"Top Tens", and others Movies

The Top 20 of 2021

From The Little Things to The Tragedy of Macbeth (Denzel bookends), I rounded out my amount of movies seen at seventy.

Even with that amount of movies, there was a fair amount of films I did not get to in time (especially, sadly, Foreign Language films). These include The Last Duel, The Green Knight, The Card Counter, Drive my Car, The Worst Person in the World, Stillwater, and The Tender Bar.

I also did not include any mini series I saw, so despite the wonder I felt while seeing John, Paul, George, and Ringo together again, I did not include The Beatles: Get Back.

Then there are those that did not make the cut. Even with a Top 20, I had to leave off many quality films (such as any films represented in the photo above). These include the aforementioned The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Lost Daughter, Nightmare Alley, Don’t Look Up, No Time to Die, Swan Song, Luca, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, The French Dispatch, House of Gucci, Passing, West Side Story (which I admit to being a little too harsh on), and, perhaps most significantly, any comic book movie.

Well, except for one…which is where we start (and it will have spoilers).


If any movie was solely responsible for bringing people back to the theater, it was Spider-Man: No Way Home. Fan service can always be a cheap cop out, but it definitely worked here. There was a sense of glee in every theater that saw the returns of the different Spidey’s throughout the years, and even some having some sense of closure to go with them.


I admit to not really being a big fan or expert on modern horror films, yet the originality of Last Night in Soho won me over. The same can be said for the cast, including Thomasin Mckenzie, Matt (“Bowties are Cool”) Smith, Diana Rigg (in her final performance), and (in another performance that shows she is not going away anytime soon), Anya-Taylor Joy.


Remember when people would joke how bad a movie would be because it starred Nicholas Cage? I choose to remember that he is actually a great actor (who won an Oscar), and that is in full form in the film Pig. Streaming now on Hulu, it is the best the actor has done in years.


One of the more recent ones I have seen, Belle is basically Beauty and the Beast meets Ready Player One meets social media…in anime. A very nice hidden gem.


An old school feel good sports flick of the old, King Richard may not be the best Will Smith film, or even his best performance. It is, however, destined to possibly be the one that brings him an Oscar.


From what I have heard, there are many families (including my nephews) who have had the soundtrack of Encanto playing non stop in their homes. This does not surprise me (it is Lin Manuel Miranda, after all). The message of belonging is equally as important as the music. Then there is Bruno…oh wait, we don’t talk about Bruno.


Honestly, I am feeling a lot of discourse over Spencer. I feel people were a little disappointed that it was not as conventional as they would have thought (basically, don’t go in thinking this is The Crown.) No one would say otherwise about Kristen Stewart, who is down right immaculate in the title role.


It may not be as well known as any of the year’s animated films that came from the Mouse House, but The Mitchells vs. the Machines (which you can watch now on Netflix) is a blast of pure fun, with jokes that will make the kids laugh because their parents are laughing as well. “AAAAAOOOOOO!” (my attempt at a moose sound).


From one Netflix film to another, The Power of the Dog has nothing else in common with the previous film. It is best described as a “slow burn” dramatic western, which took turns I did not see coming at all. Masterful performances are given by all, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristen Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, all while being surrounded by an almost surreal beauty thanks to director Jane Campion.


It was quite the career year for Andrew Garfield. Doing a fine job opposite Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye was no easy feat, and he brought some humor and gravitas to Spider-Man: No Way Home. Still, it will be his turn as Jonathan Larson in tick, tick,… BOOM! (another Netflix movie) that will be one of his very best performances. He is nothing short of electric.


 Undoubtably the most underrated gem of 2021, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is basically a young teen romance mixed with Groundhog Day. Streaming still on Amazon Prime, it is smart enough to know what it is, and still melts the heart.


There were a lot of great animated films of 2021, but the one that stuck with me the longest was Raya and the Last Dragon. Indeed, a solid amount of that was the stellar animation and action, but the characters and lesson for kids to not be afraid to trust is one we as humans need nowadays more than ever.


Easily the hardest film I saw in 2021, Mass is almost literally gut wrenching. Every actor is in peak form in this simple, brutal tale of acceptance and forgiveness after unbearable tragedy. Prepare yourself if you wish to watch.


Now for a much more upbeat film (and one sure to be nominated for some Oscars), Belfast is a ode to the childhood of it’s director, Kenneth Brannagh. Even with all the chaos going on around him, Buddy (charming newcomer Jude Hill) still manages to learn about life, love, and the horrors of long division.


With two exceptions, the musicals of 2021 were nothing short of pleasing in every way. For me, I was moved most by In the Heights, both emotionally and by tapping my feet for nearly the whole movie.


The MCU may have been able to bring some people back to theaters, but no movie was a better example of a “made to watch on a big screen” than Dune. Director Denis Villenueve took the classic sci-fi story (well, part one) off the page and made this screen version on par with the likes of the original Star Wars and Lord of the Rings trilogies. A masterful epic.


There were a good amount of music documentaries in 2021: The Sparks Brothers, The Velvet Underground, and the aforementioned mini-series The Beatles: Get Back. Yet the film that got me thinking on a deeper level the most was director Questlove’s “jawn” Summer of Soul: (…or, when the Revolution could not be televised), which is available on Hulu. The line up of artists during those few days (happening at the same time as Woodstock) make up a soundtrack that is unparalleled.


I am going out on a limb here: As great as Joaquin Phoenix was in his Oscar winning role as the titular Joker, I found him to be more moving in C’mon, C’mon. Even so, no performance this year impressed me more than that of Gaby Hoffman. He is almost like a miniature Dustin Hoffman (no relation). He has a big career ahead of him, mark my words.


A fair amount of these films deal a lot with coming of age, but that is not all that is in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. It is about two people who, despite a decade age difference, still match in a sense when it comes to their maturity. Also, while Cooper Hoffman (the late Phillip Seymour’s son) and Alana Haim give great debut performances, no one in 2021 stole the show (at least in the supporting department) like Bradley Cooper.


In another universe, I feel like CODA would not be my favorite of the year. When I first saw it, I thought it was intended that the sign language between characters were not supposed to be with subtitles. Turns out, the second time I watched it, they did have subtitles. It was, as Bob Ross might say, “a happy accident”. I could still follow along without knowing what was actually being said, because I could see how the characters were still feeling what they felt. Either way, the movie (which is still on Apple TV plus) is the only film this year that guaranteed tears from my eyes.

How was the list? Did I mess it up or was I spot on? Let me know!

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