Let’s not beat around the bush – 2020 was a disaster for theaters.
As Covid-19-induced lockdowns led to unprecedented closures of theaters around the world, movie studios pulled movie after movie from their release schedules. Even the few movies that did make it to the screen – Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984 – struggled to get anywhere near the box office takings they’d have made in any other year.
But as theaters reopen around the world – 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), we've also got new Bond and The Matrix offerings on the way, too.
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.
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.
So, 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.
No Time to Die
Release date: September 30, 2021 (UK, theatrically), October 8, 2021 (global, theatrically)
Daniel Craig draws his Walther PPK for the fifth and final time in the latest James Bond movie (originally set for an April 2020 release) as the 007 arc begun by Casino Royale back in 2006 comes to an explosive end. While James Bond begins the film in retirement in Jamaica with Spectre survivor Madeleine Swann (Lea Sedoux) – there are strong rumors the couple now have a kid – he's soon drawn back into active service by a story involving Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), old MI6 colleagues M, Q and Moneypenny, and a new 00 agent in the form of Captain Marvel's Lashana Lynch. All eyes, however, will be on Bohemian Rhapsody Oscar-winner Rami Malek as a Big Bad called Safin.
The Many Saints of Newark
Release date: October 1, 2021 (US, theatrical/HBO Max), October 22, 2021 (UK, theatrical)
As the streaming giants threaten to leave movies trailing in their dust, one of the shows that kickstarted the golden age of TV is heading in the opposite direction. More than 20 years after his classic HBO gangster show The Sopranos laid the groundwork for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, David Chase is returning to explore the early days of Tony Soprano. Prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark is set against a backdrop of riots in 1967 New Jersey, and features Michael Gandolfini as Soprano – a role his late father, James, played in the TV show. Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom, Vera Farmiga and Jon Bernthal co-star.
Venom: Let There be Carnage
Release date: October 1, 2021 (theatrical)
If prizes were awarded for clever sequel titles, this Venom follow-up would definitely be in with a shout. Not only does the Let There Be Carnage moniker promise violence and chaos, it confirms the identity of the movie’s antagonist. Teased in the end credits of the first movie, Carnage is what happens when serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) is fused with one of Venom’s alien symbiote cousins, creating a supervillain in the process. Tom Hardy’s back to reprise his memorable double act with his head-munching alter-ego, while performance capture expert Andy ‘Gollum’ Serkis marshals the action.
The release date for this one has been subject to a lot of twists and turns, with claims of a January 2022 delay quickly rebuffed as soon as they were rumored. Right now, an October release seems the most likely, though that may change once again.
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.
Release date: 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.
Release date: February 18, 2022 (theatrical)
Tom Holland stars as PlayStation-originated hero Nathan Drake in this adaptation of Naughty Dog's games, which also co-stars Mark Wahlberg. This one's been kicking around the schedules for years, and this time director Ruben Fleischer (Venom, Zombieland) is attached to make it. The games themselves were pretty cinematic, so it'll be interesting to see if this film can contribute anything new to Drake's story.
Release date: March 4, 2022 (theatrical)
Robert Pattinson follows in the footsteps of Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck as the latest man to don the most famous cowl in cinema. Dawn of/War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves gets the keys to the Batmobile in the latest reboot of the most versatile hero in comics, and he’s promised his take on the Caped Crusader will feel “very psychological, very emotional”.
Gotham City is traditionally defined by its villains, however, and The Batman has plenty, with Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as Riddler and Colin Farrell as The Penguin. This could be a worthy successor to Christopher Nolan’s superlative Dark Knight trilogy.
Top Gun: Maverick
Release date: May 27, 2022 (theatrical)
Tom Cruise climbs back into that famous fighter jet cockpit for the first time since Top Gun made him the biggest star on the planet over three decades ago. Resurrecting the most '80s of movies in the cut and thrust of the 21st century marketplace is a gamble, even for Cruise, but the production team are doing everything they can to recapture the old magic – as well as real action with real planes, they've brought back synth legend Harold 'Axel F' Faltermeyer on music duties. Plot wise, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell is still an instructor at the Top Gun school, while one of his students (played by Whiplash's Miles Teller) just happens to be the son of Mav's late co-pilot, Goose. We're still feeling the need for speed...
Jurassic World: Dominion
Release date: June 10, 2022 (theatrical)
If there’s one certainty in Hollywood, it’s that – like life – major franchises find a way. So, despite production having been halted by coronavirus restrictions in March 2020, the sixth Jurassic movie got back in front of the cameras in July of last year. The big news this time out is that Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard will be joining forces with Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, all reprising their roles from the original Jurassic Park. But with dinosaurs now loose on American soil after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this movie promises to be very different to its prehistoric predecessors.
We were supposed to be seeing this in June 2021, but you can fill the hole with short film Battle at Big Rock (above).
Mission: Impossible 7
Release date: September 30, 2022 (theatrical)
Tom Cruise will have hit 60 by the time the seventh Mission: Impossible movie smashes its way into cinemas. Don’t expect him to give up his mantle as Hollywood’s leading action star anytime soon, however, as there’s still plenty of spectacular stunts for Cruise to risk life and limb for – part of the fun of the series is finding out what its leading man will dare to try next. Having delivered the long-running franchise’s best instalments with Rogue Nation and Fallout, Christopher McQuarrie is back behind the camera for part 7 and its follow-up. Plot details are currently wrapped up tighter than a government vault, but Mission: Impossible is a brand that tends to deliver.
Release date: December 16, 2022 (theatrical)
James Cameron is anything but prolific these days – Avatar 2 will be his third movie in 25 years – but when he does step behind the camera, you know you’ll be seeing something groundbreaking. He tends to spend the long gaps between releases waiting for filmmaking technology to catch up with his vision, so his return to the spectacular alien ecosystem of Pandora will feature world-first underwater performance capture sequences.
Kate Winslet (who held her breath for an incredible seven minutes during filming), Jemaine Clement and Cliff Curtis join the cast alongside Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana. Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang also return, despite their characters being presumed dead.
While this sequel was delayed a year as part of Disney's massive Covid-19-induced release date shake up, you won’t have to wait another decade for more Avatar – part 3 is set for December 2024, with a fourth and fifth movie also in the works.