25 films to watch in 2024

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Dune: Part 2 (Credit: Warner Bros)

With follow-ups to Gladiator, Alien, Inside Out, Mad Max and Beetlejuice, there are sequels galore in 2024.

The Taste of Things (Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment)

The Taste of Things (Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment)

1. The Taste of Things

Anyone with an appetite for “foodie films” should prepare to tuck into the most lavish of banquets. Trần Anh Hùng’s warm-hearted period drama is set in 1885 in the idyllic rural kitchen of Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel), the so-called “Napoleon of the culinary arts”. He spends his days preparing gourmet feasts for his friends and a few wealthy clients, with the invaluable help of a loyal cook, Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) – and long scenes are devoted to the step-by-step preparation of their mouth-watering dishes. The film also serves up a side order of tender romance. The pair have been happily in love for years, but Dodin may have to take his gastronomy to new heights if he is ever to persuade Eugénie to marry him. (NB)

Released on 9 February in the US and 16 February in the UK

Bob Marley: One Love (Credit: Paramount)

Bob Marley: One Love (Credit: Paramount)

2. Bob Marley: One Love

Authorised biopics never stop coming at us, with mixed results, but this has two strengths going in: Bob Marley’s classic reggae music and the film’s star, Kingsley Ben-Adir, who has been convincing in everything he has done, in roles as different as Malcolm X in One Night in Miami, and one of Barbie’s many Kens. The producers include Marley’s son, Ziggy, and his widow, Rita, played on screen by Lashana Lynch. Instead of cradle to grave, the story focuses on the years 1976-77, when Marley was politically active, trying to unify divided factions in Jamaica, and survived an assassination attempt, all while preparing for his huge One Love Peace Concert in 1978. The director, Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard), has said, “It was a period of great creative genius, but he was also dealing with a lot, including cancer”, which caused his death in 1981 when he was just 36. Ben-Adir plays and sings in the film, but the songs we hear are a combination of his voice and recordings of Marley himself. (CJ)

Released on 14 February

Perfect Days (Credit: Mastermind Ltd)

Perfect Days (Credit: Mastermind Ltd)

3. Perfect Days

A quiet character study of a middle-aged man who cleans public toilets in Tokyo? It may not sound like a must-see, but Perfect Days is a delightful return to form by Wim Wenders, the 77-year-old director of Paris, Texas and The Buena Vista Social Club. Its modest hero is Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho), who carries out his cleaning duties with the unwavering diligence of a monk. He lives the rest of his life in the same meticulous fashion, whether he is tending his plants or listening to his prized collection of classic rock cassettes. There isn’t much plot, but Wenders depicts Hirayama’s perfect days in such loving detail that they begin to fascinate the viewer as much as they evidently fascinate the director. (NB)

Released on 23 February in the UK

Dune: Part 2 (Credit: Warner Bros)

Dune: Part 2 (Credit: Warner Bros)

4. Dune: Part 2

Dune: Part 2 was on BBC Culture’s list of films to watch in 2023, but its release was pushed back due to the Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes. Still, nothing short of an attack by giant sandworms should stop it coming out in 2024. In case you’ve forgotten, 2021’s Dune: Part 1 was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and adapted from the first half of Frank Herbert’s monumental science-fiction novel. It finished with Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides joining Zendaya’s Chani and her Fremen tribespeople in the desert, and preparing to fight back against the loathsome Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). In Part 2, the already star-studded cast is augmented by Christopher Walken, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler (Elvis). Their epic battles on the planet of Arrakis are due to last 166 minutes – and if that’s not enough for you, Villeneuve has announced plans to turn the films into a trilogy, with Herbert’s second Dune novel being used as the basis of Dune: Part 3. (NB)

Released on 1 March

 

5. Mickey 17

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite was the first ever film in a non-English language to win the best picture prize at the Oscars, so the Korean director’s follow-up is one of the most feverishly anticipated films of 2024. Adapted from Edward Ashton’s novel, Mickey 17 is a darkly political science-fiction thriller in the vein of Bong’s last two films before Parasite: Okja and Snowpiercer. Robert Pattinson stars as Mickey, a cloned labourer on a spacecraft heading to a distant ice planet. When one Mickey dies, another is manufactured to replace him, with most of his predecessor’s memories intact. Eventually, one of the Mickeys questions why so many of his doppelgangers have died before him. Steven Yeun, Toni Colette and Mark Ruffalo co-star. (NB)

Released on 29 March

Back to Black (Credit: Studiocanal)

Back to Black (Credit: Studiocanal)

6. Back to Black

Nowhere Boy was an account of John Lennon’s teenage years directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and written by Matt Greenhalgh. Now Taylor-Johnson and Greenhalgh have reunited for another drama about an iconic British pop star, Amy Winehouse. They certainly won’t be short of material. Winehouse was one of the most influential vocalists and songwriters of her generation, but she was also prone to violence and addicted to drugs, and she died in 2011 at the age of 27. As much as she achieved in her short life, the question is whether Taylor-Johnson and Greenhalgh’s film can be anything other than a depressing experience. The cast is promising, anyway. Marisa Abela stars as Winehouse, alongside Jack O’Connell as her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, and Eddie Marsan and Lesley Manville as her parents. (NB)

Released on 12 April

Challengers (Credit: Alamy)

Challengers (Credit: Alamy)

7. Challengers

Luca Guadagnino’s (Call Me by Your Name) love triangle among tennis pros, with Zendaya, Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, was on the 2023 preview, until the SAG-AFTRA actors strike caused a delay and knocked the film out of the opening night slot of the Venice Film Festival last September. It’s still worth looking forward to, with Zendaya as Tashi, a former tennis champion now coaching her husband, Art (Faist), who is in a slump, and who is about to go into a low-stakes match with Patrick (O’Connor), her ex-boyfriend and his childhood friend. There are flashbacks to their younger days, when Tashi had to choose for the first time. “What Luca is really good at is finding sensuality,” Zendaya told Empire magazine, with O’Connor adding, “The tennis is the sex.” There may be off-court sex too, and probably more personal drama than tennis from these three actors with immense screen presence. (CJ)

Released on 26 April

Civil War (Credit: Alamy)

Civil War (Credit: Alamy)

8. Civil War

Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Men) excels at creating dystopias, and this action thriller set in the near future sounds scarily close to home for some of us. The US is in the midst of all-out civil war, with shooting in the streets after 19 states secede from the union. Kirsten Dunst plays a photojournalist who heads into the dangerous war zone of Washington, DC, where a colleague played by Stephen McKinley Henderson warns, “They shoot journalists on sight in the Capitol.” Cailee Spaeny (Priscilla) is in the cast along with Nick Offerman as the US president, who has sent the military out to attack rebellious cities. Garland must have an explanation for the fictional Western Forces that have real-life political opposites Texas and California allied together (as if). Otherwise, this fiction is sure to be talked about as warning or prophecy. (CJ)

Released on 26 April

The Fall Guy (Credit: Alamy)

The Fall Guy (Credit: Alamy)

9. The Fall Guy

Anyone who has seen the hilarious Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) will know that Ryan Gosling was funny years before he was Just Ken. In this action romcom inspired by the 1980s television series, Gosling plays Colt, a one-time stunt man, called back to work on a film directed by his ex, Jodie, played by Emily Blunt. Their can’t-live-with-you-or-without-you sparring picks up again. When the fictional film’s egomaniacal star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) goes missing, Colt is assigned to find the actor he once doubled for. The director, David Leitch (Bullet Train and Deadpool 2), was once the stunt double for stars including Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, so the film is a kind of homage to his former profession, but the cast guarantees that the comedy will dominate, with Hannah Waddingham as Jodie’s demanding producer and Stephanie Hsu as Ryder’s assistant. (CJ)

Released on 3 May

If (Credit: Paramount)

If (Credit: Paramount)

10. If

John Krasinski wrote and directed this family film about a young girl, Bea (Cayley Fleming), who can see IFs, imaginary friends, that other kids have left behind as they grew older. Ryan Reynolds plays a neighbour, called only The Man Upstairs, who shares her talent for seeing these abandoned creatures, all CGI’d with the voices of, it seems, every star John Kraskinski has ever met, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Matt Damon, Awkwafina, Jon Stewart and Steve Carell (as a giant, fuzzy purple IF named Blue). Bea and the neighbour friend set about trying to match the IFs with new children, which would seem to limit the new kids’ imaginations, but let’s not split hairs. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Krasinski created an online show called Some Good News, to bring  something cheerful to the world, and he has said about If, “I want this to be Some Good News in movie form.” (CJ)

Released on 17 May

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Credit: Warner Bros)

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Credit: Warner Bros)

11. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

In 2015, George Miller revived the Mad Max franchise, a full 30 years after the previous instalment, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The resulting film could have been a legacy-tarnishing let-down, as so many belated sequels are – yet Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t just acclaimed as the best of the series, but as one of the greatest action movies ever made. A further nine years on, Miller has directed another drag-racing spectacular set in the same post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland. This time it’s a prequel, with Anya Taylor-Joy as a younger version of Furiosa, the character played by Charlize Theron in Fury Road. Chris Hemsworth, barely recognisable under his prosthetic make-up, will be co-starring as the Warlord Dementus. As far as we know, Mad Max himself won’t be appearing, but let’s hope that we catch a glimpse of the most beloved character from Fury Road: the War Boy with a double-necked flamethrowing guitar. (NB)

Released on 23 May

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

12. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, which began in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, has been strong commercially and creatively, with involving plots and motion-capture technology that makes the apes seem human. This fourth instalment begins 300 years after the events of War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), which ended with the death of Caesar, the role that earned such praise for Andy Serkis. Now the apes are calmly dominating humans (maybe we were asking for it?), when an evil, power-hungry ruler who calls himself Proximus Caesar emerges. Owen Teague (It) has the lead motion-capture role as an idealistic ape, Noa, who along with a young feral woman named Mae (Freya Allen) defies Proximus. Wes Ball, of the Maze Runner trilogy, takes over from Matt Reeves as director. (CJ)

Released on 24 May

Inside Out 2 (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

Inside Out 2 (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

13. Inside Out 2

Disney had a rough year in 2023, with many of its most high-profile films crashing and burning, so the studio’s executives must be hoping that they can repeat the success of Pixar’s Oscar-winning Inside Out, the seventh highest grossing film of 2015. The sequel, directed by Kelsey Mann and written by Meg LeFauve, takes us back inside the mind of a girl named Riley. She is now a teenager, so the emotions from the first film – Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – are joined by a host of new ones. One of these is Anxiety (Maya Hawke), and the others are rumoured to be Embarrassment, Ennui and Envy. It’s slightly disturbing that the people at Pixar believe that our negative emotions greatly outnumber our positive ones, but maybe, after their difficult 2023, everyone in the company is beset by Anxiety, Embarrassment, Ennui and Envy themselves. (NB)

Released on 14 June

14. Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1

Kevin Costner’s role as a rancher in the hit series Yellowstone was hardly his first Western. He won an Oscar for directing Dances with Wolves (1990), which also won best picture. He returns to the Old West, and directed, co-wrote and stars in this epic two-part film set in the 1860s, during the period before and after the US Civil War. Sienna Miller and Sam Worthington are among the large cast of more than 170, with Luke Wilson, Jenna Malone and Danny Huston among them, in a story that explores how the West was settled. In the trailer, the vast landscape looks spectacular but it’s vague on the story’s details: Costner rides across an open range, turns and aims a gun at an unseen enemy. But he once reportedly said the film debunks myths about the West, so there’s that. And he’s obviously taking his time, because these films are the first of a projected four in the saga. (CJ)

Chapter 1 is released on 28 June, Chapter 2 is released on 16 August

15. A Quiet Place: Day One

Day One is a spinoff of the creepily effective horror franchise about alien monsters with supersensitive hearing who kill humans as soon as they hear a pin drop. Set before the timeline of A Quiet Place Parts One and Two, this story takes us back to the start of the invasion. Lupita Nyong’o is the heroine, who is in noisy New York City when the attacks begin. Alex Wolff, Denis O’Hare and Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things) are also in the cast, along with Djimon Hounsou. His character is the only one to return from the earlier films, where he was seen as the leader of an island community whose small population silently escaped the chaos. John Kraskinski, who directed the previous films, came up with the story for this one, written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, which sounds like a smart choice. Sarnoski made the sharp, intense, sensitive drama Pig (2021) starring Nicolas Cage. (CJ)

Released on 28 June

Deadpool 3 (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

Deadpool 3 (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

16. Deadpool 3

This instalment of Marvel’s comic-action franchise, with Ryan Reynolds as the scarred tongue-in-check superhero hiding behind his costume and his wise cracks, is officially still untitled, although the high concept is clear: Deadpool Meets Wolverine. Hugh Jackman, who had said he would not return to the role after the character died in Logan (2017), changed his mind and plays Wolverine in a story set before the events of that film. (Time is always a moving target in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) Deadpool and Wolverine apparently have a bickering, buddy-movie dynamic, which Jackman has described by saying, “He’s the fast-talking quick-worded loudmouth, and my character just wants to punch him in the head.” Spoken like a man who understands his character. Emma Corrin plays a seductive villain, and the director is Shawn Levy, of the Night at the Museum movies. This should be a better fit for Levy than the recent debacle of a drama All the Light We Cannot See. (CJ)

Released on 26 July

17. Alien: Romulus

There have already been eight Alien films, including the two Alien vs Predator crossovers, but their quality has plummeted several light years since Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986). The first film’s director, Ridley Scott, returned for the franchise’s two most recent instalments, Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017), but not even they could recapture the original spine-chilling magic. Can Fede Álvarez do a better job? The director of Don’t Breathe and The Girl in the Spider’s Web has promised a standalone monster movie that is set between the events of Alien and Aliens, and which has a new set of characters, unrelated to the ones we’ve seen before. Cailee Spaeny (Priscilla) stars as one of “a group of young people on a distant world” who, presumably, find a batch of very strange-looking eggs… (NB)

Released on 16 August

 

18. Beetlejuice 2

In 1988, Tim Burton’s supernatural comedy, Beetlejuice, introduced the world to Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), a sleazy undead “bio-exorcist” who is employed by two ghosts (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) to scare away their house’s new owners. He had a smaller role than some of the film’s other characters, and he ended up being the villain, but Keaton’s livewire charisma made him a cult anti-hero, and he has since cropped up in an animated TV series, a musical and several video games. Now at last he is back in a big-screen sequel, released a mere 36 years after the first film. Many of the original actors are back, too, including Keaton, Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara. More importantly, Burton is directing again. With any luck, he’ll utilise the practical puppetry that gave the first film its oddball charm, rather than replacing it with 21st-Century CGI. (NB)

Released on 6 September

 

19. Joker: Folie à Deux

There have been endless megabudget blockbusters about DC’s superheroes over the past decade, and yet the company’s most notable cinematic success was a gritty supervillain drama inspired by two Martin Scorsese films, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Co-written and directed by Todd Phillips, Joker told the story of a failed stand-up comedian, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), who reinvents himself as Batman’s arch enemy. It won two Oscars, including one for Phoenix, and it became a billion-dollar hit, the highest grossing film ever with an R rating. The sequel features Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn, the character played by Margot Robbie in the main DC universe films. And the word is that Joker: Folie à Deux is going to be a musical. That may sound like an absurd idea, but the first film sounded like an absurd idea, too, and who’s laughing now? (NB)

Released on 4 October

 

20. Paddington in Peru

Paddington 2 is a rare phenomenon: a sequel superior to the film that came before it. When it came out in 2017, it earnt one of the highest ever ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and it quickly gained a reputation as a new family classic. Seven years later, could the third film in the series reach an even higher standard? The nerve-racking thing is that the director of Paddington 2, Paul King, and his co-writer, Simon Farnaby, have been busy making Wonka, and so a new team has been put in place, including Dougal Wilson, a commercials director who is making his feature-film debut. It could go either way, then, but it should be fun to see Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) visiting his Aunt Lucy (voiced by Imelda Staunton) in the Home for Retired Bears in Peru, while the Brown family explores the Amazon rainforest with a guide played by Antonio Banderas. (NB)

Released on 8 November

 

21. Alto Knights

This crime story, set in the 1950s, chronicles the rivalry between the mobsters Frank Costello and Vito Genovese, a fight so intense that Genovese tried to have Costello killed. The trick is that Robert De Niro plays both characters. It may be a stunt, but I’m there for it. The title refers to a New York social club that was a mob hangout, but the working title was The Wise Guys, which sounds familiar for good reason. The screenplay is by Nicholas Pileggi, whose non-fiction book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family was the source for Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Barry Levinson (who made The Wizard of Lies, starring De Niro as Bernie Madoff) directs here, with a cast that includes Debra Messing as Costello’s wife, Bobbie, and Sopranos veteran Katherine Narducci as Genovese’s wife, Anna. (CJ)

Released on 15 November

22. Gladiator 2

Considering that the hero is killed at the end of Gladiator, making a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning swords-and-sandals saga was always going to be a tricky proposition: at one point, Nick Cave wrote a screenplay in which Russell Crowe’s Maximus is brought back from the dead by the Roman gods, and goes on to fight in every war for the next 2,000 years. Disappointingly, the makers of Gladiator 2 have chosen a more sensible approach. Directed again by Scott (now aged 86), the sequel is set roughly 15 years after Gladiator. Paul Mescal stars as Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) – and, it turns out, the secret son of Maximus himself. (NB)

Released on 22 November

 

23. Wicked Part 1

An entire generation has grown up, fanatical about the Broadway musical Wicked, since it opened in 2003. (It’s still running today.) Finally, the story shattering the myths about the witches of Oz will arrive on screen as one of the year’s most anticipated films, with Cynthia Erivo as the misunderstood, green-faced Elpheba and Ariana Grande as the fair-haired Glinda. Starting with their years in sorcery school, the film, directed by Jon M Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), has Michelle Yeoh as the headmistress, Mme Morrible, and Jeff Goldblum as the con-man Wizard. The adaptation, to be released in two parts, with the second scheduled for 2025, includes the Broadway songs, of course, along with new ones by the same composer, Stephen Schwartz. He has hinted that Part 1 ends where Act I of the Broadway show does, with Elphaba singing Defying Gravity, a song he says was “specifically written to bring a curtain down”. (CJ)

Released on 27 November

24. Mufasa: The Lion King

The unlikely choice of Barry Jenkins, the brilliant filmmaker behind Moonlight and The Underground Railroad, to direct this prequel could add a new artistic dimension to the foolproof story. A live-action musical, it depicts how Mufasa became one of the great kings of Pride Land, a story that Rafiki, Timon and Pumbaa (John Kani, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, all returning to voice those characters) tell Simba’s children. Aaron Pierre is the voice of the young Mufasa, and Kelvin Harrison Jr is Scar. Jenkins has said, “We assume he was just born into his lineage, but Mufasa was actually an orphaned cub who had to navigate the world alone.” James Laxton, the cinematographer who has worked on all Jenkins’s films, employs the photorealistic technology used in the 2019 remake of The Lion King. Composer Nicholas Brittell (who created the indelible Succession theme) adds to the soundtrack, along with still undisclosed music from Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams. (CJ)

Released on 20 December

25. Nosferatu

FW Murnau’s silent horror classic, Nosferatu, was the first great Dracula film, even though it didn’t have Dracula in it. Released in 1922, it was a largely faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, but Murnau changed the characters’ names, and gave “Count Orlok” a distinctive, bald-headed, rat-toothed look, so he stood apart from Dracula’s later incarnations. Werner Herzog remade Nosferatu in 1979 with Klaus Kinski. And now it’s been remade again by Robert Eggers, the director of The Witch, The Lighthouse and The Northman. Bill Skarsgård, who played the demonic clown in It, stars as Orlok. Nicholas Hoult plays the film’s Jonathan Harker equivalent, just a year after he played Dracula’s assistant in Renfield. And the Van Helsing substitute is played by Willem Dafoe, who was once in a film about the making of the original Nosferatu, Shadow of the Vampire. There’s plenty there for Dracula fans to get their teeth into. (NB)

Released on 24 December

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