Top Ten Best Movies of 2021
Hello, everyone! With the year of 2021 officially over, it’s time to exam the “best” and “worst” movies that of that year. Indeed, this particular year wasn’t exactly “the best”, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still going on around the world, but it was still able to produce some great moments throughout the yearly calendar. This also extended to the 2021 movie releases, which saw a great majority of studios shuffling and / or delaying their features through this crisis. That being said, there were some major / high profile movies that I was able to see this year. So, it goes “hand-in-hand” I suppose. Because of this, I was only able to see (and review) 63 films in 2021.
I’ve already posted my list for my Top 10 Worst Movies of 2021 and now I’m ready to share with my list for what were the best movies of the 2021 year. These films, whether met high expectations, creativity imaginative, or just simply really good, were my personal best choice of the movies I saw throughout the course of the 2021. But before I begin with number 10, take a look at some honorable runner-ups that almost made it on my top ten best movies of 2021.
(click on the picture for full review)
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON
“Poignant, fun and absolutely gorgeous”
“The ties that blind us together”
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
“Marvel’s newest hero shines”
And now my top ten!!!
10: The Green Knight
Rating: 4.3 Out of 5
Review: The Green Knight Review
The names of Camelot, Excalibur, Lancelot, Morgana, Merlin, and Arthur Pendragon are some of the main staples to the many different iterations of the Arthurian legends of King Arthur. Hollywood has always been fascinated with this fantasy tale; spinning familiar yet different takes on the mythmaking of such fabled legends of King Arthur. Director David Lowery latest film titled The Green Knight is a visual stunning and ambitious film adaptation of the classic Arthurian tale; delivering a unique endeavor that is steeped in heroic quest nuances, but rich in its gritty and shaded dark underlining that permeates the entire film. An arthouse film to be sure, but the feature itself manages to be quite riveting in its own right, thanks to Lowery’s direction / vision for the feature, its powerful themes, a solid presentation, practical effects, and a great cast, especially Patel’s performance. It will definitely have viewers divided on what they watched and is probably one of the most decisive (and probably debated) features of the 2021 film releases. And maybe that’s good thing! In conclusion, The Green Knight is a visionary take on the classic Arthurian legend; one that delves into powerful themes and solid performances that’s wrapped in a stunning cinematic tale that will leave an impression on its viewers.
9: In the Heights
Rating: 4.4 Out of 5
Review: In the Heights Review
2021 was the year of “musicals”, which saw a hefty dose of feature films fashioned in the musical style of storytelling. Yet, Before Hamilton became a big hit on Broadway, musician talent Lin-Manuel Miranda took to the stage to has the question “What does sueñito mean?”, which is echoed throughout a story of various characters, who follow their own path in life, share their frustrations, and dream of a better life for them and their community in the movie In the Heights. Director Jon M. Cho latest film takes Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular Broadway show and translates it into a cinematic musical that is brimming with style, energy, and music. The feature itself has plenty to like about, especially with Chu’s direction, a sensible Latino community and cultural, the visual presentation of the film, the dancing / choreography, the music / songs, and the solid acting from the cast across the board. Yes, I think 2020’s Hamilton was a little better, but this movie was still loads of fun with its energetic music and lively narrative throughout. I definitely can see why Miranda wanted to see this project be brought to the silver screen. In the Heights is beautiful and highly musical that delivers on Miranda’s flavor of style in a jubilant fanfare of culture, dancing, singing, and community within a visual cinematic centerpiece.
8: West Side Story
Rating: 4.4 Out of 5
Review: West Side Story Review
Life matters…. even more than love! a poignant sentiment that is echoed in the minds of two star-crossed lovers as they try to find way to find a romance together in amongst a heated rivalry brawl that looms large overhead in the movie West Side Story. Director Steven Spielberg first film of the musical variety takes the classic Broadway show to a whole new level, with his film adaptation updating the already modernized Shakespearian love story. The film still finds a wonderful display of cinematic nuances and memorable from Spielberg’s direction, more narrative substance, a fantastic presentation, solid singing talents, incredible choreography dance numbers, and a great ensemble cast. It’s the same musical everyone loved, but given a great cinematic makeover lift; something that enhanced and enriches this timeless love story. Personally, I believe that Spielberg’s version is the more superior to the 1961. In a cinematic age or remakes and revivals, few of these have the power and stamina to justify their existence. In the case of Stephen Spielberg’s West Side Story, the reasoning is sound, for it is a visual technical marvel and dazzling spectacle of music, dancing, and storytelling; a wholesome musical tale of young love, passionate ideas, and heartfelt tragedy for a new age and for generations to come.
Rating: 4.5 Out of 5
Review: Cruella Review
While the “House of Mouse” has reimagined some of their most beloved animated classics into live-action endeavor, some of these production have been a bit “hit or miss”. However, that is not the case with 2021’s Cruella. Born brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad….as Estella’s journey truth, self-discovery, and revenge molds her into being who she was meant to be in the movie Cruella. Director Craig Gillespie latest film takes the central main villain of the 101 Dalmatians story and reimagines the devilishly wicked Cruella de Vil in prequel origin story; painting a different light on the villain and playing around with who is she and how she came to be (i.e. throwing a different shade on the baddie). The feature itself is spectacular and wickedly fun to watch, especially thanks to Gillespie’s direction, a solid premise, a quality sense of fashion and style, good visuals in its presentation, a killer soundtrack, and terrific cast, with notable / memorable performances from both Stone and Thompson. In the end, while some of Disney’ s recent works in reimagining their animated classics into live-action narratives are a bit rocky and questionable, Cruella stands tall and proud as definitely one of the better (if not the best) entries in this endeavor; producing a wickedly fun and lavishing stunning feature that honors its original source material, but also can stand on its own visually and memorable merits to like.
6: The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Rating: 4.5 Out of 5
While animated studio giants such as Disney, Pixar, and Illumination Entertainment dominate the cartoon landscape, Sony Pictures is a strong contender to go “toe-to-toe” with the animated best, especially after their critically acclaimed film The Mitchells vs. the Machines. As humanity enthralled by being captured during a robotic apocalypse, the world’s savior rest upon the dysfunctional efforts of one crazy family…and their hilarious antics that follow. Directors Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe’s latest film takes a “end of the world” scenario and blends together action, sci-fi, comedy, and drama into an animated feature that has plenty to say, laugh over, and find poignant meaning in this animated endeavor. A great majority of it is still loads of fun throughout, especially thanks to Rianda / Rowe’s direction, a ton of rapid fire jokes and gags, a touching central theme of a father / daughter relationship, thematic social commentary of technology, amazing animation / presentation, and a fantastic vocal performance from the entire voice cast. It’s something a bit different than the normal animated tales of late and I think that’s great thing to showcase. Overall, The Mitchells vs. the Machines stands tall and proud as hilarious and widely entertaining animated feature; making the film such a memorable and colorful viewing experience from start to finish.
5: No Time to Die
Rating: 4.5 Out of 5
Review: No Time to Die Review
Dark secrets, past memories, and a deadly virus are instrumental in the final outing for Daniel Craig’s interpretation of Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond character in the movie No Time to Die. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s latest film sees Craig’s Bond facing new obstacles in both personal matters and in world-threating level of events, which takes a celebrated and cinematic journey to what the actor has done with his performance of Bond in the past several outings of James Bond. It brings closure to Craig’s iteration in a very dramatic and exciting way; providing satisfaction after hitting some sour notes with Spectre. The movie finds a great and entertaining rhythm within its mechanics, thanks to Fukunaga’s direction, a solid presentation, terrific action scenes, a very character-drive story, a great cast, and commanding character / screen presence from Craig in his final role as Bond. It’s definitely worth the one-year delay and won’t disappoint. Given the fact that this movie is final chapter of Daniel Craig’s James Bond, it’s still unclear as to what is going to come on the horizon for the classic Ian Fleming character. It’s been confirmed that the studio will start looking for the “Next Bond” soon, with a short list of potential candidates to step into the role, but it still remains unclear if the studio will continue the narrative set by Craig’s Bond (including the actors that play several supporting roles) or will the next film reboot the James Bond narrative entirely by just keeping the mythos James Bond alive and not connected to Daniel Craig’s Bond. It will be interesting to see what lies for the future of James Bond. In the end, No Time to Die is a fitting and fantastic way to bid farewell to Daniel Craig performance of the character of Bond. It’s been an incredible journey that’s filled with high and lows, but Craig’s last outing as the popular MI6 British spy is solid swansong; bringing a grandiose action and emotionally driven finality to his James Bond.
4: The Last Duel
Rating: 4.5 Out of 5
Review: The Last Duel Review
It’s been sometime since director Ridley Scott, the filmmaker who helmed such iconic films like Gladiator, Blade Runner, and Black Hawk Down, has crafted a feature film that stands out above the rest. And, while 2021 saw the release of two films under his belt and gave a cinematic breathing room for stellar performance from Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, it’s actually his other 2021 film titled The Last Duel that proved to be the more dynamic and thematically charged of the two. A true story of the last recorded account of the last duel in France’s history (and all the complexities) that lead up to that point are masterfully presented, with Scott’s film takes a trip back to the Medieval 13th Century for costumed period piece that is rooted in human drama and character ambiguity; wrapped in the guise of chivalry and honor. It’s a very human story that is masterfully displayed in a cinematic story that only someone like Scott could achieve and pull off in both entertainment value and gut-wrenching dramatics. More to the point, the film is exceptional and bold, thanks to Scott’s direction, a unique storytelling presentation structure, a visual quality in the feature’s presentation, a profound social commentary message, well-rounded characters, and a stellar cast (Damon, Driver, and Comer are exceptionally in their respective roles). It felt like Ridley Scott’s work of old….and that’s a great thing! In short, The Last Duel is a fantastic epic and historical drama motion picture that places a heavy focus on perception and character motivations; blurring the lines of truths and lies, unmasking evil for what it is, and eerily displaying that some things, despite the feature’s time period setting, haven’t changed in hundreds of years.
3: Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Rating: 4.5 Out of 5
They said it never existed. They said it would never come to light. They said it would never be released. Now…the future has taken root in the present. Well, not exactly, but, after the dismal box office failure and critically panned reviews of 2017’s Justice League…. this alternative version of DC Comics biggest and brightest coming together for the first time is definite overall improvement in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Director Zack Snyder’s latest film sees his original vision of 2017’s Justice League come to fruition; acting as an alternative director’s cut to the original film and expanding upon the movie is grandiose fashion. The movie film is an incredible and juggernaut powerhouse adventure that encompass all of Snyder’s creative take on the DCEU, including a more cohesive story, better pacing, a solid understanding of characterizations (in both heroes and villains), a magnificent score, and just a wholesome endeavor all away around. The Snyder cut was definitely a vast and glorious improvement on the unfavorable cut of the original film. Almost everything about this particular cut of the movie is stellar and creates such a palpable iteration that is very much a Snyder film. The characters are more developed, the story is ironed out, the score is solid, and almost all the new content is fantastic. In short, Zack Snyder’s Justice League stands a powerful and cinematic vision of DC Comic’s best and brightest superheroes coming together in a grand spotlight of storytelling. My faith restored, the original 2017 film is dead, a definitive version has been found, and long live the Snyder cut of Justice League!
2: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Rating: 4.7 Out of 5
Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home Review
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded upon new heroes in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and in the Eternals as well as uncovering the past of Natasha Romanoff in Black Widow, Marvel (along with Sony / Columbia Pictures) produced the third and highly anticipated superhero in Spider-Man: No Way Home. There was so much speculation and rumors surrounding this movie for quite some time that the inherit hype for the upcoming superhero was indeed paramount and all the buzz online. Despite the insurmountable anticipation, which can be either really good or really bad, the end result is joyful fun and celebratory victory for the famous web-sling hero. Director Jon Watt’s latest film takes what was established in the previous two films and amps up almost every aspect for this threequel adventure; providing a cinematic superhero adventure that has plenty of action, comedy, and drama throughout the entire project. A great majority of the feature is well-met and well-received within the context of how everything is presented, especially in Watt’s direction, handling of the material of the Spider-Verse, terrific comedic / dramatic beats, big-screen superhero action, and solid acting talents across the board. The hype and anticipation for this film is real and it’s almost a forgone conclusion by many that the movie won’t disappoint. To me, it was one of my favorite Spider-Man movies of Tom Holland’s iterations. It’s clear that the Holland’s Spider-Man will appear once again in the MCU in the near future and I, for one, am excited what new cinematic tales await this latest iteration of the famous superhero character. Who will he face? Who will be allied with him? What challenges lay in store for Peter Parker? It’s unclear, but I welcome whatever comes. Regardless, Spider-Man: No Way Home stands a crowning and celebrated superhero film in the MCU that speaks to its Spidey past and shapes the future with an engaging and fantastic Spider-Man adventure spectacle.
Rating: 4.9 Out of 5
Review: Dune Review
So what can beat out a visual Arthurian tale, Stephen Spielberg’s first musical endeavor, a complex and layered period piece of truth and lies, a grand finale to Daniel Craig’s 007, and an ambitious alternate cut of Zack Snyder’s original vision of DC’s biggest and brightest superheroes. One word…. Dune. The highly ambitious, much anticipated sci-fi film that brough acclaimed author Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece to life in a sophisticated and visually impressive experience
A future beyond our amazement and wonder, but is rooted in humanity, the evolution of mankind, the trappings of power, and the dangers of blind fanaticism. Destiny awaits as Paul Atreides and his family journey to the planet of Arrakis and there…. discovers an entangled web of conspiracies, betrayal, and power in the movie Dune. Director Denis Villeneuve’s latest film takes the classic and memorable 1963 sci-fi novel from Frank Herbert and translates it from page to screen in a magnificent way; one that allows the dense and complex innerworkings of Herbert’s story to be fully realized and allow the film’s cinematic nuances to form for a grand spectacle of epic storytelling on the silver screen. The movie itself was masterfully done and cinematic triumph, especially thanks to Villeneuve’s direction, an understanding of the source material, a solid screenplay, the scope of the feature, awe-inspiring presentation, an amazing score, solid acting talents across the board, and some great characters.
I personally loved this movie. It was everything I was hoping and wanted to see from such an ambitious project of Villeneuve and from a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. It’s captivating, visually awesome, and just incredible to see come alive with today’s filmmaking movie magic. The cast was my ultimate “dream cast” come to life for the story and the everything within its presentation was breathtaking. As I said, it was everything I was hoping for and then some. In the end, Dune is tremendous and astonishing sci-fi blockbuster drama that is brilliantly unparallel within Villeneuve’s scale, scope, and ambition; producing a theatrical motion picture event that is visually wonderful to behold a sheer masterpiece of cinematic proportions. For half a century, some stated that Frank Herbert’s Dune was unfilmable and that modern cinematics could not achieve in retelling the narrative of the original novel…..Denis Villeneuve proved them wrong!
And it is for that reason why Dune is my best favorite movie of 2021!
And so that’s my top ten “best” movies of 2021. There were some movies that I didn’t get to see, so (naturally) I can’t critique them and pass my movie critic judgement on them, which is why they might not be on my list. So, what do you guys think? What were your “best” movies of 2021?