The Ultimate 2021 Movie Preview

After a year where seemingly everything got delayed and the few movies that did get released being quite disappointing, 2021 has a lot on its shoulders to essentially deliver two years’ worth of movies in one (which hopefully means two years’ worth of new articles, too.)

Maybe I haven’t learned my lesson from 2020, but I’m feeling so optimistic about the year ahead that I couldn’t help but expand my list from 10 to 21 anticipated movies (see what I did there?), all of which are ranked in order of my personal anticipation. I could also try to make concrete predictions about release schedules, movie theaters, or the overall future of the industry, but that seems like a lost cause; some of these movies will be delayed, while others (hopefully a vast majority) won’t. All we have the power to do is watch what comes out, proving that the collective experience of moviegoing is alive and well while hopefully watching some great movies along the way.

21. The French Dispatch

Photo credit: FOX Searchlight

It’s a Wes Anderson movie, so you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of storybook visuals and quirky humor. All the Anderson regulars are here but I’m also excited to see newcomers such as Elizabeth Moss, Frances McDormand, Christolph Waltz, Timothee Chalamet, and Benicio del Toro work with him in this partly black-and-white journalistic love-letter. [Release date: TBA]

20. In The Heights

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

I’m completely unfamiliar with the Broadway musical, but the trailer makes this look like a burst of joy with huge dance numbers; I’m sold. [Release date: June 18]

19. Next Goal Wins

Photo credit: The New York Times

Hot off the heels of Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi is returning to a more straightforward, feel-good comedy by telling the true story of the American Samoa soccer team. This marks an opportunity for Taika to let loose and have a ton of fun after winning an Oscar and working within the confines of a Marvel movie, and I have no doubt it will be fun to watch as well. [Release date: TBA]

18. No Time To Die

Photo credit: MGM

There are certainly reasons to be worried about this after its various production issues and apparent connections to Spectre, but screw it: Ana de Armas is the Bond girl, Rami Malek is the villain, and this is Craig’s last appearance as Bond. With La La Land cinematographer Linus Sandgren shooting this, it should also look very, very pretty. [Release date: April 2]

17. Candyman

Photo credit: Universal

Candyman is a really great horror movie, and this modern retelling (soft reboot?) looks to flip the original myth on its head and recontextualize its themes for a modern audience. Jordan Peele executive producing is certainly exciting, but I have a suspicion that the major breakout here is going to be director Nia DaCosta. [Release date: August 27]

16. Spider-Man 3

Photo credit: Disney

This movie could easily be a total mess, but at the same time I’m super curious to see how it turns out. With every casting announcement pointing toward this being a live-action Spiderverse that connects the various cinematic iterations of Spider-Man, this should be interesting to watch at the very least. [Release date: December 17]

15. Top Gun: Maverick

Photo credit: Paramount

I don’t love the original Top Gun like many 80s fanatics do, but this looks genuinely great. I’ll watch Tom Cruise do literally anything, and if the trailer is any indication then the flight scenes in this are going to be visceral and intense in a pretty awe-inducing way. [Release date: July 2]

14. The Suicide Squad

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

No, no, this isn’t a sequel to the 2016 Suicide Squad, which is one of the worst blockbusters of the last ten years. This is essentially a reboot of the franchise, and who better to direct an ensemble film of anti-heroes than Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn? Also, the behind-the-scenes footage they released looks super comic-booky and I’m totally digging the vibe they’re going for. [Release date: August 6]

13. Eternals

Photo credit: Disney

I find Marvel movies to be consistently watchable but rarely great. Eternals, however, has massive potential due to its auteur director Chloé Zhao, who has allegedly been given more creative freedom than any Marvel director up to this point. The cast is also fantastic (Brian Tyree Henry is long overdue to blow up in the mainstream), but more than anything this serves as a litmus test for just how weird and creative Marvel is willing to get in a post-Endgame world. [Release date: November 5]

12. Macbeth

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Shakespeare adaptations aren’t typically my thing, but when they’re directed by Joel Coen AKA my favorite filmmaker working today? Well, then you have my attention. A blend of Shakespearean monologues and the Coens’ distinct dialogue sounds absolutely wild, and it’s also been described as a ticking-clock thriller starring two fantastic actors. McDormand in particular seems perfect for the role of Lady Macbeth. [Release date: TBA]

11. Nightmare Alley

Photo credit: Shutterstock

I’m not the biggest fan of Guillermo Del Toro per se, but this features two amazing actors — Toni Collette and Bradley Cooper — and I’m curious to see what a director known for his fantastical creatures has up his sleeve with a story so seemingly mundane. [Release date: TBA]

10. Don’t Worry Darling

Photo credit: Getty

Booksmart was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2019, so Olivia Wilde’s follow-up absolutely deserves our attention. If Booksmart didn’t do it for you, then the three headlining stars of Don’t Worry Darling should certainly be enough to garner your interest. Oh, and it’s a psychological thriller. [Release date: TBA]

9. Don’t Look Up

Photo credit: Deadline

I’m trying to dodge my way around hyperbole, but it’s hard not to sit here and gush about how star-studded this cast is (which you can see pictured above.) Aside from the cast, this is being described as a political satire similar to Dr. Strangelove, which should be interesting to see tackled by Adam McKay after how great The Big Short was and how not-remotely-subtle-but-still-entertaining Vice was. [Release date: TBA]

8. The Northman

Photo credit: Deadline

After the paranoia of 17th century New England in The Witch and the drunken claustrophobia of a rock at sea in The Lighthouse, director Robert Eggers is tackling another period-piece, except this time it’s a Viking epic that sounds absolutely massive in scope with a cast to prove it. I’m very excited to see how a director known for taut, close-quarters movies can work on this scale. [Release date: TBA]

7. The Green Knight

Photo credit: A24

Bar none, this movie has a better trailer than anything else on this list. Take away the trailer — which presents a movie that looks to be an amazing blend of horror and medieval fantasy — and you’re still left with a movie directed by David Lowery, who has all my respect in the world after directing the mind-bogglingly good A Ghost Story. This could end up being one of my favorite A24 movies. [Release date: July 30]

6. Babylon

By virtue of directing Whiplash and La La Land — two movies that will eternally hold a special place in my heart — Damien Chazelle is on my list of Hollywood’s top-tier directors. This time, Chazelle is making a Hollywood period-piece starring two of our most attractive (and talented) actors: Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. So, yeah…of course this is going to be amazing. [Release date: December 25]

5. West Side Story

Photo credit: Disney

While I was initially skeptical about remaking one of my all-time favorite musicals, I’ve really come around to this after rediscovering in 2020 just how wildly talented Spielberg is (Minority Report still slaps so hard.) The 2010s may have been his ‘weakest’ decade, sure, but he is a legendary director that is long overdue to tackle a musical, and this material should be right in his wheelhouse. If nothing else, hearing such iconic music on the big-screen for the first time will be a joy. [Release date: December 10]

4. Untitled PTA Movie

Photo credit: The Image Direct

By returning to the San Fernando Valley that he so-wonderfully captured in Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie has the opportunity for him to embrace the spiritual roots of his 90s films. I’m getting major Boogie Nights vibes from the description of a 70s setting that follows a child star, and with Bradley Cooper starring alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son, this should be fantastic. [Release date: TBA]

3. Mission: Impossible 7

Photo credit: SIPA USA

I was skeptical how Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation — one of the best action movies of the 2010s — could possibly be followed up, but its sequel ended up being Mission Impossible: Fallout — one of the best action movies ever made. This is the most consistent blockbuster franchise in Hollywood, and while I remain unconvinced that anything can top Fallout, I’m sure this will be relentlessly entertaining and bananas in a way that nothing else can compare to. [Release date: November 19]

2. Last Night in Soho

Photo credit: Focus Features

Whether it be the visual comedy of Hot Fuzz or the living, breathing comic-book elements of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright has always had a knack for visual storytelling. With Last Night in Soho, Wright has the opportunity to push himself like never before by making a time-travel psychological horror film (that’s a mouthful), all while featuring two of the most talented young actresses working today in Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie. I’ve wanted him to make a full-on horror film ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead and this seems to be well worth the wait. [Release date: April 23]

1. Dune

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Congratulations to Dune for topping this list two years in a row. Everything I said last year holds true, this time with the added bonus of a trailer that only gives me more confidence in Arrival director Denis Villenueve pulling off the impossible. In terms of sheer scope, production value, and star-power, this is a movie that looks epic in every sense of the word and I absolutely can’t wait to see it on the biggest IMAX screen available. [Release Date: October 1]

Honorable Mentions: Jigsaw, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ring, Old, Black Widow, Connected, The King’s Man, Nobody, Halloween Kills, Cherry, Free Guy, Luca, Space Jam 2, The Matrix 4, Raya and the Last Dragon, Jungle Cruise, Uncharted

Other 2021 Releases: Mortal Kombat, Fast & Furious 9, Morbius, Godzilla v Kong, A Quiet Place Part II, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Tomb Raider 2, The Many Saints of Newark, Tom & Jerry

Acclaimed 2020 Movies Not Accessible To Me Until 2021: Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Boys State, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Saint Maud

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