2021 Spring Movie Preview: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Films to Look Out For

2021 Spring Movie Preview: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Films to Look Out For
From new generations of heroes to returning legends, there's a lot to look forward to at the movies. (Image: Sony, Warner Bros., MGM, Toho/Funimation, and Universal)

Something about this spring movie season just feels off, right? And no, we’re not just talking about the deadly virus we’ve been trying to eradicate for almost two years that’s, rightfully, still keeping many of us away from theatres. It’s that Hollywood expected theatres to be back in full swing by now. Despite the Delta variant likely causing shifts once more, planned summer movies are now intersecting with awards contenders and holiday releases — it makes for one of the weirdest, most robust spring movie seasons ever.

Below are just some of the big, small, and in-between sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films scheduled to hit theatres, streaming, and on-demand in the coming months. All dates are subject to change of course and unless otherwise noted, the titles are theatre-only releases.

What films are being released in September 2021?

Malignant

We don’t know too much about the plot of James Wan’s latest journey into supernatural horror except that it’s about a woman (Annabelle Wallis) plagued by violent visions seemingly beamed from the dying minds of murder victims… and somehow her childhood imaginary friend is involved. But we do know the name James Wan, which means a) this could be the start of another mega-franchise — like his Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring — and b) it’s highly likely Malignant is going to scare the bejesus out of everyone who watches it. (Theatres on October 21)

Nightbooks

Produced by Sam Raimi, directed by David Yarovesky, and written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, this one is based on J.A. White’s book. A young boy named Alex who’s always loved scary stories develops a new appreciation for them after he becomes trapped by the apartment-dwelling witch Natacha (Jessica Jones herself, Krysten Ritter) who threatens to kill him unless he can think of a different spooky tale to tell her each night. As Alex befriends Yazmin, another of the witch’s child prisoners, the pair realise that together, they may be able to figure out how to escape if they keep their wits about them. (On Netflix September 15)

Lady of the Manor

In this supernatural tale, Melanie Lynskey plays a slacker who’s half-heartedly trying to get her life together, something that kicks into high gear when she meets a ghost played by Judy Greer. Lady of the Manor is the directorial debut of Justin Long (who co-directs with his brother, Christian Long; they also wrote the script together), and frankly, the ghost stuff is just a bonus on top of the ultimate selling point here, which is “buddy comedy starring Melanie Lynskey and Judy Greer.” (September 17 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

The Wonderful

In 2021, life on Earth kind of sucks. Don’t you sometimes wish you could just…leave? Well, The Wonderful is a documentary about people who did that. Kind of. It’s about the folks who spent significant time living in space on the International Space Station. (September 17 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

Prisoners of the Ghostland

Nicolas Cage plays a criminal who’s taken out of jail and forced on a mission in the English language debut of Japanese director Sion Sono which was written by Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai. He must find the granddaughter of the local crime leader, or else he’ll blow you up. And so Cage goes off to find the woman (played by Kingsman’s Sofia Boutella) and finds a whole new, wild society. Check out our early review here. (October 30)

My Little Pony – A New Generation

The land of Equestria is in danger after generations of peace after the events of Friendship Is Magic, and it’s up to a new group of pony pals to come to the rescue and unite the distrusting horse factions and live in harmony. This one was directed by Robert Cullen and José Ucha and features the voices of Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Jane Krakowski, and more. (On Netflix September 24)

I’m Your Man

Though most everyone who meets Tom the robot is immediately enamoured with her somewhat awkward brand of charming, Alma — the one human woman he’s meant to make happy — finds him deeply unnerving in I’m Your Man. At first, it’s impossible for her to see past the technological truth of Tom’s origins, but as the two begin living together during a short trial period, she can’t help but open up to the automaton and consider whether androids might be able to cry, and if she could end up loving one. Directed by Maria Schrader and written by Jan Schomburg and Schrader, this one is based on a short story by Emma Braslavsky. (September 24 in the U.S.; December in Australia)

What films are being released in October 2021?

Mayday

After her life of misery leads to a violent twist of fate, a woman named Ana wakes up on an island that at first seems deserted but is actually inhabited by a group of other women who’ve all somehow wound up spending their days luring soldiers to their deaths using radio communications. Ana’s life on the island is strange, violent, and at times otherworldly, but she quickly finds that the world she’s stepped into might be exactly where she needed to be. This one is writer-director Karen Cinorre and you can read our early review here. (October 1 in the U.S.; stay tuned for its Australian release)

Witch Hunt

In a world where witchcraft is very real and illegal, mother and daughter Martha and Claire work as part of a massive underground network of sympathizers working to smuggle magic users across the border into Mexico where they won’t be persecuted for their powers. When the pair take in young witch sisters who’ve yet to master their powers, Claire begins to suspect that she may need to escape her stifling hometown as well in order to live freely, and the women all have to band together in order to survive in their strange world. Directed and written by Elle Callahan, you can read our early review here. (October 1 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

There’s Someone Inside Your House

From mega filmmakers/producers James Wan (Aquaman) and Shawn Levy (Free Guy) comes this adaptation of Stephanie Perkins’ New York Times bestseller about a killer in a small town who haunts you with a mask of your own face. It’s directed by Patrick Brice, the slasher stars Sarah Dugdale, Sydney Park, Kayla Heller, and more. (On Netflix October 6)

VHS 1994

Horror streamer Shudder continues its quest to take over all your nightmares with this continuation of the cult-favourite found-footage horror series. Set in 1994, it features segments directed by Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Jennifer Reeder, Ryan Prows, and Chloe Okuno — and elements like an overnight funeral-home stay, a mad scientist, supernatural weaponry, and spooky local legends that come to life. (Shudder on October 6)

Needle in a Timestack

Written and directed by John Ridley, Needle in a Timestack stars Leslie Odom Jr. and Cynthia Erivo as a couple who seem to be doing great, until the woman’s ex — played by Orlando Bloom — travels through time to break up their relationship by using the man’s ex, Freida Pinto. What the heck is going on? (October 15 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

Ron’s Gone Wrong

Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Shazam) star in Ron’s Gone Wrong, an animated adventure about a boy and his brand new, artificially intelligent best friend robot. The film was directed by Jean-Philippe Vine and Sarah Smith, co-directed by Octavio Rodriguez, and written by Peter Baynham and Smith. (October 21)

Warning

Thomas Jane (The Expanse), Annabelle Wallis (Malignant), Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four), and Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness) star in this sci-fi thriller about an artificial intelligence run amok, as well as some freaky climate-induced terrors. Basically, “Warning” is the title and an actual warning to humanity. This curious adventure was directed by Agata Alexander and written by Jason Kaye, Rob Michaelson, and Alexander. (October 22 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

Halloween Kills

Surprise! (Not!) Last seen getting awfully crispy in a basement trap laid just for him by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Michael Myers is alive and ready for another round of slaughter in this sequel to David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel-reboot of the long-running horror franchise. Curtis has said Halloween Kills will address the timely topic of mob mentality, while presumably delivering more frights and setting the stage for 2022’s Halloween Ends. This latest was written by Green, Danny McBride, and Scott Teems. (October 28)

Horror Noire

This anthology film builds off the excellent Shudder-produced documentary of the same name, with both new and established Black creators (including Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Ezra C. Daniels, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson) presenting six different horror stories, which will be combined into a single two-hour film. Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer), Tony Todd (Candyman), and Rachel True (The Craft) are among the cast members. (On Shudder October 28)

Antlers

Guillermo del Toro and David S. Goyer lend their producing bona fides to this Scott Cooper-directed film about a little boy whose teacher (Keri Russell) starts to realise there’s something (literally) monstrous about his home life. Like a lot of films on this list, Antlers — which is based on a Nick Antosca short story and also stars Jesse Plemons — was supposed to come out almost a year and a half ago, but this pre-Halloween bow feels like the perfect time for such a scary-looking tale to make its arrival. (October 28)

Eternals

Wait, so you’re telling me a group of immortal superheroes has been floating around the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning of time and they’re just popping out of their shell now? Yup. As a result, a whole new sliver of the MCU is about to open up through the Oscar-winning eyes of director Chloe Zhao. The film was written by Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo and stars…Richard Madden as Ikaris, Gemma Chan as Sersi, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Selma Hayek as Ajak, Angelina Jolie as Thena, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Barry Keoghan as Druig, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Ma Dong-seok as Gilgamesh, and Lauren Ridloff as Makkari. (October 28)

Army of Thieves

The Army of the Dead universe expands! Months after Zack Snyder’s zombie heist movie kicked off this new streaming universe, comes this prequel about the film’s safecracker (Matthias Schweighöfer, who also directs) which takes place earlier in the zombie invasion. (On Netflix October 29)

The Spine of Night

Let’s just put it this way: You are not ready for The Spine of Night. It’s a violent, R-rated, animated epic fantasy that has to been seen to be believed. Read our early review from its festival premiere and get ready to be amazed. (October 29 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission

Plus Ultra! The heroes of UA Class 1-A are back in action for a globe-trotting adventure, as Deku, Bakugo, Todoroki and their friends head worldwide to stop a cult intent on releasing chemical weapons that send people’s superpowered quirks haywire. The film was directed by Kenji Nagasaki and written by Yōsuke Kuroda. (October 29 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

What films are being released in November 2021?

Finch

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, Finch follows a sudden stellar event that leaves most of a planet a desolate wasteland. Aman named Finch (Tom Hanks) and his dog Goodyear manages to eke out an existence beneath the ground where the man uses his knowledge of robotics to develop Jeff, a sentient robot he one day hopes will look after the dog. What little time Finch has left to teach Jeff about the larger world, he wants to make the best of it because he knows that his own mortal time on Earth is limited. This one also stars Caleb Landry Jones, Samira Wiley, Laura Harrier, and Skeet Ulrich. (On Apple TV+ November 5)

No Time to Die

More like “No time to release this movie,” am I right? (Sorry, sorry…) Seriously, it feels like it’s been years since the latest, final, Daniel Craig James Bond film was set to hit theatres. But we think this is it and we’ll finally get to see the grand send-off fans have been waiting a long time for. This instalment was directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. (November 11)

Multiverse

Look, if you’re a scientist messing with time and space, don’t you know better than to actually explore it? Well, four scientists ignore that rule and end up in a very bad situation where multiple versions of themselves are running around causing chaos. Marlee Matlin co-stars in a film that comes out at a very hot time for multiverses. This one was previously titled Entangled and was directed by Gaurav Seth with a screenplay from Doug Taylor. (On-Demand November 16)

Last Night in Soho

A fashion student (Thomasin McKenzie) finds that she’s somehow travelling back through time in the body of a 1960s singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). This seems kind of fun until the singer begins experiencing acts of violence and those acts make their way across time. Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and written by him and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, we think this could be the most innovative genre film of the spring. (November 18)

The Feast

When multiple people receive mysterious invitations to a chic, exclusive dinner party being thrown somewhere in the Welsh countryside, none of them quite know what to make of the function and its eclectic hosts. As they all settle in for a night of camaraderie and good food however, they gradually realise they’ve been brought together for what might be their last meal, as the party’s not really what it seems. Directed by Lee Haven Jones and written by Roger Williams. (November 19 in the U.S.; stay tuned for an Australian release)

Robin Robin

Netflix and Aardman team up for a heartwarming seasonal adventure, about a young robin who falls from her nest to be raised by a family of mice. Directed and written by Daniel Ojari and Michael Please, this stop-motion story stars Bronte Carmichael and Amira Macey-Michael. (On Netflix November 24)

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

The iconic video game horror franchise returns to its roots in a complete reboot of the series, sending us back to the world of Raccoon City and the Spencer Mansion, as the elite forces team STARS investigates a deadly viral outbreak that’s about to put the world as they know it in shambling, brain-hungry danger. Directed and written by Johannes Roberts, this live-action film stars Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, and Neal McDonough. (November 24)

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

The latest Sony/Marvel film is directed by Andy Serkis from a screenplay by Kelly Marcel (and Tom Hardy??). Eddie Brock is learning to live as the host of an alien symbiote, but when the siren call of the mysterious, murderous Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) comes calling, Eddie and Venom are going to find themselves in for a whole world of carnage. (November 25)

A Boy Called Christmas

Monster House director (and Ghostbusters Afterlife co-writer) Gil Kenan is at the helm of this animated adventure based on the book A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig (screenplay by Kenan and Ol Parker). It’s about a boy and his trusty reindeer who set off on a quest to find the boy’s father, who himself was on a quest to find a mythical village of elves. It features the voices of Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins, Toby Jones, Maggie Smith, Kristen Wiig, Stephen Merchant, Michiel Huisman, and more. (On Netflix November TBD)

What films are being released in December 2021?

Encanto

Unlike the rest of the Madrigal family of Encanto, young Mirabel is the one member seemingly born with no innate magical abilities — an anomaly given the powerful magical known to run in the family. Though her non-magical status makes her somewhat of an outcast at home, when magic itself comes under attack, Mirabel takes it upon itself to protect the source of her family’s power, and perhaps their future. This one marks Disney’s 60th animated production and stars Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel. Directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, co-directed by Charise Castro Smith (written by Bush and Smith), it also happens to include songs written by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda — who we spoke to about the film earlier this year. (December 2)

Titane

We don’t know much about Titane. The official description reads that “a car accident irreparably changes the course of one woman’s life, sending her down a bizarre, twisted path in the search for love and acceptance.” It looks completely wild, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and is directed by Julia Ducournau, who made the incredible Raw. Sign us up. (December 2)

Dune

Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve (written by him, Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth) returns to cinemas with his highly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Boasting a star-studded cast and visuals that beg (almost literally) to be seen on the big screen, this could be the sci-fi, cinematic event of the year. And it’s just part one. You can read our early review here. (December 2)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

A direct sequel to the original two Ghostbusters films arrives this spring — from none other than the son of the director of those films, Jason Reitman (written by Gil Kenan and Reitman) — and already has seen some positive first impressions. It follows a single mother and her two kids, forced to move to a small rural town, who may just be the descendants of Egon Spengler. Expect lots of surprises and callbacks. The film stars Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, and Celeste O’Connor. And reprising their classic roles: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts. (December 2)

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Shang-Chi, Eternals, and then Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s a good spring to be a Marvel fan and, we think, it could all be leading to this. The trailer revealed Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange mistakenly opened up a multiverse for Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. And if Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock shows up, who knows who else could. What will it all mean for the future of Spider-Man? We’ll have to wait and see. Directed by Jon Watts, and written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers this Marvel/Sony project also stars Zendaya as Mary Jane Watson, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds, and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. (December 16)

Don’t Look Up

When this Adam McKay comedy (story by McKay and David Sirota) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence was first announced, it just seemed kind of smart and silly. They play scientists with proof the world is going to end but no one believes them. Now, with covid-19, vaccinations and more, what was once just a star-studded satire feels more like a horror movie. Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Ron Perlman, Arianda Grande, and Meryl Streep also star. (In theatres December 10, On Netflix December 24)

The Matrix is back.  (Screenshot: Warner Bros.) The Matrix is back. (Screenshot: Warner Bros.)

Sing 2

Personally, I didn’t love the first Sing. But it was a massive, massive hit so of course the sequel was coming — written and directed by Garth Jennings. This time, the ragtag group of performers are going to put on their biggest show yet, if only they can get a retired rocker (voiced by Bono) to return. It stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Nick Kroll, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Offerman, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Pharrell Williams, Letitia Wright, Eric André, and Chelsea Peretti. (December 26)

Back to the Outback

Isla Fisher leads a massive voice cast in this animated family adventure about a group of animals at an Australian zoo who decide to escape and find themselves in the Outback. Tim Minchin, Eric Bana, and Guy Pearce also star in this one which was directed by Clare Knight and Harry Cripps, and written by Greg Lessans, and Cripps. (On Netflix December TBD)

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Adam Sandler is gone. Genndy Tartakovsky isn’t directing (this time it’s Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon). And yet, the popular monster story continues. This time Dracula and his family have to deal with a machine that turns them into normal humans. It stars the voices of Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and more. (December TBD)