The best films coming to Netflix in 2021, from Malcolm & Marie to Don’t Look Up

Nancy Durrant and Katie Rosseinsky
·6-min read
<p>John David Washington and Zendaya in Malcolm & Marie</p> (Netflix)

John David Washington and Zendaya in Malcolm & Marie

(Netflix)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as a pair of hapless astronomers, Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut - there’s plenty to look forward to on Netflix’s 2021 film line-up. Some release dates have been announced and there are more to come.

From dazzling period pieces to mega-budget action thrillers, there’s something to suit all cinematic tastes. Here are our highlights…

Malcolm & Marie

John David Washington and Zendaya filmed during lockdownDOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021
John David Washington and Zendaya filmed during lockdownDOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021

The trailer for this insanely stylish domestic drama is utterly gorgeous. Shot in black and white during lockdown, with John David Washington (Blackkklansman, Tenet) and Zendaya - who worked with the film’s director, Sam Levinson, on Euphoria, for which she became the youngest winner of an Emmy - it’s set in the home of a filmmaker after the premiere of his latest movie. As the couple awaits the critical reception, some home truths start to surface, testing their love. ND

February 5

tick, tick… BOOM!

Set in 1990, tick, tick… BOOM! tells the story of an aspiring theatre composer (Andrew Garfield) who is wondering, as he waits tables to survive and starts to buckle under pressure from his exasperated girlfriend, whether he’s made the right choice to follow his dream. It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film-directorial debut, and is based on the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, so let’s face it, they know what they’re talking about. ND

Concrete Cowboy

Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin play father and son
Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin play father and son

Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin plays a troubled teen who is packed off to spend the summer in North Philadelphia with his estranged father (Idris Elba), who introduces him to the world of urban horseback riding. Will the support of his dad - and his urban cowboy pals - help him start afresh, or will the lure of his old life prove too strong? KR

Beauty

The shade of Whitney clings to the premise of this intriguing story written by Lena Waithe, who was behind the brilliant Queen and Slim. Here, a gifted young Black woman struggles to maintain her voice and identity after she’s offered a lucrative recording contract. With her family, the label and her closest friend angling for influence, she has some tricky decisions to make. Newcomer Gracie Marie Bradley stars. ND

Don’t Look Up

The latest satirical effort from The Big Short director Adam McKay boasts the most outrageously star-studded ensemble cast we’ve seen in a while: think - deep breath - Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Chris Evans, Matthew Perry, Jonah Hill and Ariana Grande in a cameo role. Phew. Don’t Look Up follows a pair of astronomers (DiCaprio and Lawrence) who head off on a media tour to warn the unsuspecting public that an asteroid is about to wipe out Earth. Streep has spilled that she’ll be playing the US President, a casting move we can certainly get on board with. KR

The Dig

Netflix’s period drama tells the tale of the discovery of Sutton HooLARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021 
Netflix’s period drama tells the tale of the discovery of Sutton HooLARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021Â

The (then) rather pompous boffins of the British Museum do not come out well from this engaging telling of the discovery of Sutton Hoo. When Edith Pretty (a brilliantly understated Carey Mulligan) engages self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes, with an accent thicker than Anglo-Saxon mud) to excavate the strange mounds on her land, the stage is set for one of the most significant archaeological discoveries to be unearthed from British soil. ND

January 29

Blonde

2021 is shaping up to be a huge year for Ana de Armas. She’ll finally appear as a glam CIA operative in the much-postponed No Time To Die in April (fingers crossed, anyway) and will also star as Marilyn Monroe in this adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ best-selling novel, which explores the Hollywood icon’s inner life at the peak of her fame in the Fifties and Sixties. Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale star as Monroe’s husbands Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio (or, as they’re known in Oates’ story, the Playwright and the Ex-athlete). It’s produced by Brad Pitt’s Oscar-winning production outfit Plan B, the company behind films like Moonlight and 12 Years A Slave. KR

Beckett

Disappointingly not a biopic of the Irish novelist and playwright Samuel, this renamed movie (originally Born to Be Murdered, which does seem a bit giveaway-y) is at least another outing for the luminous John David Washington, this time starring opposite Alicia Vikander in a vacationing-couple-fall-into-a-violent-conspiracy thriller. It’s produced by Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino, and directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino. ND

Red Notice

Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot are three of Hollywood’s hottest properties, each with a wildly successful mega-franchise to their name, so it’s fair to say that comedy thriller Red Notice has star power to burn (they don’t come cheap, either - both Johnson and Gadot were rumoured to have picked up $20 million for their efforts). Johnson stars as an FBI behavioural profiler who is swept into the orbit of two rival criminals, an art thief (Gadot) and a con artist (Reynolds). KR

Robin Robin

Another delightful animation from Aardman Studios
Another delightful animation from Aardman Studios

Here’s a new Aardman stop-motion animation to warm your cynical heart. Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, is raised by a kindly family of mice when her egg rolls into a rubbish dump, but when she grows up, she starts to feel like a bit of an outsider. Aided by her magpie pal (Richard E. Grant), she sets off on a daring heist in a bid to prove herself - and crosses paths with a villainous cat, voiced by Gillian Anderson. It’s billed as a holiday special, so expect it to land some time late this year. KR

The Hand of God

Not, according to director and writer Paolo Sorrentino, actually about Diego Maradona, or indeed anything to do with football or sport of any kind, this Italian-language drama is instead inspired by events from Sorrentino’s youth. No, not a visit to a football match. Contents are being kept carefully under wraps but since it stars the director’s favourite actor Toni Servillo (the pair worked together on Il Divo, The Great Beauty and Loro, all brilliant) you can be sure it’ll be worth a watch. ND

The Woman in the Window

Amy Adams stars in this long-delayed adaptationMelinda Sue Gordon / Netflix Inc.
Amy Adams stars in this long-delayed adaptationMelinda Sue Gordon / Netflix Inc.

Joe Wright’s prestige adaptation of this buzzed-about novel, starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, had all the makings of a Gone Girl-sized hit - until a scandal surrounding author Dan Mallory (aka AJ Finn) threatened to engulf it. In 2019, a New Yorker investigation claimed that Mallory had fabricated a handful of details about his personal life, including the deaths of his brother and mother, and that he’d borrowed plot points from the 1995 film Copycat for his novel. Its release then got pushed further and further back after test screenings; it’s finally ended up at Netflix, and we couldn’t be more intrigued to see the end result. KR