(Photos: Paramount Pictures/Walt Disney Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios)
Last year at this time, there were a lot of big movies to look forward to. And while some met or exceeded expectations in a big way – “The Avengers” and “Skyfall,” for example – others didn’t quite live up to our hopes (“Prometheus,” for one).
But now we’ve got a new year and a huge field of gigantic movies ahead of us. So we’ve sorted through all the sequels, bestselling book adaptations, post-apocalyptic adventures, and (of course) comic-book movies to pick out and rank the 25 most anticipated titles of 2013.
25: THE HOST (March 29)
With the “Twilight” saga having come to a close last year, Twi-hards are on the lookout for their next big movie obsession. This adaptation of another Stephenie Meyer novel will hopefully fit the bill. Instead of vampires, this story has aliens which invade the planet by taking over human bodies. But one girl, Melanie (played by Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan), is able to coexist with her alien presence – and, naturally, get into a love triangle (or is it a quadrangle?).
24: EVIL DEAD (April 12)
Yes, remakes of horror classics are a dime a dozen, but this year there are actually a few that look intriguing. Steven King’s “Carrie” will get an updated version in March starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. But the one we’re most excited about is the new take on Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking “Evil Dead.” Mostly because Raimi and his cohorts Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell are producing the remake with a script from Oscar-winner Diablo Cody.
23: AFTER EARTH (June 7)
We made it through the Mayan Apocalypse, but the planet’s prospects still don’t look very good as far as the movies go. Tom Cruise will be working in an abandoned wasteland in this April’s “Oblivion,” but we’re the most curious about Will and Jaden Smith in “After Earth.” They play a father and son who crash land here 1,000 years after humanity fled. The trailer looked quite impressive, but writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has a lot to prove after the disastrous “The Last Airbender.”
22: G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (March 29)
Yes, this one could have been on the list of the most anticipated movies of 2012 (it was originally scheduled for release last summer, but was delayed). But with Dwayne “You can call me ‘The Rock’ again” Johnson leading the team, Bruce Willis as the original Joe, and ninjas fighting on the side of a mountain – all in 3D, no less – what’s not to get excited about? And rumor has it they reshot a bigger part for Channing Tatum, so maybe he can bring some of his “magic” to this one.
21: THE HANGOVER PART III (May 24)
2011’s “The Hangover Part II” made a boatload of money, but the Wolfpack’s trip to Thailand felt a little too repetitive for a lot of fans of the original. But director Todd Phillips promises that the third and final chapter will deliver the surprises the last sequel lacked. And with all of the cast returning – Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galafianakis, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, and yes, Mike Tyson – hopefully the trilogy will end with a bang that we’ll all remember the next day.
20: WORLD WAR Z (June 21)
Zombies are everywhere nowadays, both on TV and in movies. But this looks like it could be the zombie flick to end all zombie flicks. Brad Pitt stars as a family man called into service in the global battle against the immense throngs of walking – or in this case, running – dead. The worldwide scale of this looks epic, though director Marc Foster’s last big-budget outing was the underwhelming “Quantum of Solace.”
19: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (February 14)
After “The Expendables 2,” we’ll be seeing a lot of ‘80s stars getting back in action in 2013. There’s Schwarzenegger in “The Last Stand,” Stallone in “Bullet to the Head,” Stallone AND Schwarzenegger in “The Tomb.” And 25 years after the first “Die Hard” made him a superstar, Bruce Willis is back as John McClane for the fifth time. After a pair of critical successes last year with “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Looper,” Willis returns to busting heads and cracking wise, this time in Russia with his CIA agent son (Jai Courtney of TV’s “Spartacus”).
18: BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (February 13)
Obviously there’s a market for movie adaptations of highly successful young adult books about the supernatural. There are several in store for 2013, ranging from tales of zombies (“Warm Bodies”) to demons (“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”) to Greek gods (“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”). One that stands out, though, is “Beautiful Creatures.” It’s about a girl in a small Southern town who is destined to possess either light or dark magic, and the boy who captures her heart. It’s got the romance YA fans swoon over, along with Oscar-caliber actors Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis.
17: WHITE HOUSE DOWN (June 28)
Channing Tatum owned 2013, with a successful comedy (“21 Jump Street”), romance (“The Vow”) and drama (“Magic Mike”). In 2013 he’s stretching again with a psychological thriller (“Side Effects”), a big-budget sequel (the aforementioned “G.I. Joe”), and this action nail-biter. In it, Tatum plays a cop caught in the middle when a terrorist group attacks the White House. He steps up to protect the President, played by Jamie Foxx. It’s from “Independence Day” director Roland Emmerich, and you know he has some experience when it comes to blowing up the White House.
16. THE WOLVERINE (July 26)
Sure, it was good to see Hugh Jackman belting out tunes and emoting up a storm in “Les Miserables.” But we like him best when the claws come out. So we’re ready to see him back again as Logan, aka Wolverine. Jackman’s fifth go-around as the muscled Marvel mutant takes him to Japan in a story inspired by one of the all-time classic runs of the comic-book series.
15. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (March 8)
More than 70 years after Dorothy first dropped in on the wonderful world of Oz, this new big-budget, effects-heavy prequel will tell the story of just who was the Wizard and how did he get to have such a big head. James Franco stars as Oscar Diggs, a low-rent magician from Kansas whose hot air balloon gets swept away to the multicolored land of yellow brick roads and emerald cities. There he falls under the spell of three witches, played by Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. Director Sam Raimi (the original “Spider-Man” trilogy) brings the untold story to the screen in 3D.
14. THE HEAT (April 5)
After her Academy Award-nominated breakout turn in “Bridesmaids,” Melissa McCarthy has been a hot property in Hollywood, and so she’s got two starring roles coming up this year. First she’s paired with Jason Bateman in February’s “Identity Thief,” and that trailer looks plenty funny. But then in April she’s a cop who plays by her own rule who get partnered with Sandra Bullock’s uptight FBI agent. “The Heat” is a rare female-driven buddy cop comedy, and since it’s also from the director of “Bridesmaids,” it’s sure to bring the funny.
13. ELYSIUM (August 9)
Director Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 debut feature “District 9” had a low budget, no recognizable stars, and a story drawn from the politics of his native South Africa. And it was still one of the most exciting and innovative science fiction films of the decade. Now he’s back with a bigger budget, giant stars, and a story that hits close to home. In the future, the “haves” live on a high-tech space station called Elysium, while the “have-nots” are stuck on the ruins of Earth. One average guy (Matt Damon) accepts a life-or-death mission to get on board.
12. THE LONE RANGER (May 31)
Hi-ho, Silver! The producer, director, writers, and star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy are taking their act from the high seas to the Wild West. Johnny Depp is Tonto, the Native American scout who discovers injured Texas Ranger John Reid (played by Armie Hammer). Tonto cleans Reid up, gives him a black mask, and together the ride off to help those in need. The last attempt to bring the Western hero to the big screen, 1981’s “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” was a legendary flop, but hopefully the “Pirates” crew can make their trademark blend of action and laughs work this time around.
11. THE GREAT GATSBY (May 10)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless novel has been adapted for the screen four times before, but if anyone can capture the style, excess, and heartbreak of the story it would have to be “Moulin Rouge” director Baz Lurhmann. Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast as the handsome, debonair, and deceptive Gatsby, and Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan has just the right combination of charm and fragility to play Daisy Buchannan. And the whole spectacle is presented in 3D. It’s not your typical summer movie, which is partially why we’re so intrigued.
10. THE WORLD’S END (October 25)
Who says the end of days can’t be funny? There’s actually more than one apocalyptic comedy coming this year, starting with June’s “This Is the End” that has Seth Rogen (who also co-wrote and co-directed), Jonah Hill, James Franco, and many of their friends playing themselves as the Earth is destroyed. We really can’t wait, though, for “The World’s End,” the third collaboration from Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright (they made the modern comedy classics “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”). It’s about a group of pals attempting an epic pub crawl during the planet’s final hours. Drinking, debauchery, and destruction? Sounds like our kind of movie.
9. MONSTER’S UNIVERSITY (June 21)
The two “Toy Story” sequels were arguably each better than the last, but “Cars 2” felt flat to many diehard animation fans. But now Pixar is attempting its first prequel, set a decade before “Monsters, Inc.” John Goodman and Billy Crystal return to voice Sully and Mike in the story of how the two met as freshmen in college. Starting off as rivals, the two eventually become BFFs through their adventures in higher education.
8. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (December 13)
Yes, “There and Back Again” is still ruling the box office, but the little tease (SPOILER!) of the waking dragon at the end has us ready to continue the trek across Middle-earth with Bilbo Baggins and his company of dwarves. The next installment promises to introduce new characters, like Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman and Evangeline Lilly as the elf Tauriel (a character not in Tolkien’s original text). But we’ll also see the return of some old favorites, including Orlando Bloom as the everyone’s favorite golden-haired archer, Legolas.
7. ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (December 20)
Great Odin’s raven! Can it be true? Is newscaster extraordinaire Ron Burgundy really back? Believe it, people of San Diego (and planet Earth). Will Ferrell is putting on the polyester again, and he’s bringing the entire news team – Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner – with him. We don’t know much about the story, but producer Judd Apatow said that at a recent table read of the script (once again written by Ferrell and director Adam McKay) they got exhausted from laughing too much and couldn’t make it through the whole thing. One thing is for sure, though: it will certainly stay classy.
6. FAST & FURIOUS SIX (May 24)
What happens in the sixth “Fast and Furious” movie? Who knows, and who cares? Rest assured, it’s got Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris back together, and cars will go absurdly fast and then crash spectacularly. Though, it is known that they’re taking the show to England this time around, so they’ll be driving recklessly on the other side of the road. And former MMA star Gina Carano joins in to make sure that it’s not just the boys who get to have all the fun.
5. PACIFIC RIM (July 12)
Giant robots fighting giant monsters. What more do you need to know? When a portal to another world opens deep within the ocean, it unleashes giant beasts bent on stomping humanity flat. So to fight back, we build enormous mechanical warriors manned by skilled pilots. It’s from the inventive mind of director Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”), and the trailer is packed with eye candy aplenty. And if you need another reason to be excited, may we remind you that it’s giant robots fighting giant monsters?!?!?!
4. MAN OF STEEL (June 14)
Christopher Nolan concluded his Batman trilogy in 2012, and now he’s helping to bring DC Comics’ other iconic hero to the screen. Nolan co-wrote the story and produced this new take on Superman directed by Zack Snyder (“300” and “Watchmen”). Henry Cavill certainly has the look to play the last son of Krypton, and he’s backed by an all-star cast: Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, and Michael Shannon as the villainous General Zod. Everything we’ve seen so far makes “Man of Steel” look like a serious, stylish, and fresh take on the granddaddy of all superheroes.
3. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (May 17)
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 revamp of the decades-old “Star Trek” franchise somehow managed to please both the cult of devoted fans and also viewers who had never seen an episode of the original series. For their second voyage, Abrams has reassembled his stellar crew and added a more dangerous and compelling villain, played by “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch. The preview of the first scene that played in front of IMAX showings of “The Hobbit” showed that this trip stands to be just as fun, intense, and transporting as the last.
2. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (November 22)
Expectations were high last spring for the first movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling series, and “The Hunger Games” exceeded them all. It became the third highest-grossing film of the year, outpacing both “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” and “Skyfall” domestically. So the bar has been set even higher for the second chapter, which will hit theaters right before Thanksgiving (a spot that had been taken by the “Twilight” movies). Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and the other cast members (who survived the last movie) will all return, and the studio is apparently so happy with the job new director Frances Lawrence has done that they signed him to do the final two movies (the last book, “Mockingjay,” will be split into two parts).
1. IRON MAN 3 (May 3)
“Marvel’s The Avengers” was the biggest movie of 2012, becoming the third highest-grossing movie in history. And the second it ended, all we wanted was more. Thor will be coming back to the big screen this November in “The Dark World,” but we really can’t wait to see Robert Downey Jr. put back on the suit as the Invincible Iron Man. Written and directed by Shane Black, who heralded Downey’s comeback with 2005’s criminally under-seen “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” this third installment will really have to deliver if it hopes to top the excitement of “The Avengers.” But with a host of new bad guys, including Ben Kingsley as Iron Man’s arch-nemesis The Mandarin, “Iron Man 3” looks like the 2013 release no one can miss.