Hollywood 2021 – Part 1 (January-June)

20 movies for the first-half of 2021.

Never has the world population found themselves with so much free time as they did in 2020 but with fewer avenues of using that time in the pursuit of watching films at their local cineplex. If the previous year was “unprecedented” this year will continue to demonstrate shades of that trait with modest, cautious optimism for normalcy to return to release schedules. We say this every year, but that holds true especially for 2021 – these release dates reflect US schedules and are as tentative as any plan that can be put together during a global, chaos causing pandemic with no less than 4 films on this year’s list also appearing in last year’s compilation*.

With that note of disclaim, let’s head into what the first half of this year looks like with not just theatrical releases to look forward to but at least one direct to streaming offering as well (we would have included more, but Netflix and other platforms don’t have airtight dates of when their upcoming fare is ready for consumption).

White Tiger

8th January

Crime | Drama

Brief Synopsis: The epic journey of a poor Indian driver who must use his wit and cunning to break free from servitude to his rich masters and rise to the top of the heap.

Why you should watch it: Ramin Bahrani has rarely been a letdown. The darling of the indie and festival circuit in the last decade, he seems to have taken a break from more independent filmmaking to focus on commercial offerings and while his last release was forgettable and largely ignored, this one may see him bounce back. Having a couple of big-name Bollywood stars (Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao) may help and a Booker Prize winning book as the source material doesn’t hurt either, even though the idea of a film set entirely in India featuring English dialogues doesn’t entirely appeal to us (but hey, it’s true to the language of the source material).


19th February


Brief Synopsis: After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

Why you should watch it: Where do we start with this one? Is it the fact that it’s probably the single most acclaimed film of the past year (going into wide release in 2021) or that the director Chloé Zhao made one of the most engaging films you’ll ever see featuring a horse (The Rider, pick it up, don’t ask why) or, perhaps most surprisingly, that she’s simultaneously helmed the next big Marvel superhero release (Eternals, scheduled for a late 2021 release). Sold? We thought so.

The Father

26th February


Brief Synopsis: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.

Why you should watch it: Another film that’s been playing the festival circuits for sometime but only going into wider release early this year. It’s been getting all kinds of awards buzz (will there even be an Oscars this year? Are they still relevant?) and features the directorial debut of acclaimed French playwriter Florian Zeller who has some powerhouse thespians in the lead (Anthony Hopkins, not playing a serial killer and Olivia Colman).

Tom and Jerry: The Movie

Animated | Adventure | Comedy

26th February

Brief Synopsis: Adaption of the classic Hanna-Barbera property, which reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry.

Why you should watch it: I don’t know if it should be a cause for concern that something as timeless as this duo’s TV antics took this long to get a big budget treatment (complete with recognizable stars such as Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña sharing screen space) or that Hollywood may completely mutilate something so beloved (we’re looking at you director Tim Story), but we’ll give this one a chance. We need the optimism.

Coming 2 America


5th March

Brief Synopsis: The African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son.

Why you should watch it: I’m guilty of having not seen the original (which will be rectified soon) but it is beloved and the fact that the studios decided to greenlight this despite a 3 decade gap may be an indication of their confidence in the material and the sort of pseudo comeback of Eddie Murphy (who was pretty good in “Dolomite is my Name”, the director of which he reunites with here).

Raya and the Last Dragon

Animation | Action | Adventure

5th March

Brief Synopsis: In a realm known as Lumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.

Why you should watch it: Trailers for this have been playing before many recent cinema releases so the marketing assault to ensure it remains front and center in your mind is in full swing, but this is an original offering from Disney and while it looks like a Tomb Raider crossover with How to Train Your Dragon, it may hold more surprises in store than the synopsis and visuals seen so far may prepare us for. It is after all in very, very reliable directorial hands (Carlos López Estrada who made the sublime eye-opener Blindspotting) and Don Hall (Big Hero 6).

 The King’s Man

Action | Adventure | Comedy

12th March

Brief Synopsis: In the early years of the 20th century, the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal plotting a war to wipe out millions.

Why you should watch it: A prequel to what has been a largely reliable series so far – consistent, violent, fun. What else do you want to wash your troubles away? A new cast (led by Ralph Fiennes, Aaron Taylor-Johnson) seems like a promising refresher.


Action | Adventure | Drama

19th March

Brief Synopsis: Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead.

Why you should watch it: Another casualty of uncertain rescheduling (the world just wasn’t ready for blood-sucking vampires, we had death-causing flu’s to deal with). The character has always been considered a second fiddle in the Marvel Comicverse (largely a B-grade Spiderman villain), and something tells us that as a Sony offering (and therefore not really completely under the banner of MCU) this might be more in the realm of Venom than any of the MCU Spiderman films, but we’re willing to give Jared Leto a chance (and forget he played a Batman nemesis a few years ago…)

No Time to Die

Action | Adventure | Thriller

2nd April

Brief Synopsis: James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Why you should watch it: OO7. Bond, James Bond. Shaken, not Stirred. Daniel Craig. For the last time. Again.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Animated | Comedy | Family

2nd April

Brief Synopsis: Thomas and Bea are now married and living with Peter and his rabbit family. Bored of life in the garden, Peter goes to the big city, where he meets shady characters and ends up creating chaos for the whole family.

Why you should watch it: Because my 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter can’t wait. And sometimes that’s all the weekend planning, popcorn induced reason you need.

A Quiet Place 2

Drama | Horror | Sci Fi

23rd April

Brief Synopsis: Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.

Why you should watch it: The movie sequel we didn’t need but are getting anyway. The director and most of the cast & crew return, and this bodes well. However, the premise mentions threats apart from the monsters of the first movie. Are these threats in the form of different creatures, or just vile human’s ala 28 Days Later? (and is that why Cillian Murphy joined the cast?).

Last Night in Soho

Drama | Horror | Thriller

23rd April

Brief Synopsis: A young girl, passionate about fashion design, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a dazzling wannabe singer. But 1960s London is not what it seems, and time seems to fall apart with shady consequences.

Why you should watch it: I am half inclined to say that Edgar-Wright can do no wrong (the man is a master of wielding and melding pop-culture references) but he’s been hit and miss for me with his recent efforts (Baby Driver, World’s End) more to my liking. If this is anything like those, this one will be worth the 4 year wait since his last offering.

The French Dispatch:

Comedy | Drama | Romance


Brief Synopsis: A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch Magazine”.

Why you should watch it: Wes Anderson. And that cast. It’s like a greatest hit’s album of all the Anderson regulars.

Black Widow:

Action | Adventure | Sci-fi

7th May

Brief Synopsis: A film about Natasha Romanoff in her quests between the films Civil War and Infinity War.

Why you should watch it: All it took was a successful DC female superhero movie, followed by a billion-dollar MCU female superhero movie, and Black Widow’s cinematic death to finally give Scarlett Johansson her own MCU movie, 10 years after first being introduced. How is her character back though, you ask? This movie is set in the past, between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. And while it does look more promising than the over-rated Captain Marvel, and the supporting cast is fantastic, consider this: the time-frame makes it possible for the return of another fan-favorite MCU character. Hint: his name rhymes with Stony Tark.


Crime | Horror | Mystery

21st May

Brief Synopsis: A sadistic mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw.

Why you should watch it: The Saw horror franchise has outlived its purpose and novelty but when you have a cast this good (Sam Jackson, Chris Rock), positioned in the middle of the summer season, you know it can’t be because it’s a throwaway.

Godzilla vs. Kong

Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller

21st May

Brief Synopsis: The epic next chapter in the cinematic Monsterverse pits two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.

Why you should watch it: I wonder if the studios debated whether to put Godzilla or Kong first in the title. Did they even ask them? Why Godzilla? Isn’t Kong just as much, if not more, of a cultural icon? He must not be happy. Maybe they decided to go alphabetically? No wonder these two are at each other’s throats.

Fast and Furious 9

Action | Adventure | Crime

28th May

Brief Synopsis: Cypher enlists the help of Jakob, Dom’s younger brother to take revenge on Dom and his team.

Why you should watch it: They still be fast. They still be furious. They even replace The Rock with John Cena. But let me draw your attention to the thing that matters most: Justin Lin is back. He who resurrected the franchise and directed its best movies that made the series a phenomenon (F&F 3, 4, 5 and 6). This was way before the cars were jumping across skyscrapers and off airplanes. If you can’t tell which is which, here’s a (ahem) crash course on the Justin Lin movies:

• #3 = Tokyo Drift

• #4 = Return of Original Cast

• #5 = Intro of The Rock and a vault is dragged through Rio de Janeiro

#6 = longest runway in the world.


Comedy | Crime

28th May

Brief Synopsis: A live-action prequel feature film following a young Cruella de Vil.

Why you should watch it: Because Disney doesn’t care if you are offended that they are basically taking their timeless animated classics and ruining them one by one by making substandard, inferior, money grabbing live action versions of it. Your kids will drag you to see it, the previews will assault you for weeks before the release, your co-workers will inevitably talk about it. You will watch it. You’ll probably hate it.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Comedy | Fantasy

11th June

Brief Synopsis: When a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.

Why you should watch it: This may just turn out to be good, in a JJ Abrams infused love letter to the original sort of way (he isn’t behind it, Jason Reitman is and he can be really good). There are several nods to the original, and with the forgettable (but entertaining) remake behind us and the new found love for all things 80’s (thank you Stranger Things) this might just work. We really it does, I can’t wait to see the ECTO-1 in action again. Oh, and the remaining original cast members all return. Also, Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things fame) is a dead ringer for a young Egon!

Venom: Let there be Carnage

Action | Horror | Sci-Fi

25th June

Brief Synopsis: Sequel to the 2018 film ‘Venom’.

Why you should watch it: There’s no polite way to say it. Venom was a dismal, absolute, shocking mess. There should never have been a sequel. But the collective audience hurrah at the end credits cameo of Woody Harrelson as Carnage got everyone excited. So there is hope. And hope is all we have to look forward to these days.

* Excerpts from last year’s first half roundup that were used for 4 of the films featured in this article were originally written by the late Shariq Madani, Filmphoria co-founder and a dear friend who sadly passed away in the summer of 2020. His curious demeanour, infectious spirit and pop culture enthusiasm continues to reflect in the ethos of what this site is all about.

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com