With the end of 2021, it’s time to rank my Top 10 Favorite Films of the year from worst to best/best to bestest!
Note: I have not seen every film of 2021, so there may be some terrific movies which aren’t on this list simply because I haven’t seen them. Also, some great films such as “The Father” & “Judas and the Black Messiah” which were widely released in 2021 aren’t on this list because they were released in film festivals or given limited releases in 2020, and therefore can’t be considered 2021 movies.
First, some Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- King Richard
- Free Guy
- House of Gucci
10. The French Dispatch
“The French Dispatch” is Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson movie, and that’s either a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether you like his style. As someone who does like his style, I found this to be a very enjoyable film. All the actors clearly had a ton of fun in their roles, giving passionate & charming performances. The central concept of the film is intriguing and unique as well: a magazine made into a live-action movie through a bunch of short films starring a massive cast of characters. Overall, “The French Dispatch” is a fun, creative, and original film movie that makes great use of Wes Anderson’s style.
9. Licorice Pizza
Like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” is a love letter to a time period that’s very personal to the filmmaker. This is a truly immersive film, focusing on one specific year through the eyes of its two leads. The performances, cinematography, soundtrack, direction, and production design are all some of 2021’s best, but what makes this film so great is Anderson’s dialogue. The Aaron Sorkin-esque snappy banter between characters is just as exciting as some of this year’s best action scenes. Despite its abrupt & jarring ending, “Licorice Pizza” is a highly enjoyable film.
8. Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Despite being a whopping 4 hours long, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is one of the most entertaining films of the year. Its runtime allows each character to have depth and growth, providing the film with a forward-moving momentum. The finale is truly epic, the action sequences are fun, and the story is executed far better than it was the 2017 theatrical cut. Knowing the history behind this film and having suffered through the abysmal theatrical cut, I’m very happy with what Snyder finally got to release. I just wish he didn’t bring back Jared Leto’s Joker — that abomination remained nightmarish.
“CODA” is an emotional story about Ruby Rossi, the only hearing child of deaf adults (hence C.O.D.A.). It follows Ruby’s struggle to balance her love of singing and her responsibilities to a family which can never hear her. The film’s masterful script allows it to quickly transition between being heartwarming, endearing, funny, and tragic. The direction, script, performances, cinematography, and themes all aid in making “CODA” a coming-of-age story packed full of compassion and heart.
6. The Suicide Squad
This is the most fun, exciting, and rewatchable film of the year for me. The action is enthralling, the characters are charismatic & fleshed out, the jokes are hilarious, and the film has a relentless, forward-moving momentum. Writer/director James Gunn poured his heart and soul into this film, and I love his unapologetically R-rated product.
5. The Green Knight
“The Green Knight” is definitely not for everyone. It’s artsy, metaphorical, ambiguous, and slightly pretentious — but I adore it. This is one of the most stunning films of 2021, helmed by a great director in David Lowery. Lowery expertly told a story about a man realizing his flaws and learning how to better himself using poetic, almost psychedelic, imagery and Arthurian mythology. It’s riveting to watch this film and try to piece together what’s actually taking place and what’s in our protagonist’s mind, making the movie more & more enjoyable in each rewatch.
4. No Time to Die
As a fan of Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, I found this to be an extremely satisfying sendoff. The action is exciting, the direction is passionate, the performances are great across the board, and the cinematography is gorgeous. What makes this film stand out among all the Bond movies is its emotional impact; it closes out Bond’s arc, as well as his relationships with other characters that was built up over the 4 previous movies, almost perfectly. Best of all, it had a gutsy but necessary ending which respected the character’s legacy. I’m willing to overlook the weak villains and out-of-place one-liners to enjoy those powerful emotions — I’m not afraid to say it: I teared up at the ending. “No Time to Die” was everything I wanted in the ending to my favorite James Bond, and it proved that Hollywood can still make emotionally powerful, character-based blockbusters.
I never would have thought a movie called “Pig” would be my third favorite film of 2021, but here we are. “Pig” is phenomenal. It breezes past its quick 90-minute runtime thanks to brilliant performances from co-stars Nicolas Cage and Alex Wolff, as well as its tone and themes. This film seems dour and melancholy on the surface, but as you watch it, you realize that it’s really about the importance of self-confidence, compassion, and being true to yourself. This is an incredibly rewatchable, meaningful, and relevant film that deserves more recognition. Plus, the restaurant scene is arguably the best scene of the year.
2. A Quiet Place Part II
John Krasinski didn’t disappoint with his sequel to the groundbreaking 2018 thriller. While not as good as the original, “A Quiet Place Part II” came incredibly close. This movie was everything I wanted in a sequel. It maintained the small-scale of the first film while still expanding on the worldbuilding, and it focused on the characters rather than spectacle. There’s not much more to say. This was an entertaining, intelligent, and adrenaline-filled movie with plenty of heart that actually lived up to the hype.
Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi/fantasy epic is possibly the most gorgeous film ever made. Every frame of “Dune” looks like a painting, and there are scenes in this film that are so beautiful that they actually took my breath away. It takes a brilliant filmmaker to pull this off, and “Dune” further proves that Villeneuve is one of the most gifted directors working today. The story and grand scale of the film also make it one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of the past couple decades. The worldbuilding is masterfully executed, with all the exposition done either through natural dialogue between the characters or through the stunning visuals. “Dune” is one of those movies that stays with you days, weeks, months after you watch it, and it will certainly go down in history as one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. I’m not saying it’s a perfect film, but it is a terrific showcase of what movies can accomplish when in the hands of brilliant filmmakers.