Despite Disney’s stated focus on a direct-to-consumer model, including streaming service Disney+, the studio’s theatrical slate remains robust, including upcoming properties from the Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar, Pixar, and Indiana Jones brands.
Following the studio’s record $13.1 billion in global box office in 2019, in chronological order, here’s what big-screen enthusiasts have to look forward to in the years ahead from Disney, including their subsidiary 20th Century Studios (formerly 20th Century Fox).
Note: this list only includes specific titles with a confirmed theatrical release — excluding release dates that have been booked by the studio for as-yet-unannounced titles. For example, an as-yet-unannounced Pixar film is scheduled for June 16, 2023; that’s not listed below.
(Updated September 2021.)
Raya and the Last Dragon (March 5, 2021)
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original fantasy is set in ancient southeast Asia, with Kelly Marie Tran and Awkafina voicing the two title characters. Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting) direct. The title ultimately took in $54.7M at the domestic box office. Read our feature about the film, including interviews with both Hall and Estrada, here.
Cruella (May 28, 2021)
Emma Stone stars as the title character in this origin story of 101 Dalmatians villain Cruella de Vil. Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) directs. Following its $86.1M domestic run, a sequel has been reported, though a release date has not yet been announced.
Black Widow (July 9, 2021)
Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff gets a long-awaited solo movie after appearing in supporting roles for seven prior Marvel titles dating back to 2010’s Iron Man 2. Directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome), this Marvel Studios prequel takes place between the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. As of this writing, Black Widow‘s $183.1M box office currently ranks as the year’s top domestic release.
Jungle Cruise (July 30, 2021)
Disney’s previous movies based on their theme park rides included the Pirates of the Caribbean juggernaut franchise. The studio hoped to replicate the success of that series with this adventure tale starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) directs. As of this writing, the title has earned $110.2M domestic, and a sequel is reportedly in the works.
Free Guy (August 13, 2021)
Ryan Reynolds plays a video game background character who suddenly and unepxectedly becomes the main character of his own game in this 20th Century Studios action comedy from director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum and The Pink Panther). As of this writing, the film has earned $110.2M and counting domestically.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3, 2021)
Marvel Studios found box office success with superheroes relatively unknown to the general public before — think Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Strange — and they replicated that feat here. Simu Liu stars in the title role, with Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy) directing. The film’s $75.3M three-day / $94.6M four-day holiday opening weekend came in above even the most optimistic expectations, prompting Disney to announce later that week that all their remaining 2021 films would receive a period of theatrical exclusivity, and Shang-Chi itself had.
The Last Duel (October 15, 2021)
Director Ridley Scott reunites with his The Martian lead Matt Damon in this drama about two best friends in 14th-century France who are ordered to duel to the death. Damon co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Affleck, their second such collaboration after 1997’s Good Will Hunting, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Ron’s Gone Wrong (October 22, 2021)
20th Century Studios’ animated movie follows a world where children’s best friends aren’t fellow humans, but talking robots — except for one boy’s, whose robot (as the title implies) doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. Zach Galifianakis voices the titular Ron. Jean-Philippe Vine and Octavio E. Rodriguez direct, both having worked previously on animation for television or shorts and making their feature film debuts here.
Eternals (November 5, 2021)
Marvel Studios’ superhero teamup includes Angelina Jolie as Thena in this movie from director Chloé Zhao. The film is expected to break several barriers for on-screen representation, including both Marvel’s first deaf and first openly gay superhero depicted in a feature film. (Read our 2020 interview with Zhao about her Academy Award for Best Picture winner Nomadland here.)
Encanto (November 24, 2021)
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ story of a magical family living in the mountains of Colombia will feature new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda of Broadway’s Hamilton fame. Byron Howard (Zootopia and Tangled) and Jared Bush (Zootopia) direct.
West Side Story (December 10, 2021)
Director Steven Spielberg helms his first musical in this remake of 1961’s iconic classic, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The new version casts Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. Frequent Spielberg collaborator John Williams will not be composing the score, but that’s okay — he played piano on the 1961 original.
The King’s Man (December 22, 2021)
The action spy thriller marks the third installment in 20th Century Studios’ franchise, after 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Matthew Vaughn returns again to direct this installment.
Deep Water (August 13, 2021)
20th Century Studios’ mystery thriller stars Ben Affleck as a man who becomes the prime suspect when his wife and mistress both go missing. Adrian Lyne is no stranger to directing these types of films, helming such marriage-gone-wrong thrillers as Unfaithful, Indecent Proposal, and Fatal Attraction.
Death on the Nile (February 11, 2022)
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as one of literature’s iconic detectives, Hercule Poirot, in this follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. Gal Gadot also costars in this murder mystery.
Turning Red (March 11, 2022)
Pixar’s upcoming release features perhaps its most outlandish plot to date… and this is coming from a studio who once made a movie about a man whose house floats away on balloons. Domee Shi (the Pixar short Bao) makes her feature film debut with this tale of a teenager who, when her emotions get the best of her, transforms into a giant red panda.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the title character in this Marvel Studios sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange. Sam Raimi makes his Marvel Cinematic Universe directorial debut, after previously directing the three 2000s-era Spider-Man films which weren’t connected to the MCU.
Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
Chris Hemsworth returns as the title character in this fourth Marvel Studios installment, following 2011’s Thor, 2013’s The Dark World, and 2017’s Ragnarok. That last installment’s director Taika Waititi returns for this one, which officially positions Thor as the MCU character with the most solo films, with four. (Iron Man and Captain America both have three.) Christian Bale will play villain Gorr the God Butcher.
Bob’s Burgers (May 27, 2022)
Following in the footsteps of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie, this long-running animated Fox comedy will receive the feature film treatment. Airing since 2011, the show chronicles the misadventures of the Belcher family as they attempt to run a restaurant.
Lightyear (June 17, 2022)
Astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase “To infinity and beyond!” has become iconic after appearances in 1995’s Toy Story through 2019’s Toy Story 4. Pixar gives a new twist to Buzz’s origin story with Lightyear, now voiced by Chris Evans instead of Tim Allen. Angus MacLane (Finding Dory) will direct.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (July 8, 2022)
Disney has confirmed that the character of Black Panther will not be recast following star Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death in 2020. Writer and director Ryan Coogler will return for the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther. It is unclear which character will be this film’s lead or if it will take more of an ensemble approach, with most of the supporting cast from the first installment coming back.
Indiana Jones 5 (July 29, 2022)
80 years old by the time this movie comes out, Harrison Ford will return for this fifth and supposedly final installment as the iconic adventurer. After directing the first four installments — 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — Steven Spielberg will hand over the reins to James Mangold (Ford v. Ferrari and Logan).
The Marvels (November 11, 2022)
Marvel’s sequel to Captain Marvel returns Brie Larson as that title character, with two other women jointly being added as fellow “Marvels” — Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau (first introduced in the Disney+ series WandaVision) and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel (to be introduced in the forthcoming Disney+ series of the same name). Nia DaCosta (Candyman and Little Woods) will direct. This installment is expected to take place in the present day, unlike the 1995-set original.
Avatar sequel (December 16, 2022)
James Cameron returns to direct a follow-up to his 2009 science fiction blockbuster for 20th Century Studios. The original became the highest grossing movie of all time domestically for six years until 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the top movie of all time globally for almost 10 years until 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. A third, fourth, and fifth Avatar installment are scheduled for December 2024, December 2026, and December 2028, respectively.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 17, 2023)
Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly return as the title characters in this third installment for Marvel, following 2015’s original and 2018 sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp. Peyton Reed returns to direct for the third time.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
James Gunn is back to direct this follow-up to Marvel Studios’ 2014 original and 2017 sequel, with Chris Pratt returning as Star-Lord, the leader of a ragtag group of spacefaring misfits who enjoy listening to ’70s and ’80s music during their fight scenes.
The Little Mermaid (May 26, 2023)
Halle Bailey stars as the title character in this live-action adaptation of 1989’s animated classic, with Javier Bardem as her father King Triton and Melissa McCarthy as the villain Ursula. Lin-Manuel Miranda will write new original songs, in addition to the old songs which are also expected to return. Rob Marshall is no stranger to directing musicals, with a filmography that includes Chicago, Into the Woods, and Mary Poppins Returns.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (December 22, 2023)
Although the main chronology of the nine Star Wars films concluded with 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm recruited director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman 1984) to helm this standalone spinoff title, akin to 2016’s Rogue One — which this film’s title may appear to reference.
Other upcoming Disney films slated for theatrical release, though without specific announced release dates yet, include:
- The Lion King prequel. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) will direct this prequel with photorealistic computer animation, as was used for 2019’s The Lion King.
- Taika Waititi Star Wars movie. The director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit is likely to put his own quirky spin on the Star Wars franchise in this standalone installment.
- Blade. Mahershala Ali will star in the title role for perhaps Marvel’s thematically “darkest” superhero, considering the 1998 original and 2002 sequel starring Wesley Snipes were both rated R.
- Fantastic Four. Marvel will give it another go rebooting this superhero quartet, with Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home) directing. Hopefully the third time will be the charm, after a 2005 original and 2015 reboot both failed to spark at the box office.
- Children of Blood & Bone. Lucasfilm has acquired the rights to Tomi Adeyemi’s bestselling fantasy novel, which takes place in Africa.