2021. Covid rumbles on and I’m not sure any of us managed to see quite as many films as we would like, what with lock downs and delayed releases (not to mention, hello, I’m in Antarctica and haven’t seen a new release in months!)
But, as ever, there are some cracking films out there if you keep your eyes open. Here the WTF team rounds up all the best stuff they’ve seen in 2021, from film festival favorites to superhero franchises, surprise hits and everything in between.
So, I would like to clarify that as I’ve been 9000 miles away from home for the last few months, I’ve missed several of my most hyped new releases including those from my very favourite directors; had I seen them this may have been a very different list! Nevertheless, there’s some highly decorated award winners and some stunning hidden gems amongst my top 10 of 2021, all of them worth watching.
A trans man returns to his rural New Zealand hometown for the first time since transitioning and attempts to reconcile with friends and family. Beautifully shot, sensitively acted and with a lovely hopeful story this was a real joy to discover on the film festival circuit. (review)
9. Black Widow
I’m a self-confessed Marvel stan and one of those who’d been waiting a long time for some proper Black Widow content. I’m glad to say it was worth the wait, but only made me wish we’d had a solo movie sooner. Thank you, Marvel, for gifting us with my new favourite, Yelena Belova – Florence Pugh is a cracking addition to the MCU (review)
8. Sound of Metal:
Riz Ahmed plays a drummer in a hardcore band who faces losing his hearing. I’ve been a fan of Riz for some years and this was a fantastic showcase for his talents as well as a rare insight into the deaf community. Watch it as intended with headphones and the subtitles on – the sound design is ingenious. (review)
Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play a couple forced to say goodbye when one of them is diagnosed with dementia. Two of my favourite Hollywood stars at their absolute heartbreaking best. I cried all the moisture out of my body whilst watching this. Beautifully acted. (review)
Absolutely worth the Oscar hype. Frances McDormand is fantastic as a woman living and working out of a campervan in the American West during an economic recession. Chloe Zhao’s beautiful film was shot documentary style, with the rest of the eclectic cast made up of real people going about their real lives on the road – it makes for a brilliantly authentic film. (trailer)
Frances McDormand also stars alongside Denzel Washington this year in The Tragedy of Macbeth. See the review here
5. In The Heights:
A Lin Manuel Miranda musical that showcases his own Latin American New York neighbourhood. Toe tappingly catchy music, vibrant colour and intricate choreographed dance pieces; it’s sunshine in a movie and an infectiously joyful watch. (review)
4. Another Round: Another infectiously joyful film though it balances some dark themes remarkably well. Four schoolteachers going through a midlife crisis decide to undertake an experiment where they get a little bit drunk every day to see if it improves their lives. Mads Mikkelsen is pitch perfect in the lead role, the closing scene already iconic. (review)
3. First Cow: A simple but mesmerising film that got thoroughly under my skin. A pioneer cook in early 19th century America befriends a runaway Chinese immigrant and the two go into business together selling cakes in a rough and ready trading town. The purest relationship I’ve seen on film in a very long time, it’s just a lovely film. (trailer)
2. Minari: Another deceptively simple film that puts realistic human relationships and exceptional acting at its centre. A Korean family move to the American South in the 1980s and try to start a new life as farmers. Slow and perfectly formed, it’s a delicate musing on family and childhood.
1. Limbo: I first saw this film last year at the BFI London Film Festival utterly adored it, and only loved it even more when it came out on general release this year. Limbo tells the story of a group of asylum seekers living together on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides while they wait out the results of their asylum applications. It’s at times laugh out loud funny, desperately sad and desolately beautiful – a brilliantly balanced five-star film that deserves a wider audience. (review)
10.DUNE – THE visual spectacle of 2021. A film made to be seen in cinemas (especially IMAX), a visual feast for the senses. Even though the story left a lot of loose ends (which is understandable considering it is two-parter) as a standalone film it is still definitely worth watching.
9.ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE – A film that we once thought would never see the light of day was actually released thanks to a phenomenal fan campaign. This was a much more polished and coherent (and longer!) film than the theatrical release and was well worth the wait.
8.BLACK WIDOW – A long overdue solo outing for Scarlett’s seminal Avenger character, the film itself wasn’t amazing but served as a launchpad for Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova who is an absolute gem and more than capable of taking the mantle of Black Widow moving forward (is it blasphemous to say that I love her Widow more than Scarlett Johansson’s Widow already?).
See 10 fascinating film facts about Scarlett Johansson here
7.SPIDERMAN NO WAY HOME – A Spiderman fan’s dream combining lots of action, nostalgia, and emotion to perfectly wrap up the ‘Home’ trilogy series.
If you are a Spider man fan, check out 10 fascinating film facts about the ‘Home’ Series here
Who is the best Spider Man and Peter Parker? Have your say here
6.SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS – Being a martial arts fan it was great to see a Marvel offering featuring it prominently (Iron Fist doesn’t exist……) in a film that was heavy on action and great fighting set-pieces.
See the Official trailer here
5.KING RICHARD – “And the 2022 Academy Award for Best Actor goes to……. Will Smith!” This film should See Will FINALLY scoop the top prize for his portrayal of the father of Venus and Serena Williams.
Read the full review here
4.RED NOTICE – I enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would, even being a fan of the Rock and Ryan Reynolds. A good comic caper with lots of jokes and action. Enjoy the action-packed trailer here and read the review here
3, THE LITTLE THINGS – Three great actors in Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto lead this slow paced but ultimately satisfying suspenseful investigative crime drama. See the Trailer here
2.VACATION FRIENDS – Probably the most fun I’ve had watching a film in 2021 in terms of sheer laughs. I went in expecting a film just to pass some time but found this hilarious escapism. It won’t win any awards, but you will enjoy the ride whilst it lasts. Official Trailer here
1.HAWKEYE – Last year my top 10 of 2020 included ‘The Boys’ so my cheat non-film inclusion this year is Hawkeye. Maybe it’s the recency bias but I did enjoy this most of all the Disney Plus shows this year. The first 2 episodes are uneventful but the final 4 and the finale especially are really good. It’s also refreshing to have a grounded, contained, street-level show which makes this a lot more relatable and effective than other ‘world is at stake’ Marvel offerings. All episodes of Hawkeye are available now on Disney Plus
What were December 2021’s most wanted movies? Find out here
Kal’s 10: In no particular order:
● West Side Story
Steven Spielberg has done it again. This is a great remake of the 1961 classic. Having never seen the original, I was sceptical about seeing this. I had heard that the original was good, however dated, but thought I would give it a go. Plus, I am a fan of musicals. Well, I was blown away, by the acting, then singing and the story. Dare I say, a modern-day Romeo & Juliette. This just shows why Spielberg is one of, if not the best director of this generation. Trailer here
Whilst not a great movie, it’s probably the most fun movie that I have seen this year. Kate Beckinsale is a pleasure to watch as she navigates her way through action scene after action scene in this electrifying crazy ride of a movie. Most people will despise this movie, but me, I loved it. Read the review here
● Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The list is never complete nowadays, without there being a Marvel film on the list. And my pick for
this year is our introduction to the world of Shang-Chi and Mythological Wenwu dynasty. This origin story was on par with ‘Black Panther’, maybe even surpassed it. The action and story were great. A bit too much CGI at the end of the movie, but I really enjoyed this and cannot wait for the next instalment.
As an unforgivable fan of M. Night Shyamalan, I had little hope for this movie as he had let me down
of recent, however I am happy to say that he was back on rare form in this thriller that kept us guessing from the beginning till the end. The cast was great, and the story had many twists and turns to keep me interested. I hope this is a start of good things to come from ‘The Sham-Hammer’. Trailer here
● King Richard
Big Willie Style is at his utmost best in this biographical drama that follows the life of the Richard
Williams, the father of tennis greats, Venus and Serena Williams. He shows his range of acting in this film, from emotional, angry and funny as well as a commanding presence. Could this be an Oscar for best actor for Will Smith? I believe that there is a strong possibility. Definitely one to watch. Review here
You cannot go a year without having some sort of animation film as one of the best for the year. And this year, my pick is the enchanting Walt Disney computer-animated musical fantasy comedy film ‘Encanto’. Oh, this was a pleasure to watch. As usual, the animation is flawless, and the story is beautiful for all to enjoy. It’s fun and highly satisfying. Review here
● The Harder they Fall
A Western film where the majority of the principal cast is black, this film has swagger and a top cast to match. Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina Hall and Lakeith Stanfield, are just a few names that stand out in this action filled, gun slinging movie. And that soundtrack, produced by Jay-Z, gave it that extra ‘Ju Ne Se Quoi’. Review here
● Spider-Man: No Way Home
Of the either previous Spiderman motion pictures, I have only liked two of them, and those two were not of the latest trilogy, so I was sceptical about this final movie. However, I have to say that I truly enjoyed this film. Whether it was the throwback moments, or the storyline, I’m not quite sure, but I am happy to say that I was impressed.
● No Time to Die
The name was Craig, Daniel Craig, and this was his last outing as the MI6 agent with a license to kill. I have enjoyed his outing as James Bond and was excited to see how his arc would end. After the many delays due to the pandemic, it was finally released, and it was definitely worth the wait. Loads of action and a satisfying swansong ending. I look forward to seeing what the studio does next.
No Time to Die Legacy Trailer and images here
The huge buzz surrounding the movie Dune, was definitely warranted. It was a visually beautiful film and after seeing it in IMAX, I can truly understand why the director was so adamant that this is a cinematic release. After never reading the source material, or seeing the original film, I was concerned that I would not be able to follow it, however my fears were unfounded as the story was very clear. This is the first part of the duo, and I eagerly await part two. Read the Review here
I gotta give an Honourable shout out to:
● Free Guy (Review)
● Black Widow (Review)
● Wrath of Man (Review)
● Matrix Resurrections (Review)
● The Suicide Squad (Review)
● Zack Synder’s Justice League (Review)
● A Quiet Place 2 (Review)
Mysteree’s 10 (In no order):
2021 wasn’t quit the return to normal we were all hoping for with many films receiving restricted releases or pushed in to 2022. But there were still a few movies which managed to shock, surprise, or leave me much better than they found me.
Here are my current 2021 top 10, in no particular order:
Dune: I came into Dune without any prior knowledge of the story or characters and despite being a bit of a slow burner, I loved the scale, scope, story and imaginative world building taking place. Can’t wait for the sequel
Promising Young Woman: I’ve always been a fan of a well thought out revenge plot and this more than delivered. It proudly wore its #metoo and anti-violence against women message on its sleeve which surprisingly turned off quite a few from watching it. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this, and Carey Mulligan was fantastic. Read the review here
A Quiet Place 2: I don’t scare easy so I’m always on the hunt for a horror film that can make me sweat at least a little bit and this more than delivered the tension and a few quality jump scares. Keeping quiet was never so important. Read the review here
Zack Snyders Justice League: A proud supporter (of the respectful side) of the campaign to ‘restore the Snydercut’, I couldn’t have been happier when Warner Bros Green lit Zack Snyder’s complete vision. I was apprehensive at first, could it live up to the hype? But this 4hour spectacular absolutely nailed it, fulfilled its promise, and justified its necessity. The only downside is it gave a glimpse of what would have followed that we will now most likely never see. Read the review here
I Care a lot: Technically the film wasn’t brilliant and was tonally uneven in places but sometimes it can be about how a film or actor makes you feel. Rosamund Pike’s dark determination to succeed at any cost had me thinking ‘I like her, but she better not get away with all this’- I was fully engaged and invested
Read the review here
Army of the Dead: Attempting to re invigorate the Zombie genre by giving us something we hadn’t seen before from the undead, proved a success for Zack Snyder. Combining a Zombie apocalypse with a heist movie and memorable characters made this really entertaining and fun – a winner all round for me. Read the full review here
The Suicide Squad: A soft reboot of the Suicide Squad franchise with the twisted mind of James Gunn in the director’s chair. It was definitely a statement of intent and a cinematic spectacle not seen on the big screen all year. Loud, bright, bloody, juvenile in places and unapologetically over the top. Its lunacy gave the franchise a much-needed shot in the arm with something definitely illegal
Read 10 Fascinating Film Facts about both Suicide Squad Movies here
Palm Springs: The ‘time loop’ was one of the most popular tropes in movies this year. None of them were particularly bad but to stand out, it needed to try something a little bit different. The combination of dark adult comedy and two people being trapped together in the loop gave this one a bit of an edge over the others and had lots of fun doing it.
Read the review here
Black Widow: Though Black Widow was side lined over the last 10yrs for other Marvel characters who were seen as more box office friendly, it didn’t stop this from being a great origin and farewell story for Scarlet Johansson’s definitive MCU spy. Its impact was lessened as the outcome of the character and many of the events depicted had already been seen on the big screen. It didn’t quite hit ‘The Winter Soldier’ levels but it still delivered a fantastic ride.
Read the Review here
Reminiscence: This was possibly the victim of a bad marketing plan. The advertising attempted to portray this High Jackman led movie as an action film which led to a lot of disappointing reviews online. In reality, this was an old style, slow burner film noir detective mystery. Hugh was the ‘gumshoe’ looking for the mysterious lady in red. The added sci fi elements, enabling characters to relive memories made it even more engaging for me. Shamefully underrated in my opinion. Read the review here