20 Unmissable Films Still to Come in 2021, Ranked by How Excited You Should Be
Beatles! Broadway! Beautiful boys! With seven months of the year still to go, Ella Kemp weighs up the biggest UK cinema releases...
Not even a 15 month global pandemic can break the spirit of the film industry. Stories will always need to be told – and so many have been sitting pretty while the world put itself back together, and will now, at long last, make their way to the big screen where they belong. We might have lost a considerable amount of time, but with seven months left in this year, there's still so much to look forward to.
From a new Beatles documentary to big-hearted Broadway adaptations and the return of our favourite independent darlings, I've scoured the release schedule for an – objectively ranked! – list of the 20 most unmissable features set to hit UK cinemas this year – some seen, some unseen, but all worth getting very, very excited for…
In UK cinemas: 30 July
Four asylum seekers await to hear their fate in an eerie Scottish island in Ben Sharrock’s impressive sophomore feature Limbo. Syrian musician Omar is our protagonist, and Amir El-Masry plays the role with such wit and pathos that he feels like your greatest friend and most important confidant. Stories focusing on refugees are rarely afforded such grace and confident comedy, without trivialising the issues at hand nor exaggerating the harrowing stakes. Sharrock makes you feel like you are there with Omar, too – and so the wait becomes the most antagonising experience in the world.
In UK cinemas: 2 July
The only thing better than a Freaky Friday remake is a riff on the very solid concept of a body swap, but one that involves a serial killer alongside the inevitable teenage girl instead of said teenage girl’s mother. Vince Vaughn faces off against Kathryn Newton in Freaky and, well… somehow convincingly behaves like a teenage girl and does so immaculately. You could watch this at home, but there would be far fewer shrieks of glee and disbelief as the comedy-cum-horror-cum-identity crisis unfolds and the noise gets louder and the pair’s intertwined identities become messier and – naturally – even more entertaining.
In UK cinemas: 25 June
It’s hardly surprising that the last few years have seen countless filmmakers explore the dangerous impact of social media – but increasingly, those films have become condescending cautionary tales or cacophonous satires. Magnus von Horn’s Sweat offers something new, framing fitness influencer Sylwia as she longs for intimacy after her 600,000 Instagram followers have stopped watching. The film doesn’t paint the internet as a cartoonish antagonist, nor Sylwia as a pathetic addict. Instead, Sweat finds room in the silences to outline just how sticky our interconnected reality truly is.
17. The Nest
In UK cinemas: 27 August
Nobody does deliciously disapproving quite like Carrie Coon. The Leftovers star plays Allison, a frustrated, neglected housewife (who would hate being described as such) opposite Jude Law’s hungry entrepreneur Rory in Sean Durkin’s The Nest, an elegant ‘80s portrait of a family whose perfect exterior is starting to crack from the inside out. Fewer performances gracing screens this year are quite as layered as Coon and Law’s, and the tension builds in unsettling, wildly unexpected ways. One to see with your parents, certainly, but maybe not your partners.
16. The Beatles: Get Back
In UK cinemas: 27 August
The director of the Lord of the Rings films might seem like an unlikely choice to direct yet another documentary about The Beatles, but Get Back capitalises on Peter Jackson’s skill as an archivist to resurrect footage from the annals of history that most people would have given up on, as seen in his immense WWI picture They Shall Not Grow Old. Here, over 55 hours of footage and 140 hours of audio give Jackson space to offer up new, unseen moments of the Beatles’ recording sessions. Even if we think know the story, this looks set to change our perceptions in interesting ways.
15. The Most Beautiful Boy in the World
In UK cinemas: 30 July
Björn Andrésen was dubbed “the most beautiful boy in the world” as he was thrust into the spotlight at 16 years old after starring in Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film Death in Venice. It’s particularly eerie watching a documentary about a premature child star the world adopts as their icon in the age of the internet – proving that the parasocial relationship issues we are confronted with today have been damaging young men for decades. The documentary is vibrant, inventive, and empathetic, and also entirely heartbreaking. A time capsule of a man ruined by the world who loved him too much and didn’t know how to care for him. A warning sign, if nothing else.
14. I’m Your Man
In UK cinemas: 13 August
If you enjoy Dan Stevens acting in English, just wait until you see him in German. Maria Schrader’s dystopian romantic comedy I'm Your Man lets the actor shine like never before, as the perfectly programmed humanoid robot Tom who's been designed to fall in love with Maren Eggert’s Alma. It’s a witty and wise meditation on romance that questions what’s worth sacrificing and what’s worth compromising in the name of intimacy. If you liked Little Joe, Her or Ex Machina, this one's for you.
13. Another Round
In UK cinemas: 2 July
That’s “Oscar winning” Another Round to you. Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg reunites with his brilliant muse Mads Mikkelsen in a portrait of a midlife crisis, as four friends/middle school teachers decide to raise their daily blood alcohol levels in the name of science. It’s often as fun and ridiculous as it sounds, but deceptively thoughtful as well. Vinterberg’s deft script asks you to think about where pleasure comes from, and how moderation isn’t just about caution for the sake of caution – it’s vital in order to protect, and keep close, the ones you love.
12. The Father
In UK cinemas: 11 June
It’s hard to put into writing how utterly destabilising Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Father is. The film, Florian Zeller’s feature directorial debut which adapts his play of the same name, thrusts the viewer into the mind of a man suffering from dementia, fragmenting reality and snatching his own grasp on his identity as the walls close in. Not manipulative nor generically heightened, there is an alarming understanding of just how easily life can slip in and out of focus. And how precious it all is.
In UK cinemas: 16 July
Quentin Dupieux, also known under his DJ moniker “Mr Oizo,” has made a bizarre horror-inflected comedy that finds itself at the intersection of In Fabric and Nightcrawler. Comedic heavyweight Jean Dujardin is laser-focused as a narcissistic man on the edge of 40 who's obsessed with his suede jacket. But this glorious film works because of how seriously it’s played. You feel like the world’s making fun of you until you realise everyone genuinely believes what’s going on – and just how alarming, and wildly entertaining, the deadpan truth of it all can be.
In UK cinemas: 17 September
So, did you read the book during lockdown, then? Denis Villeneuve is finally bringing his take on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic Dune to cinemas nine months late, with, I think we can all agree, the biggest cast to have ever been in any movie, ever. Timothée Chalamet as the boy wonder Paul Atreides who suddenly finds the entire world in his hands. Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson as his parents. Zendaya as his lover. John Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Momoa will also be hanging out. Villeneuve never wastes the opportunity he's given when retelling daring, generation-defining, and world-defying stories (see: Blade Runner 2049). Whatever happens, you know this one will be worth the trip.
9. House of Gucci
In UK cinemas: 26 November
If A Star Is Born proved anything, it’s that a story is always worth retelling if Lady Gaga is involved. Gaga is opting for a different kind of woman in her follow-up role to Bradley Cooper’s immense musical drama remake, but isn’t letting go of the high-stakes glamour in Ridley Scott’s take on the infamous Gucci murders, as Patrizia Reggiani (that’s Gaga) was tried and convicted for organising the murder of her ex-husband, head of the Gucci fashion house, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver, naturally.) Al Pacino, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto are also on board, while the Gucci family have already distanced themselves from the project. That’s how you know this will definitely be worth talking about.
8. Last Night in Soho
In UK cinemas: 29 October
You wait four years for a new Edgar Wright movie and suddenly two of them come along at once. 2021 will see the release of Wright’s first documentary The Sparks Brothers, a sprawling love letter to your favourite band’s favourite band – but October will give the world something more complex, somehow even more ambitious in Last Night in Soho. We head back to the swinging ‘60s in the big smoke as Thomasin McKenzie finds herself dreaming of becoming Anya Taylor-Joy (who doesn’t?) and reality becomes a slippery, pretty stressful thing. Expect big giallo energy. Gorgeous dresses. Matt Smith. More needle drops than ever. See you at the biggest screen possible.
In UK cinemas: 25 June
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to do my crying in very large cinemas where nobody can tell whether it’s me or the person three seats down who's having a little bit of a meltdown. Harry Macqueen’s gorgeous and very well-dressed love story finds Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth play a married couple taking what might be their last holiday together, as Tucci’s Tusker comes to terms with a diagnosis of early on-set dementia. Supernova finds itself at the life-ruining intersection of cosy and cataclysmically devastating, with two heavyweight actors at the top of their game and a sophisticated meditation on memory and loyalty that stands the test of time. If you catch me weeping as the lights come up, no you didn’t.
6. Shiva Baby
In UK cinemas: 11 June
Make way: Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott are here to give you your new favourite panic attack. Handsomely described on Letterboxd as “Uncut Gems for hot Jewish sluts,” the film asks the viewer to imagine what would happen if a young bisexual woman ran into both her sugar daddy and her over-achieving ex-girlfriend at a shiva. The film embraces the (true) stereotypes of overbearing Jewish relatives and a pervading sense of neurosis, making room for disgust and panic and very, very good comedy all at once. At just 26, Seligman is already making waves as a writer-director and has found her muse in Sennott. See it big. Take some deep breaths. Bow down.
5. In the Heights
In UK cinemas: 18 June
Musical theatre babies have been robbed of the stage for a year and a half, but they’re not the only ones who will find themselves whooping and hollering at the big screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway smash hit In the Heights. It’s a glittering movie musical like they don’t make anymore, from Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu and led by our generation’s most incandescent leading man Anthony Ramos. Every song is infectious, the sun is shining on every dancer’s megawatt smile, and it feels like, after so much time spent waiting for a big breath of fresh air to finally return, the most exhilarating place to be is in an enormous cinema looking up at this widescreen spectacle. Full of love, optimism and undeniable superstar talent, it’s event cinema in the warmest, most generous way.
4. The Green Knight
In UK cinemas: 6 August
Are you ready for some hot summer knights? Dev Patel returns to save 2021 in David Lowery’s The Green Knight, a medieval fantasy based on the Arthurian poem of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Now, there has been no shortage of period pieces, of medieval fantasies, of brooding biopics about misunderstood monarchs and underdogs ready to take those monarchs down. But none of them have starred Dev Patel. None of them have been directed by the soft genius that is A Ghost Story director David Lowery. This movie features a talking fox. These landscapes could be paintings. This knight, this green king, has come to save us. And for that, we must be grateful.
In UK cinemas: 3 September
Remember when we all spent the weeks after Marriage Story yelling that Adam Driver’s karaoke rendition of “Being Alive” was just begging the film industry to cast the man in a proper musical? It looks like Leos Carax was listening, as Annette will find Driver star opposite Marion Cotillard as the new parents of a tiny, titular baby girl with an unusual gift. It’s a musical in the purest, most Les Misérables oh-there’s-really-no-dialogue-at-all sense of the term – and not just not any musical. You spend your whole life waiting for a Sparks movie, and then, just like that, two of them come along at once. Music and lyrics by Sparks, direction by the wildly talented Carax, performances by Cotillard and karaoke king Driver. I’m waiting for the catch, but maybe we're just very, very lucky.
2. Summer of Soul
In UK cinemas: 16 July
What were you doing during the summer of 1969? Amir “Questlove” Thompson makes his debut with Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), resurrecting and immortalising the boundless talent that took to the stage during the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival – also known as Black Woodstock. Performances from Stevie Wonder, The 5th Dimension, Sly and the Family Stone and many more capture the magic of live music while also investigating how such a momentous event was quietly neglected by the history books for so long. As joyous as it is stirring and maddening. You’ll want to rewind it the second it finishes and every rewatch will come to feel like medicine.
1. The French Dispatch
In UK cinemas: 22 October
Who am I to pretend that I am not, at every waking moment, waiting for a new Wes Anderson film to drop more than anything else in the world? The filmmaker goes bigger, more sprawling with each story, and his tenth feature – The French Dispatch – is taking us back to 20th-century France for “a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century city.” Friendly faces including Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, but also fresh blood in the shape of Benicio del Toro, Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri. It’s an anthology movie promising New Yorker-inspired vignettes, filled with romance and nostalgia as much as political unrest and a study of the changing art world. It looks like an elegant matryoshka doll of everything Anderson has ever done and everything he has ever dreamed of – in other words, divine.