2021 Preview: What to Watch Out For!

Upcoming Releases

2021 is sure to be filled with highly anticipated releases after so many delays occurred in the very unprecedented nightmare that was 2020. So, I'm here to inform you of all the most important releases of the year. If I were to just tell you about every release this year, we'd be here all 2021. I am just going to point out what's on my radar. Without further ado, here goes:

NOTE: I have updated some of these films' release dates as they have been moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic delays.


January 7th, 2021: Pieces of A Woman

Pieces of a Woman is an award-winning Netflix original Drama which stars Vanessa Kirby and Shia Lebouf, and is produced by Martin Scorsese. I had mentioned this film in previous articles, citing it as a film to watch out for. I firmly believe that this should shake up the Oscar conversation in several important categories. Vanessa Kirby's powerful performance has garnered critical and awards attention, while also bringing home an award for Kirby for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. The film drops on Netflix on January 7th and is sure to be a tear-jerker. Get ready.

Edit: My full review of the film can be found here.


January 15th, 2021: One Night in Miami...

One Night in Miami is the directorial debut by Regina King and is the Kemp Powers play adaptation to the screen of the same name. This is the second Kemp Powers play adaptation this year in the awards circuit (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) and is the third film that involves the power of Powers in some way (Soul). Needless to say, Kemp Powers is hot right now. Aside from the strength of the writing thanks to the Powers source material, there is serious star power in the acting, and of course, behind the camera. If you're unfamiliar with the setup for the story, it's about Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, and Cassius Clay all meeting up for one night together (in Miami) after Clay defeats Sonny Liston in a surprise upset for the title, and the men all discuss their roles and responsibilities in the Civil Rights Movement. It's sure to be a well-acted and well-written drama and I have no doubt it will be well worth the watch.

My full review of the film can be found here.

  • January 15th, 2021: American Skin

I saw a trailer of this film and was immediately entranced by the premise. This film will be an interesting one to look out for, and the conversation around it may prove to be incendiary. Although maybe divisive, I feel that its timely themes and overall intrigue will be enough to satisfy our early year cinematic hungers.

January 25th, 2021: Promising Young Woman 

Promising Young Woman is a mystery/drama/thriller starring Carey Mulligan which has a lot more on its mind than your average thriller picture. This is yet another film that was set for release almost a year ago, but fell victim to the ever daunting COVID delay that has stricken the film industry at large. The film has won over critics so far in early reviews and is also divisive and controversial in some ways. Many are already dazzled by Mulligan's charismatic and chilling performance in the lead role and has the potential to rattle cages come Oscar time. The film has also seen some success for its screenplay and direction by first time writer/director Emerald Fennell. Promising Young Woman seems...*ahem* promising as far as awards consideration is concerned. Watch out for this one. You won't want to miss it.

Edit: My full review of the film can be found here.

  • January 29th, 2021: The Little Things

Led by Denzel Washington, The Little Things tells the story of a deputy Sheriff (played by Washington) who travels to LA to gather evidence against a killer who terrorizes the city. As more evidence is gathered, Denzel's characters dark past start to echo the case and the disturbing secrets threaten not only the case, but his own life. Who doesn't love a good detective mystery starring Denzel? Count me in.

February Releases

February stacks up to be a fascinating month as some of the early year dumps will occur, but at the same time, Awards Season will be in full swing and there will be contenders strategically placed in this month as well. Check out the releases for this month:

February 12th: Minari

This, in my humble opinion, is the most important release of the month here. Minari is the tale of a South Korean family who tries to adapt to American life, and all the struggles that come with it. On the surface, it's a very simple premise, and while it might seem like just that, there are deeper themes at play. Steven Yeun (you may know him best from The Walking Dead) is one of my favorite working actors right now and is said to have a possible awards worthy performance here. Based on early reviews, who really steals the show here is Youn Yuj-jung who has won some critics awards, and has a real shot at an Oscar nomination this year. This simple tale of immigrants pursuing the American dream has a couple of the best production teams in the game right now behind it with A24 and Plan B Entertainment, which is Brad Pitt's production company. A24 looks to reclaim Best Picture this year after rival NEON took it last year with Bong Joon Ho's Parasite. A24 has not won Best Picture since their upset (and debacle) of La La Land with Moonlight back in 2017. Minari looks to be their best shot at doing just that. The main reason why I believe this is slightly more important than another particular release this month is because I believe this would be one of the few that can upset the films favored to win Best Picture this year. So this will prove to be an especially important release right here.

I will be seeing a pre-screening of it a month before its release, and I will have a review ready for you all by the time it's available to you.

  • February 12th: Land

Robin Wright's directorial debut, also starring Robin Wright, is a poignant drama about a local hunter who brings a lawyer back from the brink of death while on retreat in the harsh wilderness in the Rockies. This film is expected to premiere at Sundance Film Festival and will enjoy a theatrical release wherever movie theaters are open. The fact that Robin Wright is trying her hand at directing caught my eye and I look forward to the prospects this film has to offer.

  • February 12: French Exit

French Exit is described as a surrealist comedy about a widowed New York socialite and her aimless son move to Paris after she spends the last of her husband's inheritance. This film stars Michelle Pfeifer who has been praised for her performance, though I'm not entirely sure if it will be enough to garner an Oscar nomination. However, this was highlighted as one of the film's primary strengths and has piqued my interest, as it seems the middle aged actress is "back." It's unsure whether this film will be available via streaming or theatrical on this date.

  • February 19th: Nobody, The Mauritanian, Antlers

Nobody is an action film starring Bob Odenkirk.

The Mauritanian is a legal drama which stars Benedict Cumberbatch about a possible false imprisonment and controversial trial of a US Government detainee.

Antlers is the much anticipated Scott Cooper directed and Guillermo Del Toro produced horror film which was delayed last year.

February 19th: Nomadland 

If we had the most important release of February earlier, then this must be the second most important, and not by much. Nomadland is the feature drama starring Frances Mcdormand, and written, directed, edited, and produced by Chloe Zhao. It's the film adaptation of the book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty First Century, it's a poignant story of a woman struggling to survive as she travels across the country, living out of only her vehicle. It also tells the tale of others struggling to do exactly the same. The beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and masterfully told tale is going to be one for the ages as currently it is the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It has already taken home a slew of awards from most of the critics circles across the nation (found here) and is expected to do the same at the Academy Awards in April. Mark this one on your calendar, folks. I sure am.

  • February 26th: The Father

Following up one banger with another, The Father is almost certain to be a huge awards contender in the coming months. Featuring what has been said to be Anthony Hopkins' best performance since Silence of the Lambs, The Father is an emotionally affecting drama about a father who develops dementia and how this impacts those around him. This also includes an acclaimed performance from Olivia Colman, who is a recent Oscar winner and Emmy contender. If you're a fan of psychological dramas, this one is for you. Do not miss it for anything.

  • February 26th: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Sure to be an awards contender for several significant categories, The United States vs. Billie Holiday is a dramatic biopic that dives into the tale of legendary singer Billie Holiday who was the target of a sting operation while engaged in a complicated affair with an undercover agent. The film has already caught the eye of critics and The Academy alike with early reviews, screeners, and advance screenings. This one will be exciting to watch come awards time as it will likely contend in acting and production/art direction categories.

Edit: This film will see a release on Hulu on this date - it is unclear whether or not it will see a proper theatrical release.

March Releases

March 12th: The Many Saints of Newark 

This film is the much anticipated Sopranos feature which has a star studded cast, including James Gandolfini's son. It's been said that the film's general synopsis is that it's a prequel that dives into the life of Tony Soprano before his exploits on the TV series. Fans of the show will almost certainly be seeking this one out, as will I come time for March.


UPDATE: This film has been moved to September 24, 2021 due to COVID concerns.

April Releases

This month will also prove interesting as we prepare for the possibility of reopening this country. Amid the COVID pandemic, it's difficult to know when that will be, but some distribution companies remain hopeful, with some huge releases set for this month. And here they are:

  • April 4th: No Time To Die

This is the much anticipated Bond sequel, the 25th in the franchise, and is expected to be Daniel Craig's last outing as James Bond. No Time To Die has been delayed several times already, thanks to COVID and creative differences with former director Danny Boyle. The film ended up Cary Joji Fukunaga at the helm and has the longest runtime for a Bond film in its nearly six decade history. There was much talk of this film being sold to a streaming service with the fate of movie theaters being so nebulous. As of now, it still has a plan for a proper theatrical release and is sure to be an exciting conclusion to the Daniel Craig saga.

Update: No Time To Die has moved to October 8, 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.

  • April 23rd: A Quiet Place Part II

The highly sought after A Quiet Place sequel is another victim of COVID as it was moved about a year from the ever vaunted 2020. John Krasinski returns behind the camera and helped pen the script again after the hugely successful first effort that left fans excited for this follow-up. This film had to be mentioned as there was far too much hype around it to omit it. Fans of the first and the genre will likely find enough chills and thrills to be sufficiently entertained.

UPDATE: This film has been moved to September 17,2021 due to COVID concerns possibly impacting theater attendance.

  • April 23rd: Last Night in Soho

This is Edgar Wright's psychological horror film starring Anya Taylor Joy and features Diana Rigg's final performance before her unfortunate passing. Edgar Wright has been known for his stylistic editing and sort of tongue-in-cheek tones in his films. It is unclear whether this will be similar in tone to his previous efforts, but it is sure to sport his well-known trademarks and distinct style. I am very intrigued by the fact that he is venturing into psychological horror territory and will keep a close eye on this one. This was yet another film which was slated for late last year, but had several delays until finally ending up here. I know that you guys are mostly familiar with Anya Taylor Joy playing chess, but be on the lookout for her trying her hand at an Edgar Wright psychological horror. It will be interesting, if nothing else.

My Reviews!

As of right now, I will be doing Watercooler Reviews on Pieces of a Woman, Minari, Promising Young Woman, and One Night in Miami...

Be on the lookout for those!

Of course, I will be doing more Watercooler Reviews throughout the year, but those are what I officially have at this point. Not to mention, those are actually going to be some of the most important films to keep your eye on where awards consideration is concerned.

The Golden Globes!

Just kidding. Nobody cares about the Globes.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards

Arguably a more important awards ceremony than the Oscars, which actually seems to care about awarding films based on merit, this indie film awards ceremony is set to be held on the night before the Oscars, April 24th, 2021. Don't miss that if you're an indie film fan like I am.

Oscars: April 25, 2021

The eventful and often controversial awards ceremony is set for a late April date after the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, as it usually sees its ceremony in February or March. I did mention earlier in this article that there are some awards contenders being released in the months prior to the Oscars, and most strategically placed their films to be released in a position to succeed with the Academy. Keeping your film fresh in the Academy's minds is just as important as the quality of your film. Some of these films include Minari, Promising Young Woman, Pieces of a Woman, The Father, Nomadland, and One Night in Miami. The frontrunners for Best Picture right now are Nomadland and Mank, at this present moment. As we know, anything can change between when I'm writing this article, and when it comes time for the Academy to vote. If I had to put my money anywhere, it would be on Nomadland, even without having seen it.

You can find my official Oscar predictions here.

May Releases

May 7th: Black Widow

This Black Widow prequel explores the life of Natasha Romanova well before her emotional and selfless sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame (whoops, spoilers!). Although I've been stricken with a serious case of superhero fatigue, I will be seeking this one out due to the simple fact that I love Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz. Not to mention, Scarlett Johansson. It's unclear whether Disney/Marvel Studios will be dropping this on Disney+ or if it will opt for a proper theatrical release, given all that's been going on in the world. As of now, it seems they are planning releasing it worldwide, barring something drastic. Superhero fatigue be damned, I will be seeing this at the earliest possible moment.

May TBD: The French Dispatch 

Wes Anderson's newest film is in a kind of a COVID limbo right now. It's expected the film will see a Cannes 2021 premiere, but the dates are uncertain. The much anticipated film with a knockout cast is almost certain to burst into the awards conversation for late 2021 and the 2022 Oscars. Anderson's quirky, distinct style and symmetrical presentation will surely be on display with this film, and based on the trailer it's doubtful it will disappoint fans of Wes. I will keep you guys posted as to when this film will be released to the general public. (it's also highly likely I'll write a review of it, too)

May 21st: Spiral

This Saw franchise reboot will be led by Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. It is a fascinating choice for Chris Rock to delve into a more serious role, or that they might be adding a bit of levity to the historically dark and gruesome horror saga. I'm not sure if I'll go out of my way for it, but it is one to keep on the radar as it could be an intriguing turn for Chris Rock, as well as the series in general.

May 28th: F9

The ninth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise.

COVID Vaccine

Be on the lookout for this, but be careful! Also, this will lead to my next thing (hopefully):

Movie Theaters Reopening

If this is going to be a thing in 2021, and you feel comfortable doing so, please go out and support your local movie theaters! They are struggling right now and at serious risk of dying out completely! Please help when and where you can, otherwise we may never be able to experience them ever again.

June Releases

June 11th: Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Yet another Ghostbusters reboot which could possibly have legs to stand on with the addition of Paul Rudd and the inclusion of beloved characters from the original. I will likely not go out of my way to see this, unless reviews and general audience reception are undeniable.

June 18th: Luca

The newest animated feature from the juggernaut that is Pixar studios. Any new film by Disney/Pixar is always one well worth checking out, at the very least for its beautiful animation, if not for the usually compelling plot and characters. Luca follows the story of a young boy living on the Italian Riviera who shares adventures with his newfound best friend until a dark secret about his identity threatens to undo this bond. I have been a huge fan of the latest efforts from Pixar and very much look forward to this new and likely visually dazzling adventure.

June 18th: In The Heights

John Chu's take on the Broadway musical which explores three days in the New York City Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights is likely to feature wonderfully choreographed dance numbers and well-written and sung pieces of music. Fans of musicals and Broadway in general are likely to seek this one out.

July Releases

July 2nd: Top Gun: Maverick

I wasn't too excited to hear that they were making a needless sequel to the revered cult classic Top Gun, but after seeing the stunning trailer and hearing an interview with Jon Hamm (who plays a major role in the new movie) I have to say I was wrong, and am now ecstatic to see this 35 year follow-up to the naval action/drama. This has shot up to being one of my most anticipated films of the year after it was delayed multiple times in 2020, much like many other films from this God forsaken year. Hamm went on to say that seeing a private showing of the film's final cut after wrapping post-production was absolutely "unbelievable" and features some of the best action sequences ever put to the big screen, thanks to remarkable practical effects (they actually flew those F-18's...wild!). Needless to say, this will be the blockbuster event of the summer, if we're allowed the privilege of theater going once again.

July 9th: Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Yet another Marvel superhero film, if you're into that kind of thing.

July 16th: Space Jam: A New Legacy

A film no one asked for.

August Releases

August 6th: The Suicide Squad 

After the complete failure that was the first Suicide Squad movie, there is the slight chance that this may not be as much of a dud as the previous effort by David Ayer. There is much hype around this second attempt as James Gunn has been slated to write and direct. I'm still skeptical as all they've done is added a "The" to the title and brought on a director who shows promise, but has let me down in the past before. I likely will not be giving another DC dud the time of day, but this could be one to watch out for if this is your thing.

August 13th: Respect

The Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige will definitely be one of the primary films of 2021 to keep on your awards radar. Performances, music, and production value will be the hallmarks of this film and I'm very excited and delighted to see who's all involved. This has shot up on my list as one of my most anticipated films of the year and I urge you to do the same.

August 27th: Candyman

I am generally not excited about horror remakes, unless Jordan Peele is involved in some way. Peele is signed on as a Producer of the film and I am very intrigued to see the direction in which they take this update of a horror cult classic.

September Releases

September 3rd: Jackass 4

Because, why not?

October Releases

October 1st: Dune

I'll get into that shortly.

October 15th: Halloween Kills

The sequel to the reboot from 2018. If you're into that kinda thing.

Dune 2021

This is the long awaited reboot of the beloved Sci-Fi fiction novel saga which has been adapted several times over. This time, I believe the re-adaptation is in the right hands of my favorite director: Denis Villeneuve. For those unfamiliar with his work, Villeneuve won the 2010s for me with Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049 (all are among my favorite films of all time). The director has been on a hot streak and is sure to give us more than just a visual feast with his interpretation of the daunting source material. I can see no better filmmaker to place trust in - I am confident he will do right by this reboot, as it's his passion project. He was dissatisfied with Lynch's adaptation from the 80s and has always dreamed of adapting his favorite novel series into a film franchise. He believes that his interpretation of the material is essentially going to be "Star Wars for adults."

Suffice it to say, I am more than thrilled that he is taking on this leviathan of a series and I have been aching to see this for over three years now, and it will be four by the time it's released. This is another film which was in COVID purgatory and was delayed several times until being thrown into late 2021. The film was also going to suffer a similar fate to other Warner Bros films: being relegated to their streaming partnership, HBO Max. Legendary Pictures threatened legal action against Warner, who now crumbled under the pressure of their own bluff, and is now going to render this film exempt from that release plan. The film is likely to have a proper theatrical release as a result of this controversy and the possibility of a lawsuit. All this background noise aside, the film is certain to be one of the loudest blockbusters of the year, and has a distinct chance at awards attention as well. Look for this to make some waves at the Oscars in mostly technical categories, but also don't count out the potential opportunity at the big five.

Timmy Chalamet and Zendaya looking back at 2020

November Releases

November 5th: Elvis

Tom Hanks stars as Elvis' longtime manager Colonel Tom Parker in this Baz Luhrmann led musical biopic.

November 19th: Mission Impossible 7

The seventh installment of the Mission Impossible franchise has been plagued with COVID delays and controversy throughout the course of its troubled production thus far. The currently untitled sequel in the series is sure to feature ridiculous stunts, thrilling set pieces, and stunning visuals - all trademarks of the action-packed thrill rides. Christopher McQuarrie has returned to write, direct, and produce the follow-up to the massive hit, Mission Impossible: Fallout. Tom Cruise has also been heard throwing a tirade against any crew member caught not wearing a mask or practicing safe, proper COVID set protocol. Although the production has gone through all the hell one can imagine during a time like this, the next film in the series will likely meet or exceed expectations set by the previous successes in the franchise. I am excited to see where McQuarrie and company take it, as the last few films have featured some of my favorite actors as a part of their typically stellar casts. Keep this high on your list if you're a fan of the genre and/or series.

November 24th: Encanto

Another Disney animated feature release this year is sure to be a chart topper as far as family friendly blockbusters are concerned. And another Disney animated feature also means another Oscar bid. Be sure to mark your calendars for this one.

November 24th: Gucci

Ridley Scott directs a dramatic biopic surrounding the exploits of the Gucci family, most specifically the historic $500 million haul brought in via revenue of their heavily sought after product. This film is likely to be an Oscar contender as the Academy is typically drawn to true stories of this caliber, especially ones directed by the legendary Ridley Scott. This will be on my radar for awards potential and pure entertainment value as well.

December Releases

December 10th: West Side Story

This film is almost certain to be an Oscar contender, considering the star and production value behind this remake of such a revered classic. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film stars Ansel Elgort and will likely capture the hearts of audiences, critics, and industry members alike. The Academy loves musicals when done well and I have no doubt this will lead the awards conversation for that particular circuit.

December 10th: American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story 

This documentary follows the story of a young man who went from stocking shelves in retail to a two-time NFL MVP quarterback. Who knew? The story of Kurt Warner will be sure to fascinate and spark the curiosity of sports fans and even casual viewers of the like.

December 17th: Spider-Man: Homecoming 3

The third installment of the Spider-Man franchise is sure to be an exciting one, bearing in mind the cliffhanger Far From Home left us with. Tom Holland is set to return, as well as the vast majority of the previous cast. Jamie Foxx is said to be the villain of this story, coming off recent indie, prestige, and mainstream successes. Although the saturation of films within the genre leave me exhausted, I am still interested to see where the story goes here, as I believe that the Spider-Man films are among the best written and produced stories that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer.

December 22nd: The Matrix 4

Plot details remain unknown, but a reboot of The Matrix franchise will surely be an interesting one, considering where the series left off over 17 years ago. Lana Wachowski is set to write and direct the sequel reboot, but it's difficult to know where the franchise is to be taken at this point. Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss are said to be returning, leaving us to wonder how they return to the fray. I am extremely skeptical about this one, but color me intrigued.

December 22nd: The Nightingale 

The film's synopsis is described as, "Two sisters live in France at the beginning of World War II. The older sister, Vianne Mauriac, says goodbye to her husband, who's heading off to fight in the war. She and her daughter become prisoners in their own home after it's requisitioned by German forces, and Vianne is faced with making impossible choices to save her family. Her younger sister, Isabelle, is an 18-year-old girl who falls for a young man who eventually betrays her. She then joins the Resistance and begins risking her life to save others." The film's plot and cast intrigues me and I will recommend you keep this on your radar come December 2021, just as I will.

December 25th: Babylon

The newest film from writer/director Damien Chazelle tackles Old Hollywood's transition from silent films into the new age of "Talkies." I have been excited to see the latest from Damien Chazelle ever since his intriguing space drama First Man, although admittedly a weaker effort from him. I have always been a big fan of his as Whiplash is a top 3 film of mine, and La La Land is such a cinematic treat as well. I am thrilled to see what he and this delicious cast have to offer. Make sure to keep an eye on this film's awards prospects as well.

UPDATE: This film's release date has been moved by a year to Christmas 2022.

We're in for a Wild Ride in 2021!

Hopefully not as wild as 2020, but it looks like we have an impressive lineup of films this year! If I missed any, it's because I either haven't heard about them or I will not be seeking them out. Hope you do enjoy what you're willing to take a chance on from my list or what you've already had your eye on! I'll be sure to keep you guys posted on any and all developments throughout the course of the year.

Have a safe and happy 2021!

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

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