Best New Movies Coming Out Fall 2021: Upcoming Movies You Need to See

Image by Grace Han for Thrillist

It’s beginning to feel like the movies are (tentatively) back! After a tumultuous year of hurried theater closures and cobbled-together hybrid releases, the traditional release calendar has finally stabilized a bit. Sure, Tom Cruise’s long-delayed Top Gun: Maverick hit the eject button and landed on a 2022 release, but other big-budget projects—like Dune, No Time to Die, The Eternals, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar hopeful West Side Story—will be (most likely) arriving on schedule through the fall. Though the pandemic is far from over, blockbusters have not fully retreated into your living room.

In addition to those huge-scale movies, the fall will also bring a number of independent releases and streaming debuts that you’ll want to keep tabs on. Below, you’ll find a list of 30 movies we’re looking forward to over the next few months. Like Neo and Trinity taking the red pill and flying through the Matrix one more time, we’re ready to go back to the movies.

ALSO READ: 26 TV Shows to Tune Into This Fall

jessica chastain and andrew garfield in the eyes of tammy faye
Searchlight Pictures

The Eyes of Tammy Faye — 9/17 in theaters

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director: Michael Showalter (The Big Sick)
Why we’re excited: Jessica Chastain is one of the finest actors of her generation, and selected the role of Tammy Faye Bakker for herself to play after buying the rights to a documentary about the televangelists’ life. This biopic can fall into some well-trod territory, but it’s anchored by the sweetest of Chastain’s work, which is about so much more than makeup.
(Watch the trailer)

Cry Macho — 9/17 in theaters & HBO Max

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven
Director: Clint Eastwood (The Mule)
Why we’re excited: At 91 years old, Clint Eastwood is still directing, producing, and starring in movies. The man simply won’t stop working, showing up on set every day to craft another thoughtful meditation on the complexities of heroism, and we can’t stop going to his movies, either. Cry Macho, based on a 1975 novel by writer N. Richard Nash, finds Eastwood riding a horse again as a retired rodeo star tasked with retrieving his ex-boss’s son from Mexico. More important: There’s a rooster named Macho in it.
(Watch the trailer)

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley, Nick Cassavetes
Director: Sion Sono (The Forest of Love)
Why we’re excited: After earning raves for his tender performance in the meditative drama Pig, Nicolas Cage returns to the gonzo genre zone with this action thriller about a notorious bank robber (Cage) freed from prison to find a warlord’s missing granddaughter. It sounds like a little bit of Mad Max mixed with some Escape From New York and some Crank thrown in there. A potentially potent combo! 
(Watch the trailer)

Cast: Carrie Brownstein, St. Vincent, Dakota Johnson
Director: Bill Benz
Why we’re excited: We were taken by this meta mockumentary featuring real life friends Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) when it premiered way back at Sundance in 2020. It’s an often trippy, often funny dissection of Clark’s rockstar persona and what fans expect from celebrities.
(Watch the trailer)

gerard butler in copshop
Open Road Films

Copshop — 9/17 in theaters

Cast: Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder, Toby Huss
Director: Joe Carnahan (Boss Level)
Why we’re excited: It’s about time someone put Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo, two of modern action moviedom’s most consistently underrated stars, in a movie together, and Joe Carnahan, the director behind this year’s Grillo time loop thriller Boss Level, seems like the right filmmaker for the job. Despite the title, Butler and Grillo don’t actually play cops in this. Instead, they’ve been cast as a con artist and a hitman, respectively.
(Watch the trailer)

Dear Evan Hansen — 9/24 in theaters 

Cast: Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever
Director: Stephen Chbosky (Wonder)
Why we’re excited: The Tony-winning Broadway show is now a movie musical with an all-star cast. Ben Platt is (somewhat controversially) still in the title role as Evan Hansen, a teenager with crippling anxiety who unwittingly becomes the center of attention at his school when his name is found on a classmate’s suicide note. That note, which the parents of the deceased child think was written to Evan, was actually written by Evan as part of an exercise from his therapist. Evan, finding solace in this new family, invents the story that he and their dead son were best friends. It’s a tricky story; we’ll see how the movie pulls it off.
(Watch the trailer)

The Guilty — 9/24 in theaters and 10/1 on Netflix

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough, Paul Dano
Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)
Why we’re excited: A remake of the 2018 Danish thriller of the same name, The Guilty stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a 911 operator who receives a call from an abducted woman pretending to talk to her child on the phone. When the operator realizes what’s going on, he moves heaven and earth while stuck inside his dispatch center, determined to bring the woman back alive.
(Watch the trailer)

Cast: Alessandro Nivola, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Leslie Odom Jr.
Director: Alan Taylor (Terminator Genisys)
Why we’re excited: The Many Saints of Newark is the long-awaited Sopranos prequel movie from writer David Chase, the creator of the original series, and it reportedly focuses on Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), the father of Michael Imperioli’s character Christopher. It’s always a little dicey when a writer or director returns to a beloved set of characters years later—and, obviously, prequel stories can be hit or miss—but, come on, we can’t wait to see this. Plus, it gives us an excuse to mention that Chase’s last movie, 2012’s Not Fade Away, remains an underrated gem.
(Watch the trailer)

tom hardy in venom let there be carnage
Sony Pictures

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson
Director: Andy Serkis (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle)
Why we’re excited: Tom Hardy gave one of the most unhinged, wonderful performances in any superhero movie ever in the first Venom, so we can’t wait to see him back as Eddie and his Symbiote pal in this installation with an objectively funny subtitle. Maybe he’ll eat another live crustacean.
(Watch the trailer)

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation)
Why we’re excited: It’s been a rough road to Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond. First Danny Boyle left the project, and then production had to be shut down midway through after Craig suffered an injury. Then the movie’s release got delayed multiple times by a global pandemic. But Fukunaga, best known for the first season of True Detective, is an inspired choice of a director, and the franchise is adding some necessary new blood, like Lashana Lynch as a fellow super spy and foil for the main man.
(Watch the trailer)

Halloween Kills — 10/15 in theaters & Peacock

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall 
Director: David Gordon Green (Halloween)
Why we’re excited: The perpetually unkillable Michael Meyers returns in this sequel to 2018’s Halloween, which served as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. Jamie Lee Curtis will also return as Laurie Strode, who truly cannot catch a break. Hopefully this sequel is just about her taking a peaceful vacation—she’s earned it.
(Watch the teaser)

The Last Duel — 10/15 in theaters

Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck
Director: Ridley Scott (Gladiator)
Why we’re excited: This is the Ridley Scott movie coming out this fall that doesn’t involve Lady Gaga crossing herself and saying, “Father, son, and House of Gucci.” Instead, The Last Duel is a tense-looking period piece set in 14th-century France that features a script co-written by stars (and Good Will Hunting scribes) Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and filmmaker Nicole Holofcener. Scott started his feature career with 1977’s The Duelists, so he knows a thing or two about angry men swinging swords at each other.
(Watch the trailer)

josh brolin and oscar isaac in dune
Warner Brothers

Dune — 10/22 in theaters & HBO Max

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa
Director: Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049)
Why we’re excited: One of the greatest space operas ever written is being adapted into a movie (again), and from what we’ve seen, it looks pretty cool—especially if you like big space worms. Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, the son of a noble house ruling in the far future over the spice planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, where, after a catastrophe shakes his family, he must journey out into the sand to find his destiny. Oscar Isaac, sporting an impressive beard, plays Paul’s dad and Rebecca Ferguson plays his mother, and pretty much every supporting role is filled by a famous face.
(Watch the trailer)

The French Dispatch — 10/22 in theaters

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and so many more
Director: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Why we’re excited: Love him or hate him, there’s always reason to be excited for a new Wes Anderson movie. This one brings his meticulous eye to the staff of a New Yorker-type magazine based in France. The vignettes star all of his favorite players and some new faces, among them Timothée Chalamet, who of course was going to end up in a Wes Anderson movie eventually.
(Watch the trailer)

Last Night in Soho — 10/29 in theaters 

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Thomasin McKenzie
Director: Edgar Wright (Baby Driver)
Why we’re excited: A time-travel romance between a fashion designer and a 1960s crooner directed by Edgar Wright? We love everything about that sentence.
(Watch the trailer)

Eternals — 11/5 in theaters

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Kit Harington
Director: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
Why we’re excited: With one of the most stacked casts in Marvel history, and one of the coolest-sounding plots (a bunch of immortal beings who have influenced Earth’s major events throughout history must reunite to save themselves from a bunch of people called deviants sounds sick), Eternals will very likely bring the heat to the movie theater come fall.
(Watch the trailer)

Spencer — 11/5 in theaters

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Sean Harris
Director: Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
Why we’re excited: Kristen Stewart has already earned widespread acclaim for her work as Princess Diana in this film billed as a “fable.” If you’ve seen Larraín’s previous take on public figurehead, Jackie, you know you’re not going to get the standard biopic take.
(Watch the trailer)

dwayne johnson, ryan reynolds, and gal gadot in red notice
Netflix

Red Notice — 11/12 on Netflix

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper)
Why we’re excited: Two rival master thieves (Gadot and Reynolds) tagged with “red notices,” a global alert that puts them on the most-wanted list, come face to face with the FBI’s top profiler (Johnson, naturally), resulting in total crime caper chaos wherever they land. Quips, explosions, and all the other expected shenanigans ensue.
(Watch the trailer)

Belfast — 11/12 in theaters

Cast: Jude Hill, Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench
Director: Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express)
Why we’re excited: Shot in striking black-and-white, this semi-autobiographical drama from Kenneth Branagh tells the story of a young boy (Jude Hill) growing up in Northern Ireland during the chaos and upheaval of the late 1960s. Judging from the trailer, lessons will be learned, laughs will be had, songs will be sung, and, quite possibly, Oscar nominations will be handed out in the near future.
(Watch the trailer)

The Power of the Dog — 11/17 in theaters and 12/1 on Netflix

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: Jane Campion (Bright Star)
Why we’re excited: Director Jane Campion’s first feature in more than 10 years adapts a novel by Thomas Savage about lust and masculinity in the American West. Benedict Cumberbatch is reportedly excellent as Phil Burbank, a cruel rancher, whose life is upended when his brother (Jesse Plemons) brings his wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to his territory.
(Watch the trailer)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife — 11/19 in theaters

Cast: Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon
Director: Jason Reitman (The Front Runner)
Why we’re excited: To be honest, the idea of living through another Ghostbusers movie release press cycle is not terribly exciting. But, if the movie franchise gods insist that there must be another Ghostbusters movie for some reason, at least this one has Paul Rudd. Funny guy, right? Hopefully he gets to interact with Slimer, along with new sensation Muncher. 
(Watch the trailer)

king richard
Warner Brothers

King Richard — 11/19 in theaters & HBO Max

Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green (Joe Bell)
Why we’re excited: After starring in Gemini Man and Bad Boys for Life, Will Smith appears to be transferring out of “action movie” mode and going back into “Oscar tearjerker” mode with this sports drama centered around Richard Williams, the driven father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. Expect plenty of big speeches, tender heart-to-hearts, and tense confrontations on the court. It might even inspire you to pick up a racket.
(Watch the trailer)

House of Gucci — 11/24 in theaters

Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino
Director: Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World)
Why we’re excited: “Father, son, and House of Gucci.” Basically, we’ve been playing the trailer for Ridley Scott’s take on the murder of Mauricio Gucci (Adam Driver) in a hit ordered by his wife, Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga). The clothes are ’80s fabulous, the accents are wild, and we can’t wait.
(Watch the trailer)

Licorice Pizza — 11/26 in theaters

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)
Why we’re excited: C’mon, it’s a new PTA. Of course we’re excited! What once had the working title of Soggy Bottom is now Licorice Pizza. We obviously don’t know much about the plot, but it takes place in 1970s Los Angeles, and stars Bradley Cooper, a Haim sister, and the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Nightmare Alley — 12/3 in theaters

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette
Director: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)
Why we’re excited: Based on the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley stars Bradley Cooper as an ambitious and manipulative carny who teams up with a crooked psychiatrist to swindle people by pretending to be able to speak to the dead. (The story was previously adapted into a classic 1947 movie starring Tyrone Power.) This will be del Toro’s first feature with no supernatural elements, a dark, dirty noir with an absolutely incredible cast.

leonardo dicaprio and jennifer lawrence in don't look up
Netflix

Don’t Look Up — 12/10 in theaters and 12/24 on Netflix

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep
Director: Adam McKay (Vice)
Why we’re excited: When a pair of low-level astronomers discover a comet hurtling toward Earth, they embark on a nationwide media tour to convince people to do something about it. Dripping with Adam McKay’s special brand of dark humor, the film features a murderers row of fantastic actors trying to figure out how to save the world from total disaster.
(Watch the trailer)

West Side Story — 12/10 in theaters

Cast: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, Rita Moreno 
Director: Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One)
Why we’re excited: Remaking what is widely regarded as one of the greatest movie musicals of all time is a risky proposition, but West Side Story warrants an update. The original, albeit a classic, was filled with insensitive brown-face and actors who didn’t sing. Now, Spielberg is taking a stab at it, with an updated book written by Tony Kushner and new choreography from ballet star Justin Peck. We’re ready to mambo.
(Watch the trailer)

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina
Director: Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Why we’re excited: It’s going to be hard for this movie to be as entertaining as the casting rumors about this movie have been. Turns out, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is bringing back tons of players from past Spider-Man movies, like Jamie Foxx and Alfred Molina in what appears to be an attempt to conjure the multiverse. Previous Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield might even reprise their roles, too. Sounds wild.
(Watch the trailer)

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick
Director: Lana Wachowski (Jupiter Ascending)
Why we’re excited: How could we NOT be excited to return to the Matrix after all these years?? We have only a vague idea what the plot of this movie is going to be, but we suspect it may have something to do with a guy nicknamed “The One,” and perhaps an evil computer program, and perhaps a lot of fight scenes where people lean really, really far backwards.
(Watch the trailer)

the king's man
20th Century Studios

The King’s Man — 12/22 in theaters

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Harris Dickinson
Director: Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Why we’re excited: With its cartoonish gunplay and blunt sense of humor, the world of the Kingsman series, drawn from the pages of the comic franchise created by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, can be a little off-putting, and the last sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, felt a little overstuffed. This prequel will hopefully serve as a slightly pared-back return to form, with Ralph Fiennes stepping into the starring role.
(Watch the trailer)

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