What Are the Most Anticipated Movies of 2017?

The top 10 based on online chatter

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Here in Chicago, it's beginning to get consistently cold. We've got that drab, gray thing going on that will be the default status until, roughly, March. We're getting to the point where "Do I have to?" is the only reasonable response to being asked to go outside. The entire area has some kind of head or sinus cold and is thinking only about getting through the winter, when the promise of spring (and a new world champion Chicago Cubs season) returns.

The movie industry is also beginning to turn its attention the coming year. While it finishes out 2016 with a bevy of high-profile releases, many of those will expand to more theaters come January. And the ultimate goal for many of this month's releases is awards consideration in the coming year. We're also at the point of the year where the premiere lineup for next month's Sundance Film Festival has been released and studios and distributors will be flocking to Utah to find their next batch of acclaimed movies.

The general audience has also begun looking forward to 2017, but the focus is less on the prestige releases and more on the big-budget franchise movies that sell a lot of popcorn and action figures—the kind of movies that are based on existing properties and feature chiseled abs, swords, superhero hijinks and above-the-title actors bringing your favorite childhood characters to life.

Marketing technologies firm Amobee put together a list of next year's most-anticipated movies based on the volume of online content being created by the audience.

Here's the top 10:

10. Logan

9. Thor: Ragnarok

8. Beauty and the Beast

7. Star Wars: Episode VIII

6. Fifty Shades Darker

5. Baywatch

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

3. Wonder Woman

2. Justice League

1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Yes, that's right. A full 60 percent of the list stars a comic-book character. What's moderately surprising, though, is that the top slot is taken by a movie that, if you squint, is the first in a series.

It's not hard to assume Spider-Man: Homecoming's position on the list is the result of the character's introduction in this year's Captain America: Civil War, a glorified cameo that wound up dominating that movie's buzz both before and after release. That GIF of Spider-Man's appearance in the hero-on-hero fight sequence was all over the place on social media, becoming a key part of the movie's marketing.

But it's also important to note that the GIF and subsequent buzz, with the exception of a few behind-the-scenes posts from star Tom Holland, is the extent of that movie's marketing to date. There's no poster and no trailer. This movie is being anticipated almost solely on Sony agreeing to lend the character to Marvel in advance of Spidey's second reboot in five years.

DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. has to be happy that Justice League and Wonder Woman take the next two slots, considering the critical drubbing received by both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. That's especially heartening for Wonder Woman, which will be the first superhero movie starring a solo female hero as well as the first big comic-book release from a female director (Patty Jenkins).

Both of these movies had formal campaigns that kicked off at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year, and each has had at least one subsequent trailer, along with additional material to keep fan anticipation stoked. According to Amobee, the buzz for Justice League is 60 percent of that for Spider-Man, with Wonder Woman not too far behind with 59 percent of Spider-Man's content volume.

It's a bit surprising that Star Wars: Episode VIII is so far down the list, but becomes less so when you consider the release is still a year away and, because of the unique marketing challenges facing the Star Wars franchise with new movies every year, hasn't gotten a formal campaign kickoff to date. You'd expect that after the release of Rogue One that the Episode VIII campaign will soon begin to shift into a higher gear, with a first trailer likely coming this March or April.

You have to move pretty far down the larger list to find the only two movies that aren't either sequels, remakes, or—like Baywatch or Kong: Skull Island (at No. 20)—based on existing intellectual property. Those two movies are Dunkirk and Baby Driver.

Dunkirk (at No. 28) is the new movie from director Christopher Nolan, he of The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and more. It's a dramatization of the epic story of how Allied soldiers were evacuated from a small French port during World War II after being surrounded by the German army. While it's not a franchise property, Nolan has such name recognition that his movies are often sold based on that alone, presenting the new release as the next installment in the director's series. In fact, the announcement teaser trailer takes that exact approach, listing off Nolan's previous accomplishments as it sells a dramatic war movie whose story is focused on simple survival.

A tad more surprising is the appearance of Baby Driver (at No. 29), the upcoming release from writer/director Edgar Wright. This is another case where there's been minimal press for the movie and no formal campaign to date, meaning there isn't much that's been getting people talking about or anticipating the movie. But Wright is a well-known quantity among movie nerds, which is likely overcoming the lack of trailer or other materials.

All in all, these are … just the kinds of movies that you'd expect to be on a list like this. They're the ones with high default name recognition, and many have campaigns that have already started, even if the movie isn't coming out for almost a year. In many cases the stars themselves—Tom Holland, Hugh Jackman, The Rock and others—have been fanning the early flames among their sizable social audiences, which acts to supplement and augment the efforts of the studios themselves. 

@ChrisThilk chris.thilk@gmail.com Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategy consultant in the Chicago suburbs. You can find him at ChrisThilk.com, where he shares his thoughts on content marketing, media and movie marketing.