I know what you’re thinking, “a Top 10 list of 2021 posted nearly 6 months into the following year? Are these guys serious?“. Yes, we are.
This is our Top 10 Films of 2021 and hear us out, we have a good reason for being this late. You see, forming a Top 10 list this late into the year actually has many advantages; firstly, it allows us to look back with much more objective eyes, to expel any recency bias, to form an opinion that feels unmarred by the noise of the internet and our fellow critics. Secondly, it’s also not so far into the future that we forget key details of the films we’re judging here; in fact, our memories remain very fresh. With these advantages at hand, it has allowed us to come to the conclusion that 2021 has shown itself to be a year of not much grandeur. While it’s true that we encountered a few gems throughout our deep dive into the 2021 film catalogue, it’s also true that we came out feeling a little empty handed. 2021 pales in comparison to the films released in watershed years like 2016 — which included features like La La Land, Arrival, Hell or Highwater, Moonlight, The Handmaiden, and Manchester by the Sea. In truth, great years of film like 2016 are in all probability likely to be a once-in-a-decade sort of deal. This was not one of them, but alas, there is no doubt that there are some fantastic films in the mix here.
10. The Suicide Squad
The resurrection of The Suicide Squad is here! James Gunn’s version of Task Force X is a significant improvement on the 2016 version. A lot more laughs, fun and interesting characters this film did a lot right and has started to generate spinoff content that we can all get excited for.
9. The Green Knight
Another gem from A24, The Green Knight delivers a personal character journey as Dev Patrl’s Gawain comes to grips with the consequences for his actions. Backed up with outstanding visuals and cinematography, The Green Knight was a movie that certainly surprised us.
Paul Verhoeven’s erotic entry sparks a fire back into the genre with a delightfully chaotic story of a Nun using misdirection to fool the masses. This film has everything strange and peculiar that one could hope for from Verhoeven; complete with fantasy sequences and some powerful performances.
7. West Side Story
Spielberg enchants his audience with a spellbinding display of cinematic imagery in this magical reenactment of the 1961 film. This is perhaps the most visually dazzling musical ever put on screen.
6. Bo Burnham: Inside
Is it a film? Is it comedy special? Is it a TV film? I really have no clue nor do I think it matters. Bo Burnham: Inside is crafted in a way where you can make your own decision on that. For me, it’d be demeaning to call this a comedy special. Bo Burnham manages to capture the millennial experience throughout the infamous 2020 year. It’s as cleverly hilarious as it is existentially terrifying. An intimately and nuanced piece of work!
5. Drive My Car
Ryusuke Hamaguchis slow-burn tale about cowardice and regret provides a sobering lesson for those who are patient enough to sit and listen. Drive My Car is achingly beautiful with its storytelling and it just had to make our list. There are fews films at this pace which get recognized by the Oscars; it was certainly recognized by us.
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home
The MCU hasn’t been kind to Spider-Man. The fluffy high-school coming of age films in Homecoming and Far From Home never did complete justice to the Spider-Man character. This all changed with Spider-Man: No Way Home and with so many juggling pieces, it had no right to be as good as it was. I was skeptical with how all the previous characters could even work but integrating them into the narrative and developing Tom Holland’s Peter Parker was the perfect decision. I finally have a reason to be excited for Spider-Man again.
3. No Time To Die
Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond was surely an emotional one. With references to his past four films all coming to an emotional and unexpected climax, No Time To Die can seriously be considered as one of the better 007 films. Largely carried by the performance of Daniel Craig this film is the perfect send off for his iteration of this iconic character.
2. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
One of those very raw animated films that checks every single box. This one really flew under the radar due to its Netflix exclusive release but one cannot deny how impressive this film was. Akin to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this film has it all from interesting animation styles blended together to rich developed characters to an interesting premise with compelling thematic underpinnings.
Denis Villeneuve builds a monolithic world that matches the size and immensity of the big screen. Dune may not be a perfectly executed story (in large part to its long-form style), but it took all of our breaths away when we witnessed it on-screen. There’s no denying that cinematic scale is an important aspect to us and Dune contained endless quantities of it. Enough to fill the vast dunes of Arakis.