Even 2020, as challenging and messed up as it was, offered up a remarkable number of incredible films. If you can’t find great movies, you’re not looking hard enough, or in the right places, especially as more people in more places have more access and platforms than ever before. We can, have, and will continue to debate the merits of theater versus streaming versus physical media, but the truth is, we have more movies at our fingertips than at any time in history. And that rules.
Anyway, the point of this rant is that every year has great movies, and as we move into 2021, this is the perfect time to look ahead to the films we’re most looking forward to in the upcoming calendar.
Some of these will be great, others won’t. Some will open as anticipated, others, thanks to the continuing global struggles with COVID-19, won’t. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. (Please wear your mask, I miss movie theaters and I want to go to the damn movies,.)
These are just a handful of the titles we’re looking forward to; it’s far from exhaustive. As usual, there will be a ton more. Things we’ve never heard of pop up at film festivals, arrive from other countries, and simply slip under our radar for one reason or another.
One note, there probably won’t be a ton of superhero movies on this list. I’ll watch them all, and probably enjoy them, but at this point—I don’t know if its fatigue or what—I just can’t muster up much excitement or enthusiasm for most of them.
That said, here are our 50 most-anticipated movies of 2021, however they arrive and whatever the cinema landscape looks like.
One last housekeeping note: since things are still generally up in the air, COVID-wise, many of these release dates are likely to change. (Rumors of shifts are currently swarming for a number.) So, take the information here with a grain of salt.
The week of January 15, 2021 sees a lot of prominent 2020 films getting wider releases. You’ll be able to check out the likes of Promising Young Woman, One Night in Miami, and News of the World, two of which figure into my best-of 2020 list.
Outside the Wire—1/15
A gritty, action-packed war story with a futuristic sci-fi edge starring Anthony Mackie. You have our attention, Netflix.
PG: Psycho Goreman—1/22
When two young siblings resurrect an ancient alien, they use a magic amulet to control him and make him their pet, and maybe save the world in the process.
A lot of folks saw Rose Glass’s psychological horror film at festivals pre-pandemic, so it’s shown up on a number of Best of 2020 lists. But thanks to COVID, it was delayed and pushed back a bunch of times, though it’s maintained a steady buzz among genre fans. In theory, the rest of us finally get to see it, but something will happen, it always does.
Judas and the Black Messiah—2/12
Any movie fronted by Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield has our immediate attention. A biopic about the late Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton and the FBI’s attempt to discredit and ultimately murder him, and we are all kinds of ready.
Delayed many times thanks to COVID-19, Scott Cooper’s horror film Antlers finally, finally gets a release. It has secrets and monsters and cannibals and stop, you made the sale.
Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is on my best-of 2020 list, so yeah, I think it’s good. A sparse, textured character portrait of a nomadic subculture, it’s gorgeous, poignant, and necessary in the current world.
Bob Odenkirk gets his “John Wick” moment. He plays an everyman—or maybe not be such an everyman—who goes on a violent rampage to save his family and I am 100% here for this. That first trailer is the good stuff.
Minimalist creepy religious horror, mean-spirited entities, an exploration of generational trauma, this has all the ingredients for a fine time splashing around in the genre pool.
Coming 2 America—3/5
33 years later, Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) must once again come to America. Seems like bad timing on their part with the way things are, but what the hell, I will watch Eddie Murphy don all manner of characters and costumes.
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent—3/19
Nicolas Cage plays a version of himself who accepts a million dollars from a Mexican drug lord/super-fan to attend his birthday party only to also be recruited by the CIA. Or something. I don’t entirely know, nor do I care, because I will watch the living hell out of this madness.
No Time to Die—4/2
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again in a few years, but I will always, always, be excited for a new James Bond movie. I’m basic that way. Just FYI, there are already reports that this will be delayed yet again.
To be honest, this movie, along with a few others, was on my most-anticipated list last year. But damn if don’t still want to watch Tom Cruise build a robot to protect himself and his dog in a post-apocalyptic reality. That sounds like most of my favorite things.
Video game movies are hit and miss, at best, and I have no real connection to this particular game. But two words make me excited for this version: Joe Taslim. Hell yeah. It doesn’t hurt matters that he’s joined by a stellar surrounding cast of badass. Prepare to get kicked in the face, repeatedly.
Last Night In Soho—4/23
I’m very much not on team Baby Driver, but Last Night in Soho is an Edgar Wright movie and that still means something. The fact that it’s a Edgar Wright horror movie only makes it that much more enticing.
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the Saw movies. However, I dig the gritty police thriller vibe of this latest expansion of this universe, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not super curious to see what a horror movie written by and starring Chris Rock looks like.
Godzilla vs. Kong—5/2
I’m a simple man who enjoys simple pleasures. All I need is to see Godzilla fight King Kong. Like I said, simple.
Please, please, pretty please let them go to space this time.
In the Heights—6/18
Before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda broke out with In the Heights. And since I’m always up for a good musical, you know damn well I’m going to be ready for the movie adaptation that was supposed to come out last year.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage—6/25
In 2018’s Venom, it feels like star Tom Hardy is in a different movie than, well, the rest of the movie. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing the hell out of it, and if he brings that manic, madman energy to the sequel, it’s going to be something to behold.
The Green Knight—7/30
Much delayed, A24’s The Green Knight takes on Arthurian legend. With Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, and David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) at the helm, this promises to be a tale of epic fantasy, mystery, and magic.
Top Gun: Maverick—7/2
Top Gun had way more of an impact on my young life than it rightly should have, so the idea of watching Tom Cruise reprise his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell hits me right in the nostalgia place. It doesn’t hurt that the trailer for the long-in-the-works sequel looks awesome and that Cruise actually learned how to fly fighter jets.
The Forever Purge—7/9
The Purge movies are all over the place, but they’re brash, in your face, unapologetic in their politics, and ambitious as all hell. Supposedly this will be the last, and it’ll be interesting to see what they pull out of their hat to wrap up the franchise.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings—7/9
I know I said there wouldn’t be many superhero movies, but god damn, I’ll watch anything with Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh. So here we are, I guess I am excited about a Marvel movie.
Don’t Breathe 2—8/13
Don’t Breathe is one of those movies that I don’t think needs a franchise or even a sequel. That said, I’m going to watch the hell out of the continuing adventures of Stephen Lang’s Blind Man.
One of the biggest disappointments of 2020, cinematically speaking, was not getting to see Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. This falls into the category of long-after-the-fact sequels that essentially function as a reboot. But whatever the hell you call it, this looks sharp and creepy and will hopefully update the already prescient franchise for the modern era.
I maintain that the Jackass movies are high art and find some level of nobility in people putting themselves in harm’s way to entertain. The first three are genius, so you better believe I’m on board for number four.
As long as Denis Villeneuve wants to keep playing around in the hard sci-fi sandbox, this is something we should encourage. And with a crazy big-name cast, his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic Dune (at least part of it as this is set up as the first of two movies) is something we can’t wait to see.
Was 2018’s Halloween revamp perfect? No, but it was a ton of fun. And if that team wants to crank another one out every few years, we will watch. Especially if Jamie Lee Curtis is involved.
Mission: Impossible 7—11/19
The Mission: Impossible movies are, frankly, the best Hollywood studio action movies going right now. Full of insane stunts and crazy production, these are second to none in that regard. (Okay, only the John Wickmovies give these a run for their money.) And though I’ve said it before, I firmly believe that if Tom Cruise can die, it will be making one of these movies.
The Matrix 4—12/22
Who knows what this will actually look like, but directed by Lana Wachowski solo this time, with an incredible cast, and the wild shoot-your-shot ambition inherent in the franchise, this is sure to be something to behold.
Columbus director and video essayist Kogonada returns with a sci-fi film about a world where robotic children can be purchased. The story follows a father (Colin Farrell) and daughter (Haley Lu Richardson) struggling to save a robotic member of their family.
This actually sounds like a classy, high-brow type of affair, but damn, the idea of Paul Verhoeven making a sexy nun story conjures up some wild exploitation-style scenarios to me. Fingers crossed it gets sleazier than advertised.
The Blind of the Ghost Cave: Angel’s Eyes—TBA
This has been long in the works, and I don’t believe it’s even started filming yet, but a revenge-heavy action movie from Timo Tjahjanto is always cause for celebration. Even if it’s only a theoretical one at this point.
The Card Counter—TBA
Paul Schrader follows up First Reformed with crime thriller about a gambler and a revenge-fueled protégé. That alone is an easy sell, but add Oscar Isaac, Willem Dafoe, and Tiffany Haddish, and you’ve got something.
Directed by Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins plays a badass janitor on the run from multiple gangs with millions of dollars of their ill-gotten money. Come one, one movie can only do so much.
Decision to Leave—TBA
Mention a new Park Chan-wook film and we immediately elbow our way to the front of the line. This time out, the Oldboy director takes on a murder mystery in a remote setting, a detective, and a dead man’s wife. Currently filming, fingers crossed for this in 2021.(Maybe Cannes if that happens?)
Deliver Us From Evil—TBA
Directed by Hong Won-chan, the writer of The Yellow Sea and The Chaser, and reuniting two key cast members of The New World, this crime thriller involves assassins, kidnapping, and revenge, while looking stylish and violent as hell. In theory this could release in the U.S. in March 2021, but reports are…iffy.
Everything Everywhere All at Once—TBA
A sci-fi movie about a 55-year-old Chinese woman doing her taxes sounds…dubious. But from the directorial team behind Swiss Army Man, things are sure to be much stranger than that logline. And it doesn’t hurt that the stacked cast features Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Hong.
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon—TBA
Ana Lily Amirpour returns—which alone is enough to generate interest—with a mysterious fantasy about a young woman with special powers escaping from a New Orleans mental institution.
Another film that shows up on some 2020 lists, but since NEON hasn’t set a U.S. release date, we’re including it here. A dystopia full of class strife and social gaps, this Mexican import has been described to me as a total bummer and a hard watch, but it’s also one we’re dying to see.
Night of the Kings—TBA
Sent to a notorious Ivory Coast prison, a young man must use storytelling acumen to carve out a niche, weaving together webs of fantasy to survive a stark, harsh reality.
Robert Eggers (The Witch), Vikings, revenge, I don’t need much more. A cast featuring Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Bjork, and more is just icing on the cake.
No Sudden Move—TBA
Steven Soderbergh making a 1950s set crime movie that sounds suspiciously like a heist-gone-wrong scenario sounds like music to our ears. And of course, because Soderbergh, the cast is incredible. Production wrapped last fall and HBO Max will distribute this sometime in 2021.
The Power of the Dog—TBA
Based on a book I haven’t read, this pits two brothers against each other when one gets married. Not the most interesting set up, this is a Jane Campion movie and that single fact is more than enough to get me through the theater door. (Metaphorical theater door in this case, as Netflix has the rights so I can watch it on my couch.)
Prisoners of the Ghostland—TBA
Nicolas Cage is a madman; Sion Sono is a madman. Letting them make a movie together is just the best idea. The story involves a criminal, an abducted girl, and a curse. Cage called this the wildest movie he’s ever made, so we should be in for a treat. This debuts at Sundance soon and hopefully we’ll get some news on when this will be unleashed upon the world.
Any Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room) movie is sure to be near the top of our must-see list. His latest is an action thriller starring John Boyega that “explores systemic American injustices through bone-breaking action sequences, suspense and dark humor.” Done deal.
There’s not a ton of information about Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, which the director shot in secret during the pandemic. But on the heels of The Florida Project and Tangerine, we’ll ride just about anywhere with him.
Julia Ducournau’s Raw is one of the best debut films of the last decade, so her follow up is big news around these parts. This follows a young man claiming to be a child who disappeared ten years ago, but when he reunites with his family, a series of murder unfold at the same time. Hmmm.
Nicolas Cage plays a nighttime janitor at a family amusement center that has fallen on hard times. When the facility’s animatronic characters come to life, it turns into a nightmare fight for survival. And if you read this site on a regular basis, you know how great the idea of Nicolas Cage fighting an amusement park full of killer robots sounds to us.