2021 promises to be an entertaining year, thanks to Netflix, which offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to new movies. Fifteen titles will release on the streaming service in January alone, including foreign films, documentaries, an animated feature, and three highly-anticipated award contenders.
2020 was a bleak year for studio releases due to the global pandemic, and even Christopher Nolan’s Tenet couldn’t lure moviegoers out during nationwide lockdowns. Studios shuffled their schedules, delaying potential blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s Top Gun sequel Maverick until 2021. Warner Bros. made an unprecedented move when it chose to release potential cash cow Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and on HBO Max (owned by parent company WarnerMedia) simultaneously. Netflix benefitted from studios’ desperation for an audience, swooping in and acquiring films that would otherwise languish unseen for a year or longer.
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With award season quickly approaching, Netflix promises to see multiple nominations with Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Da 5 Bloods at the top of most critics’ “Best of” lists. Big names both behind the camera and on-screen talents such as Jane Campion, Dwayne Johnson, Zack Snyder, Richard Linklater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, and Lin-Manuel Miranda can be found on Netflix in 2021. While the release dates of some movies have been confirmed, most have not. Presumably, the impact of Covid-19 will factor heavily into how quickly unfinished projects come together, determining the streaming service’s schedule.
Dated Netflix Movies
What Happened to Mr. Cha? – 1/1
The Korean dark comedy tells the story of an actor Cha In-Pyo who tries to rejuvenate his flagging career. Although the character is fictitious, there are many similarities between the movie’s central character and the actor playing him, Cha In-Pyo. The real-life Cha In-Pyo starred in a string of hits in the ’90s, but due to his good-guy image, he grew tired of being typecast. The film was written and directed by Kim Dong-kyu , who always had the Korean star in mind for the role. The director told The Korea Times, “I thought using Cha’s real name would resonate with the audience and provide them with a better understanding of the message I wanted to convey.”
Asphalt Burning: Børning 3 – 1/2
Directed by Hallvard Bræn, comedy actioner Asphalt Burning: Børning 3 stars Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Ruby O. Fee, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Kostja Ullmann and sees hero Roy accepting a challenge from a new foe to race for his runaway bride at the iconic Nürburgring track in Germany after his wedding day doesn’t go to plan. It’s essentially a Norwegian Fast & Furious parody sequel.
Ratones Paranoicos: The Band that Rocked Argentina – 1/6
According to the official synopsis, this feature will tell the story of the irrepressible Ratones Paranoicos, Argentina’s most enduring rock band, who are featured in vintage concert, and backstage footage. Directed by Ramiro Martínez and Alejandro Ruax, it’s a documentary for fans primarily and anyone with an interest in rock.
Tony Parker: The Final Shot – 1/6
Hot on the tail of the success of The Last Dance, this film from Florent Bodin will expand the basketball content on the streaming platform and will explore the background and career of legendary San Antonio Spurs player. Tony Parker, whose determination led him to become arguably the greatest French basketball player.
Pieces of a Woman – 1/7
Pieces of a Woman tells the story of Martha and Sean Carson (Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf) who suffer a tragic loss after an attempted home birth goes tragically wrong due to the incompetence of the midwife. Martha’s grief is compounded by her marital problems, a strained relationship with her mother, and the public scrutiny that accompanies the criminal trial of the woman they trusted to deliver their child. Kata Wéber wrote the movie’s screenplay, and the film was directed by Kornél Mundruczóis, adapted from their stage play of the same name. Martin Scorsese served as executive producer. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, and Kirby took home the Volpi Cup for Best Actress.
Charming – 1/8
In this animated musical, Prince Charming (voiced by Wilmer Valderrama) suffers from a curse that causes every woman he meets to fall hopelessly in love with him. With his 21rst birthday looming, the Prince must find his one true love, or all the love in his kingdom will disappear. The cast also includes Demi Lovato, Avril Lavigne, Ashley Tisdale, John Cleese, and Nia Vardalos.
Stuck Apart – 1/8
Directed by Durul and Yagmur Taylan, this Turkish comedy stars Engin Günaydın, Haluk Bilginer, and Binnur Kaya and look at life entrenched within a midlife crisis, as central character Aziz seeks solace from his mundane job, lonesome friends, and rowdy family.
Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy – 1/11
Directed by Stanley Nelson, this documentary will explore the complex history of crack in the 1980s as it emerged as a cheap, powerful drug during a recession, igniting a moral panic fueled by racism.
Outside the Wire – 1/15
This sci-fi thriller stars Marvel Cinematic Universe mainstay and Falcon and the Winter Soldier star Anthony Mackie, playing Leo, a cyborg soldier. Leo’s partnered with drone pilot Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris), and the pair are sent on a mission into a war zone to stop a nuclear attack. Mikael Håfström directed the movie, and the cast includes Pilou Asbæk, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, Kristina Tonteri-Young, and Bobby Lockwood.
The White Tiger – 1/22
The White Tiger, directed by Ramin Bahrani, is the film adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize-winning debut novel of the same name. The dark comedy stars Adarsh Gourav (in his first leading role) as Balram Halwai, a man from a small village in India who aspires to break free from the country’s rigid caste system. After taking a job as a chauffeur, Balram finds himself embroiled in criminal activity and corruption. Rounding out the main cast are Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
So My Grandma’s a Lesbian! – 1/22
This Spanish comedy stars Rosa María Sardà, Verónica Forqué, and Ingrid García Jonsson and written and directed by Ángeles Reiné. It tells the story of two women in their 70s who decide to come out to their families and get married, sparking chaos.
Penguin Bloom – 1/27
Naomi Watts plays Sam Bloom, an Australian wife and mother of three whose life is irrevocably changed after an accident during a family vacation leaves her paralyzed. Penguin Bloom is the screen adaptation of Bradley Trevor Greive’s book of the same name (based on true events). Directed by Glendyn Ivin, the film also stars Andrew Lincoln, Rachel House, and Jacki Weaver.
Below Zero (Bajocero) – 1/29
A police officer finds himself fighting for his life after the prison transport he’s driving is attacked. The film stars Javier Gutiérrez, Àlex Monner, and Édgar Vittorino. Directed by Lluís Quílez.
Finding ‘Ohana – 1/29
In this family-friendly adventure flick, which was directed by Jude Weng and stars Ke Huy Quan, Kelly Hu, and Chris Parnell two siblings from Brooklyn connect with their Hawaiian heritage — and their family — on a daring quest for long-lost treasure. Definite Goonies vibes in this one.
The Dig – 1/29
Based on the John Preston novel of the same name, The Dig is a reimagining of the events surrounding the excavation of Sutton Hoo – the site of two medieval cemeteries dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries. This WWII period drama stars Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, an amateur archeologist hired by a wealthy English widow, Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), to dig up the mounds on her property. Directed by Simon Stone.
Malcolm & Marie – 2/5
Zendaya collaborated with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson (who wrote and directed the film) for the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, sounding Malcolm & Marie. While production on most TV shows and movies was shut down due to the pandemic, Levinson and Zendaya kept working. Using a few Euphoria crew members, the cast consists of only the Emmy-winning actress and John David Washington (Black KkKlansman). The twosome plays a couple – a filmmaker and his girlfriend — who return home after a movie premiere and address problems in their relationship while waiting for the reviews.
Unknown Release Dates 2021
Army of the Dead
Army of the Dead, directed by Zack Snyder, is based on a script Snyder helped develop in 2007. Another director was attached to the project, but after the economy blew up in 2008, the film was put on hold. The movie follows a group of mercenaries as they attempt to rob a Las Vegas casino in the midst of a zombie outbreak. The cast includes Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana De La Reguera, Theo Rossi, Huma Qureshi, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Matthias Schweighöfer, Raúl Castillo, Nora Arnezeder, and Samantha Win. In September of 2020, Deadline reported that Netflix had already greenlit a prequel and anime series. Snyder recently announced filming on the prequel had wrapped.
America: The Motion Picture
Directed by Matt Thompson, this animated, revisionist take on American history features the voices of Channing Tatum as George Washington, Simon Pegg as King James, Judy Greer as Martha Dandridge, and Bobby Moynihan as Paul Revere. It will see a chainsaw-wielding George Washington team with beer-loving bro Sam Adams to take down the Brits in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the American Revolution.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure
Written, directed, and produced by Richard Linklater, the movie combines live-action, hand-drawn animation, and CGI to tell the story of the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 from two interwoven perspectives. The official synopsis promises both the astronaut and mission control views of the triumphant moment as well as what it was like for an excited child at the same time, watching it on TV. In typical Linklater movie fashion it ties in a central fantasy about being plucked from his average life in suburbia to secretly train for a covert mission to the moon.
According to Deadline, production on the Marilyn Monroe biopic was underway in September of 2019. The movie is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ bestseller of the same name. Ana de Armas stars as the famous sex symbol, and the movie chronicles her life in the 1950s and 60,’ taking a lot of creative liberties. Joining Armas are Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller, Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio, Julianne Nicholson as Marilyn’s mother Gladys, and Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy. Directed by Andrew Dominik.
The Woman in the Window
The Woman in the Window was supposed to be released in October 2019 but was delayed to the negative response from early test screenings. Then the pandemic hit, and Netflix still hasn’t confirmed a premiere date for the completed film. The movie centers around Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams), who witnesses her neighbor’s violent death. The premise is reminiscent of Rear Window, Disturbia, Body Double, and The Girl on the Train, but the movie should provide some twists and turns. The cast also includes Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore. Directed by Joe Wright.
According to Variety, Halle Berry’s directorial debut Bruised screened as a work-in-progress at the Toronto Film Festival in September. With Covid cases continuing to climb, a Fall release may be the soonest Netflix viewers can hope for. Berry also stars in the film about an MMA fighter trying to redeem herself as an athlete and a mother. The streaming service must have high hopes since it reportedly paid almost $20 million for the movie.
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s directorial debut is the screen adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s (Rent) semi-autobiographical musical. Andrew Garfield stars as Jon, an aspiring composer who questions his career choices while on the cusp of turning 30. Bradley Whitford, Vanessa Hudgens, and Judith Light also star, along with Broadway veterans Robin de Jesús and Joshua Henry.
An August 2020 article in Variety announced that Netflix bought the Fear Street trilogy movies from Disney. The films directed by Leigh Janiakare are based on R.L. Stine’s teen horror series that takes place in the fictional town of Shadyside, Ohio. Fear Streat is the first installment and is set in 1994 as a group of teenagers who try to solve a murder before becoming the next victims. The film stars Gillian Jacobs, Ashley Zukerman, and Sadie Sink.
Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, Red Notice is the third collaboration between Black Adam star Dwayne Johnson and Thurber (after 2016’s Central Intelligence and 2018’s Skyscraper.) The action-comedy stars Johnson as an FBI profiler, Gal Gadot as “the world’s greatest art thief,” and Ryan Reynolds as “the greatest conman the world has ever seen,” according to a November Instagram post by Johnson. A priceless artifact known as Cleopatra’s Egg is what brings these three compelling personalities together. Filming on Red Notice started in early 2020 but was shut down due to the pandemic. In late October, Ryan Reynolds posted a shout out on Instagram announcing he had finished shooting and thanking Netflix for putting everyone involved in the movie back to work.
In February 2019, Deadline announced Amy Poehler would be directing the movie adaptation of Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. The YA novel follows a Texas teen named Vivian Carter who, inspired by her mother’s involvement in the Riot grrl underground feminist punk movement, starts a revolution of her own. There was a lot of buzz surrounding the project in 2019, but there haven’t been any recent developments other than the film, which began production in October 2019, should finally drop sometime in 2021. The cast includes Hadley Robinson, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Josephine Langford, and Marcia Gay Harden.
The historical drama-spy thriller Munich is the film adaptation of the bestselling 2017 novel by Robert Harris. Christian Schwochow directed the film, and the screenplay was written by Ben Power, who worked with Schwochow on The Crown. The film is set in 1938 and chronicles fictitious events surrounding the Munich Conference during which an agreement was signed by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany that ceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany in an attempt to avoid war. Munich stars Watchmen‘s Jeremy Irons, George McKay, Jannis Niehwöhner, Liv Lisa Fries, Erin Doherty, Robert Bathurst, and Martin Wuttke.
Don’t Look Up
The comedy directed by Adam McKay stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as astronomers whose warnings about an asteroid on a collision course with earth go unheeded. Filming began in Boston in November, and the cast includes a multitude of Hollywood heavy hitters, including Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Chris Evans, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Ron Perlman, and Matthew Perry. In an interview with late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert, Streep described the film as a “Dr. Strangelove for 2020.'”
Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated musical movie Pinocchio is based is a dark take on Carlo Collodi’s 1883 Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio. Newcomer Gregory Mann plays the title role, Ewan McGregor plays Cricket, and David Bradley plays the puppet-maker Geppetto. The Oscar-winning director shares screenplay writing credits with Gus Grimly, Patrick McHale, and Matthew Robbins. Mark Gustafson co-directed the film that is set during the rise of fascism in 1930’s Italy. Other cast members include Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and Cate Blanchett.
The Kissing Booth 3
Just days after the July 2020 premiere of The Kissing Booth 2, Netflix announced a third film would debut in 2021. Joey King (Elle Evans), Joel Courtney (Lee Flynn), Jacob Elordi (Noah Flynn), Taylor Zakhar Perez (Marco Pena), Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Chloe Winthrop), and Meganne Young (Megan) will reprise their roles. The Kissing Booth 3, which was filmed back to back with the second movie, takes place during the summer after high school graduation, and Elle is torn between attending Harvard with her boyfriend or UC Berkeley with her best friend.
The Power of the Dog
Netflix acquired most of the worldwide rights to the Jane Campion drama in May 2019. The film is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 book of the same name that centers around two Montana brothers Phil and George Burbank. After George marries a local widow named Rose, Phil becomes relentless in his efforts to destroy her life. Elisabeth Moss was originally supposed to play Rose but was replaced by Kirsten Dunst. Jessie Plemons plays George, and Benedict Cumberbatch plays Phil. The film completed production in June 2020.
Last Letter from Your Lover
Directed by Augustine Frizzell, Last Letter from Your Lover follows Ellie (Felicity Jones), a young journalist who uncovers a series of love letters in the archives telling the story of an intensely romantic but star-crossed affair in the 1960s between Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley) and Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner). As she is drawn into the story, Ellie becomes obsessed with finding out as much as she can about the identities of the lovers and finding out how their love story ends.
Born to Be Murdered
Netflix acquired the worldwide rights to Born to Be Murdered in October 2020. The film is set in Greece and stars Tenet‘s John David Washington and Alicia Vikander, who play Beckett and April. During a vacation in Greece, the couple becomes embroiled in a violent conspiracy with tragic consequences. The film was directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, who also co-wrote the script with Kevin Rice.
My Father’s Dragon
Based on the Newbery-winning children’s books, My Father’s Dragon joins Netflix’s growing animated film catalog, and follows a young boy who runs away to an island to rescue and befriend a baby dragon.
Jason Momoa joined the cast of Brian Andrew Mendoza’s action film Sweet Girl in July 2019. The Aquaman actor also signed on as a producer of the revenge flick, which also stars Marisa Tomei. The premise is uninspired: a man seeks revenge against the men who killed his wife. Charles Bronson perfected the role of the vigilante everyman in 1974’s Death Wish, but that hasn’t stopped a slew of copycats.
Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans
In August 2020, fans of Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia anthology learned that Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans would premiere globally on Netflix in 2021, delivering an epic Trollhunters, 3Below, and Wizards crossover event. The announcement included a statement from del Toro:
“Team Trollhunters committed, about a decade ago, to try and push the boundaries of 3D CGI animation made for TV. We outlined a vast trilogy of interconnecting mythology and characters that we always hoped could culminate with a massive ‘all-stars’ reunion. DreamWorks Animation and Netflix both shared the very ambitious notion of doing the three series, interwoven and then finishing off with a bigger, epic-sized feature film to top it all off.”
The cast for Rise of the Titans includes Emile Hirsch as Jim, Lexi Medrano as Claire, Charlie Saxton as Toby, Kelsey Grammer as Blinky, Alfred Molina as Archie, Steven Yeun as Steve, Nick Frost as Stuart, Colin O’Donoghue as Douxie, Diego Luna as Krel, Tatiana Maslany as Aja and Nick Offerman as Vex.
Concrete Cowboy made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It’s director Ricky Staub’s feature film debut. The urban western tells the story of a teenage boy named Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) who becomes immersed in the world of urban horseback riding after he is sent to live in Philadelphia with his estranged father, Harp (Idris Elba). Elba also served as a producer on the film, based on both the real-life horseman of Pennsylvania and G. Neri’s novel, Ghetto Cowboy.
Wendell & Wild
According to the official synopsis, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele star in this stop-motion animation adventure about two demon brothers who escape the Underworld.” Directed by The Nightmare Before Christmas‘ Henry Selick, fans can probably expect some of the same spooky vibes also brought to the likes of Coraline and James & The Giant Peach.
There’s Someone Inside Your House
Directed by Patrick Brice, There’s Someone Inside Your House is the screen adaption of Stephanie Perkin’s 2017 thriller of the same name. The plot involves high school seniors being targeted by a masked assailant who knows all their darkest, deepest secrets. It’s up to a small band of misfits to stop the killings. The cast includes Sarah Dugdale, Théodore Pellerin, Sydney Park, Markian Tarasiuk, and Kayla Heller.
A Boy Called Christmas
This British fantasy film based on Matt Haig’s book of the same name was written and directed by Gil Kenan. The story centers around Nikolas (Henry Lawful) as he embarks on a series of adventures on his journey to becoming Santa Claus. The cast includes Michiel Huisman, Kristen Wiig, and Maggie Smith.
A Week Away
In April 2020, Deadline announced that Netflix had secured the worldwide distribution rights for this faith-based musical. The movie is about a troubled teen who, to avoid juvenile detention, attends a Christian summer camp. The cast includes Bailee Madison, Kevin Quinn, Sherri Shepherd, and David Koechner. Directed by Roman White, A Week Away features contemporary Christian music and dance numbers choreographed by Paul Becker and Melena Rounis.
Netflix Movies In Development
Nickelodeon’s The Loud House & The Rise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – In 2019 Deadline reported that Netflix and Nickelodeon had struck a deal for Nickelodeon studios to produce these two original animated films.
Untitled Noah Baumbach Movie – Reportedly set to begin filming in February 2021 is a new movie from writer-director Noah Baumbach. This will be Baumbach’s third movie for Netflix. The first was 2017’s The Meyerowitz Stories, and his second was 2019’s Oscar-nominated Marriage Story. Greta Gerwig and Adam Drive are attached to play the leads.
Untitled Sandra Bullock/Nora Fingscheidt Project – Nora Fingscheidt will make her English-language movie debut with an untitled Netflix film about a woman released from prison who re-enters an unforgiving society. The cast includes Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, and Jon Bernthal.
My Wife & I Bought A Ranch – In July 2020, Deadline reported that Netflix struck a seven-figure deal for the right to Matt Query’s short ghost story, which included scripting fees for the author’s brother Harrison Query to pen the screenplay. The story about an ex-Marine and his wife’s attempts to prevent an evil spirit from entering their home appears in six different parts on Reddit.
A Castle For Christmas – In September 2020, THR announced that Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes would star in this holiday-themed rom-com directed by Mary Lambert. Shields plays a famous American author named Sophie who travels to Scotland and finds the urge to purchase a castle. The owner, a Scottish Duke, named Myles (Elwes), is reluctant to sell to a foreigner. Their mutual disdain blossoms into something more.
The Nailbomber – In August 2020, Deadline reported that Netflix had commissioned a feature-length documentary about a series of London nail bombings 20 years ago from the UK based production company Expectation. The Nailbomber will recount the events surrounding far-right extremist David Copeland’s detonation of three bombs that killed three people and injured 140.
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