Still very much here, still very much in the pandemic. But I felt that this year, especially from cinema, that there was a bigger sense of optimism to return to normality. Cinemas in the UK didn’t open this year until May this year, but when they did, it felt like we were returning to a pre-pandemic cinematic experience. It’s easy to look at 2021 and say that this was the worst year ever (it has been easy to say that about every year for a long time now), but I choose to look at 2021 as a year of optimism. If cinema provided anything this year apart from a surprising number of amazing films, it’s that it showed us a few glorious glimpses of what life can be like on the other side. Togetherness and collective emotional feelings, a place where no matter whether a film is good or bad, we can come together and connect through what we feel.
Although this new Omicron variant is threatening once again to take away our cinemas, I thought we could celebrate the optimism and small taste of normality 2021 gave us by returning to an old, but classic way film critics round up the year, with a simple Top 10 Best and Worst films of 2021. This list will also include my most surprising and disappointing film of 2021 as well.
Before we get into this, a quick disclaimer:
This is my Top 10 Best and Worst films of 2021 list, what I express here are purely the opinions of myself. I have not seen every film released this year and this list will be in accordance with films that were released in the UK this year, so you may see some films on here that were released in 2020 in say the US, but 2021 in the UK.
Also, there are some films that were very, VERY close to being in my Top 5, but ultimately didn’t make the cut. If you have a film you feel strongly about that should have been included on this list, I’d love to hear why so please feel free to post your own Top 5 lists in the comments below.
Right now the formalities have been taken care of, let’s get into the best of the best this year:
Top 5 Best Films of 2021
The unadaptable made adaptable by Denis Villeneuve and a scale that goes beyond any other release this year. Out of all the films this year that set up its own future, Dune has the most interesting amongst them. I adored not only the scale of Dune but how it uses that scale. Just when you think you’ve seen the biggest thing in this film, there is always something bigger. The cast itself was massive in scale with amazing performances from Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as well as imaginative technology. This could be the next big thing in science fiction cinema and I’m excited for whatever Dune Part 2 has to show us.
This year’s best picture makes it to number 4 on my list this year because if there is any director that overperformed in a film this year it’s Chloé Zhao. Not only was she able to get an amazing performance out of an incredible Francis McDormand but her supporting cast was made up of the very people at the heart of the story. Nomadland feels more like a documentary than a film because of how authentically everything is captured with stunning cinematography. Much like Dune, it has a hypnotic trance that means you can’t take your eyes off it, but what puts Nomadland higher on this list is the accomplishment it set out to do was achieved more convincingly.
3. Last Night in Soho
This film was Edgar Wright without the leash. Last Night in Soho delivers what Edgar Wright has always delivered, quality filmmaking and an appreciation for it. This film is a testament to great mise-en-scene and now nailing the basics can give audiences huge fulfilment. The 1960’s period is captured amazingly well, from its costume to its set design, but also the darker side of the period itself. Nostalgia is very grounded in how it shows the glamour and the grimness of what occurred. The mystery itself is intriguing and in all said and done, Last Night in Soho has certified assurance that you’ll have a blast watching it.
2. A Quiet Place Part II
A Quiet Place Part II was a film I was very doubtful of as I felt the first Quiet Place felt like a great standalone horror film. Man, was I wrong. This film takes you down avenues you never thought it would explore thanks to John Krasinski’s impeccable writing. The casting of Cillian Murphy was just a stroke of genius, this guy really is one of the best in the business at communicating just with his eyes and body language. The biggest achievement of this film is that it changed my mind. It’s very easy to presume how good or bad a film will be, but even now and then, you get it wrong. Most of the time it’s a bad thing, but A Quiet Place Part II to me was a precious moment where something I thought would be bad turned out to be an enjoyable experience.
1. The Father
As the only film to receive a perfect 10/10 this year, of course, this would be top of the list. As I said in my review, this is Anthony Hopkins’ best performance of his career, even beating his iconic Hannibal Lecter role. The Father tackles the delicate subject of living with dementia with all the seriousness it needs, but the way the film moulds all aspects of filmmaking around this subject is what makes this film a masterpiece. The single set is constantly changing, the story is told from the perspective of Anthony Hopkins’ character so events happen but not in correct linear order, and scenes often repeat but with small changes. The Father is a special film to me personally, three months before it was released, my grandmother passed away because of health complications that were accelerated by her dementia, so The Father really was this sort of helping hand through the grief and it helped me have some idea of what it must have been like for my grandmother the months before her passing. So really all I have to say to the filmmakers is thank you for making this film.
Surprise of the Year – Cruella
Live-action Disney films are not ones I look forward to, I think I’ve made that pretty obvious after how critical I’ve been about them. I think they are a floodgate that opens up to all sorts of controversies and are just cash-generating machines rather than an entertainment product. So imagine how dumbfounded I was when I saw Cruella and thought it good. If you are into fashion design, this is the film to inspire you because some of the costumes do literally make you say “wow”. Cruella, both film and character, have a punk attitude about them which shines the brightest during this game of one-upmanship between Cruella and The Baroness, in which Emma Stone and Thompson give flamboyant performances. This may be the only live-action Disney film I end up enjoying.
Top 5 Worst Films of 2021
5. The Addams Family 2
This soulless cash cow, taking advantage of pop culture references does not even come close to resembling The Addams Family. Was there even a story in The Addams Family 2? Because from what I gathered the film was essentially one gag after another with something about Wednesday Addams not being an Addams. I always wondered how to make pandemic jokes even more tasteless than they already are, but The Addams Family 2 has that covered for me. Honestly, everything about this film just screamed desperation to appeal to kids, and this won’t be the first film like it on this list.
Oh, Chloé Zhao, what did you do wrong to end up on both my best and worst list this year? Possibly the most “couldn’t care less” MCU film since Iron Man 3, Eternals is pretty much an encapsulation of everything I despise about the MCU. Watching Eternals makes you start to think “Martin Scorsese has a point” because this film pretty much plays into his argument. There was no focus on the story being told, or the characters it was introducing, all the time and effort of this film was to tease where we were heading towards. Watching an MCU film used to mean you were certain of a good time, now you have to gamble on its success, and Eternals is not a safe bet.
3. Cry Macho
This is perhaps the only film on this Top 5 Worst list that I don’t want to put on here, but I have to. Clint Eastwood’s newest film was like watching a champion fall from grace whilst remembering how great he used to be. I’d like to say that Cry Macho is the consequence of a set that takes a too relaxed approach to filmmaking, but I think even on a fast-paced set, the film still would have failed to captivate. Everyone in this film either underperforms or overperforms, in fact, the only character who gives some sense of consistency is the chicken. I’m sorry Clint, I love you to bits and I want you to keep acting in films, but come on, you can do better than this.
2. Space Jam: A New Legacy
If you thought The Addams Family 2 was soulless, well you ain’t seen nothing yet son. Yes, my most anticipated film of the year ends up on the Top 5 worst list of this year. Space Jam: A New Legacy was a catastrophe, and a huge slap in the face for those of us gullible enough to think they would honour one of the biggest guilty pleasure films. This wasn’t a film; this was an opportunity for Warner Bros. to flex how many of our beloved IP’s it owns (that’s Disney’s job). It is shameless corporate pandering that pretends to be a film when in reality it’s a feature long advert that puts hate in your heart.
1. Monster Hunter
Now boys and girls, we’re diving into some real hatred up in here. I followed news on the Monster Hunter film since it was first announced, and every new article or photo felt like a stab in the chest. This film I would have gladly wanted to see continuously postponed because of covid, that way no one has to go through this mockery of not only a beloved cult franchise, but to the art of filmmaking in general. Paul W.S Anderson needs to stop pretending he knows what he’s doing, and Capcom needs to stop bending over backwards to him, can they really be that gullible thinking he cares for Monster Hunter or Resident Evil. The film itself is just like any other Paul W.S. Anderson film, it’s horribly edited, the dialogue is so cringy and an excuse to get his wife, Milla Jovovich, acting work. I don’t even think words can express how deep a hatred I have for this film, the fact that this film even got a whiff of existence is enough to make me think horrible things about the film and the people involved.
Disappointment of the Year – Halloween Kills
Now that I think back on it, the 2018 revival of Halloween was both an underwhelming and overwhelming reintroduction to the essence of evil, Michael Myers. It wasn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but it did create a big buzz for the inevitable Myers vs Laurie showdown the series is working its way towards. Halloween Kills is the setup to that showdown and I’m pretty sad that it couldn’t be what it’s supposed to be, a sequel. The record number of kills may be satisfying and the fact it convinced several actors from the original Halloween to return is itself, a considerable achievement. The lack of a cohesive story means that you don’t get that feeling of this being person like you did in the 2018 Halloween. I’ll still be excited for next year and Halloween Ends, but that on my own terms and not the ones set by Halloween Kills.
As I look towards the future, 2022 is filling me with a lot of confidence. So far, 2021 has pulled in over 60 million admissions, 16 million more than that of 2020 and that isn’t including the figures in December. While it may not be in the hundreds of millions like before the pandemic, progress is a slow game and at its current pace, cinema is winning. I can’t say it is all jump for joy, I do have my fears for the future of cinema, but at the end of the day, isn’t the whole purpose of a cinema establishment to be a place where you forget about your fears and where you pay to sit with others like you who all have the same passion as you do for entertaining films? With that being said, I’m going to leave you now with my most anticipated films of 2022 and I wish you all a very happy new year.
Most Anticipated Films of 2022
5. The Black Phone
4. The Northman
3. Creed III
2. The Batman