and formulaic as Hollywood attempts to recreate those successes. According to Egerton, however, Rocketman isn't so much a biopic as it is a "fantasy musical." Speaking to Collider, Egerton said, "Everyone thinks it's a biopic. It isn't. It's a fantasy musical so it's actually his songs used to express important beats in his life at emotional moments. He's not the only character that sings. It's going to be fun." It will be interesting to see what Elton John's legendary catalog can do to elevate the genre. Rocketman will be released on May 31st.

Untitled Terminator Reboot

Can the Terminator franchise ever get back on track? After the often-maligned Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines began to stall out the series back in 2003, the franchise hit new lows in terms of response from audiences and critics with 2009's Terminator Salvation and 2015's Terminator Genisys. With the as-yet-untitled new Terminator movie due out November 1st, the franchise is back in capable hands. James Cameron is involved for the first time since T2: Judgment Day, overseeing the project as producer while Deadpool's Tim Miller takes the director's chair. The film promises to be a major overhaul of the series, reuniting original stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton.

"The Terminator films are all about artificial intelligence. But I would say we're looking at it differently than when I wrote the first story in 1982," Cameron said at the press day for his new six-part documentary series James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction (via Collider). Cameron continued, "That was just your classic 'technology bad, smart computers bad' kind of thing. Nowadays though — it's got to be a much more nuanced perspective."

Cats

Cats, from Broadway icon Andrew Lloyd Webber, is the fourth longest running musical of all time. The show is likely just as famous for being the butt of countless jokes and parodies as it is for being successful. This quote from the Daily News in 2016 sums it up: "The feline-a-palooza by Andrew Lloyd Webber — based on poetry by T.S. Eliot — has been long been regarded as a joke since it began a Tony-winning, 18-year run in 1982. The plot's silly. The cast acts all feline-y. And the catsuits. It is what it is." Why should audiences expect this movie to be anything else other than saccharine nonsense?

Look at the cast. The call sheet includes Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Sir Ian McKellan, late night host James Corden, Tony and Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, and pop star Jason Derulo. You've got some truly talented vocalists involved, not to mention some amazing actors and comedians. Tom Hooper, acclaimed director of The Danish Girl and Les Miserables, will helm the film. This sounds like a recipe for a guilty pleasure of a movie that you will refuse to admit you secretly love. Cats will be released on December 20th.

1917

Sam Mendes, the director of James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, has left the spy franchise behind to focus on a historical drama. His next project, 1917, is set on World War I's bloody Western Front. Mendes co-wrote the movie's script with Penny Dreadful writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes has a best Best Director Oscar for 2000's American Beauty, which also won Best Picture that year.

Mendes' unquestioned pedigree, combined with in-the-trenches WWI drama, should be enough to get you excited about the movie. If you need any more reason, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man Tom Holland is in talks to play the lead. This will be quite a departure creatively for Holland, who is best known for rocking the red-and-blues and cracking wise to Mr. Stark. If the casting goes forward, Holland will have an opportunity to demonstrate to audiences a whole new side of his acting prowess when 1917 arrives on December 25.

Dumbo

Tim Burton has probably directed some of your favorite films — after all, this is the guy who gave us Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. Latter-day Burton has been brilliant just as often as he's been uneven; movies like Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie, and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children either failed to connect with audiences or didn't live up to their big budgets. Two Disney live-action re-imaginings, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, made money, but earned disappointing scores from Rotten Tomatoes.

With two more live-action Disney remakes of beloved '90s animated features due out this year — Aladdin and The Lion King — it was easy to miss the news that Burton had taken the helm on the remake of the 1941 classic Dumbo, but when the trailer came out, it was well received. The movie re-teams Michael Keaton and Danny Devito – a.k.a Burton's Batman and Penguin – along with a beautiful setting for Burton's unmistakable aesthetic. Dumbo hits theaters on March 29th.

The Hustle

The Hustle is a remake of the 1988 comedy classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, which was itself a remake of 1964's Bedtime Story. This updated tale gender-swaps the leads for Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson as a pair of con artists with decidedly different styles.

This movie was actually shot in 2017, and was supposed to be released last year. MGM finally settled on a release date of May 10 and dropped a trailer that's already starting to generate buzz. Hathaway plays a smoothly sophisticated con artist who swindles wealthy marks out of their fortunes, while Wilson plays a streetwise hustler, taken under the wing of Hathaway's character to learn the ropes of the high-class con. Remaking a classic '80s comedy can be a pretty tall order, but if the chemistry between Wilson and Hathaway is as fun in the final product as it is in the trailer, audiences may be in for a good time. 

Captive State

Captive State is a science fiction thriller that pairs John Goodman and Moonlight star Ashton Sanders. The trailer plays like a Purge-style nightmare that incorporates the fear and mistrust of power that seems more and more pervasive in modern culture. The concept is pushed even further by including invaders from another world in the mix. Details have been well-guarded, but the film's official synopsis is certainly intriguing: "Set in a Chicago neighborhood nearly a decade after an occupation by an extra-terrestrial force, Captive State explores the lives on both sides of the conflict — the collaborators and dissidents."

This film could definitely surprise by taking a dystopian extrapolation of our current political climate and putting some old school movie monster thrills in the mix. This movie also marks a return to the sci-fi genre for Rupert Wyatt, director of 2011's acclaimed Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Captive State premieres on March 15.

Brightburn

Since being abruptly removed from his Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, writer and director James Gunn has been busying himself with other big-name projects. Most notably, he's writing and directing the probably Harley Quinn-free sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad. While that conspicuous gig gets most of the attention, many of Gunn's fans may be unaware of his other totally awesome project, Brightburn.

This movie cleverly plays on audiences' familiarity with the ubiquity of comic book stories by telling a Superman-esque origin reimagined as a horror film. What happens when the alien baby with unstoppable powers isn't a good guy? The trailer is riddled with references to the Superman films, including sweeping views of wholesome heartland farms, and even a shot of a child in a red cape. Brightburn stars Elizabeth Banks and David Denman as the farm-living parents who take in this sinister Superboy. The film is directed by David Yarovesky and comes out on May 24.

Jojo Rabbit

Writer-director-actor Taika Waititi is best known for his understated comedic sensibilities, often hidden within super-powered or supernatural high concept stories. He did a remarkable job of making Thor: Ragnarok — a comic book space opera and linchpin of the decade-long MCU narrative — feel like a relatable buddy comedy. His comedy-horror movie What We Do in the Shadows became a cult sensation by exploring the immortal lives of vampires coping with the complexities of modern life — a wildly original concept for a comedy. How can Waititi possibly surprise audiences further?

His next film, Jojo Rabbit, might be his most ambitious — or utterly insane — project to date. It's a World War II comedy about a 10 year old German boy (played by Roman Griffin Davis) who struggles to find his place in the world. For help, he turns to an imaginary friend for guidance: Adolf Hitler. Not only does Waititi direct the screenplay that he wrote on this one, he also plays the character of imaginary Hitler. The movie's cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Merchant, and Sam Rockwell. Reshoots of a few key scenes wrapped in February 2019, and the final product is due to arrive this fall.