Action movies in 2021: your complete list

Let's face it, 2020 is a year that all of us want to forget. So here on the Cineworld blog, we're looking ahead to a hopefully brighter future, one that's set to be filled with all manner of eye-widening, joyous big-screen nirvana.

If you're already planning out 2021, allow us to help with our list of upcoming action movies. Ranging from far-off planets to more recognisably earthbound locations, these are the films set to push budgets and conceptual ideas to the limit, all the while putting our favourite A-list stars front and centre.

So, get that movie planner out, read our list and note down all the essential information about 2021 action movies. (Release dates are correct at the time of publication, as per the Film Distributors' Association.) Also don't forget to check out our list of 2021 comic book movies, 2021 family movies and 2021 horror movies.


1. Chaos Walking

  • Release date 5th March 2021
  • Directed by Doug Liman
  • Starring Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen

Tom Holland has two action epics due for release in 2021. The year kicks off with this dystopian adaptation of Patrick Ness' young adult bestseller The Knife of Never Letting Go. Set on the remote, women-free planet of New World, Chaos Walking shows us a bizarre futuristic environment ravaged by a powerful force known as Noise. This allows New World's male inhabitants to hear each other's thoughts, including Holland's noble character Todd. When he comes across Daisy Ridley's stranded character Viola, it sets in motion a battle against good and evil with Mads Mikkelsen's cruelly calculating Prentiss at the centre.

Helmed by The Bourne Identity's Doug Liman, Chaos Walking has endured many setbacks and reshoots on its way to the big screen. Given the popularity of Ness' book, which mixes apocalyptic action with intriguing insight into gender roles, we can hopefully expect a thought-provoking adventure. Holland and Ridley are, of course, no strangers to this genre and their star power may help the story reach an increasingly wider audience.


2. No Time to Die

  • Release date 2nd April 2021
  • Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
  • Starring Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ana De Armas, Lea Seydoux

You know his name and you know his number. James Bond, the world's most infamous secret agent, returns for his 25th adventure in No Time To Die, set to be Daniel Craig's fifth and final outing in the decade-spanning spy franchise. This time, Craig's 007 has gone off the grid with Spectre love interest Madeleine (Lea Seydoux). But a dark secret from her past, who goes by the name of Safin (Rami Malek), soon draws Bond back into a race to save the world.

True Detective and Maniac helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga is promising to send Craig out on a high with the usual contingent of exotic locations (including a jaunt to Bond's ancestral home of Jamaica) and explosive action sequences. Yet No Time To Die is also set to shake up the template, with Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge poised to bring her own brand of unique wit to the screenplay. More than that, we're being presented with two new agents who might portend where the Bond series is headed in the future: new 00 agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and Paloma (Ana de Armas).

Fuse all that with a villain who, in the words of producer Barbara Broccoli, is a "nasty piece of work" and we could be looking at a monumental coda for Craig's 007.


3. Godzilla vs Kong

  • Release date 21st May 2021
  • Directed by Adam Wingard
  • Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Mille Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall

You know Godzilla. You know King Kong. So you can imagine the carnage that's set to erupt when these two monster movie icons collide. In the latest instalment of the Warner Bros 'MonsterVerse' franchise, the disparate threads of the individual Godzilla and Kong movies come crashing together, with a group of hapless humans caught in the middle of a colossal war. 

The Guest director Adam Wingard makes his first leap into big-budget filmmaking with this long-awaited clash of the titans. The human cast, meanwhile, mixes franchise newcomers such as Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall with returning faces including Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler. Wingard describes it as a "massive monster brawl" movie, and that gets us very excited.


4. Fast & Furious 9

  • Release date 28th May 2021
  • Directed by Justin Lin
  • Starring Vin Diesel, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson

Expect more gravity-defying set-pieces and platitudes about the importance of family in the ninth Fast & Furious movie. It's perhaps easy to forget that this series began on a relatively humble street-racing note, but ever since 2011's Fast Five, no stunt is too ridiculous for this escalatingly successful franchise.

After 2019's deviation with Hobbs & Shaw (Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham's title characters getting their time in the sun), we now set a course back towards the canonical Fast & Furious films. This means Vin Diesel's mumbling, burly carjacker Dominic Toretto is again centre stage, although given Diesel and Johnson's feud on the set of Fast 8, the latter doesn't seem to be turning up.

No matter: this time, Dom is pitted against his long-lost brother, played by Bumblebee's John Cena. And the rest of Dom's crew/family are along for the ride, including Michelle Rodriguez's Letty and Tyrese Gibson's Roman. The action scenes, meanwhile, are clearly becoming even more uncoupled from the laws of physics with cars swinging their way around cliffs on ropes and lots more besides.


5. Top Gun: Maverick

  • Release date 2nd July 2021
  • Directed by Joseph Kosinski
  • Starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm

Cruise control is activated again in the long-awaited Top Gun sequel. Those of a certain generation will feel very old when we say that the original Top Gun was released in 1986. After that watershed moment in pop culture, Aviator shades, the words "need for speed" and games of volleyball would never be the same again. Now, three decades later, star Tom Cruise returns to the role of cocky fighter pilot Maverick, which catapulted him to the top of the Hollywood A-list. But, of course, Maverick is now older and wiser.

This time, he's training a squadron of new cadets, including Bradley (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick's late wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards). Nostalgia for the past meets the roaring technology of the present under director Joseph Kosinski (who worked with Cruise on 2013 sci-fi epic Oblivion). This involved not only filming with real jets but getting all of the principal cast, not just Cruise, flying in them. The movie has been shot in ultra hi-def 6k, drawing out yet more detail in its spectacular aerial sequences, filmed under the supervision of Jerry Bruckheimer, who was a driving force on the first film.


6. Uncharted

  • Release date 16th July 2021
  • Directed by Ruben Fleischer
  • Starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas

Tom Holland's second action movie of 2021 adapts the hugely successful PlayStation gaming franchise. Naughty Dog's Uncharted is one of the bestselling gaming units of all time, putting players in charge of daredevil adventurer Nathan Drake. It's as close as anyone's got to an interactive Indiana Jones experience, and the pressure is on for the movie to deliver those same delirious thrills.

With the always-likeable Holland in the role of the younger Nathan (this is an origin story), the movie is off to a good start. And he's got sturdy support in the form of Mark Wahlberg, playing Nathan's mentor Victor Sullivan. Behind the camera: Zombieland and Venom helmer Ruben Fleischer, no stranger to effects-led, popcorn-spilling adventures. It's been a bumpy journey getting Uncharted to the screen with many actors and directors having bailed over the years. But with the first look at the costumed Holland, we feel assured that the property is in good hands.


7. Mission: Impossible 7

  • Release date 19th November 2021
  • Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
  • Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Hall, Simon Pegg, Vanessa Kirby

After taking to the skies in Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise returns as impossibly brave IMF agent Ethan Hunt. If Top Gun launched Cruise's career, then the Mission: Impossible franchise turned him into a properly bankable star, showcasing Cruise's affinity for doing his own stuntwork. In fact, it's become increasingly difficult to tell where Ethan Hunt ends and Cruise begins, but that's what's so fun about these films.

The Mission: Impossible series is a rarity in that it's increased its box office lucre with every subsequent instalment – this is not a property subject to the law of diminishing returns. Much of that is down to the fearlessly dedicated Cruise himself, a dyed-in-the-wool showman who wants to give the audience a good time by throwing himself, rather than stunt-people, into the action.

The seventh movie (soon to be followed by an eighth) reunites Cruise with Mission: Impossible - Fallout helmer Christopher McQuarrie. Locations are ranging from Venice to Norway and there are several familiar faces back on the scene, including Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg and Vanessa Kirby. Franchise newcomers, meanwhile, include Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff.


8. The Matrix 4

  • Release date 22nd December 2021
  • Directed by Lana Wachowski
  • Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Released in 1999, The Matrix broke new ground in action cinema. Western philosophy met Eastern kung-fu, all graced with groundbreaking 'bullet time' effects and topped with a coolly charismatic Keanu Reeves as hacker-turned-human-saviour Neo. Little wonder that the film stormed the box office and cast a lengthy shadow over every blockbuster in its wake. If only directors the Wachowskis had managed to bottle this intoxicating essence in the overblown sequels.

Even so, Lana Wachowski (absent her sibling Lilly) is now back behind the camera for a fourth dose of Matrix action. Reeves returns alongside Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity – odd since they both died in 2003's The Matrix Revolutions. While they attempt to explain that one, we're curious about the presence of Watchmen's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the cast. Could he be playing the young Morpheus? There's no officially credited role for original Morpheus actor Laurence Fishburne, so might this new Matrix movie be a prequel? The mind boggles at the possibilities of how Neo's mentor first came to power.


Which of these action movies are you most excited about seeing? Let us know @Cineworld.