Written by Helen Bownass

After a year when many films have been postponed, we’re pleased to say there’s a glut of movies to look forward to in 2021. 

In the last twelve months cinema-going has sadly been dramatically reduced, so if you’re anything like us you’ll be desperate to get lost in some excellent filmmaking. Ideally whilst in a dark cinema, surrounded (safely) by other people with a gigantic bucket of popcorn to swim around in.

And joyfully, 2021’s offerings have something for every taste, including poignant biopics, uplifting musicals, tense thrillers, contemporary horror films and smart reflections on modern life.

And even better, there’s a wide range of fully-rounded female characters and a cheering amount of projects from the minds of excellent female directors to indulge in. 

Now this makes us very excited…

  • Pieces Of A Woman

    Best films for 2021: Pieces of a Woman

    When this film showed at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year it was to great critical acclaim. Directed by Hungarian filmmaker Kornel Mundroczo it stars Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf as Boston couple Martha and Sean Carson eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child. 

    Devastatingly, their home birth goes wrong and the baby dies shortly after being born. The film is set over the course of one winter and follows as the pair mourn a life not even begun; their relationship bows under the weight of such grief and they bring a claim of criminal negligence against their midwife.

    Release date: 7 January 2021 on Netflix 

  • The Father

    A stellar British cast has been assembled in Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, for this devastating film which currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

    Hopkins plays Anthony, a man whose mind is being lost to dementia, but refuses the help of a carer to the frustration of his daughter Anne (Colman) who is planning to move to Paris. As the film, which Hopkins is predicted award season glory for, progresses it becomes a visual representation of the disorienting effects of living with dementia, with confusion over who people are, where you are and what it’s like to lose yourself.

    Release date: 8 January 2021 in cinemas 

  • The 355

    It’s been a while since we’ve had a high-octane action film to get excited about, but this female-led one, is something to get particularly excited about. 

    It stars Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, and Fan Bingbing as secret agents from five different countries who must unite to fight an evil enemy. As for the meaning of the film’s title, it refers to the code name used for the first unnamed and under-valued female spy in the American Revolution: Agent 355. 

    Release date: 15 January 2021 in cinemas 

  • The Dig

    Best films for 2021: The Dig

    If you’re a long-time fan of Time Team, this new British drama based on a true story and starring Lily James and Carey Mulligan will appeal. 

    Mulligan plays Edith, a widow, who hires archaeologist Basil (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up some land on her plentiful estate. But they make a historic discovery, as it turns out to be an Anglo-Saxon burial site. Alongside the artefacts there’s also love stories, and the beginning of World War II to contend with.

    Release date:15 January in cinemas and 29 January 2021 on Netflix

  • Malcolm & Marie

    Best films for 2021: Malcolm and Marie

    The first film to be made in lockdown, this promises to be a special and unique take on 2020 directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. Zendaya and John David Washington star as a couple on their way home from Malcolm’s (Washington) film premiere. Where they embark on an intense discussion about past relationships.

    If you think it sounds similar to a certain 2019 film starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, you’re not wrong. According to Deadline it “has some echoes of Netflix’s Marriage Story, while resonating a number of social themes that the world is experiencing right now.”

    Release date: 5 February 2021 on Netflix.

  • Promising Young Woman

    Best Films of 2021: Promising Young Woman

    One of 2020’s many film casualties, we’re pleased to see this fiery and stylistic revenge thriller, based in conversations about #MeToo and consent, has moved into 2021. 

    Directed by The Crown actress Emerald Fennel it centres on Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a medical school dropout who works in a coffee shop and lives with her parents after a tragic event. But at the weekends she follows her vocation: pretending to be drunk to the point of passing out, where she is found by some man who wants to help her, then tries to take advantage of the situation. Whereupon she delivers a message of fierce retribution.

    Release date: 12 February 2021 in cinemas

  • Nomadland

    Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

    After she lost everything in the 2008 recession Fern, a widow and former substitute teacher, travels across the American West trying to get seasonal employment and meeting groups of nomads on the way. 

    Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Jessica Bruder, the film directed by Chloe Zhao stars Frances McDormand – superlative and Oscar-winning in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – as Fern. It’s a role that’s set to prove her, yet again, as one of our greatest acting talents.

    Release date: 19 February 2021 in cinemas

  • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

    Best films of 2021: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

    In the mood for joyful showtunes and a journey to being whatever you want to be? Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will hit you in all the right places. 

    Based on the West End musical, which in turn is based on the real story of Jamie New (Max Harwood), a 16-year-old schoolboy in Sheffield who has big dreams of being a drag performer, to his dad’s chagrin. Sarah Lancashire stars as Jamie’s mother, Sharon Horgan plays his teacher while acting legend Richard E Grant is Jamie’s drag mentor.

    Release date: 26 February 2021 in cinemas 

  • Raya And The Last Dragon

    Best Films of 2021: Raya and the Last Dragon

    What is it about Disney animated movies that pull our heartstrings? Even just reading the plot description for this movie has us feeling emotional: “In a land called Kumandra, a warrior named Raya searches for the last dragon in the world.” The film, which was written by Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim, is set to be a celebration of Asian culture and history. Awkwafina will voice Sisu, a water dragon who is the last of her kind, while Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran will be the brave young warrior Raya.

    Release date: 12 March 2021 in cinemas 

  • The United States Vs Billie Holiday

    The early career of iconic jazz and swing singer Billie Holiday is the focus of this new film by Lee Daniels (Precious). 

    Grammy-nominated artist Andra Day plays the singer as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics attempts to imprison her for singing political songs such as Strange Fruit. Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes plays Jimmy Fletcher, the undercover agent who fell for Holiday and subsequently shifted his allegiances.

    Release date: 12 March in cinemas 

  • No Time To Die

    Best films of 2021: No Time To Die

    OK, yes. A new James Bond movie is hardly a cause for feminist celebration. However, THIS new James Bond movie – reportedly Daniel Craig’s last – was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and features Lashana Lynch stepping into his shoes as the new 007. Now that we can get behind. And after moving throughout the schedules in 2020 our expectations are particularly high.

    Release date 2 April 2021 in cinemas

  • A Quiet Place II

    Though John Krasinski himself won’t be starring in this sequel to his smash-hit horror movie – spoiler alert: he dies in the first film – the rest of the cast will be returning. That includes his real-life wife Emily Blunt as well as Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, who played the couple’s on-screen children in the film. 

    The plot of the movie is being kept tightly under wraps, but we know that the alien creatures who prey on sound are still roaming the world, and that Blunt’s character Evelyn is hell-bent on avenging the death of her husband. Sign us up.

    Release date: 21 April 2021 in cinemas 

  • Last Night In Soho

    Best films of 2021: Anya Taylor-Joy

    Edgar Wright, the director behind Shaun of the Dead, is making a return to horror with this new London-based film. 

    Starring Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith and New Zealand newcomer Thomasin McKenzie, the film will straddle two plotlines – one in the 60s and one in the present day. “Taylor-Joy will play the lead in the 60s, while McKenzie will play a fashion student in modern day scenes,” Collider reports. “Smith will be playing Taylor-Joy’s manager of sorts.”

    Release date: 23 April 2021 in cinemas 

  • Black Widow

    Best films of 2021: Black Widow

    Last year, we bid goodbye to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame. But it was a bit of an emotional anti-climax, really, overshadowed by the greater concern of Thanos’ world domination. 

    In this, Johansson’s first standalone movie in the Marvel cinematic universe and a prequel to the existing Avengers movies, we get to say a true goodbye to one of the trailblazing female superheroes. The movie will focus on Black Widow’s life as Natasha, a Russian sleeper agent in the US, before she switched sides and joined the good guys. Directed by a female director and with an impeccable supporting cast including Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh, this female superhero movie is worth celebrating.

    Release date: 7 May 2021 in cinemas 

  • Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar

    Best films of 2021: Kristen Wiig

    It’s been a while since Kristen Wiig has been in our lives, and to make up for it she has teamed back up with Annie Mumolo, her Bridesmaids co-writer – and also signed up Jamie Dornan. 

    The pair play Barb and Star who go on holiday to Vista Del Mar– after leaving their small town for the first time. But while there they get embroiled in adventures, romantic liaisons and an encounter with an evil villain.

    Release date: 16 July 2021 in cinemas 

  • In The Heights

    Best Films of 2021: In The Heights

    Before Lin Manuel Miranda created Hamilton, he was the man from Washington Heights. The creative genius’s first musical was based on his own early life in New York City and centred on the lives of the Dominican community who lived there. 

    Miranda will be starring in this film adaptation of the Broadway musical, directed by Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M Chu, but the main role will be played by Anthony Ramos – John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton.

    Release date: 30 July in cinemas

  • Candyman

    It’s the 1992 horror film that terrorised many of our teenage dreams, and it’s been reimagined for these troubled times. Nia DaCosta directs this version, written by Get Out’s Jordan Peele, about the villain who appears when you say his name five times in the mirror and is set in a gentrified housing project. 

    The film promises to take in police brutality, lynching and Black exploitation, and da Costa has said the film is able to: “pull back the curtain on what makes a villain. Who calls a monster a monster? Who decides that? That’s a lot of what our story is about.”

    Release date: 27 August 2021 in cinemas 

  • Dune

    Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel is a dystopian sci-fi classic, and now Denis Villeneuve is releasing a big-budget adaption of the book – a year from its original slated release.

    Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atr eidesa young hero, in charge of protecting a valuable spice called melange, native to planet Arrakis, that can make interstellar travel possible and increase people’s mental capacity. Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Issac are also in a cast positively dripping with stars.

    Release date: 1 October 2021 in cinemas 

  • Respect

    Jennifer Hudson. Aretha Franklin. Biopic. What more do you need to know? 

    The Oscar-winning singer is starring as the celebrated soul superstar in a forthcoming biopic of her life alongside Mary J Blige, Audra Mcdonald and Forest Whitaker. According to People, Franklin handpicked Hudson to play her before her death in 2018. “I’ve talked to the person that is going to play me,” Franklin said at the time. “I’m not going to say who I chose, but I’ve talked to her and she’s ready and I’m happy with her.” We all are.

    Release date: 8 October 2021 in cinemas 

  • The Eternals

    Best films of 2021: The Eternals

    Now that the Avengers franchise is complete, audiences are looking for a new ensemble superhero flick. The Eternals could be that movie. 

    Starring Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kit Harington, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Kumail Nanjiani, it tells the story of a group of celestial beings whose lives become entangled with humans. Female filmmaker Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) is directing and the first glimpses of actors in costume on the set look suitably fantastical. 

    Release date: 5 November 2021 in cinemas 

  • West Side Story

    Best films of 2021: the original West Side Story

    Steven Spielberg’s latest trick is remaking West Side Story, one of the most beloved musicals by another famous Stephen (Sondheim), for a modern audience. 

    Rita Moreno, the Oscar-winning star of the original 1961 film will be back as Valentina, a reworked version of the advisory adult character Doc, who in turn was based on Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet. (Moreno originally played Anita, the best friend of West Side Story’s main character Maria.) The stars of the film, though, taking on the roles of the two celestially-crossed lovers from warring New York street gangs, are Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, a Colombian American singer-songwriter who beat 30,000 other women for the role of Maria. Get your jazz hands ready, this one is going to be an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza.

    Release date: 10 December 2021 in cinemas 

  • Free Guy

    Best films of 2021: Free Guy

    Jodie Comer is swapping Villanelle for video games in Free Guy. Set inside a video game in which an avatar played by Ryan Reynolds suddenly becomes conscious that he’s a character in the game, the movie is a funny action romp that meditates on ideas of identity and sentience. 

    It also features Comer in two roles: first, a chic video game assassin and, secondly, a nerdy gamer in the real world. She has the range to pull them both off.

    Release date:TBC

  • Ammonite

    This sweeping and absorbing period film brings to life pioneering paleontologist Mary Anning in 1840.

    Set in Lyme Regis, Dorset, Kate Winslet plays Mary who lives a quiet life with her mother (Gemma Jones) but embarks on a relationship with Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) when her husband asks Mary to watch over her in the hope it will get her over the melancholia she is enduring. 

    Release date: TBC

  • Cruella

    Best films of 2021: the original Cruella de Vil

    One of Disney’s most famous villains gets a live-action origin story, and we are very excited.

    Emma Stone plays the puppy stealing fashion designer, and this prequel will follow her life in 70s London as she develops her obsession with all things dalmatian, becoming the ruthless miscreant that haunted us all. 

    Release date: TBC 

Images courtesy of film studios, Getty 

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