The Star Wars hype is barely dying down (fourth time’s the charm) but already we’re looking forward to everything 2016 is going to bring. The biggest trend? Superheroes, superheroes, and more superheroes. (Oh, and even more Star Wars.) But that’s not all! This year will also see the long-awaited and potentially transformative arrival of consumer VR, the return of Harry Potter, and maybe even the new Game Of Thrones novel. Here’s 39 things to put in your calendar.
The Danish Girl
2015 was a landmark year for the portrayal of transgender people in culture, and in 2016 that’ll pick right up again with The Danish Girl. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables), the film follows the true story of Lile Elbe, one of the first people to have undergone sex reassignment. Look out for Eddie Redmayne, likely to pull a second straight Oscar nomination, and Alicia Vikander, who is pulling great reviews after her creepy AI turn in Ex Machina. 1 January
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s follow up to Birdman is already something of a Hollywood legend, so fraught with peril was its filming. The film follows an American fur trapper (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the 1820s on an epic survival trek. Expect more astonishing camera trickery from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and some epic performances — is this the one that finally wins Leo that Oscar? January 15
The Hateful Eight
What better way to kick off the new year than new Tarantino? A completely different take on the Western than Django Unchained, be sure that it contains all of the Tarantino staples: from the machete-sharp dialogue to a cast of dependable old favourites. And of course: you’ll want to see the 70mm print, on film, in full (which, at full length, reportedly includes its own intermission). Want to find somewhere playing it? Click here. 8 January
Tom McCarthy’s true story of how the Boston Globe’s investigations team uncovered decades of sexual abuses by priests around Boston in the early 2000s is one of the best films about journalism since All The President’s Men. With the help of an outstanding cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams), McCarthy turns the act of reporting into a thriller. Expect to be seeing a lot of it during awards season. 29 January
Batman v Superman – Dawn Of Justice & Suicide Squad
It’s the titanic clash of heroes we’ve all been waiting for — no, not Kal-El vs Bruce Wayne, Marvel vs DC Comics. Zack Snyder’sMan Of Steel sequel kicks off DC’s attempt at a cinematic universe to rival the Avengers, with Dawn Of Justice (25 March) the start of the build up to a confirmed Justice League movie. As such, expect involvement from not just Wonder Woman but Aquaman (and maybe the Flash and Cyborg too). The trailers look promising — with strong visual nods to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns — and with Ben Affleck as a muscular, tech-heavy take on the caped crusader.
But that’s not all: Affleck will then go on to cameo in the first of DC’s spin-off films, Suicide Squad (5 August), which boasts a star-studded cast (Will Smith, Margot Robbie) and a very, very different take on the Joker (a silver-toothed and tattooed Jared Leto).
Captain America: Civil War
2016: the year of super-squabbles. Marvel’s latest looks to be a game-changer for the MCU, as Captain America takes on Tony Stark in an adaptation of one of the best-known comic storylines. On team Cap: the Winter Soldier, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man and Hawkeye. On team Iron Man: War Machine, Scarlet Witch, the new addition of Black Panther. There’s lots we’ve not even seen yet — Daniel Bruhl as big-bad Baron Zemo or Spider-Man for example — but directors Joe and Anthony Russo have assured that it’ll mean big changes for the MCU. Could Marvel finally be about to kill off an Avenger? 29 April
Deadpool & X-Men Apocalypse & Doctor Strange
Could 2016 finally be the year that audiences tire of superhero franchises? Maybe: with no less than six major releases next year, that’s one every eight weeks. But still, there’s plenty to get fans excited. First up is Deadpool (4 February), Ryan Reynolds’ labour of love after the tragedy that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. After years in development, the first trailer has everything that fans would want from the Merc With The Mouth (crude jokes, ass-kicking, breaking the fourth wall).
Then there’s X-Men: Apocalypse (19 May). We’ll be honest: we’re not even sure what is going on with the X-timelines any more (X-Men 3 didn’t happen now, right?), but Apocalypse promises a return to the full roster, with Cyclops, Jean Gray (Game Of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), Storm and more joining to fend off one of the comic books’ most iconic villains (The Force Awakens’ Oscar Isaac, in a whole lot of purple makeup).
Finally, just when Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man made you think Marvel couldn’t get any weirder, comes Doctor Strange(28 October). Just as Ant-Man introduced us to the microverse, expect Strange to introduce even crazier concepts, alternate dimensions and mysticism. The cast is surprisingly outstanding for a comparatively niche title (Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor), and let’s be honest — with Benedict Cumberbatch’s legions of fans guaranteed to see it, there’s no way this won’t be a hit.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther
The final coup de grace in 2016’s stacked comic-book-related schedule? A new outing for T’Challa — ahead of his appearance in Civil War and standalone movie in 2017 — written by acclaimed American essayist, author (and 2016 MacArthur Grant winner) Ta-Nehisi Coates. Expected April
The Ghostbusters reboot
Ordinarily we’d be skeptical of yet another retooling of a beloved 80s film franchise, but there’s plenty to love about the Ghostbusters reboot. First of all, it’s from Paul Feig — the nattily-dressed director of Freaks & Geeks,Bridesmaids, and last year’s criminally overlooked Spy. Then there’s the all-female cast, plus rumoured appearances by Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Ernie Hudson from the original lineup. (Hey Feig, don’t you know never to cross the streams?) 15 July
Two names: Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter. That should be enough to get you hyped for HBO’s upcoming 70s set rock n’ roll drama. (If that’s not enough, Mick Jagger is an executive producer.) Vinyl ticks all the Scorsese boxes: a charming if downright despicable anti-hero (Bobby Cannavale)? Check. A New York period setting? Check. Mountains of drugs? Check. February on Sky Atlantic
The return of Mr Robot
Finally, a show that gets technology mostly right. Mr Robot was maybe our favourite new show for 2015. As for what to expect for season two? “We’re about to watch Rome burn. That’s the world Elliot’s going to enter next season,” creator Mark Esmail told The Hollywood Reporter. Summer 2016
Game Of Thrones
We’re now in uncharted territory: with no Winds Of Winter yet,Game Of Thrones’ sixth season is all-new storylines. Is Jon Snow really dead? (Given the spoiler-y posters, our guess is a very cautious no.) What’s up with Daenerys, now she’s stranded with a bunch of Dothraki? And finally we’ll get to find out: what’s up with Bran in the roots of that tree? April 2016
The Winds Of Winter, finally
Speaking of Game Of Thrones: could 2016 finally be the year we get George R.R. Martin’s next installment of A Song Of Ice And Fire? The signs from Martin’s publishers are good — and with the show now breaking new ground, he won’t want to be left behind. I mean come on George, you’ve posted half the chapters online already, quit with the many, many spin-off books and get back to work. TBC 2016
Add this to the pile of ‘formerly beloved franchises getting a reboot in 2016’. Mulder and Scully — not to mention creator Chris Carter — will finally be coming back for a special six episode miniseries. Tin foil hats and best theme-tune whistle at the ready. January 2016
Top Gear’s return & Clarkson’s Amazon rival
The biggest British TV story of 2015: Jeremy Clarkson and co’s ouster from Top Gear, and their imminent comeback. With Chris Evans as its new host, the returning Top Gear (May) will be almost unrecognisable — even if it will no-doubt look to capitalise on its success. Then there’s Clarkson, May and Hammond’s new car show (tbc 2016) — perhaps Amazon’s biggest opportunity to bring on board subscribers to its Fire TV service, whose original programming has so far been mixed. Gentlemen, start your engines. (Oh, and maybe hire some women presenters?)
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The final outing in the Uncharted series has had a troubled development — with both development staff and voice actors leaving the project. But, after seeing development taken over by the team behind The Last Of Us, it’s fair to say A Thief’s End is in good hands. The addition of player-controlled dialogue toUncharted’s typical cinematic gameplay makes this look like a fitting end. (Even if we all know it’s too big a franchise not to get rebooted at some point — let’s be honest.) 27 April
The arrival of Virtual Reality
2016 has the potential to transform culture as we know it, with the final and long-awaited consumer arrival of VR. Yes, there’s already Google Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR, but the release of Oculus Rift, Sony’s Playstation VR and the HTC Vive will let ordinary consumers experience the new medium’s often astonishing capabilities, from VR cinema to insanely immersive gaming. Our highlights so far? Solfar’s Everest VR, Crytek’s The Climb, and Media Molecule’sDreams. There’s plenty of challenges still to overcome, not least movement tracking (if Xbox couldn’t make the Kinect work, who has space for a Vive’s ?) But one thing is certain: if it takes off, it could have major impact for how we tell stories, play games, and even more exciting and innovative real-world applications besides. Spring 2016
The world’s first VR theme park
One of virtual reality’s biggest questions: how will we consume it? Google Cardboard is great, but for its true potential one needs space to move around in, and multiple inputs — try Visualise’s The Cell experience. One solution? Bring back the arcade, starting with The Void in Utah, which promises to be the world’s first VR theme park. May 2016
Kanye West’s Swish (maybe)
Sure, West has been promising his latest effort — currently titled Swish — for a while. But having already released some tracks from it in 2015 (“Only One”, “All Day”), the signs are that in 2016 it’ll be finally ready. Or maybe Swish will be Kanye’s Detox.TBC
Frank Ocean’s second album
There’s no surprise why we’re excited for this one: Ocean’s 2012 debut Channel Orange was a modern masterpiece, with its impact felt in new releases by everyone from The Weeknd to Justin Bieber. So with a new album confirmed for spring 2016, expect the impact to be huge. Spring 2016
David Bowie’s Black Star
Bowie might have retired from performing live, but that isn’t stopping him from putting out a 25th studio album in January. Check out the opening single “Blackstar” for hints at what to expect. 9 January
A new Radiohead album
After dropping their unsuccessful title track for Spectre on Christmas Day, Radiohead are back with a new album — and potentially a full live tour. Just don’t expect to see it on Spotify.TBC
After a couple of delays, Campo Santo’s stunning title — with artwork by illustrator Olly Moss — comes to PC and consoles. Check out the story of its creation here. February
No Man’s Sky
Can you remember the last time an original game caused as much hype as No Man’s Sky? Hello Games massive (up to 18 quintillion planets) programmatically generated space exploration game will finally see the light of day this summer. The game is undoubtedly beautiful, both in its artistry and sheer scope, but will the mechanics be able to match up to its galactic ambitions? June 2016
2016 might be the year Kickstarted games come good. Among our most anticipated: the new title from the creators of Banjo Kazooie. The game — a return to old-school platforming, starring the titular Chameleon and Bat — may look very familiar, but in all the right ways. Expected October
The Rio 2016 Olympics
Yes, it really has been four years since London 2012. After a fleeting hiatus, the Olympics return this summer — to Rio, the site of the most recent football World Cup. Let’s hope the festivities (including an opening ceremony in part designed by Kanye West stage designer Es Devlin) go better than the slight PR debacle that was the world cup, with its half-finished stadiums. 5-21 August
Harry Potter And The Cursed Child & Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
2016 is the year Pottermania returns in full. First, JK Rowling’s universe comes to the West End with the insanely anticipated (and already sold out) The Cursed Child (July), which picks up after the book to follow a grown up Harry, Ron and Hermione, and their children. Expect tickets to be even harder to come by than a golden snitch.
That’s not all: autumn’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (18 November) will see the extended Potter universe come to life on the big screen with this adaptation of Rowling’s 2001 accompanying book. The film will follow Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who has to deal with an outbreak of magical creatures in New York in the 1920s. David Yates, who directed the last Harry Potter films, is also helming this one — so expect more of the same, just with annoying Americanisms. (No-Maj? It’s no Muggle.)
The BBC’s new Doctor Who spin-off series, written by YA author Patrick Ness, came as something of a surprise when it was announced in October. But Whovians haven’t been this excited since Torchwood. Dr Who writer Steven Moffat has described it as “growing up in Britain — but with monsters”.
The Legend Of Zelda
We still know very little about Nintendo’s latest outing for Link, but the promise of finally getting the open-world Zelda of our dreams — coupled with some breathtaking if brief footage — is enough to get us excited. It’s also dangerous: can Zelda compete with the breadth and scope of open-world titles like The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4? Expected autumn
The Angry Birds Movie & Warcraft & Assassin’s Creed
2016: the year Hollywood tries to finally make a decent video game adaptation. First up, the Angry Birds spin-off that nobody really asked for (20 May). Can it revive a faltering Rovio? Judging by the trailer — which fell pretty flat — it seems unlikely, but still.
More promising is Duncan Jones’ big-budget Warcraft adaptation (10 June), which promises plenty of fan service and certainly has the Tolkein-esque scope for a big-budget fantasy. Finally — and maybe the most risky — is the Assassin’s Creed film (21 December) , which although boasts an impressive cast (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard) seems the trickiest to convert to a film.
You may know Jonathan Nolan as the brother of Christopher, not to mention co-writer of The Dark Knight, Interstellar and The Prestige. (You may also know his other show, Person Of Interest.) His latest project: adapting the 1973 sci-fi western Westworld for HBO. The show is stacked with talent (J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burke producing; Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Thandie Newton among the big-budget cast). Expected spring 2016
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The franchise has awakened! After the triumph that was Episode VII, the first of Disney’s Star Wars spin-off arrives this coming autumn. This much we know: the film will be set just prior to A New Hope, and follow the band of rebels tasked with stealing the plans to the Death Star. Director Gareth Edwards has shown he can do sci-fi action (with 2010’s Monsters and 2014’s Godzilla reboot), and the cast is strong (Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna, etc). But the question is: can you have a Star Wars movie without jedi? Darth Vader’s return will certainly help. December 16