The Best Movies That Didn't Release In 2021 – Screen Rant

2021 saw a litany of films bumped from the theatrical slate due to a variety of reasons. Here’s the best movies that didn’t release in 2021, and why.
A slew of films did not arrive in theatres this year, with many of 2021’s best movie releases being pushed back. As the theatrical landscape continues to settle following mass production shutdowns in 2020, many new movies are now vying for a limited number of prime release windows in a now crowded landscape. Less fortunate titles are yet to reach this stage, with landmark productions such as James Cameron’s Avatar 2 quagmired in a series of logistical delays that have conspired to stall the franchise’s progress.
While many smaller films have proceeded with the pre-planned digital parts of their release and forgone theatrical competition altogether, streaming giants such as Disney+ simply absorbed many individual releases into their streaming schedule. Flagship films like the MCU’s Thor: Love and Thunder or Jurassic World: Dominion, on the other hand, do not have the ability to condense for a digital-only rollout, meaning titles that fall into this category have found themselves in purgatory as they wait for their respective release dates. While anticipation remains high for these well-established IPs, delays to even one film in the series result in a domino effect of release pushbacks to protect the franchise’s timelines.
Related: Avatar 2 Should Bring Back The First Movie’s Best Deleted Scene
There are many quality titles that unfortunately did not see the light of day due to movies being delayed in 2021. From Robert Pattinson’s re-imagining of the Caped Crusader in The Batman to Tom Cruise’s triumphant return in Top Gun: Maverick, 2021’s theatrical landscape is littered with highly anticipated films that got lost in the shuffle. Here are the best movies that didn’t release in 2021, as well as their newly slated release dates.
Original Release Date – March 19th, 2021; New Release Date – TBD – The story of Tomb Raider 2 brings to mind the phrase “development hell,” with the sequel’s wheels seemingly no longer turning as the end of the year approaches. While the Tomb Raider reboot did little to garner sustained critical acclaim, the Alicia Vikander-led movie was a sure-fire box office success, raking in an impressive $275 million globally. Despite a lukewarm critical reception, these numbers made Tomb Raider 2 a foregone conclusion for MGM, who green-lit the Tomb Raider movie sequel in March 2019 and assigned the project a creative team almost immediately led by British filmmaker Ben Wheatley.
While High Rise‘s Ben Wheatley was originally set to direct Tomb Raider 2, the COVID-19 pandemic halted production on the film before it began, forcing MGM to remove Tomb Raider 2 from its release schedule. This, in turn, forced Wheatley to leave the project, with Lovecraft Country‘s Misha Green brought in as late as January 2021 to direct and pen a script for the flailing sequel. To date, however, there is no confirmation that Tomb Raider 2 has been re-added to MGM’s planned release schedule, with MGM executives likely waiting to see what content Green comes up with before committing to revitalizing the Tomb Raider spinoff franchise.
Original Release Date – July 2nd, 2021; New Release Date – May 27th, 2022 – Tom Cruise’s return as the iconic fighter pilot Maverick has been 34 years in the making, with 2021 originally set to end this agonizing wait. Val Kilmer will also return to reprise his role as Iceman when Top: Gun Maverick releases, with the film centering on the veteran pilot duo training a new generation of recruits for a dangerous mission. Joseph Kosinski is signed on to direct the Top Gun sequel, with Jerry Bruckheimer still executive producing for the iconic franchise he began over thirty years ago.
Related: Top Gun 2’s Opening Mach 10 Scene Proves Maverick’s Fatal Obsession
Top Gun: Maverick‘s ten-month delay is primarily due to scheduling conflicts, with the iconic sequel initially set to jostle for position in an already packed release roster. Originally, Top: Gun Maverick would have competed almost head-to-head with the likes of Free Guy, the MCU’s Shang-Chi and the legend of the Ten Rings, and Jordan Peele’s rebooted Candyman, which may have lessened its domestic impact. To date, Top Gun: Maverick only looks to be releasing parallel with John Wick: Chapter 4, which will likely afford this historic sequel the limelight it deserves.
Original Release Date – March 5th/ July 16th/ August 18th, 2021; New Release Date – February 18th, 2022 –Ruben Fleischer’s Uncharted remake undoubtedly has many of the building blocks in place to make it a rip-roaring success. Casting the MCU’s Tom Holland is a masterstroke here, with the current Spider-Man boasting a massive following that will flock to see his turn as the iconic Uncharted videogame character Nathan Drake. Mark Wahlberg’s inclusion as Sully is a touching nod to the film’s storied development history by the Uncharted team, with Wahlberg originally set to play Drake in 2010 when the movie was first green-lit. Uncharted, despite its thrilling premise, has simply not been helped by a convoluted release schedule that has changed four times since the Tom Holland-led version of the film was announced. Fleischer and company will be hoping the film’s overly fluid release date does not harm Uncharted‘s box office chances, with the movie now set to compete with the likes of Morbius and The Batman in a congested early 2021 theatrical schedule.
Original Release Date – October 1st, 2021; New Release Date – March 4th, 2022 – The clamor crowding The Batman has been at a near-consistent fever pitch since its first trailer arrived in August 2020. The Batman‘s initial previews delivered a decidedly darker world than previous franchise director Christopher Nolan’s, while Robert Pattinson appears suitably tortured for the role of Gotham’s savior. The Batman also promises a first look at the character of The Riddler since Jim Carrey’s incarnation in 1995, ensuring anticipation remains high for Matt Reeves’ new Batman chapter.
The Batman‘s delay story is an interesting one, with rumors of numerous reshoots at odds with the confidence exuded by the film’s production team. The final series of these reshoots were filmed in June 2021, with both Pattinson and Colin Farrell (Miami Vice) returning to Glasgow to shoot additional footage at the time. As with many productions on this list, The Batman also saw an extensive production shutdown at the height of the pandemic in 2020, which ultimately contributed to the film’s five-month release delay.
Related: Why Top Gun’s Reviews Were So Mixed (& What It Means For Maverick)
Original Release Date – December 17th, 2021; New Release Date – December 16th, 2022 – Pushed a full year back from its slated 2021 release date, James Cameron’s second bite at the world of Pandora promises to inspire the same emotion and awe that Avatar did in 2009. Avatar 2 will center on Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) as they attempt to build a family while exploring the vast, unexplored regions of Neytiri’s homeworld while bringing back a host of familiar faces from James Cameron’s original movie. Expectations, therefore, are understandably high for Avatar 2, with the film’s $250 million budget doing little to dampen the excitement for its release. However, the issue with Avatar 2 is that this has all been heard before, with Avatar’s new release date of December 16th, 2022 signaling the sixth delay for the project since 2014. Avatar’s latest rescheduling is the result of Disney’s release calendar overhaul on the heels of the pandemic shutdown, with audiences hoping 2022’s festive period finally brings the long-awaited movie release of James Cameron’s Avatar 2.
Next: Avatar 2’s Concept Art Highlights How It Can Beat The First Movie
A Core Features Editor for Screen Rant specializing in SEO-driven content, Charles Cameron has been managing copy, data reporting, and diverse teams in various forms since 2014. A B.A. graduate of UEL, Charles spent several years in corporate analytics roles before committing to pursuing editing full time. A British native, Charles also is an avid football fan, podcast co-creator, and Brand Strategy & Content Manager for Text Inspector who loves delivering new content en-masse across various forms of media. To date, he’s covered a wide range of TV and Film stories for Screen Rant, including delineating exactly why Gladiator 2 should never see the light of day, detailing numerous left-field fan theories, and reporting Netflix’s ever-changing top 10 movies and TV shows each week. He’s also adamant Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars movie out there – which he consistently gets flak for.


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