The concept of looking forward to movies is kind of a strange one as we head into 2021. Since movie theatres spent most of 2020 shut down and/or devoid of new releases, the movie industry had to do some pretty crazy short-term improvisation. This resulted in early VOD deals, some pretty spectacular corporate beef, and even Warner Bros. controversially announcing that their entire 2021 slate of movies would be simultaneously released day-and-date on HBO Max alongside their flagship theatrical premieres. The movie industry is in a bit of a bizarre state right now, but that also makes 2021’s movie calendar all the more fascinating.
Granted, a good chunk of this list will be repeats of movies that were originally among my most anticipated of 2020, which were naturally delayed into 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the state of play has nonetheless shifted to an interesting degree, with some major blockbusters like Wonder Woman 1984 and Tenet still managing to limp into available theatres within 2020, pandemic be damned, while others have foregone their theatrical releases entirely, or yet more have become unset on the release calendar, after formerly ironclad premiere plans. You know it’s a weird time when Marvel Studios, the biggest movie giant in the world right now, even takes a gap year, with no new releases at all in 2020!
Regardless of how weird everything currently is at the movies though, 2021 still has some exciting cinematic releases on the docket, which can hopefully finally make their way to audiences, as planned. Thus, I’m counting down the top ten movies that I, personally am most looking forward to as we head into the new year. Obviously, in order to be eligible for this list, a movie has to be confirmed for a planned premiere in 2021, though I can’t account for what are sure to be more delays caused by the still-ongoing pandemic. I also can’t include movies that haven’t currently been marketed, and that I don’t know about yet, of course.
Without further ado then, let’s get started:
#10 – Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16th, 2021)
Studio: Warner Bros., HBO Max
Genre: Sports Animation/Live-Action-Comedy
WHY: This is definitely kicking off my list on a pretty interesting note, but if you were a 90’s kid like me, chances are, the original Space Jam has a special place in your heart. This creates the weird vibe of looking forward to this highly belated sequel largely because a huge part of me thinks that it’s a terrible idea. Then again, the original Space Jam was a terrible idea, and many of us Millennials still love it. Maybe the sequel will be the same?
Sure, Michael Jordan apparently isn’t back for this follow-up, but considering Jordan’s hilariously bad acting in the original (which is nonetheless an iconic part of its charm), maybe that’s not such an awful thing. Instead, LeBron James is set to headline this distant follow-up to the cult-favourite Looney Tunes basketball crossover comedy, and as we’ve seen in former movies like Trainwreck, LeBron can actually be pretty funny when he has the right material. That gives me some reason to believe that Space Jam: A New Legacy won’t be a colossal, ahem, trainwreck, though even if it is, I’ll probably still find it really entertaining.
We haven’t even seen a trailer for this movie yet, but I’m already excited. Whether this is a shocking masterpiece or a legendary misstep for Warner Bros. (or perhaps something in between), we’re bound to get our money’s worth in terms of sheer audacity and ridiculousness, and who can argue with that?
#9 – Uncharted (July 16th, 2021)
Studio: Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, PlayStation Productions
WHY: Looks like mid-July could be a pretty busy time at the movies for me!… Assuming theatres are open at that point. Well, regardless, there are some promising video game adaptations in the pipeline for 2021, but the one that currently has most of my attention is Uncharted. Inspired by Sony’s highly acclaimed PlayStation franchise, Uncharted will follow plucky explorer, Nathan Drake during his earliest origins, portrayed in a younger incarnation by Tom Holland, and that’s about all we know so far.
Uncharted has spent quite a bit of time in development hell over the past few years, and has seen several would-be directors come and go, along with numerous rewrites and changes to the movie’s story. Finally though, Uncharted has officially wrapped production as of late 2020, and has a completed final product that’s now being polished up for its public release, ensuring that it will be on the way at some point later this year, barring any more potential COVID-19 delays. I have to admit, I was originally skeptical of the pitch that Sony settled on for this movie, but the more I think about it, the more the idea is growing on me. Tom Holland has obviously proven to be a very capable young leading man, and his current tenure as the MCU’s Spider-Man does seem to lend itself naturally to the snarky wit of Nathan Drake.
One always has to be a little cautious with video game-to-film adaptations, but they have been slowly getting better lately. Perhaps Uncharted could be the mainstream blockbuster that this struggling medium of film adaptations has been more aggressively gunning for lately? I mean, it’s fairly close to 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in concept, which is the first time that a video game-to-film adaptation actually achieved mainstream appeal and box office success. Let’s just hope that Uncharted is at least a little better than the dated (but guilty pleasure-worthy!) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
#8 – The King’s Man (March 12th, 2021)
Studio: 20th Century Studios
Genre: Period Action-Adventure
WHY: One of many victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and its cavalcade of movie delays, The King’s Man is a former 2020 blockbuster that’s re-attempting a release in early 2021, and is so far not budging from its plans to release exclusively in theatres. We already have several trailers for The King’s Man to boot, and so far, it looks very true to the previous two Kingsman movies; A bizarrely appealing blend between European charm and American bombast, all layered around a premise that feels as badass as it does cartoon-ish.
Some of the ‘James Bond on cocaine’ charm may be lost in the process to making The King’s Man a prequel, set amid the backdrop of the Great War in the 1910’s, but the early footage has so far looked like a ton of fun. The King’s Man appears to be extra comic book-y as well, bringing together several of history’s worst tyrants to seemingly contribute to the creation of WWI. This will in turn serve as the origin of the Kingsman organization from the present-day Kingsman movies, while presumably setting the stage for a potential sub-franchise, should this movie be a success.
Seeing that I found both previous Kingsman movies incredibly entertaining, I’m very much game for another one, especially when 2020 has left me craving the flair of a balls-to-the-wall action romp. Hopefully this movie can make it to theatres as planned without further delays, and hopefully I can get another shot of that spicy Kingsman goodness, in its bold new flavour!
#7 – Ghostbusters: Afterlife (June 11th, 2021)
Studio: Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Ghost Corps.
Genre: Supernatural Action-Dramedy
WHY: Sony looks to be trying their hand at another Ghostbusters reboot, or, at least, they were supposed to last year. Yet another movie delayed to 2021 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghostbusters: Afterlife aims to put a slightly more dramatic (if the first trailer is any indication), but still lovably enjoyable new spin on the world of the original Ghostbusters duology. Yeah, that 2016 reboot I was lambasted for not completely despising is apparently non-canon now, so, fine, whatever.
In any case, Ghostbusters: Afterlife has at least one trailer to its name so far, and immediately, you can see some clear inspiration taken from Netflix’s mega-hit original series, Stranger Things. Hell, Stranger Things’ own Finn Wolfhard is one of this movie’s leads! Even so, I really love the idea of a post-Ghostbusters world, where spirits and specters can still linger unchecked, and eventually cause trouble for people, with no one to call, as it were.
I’m still admittedly not sure if Ghostbusters: Afterlife will ultimately move too far from the series’ comedic tone, a concern that I also felt at the start of 2020, before the movie was delayed to this year. Still, I’m very interested to see Sony take another stab at one of their most criminally under-served movie franchises, one that hopefully pleases fans a bit more, or, at the very least, creates something that brings the Ghostbusters franchise more successfully into the 21st Century.
#6 – No Time to Die (April 2nd, 2021)
Studio: Universal, United Artists, MGM, Eon Productions
Genre: Spy Action-Thriller
WHY: Why, what a coincidence, it’s yet another movie that was originally supposed to come out last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it into 2021. Boy, this would be a different list without the pandemic, eh? Well, we play the hand we’ve been dealt. So, it should come as no surprise to those who know me that I’m still very much looking forward to No Time to Die, being an avid James Bond fan since childhood. This is a huge movie as well, apparently, nearly stretching to three hours in length, and supposedly chronicling the final mission of James Bond, before Daniel Craig retires from the role in the real world.
I’ve particularly enjoyed Craig’s run as a grittier, more vaguely unhinged Bond, even if it’s very different from the series’ more suave and sophisticated Bond portrayals of the past. It will be tough to see Craig go, but at least No Time to Die’s early trailers have looked pretty awesome, promising a Craig-era storyline that comes full circle, all with many recognizable Bond trappings; Stylish cars, exotic locations, gorgeous women, and spectacularly dangerous super-criminals.
A persistent fan theory has pegged Rami Malek’s antagonist, Savin as a modern reinvention of the original Bond movie baddie, Dr. No to boot, possibly suggesting that the 007 mantle will be passed on after Bond is killed in action or permanently retired, and potentially laying the groundwork for other classic Bond villains to get some modernizations against new 007 agents. If that speculation is true, it’s something I have very mixed feelings about, but I suppose if I could get used to Wally West succeeding Barry Allen as The Flash, or Steve Rogers handing the Captain America mantle to Sam Wilson, it’s possible for me to get used to a new 007 as well. Either way, I’m still very eager to see how Craig concludes his celebrated run as James Bond, and what it may mean for cinema’s longest-running franchise, going forward.
#5 – Eternals (November 5th, 2021)
Studio: Marvel Studios
Genre: Superhero Action-Adventure
WHY: This is predictably where most of my list tends to be gobbled up by comic book movies (The King’s Man notwithstanding), but if you’re a Marvel fan especially, then 2021 nonetheless looks to be your year. This year is making up for 2020’s lack of Marvel movies (if you don’t count 20th Century Studios’ ill-fated X-Men movie spin-off, The New Mutants anyway), with a literal avalanche of Marvel Cinematic Universe releases! Not only is Marvel Studios delivering a total of four Marvel movies to theatres this year (again, barring more potential COVID-19 delays), alongside Sony Pictures delivering two theatrical movies within their ‘Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters’ (God, that name sucks!), but Disney+ is currently also planning to premiere six original shows set within the MCU in 2021, again, barring potential COVID-19 disruptions. Damn. That’s a lot of Marvel for this coming year!
Even so, I have yet to hear about a Marvel project on the way this year that doesn’t sound exciting, ambitious and otherwise rewarding. Even rounding out the bottom of my most anticipated MCU movies for this year, another movie that was originally planning to premiere last year, before COVID-19 got to it, Eternals is a project that sounds incredibly massive, and very promising! This all-new IP for Marvel Studios adapts Jack Kirby’s cult favourite comic book series of the same name, chronicling thousands of years’ worth of storylines surrounding the eponymous Eternals, and their formerly unseen war against their greatest enemies, the Deviants.
Basically, Eternals will give the MCU its own long-spanning mythology of secret characters that have subtly influenced history across millennia, and will be influenced in turn by the climactic battle against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. We may have yet to see any real visuals from Eternals, let alone a trailer (excluding Kumail Nanjiani’s astonishing new muscles anyway!), but this movie already sounds like a huge blockbuster, one that continues to feel very different from the MCU movies that came before it, while still planting itself firmly in Hollywood’s best shared universe. Round that off with a star-studded cast of Hollywood A-listers, and you have a true epic-in-the-making, one that I’m very excited to experience, and one that I hope provides us with our next great triple-A MCU franchise!
#4 – Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings (July 9th, 2021)
Studio: Marvel Studios
Genre: Martial Arts Superhero Action-Adventure
WHY: Ah, a Marvel movie that actually always planned to release in 2021! That’s a nice switch. In any case, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings aims to be the Asian version of 2018’s stellar Black Panther movie, presenting a mostly Asian cast that aims to elevate Asian-led blockbusters. Better still for Marvel fans is that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will finally, nearly a decade later, clarify the mystery behind super-villain, The Mandarin in the MCU, and his alleged terrorist organization, The Ten Rings, which debuted all the way back in the first Iron Man movie from 2008, the literal beginning of the MCU!
After Iron Man 3 delivered a highly controversial take on the Mandarin in 2013, framing the character as an imposter, an actor and a proxy to A.I.M. leader, Aldrich Killian (oh, spoilers for an eight-year-old, billion-grossing movie if you somehow haven’t seen that yet?), a subsequent short film, All Hail the King, teased that the ‘real’ Mandarin was still out there in the MCU somewhere, and he’s highly displeased at Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery making a mockery of his good name. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will finally unleash the MCU’s true Mandarin on audiences, even if the MCU re-frames him as an enemy of its eponymous martial artist hero, rather than the arch-nemesis of Iron Man, a la Marvel Comics.
Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited about this movie for the revelation of the real Mandarin alone, but I have many other reasons to look forward to it as well. Whether it’s seeing Canadian-Asian actor, Simu Liu realize the titular character in live-action, the potential for another obscure Marvel character to get their shot at mainstream cinematic success, or just another slice of fun MCU spectacle overall, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a project I’m very much looking forward to, and I can’t wait to see the first trailer, whenever it finally arrives.
#3 – Black Widow (May 7th, 2021)
Studio: Marvel Studios
Genre: Spy Superhero Action-Adventure
WHY: And we’re back to another Marvel Studios movie that was supposed to release last year, only to be chased into 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, this is the last 2021 movie on my list that was originally supposed to be a 2020 movie, and the last time I’ll need to reiterate most of the same reasons that I was looking forward to this particular movie just as much at the start of last year.
We’ve since gotten a healthy dose of trailers for Black Widow, an interquel that will be set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War within the MCU timeline. What’s been promised is part spy movie, part Russian thriller and part superhero epic, all headlined by Scarlett Johansson in possibly her final turn as Natasha Romanoff. Sure, it’s already been confirmed that this movie’s events won’t carry much impact on the overall MCU timeline at this point (beyond Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova being confirmed to show up in this year’s Hawkeye series on Disney+), but I’m still looking forward to seeing how effectively one of my favourite supporting Avengers finally headlines her own movie.
Natasha may not be known for headlining her own Marvel franchise, but Black Widow could finally provide the character with her own triple-A vehicle, even after her death in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Whether or not it leads to a franchise however, Black Widow looks like a gratifying, action-packed blockbuster that could provide a heartwarming epilogue to Natasha’s character arc in the MCU, even if it’s one that takes place a couple of years before Thanos invades Earth, and snaps away half of all life in the universe.
Marvel Studios is taking some really big swings with its movie slate in 2021, and while Black Widow may not be as much of a gamble as Eternals or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it’s still an experimental effort to take a traditionally supporting Avenger (a dead one at that!), and give her her very own blockbuster movie. No matter how it turns out, I’m looking forward to seeing its final product, if for no other reason than to get another chance to enjoy Scarlett Johansson in the eponymous role.
#2 – The Suicide Squad (August 6th, 2021)
Studio: Warner Bros., DC Films, HBO Max
Genre: War Crime Superhero Action-Adventure
WHY: And now for something completely different!… Sort of. While Marvel will no doubt be dominating most of the movie conversation in 2021 at this rate (what else is new?), DC, despite suffering their own tragic 2021 movie delays before 2021 had even started, is still managing to hang on to one 2021 movie release, that being the sequel/reboot hybrid, The Suicide Squad. Overseen by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn as writer-director, and promising an ultra-violent R-rated spectacle that’s packed to the gills with expendable DC super-villains and anti-heroes, The Suicide Squad definitely won’t be an inviting, mainstream addition to the DC Extended Universe, but 2016’s Suicide Squad tried that already, and how did that work out for it?
More exciting than looking forward to a proper uncensored Suicide Squad follow-up however, made by someone that can actually do the franchise justice, is the fact that this movie gives Gunn a chance to return to his earliest roots as a director for Troma Entertainment. Best known for hyper-violent, absurd B-movies like The Toxic Avenger, Troma’s sensibilities are a natural fit for a true Suicide Squad movie. The Suicide Squad has only shown one behind-the-scenes featurette at last year’s DC FanDome event so far, but it does indeed appear to be calling back to Gunn’s time at Troma, where any character could be killed at any moment, probably in horrifically bloody fashion!
Some alums from 2016’s previous Suicide Squad movie are present in this follow-up/soft reboot, including Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang, but the majority of the cast will consist of all-new characters, in an all-new setting. Gunn has promised a genuine war movie with a pitch black sense of humour as well, bringing the action to fictional DC island nation, Corto Maltese in order to raid a Nazi prison/secret research lab. That sounds a lot more like a Suicide Squad storyline than what 2016 ultimately offered. Seeing that Suicide Squad is one of my all-time favourite DC franchises especially, I’m finally looking forward to seeing it portrayed in its proper, unhinged potential later this Summer!
#1 – Untitled Spider-Man: Far From Home sequel [Working Title] (December 17th, 2021)
Studio: Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios
Genre: Superhero Action-Adventure
WHY: Was there any doubt?
The still-untitled Spider-Man: Far From Home sequel has already gobbled up a ton of media attention since it began filming late last year, specifically because it aims to irrevocably marry the MCU with Sony’s classic line of standalone Spider-Man movies. It turns out that 2018’s excellent animated opus from Sony, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, may have been grooming audiences to start understanding the Marvel Multiverse, and specifically the Spider-Verse, since Tobey Maguire’s and Andrew Garfield’s former Spider-Man incarnations are supposedly going to be displaced in the MCU, due to some inter-dimensional tomfoolery. Even better is that Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus will also be major antagonists in this threequel, according to reports (and Foxx’s own Instagram account), though it’s currently unknown whether their characters will be the same ones from the Garfield and Maguire movies, respectively, or whether they’ll be MCU doppelgangers that are simply played by the same actors, a la J.K. Simmons’ revamped J. Jonah Jameson of the MCU.
Whatever the case, the all-but-confirmed prospect of this new Spider-Man movie bringing the Spider-Verse to the MCU, while likely tying together the MCU and the SPUMC, immediately promises to provide one of the most exciting, buzz-worthy developments across 2021’s entire blockbuster movie slate! Pair that with Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as Doctor Strange, serving as the latest surrogate father figure to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and you have what’s easily one of the most ambitious Spider-Man movies ever made to date, one that aspires to bring together the best of the old and the best of the new, as a Disney/Sony sharing deal should!
Naturally, this has massive implications for both the MCU and Sony’s current hold on the Spider-Man movie rights, suggesting that Marvel and Sony could be forming a more permanent partnership in the years ahead. This kind of cross-company synergy has also been realized well between Warner Bros. and Universal with their shared Godzilla vs. Kong projects (a crossover movie that just barely missed out on this list. Consider this an honourable mention for it!), and it could be something that we see more of in major movie franchises going forward. This new Spider-Man movie could mark a whole new era for Hollywood at its best, but most importantly, it will continue throwing open the floodgates when it comes to evolving the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse. That alone easily places this movie as my most anticipated movie of 2021!
What are your most anticipated movies of 2021? Whether you watch these movies at home, or in the theatre, or perhaps not even this year if we suffer more delays, Hollywood still has plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline. If you are going to go to the theatre in 2021 however, assuming that’s even an option in your area, remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet! Be safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and don’t take unnecessary risks!
Here’s hoping that we can finally start safely and happily enjoying the movies again at some point this year!