2021 was a wild year. Not so much as 2020, but wild all the same. In order to get us out of that lowly funk, we once again have movies to bring us back life, make us laugh, or show us the beauty in the world. It’s with these films, through their brilliant narratives, I found myself transported from reality—given leave from my humdrum life—if only for a moment. Okay, so I may be a little over dramatic. But these films, which I begrudgingly narrowed to 15, are the best of the best, in my opinion. However, even though I saw our #1 at the very beginning of 2021, no other film moved me to my core. So let’s finally say goodbye to last year and countdown Little Movie Reviews’ Best 15 Films of 2021!
What can I say about Zola aside from the fact that it’s one crazy wild ride from the beginning, all the way to the outrageous end. I thought it was going to be too much to watch, but Taylour Paige’s performance is worth checking out. It’s hard to believe that this adapted from on a single Twitter thread.
There are inspirational and feel-good movies that can be a little too over the top. The cheesiness just oozes from your television screen. However, CODA finds the perfect balance of sweetness, drama, and humor to blend into an amazing film. Bring some tissues!
Sentimental and introspective all in one go as Joachim Trier gives us yet another film examining the human existence. Renate Reinsve is a star in the making and Anders Danielsen Lie is stunning.
12. The Green Knight
This one is absolutely breathtaking to look at! The cinematography, the directing, the screenplay, the performances it all just wowed me. It’s an original piece while still borrowing from classic tales. It’s a slow burn while also being entertaining.
11. The Last Duel
I was thinking it was going to be another “dude” movie. A poster of a movie that you’d usually find hanging in some fraternity somewhere. However, I really enjoyed this. I wish the wonderful Jodie Comer would have gotten some more screen time next to her male counterparts, because she was the highlight of this film. Comer outacts every single one of them right off the screen.
At this point, what’s another role in Nicolas Cage’s illustrious career? Pig is a project out of left field for the esteemed actor, but a project that we didn’t know we needed from him. This is Cage’s performance of a lifetime.
9. tick, tick…BOOM!
As a person who is in their 30s, this film resonated with me on more than one level. For those that aren’t fans of musicals, don’t let that deter you from watching this film. Andrew Garfield gives an amazing performance in a story that will tug at your heart.
A rather controversial topic of conversation, the player of this film turned this taboo subject into something rather eye-opening. Sure, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I just loved how Jessica Chastain threw herself into Tammy Faye—unflattering moments and all.
Dune has been done before, and it was far from an easy task. With its extensive worlds, and rather complex storyline, Denis Villeneuve has been able to turn this science fiction film into one of the best of the year. Here’s looking forward to part two!
It’s disappointing when a great performance goes under the radar, but sadly Penélope Cruz is only now starting to be noticed for her AMAZING performance in this film. Parallel Mothers provides its twist and turn—you don’t know where you’re going to end up. But Cruz, with her trusty director Pedro Almodóvar, make this a must-see film.
5. Nightmare Alley
This neo-noir remake of the classic film from 1947 is absolutely brilliant. Is there anything that director Guillermo del Toro can’t do at this point? I’m not a fan of remakes or reboots, but this film is a unique experience.
It’s Joel Coen’s turn to take on William Shakespeare, and you know it’s going to be good. First of all, this film’s cinematography is, hands down, first class! Second, the performances are what you would expect from Academy Award winners Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Shakespeare—especially Macbeth—is not easy, but these talented actors handle it with such ease.
After my initial lukewarm impression at Sundance 2021, I later saw Passing (with their worked out kinks) on Netflix and immediately fell in love. Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga give career best performances, and Rebecca Hall makes it known that she has a promising future as a director. If you glossed over this during your Netflix search, go check it out.
2. The Power of the Dog
If Brokeback Mountain and There Will Blood had a baby it would be The Power of the Dog. It’s haunting and thrilling—you never know just where it will take you. The cast take the awards for their incredible performances, because they truly make this movie what it is. Each of them have a part to play. And without a single one of them, the story wouldn’t be the same. Director Jane Campion gives us her best work as the film looks absolutely gorgeous.
I was struck by this film upon watching it at Sundance 2021. After that, no other film I saw during the year ever came close to comparing. The performances are on another level—that goes double for Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton. You feel the tension in the room as it boils up during the confrontation. The screenplay is exquisite; the dialogue is the best I’ve heard this year. This is a solid film, which has flown under the radar due to its indie status. But if you can, I suggest you rent this film immediately!
It’s been fun handing out these Little Awards over the past few weeks. Be sure to check out all the other award winners right here!