At the beginning of 2017, everyone knew that Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be the highest-grossing movie of the year. We also knew that Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming would make a fortune.
But what no one could have predicted was that the No. 5 highest-grossing movie of the year would be Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle — a reboot that few seemed to be excited about but that absolutely destroyed at the box office. Few also could have predicted just how successful It would be. The Stephen King adaptation became the highest-grossing horror film of all time and made more money than Justice League.
Looking ahead to 2018, the year’s highest-grossing movie will almost certainly be Avengers: Infinity War. Incredibles 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Solo: A Star Wars Story will likely round out the top 10 list. But what are those movies that will sneak up on everyone and make much more money than we expect? What is the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle of this year?
Let’s attempt to pick those movies out by taking a look at 2018 films that could be surprise hits.
1. The 15:17 to Paris — Feb. 9
Back in December 2014, it seemed clear that the year’s highest-grossing film would be The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. But everyone was shocked when Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper snuck in at the last minute and outgrossed it. Indeed, the movie became a complete phenomenon. Eastwood’s next movie was Sully, another patriotic true story which also performed well.
Eastwood has yet another one of these types of films coming out in 2018. The 15:17 to Paris is about the men who thwarted a terrorist attack on a Paris train in 2015. But there’s an unusual gimmick to this one: The actual men who really stopped the train in real life are playing themselves.
For the same reasons that American Sniper was a hit, The 15:17 to Paris could surprise a lot of people, especially with its gimmick of using the actual heroes — all three of whom will likely raise a lot of attention for the movie on a press tour. It definitely won’t do as well as American Sniper, but even if it comes close to Sully‘s gross, that would be a massive success.
Next: Everyone expects this movie to do well, but it could do even better than most people think.
2. Black Panther
Of course, everyone knows that Black Panther is going to do well. But the extent to which it is a hit is probably going to shock people, as Black Panther is poised to be this year’s Wonder Woman. That movie ended up blowing all expectations out of the water, making $412 million domestically and becoming the number one movie of the summer. The film gained momentum partially because it was a cultural event, being the first major female superhero movie in this new era of comic book films.
Black Panther is the first black superhero movie in this new era, and so it has potential to break out for the same reason. Plus, the early buzz has been jaw-droppingly good. It’s not unreasonable to think that the movie could open at $140 million or so, giving it the biggest February opening in history.
Next: This movie directed by a star of The Office could be the first big horror film of 2018.
3. A Quiet Place — April 6
2017 was an unusually good year for horror. Not only did It do extraordinarily well, but so did Get Out, Happy Death Day, Split, and Annabelle: Creation. The stage is now set for a horror film to dominate in the early part of 2018.
A strong contender to do so would be Paramount’s A Quiet Place. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt star in this film about a family living on a farm who have to remain quiet at all times in order to survive against mysterious supernatural creatures.
It’s got star power with Blunt and Krasinski, the latter of whom directed the film. It’s also got an interesting hook, with a premise similar to Don’t Breathe, a box office smash hit. And best of all, it’s got a great release date, coming out on a weekend when there won’t be any similarly spooky films opening in theaters.
If it’s any good, A Quiet Place will likely be No. 1 in its opening weekend and will remain in the top five for several weeks afterward.
Next: This movie has a perfect release date of Friday the 13th.
4. Truth or Dare — April 13
Blumhouse Productions has been absolutely on fire lately. In the past two years alone, they’ve released The Purge: Election Year, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Split, Get Out, Happy Death Day, and Insidious: The Last Key, all of which performed extremely well.
Their latest is Truth or Dare, which is effectively a slasher movie. In it, a group of college students will die if they do not agree to participate in an escalating game of Truth or Dare. Because Blumhouse movies are so cheap, they’re all basically guaranteed to break even. But Truth or Dare could do much more than break even. For one, it’s coming out on a Friday the 13th. That should bring in people who don’t always go to see horror movies but will for this special occasion.
Plus, it’s a modern slasher film with a cool, original concept, which helped bring Happy Death Day success in 2017.
Next: This movie is quite mysterious but will still likely break out.
5. Untitled Cloverfield movie — April 20
Back in 2016, nobody was really sure how 10 Cloverfield Lane would do. After all, the movie wasn’t even announced until two months before its release in theaters. But the Cloverfield brand recognition combined with positive word of mouth allowed the movie to make over $100 million.
This year, Paramount is in a similar situation with God Particle (which is not the final title of the movie). This is the third in the Cloverfield series and will presumably be retitled something with Cloverfield in the name.
The studio has delayed the movie several times. It was supposed to come out in February 2017 but was delayed to February 2018 and then to April 2018. And now, there’s a rumor that the movie might end up going to Netflix. But assuming God Particle actually comes out in theaters, its box office success might come as a surprise to those who literally don’t even know it exists right now.
Next: This Dwayne Johnson movie looks like big, dumb fun.
6. Rampage — April 20
Never underestimate the power of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. America loves him, and while he’s had some occasional stumbles like Baywatch, for the most part, movies he stars rarely outright bomb.
His first of several movies in 2018 will be Rampage, based on the video game of the same name. Video game movies are often terrible. But with this one, it seems to be barely based on the game at all. What’s more important is that it’s an action movie where giant monsters get loose and Johnson has to stop them. It sounds like exactly the kind of dumb-but-fun action flick that could be big. It’s also directed by Brad Peyton, who directed 2015’s San Andreas, another big, dumb action film that nobody could have predicted would make as much money as it did.
The movie will also be coming out right before summer movie season officially begins, giving it room to rake in some cash before Avengers. In fact, it’s opening around the same time as The Fate of the Furious opened last year. Obviously, that’s a big franchise, which people watch for more reasons than just The Rock. But the fact that we have another huge blockbuster action movie starring The Rock opening in April here means there’s a lot in place for this to be a hit.
Next: This is the latest installment in a cinematic universe, and it could be one of the series’ biggest entries yet.
7. The Nun –– July 13
The Nun is another movie that is obviously going to be successful, but it could do even better than most people are anticipating. So far, The Conjuring movies have all performed rather well, each grossing somewhere in the ballpark of $300 million. And the Annabelle movies have proven that audiences are attracted to the Conjuring brand on its own and the movies don’t necessarily need Ed and Lorraine Warren. After all, Annabelle: Creation made the exact same amount of money in the U.S. as The Conjuring 2.
The Nun is the first one of these Conjuring movies that was teased in a previous film, as Annabelle: Creation featured a tie-in scene setting it up. So everyone who saw Creation has already had The Nun advertised to them. Plus, since it’s not really a sequel to any previous movie like Annabelle, The Nun can bring in those who have never seen any previous Conjuring films.
It really is not unrealistic to think that The Nun could be the highest-grossing Conjuring movie outside of the first one, which would be a remarkable achievement for Warner Bros.
Next: Another big, dumb action movie that could compete in the crowded summer movie season.
8. Skyscraper — July 13
Yet another Dwayne Johnson movie that could come from behind and shock everyone is Skyscraper. This is an original action film in which The Rock plays a guy who works security at a building and becomes wrapped up in a hostage situation.
Skyscraper is being written and directed by Rawson M. Thurber. The last time he and The Rock collaborated, it was on 2015’s Central Intelligence, a movie that made over $200 million worldwide. Plus, the last time Johnson led a big, non-Fast and Furious action movie like this, it was 2015’s San Andreas, which grossed nearly $500 million worldwide.
Clearly, people love The Rock kicking ass in mindless action movies, which tees up Skyscraper to emerge as one of the summer’s surprise success stories.
Next: This movie is a belated sequel to a film that did really well in 2008.
9. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again — July 20
You might roll your eyes when you hear about a sequel to Mamma Mia! But many forget how big of a hit the first film was. It made over $600 million worldwide in 2008, becoming one of the highest-grossing movies of that summer. And that was despite the fact that it opened the same day as The Dark Knight.
Granted, we’ve seen a few examples in recent years of belated sequels to popular movies that don’t do as well as the original, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. But audiences are also loving movie musicals lately, from La La Land to The Greatest Showman.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again almost certainly won’t do as well as the original. But take 2016’s Bridget Jones’ Baby, another belated sequel to a popular romantic comedy. That movie’s box office saw about a 25% drop compared to the original. If Here We Go Again had a 25% drop, it would gross about $450 million worldwide, which would still be more than enough to make Universal happy.
Next: This sci-fi thriller towards the end of summer isn’t on anyone’s radar but could be soon.
10. Captive State — August 17
For the past few summers, it’s been the case that most of the huge tentpole blockbusters are scheduled to come out between early May and early August, leaving space in mid-to-late August for some random movies to sneak in and become number one. That was the case with Annabelle: Creation in 2017 and Don’t Breathe in 2016.
2018’s version of that might be Captive State. From Rupert Wyatt, the director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this sci-fi thriller takes place in a Chicago neighborhood a decade after the Earth has been occupied by aliens.
We don’t know a whole lot about the movie, but it’s got John Goodman and Vera Farmiga in the lead roles. It’s also reportedly got a pretty small budget, putting it in that Don’t Breathe sweet spot where it could unexpectedly approach around $100 million in the U.S., which for its budget would be quite genuinely.
Next: This comedy could be the Girls Trip of 2018.
11. Crazy Rich Asians — August 17
In 2017, an unforeseen box office hit was Girls Trip, which was the #10 highest grossing movie of the summer. That made sense considering how great the movie was. But at least a part of its success would seem to be that it appealed to black audiences, to whom Hollywood doesn’t cater as often.
This year, history could repeat itself with Crazy Rich Asians. Asian people are certainly not well represented in major Hollywood movies, and when they are, they’re often either horrible stereotypes or are suspiciously absent from the movie’s marketing like with Downsizing. But now we have a comedy with a cast consisting entirely of Asian actors. There are a few big names in the cast like Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh. It’s also based on a popular book of the same time.
For the movie to actually be a smash hit, it’s necessary that it also be really good like Girls Trip. But if so, we’ll have a genuinely funny comedy with a great cast of minority actors being released near the end of summer, exactly the formula that helped Girls Trip thrive last year.
Next: This movie could be the Deadpool of 2018 (and it’s not Deadpool 2).
12. The Happytime Murders — August 17
The first Deadpool taught us that putting a profane, R-rated spin on a popular genre can be hugely profitable. In 2018, The Happytime Murders will do that as well, and like Deadpool, it could surpass expectations.
The Happytime Murders takes place in a world where puppets and humans co-exist. The plot revolves around a police detective trying to catch a serial killer who is targeting the cast of a Muppet Show-style television program. Starring as the human characters are Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks, and Joel McHale.
An adult story being told with puppets is a concept that was explored in Avenue Q but that hasn’t really been depicted in the same way on film. If The Happytime Murders is funny enough, it could be the breakout comedy of the summer.
Next: This film based on a popular book could draw in younger audiences around Halloween time.
13. The House With a Clock in Its Walls — Sep. 21
In 2015, Goosebumps did quite well at the box office, taking in $150 million worldwide. That was a spooky movie based on a children’s horror book and that was released near Halloween. This year, another movie like that is coming out: The House With a Clock in Its Walls.
The film is based on the book of the same name, which follows a young boy who moves in with his uncle, only to discover that his uncle is a warlock, his neighbor is a witch, and his new home has a sinister history. And like Goosebumps, the movie stars Jack Black. Cate Blanchett also plays the witch who lives next door.
It’s unlikely to be as successful as Goosebumps seeing as the book isn’t as popular. But it can still draw that same audience of younger people looking for something non-R rated to watch around Halloween. Of course, later in October, it will have to compete with the actual Goosebumps sequel. By that point, though, it will have had a few weeks to itself.
Next: This October 2018 musical stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
14. A Star is Born — Oct. 5
There’s clearly an appetite for big movie musicals right now. La La Land was a massive hit in 2016, and more recently, The Greatest Showman was an unexpected success despite mixed reviews.
In 2018, the big movie musical getting released towards the end of the year is A Star is Born. Based on the 1937 film of the same name, which was remade in 1954 with Judy Garland and again in 1976 with Barbara Streisand, the film follows a country music artist who discovers an up-and-coming singer. Bradley Cooper stars in the lead role, and he also directed the movie. Starring alongside Cooper is Lady Gaga.
With a good release date and major star power, this one has potential to tap into this hunger for movie musicals and break out, not quite as much as La La Land but more on par with The Greatest Showman.
Next: This reboot of a popular but dying franchise could be the best entry in the series since the original.
15. Halloween — Oct. 19
Nobody really expects the new Halloween to bomb, but it could make far more than anyone is predicting. After all, here we have a franchise that a lot of people are nostalgic for but that has been tarnished in recent years due to a series of terrible sequels. Now, new creators are coming in to put a fresh spin on the series, ignoring some of the weaker entries, taking things back to basics, and bringing in a member of the original cast.
If that sounds familiar, it should, because that description also applies to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the number one movie of all time in the United States. Instead of Harrison Ford returning as Han Solo, here we have Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode. Instead of the prequels tarnishing the franchise’s reputation, we have the Rob Zombie films (and Halloween: Resurrection before that). And instead of J.J. Abrams, we have David Gordon Green and Danny McBride.
There is a realistic chance that this could end up being the best Halloween since the original. For it to be a box office smash, it needs to be absolutely magnificent an not just another mediocre entry. But if it is, a horror movie with the most iconic scream queen of all time coming out just in time for Halloween could tear up the box office in a way that we’re not prepared for, becoming the It of 2018.