‘King Richard’: Release date, trailer and everything you need to know about the Will Smith movie

King Richard
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Will Smith is still one of the few bonafide movie stars out there, and in his latest movie, King Richard, he will be helping to tell the story of two of the most influential and best athletes of the 21st century — Venus and Serena Williams.

King Richard is one of the most anticipated movies of 2021, not just because of Will Smith, but as it is being billed as the kind of inspirational sports movie that audiences love. Plus, Warner Bros. is going to make sure that the film is available to as many people as possible in these unique times.

Here is everything that you need to know about King Richard, from when you can watch it to how.

When is the ‘King Richard’ release date?

King Richard is set to arrive for movie fans on Nov. 19 across the globe, serving as a perfect potential family movie watch around the Thanksgiving holiday for U.S. audiences or just in general for the rest of the world.

That Nov. 19 release date includes both theaters and a day-and-date streaming release on the HBO Max platform. As a Warner Bros. 2021 movie, King Richard is getting the 31-day streaming play on HBO Max, allowing viewers to watch it from home until about Dec. 20; it will eventually come back to HBO Max but at an as yet unspecified date.

What is the ‘King Richard’ plot?

Venus and Serena Williams not only took the tennis world by storm from a young age, but the global sports community as they became two of the most successful tennis stars in history. King Richard is based on the true story of their father, Richard Williams, who was determined to set his daughters up for success.

Here is the official synopsis from Warner Bros.:

“Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, Calif., to the global stage as legendary icons. The profoundly moving film shows the power of family, perseverance and unwavering belief as a means to achieve the impossible and impact the world.”

Will Smith in ‘King Richard’ 

King Richard Will Smith

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Will Smith stars as Richard Williams, a role that the actor has already received plenty of Oscar buzz for.

Smith of course broke out in the 1990s with the TV Show the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and movies that included Independence Day, Men in Black and Bad Boys. For years he was a box-office draw just on his name alone. Things have changed in recent years (IP is often the most important thing to sell a movie, for better or worse) and Smith isn’t appearing as often in movies as he once was.

Though he has been pretty active in recent years, having starred in Aladdin, Gemini Man, Spies in Disguise and Bad Boys for Life since 2019. King Richard, however, is a chance for Smith to remind us all of his acting capabilities, and perhaps earn him his third Oscar nomination and possibly his first win.

Who else is in the ‘King Richard’ cast?

Will Smith stars in 'King Richard'.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Of course you can’t have a movie about Venus and Serena Williams without Venus and Serena. Playing the two tennis icons are Saniyya Sidney as Venus and Demi Singleton as Serena. Sidney has already starred in some massive projects, including the updated TV miniseries Roots from 2016, she has appeared in American Horror Story and has film credits that include Hidden Figures, Fences and the indie film Fast Color. Singleton has fewer credits than Sidney, but one of them is a regular role on the EPIX series Godfather of Harlem.

The last key member of the Williams family is the matriarch, Oracene “Brandy” Williams, who is being played by Aunjanue Ellis. Ellis is a veteran of the movie world, with some of her most popular credits including Ray, Quantico, If Beale Street Could Talk and Lovecraft Country, for which she received an Emmy nomination. There has also been some Oscar speculation about Ellis for her performance in King Richard.

The rest of the King Richard cast includes the likes of Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn, Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew, Daniele Lawson, Layla Crawford and Kevin Dunn. The full cast list is available on IMDb

Who is the ‘King Richard’ director?

Taking on directing duties for King Richard is Reinaldo Marcus Green. King Richard is the biggest film that Green has directed to date, as he thus far has made a name for himself directing independent films, including Monsters and Men and Joe Bell.

Green has some experience in the sport genre as well, having directed a series of shorts for the online publication Players Tribune, working with athletes like Megan Rapinoe, Michael Thomas, Jimmy Butler, Richard Sherman and Donald Driver.

Is there a ‘King Richard’ trailer?

There is indeed. The first trailer for King Richard was released in July, but in recent weeks Warner Bros. has been pushing the film with some brand new trailers, including one that features an original song that Beyonce wrote for the movie, called “Be Alive.” You can watch that trailer below. 

Are there ‘King Richard’ reviews?

King Richard played the fall film festival circuit, appearing at the Telluride Film Festival, where it got a very positive response from critics. Currently, King Richard has a 91% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 71 on Metacritic. Reviews often praise the performances from Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, as well as the film’s uplifting tone, though also acknowledge a couple of bumps that could have been smoothed out.

In our What to Watch review of King Richard, Leigh Monson similarly praised the Smith's compelling performance, but questioned whether the father of two of the greatest tennis players should have been the focus of the movie.

How to watch ‘King Richard’

As discussed above, King Richard is getting both a run in movie theaters and a 31-day window on HBO Max starting Nov. 19. Here is what you need to know about watching King Richard as soon as it becomes available.

If you want to see King Richard in theaters, the process is as simple as checking to see if, where and when it is playing at any of your local movie theaters and then purchasing a ticket for whatever time works best for you. Please do keep in mind though your local areas mask and vaccine advisories so that you and everyone else in the theater can have a safe and enjoyable experience.

For those who want to watch King Richard from the comfort of their couch, you will need to make sure that you are signed up for the $14.99 per month plan of HBO Max. King Richard will not be available on any other platform but HBO Max for its limited 31-day window and even HBO Max subscribers that just have the $9.99 plan will not be able to watch the film (they will when it returns to the streaming service in the future). However, if you are a subscriber to the $14.99 HBO Max plan, then you will be able to watch King Richard at no additional cost and on any device that can support HBO Max, be it your TV, mobile device, tablet or computer.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.