If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—if you’ve stuck around all the way to this point—it’s fair to assume one thing: you want more. After The Infinity Saga—the first 22 movies in the franchise—came to a conclusion in Avengers: Endgame, the next era of Marvel storytelling got off to a hot start with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Things were supposed to continue not long after that, but that pesky Covid-19 got in the way.
But 2021 has gotten the train back on the track, and then some. WandaVision, the first Marvel Studios original series on Disney+—and by far the series with the closest ties to the big screen story—got things started with a bang. And it’s things that will continue as basically a nonstop stream for quite a while, as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is coming up, followed by Loki, and, further barring any further Covid-19 delays, will be joined by Black Widow in theaters. And that’s before this summer is even out.
The future of the MCU is bright, new, and perhaps most of all, expansive. WandaVision was fun, and basically marks the start of the Disney+ dam being broken. 2021 alone is currently scheduled to have four more canonical MCU Disney+ series (including the aforementioned The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki) and it sounds like that trend could continue (although perhaps not quite as prolific) for years to come.
And that’s not to discount the film side of things either. Marvel will add to that 23 movie count with a few new additions every year, which will serve to introduce new characters like Shang-Chi and the Eternals, while also continuing to build on some existing favorites like Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Ant-Man.
So, enough chitter chatter. Let’s talk about what’s on the way—and when we can expect it.
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Black Widow (May 7, 2021)
There’s no way around it: Black Widow has gotten hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled for release in May 2020, that was of course bumped a few times; it’s now tentatively scheduled for May 7, 2021. With more and more of the country getting vaccinated and theaters opening up, there’s a chance that release date actually sticks.
Black Widow will explore the origin of one of the oldest and most-featured heroes in the MCU, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). The majority of the movie will follow her character in the time in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infintiy War, but it will also introduce viewers to her “family” (including characters played by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour) and presumably dive deeper into her past than ever before. Could we maybe finally learn the truth about what happened with Black Widow and Hawkeye in Budapest?
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings (July 9, 2021)
We don’t officially know a ton about Shang-Chi, because there’s been very little officially released so far about the movie (particularly, no trailers or still photos of any kind). But we know that the movie will introduce a new hero to the MCU in Kung-Fu master Shang-Chi, a character first introduced to the Marvel Comics lore back in 1973. Shang-Chi himself will be played by Simu Liu, who’s best known for his role in Canadian cult comedy favorite Kim’s Convenience.
The story isn’t entirely clear, but it will bring in the real version of the character The Mandarin, who’s criminal organization “The 10 Rings” are referenced in the title. You may remember a few parts of that sentence from earlier in the MCU; The 10 Rings were the secondary villains in the original Iron Man, who took Tony Stark prisoner originally, and The Mandarin was the classic Marvel villain who [SPOILER FOR AN 8 YEAR OLD MOVIE] was impersonated by an actor named Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3. Shang-Chi will finally introduce the real Mandarin to the MCU.
The movie will also star Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Ronny Chieng, and Michelle Yeoh,
Eternals (November 5, 2021)
There’s very little hype for Eternals right now, even though it’s release ostensibly isn’t very long away. But don’t worry—there will be. On top of the superhero goodness that will certainly be included, Eternals is also directed by the favorite to win this year’s Best Director Oscar in Chloé Zhao (for Nomadland). That’s no small deal.
We don’t know a ton about the plot of Eternals, but we know that in a post-Endgame world, an event causes the Eternals—an immortal alien race living secretly on earth—to come out of hiding, in order to protect the earth from their evil alien counterparts, known as the Deviants.
The movie’s cast is also no small deal; it includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, and was the movie that led Kumail Nanjiani to get completely jacked, among others. Kit Harington will also make his MCU debut, playing yet another mystical warrior: this one is named Dane Whitman, who in the comics eventually earns the moniker of Black Knight.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17, 2021)
Spider-Man: No Way Home will pick up where Spider-Man: Far From Home left off: with Peter Parker in turmoil. Last we saw, Spider-Man’s identity had been revealed to the public by a combination of Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a now Infowars-ish J. Jonah Jameson (a returning JK Simmons!). How the movie will tackle that is anyone’s guess. Perhaps more interestingly, though, is that the movie has been largely rumored to incorporate elements of a live-action Spider-Verse into its plot. We know that Benedict Cumberbatch (as Doctor Strange) will be in the movie as a mentor to Peter, and it’s been rumored that characters from past Spider-Mans such as Electro (Jamie Foxx) Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) could be returning. And that’s on top of the rumors that past Spider-Mans Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield themselves could show up. We don’t know, but we’re in for a ride one way or another.
Tom Holland will also be joined in the cast once again by Zendaya (MJ), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Marissa Tomei (Aunt May), and Tony Revolori (Flash).
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
We were told that WandaVision would tie right into this Doctor Strange sequel, and that sure seems to be the case given how that series ended up. With Benedict Cumberbatch also appearing in the above Spider-Man film, it also seems likely for that film to feed directly into this one, which has limited details, but says enough in its title alone: we’re going to the multiverse, baby.
Sam Raimi takes over for Scott Derrickson here, and he comes with quite a bit of pedigree. Between directing the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, and a handful of horror classics (The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Drag Me To Hell), Raimi seems like a perfect fit for this highly-anticipated sequel; Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has said that the movie would have “scary” sequences, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark or Poltergeist.
Cumberbatch will be joined in the cast by Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), along with returning Doctor Strange characters Benedict Wong (Wong), Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (the now-evil Baron Mordo).
Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
The team from Thor: Ragnarok will be back for Thor: Love and Thunder. That chiefly means star Chris Hemsworth and director Taika Waititi, but Tessa Thompson will also be returning as Valkyrie. Additionally, the movie will see the return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, an exciting turn considering the film will follow the Mighty Thor comic book arc, which finds Jane taking on the powers of Thor and wielding Mjolnir.
Love and Thunder will also build on what Infinity War and Endgame started by putting Thor together with the Guardians of the Galaxy (sans Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, who they’ll likely be searching for following the events of Endgame). More of those Chris vs Chris hijinx are on the way.
We should probably also talk about the movie’s villain: Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher. With past MCU villains including Robert Redford, Kurt Russell, Cate Blanchett, and Kurt Russell, it really shouldn’t have felt like anyone was off the table. But Bale is both an Academy Award winner and a former superhero star in his own right, so Waititi pulling him is a particularly big deal. It also helps that Gorr is one of the most complex and interesting villains in the Marvel canon.
Black Panther II (July 8, 2022)
Obviously, the plans for the Black Panther (2018) sequel had to change when its titular star, Chadwick Boseman, died last year after a battle with colon cancer. We don’t know much about Black Panther II, but filming is expected to begin in Australia this July. Boseman’s role as T’Challa will not be recast, and previous cast members Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Angela Basset are all expected to return. Wright’s Shuri, the sister of T’Challa, could be considered the favorite to become the franchise’s new lead; in the Marvel Comics, at one point Shuri herself takes on the Black Panther mantle. This could also serve as something of a backdoor pilot into Ryan Coogler’s upcoming Disney+ series set in Wakanda.
Captain Marvel 2 (November 11, 2022)
Brie Larson will return as Carol Danvers for Captain Marvel 2, which will be directed by Nia DaCosta (the upcoming Candyman). The movie will also tie in a pair of characters launched by Disney+ series in Monica Rambeau (played here by Teyonah Parris, who played her adult version in WandaVision) and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel (who will debut in a titular Disney+ series later this year.) We don’t know much else. Maybe we get Nick Fury and Talos again?
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2022)
Another one we don’t know a ton about, other than the fact that it will follow the events of Endgame. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Peña will all return, and Kathryn Newton will now play Cassie Lang, Ant-Man’s daughter. The villain will be Kang The Conqueror, a Nexus being who could be key to the MCU multiverse, and will be played by Jonathan Majors.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
This one has a bit of a trip behind it. You might recall that Guardians writer/director James Gunn was fired from his job with the franchise in 2018 following controversial and “edgy” old jokes resurfacing. While at that time a new Guardians movie was his priority, after his firing he was hired by Warner Bros. to make The Suicide Squad and a spin-off series Peacemaker. So by the time Disney got itself together and rehired Gunn to return to the Guardians helm, he had already needed to prioritize those other two projects, so Guardians was pushed off a bit. One bonus? Guardians Vol. 3 will film in coordination with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which will debut in 2022 on Disney+, while this film will follow in 2023.
Here’s what we know about the MCU’s Fantastic Four movie: it will exist. Kevin Feige officially announced the movie in December 2020, and one important piece of information: Jon Watts, who’s directed all three MCU Spider-Man installments, will be directing. We don’t know anything about casting at all—despite rumors that have come up recently about John Krasinski and Jennifer Lawrence—but we know this movie will be happening. Now if only for some news about the X-Men.
Marvel’s big announcement at the end of San Diego Comic Con 2019 was that—eventually—Blade, the Vampire hunter, would be joining the MCU. And he would be played by two-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali. A very very big deal, and truly incredible casting. Now, the movie is still a ways away—it’s supposedly going to to be in the MCU’s Phase 5, and Phase 4 is only just beginning—but it is coming. Marvel recently hired Watchmen writer Stacy Osei-Kuffour to write the script.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (March 19, 2021)
After a long wait—and a few delays—The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will debut on Disney+ on March 19. The show will run for six approximately hour-long episodes, and will deal with the immediate aftermath of Steve Rogers giving Sam Wilson the Captain America shield at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Obviously, Bucky Barnes—also known as The Winter Soldier—will be along for the ride with Sam, and we’ll see how that all goes.
The show will largely be following the events of the Captain America movies, including The Winter Soldier and Civil War. In turn, that means some characters from those movies will play key roles, including Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who’s now on the run after helping Cap and friends in Civil War, and Civil War‘s villain, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who we last saw getting captured by Black Panther. Upcomer Wyatt Russell (Black Mirror, Everybody Wants Some) will play the mysterious character of John Walker/U.S. Agent, who in the comics is sort of a government-created replacement for Captain America—but we’re getting clear Homelander vibes.
Loki (June 11, 2021)
Our old friend is back. If you were paying moderately close attention during Avengers: Endgame, you noticed that during the ‘time heist’ sequence, when our heroes went back to the aftermath of the original Avengers movie (also known as The Battle of New York), the Tesseract—Space Stone inside—ended up in 2012 Loki’s hands. And 2012 Loki zapped right away.
Loki, which will debut on Disney+ in June, will follow the adventures of that Loki. The show has been described by Kevin Feige as a “crime thriller” which will also feature Loki using the Tesseract to travel through time to major events, altering human history. Big stuff!
The show will also feature Owen Wilson (!) as an officer of the Time Variance Authority, an agency that polices time travel and the multiverse. Other members of the show’s impressive cast in undisclosed roles include Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sasha Lane, Lovecraft Country‘s Wunmi Mosaku, and Richard E. Grant.
What If… (“Mid 2021”)
What If… is the first animated series to technically be “canon” in the MCU. It may not play a huge role in pushing the entire franchise’s story forward, but it might be one of the most fun entries yet. The show is similar to the What If… comics, which basically serve to show how some key MCU moments could have happened. A couple examples include Peggy Carter taking the super soldier serum, and Captain America becoming a zombie. Every character here will be voiced by their real MCU actor, and everything will be linked by the powerful voice of Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher.
Ms. Marvel (“Late 2021”)
Disney+’s Ms. Marvel series will introduce Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, a 16-year-old superfan of Captain Marvel who writes fan fiction, before eventually gaining her own superpowers. She’s also based in Jersey City, so, you know, New Jersey pride.
The show will presumably tie directly into Captain Marvel 2, as Ms. Marvel will appear (alongside Brie Larson as Carol Danvers and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau) in that film when its released in 2022.
Hawkeye (“Late 2021”)
It took Marvel more a decade from Black Widow’s first appearance in Iron Man 2 to give that character her own project, and it’s doing the same with Hawkeye (who first appeared in a cameo in Thor before taking a key role in the next year’s The Avengers).
Jeremy Renner returns to play the titular character here, of course, but it might be the beginning of the end of his run as the character; the plot of the show revolves around his training Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). In the Marvel Comics, Kate Bishop takes over the mantle of Hawkeye as one of the Young Avengers. It makes sense, too, that Hawkeye would want to actually retire; we’ve seen him with his family a few times, and he was already kinda retired during Captain America: Civil War. Let this guy tend to his farm in peace!
She-Hulk is one of the most exciting upcoming Disney+ series on this entire list. Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Perry Mason) will play the titular character, a cousin of Bruce Banner who takes the serum and gains a milder version of Banner’s Hulk condition. Speaking of Banner—Mark Ruffalo will return for all 10 episodes of the series. Excellent news. She-Hulk will also mark the return of a character we haven’t seen in more than a decade: Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, the villain from The Incredible Hulk, who will once again be played by Tim Roth. The show’s head writer will be Rick and Morty‘s Jessica Gao.
Moon Knight (2022)
Is it possible to be more excited for an MCU thing with characters we haven’t been introduced to yet? Probably not. Moon Knight will be a six-episode series that introduces the character of Marc Spector/Moon Knight, a mercenary who essentially in some ways serves as Marvel’s version of Batman. But the real thing getting us excited is the cast: Oscar Isaac—one of the best actors in the business and already a veteran of blockbuster fare with Star Wars—is playing the lead, and the show’s main villain will be played by another legend of the acting realm in one Ethan Hawke.
It seems kind of hard to mess things up with those two locked in. But in case if you were wondering who else was involved, the show’s head writer is Jeremy Slater, who was behind the underrated 2016 TV adaptation of The Exorcist and also did some work on The Umbrella Academy (which has a Batman-esque character of its own).
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
As referenced above in our breakdown of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The Holiday Special will be filmed back-to-back with the next feature film (scheduled for 2023 release), and will serve to bridge the gap between Vol 2 (or, perhaps, Endgame) and Vol. 3.
Secret Invasion (TBD)
Secret Invasion was one of the biggest Marvel Comic event arcs (which you can catch up on here), focused on a world-spanning event that took place once the Skrulls slowly but surely infiltrated many of the world’s powerful organizations. The MCU take on this whole thing will have to be a bit different, considering Captain Marvel has established the Skrulls as good guys. The scale will also be brought in a little bit; this won’t be a full Avengers-level team up, instead focusing in on two characters who have shown some great chemistry together in the past: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).
The Ironheart Disney+ series will adapt a fun Marvel Comics storyline of the past years, which sees Riri Williams, a tech genius from Chicago, taking over Iron Man’s mantle. Dominique Thorne, who is 2/2 in great movies so far in her career (With Judas and the Black Messiah and If Beale Street Could Talk on her resume), will play Riri. We’d venture to guess that other old Iron Man friends—James Rhodes? Justin Hammer?—could show up.
Armor Wars (TBD)
Speaking of our old pal Mr. Rhodes, Don Cheadle will return to play Tony Stark’s best friend and fellow suited-up superhero in Armor Wars, which will bring one of the most famous Iron Man comic arcs of the ’80s to Disney+. The series will explore what happens when Stark’s advanced technology gets into the wrong hands. Sounds like a great chance to bring back Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer—and it would be about damn time. Great villain.
Wakanda Series (TBD)
We don’t know a ton about this one just yet. But it will come from Ryan Coogler, and fit in neatly with his two Black Panther movies, of course.
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