Hello fellow film fans! My picks of best/favorite movies of 2021 is here! Per my blog tradition, I usually wait until mid January to post the obligatory Top 10 Best list.
I always have to preface this kind of post that there are still plenty of 2021 movies I have not seen yet: The Worst Person in the World, The French Dispatch, A Hero, C’Mon C’Mon, Licorice Pizza, Spencer, Summer of Soul, etc. which might alter my current Top 10.
It goes without saying of course, that everyone’s list is personal… my criteria is that a film makes a lasting impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking and indelible. Replay-ability is a factor I take into consideration as well, though I don’t necessarily want to rewatch every single film on my list. Well without further ado, here we go…
Top 10 Films of 2021
(in reverse numeric order)
10. Black Widow* (Full Review)
I’ve included MCU films in my top 10 in the past and this past year, Black Widow is the one that really impressed me the most. Despite the lame villain, overall there are lots to love here, especially the introduction of Florence Pugh as Yelena. I’ve come to love Scarlett Johansson in the titular role so it’s great to finally see her get the solo movie, albeit it’s long overdue. The screenplay by Eric Pearson manages to balance the action, humor and emotional moments pretty well. It’s a fun mix of spy thriller and superhero genre that’s essentially about family ties.
9. Spiderman: No Way Home (Full Review)
If you asked me earlier this year if a Spider-man movie would make my top 10, I’d say ‘no way!’ But hey, this is a year where some of my most-anticipated films end up disappointing or simply didn’t live up to my expectations. Well, kudos to Jon Watts + co for delivering first rate entertainment that’s delightful, funny, and surprisingly emotional ride that makes me fall in love with the characters all over again. Now that most people have seen this by now, I can say how much I enjoyed seeing the three Spideys hanging out and fighting together. Not only was the stakes really high for Peter (or I should say Peters), the movie also gave Andrew Garfield’s Spidey such a great redemptive arc. I think the record-shattering box office is well deserved. I for one think that films of any genre can be great art, including comic-book movies.
8. West Side Story (Full Review)
In a year where there are plenty of musical adaptations, this is the one I’m most impressed with. I really wish ANNETTE would make the cut as I had anticipated that one the most, but I think the best part about that film is Adam Driver’s astounding performance (hence it makes my Honorable Mentions list). Admittedly, this version of West Side Story is the first cinematic adaptation I’ve seen and it looks absolutely glorious on the big screen! Seeing it on Dolby Cinema was quite a treat for the senses. This film further proves that Spielberg’s still got it and he is truly a master filmmaker who can thrive in any genre.
7. The Tragedy Of Macbeth (Full Review)
I honestly didn’t think I’d be listing a popular Shakespeare adaptation to my Best-Of list, it’s a film I wasn’t even that interested to see. Yet I was blown-away by Joel Coen’s beautifully-crafted adaptation done with minimalist yet bold approach. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand make for a captivating middle-aged Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, while Kathryn Hunter delivers an effectively-eerie, Oscar-worthy performance that’s quite hard to shake. The Tragedy of Macbeth exceeds my expectations in every respect and definitely one of the absolute best films of the year.
6. The Lost Daughter* (Full Review)
I’m thrilled there have been quite a few buzz-worthy female-directed films last year. This one is still fresh in my mind as I had just seen it recently. It’s another phenomenal directorial debut with stunning central performances. I’ve appreciated Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actress before and she’s definitely got the chops as a writer/director. It’s such a bold first film, tackling a a taboo subject about motherhood that’s rarely depicted on screen, yet it presents the issue without a condemning eye. She directed this with such a deft hand, keeping the tension & suspense up until the end.
5. CODA* (Full Review)
CODA is actually an English-language remake of the French-language film La Famille Bélier (2014) that the original film producer himself wanted director Sian Heder to direct for American audiences. Well, Heder certainly did an astonishing job reinventing the story and making it her own. It’s such a delightful film about a family of mostly deaf adults, with the exception of Ruby (Emilia Jones), hence the title that refers to Child of Deaf Adults. Heder is astounding here and she deserved more attention this award season, as is Troy Katsur who plays her dad. The father-daughter moment while they’re looking at the starry sky is one of my favorite scenes I’ve seen this year.
4. Drive My Car
I’m glad I got a screener for this and it was the first film I watched of 2022. I’m glad I waited before I posted my top 10 until after I saw this. The 3-hour running time might make it hard for some people, I actually had to break it up into two viewings. The fact that the story revolves around the world of theatre–the protagonist Yûsuke is adapting Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya–appeals to me, but it’s an emotional journey about loss and love. Hidetoshi Nishijima has a magnetic appeal as Yûsuke that I’m curious to see what else he’s been in. Filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi takes his time in peeling back its layers, and I think the film could be edited down to be closer to 2-hours. At the same time, the slow, atmospheric ride is a captivating one that does reward my patience.
3. Belfast (Full Review)
Thanks to Twin Cities Film Fest, I saw this back in October and it’s definitely the film fest highlight for me. I’ve long admired Kenneth Branagh as an actor and director, and this time he tells his own childhood story of growing up during the turbulent times of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The cast is fantastic, with notable, Oscar-worthy performances from Ciarán Hinds & Caitríona Balfe. Despite the dark subject matter, I find BELFAST entertaining and heartfelt, with plenty of wit and humor to keep things from being too dour. At just 1hr 38min, it never overstays its welcome. I truly appreciate filmmakers who can tell their story efficiently in a relatively short time.
2. The Power Of The Dog* (Full Review)
Of all the movies I’ve seen last year, I think The Power of The Dog is the most potent and haunting that really gets under my skin. There’s an unsettling mood and tension permeating every minute that takes hold of you and wouldn’t let go. It’s been weeks since I saw it and I still find myself thinking about it and recounting some of its layered mystery and meaning. Benedict Cumberbatch is in fine form here that proves his versatility, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is definitely one of the best young actors working today. Bravo Jane Campion for crafting a quiet but tremendous film with plenty of undercurrents beneath the surface. It’s simply exquisite, a word I don’t usually use to describe most films. She’s a shoo-in for Oscars’ Best Director nominations. I’ll be rooting for her to win this year, but mostly I wish she’d direct more movies!
1. DUNE (Full Review)
It’s so wonderful when a movie you’ve been anticipating lives up to your expectations. A film that ought be seen in as big a screen as possible, but also holds up on repeat viewing on HBO Max. I actually enjoyed it more on repeat viewing, and the visuals are still as breathtaking even on the small screen. There’s so many things Denis Villeneuve did right with this massive undertaking, and one of the biggest thing is pacing. Most films over 2-hours long tend to drag, but it kept me engaged most of the time.
‘Fear is the mind-killer’ is the book’s mantra, but it might as well be Villeneuve’s. It takes some gargantuan ambition, guts, passion and craftsmanship to tackle something deemed ‘un-filmable.’ The immensely watchable ensemble cast, led by Timothée Chalamet, are terrific overall. Bring on part II!
15 Honorable Mentions
There’s no ‘science’ in picking a Best List… mostly just gut instinct and personal preference. I really enjoy these 15 films, and some of them actually almost made it to my top 10 list. In any case,
(in alphabetical order)
- Annette – review
- The Green Knight – review
- The Harder They Fall
- I’m Your Man* – review
- King Richard – review
- The Last Duel – review
- My Name Is Pauli Murray* – review
- Nightmare Alley – review
- No Time To Die – review
- Passing* – review
- Riders Of Justice – review
- Shang-Chi – review
- When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit*
The films marked with * (asterisk) are those #directedbywomen
Check out my list of films I saw as part of the 52 Films By Women Challenge
22 thoughts on “Top 10 Films of 2021 + 15 Honorable Mentions”
Right now, Titane is still my favorite film of 2021 so far with Dune in 2nd and The Power of the Dog in third. I just added a few more films to my best of 2021 list so far as I hope to watch The Passing and The Lost Daughter later this month and hopefully Licorice Pizza if it’s still playing in my multiplex this weekend.
I’m glad there’s some love for Black Widow despite that awful screening I went to as re-watching it on Disney+ a few month after its theatrical release made me enjoy the film more as I love watching Scarlett and Florence together as I hope they work together on a different project while the latter can just continue to kick ass as Yelena. I am hoping that she and Hailee Steinfeld do Black Widow and Hawkeye as the second film of the Black Widow trilogy as it would be a girls-buddy movie.
Haven’t seen Titane yet (not sure if I can handle it) nor Licorice Pizza. Surprised to see Bradley Cooper nominated for supporting role there but not in Nightmare Alley.
Yes I love Black Widow and I think people have forgotten about it since it was released in May. I think since I just saw Florence in Hawkeye reminds me how much I LOVE her. Oh yeah, Hailee and Florence together in a series would be a lot of fun to watch!
Nice list, Ruth. And I appreciate the inclusion of Black Widow. It didn’t make my own list, but it did wind up being better than I was honestly expecting it to be. Also, I definitely recommend checking out Spencer, out of those that you haven’t seen yet. 😉
Hey Chris! I really thought I’d be putting ETERNALS on my top 10 list out of the MCU, but it turned out to be such a disappointment. Black Widows is really good and as a fan of Florence Pugh I enjoyed it even more.
NEON actually sent a dvd collection screener with SPENCER in it but the quality is so bad I can’t watch any of them
With the American release schedule for some of these foreign films, I’ll be lucky if I get my own list done in February. We already have some matches on what I’ve got going so far! Glad to see Dune and Power of the Dog at the top!
Yeah I was thinking about delaying my top 10 but I wasn’t sure if I could even get some of the movies by end of the month so just decided to post it. I love DUNE so much and Power of the Dog is simply outstanding.
Awesome list Ruth. It was so cool to see that we have quite a bit of overlap. Great minds and all that, right? LOL
Hey Keith! Glad we share a mutual admiration for DUNE… what other movies we share in our top 10? I’m gonna check out your list now.
I didn’t see many films last year but I did see 3 on your list, Black Widow, SpiderMan and Dune. I probably wouldn’t include Black Widow or SpiderMan on my “best” list. But Dune is definitely the “best” film that I’ve seen in 2021. Although, watching it at home, it loss that immersive visual that I saw on Dolby Cinema and I have a pretty big screen at home. Lol!
Yeah, seeing it on Dolby Cinema is definitely more immersive than at home, but the visuals are still so breathtaking. My list isn’t just for the ‘greatest’ movies, whatever that means… I think those two comic-book films are terrific + well-crafted even if they aren’t exactly art-house cinema.
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The Marvel Universe has impressed me enough to want to watch them again. However, all that eye candy is not good for you. The acting is always as decent as buff people can make it. When you have to look the part, you sometimes have to scrap some of the acting skill part of the assignment, don’t you know. Overall, a reasonable list of movies for 2021.
It’s so hard knowing when to actually do a Top 10 of year, isn’t it! We’re still waiting for movies like Belfast to be released in the UK but there’s always going to be a movie missed somewhere. I expected Spider-Man to just about make my Top 10 but until I’ve seen some other key movies, it would end up being my #1!
Wow, that is so weird that Belfast still hasn’t been released in the UK. Is it because it’s set in Northern Ireland?? I loved that one, and the cast is amazing.
I never thought I’d put No Way Home on my top 10 but it’s just SO good! Can’t wait to rewatch it when it’s out on streaming.
Honestly, we just end up waiting forever for the ‘Oscar’ movies. Sometimes it even comes to the BAFTAs and there’s movies winning that haven’t had a wide cinema release in the UK yet.
Really looking forward to Belfast though!
Belfast is really good! The cast is amazing and the story is a personal one for Kenneth Branagh. Hope you get to see it soon!
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Interesting list! I still haven’t seen Black Widow, so I need to fix that. Trying to get a hold of Drive My Car too; I’ve heard only great things about it!
Oh Black Widow is great if you love MCU movies, love Scarlett in the role and Florence Pugh is a fantastic addition as her sister.
Drive My Car is 3 hrs long so I actually watched it in two days, ahah, but it’s so well worth a watch!
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