Hey, happy New Year. Now I am a bit behind in my schedule as we’ve been doing some huge home projects here, but I wanted to be sure to wrap up 2021. Even though we’re a little bit into 2022, this is going to be my top 10 best movies from 2021.
Now the only qualification to be on this list is that I’ve had to have reviewed it this year or last year, really. I saw some other films that I didn’t get a chance to review that could have made it on this list. But you know, there you go now.
10 Best Movies of 2021
Inclusion on this list doesn’t mean the movie is perfect or even got a five out of five from me. What makes this the best for me is that it’s something that I had an absolute blast while watching, or it’s even something that I’m going to rewatch over and over.
Now, more could have gone on this list, but I had to contain myself to Justin, and I don’t really have them ranked because honestly, it was a tough enough time just getting the list down to 10.
So before I begin, be sure to put some of your favorite films from 2021 in the comments below. I mean, we might have overlap, or you may give me some wonderful suggestions to check out.
All right, before I begin with the list, here are a handful of honorable mentions that got just edged out of the top spots for whatever reason.
There’s Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington and Zendaya. We’ve got The Suicide Squad, Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguee. Yeah, all four or so hours of that.
We’ve also got the indie horror-comedy Werewolves within the animated spectacular The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
There’s a quirky dark comedy called Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break that I saw it either it was Sundance or South by Southwest, and it’s odd, but it’s enjoyable.
And another one that I saw at a festival was Violet, and that’s directed by Justine Bateman, and it stars Olivia Munn. This is thought provoking and even conversation starting, and it’s certainly one to watch.
Finally, wrapping up the honorable mentions is A Quiet Place Part II. I love this just as much as the first and felt it was a wonderful sequel.
All right, so without further ado, let’s dive into our top 10 movies for 2021.
#1. Mass (2021)
It stars Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney, and Ann Dowd, and it’s written and directed by Fran Kranz.
And it’s about two couples who then come together in the aftermath of a violent tragedy that affected their lives in different ways.
This is a single-setting film that plays out a lot like a stage play. And because the setting is just this room inside a church, when there’s very little decoration.
The performances and the dialogue are what drive this story and good gravy, the just words and deliveryThey are raw and emotional.
And the actors give us just soul-baring dialogue. There is truth in their performances, and it made them relatable, even though that what they experienced, I mean, not everybody and very few people are going to encounter.
I was able to see each of their perspective that the parents exhibited just through their performances.
And Jason Isaacs is so vulnerable and angry. I mean, he’s trying to put meaning to all these actions. And he’s attempting to wrap his head around what something that had transpired and then trying to find meaning in that just grief. The restraint that he displays is powerful and heartbreaking.
And then Martha Plimpton gets to deliver what I think is the most critical and devastating lines of dialogue in the entire movie.
Mass is an emotionally draining drama, but it’s a simple and effective story, but it relies also on the actor’s skill to fully engage us.
I mean, like I had said, the performances are raw and compelling, and they’re executed with just an intimacy that is devastating.
And that single setting, oh my gosh, they’re just it’s sterile and plain, and it contrasts with their emotions. And Fran Kranz is the first time director. I mean, he blew me away. I mean, he’s able to evoke guttural performances that will intrigue and then devastate us.
#2. CODA (2021)
This film stands for child or children of deaf adults, and I loved the emotion that is conveyed in this.
Emilia Jones is the lead character, Ruby, and she shines and shows such wonderful conflict as she navigates her hearing world and then the deaf world of her parents and older brother.
This is funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and it’s even uplifting. And the cast feeds off each others in ways that invite us into their world.
And there are a few very moving scenes where we transition from listening to what is going on to hearing what Ruby’s family hears or rather doesn’t hear.
And it’s a stark reminder of the two worlds that are being displayed here. But I think it’s handled really well, and I felt frustrated along with Ruby’s family as they try to conduct business with the hearing world.
I mean, sometimes being taken advantage of. But then I was also frustrated for Ruby, who has to play the go-between. I mean, which means that she sacrifices herself or her dreams sometimes.
And the cast of this is spectacular and they bring a great deal of comedy, but also heart and frustrated realism to the performances.
Now the end is supremely powerful, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. And that’s a really good thing.
I mean, the emotion swells and the story does exactly what I want it to in that moment. I’m looking for Ruby’s character to complete an action and when she finally does, it brings chills.
This is certainly one not to miss, or if you’ve already seen it, give it a rewatch.
#3. Pig (2021)
I had the fortune of not seeing any trailers prior to checking out Pig, so I thought it was really funny when so many people had this John Wick esque sort of expectation going into this quiet drama.
I was absolutely floored by Nicolas Cage’s performance. He’s restrained, nuanced and terribly fierce in his portrayal of this renowned chef turned hermit.
There’s a lot of mystery that surrounds the story, especially towards the beginning of the film. But as it goes along, I absolutely fell in love with the examination of the themes of loss and grief, and then the reconciliation of those within life.
Alex Wolff co-stars with Cage and their journey is incredibly moving and captivating, but it doesn’t start out that way.
And as a film goes along and more is revealed, the parallels become evident and then illustrate how powerful the narrative actually is with those two characters.
Cage commands the screen in each of his scenes, and much of the time it’s without dialogue, and I was absolutely drawn into his character as flawed and mysterious as he was.
Now, while there are several standout scenes, one where Cage speaks to another chef in a restaurant is devastating and then unbelievably tense. I mean, the quietness in which the conversation happens and with such few words, highlights Cage’s true mastery of his craft.
From the cinematography that is patient and deliberate, refusing to zoom in during particular conversations so that we have no other choice but to focus on the dialogue to then the color palette of earth tones.
I mean, this isn’t a flashy film but is an incredibly haunting with a beautiful story to her experience.
If you haven’t yet seen Pig, I’d make it a priority to check it out. It’s slower and quieter, but absolutely worth the time to watch.
#4. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
All right, so this is the film that outside of the initial teaser trailer, I didn’t watch anything because I just didn’t want it to be ruined or even spoiled in the slightest.
And I held to this so much that when a trailer came on before another movie that I was watching in the theater, I actually ran out of the showing and hid in the hallway until I was certain that the trailer was over. And I’m really glad that I did that.
Spider-Man: No Way Home was an awesome treat, and amidst all the wonderful action and the instability of the multiverse, the thing I loved most within this story is the theme of redemption that permeated just about every storyline.
From the villains like Dr. Otto and Green Goblin to Spider-Man himself getting moments of healingز Every one of those felt earned and then, more importantly, were engaging and touching.
Now I know this isn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t have to be to be included on this list.
I had a tremendously enjoyable time while watching. I teared up or got chills several times as the narrative would work its way through the emotional arcs of our characters. We also finally get to see Peter Parker move out of the high school arena and into adulthood.
The action is a lot of engaging fun as well. I was immersed in all of the craziness and love that big finale battle.
It was exciting with so much going on and I could keep track of what I was watching. I mean, it wasn’t just some blurred mess of visuals. This was so much more of an emotional movie than I ever imagined it would be.
I mean, if you have been wanting to see this but haven’t yet, I don’t know how you haven’t, but you really need to go and check it out.
The escape from reality alone is worth the price of admission, but you also be treated to a moving character journey.
#5. Free Guy (2021)
So we’ve got a couple of Ryan Reynolds films this year, and one for me is decidedly much better than the other.
And I’m talking free guy now. I saw this one three times in the theater this summer. I had a blast with it, and not just because I got to see Ryan Reynolds being his sarcastically witty self, but because mixed within all of the video game frenzy was a touching and emotional love story that I didn’t expect to experience.
As we move through the virtual world of Free City, the graphics are amazing, and I love the attention to detail and so much of the background imagery.
We can see newbies and glitches going on, and in my second or third time viewing, I actually caught a cleverly positioned product placement for aviation gin.
And sure, I mean, it’s completely self-serving for Reynolds, but the execution is what made it so wonderful.
Jodie Comer and Joe Keery are also standouts in this. As they deliver most of the love story that’s taking place in the real world. They have great banner and they’re fun to watch together.
There’s also a great cast of supporting characters who really shore up the storytelling and the character arcs. They make the movie better by what they each bring, whether that be comedy, wisdom, or heart.
This is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again, and it can even have playing in the background while I drift in and out of attention.
I laugh every time and get chills each time the Disney IP items are used within that particular scene. I mean, this one is a can’t miss in my book.
#6. Dune (2021)
What a visual masterpiece. And I’m more thrilled with this movie now because it’s confirmed that the story is going to continue.
When I first saw it, there was a small cloud of doubt over whether or not the studio was going to greenlight the continuation, which then made me nervous for the film as a whole.
I mean, come on, this one ends in the middle of a story and actually, this first movie is really just prologue.
We’ve gotten to know the world, some of our characters and are being immersed in political schemes of a universe were only beginning to explore for this story.
Timothée Chalamet is spectacular to watch as Paul atrophies. He’s timid, but he’s not reluctant. There’s this strength that sits within him, and we see it emanate from his being.
Rebecca Ferguson plays his mom, and there is an air of mystery surrounding a lot of her character that makes her intriguing, but also frustrating at points.
The special effects are outstanding, whether that be the scale and grandeur of spacecraft or this glowing and pulsing shield that surrounds a character. They all make the experience very immersive.
And speaking of immersive, the cinematography is just stunning. I mean, what we see is vast, and the camera efficiently dictates our emotions, whether that be isolation and loneliness or fear or even determination. I mean, each of the framings really works to hone our attention and then guide our feelings.
I saw this both at home on TV and then in IMAX, and I am so glad that I saw it in IMAX because that was an experience, to say the least. I mean, the score vibrated my soul and then transported me into the world that was surrounding my vision.
And this is a visual treat, and I am super excited to see where part two of Dune takes us when it finally arrives.
#7. Space Sweepers (2021)
Now, continuing with the space and sci-fi theme of Dune, this next movie caught me completely by surprise.
It’s Space Sweepers, a South Korean adventure that premiered on Netflix earlier in Twenty Twenty One.
There’s a ton of fast-paced action that at times does look like video game cut scenes, but I was so drawn into the characters and then the emotion of the story that I didn’t mind some wonky visuals.
I love the chase aspect of this story. We follow this misfit group of space junk collectors who happen upon a young girl named Dorothy.
And now everybody wants Dorothy because supposedly she’s a weapon of mass destruction. The kid is so cute and mischievous, too.
She’ll melt your heart with her eyes, and her arc does exactly what it’s meant to do. Draw us in and then deliver the gut punch that made me tear up.
The emotional angles of this story aren’t stagnant, either. We get different arcs that transition naturally, keeping us engaged and then continually invested.
It’s one again, isn’t a perfect film or story. There are continuity errors and even a less than perfectly developed villain. But the overall tone, camaraderie, and character growth that’s shown is what makes this so enjoyable to watch.
Plus, when you couple all those with some good humor and exciting action, it creates an enveloping storyline that will hold your attention and make you leave with a smile.
So this one was one of my most anticipated films of 2021.
#8. Last Night in Soho (2021)
Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho movie is a mysterious thriller that time hops in a very creative way.
The movie stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Matt Smith, but Thomasin McKenzie is the real star of this.
It’s Eloise, her character’s story and the cinematography, and the camerawork, and this is really a trip.
I love how as Eloise falls asleep and then awakens in the sixties, she follows Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Sandie, into this dance club.
As we watch Eloise not quite mirror, but also not really follow Sandie, It’s a quizzical sequence that is wonderful to watch.
And then we get to this dance number where Sandie starts dancing with Matt Smith’s character, and as the camera spins around them and Sandie spins, she then becomes Eloise, and then they continue to alternate in one energetic dance scene.
I mean, it really was jaw-dropping to watch. The soundtrack is phenomenal also, which really is to be expected with an Edgar Wright film.
There are so many amazing songs from the 60s, sometimes covered by other artists, but each time they work to enhance the mood, mixing the present with the past in this seamless way.
And so many of the visuals are timed to cue with the beats. And sometimes it’s just footsteps or a flashing light. And then the screen is like a metronome for the score and the soundtrack, which I absolutely adored.
I loved the growing mystery throughout this and especially appreciated that when there was something that felt way too obvious. That’s because it was, and the story didn’t take that overt path, but instead continue to subvert our expectations.
The darkness, mixed with the upbeat vibe of the soundtrack mixed well, and then all of that is combined with Ellie’s character journey of self-discovery and confidence to make an exciting mystery that transport us right into the 60s at all of the right times.
#9. Nightmare Alley (2021)
So this next one is another one of those films that I went in pretty blind. I’d seen the teaser for Guillermo del Toro’s remake, or maybe it’s a re-adaptation of Nightmare Alley, but that was it.
I had suspicions on what the story was about, but I was terribly and then excitedly wrong.
This is a haunting and tragic tale of greed and manipulation that makes for a disturbing psychological thriller.
Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett steal the show, but then there are so many other standouts within this that had they not been in the film, I’m not sure it would have been as effective as it was.
Willem Dafoe is not in this too much, but he has an amazingly powerful and important scene in which he eats dinner. Yeah, I mean, that’s the scene.
As he eats, he has this conversation, but it’s not quick or even urgent. He’s just recounting some info that feels like it could be important, but at this point we have no idea why.
And Bradley Cooper is mesmerizing and quietly intense. I’m not sure I’d classify him as villainous, at least initially, but there is something dark contained within his character.
And Cate Blanchett is striking and wicked. She matches Cooper’s energy and ferocity, but she approaches it differently.
There is an extreme darkness to the story, which becomes enveloping and disturbing. The visual foreshadowing also is subtle, but it’s really effective.
And the color palette gives this an older feeling. I mean, it’s not quite a sepia tone, but it’s certainly earthy and a little drab.
I actually enjoyed this movie the more I sat with it, as I played scenes and sequences over and over in my mind, the ramifications for decisions and the character arcs haunted me in a really good way.
I mean, I couldn’t shake the end. It was masterfully brought about. So when we see a character running and jumping onto something, we can see the completion of a patiently executed story arc, and I just loved it.
#10. Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021)
All right, so I am a Marvel fanboy. Not that I think they can do no wrong, but just that I go in as a fan expecting to have a really great time. Well,with Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, I was blown away.
This being a superhero movie, we expect some big fun action and this delivers, but in a way we’ve not really seen before in a Marvel movie.
I loved the addition of the kung fu. I mean, it’s such beautiful and powerful fighting style, which then the movie takes full advantage of showing.
The camerawork is stunning. There were multiple times where I was trying to figure out just how they were able to capture the action because the actors are in these crazy positions and locations.
And all the while we’ve got the camera flying in and around to put us right in the middle of the action.
I mean, exciting isn’t even the right term. It was thrilling and magnificent. And then when you couple that with the insane choreography and stunts, it was awesome.
The special effects in this are so well done. We get to see some imaginative creatures that look amazing as they come alive and they take part than in the action.
The coupling of Simu Liu and Awkwafina, I mean, it was outstanding. They work well together, and I really loved how Awkwafina gets to shine as sort of a hero also.
The martial arts are spectacular to watch, and I really love the infusion of some of the wirework that we’ve seen before in films like Hero or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Now I’m excited to see where this goes when Shang-Chi returns, and I love what can also mean for the MCU as it broadens the horizons with more cultures that are represented.
All right, so that’s my list. I’d really love to know what’s on your top list, though. Please share in the comments below.
I’m really looking forward to 2022 and all that’s in store entertainment-wise. I’m also really, truly thankful that you choose to spend some time with me in these reviews. I hope you’ve had a wonderful start to the new year and that it is an awesome one for you.