Movies & TV / Columns

A Look at 2021’s Most Anticipated Movies

January 2, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Black Widow Natasha Yelena

How’s 2021 been treating you? If you’ve been looking around, it looks a lot like 2020, no matter what people try to tell you. When it comes to movies, well, that’s a whole other story. 

Thanks to the Covid pandemic, movie fans have found themselves in a new and scary place. While theater crowds have dwindled, studios are looking to streaming sites to showcase the goods. Along those same lines, film schedules have been juggled and pushed back, leaving fans wondering when their eagerly awaited movie will come out. 

Here’s hoping for those releases in 2021. Warner Bros. is planning to release its full 2021 slate in theaters and on HBO Max, while Paramount sold Coming 2 America to Amazon. Let’s take a look at some other 2020 releases that will find a home in 2021. 

Coming 2 America (Release date: March 5)

The eagerly-awaited sequel to the 1988 Murphy hit was set to be released by Paramount in December before the studio sold the comedy to Amazon in late November for $125 million. The decision, Paramount chairman Jim Gianopulos told The Hollywood Reporter, was made “with enormous difficulty. … We were beautifully positioned during the holiday season. It was counterprogramming to some of the other films that would have been on the schedule. There was a lot of heat on it. But we were faced with a reality, which is we had two full years of movies that were going to get crammed into probably a half a year of releases, the second half of ’21. And so we had to make choices.” 

The King’s Man (Release date: March 12)

This movie follows the origins of the first independent intelligence agency featuring Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Daniel Brühl and Djimon Hounsou. It should be noted that early in the pandemic, the Matthew Vaughn-directed prequel had a Sept. 18 release date, but by the end of the summer, the 20th Century Studios film had been pushed into 2021. 

Morbius (Release date: March 19)

Sony made Morbius one of the first movies to move into 2021 in the early days of the pandemic, announcing  back in March that it was moving the Spider-Man spinoff, starring Jared Leto, from July 31, 2020, to March 19, 2021.

No Time to Die (Release date: April 2)

What a wild ride this movie has had. It was the first tentpole to shift its global release plan amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, making the first of many moves, April to Thanksgiving, in early March, before the World Health Organization had even labeled the outbreak a pandemic. 

The movie, in which Daniel Craig will play 007 for the last time, is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and stars Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Rami Malek, Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch. Appearing on The Tonight Show after the film’s latest delay was announced, Craig said of the pandemic, “This thing is just bigger than all of us. We want to release the movie at the same time all around the world and this isn’t the right time. So fingers crossed, April 2 is going to be our date.” Fingers crossed. 

A Quiet Place Part II (Release date: April 23)

This sequel, originally set for a March 20, 2020, had held a big red-carpet premiere screening in New York City just days before essential businesses in NYC began shutting down. Emily Blunt told THR about the delay, “Well, what happened with Quiet Place was so surreal. At some point, it became very clear that the writing was on the wall, and [John] insisted that we pull the movie. He called the studio saying, ‘You need to pull it right now. We’re not bringing this movie out.’ And then before too long, everyone was inside and I think it was surreal for everybody, not just for us.” 

Black Widow (Release date: May 7)

It’s Marvel time! This stand-alone movie starring Scarlett Johansson was shifted from its May 1, 2020, release date to November and finally to 2021.  Many thought it would go straight to Disney+ but they it was said during Disney’s investor day in December that the movie would get a traditional theatrical release.

Free Guy (Release date: May 21)

This Ryan Reynolds sci-fi action-comedy revolves around a non-player character in a video game who becomes self-aware and was initially set for a summer release before Disney’s 20th Century Studios shifted it to December. Then in early October, it was moved to 2021. 

Godzilla vs. Kong (Release date: May 21)

This is one of those “must see on the big screen” ones. Godzilla vs. Kong moved from Thanksgiving 2020 to May 21, 2021 and is one of many Warner Bros. titles set to hit streamer HBO Max on the same day as its theatrical release. 

Spiral (Release date: May 21)

This Saw reboot starring Chris Rock had its release date pushed a year in May. The movie also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella, as the latter’s rookie cop and Rock’s detective investigate murders reminiscent of a gruesome past, with Rock’s character at the center of the killer’s deadly game.

F9 (Release date: May 28)

Where would we be without a Fast & Furious movie? F9 is directed by Justin Lin, with returning stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster and Helen Mirren. Speaking to THR over the summer about Universal’s decision to push the movie to 2021, the studio’s Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley said, “We weren’t popular with exhibitors, but we knew it was probably going to be the best thing for the movies, and now of course we are very relieved that we did. We got prime real estate next summer, and we prevented a lot of headaches. We had certainty about some things when there is so much uncertainty. We wanted to nail things down as best we could.”

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Release date: June 11)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife wasted little time movie from July to 2021, but the film’s release date was later pushed further into the upcoming year, settling on June. It will be interesting to see how this one compares to the recent reboot from several years back. 

In the Heights (Release date: June 18)

This was supposed to be Tony-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical that everyone would be talking about last summer, but the film adaptation, directed by Jon M. Chu, was delayed in the spring by almost a year, to June 2021. The Warner Bros. movie is set to stream on HBO Max the same day it hits the big screen. The movie stars Anthony Ramos as a bodega owner who has mixed feelings about closing his store and going to his parents’ homeland of the Dominican Republic after he inherits his grandmother’s fortune. The film also stars Corey Hawkins, Jimmy Smits, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz and Dascha Polanco.

Top Gun: Maverick (Release date: July 2)

This is another one that methinks will be worth seeing in theaters. In early April, the Tom Cruise sequel flew from its June 2020 release date to Christmas before getting the 2021 date. Speaking to THR, Jon Hamm, who’s seen a cut of the movie, said of the delay, “Obviously, there was no way it was going to come out this summer because this summer has been canceled, but when they moved it to Christmas, I thought it felt like it needs to be a summer release. It just has that amazing Tom Cruise, tentpole blockbuster, summertime thing. It’s so good. It rides the line so perfectly between the nostalgia of the first one and the newness of this next chapter in the story. Obviously, Tom knocks it out of the park and all the young kids are great in it. It’s just a really good story. It’s the movie equivalent of a fist pump. You’re just like, ‘Yes!’ It’s exactly what it’s meant to be.”

Jungle Cruise (Release date: July 30)

Based on the Disneyland ride of the same name, the Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt movie sailed out of its summer 2020 release date and into 2021. The Jaume Collet-Serra-directed movie, set in the early 20th century, follows Johnson’s riverboat captain and Blunt’s scientist as they journey into the jungle to find the Tree of Life. 

Candyman (Release date: Aug. 27)

Another one that bumped around on the calendar, the MGM and Universal film, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele, who penned the script with DaCosta and Win Rosenfeld, takes place in the now-gentrified area surrounding Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects, where in the original film a grad student was investigating an urban legend about a hook-handed killer. The creative team behind Candyman is committed to a theatrical release. Addressing the postponement on Twitter, DaCosta wrote, “We made Candyman to be seen in theaters. Not just for the spectacle but because the film is about community and stories–how they shape each other, how they shape us. It’s about the collective experience of trauma and joy, suffering and triumph and the stories we tell around it. We wanted the horror and humanity of Candyman to be experienced in a collective, a community, so we’re pushing Candyman to next year, to ensure that everyone can see the film, in theaters, and share in that experience.”

Death on the Nile (Release date: Sept. 17)

This Kenneth Branagh-directed follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express is based on an Agatha Christie novel of the same name and finds Branagh’s Hercule Poirot searching for a murderer while on vacation in Egypt. 

Dune (Release date: Oct. 1)

Yet another that would be more entertaining sitting in a theater in front of a huge screen. Based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel, Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious big-budget sci-fi movie explores fate, politics, religion, ecology and war amid the backdrop of the planet Arrakis, known as Dune. Many will be watching in deep anticipation if he can pull it off. 

Halloween Kills (Release date: Oct. 15)

David Gordon Green’s follow-up to his Jamie Lee Curtis-starring 2018 revival of the horror series canceled its 2020 plans and pushed it to 2021. John Carpenter, who executive produces, explained the delay in a letter from himself and Green posted on Twitter in July, writing that the team behind the film had “looked at the forecast of theatrical exhibition with obvious concern,” as they “discussed and struggled” with how best to present the film.

“If we release it in October of this year as planned, we have to face the reality that the film would be consumed in a compromised theatrical experience. After weighing our options, we have chosen to push the film’s theatrical release by one year,” Carpenter and Green wrote. 

Eternals (Release date: Nov. 5)

Lots of questions surround this one as the star-studded Marvel film, directed by Chloé Zhao, in April moved from its Nov. 6 release date to February 2021, subsequently shifting to later in the year. Eternals stars Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek and Kumail Nanjiani.

West Side Story (Release date: Dec. 10)

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake was delayed nearly a year, it was announced in September, shifting from Dec. 18, 2020, to Dec. 10 of the following year. This is sure to be a 411mania reader favorite!