Let’s have another go at this, shall we? Dedicated readers of the annual preview will see a lot of familiar titles in the list below.
Far from leading to a vacuum in the 2021 release schedules, the pandemic has caused a potential traffic jam as dozens of films — both high and low of brow — shifted from 2020 to the uncertain grazing of the succeeding year.
Having failed to open Cannes, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch went into hibernation for many months. The same happened to the latest film from the Top Gun and the Fast and the Furious cycles.
This will not be happening again. A few of the titles below will fail to open for the old-fashioned reason that they won’t quite be finished, but, now the studios have worked out their streaming alternatives, the delayed releases will, one way or another, be made available in 2021.
Aware that chaos has not been banished, we have suspended our usual practice of quoting release dates after the text. There are a few gambles here, but we haven’t been so optimistic as to include Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon or Jonathan Glazer’s take on Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest. Both films will shoot in 2021. So, you never know. Maybe our luck is about to turn.
The gifted Kogonada, much acclaimed for 2017's Columbus, directs Colin Farrell as a father troubled by having a cyborg in the family.
Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet, two anthropologists, fall for one another in 19th century Dorset.
Hurry up Leo Carax with your Sparks-penned musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Certain to land at Cannes if and when Cannes happens.
Terrific sui generis drama from Thomas Vinterberg about a group of men who decide to become permanently drunk. Mads Mikkelsen uncorks the sherry.
A hit at festivals, Tom Sullivan’s superb Irish-language thriller, set during the Famine, is due a theatrical outing in the spring. The Irish nominee for best international picture at the Oscars.
Damien Chazelle directs Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt (phew) in a saga from Hollywood's early years. May not be quite ready for 2021 awards season.
We first heard about Paul Verhoeven's take on a sexual relationship between visionary 17th century nuns three or four years ago. It should finally be here.
Mia Hansen-Løve directs Mia Wasikowska and Vicky Krieps in a drama from the Faroe Islands.
It will take some shattering of the earth for Marvel's overlords to move the most-promising of their blockbusters to Disney+. Scarlett Johansson is due to spin her web in early May.
Andrew Dominik, who directs Ana de Armas in a take on Joyce Carol Oates's novel concerning Marilyn Monroe, jokes (?) he may have made "one of the 10 best films ever made".
Fans of Brady Corbet's Marmite cinema — Vox Lux and Childhood of a Leader — will be gagging for this study of an obsessive architect in the post-war years. Vanessa Kirby, in everything this year, is among the cast.
THE CARD COUNTER
The indestructible Paul Schrader casts Oscar Isaac and Willem Dafoe in another tale of frayed male egos.
ELVIS PRESLEY PROJECT (UNTITLED)
Look, whatever you think of Baz Luhrmann, his Elvis flick is sure to be an event. Tom Hanks, the first celebrity Covid patient, contracted the disease shooting his role as "Colonel" Tom Parker.
You know what this is. Denis Villeneuve's space opera is among those Warners films debuting simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max in the US. Still scheduled for cinemas first here.
Could Chloé Zhao win an Oscar (see Nomadland) in the same year she launches a Marvel project? Barry Keoghan joins Angelina Jolie among the undying.
You never know with Fast and Furious flicks. The best ones are awesome. The weakest are annoying. They are all ludicrous. Justin Lin is back in the folding chair.
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
Based on the documentary of the same name, Michael Showalter's drama casts Jessica Chastain as disgraced evangelist Tammy Faye Messner. Fruity.
Anthony Hopkins is the favourite for best actor at the Oscars with his turn as a man slipping into dementia. Olivia Colman also likely to be nominated as his daughter.
THE FRENCH DISPATCH
Will Wes Anderson’s ensemble drama move straight from Cannes 2020 to Cannes 2021 (whenever that may be)? Everyone stars in a study of US journalists in France.
THE GREEN KNIGHT
David Lowery, among the best of his generation, directs Dev Patel and Barry Keoghan in a take on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Another casualty of pandemic delays, Phyllida Lloyd's take on contemporary Irish woes — starring and written by Clare Dunne — was a big hit at Sundance 2020.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield continue to rise in this treatment of Fred Hampton, Illinois chairman of the Black Panthers.
THE LAST DUEL
Blah, blah… Ridley Scott epic set in 14th century France. Blah, blah… Never mind that. This is the film that trapped Matt Damon in Dalkey during lockdown (sounds awesome, to be fair).
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO
Edgar Wright nudges Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and the late Diana Rigg around Soho in the 1960s. Shades of Roeg and Polanski, apparently.
THE LAST PLANET/THE WAY OF THE WIND
Terrence Malick gets around to treating the life of Christ. Mark Rylance and Geza Rohrig star as, respectively, Devil and Messiah.
THE LOST DAUGHTER
Paul Mescal has a supporting role in Maggie Gyllenhaal's adaptation of an Elena Ferrante novel. Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson headline a top-drawer cast.
Hmm? The sequel to a classic and to two films nobody much liked is scheduled for next Christmas. We can count on that, surely.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai sage, returns with his first English-language film. Tilda Swinton is spooked in Scotland.
NEXT GOAL WINS
Michael Fassbender and Elisabeth Moss are here for Taika Waititi's treatment of the heroic American Samoan football team.
Chloé Zhao’s thoughtful road movie — starring Frances McDormand as a fraught boomer — is the first film to win both the Golden Lion at Venice and People’s Choice at Toronto. Current favourite for the Oscar at around 13/5.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 7
One of the more reliable franchises should deliver its seventh safely in the autumn (we hope).
Guillermo Del Toro directs Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper in a remake of a famously gruelling 1947 noir melodrama.
The good people of Ulster played host to Robert Eggers's Viking drama late last year. Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman wear hats with horns.
NO TIME TO DIE
The latest James Bond film is currently down for an April release. Still time to release a remix of the Billie Eilish single with Shirley Bassey.
Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga star in an adaptation of Nella Larsen's acclaimed novel concerning two friends in 1920s New York City. Rebecca Hall takes up the megaphone.
PIECES OF A WOMAN
Vanessa "Princess Margaret" Kirby gives a performance worthy of Gena Rowlands in Kornél Mundruczó's treatment of a family trauma.
THE POWER OF THE DOG
Jane Campion is back with (no, not the Don Winslow novel) a neo-western concerning warring brothers. Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst star.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Carey Mulligan strips the emulsion from the celluloid as an abused woman taking revenge in the blackest of black comedies. Emerald Fennell directs.
A QUIET PLACE: PART II
You saw the poster on buses throughout the early months of lockdown. Now you can finally watch John Krasinski's follow up to his excellent 2018 horror. Cillian Murphy joins Emily Blunt.
Ah, Claire Denis? Always there for reliable oddness. Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon star in film set among radio broadcasters.
Any Paul Thomas Anderson film is worth getting excited about. His latest casts Bradley Cooper and Cooper Hoffman — son of Philip Seymour — in a tale of the American 1970s. (That title sounds provisional.)
THE SOUVENIR: PART II
Joanna Hogg's follow-up to her searing autobiographical drama — reuniting Honor Swinton Byrne and real-life mum Tilda Swinton — was co-produced by Dublin's Element Pictures.
SPIDER-MAN 3 (UNTITLED)
All the old Spider-Men — Maguire, Garfield — appear alongside Tom Holland and previous supporting cast — Dunst, Stone — in a project that is baffling everyone. Fair enough.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Tom Cruise's veteran will be a year older than expected when he returns to the skies for Joseph Kosinski's follow-up to a defining 1980s movie.
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
Joel Coen steps away from Ethan to direct Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in the latest take on the S**tish Play. Where do we sign on?
THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY
Lee Daniels, overheated director behind The Paperboy and Precious, casts Andra Day as the immortal singer. Some challenge.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
We can think of nobody better suited to direct a documentary on the Velvet Underground than Todd Haynes (for it is he).
WEST SIDE STORY
Kicked back a whole year to next Christmas, Steven Spielberg's take on the Broadway warhorse stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler and (still my heart) Rita Moreno.
This is the third time we've bigged up Cathy Brady's debut feature in this annual preview. The brilliantly acted border drama, starring Nora-Jane Noone and the late Nika McGuigan, has premiered at Toronto and will definitely be with you in 2021.
Nathalie Biancheri's story of a man who thinks himself a wolf sounds like one of the year's most promising Irish releases. George MacKay and Lily-Rose Depp (yes, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis) star.