It’s that time of year again: fall movie season. A period in which local theaters are beaming with a select choice of arthouse films that could become trophy contenders and the megaplexes are packing one holiday-worthy blockbuster after another. Only this year, like everything else, fall movie season — and with it, the kick-off of awards season — won’t exactly be business as usual. It won’t be as muted as last year, though.
Several tentpole titles will finally be released — some of them after being postponed for months — either in theaters or on streaming services — or both.
Netflix has a full slate of fall film releases. Some of them will make select theater debuts, and some titles will be simultaneously released in movie theaters and on other streaming platforms like HBO Max or Apple TV+. Other services like Prime Video are also stockpiling film releases for the holiday season.
Here are some of the most relevant movie titles to be released in the fall of 2021.
Plenty of Blockbusters and Popcorn Fare
Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings officially opens fall this Labor Day weekend, but it’s far from the only franchise or superhero film that’ll be released before the end of the year. This won’t be the only Marvel Cinematic Universe movie served by year’s end either. Academy Award-winner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) makes her big-budget directing debut with Eternals. The movie will be in theaters on November 5 and stars Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry and Game of Thrones alums Kit Harington and Richard Madden.
Tom Hardy dons the tentacles and teeth once again for the second installment of Venom with Let There Be Carnage, out on October 15. Zendaya and Tom Holland reunite for the third installment of Spider-Man in No Way Home, in theaters on December 17.
There’s also a new Ghostbusters: Afterlife movie with Paul Rudd and Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things. The movie, which opens November 19, is co-written and directed by Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), who happens to be the son of the director of the first and second Ghostbusters flicks, Ivan Reitman.
And if all this doesn’t sound enticing enough, there’s also the tentpole with probably the most chances of becoming an award runner-up: Dune. It’ll be available on HBO Max and in theaters on October 22, and it’s based on Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel of the same name. The pedigree doesn’t end there, though. The movie adaptation stars Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling and a few other famous names. Oh, and the film is co-written and directed by Dennis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049).
Possible Trophy Contenders
When it comes to films with chances of becoming nominated for Oscars and other awards, the fall season tends to be the preferred time to release them. That way, they’re fresher in voters’ minds. And this year, there are many possible contenders. Bear in mind that critics are just starting to see some of these films, and once these titles have started screening it’ll be more clear to determine what movies have chances of getting some trophy appreciation.
But there’s nothing like a story based on true events to get some award recognition. And autumn comes with plenty of those. First, there’s Jessica Chastain wearing a lot of eye makeup and a few wigs in The Eyes of Tammy Faye (September 17), in which she plays the controversial televangelist Tammy Faye Messner.
Then, Kristen Stewart will try to make you forget The Crown with Spencer (November 5), where she plays Princess Diana. Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, who transformed Natalie Portman in Jackie, directs this movie.
Will Smith will again prove his many acting skills with King Richard (November 19), in which he plays Venus and Serena Williams’ dad and tennis coach. The movie also lets Aunjanue Ellis shine. You might recognize her from Lovecraft Country.
If you like a good Italian accent, you’ll probably love House of Gucci (November 24). It’s directed by Ridley Scott and stars Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, Al Pacino and Lady Gaga speaking in delightful Italian-accented English. The movie follows the murder of Maurizio Gucci (Driver), head of the fashion house Gucci.
Then there’s A Journal for Jordan (December 22), directed by Denzel Washington (Fences) and based on the memoir of the same name by Dana Canedy. The film stars Michael B. Jordan and Chanté Adams and tells the story of Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Jordan), who in 2005 is deployed to Iraq and starts writing a journal for his infant son.
There are also a good number of movies based on fiction books. Here are some of the standout titles.
Actress Rebecca Hall (The Town) makes her directorial debut and adapts Nella Larsen’s 1929 book Passing. Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga star as Irene and Clare, two childhood friends who lose touch. When they meet again years later, Clare explains she’s been passing as a white woman. Hall herself is the perfect choice to helm this story; you probably didn’t know her mother is African American. The film will be on Netflix on November 10.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee star in this Jane Campion written and directed western based on a Thomas Savage novel. In The Power of the Dog (December 1) Cumberbatch plays the vicious rancher Phil Burbank, who’s set on tormenting his brother’s new wife and son.
Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman) makes her directorial debut with The Lost Daughter (December 31), which she’s also adapted from the Elena Ferrante novel. Award darling Olivia Colman plays Leda, a woman on a seaside vacation who encounters a young mother and her daughter and starts remembering her own experience as a young parent.
And ripe for a Christmas Day release is Cyrano (December 24), directed by Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) and adapted for the screen by Erica Schmidt from her own musical stage adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) played the titular character in the theater version sans prosthetic nose and embodies the character once again in this film iteration.
This one doesn’t have a release date yet. Joel Coen adapts and directs The Tragedy of Macbeth after William Shakespeare’s classic play. Two-time Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington stars as Lord Macbeth, and four-time Academy Award-winner Frances McDormand, who is also Coen’s wife, plays Lady Macbeth.
And there are also a few possible trophy challengers from original material. Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) writes and directs The Card Counter (September 10), a revenge thriller starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe. Isaac plays an ex-military interrogator who can’t forget his past and someone who’s become a professional gambler.
Wes Anderson manages to reunite the most incredible cast — I’m talking Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Elisabeth Moss, Bob Balaban, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, Edward Norton, Christoph Waltz, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Angelica Huston… — in The French Dispatch (October 22). The movie is a tale about the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city.
Belfast filmmaker Kenneth Branagh goes back to his roots with Belfast (November 12), a black and white film set in his hometown in the late 1960s. The movie stars Caitríona Balfe (Outlander), Jamie Dornan (The Fall), Ciarán Hinds (Rome), frequent Branagh collaborator Dame Judi Dench and the 10-year-old Jude Hill. Belfast is based on Branagh’s own experience growing up in the Irish city.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Soggy Bottom (November 26) stars Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) and Cooper Hoffman, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s teenage son. Anderson and Philip Seymour Hoffman worked together in five movies before the actor’s death in 2014. Not much has been revealed about Soggy Bottom yet other than it’s a coming-of-age movie set in the San Fernando Valley, in California, in the 1970s.
A Few More Highly Anticipated Titles
And, believe it or not, we’re not done yet when it comes to juicy end-of-the-year releases. Fans of the iconic TV show The Sopranos will get their own Tony Soprano origin story with The Many Saints of Newark (October 1). Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, plays the young Tony. Veteran TV director Alan Taylor, who directed several episodes of the original show, helms this movie.
October will be the month when we finally see the latest and last iteration of Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time to Die (October 8). The very anticipated title had an original release date in April of 2020 and has been postponed several times due to the pandemic. Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) directs, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) wrote one of the versions of the script.
The pandemic bottleneck of releases has made it possible for two Ridley Scott-directed films to open back to back. Besides House of Gucci, the filmmaker also directs The Last Duel (October 15), a historical drama set in 14th-century France. The cast includes Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Adam Driver, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Damon and Affleck also returned to writing together — the pair won an Oscar for their script for Good Will Hunting (1997) — for this movie. Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said) shares co-writing credit with Damon and Affleck, and that can only be seen as a plus for the movie.
Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) co-writes and directs Last Night in Soho (October 29), a psychological horror thriller set in 1960s London and starring Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) and Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit).
The Netflix action-comedy flick Red Notice (November 12) stars Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds. “An Interpol-issued Red Notice is a global alert to hunt and capture the world’s most wanted. But when a daring heist brings together the FBI’s top profiler (Johnson) and two rival criminals (Gadot, Reynolds), there’s no telling what will happen,” according to Netflix’s synopsis of the movie.
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) gathered quite the impressive cast — Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara and del Toro’s good luck charm Ron Perlman — for Nightmare Alley (December 3), a psychological thriller and adaptation of a 1946 novel.
There’s also a Steven Spielberg musical reimagining of West Side Story (December 10) starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler.
Lana Wachowski returns to directing duty with The Matrix Resurrections (December 22), which stars original franchise members Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Jada Pinkett Smith but also Matrix newcomers Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff and Priyanka Chopra Jones.
And we can’t forget to mention Don’t Look Up (December 24), written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short). It stars Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio as an astronomy grad student and her professor after discovering a comet orbiting within the solar system. They have six months to warn humanity about the comet before it impacts Earth.
Fall Movie Calendar 2021
And here’s a calendar with most of the fall releases and links to their trailers. If it isn’t otherwise indicated on this list, the movie will only be available in theaters. Also, some movies have been announced but still lack specific release dates, so we’ll keep updating this calendar.
3. Cinderella (Prime Video)
3. Worth (Netflix)
3. Wild Indian (Theaters and video on demand)
10. Kate (Netflix)
10. Come From Away (Apple TV+)
10. Malignant (Theaters and the ad-free plan of HBO Max)
10. Queenpins (Theaters and coming soon to Paramount+)
10. The Card Counter
10. The Voyeurs (Prime Video)
17. The Mad Women’s Ball (Prime Video)
17. Best Sellers (Theaters and video on demand)
17. Cry Macho (Theaters and the ad-free plan of HBO Max)
17. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Prime Video)
17. The Nowhere Inn (Theaters and video on demand)
17. Blue Bayou
24. Dear Evan Hansen
24. The Starling (Netflix. In select theaters 9/17)
29. No One Gets Out Alive (Netflix)
1. The Addams Family 2 (Animation movie)
1. Stuck Together (Netflix)
1. The Guilty (Netflix. In select theaters 9/24)
1. Diana: The Musical (Netflix)
1. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (Animation movie)
1. The Many Saints of Newark (Theaters and the ad-free plan of HBO Max)
6. There’s Someone Inside Your House (Netflix)
13. Fever Dream (Netflix. In select theaters 10/6)
15. The Velvet Underground (Theaters and Apple TV+)
15. Bergman Island
15. Halloween Kills
15. The Last Duel
15. Needle in a Timestack (Theaters and video on demand)
22. Ron’s Gone Wrong (Animation movie)
22. Dune (Theaters and the ad-free plan of HBO Max)
27. Hypnotic (Netflix)
29. My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission (Animation movie)
3. The Harder They Fall (Netflix. In select theaters 10/22)
5. Finch (Apple TV+)
5. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Prime Video. In Select theaters 10/22)
10. Clifford the Big Red Dog (Theaters and Paramount+)
10. Passing (Netflix. In select theaters 10/27)
12. Red Notice (Netflix)
18. The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (Netflix)
19. tick, tick… BOOM! (Netflix. In select theaters 11/12)
19. C’Mon C’Mon
24. Bruised (Netflix. In select theaters 11/17)
24. House of Gucci
24. Encanto (Lin Manuel Miranda)
24. A Boy Called Christmas (Netflix)
26. Licorice Pizza
26. A Castle for Christmas (Netflix)
29. 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible (Netflix, movie)
1. The Power of the Dog (Netflix. In select theaters 11/17)
2. Single All the Way (Netflix)
3. Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (Netflix) (Animation movie)
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Disney+) (Animation movie)
3. Red Rocket
10. Being the Ricardos (In theaters. On Prime Video December 21)
10. West Side Story
10. The Unforgivable (Netflix. In select theaters 11/24)
15. The Hand of God (Netflix. In select theaters 12/3)
17. Nightmare Alley
17. The Tender Bar (In theaters. On Prime Video January 7)
22. The Matrix Resurrections (Theaters and the ad-free plan of HBO Max)
22. Sing 2 (Animation movie)
24. Don’t Look Up (Netflix. In select theaters 12/10)
22. The King’s Man
25. The Tragedy of Macbeth (In theaters. On Apple TV+ January 14)
31. The Lost Daughter (Netflix. In select theaters 12/17)
Back to the Outback (Netflix)