Jessica Fino 6 Feb 2019 12:32pm

A year in film

Our guide to the best and most interesting films for 2019, and the featured stars and directors drawing all the hype

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Caption: Saiorse Ronan stars in Mary Queen of Scots © 2018 Focus Features LLC

The cinematic highs of 2018 might lie behind us, but it’s worth acknowledging the year that brought us huge box office triumphs, and which proved that diversity continues to rise up the agenda. Crazy Rich Asians, the first mainstream movie to feature an Asian-only cast, broke records to become the most successful rom-com in almost a decade. And Black Panther unexpectedly became the highest-grossing superhero film ever, and the ninth highestgrossing film of all time. So 2019 has big shoes to fill.

The year kicked off with the Palm Springs International Film Festival featuring a spectacularly diverse line-up. The event, which began on 3 January, awarded Spike Lee with a Career Achievement Award for directing BlacKkKlansman and Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for writing and directing Roma.

The new year also brings a number of movies featuring iconic females. It started with the release of Mary Queen of Scots, starring Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan; while On the Basis of Sex, a biographical film based on the life of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arrives on screen this month. A Private War, telling the true story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, is also released in February.

There’s still progress to be made, however: only 8% of Hollywood’s top films in 2018 were directed by women, less than the 9% in 1998. This will also be the year of remakes and sequels. There’s a new Toy Story movie, Downton Abbey the film, as well as The LEGO Movie 2, Frozen 2, plus Dumbo (the original was released in 1941), Pokemon and Aladdin reworkings. And yes, the “final” Star Wars.

Following the rocking success of last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody – which in January won Rami Malek a Golden Globe – as well as A Star is Born, 2019 continues the trend of bringing popular music to the big screen, with Elton John’s biopic Rocketman and an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats on the cards. Here’s our selection for the year ahead, from historic movies to musicals and animated adaptations. We’ve also picked out the stars to follow; and the film festivals to enjoy.

Key releases

The Favourite, 1 January
The year couldn’t have started in better form than with the release of this royal comedy/ drama, featuring Olivia Colman as the mercurial Queen Anne during her reign in the early 18th century. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year, and its debut in the US garnered the best screen average since La La Land

Colette, 11 January
Another historical film, Colette is based on the extraordinary true story of author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, played by Keira Knightley, who agrees to ghost write books for her husband and then fights to have her talent recognised. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, Colette came to the UK last month, paying homage to the overlooked female writers of the 20th century

Vice, 25 January
The story of former US vice president Dick Cheney, portrayed by Christian Bale, who uses his new power as George W Bush’s running mate to reshape the future of the country.

The LEGO Movie 2, 8 February
Following the success of The LEGO Movie back in 2014, the sequel once again features Chris Pratt as Emmet and Elizabeth Banks as Lucy Wyldstyle.

Captain Marvel, 8 March
One of the most anticipated releases of the year, Captain Marvel will be the first female-led superhero film in the Marvel franchise. In January Box Office Pro had the film tracking to make up to $180m on its opening weekend. Brie Larson stars as Danvers, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn and Djimon Hounsou.

Avengers: Endgame, 26 April
When the trailer of this highly-anticipated movie came out late last year, it quickly became one of the most viewed Marvel teasers of all time. There are dozens of theories circulating the internet about how the saga will conclude, and fans even spotted a few spoilers in the trailer, but we won’t ruin anything for you.

Brightburn, 24 May
For those who enjoy horror movies, this sounds promising. James Junn’s “superhero horror” tells the story of a couple who think their prayers have been answered when an object crashes to Earth carrying what looks like a baby. But as the child grows older, he turns out to be a sinister alien after all

Toy Story 4, 21 June
The fourth and supposedly final movie of the Toy Story epic picks up where the gang left off almost a decade ago. The Pixar movie promises a few new characters to the toybox. But can the animators surpass The Claw?

The Lion King, 19 July
When the trailer of the upcoming Disney remake landed last year, its 224.6m global views made it the most-viewed teaser ever, marking the film as among the most anticipated of the year. The Lion King arrives this summer and features the vocals of Beyoncé KnowlesCarter, Seth Rogen, Donal Glover and James Earl Jones, the original voice of Simba’s father, Mufasa.

Other releases

Dumbo, 29 March
Aladdin, 24 May
Spider-Man: Far From Home, 5 July
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 26 July
Downton Abbey, 13 September
Frozen 2, 22 November
Star Wars – Episode IX, 19 December

Ones to watch

Chiwetel Ejiofor
The British actor has a very promising year ahead, debuting as a director in a Netflixowned movie and giving voice to Scar in The Lion King. Ejiofor will direct The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which is released in March. And he is filming for Maleficent 2, set to air in 2020.

Pedro Almodóvar
The Spanish director began the year by receiving the Dilys Powell Award for outstanding career achievement, and is expected to make waves when his new film Pain & Glory comes out on 22 March, featuring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz.

Olivia Colman
Undeniable acting royalty, there are great expectations for the new Elizabeth II in The Crown. Colman replaces Claire Foy, who won an Emmy for best actress in the role, in this royal biopic. Prior to the Netflix show’s return for a third series, her starring role in The Favourite, a movie about Queen Anne, won her the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and a Golden Globe for best actress last month.

Timothée Chalamet
After a very successful year with multiple nominations for his work in Call Me By Your Name and Beautiful Boy, the young actor is starring in The King, which tells the story of Henry V. Chalamet has been described as the next Leonardo DiCaprio, and “Chalamania” is now an actual thing.

Barry Jenkins
After directing Oscar winning film Moonlight, this year Jenkins brings movie-lovers an adaptation of James Baldwin’s book If Beale Street Could Talk. Years ago the director went on Etsy to have a James Baldwin quote embroidered on to his leather phone case, and he’s still a devotee. Jenkins is also a good egg: it was reported that he offered to pay for a rental car so a fan could travel to attend a screening and Q&A of the movie in the US

Featured festival

Berlin Film Festival, 7-17 February

At the end of 2018 it was announced that Juliette Binoche would serve as the jury president at the 69th Berlinale. Having previously won the Berlinale Silver Bear for best actress in 1997 for her role in The English Patient, Binoche presides over the main competition when it kicks off at the beginning of this month.

The festival opens with the world premiere of The Kindness of Strangers, directed by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig (An Education, Their Finest). The drama, which stars Andrea Riseborough, Zoe Kazan, Tahar Rahim and Bill Nighy, is set in a Russian restaurant in New York and tells the story of four people going through different crises in their lives.

The 2019 Retrospective, which brings works from international film history back to the big screen, takes as its subject women filmmakers from Germany between 1968 and 1999. This year also marks the 40th edition of the Panorama section of the Berlinale. Since its initiation in 1980 under the title Info-Schau, the slot has presented films intended to inspire and provoke, and to challenge the audience’s viewing and thinking habits.