The Top 25 Films of 2021

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 Licorice Pizza, Red Rocket, Nightmare Alley, Mass, Benedetta, and C’mon C’mon):

25. The Green Knight

24. Annette

23. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

22. Ron’s Gone Wrong

21. Spencer

20. The Harder They Fall

19. Judas and the Black Messiah

18. The Last Duel

17. Dune

16. Last Night in Soho

15. The Power of the Dog

14. Finch

13. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

12. King Richard

11. The Humans

10. A Man Named Scott

9. House of Gucci

8. Titane

7. Spider-Man: No Way Home

6. Saint Maud

5. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

4. Pig


2. The Card Counter

1. Malcolm & Marie

— Eli