Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — Opening in March, the full kickoff of the DC Comics shared cinematic universe is going to do monster business. Batman is a billion dollar brand, having topped that box office high-bar twice in a row with his last two films. Putting him alongside other superheroes seems like an easy bet for continuing that trend. Superman himself rebooted to the tune of $668 million in 2013′s Man of Steel, a figure restrained by the previous Superman reboot/revival’s relatively tepid response and fine but not spectacular $391 million. However, keep in mind that $668 million is what “slight underperforming” looks like to the last son of Krypton, and that we not only have the added value of Batman but also the first-ever big screen Wonder Woman and Aquaman showing up, not to mention probably a Flash cameo and Cyborg in the mix.
Captain America: Civil War — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this will be Marvel’s biggest film yet. Yes, it’s a Captain America sequel, and Cap’s last movie performed at $714 million globally, making it the fifth-highest grossing Marvel Studios movie to date. However, that was a huge leap over his previous star-spangled outing, which clocked $370 million around the world just a few years earlier, and the same team from Winter Soldier in the driver’s seat for Civil War. More to the point, though, this is a Cap sequel that’s really an Avengers-level movie. It features a large cast, including some major newcomers in the form of Spider-Man, Black Panther, and more. Marvel is going to promote this as an event picture, something larger than just a Captain America sequel, because it can in fact be both.
The Jungle Book — It’s early to call this one a likely top performer, but if you saw the footage at D23 this month then you know why this film already looks likely to wow audiences and amaze critics. Jon Favreau knows how to deliver great entertainment, and the imagery from this film was mind-blowing. Nothing you’ve seen in visual effects and CGI work for animals, creatures, and outdoor settings will prepare you for what you’ll see in this film, if the sizzle reel Disney unveiled is any hint of what to expect. Not that crazy-great effects and talking animals in and of itself guarantees blockbuster success, of course. No, what the footage also revealed was a beloved classic story revisited not only with grand scale but also with deep emotions.
Alice Through the Looking Glass — Little doubt about this one, since fans fell in love with Tim Burton’s first outing in Wonderland. That movie topped $1 billion and got mostly decent reviews from critics while audiences rated it an A- (via Cinemascore). Talk of Johnny Depp’s recent box office woes (Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, and Mortdecai were all box office disappointments or outright flops) is frankly irrelevant here, because Alice in Wonderland’s success didn’t hinge on Depp’s or anyone else’s stardom per se, it captured people’s imaginations and Depp’s Mad Hatter was so deliciously amusing and visually stunning that the character himself is a draw now for viewers.
Independence Day: Resurgence — The fact Jurassic World came in and revived an old franchise with record-breaking results doesn’t inherently mean the same thing will work for other old movies. On the other hand, it’s Independence Day and while it’s missing Will Smith (an admittedly big name to leave out) it has most of the rest of the main cast returning, and Roland Emmerich is returning as director. The first film took a colossal $817 million in box office receipts worldwide, and pretty much kicked off the modern city-destroying disaster film trend with its stunning visual depictions of Manhattan’s obliteration and the White House being pulverized.
Suicide Squad — After Batman v Superman starts the year with a gigantic bang, Warner brings Batman back to the big screen in a face-off against the Joker himself. Of course, that’s only a small part of this film, which features a terrific cast and what looks to be a standout entry in the superhero genre. But while the rest of the film and cast — particularly Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn — will enjoy plenty of attention, ultimately one of the big selling points for this movie to audiences is that we get Batman twice in one year on the big screen, and a brand new Joker who looks like he could be as memorable as Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal.