Universal, along with Warner Bros. and Disney, is among the major studios who have distributed the most films theatrically during the Covid-19 pandemic—a position it’s likely to maintain moving into 2021 and 2022.
That’s thanks to Universal’s unprecedented deals for a dramatically shortened theatrical window with exhibitors AMC, Cinemark, and Cineplex. While Disney’s strategy has included releasing select films on Disney+ and Warner Bros. will release all their 2021 titles concurrently in both theaters and on HBO Max, Universal will maintain initial theatrical exclusivity—albeit with a shortened window in some cases—for virtually all their upcoming titles.
Nobody (February 26, 2021)
Bob Odenkirk, best known for playing the title character of television’s Better Call Saul, plays a mild-mannered suburbanite who inadvertently gets caught up in a drug lord’s revenge plot in this crime drama. Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) directs the R-rated thriller.
Bios (April 16, 2021)
Tom Hanks makes a rare appearance starring in a science-fiction film, an unusual genre for him, in this futuristic tale about the last man on earth who creates a robot to keep him company. Miguel Sapochnik, who helmed six episodes of Game of Thrones, directs the original screenplay.
Marry Me (May 14, 2021)
Based on a webcomic and later a graphic novel by Bobby Crosby, this romantic comedy stars Jennifer Lopez as a superstar singer who makes an impromptu decision to actually marry a guy (Owen Wilson) holding up a “Marry me” sign at her concert. J-Lo has already released several songs from the upcoming film’s soundtrack. Kat Coiro directs; she’s helmed episodes of several major television comedies, including Modern Family, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
F9 (May 28, 2021)
The Fast and the Furious franchise premiered in 2001 and shows little sign of slowing down. John Cena joins the cast as Vin Diesel’s character’s younger brother in this car-centered action thriller. Justin Lin—who directed the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth installments—returns after a two-movie break to direct the ninth.
Spirit Untamed (June 4, 2021)
This animated movie about a 12-year-old girl and her horse named Spirit is based on the animated Netflix television series Spirit Riding Free, which has been airing since 2017. The feature film adaptation will not go straight to Netflix, however, opting for a theatrical release instead.
Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 2, 2021)
The second installment in the animated Minions spinoff franchise—and the fifth in the Despicable Me franchise overall—stars Steve Carell as the voice of Gru, this time in a prequel chronicling how he became evil in the first place as a 12-year-old in the 1970s. Kyle Balda, who directed both 2015’s Minions and 2017’s Despicable Me 3, returns.
The Forever Purge (July 9, 2021)
The fifth and (supposedly) final installment of the horror franchise takes place in an America where all laws are suspended for one night, allowing for utter mayhem. James DeMonaco, who wrote the first four installments, returns to write this one as well; read our 2016 interview with DeMonaco about that year’s installment The Purge: Election Year here.
Old (July 23, 2021)
Little is known about the plot of this next film from M. Night Shyamalan, the writer-director behind The Sixth Sense, Signs, Split, and Glass. The cryptic poster features an image of bodies falling like sand from an hourglass, with a tagline provides only the vaguest hint of the premise: “It’s only a matter of time.”
Candyman (August 27, 2021)
The fourth film in the horror franchise—after 1992’s original installment of the same name, 1995’s Farewell to the Flesh, and 1999 ‘s Day of the Dead—follows people haunted by a murderous ghost nicknamed “the Candyman,” who can be summoned by saying his name aloud five times. (The real question: why anybody would actually do this after learning about the legend, knowing it could likely get them murdered?) Nia DaCosta directs, before her turn helming the Captain Marvel sequel.
The Boss Baby: Family Business (September 17, 2021)
Alec Baldwin, coming shortly after his Saturday Night Live impersonation of Donald Trump will no longer be of much use, returns to voice the infant who doubles as a secret agent. Tom McGrath returns to direct the animated sequel to 2017’s The Boss Baby, with a voice cast including Jimmy Kimmel and Jeff Goldblum.
Halloween Kills (October 15, 2021)
The 12th installment in the Halloween slasher horror franchise, which dates back to 1978, will once again return Nick Castle as the iconic villain Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis playing his main attempted victim Laurie Strode. Pretty incredible how those two keep running into each other through the decades.
Sing 2 (December 22, 2021)
This animated sequel to 2016’s movie about animals who perform hit pop and rock songs sees Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, and Reese Witherspoon return to the voice cast. Several music superstars—including U2’s Bono, Pharrell Williams, and Halsey (who’s notched two Billboard #1 songs in the last five years)—also join this installment. Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet return to direct.
The 355 (January 14, 2022)
Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, and Bingbing Fan team up as part of an all-female in this action spy thriller. The title comes from the real-life anonymous female spy during the Revolutionary War known only as Agent 355. Simon Kinberg (Dark Phoenix) directs.
Jurassic World: Dominion (June 10, 2022)
This third installment of the dinosaur sequel series follows 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Fallen Kingdom. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return along with the original 1994 Jurassic Park stars of Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Sam Neill. Colin Trevorrow, who directed 2015’s Jurassic World but didn’t helm the sequel, returns once again for part three.
Untitled Jordan Peele horror film (July 22, 2022)
Nothing is yet publicly known about this project, with no cast or plot yet announced. But writer-director Jordan Peele should be enough to sell this movie in his third feature film installment, after the joint box office smashes (and critical darlings) Get Out in 2017 and Us in 2019.
Halloween Ends (October 14, 2022)
The unlucky 13th installment of the Halloween franchise arrives one year after the 12st installment. The two projects shot at the same time, with David Gordon Green—who also directed 2018’s Halloween—helming both.
The Bad Guys (2022)
Based on a series of children’s books by Aaron Blabey, the animated movie centers on several animal characters who team up to commit heists—think an anthropomorphic version of Ocean’s Eleven. Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, and Marc Maron feature in the voice cast. Pierre Perifel makes his feature film directorial debut, after working in the animation department for installments in the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda franchises.