There were many great movies released in 2021, covering a range of genres and topics. From critically acclaimed dramas to action-packed blockbusters, there was something for everyone.
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the film industry managed to produce a number of high-quality movies that entertained and inspired audiences around the world.
Best 2021 Movies
Some of the most highly anticipated movies of the year included sequels to popular franchises, while others were original stories that broke new ground. Overall, 2021 was a year filled with exceptional movies that left a lasting impression on viewers.
1. Dune (2021)
“Dune” is a 2021 science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Zendaya.
The film is an adaptation of the classic 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, and tells the story of Paul Atreides, a young nobleman who must lead his people in a battle to reclaim their desert planet from their enemies.
The film received critical acclaim for its stunning visuals, epic storytelling, and strong performances from the cast. It was particularly lauded for its faithful adaptation of the novel and its ability to capture the complex themes and ideas of the source material.
“Dune” was also a commercial success, grossing over $400 million worldwide. A sequel, “Dune: Part Two,” has been announced and is currently in development.
Overall, “Dune” was a critical and commercial success, solidifying Villeneuve’s reputation as one of the most talented and visionary filmmakers of his generation.
The film has been praised for its epic scale, stunning visuals, and powerful storytelling, and is considered one of the best science fiction films of recent years.
2. Drive My Car (2021)
Drive My Car is a 2021 Japanese drama film directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and based on a short story by Haruki Murakami.
The film tells the story of a stage actor named Yusuke Kafuku (played by Hidetoshi Nishijima) who takes on a job as a chauffeur and uses his time on the road to reflect on his past and the relationships that have shaped his life.
Drive My Car has been widely acclaimed by critics for its nuanced storytelling and exceptional performances, particularly from Nishijima, who delivers a masterful portrayal of a man grappling with grief and loss.
The film is also notable for its beautiful cinematography and its use of music and sound to create a meditative and immersive experience.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, where it won the award for Best Screenplay. It has since gone on to receive numerous other accolades and has been hailed as one of the best films of the year.
Drive My Car is a powerful and introspective work of cinema that is sure to resonate with audiences around the world.
3. The French Dispatch (2021)
“The French Dispatch” is a comedy-drama film written and directed by Wes Anderson. The film was released in 2021 and features an ensemble cast including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and many others.
The film is set in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé and tells the story of a group of journalists who work for a fictional magazine called The French Dispatch.
The journalists are tasked with reporting on a variety of quirky and unusual stories, including a prison artist, a student protest, and a chef who specializes in police cuisine. The film is presented in a series of vignettes, each with its own distinct visual style and tone.
“The French Dispatch” has been praised for its witty humor, impressive cast, and unique visual style, which is typical of Wes Anderson’s films.
It has been described as a love letter to journalism, art, and the idiosyncrasies of French culture. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising its charming quirkiness and attention to detail.
It is a must-watch for fans of Wes Anderson’s previous works, as well as anyone who enjoys offbeat and visually stunning films.
4. The Dig (2021)
“The Dig” is a 2021 historical drama film directed by Simon Stone and starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James.
The movie is based on the true story of the excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial site in England in 1939, which revealed a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artifacts and treasures.
The film follows the story of Edith Pretty (played by Mulligan), a wealthy widow who hires self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown (played by Fiennes) to excavate the mounds on her property.
As they begin to uncover the treasures buried within the site, they must navigate the challenges of funding, politics, and personal relationships.
“The Dig” is a visually stunning and emotionally compelling film that captures the excitement and significance of the Sutton Hoo excavation.
The performances of the cast are outstanding, particularly that of Fiennes as the unassuming but determined Basil Brown. The film also explores themes of love, loss, and mortality, as well as the enduring power of human curiosity and discovery.
Overall, “The Dig” is a beautifully crafted film that offers a poignant and inspiring portrait of a pivotal moment in British history and the individuals who made it possible.
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5. Little Fish (2020)
Little Fish is a 2020 science fiction romantic drama film directed by Chad Hartigan and starring Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell.
The movie is set in a world where a global pandemic has caused a rapid onset of memory loss, and follows a couple who must fight to hold onto their memories of each other as they navigate the challenges of this new reality.
The film explores themes of love, memory, and identity, as the couple grapples with the devastating effects of the pandemic on their relationship and their sense of self.
The movie’s intimate and emotional storyline is bolstered by its stunning cinematography and thoughtful direction, making for a powerful and deeply affecting viewing experience.
Little Fish has been praised by critics for its inventive premise, nuanced performances, and timely themes, with many calling it one of the best films of 2020.
The movie’s exploration of the fragility of memory and the human need for connection and intimacy has resonated with audiences, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it a must-see for fans of science fiction and drama alike.
6. Last Night in Soho (2021)
“Last Night in Soho” is a 2021 psychological horror film directed by Edgar Wright, starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Matt Smith. The film follows a young aspiring fashion designer named Eloise, who has a mysterious connection to a 1960s London nightclub singer named Sandy.
Eloise discovers that she can enter Sandy’s past through her dreams, but soon realizes that the reality of the era is darker and more dangerous than she ever imagined.
The film has been praised for its stylish visuals and unique blend of horror and nostalgia. It also explores themes of trauma, identity, and the dangers of nostalgia.
The performances of McKenzie and Taylor-Joy have been widely praised, as has Wright’s direction and the film’s soundtrack.
Despite some mixed reviews, “Last Night in Soho” has been a box office success and has gained a cult following among horror fans and admirers of Wright’s work.
7. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a 2021 superhero film directed by Jon Watts, starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
The movie is the third installment in the “Spider-Man” franchise within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and follows Peter Parker as he teams up with other versions of Spider-Man from different universes to defeat a common enemy.
The movie features a star-studded cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, and has been widely praised for its exciting action sequences and emotional performances.
It has also broken box office records since its release and is currently one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.
8. No Time to Die (2021)
“No Time to Die” is a 2021 spy film and the 25th installment in the James Bond franchise, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Daniel Craig in his fifth and final outing as James Bond. The film follows Bond as he comes out of retirement to track down a dangerous villain who possesses dangerous new technology.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising the performances, action sequences, and emotional depth of the story.
It was particularly noted for its treatment of Bond as a character, with Craig delivering one of his strongest performances in the role. The film also features notable performances from co-stars including Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas, and Rami Malek.
Despite its critical success, the film’s box office performance was impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, it still managed to gross over $700 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 2021.
Overall, “No Time to Die” was a fitting sendoff for Craig’s tenure as James Bond, and a solid addition to the long-running franchise. It was praised for its strong performances and emotional storytelling, as well as its impressive action sequences and stylish direction.
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9. The Green Knight (2021)
The Green Knight is a 2021 dark fantasy film directed by David Lowery and based on the medieval Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The film stars Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, a young knight who accepts a challenge from the Green Knight, a mysterious figure who appears at King Arthur’s court one Christmas.
The Green Knight has been praised for its stunning visuals, which are both eerie and beautiful, and its unique interpretation of the Arthurian legend.
The film also features strong performances from its cast, particularly Patel, who brings depth and vulnerability to the role of Sir Gawain.
The film has been described as a meditation on mortality, destiny, and the nature of heroism. It explores themes of honor, temptation, and the struggle to find one’s place in the world.
The Green Knight is a challenging and thought-provoking work that offers a fresh perspective on a classic tale.
While the film has divided critics, with some praising its ambition and others finding it overly slow and pretentious, it has been generally well-received and is sure to be a must-see for fans of fantasy and medieval literature.
The Green Knight is a haunting and unforgettable film that will leave a lasting impression on those who see it.
10. The Power of the Dog (2021)
“The Power of the Dog” is a drama film directed by Jane Campion, released in 2021. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, and features an all-star cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
The film is set in 1920s Montana and follows two brothers, Phil (Cumberbatch) and George (Plemons), who run a successful ranch.
When George marries a local widow named Rose (Dunst), Phil becomes increasingly hostile towards her and her son Peter (Smit-McPhee), whom he perceives as a threat to his way of life.
As the tension between the characters builds, the film explores themes of toxic masculinity, repression, and the nature of love and relationships.
“The Power of the Dog” has been widely praised by critics for its nuanced performances, stunning cinematography, and powerful storytelling. Cumberbatch in particular has been singled out for his portrayal of Phil, which has been described as one of the best performances of his career.
The film was screened at various film festivals and received multiple nominations and awards, including several nominations at the Academy Awards. It is a must-watch for fans of thought-provoking dramas and nuanced character studies.
11. West Side Story (2021)
“West Side Story” is a 2021 musical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, and Ariana DeBose.
The movie is a modern retelling of the classic 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which was later adapted into a popular film in 1961.
The story follows the rivalry between two teenage street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, in the Upper West Side neighborhood of New York City.
The musical explores themes of love, prejudice, and social injustice, and features memorable songs such as “Maria,” “Tonight,” and “I Feel Pretty.”
Spielberg’s adaptation of “West Side Story” has been highly anticipated by fans of the original musical and film.
The movie features a talented cast of actors, singers, and dancers, as well as an updated screenplay and new arrangements of the classic songs. It has been praised for its stunning visuals, powerful performances, and heartfelt storytelling.
Overall, “West Side Story” is a vibrant and moving tribute to the original musical, while also updating and modernizing the story for a new generation.
12. CODA (2021)
CODA is a 2021 drama film directed by Sian Heder and starring Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, and Marlee Matlin.
The film follows Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a 17-year-old girl who is the only hearing member of her deaf family.
Ruby is torn between her love for music and her loyalty to her family’s fishing business, but when she joins her high school choir, she discovers a new world of possibility and passion.
The movie explores themes of identity, family, and the power of music to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers. It has been praised for its authentic and sensitive portrayal of deaf culture, as well as its heartfelt performances and beautifully crafted story.
CODA premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film.
The film has received critical acclaim for its powerful emotional impact and the way it subverts expectations, making it a must-see for fans of drama and heartfelt storytelling.
13. Spencer (2021)
“Spencer” is a 2021 biographical drama film directed by Pablo Larraín, starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role as Princess Diana.
The film takes place over a weekend in 1991, during which Princess Diana spends Christmas with the Royal Family at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
As she struggles with the pressures of her public role and her crumbling marriage to Prince Charles, Diana must confront her own desires and identity in the face of intense scrutiny and criticism.
The film has been widely praised for Stewart’s performance as Princess Diana, which has been hailed as a career-defining role.
The film has also been noted for its exploration of Diana’s struggle with mental health, the pressures of fame and public scrutiny, and the toxic dynamics of the Royal Family.
Despite some controversy and mixed reviews, “Spencer” has received critical acclaim and has been praised for its artful direction, stunning visuals, and memorable performances.
The film has also generated significant buzz and Oscar buzz for Stewart, who won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival for her performance.
14. Licorice Pizza (2021)
“Licorice Pizza” is a 2021 coming-of-age film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Set in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, the movie follows the story of a teenage boy named Gary and his unlikely friendship with a young woman named Alana, who dreams of becoming an actress.
The film features an ensemble cast including Cooper Hoffman, son of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Alana Haim, of the band Haim, in her acting debut.
The movie has been praised for its nostalgic depiction of the 1970s, its charismatic performances, and its nuanced exploration of adolescent friendships and first love.
15. Pig (I) (2021)
“Pig” is a 2021 drama film directed by Michael Sarnoski and starring Nicolas Cage in the lead role. The film tells the story of a truffle hunter named Rob (Cage) who lives in the Oregon wilderness with his beloved pig.
When his pig is stolen, Rob sets out on a journey to retrieve her, confronting his past and the dark side of the restaurant industry along the way.
The film received widespread critical acclaim for its emotional depth, strong performances, and unique take on the revenge genre. Nicolas Cage’s performance, in particular, was widely praised as one of his best in years, showcasing the actor’s range and ability to deliver nuanced, emotional performances.
Despite its somewhat unconventional premise, “Pig” was lauded for its ability to blend elements of thriller, drama, and character study into a cohesive and powerful narrative. The film’s themes of loss, grief, and the relationship between humans and animals resonated with audiences and critics alike.
Overall, “Pig” was a critical success and a standout performance for Nicolas Cage. The film’s emotional depth and unique premise make it a compelling and thought-provoking addition to the revenge genre.
16. Nightmare Alley (2021)
Nightmare Alley is a 2021 neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Guillermo del Toro and based on the novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham.
The film stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, a cunning and ambitious carnival worker who becomes involved with a psychiatrist named Lilith Ritter (played by Cate Blanchett).
The film has been praised for its stylish and atmospheric visuals, as well as its impressive performances, particularly from Cooper and Blanchett. It has been described as a dark and twisted tale that explores themes of power, manipulation, and corruption.
Nightmare Alley is a departure from del Toro’s usual genre fare, as it is a more grounded and character-driven work.
The film is a slow-burning thriller that builds tension and suspense throughout its runtime, and its shocking finale has left audiences and critics alike stunned.
While the film may not be for everyone, it has been widely praised for its artistry and its bold and ambitious approach to storytelling. Nightmare Alley is a haunting and unforgettable film that showcases del Toro’s talent as a director and storyteller.
17. Together Together (2021)
“Together Together” is a comedy-drama film directed by Nikole Beckwith, released in 2021. The film stars Ed Helms and Patti Harrison, and follows the story of a middle-aged single man named Matt (Helms) who hires a young woman named Anna (Harrison) to be his surrogate.
As the pregnancy progresses, the two develop an unexpected and unconventional friendship.
The film has been praised for its touching portrayal of human connection and the complexities of relationships, as well as the performances of Helms and Harrison.
It explores themes of parenthood, loneliness, and the search for meaning and companionship in life. The film also features a diverse cast of supporting characters, including Matt’s therapist (played by Tig Notaro) and Anna’s roommate (played by Julio Torres).
“Together Together” received positive reviews from critics, who praised its unique and refreshing take on the traditional romantic comedy genre.
It was praised for its authentic and empathetic portrayal of its characters, and for its ability to tackle serious issues with humor and warmth. The film is a must-watch for fans of character-driven comedies and heartfelt dramas.
18. Nobody (I) (2021)
“Nobody” is a 2021 action-thriller film directed by Ilya Naishuller and starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, and RZA.
The movie follows the story of Hutch Mansell (played by Odenkirk), an unassuming family man who becomes the target of a dangerous group of criminals after intervening in a home invasion.
As Hutch’s past is slowly revealed, it becomes clear that he has a hidden talent for violence and a mysterious background. The film features intense action sequences and a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game as Hutch seeks revenge against his attackers and tries to protect his family.
“Nobody” has been praised for its inventive action scenes, dark humor, and strong performances, particularly by Odenkirk, who sheds his comedic persona to play a gritty and complex anti-hero. The movie has been compared to other action-thriller films such as “John Wick” and “Taken.”
Overall, “Nobody” is a thrilling and entertaining film that combines humor, action, and suspense in a fresh and exciting way.
19. The Last Duel (2021)
The Last Duel is a 2021 historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck. The movie is based on the true story of the last legally sanctioned duel in France, which took place in the 14th century.
The film explores themes of power, justice, and gender roles in medieval society, as it follows the story of a knight named Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) who accuses his former friend and squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of raping his wife (Jodie Comer).
When Le Gris denies the accusation, de Carrouges demands a trial by combat to prove his wife’s innocence.
The Last Duel is notable for its unique structure, as it tells the same story from three different perspectives: de Carrouges, Le Gris, and Comer’s character, Marguerite de Carrouges. The film has been praised for its strong performances, intense and gritty battle scenes, and its exploration of complex themes and perspectives.
Despite receiving mixed reviews and performing poorly at the box office, The Last Duel has been hailed by many as a powerful and important film that sheds light on the realities of gender dynamics and power struggles in medieval Europe.
20. No Sudden Move (2021)
“No Sudden Move” is a 2021 crime thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring an ensemble cast that includes Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, and Ray Liotta.
The film is set in 1954 Detroit and follows a group of criminals who are hired to carry out a seemingly simple job, only to find themselves caught up in a web of deceit and danger.
The film has been praised for its stylish visuals, intricate plot, and standout performances by its ensemble cast.
It has been noted for its exploration of themes such as greed, corruption, and racial tension, as well as its commentary on the criminal underworld and the complexities of human relationships.
Despite some mixed reviews, “No Sudden Move” has been praised for its genre-bending approach and Soderbergh’s direction.
The film has also been noted for its commitment to period authenticity and attention to detail, as well as its willingness to challenge audience expectations and offer a fresh take on the crime thriller genre.
Best 2021 Movies – Wrap Up
2021 was a great year for movies, with many standout films across a range of genres. Some of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year include:
“Belfast” – a heartwarming drama about a young boy growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
“Dune” – an epic sci-fi film based on the novel by Frank Herbert, with stunning visuals and a star-studded cast.
“The Power of the Dog” – a haunting western drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst.
“The French Dispatch” – a quirky and visually stunning ensemble comedy by director Wes Anderson.
“Drive My Car” – a Japanese drama exploring love, loss, and the power of art.
“Parallel Mothers” – a Spanish drama about two women who give birth on the same day, examining themes of motherhood and identity.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” – an action-packed superhero movie that brought together multiple versions of Spider-Man.
These films, along with many others released in 2021, showcase the diversity and talent of the film industry and provide something for every movie lover to enjoy. Overall, it was a strong year for cinema, and audiences can look forward to more great films in the years to come.