The Most Anticipated Films of 2021

by TheFilmGordon Staff w/assist from RT Editorial

After engaging in one of the most challenging years in film history, 2021 will be the year that the rubber meets the road with an overabundance of quality films slated for the new year. That fact alone makes this one of the most anticipated years in recent memories. For starters, we’ll be getting another Asian blockbuster in director Destin Daniel Cretton’s Marvel entry, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Then the Fast Family will be back for another action-packed installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise (can you believe we’re at 9 movies already?!) Not to mention, the Rock’s much delayed Black Adam adaptation will finally zoom into theaters. Lastly, Warner Bros. has announced that, following the release of Wonder Woman 1984 in December of 2020, they will release their entire slate of 2021 movies on HBO Max as well as in theaters in an unprecedented move that could signal bigger changes in the industry. Hold on to your hats, 2021 promises to be a long, crowded, and bumpy cinematic ride.

JANUARY

The Last Duel
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer
It’s been two years since Ridley Scott did the unthinkable and reshot All The Money In The World weeks before its release date. But this time around, he’ll be racing against history with this Edwardian tale of knights and maidens. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will reunite, with Killing Eve‘s breakout star Jodie Comer filling out the cast.
Opening on: January 8, 2021

American Skin
Directed by: Nate Parker
Starring: Parker, Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi, Shane Paul McGhie, Milauna Jackson, and Beau Knapp.
Lincoln Jefferson, a U.S. Marine veteran who works as a janitor at a prestigious junior high school, attempts to mend his relationship with his son after a divorce. One night, during a routine police traffic stop, the boy is shot and killed in front of Jefferson. After the officer is cleared of wrongdoing without having to face trial, Jefferson is forced to take matters into his own hands.
Opening on: January 15, 2021

355
Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Fan Bingbing, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Edgar Ramirez, Sebastian Stan, Diane Kruger, Emilio Insolera
This new spy flick from screenwriter Theresa Rebeck might be just up your alley. Produced by Jessica Chastain and with a star-studded cast that includes Fan Bingbing and Lupita N’yongo, the female-led thriller is bound to make a splash.
Opening on: January 15, 2021


The Little Things
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Natalie Morales.
Clashes between a Kern County deputy and a Los Angeles detective occur during the investigation of a serial killer.
Opening on: January 29, 2021

FEBRUARY

Malcolm & Marie
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: John David Washington, Zendaya
A filmmaker (Washington) returns home with his girlfriend (Zendaya) following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits what’s sure to be an imminent critical and financial success. The evening suddenly takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the strength of their love. Opening on: February 5, 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah
Directed by: Shaka King
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield.
In the late 1960s, petty criminal William O’Neal agrees to work as an informant for the FBI in order to take down Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton.
Opening on: February 12, 2021

Nomadland
Directed by: Chloé Zhao
Starring: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn
Writer-director Chloé Zhao impressed the folks at Disney so much with her 2017 breakout film The Rider that they handed her the keys to Eternals, but before that film opens (presumably) in February, Zhao will release this drama based on the nonfiction book by Jessica Bruder. The film stars Frances McDormand as a woman who loses everything in the Great Recession and decides to see if #VanLife is all it’s cracked up to be.
Opening on: February 19, 2021

The Father
Directed by: Florian Zeller
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman
Two Oscar winners headline this drama based on the 2012 French play Le Père by the film’s director and co-writer, Florian Zeller. The story focuses on an aging man (Anthony Hopkins) struggling with memory loss whose daughter (Olivia Colman) moves into his flat to help care for him.
Opening on: February 26, 2021

Untitled M Night Shyamalan Project
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: TBD
As usual, M. Night Shyamalan‘s newest project is shrouded in mystery, but it’s sure to be worth the wait. This untitled project is the first of two the horror auteur is slated to direct for Universal in the coming years, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with.
Opening on: February 26, 2022

MARCH

Coming 2 America
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, John Amos, James Earl Jones, Garcelle Beauvais, Wesley Snipes
After over three decades, it looks like Prince Akeem — ahem, King Akeem and Semmi are returning Stateside from there homeland of Zamunda. Much of the original cast is returning, including James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer and John Amos as Cleo McDowell, as Akeem learns that he has a long-lost son he never knew about who might be the heir to the throne.
Opening on: March 5, 2021, on Amazon Prime

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd
Jason Reitman will direct a sequel to the original Ghostbusters franchise, unrelated to the all-female reboot directed by Paul Feig in 2016. We still don’t know much about what the story will be, but as casting news trickled in, we did learn that Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace will play a brother and sister, with Carrie Coon as their single mother, and Paul Rudd is in the film in an undisclosed role. We’re still waiting on word if, as Sigourney Weaver stated in an interview, the remaining original Ghostbusters will appear in the film. Originally slated to open on July 10, 2020, the film was pushed back due to concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak.
Opening on: March 5, 2021

Tom & Jerry
Directed by: Tim Story
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Ken Jeong, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney
The classic animated television series gets a big-screen update in the form of a live-action/animated hybrid in which mischievous mouse Jerry moves into a hotel on the eve of a big wedding and forces the wedding planner to bring Tom into the picture to get rid of him. When an even bigger threat emerges, Tom and Jerry are forced to work together to save the day.
Opening on: March 5, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

The King’s Man
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Harris Dickinson, Ralph Fiennes, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Gemma Arterton, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Daniel Brühl, Stanley Tucci, Djimon Hounsou
While both a third installment of the Kingsman franchise and a Statesman spin-off are still on the way, audiences will first get a taste of how the whole thing came to exist in the first place with this prequel, set in the early 1900s. Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in an origin story that will show how a group of ex-soldiers formed the spy agency.
Opening on: March 12, 2021

The Many Saints of Newark
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Michael Gandolfini, Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen, Ray Liotta, Corey Stoll, Alessandro Nivola
Whether you feel that the end of The Sopranos — you know, that controversial fade to black — was fitting and poignant or anti-climactic and unsatisfying, you probably jumped at the news that a Sopranos movie was in the works. With the late James Gandolfini no longer around, however, the only way to go was a prequel, and who better to portray a young Tony Soprano than Gandolfini’s son himself, Michael? Alan Taylor directs this look back at the early years of the iconic TV mobster, with Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, and Ray Liotta in supporting roles.
Opening on: March 12, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

Morbius
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Jared Leto, Jared Harris, Adria Arjona, Matt Smith, Tyrese Gibson
The first true test of Sony’s break with Marvel over Spider-Man and the various characters related to him will come in the form of Morbius, based on the Spidey villain who suffers from a rare blood disease and inadvertently turns himself into a vampire in a misguided attempt to cure himself. Jared Leto, who sparked a lot of online chatter with his portrayal of the Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad, plays the title character. Like F9 and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this film was pushed back from its original 2020 release.
Opening on: March 19, 2021

APRIL

F9
Directed by: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Tyrese Gibson, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Lucas Black
It’s full-throttle and pedal to the metal for the Toretto crime/adventure/anti-terrorism/what-even-are-they family yet again. Director Justin Lin was the man to turn the franchise around, delivering the series’ first Fresh entry on his third try with 2011’s Fast Five. The new entry will bring the family back together to face off against a new villain played by John Cena… who happens to be Dom Toretto’s brother. Also, Han is back? What? The film was originally slated to open in May of 2020 but was pushed back almost a year to occupy the slot that had originally been reserved for Fast & Furious 10.
Opening on: April 2, 2021

No Time To Die
Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Rami Malek, Naomie Harris, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch
True Detective director Cary Fukunaga takes the reins for the 25th James Bond film, with Daniel Craig returning for his fifth and (presumably) final turn as 007. He’s joined by series regulars Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, and Ben Whishaw, as well as returning characters played by Lea Seydoux and Jeffrey Wright. Recent Best Actor-winner Rami Malek is reported to play the villain, while it’s presumed Captain Marvel‘s Lashana Lynch will play a newer 007 who may have to relinquish her famous code number back to Bond when he comes out of retirement.
Opening on: April 2, 2021

A Quiet Place Part II
Directed by: John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Djimon Hounsou
Director John Krasinski returns to helm this sequel, which he also wrote, starring his real-life wife Emily Blunt, as it follows up with the Abbott family after the events of the first film. Judging from the first trailer, we’ll also get some flashbacks to the beginning of the… invasion? Infestation? Whatever you want to call it, it looks like Krasinski has done a bang-up job ratcheting up the tension, and audiences should be in for another great ride.
Opening on: April 23, 2021

Last Night in Soho (2021)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Thomasin McKenzie, Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp
Any time Edgar Wright has a new movie coming out, it’s something to look forward to. But throw in the fact that he’s assembled a cast that includes up-and-coming young stars like Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie, as well as legendary vets like Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp? And the fact that it’s a horror film inspired by both Don’t Look Now and Repulsion? Yes, please, and thank you.
Opening on: April 23, 2021

MAY

Black Widow
Directed by: Cate Shortland
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz
The first Marvel property to kick off it’s Phase 4 will be this prequel focusing on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. We don’t quite know what the story surrounding the character will be, but we do know that she’ll be joined by David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, and rising star Florence Pugh, among others. And who knows? Maybe Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye will make an appearance.
Opening on: May 7, 2021

Spiral
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols
The Saw franchise officially gets revived in this new thriller, with Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, III, and IV) back behind the camera. This time, two cops played by Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson investigate a series of gruesome murders and find themselves at the mercy of a killer reminiscent of the past (Jigsaw copycat, anyone?).
Opening on: May 21, 2021

Free Guy
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Jody Comer, Joe Keery, Lel Rel Howery
Ryan Reynolds brings his sarcastic wit and boyishly good-looking everyman charm to this self-referential, special effects-driven comedy. He stars as Guy, a nondescript bank teller non-player character (NPC) in a violent, open-world video game who suddenly becomes self-aware and decides to take his destiny into his own hands. Expect a lot of ironic, self-referential humor and over-the-top action shenanigans, which, when Ryan Reynolds is involved, is essentially its own genre these days.
Opening on: May 21, 2021

JUNE

In the Heights
Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Jimmy Smits, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco
Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu adapts Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breakout musical, In the Heights. The show, which kicked off the Hamilton creator’s career, won four Tony Awards in 2008, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Chu demonstrated real skill with spectacle in Crazy Rich Asians, and the new movie shares similar themes of reclaiming one’s heritage – it follows the stories of several characters in New York’s heavily Latino neighborhood, Washington Heights, over three days.
Opening on: June 18, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

JULY

Top Gun: Maverick
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer, Jay Ellis, Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro
Great balls of fire, we’re getting a Top Gun sequel after 31 years! Not a whole lot is known about the movie, except that the filmmakers have recruited a cast of some of the most in-demand young actors in Hollywood – including Miles Teller, who will play Goose’s son – and that Val Kilmer is officially back as Iceman. And as the trailer released during Comic-Con promises, it will again feature Tom Cruise riding motorcycles, playing volleyball, and flying jets like a madman.
Opening on: July 2, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina
After bringing the true story of Bryan Stevenson to screen in this year’s Just Mercy, Destin Daniel Cretton will be joining the big leagues for his next project. Shang-Chi will be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Asian-led film. Kim’s Convenience’s Simu Liu is set to star, and The Farewell’s Awkwafina has also been cast in an unknown role.
Opening on: July 9, 2021

Space Jam 2
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle
Speaking of old stories for new audiences, LeBron James‘ long-awaited Space Jam sequel will finally arrive in 2021. With Don Cheadle starring alongside the basketball legend and Ryan Coogler producing, there’s no telling how much fun the Malcolm D. Lee-directed follow-up will be.
Opening on: July 16, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

Jungle Cruise
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti
Following the path that Pirates of the Caribbean charted so successfully, this new film (franchise?) is based on the Disney theme park attraction of the same name. Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt star, respectively, as a riverboat captain and a scientist on a hunt for a magical cure in this Depression-era action adventure. Comedian Jack Whitehall also joins in the fun, playing Blunt’s character’s brother. Collet-Serra has had a string of action-thriller hits working with Liam Neeson (Commuter, Non-Stop, Unknown), so there’s a chance this one could be slightly darker than anticipated.
Opening on: July 30, 2021

AUGUST

The Suicide Squad
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney
2016’s Suicide Squad may be rotten, but the 2021 follow-up might just redeem the series. Most of the primary cast is returning, with Idris Elba joining in a new role. The star-studded cast is also adding Storm Reid, Flula Borg, Nathan Fillion, and Pete Davidson. James Gunn is attached to direct before he returns to Disney for Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
Opening on: August 6, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Antonio Banderas, Frank Grillo
2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard didn’t exactly wow the critics, but it was a moderate hit at the box office, so why not give it another go? As indicated by the title, it’s Salma Hayek’s Sonia who now needs rescuing, so Michael (Ryan Reynolds) and Darius (Samuel L. Jackson) team up again to save her.
Opening on: August 20, 2021

Candyman
Directed by: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tony Todd, Teyonah Parris
Longtime fan and contemporary horror maestro Jordan Peele is producing this sequel to — not a remake of — the classic 1992 horror film about the murdered son of a slave whose ghost haunts the Chicago neighborhood where the Cabrini Green housing projects once stood. We don’t know yet exactly what direction the new story will take, but we know that Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) is directing, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman) and Teyonah Parris (If Beale Street Could Talk) will star, with Tony Todd reprising his role as the iconic title character.
Opening on: August 27, 2021

OCTOBER

Dune
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Zendaya
Acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve takes on the massive challenge of re-adapting Frank Herbert’s sprawling sci-fi epic more than 30 years after David Lynch attempted the same and, according to many fans, fell short. At the very least, Villeneuve has assembled an impressive cast (just look at those names!) so it’s now up to him and his co-writers to fashion an engaging script from the daunting source material.
Opening on: October 1, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

Halloween Kills
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Anthony Michael Hall
The duo of director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride proved successful in the 2018 sequel-that-nullified-all-the-other-sequels, Halloween, so they recently announced two more films to close out a new trilogy. The second installment, which sees the return of the newly badass Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her grown-up daughter (Judy Greer), will hit theaters just before, well, Halloween.
Opening on: October 15, 2021

NOVEMBER

Eternals
Directed by: Chloé Zhao
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Brian Tyree Henry
The second film of Marvel’s Phase 4 goes cosmic again with the Eternals. Much of the cast was announced in bits and pieces, with a big reveal at Comic-Con 2019 and a key addition made in August. In brief, the Eternals are powerful immortals who helped shape humanity and history on Earth, and the cast includes a lot of big names, from Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek to Kumail Nanjiani and a couple of Game of Thrones kings, Richard Madden and Kit Harington. Plus, director Chloé Zhao is no slouch herself; she had one of 2018’s best-reviewed films in The Rider. We’ll just have to see how well she makes the transition to big-budget, special effects-driven blockbusters.
Opening on: November 5, 2021

Untitled Spider-Man Sequel
Directed by: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland
After a tense stalemate between Sony and Disney, Spider-Man will be back for a third installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the intense cliffhanger of the last film’s ending, we can’t wait to see what’s next for the friendly neighborhood hero!
Opening on: November 5, 2021

Mission: Impossible 7
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise will be back in action for the seventh installment in the franchise that showcased his willingness to engage in death-defying stunts. Christopher McQuarrie will also be back as writer and director after serving those roles in the last two films. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pull off a hat trick with a third hit film in a row.
Opening on: November 19, 2021

DECEMBER

West Side Story
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Rita Moreno, Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler
Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of the famous Broadway musical of the same name, which is itself an alternative take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is finally seeing the light of day in late 2020. Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler star as Tony and Maria, two teens in 1950s New York City who belong to rival gangs but fall in love with each other and must deal with the consequences.
Opening on: December 10, 2021

The Matrix 4
Directed by: Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lambert Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nei Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Priyanka Chopra
Somehow, someway, Neo and Trinity are set to return to the world of The Matrix, as Lana Wachowski is set to bring us another sci-fi action-adventure set in the world digital world she helped create way back in 1999. We won’t get Agent Smith or Morpheus this time around, but people like Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Henwick, and Priyanka Chopra are joining the cast, so that’s exciting. The film was already delayed once to 2022 after it was originally slated to open in May of 2021, and now it’s been moved back up again to a very competitive Christmas weekend.
Opening on: December 22, 2021, with a simultaneous release on HBO Max

Sherlock Holmes 3
Directed by: TBD
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
With Robert Downey Jr. free from the MCU, it’s finally time for the long-awaited Sherlock Holmes sequel. By 2021, it’ll have been a decade since RDJ and Jude Law last brought their mischievous friendship to Victorian England. Rachel McAdams is back as Irene Adler, with a script from Chris Brancato, best known for his work in television on Hannibal and Narcos.
Opening on: December 22, 2021

Babylon
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone (in talks), Brad Pitt (in talks)
Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s fifth film is, like his Oscar-winning La La Land, another tribute to old Hollywood, this time literally. The story centers on the period of transition when the silent film era began to give way to the “talkies,” and both Emma Stone and Brad Pitt have entered talks to star in the film. Judging from its release date and the announced plans to expand into wide release early the following year, this certainly feels like it’s being set up to be an awards contender.
Opening on: December 25, 2021

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