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50 Most Anticipated Movies of 2021

Disney+, HBO Max, and Netflix will keep us entertained as theaters remain closed

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50 Anticipated Movies of 2021
50 Anticipated Movies of 2021

    Anticipating movies these days is a fool’s errand. Unless it’s guaranteed to be hitting a streaming platform, the release date of any film should have an asterisk appended to it. That’s not cynical, but the nature of covering this industry amidst the pandemic.

    So, you could imagine how fun this list was to put together. (Spoiler: It wasn’t.) Dragging over last year’s offerings to this one seems like an easy task, but the shift opens the door for so many questions, all of which boil down to: “What are the odds?”

    For many features — you know, like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, or No Time to Die, or Halloween Kills, or any film without a streaming opt-in — the release date is as certain as we are about anything right now in life. “We’ll see” is the name of the game.

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    Having said that, a few studios and streaming giants are hip to the ages. Case in point: Three weeks into the new year and we already have assurances by HBO Max, Netflix, and Shudder that new movies are on the way to your living rooms.

    Those offerings certainly lend some much-needed gravitas to this list, which is why we’ve split this feature into two parts. The first half sports the more reliable fare as we’ve already outlined, while the latter lists films that depend more on theatrical distribution.

    Read ahead and be sure to bookmark as the year evolves. We’ll keep tabs as the dates shift, the schedules flex, and the times — to crib from Bobby D — keep a-changin’. Here’s hoping with a vaccine, we’ll all be back laughing together. Eating popcorn. Living.

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    Update on Thursday, January 21st: Ghostbusters: Afterlife and No Time to Die have both moved to Fall 2021 with Uncharted bumped all the way to 2022. The list has been amended to reflect these changes.

    Update on Friday, January 22nd: A Quiet Place Part II has been bumped to Fall 2021.

    Update on Monday, January 25th: Last Night in Soho is now expected for Halloween season.

    Update on Thursday, February 25th: New dates for Bad Trip and Army of the Dead.

    –Michael Roffman
    Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief


    Movies You’re Likely to See

    These are the titles that are either already set to drop on streaming networks such as HBO Max or Netflix, or they at least have the option of doing so if the studios see fit. For instance, Disney’s slate remains up in the air for 2021 — particularly, its Marvel blockbusters — though last year’s releases such as Mulan and Soul suggest a likely course.

    The Little Things

    The Little Things (HBO Max)

    Release Date: January 29th via Warner Bros.

    Who’s In It? Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto

    What To Look For: After dialing things back to the ’30s for Netflix’s The Highwaymen, director John Lee Hancock is offering a more modern slice of crime for HBO Max with The Little Things. At the front and center of it all are Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as two sheriffs on the hunt for the same serial killer. Their best suspect is fellow Oscar winner Jared Leto, probably because he’s no doubt doing his whole Weird Leto thing. Admittedly, none of this reads as compelling beyond the star power, but hey, it’ll at least be entertaining seeing Malek play a Los Angeles sheriff. Sure. –Michael Roffman


    PVT Chat

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    PVT Chat Film Review

    PVT Chat (Darkstar)

    Release Date: February 5th via Darkstar

    Who’s In It? Peter Vack, Buddy Duress, Nikki Belfiglio, Austin Brown, Julia Fox

    What To Look For: One of our favorite films out of last year’s Fantasia Festival was writer-director Ben Hozie’s thoroughly modern rom-com PVT Chat. Uncut Gems standout Julia Fox stars as an online dominatrix who strikes up a curious relationship with a lonely New Yorker with a penchant for kink. What ensues is a delirious cat-and-mouse game with twists you’ll never see coming. It’s smart, it’s sexy, it’s stylish, and it’s all too real. As our own Mike Vanderbilt wrote in his glowing review, “It’s a fantasy with a happy ending, and don’t we all deserve one? Even us perverts?” Yes, we certainly do. –Michael Roffman


    Lucky

    Lucky Fantasia Film Festival Review

    Lucky (Shudder)

    Release Date: March 4th via Shudder

    Who’s In It? Brea Grant

    What To Look For: Like PVT Chat, director Natasha Kermani’s second feature similarly turned heads at last summer’s Fantasia Festival. Now, the slasher satire is set to drop on Shudder. Brea Grant, who also wrote the script, stars as May, a self-help author continuously stalked by a mysterious man whom no one else seems too concerned about. Sound familiar? It’s a bit of a blunt metaphor, but in the wake of 2020, the film’s themes of frustration and gaslighting are bound to hit close to home. –Jenn Adams


    Coming 2 America

    Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming 2 America

    Coming 2 America (Amazon Studios)

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    Release Date: March 5th via Amazon Studios

    Who’s In It? Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, John Amos, Teyana Taylor, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones

    What To Look For: Coming to America saw crown prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) trade his birth ponytail, a custom-trained wife who barks, and all the riches of Zamunda for a McJob, a rat-infested apartment in Queens, and a chance to find a “woman who arouses his intellect as well as his loins.” More than 30 years later, Prince Akeem returns to America to take the son he never knew he had under his wing. There’s no doubt odd couple Murphy and Arsenio Hall can still keep us in stitches as they jump into a variety of characters. What remains a mystery is whether this sequel will retain the heart and magic of the original. –Matt Melis


    Justice League: The Snyder Cut

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    Zack Snyder’s Justice League Director’s Cut (Warner Bros.)

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    Release Date: March 18th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher

    What To Look For: Because Hollywood is built on fandom, the incessant demands of #ReleasetheSnyderCut will finally be answered this Spring with a staggering four-hour, four-part reworking of Justice League. Director Zack Snyder returns to deliver his original vision of the 2017 blockbuster, adding in new scenes, new looks, and even new villains. You know, like the DC Extended Universe’s biggest baddie, Darkseid (Ray Porter)? Rest assured, this is no ramshackle cut, but an entirely new film, one that Warner Bros. spent a reported extra $20-$30 million on. If we’re lucky, it won’t start a trend. –Michael Roffman


    Bad Trip

    Bad Trip (Netflix)

    Release Date: March 26th via Netflix

    Who’s In It? Eric André, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish

    What To Look For: It’s been a long road for Bad Trip. If you recall, Eric Andre’s highly anticipated feature was originally slated for theaters a long, long time ago in a year we called 2019. Then it was slated to premiere at last year’s South by Southwest. Then came COVID-19. Now, it’s finally getting a release, and our 2020 Comedian of the Year couldn’t be more stoked. “I’ve been working on the movie, in fits and starts, for almost like seven years,” he told us in December, adding with relief: “But it’s at Netflix, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think tons of people are going to see it next year.” He’s not wrong. –Michael Roffman


    Godzilla vs. Kong

    Godzilla vs. Kong (Legendary)

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    Release Date: March 31st via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Jessica Henwick, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir

    What To Look For: Godzilla vs. Kong is a rematch 58 years in the making. Last we saw the two titular monsters, Godzilla is the reigning alpha-predator of the world and Kong is still master of his domain on Skull Island. Obviously, something will bring these two titans of kaijudom together for the ultimate battle royal. Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler reprise their roles from Godzilla: King of the Monsters to further Monarch’s study into the Titans’ origins with a presumed third-party coming in to complicate their research and set off the titular showdown. Is Legendary’s potential finale to the MonsterVerse one where we see Toho favorites’ Mechagodzilla or Mecha-King Ghidorah? Only time will tell. –Kyle Cubr


    Mortal Kombat

    Mortal Kombat (HBO Max)

    Release Date: April 16th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Ludi Lin, Joe Taslim, Tadanobu Asano, Jessica McNamee, Mehcad Brooks, Josh Lawson, Lewis Tan, Chin Han, Hiroyuki Sanada

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    What To Look For: It’s been well over 20 years since the last Mortal Kombat film (see: 1997’s godawful Annihilation). Since then, the franchise has been relegated strictly to video game consoles, where the brand has evolved from one generation to the next. Now, after countless stops and starts (including a go by web series wunderkind Kevin Tancharoen), producer James Wan is finally dragging the IP out of development hell for a complete and total reboot. Granted, the logline reads a lot like Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 original, but the recent confirmation of fatalities suggests this film may test our might. –Michael Roffman


    Black Widow

    2020 Anticipated Comic Book Movies

    Black Widow (Marvel Studios)

    Release Date: May 7th via Marvel

    Who’s In It? Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz

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    What To Look For: Having been over a decade since she first made her debut in the MCU, Scarlett Johansson will finally be taking on a lead role in Marvel’s Black Widow. Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the film follows Natasha Romanoff as she confronts the skeletons of her past. Based on what we’ve seen over the years (!), those skeletons include stellar espionage action and one hell of a supporting cast. Of course, the question remains: If theaters are a no-go, will Disney go the route of Mulan and Soul? The suits have been mum, but the option is clearly on the table for them. And us. –Michael Roffman


    Army of the Dead

    Army of the Dead (Netflix)

    Release Date: May 21st via Netflix

    Who’s In It? Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Tig Notaro, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt, Raúl Castillo, Omari Hardwick, Hiroyuki Sanada, Matthias Schweighöfer

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    What To Look For: The real Zack Snyder joint of 2021 doesn’t involve capes or tights. No, it consists of sand, slots, and ghouls. With Army of the Dead, Snyder returns to his zombified roots, only this time he’s not remaking another George A. Romero classic (see: 2004’s Dawn of the Dead). No, he’s got his own story, and it’s pretty, pretty, pretty good. Here’s the elevator pitch: “Ocean’s 11, but with zombies.” Given the talent involved — we’re looking at you, Bautista, Notaro, and Dillahunt — we’re at the very least getting a mildly enjoyable afternoon watch on Netflix. At best? A genre smash. We like those odds. –Michael Roffman


    Cruella

    Emma Stone in Cruella

    Cruella (Disney)

    Release Date: May 28th via Disney

    Who’s In It? Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Strong, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Jamie Demetriou.

    What To Look For: Oscar winner Emma Stone plays the nefarious titular villain, who first terrorized dogs in the original 101 Dalmatians way, way back in 1961. Cruella is an origin story, though. Set during the ’70s punk rock scene in London, the film chronicles a-then young fashion designer, particularly the experiences that led to her becoming the iconic malefactor obsessed with the skins of dogs. Glenn Close, who first brought the role to life in 1996, serves as executive producer. –Okla Jones


    Fear Street Trilogy

    Fear Street (Netflix)

    Release Date: Summer via Netflix

    Who’s In It? Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Gillian Jacobs

    What To Look For: If you grew up in the ’90s, it’s likely most of your nights were spent within the pages of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street. The Big Kid Books that fans of Goosebumps graduated to — that is, if they weren’t already en route to Stephen King — were filled with the kind of elevated horror that made nightlights a godsend. Well, Netflix is capitalizing on that nostalgia with not one, not two, but three Fear Street films this summer. What’s the premise? Not much is known except that it takes place in 1994 (how fitting), involves teens (of course), and will bring plenty of terror (phew). DayGlo optional. –Michael Roffman


    The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

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    50 Anticipated Movies of 2020

    The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (HBO Max)

    Release Date: June 4th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard

    What To Look For: Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return once more to bring our favorite cinematic demon-fighting couple to life in the next installment of the mega-popular Conjuring series. This time, James Wan has passed the baton to The Curse of La Llorona’s Michael Chaves. It’s not just behind the scenes that mark a shakeup for the series; the plot centers around one of the most sensational cases from the Warrens’ files in which an American murder suspect argued that they couldn’t be found guilty of the crime, as they were demonically possessed at the time. Demonic courtroom drama and the Warrens? Yes, please. –Meagan Navarro


    In the Heights

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    In the Heights (HBO Max)

    Release Date: June 18th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, Jimmy Smits

    What To Look For: The original trailer for In The Heights—the first Broadway stunner from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda—is pretty damn close to perfect as trailers go. It’s a riot of sound and color (not unlike those for Crazy Rich Asians, also directed by Jon M. Chu) designed to get you moving. But for all the liveliness and flash (and there’s a lot of both), the three big selling points are the timely themes of immigration, gentrification, activism, and so on; the gorgeous music; and the leading performance. Given the shift to HBO Max, Anthony Ramos will be an immediate (and literal) household name; it’s a perfect bit of casting sure to clue the broader public in on what theater fans already know: He’s a mega-watt, top-tier, breath-snatching star. —-Allison Shoemaker


    Luca

    Luca (Pixar)

    Release Date: June 18th via Pixar

    Who’s In It? No one knows yet.

    What To Look For: It’s heartening to see Pixar shake some of its franchise-friendly doldrums for more diverse, original content on the back of Coco and Soul, and Enrico Casaroca’s Luca is no exception. The film will follow a friendship between two young boys, Luca and Alberto, as they bond on the Italian Riviera one summer. There’s just one catch: Alberto’s a sea monster from an underground world, disguised as a human. –Clint Worthington


    Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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    Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Marvel)

    Release Date: July 9th via Marvel

    Who’s In It? Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, Ronny Chieng, Michelle Yeoh

    What To Look For: Marvel continues to pull from the back bench in Phase 4 with Dustin Daniel Cretton’s (Short Term 12, Just Mercy) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which will feature the franchise’s first Asian lead in Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience). All told, the film will likely follow the old-fashioned origin story format of a lot of heroes’ introductions, as the skilled martial artist enters the Ten Rings organization (one we’ve seen since the first Iron Man) and confronts his past. Awkwafina co-stars alongside Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh, so if nothing else, we’ll have a cavalcade of incredible Asian actors collecting a fat Marvel paycheck, which I’m not mad at. –Clint Worthington


    Space Jam: A New Legacy

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    Space Jam: A New Legacy (HBO Max)

    Release Date: July 16th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Peter Cornell, Chris Paul, Kyle Kuzma, players of the WNBA, Looney Tunes squad

    What To Look For: Not even the pandemic can slow down LeBron James; if anything, it’s only made him stronger. Back in October, he secured yet another Finals win for his third NBA team to date (over his alma mater, the Miami Heat, no less), and now he’s set to spend this summer with the one and only Tune Squad. Not a bad beat for the guy who’s out for Jordan’s legacy. This starring role is one more piece to the puzzle, and let’s be honest, all signs point to a better movie. With Malcolm D. Lee at the helm and Ryan Coogler behind the script, there’s no way this doesn’t dunk over the 1995 blockbuster. –Michael Roffman


    The Suicide Squad

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    The Suicide Squad (Warner Vros.)

    Release Date: August 6th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Peter Capaldi, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis

    What To Look For: Before he returns to the Guardians of the Galaxy after his brief respite from alt-right trolls, writer-director James Gunn is set to make his mark on a Suicide Squad sequel stuffed with stars (literally dozens of characters!). Margot Robbie’s back, as is most of the rest of the remaining squad (sans Will Smith), and the marketing is leaning heavily into a Dirty Dozen, ’70s war movie vibe we kinda dig. It’s entirely possible this will be a bloated mess, but we have faith that Gunn will ease us through the mayhem with a wink and a smile. –Clint Worthington


    The Beatles: Get Back

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    The Beatles Get Back

    The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)

    Release Date: August 27th via Walt Disney

    Who’s In It? Who do you think?

    What To Look For: He conquered The Lord of the Rings. He brought back King Kong. He squeezed three films out of The Hobbit. Now, Peter Jackson is attempting to change the legacy of The Beatles — or, more specifically, their final studio album, Let It Be. By recalibrating footage from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 documentary, the Oscar-winning filmmaker plans to capture the joy and heart of the band’s final chapter. As Ringo Starr said of the project: “There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the Let It Be film that came out [in 1970]. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that.” We’ll find out this August, when the Fab Four turn Disney+ into the rooftop of Apple Corps. No jackets required. –Michael Roffman


    The Many Saints of Newark

    The Many Saints of Newark (HBO Max)

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    Release Date: September 24th via HBO Max

    Who’s In It? Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Michela De Rossi, Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga

    What To Look For: Nobody asked for it, but David Chase went right ahead and wrote a prequel to The Sopranos. Set in Newark, New Jersey circa the late ’60s, the film follows a young Tony Soprano — played here by the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael — as he grows up amidst the ensuing riots between Italian-Americans and African Americans. On paper, that reads a hell of a lot like Robert De Niro’s A Bronx Tale, but when you look at the participating crew (particularly director Alan Taylor, who helmed a hefty amount of Sopranos episodes), it’s clear that this film is keepin’ things in the Sopranos family. –Michael Roffman


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