Movies can take a long time to make – and even longer when they're stuck in development hell, post production hell, or distribution hell. Here are nine high-profile films that were supposed to come out a while ago, but for various reasons haven't yet been released to the American public.
- Wendy. A Collider article from August 6, 2015 announced, "New Benh Zeitlin Movie Wendy Filming in Antigua This Year." Three and a half years later, there's no release date in sight for this, the sophomore effort from the Oscar-nominated director of Beasts of the Southern Wild. That film came out seven years ago.
- Radegund. It's no surprise that a Terrence Malick entry would make this list: the reclusive director is notorious for spending years in the editing room. (His last feature Song to Song began filming in 2012 and was finally released in 2017.) Radegund, the true story of a conscientious objector in World War II Austria, was reportedly shot in 2016. Like Wendy, it was set to premiere in 2018. It still has no release date.
- The Current War. This dramatization of the Thomas Edison-George Westinghouse feud premiered in Toronto in 2017, and was being prepped for Oscar consideration later that year by its distributor... Harvey Weinstein. You know what happened to him. With the swift dissolution of the Weinstein Company, The Current War got lost in the shuffle. Foreign distribution is presumably in the works, but no American release has been set.
- City of Lies. Johnny Depp's career endures despite countless accusations, personal issues, and flops. Yet this thriller about Biggie Smalls's murder, starring Depp and Forest Whitaker, has been sitting on the shelf for over a year. Apparently someone doesn't want it to come out; depending on what conspiracy theory you want to believe, it's either a litigious crew member, the Los Angeles Police Department, or people in the hip hop community.
- The Batman. Here's a film that's taking forever to start. Ben Affleck was red hot in 2015, after directing Best Picture Oscar winner Argo and starring in the acclaimed Gone Girl. So Warner Bros. cast him as Batman in Batman v Superman and planned to have him star in, and direct, a sequel called The Batman. The following year, Affleck released test footage of Joe Manganiello as the film's villain Deathstroke. And then... everything fell apart, as Affleck's popularity and Warner's vision of Batman took a simultaneous nosedive. The Batman is now scheduled to come out in 2021, with Matt Reeves directing and no one yet cast as the caped crusader.
- Gambit. Ben Affleck, Channing Tatum feels your pain. As early as 2013, there was talk of launching a Wolverine spinoff movie featuring the New Orleans mutant Gambit, with Tatum producing and playing the title role. But years have passed, directors have come and gone, script rewrites have surely been endless, and Tatum's marquee value has dimmed. Like a lot of handsome-but-dumb actors (Brendan Fraser, Josh Hartnett, Gambit originator Taylor Kitsch), Tatum's A-list status is proving to be a fleeting thing. If he's lucky and Gambit is good – provided it ever gets made – he might pull a Ryan Reynolds and find renewed stardom.
- The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Three cheers for Terry Gilliam for finally completing his dream movie, after nearly twenty years of delays, lawsuits, and more problems than you can count. (The documentary Lost in La Mancha covers the disastrous 2000 production, which was shut down after its first week.) The film was finished in 2018 and released in France that May. It is supposedly hitting US cinemas next month, but as I write this, there's no actual release date, so I wouldn't count on it.
- Amazing Grace. The current record holder for time spent in distribution purgatory, this Aretha Franklin concert film was shot by Sydney Pollack way back in 1972. A delay in the editing room led to the footage languishing for decades; when producer Alan Elliott obtained the footage in 2007 and finished the film, lawsuits from Franklin over the use of her likeness kept it out of the public view. Amazing Grace only premiered in November 2018, several months after the singer's death. Distributor Neon announced an early 2019 release date, but as of this writing, their website doesn't even list the film.
- Avatar 2. By all accounts, James Cameron really is moving forward with four, count 'em, four sequels to his 2009 mega-hit Avatar. He first announced the sequels back in 2010, with the intention of releasing Avatar 2 in 2014. Well, there went that deadline! The performance capture portions of Avatar 2 and 3 actually wrapped in November 2018, with live action filming yet to come. Cameron's arrogance is legendary, but so is his ability to make movies that rake in enormous amounts of cash. So if you're skeptical that the public will care much about the Avatar franchise by the (alleged) 2020 release date of Avatar 2, I share your skepticism, but Cameron has proven me wrong before. Still, someone is hedging their bets on the franchise: Cameron has yet to shoot 4 and 5.