Looking forward: the best films of 2021
From Pieces of a Woman to West Side Story, 2021 is littered with many great movies that are hopefully coming to cinemas (Covid permitting)
UK Netflix release date: Thursday 7 January
Boasting an all-star cast with Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), Sarah Snook (Succession), Jimmie Fails (The Last Black Man in San Francisco), and Benny Safdie (Good Time), this Boston-set family drama looks like a heavy but rewarding watch.
Making waves after its premiere at Venice Film Festival, Pieces of A Woman follows the grief of Martha (Kirby) and Sean (LaBeouf) after a home birth ends in tragedy. As well as dealing with a domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), they also have to face the responsible party, a negligent midwife (Molly Parker), in court.
UK cinema release date: Friday 8 January
Dementia loves the movies, but there’s been an intriguing resurgence in recent months that hint at or examine the disease with different perspectives (Relic and I’m Thinking of Ending Things come to mind). The Father looks like another claustrophobic exploration, though this time completely inside the sufferer’s mindset.
Anthony Hopkins stars as Anthony, an old man living in a flat – occasionally cared for by his daughter, played by Olivia Colman. As his dementia deepens, his grip on reality weakens. The flat looks different, his daughter changes, leading to a potentially horrifying experience. Florian Zeller writes and directs the film, adapted from her own play.
Promising Young Woman
UK cinema release date: Friday 12 February
Since #MeToo blasted into the mainstream consciousness, many screen stories like I May Destroy You and Adult Material have grappled with the uncomfortable areas around sexual consent, assault, and rape. Promising Young Woman takes those revelations and injects them into a stylish revenge-thriller starring Carey Mulligan. Killing Eve show-runner and The Crown star Emerald Fennell writes and directs.
Mulligan plays Cassie, a woman who goes to nightclubs and pretends to be drunk. She lures so-called ‘nice guys’ who want to take advantage, all out of vengeance for a past trauma. The film also stars Alison Brie (GLOW) and Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade).
UK cinema release date: Friday 19 February
Director Chloé Zhao follows up her brilliantly slow and subtle The Rider with a road trip across nomad America. Frances McDormand plays Fern, a citizen in a rural Nevada town which endures economic collapse. She decides to abandon everything and live a nomadic life, exploring the American West.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie
UK cinema release date: Friday 26 February
Since the surge in popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag queens have become mainstream. And deservedly so. Because the idea of ‘manly men’ is still a thing (as proven by the divided response to Harry Styles’ recent Vogue photoshoot), the freedom of drag is something to aspire towards. Tom MacRae’s Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was a West End musical, based on a 2011 BBC documentary, about a 16-year-old boy desperate to be a drag queen despite the pushback at school and at home.
Now, a movie version is on the way. Newbie actor Max Harwood plays Jamie, who wants to come out to everybody at the end-of-year prom in the most flamboyant way possible: in drag. The film also stars Sharon Horgan (This Way Up), Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley, Talking Heads), and Richard E Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Withnail and I).
The Many Saints of Newark
UK cinema release: Friday 12 March
Still from The Sopranos. Photo: Sky/HBO
It’s been more than a decade since the infamous Sopranos finale. People still discuss that savage and divisive cut-to-black, and we’ll probably never know what really happened. But the writer/creator David Cage has some other plans in mind: diving into Tony Soprano’s origin story instead.
Set against the 1967 race riots, The Many Saints of Newark sees a young Tony enter the world of the Italian-American mafia. He’s played by Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini. Also starring is Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Conjuring) and Goodfellas lead Ray Liotta.
No Time to Die
UK cinema release date: Friday 2 April
The story of No Time To Die’s production will be big enough to fill a bestseller one day, and it’s lasted for years. But hopefully, the film will arrive in cinemas during our lifetimes. It's now planned for an April release.
This is, reportedly, Craig’s last outing as Bond (though he’s said that before) – completing his quintet, which started in 2006 with Casino Royale. Bond comes out of hiding (again) and reteams with former flame Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) to stop a new villain (played by Rami Malek) armed with a dangerous technology.
Last Night in Soho
UK cinema release date: Friday 23 April
Edgar Wright, appearing in The Movies. Photo: Sky/Cable News Network, Inc
Writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver) has always had an operatic and cinephilic sense of fun in his movies. But although he’s tackled horror before, his new film Last Night in Soho aims to have a different feel compared to his back catalogue. He’s diving into more psychological territory this time around.
Set in the 60s, the film follows a young woman meeting her singing idol. It stars The Queen’s Gambit lead Anya Taylor-Joy, former Doctor Who Matt Smith, Jojo Rabbit actor Thomasin McKenzie, and the late Diana Rigg.
UK cinema release date: Friday 1 October
Mainstream auteur Denis Villeneuve always delivers something new and challenging in his movies, focusing mostly on sci-fi these days. Following Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, he tackles his biggest filmmaking challenge yet: Frank Herbert’s Dune. Many directors have tried and failed to bring Herbert’s famously complicated novel – sweating with interplanetary politics, religious factions, and capitalistic agendas – to the big screen, but in Villeneuve we trust.
Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul, heir to House Atreides, who’s shipped to the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis houses a spice, Melange, which many world leaders are desperate to control. Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya also star.
West Side Story
UK cinema release date: Friday 10 December
Photo: Twentieth Century Fox/image.net
Where the original multi-Oscar-winning film of West Side Story can feel dated now, with brownfaced white actors playing Puerto Ricans, the remake looks to be more diverse. Director Steven Spielberg, in his first movie musical, cast exclusively Hispanic actors for those roles and wants to accurately portray the Puerto Rican experience.
The story – based on the 1957 Broadway musical – is a more modern, American retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are constantly at war in the streets of New York. But two members from either side unexpectedly come together and fall in love. This version stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler and Rita Moreno, who was in the original film cast.