Top 10 Films of 2021

Top Ten of 2021

2021 has been an interesting year in cinema.  There were a lot of moved dates, unexpected delays and shuffling between theater and streaming.  The chaos of releases stifled what was viewed, but no matter if you were with the crowds or sitting at home, the experience was truly memorable.  This year can be defined by those moments, a showcase of how each story provided an emotional draw into a genuine window of our lives.  No matter how fantastical of an escape, the euphoria made us feel something truly good inside.  No matter what you watched, 2021 provided us with unforgettable experiences.

With how the year started, I didn’t think I would have any films miss my top 10.  By the end, the strength of stories forced me into some difficult choices.  With that said, these 5 films are worthy of anyone’s top 10 list.  For me, they are my honorable mentions:

King Richard – This is a film that showcases the strength of perseverance.  A biopic that revels in the value of family, it is a journey into the heart of the father/daughter relationship.  With a strong main lead with Will Smith, you will not be disappointed watching the rise of Venus and Serna Williams.      

Free Guy – This film was the darling of the summer season.  A story that mixes adventure themes within a gamer’s paradise, it provides enjoyment on so many levels.  For all the funny gags and bombastic action sequences, the glue between everything is the journey of the heart.  An original film with wholesome feels, this is a great time for you and the family.  

Don’t Look Up – Another film from Adam McKay, he provides a tale that strikes a hard satirical tone on society’s own ideocracy.  An ensemble cast like no other, it is the perfect blend of blunt humor and social commentary about a world facing the inevitable.  Within the obvious, the only thing that matters is … what is in it for me.  This story answers the question, in a hilarious way.

Tick, Tick … BOOM! – This is a musical that showcases a great blend of song, dance and personal struggles.  In his directorial debut, Lin-Manuel Miranda creates a journey that pulls at your heartstrings through themes of young adulthood.  With a standout performance from Andrew Garfield, you will be singing right along until the end.

A Quiet Place: Part II – How do you follow up on a film that redefined a genre.  Well, you build upon what worked and push further into the characters’ struggles.  This sequel recaptures that same suspense through an evolution of the tension.  An experience that moves beyond, it showcase the deadly scenarios that are more than just the monsters.  With stellar performance for the returning (and new) cast, you will feel the intensity of silence stronger than ever.

It was hard to leave these truly remarkable films off the list, but it happens.  Now, it is time to reveal my Top 10 films of 2021.

10. Pig – The great thing about cinema is moving beyond expectations.  With this indie/drama, it is built upon a simple premise, but moves into a place of characterized wonder.  When all hope is lost, it is the small details of life that becomes the poignant string that brings everything together.  A strong performance from Nicholas Cage, this is a revenge tale that moves above its material to be something truly meaningful.  

9. Sound of Metal – In a world of bombastic adventures, it is the simple aesthetics that can make a story amazing.  As Ruben (Riz Ahmed) loses his hearing, it leads to a tumultuous journey of life, love and perseverance.  When faced with harden change, the truth is to begin anew.  With a strong lead upon a human path, this film blows away with just an honest reflection of life. 

8. Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings –Marvel always finds a way to move the comic book genre above its foundation.  By blending kung fu and mysticism into the hero’s journey, they build something that is humanizing but action packed.  Taking an unknown character and pushing him into the limelight, they provide the audience with an enthralling experience.  No matter if you are a Marvel Fan, you will enjoy this latest entry into the MCU.

7. Last Night in Soho – What I enjoy most (about film) is when a director pushes their creative boundaries to try something new.  Not only did Edgar Wright dive into a new genre (Psychological Horror), but he was able to create a poignant thriller that is deeply woven between characterization and emotional obscurity.  An original tale that pushes beyond familiar tropes, this is an edge of your seat experience that will have you feeling something astonishing by the end.     

6. The Power of the Dog – There are good stories and there are those that simply redefine storytelling.  What takes this one above and beyond resides in the subtle performances of the characters.  This is a Western that lifts above the material to become a personal retrospective of human endeavor.  With its stellar cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, etc.) this story weaves through the raw detail of relations, showing how the truth can blind what is real.  With an indifferent journey through the genre, it makes for an unforgettable experience.   .      

5. Nomadland – There is something to be said about simply, watching life.  With this film, it provides a window into a delicate thread of the everyday purpose.  Through that slice of life trope, this story follows a woman living as a modern-day nomad.  With only the road and her van, you experience moments of real human interactions, seeing how one person finds new reasons to live beyond loss.  This is a character study that drives home the strength of storytelling.  

4. West Side Story – Steven Spielberg is a master of his craft.  No matter the genre, he creates journeys that are simply memorable.  So, what does he do next?  Director his first musical (that is a remake) and create an enthralling journey of song, dance within the wholesomeness of the human heart.  From the technical aspects to the deeply woven character struggles, it is a sweeping remake that surpasses the original.  This is one of the best musicals to hit the big screen, showing why Spielberg is considered one of the great directors of all time.   

3. Dune – When I think about this film, I think about the term ‘aging like fine wine’.  From the initial viewing experience, this Sci-Fi adaptation of the hero’s journey has become a strong endearing tale of awe and wonder.  A layered endeavor of character motives, world-building and a strong fantastical escape, it is an experience that grows strongly because of the strength of a director’s vision.  A Sci-Fi epic of endless possibilities, it is a first act that gives you a feeling of excitement of what comes next.

2. Spiderman: No Way Home – Marvel is a behemoth in the cinema world.  Not only are the able to blend new elements into familiar threads, but they go beyond with everlasting experiences.  This next installment of the Spiderman franchise not only provides strong action and over-the-top sequences, but it shows the strength of character driven stories.  With heartfelt moments, endearing sacrifices and the evolution of Peter Parker, it is a riveting tale that defines why we go to cinemas.      

1. Belfast – For all the great journeys, enjoyment is beholden to the individual.  With every film, it is always in how a tale stays with you beyond that initial experience.  For all the great films on my list, this is the one that moved me beyond with its solace journey.  An interwoven tale of Ireland in the 1960s, this is a story that provides strong themes about adolescent, relationships, family and loss.  With each moment (in the film) it showcased a growth that is defined in our own innocence.  The world is filled with unexpected detail, but those things should never take away from the love and laughter of life.  Kenneth Branagh (writer/director) creates an unorthodox slice of life tale that is an everlasting journey.  Therefore, Belfast is my number one movie of 2021.    

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