The first twenty years of the 21st century saw the unstoppable rise of the superhero movie. The Marvel franchise proved audiences are willing to go along with interwoven narratives across different films, while singular films like 2017's Wonder Woman, 2018's Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse birthed icons who diverted from the usual white male action figure mold.
2020 is a year of transition for the aging genre. At a glance, the old ways are still very much in play, but significant change and genuine freshness aren't very far away.
Here are eight superhero movies coming in 2020, all ranked by how hyped we are. And for once, it's not just Marvel and DC who are bringing something to the table. (Although it is still mostly the Big Two.)
8. VENOM 2 (October 2)
What it is: A sequel to 2018's Venom, Tom Hardy returns as Eddie Brock, a disgraced reporter infected with a sentient alien "symbiote" that grants him goo-based superpowers. Woody Harrelson co-stars as serial killer Casady Klay, infected with a more dangerous strain that turns him into the villain "Carnage."
Why we're hyped: In the same year Avengers: Infinity War broke fans, Venom felt like a fresh throwback to superhero movies of the 2000s -- gritty, weird, and not concerned with planting seeds for sequels and spin-offs.
Venom 2 is poised to amp up the nostalgia factor in a loose adaptation of the 1993 Spider-Man comic Maximum Carnage, also a video game on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Actor and VFX pioneer Andy Serkis takes a stab at directing his first major film, taking over from Ruben Fleischer.
7. SNAKE EYES (October 16)
What it is: A prequel to the G.I. Joe films, Snake Eyes will reveal the origins of everyone's favorite black ops ninja, Snake Eyes, and his rival sibling Storm Shadow. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) replaces Ray Park from the first two films, while Andrew Koji (Warrior) taks over for Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow.
Why we're hyped: No, G.I. Joe isn't really a superhero story. But for aging Gen-Xers and millennials who saw the movies, the G.I. Joes were the first Avengers who saved America from Cobra Commander. In a welcome move fitting the times, Hollywood didn't cast another white guy to play a ninja. Instead, it's British-Malaysian heartthrob Golding in his first action role. Can Golding reenergize a relic of the Reagan era? We'll know soon. And knowing is half the battle.
6. BLOODSHOT (March 13)
What it is: The first film based on Valiant Comics, Vin Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a U.S. soldier subjected to top secret experiments. With "nanite" supercomputers running through his bloodstream, Ray awakens as "Bloodshot" and embarks on a violent quest to find those responsible for turning him into a monster.
Why we're hyped: If Marvel and DC just aren't doing it for you anymore, Bloodshot is your violent alternative. A grittier, harder movie than most superhero blockbusters the producers cite influences like Predator and Robocop as touchstones. “It’s not a traditional superhero origin movie,” producer Hunter Gorinson told Inverse at New York Comic Con. “The stakes are high concept. Bloodshot has that sense that anything can happen.”
5. THE ETERNALS (November 6)
What it is: A new franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Eternals bring to life Jack Kirby's ancient aliens, the Eternals, who spend eons on Earth until they're forced out of hiding to save the planet. An all-star cast populate the film, including Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, a shredded Kumail Nanjiani, Gemma Chan, and more.
Why we're hyped: Besides sporting one of the most exciting ensembles ever, The Eternals from director Chloé Zhao will have dramatic ramifications on the MCU in the 2020s. It's through The Eternals the MCU may venture into the deep recesses of Marvel's space, where cosmic entities like Galactus, and Eternity await. Just as Guardians of the Galaxy introduced science-fiction to a superhero universe, The Eternals will take those ideas further into a greater unknown.
4. BLACK WIDOW (May 1)
What it is: The second Marvel female superhero movie that fans have demanded, and petitioned, for years. Scarlett Johansson suits up for the last time as Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, in a solo story that sees "Nat" close the door on the Red Room, the top secret Russian spy agency responsible for her training. Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and O-T Fagbenle also star.
Why we're hyped: While the world knows Scarlett Johansson to be a powerhouse actor, Johansson has yet to cement her chops as an action lead. (The less said about 2017's Ghost in the Shell the better.) With Black Widow killed off in Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow is the decorated star's final shot to make Black Widow the hero she's meant to be.
3. THE NEW MUTANTS (April 3)
What it is: A horror movie set in the X-Men universe, The New Mutants introduces a group of adolescent mutants who team up to break out of an oppressive asylum. Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, and Alice Braga star with fresh faces Blu Hunt and Henry Zaga. Antonio Banderas is reported to play a role in the film's post-credits scene.
Why we're hyped: Originally meant for April 2018, the film was caught up in Disney's acquisition of Fox. After years in limbo, The New Mutants is getting a proper release in theaters (and not just dumped on Hulu) and will retain its horror elements Disney seemed threatened by. For something truly different in a superhero movie, look no further than The New Mutants.
2. WONDER WOMAN 1984 (June 4)
What it is: Gal Gadot returns as her DC super-heroine at the height of the Cold War. Set in, well, 1984, Wonder Woman faces off with two new enemies, media mogul Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and archaeologist turned beast Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) amidst the culture of Ronald Reagan, shopping malls, infomercials, and break-dancing.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Why we're hyped: The once flatlining DC film franchise got serious CPR when 2017's Wonder Woman turned things around, paving the way for equally favorable movies like 2018's Aquaman and 2019's Shazam. Gadot was practically born to play Diana Prince, and any movie where she gets the spotlight (and not share it with Bat-fleck or the Justice League) is a good movie indeed.
1. BIRDS OF PREY (February 7)
What it is: After breaking up with The Joker, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn rebounds with ass-kicking BFFs Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and hard-boiled cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). Chris Messina, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor (as Batman villain "Black Mask") also star.
Why we're hyped: A Margot Robbie passion project within the DC franchise, Birds of Prey from director Cathy Yan is a madcap caper unlike anything from the Big Two. After Suicide Squad in 2016, Robbie easily could star in a solo movie all to herself. Instead, she's surrounded herself with diverse women, all playing some of the most beloved heroes in the DCU.