The Flickering Myth writing team share our top ten movies of 2021…
It’s time for our look back at the best films of 2021 – a year that saw the delayed releases of most of Hollywood’s original 2020 summer slate (we’re still waiting on some…) as the film industry looked to fight back after being devastated by the pandemic the year prior.
It’s not just been a stream of long-overdue blockbusters though (several of which would likely have been better received had they not already felt a little tired after two-year long marketing campaigns), as cinemas around the world once again opened their doors (hooray!), and many smaller films were able to take advantage of the streaming boom to find an audience.
As ever, our writers here at Flickering Myth have been looking back over the past year’s offerings, selecting their personal favourites which we’ve then collated to create an overall list of our Top Ten Movies of 2021. And here they are…
10. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Directed by Jon Watts.
Starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx, and Willem Dafoe.
Including Zack Snyder’s Justice League, superhero fans had seven movies to look forward to in 2021, but only one managed to make our top ten with Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home delivering a treat for Spidey fans of every generation, as well as a massive shot in the arm for the theatrical experience.
“With a strong cast and focus on the story and characters, Spider-Man: No Way Home immediately places itself as one of the best Spidey films to date. Holland and Zendaya give incredibly emotional performances as the stakes remain deeply personal in the action set pieces and there is something for Spider-Man fans of every age and preference to enjoy as the legacy of Marvel’s web-head is honoured by Watts, Holland and the rest of the team respectfully and epically.” – Read our full review here.
Written and Directed by Fran Kranz.
Starring Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney and Ann Dowd.
Premiering at Sundance back in January 2021, actor-turned-director Fran Kranz announced himself as a filmmaker in style with his feature debut Mass, a powerful and harrowing exploration of grief featuring stellar performances from its cast.
“In the last two decades, several films have boldly broached the topic of school shootings in vastly different but equally compelling ways… Mass makes the case for stripping everything back and instead homing in on the longest serving victims in all of this: the loved ones desperately trying to make sense of an unfathomable tragedy. It’s an unflinching study of grief and anger that tackles the difficult questions while avoiding the easy answers. The result is an impeccably-acted humanist drama that will stay with you long after the credits have finished rolling.” – Read our full review here.
8. West Side Story
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll, and Brian d’Arcy James.
Steven Spielberg passed on Indiana Jones 5 in favour of a new adaptation of the classic musical West Side Story, and while it may have tanked at the box office, it’s the filmmaker’s finest offering in years (it’s not, however, the FM writers’ favourite musical of 2021).
“Steven Spielberg’s approach to West Side Story starts from a place of honoring the gripping tale of doomed romance at the core and iconic lyrics from Stephen Sondheim while expanding and strengthening every conceivable detail and character. Put it all together with marvelous, arresting, showstopping direction, whether it’s heated dialogue exchanges or reimagined and brilliantly placed musical numbers, and it amounts to a cinematic treat that surpasses the original. Even on its own, this interpretation of West Side Story stands 200 stories high; it’s that good.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Pablo Larrain.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Nielen, Freddie Spry, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, Stella Gonet, Amy Manson and Sally Hawkins.
Kristen Stewart continued to add to her impressive post-Twilight C.V. by taking on the role of Princess Diana in director Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, which will almost certainly see the actress following in the footsteps of Larrain’s Jackie star Natalie Portman by securing her first Oscar nomination, and – perhaps – go that one step further.
“Positioning itself as an imagined fable from real tragedy, Pablo Larraín’s Spencer is a darkly transfixing look at the suffering and oppression plaguing the titular Princess of Wales’ life during a time of impending divorce impeccably anchored by a trenchantly sympathetic Kristen Stewart. That’s one way of saying that the film has one of the year’s best performances inside one of the best movies of the year.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Leos Carax.
Starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell, Angèle, Rebecca Dyson-Smith, Ron Mael, and Russell Mael.
Just missing out on our top five by the narrowest of margins is acclaimed French filmmaker Leos Carax’s English-language debut Annette, a weird and whimsical musical fantasy that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but a firm favourite among our writers this year.
“Annette routinely criticizes paparazzi behavior, celebrity culture, and comments on the current state of art, but there are also several personal struggles for the family to tackle, all with spellbinding performances from Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, while director Leos Carax soaks most scenes in moody lighting, majestic backgrounds, and a dashing of magical realism implying that all bets are off in terms of predictions.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Julia Ducournau.
Starring Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Laïs Salameh, Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello and Garance Marillier.
At number five we have Titane, the Palme d’Or winning second feature from French filmmaker Julia Ducournau, who followed her acclaimed 2016 debut Raw with another provocative, unique and unforgettable slice of body horror.
“Titane is a film absolutely packed with ideas, incident and energy, weaving a complex narrative which balances the gory thrills of the midnight movie circuit with the sort of nuanced gender discussion the filmmaker delivered in her first movie. Anyone who sees Titane will find it living in their head rent-free for weeks. Like the metal plate which may or may not be the source of the protagonist’s darkness, it’s going absolutely nowhere.” – Read our full review here.
4. The Green Knight
Directed by David Lowery.
Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Sarita Choudhury, and Ralph Ineson.
At #4 this year we have The Green Knight, an enchanting and absolutely compelling take on the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon).
“The Green Knight is an enthralling morality tale possessing a profound lyrical beauty that is all its own. It is an intoxicating brew of wild fantasy and high-art that will stupefy your senses, leaving you lucid dazed under its hallucinatory spell.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, and Charlotte Rampling.
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 topped our favourite movies of the year back in 2017, but his latest sci-fi epic Dune has to settle for third place this time around. Roll on Dune: Part Two, which will hopefully complete something very special indeed for sci-fi lovers.
“The world that Villeneuve has built is one of the most impressive since Peter Jackson and his WETA wizards plucked Middle-earth from our imaginations. Aged cities, places which feel as though they ache with history and thousands of stories. These aren’t those familiar shiny space veneers, they’re locations with real weight and intimidating size. If you were impressed with the way he writ future large for Blade Runner 2049, your jaw will drop lower for the scale of the topography on show here.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Michael Sarnoski.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, Nina Belforte, Gretchen Corbett, Dalene Young, Darius Pierce, and Cassandra Violet.
The last couple of years have certainly been crazy, but a Nicolas Cage film among the very best of the year?! It was oh so close to number one too, but as it is Pig takes the runner up spot and Cage continues a magnificent run of form that has seen a complete career turnaround from his noughties slump with a performance that puts him right back in the awards mix. Perhaps there’s hope for Bruce Willis yet…
“Nicolas Cage and Alex Wolff are easy standouts for some of the best performances of the year so far, the writing is profound, the direction is minimalistic and affecting with a focus on the inner workings of these characters, and the equally nuanced score elevates structures of suspense where it’s unclear where this is all going. Memory is another resonant theme here, and it’s safe to say anyone that watches Pig will never forget it.” – Read our full review here.
1. The Power of the Dog
Written and Directed by Jane Campion.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, Thomasin McKenzie, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Frances Conroy, and Keith Carradine.
And so, at #1 this year, we have The Power of the Dog, writer-director Jane Campion’s masterful return to the big screen after a twelve-year absence. Featuring prominently in the majority of our writers’ individual lists (and topping two), The Power of the Dog is the second Netflix feature to lead our annual top ten after Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and the first from a female filmmaker in the twelve years we’ve been collating these on the site.
The Power of the Dog so vividly re-creates a place in time with every single shot providing something noteworthy to marvel at, whether it be something discernible about the characters themselves, the vast landscapes, or something as simple yet impressionable as the burning of a cigarette. There are also those damn spurs pounding the floorboards as if Phil is the bogeyman. They are sure to haunt forever, just like the profundity of The Power of the Dog. Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst deliver the performances of their careers, and in a righteous world, Jane Campion will start a streak for female filmmakers winning the Best Director Oscar. – Read our full review here.
Here are our writers’ individual favourites…
Gary Collinson – The Power of the Dog
Robert Kojder – The Power of the Dog
Shaun Munro – Bo Burnham: Inside
Tom Jolliffe – Riders of Justice
Hasitha Fernando – The Green Knight
Tom Beasley – Titane
Matt Rodgers – Petite Maman
Rachel Bellwoar – Passing
Liam Hoofe – West Side Story
Harold Bleacher – Mass
Our previous Top Tens…
2020 – Mangrove
2019 – The Irishman
2018 – Avengers: Infinity War
2017 – Blade Runner 2049
2016 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2015 – Ex Machina
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
2013 – Gravity
2012 – The Dark Knight Rises
2011 – Drive
2010 – Inception
Be sure to let us know your favourite movies of 2021 on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…