The best 2020 movies: from James Bond to the MCU

The best 2020 movies: from James Bond to the MCU

(Image credit: Marvel; MGM; Disney)

There may be no new Star Wars movie coming out this year for the first time since 2014, but there’s no way 2020 could ever be described as quiet. Over the course of the next 12 months, there’ll be two Marvel movies, two from Pixar, a couple of female-fronted DC superhero actioners, and the returns of ’80s legends Ghostbusters and Top Gun – not to mention high-octane action from The Fast and the Furious saga, and the latest mission for certain British secret agent with a license to kill. 

Throw in some scary horror, some must-see comedy, and an attempt to turn an unfilmable sci-fi novel into a movie, and 2020 at the movies is looking very exciting indeed. 

Underwater 

Release date: January 10 (US), February 7 (UK)

This underwater thriller looks a lot like a cross between Alien and The Abyss. Seven miles beneath the ocean surface, the crew of a deep-sea rig (headed up by Kristen Stewart as the base’s engineer) accidentally unleash some kind of alien force – and end up fighting for their lives. Alas, nothing in the trailer makes us think Underwater will be anything than a damper retread of Ridley Scott’s outer-space classic – the fact it’s taken nearly three years to make it to cinemas doesn’t bode well – but director William Eubank’s films usually skew to the more intelligent, philosophical end of sci-fi, so there may be reasons for optimism. 

Bad Boys for Life 

Release date: January 17

Considering it was hailed as one of the two greatest movies of all time (the other was Point Break) in Hot Fuzz, it’s remarkable it’s taken so long for Bad Boys 2 to get a follow-up. But, 17 years later, here it is, with original stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back in action. This time the usual carnage and pyrotechnics come with extra middle-aged angst, with Smith’s Mike Lowery still behaving like a 20-something, while Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett contemplates retirement. Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah take over from Michael Bay behind the camera, but otherwise this looks like business as usual.

The Personal History of David Copperfield 

Release date: January 24 (UK), May 8 (US)

Normally the arrival of yet another adaptation of the Charles Dickens would be unremarkable, but this one’s written and directed by Armando Iannucci – a man who lists Alan Partridge, The Thick of It, In the Loop and The Death of Stalin on his impressive CV. Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel plays the eponymous hero, with extremely able support from Peter Capaldi as Mr Micawber, Bond’s Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep, and Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood – in other words, with all that star power, and a genuine talent behind the camera, this is going to be Dickens as you’ve never seen it before.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Release date: February 7 

The best thing about the otherwise disappointing Suicide Squad returns to headline this year’s biggest mouthful of a movie title. This time out Harley Quinn (a returning Margot Robbie) has ended her destructive relationship with the Joker, and found herself a new super-team, hooking up with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to take down crime lord the Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Going on the trailer, this is going to be a lot more fun than Suicide Squad – Harley even gets to wield her trademark mallet – while director Cathy Yan has confirmed it’ll be R-rated.

Sonic the Hedgehog 

Release date: February 14

To say the internet was not keen on its first sighting of the live-action Sonic would be an understatement – everything about his appearance, from his weird teeth to his freakishly muscular legs, was mercilessly torn apart. Fair enough to the filmmakers, however, because they listened to the criticism, put the release date back, and completely redesigned the character. Whether the Sega mascot’s movie will have a worthwhile story remains to be seen – fingers are crossed Jim Carrey can do the business as uber-villain Dr Robotnik – but at least we can rest assured the superfast hedgehog looks a lot, lot better than he did before.

Bloodshot 

Release date: February 21 (US), February 28 (UK)

Vin Diesel has a mixed record when it comes to picking franchises to star in – for every Fast and the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s a Chronicles of Riddick and an xXx. So he’ll be hoping that Bloodshot falls into the former category, as will Valiant, the independent comics publisher that’s using the movie to launch its own version of the MCU. Diesel plays an ordinary guy who’s resurrected as a nanotech-enhanced superhuman after being murdered, and goes on the hunt for justice after his memories return. So a lot like RoboCop, then…

The Invisible Man

Release date: 28 February  

One of the most frequently revisited stories in cinema gets yet another retelling, this time courtesy of Saw and Insidious writer Leigh Whannell (who also directs). The Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss plays a woman who escapes an abusive relationship with a science genius boyfriend, only to find his subsequent suicide may not be as real as everyone believed. You don’t think he might have made himself invisible…? Seeing as this Invisible Man is made by Blumhouse – the low-budget horror specialists behind Paranormal Activity, Get Out and The Purge – expect it to play up the scares over the sci-fi spectacle.  

Onward

Release date: March 6

In recent years Pixar’s output has been dominated by sequels and prequels, but the CG animation pioneers two movies of 2020 are both original properties. First out is Onward, a typically Pixar spin on fantasy that looks like The Lord of the Rings viewed through Flintstones-tinted glasses. That means mythical creatures living in American-style suburbia – unicorns are pests, dragons are pets – and a pair of elf brothers (voiced by Avengers Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) heading off on a road trip to bring back their dead dad. After all, it wouldn’t be a fantasy movie without a quest of some kind…

A Quiet Place Part 2

Release date: March 20

Every so often, a horror movie moves outside genre fandom to become a critical hit. And so in 2018, A Quiet Place came from nowhere to follow the similarly brilliant Get Out into conversations about major awards. It was easy to see why: not only was the story’s central hook of aliens hunting via sound frighteningly, devastatingly simple, director John Krasinski found the humanity in a family trapped in the middle of a silent nightmare. Plot specifics are currently scarce for a sequel that reportedly picks up immediately after the original, but the returning Krasinski surely won’t want to mess around with the formula too much. 

Mulan

Release date: March 27

Disney’s highly lucrative project to turn its animated classics into live-action hits continues with Mulan. This looks set to be less of a fairytale than the likes of Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, however, with the emphasis shifted to the realms of the historical war epic. The core story of Hua Mulan, a young woman who masquerades as a man to join the army in Imperial China should remain intact, and we’re expecting this to look stunning – though anyone looking for wisecracking dragon sidekick Mushu (memorably voiced by Eddie Murphy in the original) is likely to be disappointed.

No Time to Die 

Release date: April 3 (UK), April 8 (US)

Daniel Craig draws his Walther PPK for the fifth and final time in the latest James Bond movie, as the 007 arc begun by Casino Royale back in 2006 comes to an explosive end. While James Bond begins the movie in retirement in Jamaica with Spectre survivor Madeleine Swann (Lea Sedoux), he’s soon drawn back into active service by a story involving Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), old MI6 colleagues M, Q and Moneypenny, and a new 00 agent in the form of Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch. All eyes, however, will be on Bohemian Rhapsody Oscar-winner Rami Malek as a Big Bad called Safin.

Promising Young Woman

Release date: TBC

Following the genius that is Phoebe Waller-Bridge was always going to be a tall order, but Emerald Fennell did a very solid job when she took over as showrunner for Killing Eve’s second season. Fennell’s about to add another string to her impressive bow (she also stars as the young Camilla Parker-Bowles in The Crown) as she writes and directs new revenge movie Promising Young Woman. Carey Mulligan stars as woman whose life was knocked off track by a mysterious event in her past, but now ends up righting past wrongs – the trailer suggests it’s going to be a blast. 

The New Mutants

Release date: April 3 (US), April 8 (UK)

Originally slated to come out before the awful X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants has been bumped around release schedules and plagued by talk of extensive reshoots. That said, the idea of plunging mutants into a creepy, hospital-set horror movie is intriguing, and the young cast (including The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy and Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) has potential – and it’s finally re-emerging this week with a new trailer, allaying fears it’d end up on the scrap heap.

Black Widow

Release date: May 1

It’s been a whole decade coming but the Avengers’ Russian superspy Natasha Romanoff – aka Black Widow – finally gets a chance to headline her own movie in Marvel’s first release of 2020. It’s a shame Scarlett Johansson had to wait for her character to die in Avengers: Endgame for it to happen, but the Cate Shortland-directed movie heads back to the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, Romanoff confronts her murky past. Expect rival female assassins, espionage overload, and Stranger Things’ David Harbour as Russia’s unlikely answer to Captain America.  

Fast and Furious 9

Release date: May 22

After letting Dwayne Johnson and Dwayne Johnson take the lead in sci-fi tinged spin-off Hobbs & Shaw, the turbo-charged franchise revs up again for the penultimate entry in the long-running saga. Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson and Nathalie Emmanuel are among the regular racers putting the pedal to the metal once again, while Charlize Theron is back to reprise her role as the villainous Cipher – this time without dreadlocks. Plot details are sketchy at the moment – aside from the fact it’ll involve cars – but we’ll find out more when the trailer drops on January 31.  

Artemis Fowl

Release date: May 29 

Originally due to land in August 2019 (until Disney’s Fox purchase prompted a massive reshuffle of their release schedule), author Eoin Colfer’s criminal kid genius makes his belated screen debut. Kenneth Branagh calls the shots, as the eponymous Artemis Fowl (newcomer Ferdia Shaw) negotiates parallel worlds of espionage and angry fairies, while embarking on a mission to track down his AWOL dad. It’s been a few years since the likes of The Hunger Games and Twilight made Young Adult franchises the hottest properties in Hollywood, so it’ll be intriguing to see how this one goes down… 

Wonder Woman 1984

Release date: June 5

The movie that proved DC can (occasionally) go toe-to-toe with Marvel gets an eagerly anticipated sequel. After the first movie’s World War One heroics, we rejoin Amazon princess Diana (Gal Gadot) in the mid-’80s as she faces off against new baddies Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), and media mogul Maxwell Lord, played by the man under The Mandalorian’s mask, Pedro Pascal. Much of the internet buzz, however, surrounds the mystery of how Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor – last seen dying in a heroically doomed plane in the first movie – has made it back in one piece for the sequel. Answers – and tearful reunions – should be heading our way in June…

Soul

Release date: June 19

When Pixar really wants to push the creative envelope, it generally turns to director Pete Docter. This is the guy who turned the stuff of nightmares into the cuddly Monsters, Inc, expertly navigated grief in Up, and literally got inside the human mind in Inside Out. The family-friendly existentialism continues with Soul, as a teacher/aspiring jazz pianist (voiced by Jamie Foxx) falls through a manhole, and winds up transported to a mysterious world where souls learn to be. Expect plenty of deep questions about pre-determination and the nature of self, all delivered with that trademark Pixar technical genius and wit.   

Top Gun: Maverick

Release date: June 26 (US), July 17 (UK)

Tom Cruise climbs back into a fighter jet cockpit for the first time since Top Gun made him the biggest star on the planet over 30 years ago. Resurrecting the most ’80s of movies in the cut and thrust of the 21st century marketplace is a gamble, even for Cruise, but the production team are doing everything they can to recapture the old magic – they’ve brought back synth legend Harold “Axel F” Faltermeyer on music duties. Plot wise, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is still an instructor at the Top Gun school, while one of his students (played by Whiplash’s Miles Teller) just happens to be the son of Mav’s late co-pilot, Goose. From what we’ve seen so far, Top Gun 2.0 looks certain to be one of the best-looking films of the year.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Release date: July 10

Ghostbusters meets Stranger Things – and not just because the cast features Finn Wolfhard, one of the young stars of Netflix’s nostalgic smash hit. The second update of the beloved ’80s spooky comedies – after 2016’s underrated female-led reboot – moves the action away from New York to Nowheresville USA, as a pair of kids stumble upon proton packs, Ecto-1 and other ghost-hunting paraphernalia. The fact it’s set in the same continuity as the original movies (with most of the surviving stars returning) will lend the project extra kudos points – as should director Jason Reitman being original Ghostbusters helmer Ivan Reitman’s son. 

Tenet

Release date: July 17

The list of filmmakers who get to spend hundreds of millions of dollars making a non-franchise movie is limited, but Christopher Nolan is one of them. Unfortunately for us, however, the Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar director makes Marvel look like blabbermouths when it comes to plots, so all we have to go on is Warner’s official line that it’s “an action epic evolving from the world of international espionage”. The above trailer, though, suggests something a lot more complicated, involving the afterlife…

Morbius

Having had a monster hit with Venom in 2018, Sony plunders Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery once again, with a movie focusing on one Michael Morbius. The so-called “living vampire” is a scientist who uses an experimental serum to cure a debilitating condition, and ends up turning himself into a vampire. Jared Leto, who has comic book movie form as the Joker, takes on the role of Morbius, alongside former Doctor Who star Matt Smith as Loxias Crown, a villain with the same bloodsucking affliction as the title star. Life director Daniel Espinosa calls the shots – a remarkable piece of synergy, seeing as Life was once rumored to be a Venom prequel.

Release date: July 31

(Image credit: MGM)

Bill & Ted Face the Music 

Release date: August 21

Two of the most righteous dudes in cinema make a long-awaited comeback, but life hasn’t gone quite the way they planned. Despite being destined to write the music that will inspire universal peace and harmony (as well as bringing mini-golf averages way down), the now-50-something Bill S Preston, Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan are still waiting to live the dream. Thankfully Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are both back to play Hollywood’s best air guitar duet – along with William Sadler as Death and original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon – so hopefully this will be more excellent than bogus. 

The King’s Man

Release date: September 16 (UK), September 18 (US)

After the fun action of Kingsman: The Secret Service, the franchise quickly went off the rails with the overblown The Golden Circle. There’s a lot riding on this third instalment, then, which may be why it’s gone in such a radical new direction, heading back to World War I to show the early days of top-secret, impeccably tailored spy organisation The Kingsmen. Ralph Fiennes is the M-type figure (shouldn’t be too much of a stretch…) who recruits Harris Dickinson’s Conrad to the club to combat an early 20th century brand of villainy. Sounds like a retro James Bond to us, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

(Image credit: Marvel)

The Eternals

Release date: November 6 

Featuring a bunch of barely known bunch a-holes running around in outer space, Guardians of the Galaxy looked like a big risk for Marvel back in 2014. The MCU has subsequently been so good at turning anything it touches to box-office gold, however, that nobody’s particularly concerned about The Eternals, despite it being a similarly unfamiliar property. The film marks a new level of scale even for Marvel, with a story of god-like beings (stars include Angelina Jolie) told across thousands of years. And as well as introducing us to a new facet of Marvel’s ever-expanding universe, The Eternals should give us our first proper glimpse at where Marvel’s post-Avengers: Endgame future is heading.  

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Godzilla vs Kong

Release date: November 20

So this is what Warner Bros’ MonsterVerse has been building towards, Batman V Superman in the world of giant, city-crushing creatures. In the culmination of stories started in Godzilla, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, we’re assuming that Kong isn’t going to be too thrilled about being subservient to the “alpha” Godzilla – and that human stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry are going to struggle to get a look in. Blair Witch and Death Note director Adam Wingard marshals the carnage.

Dune

Director Denis Villeneuve definitely isn’t afraid of a challenge. Having negotiated the tricksy timelines of Arrival and lived up to fan expectations with the brilliant Blade Runner 2049, he’s taking on Frank Herbert’s epic space opera – a book largely believed to be unfilmable. David Lynch had a go in 1984, of course, but you’d hope that with 21st century effects, Villeneuve’s storytelling skills, and an all-star cast – The King’s Timothée Chalamet is the heroic Paul Atreides, while Mission: Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson plays his mother, Lady Jessica – the new Dune might achieve the impossible.

Release date: December 18

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