Top Ten films to watch in March 2021

  1. Coming 2 America

It’s never too late for a sequel to a 1980s hit. This autumn, we’ll be able to see Ghostbusters: Afterlife. In the summer, there’s Top Gun: Maverick. And spring’s offering is Eddie Murphy’s follow-up to 1988’s Coming to America. Once again, Murphy stars as Prince Akeem, heir to the throne of the fictional African country of Zamunda (nothing to do with Wakanda, he insists in the trailer). When his royal father (James Earl Jones) dies, Akeem has to locate the next male heir, which means revisiting New York and tracking down his long-lost son (Jermaine Fowler). Most of the actors from the original Coming to America are back, including Arsenio Hall as Semmi and Shari Headley as Lisa. But the most encouraging sign is that Murphy has brought in two of his collaborators from his last film, the delightful Dolemite Is My Name: its director, Craig Brewer, and its scene-stealingly funny co-star, Wesley Snipes.

On Amazon Prime Video from 5 March

2. Raya and the Last Dragon

Once upon a time, being a Disney princess meant being the damsel in distress in a European fairy tale. But they’re a more diverse and proactive bunch these days, as demonstrated by Raya and the Last Dragon, a cartoon fantasy adventure with a lot more martial arts than there were in Cinderella (or Mulan, for that matter). Inspired by South-East Asian mythology and culture, the film features Kelly Marie Tran from Star Wars as the voice of Raya, a brave warrior princess from the magical land of Kumandra. Five hundred years after the world’s dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity, and the country was divided into five warring states, it’s up to Raya and her “fellowship of butt-kickery” to find the lone survivor: a fluffy, shape-changing water dragon voiced by Awkwafina. Joel Meares, editor of Rotten Tomatoes, calls it “a delight. Vibrant, exciting, funny action-comedy [that] hits hard with the feels.”

On general release from 5 March in cinemas, and on Disney+

3. Cherry

The last time Tom Holland worked with Anthony and Joe Russo, he was wearing a Spider-Man costume and punching alien invaders in Avengers: Endgame. Cherry is a little more down to earth. Adapted from the semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, it’s a crime drama about a US Army medic who returns from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, becomes addicted to opioids and ends up robbing banks to pay for his habit. It’s a personal project for the Russo brothers, who come from the same part of Cleveland as Walker, but it’s not that much smaller in scale than the Avengers films. In fact, the Russos see it as “six movies in one”. “He travels a great distance over a 15-year period,” Joe Russo told Vanity Fair. “The movie’s broken up into six chapters that reflect those different periods, and each one has a different tone… One’s got magical realism. Another chapter is absurdism. Another is horror…” 

Released on Apple TV+ from 12 March

4. Chaos Walking

March is a good month for Tom Holland fans. As well as starring in Cherry, Holland can be seen in Chaos Walking, a high-concept science-fiction action movie from Doug Liman, director of Edge of Tomorrow and Jumper. The film is set on a wilderness planet where all the women have died, and all the men’s thoughts can be seen and heard in auras that shimmer around their heads. Daisy Ridley plays an astronaut who is unfortunate enough to crash-land on this blokey dystopia and has to escape the clutches of a villainous mayor played by Mads Mikkelsen. Based on Patrick Ness’s award-winning Young Adult novels, Chaos Walking has been walking slowly towards our screens for years: principal photography finished in 2017, and there have been reshoots and delays ever since.

On general release from 5 March

5. The Courier

Benedict Cumberbatch has been tipped as a potential James Bond, but in The Courier, he plays one of Bond’s less glamorous real-life counterparts. In 1960, just before Sean Connery signed up to be 007, a salesman named Greville Wynne was recruited by MI6 and the CIA to carry Soviet secrets back from Moscow. In the film, his wife (Jessie Buckley) wants him to abandon this increasingly dangerous mission, but Wynne believes that only his espionage can defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. Directed by Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach), The Courier has a “fascinating” story, says Benjamin Lee at the Guardian, but it is Cumberbatch’s performance that sells it. “He’s not always found his perfect fit in recent years but this feels like the kind of role that could potentially return him to the awards conversation in a film that Oscar voters will lap up.”

Released on 19 March in the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada

6. My Salinger Year

The Devil Wears Prada for people who prefer books to fashion, My Salinger Year is adapted by Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) from the acclaimed memoir by Joanna Rakoff. Margaret Qualley (Andie MacDowell’s daughter, incidentally) stars as the 23-year-old Joanna. Having graduated from college in 1995, she hopes to make it as a novelist, but gets a job in a New York literary agency in the meantime. Sigourney Weaver plays her formidable and Meryl Streep-ish boss, Margaret, who insists that her employees use typewriters instead of new-fangled computers and wants Joanna to concentrate on menial tasks rather than writing. But one of those tasks is to reply to the fan letters sent to JD Salinger, the legendary reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye – and these letters stoke her own literary ambitions. Joseph Walsh at The Arts Desk calls it “a tale full of charm and intelligence, deftly capturing a world that has sadly vanished”.  

Released on 5 March in the US and Canada

7. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Justice League flopped when it came out in 2017, but fans of its director, Zack Snyder, argued that he wasn’t to blame. Snyder had to drop out before the film was finished due to a bereavement, and Joss Whedon, the director of the first two Avengers blockbusters, was brought in to complete it. The result was a messy compromise with a confusing plot, a muddled tone and a notorious scene in which Henry Cavill’s moustache had obviously been removed using CGI. But would Snyder’s own mean and moody version have been any better? A lot of people thought so, and campaigned for the release of “the Snyder Cut”. Amazingly, they got their wish. More amazingly, Snyder’s re-edit cost an extra £50 million ($70 million), and it has a running time of four hours. Let’s hope he sorted out Cavill’s upper lip, if nothing else.

Released on HBO Max on 18 March

8. Godzilla vs Kong

In the red corner: a lovelorn ape that came to stop-motion life in 1933, and was revived in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. In the blue corner: a radioactive lizard that was first portrayed by a man in a rubber suit in 1954, and has recently stomped its way through a pair of Hollywood creature features, 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Cinema’s two most famous behemoths fought each other in a Japanese film in 1962, but the rematch has better effects, a classy cast (Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Millie Bobby Brown), and a director, Adam Wingard, who has the right idea about one crucial point. “I do want there to be a winner,” he told EW. “The original film was very fun, but you feel a little let down that the movie doesn’t take a definitive stance. People are still debating now who won in that original movie. So, I want people to walk away from this film feeling like, Okay, there is a winner.” Our money’s on the one that can breathe fire.

Released on 26 March in the US, and on 31 March in the UK and on HBO Max

9. The Truffle Hunters

“Documentaries don’t come much more delightful than… [this], a sensuous plunge into a world that’s built on simple pleasures,” says Amber Wilkinson at Eye for Film. The world in question is Piedmont in North-West Italy, home of the rare white Alba truffle. The only people who can find this lip-smacking delicacy are a few old men who hike through the woods with their faithful, sharp-nosed dogs. Their methods and lifestyles haven’t changed for centuries, but the fungi they unearth are now sold at auction to the world’s grandest restaurants, so newcomers are muscling in on their territory. Directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, and executive produced by Luca Guadagnino, The Truffle Hunters is a must for dog-lovers, food-lovers, and anyone who wants to escape modern urban life for 84 minutes. “Out in the forests,” says Wilkinson, “there’s an earthy feel to proceedings so strong that you can almost smell the soil the dogs are digging into, with Dweck and Kershaw showing the simplicity and strength of the relationships between the men and their four-legged pals.”

Released on 12 March in the US and Canada, and 9 April in the UK and Ireland

10. Tina

The artist formerly known as Anna Mae Bullock has had one of the greatest careers in pop history: among other achievements, Tina Turner has notched up more than 170m record sales and won 12 Grammys. But it’s a career that has had its river deeps as well as its mountain highs, to paraphrase one of her classic singles. With a life story that includes stardom alongside her abusive husband Ike Turner in the 1960s and 1970s, and a triumphant comeback in the 1980s, it was inevitable that she would get own biopic, 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Angela Bassett. Now she gets a feature-length documentary, directed by Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin. Interviewees include Bassett, Oprah Winfrey and Turner herself.

Released on 27 March in the US and on HBO and 28 March in the UK