Could this be the biggest year ever for fantastical movies? It certainly looks like it. The calendar is bursting with films about aliens, weird creatures, superheroes and magical worlds. Here's our complete guide to 2011's science fiction and fantasy films.
We know, 55 films seems like a lot. We aimed to do a list of just 25 or 30 - but when we started listing all the films this year that we could include, we ended up with 64, and had to whittle it down.
Season of the Witch (February 24) Nic Cage looks confused about why he's in this movie too. Cage plays a medieval crusader who has to bring an accused witch to a remote mountainous abbey in this fantasy adventure. Also starring Ron Perlman and Claire Foy. Outlook: All signs point to "so bad it's amazing" territory.
The Green Hornet (January 20) Seth Rogen stars in the movie adaptation of the classic radio serial and TV show, about a newspaper heir who becomes a masked hero - and he decides to pretend to be a bad guy. From director Michel Gondry, who's found a weird new way of filming action. Outlook: With Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) directing, it should at least be fascinating.
Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance The second film in the anime movie series, finally being released in the US after being one of the biggest anime hits of 2009 in Japan. The film introduces two new pilots, Makinami Mari Illustrious and Asuka Langley Shikinami. Outlook: It seems to have gotten great reviews, with lots of websites saying it's better than the first one.
The Rite A supernatural thriller. A priest reluctantly goes to the Vatican to attend exorcism school, and then meets a maverick priest (played by Anthony Hopkins!) who reveals that the Devil's reach goes much farther than he expected. Outlook: It's got Anthony Hopkins as a spooky priest. Scenery will be chewed.
I Am Number Four The movie adaptation of the "alien goes to high school" novel, from James Frey's book assembly line. From director D.J. Caruso and producer Michael Bay. Outlook: It'll look pretty, and there'll be 'splosions and cute young people. Don't think too hard about the plot, you'll strain something.
Drive Angry Now here's a movie that looks like Nic Cage belongs in it! He's a dead guy who breaks out of Hell to stop the cult that killed his daughter from sacrificing her baby. Let's hope he actually drives through the gates of Hell. Outlook: This could be the film we wanted Ghost Rider to be.
The Adjustment Bureau Based (loosely) on a Philip K. Dick story, this film stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as a Congressman and a ballerina who discover that sinister forces are trying to keep them apart. So it's sort of a Dickian reality-warping film, but with a love story. Outlook: It's been delayed a few times, which is a bad sign. But it could still be cool.
Apollo 18 The next "found footage" movie is just filming now for a March release. It has to do with a final Apollo mission to the moon that NASA claims never took place - but newly discovered footage proves the mission actually discovered something sinister. Outlook: Maybe they'll be editing it in the projection room as you watch it.
Battle Los Angeles (March 24) Aliens invade Earth, and we witness the battle in one city, with Aaron Eckhart as a sergeant who has to keep it together. Also starring: Michelle Rodriguez. Outlook: It's supposed to be a gritty war drama, that happens to have aliens. It sounds fun, at least.
Mars Needs Mums Based on the book by Berke Breathed, this cartoon follows a boy whose mum gets abuducted by aliens — so he has to go to Mars to get her back. Outlook: The trailer looks seriously fun.
Red Riding Hood (April 7) Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke directs this "Little Red Riding Hood" story, with Amanda Seyfried as a girl who's - wait for it - torn between two men: the brooding Peter and the wealthy Henry. But then a werewolf breaks an ancient truce with the humans and takes a human life, and Valerie suspects it may be someone she loves. Outlook: It sounds Twi-tastic.
Suing The Devil A struggling law student decides to sue the Devil for $US8 trillion - although how he expects to collect, we're not sure. But just as he's about to win a summary judgment, the Devil shows up - played by Malcolm McDowell. And the trial of the century results. Outlook: Malcolm McDowell as the Devil in a silly courtroom drama? We're on jury duty!
Beastly A "Beauty and the Beast" retelling, with I Am Number Four's Alex Pettyfer as a hot young jock who's punished for his arrogance by being turned into a punky freak. He has to find someone who can love him in spite of his appearance, or be stuck forever. Outlook: The trailer makes it look like a quadruple fondue - most cheesy movies only manage double or triple fondue.
Limitless A copywriter (Bradley Cooper) discovers a drug that gives him superhuman powers, but as he starts to probe the drug's origin, a group of shadowy killers is on his trail. Also starring Robert De Niro. Outlook: The viral marketing for this film has made it look demented and totally awesome.
Paul The long-awaited (by us, anyway) comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two nerds who come to the United States on a roadtrip - and meet a real alien, Paul (Seth Rogen). With guest stars Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman. Outlook: This film sounds like it'll be Pegg and Frost at the height of their powers, with a sublime level of silliness and nerdery.
Sucker Punch (March 24) Zack (Watchmen) Snyder is back with the story of a young girl in a mental institution. She retreats into a bizarre fantasy world, which helps her hatch a plan to escape from the facility. Outlook: This is the first original world Snyder's ever created. It'll definitely look pretty, judging from what we've seen so far.
Source Code Duncan Jones (Moon) returns with a bigger budget, telling the story of a guy (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has to keep reliving the last eight minutes of a man on a train before it explodes. Outlook: The trailer looks a bit silly, to be honest — but it's Jones, who made one of 2009's best films.
Super Rainn Wilson (yes, Dwight from The Office) stars in this DIY superhero movie from Slither's James Gunn. Guest-starring Nathan Fillion as the Holy Avenger, a slicker superhero. Outlook: Early reviews are ecstatic. And we can't wait to see Gunn and Fillion reunited.
Hop Out-of-work slacker Fred O'Hare (James Marsden) runs over the Easter Bunny (Russell Brand) in his car. So Fred has to take in the bunny as he recovers, and help the bunny save Easter. Outlook: It could be this year's Garfield. Or Yogi Bear. Or maybe the second Gnomeo and Juliet of the year.
Your Highness A silly fantasy epic spoof - Prince Fabious (James Franco) and his useless brother, Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) must journey to rescue Fabious' bride. Also starring Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel. Outlook: The trailer looked hilarious, and the cast is amazing.
Thor (May 19) Kenneth Branagh (!) directs the next Marvel Comics movie, about the Asgardian Thunder God who's cast down to Earth and finds love with the suddenly ubiquitous Natalie Portman. Outlook: There were rumours of troubles on set, but we're still hoping this will live up to the old Walt Simonson comics. The trailer looked cool.
Priest Paul Bettany (Legion) is back in another weird supernatural thriller - this time, it's a post-apocalyptic world and the human race has fought a nasty war against vampires. Bettany defies the ruling priesthood to go out into the wasteland to look for some people who've been taken prisoner. Also starring Maggie Q as a priestess. Outlook: We haven't had a good all-out post-apocalyptic action movie in a while, so let's hope Priest is this year's Doomsday.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 26) This time, there are zombies. And they're looking for the Fountain of Youth. And Captain Jack has a rival captain, played by Penelope Cruz. Outlook: It's the fourth Pirates movie - it's going to be ridiculous and overstuffed and silly, and Johnny Depp will hopefully rescue the whole thing.
The Tree of Life We don't really know what this Terence Malick film is about - only that it's conceptually challenging and weird, and it stars Sean Penn as a lost soul in the modern world. And then Jack discovers "the eternal scheme of which we are a part" and sees that every thing in the world is a miracle. And this enables him to forgive his father. Also starring: Brad Pitt. Outlook: If it's as mold-breaking as we've heard, it'll at least be one of the year's most interesting films.
X-Men: First Class (June 2) The fifth X-Men movie (if you count Wolverine) is a prequel, taking place in the 1960s, that traces the story of how Professor X and Magneto went from friends to enemies. Outlook: With Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn on board, and a cast that includes James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, this ought to be good - unless the suits have micromanaged it too much.
Super 8 J.J. Abrams directed this tribute to Steven Spielberg, featuring a mysterious creature that we only glimpsed in the teaser trailer. Already, speculation and probably fake concept art are circulating about what the creature will look like. Outlook: It could be this year's Cloverfield. Or the challenge of doing a movie that pays tribute to Spielberg could bring out something even cooler from Abrams.
The Green Lantern DC Comics gets serious about launching their non-Batman, non-Superman heroes, with this film about a test pilot who gets given a magic ring from space, and joins an elite squad of space cops. Outlook: The trailer looked a bit silly, and Reynolds' version of Hal Jordan has drawn criticism for extreme doucheyness. But we're still betting this film will be a fun fusion of space opera and superheroics.
Rise of the Apes (June 24) A prequel to Planet of the Apes, this film shows how genetic experimentation in the present day creates a super-intelligent ape, Caesar, who goes on to lead an uprising. Featuring James Franco as the researcher who creates Caesar to help cure Alzheimer's. (And that's a set pic, not how this film will actually look.) Outlook: Prequels generally aren't that great, but this could be an exception if they succeed in crafting a compelling origin for Caesar.
Transformers: the Dark of the Moon (June 30) Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf reunite to tell one more story about the robots in disguise - and this time, it has something to do with the Apollo Moon landings. (Again.) And I guess they're blowing up Washington DC this time. Outlook: Bay and LaBeouf both insist this film will be way better than the second one, and maybe they'll actually pull it off? The fact they've cranked this out in just two years, and there are reports of problems with the 3D filming, could argue against it, though.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 14) The movie version of the Harry Potter saga ends at last. Voldemort pulls out all the stops to kill the Boy who Lived, and Harry and his friends get pushed to their limits. Outlook: If it's as good as the first half, it should be epic. The fact that they've reshot the troublesome epilogue is actually a good sign, since it shows they're paying attention to detail.
Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage It's basically a giant tribute to Ray Harryhausen, featuring lots of stop-motion animation and ridiculous monsters. And the voice of Patrick Stewart, narrating. Outlook: Could be fun - and Patrick Stewart and swashbuckling are always a good mix.
Captain America: The First Avenger Steve Rogers wants to join the fight in World War II, but he's too weak - until he takes an experimental serum that transforms him into a paragon, Captain America. The last of Marvel's movies setting up next year's The Avengers. Outlook: Hugo Weaving is an inspired choice as the Red Skull, and the set photos look appropriately detail-oriented. It really depends how much of a polish Joss Whedon was able to give the script.
Cowboys and Aliens Director Jon Favreau set out to make a straight-up Western film - that incorporates alien invaders. The cowboys and the natives have to team up to fight the extra-terrestrial menace, and in the middle of it is a man with amnesia and a weird device on his wrist. Outlook: The cast, including Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, is pretty amazing. And the trailer looked note-perfect.
The Smurfs The Smurf village turns up in Central Park. Wackiness, presumably, ensues. Outlook: We're watching it for Neil Patrick Harris. Plus Hank Azaria as Gargamel.
The Change-Up Jason Bateman plays Dave, a married guy who switches bodies with his hot best friend (Ryan Reynolds) so he can try and date his coworker (Olivia Wilde). That's a set photo at left. Outlook: Body-switching comedies are almost always fun - plus Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds ought to make this entertaining.
The Darkest Hour in 3D American teens on holidays in Moscow are shocked when aliens invade, and they're on their own. This is one of a billion movies being produced by Timur Bekmambetov. Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby star. Outlook: The film was only shot last August, with filming disrupted and delayed due to Russian wildfires. No clue if it'll come out on time, or whether they managed to pull together something cool.
Conan the Barbarian 3D The Barbarian is back! Jason Momoa steps into Arnie's sandals, and instead of Thulsa Doom we get Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang). There's plenty of dark magic once again, including Rose McGowan playing a half-human, half-witch character. Outlook: What is best in life? Possibly not this movie. But it could be fun.
Fright Night A remake of the 1980s vampire movie - with David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, as Peter Vincent, the stage magician who helps a teenager who discovers his next-door neighbour is a vampire. Outlook: It's David Tennant in a horror movie. We're not really going to be objective about this.
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (September 15) Robert Rodriguez reboots his high-tech spy series with a new set of kids. A catsuit-clad Jessica Alba is a retired agent who comes back. The third movie featured giant robots and virtual worlds, among other things, so this is probably going to have some over-the-top science fiction stuff as well. Outlook: Whenever Rodriguez makes a movie for kids, he seems to go "Ah, what the hell." To enjoy these films, you kind of have to do the same thing.
Final Destination 5 (October 13) Apparently, this film no longer has the inspired title of 5nal Destination. Sad, really. Anyway, they're cheating death again, or something. Outlook: Once you reach the fifth movie in a horror series, you don't really make judgments any more.
Piranha 3D The sequel to last summer's exploitation movie, and as the title suggests, the focus will be on getting even more boobtastic than the first movie, taking advantage of the 3D effects. And the fish will probably be bigger, too. Outlook: We're really not sure there's such a thing as an objective criteria to judge this film on.
The Apparition A pair of university students unleashes something terrible and supernatural in a lab experiment - so they turn to Draco Malfoy himself, Tom Felton, for help. Outlook: There's something to be said for unleashing otherworldly forces with weird science. Plus Felton in his first post-Potter role.
Now The Truman Show writer and Gattaca director Andrew Niccol returns with his first film in years. It's a near-future parable set in a world where everybody can be eternally youthful - but you have a dial on your wrist counting down the time, and if the time on the dial runs out, you die. Everybody has to work to earn more "time", except the super-rich. Outlook: We read a big chunk of this movie's script, and we were blown away. We can't to see how Niccol brings it to life.
Real Steel Hugh Jackman plays a washed-up fighter who had to quit when human boxing was outlawed. Now he "trains" and promotes robot boxers. It's sort of a heartwarming father-son story about an underdog who chases a dream. Outlook: We read this film's script, too, and it was a lot of fun, and surprisingly moving. If you can buy into the idea of robot boxing in the first place, this should be a lot of fun.
The Thing A prequel to the John Carpenter classic, showing just what happened to that Norwegian camp. Outlook: Another prequel, to a film that stands alone perfectly well... but when we visited this film's set, we were impressed with the attention to detail and the fanaticism about paying tribute to Carpenter's film. So fingers crossed.
Contagion (December 3) Stephen Soderbergh directs an all-star cast in this film about a global outbreak of a new disease, and the small team that races to stop it. Cast includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow. Outlook: If it's as gripping a globe-trotting epic as Soderbergh's Traffic, then it ought to rule.
Paranormal Activity 3 Did you know they were making a third one? Us neither. Outlook: How can this possibly find a new angle? I guess we'll find out.
Dibbuk Box (Loosely) based on a true story - a man buys a weird box at a yard sale and brings it home. And his young daughter, Em, opens it, unleashing an evil spirit that wants to devour her, so he has to destroy it before it's too late. Outlook: Sam Raimi produced it, so maybe it'll be great.
Immortals The new film from Tarsem Singh, Immortals is about the Greek warrior Theseus, battling against the imprisoned Titans. Mickey Rourke plays King Hyperion. Star Steven Dorff has compared it to Gladiator meets 300. Outlook: It's Tarsem Singh, director of The Fall. It's going to be awesome. Probably.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (November 17) The final book is divided into two parts, Harry Potter-style, as we discover what actually happens when Bella and Edward get together. Outlook: Bill Condon, one of the great directors working today, is making this film — so it may actually transform the Twilight series into something worthy of the man who made Gods and Monsters. You never know!
Arthur Christmas (November 23) The latest film from Aardman Animation shows how Santa Claus manages to deliver so many presents in one night - he has a UFO. It's just part of a huge, high-tech operation under the North Pole. A young unlikely hero from a dysfunctional family, Arthur, has a mission that must be completed by Christmas. Outlook: This is the folks who brought us Wallace and Gromit! And Jim Broadbent is the voice of Santa!
Hugo Cabret Martin Scorsese makes a huge departure, into movies for younger audiences - and a more fanciful story. A young boy hides inside the Paris train station and winds up repairing a mechanical man. And it's sort of a retelling of the life of Georges Méliès, one of the first ever science fiction filmmakers. Outlook: Scorsese and steampunky automata? We can't wait!
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (December 13) Yes, a fourth Mission Impossible film. But this one's directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and features Josh Holloway, or Sawyer from Lost. Plus J.J. Abrams is still on board as a producer. Outlook: Brad Bird directing a high-tech spy thriller sounds like a recipe for greatness. Fingers crossed!
Sherlock Holmes 2 (January 5, 2012) The sequel to 2009's runaway hit reunites director Guy Ritchie and stars Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. Let's hope they have more weird steampunk doom machines this time around. Outlook: If it's as fun as the original, then we're down.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn This one isn't strictly science fiction or fantasy, but Tintin lives in a kind of fantasy world, full of trips into space, weird occurrences and larger-than-life adventures - and we can't imagine that the teaming of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson (with some writing by Steven Moffat) won't include some nods to Tintin's more fantastical adventures. Outlook: It's the dream team, taking on a key part of our pop culture heritage.