2021 has been another strange year for the film industry - one which hasn't quite returned to normalcy, but one that did see the welcomed return of more films and beloved cinema trips. Noticeably, though, however, we saw some big titles making their way to streaming services, meaning we could enjoy some breath-taking films all from the safety of the sofa and potentially changing the industry forever.
For those that did make it to the big screen, there was finally Bond, blockbusters, sci-fi epics, musicals galore, and even some down-right bizarre anomalies. Despite another lockdown and some lingering uncertainty, cinema seems to have come back singing – as you’ll see from my Top 12 films of 2021* below.
Top 10 Films of 2021
10. The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021) ★★★★
|Eric Zachanowich/A24 Films|
The Green Knight may have divided audiences when it arrived on Amazon Prime this year, but no one can deny there was something so captivating about it that had us all talking. Distributed by A24, it follows King Arthur's overly-ambitious nephew, Gawain (Dev Patel) as he leaves the comfort of his family's castle to embark on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight; a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself before his family and court - but greatness comes at a price.
Combining mythology and the medieval with an A24 aesthetic was always going to be a pleaser for critics but The Green Knight is quite simply an exquisite fantasy. One worth visiting with an open mind and an open heart. The Green Knight is available to stream on Amazon Prime now.
9. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Jason Reitman, 2021) ★★★★
|Courtesy of Sony Pictures UK, 2021|
8. A Quiet Place II (John Krasinski, 2020) ★★★★
|Courtesy of Paramount Pictures UK, 2020|
Picking up almost immediately after the events of the first film, A Quiet Place II shows us the events leading up to the now post-apocalyptic world where silence is key to survival. Regan (Millicent Simmons), her mother (Emily Blunt) and brother (Noah Jupe) must now leave the safety of their farm but soon learn that the alien predators are not the only danger out there. Armed with the knowledge that the creatures can be defeated using high-frequency audio, they set out to look for other survivors.
Much like the first film, from which I left the cinema in total awe, A Quiet Place II is thrilling and stressful from start to finish. The film features some brilliant performances and horror/suspense aside, Krasinski successfully manages to inject heart in to what is essentially a love letter to his children. A Quiet Place II is available to stream on NOW and Paramount+ now.
7. Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, 2020) ★★★★
|Courtesy of UTOPIA|
While at a day-long Shiva (Jewish funeral service) with her parents, college student Danielle (Rachel Sennott) must endure an awkward encounter with her sugar daddy and her ex-girlfriend. Surrounded by family and elders from her community, we witness as Danielle feels herself completely picked apart - from her weight, her relationship status, to her education and future path will be in this uncomfortable comedy.
The premise of Shiva Baby seems like an odd one but if you enjoy anxiety-inducing narratives and stressful scenarios, this is for you. It may not always be an easy watch, but you'll find yourself unable to look away. The entire film from start to finish is a balancing tightrope act that you'll watch through your fingers - and it is very much worth it. As someone who has watched it four times now, there's something which makes this film so incredibly enduring. Shiva Baby is available to watch on MUBI and Amazon Prime now.
6. The Mitchells vs The Machines (Michael Rianda, 2021) ★★★★★
|NETFLIX - © 2021 Netflix, Inc.|
A family-friendly animated apocalyptic adventure following a young Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) as she embarks on a road trip to her first year at film school with her proud parents (Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph), younger brother and beloved dog. Their plans to bond as a family and get out in to the great outdoors are soon interrupted when the world's electronic devices become self-aware and stage an uprising against all humans led by PAL (Olivia Colman). With help from two friendly robots (voiced by SNL legends Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen), the Mitchells must now come together to save themselves and the planet from the technological revolution.
Perhaps one of the more unexpected films of 2021 for me, The Mitchells vs The Machines I don't know how else to describe this film other than near perfect. There are plenty of laughs to go around for audiences of all ages, beautiful animation and plenty of heart to rival Pixar too. The Mitchells vs the Machines is proof that animation can be an art form and is not just for young audiences. You can watch The Mitchells vs the Machines on Netflix now.
5. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jon Watts, 2021) ★★★★★
|© Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures|
Having been outed by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the previous adventure, Spider-Man's identity is now revealed. Desperate for life to return to the way it was and now without his mentor Tony Stark, Peter (Tom Holland) asks Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to reverse time in the hopes things will return to normal. When the spell goes disastrously wrong, dangerous foes from other Spider-Verses appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man and must call in some extra help.
I was pleased to have avoided spoilers for this one before release which meant the viewing experience was truly fantastic. It had to be one of my favourite cinema trips - with members of the audience truly gasping and cheering as the events unfolded - that's something to be said in UK screenings. Breaking box office records aside, Spider-Man: No Way Home is a wonderfully successful Spider-instalment which manages to tackle an ambitious narrative with fantastical action scenes and some truly devastating scenes. You can see Spider-Man: No Way Home now on Disney+.
4. The Suicide Squad (James Gunn, 2021) ★★★★
|Courtesy of Warner Bros. UK, 2021|
Following the success of their previous mission, the CIA sends more of the most dangerous supervillains in the world - Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Peacemaker (John Cena), Bloodsport (Idris Elba) et al - to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons and a total lack of regard for the personal safety of others around them, they take on this seemingly impossible mission. Trekking through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, only Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and a hope of a reduced prison sentence will make them behave.
An unpopular opinion I know but I believe The Suicide Squad to be one of the top tier of four DC films so far. Not only for giving us Peacemaker (from which we were blessed with one of the most perfect TV shows and opening credit dance sequence ever created) but for just being a perfect all-rounder. Gunn's The Suicide Squad has genuine laughs, thrilling action, heart and a whole lot of story development that the DC cinematic universe has been desperately lacking. Plus, Harley Quinn's wardrobe alone is worth the watch. The Suicide Squad is available to stream now on NOW and Sky Cinema.
3. Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennel, 2020) ★★★★
Call The Midwife star and Killing Eve screenwriter, Emerald Fennell, comes a new take on revenge that holds a big ole' mirror up to the sad state of our society and the #MeToo movement. Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a promising young student doctor until her career is abruptly derails her future. Though, the trailer strongly implies she was the victim of sexual assault who received no support from her University or family following the attack. In a bid to rewrite her story and expose social injustice, an unexpected encounter gives Cassie a chance to get revenge on those who have wronged her in this thrilling and wildly entertaining story.
Whilst the subject matter of Promising Young Woman highlights a sensitive issue for many women, it's refreshing to see a film straight up call men out on their shit. The response from some may be that the men shown in this film as charactures and exaggerations for dramatic effect, but in reality they are terrifyingly accurate and ones which all women may have encountered in one way or another. This idea of 'harmless fun' and downplaying of their behaviour is the real horror here. Notably also, the scene in which Cassie and Ryan (Bo Burnham) dance to Stars Are Blind by Paris Hilton is a must-see. Promising Young Woman is available to watch now on NOW and Sky Cinema.
2. Nomadland (Chloe Zhao, 2020) ★★★★★
1. Dune: Part One (Denis Villeneuve, 2021) ★★★★★
|Courtesy of Warner Bros, 2021|
My long-awaited film of the year did not fail to disappoint. Of course, we all scoffed when news of another Dune film was announced - which quickly turned in to glee when we learned that Denis Villeneuve was at the helm, leading an all-star studded cast.
Not differing too much from the beloved books of the same name, Dune places us in the far future to an intergalactic empire. Here, a precious resource known as Spice is farmed and sold at great risk and cost. When dynastic family House Atreides, headed by Duke Leto (Oscar Issac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) arrive at the desert planet to oversee the Spice operation, they realise there is a dangerous scheme at play. Their young and gifted son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), must face his destiny.
At just over 155 minutes runtime, Dune may not be the easiest of watches - but Villeneuve delivers an adaptation on a tremendous scale, taking us on a stunning and sexy ride that leaves us gagging for a Part II. Dune: Part I is currently available to watch on NOW and Sky Cinema.
I'm ashamed to say that this list would probably have been quite different had I caught a few more films on my anticipated list this year. For one phoney reason or another, I still have an outstanding list for the year and I aim to see as many of them as possible now that they've made their way on to digital download and streaming services. It's never quite as good as seeing on the big screen, of course, but I promise to Last Night in Soho immediately; as well as Titane, Petite Maman, Another Round, The Tragedy of Macbeth (though technically not released yet in the UK) and Censor.
But that's it for my Top 10 Films of 2021. What were some of your favourite films of the year? Do you agree with any of the titles on my list? As always I love reading your comments so please do share your thoughts with me.
Until next time, happy new year and hello 2022!
*This list of films is based on films released in the UK from January 1st 2021 - December 31st 2021.