Last year was a disaster for cinemas, and not every big 2020 release made its way to streaming or digital alternatives—like Trolls: World Tour, Mulan, Bill & Ted Face the Music, or Wonder Woman 1984. This means 2021 is stacked with big-name titles, as plenty of movies were pushed back by months, joining others always intended to be released this year.
There’s also the controversial decision by Warner Bros. to make all of its biggest releases available on HBO Max simultaneously (but only in the US), which could be a tipping point in Hollywood’s experiment to see if the ‘Netflix model’ could be more profitable than relying on traditional theatrical runs. After all, greedy studios get to keep all of the money they make from digital revenues on their own platforms. But is eroding the big screen experience going to make every epic movie and VFX-driven blockbuster seem small and ephemeral? A problem that sorely damaged Wonder Woman 1984, where any grandeur that might have taken the sting away from the bad story and characters wasn’t available to those watching on a laptop while rage-tweeting their thoughts in real-time.
Strange times indeed. But, if the COVID-19 vaccines start to have an effect on the population, some semblance of normality will hopefully return just in time for the summer blockbuster season. Below are all of the 2021 movies that, currently, have a pencilled in release date. All of this is subject to change, so take it all with a pinch of salt, but if you miss getting excited for nice things… read on…
8 Jan: Supernatural horror The Devil’s Light concerns a devout nun (Jacqueline Byers) who believes performing exorcisms is her true calling in life, but isn’t allowed to perform them because only priests can. Exorsexist? • US cinemas.
15 Jan: Guy Ritchie returns with Wrath of Man, an adaptation of the 2004 French film Cash Truck, reuniting him with Jason Statham (Snatch), with a cast that also includes Scott Eastwood, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, and Jeffrey Donovan. • US cinemas.
15 Jan: Outside the Wire is a sci-fi film about a drone pilot (Damson Idris) in the future who has to stop a global catastrophe with the help of his android (Anthony Mackie). • Netflix.
15 Jan: Liam Neeson brings his “particular set of skills” to The Marksman, yet another of his Taken-flavoured action thrillers. This one sees Neeson as a former Marine and rancher living in an Arizona border town, who has to help a young boy escape a Mexican drug cartel. Sounds like Rambo: Last Blood. • US cinemas.
26 Feb: Tom & Jerry get the “Roger Rabbit” treatment in this live-action/animated hybrid with the famously antagonistic cat and mouse duo in a New York City hotel. Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña headline in flesh-and-blood form. • US cinemas / HBO Max.
26 Feb: Anthony and Joe Russo follow-up the highest-grossing movie ever made (Avengers: Endgame) with Cherry, a small-scale crime drama starring Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland, based on the novel by Mico Walker about an army medic with PTSD who robs banks to pay for his opioid addiction. • US cinemas / Apple TV+ on 12 Mar.
26 Feb: Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) stars as a mild-mannered family man who goes “John Wick” when his wife and kids are targeted by a Russian drug lord following a burglary that goes wrong. Written by Derek Kolstad (who wrote John Wick), this seems like a variation on the idea, but Nobody arguably benefits from seeing someone like Odenkirk in the lead role — as few would have previously singled him out as action man material. • US cinemas.
5 Mar: Eddie Murphy returns as Prince Akeem Joffer of Zamunda, in this belated sequel to his 1988 hit Coming to America. Amazon Prime have secured Coming 2 America for exclusive streaming, hoping its star-studded cast (Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman) and nostalgia for the original will drive subscribers to their platform. • Amazon Prime Video.
12 Mar: The King’s Man, a prequel to the Kingsman saga, finally arrives after many delays. Set during WWI, Matthew Vaughn’s new film reveals the origin of the high-tech British spy organisation, with Ralph Fiennes playing mentor and Rhys Ifans as the villainous Rasputin. • US cinemas.
19 Mar: Morbius has been delayed a year, but Sony are hoping the second entry in their “Venom-verse” will be a hit when it’s released. Jared Leto stars as the “Living Vampire” from Marvel comic-books; a scientist with a rare blood disease who finds a cure that transforms him into a type of vampire. • US cinemas.
TBD: Zack Snyder’s Justice League is expected to debut this month, reimagined as a four-part ‘miniseries’ closer to what was originally intended before he stepped away due to a family tragedy. Love or hate the idea of this existing, or what it means in terms of fans dictating what gets made and why, it’s an extraordinary oddity. • HBO Max.
2 Apr: A high-profile casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic after being rescheduled twice, Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond is now expected to arrive in April with No Time to Die. UK cinemas are particularly keen to see this released as usual, as chains are expected to reopen with the hope interest in 007 will drive people back to cinemas and rejuvenate their struggling business. • US cinemas.
16 Apr: Often cited as the best video game adaptation ever made, 1995’s Mortal Kombat is being rebooted for a new generation of button-bashers. Expect fatalities. • US cinemas / HBO Max.
16 Apr: Game of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik gets a chance at big screen success with BIOS, a sci-fi drama starring Tom Hanks as one of the last men on Earth who invents an android (Caleb Landry Jones) to keep him company. • US cinemas.
23 Apr: A Quiet Place II was delayed by the pandemic, but John Krasinski’s horror sequel to his surprise hit is now expected to premiere in April 2021. Ssssh. • US cinemas.
23 Apr: Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) is back with another film, this one starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Thomasin McKenzie, Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp. Last Night in Soho is a psychological horror about a wannabe fashion idol who finds herself in the 1960s to meet her idol. • US cinemas.
23 Apr: Martin Campbell (Goldeneye) directs this action thriller starring Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, and Maggie Q. The Asset concerns two elite assassins with a mysterious shared past in Vietnam. • US cinemas.
7 May: Marvel Studios’ big casualty of the pandemic was Black Widow, which now arrives as an early summer blockbuster-in-waiting, starring Scarlett Johansson as the super-spy with a shadowy Russian past. • US cinemas.
21 May: After the tepid reception to Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Legendary will be hoping their crossover monster melee Godzilla vs. Kong will be more appealing to filmgoers. Although they’re not happy it’s being simultaneously put on HBO Max! I can’t blame them, when films like these almost don’t work outside of a multiplex setting. • US cinemas / HBO Max.
21 May: Free Guy, the high-concept sci-fi adventure about a video game character (played by Ryan Reynolds) who becomes aware of his existence as a “non-player character” in a Grand Theft Auto-style game, finally arrives after another pandemic-related delay. • US cinemas.
21 May: Are you fed up with Saw movies? Well, bad luck. Spiral comes from filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman (who directed Saw II-IV), but the intriguing thing is how it got stated by unexpected Saw fan Chris Rock — who produces and stars alongside Samuel L. Jackson. Is this going to be a more upmarket Saw instalment to relaunch the series, or fan-fiction from a famous comedian? • US cinemas.
28 May: F9 is the ninth in the Fast & Furious franchise, with Justin Lin back as director and all your favourite “family” members returning—apart from Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who already got their spin-off nobody liked. • US cinemas.
28 May: This may potentially go to Disney+ if the industry’s still not back on its feet by the lucrative summer months, but Disney’s Cruella is still expected in cinemas. This is a live-action prequel for villainous Cruelle De Ville (Emma Stone) from 101 Dalmations, joined by Mark Strong and Emma Thompson. • US cinemas.
28 May: Antoine Fuqua directs Infinite, a sci-fi action film about a man (Mark Wahlberg) who discovers his hallucinations are glimpses of his many past lives. • US cinemas.
4 Jun: The big horror hope for 2021 is probably The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson back as the married paranormal investigators. This ones does come from director Michael Chaves (not James Wan), who was behind the terrible Conjuring spin-off The Curse of La Llorana, but maybe this will work better for him? Expect jump-scares. • US cinemas.
4 Jun: Samaritan is a superhero film about a boy who discovers a famous superhero, missing in action for a few decades, may actually still be around. This is the follow-up to WWII horror film Overlord from Julius Avery, starring Sylvester Stallone as the MIA superhero. • US cinemas.
11 Jun: Who ya gonna call… again? Ghostbusters: Afterlife is hoping to resurrect the popular 1980s horror-comedy franchise, after a divisive all-female 2016 reboot, by making it a direct sequel set decades later and involving Jason Reitman—filmmaking son of the original film’s Ivan Reitman. • US cinemas.
18 Jun: Another Warner Bros. film going to streaming, controversially, is John M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical In the Heights. The cast includes Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, and Olga Merediz. • US cinemas / HBO Max.
25 Jun: Motion-capture legend Andy Serkis directs the sequel to Venom, amusingly titled Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Tom Hardy is back as the slathering anti-hero, facing off against Woody Harrelson’s “Carnage” symbiote. • US cinemas.
2 Jul: Tom Cruise returns with Top Gun: Maverick, a belated sequel to his 1986 hit, now beautifully timed for its 35th anniversary. Even if you’re too young to have been enamoured with Top Gun back in the ’80s, any action film with Cruise doing his own stunts (including flying a fighter jet for real) is surely enough to earn your time. • US cinemas.
2 Jul: Minions: The Rise of Gru will be one of the year’s big children’s animations, this time with the voices of Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Russell Brand, and Julie Andrews. • US cinemas.
9 Jul: Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be its big summer blockbuster, introducing a character unfamiliar to most people, and truly beginning its ‘Phase Four’. • US cinemas.
9 Jul: If you’re into the unexpectedly long-winded Purge horror franchise, the final instalment arrives this year, entitled The Forever Purge (so you can guess where the story is likely headed). • US cinemas.
16 Jul: Tom Holland’s really staking a claim to 2021, moving away from the Spider-Man role that made him world famous, with another big franchise-in-waiting. Uncharted adapts the popular video games about a modern-day Indiana Jones-style hero, with Holland in the lead alongside Mark Wahlberg & Antonio Banderas. • US cinemas.
16 Jul: Children of the ’90s, rejoice! A sequel to animated/live-action hybrid blockbuster Space Jam is finally here, with LeBron James stepping into the Michael Jordan role, co-starring alongside Sonequa Martin-Green, Don Cheadle, and lots of Looney Tunes characters. Space Jam: A New Legacy also has a script by Ryan Cooler (Black Panther, Creed). • US cinemas.
16 Jul: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar should win best title of the year, and this is one of the bigger comedy hopes of 2021. Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) are two friends who leave their small-town for an adventure in Florida. • US cinemas.
23 Jul: High-concept alert! The Tomorrow War is about a war being fought against aliens in the future, which involves drafting soldiers from the past. Chris Pratt and Yvonne Strahovski star, directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie). • US cinemas.
23 Jul: M. Night Shyamalan’s back with another thriller, entitled Old. Not much is known about it, beyond the premise involves a group of people finding a dead body on a beach, but it stars Gael Garcia Bernal. • US cinemas.
30 Jul: Jungle Cruise feels like it’s been “coming soon” for years, but it should arrive this summer. Based on the Disneyland theme park ride, it stars Dwayne Johnson as a riverboat captain who takes a scientist (Emily Blunt) and her brother (Jack Whitehall) into the jungle to find the Tree of Life. Édgar Ramírez, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti co-star. • US cinemas.
30 Jul: David Lowery has a new film called The Green Knight (starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Joel Edgerton), based on the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew, and his quest to defeat the Green Knight. • US cinemas.
6 Aug: After Wonder Woman 1984 was met with mixed reviews, Warner Bros. have higher hopes for The Suicide Squad from James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). This is intended to course-correct the wayward first movie, bringing back some old favourites (Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis) with new “squad members” (Idris Elba, John Cena, Peter Capaldi, Sylvester Stallone). • US cinemas / HBO Max.
13 Aug: The Patricia Highsmith novel Deep Water is being adapted by Adrian Lyne (back behind the camera after a 19 year absence), concerning a married couple (Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas) who start playing deadly mind games with each other that start to involve other people dying. • US cinemas.
13 Aug: Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha Franklin in Respect, a biopic of the acclaimed singer’s life, who died in 2018. Co-stars include Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Marc Maron, and Titus Burgess. • US cinemas.
13 Aug: Fede Álvarez isn’t directing Don’t Breathe 2, but he has written the script, which will again involve the Blind Man (Stephen Lang). The story finds him living in an isolated cabin with a young orphan girl he saved from a house fire, only for her to be kidnapped, forcing him to venture out to save her. • US cinemas.
20 Aug: Nobody can fathom why, but they’ve made a sequel to The Hitman’s Bodyguard, called The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. This again sees bodyguard Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) protecting assassin Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), when Kincaid’s wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) goes missing. I don’t know anyone who was crying out for this, but Ryan Reynolds gotta eat, and Samuel L. Jackson gotta work. • US cinemas.
27 Aug: The remake of Candyman was unfortunately delayed from last Halloween, but it will hopefully arrive this year, albeit in a less apt month. Nia DaCosta directs from a script co-written by Jordan Peele (Get Out), and it’s still unclear if this is a direct sequel (Tony Todd is back, but as Candyman?) or a reimagining set in a different time period. • US cinemas.
27 Aug: Peter Jackson hasn’t done much since The Hobbit trilogy was met with a mixed reception, but he’s behind The Beatles: Get Back, another documentary about the Fab Four — this one restoring unused footage from a 1970 documentary by Michael Lindsay-Hogg about the making of the titular album. Jackson pored through 55 hours of footage and has remastered it as he did WWI footage for They Shall Not Grow Old. The film intends to prove The Beatles weren’t as bitter towards each other as is widely believed at that time in history. • US cinemas.
27 Aug: Jackass 4, anyone? Need I say more? Johnny Knoxville and friends may be pushing 50 now, and the third movie was released 11 years ago, but Knoxville and Steve-O have already been hospitalised in the pursuit of making you laugh or grimmace. • US cinemas.
9 Sep: Hollywood’s rebooting Resident Evil, thanks to renewed interest in the horror survival video game series — after a popular seventh instalment and two successful “remakes” of earlier ones. This version will be more faithful to the Capcom games, being set in 1998 and working as an origin story to the first video instalment. Kaya Scodelario (Crawl) plays Claire Redfield, Robbie Amell is Chris Redfield, Avan Jogie is Leon S. Kenedy, Hannah John-Kamen is Jill Valentine, Tom Hopper is Wesker, and Neal McDonough is William Birkin. See, all your favourite video game characters and not a random “Alice” in sight. • US cinemas.
17 Sep: Kenneth Branagh’s back as moustachioed Hercule Poirot in the second of his lavish Agatha Christie adaptations, Death on the Nile. Another star-studded cast includes Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright. • US cinemas.
17 Sep: The Man from Toronto is a comedy about a mix-up at an Airbnb, with a loser (Kevin Hart) from New York being mistaken as an assassin dubbed ‘The Man from Toronto’ (Woody Harrelson). Jason Statham was set to star in Harrelson’s role, but left over issues with the tone of the film. • US cinemas 17 Sep.
1 Oct: Denis Villeneuve isn’t happy Dune is going to stream on HBO Max, but hopefully a trip to the multiplex will be more likely come autumn 2021. This is a $165M sci-fi epic, based on the novel by Frank Herbert, previously adapted into a David Lynch misfire and a TV miniseries. After his excellent Blade Runner 2049 sequel, hopes are stratospheric for this, but let’s hope Warner Bros. allow Villeneuve to make the concluding part even if box office is crippled by any pandemic concerns. • US cinemas / HBO Max.
8 Oct: How about this for a quick turnaround? There’s already an Addams Family 2 sequel cartoon, with everyone back to voice the creepy and kooky family. • US cinemas.
15 Oct: Halloween Kills was an unfortunate COVID-19 delay last year, but at least this now comes out for the 40th anniversary of Halloween II (which is a film it ignores in terms of where the story went). David Gordon Green is back as director, with a concluding movie set for 2022 called Halloween Ends. • US cinemas.
15 Oct: Ridley Scott returns for The Last Duel, set in 14th-century France, about two friends (Matt Damon, Adam Driver) ordered to fight to the death after an accusation of rape. Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck co-star. • US cinemas.
22 Oct: Yes, honestly, there’s a G.I Joe spin-off coming out called Snake Eyes, with Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as the fan-favourite character. Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife) directs. • US cinemas.
5 Nov: Another big movie for Marvel is Eternals, which introduces yet another entirely new area of their Cinematic Universe. This concerns an immortal alien race who have secretly lived on Earth for 7000 years, starring Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kit Harington, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Don Lee, Lia McHugh, and Barry Keoghan. • US cinemas.
5 Nov: You want an Elvis biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann starring Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood) as the King of Rock n’ Roll during his early years, with Tom Hanks? You got it. • US cinemas.
19 Nov: Tom Cruise will have a bumper 2021 after the Top Gun sequel, as Mission: Impossible 7 is also coming out, again directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Newcomers to Mission include Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, Esai Morales, Shea Whigham, and Henry Czerny. • US cinemas.
24 Nov: Encanto is a Disney computer-animated musical fantasy about a Colombian girl who grows up as the only non-magical member of her family. One reason to be excited is that Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) wrote the songs, as he did for the excellent Moana. • US cinemas.
10 Dec: Steven Spielberg is remaking West Side Story, with Ansel Elgort, making this his first musical—not including the opening sequence to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. • US cinemas.
17 Dec: If you can’t get too excited for Marvel’s Shang-Chi and Eternals because you’re not familiar with the characters, don’t worry. There’s a third as-yet-untitled Spider-Man film, confirmed to involve Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Elektro (Jamie Foxx), and Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina). Yes, two of the villains are from different incarnations of Spider-Man, as the MCU is delving into the “Spider-Verse” concept of multiple dimensions. Excited yet? • US cinemas.
22 Dec: Let’s hope The Matrix 4 will get a chance to play in cinemas, as it would be unforgivable to let this be seen primarily on HBO Max. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss return as Neo and Trinity, despite both characters dying in the last movie, joined by franchise newcomers Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, and returning stars Jada Pinkett-Smith and Lambert Wilson. I think we’re all on tenterhooks about whether or not this is a good idea, considering the trilogy seemed to end the story conclusively. • US cinemas.