Throughout the 2000s, franchises like Harry Potter — as evidenced by the recent success of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — and The Lord of the Rings have proven that fantasy movies have a certain allure with audiences. More than any other type of release, fantasy films serve that fundamental desire of moviegoers wishing to escape the doldrums of everyday life and travel into another world where anything is possible.
For its part, 2017 promises a wide variety of hotly anticipated fantasy movies, ranging from original stories to the latest entries in beloved ongoing franchises. For the record, we’re considering the Star Wars saga a fantasy film, as it functions largely as a space fable in another world rather than a distinct vision of our own. In addition, because the lines between fantasy and science fiction can sometimes blur, please check our list of the most anticipated sci-fi films if you don’t see a title on the below list that likely would have deserved to be included.
1. A Monster Calls (January 6)
Director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) brings this adaptation of the Patrick Ness novel, which tells the story of a young boy (Lewis MacDougall) who turns to a tree-like monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) to escape his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness. Already, the film has won critical acclaim and could become one of the most talked-about films of early 2017.
2. The Great Wall (February 17)
Chances are, those of you familiar with this film are informed because of the controversy surrounding the film’s decision to put Matt Damon front and center in the Chinese epic. Nevertheless, the English-language debut of filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) imagines that the titular landmark is actually designed to keep larger-than-life creatures from entering the nation.
3. Beauty and the Beast (March 17)
Everyone knows the 1991 animated classic that serves as the basis for this live-action remake. But that hasn’t stopped Disney’s new version from record-breaking YouTube views for its trailer (see above). Emma Watson stars as Belle opposite Dan Stevens’ Beast, and though it essentially reenacts the plot and music of its predecessor, expect this one to be a huge box office hit with moviegoers of all ages.
4. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (May 12)
Classic characters like Hercules and Tarzan have had a rough time with their own big-screen reboots, but if anyone is going to put King Arthur back on top, it’s director Guy Ritchie. The filmmaker already turned Robert Downey Jr. into a popular film version of Sherlock Holmes, resurrecting that brand. Perhaps he can do the same for the future king, played here by Charlie Hunnam.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26)
Despite its hefty box office take, few moviegoers really loved Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Yet, the franchise continues to perform well for Disney, hence this fifth entry in the franchise. Johnny Depp, of course, returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who this time finds himself the target of Capitán Salazar (Javier Bardem). Orlando Bloom also reprises his role as Will Turner for the initial trilogy in the series.
6. The Mummy (June 9)
No Brendan Fraser this time. Instead, Universal’s latest relaunch of its classic series is headlined by Tom Cruise. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) plays the mummy character this time around, and Russell Crowe debuts as Dr. Henry Jekyll. The film — from director Alex Kurtzman — is intended to serve as the initial installment in a shared Universal Monsters universe, with Dracula, Frankenstein, and others who are expected to appear in future releases.
7. Star Wars: Episode VIII (December 15)
As noted above, we’re considering Star Wars a fantasy series first and foremost. As such, there’s no way we would keep this follow-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens off our list. With a whole new chapter in full swing, we’re excited to see what the future holds for Rey (Daisy Ridley), as she presumably seeks to be trained in the ways of the Force by Luke (Mark Hamill). For the first time, a Star Wars film will pick up where the previous one ended. We can’t wait.
8. Jumanji (December 22)
Dwayne Johnson makes just about any franchise better. Still, we understand why longtime fans of the original 1995 Robin Williams film might be hesitant for a remake. With supporting players like Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black, this Jumanji film seems to be leaning more on the comedy than its predecessor, though time will tell if it will truly honor Williams’ memory and his work in the first film.
9. The Shape of Water (TBD)
Guillermo del Toro is a man with many, many projects in various stages of development. So whenever one of his films does hit theaters, it’s something to celebrate. Much like Pan’s Labyrinth, this one appears to be exploring the intersection between fantasy and harsh reality, set as it is during the Cold War. Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and del Toro regular Doug Jones lead the cast.
10. Okja (TBD)
Bong Joon-ho first gained a cult following with 2006 monster movie The Host before earning critical praise with Snowpiercer — his English-language debut — in 2013. Now, he turns to this story of a young girl (Ahn Seo-hyun), who must protect her giant animal friend (named Okja, naturally) from a sinister corporation who wants to kidnap it. Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano also play supporting roles.
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