My Favorite Movies of 2021
The Night House
Dear Evan Hansen
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines
Riders of Justice
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Three Rings
The Lost Daughter
Tick, tick... BOOM!
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Nine DaysTOP 20
21. The Harder They Fall (2021): 4 out of 5 stars - The filmaker uses a formulaic western to draw parallels to both slavery and current African American gang life. The result is a predictable story, but with supreme execution and excitement. The fight scenes are engaging, violent and gritty. The acting is darn near perfect. It's on Netflix and it's a lively two hour ride. (Seems like there are an abundance of westerns released this year.)
20. Nobody (2021): 4 out of 5 stars - This movie would be a 2 star film without Bob Odenkirk. With him, it's 4. This role seemed to be written for Odenkirk, and the 58-year-old steals the show with his performance! He makes the movie funny, entertaining and exciting, even though it lacks in so many areas. There are many action movie cliches that drag it down, from wounds that heal in minutes to bullets that never hit good guys, to bad guy Russians. In the end though, it's a blast of a ride. Just a fun, Friday night movie.
19. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) - 4 out of 5 stars: This film has three things going for it - 1. Nastalgia 2. Great writing 3. Humor galore (especially the last third of the film). There are other great things about it too - action scenes, effects and a decent, albeit confusing at times, plot that keeps things moving. Lastly, it has heart and lots of it. The heart of the movie and the tribute to Spider-Men fanboys and girls, like myself, is what makes this thing go.
My only complaint is the sometimes overly complicated and hard to follow plot, which is definitely to be expected when you throw in multi-verses and time travel and magic. But a super fun romp and probably the best superhero movie of 2021 in a crowded year of superhero movies.
18. Coming Home in the Dark (2021): 4 out of 5 stars - Plays out like a Coen Brothers movie if the Coen Brothers were New Zealanders. A violent thrill ride from beginning to end with a poignant ending.
17. The Power of the Dog (2021): 4 out of 5 stars - This film is about a lot of things, but what I found most poignant was how sometimes saying nothing at all says more than saying a whole lot. And also, nobody is all good or all bad. Everyone is a shade of gray.
This was powerful through a full two hours. An insanely talented cast, highlighted by a performance by Benedict Cumberbatch that will certainly lead him to the front of the "Best Actor" Oscar category. This will go down as one of the year's best films, but I was utterly dumbfounded by the open ended ending that frustrated me to no end. Some folks might like their endings open ended, but I like mine tied up nicely into a nice, neat package. I'm sure the writer wanted the film to end the way it did so the audience could draw its own conclusions. For me, it was simply forstalling slop.
At any rate, certainly worth your while if you need a dramatic slow burn with exquisite acting. It's on Netflix.
16. Pig (2021): 4 out of 5 stars - Who would have guessed that one of the best films of the year would be about a man who has his pig stolen?? And who would have guessed that one of the best acting performances of the year would be NICHOLAS CAGE in a movie about a man who has his pig stolen?! Certainly not me, but it's true.
The best part of this film is its unpredictability. It never goes the direction you think it's going and even if the direction is less exciting, at least it was unpredictable.
15. Stillwater (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 - A thrilling story takes several tender turns. Matt Damon is absolutely exceptional and likely will land himself another Oscar nod. Great writing, story and the chemistry between the characters sets it apart. This will go down as one of 2021's best movies and will ALMOST make up for Matt Damon buying that zoo.
14. Old Henry (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 - Surprise, surprise, this is one darned good quality western! Entertaining from begining to end, I was shocked at how good this movie is. It is everything a great western should be. Tim Blake Nelson is tremendous in the lead role. Beautifully shot. I had zero expectations for this film ad it turned out to be one of 2021's biggest surprises. Highly recommend.
13. In The Heights (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 - A celebration of music, culture and art. Almost entirely brilliant. The music portions are so brilliant, I could not keep my eyes off the screen and a smile off my face. Absolutely entertaining, just a tad bit too long. I loved it.
12. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) - 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. Movies are supposed to be fun, at least the big budget kind of movies. This movie was fun from beginning to end for me. I found myself with a huge grin on my face through most of it. Sometimes, child acting can kill a movie in its tracks. The child actors in this one excelled and were actually a strong point. Mckenna Grace was particularly good. My only complaint was a bit of a hokey ending. Lots of laughs throughout, including an epic Wallmart scene which had my wife nearly on the floor in laughter. My boys loved it too and talked about how great it was all the way home. Definitely catches the vision of the original and pays homage to it. And who can't love a movie with Paul Rudd??
11. The Last Duel (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. Normally, I really don't love movies like this that take place in the 1300's or 1400's or whatever. But this one really captivated me. While a "true story," it probably was made to represent the "me too" movement of today. Adam Driver and Matt Damon are fine, but it's Jodie Comer that steals the show in this one. The end scene is one of the most tense I can remember in recent history. My wife was holding my hand, and she said my palms were really sweating.
10. C'mon C'mon (2021): 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars - Joaquin Phoenix can act. He's proved it again. This is a short, sweet and tender film with a simple premise and a lot of heart. It's really about a unique bond that forms between an uncle and a nephew. The kid in it (Woody Norman) is also exceptional. It's worth 90 minutes of your life.
9. Mass (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. Who knew that one long conversation would make such an intriguing and somber movie?! It plays out almost like a mystery; the story unfolds piece by piece as you figure out what happened.
Definitely one of 2021's best films and one everyone should watch once and then never again, because it's just too heartbreaking. But definitely watch it once. Obey my word: watch it once.
8. A Quiet Place Part II (2021): 4 and 1/2 out of 5. Just as intense as the first one and equally as awesome. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. I saw it in IMAX and it is definitely a theater experience.
7. On The Rocks (2021): 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars - Bill Murray puts on the charm and reminds everyone why everyone loves Bill Murray. This is the kind of movie Murray does best, where his unique personality is allowed to shine. Add in great chemistry with his daughter in the film, the delightful Rashida Jones, and you get a entrancing, fun and clever ride. I'm a huge Bill Murray (and Rashida Jones) fan, so this flick started off on the right foot with me and fulfilled my hopes. Sophia Copola is an underrated directer and also, oh yeah, I laughed a lot.
6. Encanto (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. The best Disney animated film in years (in my opinion, since Tanged) is also one of 2021's best films! A feast of color for the eyes, it's like watching a work of art unveil itself on screen. Add to it undoubtedly catchy tunes by Lin-Manuel Miranda and stunning animation, a story worth telling with a solid moral and you get an inconceivably marvelous work of imagination. It will certainly get compared to Coco and while Coco is solid, this is a better film. Hollywood isn't always reworking old ideas. Occasionally, they come up with something brilliant and original. Thus is the case with Encanto! (Please Disney, no sequels. Leave this masterpiece alone. It is perfect as is.)
5. Last Night In Soho (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 - Sensationally creepy and smashingly scary, this is the best horror movie I have seen in years! Story, acting, - TENSION - this one has it all. And just when you think the tension has crescendod, it one-ups iteself and takes it to another level.
The score and soundtrack to this film has to be in the all time greats already. And it's like Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie are in a contest to see who is the better actress. The winner? The audience. It's interesting that I just watched The Silence of the Lambs the night before I watched this film, because they might just be the two greatest horror films of the last 35 years.
4. Belfast (2021): 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 - This film is a sublime and dazzling work of art. It was just nominated for best picture, is certainly deserving and is without a doubt one of the finest films of 2022.
I was most impressed with the look and feel of the film The black and white mixed with elements of color is radiant. The acting (even by the children in the film) is superb. The use of music from 1969 was perfect. Judi Dench is incredible. It is really just a work of genius and it is a story definitely worth telling.
It may not be my #1 movie of 2021, but I it will be up there at the top... and it might just be the front runner to win Best Picture. (SPOILER: It didn't win.)
3. Blue Bayou (2021) : 5 out of 5 stars. What a surprise of a film and my favorite (so far) released in 2021. Watched this on the plane and had the embarrassing experience of wiping tears from my eyes. Even my wife almost cried and I have NEVER seen her cry in a movie. Well acted and booming with chemistry between the characters with a heart wrenching ending that will kill you if you are at all human. Amazing. Highly recommend.
2. Coda (2021) 5 out of 5 stars - My first five star review of 2021 and the best movie of 2021 so far. Emelia Jones in the lead role shines and is gosh darned, downright adorable. What a voice too. But wow, what great performances by the entire cast. If you find tears in your eyes at the end, you can rest assured, you are just like me. I hope the Oscars don't forget this one and you can stream it now on Apple TV+.
1. Cyrano (2021): 5 out of 5 stars - First of all, in case you were not aware... THIS IS A MUSICAL! And a near perfect musical at that. The music is ripe with anticipation, both the singing parts and the orchestra parts. I don't think a lot of people know that this is a musical and it likely would have more broad appeal if people were aware.
I don't know what is the bigger travesty: No Best Picture nominee or no Best Actor nominee for Peter Dinklage. It's a flat shame that neither were nominated. This was the best movie I saw released in 2021 and it should have received more critical acclaim.
The music is quite somber and slow, but I loved it and look forward to listening to the soundtrack over and over. Don't think I never enjoy musicals, because I enjoyed FOUR that were released this year and this was the BEST musical of them all! So far my vote for best picture of 2021 goes to CYRANO!
10. News of the World
9. The Wolf of Snow Hollow
6. The Father
5. The Invisible Man
4. The Little Things
3. Princess of the Row
2. Sound of Metal
1. Promising Young Women
10. Parisite9. Rocketman
8. The Art Of Self Defense
7. Greener Grass
6. The Mustang
5. A Marriage Story
4. Richard Jewell
2. Peanut Butter Falcon
1. JoJo Rabbit
9. What They Had
8. Leave No Trace
7. Three Identical Strangers
6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
5. Free Solo
4. A Quiet Place
3. Green Book
2. Won't You Be My Neighbor
1. Eighth Grade
9. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
8. The Shape of Water
7. Get Out
6. The Big Sick
5. Logan Lucky
4. Lady Bird
2. Brigsby Bear
1. Only the Brave
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
8. Eye In The Sky
7. La La Land
6. Life, Animated
5. Pete's Dragon
4. Hidden Figures
3. Hacksaw Ridge
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
8. The Martian
7. The Revenant
6. Ex Machina
5. Ant Man
4. Inside Out
3. The Walk
2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
10. The Hobbit
9. Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
8. The Theory of Everything
6. Big Hero 6
4. The Imitation Game
3. Big Eyes
1. St. Vincent
10. The Heat
8. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
7. Despicable Me 2
5. Short Term 12
3. 12 Years a Slave
1. The Kings of Summer
10. Premium Rush
9. Moonrise Kingdom
8. The Amazing Spiderman
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. Sleepwalk With Me
1. Safety Not Guaranteed