Instead of writing a new list of the most anticipated movies of 2021, we could just link you to last year’s list. COVID-19 forced studios to shelve many of their biggest blockbusters until next year. And it wasn’t just a date on a calendar either: many of these movies got full blown trailers, late night show appearances and marketing campaigns hyping us up before the pandemic pulled a fast one. In some regards, it’s a fool’s errand putting together any sort of calendar list, because 2020 proved constantly shifting dates or a sudden move to streaming is no longer a sign of a bad movie but is just par for the course. All of these movies were meant to come out at some point in 2020, and this doesn’t even include hot titles for early next year such as “Cherry,” “The Many Saints of Newark,” “Cinderella,” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” and more. Keep in mind that all of these dates are still subject to change.
“Chaos Walking” – January 22
First slated for as far back as March 2019 before sliding to last January, the dystopian thriller based on a YA novel “Chaos Walking” stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley and is about a world inhabited by only men where all creatures can hear each others’ subconscious thoughts in a phenomenon called Noise. Ridley however is a mysterious girl who could hold the secret to the noise and to the fate of humanity. Doug Liman directs the film opening January 22.
“Coming 2 America” – March 5
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return to this sequel decades in the making, following up their 1988 comedy classic. Craig Brewer directs the film about Prince Akeem trying to track down his long-lost son in New York, and Amazon picked it up from Paramount with plans to release it this spring rather than at the holidays.
“The King’s Man” – March 12
Set in World War I, “The King’s Man” is a prequel to the tongue-in-cheek action franchise “Kingsman.” The new film stars Ralph Fiennes as the seasoned super spy training a younger recruit. The 20th Century title will remain in theaters for March after looking like it could debut in September.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” – March 12
Like “Mulan” before it, “Raya and the Last Dragon” will premiere day-and-date in theaters and as a premium release on Disney+, though we at one point hoped we might get to see it as early as last month. “The Last Jedi” star Kelly Marie Tran is the voice of the title character in Disney Animation’s latest original adventure, and she plays a young warrior in a fantasy kingdom looking to find the location of a shapeshifting dragon that could bring peace to her land.
“Morbius” – March 19
Jared Leto is a pseudo-vampire with an “overpowering urge to consume blood” in “Morbius,” which is another of Sony’s offshoots of a Spider-Man comic book character after “Venom.” The film directed by Daniel Espinosa was supposed to come out July 31 this year but will open March 19, 2021.
“No Time to Die” – April 2
Pushed back twice, first from April and then to November and now to April 2, 2021, the wait for the 25th James Bond film and likely Daniel Craig’s last was already too long before the coronavirus delays, what with teases of Rami Malek as the film’s villain or Billie Eilish’s whisper elegant title track for the film.
“A Quiet Place Part II” – April 23
The follow-up to John Krasinski’s surprise horror hit “A Quiet Place” was days away from hitting theaters as everything started shutting down, and while there was hopes it could open in September, it will settle into an April 23 debut for now. Krasinski returns to direct Emily Blunt in “Part II,” but a third film is already in the works from director Jeff Nichols.
“Last Night in Soho” – April 23
Edgar Wright said that work on “Last Night in Soho,” his follow-up to “Baby Driver,” was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and kept it from making its September release date. Anticipation remains high to see how the comedy stalwart tackles a genre-bending period piece along with “Queen’s Gambit” star Anya Taylor-Joy.
“Black Widow” – May 7
We had no Marvel movies in 2020, and now “Black Widow” will arrive with a wave of other MCU shows as well as movies, and it will kick off Phase 4 in theaters a year after it was originally meant to debut this summer. Scarlett Johansson stars in the prequel film along with Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz and Ray Winstone.
“Free Guy” – May 21
Ryan Reynolds stars as a video game background character who hopes to take control of his own destiny in “Free Guy,” an action-comedy from Shawn Levy that had originally been slated for July 3, 2020 and then again for this winter.
“Spiral” – May 21
Yes, Chris Rock wrote a “Saw” movie, a passion project that drew from his love of the horror franchise and stars Rock as a detective investigating the Jigsaw murders as the events of the original trilogy of films are taking place. Lionsgate moved the film a full year to May 21, 2021.
“F9” – May 28
Among the first films to jump a full year on the calendar recognizing that only a prime summer spot would do for the next “Fast & Furious” film, the ninth film in the franchise features the long overdue return of director Justin Lin and franchise MVP Sung Kang (#JusticeForHan!), along with Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren returning from the eighth film.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” – June 11
“Ghostbusters” is getting the “Super 8” style gritty reboot treatment and turned the comedy classic into a fan’s dream about the legacy of what happened after the events of the original comedy films. Jason Reitman took over for his father Ivan on the new film, and Paul Rudd stars as the scientist who treats Venkman and the gang as legends. The film was supposed to open in July 2020.
“In the Heights” – June 18
Based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical, Jon M. Chu directs Anthony Ramos in this colorful celebration of Dominican culture. The film was meant to open in June of this year but will be one of the blockbusters opening day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max as part of Warner Bros. release plan for 2021.
“Top Gun: Maverick” – July 2
Tom Cruise is back in the cockpit and has “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski on board for what should be a visually stunning sequel to the original “Top Gun.” The new film also sees if young blood Miles Teller and Glen Powell can keep up with Cruise. Though it looked like we might get this film in time for Christmas, Paramount will release it over Independence Day weekend 2021 where it belongs.
“Minions: The Rise of Gru” – July 2
This “Minions” sequel shows how a young Gru (Steve Carell making his accented voice sound an octave higher) becomes a world class villain by pulling a fast-one on the 1960s supervillains of the day. “The Rise of Gru” was meant to open last summer.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” – July 9
Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead was originally slated for February 12, 2021. Thanks to COVID it was pushed back to May 7, 2021 and then again to July where, for now, it looks locked in. It stars Simu Liu in the title role and Tony Leung as his arch viallin The Mandarin, alongside Awkwafina, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, Ronny Chieng and Michelle Yeoh.
“Jungle Cruise” – July 30
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt star in this action-adventure take on the Disneyland attraction, and we can only hope the film by Jaume Collet-Serra packs as many animal and water puns into its running time as a trip to Anaheim does.
“Respect” – August 13
Who else could play Aretha Franklin but Jennifer Hudson? Though it looked like “Respect” could’ve been an Oscar contender this year, MGM hopes to make a splash with its music biopic in the summer. Playwright Liesl Tommy directs the film that has a stellar cast including Forest Whitaker, Audra McDonald, Marlon Wayans, Tituss Burgess and Marc Maron.
“Candyman” – August 27
Nia DaCosta directs this updated take on the 1992 “Candyman” film that comes from a story by Jordan Peele and stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. The horror film examines how the monster’s legend plays into a now gentrified Chicago neighborhood. “Candyman” was supposed to hit theaters as early as June 12, 2020, but to tide you over, check out DaCosta’s chilling animated short film inspired by the character.
“Death on the Nile” – September 17
Kenneth Branagh returns as detective Hercule Poirot in the follow-up to “Murder on the Orient Express,” and he’s now brought along Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer for more murder mystery fun. Disney hoped to release the film as early as October 23 this year.
“Dune” – October 1
Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune” feels like a movie that demands to be seen in a theater, so we’re glad that by delaying to next October and taking the slot of “The Batman,” we should still be able to do that, even if it will also open on HBO Max the same day. Timothee Chalamet stars as part of an amazing cast including Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Zendaya.
“Halloween Kills” – October 15
The first of two sequels to the rebooted “Halloween” was meant to come out this Halloween but will leave Michael Myers and Laurie Strode’s latest face off for just a little longer. David Gordon Green returns to direct this film and “Halloween Ends” in 2022 based on John Carpenter’s slasher masterpiece.
“Eternals” – November 5
“Eternals” was originally set to come out before “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” but after it was pushed back along with “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi” got bumped up. Angelina Jolie stars in the superhero film from “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao.
“West Side Story” – December 10
Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited remake of the classic musical stars Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria, who might’ve been launched to super stardom this year were it not for the pandemic. Spielberg also brought back Rita Moreno from the original film adaptation of the musical, and the new “West Side Story” figures to be an Oscar contender for 2021.
“The French Dispatch” – TBD
Wes Anderson’s film inspired by the correspondence of The New Yorker was selected as part of the would-be Cannes lineup this year, but it’s still without a release date. Bill Murray anchors a cast that’s a collection of vignettes and short stories that show Anderson stretching his cinematic creativity.