Netflix dropped official spiel for all 72 of their original feature films set for 2021. Yes, by “original,” I mean films intended for/premiering on Netflix. There are adaptations and sequels in this bunch, including their first three “threequels” (The Kissing Booth 3, The Princess Switch 3 and To All the Boys I’ve Loved: Always and Forever. These do not include documentaries and any future film festival acquisitions, so this list could grow over the next several months. For reference, Netflix had a whopping 124 original features last year, compared to 69 in 2018 and 72 in 2019.
And while last year’s theatrical shutdown turned Netflix’s slate into essentially the only game in town, this year may put them back on a more even plane.
Even if theaters don’t open for awhile and/or more tentpoles get delayed, Warner Bros.’ entire theatrical slate will debut on HBO Max for the first 30 days. They are going to argue, by default, that they are the go-to streaming destination for the year’s biggest “theatrical” movies.
Disney+ may play a similar game, even if A) Raya and the Last Dragon could be the only biggie to get the “in theaters. However, Disney+” treatment for the year and B) I’d argue their biggest “events” will be episodic TV set within the Star Wars universe and (starting this Friday with WandaVision) the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Truth be told, Netflix is still primarily a place for TV shows, with much of their cinematic output currently about chasing the prestige of so-called Hollywood blockbusters. That’s partially the point of this flashy rollout, as Netflix tries to position itself as the place for the kind of movies that used to be Hollywood’s bread-and-butter.
I obviously can’t speak to the quality of 99% of these films, although Pieces of a Woman (peaks in the first act) has been available for a week. Okay, enough of that, here is the full list of all 72 Netflix movies set for the year, complete with the folks responsible and the official synopsis. And while I’m not commenting on all of them,
I may have a few tidbits for the ones that catch my attention. Here’s hoping that the slew of (generally speaking) old-school, star-driven, adult-skewing dramas, comedies, actioners and thrillers live up to the notion of Netflix producing high-quality examples of what audiences claim to crave but now are mostly unwilling to see in theaters.
Rue de l’Humanite Director: Dany Boon Writers: Dany Boon, Laurence Arné Producers: Ardavan Safaee, Dany Boon, Patrick Quinet Cast: Dany Boon, François Damiens, Laurence Arné, Yvan Attal, Jorge Calvo, Alison Wheeler, Tom Leeb, Liliane Rovère, Nawell Madani, Elie Semoun Seven families live in the Parisian apartment building at 8, Rue de l’Humanite - and they didn’t escape to the countryside at the arrival of the coronavirus. Three months of life under lockdown will reveal the best and worst of these neighbours.
A Boy Called Christmas Director: Gil Kenan Writer: Ol Parker, Gil Kenan, based on A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig Producers: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin Cast: Henry Lawfull, Toby Jones, Sally Hawkins, Kristen Wiig, Michiel Huisman, Zoe Colletti, Stephen Merchant, Joel Fry, Rune Temte, Jim Broadbent, Maggie Smith An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm.
Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible. Gil Kenan is best known as the director of the animated Monster House (which is pretty great) and Fox’s Poltergeist (which is... less great). He co-wrote Ghostbusters: Afterlife alongside director Jason Reitman. That Sony flick was supposed to open last July and is currently scheduled for June 10, 2021.
A Castle For Christmas Director: Mary Lambert Writers: Ally Carter, Kim Beyer-Johnson, Neal Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky Producer: Brad Krevoy Cast: Brooke Shields, Cary Elwes Famed American author, Sophie, travels to Scotland and finds herself wanting to buy a castle, but the prickly owner, Myles (A Scottish Duke), is reluctant to sell to a foreigner. Working to find a compromise, the pair constantly butt heads, but along the way they just may find more than they bargained for.
Mary Labert directed both Pet Semetary (which was one of the biggest-grossing horror movies when it earned $59 million in 1989) and the less successful Pet Semetary Two in 1992. Afterlife of the Party Director: Stephen Herek Writer: Carrie Freedle Producers: Robyn Snyder, Deborah Evans Cast: Victoria Justice, Midori Francis, Spencer Sutherland A social butterfly (Justice) experiences the biggest party foul of all… dying during her birthday week.
To her surprise, she’s given a second chance to right her wrongs on Earth by reconnecting with loved ones, and most importantly, prove that she’s worthy enough to get into the big VIP room in the sky. For a mostly under-the-radar filmmaker, Stephen Herek directed a deluge of classic and/or iconic 1980’s pictures (Critters, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, The Mighty Ducks, The Three Musketeers (1993), Mr. Holland’s Opus and 101 Dalmatians (1996).
Zack Snyder directs Army of the Dead CLAY ENOS/NETFLIX Army of the Dead Director: Zack Snyder Writers: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold based on a story by Zack Snyder Producers: Deborah Snyder, Wesley Coller, Zack Snyder Cast: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana De La Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Samantha Win, Richard Cetrone, Michael Cassidy Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.
This is supposed to kick off a Netflix-specific cinematic universe, with a Matthias Schweighöfer-directed prequel feature an episodic anime (Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas) which will feature characters from Army of the Dead in a story set in the early days of the zombie outbreak. Awake Director: Mark Raso Writers: Greg Poirier, Joseph Raso, Mark Raso Producer: Paul Schiff Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Ariana Greenblatt, Frances Fisher, Shamier Anderson, Finn Jones, Lucius Hoyos, Gil Bellows, Barry Pepper, Jennifer Jason Leigh After a sudden global event wipes out all electronics and takes away humankind’s ability to sleep, chaos quickly begins to consume the world. Only Jill, an ex-soldier with a troubled past, may hold the key to a cure in the form of her own daughter. The question is, can Jill safely deliver her daughter and save the world before she herself loses her mind.
A WEEK AWAY RICHARD PETERSON/NETFLIX A Week Away Director: Roman White Writers: Kali Bailey, Alan Powell Producers: Steve Barnett, Alan Powell, Gabe Vasquez Cast: Bailee Madison, Kevin Quinn, Sherri Shepherd, David Koechner, Jahbril Cook, Kat Conner Sterling, Iain Tucker Troubled teen Will Hawkins (Quinn) has a run-in with the law that puts him at an important crossroad: go to juvenile detention or attend a Christian summer camp. At first a fish-out-of-water, Will opens his heart, discovers love with a camp regular (Madison), and sense of belonging in the last place he expected to find it.
A Winter's Tale from Shaun the Sheep Netflix A Winter’s Tale from Shaun the Sheep Director: Steve Cox Writer: Giles Pilbrow based on a story by Giles Pilbrow, Mark Burton Producer: Richard Beek In this 30-minute special from Aardman, the world’s favourite sheep stars in his very own winter’s tale. Shaun's seasonal excitement turns to dismay when a farmhouse raid to get bigger stockings for the Flock inadvertently leads to Timmy going missing. Can Shaun get Timmy back before he becomes someone else’s present? Prepare for a ‘Santastic’ adventure as everyone learns the true value of Christmas!