Friday, January 21, 2022

The Top Ten Movies of 2021

It's that time again to look back on the year that was and celebrate the best in film. While there may not be a common theme working its way through the entire list, music will play a large role (although the musical remake you may most expect isn't to be found as it's one of many solid films that narrowly missed the cut). 2021 offered a number of good movies, a solid amount of very good films, perhaps the best concert film of all time, and one amazing piece of cinema to top our list. Without further ado, here are the best movies of 2021.

10. Louder Than Words

While it might not quite measure up to RENT, this play turned film examining the life and career of Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) offers a glimpse into the mind of the man and his progression as a composer and playwright while attempting to complete an 8 year project of a dystopian futuristic musical which would ultimately lead him on a journey to his masterpiece. tick, tick… BOOM! is currently available on Netflix. Read the full review.

9. A Good Movie Based on a Video Game?

The only horror/sci-fi/fantasy film to make the list is one of the year's most unexpected films. Shown through the eyes of a reassigned Forest Ranger (Sam Richardson), Werewolves Within is part horror, part comedy, and part whodunnit, that throws the likable character into the odd setting in which any member of the town might be a werewolf. Werewolves Within is currently available on home video. Read the full review.

8. Portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales

Spencer offers an inside look into the life of Diana, Princess of Wales (Kristen Stewart) near her breaking point during the Christmas of 1991. The movie is most notable for Stewart's lovely performance of the fragile Diana feeling trapped on all sides while struggling to live up to royal expectations. It’s a melancholy film centered around a profoundly unhappy woman that still manages to find moments of such pure joy that it somehow comes off hopeful and life affirming. Spencer is currently available on home video. Read the full review.

7. Young Guns

Jonathan Majors leads a terrific cast in Jeymes Samuel's stylish western inspired by real outlaws, cowboys, and lawmen building on the foundation of multiple tropes of the genre making the most out of both its cast and script. While Majors and Idris Elba are terrific in their roles as hero and villain, it’s the women ( Zazie BeetzEdi GathegiDanielle DeadwylerRegina King) who steal many of the movie’s best scenes. The Harder They Fall is still playing in select theaters and is currently available on Netflix. Read the full review.

6. Hustle & Flow

Paul Thomas Anderson's tale of a child actor turned hustler (Cooper Hoffman) and his turbulent relationship with an older woman (Alana Haim) isn't so much a coming-of-age story as how these two people keep finding themselves drawn back together, despite each's attempts to sabotage what they have. There are some great moments and performances here including Bradley Cooper offering an insane take on John Peters in one of my favorite performances of the year. Licorice Pizza is currently in theaters. Read the full review.

5. The Best Animated Film of 2021

The first of two documentaries to make the list (and the only animated film), Flee offers a deeply personal take on the refugee experience while touching on themes of identity, family, and survival from a man struggling even decades later to express his emotions and memories from harrowing experiences fleeing Afghanistan. Flee is currently playing in theaters in select cities. Read the full review.

4. Fair is foul, and foul is fair

Joel Coen takes William Shakespeare's Macbeth, cutting it down to one-hour and forty-five minutes in a stylish black-and-white retelling that looses nothing in the shortened frame and is punctuated by strong performances all around including Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as the Scottish lord and his wife. The Tragedy of Macbeth is currently in theaters. Read the full review.

3. I'm an Islander, I am an Islander

It made me laugh; it made me cry. And I went back for more. If you are looking to the movie that I rewatched more than any other released in 2021 you need to look no further than Come From Away. Twenty years after 9/11 and 14 months into the COVID shutdown, Broadway reopens for a performance of the musical about 7,000 strangers from all over the world stranded in the small town of Gander for five days. The result is magic. Come From Away is currently available on Apple TV. Read the full review.

2. The Best Concert Movie Ever Made?

For the better part of half a century, the footage from the Harlem Cultural Festival remained unclaimed and unseen. Director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson cuts together some amazing performances adding historical and cultural context one of the most star-studded concerts ever held that, for most, was lost to history. Until now. Released to universal acclaim, the film continues to stack up awards in nearly every city as the best documentary of 2021. Summer of Soul is currently available on Hulu. Read the full review.

1. The Best Movie of 2021

For half a year, I thought it would be impossible for any film to unseat Summer of Soul as the top movie on this list. Then I experienced writer/director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car. The three-hour Japanese film about love and loss, the unexpected relationships and the turns life can take, is immediately engaging and wondrous to watch unfold. It's a fragile and beautiful tale with layers and insight wrapped around a raw emotional core that delivers on every level as it builds to its well-earned cathartic close. With the film, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi has offered a profound statement about art, life, loss, connection, and the human spirit which earns the top spot on this list. Drive My Car is currently available in theaters. Read the full review.

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