So it’s now time for my round up of films from 2021 and this ended up being a pretty stacked year for film. Due to the delays in the film schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many films that were meant to come out in 2020 were delayed until 2021 and then there were still films that were originally scheduled for 2021 coming out as well. That meant that there were a lot of films in the schedule and, with cinemas being open in the UK permanently from May, I made it a point to see as many films as I could in the cinema, making sure I wore a mask at all times. Due to there being so many films out this year, this has ended up being a pretty strong year for film overall, and here are my top 10 of the year.
Now I’m not normally a fan of these types of films, but what Julia Ducournau does here is use the trappings of the body horror genre to create a powerful look at the relationship between people and machines and the nature of unconditional love, with the performances and direction of the film creating one of the most intense cinematic experiences of the year.
As a cinematic experience, no film this year was able to top Dune. I saw this with my Dad at the BFI IMAX and was blown away by the scale of Denis Villeneuve’s filmmaking with this being a true cinematic spectacle and absolutely a film to see in the cinema. The only reason it is this low down in my top 10 is because it is only half the story, but I fully expect that, when part 2 comes out, this will move up my rankings.
8. Promising Young Woman
With a brilliantly tight script and direction from Emereld Fennell and a career best performance from Carey Mulligan, this is a fascinating exploration of the way men interact with women and the levels of menace and support they provide, with it being shown that some men who profess to being respectful of women can be the most dangerous to them, with this being aided by pitch perfect casting in all roles, along with the lingering effects of sexual assault and the nature of remorse in these circumstances.
This could easily have been a pretty generic John Wick type film about a roaring rampage of revenge revolving around a pig, but this ends up being a much smarter and more subdued film than that. Nicolas Cage, showing someone filled with pain and regret, reminds you of just how good an actor he is and I haven’t seen a film in a long time which shows as much respect towards food as this film does.
This could very easily have been a film judging the lifestyles of the modern day nomads, but Chloe Zhao films this with a great sense of empathy for everyone throughout the film, showing the community that develops between these people, with the casting of people as fictionalised versions of themselves adding to a sense of authenticity to the film, along with this being one of Frances McDormand’s best performances.
This is one of the best films I’ve seen exploring the idea of the American Dream, showing the tantalising nature of it and the lengths people will go to in order to make a better life for themselves and their families. The performances, particularly Steven Yeun, Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung, are excellent and throughout the film there is a sense of optimism and hope, even in the face of terrible odds that makes the ending pretty life affirming.
I think that this is probably the best horror film of the year. Whilst ostensibly a biopic, what Pablo Larrain does here is create a film that plays more like a psychological and gothic horror, aided by harsh lighting, excellent production design and one of the best scores Johnny Greenwood has composed. It also helps that Kristen Stewart is giving a career best performance as Princess Diana and highlights the uncomfortable and absurd nature of royal traditions, along with creating a fairly uplifting and optimistic ending.
3. The Green Knight
As a fan of David Lowery, and especially after the excellent first trailer, I was excited to see this film and this ended up being a real treat. This film was a fascinating look at the nature of honour and the inevitability of death, with the filmmaking creating something more along the lines of a visual poem, creating a really immersive experience.
2. Petite Maman
Celine Sciamma is fast becoming one of my favourite directors, and she is one of the best working today at creating slice of life films. This could have been a fairly dour film, but Sciamma uses the general premise to create a sense of magical realism, creating a life affirming and comforting film, which, at just over 70 minutes long, is the perfect length to create a really lovely and charming film.
1. Another Round
As someone who doesn’t drink, I wasn’t exactly the right audience to fully understand the film, but I found this to be a really powerful look at the lives of the main characters, with Mads Mikkelsen giving a career best performance. The ending though is what makes this my favourite film of the year, with it creating a powerful, cathartic, life affirming moment which is a joyous celebration of life.
As usual, below are my rankings of all the other films I saw this year, with review links to the ones I did posts on and my brief thoughts on the ones I didn’t review. My top 40 performances of the year and most anticipated films of 2022 are also shown at the end of this list.
11. Judas and the Black Messiah – This is an incredibly powerful look at Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers, with Daniel Kaluuya giving what I think is the best performance of the year as Hampton, with there being a lot of tension throughout the film, with this being a powerful and sadly still relevant look at racial relations in America.
15. The Mitchells vs The Machines – I found this to be a really fun and heartwarming family film, with the robot uprising elements and the family bonding elements creating a fun plot, with the dynamic between the Mitchells creating a lot of entertainment value. The entertainment is also aided by the excellent animation, which is filled with so much life and enough background details that you can watch the film multiple times and still not see all the jokes.
16. Censor – As a throwback to the video nasties, I found this to be an excellently made film, with the direction from Prano Bailey-Bond and the lead performance from Niamh Algar creating a strong horror vibe, with the editing, particularly at the end of the film, working well with the script to create a powerful character study on the nature of loss and the impact of film on someone’s life.
17. Quo Vadis, Aida – This is a deeply disturbing and tense film, unflinching in showing the horror and confusion of the Bosnian Genocide, with the family drama at the centre of the film providing a profoundly human insight into the horrors that unfolded and the failures that allowed them to take place.
18. West Side Story
21. Black Bear
23. Palm Springs – This is a great use of the time loop concept, by having someone already be in the time loop when the film starts it creates an interesting dynamic for the characters and it also ends up being a funny and touching romance, with Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti having great chemistry with each other.
24. Evangellion 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon a Time – Easily the best of the Rebuild of Evangelion series this film maintains the excellent animation and characters of the other films but adds a whole new depth that recontextualises everything bearing the Evangelion name and works wonders as a metaphor for Hideaki Anno’s struggles with depression.
25. C’mon C’mon – I found this to be an interesting look at the nature of family and the reactions that young people have towards the modern world, with the performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman being excellent and Mike Mills having a great sense of empathy throughout the film.
28. Jumbo – This is a film that could easily have been creepy or stupid but ends up being a pretty poignant film about disconnect with parents, the nature of love and how life is given to inanimate objects, bolstered by an excellent performance from Noemi Merlant.
29. Shiva Baby – This is an incredibly stressful film, acting as this years version of Uncut Gems, with there being a constant undercurrent of tension and stress throughout the film, with the performances, particularly from Rachel Sennott, working with the script to create engaging characters and powerful moments throughout.
30. Run – This ended up being a strong, tense thriller for me, with there being a constant sense of claustrophobia whilst in the house and a strong, unhinged performance from Sarah Paulson.
31. One Night in Miami – The central performances are all excellent and the themes of the film are incredibly timely, but it’s never able to truly overcome it’s stage roots.
32. In The Heights – I found this to be a really joyous musical. Whilst it’s clear that it is early in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s career and doesn’t have the same evolution in style that can be seen in stuff like Hamilton and Encanto, the music is strong throughout and Jon Cho does a great job with the musical numbers.
35. The Last Duel
36. Annette – It took a long time for me to come up with my thought on this because of how weird and out there this is. Sparks and Leos Carax ended up being a perfect fit together creatively, with the music being excellent throughout, aided by strong performances, especially from Adam Driver, with this also being a good exploration of provocative comedy and the exploitation of children in the entertainment industry.
37. Shadow in the Cloud – It’s B-movie guff but it’s exactly my kind of guff. I can easily see this playing as a midnight movie at the Prince Charles Cinema or something that Arrow would put on blu-ray. I do have to say that the film would not have worked at all were it not for strong direction from Roseanne Liang and a go for broke performance from Chloe Grace Moretz, both using the limited, cramped location of the ball turret to their advantage.
38. Wrath of Man – I found this to be one of Guy Ritchie’s better films, with Jason Statham being a perfect fit for this story, ending up creating a really sinister and genuinely intimidating character, with this being a really strong action film and an interesting character study.
39. First Cow – This is a really touching film on the nature between man and nature and the importance of food in creating a positive mental environment and how it creates feelings of nostalgia, along with a good look at class and racial disparity during this time period.
41. Supernova – The performances from Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth are excellent, there being a good romantic chemistry between the two and I found this to be an interesting look at how someone who knows they have dementia reacts to the news and his mind deteriorating, with this being a tender look at the lives of the characters.
43. Ron’s Gone Wrong
44. Val – The footage recorded by Val Kilmer is a fascinating look at the behind the scenes process of his films and gives a good insight into the life and career of Val Kilmer, giving a new perception of him. I did feel that the depiction of his more recent films could have been focused on more.
45. The Summit of the Gods – This is a beautifully animated film, being a good mesh of French and Japanese art styles, with the character dynamics and ideas over why people would climb Everest are well presented, although the elements regarding George Mallory felt underdeveloped.
47. The Father
48. Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar – This was a really pleasant surprise, a joyfully silly and absurdist comedy that consistently made me laugh, aided by fun performances from Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo and Jamie Dornan.
49. Free Guy
50. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – I found this to be a really fun musical, with there being good ideas raised over the nature of identity, with the songs being well written and performed, although meshing the fantasy and realistic musical numbers doesn’t quite work, whilst the performances from Max Harwood, Richard E Grant and Sarah Lancashire are really strong, although I felt like more could have dbeen done with Ralph Ineson.
51. The Harder They Fall – This us a very stylish film, with the performances, particularly from Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Delroy Lindo and LaKeith Stanfield being a lot of fun and I liked how this film showed people that other westerns wouldn’t focus on, but it does feel like a bit of style over substance over me.
52. The Mauritanian – I found this to be a really engaging drama showing the horrors of Guantanamo Bay and the dehumanisation of prisoners following 9/11, aided by interesting filmmaking techniques for the flashbacks and strong performances from Tahar Rahim and Jodie Foster.
54. Godzilla vs Kong
55. No Sudden Move – Steven Soderberg is still a master of these types of films, with the cast being very charismatic and I had a good bit of fun during the film, even if the ending felt a bit too reminiscnet of The Nice Guys for me.
57. Fear Street 1666 – The best of the Fear Street trilogy, the scenes set in 1666 have a vibe of A24 films which makes this stand out more compared to the others, with there being good themes over sexuality during the 1600’s, whilst the scenes set in 1994 do a good job at closing off the series, although I wanted more of the film to be set in 1666.
58. The Courier – The performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Merab Ninidze are excellent, creating a strong dynamic between the two over the nature of warfare during the Cold War, with there being an excellent presented friendship between the two, but I felt that Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan’s characters were underwritten.
61. The White Tiger – There are interesting ideas in the play about the nature of the class system and servitude in India, with there being some solid tension and strong performances, but I felt that the third act was a bit rushed.
62. No Time to Die
64. Passing – Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga give excellent performances and there are interesting themes over the nature of race, both internally and externally, with the black and white cinematography doing a good job at creating a visual element to this theme, but the ending felt pretty rushed, particularly with how some of the character dynamics change throughout the film.
65. Finch – Tom Hanks gives a strong performance and the CG and perofrmance from Caleb Landry Jones makes his character interesting, with there being a good exploration on human nature, but it does feel like the film is missing something at the ending and there are some parts which could have been better developed.
66. Luca – There are some issues with the story that prevent it from being up there with Pixar’s best but the animation is solid, especially the design of Portorosso, and the central friendship between Luca and Alberto is touching.
68. Gagarine – There are interesting ideas at play over communities within tower blocks and elements of class disparity and the way the tower block is presented as a space shuttle is good at creating a unique world for the film, although there are some character dynamics that could have been given more attention.
69. Black Widow
70. Worth – The performances, particularly from Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci, are strong and I found the exploration of the worth of human life to be well handled, although I felt the change in Keaton’s character to be presented a bit too quickly.
71. After Love
72. Fear Street 1994 – There are elements that get better with the third Fear Street film, with this being a good start to the series, creating interesting character dynamics and a fun horror vibe.
73. Werewolves Within – This is an entertaining mystery film mainly worth watching for the great chemistry between Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub, although the overall dynamic of the film felt a bit underdeveloped.
74. Fear Street 1978 – I did find this to be the weakest of the Fear Street trilogy, with the characters feeling underdeveloped compared to the others, although it is a good throughback to classic slasher films, with suitably gorey moments and a fun, dark vibe.
75. The Dig – Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes give strong performances and the film is a visual treat, but I found the film as a whole to be pretty generic and the romance elements really didn’t work for me, in the context of the film as a whole.
78. Ammonite – Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan give strong performances and it does a good job at examining the role of women in society at the time, along with creating an interesting romantic dynamic, but there are plot elements that aren’t given enough attention and the ending felt pretty abrupt to me.
79. A Boy Called Christmas – The overall design of the film is strong and there are interesting ideas presented over the power of hope, but I found Zoe Colletti to be pretty annoying and some of the plot elements don’t get enough development.
80. Psycho Goreman – There is some good cheesy charm to be had with the film, the effects work being suitably hokey for the overall tone of the film, but I felt the performance from Nita-Josee Hanna to be pretty annoying, mainly due to how her character was written, and this did take me out of the film.
81. Dream Horse
83. Baby Done – Whilst there are some issues in the second act which bring the film down, this is still a pretty funny film on the whole, helped by the strong chemistry between Rose Matafeo and Matthew Lewis.
84. Mortal Kombat – I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, with the action scenes being well executed and suitably gorey and Josh Lawson being a lot of fun to watch, but the central plot with Lewis Tan felt pretty bland to me.
85. Malignant – The film gets suitably bonkers in the final act and this ends up being very entertaining, but I found the majority of the film to be pretty generic and I didn’t really find any scenes to be suspenseful or tense.
89. House of Gucci
90. The King’s Man
91. Malcolm and Marie – John David Washington and Zendaya give excellent performances and when the film is focused on their relationship it works, giving me vibes of Before Midnight. However, the film as a whole feels really petty and like Sam Levinson is using it to air grievances over negative reviews he’s had, which serves to make Malcolm a pretty unlikable character and grinds the pacing of the film to a halt.
93. Willy’s Wonderland – The characters and story are pretty weak on the whole and I found the action sequences to be edited to hell, but the animatronic work is solid and it has a fun central performance from Nicolas Cage.
94. Mothering Sunday – The performances are pretty solid throughout, with there being good romantic chemistry between Odessa Young and Josh O’Connor, but I ended up being pretty bored throughout the film.
95. Spring Blossom
97. Capone – You can see what Josh Trank is going for here and Tom Hardy gives it his all, but on the whole this doesn’t have the dramatic heft that is needed, with moments that could have given the film more power being glossed over.
98. Cherry – A firm case of style over substance, there are decent performances from Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo but every time the film hints at going into depth with one of its subject matters, it switches to another, limiting the level of depth that is in the film.
99. Tom and Jerry – There’s some half decent slapstick and I appreciate that Tom and Jerry themselves are done in a 2D animation style but in the end this is a very generic kids film that does nothing new and every time the focus is away from Tom and Jerry the film suffers, with the charms of the cast not being enough to salvage a thuddingly bland script.
100. The Little Things – There are interesting ideas at play over guilt and perceptions of suspects and there is decent work done by Denzel Washington and Rami Malek, but the film doesn’t explore the moral issues as much as it should have and Jared Leto gives such a bad performance that it ended up taking me out of the film.
101. Six Minutes to Midnight – The acting and production design is pretty good, but the more interesting story about the school isn’t focused on enough, turning into a pretty generic spy film.
103. To Olivia – Hugh Bonneville and Keeley Hawes give decent performances but the film felt really mean spirited to me, which meant that the emotional highs of the film don’t land, whilst the way the film hints towards Dahl’s work felt really contrived and I never really got an understanding of Patricia Neal as a person.
104. Cinderella – Whilst there is some entertainment value in seeing people like James Acaster, Romesh Ranganathan, Rob Beckett and Doc Brown pop up in a fairly high profile film, this is an underwhelming experience. Camilla Cabello is not a good enough actress for the material, it is clear that Million to One is designed to be an Oscar bait song, the way the film tries to focus more on gender politics end up muddying the plot and the jukebox musical nature of the film creates some weird tonal issues.
105. Halloween Kills
107. Chaos Walking – This is a clear instance of something that would work better on the page than on the screen. The film feels underdeveloped, with Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley and Mads Mikkelsen not being given good enough material, whilst it is clear that it has undergone extensive reshoots prior to release.
108. The Woman in the Window – There are some good stylistic flourishes from Joe Wright and Amy Adams is decent but the film just feels like a predictable retreat of Rear Window with no real identity of its own with a lot of the other performances going way too over the top. It also doesn’t help that the ending is obviously re-shot, given that Gary Oldman and Jennifer Jason Leigh just seem to vanish and the writing is noticeably more on the nose.
109. Blithe Spirit – There’s some good production and costume design and Dan Stevens is a good fit for a Noel Coward adaptation, but the whole thing goes way too over the top with none of the comedy landing, the ending feels rushed and the screenplay conceit feels like a cheap way to make references to classic Hollywood.
110. Twist – What could have been an interesting take on Oliver Twist instead feels like an incredibly generic heist film with the veneer of Oliver Twist to hide how bland it is. Nothing about the film really screams Oliver Twist, it suffers from bland acting from a good portion of the cast, especially Rita Ora and a completely miscast David Walliams, although Michael Caine and Lena Headey do decent work.
111. Shoplifters of the World – This wants to be a tribute to The Smiths and work as a teen movie but the characters are completely insufferable and it comes across as just an ego trip for Morrissey.
112. Stardust – A complete failure of a music biopic, Johnny Flynn was never convincing in his portrayal of David Bowie, the whole film felt boring and formulaic and the absence of any of Bowie’s songs really harmed the film, especially in the ending.
114. Antebellum – There’s a strong central performance from Janelle Monae and good comic relief from Gabourey Sidibe, but on the whole the film just wallows in misery, focusing on the cruelty delivered towards the characters but with no real attempt to give them any characterisation. The twist in the second act though is what kills the film, grinding the film to a halt and feeling way too similar to The Village. The directors clearly went into this with good intentions but this is a failure.
115. SAS: Red Notice – This is a really poor action film that feels like a straight to DVD effort that just happens to have a pretty strong cast. The use of the Channel Tunnel makes the film way too confined for what it wants to do, the leads have no chemistry with each other, the ending doesn’t work and is clearly sequel bait when the rest of the film doesn’t support how a character acts for the ending and the acting from most of the cast is pretty poor, especially from Ruby Rose who doesn’t bring across any sort of intimidation, Sam Heughin who has a weak screen presence and Tom Wilkinson who just looks bored. The only cast member who seems to be having any fun is Andy Serkis.
116. Home Sweet Home Alone – This is one the most cynical films I’ve seen in a long time, taking a really talented cast and wasting them in a lazy retread of Home Alone that doesn’t understand anything that made the original work. There’s no character development for Max or his mum, making their scenes have no weight, with all of the important scenes for them happening off screen and the way the film wants you to sympathize with Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney’s characters means that the slapstick in the third act comes across as cruel and sadistic, missing what made the slapstick work in the original. Not helping matters is incredibly bland direction and editing which makes the whole thing feel boring and the attempts to connect to the original Home Alone come across as painfully forced and a desperate attempt to mine nostalgia.
117. America: The Motion Picture – The animation is half decent but that cannot make up for a truly abysmal script that is way too reliant on pop culture jokes and thinks that vulgarity is a substitute for wit. I didn’t laugh once throughout the film and it ended up being incredibly irritating and I cannot see why any of the talent people behind the scenes thought this was a good idea.
118. Music – This is easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Nothing about this film works in any way and it ends up being incredibly offensive, seeming to make fun of people with autism, with the erratic editing and garish design and cinematography making it unpleasant to look at. The depiction of restrain though pushes the film into dangerous territory and I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone watches this film.
Top 40 Performances (Only One Per Film and One Per Performer Allowed):
- Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
- Kristen Stewart – Spencer
- Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
- Jasna Đuričić – Quo Vadis, Aida
- Dev Patel – The Green Knight
- Youn Yuh-jung – Minari
- Nicolas Cage – Pig
- Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth
- Vincent Lindon – Titane
- Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
- Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog
- Frances McDormand – Nomadland
- Niamh Algar – Censor
- Joanna Scanlan – After Love
- Rachel Zegler – West Side Story
- Sasha Knight – Cowboys
- Clare Dunne – Herself
- Stanley Tucci – Supernova
- Anthony Hopkins – The Father
- Noemie Merlant – Jumbo
- Joséphine Sanz – Petite Maman
- Aubrey Plaza – Black Bear
- Rachel Sennott – Shiva Baby
- Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger
- Tahar Rahim – The Mauritanian
- Woody Norman – C’mon C’mon
- Jodie Comer – The Last Duel
- Tony Leung – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
- Nika McGuigan – Wildfire
- Riley Keough – Zola
- Adam Driver – Annette
- Jennifer Hudson – Respect
- Anya Taylor-Joy – Last Night in Soho
- Timothee Chalamet – Dune
- Willem Dafoe – Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Merab Ninidze – The Courier
- Jeffrey Wright – The French Dispatch
- Orion Lee – First Cow
- Zendaya – Malcolm and Marie
- Chloe Grace Moretz – Shadow in the Cloud
Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2022
- The Northman
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Part 1
- The Batman
- Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
- Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
- Killers of the Flower Moon
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- The Phantom of the Open
- Nightmare Alley
- Don’t Worry Darling
- The Worst Person in the World
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- The Souvenir: Part 2
- Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre
- Mission: Impossible 7
- Peter Pan and Wendy