2021 is about to an end. It’s time for doing a looking back to this turbulent year. We all can see this year is a generally uneventful year for movie industry, yet, there are still some “shining jewels in the arid desert”. So, here we are with the best movies of 2021.
* This article is compiled through many forums, selecting movies with the highest number of positive comments.
Dune has often been described as one of the great, unfilmable science fiction novels. Leave it to director Denis Villeneuve to prove everyone wrong. Dune is a lavish, visually stunning take on Frank Herbert’s classic tale. While not every character and subplot makes the cut, the film captures the heady political and philosophical themes of the source material while also kicking off a grand hero’s journey for young Paul Atreides. The worst that can be said for Dune is that we have to wait two years for the sequel.
Resurrecting cult classic horror is a real risk move. Candyman is one of the most respected and iconic films in the genre, and modern horror reboots tend to end up missing far more often than succeeding. But director Nia DaCosta managed to not only pay homage to the original with her sequel but also create something contemporary, recentering the story around the modern gentrification plight antagonizing the Black community. 2021’s Candyman is equal parts gruesome and gorgeous, with stunning cinematography, tormented characters, and a consistently rising feeling of anguish and terror. Candyman is such a powerful film that we’re only going to mention its title four times in this write-up because we all know what happens when we get to five.
In the Heights
2021 was a rough year for a lot of people, and that makes films like In the Heights all the more essential. This adaptation of the beloved Lin-Manuel Miranda stage musical captures all the joy and exuberance of the source material. It’s got catchy songs and elaborately choreographed dance numbers, but at the end of the day this is a story about the power of dreams and the need to follow your heart, wherever it may or may not take you.
Pig is the rare Nicolas Cage movie where you can forget you’re watching a Nicolas Cage movie. The actor lost the ability to disappear into his roles a long time ago, but with Pig, Cage has found a part that envelops him just as it does anyone who watches this haunting movie about a man looking for his truffle pig. The premise might sound ridiculous at first, but much like the prized truffle, you only need to dig a little to discover Pig is so much more than an animal caper. It’s a farm-to-table treat that takes us through the Portland culinary scene only to find the heartbreak that comes with living a life dedicated to art, and the love you can find once you stop letting your passions devour you.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
While the Disney+ MCU shows handed the spotlight to Infinity Saga auxiliary characters, the Phase 4 films began introducing us to big new heroes and wild new realms. The first newbie out of the gate was the soaring and spectacular Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a smash hit full of heart, humor, and some truly amazing fight sequences. Marvel’s Master of King Fu had finally arrived, shedding the character’s ’70s exploitation roots for a more grounded and authentic Chinese-American tale of immortal fathers, assassin sons, and the rings that both unite and divide them.
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The Green Knight
While the Arthurian myths have inspired a great many film adaptations over the years, it’s safe to say there’s never been an adaptation quite like The Green Knight. Writer/director David Lowery cleverly deconstructs the classic 14th Century poem to present a thoroughly different take on Sir Gawain’s quest for adventure and glory. From the elaborate costumes to the hand-painted matte backgrounds to the titular character himself, The Green Knight is among the most visually interesting releases of 2021, and one that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
A family road trip turns into a battle for all of humanity as the hilariously dysfunctional Mitchell family finds themselves facing down an A.I. apocalypse in the wild and gorgeous The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Danny McBride and Abbi Jacobson play a father and daughter struggling to connect right as a robot uprising plots to disconnect the entire world by launching civilians into space in one of the most thrilling and beautiful animated films since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And like Spider-Verse, Phil Lord and Chris Miller executive produced this clever family romp, which was directed by Gravity Falls’ Michael Rianda, giving 2021 one of its absolute best adventures.
The Suicide Squad
The best James Gunn movies all have the same ingredients: a band of loveable misfits, some dark humor, a lot of heart, and a dash of sloppy gore. With that in mind, it makes sense why he knocked it out of the park with The Suicide Squad. The film upped the stakes by making us fall in love with its D-list heroes — who would’ve thought I’d be crying over Ratcatcher 2? — and being completely unafraid to brutally kill them off. Margot Robbie got to be Harley Quinn at her most delightfully unhinged, Idris Elba was a perfect reluctant leader with Bloodsport, and John Cena struck comedy gold as Peacemaker. I just want more King Shark.
Julia Ducournau’s Titane is a brand of movie all its own. Combining a cold and unfeeling violence with overt eroticism, this year’s Palme d’Or winner trades in the same body horror that made the French director’s 2016 debut Raw so good. From a scarring and truly disturbing pregnancy all the way to the excruciating attention paid to the sound design of people eating and drinking, and even their breathing, the film is a fascinatingly cringey thriller. And as wild as the film gets, even as it stumbles in pain to a bewildering climax, there’s still accessibility to it. Both Alexia, a titanium plate in her skull from a childhood car accident, and Vincent, a grieving would-be father figure, make a strange kind of sense. If the idea behind body horror is to play on the reaction to unnatural distortions of our bodies, Titane extends that to our sense of community. Seeing two traumatized people find comfort in each other in such an unsettling way not only makes Titane one of the best recent examples of body horror, but one of the best movies of 2021 period.
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