While Warner Bros. may have abandoned theatrical exclusivity for its 2021 releases, they’re not abandoning theaters. The distributor’s titles for the next year will debut concurrently on both the big screen and the small screen, through the streaming platform HBO Max.
In 2022, though, it remains possible Warner Bros. that could return to a primarily theatrical business model, as they had pre-pandemic. Statements from company leadership hinted at that scenario, with Warner Bros. chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff calling this release strategy a “unique one-year plan.”
The Little Things (January 29, 2021)
Three Academy Award winners team up in this police thriller starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). The former two play a pair of Los Angeles cops trying to solve a murder, while Leto plays their main suspect. John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) directs.
Judas and the Black Messiah (February 12, 2021)
Based on a true story, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) plays Illinois Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, and LaKeith Stanfield plays the real-life late 1960s FBI informant who infiltrated Hampton’s organization. With the Academy Award deadline extended to February 28 this year as a result of the pandemic, Warner Bros. is scheduling this film as perhaps their primary awards contender.
Tom & Jerry (February 26, 2021)
The classic animated cat and mouse rivals Tom and Jerry get the feature film treatment, in this live action / animated hybrid a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If you always get the two title characters confused, remember: Tom is the cat, as a pun on “tomcat.” Tom Story (Ride Along and 2019’s Shaft) directs.
The Many Saints of Newark (March 12, 2021)
The Sopranos, the crime drama that ran on HBO from 1999 to 2007, is often ranked as one of the best television shows of all time. The series centered on the the New Jersey mob boss character of Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini. In this theatrical prequel, the actor’s real-life son Michael Gondolfini will play a younger Tony Soprano in this 1960s- and 1970s-set origin story.
Mortal Kombat (April 16, 2021)
Based on the 11-installment video game that has been continually released since 1992, this third film installment serves as a reboot after 1995’s original of the same name and 1997’s sequel Annihilation. While this version hasn’t been officially been given a content rating by the MPA yet, the screenwriter has promised this version will be R-rated, after the two ’90s versions were both PG-13.
Godzilla vs. Kong (May 21, 2021)
A sequel to both’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla vs Kong ushers in the summer season with the showdown to beat all showdowns. Adam Wingard (2016’s Blair Witch) directs. Read our 2017 interview with Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts here.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (June 4, 2021)
The third installment in the Conjuring horror franchise, following 2013’s original and 2016’s sequel, is based on the real story of a 1981 Connecticut trial that marked the first time a defendant ever claimed demonic possession as their legal defense strategy. Michael Chaves (The Curse of la Llorona) takes over directing duties from James Wan, who helmed the first two installments.
In the Heights (June 18, 2021)
Before Lin-Manuel Miranda became the biggest Broadway star of his generation by writing and starring in Hamilton, his first Broadway musical was 2008’s In the Heights, about the lives of people in the heavily-Latino Manhattan neighborhood Washington Heights. For this film adaptation, Miranda—having aged out of the protagonist role he originated a dozen years prior—moves to a supporting role, as Hamilton co-star Anthony Ramos takes the lead. Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) directs.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (July 16, 2021)
Fresh off his 2020 NBA championship for the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James takes over the Michael Jordan lead role in this live-action / animated hybrid sequel to 1996’s Space Jam. “King James” has to team up with Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes in an intergalactic basketball game. No word on whether MJ himself will return for a cameo. Until July, you’ll just have to entertain yourself with the original 1996 Space Jam website, which remains online.
The Suicide Squad (August 6, 2021)
The sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad has an almost identical title as its predecessor, a bit like Alien and Aliens, or Coming to America and Coming 2 America. But by adding “The” to the title, this new installment returns some members of the original superhero team like Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, plus new members including Idris Elba as Bloodsport and John Cena as Peacemaker. James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) directs, jumping ship from the Marvel universe to the DC Comics universe.
Dune (October 1, 2021)
Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa star in this epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 science-fiction novel. Previously made into a movie in 1984, this new version is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival and Blade Runner 2049). Of all the movies Warner Bros. announced as debuting concurrently in theaters and on streaming in 2021, this one may have received the most blowback. Villeneuve blasted the arrangement in a Variety op-ed, while Chalamet wore a sweatshirt bearing the logo of Dune production company Legendary Entertainment while hosting Saturday Night Live, seemingly in support of the company’s opposition to the streaming arrangement and threats to sue Warner Bros.
Untitled Elvis Presley film (November 5, 2021)
Relative newcomer Austin Butler plays “the king of rock ‘n’ roll” in this untitled biopic, while Tom Hanks plays Presley’s manager Tom Parker. Hanks contracted Covid-19 in March while shooting the film, making him the first major figure to publicly announce they had the disease. Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) directs.
King Richard (November 19, 2021)
Will Smith stars as Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis superstar sisters Venus and Serena Williams, two of the sport’s best players of all time. Saniyya Sidney (Hidden Figures and Fences) plays a young Venus, while relative newcomer Demi Singleton plays a young Serena. Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) directs.
Untitled The Matrix sequel (December 22, 2021)
Though the ostensible trilogy seemingly ended many years ago, this fourth installment returns the Wachowskis directing and Keanu Reeves starring as Neo, the leader of a movement to break dormant humans away from a collective dream state known as “the Matrix.” The original film was released in 1999, while sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were released six months apart in 2003.
Untitled Sesame Street film (January 14, 2022)
Multihyphenate comedian, singer, and songwriter Bo Burnham will be writing the songs for the show’s third feature film, following 1985’s Follow That Bird and 1999’s The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Anne Hathaway stars, calling to mind Amy Adams’ lead in 2011’s The Muppets. Jonathan Krisel makes his feature film directorial debut, after helming dozens of comedy television episodes including Portlandia, Baskets, and Man Seeking Woman.
The Batman (March 4, 2022)
Robert Pattinson becomes the sixth actor to play Bruce Wayne in a feature film, in this take that director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) promises will be the darkest and grittiest version yet, leading to possible rumors of an R rating. Paul Dano plays the Riddler, Colin Farrell plays the Penguin, and Zoë Kravitz plays Catwoman.
DC Super Pets (May 20, 2022)
The premise of this CGI animated tale: while Superman is out of the house, his pet dog turns to fighting the bad guys instead. Jared Stern (screenwriter of The Lego Batman Movie) co-directs with Sam Levine. No voice cast has yet been announced.
Untitled Fantastic Beasts sequel (July 15, 2022)
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling cowrote the screenplay of this third installment in the prequel series about the wizarding world in the 1920s. Following 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, this installment returns Eddie Redmayne as protagonist Newt Scamander and replaces Johnny Depp with Mads Mikkelsen as villain Gellert Grindelwald.
The Flash (November 4, 2022)
After appearing in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, 2017’s Justice League, and a 2020 episode of Arrow as the super fast superhero The Flash, Ezra Miller gets his own movie. Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck will both play Batman, though plot details are under wraps as to how there could be two versions of the character simultaneously. Affleck last played the character in 2017’s Justice League, while Keaton last played the character in 1992’s Batman Returns.
Untitled Aquaman sequel (December 16, 2022)
Jason Mamoa returns as the title character in this DC Comics superhero sequel, taking the same mid-December release date as 2018’s blockbuster Aquaman. James Wan will once again direct the follow-up.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods (June 2, 2023)
This sequel to 2019’s superhero comedy returns Zachary Levi as the title character, a kid who can become an adult superhero with fantastical powers if anybody says the word “Shazam!” David F. Sandberg returns to direct.
Furiosa (June 23, 2023)
Arguably the most popular character from 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t the titular character but Furiosa, the one-armed militant played by Charlie Theron. Anna Taylor-Joy (currently seen on television’s The Queen’s Gambit) plays the character in this prequel origin story costarring Chris Hemsworth, with George Miller returning to direct.
Coyote vs. Acme (July 21, 2023)
The classic Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote is back in this live action / animated hybrid. Dave Green (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) directs.
The Color Purple (December 20, 2023)
The 1985 movie of the same name, based on the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, was directed by Steven Spielberg and earned an Academy Award Best Supporting Actress nomination for Oprah Winfrey. Now Spielberg and Winfrey will produce this film adaptation of the Broadway musical, about the lives of African-American women in the 1930s South.