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The Most Anticipated Movies of 2018

The coming year has more than just blockbusters to offer. Here are the movies a dozen Variety critics from around the world are most looking forward to.

Variety polled its international team of critics, asking which films they were most looking forward to in the coming year. The results are diverse, ranging from likely blockbusters to potential Palme d’Or winners, although you won’t find a single comic-book movie on this list.

“Annihilation” (Feb. 23)
Alex Garland follows his hit debut “Ex Machina” with a brainy horror movie about an all-female team of explorers who venture into a deadly environmental disaster zone. Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s award-winning trilogy, the nature thriller stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and an iridescent mist that gives the air the sinister shimmer of an oil slick. — Amy Nicholson

“Black Klansman”
For many, the pinnacle of Spike Lee’s career to date remains 1992’s epic biopic “Malcolm X.” A quarter-century later, he returns to fact-based drama with the incredible story of Ron Stallworth (played by Denzel’s son John David Washington), an African-American police detective who managed to infiltrate a Colorado Ku Klux Klan chapter — even getting appointed its leader. With Jordan Peele on board as a producer, this should be Lee’s most scorchingly relevant joint in some time. — Dennis Harvey

Bohemian Rhapsody” (Dec. 25)
I’ve been waiting for years to see a musical drama about Queen and the tumultuous life and reckless passion of their lead singer, Freddie Mercury. But director Bryan Singer unleashed a rash of headlines by getting fired off the project, with just over two weeks of shooting to go, and he was then accused of rape. The film’s future suddenly looks murky: Will it see the light of day? And, if so, will Singer’s name be on the project? It’s too early to tell, but the movie could still prove to be an ecstatic rock biopic. The wild card is Rami Malek (from “Mr. Robot”), who plays Mercury: Will he nail that sublime flamboyance from hell? Owen Gleiberman

Popular on Variety

“Boy Erased” (Sept. 28)
In his 2015 suspense film “The Gift,” the actor Joel Edgerton proved to be a filmmaker of shrewd and stunning talent. For his second feature as a director, he turns to a subject that begs to be treated with dramatic honesty: the moral travesty that is “conversion therapy.” Based on Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir, the film stars Lucas Hedges, the great young actor from “Manchester by the Sea” and “Lady Bird,” as the gay son of a Baptist pastor (Russell Crowe) in small-town Arkansas. Nicole Kidman plays his mother, and Edgerton is the conversion therapist against whom Conley gradually goes to war. Owen Gleiberman

“Burning”
While his name may not be as well known in the U.S. as Bong Joon Ho and Park Chan-wook, South Korean director Lee Chang-dong is a profound humanist (see “Secret Sunshine”) working in a country known for its innovative artifice. It’s been a long seven years since Lee’s previous feature, “Poetry.” Expect his latest, adapted from a New Yorker short story by sometime-surrealist Haruki Murakami, to premiere at Cannes. — Peter Debruge

“Everybody Knows”
There are certain filmmakers who, when they say they’re going to make a “thriller,” mean that they’re going to find the psychological shivers in reality. That’s the anticipation one has for the first thriller directed by Iran’s Asghar Farhadi. Coming off a trio of brilliant films (“A Separation,” “The Past” and “The Salesman”), all centered on characters from Iran, Farhadi now travels to Spain to tell the story of a woman, played by Penélope Cruz, who returns to her hometown and confronts a series of strange events. The costars are Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darín. Owen Gleiberman

“First Man” (Oct. 12)
Damien Chazelle’s first feature after “La La Land” would be a breathlessly awaited event even if he wasn’t literally shooting the moon. It’s an epic docudrama, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, that chronicles the entire history of the space race, starting in 1961 and culminating in Armstrong’s July 21, 1969, walk on the lunar surface. Timed to anticipate the 50th anniversary of that globe-altering event, the movie has the chance to be a stirring and visionary reminder of what America could once do. — Owen Gleiberman

“Halloween”/“Suspiria” (Oct. 19/TBD)
Under most circumstances, the ravaging of classic horror properties for modern remakes would raise an immediate red flag, but two ’70s standard-bearers have fallen into the right hands. Directors David Gordon Green and Luca Guadagnino both did excellent work in 2017 with “Stronger” and “Call Me by Your Name,” respectively, and their sensibilities are well-suited to genre revivals. Green’s “Halloween” will likely forego the revisionist shocks of the Rob Zombie reboots in favor of a more faithful evocation of the original, and Guadagnino’s florid sensuality is perfect for “Suspiria,” to say nothing of Tilda Swinton in the Joan Bennett role. — Scott Tobias

“High Life”
The irresistible combination of director Claire Denis and sci-fi in a story about a group of convicts on a no-return exploration into space is already exciting enough. Add an intriguing cast headed by Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, plus Icelandic-Danish sculptor Olafur Eliasson’s designs for the black hole, and cinephile’s expectations for Denis’ first English-language film are literally sky-high. — Jay Weissberg

“Hotel Mumbai”
Bringing the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai to the screen would be a huge challenge for any first-time director, though Aussie Anthony Maras (recently named one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch”) enlisted a starry cast that includes Dev Patel, Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs for the project. Here’s hoping it delivers on the promise of his outstanding 2011 short film “The Palace” (an action-drama set during the 1974 conflict in Cyprus). — Richard Kuipers

Isle of Dogs” (March 23)
Following a relatively mediocre year for big-studio animation, 2018 brings cause for hope: Aardman’s “Early Man,” Pixar’s “The Incredibles 2” and China’s beyond-gorgeous “Big Fish and Begonia” (already a record-setting phenomenon back home). The most eccentric of the lot will undoubtedly be Wes Anderson’s return to the world of stop-motion (following “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), in which talking canines are banished to their own island. — Peter Debruge

“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”
The setbacks that “Time Bandits” director Terry Gilliam has faced on this project are so epic, they spawned a feature-length documentary, “Lost in La Mancha.” Enter Amazon Studios, which saw the potential of applying cinema’s preeminent magical realist to this imaginative retelling of Cervantes’ novel. Barring any unforeseen complications, Gilliam’s fans will finally have a chance to see what promises to be the director’s magnum opus. — Peter Debruge

“Ready Player One” (March 30)
Until now, “Wreck-It Ralph” is the closest Hollywood has come to making a great video game movie. Because hope springs eternal, however, 2018 brings “Rampage” and a “Tomb Raider” reboot, which both look pretty pro forma. Still, there’s potential in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi scavenger-hunt novel, which imagines an elaborate virtual-reality gaming environment the director has populated with fan-favorite characters, from Freddy Krueger to the Iron Giant. — Peter Debruge

“Red Sparrow” (March 2)
We’re entering the “try everything” phase of Jennifer Lawrence’s career, and it’s quite a ride. She’s flexing her artsy muscles with Darren Aronofsky and Luca Guadagnino, but is also expanding her multiplex range in this sleek, classily cast espionage thriller from her “Hunger Games” director (and expert hokum merchant) Francis Lawrence. J.Law as a Russian ballerina turned undercover intelligence agent? It’s not obvious, and I’m in. — Guy Lodge

“Roma”
In his first film since “Gravity” (yes, four years ago), director Alfonso Cuarón tells the multi-stranded story of a middle-class family in Mexico City during the early 1970s. It’s the first film the director has set in his country of origin since “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001), and it promises to be a portrait at once intimate and teeming. Owen Gleiberman

“Shadow”
Zhang Yimou’s upcoming costume epic depicts the relationship between an exiled king and his general, as they plot to take back their realm. Starring actor-director Deng Chao (“The Mermaid”), one of the most bankable actors in China, “Shadow” supposedly boasts an aesthetic inspired by Chinese ink wash painting, promising a return to more lyrical form after “The Great Wall.” — Maggie Lee

“The Sisters Brothers”
For his first English-language feature, French director Jacques Audiard (Oscar nominated for “A Prophet”) attempts a darkly comical take on that most American of movie genres, the Western, in his adaptation of the novel by Canadian author Patrick deWitt. Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly star as gunmen ordered by their fearsome boss (Rutger Hauer) to kill a troublesome prospector (Jake Gyllenhaal) in 1850s San Francisco. Nothing goes according to plan. — Joe Leydon

“Sunset”
After galvanizing Cannes and going on to win the foreign language Oscar with his debut “Son Of Saul,” Hungarian director Laszló Nemes set a high bar for his second feature. Although not much is known about “Sunset,” the portents look promising. It’s another period piece, set in pre-WWI Budapest. And important “Saul” collaborators such as co-writer Clara Royer, DP Mátyás Erdély and producers Gábor Rajna and Gábor Sipos are on board. — Alissa Simon

“Widows” (Nov. 18)
Next year, “Ocean’s 8” isn’t the only female-led heist movie to look forward to. Boasting an equally impressive cast — plus an Oscar-winning director in Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), who co-wrote with “Gone Girl” scribe Gillian Flynn — this update of the 1983 British TV miniseries about four women who choose to finish the heist that killed their husbands unites Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo. — Nick Schager

A Wrinkle in Time” (March 9)
With so few women being handed the reins of blockbuster franchise movies, there’s reason to celebrate the faith Disney put in director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) and screenwriter Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”) to adapt Madeline L’Engle’s visionary fantasy novel — starring none other than Oprah! While the rest of Hollywood takes baby steps, Disney is making giant strides in the right direction, having also tapped Niki Caro to helm its live-action “Mulan” remake. — Peter Debruge

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