That was January, back when we were still looking ahead at 2020 with blind optimism and ill-fated excitement. Sigh, hindsight is 20/20 they say, right? Who knew. At the time, we had 50 exciting new titles we were anticipating, most of which have since been either postponed, dumped to VOD, or relegated to a limbo state.
It’s been an unnerving year for the film industry, to say the least. A year fraught with shutdowns, furloughs, layoffs, bankruptcies, and re-evaluations. All of that change has prompted a seismic shift in how everything’s run across the media landscape, and no one truly has a grip on things just yet. Odds are they won’t for quite some time.
Because of this, anticipating anything right now — let alone anything in pop culture — seems like a fool’s errand. Alas, Hollywood is still trying to salvage what it can, and here we are … a bunch of fools … trying to make the most sense out of it. And so, as we’ve done in pre-pandemic times, we’ve put together what’s left to anticipate.
All things considered, it’s not too shabby. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will see the light of day, Netflix has a number of Oscar candidates heading to your living room, and there’s plenty of tricks and treats for spooky season. What’s more, if things stay the course, we might actually see the return of Bond and Wonder Woman.
It’s a mess, admittedly, and a lot of these dates hinge on the expectation that audiences will return to theaters, which isn’t ideal in the slightest. But, if there’s a silver lining to this list, it’s the notion that pop culture does endure. More importantly, it’s the comfort in knowing that there are still new escapes to be had in 2020 — and we’ll need ’em.
Having said that, here’s hoping most (if not all) opt for the safety of Video On-Demand. And in the event you do wind up going to the theaters, maintain social distancing at all costs, be mindful of others, and for Christ’s sake, wear a goddamn mask.
Release Date: September 2nd via WB
By now, you’re probably exhausted hearing about Tenet. All summer long — and really, ever since the pandemic started — the great debate has been whether or not Christopher Nolan will see his colossal blockbuster hit theaters. Well, after multiple delays and enough chatter to break a nation of teeth, the goddamn thing is finally seeing the flickering light of the silver screen. Reviews have insofar been divisive — some say it’s too ambitious, others say it’s his latest masterpiece — but the overall consensus is that Tenet warrants the Big Show experience. Whatever, dude, let’s just see it, already.
Release Date: September 4th via Disney+
Like Warner Bros. and Tenet, Disney had also been adamant on keeping Mulan a summer release, refusing to delay the picture for months on end. However, unlike Warner Bros. and Tenet, they opted out of the theater-going experience. Instead, they’re treating Niki Caro’s live-action adaptation like a canary in a coalmine, dropping it on their Disney+ network with the hopes that families across the world will plunker down $30 bucks to rent it. Whether or not this is successful will likely determine the fate of countless other tentpoles (and any other film for that matter). Still, we’re going to miss Mushu.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Release Date: September 4th via Netflix
Been awhile since anyone’s seen Charlie Kaufman. Well, as promised, Hollywood’s most brazen screenwriter has returned with his forthcoming adaptation of Iain Reid’s novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Without spoiling too much, the story follows a young man and his girlfriend on a road trip to meet his parents on their secluded farm, only she’s ready to exit stage left. Rest assured, it’s far more complicated than that, and you can expect to have a nice existential crisis by the time the credits roll and Netflix tries to sell you on Love Is Blind. Given Kaufman’s resume, that all sounds about par for the course.
Release Date: September 12th via HBO
The pandemic has paved the way for all kinds of experimental works. Take Shudder’s Host, for instance. Well, HBO’s trying their hand with Coastal Elites. Directed by Jay Roach and written by playwright Paul Rudnick, the film follows five characters who discuss their lives amidst this year’s pandemic, particularly how politics have divided everyone. It’s all told in a confessional-style manner — think: Zoom chat windows — that will rely solely on the performances of its cast. Fortunately for Roach, he put together one hell of a cast: Issa Rae, Dan Levy, Bette Midler, Sarah Paulson, and Kaitlyn Dever.
The Devil All the Time
Release Date: September 16th via Netflix
Weeks before The Haunting of Bly Manor opens its doors, Netflix is offering up another Gothic tale with The Devil All the Time. Based on Donald Ray Pollock’s 2011 debut novel, the story charts the violence and crimes of disparate characters in rural Ohio from the end of World War II to the beginning of the Vietnam War. Directed by Antonio Campos (Simon Killer, Christine) and produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, the true sell is the all-star cast that includes — grab a pen — Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård, and Mia Wasikowska. Christ, almighty, indeed.
The King’s Man
September 16th via 20th Century Studios February 26th, 2021 via 20th Century Studios
Update: Well, that was fast. The spy prequel has been bumped to 2021.
For those of you who keep tossing and turning at night, wondering when all the secrets behind The Kingsman franchise will be revealed, your day of reckoning arrives soon. Director Matthew Vaughn has returned with a WWI-set prequel that spills the origins of the titular spy agency through the eyes of the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) and his protege Conrad (Harris Dickinson). Recent interviews with Vaughn suggest that the story for The King’s Man will also lay the groundwork for The Kingsman 3, which perhaps begs the question: How much Kingsman is too much Kingsman?
Release Date: September 18th via Lionsgate
Even after all of its delays, we still know very little about Antebellum, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. What we do know is that Janelle Monáe plays a modern-day author, who suddenly wakes up as a slave in the pre-Civil War South. On paper, that reads like a terrifying episode of The Twilight Zone, which is why we’re curious to see how it’ll play out. We’ll learn soon enough as Lionsgate is issuing Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’s thriller on Premium Video On-Demand just in time for spooky season. Based on the little we’ve heard of its score, we’re in for a rather unnerving tale.
Release Date: September 23rd via Netflix
Thanks to the pandemic, Netflix won’t be returning to Hawkins, Indiana this year for Stranger Things 4. Instead, they’ve got Millie Bobby Brown solving mysteries in Enola Holmes. Based on Nancy Springer’s popular book series, the forthcoming adaptation finds Brown playing the younger, gifted sibling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Henry Cavill plays the legendary detective, hiding his Kryptonian mug underneath that iconic deerstalker, while Helena Bonham Carter keeps the family together as their mother, Eudoria Holmes. Make no mistake, none of this is elementary.
Release Date: October 1st via Shudder
Shudder is celebrating 61 Days of Halloween this year, and Scare Me pops up halfway through the marathon. Directed by Josh Ruben in his feature film debut, this Sundance charmer follows two aspiring writers shacked up in a wintry cabin amidst a power outage. To bide the time, they begin sharing spooky stories, only for a competitive streak to form between them. The chill becomes all too real when they’re joined by an unlucky pizza delivery man who also happens to be a horror fan. Ruben pulls double duty by also starring in the film alongside Aya Cash (You’re the Worst) and Chris Redd (SNL).
Wonder Woman 1984
Release Date: October 2nd via Warner Bros.
It’s perhaps telling that the latest trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 has no date at the end. Even so, all signs point to an early October release for Diana Prince’s retro rollercoaster. After all, if Warner Bros. is putting out Tenet in September, why wouldn’t they do the same for their DC tentpole a month later? They certainly have an audience waiting. Given the online reception this past weekend following the film’s panel at DC FanDome, the hype is sweltering for Patty Jenkins‘ sequel. So, barring any major announcement, expect to see Gal Gadot kicking off October with the best costume of the month.
Release Date: October 16th via Universal
Will Candyman appear in the mirror this October? Tough to say. Universal pushed back Halloween Kills a whole year, so one might assume they’d do the same for Nia DaCosta‘s highly anticipated reboot. Alas, as of publication, the Chicago beekeeper is still buzzing around the calendar as the only major horror title left on the slate. And given DaCosta’s reaction to Disney’s plans for Mulan, you can probably take VOD off the table. So, expect to either hear about a shift in the weeks to come, or prepare to grab tickets and heed caution. In other words, keep the bathroom door open.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Release Date: October 16th via Netflix
Say what you will about Aaron Sorkin, but the guy is certainly punctual. His latest feature The Trial of the Chicago 7 arrives within an arm’s reach of the 2020 election and concerns itself with the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention. More specifically, the subsequent trial involving seven men accused of conspiracy. Given today’s vicious political landscape, Sorkin’s historical drama should do well for Netflix, and may even nab ’em a few looks from the Academy. At the very least, the cast of A-listers will do the trick: Frank Langella, Michael Keaton, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, and John Carroll Lynch.
Release Date: October 21st via Netflix
High Rise and Free Fire director Ben Wheatley returns with arguably his greatest risk yet. He’s adapting Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 Gothic novel Rebecca. Yes, the same Rebecca that Alfred Hitchcock adapted to go on and win Best Picture. So, why is Wheatley doing this? Probably because the story is so rich. A newlywed is haunted by what may or may not be her husband’s dead wife! It’s so vintage! It’s so noir! It’s exactly what we want to see a hunk like Armie Hammer in — and we will!
Death on the Nile
Release Date: October 23rd via 20th Century Studios
Speaking of Armie Hammer, he’s just one of about 248 A-listers hopping on board Kenneth Branagh‘s latest Hercule Poirot mystery, Death on the Nile. The other passengers include ::cracks knuckles:: Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright. Initially slated for a December 2019 release, production delays forced Disney to bump the blockbuster back to 2020 … and then to where it currently sits. Will the Agatha Christie spectacle be bumped again? Ah, my dear, that is the greatest mystery of all.
Release Date: October 23rd via Hulu
Bad Hair is the long-awaited followup from Dear White People director Justin Simien. Set in Los Angeles circa 1989, this horror comedy follows Anna (Elle Lorraine), an aspiring on-air host who begrudgingly gets a weave after being told she doesn’t have the right hair. The supernatural element of the story creeps in when Anna realizes her new do has a mind of its own. Like this summer’s Palm Springs, Hulu picked up Bad Hair at Sundance following heaps of praise and buzz. Expect this one to conquer the online discourse come October, and possibly your local drive-in. You’ll have to stay tuned for news on the latter.
Release Date: October 30th via Focus Features
Scared of your smart phones or iPads? Of course you are! Who isn’t? The Internet is a very dangerous place. But what if it was truly evil? That’s more or less the conceit of Come Play, a new horror thriller from writer and director Jacob Chase. Starring Gillian Jacobs, this Focus Features pickup centers around a cyber monster named Larry, who preys upon its victims through all kinds of handheld technology. Hey, if it’s even remotely effective, Come Play could do for cell phones what Jaws did for beaches. Wouldn’t that be nice.
Release Date: November 6th via Marvel
Scarlett Johansson must be pissed. Back in May, the blockbuster star was set to finally get her own Marvel chapter with Black Widow. Then, you know, the world shut down and Disney bumped it all the way to November. Given that it’s a prequel, the events don’t necessarily affect future installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which certainly gives the Mouse House some flexibility. Even so, they’ll want to drop Black Widow sooner than later as it’s already taking up real estate previously occupied by The Eternals. Of course, that begs the question: If theaters are a no-go, will Disney go the route of Mulan? The suits shied away from the question previously, but rest assured, the option is certainly on the table. For now, remember, remember, the sixth of November.
Release Date: November 20th via Pixar
Soul is a big deal for Pixar. Writer and director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up, Inside Out) is back at the helm. The voice cast is arguably its most diverse to date (Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, to name a few.) And it’s thematically rich — a literal existential tale. So, they’re not exactly treating this one like Onward, where they’ll freely dump it on Disney+ and call it a day. Then again, given that it was prestigious enough to be selected for Cannes, it’s very likely Disney will want it out for Oscar contention. Regardless, we’re filing Soul in the ol’ Wait and See bin — right next to Black Widow.
No Time to Die
Release Date: November 20th via MGM
Christ, where do you even start with this one? Even before the pandemic, No Time to Die was being shuffled around like a weighted disc on the beaches of Boca Raton. So, if 007 manages to sneak by and pop up in November, we’ll consider it a miracle. The only reason we even have it on this list is because United Artists, Universal, and MGM have yet to push it to 2021, which is a tad precarious given how much it’s already been delayed. Maybe they, too, are exhausted by the conversation.
Release Date: November 27th via Magnolia Pictures
After nearly half a decade of hard work, Alex Winter will finally see the release of Zappa. “This isn’t your typical music doc,” Winter told Deadline this month, “but rather a multi-faceted narrative that aims to bring this complex artist to life.” That’s not hyperbole as Winter was given complete access into Zappa’s archives. Couple those vaulted goodies with brand new interviews and you’re looking at a must-see, can’t-miss event for both Zappa enthusiasts and music historians everywhere. Prepare for a very weird, very psychedelic, and very interesting Thanksgiving weekend this year.
Release Date: December 18th via Warner Bros.
Look, if you’ve heard about Dune, you want to see Dune. Ever since it was first announced that Denis Villeneuve would be adapting Frank Herbert’s legendary novel, the hype has been out of this world. Then came the casting. Oh, how they cast the hell out of this thing: Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling, Chang Chen, and Stephen Henderson. So, yeah, we all want to see Dune, we’re all clawing at anything related to Dune, and if Warner Bros. actually drops this in December, we’re all going to unwrap Dune come Christmas — masks and all.
Coming 2 America
Release Date: December 18th via Paramount Pictures
For awhile there, you couldn’t go a day without hearing news surrounding Coming 2 America. This year? All is quiet in Zamunda, and yet the highly anticipated sequel still has a December date. Don’t put away that Soul Glo, though, as the odds of actually seeing this in 2020 are high. After all, Eddie Murphy is no stranger to VOD and digital streaming. Last year, he signed a multi-million dollar deal with Netflix, who also went on to distribute his Oscar-contending biopic Dolemite is My Name. So, we wouldn’t be surprised if Murphy and Paramount worked out a similar deal for the return of Prince Azeem.
West Side Story
Release Date: December 18th via 20th Century Studios
If there’s one thing we know about Steven Spielberg, the guy loves to chase an Oscar. That’s why we’re fairly confident that audiences will be dancing along to West Side Story before year’s end. Having said that, the Academy did add some elasticity to this year’s eligibility, which means the musical could potentially get nudged into 2021. Wouldn’t be a bad thing, either, seeing how this is a film that demands the theater experience. (The original is a staple of 70mm festivals across the world.) There’s also the controversy surrounding Ansel Elgort to contend with — and they most certainly will.
The Woman in the Window
Release Date: TBD via Netflix
Earlier this month, Joe Wright’s perpetually delayed thriller The Woman in the Window found a home in Netflix. There’s still no word on a release date, but reports suggest it should be out before 2020 wraps up — a full calendar year after it was expected to hit theaters. In a way, the change of events has led to what will likely be a meta watch: Described by Wright as “Rear Window meets Gone Girl,” Amy Adams plays an agoraphobic child psychologist who watches her neighbors from the comforts of her New York suburban home. If that’s not a fitting button for this hellfire of a year…
Release Date: TBD via Netflix
One of the more silent spectacles of 2020 comes from David Fincher. Mank is his first film in five years and finds the veteran filmmaker pairing up with Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman to tell the story of Citizen Kane co-writer Herman Mankiewicz. It’s a curious project for Fincher, but one that certainly comes from a personal place as it was written by his father, Jack. The film will detail the battles between Mankiewicz and director and star Orson Welles, two creatives that heavily sparred over the legendary production. Fincher has a predilection for wielding historical narratives with the utmost detail, so one can expect a true trip to Old Hollywood, all from the comforts of your Netflix account. This one’s 100% gunning for an Oscar, so keep an eye out for it.