2020, aside from being a generally terrible year for the entirety of humanity, also presented an unprecedented circumstance for the cinematic landscape. Many big studios pushed their tent pole releases to 2021, production halted almost entirely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent developments in streaming releases have many nervous about the future of theatrical releases.
However, 2021 still has numerous exciting films for moviegoers to enjoy on the horizon, so with a hopeless and romantic optimism, let’s take a look at 10 upcoming releases that should be on everyone’s radar.
Before getting into the top 10, there are some movies that I am excited for, but barely missed out on being included in the top 10. These include:
- James Gunn’s reboot/reimgination of DC’s Suicide Squad
- The long delayed adaptation of Naughty Dog’s terrific Uncharted games starring Tom Holland as the lead character, Nathan Drake
- The newest film in the Saw universe, Spiral, starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson
- The infamous “Snyder Cut” of Justice League, the long-rumored cut of the film by director Zack Snyder before he departed the project and Joss Whedon took over
- The King’s Man, the World War 1 prequel to the underrated Kingsman series
- Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s Netflix heist film and return to the zombie genre
- The long delayed sequel to John Krasinski’s surprise horror hit, A Quiet Place Part II
- Coming 2 America, Eddie Murphy’s long-awaited second outing as the Prince of Zamunda
- The Stephen Spielberg-directed reboot of one of the most classic musicals of all time, West Side Story
- The historically-based drama that retells the life of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther Party, Judas and the Black Messiah, starring LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya
And with that, my top 10 most anticipated movies of 2021!
10. The Matrix 4
In the category of apprehensive rather than excited, we have the fourth installment of The Matrix. Lana Wachowski returns to direct and Keanu Reeves is back in the lead role. This will be the first installment in this series since 2003, and the first film from either of the Wachowski sisters since the critically panned Jupiter Ascending.
Despite the general failures of the most recent Wachowski releases, and the poor reception of both sequels to the original masterpiece, the very idea of Keanu Reeves returning to the role that skyrocketed his career, especially after reserving a spot in the action movie Hall of Fame with the John Wick series, has me frothing at the mouth. This, and the advancements in modern technology since the original trilogy, has me cautiously excited for this film.
9. 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe films
For the first time since 2009, no films produced and distributed by Marvel Studios saw exhibition in theaters. Considering that 2020 was supposed to be the start of the fourth phase of the MCU, and the branching off into television with several shows on Disney+, COVID-19 put a halt on any post-Endgame momentum the series had going.
That being said, 2021 is supposed to see the release of four MCU films: Black Widow, The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man 3. The later one in particular has me excited, but all three provide a chance for Marvel to resume their hold on popular culture, and I’m nevertheless excited to see where this franchise goes after the insanity of Phase 3.
8. No Time to Die
Bond 25 has seen its share of delays and production halts. Director and script changes, release delays…all before COVID-19 pushed back the release date almost one full year. Daniel Craig’s last outing as the British super spy has seen a rocky road, but with its actual(?) release date on the horizon yet again, excitement is building.
A couple of terrific trailers, an incredibly talented director behind the camera in Cary Joji Fukunaga, and a truly phenomenal Bond song by Billie Eilish have catapulted this movie from its early days in production hell to be one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, and the conclusion of Craig’s historic run as Bond is one that I cannot wait to see.
7. The French Dispatch
Film nerds and quirky personalities everywhere yelled in unison when the first trailer for The French Dispatch, the latest film in the equally nerdy and quirky filmography of Wes Anderson, was released earlier this year. Featuring the director’s distinct cinematic framing, usual cast of actors, and an interesting premise, the trailer set film Twitter on fire for a few weeks.
COVID-19 halted both the festival and theatrical runs of the film, which is currently slated for a May release, yet excitement has not faltered for the iconic director’s latest tale of a European dispatch for a Kansas-based newspaper. Several new additions to Anderson’s usual cast, such as Timothee Chalamet, have also added fuel to an already bright fire.
6. The Green Knight
Indie powerhouse and awards knockout A24 has several movies slated for 2021 release, but none of which have garnered quite as much buzz as The Green Knight, David Lowery’s adaptation of the timeless Arthurian legend we all read in high school English class. Starring Dev Patel in the lead role of Sir Gawain, the film is a modern twist on the classic tale, and features striking visuals, a unique and dark tone, and some reportedly terrific performances.
Like most of the movies on this list, the release of The Green Knight was delayed numerous times amidst the 2020 pandemic, yet the early buzz and reputation of both A24 and Lowery has carried this film’s anticipation through the insanity of 2020, so the film’s hopeful 2021 American release will finally let this beautiful film see the light of day.
Very rarely does a sequel get me quite as excited as Candyman, the Nia DaCosta directed, Jordan Peele produced sequel to the 1992 original cult-classic. Originally slated for a summer 2020 release, the film was delayed multiple times before a final release date of August 27th, 2021 was set, soon after the first trailer for the film was released a few months before the original release date.
Featuring a remix of “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, a haunting tone, and showcasing some truly jaw-dropping visuals, the first trailer for Candyman stunned many, myself included, and I cannot wait to see what DaCosta is able to do with the original source material, especially in the modern age of social justice and an unparalleled call for equality.
4. Last Night in Soho
An original horror film? An original horror film featuring some of the most talented young actors of the 21st century? AND it’s written and directed by one of the most unique and dedicated voices in modern cinema, Edgar Wright? One Night in Soho represents a departure in the writer-director’s filmography. Typically known for fast-paced action-comedies, the seemingly straight horror film is unprecedented territory.
However, Wright has proven himself to be a truly phenomenal cinematic talent, and his name being on this film alone is leverage enough needed to trust that this film is going to be phenomenal. Baby Driver is one of my top 5 favorite films of all time, and the Cornetto trilogy is one of the most unique and well-recieved series of the 21st century, so count me in for the writer-director’s latest exploration in genre.
3. Top Gun: Maverick
Continuing the Candyman tradition of “long awaited sequels to classic original films”, we have Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise’s return to the original 80’s smash hit that made Cruise a household name. Written primarily by Cruise’s modern partner in cinema Christopher McQuarrie, and directed by frequent Cruise collaborator Joseph Kosinski, the film’s first trailer blew many minds, and the stunningly beautiful filming of the action sequences skyrocketed this film to the top of my list.
Following McQuarrie and Cruise’s work on the later Mission: Impossible films, it seems as though Cruise is only getting younger and more confident in the action sequences they are attempting to capture, and behind-the-scene featurettes released have highlighted the crew’s dedication to practical effects, going as far as to teach Cruise how to fly and actual military-grade jets. This consistent dedication, as well as a storyline that seems to mirror Cruise’s career itself, has me stoked out of my mind for this high-flying adventure.
Need I say anymore? Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel features a historically big and talented cast, some gobsmackingly good visuals, and a reported dedication to the source material that led the son of the novel’s author, Frank Herbert, to call it the definitive version of the story. Following some modern classics like Blade Runner 2049, Prisoners, Arrival, and more, Villeneuve has earned more than the modern moviegoers trust.
Following the recent controversy surrounding HBO Max’s release plan for new movies, it’s nerve-wracking to see how COVID’s impact on theatrical releases will affect this movie, a notoriously difficult adaptation to market and make palatable for modern audiences, but Denis’ track record and some of the early reactions to the film have me thrilled regardless
1. Mission: Impossible 7
This might be the most fan-boy pick, but I can’t help it. Christopher McQuarrie is returning to write and direct the next two films in the long-running Mission series, and Cruise, entering into his 60’s, is showing no signs of slowing down, and some of the videos and photos from production (along with Cruise’s legendary meltdown over COVID-19 filming protocols) are lighting the fuse (no pun intended) on my excitement for this film.
See, this series is the only in the entirety of Hollywood that has gotten better with each installment, and McQuarrie has established himself as the only cinematic voice that can match Cruise’s truly insane ambitions, as his last two installments (Rogue Nation and Fallout) have proven, with Fallout in particular being heralded by many, myself included, as perhaps the greatest action film of all time. The two have stated that they can do even better, and I can’t wait to see what these two come out with next.
There are numerous other films to be released in 2021, and time will only tell if even the ones listed above will see the light of the cinemascape, but the excitement and promise of these films is enough to get me excited. What are some of the movies you’re the most excited to see this year?
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