War. Racism. Global warming. Donald Trump. There are so many reasons to fear the future, but there are also a few reasons to continue getting out of bed in the morning for the next 12 months— they all just happen to be pop culture events. We’ve been discussing 2016’s best movies, TV shows and more in depth, but here are the best of the best of the year ahead.

1) The Age of Non-Traditional Heroes

We’re in the Golden Age of superhero movies. No one denies this. DC’s finally about to get its cinematic universe up and running, Marvel is churning out four movies a year… so it’s nice to see that both companies are experimenting a bit more with the genre. Obviously, the R-rated, hyper-violet, fourth-wall-breaking Deadpool movie will be the year’s biggest risk, but one that could pay off as superhero movie fans look for something new. DC’s Suicide Squad, where a variety of villains are forced to face off against an even worse foe might even fare better than Batman V. Superman. And while Marvel’s Dr. Strange might be the most traditional of the three, it’s still going to have to task of bringing magic, hell, and some seriously freaky alternate dimensions to the MCU.

2) Game of Thrones Goes Off-Book

We mentioned it in our 2016 TV Preview, but we’re extra excited about the upcoming six season of Game of Thrones because for the first time, the show is almost completely caught up to the books. It’s finally time to get answers to some of the questions we’ve had since George R.R. Martin first published A Game of Thrones back in 1996. But we’re equally looking forward to seeing long-promised events like Danaerys finally striking out for Westeros, or the Others finally attacking the Wall. Sure, these things might not necessarily happen in season six, but now that the show can finally strike out on its own, we know these events are coming. (Like winter.)

3) Incredibly Great Authors Are Writing Comics

Our complete guide to the biggest comics of 2016 is coming out next week, but there are two series that deserve special mention: Black Panther and Angel Catbird. Why? Well, mainly because they’re being written by acclaimed authors Ta-Nehisi Coates and Margaret Atwood, respectively. Coates is one of the preeminent socio-political writers of his day, and imagining what he’ll bring to Marvel’s King of Wakanda is mind-boggling. Meanwhile, Margaret Atwood is one of the most critically acclaimed fiction authors in the world, and she’s going to be writing about a superhero who’s half-cat and half-bird. Both of these comics are an essential read in 2016.

4) The X-Files Are Getting Reopened

Why are we so excited about the return of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully? Sure, The X-Files was great in its heyday, but the show went completely off the rails by the end, and it’s not like either of the two movies blew anyone away. Yet here we are, shivering with anticipation for our two favorite FBI agents to get back out there and start investigating aliens, monsters, and all the other supernatural phenomena again. Maybe it’s because The X-Files works better as a show. Maybe it’s because so much of the original TV staff is back, and we think they’ll be able to recapture the magic. Maybe it’s just because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson seem really happy and excited to be back, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Or maybe it’s part of a terrifying government conspiracy. Who knows?

5) The Preacher Is On His Way

AMC hasn’t actually announced that the long, long-awaited TV adaptation of Garth Ennis’ cult favorite comic is coming out this year, but seeing as the show is solidly in production, we’d be very surprised if Jesse Custer, Tulip and Cassidy didn’t grace our TV screens before 2017. The fact that the show is finally happening—especially from genuine Preacher fan Seth Rogen (and his production company)—well, it’s likely that it will end up having been worth the wait.

6) We May Get the First Great Video Game Movie Ever

A good video game movie isn’t quite as well-known an oxymoron as “jumbo shrimp,” but it’s close. Still, we may have to retire it forever when the Warcraft movie comes out. If you’ve seen the trailers for the film based on the hit MMORPG, you know if looks plenty good, but lots of video game movies look good. The reason we’re so hopeful for Warcraft is that it’s directed by Duncan Jones of Moon fame. If there’s someone who can take a standard fantasy story of humans battling orcs and turn it into a compelling, thoughtful narrative, we’d put our money on Jones.

7) Ghostbusters Is Going to Rock

Remaking Ghostbusters always sounded like such a horrible, mercenary, unnecessary idea… until the day we learned it would star Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, and be directed by Paul Feig. Now it’s a great idea, and we can’t wait to see these ladies don their proton packs and start cleaning up the town. Even if the movie is somehow bad—and with this cast and crew, that’s not particularly likely—we’d still rather have this than the inevitably sad Ghostbusters 3 that Dan Aykroyd has been trying to make for the last 25 years.

8) It’s a Year-Long Superhero Free-for-All

Why settle for one superhero when you can have a dozen? 2016 is focuses almost entirely on team efforts—and putting as many heroes together as possible (even if they’re getting together to fight each other). Captain America: Civil War is so packed with heroes it’s being referred to as Avengers 2.5. Batman V. Superman isn’t just introducing Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but setting up the eventual Justice League movie. X-Men Apocalypse looks to star practically every single major X-Man that hasn’t yet made it on-screen. And it’s not just the movies! The Legends of Tomorrow aren’t exactly the Justice League, but they’re still the first real super-team of the DC/CW/TV universe.

9) An Even Better Star Wars Movie Is Coming

As good as The Force Awakens looked leading up to its release, I think we were all still pretty nervous about whether it would be good or no; obviously, it was pretty darn good. Comparatively, Rogue One has always sounded awesome from the first day we heard about Disney’s first stand-alone film about the group of Rebel pilots tasked with getting their hands on the plans for the first Death Star. I don’t know that we’re even emotionally ready for another great Star Wars movie so soon after TFA, but at least we have 11 months to prepare.


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.