Let's be real: 2020 was a disaster for theaters.
Major studios pulled movie after movie from their release schedules as Covid-19-induced lockdowns led to unprecedented closures of theaters around the world, and even the few movies that did make it to the screen – Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, for instance – struggled to get anywhere near the box office takings they’d have made in any other year./aside">>
But as theaters reopen in certain regions – and with the successful rollout of vaccines in many countries providing a belated source of optimism – 2021 could turn into one of the biggest years for movies in living memory.
Not only will we have (hopefully) seen four Marvel Cinematic Universe releases come the end of the year (Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel's Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home), but we're also getting some major sci-fi arrivals, too, in Dune and The Matrix Resurrections.
With big hitters originally scheduled for 2020 competing against 2021’s existing release slate, competition is going to be fierce. Indeed, it’s unlikely there are enough opening weekends to sustain everything – a few huge blockbusters will almost definitely take big hits at the box office, or end up being pushed back further (as has happened to Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7).
And that’s before you factor in movies being shifted to streaming platforms (all of Warner’s theatrical releases for 2021, for instance, will launch simultaneously on HBO Max), and ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
With that said, then, don’t be surprised if some of the dates below move significantly over the coming months. If there’s one thing we can be certain of in these topsy-turvy times, it’s that we should expect the unexpected.
Release date: October 15, 2021 (theatrical)
Say what you like about Michael Myers, he does so love a sequel. And with Jamie-Lee Curtis having made a spectacularly successful return to her breakout movie role in 2018’s Halloween reboot, the psycho killer in the William Shatner mask is back for another round of murders.
The creative team from the 2018 movie have also made the return trip to Haddonfield for this follow-up (part three, Halloween Ends, is coming in October 2022), and reports say they’ll be diving into the backstories of supporting players from John Carpenter’s classic 1978 original.
Release date: October 22, 2021 (US, theatrical and streaming via HBO Max and UK, theatrical)
Director Denis Villeneuve definitely isn't afraid of a challenge. Having negotiated the tricky timelines of Arrival and lived up to fan expectations with the brilliant Blade Runner 2049, he's taking on Frank Herbert's epic space opera – a book largely believed to be un-filmable. David Lynch had a go in 1984, of course, but you'd hope that with 21st century effects, Villeneuve's storytelling skills, and an all-star cast – The King's Timothée Chalamet is the story's hero Paul Atreides, while Mission: Impossible's Rebecca Ferguson plays his mother, Lady Jessica – the new Dune might just achieve the impossible. The fact that the book is being split across two movies at least suggests they'll be giving the story time to breathe.
We've seen the first 10 minutes and... wow.
The French Dispatch
Release date: October 22, 2021 (theatrical)
Going on the trailer, the latest new Wes Anderson movie is quite possibly the most Wes Anderson-looking thing you could imagine. His first movie since the under-appreciated Isle of Dogs is an anthology about the stories composing the final issue of the titular magazine, an American publication made in France. Everything from the color palette to the ensemble cast (which includes Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Tilda Swinton) is in line with what we'd expect from a director whose name should appear alongside “quirky” in a dictionary. Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright also star.
Last Night in Soho
Release date: October 29, 2021 (theatrical)
A new Edgar Wright movie is always something to get excited about and his seventh, Last Night in Soho, is set to mark another shift of direction after the stylish action of Baby Driver. Indeed, it doesn’t look like the new film will include much of the Spaced/Cornetto trilogy comedy that made Wright’s name. Instead, it’s a time-hopping horror story, where a fashion student finds herself transported back to the seedy side of 1960s London. Expect the cinema-literate Wright to make something very special of this.
Release date: November 5, 2021 (theatrical)
Featuring a bunch of barely known bunch a-holes running around in outer space, Guardians of the Galaxy looked like a big risk for Marvel back in 2014. The MCU has subsequently been so good at turning anything it touches to box-office gold, however, that nobody's particularly concerned about Eternals, even though it's a similarly unfamiliar property.
The film marks a new level of scale even for Marvel, with a story of god-like beings (stars include Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington and Salma Hayek) told across thousands of years. While Disney Plus shows WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier gave us our first glimpse of where Marvel's post-Avengers: Endgame future is heading, expect Eternals to supply the big screen spectacle – especially as Oscar-winning Nomadland director Chloé Zhao is at the helm.
November 19, 2021 (theatrical)
Ghostbusters meets Stranger Things – and not just because the cast features Finn Wolfhard, one of the young stars of Netflix's nostalgic smash hit. The second update of the beloved '80s spooky comedies – after 2016’s underrated female-led reboot – moves the action away from New York to Nowheresville USA, as a pair of kids stumble upon proton packs, Ecto-1 and other ghost-hunting paraphernalia.
The fact it's set in the same continuity as the original movies (with most of the surviving stars returning) will lend the project extra kudos points – as should director Jason Reitman being original Ghostbusters helmer Ivan Reitman's son.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Release date: November 24, 2021 (US, theatrical), 3 December, 2021 (UK, theatrical)
It turns out you can't keep a bunch of zombies down for long, as the long-running movie franchise based on the long-running videogame franchise gets a reboot. Original star/director combo Milla Jovovich and Paul WS Anderson have vacated Raccoon City for this 1998-set origin story. Instead, The Maze Runner's Kaya Scodelario will play Claire Redfield, with The Tomorrow People's Robbie Amell as her brother Chris, and Ant-Man and the Wasp's Hannah John-Kamen as Jill Valentine. 47 Meters Down director Johannes Roberts marshals the survival horror carnage.
West Side Story
Release date: December 10, 2021 (theatrical)
The year is set to go out with a song and dance, as all eyes turn to Steven Spielberg’s first ever big screen musical. And let's be honest, the legendary director of Indiana Jones, Jaws and Saving Private Ryan couldn’t have chosen a bigger act to follow. Robert Wise's Oscar-winning 1961 movie version of the classic Bernstein and Sondheim production is undoubtedly one of the greatest screen musicals of all time, so it’ll be exciting to see what Spielberg can bring to the party.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Release date: December 17, 2021 (theatrical)
The most remarkable thing about Spider-Man: No Way Home is that it exists at all. Thankfully, rights holders Sony were able to settle a dispute with Marvel Studios that could have seen Tom Holland’s Spidey going solo, and now the Wallcrawler will continue to operate within the labyrinthine continuity of the MCU.
The mid-credits twist of Far From Home makes that particularly welcome news, having plunged Spidey into new territory when Mysterio revealed Peter Parker’s secret identity to the world. It also looks like he'll be exploring the multiverse, with several rumors suggesting that two former screen Spideys, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, are joining the action. Old villains like Electro, Doc Ock and Green Goblin are already confirmed to appear, thanks to teasers in the movie's first trailer.
The Matrix Resurrections
Release date: December 22, 2021 (US, theatrical and streaming via HBO Max and UK, theatrical)
The Matrix saga was supposed to be done and dusted after the twin disappointments of Reloaded and Revolutions, but Warner Bros. is inviting us to take the red pill once more in this unexpected follow-up. Lana Wachowski, half of the original writer/director team, is back for the reboot, along with stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. Both their characters died in the original trilogy, so we’re not sure how this movie fits in with the predecessors – the Wachowskis were secretive even before JJ Abrams and Christopher Nolan made it fashionable, so concrete information is thin on the ground. Still, in the cyber-world of The Matrix, pretty much anything should be possible, so expect to see bullet-time taken to the next level.
Confirmed to be called The Matrix Resurrections, the movie's first teaser trailer was unveiled at this year's CinemaCon event, and we've broken down 11 things we noticed.
The King's Man
Release date: December 22, 2021 (theatrical)
After the fun action of Kingsman: The Secret Service, the franchise quickly went off the rails with the overblown The Golden Circle. There's a lot riding on this third instalment, then, which may be why it's gone in such a radical new direction, heading back to World War I to show the early days of top-secret, impeccably tailored spy organization The Kingsmen. Ralph Fiennes is the M-type figure (shouldn't be too much of a stretch…) who recruits Harris Dickinson's Conrad to the club to combat an early 20th century brand of villainy. Sounds like a retro James Bond to us, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Big 2022 movies
Looking further ahead, these are the big movies coming up in 2022.
Release date: January 28, 2022 (theatrical)
Having had a monster hit with Venom in 2018, Sony plunders Spider-Man's rogues' gallery once again, with a movie focusing on one Michael Morbius. The so-called "living vampire" is a scientist who uses an experimental serum to cure a debilitating condition, and ends up turning himself into a bloodsucker.
Jared Leto, who has comic book movie form as the Joker, takes on the role of Morbius, alongside former Doctor Who star Matt Smith as Loxias Crown, a villain with the same bloodsucking affliction as the title star. Daniel Espinosa is at the helm – a remarkable piece of synergy, seeing as his 2017 movie Life was once rumored to be a Venom prequel.
Death on the Nile
Release date: February 11, 2022 (theatrical)
Kenneth Branagh directs the sequel to his Murder on the Orient Express adaptation, where he returns to his role – and that impressively sculpted facial hair – as Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. As in the first movie, he's taken a dazzling ensemble cast along for the ride, this time including Gal Gadot, Sex Education’s Emma Mackey and Black Panther's Letitia Wright. Don't expect any massive surprises in the plot – the story's over 80 years old – but with whodunits like this, the fun is always in watching Poirot sleuthing up a storm.