The 27 Best Movies Coming in 2021, from James Bond to 'Black Widow'

Laura Martin
·13-min read

From Men's Health

There were many industries crushed by the pandemic in 2020, but few as brutally, or as quickly, as the film industry. Within days of the first infections in the US and UK, production staff were furloughed en masse, major releases were shelved and several cinema chains went bust. Even the stars of the big screen didn’t escape: many ended up singing tunelessly into their phones for Gal Gadot’s celebrity cover of "Imagine".

Just as the movie world began to get back on its feet in the late summer – amid repeated Covid-19 tests for all cast and crew, as well as marshals to reduce the chance of the virus spreading on sets – the second wave crashed, shutting down international productions once again. It was enough to make even Tom Cruise scream out in fury when he noticed several crew not wearing their masks on the set of the new Mission Impossible film.

Which makes 2021 a strange year for new movies. On the one hand, what hasn't been filmed can't be released, which means some of the blockbusters that were lined up to land this year are now on ice. On the other, all those films that should have hit cinemas in 2020 – your James Bonds, your Marvel movies, your Oscar-bait dramedies – have been shunted into 2021, in the hope that cinemas might open up again. Although even that's not a sure thing, which means we're likely to see more shifting release dates, and more of the best movies of the year landing straight onto streaming services. Here’s hoping you got a new projector for Christmas.

MLK/FBI

“This represents one of the darkest periods in the bureau’s history”.

So says one of the interviewees in this documentary about how the FBI, and the White House, viewed civil rights activist Martin Luther King as a threat, and worked insidiously to take him down: investigating, bugging and harassing him until his assassination in 1968. Thanks to government documents that have now been declassified, director Sam Pollard has pulled together a distressing examination about the abuse of power, revealing how the FBI would seemingly stop at nothing to extinguish a man who’s only mantra was for equality for all in America.

Release date: 15 January

One Night in Miami

What would have happened if Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali all shot the shit in a Miami hotel on the night The Greatest felled Sonny Liston? That's the question Regina King's film seeks to answer. Unlike you and your mates, they do more than play Call of Duty.

Release date: 15 January, on Amazon Prime Video UK

Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed's already generating Oscar buzz for his turn as a speed metal drummer who starts to lose his hearing, and his grip on reality. In deafness, though, he finds a new purpose. And maybe a little gold statue.

Release date: 29 January, on Amazon Prime Video

Beginning

Photo credit: Mubi
Photo credit: Mubi

Winner of Best Film and Best Director at the San Sebastian Film Festival, this debut feature from Georgian writer-director Dea Kulumbegashvili centres on a young Jehova's Witness who undergoes a crisis of faith when her religious community comes under attack from a group of extremists. An examination of faith, love and loss, it moves with the pace and pressure of a glacier.

Release date: 29 January, on Mubi

News Of The World

No, not a retelling of life in Murdoch’s most salacious tabloid, but instead an epic western by Paul Greengrass, featuring Tom Hanks as a civil war veteran who’s charged with returning a kidnapped girl, Joanna, to her family. Hanks goes full Woody “there’s a snake in ma boot” Toy Story as the grizzly but kindhearted Texan, but the real star is the scenery, which will have you longing to escape your front room.

Release date: January, on Netflix

Nomadland

Part movie, part documentary, this Golden Lion-winning film by Chloe Zhao sees Frances McDormand travel cross-country to escape her Nevada home's economic collapse. She's guided by (real-life) nomads Linda May, Charlene Swankie, and Bob Wells, and the cast and crew mostly lived in vans for the entire shoot.

Release date: 19 February

The World To Come

A love story set in the harsh 1850s American East Coast frontier, two women from neighbouring couples battle their way through hardship and isolation and find an unexpected bond that starts to grow between them. Starring The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby and Katherine Waterston as Tallie and Abigail, the film has already picked up major plaudits, winning the Queer Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival in September.

Release date: 12 February

Promising Young Woman

Rape culture and revenge go under the microscope in this dark – like, bottom-of-a-mineshaft-dark – comedy starring Carey Mulligan, who puts in a career-best performance a women hell-bent on getting justice for an old university friend. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell (yes, The Crown’s Camilla Parker-Bowles), it's a timely take on consent, justice and responsibility, plus belly laughs.

Release date: 12 February

The Mauritanian

Almost two decades on from the invasion of Iraq, there are still more than 40 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, where they're held without trial but with little prospect of release. The ramifications of this imprisonment are revealed in this harrowing film, which is based on the true story of the Mauritanian Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who was held at the camp for 14 years without charge after being arrested – and rendered by the CIA – in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Serpent’s Tahar Rahim takes the lead role – cementing him as one of the most gifted actors of the moment – with Jodie Foster as the lawyer who defends him. On the other side is Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays military prosecutor Stu Coach with an accent so thick you could spread it on toast.

Release date: 26 February

Cherry

Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

Based on the multi-award-winning autobiographical novel by medic-turned-drug-addict-turned-bank robber, Nico Walker. It stars Tom Holland as an army medic who slips into opioid addiction on his return from Iraq, then takes to robbing banks to fund his habit. It's produced and directed by the Russo Brothers, in their first feature in the big chair outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2006.

Release date: 26 February in cinemas, on Apple TV+ from 12 March

Coming 2 America

This sequel to 1988's Coming to America has been a long time coming, and sees Eddie Murphy return to the role of Prince (now King) Akeem as he makes another trip to Queen's, New York.

Release date: 5 March, on Amazon Prime Video

Supernova

A Best Film nominee at 2020's London Film Festival, Supernova follows partners Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth in a final trip to visit loved ones after Firth's diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer's. Sounds heavy, but writer-director Harry Macqueen treats their relationship, and enduring love in the face of tragedy, with a lightness of touch that's as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. Expect Oscar nominations.

Release date: 5 March

Morbius

Infected with a virus from bats, you say? It’s no wonder this Marvel film – starring Jared Leto as the eponymous lead – was put on hold in 2020. Unlike Covid-19, this bat-born disease gives the scientist Michael Morbius incredible superpowers, but also turns him into a vampire (because presumably a superhero with no sense of taste or smell was a bit less cinematic). Chernobyl’s Jared Harris adds some much-needed weight to the story, which also stars Matt Smith, Tyrese Gibson and even a cameo from fellow chiropteran hero, Michael Keaton.

Release date: 19 March

The King’s Man

Both the prequel and the third film in the Kingsman series, based on the comics about a bunch of well-dressed spies who operate out of a Savile Row tailor. Matthew Vaughn’s new movie explores the organisation's origins, taking us back a century or so and pitting them against a rogue's gallery of turn-of-the-century baddies, including Ra-Ra-Rasputin. Ralph Fiennes picks up the role of the Duke of Oxford once again, alongside Gemma Arterton, Tom Hollander, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Matthew Goode, while Rhys Ifans is almost unrecognisable as Russia’s greatest love machine.

Release date: March 2021, in cinemas

No Time to Die

Perhaps you hadn't heard, but there's a new James Bond film due. The much (much!) delayed 25th outing for 007, No Time to Die, stars Daniel Craig in his final outing as MI6's bluntest instrument, this time facing off against Rami Malek as the terrorist leader Safin, who’s out for revenge (is he actually Blofeld? Maybe!). Throw in return visits from Ben Whishaw (Q) and Léa Seydoux (Dr Madeleine Swann), plus Billie Eilish providing the official theme song, and this looks well worth the wait.

Release date: 2 April

Mortal Kombat

The high-kicking, fight-to-the-death film franchise from the Nineties is getting a reboot, despite the last outing for the computer game movie, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, being universally panned in 1997. But, onwards and upwards and all that? The film – based on a script that's been kicking around for almost two decades, but don't let that worry you – is a tonal shift from the first one, with an R rating and Saw creator James Wan in the director's chair. It's not going to be Citizen Kane, but it does look like dumb, bloody fun. Altogether now: finish him!

Release date: 16 April

A Quiet Place: Part II

Emily Blunt and family tiptoe around again in this sequel to John Krasinski's 2018 horror smash. The conceit remains the same – make a noise, get bumped off – but now her brood are heading out into a place where all new threats lurk.

Release date: 23 April

Last Night in Soho

Photo credit: Focus Features
Photo credit: Focus Features

Edgar Wright's new one stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a woman who travels through time and winds up in Sixties London, which is remarkably less swinging – and rather more horrifying – than she expected.

Release date: 23 April

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson's "love letter to journalists" tells the heartwarming tale of a muckraker who goes through celebrity's bins. Oh, wait, nope; The French Dispatch is about the Parisian bureau of a US newspaper (the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun) where Anderson alums like Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, alongside new faces including Timothée Chalamet and Léa Seydoux, pursue a trio of stories. Expect whimsy.

Release date: May

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Or, as it should be called: 'Ghostbusters: The Kids Are Alright'. A single mum moves to a small town in Oklahoma with her two children, who discover that their grandad (RIP) used to be a Ghostbuster. Which is kind of handy, actually, as there’s some supernatural goings-on spooking the townsfolk. Before you can say "Slimer!", the kids have jumped into those familiar greige boiler suits and are wieldinging the proton packs. Fans of the original will be happy to see familiar faces Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver popping up once again, while Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Paul Rudd are also up for busting some spirits, too.

Release date: June

Candyman

Jordan Peele must have uttered the Candyman's name too many times in front of the mirror, because the iconic slasher villain is back in 2021. This sequel to the cult 1992 horror movie is produced by Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta (who's helming 2022's Captain Marvel sequel) centres on a hipster artist (played by Watchmen and Matrix 4 star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who moves into an old sweet factory decides to create an installation, in which viewers are encouraged to say the “c” word into a mirror. Bad move, bozo: it awakens the demon from his slumber once again.

Release date: 27 August

The Many Saints of Newark

Thirteen years after the end of The Sopranos, and despite James Galdofini’s death in 2013, will this prequel to one of the greatest TV shows of all time work? It certainly looks like it might. Based around the race riots in Newark in 1967, The Many Saints of Newark focuses on Dickie Moltisanti, the father of the older Tony’s protege, Christopher, and in some genius casting, also features Galdolfini’s real-life son, Michael Galdolfini as a young Tony Soprano. Bada-bing, we’re in.

Release date: 24 September

Dune

Is Dune the film with the longest pre-production span in history? Quite possibly. Since the sci-fi novel was released in 1965, Alejandro Jodorowsky was tipped to helm a 10-hour series in the mid Seventies, but it never happened. David Lynch had a go in the Eighties that almost ended his career. In the Aughts, it was attached to a slew of names, including Peter Berg and Pierre Morel, before Blade Runner 2049's Denis Villeneuve came on board in 2016. Timothée Chalamet stars as Duke Leto Atreides, who's sent to the desert planet Arrakis to guard 'the spice' – the most valuable drug in the universe. Looking very serious amid the incredible backdrops are Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Zendaya, and if you’re wondering why the score sounds so awesome – even on the trailer – it's because Hans Zimmer is at the helm.

Release date: 1 October

Black Widow

It felt like 2020 was the first time since the first fish crawled up onto land that there wasn't at least one Marvel movie in cinemas. In 2021, normal service resumes. Black Widow is the long-awaited origin story for Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, and it looks suitably epic. The film sees Romanoff reunite with her other ‘sisters’ from a highly unusual Russian training programme; Yelena (Florence Pugh) and Melina (Rachel Weisz). Also along for the ride is their father figure, the Red Guardian, played by Mr Lily Allen, David Harbour, as they duel the Taskmaster, who can mimic the abilities and skills of their duelling partners.

Release date: 28 October

Eternals

Photo credit: Jesse Grant - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jesse Grant - Getty Images

When Chloe Zhao isn't making docu-realist masterpieces with Frances McDormand (see Nomadland, above) she's helming Marvel's next blockbuster, which stars Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and Gemma Chan, and reportedly features the studio's first transgender superhero.

Release date: 5 November

The Matrix 4

Photo credit: AKGS - BACKGRID
Photo credit: AKGS - BACKGRID

Now, no one needs a fourth Matrix movie, especially after the sour taste left by part three. But the signs are good. Lana Wachowski is in charge, Neo and Trinity (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss) are in, and the idea that we're all slaves to semi-sentient machines is no longer sci-fi (go on, put your phone down, we dare you).

Release date: 22 December

Antlers

Fans of Stranger Things will be into this supernatural horror film featuring Jesse Plemons. A young boy has captured and is feeding some sort of beast that soon is at large in their town, with a devastating impact on everyone who lives there. Produced by Hellboy’s Guillermo del Toro, the trailer alone gives us the willies, so perhaps it’s a good thing the film’s release has been delayed once again, giving us time to bolster ourselves for the main event.

Release date: TBC

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