Get a head start on next year’s releases with our snapshot of the must-see movies to come.

Contemplating an entire year of cinema viewing is both enticing and scary: all those opportunities to be transported when the lights go down, all those opportunities not to be transported when the lights go down. As cinemas continue their digital conversion and each Thursday becomes a little more crowded with new films, you can note the purpose of different months – Academy Award contenders in February, blockbusters start in May, the difficult and eccentric in October – or simply submerge yourself. Either way, here are 20 movies that could form part of your movie going in 2013.

Django Unchained
(Quentin Tarantino – January 24)
Having placed his stamp on gangster films and martial arts sagas, Quentin Tarantino finds a new genre with the western, although given the slavery backdrop he's also astutely described it as a southern: Jamie Foxx is the slave purchased and set free in exchange for helping a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) catch a group of killers. His reward is the return of his wife (Kerry Washington) from a venal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).


Zero Dark Thirty

(Kathryn Bigelow – January 31)
Kathryn Bigelow follows up The Hurt Locker with this engrossing procedural that documents the hunt for the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, through the eyes of an increasingly obsessed CIA analyst, played by Jessica Chastain. You know how it ends, but now why, and the ensemble cast includes Joel Edgerton as a Special Forces officer, James Gandolfini and Mark Strong in a riveting depiction of intelligence work.


Lincoln

(Steven Spielberg – February 7)
The 16th President of the United States is the subject of this collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), which focuses primarily on the final year of the American Civil War when Lincoln needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment to formally abolish slavery. Grand speeches and backroom machinations combine, with Sally Field as his wife and Tommy Lee Jones as a legislative adversary.


Amour

(Michael Haneke – February 28)
The winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival six months ago, Michael Haneke's follow-up to Hidden and The White Ribbon explores the burden of love when the wife in an ageing couple, Anna (Emmanuelle Riva), becomes incapacitated and the strain of caring for her becomes too much for her husband, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Expect the uncompromising as ever, but also compassion.


No

(Pablo Larrain – March 21)
It's the flipside to Mad Men: in Chilean director Pable Larrain's fascinating drama, Gael Garcia Bernal is the apolitical 1980s advertising man recruited to shape the opposition message to a plebiscite on the continuation of the dictatorial Pinochet regime. Shooting on now redundant magnetic tape – the format used in the original ads – Larrain seamlessly blends his story with archival footage and restores an uneasy era when defiance came with an unknown cost.

The Host
(Andrew Niccol – March 28)
And you thought just because the Twilight movies had finally finished we would have a year without a Stephenie Meyer adaptation of tortured young love. Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) writes and directs a sci-fi tale of a future Earth where most people are hosts for parasitic aliens, with Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) the young woman who falls in love but is then captured and implanted, only for her new personality to fall in love with someone else.

Rust and Bone
(Jacques Audiard – March 28)
With The Beat That My Heart Skipped and the magisterial A Prophet, Jacques Audiard has become an internationally renowned French filmmaker, and his new film documents an unconventional relationship – marked by a shattering tragedy – that forms between a bullish fighter trying to reform himself (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a marine animal trainer (Marion Cotillard; pictured).

Satellite Boy
(Catriona McKenzie – April/May)
Australian director Catriona McKenzie directorial debut may well continue the run of successful indigenous-based stories, whether it's Samson & Delilah or The Sapphires, as it follows a 12-year-old boy (Cameron Wallaby) who journeys across the Kimberley's with only the survival skills taught to him by his grandfather (David Gulpilil) to help him on his journey with a friend.


Iron Man 3

(Shane Black – April 25)
What do you do after you banded together with fellow superheroes to save the world? That's the question that faces Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark after the billion dollar grossing The Avengers. Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) takes over as director from Jon Favreau, so expect even more wisecracks, with Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley appearing as new adversaries while Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle return.

Star Trek Into Darkness
(J.J. Abrams – May 16)
The sci-fi reboot picks up speed, with J.J. Abrams returning as director along with the rejuvenated crew of the spaceship Enterprise (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, etc). The in-demand English actor Benedict Cumberbatch takes the villain's role – with some fans excitedly positing that he's playing Ricardo Montalban's iconic Khan from 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – in a story that focuses on planetary destruction and personal betrayal. Further lens flare a distinct possibility.


In The House

(Francois Ozon – May 23)
Already the winner of the San Sebastian Film Festival's top honour, the Golden Shell, in September, the new film from the prolific French auteur Francois Ozon has Fabrice Luchini and Kristin Scott Thomas as a married couple. The former plays a high school literature teacher who does his best to aid a promising student, but starts to become concerned – the film is loosely a dramatic comedy – about the stories being handed in by the young writer.


The Great Gatsby

(Baz Luhrmann – May 30)
Baz Luhrmann directs one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, shooting gilded 1920s Long Island and New York in Sydney with stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. Oh, and it's also in 3-D. Being a Luhrmann production it will be incredibly thought out, with a carefully constructed manifesto by way of justification. Whether it's better than the production design is entirely another question.


The Lone Ranger

(Gore Verbinski – May 30)
God bless Johnny Depp. Who else among the other handful of leading actors in the world would fixate on playing Tonto, the Native-American companion, rather than the traditionally iconic masked hero? Gore Verbinski, who did the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies (the really good one and the two dimming successors), directs with The Social Network's Armie Harmmer in the title role and Helena Bonham Carter joining them out west.

Man of Steel
(Zach Snyder – June 27)
As producer Batman architect Christopher Nolan set the tone and supervised the script, but the director of this second attempt at rebooting the superhero memorably played by Christopher Reeve is Zach Snyder, 300 and Sucker Punch's master of slow-motion and not a great deal more. Square-jawed Brit Henry Cavill is the new Clark Kent, with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Kevin Costner as his adopted father on Earth, and Russell Crowe as his biological father from the destroyed planet Krypton.

Elysium
(Neill Blomkamp – August 15)
Neill Blomkamp brought contemporary sci-fi to life with 2009's District 9, and for much of the time since that movie's deserved success he's been working on this tale of a dystopian future Earth and the 1% who live on a luxury space station orbiting the spoiled, overcrowded planet. Matt Damon is the illegal immigrant trying to literally make the move upwards, while Jodie Foster is out to stop him.

2 Guns
(Baltasar Kormakur – September 5)
Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur made the leap to Hollywood last year when he remade the Icelandic thriller, 2008's Reykjavik-Rotterdam, that he originally starred in. His replacement, Mark Wahlberg, is back for the story of two rival U.S. government agents – played by Wahlberg and Denzel Washington – who each investigate the other for embezzling official funds.

Rush
(Ron Howard – September TBC)
Formula One racing films are an odd lot, encompassing Sydney Pollack's Bobby Deerfield and Sylvester Stallone's Driven. Ron Howard's movie, set in the 1970s, looks at the rivalry on and off the track between the charismatic English driver James Hunt (Thor's Chris Hemsworth) and the precise Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), and may include Lauda's fiery accident at the 1976 German Grand Prix that permanently scarred him.

Malavita
(Luc Besson – October 24)
Playing a gangster in an unlikely comic situation was good for Robert De Niro in 1999's Analyse This, and he'll try the same with this movie, directed by the mini-studio that is Luc Besson, about a gangster who relocates to France with his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and family as part of the U.S. government's Witness Protection Program. Tommy Lee Jones gets to be the straight man as the agent supervising the move.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
(Francis Lawrence – November 21)
The blockbuster young adult franchise picks up where this year's debut left off, in a dystopic future where hardy teen Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has triumphed in the annual televised game of death but now has to survive the subsequent promotional tour, the two young men in love with her, and the rebellion against he totalitarian government that she helped foster. I Am Legend's Francis Lawrence (no relation) directs.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

(Peter Jackson – December 26)
The second installment of Peter Jackson's trilogy adapted from what was really a brief book by J.R.R. Tolkien will find the diminutive hero Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and an awful lot of dwarves arriving at the lair of Smaug, the dragon who has their clan's gold. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the beast, with part three due at the close of 2014.