2020 was a pandemic-fueled disaster that kept film fanatics at home to watch their favorite films. And though many of us went back to the movies, blockbusters returned and streaming services dominated, 2021 was still a strange year that concluded with the magnum opus Spider-Man: No Way Home.
While early contenders like West Side Story and House of Gucci disappointed, others stepped up their game. Things might not be totally back to normal, but there was plenty to see wherever you preferred to watch your favorites.
So, here is the list for my Top 10 Movies of 2021:
10. ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE
It’s always so nice to see a filmmakers true vision brought to life on the screen. As a DC fan, I thought we’ll never get to see this cut of the disastrous Joss Whedon botch-up of 2017. Be it a HBO max release, it was still a sight to behold for all its 4 hour runtime.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is one of the best do-overs one could ask for, for it turns an unbearable atrocity into one of the most amazing and visually stunning features of its kind. The script still isn’t without its shortcomings and the film is also self-indulgent at times but the end product is nonetheless a huge upgrade and is rewarding for the most part. This is an engaging, stunning, and brilliant film that is well worth the wait and viewing. This will definitely go down as the biggest director’s cut in history and I hope this is not the last time we see Zack Snyder in the DCEU. It’s not a masterpiece, but not every film needs to be.
9. SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home
The biggest movie of 2021 and one of the biggest movies of all time. This shouldn’t be a surprise to many.
The movie perfectly balances the comedy with a slight dark plot to follow. Tom Hollands character is in a story so crowded but he still manages to shine and outdoes himself with his performance. We actually see his character being torn apart for the choices that he makes. That’s what makes a great story. Not the plot but the character’s journey. I am so glad that Jon Watts understood this well. This story feels like a true Spider-Man movie. Tom’s performance is incredible and some of the action sequences are beautiful with moves taken from the game. This feels like the most badass, realistic, and well-presented version of Spider-Man.
Now that the Super Hero movies are out of the way, let’s concentrate on real cinema, shall we?
8. DON'T LOOK UP
I know many of you will be surprised with this film’s inclusion as I have reviewed films with higher scores than this but it’s just the important message that this film is trying to convey that got it to this list.
Not all movies can be really great. What I gathered from this comedy-disaster film, was that it’s focusing on how the world and how many people ignore life-threatening events, but more specifically, climate change. I also think it was hinting towards how we handled the Covid-19 pandemic, along with political issues. Those are the areas where Don’t Look Up shines through. The plot is too cheesy and cringe to feel realistic but the messages are certainly not.
7. KING RICHARD
King Richard is a film which teaches you that anything is possible but more especially when you have that one person fighting for you. That one person who believes in you without fail. I appreciated the various life lessons included in the film about being humble and thankful but commanding respect at the same time despite where or what background you come from. Success doesn’t see age, race, or gender but sadly opportunity often does. Will Smith doesn’t let the lack of opportunity beat them as a family and the family is a team. The bigger picture is always knowing that there is a team involved in most successful people.
In an era of comic-book-themed, big-budget films (which I enjoy as well), this film stands out as an example of how Cinema can make one think. Enjoy the experience all the while crunching on your popcorn.
6. TICK TICK BOOM
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a soft spot for musicals and if you watch this movie then you can understand why. It was well worth the wait. Lin-Manuel Miranda is an absolute genius.
The emotion portrayed by every actor is so intense, that in most of the scenes you could practically feel the same emotions, and feel like you’re in the same room. The music is wonderful and makes you feel things you never thought were possible. The only drawback is of course it’s a streaming film. This should’ve been a cinema release. Definitely, a must-see, or at least give it a try, and definitely one of those movies that leave you starstruck while the credits roll on the screen!
5. IN THE HEIGHTS
This was my favorite movie of the year up until the final two months of the year. In The Heights is one of those films that make you feel that the magic realism of cinema is still alive. From the very first shots, we are treated to the vibrant, colorful, and creative energy that bombard the senses for the following two and a half hours. The film is a celebration of culture, community, and life itself, finding beauty and color in the everyday routines and realities. We follow everyday people in this immigrant neighborhood of Washington Heights and have a glimpse into the sueñito (little dream) that each of our main characters holds deeply entrenched in their hearts as they work to make it a reality.
The performances are uniformly excellent and the themes, spirit, script, and direction of the film are intoxicating. Such a great combination of the celebration of culture. music, family, neighborhood, friendship, and acceptance are very rare. The dance sequences are wonderful and inventive and the leads carry their roles with such earnest sincerity it’s hard not to buy into what is, in essence, a fairly simple-minded plot.
4. NIGHTMARE ALLEY
Nightmare Alley is an absolutely fantastic film. Del Toro, as well as the cast, comes together in a sensational fashion. A world where every movie is a superhero CGI whitewashed experience crafted for maximum profit is not one that I want to live in. It’s fast food for your brain, it’s not an experience. Films like this are that meal you ate while on vacation in that cafe with amazing designs on the walls, the unforgettable waiter and desert that you’ve never had before, or the one that you will never forget.
Nightmare Alley is what cinema should be. It should shift your thinking. It should charge your emotions. That’s what differentiates a great film from a good one. And Nightmare Alley has everything of that. I highly recommend this film. It’s twisted and dark; each scene is more breathtaking than the one before. Nightmare Alley is basically a cinematic perfection.
3. THE LAST DUEL
It’s a huge surprise that the Academy did not nominate this film at the Oscars. This is arguably the most important film of 2021.
There has not been an edge of the seat film like this in nearly a decade where stakes were incredibly high and the film delved from quirky and at times disjointed, not knowing where it’s taking us with its tone until it escalated with each story beat building upon the last to become a very dark experience.
The Last Duel is absolutely sublime from start to finish, changing and morphing as it goes, making what once seemed important seem inconsequential, to the point where the importance of the duel at the end has such a deeper meaning than we could have predicted at the start. We need more films like this. The best thing about this one is we see so much has changed yet so much remains the same.
This should be the clear favorite to win Best Picture at the Oscars unless the Academy chooses to snub a British film again as they did in 2019 when 1917 deserved to take the top prize but didn’t.
One often finds that it is when filmmakers are the most honest with themselves and most authentic with their stories that they form a transcendent connection with their audiences. Director Kenneth Branagh’s personal tale “Belfast” becomes such a triumph purely because of the deeply personal nature of the storyline.
Kenneth Branagh’s personal touch shines all the way through right to the end credits with those words – For all who left, for all who stayed on, and for all who got lost! The best part is that this film is all about optimism and life’s small moments which outweigh everything else.
I know this will not win the Best Picture at the Academy Awards but as a Science Fiction fan, I think this is the most important film of the genre in ages.
Dune is a cinematic experience we all deserve in such troubled times. I cannot think of a movie I have seen that held me in awe with such captivating power since Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Cinematographer Greg Fraser is very capable and the film shows his art. There are no Instagram high color filters to speak of here, usually manifesting in every comic book film. Every scene is beautifully shot with very little CGI. Director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the book is Dune, and it strikes the bullseye perfectly. One of the most magical cinematic experiences ever!