While the world is still reeling from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, cinema marches on. Even though the industry took hit after hit in 2020, it’s difficult to deny that movies played an outsized role in getting us all through the shit year that we just left. And while things still swirl with uncertainty, the deployment of vaccines is giving us all new reason to hope. Alongside that hope comes the ever continual march of movies.
Things may be a bit more shaken up than they were, especially with the rise of VOD and streaming as legitimate methods of distribution, the amount of interesting films on the horizon is no different now than it ever has been. Certainly, things are still shaky and as such we can’t be sure that these films won’t find themselves pushed back even further, but for now there are some fantastic films to look forward to as The Worst Year Ever gets smaller and smaller in our rearviews.
The Little Things, January 29
Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto star in this psychological thriller about two cops (Washington and Malek) on the hunt for a suspect serial killer (Leto). Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Highwaymen, The Founder), there’s a lot of star power behind this film, which has the distinction of being the first Warner Brothers movie of 2021 to be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBOMax, a move that could ultimately decide the direction of the future of the movie industry.
Nomadland, February 19
With a limited, awards qualifying release in the rearview, this Chloe Zhao (The Rider, Marvel’s Eternals) directed film is looking to make its splash on wider audiences. Get hype. Starring Frances McDormand, this intimate and moving film about a woman in search of meaning after losing it all in the Great Recession is another beautiful, poetic work from Zhao.
The Father, February 26
Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in this film about an elderly man increasingly losing his grip on reality and refusing help from his daughter. Featuring moving portrayals, The Father is a film to keep on your radar as a way to chase away those early year cinematic blues.
Coming 2 America, March 5
32 years after Coming to America, we finally get a sequel to the Eddie Murphy classic, and it looks like it just might live up to its name. With its Amazon Prime release, this promises to be another interesting salvo in the ever-escalating streaming wars and the fight to control the future direction of the movie industry.
The Many Saints of Newark, March 12
A prequel to the paradigm-shifting, era-defining television hit, The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark takes a look at the adolescent years of Tony Soprano (played by the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini) and how the Soprano family rose to prominence to become the mafioso we know and love today.
BIOS, April 16
Tom Hanks isn’t exactly the kind of guy who associate with a film about a post-apocalyptic survivor who builds a robot to help with protection, but that just makes us all the more intrigued. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, best known for his work as director of some of the best episodes of Game of Thrones, including “The Battle of the Bastards,” BIOS feels like the kind of movie that could go either way, but there’s just enough here to suggest it might be great.
A Quiet Place Part II, April 23
Originally scheduled for release last year, before COVID-19 changed everything, we finally get to see the long awaited sequel to the surprise hit of 2018. Hopefully the wait and pushback was worth it.
Last Night in Soho, April 23
Another hold over from 2020, this Edgar Wright directed thriller has been eagerly anticipated for almost two years now. The pushback may have worked in the film’s favor, however, now that actress Anya Taylor-Joy is fresh off a career defining turn in last year’s Netflix surprise, The Queen’s Gambit. With the hype train steady rolling, expect Last Night in Soho to make a splash with late-spring audiences.
Black Widow, May 7
Finally, we get to see Scarlett Johansson’s first solo outing as Black Widow, one year after we expected to and nearly two years after her character died. Great job, Marvel.
Spiral, May 21
Somehow, this is a Saw movie? Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock? I’ll be honest here and admit I’ve never liked any movie from the franchise, but this might just be weird enough to catch my attention.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife, June 11
I guess we’re still trying to make Ghostbusters happen. My favorite thing about this movie so far is how everyone seems to have collective forgotten it was going to exist when the pandemic started and it got removed from last year’s slate. And now we get to remember again, for better or for worse. At least it’s set in the original universe, totally negating the criminally underrated and undervalued attempt at a reboot from several years ago.
In the Heights, June 18
Oh, I get it. We’re just releasing all of last year’s movies over the summer now. Got it. Anyway, this film version of the Lin Manuel Miranda play that first made his name is finally getting the chance to be seen and promises to be a delightful musical that reminds us of his power as a writer. Another movie we can choose to watch on HBOMax instead of dealing with movie theaters. I truly hope this experiment goes well.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, July 9
As Marvel moves away from the Infinity Saga that defined the first 11 years of the MCU’s existence, we can expect them to start delving into deeper pockets of comic lore. While not exactly a household name, Shang-Chi is an intriguing character to help build the new era of the MCU. Starring Simu Liu in the titular role, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a great way for Marvel to prove they don’t need Tony Stark or Steve Rogers to be the heroes as they find their way forward.
Old, July 23
What’s this movie about? No idea. But it’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who’s done some good work in the effort to reclaim his name over the last few years, so the secrecy surrounding it shouldn’t be that surprising. Hopefully he keeps regaining his footing and can come with a film that truly wows and surprises audiences again.
The Suicide Squad, August 6
Man, remember when the biggest news of the day was James Gunn getting fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3, only to be rehired? Well, the time between the firing and rehiring was just enough for Gunn to jump ship to DC in order to helm the sequel to 2016’s disastrous Suicide Squad, which finally sees the light of day this year. If he manages to bring even half the fun he brought to Guardians of the Galaxy, we might just see the DCEU ship start to right itself.
Candyman, August 27
Another film from 2020 that fell victim to the COVID closures, Nia DiCosta’s sequel to the 1991 classic promises to be a revitalization of the mythos and a return to the roots for this incomparable horror icon.
The Beatles: Get Back, August 27
Peter Jackson, who last turned his directorial eye for detail onto the stunning documentary, They Shall Never Grow Old, returns to the documentarian’s chair for this documentary that pieces together unused footage from 1970’s Let It Be.
Death on the Nile, September 17
Kenneth Branagh returns as Detective Poirot in this sequel to Murder on the Orient Express. Originally slated for release last year, Death on the Nile probably won’t make too big of a splash with audiences, if Murder on the Express’s experience holds, but Branagh’s relish at playing Poirot is infectious and it’ll be good to see him don that fantastic mustache once again.
Dune, October 1
2020’s cinematic revenge continues with Denis Villeneuve’s take on the Frank Herbert classic. Notoriously unfilmable, whether or not Villeneuve can do it justice remains to be seen. That said, if anyone can pull it off, Villeneuve can. As of now, this is yet another film you can also catch on HBOMax, though lately WB seems to be waffling somewhat, concerned that the move could ruin potential franchise possibilities for the film.
The Last Duel, October 15
Okay hear me out. Ridley Scott directing Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in a medieval drama written by Damon and Affleck alongside Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Also, Affleck plays King Charles VI. Also, Adam Driver’s in it. No, I will not be taking questions.
Eternals, November 5
Chloe Zhao’s second movie to make this list. Mostly curious since Zhao is best known for quiet, understated works of human poetry and now she’s directing a big budget action film from one of the weirder corners of the Marvel Comics universe. This could be just what the MCU needs to reinvigorate their stagnant formula.
The Matrix 4, December 22
As Keanu Reeves himself once so eloquently put it: Whoa.