The Top 25 Films of 2021 REDUX

2022 has started off by feeling like a continuation of the last. As it goes with every year, the film slate starts off rough and gradually gets better as it progresses. I knew at some point I would revisit my list from the past year and revise it one last time. This is for a few reasons: 1.) I spent much of the early portion of this year playing catch up. With the sporadic and often shotty release schedule of many films nowadays, it’s tough to squeeze in everything by the time the calendar turns to the new year. This is especially true if you live in a town not equipped to play the indie darlings right out the gate (while driving 90 minutes to see Licorice Pizza definitely made that film feel like an event, it’s not something I’m particularly ecstatic about doing with every release) and 2.) I wanted this to be an official bookend to last year before I ramp up my viewing for this year. I can officially solidify and retire the Letterboxd list that I’ve been shuffling around in my head and on the computer screen for the last few months and begin to do that same thing with a 2022 list. The movie industry, like every industry in the information era, has become gamified. The content industry has become a competition – pitting one form of art against another. This idea isn’t necessarily a bad one, but it’s one I’m trying to indulge in less. I’m not running to the computer to shuffle my 66-68 best films of 2021 – which is probably some combination of shlocky horror like Censor, Spiral, V/H/S/94, etc.

I’ve watched less filler content and I’ve focused on familiarizing myself with the past (that Linklater guy can direct!). I’ve forced Kaylee to watch through auteur flicks that are mostly for my own personal research (Jackie Brown is as good as Pacific Rim is bad). And, perhaps more than anything, I’ve expanded my physical media collection by quite an absurd, and at times concerning, amount. Criterion has become a real revelation for me this year – a door that has opened me to so many different corners of the film world. I’ve watched the three hour Hoop Dreams documentary followed by the epilogue events that accompanied that release, I checked out Inside Llewyn Davis for the 20th time and was floored by the documentary on the making of the Coens’ classic, and I couldn’t help but order the entire Wes Anderson collection and watch over the special features. Moreso than any year, I’ve gone back as much as I’ve looked forward.

And with this final look at what I enjoyed the most about 2021, I’m hoping to do just that: look back and also look forward. Last year was a pivotal year for me. I dove headfirst into a hobby and obsession that I knew would take years and years to wrap my head around. It’s a daunting task to try to understand at first, but it gets easier as long as you don’t spend hours searching through the various curated lists on Netflix or HBO. I didn’t see everything from 2021 that I wanted to before I edited this list one final time, but I eventually learned that that will always be the case. There will always be another rabbit hole to go down – it’s just a matter of picking one goal and sticking to it. Five years from now, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about this. I’m sure I’ll laugh and wonder how I didn’t include The Green Knight or Nightmare Alley, but I can’t control that. Here’s how I’m feeling right now:

25. The Harder They Fall

24. The Power of the Dog

23. King Richard

22. House of Gucci

21. The Last Duel

20. Finch

19. The Humans

18. The French Dispatch

17. Pig

16. Bergman Island

15. Titane

14. A Man Named Scott

13. Spider-Man: No Way Home

12. Red Rocket

11. The Lost Daughter

10. The Worst Person in the World

9. Dune

8. C’mon C’mon

7. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

6. Malcolm & Marie

5. Saint Maud


3. The Card Counter

2. Drive My Car

1. Licorice Pizza

— Eli