Over the past 12 months, cinephiles have had to completely transform how they consume their media of choice. As Covid-19 shuttered theaters all over the world, movie lovers could no longer float between multiplexes and streaming services to watch films however they liked. A raft of improvisations—the return of drive-ins, major tentpoles being sent straight to HBO Max—made it possible for fans to see a lot of good movies in 2020, but the lockdowns also meant quite a few huge movies got pushed out to 2021. If the past year left behind any true lesson, it’s that nothing is certain—but even so, there are a lot of movies to look forward to in the coming year. We don’t know if it’ll be in a theater or in our living rooms (or on a sheet in a friend’s backyard), but these are the films we’re most excited to see in 2021. All dates subject to change, because obviously.
Long before coronavirus shut down movie theaters, Dune was one of the most highly anticipated films of 2020. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) and featuring an all-star cast that includes Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Oscar Isaac, the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel would be a juggernaut in any year. That’s probably why scores of fans, including Villenueve himself, were surprised to learn that the film would be one of the major releases that Warner Bros. plans to release on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. It was made for the big screen—and that’s where we hope to see it—but we’ll take it any way we can get it.
Release date: October 1
The Matrix 4
It’s been 18 years since the third Matrix movie—The Matrix Revolutions—hit theaters. In that time, appreciation for the two sequels to the 1999 classic has grown (kinda), but the appreciation for star Keanu Reeves has exploded. Big think-y sci-fi movies have also come to dominate the cinematic landscape in a way they didn’t in the late 1990s. There’s a lot riding on this fourth Matrix installment to be epic—or at least a fun return to the black-clad world fans loved so much two decades ago. Lana Wachowski, we’re waiting.
Release date: December 22
A Black Widow stand-alone movie would have been a treat on its own. But for this one, Marvel added Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour as the estranged family of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Sure, it kinda sounds like Red Sparrow with slightly better Russian accents, but who cares? It also sounds like one helluva time.
Release date: May 7
No Time to Die
The most recent James Bond film—and, presumably, the last one to star Daniel Craig as 007—nearly got out before the coronavirus hit last spring. It didn’t. No worries. Bond is timeless, and No Time to Die has a deep bench of amazing talent, from Rami Malek as the mysterious villain Safin to Knives Out’s Ana de Armas to Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch. It’s also directed by Beasts of No Nation’s Cary Joji Fukunaga and has a theme song from Billie Eilish. There is no downside.
Release date: April 2
Top Gun: Maverick
Look, the highway to the danger zone has been closed since 1986. There’s a good chance people will have forgotten how fun it is to ride around in an F-14 with Tom Cruise. But there’s an even better chance that they’ve been dying to do that very thing since Top Gun premiered 35 years ago. Cruise is back for this new endeavor, and this time around he’s a test pilot and fighting to stay in the cockpit even as a bunch of new hotshots—including Miles Teller—show up to try to prove they are the best of the best.
Release date: July 2
Mission: Impossible 7
If you’ve heard anything about Mission: Impossible 7 lately, it probably had something to do with star (and producer) Tom Cruise yelling at the crew for not following Covid-19 protocols. You know what? It’s probably best that he did. M: I 7 was one of the first big productions to resume amidst the lockdowns, and any infections on that set could have huge repercussions for both that film and the future of the industry. As of this writing, the film is still moving along, and when it’s done it’ll feature not only Mission stalwarts like Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson, but also Peggy Carter herself, Hayley Atwell. Get ready.
Release date: November 19
It’s been a long time since horror fans have heard mention of Cabrini-Green—19 years to be exact. But this year director Nia DaCosta is back with a reboot of the 1992 classic Candyman that returns to the Chicago housing project where it all started. Instead of doing a straight-ahead remake, DaCosta’s version goes to the now-gentrified neighborhood to examine real-life horrors like police brutality and lynching. “What’s great about horror is that horror stays with you after you leave the theater,” DaCosta said during last year’s WIRED25. “You can say every great film stays with you, but horror really gets in your psyche.” In other words, this one will stay with you for a while.
Release date: August 27
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Accompanying Black Widow on Marvel Studios’ phase 4 slate for 2021 is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), it follows Shang-Chi and his confrontations with the mysterious Ten Rings organization. It’ll also be Marvel’s first film to feature an Asian lead.
Release date: July 9
OK, so technically Nomadland came out in December, but it was such a limited run that very few people got a chance to see it. Luckily for everyone else, director Chloé Zhao’s movie about a woman’s post-Great Recession journey through the American West is getting another release in 2021 so they can see one of the year’s best-reviewed films. (Fun fact: Nomadland is based on a book by Jessica Bruder, who wrote WIRED’s 2019 cover story on the Somali immigrants advocating for better working conditions at Amazon.)
Release date: February 19
Olivia Colman plays a daughter trying to help her aging father (Anthony Hopkins). This movie could easily be just an hour and 37 minutes of those two acting at each other and still be entirely brilliant.
Release date: February 26
In what seems like an unspoken, and unnecessary, attempt to sweep the all-female Ghostbusters movie under the rug, Jason Reitman has now made a new reboot about the descendants of the busters of ghosts from the 1980s. We’d love to say something snarky, but we’re still probably going to see this movie, so …
Release date: June 11
Coming 2 America
In other 1980s reboot news, the Coming to America sequel Coming 2 America (get it?) is also coming to a screen near you in 2021. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are back, and this time they’ll be joined by powerhouses like Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan. The original is a classic. This one has a lot to live up to.
Release date: March 5
The King’s Man
It’s hard to deny the appeal of the Kingsman movies, even when they’re problematic. To that end, there’s a new one—an origin story of sorts—coming this year.
Release date: March 12
The Many Saints of Newark
Miss The Sopranos? Everybody does. The Many Saints of Newark is a chance to go back and find out how Tony Soprano became Tony Soprano, with Michael Gandolfini playing the role that made his late father famous.
Release date: March 12
Jared Leto plays a biochemist who accidentally turns himself into a vampire—a character that originally appeared in a Spider-Man comic in the 1970s. Yes, it all sounds ridiculous. But it could also be awesome, in an Underworld-meets-Split kind of way.
Release date: March 19
It’s a Fast and the Furious movie. You already know if you’re going to see it or not.
Release date: May 28
A Quiet Place Part II
Release date: April 23
Last Night in Soho
Edgar Wright has a new weird horror thing set in 1960s London and starring Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, The Queen’s Gambit), Diana Rigg, and Matt Smith. Seems legit.
Release date: April 23
Godzilla vs. Kong
The title says it all, really. The latest chapter of the Monsterverse has arrived to level yet another city. Our money’s on the kaiju.
Release date: May 21
Pixar’s latest is about a boy on the Italian riviera who befriends a sea monster disguised as a human. If last year’s Soul is any indication, it’ll be charming as hell.
Release date: June 18
Space Jam: A New Legacy
Release date: July 16
The Suicide Squad
Don’t let your eyes fool you. The Suicide Squad is different from 2016’s Suicide Squad. Well, the cast of characters is roughly the same—it’d be weird if their name was in the title and at least some of them didn’t show up—but this time around they’re led by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. This movie also has appearances by Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, and Sylvester Stallone, because the kitchen sink wasn’t available.
Release date: August 6
Real life couple—and paparazzi magnets—Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas star in this adaptation of a novel by Patricia Highsmith, who wrote the books behind Carol and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Euphoria creator Sam Levinson cowrote the script. Adrian Lyne, who directed the erotic thrillers Indecent Proposal and Fatal Attraction, is at the helm. Consider our breath held.
Release date: August 13
Look, that 2018 Halloween reboot was decidedly not bad. This one is from the same team and also features Jamie Lee Curtis, as is only right. Ready your screams.
Release date: October 15
The French Dispatch
Is there anything more on-the-nose than Wes Anderson hiring Timothée Chalamet for a movie called The French Dispatch? Probably not!
Release date: TBD
Who doesn’t want to see a version of this classic children’s fairytale sprung from the mind of Guillermo del Toro?
Release date: TBD