My Top Ten Films of 2021

2021 wasn’t a fantastic year for film.

Yeah… it’s true… but there is a silver lining to that blunt, black cloud.

Being so many of the films I was excited for ended up being disappointing, it prompted me to explore plenty of smaller films I otherwise may have ignored completely. Some of these films are very well made, and deserve all the praise they can get.

Keeping that in mind… here are my top ten films of the year!

Honorable Mentions

Don’t Look Up
A Quiet Place Part II
The Father
The Suicide Squad
About Endlessness
The Forgotten Battle
West Side Story
The Summit of the Gods

10. Nightmare Alley
Dir. Guillermo Del Toro

Another darkly fableistic film from Guillermo Del Toro sets the stage for a neo-noir steeped in mysticism and manipulation. Nightmare Alley delivers on the thrills but will be held in my memory by the power balances throughout.

9. The Last Duel
Dir. Ridley Scott

The better of Ridley Scott’s two 2021 films, The Last Duel manages to make a historical drama that is even more relevant to society today than it’s likely ever been. Jodie Comer delivers on a very demanding performance, all while the thrice retold plot evolves with every telling until audiences are definitively left with the truth. *chef’s kiss*

Read my full review for Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel right here.

8. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Dir. Jon Watts

Bet you didn’t see this one coming, huh? It’s only cracked both the IMDb and Letterboxd top 100 lists. Sure, there are flaws that keep it from being a ‘masterpiece,’ but it’s hard to not love this nostalgia-factory of a film. Not only that, but this is the film where Tom Holland’s webslinger is at his most vulnerable, and gets some much needed growth as a character.

Read my full review for Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: No Way Home right here.

7. Spencer
Dir. Pablo Larrain

Possibly my favorite performance of the year — Kristen Stewart as Diana. She maintains subtlety in her role but betrays just enough to let us determine exactly how she feels. Even the idea of taking a real-life event and making a fable regarding the minutiae is an endlessly intriguing concept, and is carried out here with such technical prowess.

Read my full review for Pablo Larrain’s Spencer right here.

6. The Killing of Two Lovers
Dir. Robert Machoian

Long drawn out conversations and arguments drag the viewer right into the middle of this twisted marriage tale. It would be a fine film with the dialogue alone, but the varying connotations regarding that dialogue’s resolution — connotations established in the opening scene, no less — allow for a truly dreadful and eerie undertone.

5. The Guilty
Dir. Antoine Fuqua

Wait… hear me out; I don’t care if the reviews for this movie aren’t great, because this IS a great movie. Jake Gyllenhaal puts his all into this extremely raw character… he likely won’t get an Oscar nomination, but he definitely COULD. Not only that, I found this one-location story (that mainly plays out over-the-phone, mind you) to be more thrilling than plenty of action movies.

4. The Harder They Fall
Dir. Jeymes Samuel

Probably the most pure fun I’ve had with a movie this year… and it helps that the plot is actually really compelling too. Sure, it’s built on the overused western-revenge trope, but it actually deviates from the expected clichés enough to become a familiar but nevertheless unique take.

3. Riders of Justice
Dir. Anders Thomas Jensen

Although the revenge genre is largely characterized by the more romanticized action films, some of the best diverge from the violence-with-few-reprocussions trope and give an honest look at what ‘revenge’ actually leads to. In that way, I actually quite liken this to a film like the Korean thrilller I Saw the Devil — it’s not a glamorous portrayal of revenge, but rather one that warns against it. That isn’t to say it’s boring though… there is definitely a ton of revenge-ing going on here, which apparently melds quite well with the deadpan humor.

2. The Green Knight
Dir. David Lowery

If everything about this film was surface-level, it would still be very enjoyable for the colorful and hypnotic visuals alone. Thankfully, this adaptation of a 14th-century poem injects so many interesting themes into this already beautiful world. It tells a tale of courage, honour, and bravery, and yet in doing so, manages to subvert the typical tropes associated these themes.

1. Dune: Part One
Dir. Denis Villeneuve

I’m a huge fan of the original books, and Villeneuve’s take on Dune ticked all the major boxes as an adaptation. The immense scale and beautiful cinematography complimented what is already an incredibly immersive and captivating film. It brings us right into the middle of this universe to tell a tale of political manipulation and messianic emergence.

Read my full review for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One right here.

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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