• Evan Northrup

The 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2021

2020 was a disaster for cinema. There’s no other way to put it. Between theaters closing, most movie releases being pushed back, and many of the films that did release being fairly average, the first year of the 20s will always be remembered as a uniquely subpar year for the big screen.

There is one silver lining. With so many films' releases being pushed back from 2020, along with the movies that were already planned to release this year, 2021 has the potential to be a great year for cinema. Each month is packed with both huge blockbusters and exciting small budget films from some of the best directors of our age.

Even more exciting is the barrage of up-and-coming stars who are helming this year's films. From Zendaya, John David Washington, and Anya Taylor-Joy, to LaKeith Stanfield, Tom Holland, and Ana De Armas, in many ways 2021 seems like a changing of the guard. For years, these young stars have given stellar performances as mostly supporting characters and co-stars in shows and movies. Now, Hollywood is trusting them to be the headlining names on the biggest films of the year, and I have no doubt they will deliver excellence.

Of course, with the tumultuous changes in the industry and the ongoing pandemic, none of these releases are a sure thing. Just like last year, many movies could have their release delayed, production halted, or be sold to streaming services to be released at a later date. So, keeping in mind that many of these movies could end up being delayed until 2022 or later, here are the most exciting movies releasing in 2021. The list is organized by release date, and as always, it covers a wide range of genres and platforms. So, bring out your calendar and get ready to save the date for some of the best movies of 2021.

Judas and the Black Messiah (February 12)

Judas and the Black Messiah is one of the 2021 movies that isn’t just exciting because of its plot, but because it is starring new actors who have recently joined the A-ranks of talented, Hollywood stars: Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. Ever since their roles in Get Out and Atlanta, respectively, the question of whether these two will start getting more starring roles has been one of when, not if. Judas and the Black Messiah is the true story of Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers who was betrayed by FBI informant William O’Neal (Stanfield). It’s sure to be a flick that will elevate their talents. Releasing on both HBO Max and in theaters, check out Judas and the Black Messiah on February 12 for a movie that’s sure to start the year off right.

Malcolm and Marie (February 5)

Second on this list is another film starring up and coming talent, Zendaya and John David Washington. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Up and coming? But Zendaya is one of the biggest stars in the industry!”

It’s true that Zendaya is incredibly popular. However, besides Euphoria, Zendaya doesn’t have many leading dramatic roles to brag about. That’s why getting the chance to see her star in a niche closed room drama along with the recent breakout star of BlacKkKlansman and Tenet is such an exciting proposition.

Directed and written by Euphoria creator/writer/director Sam Levinson, Malcolm and Marie is the story of a single moment—a director and his girlfriend waiting in a room for the critics’ response to his film. While I think that sometimes Levinson’s writing on Euphoria leaves something to be desired, Malcolm and Marie has the potential to showcase these stars’ acting ability at their full potential. Check out Malcom and Marie on Netflix February 5.

The French Dispatch (May 2021)

The French Dispatch is one of those movies originally scheduled to release in 2020 that feels like we’re destined to never see. Already delayed multiple times, the Wes Anderson “comedy-drama musical” starring Timothee Chalamet, Benecio del Toro, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Christopher Waltz, and many more has grown in hype with each time the release has been pushed back. With Wes Anderson, you never know what you’re going to get, and this odd, “comedy drama musical” about journalists in 1900s France seems like just the kind of thing that he could make intricate and spectacular.

Marvel: Black Widow, Shang Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Untitled MCU Spiderman Sequel

It didn’t seem right to give the new MCU movies coming out in 2021 four spots on this list. It also wouldn’t be right to leave the four hugely anticipated 2021 MCU releases off altogether.

With the release of Black Widow on May 7, the fourth phase of the MCU truly begins. Following the release of Endgame and Spider Man: Far From Home, the MCU has taken a break from their usual constant onslaught of content. The beginning of phase four is exciting because the MCU is taking on less commercial Marvel characters that will hopefully allow them to make more liberal creative decisions and unique story lines. Whether or not they go in this direction will largely be indicated by the quality and uniqueness of the three Marvel movies following the release of Black Widow in 2021: Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and the currently untitled Spiderman sequel. Check out these movies in theaters on July 9, November 5, and December 17, respectively.

Deep Water (August 13)

Deep Water stars Ben Affleck as a husband who is suspected of killing the men involved in his wife’s (Ana De Armas) many affairs. The film is based on the 1957 book of the same name and the script was co-written by Sam Levinson, writer of Malcom and Marie and Euphoria.

Deep Water is one of the bigger “maybes” on this list. Maybe it could be a great “erotic thriller.” Maybe Ana De Armas will shine in one of her first lead roles next to her now ex-boyfriend Ben Affleck. Maybe co-writer Sam Levinson will cast aside his predilection for overdoing/overstating and write a simmering, dark, and understated flick. Or maybe, this film will fall short and be an average quality blockbuster thriller that we quickly forget. The only way to find out? Go see Deep Water in theaters on August 13.

Candyman (August 27)

Candyman follows Get Out and Us as the third horror film written by Jordan Peele in the past five years. Do I have to say anything else?

If for some reason that isn’t enough to have you running to the theater to see Candyman on August 27, here’s some more to get you excited. Candyman is a sequel to the 1992 movie of the same name, which centers on a haunted public housing project in Chicago where a monster with a hooked hand murders and maims at will. The 2021 sequel takes place in the same neighborhood, now gentrified, but haunted by the same supernatural horror. Starring another duo of new stars (Yahya Abdul-Marteen II and Teyonah Parris), if Peele keeps up his hot streak, this new horror film could join Get Out and Us as one of the best in recent memory.

The Many Saints of Newark (September 24)

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

If you’re not a Sopranos fan, The Many Saints of Newark might just seem like another gangster flick. If you are a Sopranos stan (like me), The Many Saints of Newark has probably been living in your head rent-free ever since HBO announced its release. The film will take place in the 60s and 70s and will follow everyone’s favorite characters in The Sopranos throughout their formative years. The cast has many exciting names like Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Leslie Odom Jr., Ray Liotta, and most exciting, Michael Gandolfini, who will be playing a younger version of his father’s iconic character.

Like any reboot or reprisal of something so revered and beloved, The Many Saints of Newark has huge boom-or-bust potential. If the movie fails to recreate the magic and allure of the original series, there is no doubt that hardcore Sopranos fans will publicly vilify it. If it manages to capture the soul of the original show, it could become a canonized and loved prequel. Catch The Many Saints of Newark on HBO MAX September 24.

Dune (October 1)

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year and haven’t seen the Dune trailer, watch it. There’s nothing I can say to describe the visual splendor and expanse of the upcoming Dennis Villeneuve movie that the trailer can’t.

In addition to the beautiful landscape and cinematography put on display in the trailer, Dune is worth anticipating because it links up two talented young performers, Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet, on one of the most revered sci-fi books of all time. The cult classic book of the same name by Frank Herbert has been waiting for someone to do it justice on the big screen ever since the David Lynch-failed adaptation in 1984. With the stellar cast and Dennis Villeneuve directing, the 2021 film will hopefully deliver an adaptation that fans have been waiting for.

No Time to Die (October 8)

Right now, the Daniel Craig James Bond movies are riding at a 50% hit rate and a 50% miss rate. While Casino Royale and Skyfall were (IMO) the best Bond movies ever, Quantum Solace and Spectre missed the mark. With No Time to Die confirmed to be the last time we see Daniel Craig as 007, a lot is riding on the series final send-off for this iteration of the famous character. It’s undeniable that No Time to Die boasts a lot of great pieces, including Rami Malek, Ana De Armas, Lea Seydoux, and Christopher Waltz. Whether they can fit them all together to make a fitting finale to the Daniel Craig 007 films is something we won’t know until October 8.

Last Night in Soho (October 22)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a total Anya Taylor-Joy stan. On a ten-point rating scale, any show or movie’s rating that has Anya Taylor-Joy in it is instantly raised by at least two points. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Last Night in Soho, the Edgar Wright movie starring Anya Taylor-Joy, has made this list.

Last Night in Soho is about a fashion designer (Taylor-Joy) who finds herself able to travel back to 1960s London, where she meets a flashy up-and-coming singer. The movie is billed as a psychological thriller, so at some point this light-sounding plot must take a turn for the worst. The director, Edgar Wright, is known for highly-stylized movies like Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which all combine reality and fantastical elements, so Last Night in Soho is bound to be another reality-bending movie that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not. With one of the best up and coming actresses in the game and Edgar Wright teaming up, the potential for Last Night in Soho is through the roof.

Nightmare Alley (December 3)

Nightmare Alley is an adaptation of a 1946 novel of the same name about a carny with a knack for psychological manipulation, who combines his talents with a psychiatrist that beats him at his own game. While there aren’t many details or a trailer for this movie, it’s worth being excited about purely because of the cast, which includes Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, and Rooney Mara. With this team on board with Guillermo Del Torro, Nightmare Alley is a thriller worth looking forward to.

Honorable Mentions:

The Little Things (January 29)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, Rami Malek

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Cherry (February 26)

Starring: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo

Directed by: The Russo brothers

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (February 26)

Starring: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes

Directed by: Lee Daniels

Chaos Walking (March 5)

Starring: Tom Holland, Daisey Ridley, Mads Mikkelson

Directed by: Doug Liman

Raya and the Last Dragon (March 5)

Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Alan Tudyk, Awkwafina

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (March 19)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal

Director: Tom Gormican

Godzilla vs. Kong (March 31)

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown

In the Heights (June 18)

Starring: Anthony Ramos, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Directed by: Jon M. Chu

Top Gun: Maverick (July 2)

Starring: Tom Cruise

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16)

Starring: LeBron James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Don Cheadle

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

The Suicide Squad (August 6)

Starring: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, Taika Waititi

Directed by: James Gunn

The King's Man (August 20)

Starring: Ralph Fiennes

Directed by: Mathew Vaughn

A Quiet Place Part II (September 17)

Starring: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy

Directed by: John Krasinski

Mission: Impossible 7 (November 19)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Vanessa Kirby, Rebecca Ferguson

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

The Matrix 4 (December 22)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Priyanka Chopra

Don’t Look Up (???)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Evans, Timothee Chalamet, Cate Blanchet

Directed by: Adam McKay