After highlighting 40 films we can guarantee are worth seeing this year and films we hope will get U.S. distribution, it’s time we venture into the unknown. Due to all the pandemic-related delays, our most-anticipated list this year may ring familiar to those who follow our coverage, but there’s still plenty of currently under-the-radar movies that will hopefully make a mark in 2021.
While the majority might not have a set release–let alone any confirmed festival premiere–most have wrapped production and will likely debut at some point in 2021, so make sure to check back for updates over the next twelve months and beyond.
100. No Time to Die (Cary Fukunaga; April 2)
Delays to the 25th James Bond film No Time To Die have been heartbreaking for lifelong fans of the spy franchise. While it’s unclear whether or not the COVID vaccines will roll out fast enough for Cary Fukunaga’s interpretation of the series to make its planned gigantic release, this latest Bond entry looks like it’ll be worth any further wait. The swansong to Daniel Craig’s run has major weight on its shoulders, and hopefully Fukunaga proves the right choice to say goodbye to this era of the British spy. – Logan K.
99. Algerian by Accident (Karim Aïnouz)
Karim Aïnouz’s latest will explore his own upbringing and connections between the two countries he calls home, Algeria and Brazil. Described as a very private, yet universal film, Algerian by Accident will reflect on the connections between both countries, lingering repercussions of the Algerian revolution, and how both places have changed since Aïnouz’s childhood. A combination of road movie and essayist documentary, Algerian by Accident looks to be something special. – Logan K.
98. Riders of Justice (Anders Thomas Jensen)
Mads Mikkelsen may be better-known in the English-speaking world for his suave yet insidious characters, but in his native Denmark he has shown a more nuanced side as Anders Thomas Jensen’s action comedy film Riders of Justice more than conveys. The revenge thriller follows Markus (Mikkelsen) who vows vengeance after discovering the train accident that killed his wife may have been intentional. It’s set to premiere at Rotterdam shortly; check back for our review. – Molly R.
97. Untitled Judd Apatow Film
Judd Apatow’s next is coming quickly after the well-received The King of Staten Island, the seasoned comedy director partnering with Netflix for a feature about a crew attempting to shoot a film during a pandemic. While the timely nature of its premise might be too much, too soon for some, Apatow’s often a nuanced dramatist possessing ability to explore difficult subjects sensitively. One hopes this fits into his catalogue. – Logan K.
96. The Hand of God (Paolo Sorrentino)
The freewheeling and poetic sensibilities of Italian director Paolo Sorrentino are always a delight, and casting Toni Servillo––De Niro to his Scorsese––in the lead promises intrigue. While plot details are sparse, there’s been a lot of speculation that the film concerns Argentinian soccer royalty Diego Maradona. So: a gorgeous sun-soaked Italian countryside with Maradona’s hand-of-god goal playing a background plot? Sign me up. – Erik N.
95. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Tom Gormican; March 19)
The idea of a movie centered on the persona of Nicolas Cage, starring Nicolas Cage, is undeniably exciting. Hopefully carrying some of the meta-textual energy of Being John Malkovich, the aforementioned movie star plays himself, and a die-hard super-fan (Pedro Pascal) has hired him to perform all his best scenes at a party before things go awry. If Cage can channel the same energy he brought to Mandy, this will rock. – Erik N.
94. Ali & Ava (Clio Barnard)
After dazzling critics and audiences with her first two features The Arbor and The Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard will premiere the latest in 2021. Inspired by Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Ali & Ava conveys the burgeoning romantic relationship between Ava (Claire Rushbrook) and Ali (Adeel Akhtar), two people living in different worlds who form an intense connection despite all the barriers between them. – Molly R.
93. Don’t Look Up (Adam McKay)
The latest veteran filmmaker to link up with Netflix, Adam McKay assembles another star-studded cast for his eighth feature, Don’t Look Up, about two mid-level astronomers who must warn mankind that a meteorite will destroy earth in six months. A modern champion of the political comedy, the director hopes his dark satire—featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, and Ariana Grande, among others—can operate “in the school of Wag the Dog, Doctor Strangelove and Network,” he told Deadline in 2019. Following The Big Short and Vice, this pivot into apocalyptic fiction promises to feel all too real. – Jake K.S.
92. The Harder They Fall (Jeymes Samuel)
The directorial debut of musician Jeymes Samuel, The Harder They Fall is a fictionalized western about the legendary Black cowboy Nat Love who unites his former gang to take revenge on those who murdered his parents. In a genre often plagued by negative or nonexistent depictions of Black people, this Jay-Z-produced project will hopefully mark a leap forward in representing Black history in the Old West. Bolstered by an all-star cast including Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Lakeith Stanfield, Regina King, Jonathan Majors, and Delroy Lindo, this has the makings of a sensational experience. – Logan K.
91. Those Who Wish Me Dead (Taylor Sheridan)
After writing Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan embarked on his second directorial feature with Wind River, and although it left much to be desired, we’re hoping a more promising follow-up is in store with Those Who Wish Me Dead. Starring Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Tyler Perry, Jon Bernthal, and Aidan Gillen, the Warner Bros. thriller follows assassins hunting down a teenage murder witness and a survival expert protecting him, all while surrounded by an encroaching Montana forest fire. – Jordan R.
90. In the Earth (Ben Wheatley)
Ben Wheatley, like Nicolas Winding Refn, has seen his reputation diminish slightly after a string of higher-budgeted disappointments. In the Earth, shot surreptitiously last August and premiering at this month’s Sundance, promisingly returns him to the thrifty, lower-budgeted terrain where he made his name. Yes, it’s COVID-themed, following a scientist and park scout who venture deep into the woods for an equipment check as the world scrambles for a cure to a deadly virus. Joel Fry and Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake) star; will one of them wield a Kill List-like hammer? – David K.
89. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
After playing a wannabe director for three seasons on HBO’s The Deuce, Maggie Gyllenhaal will be doing the real thing with her feature directorial debut. An adaptation of the Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend) novel of the same name, The Lost Daughter stars Olivia Colman as a woman who must come to terms with her past as she begins a friendship with a young woman and her daughter. Colman is in great company as she stars alongside Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ed Harris. To further increase our anticipation, Hélène Louvart (Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Happy as Lazzaro) serves as cinematographer. – Stephen H.
88. Hustle (Jeremiah Zagar)
After helming the underseen, acclaimed coming-of-age story We the Animals in 2018, Jeremiah Zagar’s follow-up comes with Hustle, starring Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Robert Duvall, Ben Foster, and Spanish NBA player Juan Hernangómez. Filmed in Philly, the story concerns Sandler as a former basketball recruiter attempting to revive his career. Count this critic all the way in. – Michael F.
87. Mothering Sunday (Eva Husson)
Eva Husson (Bang Gang, Girls of the Sun) is working with two incredibly talented young actors, Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor, for her English-language debut. Mothering Sunday follows a maid (Young) in post-WWI England who secretly meets with her lover (O’Connor) before he marries another woman. With Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, and legend Glenda Jackson bolstering the cast, and Alice Birch (Lady Macbeth, Normal People, Succession) behind the screenplay, this could be swoon-worthy. – Orla S.
86. Under the Light and Impasse (Zhang Yimou)
Another year, another two Zhang Yimou films that hopefully come out. Under the Light, previously titled Rock Solid, made our most-anticipated list last year and still sounds utterly incredible. Zhang is one of the great geniuses of modern cinema and his journey into the realm of gangster cinema is too appealing to ignore. 2021 should be the year that audiences finally get to see it. Then his upcoming Impasse might mark a bold new direction, with Zhang exploring the spy thriller for the first time in his career. The footage we’ve seen looks gorgeous and hopes are high that both earn a worldwide release in 2021. – Logan K.
85. Wicked Games (Ulrich Seidl)
Ulrich Seidl’s first narrative feature since 2013 has been held up for a while (filming supposedly wrapped two years ago), but it looks like this will be the year we finally get the Austrian provocateur’s latest. Little is known other than a brief synopsis from Seidl’s own website, which says it centers on two brothers who bury their mother and find their pasts returning to haunt them. Seidl has somehow made himself both divisive and underrated through his fiction and documentary films, so it’s anyone’s guess how Wicked Games will turn out, but we’ll be there when it’s finally ready. – C.J. P.
84. Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson; Feb. 5)
A black-and-white two-hander starring John David Washington and Zendaya as romantic leads and shot during quarantine by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson sounds like an intriguing home-run. Netflix certainly thinks so as well, acquiring the film for a cool $30 million. Zendaya struck gold previously with Levinson, picking up her first Emmy, while Washington is coming off the action epic Tenet. Watching the chemistry between these two stars onscreen together, exclusively, could prove electric. – Erik N.
83. Il Buco (Michelangelo Frammartino)
The first film in 10 years from Le Quattro Volte director Michelangelo Frammartino, Il Buco looks to be a future Cannes sensation if the festival goes ahead in 2021. Set in the early 1960s, it follows a group of spelunkers who discover the second-deepest cave in the world. While other details are scarce, it sounds like a gorgeous exploration of spaces that few humans ever step foot in and should hopefully make an impact over the calendar year. – Logan K.
82. Jonty (Eric Wareheim)
We’re hoping that Eric Wareheim’s first solo theatrical directorial effort gets underway soon, with the backing of A24. Led by Michael Cera, the story follows a coddled kid who embarks on a journey to NYC where he joins forces with an old friend to produce a terrible Broadway play. Scripted by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (Four Lions), it sounds like a delightfully dark comedy. – Jordan R.
81. Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 (Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Katsuichi Nakayama, and Mahiro Maeda)
After 13 years, multiple back-to-the-drawing-board revisions and one fruitful detour into the Godzilla franchise, anime auteur Hideaki Anno and his studio Khara will finally release the confusingly-titled final (?) chapter in their rebooted giant robot saga. Will it be a devastatingly personal maelstrom of apocalyptic visions and avant-garde storytelling, like Anno’s 1997 masterpiece The End of Evangelion? Will it be a baffling orgy of bright colors and fan service, like the previous “rebuild” films? Will its conclusion satisfy that nigh-religious base of worldwide fans, or will the Evangelion faithful soon know the bitterness and division of their Star Wars and Game of Thrones-loving brethren? Whatever the answers, we moviegoers can almost certainly look forward to dazzling imagery, in both epic sci-fi battles and tense interior drama, from one of animation’s premier visionaries. – Eli F.
80. Bigbug (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
The French director of the violently absurd, surreal, and funny is finally making his return after an eight-year hiatus from feature filmmaking. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s signature style, mixing vibrant colors with bizarre humor, could be a welcome back to the film-loving community, especially as it revolves around a group of wealthy suburbanites battling an android uprising. It sounds like this will be right up the alley of all who love his universe. – Erik N.
79. Arthur Rambo (Laurent Cantet)
Arthur Rambo is the latest film from Palme d’Or-winning director Laurent Cantet (The Class), and is cited as being an exploration of the social-media generation. It is told through the perspective of a young writer who becomes a sensation in Paris, negatively affected when his old social-media profile Arthur Rambo comes back into the spotlight, showing him making hate-fueled messages across the Internet. While explorations of social media in cinema from men of a certain age are often misguided, one hopes Cantet’s experience will provide something meaningful. – Logan K.
78. Don’t Worry Darling (Olivia Wilde)
Olivia Wilde’s follow up to the critically acclaimed Booksmart, Don’t Worry Darling has assembled an all-star cast and is already one of the most eagerly awaited films of 2021. Described as a psychological horror, Wilde’s latest follows a 1950s housewife (Florence Pugh) who discovers a disturbing truth about her life. This new direction for Wilde should hopefully strengthen her versatility behind the camera as she expands her scope with a major ensemble cast including Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, and KiKi Layne. – Logan K.
77. Dual (Riley Stearns)
Writer and director Riley Stearns is following The Art of Self-Defense and Faults with Dual. As well as being a welcome reunion with Jesse Eisenberg, the film gives Stearns another opportunity to show his ability to craft a tightly woven story while exploring a different genre: he now takes a crack at the sci-fi thriller, with leads Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul attempting to bring his clone-concerning film to life. – Michael F.
76. The Great Yokai War: Guardians (Takashi Miike)
A new Takashi Miike film is always a gift. The insanely productive and utterly wild auteur has worked in almost every genre available, jumping from comedic video-game adaptations to blood-soaked samurai battles to sadistically cruel exploitation cinema. He’s returning to the realm of fantasy, his sequel following an elementary student inheriting the blood of a monster hunter tasked to save his world from the yokai. Given his track record, Guardians could be unforgettable. – Logan K.
75. Nitram (Justin Kurzel)
Unsatisfied with the easy success of big-budget Shakespeare and video game adaptations, Australian renegade Justin Kurzel dives headlong into the controversial reality-based subject matter that launched his career. The results are all but guaranteed to be a white-knuckled cinematic garrote. Reteaming with screenwriter Shawn Grant (of his harrowing feature debut Snowtown and 2019’s unsettling, underrated True History of the Kelly Gang), Kurzel’s new film tackles yet another infamous chapter in Australian true-crime history, this one more volatile than ever: the 1996 mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania, that prompted lasting changes in Australia’s gun laws. If Kurzel and Grant’s previous efforts are anything to go by, the film will likely be a stomach-churning examination of social misfits, class-based alienation, and toxic masculinity, less interested in lurid spectacle than examining the diseased minds and social circumstances behind historic acts of violence. Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis, Essie Davis, and Anthony LaPaglia are set to star. – Eli F.
74. Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King)
It’s long overdue that the Black Panther Party gets the cinematic treatment. Leading a dynamite cast, Daniel Kaluuya brings his acting pedigree and presence to the young Fred Hampton, who was slain by Chicago police officers as he laid sleeping. Lakeith Stanfield stars opposite as William O’Neal, who, with the help of the FBI, set Hampton up. There’s hope, thanks to an incredible trailer, that the cast and director Shaka King bring Hampton’s radical energy to the screen. – Erik N.
73. The Forgiven (John Michael McDonagh)
John Michael McDonagh’s first film in five years, The Forgiven looks to be a significant return to form after his divisive War on Everyone. Following an English couple in Morocco and the repercussions they face after a transformative accident, McDonagh seems to be exploring the fragilities of human connection in a similar way to his masterpiece Calvary. While details are currently vague, The Forgiven resumed production in September after COVID-related delays, so we should see it pop up this year. – Logan K.
72. Wendell and Wild (Henry Selick)
Henry Selick, America’s uncontested master of stop-motion animation, makes his first feature since 2009’s cult classic Coraline with a gothic fairytale based on an original idea. The film reunites Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key to voice the titular characters, mischievous demon brothers on the run from a nun and her goth teen acolytes. Another victim of 2020-related production delays, it is currently set to premiere on Netflix at an unspecified date. – Eli F.
71. Cow (Andrea Arnold)
English filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s upcoming project, Cow, is a major shift from her recent efforts of Big Little Lies, Transparent, and even American Honey. With a simple documentary logline of “A close-up portrait of the daily lives of two cows,” Cow promises to be intimate. Though Arnold’s usually one to take risks and rebel against conventional storytelling, her film has been (mostly) kept under wraps. Supposedly in post-production, Cow will hopefully arrive soon on the festival circuit. – Michael F.
70. Paradis sale (Bertrand Mandico)
Bertrand Mandico’s second narrative feature film, following the critically acclaimed The Wild Boys, seems to be continuing his incredibly experimental and audacious style of filmmaking. Escalating in scale and ambition for his sophomore production, Mandico has moved onto explicit science-fiction, grappling with new worlds and a more definitive premise than his previous. While the basic plot details sound like a thriller, it’s to be expected that nothing in the film will adhere to convention. – Logan K.
69. Italian Studies (Adam Leon)
It’s hard to find substantial information on the new Adam Leon film, following his acclaimed sophomore feature Tramps. Details have been kept under wraps. However, his incredible screenplays and vividly beautiful depictions of New York’s streets (with the addition of Vanessa Kirby in the leading role) seems to guarantee success this year. – Logan K.
68. Candyman (Nia DaCosta; August 27)
The eagerly awaited reimagining of Candyman will finally arrive in 2021, following several delays from COVID-19. While the original Candyman was explicitly about racism, with the titular character being victim of a 19th-century lynching, Nia DaCosta’s sequel looks to explore the original’s themes even further. It’ll be interesting to see how she implements gentrification and quests for assimilation into the context of Candyman, with her version being eagerly awaited by horror fans everywhere. – Logan K.
67. All Light, Everywhere (Theo Anthony)
Theo Anthony’s Rat Film was one of the most fascinating documentaries of recent years, exploring the contentious history of Baltimore through the unexpected analogies of the rat population. He’ll likely return this year with All Light, Everywhere, which “explores the past, present, and future relationships between technology, vision, and power. From arcane theories of sight to the emergence of virtual reality and police body camera programs, the film takes a kaleidoscopic investigation into how the reality of what we see is constructed through the tools that we use to see.” – Jordan R.
66. The Beatles: Get Back (Peter Jackson; August 27)
Parsing 56 hours of footage from the legendary Let It Be sessions, Peter Jackson kept himself busy throughout quarantine. The director recently let loose the surprise with a 5-minute sneak peek of dancing, joking, and having fun. The documentary will eventually release on Disney+, almost ensuring the tone will be light—but who cares? New Beatles content is always a gift. – Erik N.
65. Passing (Rebecca Hall)
Although Nella Larsen’s novel, first published in 1929, about a mixed-race woman who passes as white has become a part of the American literary canon, it has never been adapted into a film. In 2019, it was announced that it would become Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut after the actor found a connection between the novel and her own family history. Are Hall’s sensitive portrayals in films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Christine the signs of a good director? Only time will tell. In the meantime, she’s already shown an eye for talent by casting Ruth Negga, Tessa Thompson, and André Holland as her leads. Passing won’t be the first time Hall has visited the Roaring Twenties–in 2013 she made an electrifying Broadway debut in Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal, a play from 1928 in which she played a woman who murders her husband. – Jose S.
64. The Girl and the Spider (Ramon Zürcher)
One of the greatest debut features of the 2010s was Ramon Zürcher’s The Strange Little Cat in 2013, a quiet and small-scale family drama told with an almost Tatiesque approach to form, abounding with precise and elusive humor. After seven years, Zürcher is back with The Girl and the Spider, which reportedly deals with an apartment move that becomes “a poetic ballad about transience in what’s being described as a ‘tragicomic catastrophe.'” This sounds right up Zürcher’s alley both narratively and tonally, and the results are highly anticipated. – Ryan S.
63. Nightmare Alley (Guillermo del Toro; December TBD)
It’s always surprising when a filmmaker known for his original work decides to embark on an adaptation, especially if his last project, an awards season favorite like The Shape of Water, was such a resounding success. Luckily, the choice of material in this case is a perfect fit. Director Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Kim Morgan seem like an ideal pairing for adapting William Lindsay Gresham’s novel, which Edmund Goulding made into a haunting and lurid carnie noir. His film is a classic bordering on cult status, starring Tyrone Powers as a carnival worker turned con-man, complete with images reminiscent of Tod Browning’s Freaks and a shocking film noir structure. These ingredients, with a cast including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, and Rooney Mara, are intriguing to imagine in del Toro’s hands. – Tony H.
62. Everything Everywhere All at Once (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan)
If, like me, you fell head over heels for the irreverent Swiss Army Man, in which Daniel Radcliffe played a farting corpse, you’ll be glad to know that the filmmakers behind it, known as The Daniels, are back at it together, this time with Crazy Rich Asian stars Michelle Yeoh and Awkwafina. The film has only been described as “an inter-dimension action film,” but honestly with that duo behind the camera and that duo in acting duty, they might as well just take all my money now. – Jose S.
61. France (Bruno Dumont)
You can never pin Bruno Dumont down. His shift from austere arthouse titles to broad comedy came as a shock back when Li’l Quinquin premiered in 2014, and just as he settled into a groove with films like Slack Bay, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, and Quinquin sequel Coincoin and the Extra Humans, he surprised us again with the graceful Joan of Arc (a tonally different sequel to Jeannette). But the man doesn’t seem to stop working, as last fall he wrapped shooting on a new film that sounds like another change of pace. This time, Lea Seydoux stars as a TV celebrity and journalist whose life spirals out of control after a series of events. – C.J. P.
60. Deep Water (Adrian Lyne; August 13)
The director who singlehandedly owns the American erotic-thriller canon is finally returning after a 19-year break. The film stars real-life couple Ben Affleck––who loves digging into the idea of Ben Affleck (see: The Way Back)––and Ana De Armas, exploring themes of polygamy to keep a marriage healthy. With a script penned by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, Deep Water will be a fascinating watch. – Erik N.
59. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Adventure (Richard Linklater)
Richard Linklater takes a giant leap for mankind with his partly animated coming-of-age story Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure. Set in 1969 Houston against the backdrop of the Apollo moon landing, Linklater’s hybrid live-action/animated family fare stars Jack Black and Zachary Levi. Given Linklater’s previous exploration with rotoscoping in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, it’s hard not to imagine the Texas-native probing the cosmos with freewheeling humor and intense curiosity, traits that have made him one of America’s most spirited independent filmmakers of the last 30 years. – David S.
58. Old (M. Night Shyamalan; July 23)
M. Night Shyamalan is one of the most creative and sincere filmmakers in the world. Love him or hate him, his originality and overwhelming love for cinema is undeniable, his films sparking intense reactions from audiences for over two decades. His latest, Old, is a psychological thriller about a group trapped endlessly on a beach following the discovery of a dead body. Shyamalan has proven capable of subverting narrative expectations for significant emotional resonance, and it would be surprising if Old wasn’t another unsettling and mournful masterwork. – Logan K.
57. Come, I Will Take You There (Alain Guiraudie)
One of the most pleasing returns of this year will be from Alain Guiraudie, who is back with a characteristic-sounding tale of queer love and social strife in regional France. In Come, I Will Take You There, Christmas Eve is marked by a terrorist attack in the city of Clermont-Ferrand (incidentally, the location of the biggest international festival for short films). In the midst of panic, thirty-something Mederic (Doria Tillier) falls in love with an older prostitute (Noémie Lvovsky, who played the madam in House of Tolerance). Expect a less-rococo work than the flawed Staying Vertical. – David K.
56. The Nightingale (Mélanie Laurent; Dec. 22)
Melanie Laurent is an incredible filmmaker. Her films Breathe, Diving, and Galveston are excellent and she’s hopefully going to keep improving as time passes. The Nightingale reunites her with Galveston star Elle Fanning, as well as casting Elle’s sister Dakota, following two sisters trying to survive the German occupation of France during World War II. Considering Laurent’s masterful use of tension in Galveston and the intimate understanding of human relationships throughout her entire filmography, The Nightingale should easily deliver. – Logan K.
55. The Last Duel and Gucci (Ridley Scott; Oct. 15 and Nov. 24)
Ridley Scott doesn’t slow down his schedule under any circumstances. While The Last Duel was planned for 2020 and had additional filming to complete due to the pandemic, he’s kept work going on another project: Gucci, his biopic about the assassination of Maurizio Gucci, which stars Lady Gaga in her first role since A Star is Born. Both sound like potentially excellent entries into Scott’s late-career filmography, with The Last Duel reuniting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as co-actors/screenwriters, and Gucci looking to cover similar aesthetic ground as his recent All the Money in the World. – Logan K.
54. Earwig (Lucile Hadžihalilović)
Lucile Hadžihalilović, the director of the remarkable Innocence and Evolution, is marking her return with her first English-language feature Earwig. Starring Paul Hilton, Alex Lawther, and the indelible Romola Garai, the suspense-filled drama follows a 50-year-old man (Hilton) employed to care for a 10-year-old girl and finds his life upended by frequent calls from an anonymous person threatening their peaceful existence. This will mark only Hadžihalilović’s third feature in an already impressive career. – Molly R.
53. Human Flowers of Flesh (Helena Wittmann)
Helena Wittmann’s hypnotic first feature Drift made its world debut at the Venice Film Festival and anticipation around these circles has been high for her sophomore feature, the sensuous sea odyssey Human Flowers of Flesh, starring Angeliki Papoulia and Denis Lavant. Evoking elements of Claire Denis’ transcendent Beau Travail, the story focuses on a middle-aged woman, Ida, who explores the world on a ship accompanied by an all-male crew. – Molly R.
52. Dune (Denis Villeneuve; Oct. 1)
We can already grant this major merit over its franchise-hopeful brethren: there’s real capacity for disaster. If adapting Dune is one thing—prior big-screen renditions of Frank Herbert’s long, terminology-dense tome didn’t land with audiences––Denis Villeneuve’s choice to base a film on its talky, politics-heavy first half and save the worm-riding battles for later is simply insane. And whatever might be said about the overbearing seriousness of his films, a hard sci-fi epic with spot-on casting (Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Harkonnen, Javier Bardem as Stilgar) is ripe with possibility. To which end remains to be seen, but I expect something far less desperate for affection than, say, another Oscar Isaac-starring space adventure. – Nick N.
51. Jackass 4 (Jeff Tremaine; Sept. 23)
It’s strange knowing there will be another Jackass. All the original cast are significantly older, scarred from years of ridiculous stunts for our entertainment, while Ryan Dunn died in 2011. All of which means Jackass 4 is likely to explore the passage of time, the haunting realization that everyone you love will die one day, and the acceptance that life’s too short not to do incredibly stupid things with your friends. It’ll be so good to see them back. – Logan K.
50. Three Floors (Nanni Moretti)
Returning with his first narrative feature in six years, Nanni Moretti’s Three Floors (aka Tre piani) follows three families living in three apartments in the same condo. Adapted from Eshkol Nevo’s novel, which is divided into three chapters for each of the family’s stories, Moretti weaves these tales more tightly together with his take, Cineuropa reports. Shot on location in Prati, Rome, the cast includes Riccardo Scamarcio, Margherita Buy, Alba Rohrwacher, Adriano Giannini, Elena Lietti, Nanni Moretti, Denise Tantucci, Alessandro Sperduti, Anna Bonaiuto, Paolo Graziosi, Tommaso Ragno, and Stefano Dionisi. – Jordan R.
49. No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh)
Steven Soderbergh released 10 feature films in the 2010s, directed every episode of both The Knick and Mosaic, has already come out with a film this decade, and won’t let the pandemic stop him from releasing his second. No Sudden Move is a return to the crime genre, following a group of criminals in 1955 Detroit who wind up caught in a dangerous conspiracy after a simple job goes wrong. Soderbergh’s one of the best directors working and it’s almost guaranteed that this will be another success for him, buoyed by the varied cast of Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Julia Fox, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, Kieran Culkin, Brendan Fraser, Noah Jupe, and Amy Seimetz. – Logan K.
48. Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund)
As Ruben Östlund’s first feature since his Palme D’or-winning The Square and first English-language feature, expectations are high for Triangle of Sadness, a fashion satire that follows the survivors of a doomed yacht cruise who find themselves marooned on an island with a Marxist captain played by Woody Harrelson. Class dynamics are challenged as lower-deck figures achieve hierarchy on the island. Östlund revels in generating discomfort in his audience, so we imagine this feature will be no exception. – Molly R.
47. Red, White and Water (Lila Neugebauer)
After dominating the early 2010s with The Hunger Games franchise and a string of awards season successes, Jennifer Lawrence has been relatively quiet these past few years. This upcoming film, directed by New York theatre staple Lila Neugebauer who will be stepping behind the camera for the first time, looks to be a return to the Winter’s Bone-era of Lawrence’s career. She is playing a soldier readjusting to life in America after suffering a head injury in Afghanistan. If Lawrence headlining wasn’t enough of a draw, the cast is rounded out by Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Samira Wiley, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Jayne Houdyshell, and is being produced by Scott Rudin and distributed by A24. Red, White, and Water could very well become one of the most timely films of 2021, but also can serve as an introduction to a new directing talent and a reminder of just how great Lawrence can be in the hands of a worthy story. – Stephen H.
46. West Side Story (Steven Spielberg; Dec. 10)
Although the 1961 adaptation of West Side Story is one of the most beloved musicals of all time, the new version allegedly has a script (by Tony Kushner) that resembles the musical more closely. He cast Ansel Elgort as Tony, but Spielberg went the Broadway route and cast David Alvarez and Tony nominee Ariana DeBose as Bernardo and Anita, respectively. The role of María went to newcomer Rachel Zegler, a Colombian American actress who was chosen from among 30 thousand young women who auditioned for the role. – Jose S.
45. Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid)
Coming up highly in the “director most likely to make a truly great film” stakes, Israeli auteur Nadav Lapid will continue to consolidate his reputation with Ahed’s Knee, follow-up to the Golden Bear-bagging Synonyms. Undoubtedly his most self-reflexive work yet, this autobiographical story will follow a filmmaker (Avshalom Pollak) in Israel’s Negev desert region struggling to finish his latest film whilst grieving his mother’s death. His prior work hasn’t fully clicked for this writer, but we’re very excited to see what Lapid brings to the table next. – David K.
44. Les Olympiades (Jacques Audiard)
Jacques Audiard, coming off his English-language debut The Sisters Brothers and Palme D’or-winning Dheepan, has teamed with female auteurs Léa Mysius and Céline Sciamma for an adaptation of Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel Killing and Dying. Starring Portrait of a Lady on Fire breakout performer Noémie Merlant, the film follows a group of three women and a man who are friends and sometimes lovers. Audiard has continually been releasing critically engaging and provocative features his entire career and this film is certain to only add to his impressive repertoire. – Molly R.
43. The Story of My Wife (Ildikó Enyedi)
After earning the Golden Bear and an Oscar nomination for On Body and Soul, director Ildikó Enyedi will return this year with The Story of My Wife. Starring Léa Seydoux, the film is an adaptation of Milán Füst’s 1942 novel, which tells the story of a Dutch sea captain who makes a bet that he’ll marry the next person who walks into the cafe he is at. After doing so, questions of infidelity will cause a crisis. Marking the sixth feature from the director, we expect Seydoux’s attachment will lead to even further recognition. – Jordan R.
42. 02 (Alexandre Aja)
Regardless of the creative team, a one-woman-thriller starring Mélanie Laurent trying to escape an asphyxiating medical cryo unit is nothing less than alluring––but it gains an extra layer of interest with the involvement of Alexandre Aja, who’s coming off his arguable creative peak of Crawl. Aja’s films haven’t always been successful, but he excels in staging confined spaces in things like The Hills Have Eyes and High Tension. And contained within this one setting, there’s a real possibility for some cleverly dumb visual storytelling. – Michael S.
41. Elvis (Baz Luhrmann; Nov. 5)
Baz Luhrmann resumed production on his Elvis biopic in September after a COVID-19 delay, including his marquee star coming down with––and thankfully recovering from––the virus. Tom Hanks plays Col. Tom Parker, often seen as a demon who traded Presley’s soul for a career singing junk in crappy musicals. Like late-career James Stewart, Hanks has been more willing to explore his characters’ dark sides. While Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood star Austin Butler will be stepping into the blue suede shoes, we imagine Hanks’ version of someone he described as a crook may be the most intriguing aspect. – Daniel E.
40. Spencer (Pablo Larraín)
What could perhaps be seen as a spiritual sequel to his 2016 film Jackie, Pablo Larraín is focusing on another cultural icon with his new film Spencer. Centering on a weekend where Princess Diana considered ending her marriage to Prince Charles, Spencer will star Kristen Stewart as the much-loved princess. The mythos of Princess Diana has long been a fascination in our society, and the release of Spencer will probably coincide with Elizabeth Debicki’s take on the role in the new season of The Crown. But if Jackie is any indication, Spencer will be a profound and unforgettable look at one our most beloved figures. – Stephen H.
39. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
Joachim Trier will close his unofficial “Oslo trilogy” (Reprise, Oslo August 31st) with The Worst Person in the World. This time, Trier will bring his astonishing ability to immerse us in his characters’ subjectivity to this melancholic comedy about a woman (Renate Resinve) and her relationships with two men (Herbert Nordrum and frequent Trier collaborator Anders Danielsen Lie). Joachim Trier’s delightful behind-the-scenes snaps on Instagram should tide you over until the film’s release. – Orla S.
38. Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (Ana Lily Amirpour)
Amirpour’s breakout success with A Girl Who Walked Home Alone at Night and the less well-received, but still distinctly impressive The Bad Batch has set her up as one of the best visualists in modern cinema, a filmmaker with a grasp on aesthetic brilliance regardless of genre. Her new film has an increased budget than her previous, making it enticing to any fans of her photography, and seems to have the most emotional narrative of her films to date. The focus on a girl with special abilities running away from the government isn’t the most original but it’ll be no surprise if she delivers another success. – Logan K.
37. Titane (Julia Ducournau)
Five years after reinvigorating the cannibalism subgenre with her feature debut, Raw, Julia Ducournau is returning to screens with Titane. The film, which will be distributed by NEON, follows a young man who claims to be a child who disappeared 10 years ago, and in true Ducournau fashion, it features a lot of gruesome murder. Add to the mix French icon Vincent Lindon, and you’ve got yourself a winner. – Orla S.
36. Last Night in Soho and The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright; April 23 and TBD)
Edgar Wright can seemingly blend his unique, kinetic voice into any given genre. In this regard, Last Night in Soho sounds like new territory, a psychological horror, or “acid trip” as described by its star Anya Taylor Joy. A slow burn, color-drenched horror set in the 1960s with a signature soundtrack from Wright sounds like the ingredients for a wild time. It also won’t be the only film he has this year: his 135-minute documentary on the pop duo Sparks will premiere at Sundance––perfect timing before our #1 pick on the list. – Erik N.
35. The Green Knight (David Lowery; July 30)
Continuing an eminently impressive run, David Lowery has shown himself a keen purveyor of both bare emotion and playful whimsy. Green Knight finds the Pete’s Dragon and A Ghost Story helmer teaming with A24 again, retelling the classic medieval yarn of Sir Gawain and the otherworldly Green Knight, with Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander leading. He’s ever a sharp storyteller, especially with the right talent, so the possibilities a full-fledged fantasy could yield in Lowery’s hands are thrilling in their own right. The fact that it was once in the hands of Terrence Malick makes this project all the more exciting. – Conor O.
34. Mission: Impossible 7 (Christopher McQuarrie; Nov. 19)
There is, I think, something slightly defeatist about listing this movie, which likely follows franchise form as an iffy espionage tale, an equally limp attempt at evoking human behavior, and is remembered exclusively for its stunts—but by God, what stunts! Mission: Impossible is far and away our greatest ongoing action franchise, the work of a visibly insane actor-producer doing everything he can not to make us think he’s over the hill. You see that last one in IMAX? He actually flew the helicopter! – Nick N.
33. A Hero (Asghar Farhadi)
Asghar Farhadi achieved well-deserved international acclaim after his historic wins for Best Foreign Language Film for A Separation and The Salesman, and he has yet to show any sign of slowing down his creative output with the unveiling of his latest feature A Hero this year. Few details have been released—only that it will be a suspense-filled drama. – Molly R.
32. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
Todd Haynes’ exploration and knowledge of music has been evident in his narrative features, particularly in I’m Not There and Velvet Goldmine. As one of the defining artists of his time, he shows a great understanding and appreciation of classical rock music, making him arguably the perfect person to make a documentary on The Velvet Underground. If anyone can explore Lou Reed and his legendary band in the most attentive and profound ways, it’s Haynes. – Logan K.
31. The Northman (Robert Eggers)
An all-star ensemble led by Alexander Skarsgard and featuring Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, and the one and only Björk, Robert Eggers’ follow-up to The Lighthouse is a 10th-century Icelandic Viking revenge thriller. The director has shown, with previous features, an incredible eye for detail and period-specific dialogue matched by narratives filled with tension, so the anticipation surrounding what the horror director has up his sleeve for this Viking-set thriller is certainly high. – Erik N.
30. The Village Detective: a song cycle (Bill Morrison)
Many filmmakers are preservers of the cinematic tradition, but Bill Morrison is of a rare breed of filmmakers who actually preserve cinema. Morrison’s dedication to archiving and curating lost silent films has made his oeuvre arguably the most underrated of true cinephile directors. The Village Detective, Morrison’s newest movie slated for 2021 and his follow-up to Dawson City: Frozen Time, zeroes in on Soviet-era actor Mikhail Zharov and his deep contribution to cinema, live theater, and other facets of culture. If one thing is certain of Morrison’s work which can be guaranteed, it is his sincere tenderness and care of each and every one of his subjects he focuses on. I should expect nothing less of his newest work as well. – Benjamin G.
29. Prisoners of the Ghostland (Sion Sono)
The concept of madman auteur Sion Sono, director of bizarro classics such as Love Exposure and Tokyo Tribe, collaborating with Nicolas Cage, the pioneer of “nouveau shamanic” acting and the most beloved weird actor in the world, is enough to sell Prisoners of the Ghostland by itself. Described by Cage as maybe being “the wildest movie he’s ever made,” Ghostland looks to be the most absurd filmmaking experience of 2021, essential for all fans of cult cinema. – Logan K.
28. Deception (Arnaud Desplechin)
Surely the French equivalent of PTA adapting Pynchon or Cronenberg wrestling with Burroughs, the legendary Arnaud Desplechin will finally take on a direct adaptation of one of his primary influences, Philip Roth, with Deception. Shot secretively during the pandemic with Denis Podalydès (who has a similar hairstyle to Roth!) and Lea Seydoux in tow, this will be a conversation-driven rendering of Roth’s trim but highly regarded 1990 novel, following a novelist in long verbal duels with his wife, his mistress, and other possibly fantasized figures. – David K.
27. Cry Macho (Clint Eastwood)
Cry Macho is another entry in Clint Eastwood’s explorations of doomed father figures, following Honkytonk Man and A Perfect World. Centered on a former rodeo star who is tasked with returning a child to his father, Cry Macho will seemingly use the iconography of Eastwood’s youth and recontextualize it for emotional resonance. Similar to The Mule, which also starred Eastwood, it looks to explore growing old and having regrets changes about you and what you’re still capable of doing before death catches up with you. – Logan K.
26. Red Rocket (Sean Baker)
There’s almost no details when it comes to Sean Baker’s next film, but his name alone is enough to anticipate it. Filmed in secret during the pandemic and only wrapping in November, Red Rocket is being described as a dark comedy that stars actor Simon Rex. While nothing is known about the film, Baker has proven himself one of the distinctive voices of contemporary American cinema with Tangerine and The Florida Project and a new film of his on the horizon is something to eagerly anticipate. – Logan K.
25. Chocobar (Lucrecia Martel)
The follow-up to 2018’s biting colonial satire Zama, noted Joker supporter and visionary Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel’s next film Chocobar is a radical change of pace. Described by Martel as a “hybrid, creative documentary,” her first non-fiction film recounts the murder of indigenous Argentinian activist Javier Chocobar who rebelled against a white landowner. Reportedly developed for a decade but stalled due to coronavirus production woes; the ambitious film is billed to use Chocobar’s death as an impetus to explore 500 years of history of land tenure in Latin America. – Michael S.
24. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader)
The first film of Paul Schrader’s since the critically beloved First Reformed, The Card Counter follows William Tell, a gambler and veteran who looks to keep a young man desperate for revenge away from the criminal underworld, taking him on a nationwide poker tour. With the incendiary Oscar Isaac in the lead, Schrader’s latest looks to be viscerally intense and emotionally devastating. – Logan K.
23. Pretend It’s a City, An Afternoon with SCTV, and Untitled New York Dolls Film (Martin Scorsese)
You can’t deny that Martin Scorsese is the hardest-working man in show business. While he plans to start shooting Killers of the Flower Moon this year, Scorsese left us with a trio of anticipated documentaries to devour this year. Kicking off 2021, he reunites with friend and NYC raconteur Fran Lebowitz with the Netflix release Pretend It’s a City. In 2018, Scorsese took a detour completing The Irishman and went to Toronto’s Elgin Theatre capturing the laughter and reunion with the cast of the influential Canadian-American sketch show SCTV. The brainchild of the comedic troupe that started at Toronto’s Second City Theatre, the cult sketch show was the inspiration for comedic offshoots such as Kids in the Hall and Upright Citizens Brigade. Lastly: with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and the Band covered extensively, he can cross the New York Dolls off his list with his upcoming documentary on frontman David Johansen and his iconic punk band. From 1971 to 1976, the Dolls were part of the vanguard of New York punk rock that was as raw, flamboyant, and unfiltered as a weekend in the Bowery. Songs like “Personality Crisis” and “Looking for a Kiss” became anthems for the crowds milling around CBGB. It seems only fitting for Scorsese, the chronicler of New York’s Mean Streets, to show some love (L.U.V.) for the New York Dolls. Hopefully it’ll also see a release this year. – David S.
22. C’mon C’mon (Mike Mills)
Mike Mills movies tend to sound unbearable on paper, making his actual alchemy–long story short: it’s no secret that time comes for us all and anybody who thinks it won’t be unfathomably sad has another thing coming, but the reasons to be happy are real–that much more fantastic. Will any of that apply to his latest? I have reason to think so, and watching Joaquin Phoenix try his hand won’t hurt. – Nick N.
21. After Yang (Kogonada)
Kogonada will follow his tender, formally striking Columbus with After Yang, an A24-backed sci-fi drama starring Colin Farrell and Haley Lu Richardson. An adaptation of Alexander Weinstein’s short story Saying Goodbye to Yang, it follows a father and daughter as they try to save the life of their robotic family member. We can’t imagine a more well-suited project for Kogonada, who hopefully retains his level of intimacy on a slightly less human scale. With production completed some time ago, expect a festival bow soon. – Jordan R.
20. The Many Saints of Newark (Alan Taylor; Sept. 24)
“Lately, I get the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.” So laments mafioso baby boomer Tony Soprano in the very first episode of David Chase’s epochal TV series bearing his name. But while The Sopranos was the definitive postmodern mob saga, this fall’s The Many Saints of Newark–written and produced by Chase alongside Sopranos veteran Lawrence Konner, and directed by fellow series alum Alan Taylor–will turn back the clock on Chase’s intricate parallel universe of feuding East Coast crime families to the waning years of the Cosa Nostra’s heyday, the political and social turmoil of the 1960s and 70s. Following the travails of legendary mobster Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), father of Michael Imperioli’s wayward Christopher, The Many Saints is likely to be more of a stand-alone drama occupying the same fictional universe than a “prequel” in the George Lucas sense. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any familiar characters from the show; among them is a young Tony Soprano, played by none other than the late, great James Gandolfini’s own son Michael. – Eli F.
19. The Souvenir: Part II (Joanna Hogg)
Joanna Hogg’s unlikely sequel to her critically acclaimed The Souvenir is on the way. Starting right where the first part ended, the follow-up will explore the emotional aftermath of Julie’s (Honor Swinton Byrne) tumultuous relationship as she delves into her creativity as a film student. Seeking solace in her work will hopefully produce some unexpected wrinkles separate from the first film. It will also be exciting to see how Swinton has grown as a performer in the brief time that has passed. – Erik N.
18. The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson)
To list the entire cast of The French Dispatch would take up the entirety of this paragraph, but let’s just say if you are a fan of the ridiculously stacked ensemble of Wes Anderson’s previous films that you will be just excited by this one, and then some (and then some more). Aside from the first trailer, details have been kept pretty tight around The French Dispatch, but we do know that it follows three intersecting storylines spanning from 1925-1975 and is a “love letter to journalism.” Hopefully we’ll see it at Cannes Film Festival, where it was scheduled to premiere last year. – Stephen H.
17. The Perfumed Hill (Abderrahmane Sissako)
The first film of his since the overwhelming critical success Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako’s follow-up will hopefully arrive this year. Described as a love story between Africa and China, we expect another thoughtfully profound, politically insightful, and beautifully-shot experience that keeps the Mauritanian director’s name in the conversation of the greatest working filmmakers. – Logan K.
16. Zeros and Ones (Abel Ferrara)
Abel Ferrara is one of the most distinctive filmmakers alive and his recent work has proven how much he has left to offer. His upcoming Zeros and Ones pairs him with the brilliant Ethan Hawke and looks to be a step up in scale from most of his recent work. Described as a film about “lockdown and war, danger and espionage,” Zeros and Ones is something to eagerly anticipate, regardless of what it ends up looking like. – Logan K.
15. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion has never been one to be boxed into genre, moving with ease from erotic thrillers to epistolary romances to more recently, socially-minded cop procedurals. An adaptation of Thomas Savage’s relentless 1967 novel of the same name, The Power of the Dog centers on a trio (hate triangle?) of two rancher brothers whose life is upended when one of the brothers marries a local widow, and she comes to live on the land. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, and Kirsten Dunst, this ‘20s Montana set western should offer a perfect skeleton for Campion’s signature psychosexual/psychodramatic sparring. – Michael S.
14. The Matrix 4 (Lana Wachowski; Dec. 22)
No one knows exactly what The Matrix 4 will be. There are no plot details, no footage, and nothing but knowledge of some cast members and the return of Lana Wachowski. The first entry in the Matrix franchise in 18 years (following two widely underappreciated sequels) and the first feature made by Lana without her sister Lilly, Matrix 4 has been rumored for years and is finally on the horizon. No one knows what it’ll look like—that’s precisely part of the appeal. – Logan K.
13. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen)
Two of the most formidable actors of all time, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, will take on two of the most classic roles in the canon: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This new adaptation will be written and directed by just Joel Coen without his brother Ethan and will be distributed by A24 with Scott Rudin backing. It’s unclear whether this new adaptation will be a literal one (like the recent 2015 version with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard) or a more original story that is inspired by Macbeth, but either way, we can’t wait to see McDormand and Washington go toe to toe. – Stephen H.
12. Petite maman (Céline Sciamma)
It’s unusual for Céline Sciamma to turn out a new film so quickly, but it seems she’s on a creative roll after the outstanding success of Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Sciamma is returning to the subject matter of her first three films: childhood, this time following two eight-year-old kids around the same age as the protagonist of Tomboy. The film will see Sciamma reunite with Portrait cinematographer Claire Mathon. – Orla S.
11. Three Thousand Years of Longing (George Miller)
While we eagerly await the arrival of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road prequel, the director will first debut fantasy romance Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. Few details have been released, though the director’s stated it has been a passion project of his for fifteen years—enough to intrigue us. Simply put, it’s time to witness a new Miller film. – Molly R.
10. Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve)
After having one of the most exciting directorial careers the last decade, Mia Hansen-Løve will kick off the 2020s with her long-anticipated drama Bergman Island. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Anders Danielsen Lie, Joel Spira, and Clara Strauch, the film revolves around an American filmmaking couple who retreat to the island for the summer to each write screenplays for their upcoming films in an act of pilgrimage to the place that inspired Ingmar Bergman. As the summer and their screenplays advance, the lines between reality and fiction start to blur against the backdrop of the Island’s wild landscape. While we imagine a Cannes debut may be in store, now’s the time to beg a U.S. distributor to pick up her severely overlooked previous drama, Maya. – Jordan R.
9. Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook)
Director Park Chan-wook is bringing his dark, twisted, sleek aesthetic sensibilities to a favorite American genre. In the vein of Basic Instinct, the director’s first film since The Handmaiden is a romantic crime thriller starring Park Hye-il (Memories of Murder) as a detective falling for a mysterious widow played by Tang Wei (Lust, Caution) who is the prime suspect in the murder of her husband. The script sounds perfect for the Korean auteur, who has a great deal of experience crafting unforgettable revenge thrillers. – Erik N.
8. Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Two names: Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tilda Swinton. There’s nothing more to say, no further arguing necessary to explain why Memoria is one of the most-anticipated films of the year. This particular collaboration has been years in the making, with the two almost working together shortly after Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives won the Palme d’Or in 2010; a decade later it’s finally happening. Plot details are sparse, but this will be a departure for Weerasethakul, who is shooting in Colombia and largely in English, making this his first feature outside of his home country of Thailand. And in good news, NEON announced it pre-bought US rights to the film, which pretty much guarantees that Memoria will be Weerasethakul’s biggest release to date. (Some extra-good news: after being unable to work on Cemetery of Splendour, regular cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is back.) – C.J. P.
7. Bendetta (Paul Verhoeven)
Following up Elle, Paul Verhoeven’s next film Benedetta will tell the story of a 17th-century nun who suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She develops a romantic love affair with a fellow nun assigned to help her through the visions. Based on a book by Judith C. Brown, the writer Gerard Soeteman distanced himself from the project due to the extreme sexual aspects of the film, so if that doesn’t increase your anticipation, I don’t know what will. After a premiere was delayed, we expect the film is now ready for a Cannes debut this year. – Jordan R.
6. Fire (Claire Denis)
As 35 Shots of Rum came from downtime on White Material and Let the Sunshine In emerged from High Life‘s production delays, so does Claire Denis now shoot Fire while The Stars at Noon, her Robert Pattinson- and Margaret Qualley-led project, gets delayed by COVID. Which might give it the air of tossed-off curio, but the thing is: Shots and Sunshine are far more my speed than White Material or High Life. Denis’ total control of the medium belies her grace at working a bit faster and looser, though I’ll wait before making many assumptions about the film wherein Juliette Binoche plays a radio broadcaster, per a story just out today, “caught between two men: her long-time partner and his best-friend, who was once her boyfriend.” Those two men are Vincent Lindon and Gregoire Colin, perhaps the key performers in Denis’ oeuvre. So again: I’ll wait before making judgement. But its placement should tell you what we’re guessing. – Nick N.
5. Benediction (Terence Davies)
Terence Davies is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, an artist who captures the texture of literature and poetry on celluloid unlike any other. His works based on classic literature or focused on the lives of poets have been some of the 21st century’s most invigorating cinematic experiences, and Benediction sounds utterly miraculous. It’s a biopic of Siegfried Sassoon, decorated poet and World War I veteran, and explores his poetry, sexuality, and eventual embrace of religion to cope with the traumas of war. It recently wrapped after a COVID-related delay and we counting down the seconds until this premieres. – Logan K.
4. Blonde (Andrew Dominik)
With just a few feature films under his belt, scattered over a 20-year career, Andrew Dominik has masterfully crafted stories that explore legends and genres in achingly somber and subversive ways. In 2021, he’ll finally unveil his long-gestating look at another legend: Marilyn Monroe. Based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name, Blonde is a fictionalized gaze into the personal life of Monroe, including her potential assassination. Starring Ana de Armas as the Hollywood bombshell, and shot by BlacKkKlansman and Lemonade DP Chayse Irvin, the biopic is shaping up to be a welcome, long-awaited return for the filmmaker. – Conor O.
3. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project aka Soggy Bottom
It’s should be no surprise a new Paul Thomas Anderson film is highly anticipated. We’ve reported every detail there is to know about the project, with the working title Soggy Bottom, but there’s still much more to discover when it comes to the 1970s-set feature. What stands out the most right now is the casting of Cooper Hoffman––the son of PTA’s long-time collaborator and friend Philip Seymour Hoffman, who passed away in 2014––in the lead role. The younger Hoffman getting to work alongside his father’s close friend is utterly beautiful, and with a cast also including Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, and Alana Haim, we can’t wait to see what’s in store. – Logan K.
2. The Way of the Wind (Terrence Malick)
Terrence Malick’s exploration of theology and Christian faith has been prominent through his entire career. Recent narratives have explicitly concerned religion, the dedication of those who believe in it, and the acts of sacrifice that come from believing in something that never reveals it exists. The prospect of Malick now actually conveying moments from the life of Jesus Christ, going through fragments of time to create an image of the man and the faith he represents, is unbelievably appealing––even for those who don’t believe in a Christian God. With a underway, hopefully we’ll see it before the year concludes. – Logan K.
1. Annette (Leos Carax)
Leos Carax, who doesn’t work at a clip I’d exactly call brisk, tried for years to mount this Sparks-penned musical before finally rolling cameras in 2019. Little is known outside details from a New Yorker profile of star Adam Driver, though the readiness with which I laugh at the thought of him playing a stand-up comedian itself warrants attention; factor in Sparks producing some of the world’s wittiest and powerful pop / rock for fifty years and you’ll understand why it’s sitting so high. For a possible preview, check out The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, their rock opera following the iconic director’s perilous experiences in Hollywood. – Nick N.
Even at 100 films, there’s still a number of other movies that just missed the cut, including a handful of films that had either release or production delayed: Scott Cooper’s Antlers, Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater, the Will Smith-led King Richard, and David O. Russell’s next feature. We’re also hoping a few Oscar-qualifying films arriving soon deliver, including Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Robin Wright’s directorial debut Land, and Nicholas Jarecki’s Crisis.
Zack Snyder will also have two new movies this year, but we can only say we’re curious about Army of the Dead. Also, there are a few films that were shot during the pandemic, including a new film by Neill Blomkamp and Doug Liman’s Locked Down, arriving shortly. We’re also curious about Ilana Glazer’s A24 movie False Positive, Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin’s Dog, and the Netflix sci-fi film The Cloned Tyrone starring John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris.
Likely 2022 Releases
As we close out, there’s also a number of films that will likely be 2022 releases. First up, a few films were just about to begin production or were in the middle of it before the pandemic began and whose status is unknown, including Brady Corbert’s The Brutalist, Jeremy Saulnier’s Rebel Ridge, Miguel Gomes’ Selvajaria (Savagery), Amat Escalante’s State of the Empire, Lisandro Alonso’s Eureka, and Wang Bing’s I Come From Ikotun.
There’s also a handful of films that will likely begin production over the next few months that probably won’t premiere until 2022, including Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, James Gray’s Armageddon Time, Alex Garland’s Men, Michael Mann’s Ferrari, Bradley Cooper’s Bernstein film Maestro, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Baby, Box, Broker, Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust movie, Pedro Almodóvar’s Madres Paralelas, Albert Serra’s Bora Bora, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s next film, and a new movie from Darren Aronofsky.
Lastly, there’s a few films we’ve reported on, but it’s not clear when they’ll see the light of day, most notably Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s long-gestating Shula River as well as Johnnie To’s Election 3, Lynne Ramsay’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Cristian Mungiu’s To the Edge of Sorrow, Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s Our Apprenticeship, Spike Lee’s Viagra musical All Rise, Small Axe cinematographer Shabier Kirchner’s debut Augustown, Sebastián Lelio’s Bride, and Ari Aster’s next film, which may star Joaquin Phoenix. We’re also hoping new animated films from Ari Folman and Sylvain Chomet may finally arrive this year, but we’re not holding our breath.
Continue Reading: The 40 Best 2021 Films We’ve Already Seen