Welp, there’s no denying 2020 was a pretty weird year for films, even if we did end up seeing a bunch of stuff we liked. So we won’t even try to pretend to know what to expect from 2021. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hope for the best — and these 15 films are among the titles we’re most excited to see in the next 12 months. (Hopefully. You know, if stuff doesn’t get delayed again and all that.)
1. MLK/FBI (Jan. 15)
Martin Luther King Jr. needs no introduction — he’s still rightfully revered today as one of the greatest heroes in American history. But Samuel D. Pollard’s critically acclaimed documentary promises to be a searing and timely reminder that he wasn’t always thought of that way. Digging into the FBI’s thorough campaign to surveil the civil rights leader in hopes of discrediting him and his movement, MLK/FBI digs into the legacy of the former, the dark history of the latter, and the ugly collision between them. — Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
How to watch: In select theaters and on demand Jan. 15
2. One Night in Miami… (Jan. 15)*
What happens when you stick four larger-than-life legends in a room, and then just sit back and watch as they joke about their shared history, hash out old arguments about politics, career, and religion, and make plans for a brighter future? In One Night in Miami…, the results are both thought-provoking and wildly entertaining. Featuring uniformly excellent performances by Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Eli Goree as Muhammad Ali, Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, and Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, this is one evening you won’t want to miss. — A.H.
How to watch: In select theaters Jan. 8 and on Amazon Prime Jan. 15.
3. Minari (Feb. 12)*
The American dream lures a Korean-American family to Arkansas in Minari, which stars Steven Yeun as a patriarch determined to start his own farm. Complications arise in ways both predictable and unexpected (in the latter camp, the arrival of a hilarious grandma played by Youn Yuh-jung takes the cake), but what remains steady is the love between the family, and writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s tenderness toward them. Save this one for when you feel like smiling and crying at the same time. — A.H.
How to watch: In theaters Feb. 12.
4. Nobody (Feb. 26)
Is it a bit reductive to sum up Nobody as “What if John Wick, but Bob Odenkirk?” Maybe. But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to know the answer. Odenkirk has surprised us time and time again — most recently with his incredible work on Better Call Saul — and his latest transformation sees him turning into a bonafide action hero, playing a seemingly mild-mannered dad whose dark, violent past bubbles up after a traumatic incident. — A.H.
How to watch: In theaters Feb. 26.
5. Coming 2 America (March 5)
More than 30 years after Prince Akeem and his BFF Semmi visited America for the first time, they’re coming back. This time, however, they’re in search not of a queen, but a prince — a son still somewhere out there in Queens. Coming 2 America reunites Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall for another hopefully hilarious string of roles, and as if that didn’t sound like comedy gold already, they’re also joined by Jermaine Fowler, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, and more. — A.H.
How to watch: On Amazon Prime March 5.
6. A Quiet Place Part II (April 23)
In the sequel to 2018’s A Quiet Place, newly widowed Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her children are on the move, searching for new safe places to hide from the sound-sensitive creatures that have destroyed most of humanity. They run into Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who insists that survival is impossible if Evelyn tries to save those who remain — in fact, she may not even want to.
A Quiet Place Part II was one of the first casualties of 2020 movie theater closures, but unlike many of the others, we’re still waiting on this one. In March, director John Krasinski issued a statement postponing the film’s March 20 release: “As insanely excited as we are for all of you to see this movie…I’m gonna wait to release the film til we CAN all see it together!” he wrote. We hope that day arrives as planned. — Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: In theaters April 23.
7. Last Night in Soho (April 23)
Admittedly, there’s not a lot we know yet about Last Night in Soho. But what we do know is enough to get us psyched. It’s directed by Edgar Wright, of Scott Pilgrim and Cornetto Trilogy fame; it stars an absolutely top-notch cast that includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, and Matt Smith; and it’s described as a time-traveling psychological horror film set in the 1960s. What all of that adds up to, we can’t wait to find out. — A.H.
How to watch: In theaters April 23.
8. F9 (May 28)
The Fast and Furious movies have always been about family, but ties of blood can be complicated. F9 pits Dom (Vin Diesel) against his brother Jakob (John Cena), a formidably talented thief, assassin, and driver. Cipher (Charlize Theron) plans to use Jakob directly against Dom, but we know our side of the fam isn’t going down without a fight. The trailer stunts alone will make you salivate for seeing this in a theater, just so you can scream with everyone when that car drives off a cliff and stand up and yell for Han’s return (Sung Kang). — P.K.
How to watch: In theaters May 28.
9. In the Heights (June 18)
Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes’ 2007 stage production should’ve provided the soundtrack to summer 2020, now arriving a year later. Hamilton alum Anthony Ramos stars as Usnavi de la Vega, a bodega owner in Washington Heights with big (and little) dreams for his family and friends. Chu’s visual style dazzles in the trailer along with Miranda’s soundtrack, promising an unforgettable movie musical experience. — P.K.
How to watch: In theaters and on HBO Max June 18.
10. Luca (June 18)
At a glance, the synopsis for Disney and Pixar’s Luca sounds a lot like cartoon Call Me By Your Name: A young boy meets a new friend, they grow unexpectedly close, it’s all set during one magical summer in the Italian sun. But here’s the crucial difference in this film from director Enrico Casarosa: these boys are sea monsters. In retrospect, that’s what Call Me By Your Name was missing, and we can’t wait to see it set right. — P.K.
How to watch: In theaters June 18.
11. Zola (June 30)
If you were on social media around 2015, you probably remember that viral Twitter thread about two strippers on a road trip gone very, very wrong. And if you were on social media in early 2020, maybe you recall that that Twitter thread became a slick, stylish film that got raves at Sundance. Well, if your curiosity was piqued, the wait is almost over — Zola is finally, at long last, about to come out. With its irresistible stranger-than-fiction hook and a cast that includes Riley Keough, Taylour Paige, Colman Domingo, and Nicholas Braun, this is one wild ride you don’t want to miss. — A.H.
How to watch: In theaters June 30.
12. Top Gun: Maverick (July 2)
Before Tom Cruise was practically killing himself for our amusement in the Mission: Impossible movies, he was flying into the danger zone in Top Gun. And now he’s about to do it again. Top Gun: Maverick reunites Cruise with his old costar Val Kilmer, but also introduces a new generation of pilot trainees led by Miles Teller and Glen Powell. Expect hotheaded hotshots, death-defying stunts, some serious nostalgia…and is it too much to hope for another shirtless beach volleyball scene? — A.H.
How to watch: In theaters July 2.
13. The Green Knight (July 30)
Dev Patel looks like a god and a king in A24’s Green Knight, from director David Lowery. However, he is neither: He is Sir Gawain, the Arthurian knight known as one of King Arthur’s closest confidantes and strongest warriors. The film also stars Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, and Game of Thrones‘ Kate Dickie for a dark and twisted medieval adventure.— P.K.
How to watch: In theaters July 30.
14. Dune (Oct. 1)
There’s so much going on in the Dune trailer that we made you a dedicated explainer. Based on the novel by Frank Herbert — and the sprawling universe it spawned — Dune is the story of Paul (Timothée Chalamet) who must traverse the universe to save his family, planet, and the entire galaxy. He’s tasked with procuring Melange, a precious substance found on the treacherous planet Arrakis, where even the bravest have failed in this quest.
Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve will adapt the first Dune novel into two films, also starring Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and a whole lot more. — P.K.
How to watch: In theaters and on HBO Max Oct. 1.
15. Eternals (Nov. 5)
The MCU returns with a flourish in 2021, introducing a brand new franchise-within-the-franchise: the Eternals. Basically the Eternals are a bunch of immortals (get it) who have lived on Earth forever and played a critical role in influencing its history… so we have some questions for them.
The film stars Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, and more as the 10 titular eternals (and Kit Harington as a dude named Dane). Director Chloé Zhao helms the film, marking Marvel’s first female director of color in the MCU. — P.K.
How to watch: In theaters Nov. 5.
* Denotes films that had awards-qualifying limited runs in 2020.