15 films we (hopefully!) will see in a movie theater in 2021, from 'Suicide Squad' to 'Top Gun 2'

Brian Truitt

Stadium seating. A big screen. Buttered popcorn and Goobers. These are a few of our favorite things about movie theaters, though many of us haven’t visited one since last March.

Since shuttering because of COVID-19 almost a year ago, select cinemas have reopened but not enough for studios to open their biggest movies in a theater. It’s a new year, however: People are getting vaccinated, and 2021 might be our grand return to moviegoing. Or it might be a disaster.

While no one’s really sure how the next several months will go at this point, the good news is there’s a slew of ready-to-be blockbusters on the as-of-right-this-second theatrical schedule, just waiting for a (probably mask-wearing, definitely social distancing) audience. Most of last year’s huge projects shifted to this year, which already was plenty busy.

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But let’s be positive! (At least until it all falls apart again.) Suffice it to say, release dates are subject to change. Here are the 15 movies that we most want to see in a movie theater in 2021:

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) gets her solo Marvel movie with "Black Widow."

1. 'Black Widow' (May 7)

It’s been 18 months since a Marvel superhero movie was unleashed on pop culture. That's too long, especially to finally see Scarlett Johansson’s founding Avenger get her own solo movie. This anticipated spy thriller might move, too, and the resulting musical chairs would probably shift around “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (July 9) and “Eternals” (Nov. 5), too.

2. 'F9' (May 28)

Have we ever needed Vin Diesel’s signature brand of vehicular mayhem and action-flick machismo more? The ninth “Fast & Furious” will undoubtedly give us many ridiculous, gravity-defying, four-wheeled shenanigans, John Cena makes his debut as Diesel’s villainous onscreen brother, and we’re dying to know how Sung Kang’s Han is still alive.

Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez return for another "Fast & Furious" installment of action-packed vehicular mayhem in "F9."

3. 'Top Gun: Maverick' (July 2)

The sequel has bounced around a couple of times after originally being slated for a 2020 summer release, so that old need for speed is at an all-time high. Tom Cruise is back in the cockpit of a fighter jet and seems as full of anti-authority attitude as he ever was, and Jon Hamm, Glen Powell and Miles Teller add modern manliness. Cruise in a fighter jet, though, is all you need to say.

4. 'The Green Knight' (July 30)

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt taking on a Disney theme-park ride with “Jungle Cruise” might be a more mainstream choice that weekend, but an Arthurian fantasy adventure directed by David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”) – with Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, whose quest involves ghosts, giants and an emerald-skinned figure – is too intriguing to resist. 

Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, from left), Peacemaker (John Cena), Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) are the newcomers to Task Force X in James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad."

5. 'The Suicide Squad' (Aug. 6)

Fingers crossed that theaters will be somewhat back in a groove by August because Margot Robbie's lovably bonkers Harley Quinn just plays better on the biggest screen possible. With the new followup, James Gunn ("Guardians of the Galaxy") gets his hands on the misfits of Task Force X – including newbies Peacemaker (Cena) and Bloodsport (Idris Elba), plus returning Squad members (with all the heavy hitters back except for Will Smith) – who are sent to take out an old Nazi lab/prison in South America. 

6. 'Respect' (Aug. 13)

Who else other than Jennifer Hudson has the pipes to match those of music legend Aretha Franklin? The biopic follows the Queen of Soul from singing in the choir at her minister father’s Detroit church to becoming a global superstar, with a stellar supporting cast including Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Tituss Burgess and Mary J. Blige.

Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has bad inspiration for his art in "Candyman"

7. 'Candyman' (Aug. 27)

The 1992 version was a creeptastic social-horror classic, and the revamp directed by Nia DaCosta and co-written/co-produced by Jordan Peele looks next level. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as an artist living in gentrified Chicago neighborhood with a freaky urban legend – about a supernatural villain with a hook for a hand – and he uses the terrifying details of the story as inspiration, which he’ll likely regret later.

8. 'Dune' (Oct. 1)

Sure, you’ll be able to watch it at home on HBO Max, too. Those ginormous sandworms are totally going to look better on a huge screen than on your iPad, though. Timothee Chalamet is a young dude and possible messiah in Denis Villeneuve’s big-budget sci-fi flick, Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson are his parents, Zendaya’s the mysterious love interest, plus Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista are on board to whoop posterior.

9. 'No Time to Die' (Oct. 8)

Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie just got punted again, from April to the fall, so maybe it'll stay here long enough for us to finally see it? Still, whenever director Cary Joji Fukunaga's action-packed spy thriller comes out, Craig's swan song taking on Rami Malek as a psycho tech supervillain is going to be cool.

Masked maniac Michael Myers returns yet again to haunt the residents of Haddonfield in "Halloween Kills."

10. 'Halloween Kills' (Oct. 15)

The last time we saw machete-loving masked maniac Michael Myers, he was left to burn alive trapped in a basement in David Gordon Green’s 2018 hit “Halloween.” Of course, the iconic horror villain will be back, and so will Jamie Lee Curtis’ heroine Laurie Strode – plus her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) – to round up some allies and take him on yet again.

11. 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' (Nov. 11)

It’s the ushering in of a new generation to continue the iconic franchise’s mythos, from fresh-faced newcomers Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace to director Jason Reitman (son of original “Ghostbusters” filmmaker Ivan Reitman). The older folks, though, are going to be psyched seeing the 1984 film’s stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts sharing the screen again.

12. 'Mission: Impossible 7' (Nov. 19)

Tom Cruise went on a raging curse-fest at crew members for breaking COVID-19 protocols, so the least we can do is shell out some money to see the efforts. Cruise will no doubt be doing a whole bunch of crazy stunts no sane person would ever try, and Ferguson also returns for another action-packed round – as does Vanessa Kirby, who might even have an Oscar when this thing is released.

13. 'West Side Story' (Dec. 10)

Alone, a new take on the classic Leonard Bernstein Broadway show has us salivating; the fact that it’s Steven Spielberg directing his first musical is the gravy and the cherry on top. Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler are the new Tony and Maria in the 1950s-set film, Ariana DeBose plays Anita and Rita Moreno (the OG Anita) is back to let the whippersnappers know how it’s done.

The Jets and Sharks are at war again in Steven Spielberg's remake of "West Side Story."

14. 'Spider-Man 3' (Dec. 17)

Believe it or not, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was the last Marvel Cinematic Universe jam to date, one that saw poor Spidey (Tom Holland) have his secret identity exposed to the world. Come on now, we've got to see how that ends up. At least the web-swinger has love on his side: Zendaya returns as Spidey's girlfriend MJ.

15. 'The Matrix 4' (Dec. 22)

Here’s the thing, no one knows what it’s about. On the other hand, does it matter? Keanu Reeves reprising his role as Neo in a revisit to the innovative sci-fi action franchise makes the so-far-secretive fourth installment a must-watch. Carrie-Anne Moss and director Lana Wachowski are back, too, while Abdul-Mateen, Neil Patrick Harris and Priyanka Chopra are among the newbies. Fingers crossed Keanu still knows kung fu. (Just kidding, of course, he does.)