james debate
james debate

Sunday 25 February 2024

Hello and welcome back to 2024's final post from the Hot List. This week we will be looking at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2024, after the cutoff point for this year's awards season.

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Cinema is a funny medium. More so than with other forms of art, you can predict with surprising accuracy how good a particular project is likely to be, sometimes even before a single frame has been seen. Take my 2023 Hot List, for example. Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Rustin, Spiderverse, Past Lives, The Killer, The Holdovers, all movies contesting awards this year. This wasn't an aberration, you can see this in any of my previous previews. Why is this the case? Perhaps due to the collaborative nature of the medium. A good novelist or songwriter can sometimes have an off-day, but for a film to fail requires the director, writer, producer and cast to all have off-days, which is much less likely where good talent is involved.

But 2024 is looking to be an unpredictable year. Unlike in previous years, the big hitters are less obvious (with one clear exception). There are a great many projects that on paper look like they could be a hit, but few with the kind of ironclad proven pedigree that I would go so far as to call them a sure thing. That's not to say that this is not going to be a good year in film. On the contrary, it means the year is wide open for new filmmakers and risk-takers to make their mark. There are a number of projects for which I am very excited, and I am thrilled to share those with you now.

So without further delay, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. Bird

bird andrea arnold barry keoghan best most anticipated film movie 2024First up we have Bird, the upcoming drama film directed by Andrea Arnold, marking her first narrative feature since 2016's American Honey, having more recently worked on the acclaimed TV series Transparent and Big Little Lies

This film stars Barry Keoghan, one of the industry's most buzzworthy actors today. Keoghan is on an incredible run these past few years, having delivered awards-contesting roles in The Banshees of Inisherin and Saltburn. Could Bird be the film that bags Keoghan the big prize?

The film explores themes resonant with Arnold's signature focus on the fringes of society, shot across various locations in the south of England, including Gravesend, Dartford, Ashford, Bean, Kent, and the Isle of Sheppey. The plot remains under wraps, but the combination of Arnold's celebrated directorial approach and the leading actors' rising profiles promises a compelling cinematic experience. A release date has yet to be announced, but this is expected to hit the festival circuit later in 2024.

Release Date: TBA 2024

14. Joker: Folie à Deux

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The first Joker film was something of an odd concept. A classic, comic book villain origin story, presented in a style more reminiscent of a gritty Scorsese psychological crime thriller. It's fair to say it was met with a polarizing response. People either loved it or hated it, perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the film would go on to garner an astonishing 11 Academy Award nominations (and 2 wins), despite a meagre 69% Rotten Tomatoes score. 

It was also supposed to be a one-off experiment, with no connection to a broader cinematic universe (as was the style at the time) or sequel. Yet here we are, 2024, and an unlikely sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux is incoming. Joaquin Phoenix reprises his Oscar winning role, joined by Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn, as well as the greats Steve Coogan and Brendan Gleeson. It's also apparently a musical... yeah.

If you enjoyed the first Joker and its bizarre combination of genres and sensibilities, then this looks to be right up your alley. But if you were one of those who didn't quite know what to make of the original, it's safe to say this won't convert you.

Release Date: October 2024

13. Gladiator II

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On the subject of unexpected sequels, Gladiator II. Yes, you heard that right, Ridley Scott has decided to make a sequel to his 24 year old classic, despite the notable handicap of everyone in the first film being dead by the ending credits. But don't worry, this isn't a Roman zombie apocalypse (although I'd watch that), it's a tale of the hitherto unknown illegitimate son of the first film's protagonist, on a journey to learn the truth about his biological father. 

It sounds like a terrible idea, but the return of Ridley brings legitimacy, as does the casting of Paul Mescal, one of Hollywood's most exciting young actors. Mescal is joined by an excellent cast that includes Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, and Derek Jacobi.

The studios clearly have high hopes for this continuation of the Gladiator saga, and have chosen a plum November release date, with the clear intention of mounting an awards campaign.

Release Date: November 2024

12. Civil War

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Alex Garland is a name that demands attention. The acclaimed speculative fiction author of The BeachThe Tesseract, 28 Days Later, more recently turned successful film director with Ex Machina and Annihilation. His newest film, Civil War, hits a little closer to home.

This is a dystopian action film starring Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Nick Offerman. Set in a near-future America engulfed by a Second Civil War, the film follows journalists navigating through a nation divided between the government and separatist "Western Forces." 

Civil War is slated for a premiere at South by Southwest on March 14, 2024, and a theatrical release on April 12, 2024

Release Date: April 2024

11. Conclave

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Here's one with some real award winning potential. Conclave is the latest from German-Austrian filmmaker Edward Berger, who took the industry by storm in 2022 with All Quiet on the Western Front. That film was met with widespread critical acclaim, but came a little bit too much out of nowhere to really contend for the big prizes. Now Berger is no longer an unknown quantity, and the expectation will be there.

Based on the Robert Harris novel of the same name, this film follows Cardinal Lomeli, played by Ralph Fiennes, as he seeks a successor for the deceased Pope, uncovering a secret in the process. The cast includes John Lithgow, Stanley Tucci, and Isabella Rossellini.

Release date is still TBA, with distribution rights only having been confirmed at the end of 2023. But this is expected to release during the peak awards season of 2024.

Release Date: TBA 2024

10. We Live in Time

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We Live in Time is an upcoming romantic film from director John Crowley, best known as the award winning director of Brooklyn. His latest is a collaboration with writer Nick Payne, one of the great playwrights of the past ten years, known particularly for the brilliant, award-nominated productions Constellations and Elegy.

Little is known of the plot, other than this is a love story featuring a strong cast headed by Florence Pugh and Andrew Garfield. This is one of those projects where the sheer weight of talent tells you that it will be something worth watching. In particular, seeing Payne continue to expand his work in cinema makes for a tantalising prospect.

Release date is to be announced, but it is expected that this will be hitting the various film festivals this summer, with a wider release in the second half of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2024

9. Inside Out 2

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Something a bit on the lighter side, we have a sequel to what is perhaps Pixar's greatest film, Inside Out 2. The first film was a brilliant, funny, deceptively insightful metaphor for the internal struggle of growing up, acclaimed by many to be among the greatest animated films ever made. The sequel will follow where that film left off, charting the next stage in life, with whole new emotions and struggles to master. 

The cast sees Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black return, while Tony Hale and Maya Hawke join the crew. Pete Docter no longer directs, but is replaced by newcomer Kelsey Mann. Pixar has an excellent track record of giving directorial debuts to its behind the scenes crew, we'll see if Mann marks the next of these success stories.

Inside Out 2 will release this summer.

Release Date: June 2024
Unexpected sequels seems to be a bit of a recurring theme in 2024 (who says originality is dead?). Next on this list we have Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, a long-awaited fourth entry in the classic Beverly Hills Cop franchise, last seen some thirty years ago in 1994.

Eddie Murphy, of course, returns in the title role. He is joined by previous co-stars Judge Reinhold and Paul Reiser, while Taylor Paige and Joseph Gordon Levitt join the cast as newcomers.

While it would be easy to be dismissive of this project, especially after Murphy's recent lacklustre return to Coming to America, who cares. Beverly Hills Cop is awesome, and I'm looking forward to seeing this.

Release Date: July 2024

7. Dune: Part Two

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A more expected sequel. The sprawling literary series of Dune has long held a reputation as unfilmable, at least over the duration of a film (a miniseries came pretty close). So when Legendary Studios committed the cash for a big budget, multi-part epic adaptation that may never have even seen completion had the first installment not been a success, it was one heck of a gamble.

Yet, against the odds and under the expert stewardship of Denis VilleneuveDune: Part One was a critical and commercial success. Its success means that we will get that second half to the story, with Dune: Part Two

Dune: Part Two will feature the same creative team and cast of the first film, following Timothée Chalamet's Atreides' thirst for revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family, and a greater focus on Zendaya's Chani, seen only briefly in the first film, as her group of Fremen collaborate with Atreides in this quest

The first film was an epic adventure that I can't wait to see concluded. Who knows where the series will go from there. There have been rumours of a third film and Legendary is said to be working on a TV spin off.

Release Date: March 2024

6. The Apprentice

the apprentice trump ali abbasi sebastian stan jeremy strong gabriel sherman best films movies 2024This next one is tasty, for a number of reasons. The Apprentice is a biographical film about Donald Trump. But, wisely, it avoids his recent political history, focusing instead on a young Trump, his relationship with his father, and his burgeoning career in the 1970s and 1980s.  

Sebastian Stan will portray Trump, joined by Jeremy Strong and Academy Award nominee Maria Bakalova.

I am generally wary of films with a political connection released during an election year. What makes this one stand out is the creative talent behind it. This is the debut western production of director Ali Abbasi, a hotly tipped Iranian filmmaker whose filmography to date has garnered numerous awards on the international films circuit, including Cannes, Palm Springs and the European Film Awards. It's being written by Gabriel Sherman, the writer behind the brilliant Roger Ailes expose and its Golden Globe winning miniseries, The Loudest Voice.

The concept and cast is strong, but the talent behind this hints at a genuinely hard-hitting political film. One that is likely to generate a lot of buzz when it releases.

Release Date: TBA 2024

5. Nosferatu

nosferatu dracula vampire bill skarsgard robert eggers willem dafoe best films movies 2024Nosferatu is a gothic horror film directed by Robert Eggers, featuring Bill Skarsgård as Count Orlok. This American production, a remake of the 1922 German Expressionist classic, itself an unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

As with the original film, Nosferatu explores a tale of obsession and horror between a young woman and a vampire. The cast includes Nicholas Hoult, Lily-Rose Depp, and Willem Dafoe

Eggers has been quietly building a track record for edgy, critically acclaimed films, with the likes of The Witch, The Lighthouse and The Northman to his name. Nosferatu marks his biggest production to date, one with the potential to take his star to the next level.

Filming took place in Prague and Romania, capturing the film's 19th-century Romanticism. It's set for release on December 25, 2024, by Focus Features in the US and Universal Pictures internationally.

Release Date: December 2024

4. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

ghostbusters 4 sequel frozen empire paul rudd finn wolfhard bill murray dan aykroyd  rick moranis sigourney weaver grace mckenna best films movies 2024Ghostbusters fans are eating good. After a few decades of waiting for a true sequel to 1989's Ghostbusters II, we are getting a fourth entry in the series just three years after the excellent Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

This new entry, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire appears to be swinging for the fences. Its predecessor seemed to be testing the waters, trying out a new cast of characters, while retaining enough of the old and enough (in truth, gratuitous) nods to nostalgia to ensure a profitable return. Following the commercial and critical success of Afterlife, it now seems that the studio has the confidence to go big.

The cast of Afterlife returns, but so too are members of the original film cast. These classic characters appear set for a larger role this time around, having been given more of a surprise cameo role in Afterlife. What follows is, otherwise, a wholly original story, as opposed to Afterlife's rehash of old villains and plotlines. I don't know how they finally convinced Bill Murray to do this, but I am very excited about it.

Release Date: March 2024

3. Here

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An adaptation of the Richard McGuire graphic novel, Here is an upcoming drama directed by Robert Zemeckis, covering the events of a single room and its inhabitants over many years, from the past to the distant future.

Here reunites the creative team behind classic film Forrest Gump, with writer Eric Roth and stars Tom Hanks and Robin Wright all on board. The wider cast also includes the likes of Paul Bettany. The film is said to use new generative artificial intelligence to face-swap and de-age actors.

Scheduled for a 2024 release by Sony Pictures Releasing. Zemeckis is generally good value, even if it's been a while since he has blown us away with one of his films. Perhaps Here will mark his return to form​.

Release Date: TBA 2024

2. Kinds of Kindness

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This one is pretty simple. The Academy loves Yorgos Lanthimos. His last two films, The Favourite and Poor Things were up for, and won, Academy Awards, yet the biggest prizes have so far alluded him. Expect a narrative to form that Kinds of Kindness could be the one that finally gets his due. 

As for the film itself. Much of the plot is under wraps, but is said to be an anthology of stories set in contemporary America. It features an ensemble cast that includes Lanthimos frequent collaborator (and congratulations on your next Oscar, Emma) Emma Stone, along with Jesse Plemons and Willem Dafoe, evidently very busy actors who have already been featured on this list. 

An exact release date is yet to be revealed, but this is in late post-production and expected to release sometime in 2024.

Release Date: TBA 2024

1. Blitz

best films movies 2024 blitz steve mcqueen saoirse ronanBut my number one pick for the year is the upcoming World War II drama, Blitz by Steve McQueen. Hollywood loves a good World War II drama, and Steve McQueen is one of the darlings of the industry, having previously won the Best Director Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, becoming the first black filmmaker ever to do so. 

As the name suggests, his latest is about Londoners during the Blitz, with an ensemble cast that features Saoirse Ronan, Harris Dickinson, Stephen Graham, and, interestingly, musicians Paul Weller and Benjamin Clementine.

This is an Apple production, a studio with some pedigree now, and a burgeoning reputation for delivering awards calibre films. The release date is to be confirmed, but expected to be in the latter half of the year when the awards season gets underway.

Release Date: TBA 2024

So there you have it folks: The 2024 Hot List. I will be back with many more articles in due course, but for now let's make 2024 a great year together.

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