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Following a fantastic 2017, 2018 is fit-to-bursting with exciting new films for children and young people, from innovative animations, to dystopian science-fictions, moving coming-of-age stories, and yes, more superheroes. Happily, there at last seems to be a genuine commitment from Hollywood to improve on representation of diversity and gender, both in front of and behind the camera, reflected in many of the titles here. We've selected just a handful of a bumper cinematic crop to look out for, ten for primary and ten for secondary. But as ever, the real excitement seems likely to come from films from around the world that most of us haven't heard of yet!
Find our Primary picks below, or click here to jump to our Secondary selections.
Based on a hugely popular science-fiction novel, this live-action Disney tale stars Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine in a magical story of a teenager who teams up with her younger brother, her classmate and three space travellers to save her father, who is being held prisoner on a distant planet. Directed by Ava DuVernay, who previously made the masterful Selma, and is the first black woman to direct a Disney feature, the trailer promises a combination of extraordinary visuals with important themes and a progressive narrative.
A few years ago, Gnomeo & Juliet was an unexpected musical hit, blending Shakespeare and romantic comedy in the unlikely world of garden gnomes. This sort-of-sequel sees the loving couple return, only this time they are forced to contact super-detective Sherlock Gnomes and his sidekick Gnome Watson when a group of garden gnomes mysteriously go missing.
Following the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki and the release of When Marnie Was There, it appeared that the iconic Studio Ghibli was no more. But a group of their animators had more stories to tell, and to everyone's surprise, they quietly formed Studio Ponoc. This is to be their first film, an adaptation of classic British children's story The Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart. Expect all of the magical Ghibli elements, alongside some fresh techniques that will establish Ponoc as both a continuation of the Ghibli legacy and a distinct filmmaking presence in its own right.
Even scary monsters need the occasional holiday! Six years after the events of the previous film, Dracula, Mavis, Johnny and the rest are away on their summer vacation abroad a luxury cruise ship. But things gets complicated when Dracula falls for the ship's mysterious captain, who turns out to be a direct descendant of Van Helsing himself! With Dracula seemingly teaming up with his new partner and notorious monster slayer, it is up to Mavis to step up and take charge of the team and stop Dracula, before it's too late!
Unbelievably, it's 14 years since everyone's favourite family of superheroes appeared on the big screen. At long last, Pixar have brought back Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, Frozone, and an assortment of new faces for a fresh adventure, picking up mere moments after the original. Little is known about the plot at this stage, but we do know that Mr Incredible has been left holding the baby whilst Elastigirl is out saving the world, and that Jack Jack has some mysterious superpowers of his own, as tantalisingly glimpsed at the end of the first film!
Illumination, the team behind the Despicable Me films, have turned their attention to Dr. Seuss and a new version of the universally beloved holiday title. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the big grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by the generous spirit of a kind young girl in the town of Whoville. The story also promises to look at how and why The Grinch became so grumpy, and how Whoville is a world different to, but relatable to our own, with values of warmth, community, and kindness even to green grouches!
Back for another video game adventure, Ralph's latest story sees him enter the world of the internet. He and Vannelope are forced to enter cyberspace to track down the missing part of an arcade game. It's fair to assume things don't go quite to plan! Along the way, expect appearances from the entire roster of Disney princesses, a host of faces from Star Wars, and, no doubt a fair few surprises too. With luck, the film will also contain some valuable pointers for young people about learning to stay safe online.
Newt, Tina and co are back for the second installment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter spin-off. Once again, the plot is being concealed under several layers of dark magic, but we do know that the story will turn darker, with the wizarding world more divided than ever, and the emergence of new villain Gellart Grindlewald. The film will also see the re-emergence of an old friend in his younger years, a certain Albus Dumbledore.
Everyone's favourite neighbourhood superhero has already appeared in loads of films (with more on the way), but cinemagoers have never seen the story told like this. Aiming towards the younger end of Spidey's enormous fan-base, this animated film concentrates not on Peter Parker, but Miles Morales, a high school student who has inherited the web-slinging role following Peter's death. With the team behind The LEGO Movie on board, an animation style heavily influenced by the comic book origins, and a fabulous, diverse cast, this could be a hoot!
All eyes will be on the world's most famous nanny this Christmas, as Emily Blunt takes on one of the most iconic screen roles of all. Set in Depression-era London, the Banks children are now grown up, but, following a personal loss, Mary Poppins pays a visit to Michael and his three children. Through her unique magical skills (and no doubt a host of toe-tapping new musical numbers), she helps the family rediscover the joy, magic, and wonder missing in their lives. A remarkable cast make up a film that is bound to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
2018 of course marks the centenary of the end of World War One. This new film version of the frequently adapted stage play does a fantastic job of honouring the bravery of the soldiers involved, and capturing the lifestyle experienced in the trenches, their claustrophobia, and the impact this would have had on relationships. Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield head an impressive British cast for this powerful, engrossing and desperately moving drama that will resonate with audiences of all ages.
To their credit, Marvel have been trying to take calculated risks with some of their recent films, hoping to keep their storytelling fresh and appealing to audiences. Black Panther looks set to continue that, with the massively talented Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), directing an almost entirely non-white cast for a story set in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda. The first of three Marvel movies scheduled for 2018, the trailers suggest this will be by far the most innovative.
Steven Spielberg returns to the science-fiction genre for this adaptation of the bestselling novel by Ernest Cline. A sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story, set in the realm of virtual reality in a dystopian 2045, this promises to be an assault on the senses and feature more pop cultural references than any one audience member can possibly take in. Spielberg's own back catalogue plays an important role in the book's plot, although whether or not this finds its way to the big screen remains to be seen. Regardless, this will be one of the year's most talked about blockbusters.
Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon have been responsible for some of the richest, most visually dazzling films of recent years, such as Song of the Sea. Now they have teamed up with producer Angelina Jolie for the story of Parvana, a girl growing up in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, who, following the kidnapping of her father, has to dress as a boy so she can work to support her mother and sister. The film has already received rave reviews and further demonstrates animations power to tell stories of sensitivity and complexity, whilst remaining enchanting.
Writer/Actor Greta Gerwig makes her solo directorial debut with this acclaimed coming-of-age drama that has attracted enormous awards buzz. Set in 2002, Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is a bored high-school student thinking about applying to college and longing to escape the stultifying confines of her provincial home in suburban Sacramento. What marks this story out is its honesty, the tenderness of the complex relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, and its sly reworking of teen-movie clichés. At its heart is a remarkable performance from Saoirse Ronan, who together with Gerwig has created a character for the ages.
Ronan also takes centre stage in this enthralling looking historical face-off between Mary and Queen Elizabeth I, and the battle for the English throne in the 16th century. Rather than being dull and staid, the emphasis here is on positioning the story as a gripping thriller. With two strong female characters at its centre, the stakes could not be higher and the only person who can truly understand the position they were in was each other. British theatre director Josie Rourke makes her screen debut.
Wes Anderson returns to stop-motion animation following his success with Fantastic Mr. Fox for this original canine heavy adventure. Five dogs are quarantined on a remote island off the coast of Japan to prevent a disease from spreading. Miserably confined, things begin to look up when a young boy arrives searching for his lost pet. Once again, Anderson has assembled a remarkable cast and looks set to further establish himself as one of American cinemas most distinctive filmmakers.
Comedian Joe Cornish made a real impact with his cinematic debut Attack The Block and now he is finally back with his second film that sounds equally fresh and dynamic. Not a huge amount is known about the story, but we do know that it again centres around a teenage boy. Alex is a rather weak and powerless British schoolboy, until he and his friends discover the mythical sword of Excalibur and are forced to confront a medieval villain named Morgana, who is hellbent on destroying the world.
2017 was a landmark year for LGBT themed cinema and the films coming up in 2018 look just as tantalising. One of the most intriguing is this adaptation of a coming-of-age teen novel about a young girl (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) forced into gay conversion therapy by her aunt after developing feelings for her best friend. Later in the year, actor Joel Edgerton directs another story of teenage "gay conversion" with Boy Erased, starring upcoming star Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.
Is this the new Lord of the Rings? Producer Peter Jackson certainly seems to think so. Based on a novel by Philip Reeve, this sci-fi adventure is set in a dystopian future where most of the world has been destroyed in a cataclysmic event. Forced to evolve in order to survive, society now exists as a series of gigantic cities roaming the Earth, chasing and "eating" smaller towns for resources and sustenance. Early footage looks genuinely spectacular, and if anybody knows how to combine great storytelling with stunning visuals, it is Jackson and his team in New Zealand.
Our Spring Screenings return in March 2018, with the theme of celebrating Women in Animation, be it traditional or VFX.
Reading time 2 mins
Learn how to enrich language lessons with our 'Short Film in Language Teaching' online course
Reading time 4 mins
In partnership with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's London Borough of Culture bid, our new competition asks young Londoners to make a film about where they live.
Viewing time 5 mins
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