The 25 Best Movies of 2021 Ranked: Dune, CODA, and More

A ranking of the 25 best movies released in 2021, including Dune, CODA, The Power of the Dog, and more

Power of the Dog best movies of 2021 list.
The Power of the Dog

It feels counterintuitive that my first post on a new blog is about saying a toast to a previous year rather than the start of a new one, but that’s just the kind of year that 2021 was. This year felt pivotal for me in terms of my moviegoing traditions and experiences, as well as how I grew in relation to the films that I watched and what particular ones I enjoyed.

The easiest way to put this was that I really put myself out there this year. This isn’t me bragging about the sheer number of films I saw in 2021 (although seeing well over 100+ releases feels like both a huge accomplishment and it may signal that I got a bit obsessive about it as the year went along) but rather I wanted to develop a basis for what I enjoy about a hobby that I care so deeply about. Film is important to me, so when most of the movies I could see on the big screen this year began with either a Marvel title card or a theme song from an 80s film that signaled that I was going to be in for a long, disappointing ride for two hours (I’m looking at you Ghostbusters), I had to resort to the one practice that I’ve been so pessimistic about for years and years: streaming.

That’s not to say that I’ve been completely tuned out to streaming over its quick rise during the last decade. I just didn’t want my first time seeing Dune (outstanding!) or Space Jam: A New Legacy (yikes) to be on a 1080p television through HBO Max. But again, that’s just the kind of thing that happens as we recover from bigger and more important issues. This year, I embraced that medium and found myself connecting with quite a few titles over the last 365 days. After doing a quick count, I realized 10 out of the 25 films I put on my year-end list were big streaming releases for various networks.

Streaming wasn’t the only medium I found to be so deeply transformative for me in 2021. Here’s a nod to my good friends over at Letterboxd. Wow was this an important outlet for me this past year. Who knew that my thoughts about Adam Driver’s performance in the semi-musical/semi-romantic Annette or that The Irishman is a seminal piece of filmmaking that rivals some of Scorsese’s bests were probably better suited for a film-discussion platform over Twitter? I spent the year frantically and profusely logging every. single. thing. that I watched. I worried and pondered over how to rate films, how to write about them, which one I would put over another in a specific list, etc. It was so cathartic.

This year wasn’t the best year, but it was a good one – and it sure was better than that of 2020. So again, here’s to a sometimes challenging and sometimes magical 2021, and a hopefully even better 2022, where I will maybe even see 200(!) films. Oh, and my 25 favorite movies of 2021 (Sorry to those I missed including Nightmare Alley, Mass, and Benedetta):

25. The Harder They Fall

The Harder They Fall movie 2021

24. The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog movie 2021

23. King Richard

King Richard movie 2021

22. House of Gucci

House of Gucci film 2021

21. The Last Duel

The Last Duel movie 2021

20. Finch

Finch Apple TV Film 2021

19. The Humans

The Humans film 2021

18. The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch Wes Anderson 2021

17. Pig

Pig Nicolas Cage 2021

16. Bergman Island

Bergman Island film 2021

15. Titane

Titane film 2021

14. A Man Named Scott

A man named scott movie 2021

13. Spider-Man: No Way Home

spiderman no way home marvel 2021

12. Red Rocket

red rocket movie 2021

A mighty return to the screen for Sean Baker, Red Rocket is an interrogation of American reality set to the backdrop of a fluorescent South. It’s equal parts hilarious, saddening, and shockingly honest in only a way Sean Baker can present. Red Rocket movie review

11. The Lost Daughter

the lost daughter review 2021 movie

I’m really glad that The Lost Daughter was one of the final films I saw in 2021. It’s one of my favorites of the year because I think it lends itself to quite a few rewatches. Olivia Colman is just THAT good in it. Is it a bit insular? Sure, but it has just the right amount of style and precision that I love. I hope Maggie Gyllenhaal can continue to crank out films like this if she plans on continuing to direct. The Lost Daughter movie review

10. The Worst Person in the World

the worst person in the world film 2021

9. Dune

Dune movie part one 2021

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is an ambitious and visually stunning sci-fi epic that successfully brings Frank Herbert’s classic novel to the big screen. With a star-studded cast led by Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya, this film is a must-see for fans of the genre and those looking for a thrilling cinematic experience. Dune movie review

8. C’Mon C’Mon

Cmon Cmon movie 2021

7. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Mitchells vs the Machines animated movie

6. Malcolm & Marie

malcolm and marie netflix movie 2021

5. Saint Maud

Saint Maud Rose Glass movie A24 2020

Saint Maud certainly has a few of the motifs and themes you’d expect from an A24 horror movie – a real sense of dread and Christian guilt lingers throughout much of its brisk runtime – but it feels like an expansive, reinvigorating mold of those ideals. I’ve occasionally bumped up against a few of the quote-unquote “elevated horror” movies that that studio has produced and distributed due to the fact that I don’t think many of the scares are earned in a handful of those films, but Saint Maud is not one of those. Saint Maud movie review

4. CODA

CODA movie 2021 Apple TV

3. The Card Counter

The Card Counter movie 2021 Paul Schrader Oscar Isaac

2. Drive My Car

Drive My Car movie 2021

1. Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza best movie 2021 Paul Thomas Anderson

What Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted with Licorice Pizza is a fractured memory. Every moment in these teenagers’ lives are sensationalized. It’s as if this is being told by someone who is always trying to one-up your story by claiming they helped a congressman win office or opened up a successful pinball arcade at the age of 15. None of it makes sense, but in a world without parental guidance or vision, anything is possible. Licorice Pizza movie review

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