The Disney Movies Hitting Theaters in 2021 and Beyond

Black Widow (Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2020), Raya and the Last Dragon (© 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.), The King's Man (Photo Credit: Courtesy © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.)

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 WarsAvatar, Pixar, and Indiana Jones brands. Following the studio’s record $13.1 billion in global box office in 2019, its heavily hyped investor day presentation last Thursday reiterated many previously-announced theatrical commitments, as well as announcing several more for the first time.

In chronological order, here’s what big-screen enthusiasts have to look forward in the years ahead from Disney.

Note: this list only includes specific titles with a confirmed theatrical release—excluding release dates that have been booked by the studio for an as-yet-unannounced untitled Disney animation title, for example.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (February 26, 2021)

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

Based on the acclaimed West End production, 20th Century Studios’ musical follows a British 16-year-old who wants to become a drag queen in the face of opposition from many in his community and family. Jonathan Butterell, an English stage director who helped develop the original production, makes his feature film directorial debut.

Raya and the Last Dragon (March 5, 2021)

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original fantasy is set in ancient Asia, with Kelly Marie Tran and Awkafina voicing the two title characters. Directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), the film was previously set for theatrical release on November 25, 2020 until the pandemic pushed it back. Now it’s set to premiere simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ for a $30 fee.

The King’s Man (March 12, 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, which was previously scheduled for September 18, 2020.

Bob’s Burgers (April 9, 2021)

Airing on Sunday nights since 2011, the animated sitcom on Fox gets the feature film treatment from 20th Century Studios, as The Simpsons Movie did back in 2007. While this film’s plot is unknown, the show follows a family of five as they run a burger restaurant. 

Ron’s Gone Wrong (April 23, 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. 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.

Black Widow (May 7, 2021)

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow 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. The film was previously scheduled for May 1, 2020, then pushed to November 6, 2020, before settling into its current slot.

Free Guy (May 21, 2021)

Ryan Reynolds plays a video game background character who suddenly and unepxectedly becomes the main character of his game in this 20th Century Studios action comedy from director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum and The Pink Panther). The film was previously scheduled on July 3, 2020, then December 11, before settling on its current date.

Cruella (May 28, 2021)

Disney has released several other live-action remakes or reimaginings of its classic properties straight to Disney+, including Lady and the TrampMulan, and the upcoming Pinocchio and Peter Pan and Wendy. Yet so far it’s planning on keeping the origin story of the 101 Dalmatians villain Cruella de Vil theatrical. Emma Stone stars as the title character, and Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) directs.

Luca (June 18, 2021)

Courtesy: Disney / Pixar

Although Pixar’s next feature, Soul, is premiering exclusively on Disney+, their other features are still slated for theatrical release, including this original tale of a boy living on the Italian Riviera who discovers sea monsters living underwater. Enrico Casarosa (the Pixar short La Luna) directs.

Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings (July 9, 2021)

Courtesy: Disney

Marvel Studios has found box office success with superheroes relatively unknown to the general public before—think Guardians of the Galaxy—and they aim to replicate that feat here. Simu Liu stars in the title role, and Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy) directs. Previously scheduled for February 12, 2021, it was then delayed to May 7, 2021 when the pandemic interrupted filming partway through, then settled on its current release date.

Jungle Cruise (July 30, 2021)

Disney’s previous movies based on their theme park rides have included the Pirates of the Caribbean juggernaut franchise. The studios hopes to replicate the success of those films with this adventure tale starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) directs the film, which was previously scheduled for July 24, 2020.

Dark 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 UnfaithfulIndecent Proposal, and Fatal Attraction.

The Beatles: Get Back (August 27, 2021)

Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) directs this documentary about how the world’s most famous band created their classic 1970 album Let It Be, which closed with the track that gives the movie its title. Jackson hopes to replicate the acclaim of 2016’s Ron Howard documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week.

Death on the Nile (September 17, 2021)

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. Nile, which also stars Gal Gadot, was previously scheduled for October 9, 2020, then moved to December 18, before settling on its current date.

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. Duel was previously scheduled for December 25, 2020.

Eternals (November 5, 2021)

Courtesy: Disney

Marvel Studios’ superhero teamup includes Angelina Jolie as Thena in this movie from director Chloé Zhao. (Read our interview with Zhao about her Searchlight Pictures awards hopeful Nomadland, currently in theaters,  here.) Eternals was previously scheduled for November 6, 2020, then pushed to February 12, 2021 due to the pandemic, before settling on its current release date.

Encanto (November 24, 2021)

Courtesy: Disney

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ story of a magical family who live in the mountains of Colombia will feature new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda of Broadway’s Hamilton fame. Directed by directed by Byron Howard (Zootopia and Tangled) and Jared Bush (Zootopia), the film was newly announced at Disney’s Investor Day last week.

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 the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. 20th Century Studios was originally set to release the film on December 18, 2020, but pushed it back for a full year, likely to place it as a frontrunner for awards season.

Nimona (January 14, 2022)

Director Patrick Osborne marks his feature film debut in 20th Century Studios’ animated adaptation of the popular Noelle Stevenson webcomic, which centers on the teenage shapeshifter title character.

Turning Red (March 11, 2022)

Courtesy: Disney / Pixar

Pixar’s first 2022 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)

Image Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Entertainment

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. Multiverse was previously scheduled for May 7, 2021, then pushed to November 5, 2021, before settling on this date.

Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)

Image Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Entertainment

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 Love and Thunder, which officially positions Thor as the MCU character with the most solo films. (Iron Man and Captain America both have three.) Christian Bale will play villain Gorr the God Butcher in the film, which was previously scheduled for November 5, 2021.

Lightyear (June 7, 2022)

Courtesy: Disney Buzz/ Pixar

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, which tells the story not of the doll itself but of the action hero (voiced by Chris Evans) he was originally based on. Angus MacLane (Finding Dory) will direct.

Black Panther sequel (July 8, 2022)

Courtesy: Disney / Marvel

Disney has confirmed that the character of Black Panther will not be recast following star Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death earlier this year. Writer and director Ryan Coogler will return for the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther, which was previously scheduled for May 6, 2022. It is unclear which character will be the film’s lead.

Indiana Jones sequel (July 29, 2022)

Currently age 78—80 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, Steven Spielberg will hand over the reins to James Mangold (Ford v. Ferrari and Logan). Lucasfilm’s project has been delayed several times, originally scheduled for a 2019 release. It was most recently scheduled for July 9, 2021 before settling on this date.

Captain Marvel sequel (November 11, 2022)

Courtesy: Disney / Marvel

Marvel’s sequel returns Brie Larson as the title character, with Nia DaCosta (Candyman and Little Woods) directing. This installment will take place in the present day, unlike the 1995-set original. The sequel had previously been scheduled for July 8, 2022. Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani join the cast.

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 domestically 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. 

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (December 22, 2023)

Courtesy: Disney / Lucasfilm

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 title, akin to 2016’s Rogue One—which this film’s title appears to reference.

Other upcoming Disney films slated for theatrical release, though without specific announced release dates yet, include:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. James Gunn is back to direct this follow-up to Marvel’s 2014 original and 2017 sequel, slated for an unspecified date in 2023.
  • The Lion King prequel. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) will direct this prequel with  photorealistic computer animation, as was used for 2019’s The Lion King.
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Paul Rudd returns as the title character 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.
  • The Little Mermaid. Singer Halle Bailey will play the title character in this live-action remake of the 1989 animated original, featuring new music by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. Rob Marshall is no stranger to directing musicals, with a filmography that includes ChicagoInto the Woods, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • 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.
  • The 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 fantasy novel, which takes place in Africa.

News Stories