Another year has come and gone, and with it, we’ve seen a captivating range of films from across the world. Some bad, some good, and some of which are certain to be classics.
So, before the New Year rolls around, let’s take a look back, as we count down the top 10 best films of 2021.
Belle – A spellbindingly beautiful anime brimming with imagination, song and heart-wrenching drama.
CODA – Possibly the sweetest film of the year, a powerful and funny story of the power of family.
Nobody – Darkly hilarious, and a brilliant action thriller with a surprising emotional core.
A Quiet Place Part II – A genuinely thrilling sequel filled with intense action and unbearable suspense.
Spider-Man: No Way Home – Everything you could want from a Marvel blockbuster, and more!
The Mitchells vs. The Machines – A ludicrously zany animation that will make you smile, laugh and cry.
A crowd-pleasing coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the early years of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Belfast is a genuinely beautiful film, filled with humour, heart and immense passion from start to finish.
A semi-autobiographical account of director Kenneth Branagh’s upbringing, the film doesn’t shy away from the deep political and religious divisions in Northern Ireland, but it provides a wonderfully nostalgic portrayal of childhood, even against the harshest of backdrops. Overflowing with sweet, relatable coming-of-age drama, intimate emotional depth and much-needed humour and joy, Belfast is a film that will have you smiling ear-to-ear.
9. I Care A Lot
What kind of a film is I Care A Lot? A powerful, hard-hitting and darkly inspiring feminist drama, or a gritty, devastating exposé on systemic abuses towards some of the most vulnerable people in society?
You’ll hear all sorts of opinions, but for me, I Care A Lot was a film that absolutely enraged me. Featuring a staggeringly evil performance from Rosamund Pike – even more psychopathic than her electrifying turn in Gone Girl – and a blend of thrilling crime action and genuinely terrifying drama, this is a film that really gets under your skin, and while it’s not a pleasant watch, it’s an eye-opening, cautionary tale about the horrifyingly dark potential of human beings.
8. Free Guy
You’d be hard-pressed to have found a movie as fun as Free Guy this year. Not only does the film feature Ryan Reynolds’ most charismatic performance yet, but it’s a gloriously imaginative story that delivers thrilling action along with laugh after laugh after laugh.
Popping with dazzling colour and zany energy, Free Guy is a hilarious parody of the world of video games, following the story of an NPC (non-player character) who comes to realise his existence is a lie. The story even strikes up some interesting themes about free will and fate, but it’s a film that’s first and foremost about having a good time, with kick-ass action, hilarious comedy and two of the most lovable heroes you’ll have seen on the big screen this year.
7. The Mauritanian
The thinking man’s film of 2021, The Mauritanian is an enthralling legal thriller that provides a gripping insight into the complex debate on national security, and the lengths to which nations will go to keep out who they deem as ‘terrorists’.
Following the true story of a human rights lawyer who takes on the might of the US government to prove a man interned in Guantánamo Bay innocent, the film is overflowing with passion for its story, combining a hard-as-nails performance from Jodie Foster with necessary and heartfelt emotional depth. It’s at times rather tough viewing, but a film that tells such an important story.
6. The Suicide Squad
Like many others, I thought very little of the original Suicide Squad. Boring, messy and too busy trying to set up different characters and stories for DC’s then-fledgling Extended Universe, it was more of a chore than a joy to watch.
However, with Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn on board, its sequel is everything but. Fantastically silly, and full of humour, action and brilliant superhero twists and turns, The Suicide Squad is an enormously entertaining romp from start to finish. It’s jam-packed with all manner of comic book heroes, but the film never feels as bloated as its predecessor, rather sticking with a rag-tag bunch of heroes that do battle against a gloriously ridiculous villain.
In a world dominated by superhero blockbusters, Dune was just what the doctor ordered. From the seemingly infallible director Denis Villeneuve, this is a smart, epic and endlessly enthralling sci-fi that deserves to sit among cinema’s greatest blockbusters.
A visual masterpiece in every sense of the word, the film combines striking special effects with a deeply intimate hero’s story. Highly reminiscent of the original Star Wars, Dune takes an enormously complex world from the original novels and portrays it in astonishing detail. With more promised in the film’s sequels, this is the kind of sci-fi blockbuster that only comes around once in a blue moon.
4. West Side Story
I was never the biggest fan of the original West Side Story. And the thought of having to sit through it again, but with new faces and slightly updated special effects really didn’t excite me.
Thankfully, I was proved entirely wrong, by what is undeniably one of the year’s most gorgeous films. Building on the story of star-crossed lovers, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is a gloriously romantic, melodramatic epic that features the long-missed elegance and majesty of Old Hollywood, as well as a dynamic, modern and hugely entertaining cinematic style that delivers high drama and exhilarating music and dance numbers throughout.
I was blown away by how good Cruella was. Surely another live-action Disney origin story for an animated villain was going to be overkill, but this gloriously manic comedy-drama was absolutely pitch-perfect.
Influenced just as much by the psychotic Joker as it is by Disney lore, Cruella offers a genuinely captivating and heartfelt insight into the origins of one of Disney’s most famous villains. Effortlessly stylish throughout, and featuring a kick-ass performance from lead actress Emma Stone, this is so much more than another predictable Disney cashgrab, but a soaring, imaginative and hugely entertaining blockbuster.
Without doubt one of the darkest films of the year, Pablo Larraín’s reimagining of one Christmas spent by Princess Diana with the Royal Family is far more a psychological horror than a historical biopic.
In similar fashion to his thrilling drama Jackie, Spencer is an intoxicating psychodrama that takes you into a maddening world of pressure, conformity and depression, all set in what’s portrayed as the haunted house of the Royal Family’s Sandringham Estate. Anchored by a surely Oscar-winning performance from Kristen Stewart, and a piercingly unsettling musical score and pace, the film is deeply uncomfortable, but utterly enthralling to watch.
1. Last Night In Soho
I absolutely adored Last Night In Soho. The latest film from Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver director Edgar Wright, this magical horror-thriller transports you to London in the swinging sixties in exhilarating style.
Complete with by far the year’s best soundtrack, mesmerising leading performances – especially from Anya Taylor-Joy – and a gripping coming-of-age story that combines with a tribute to the city of London at its best and its worst, Last Night In Soho is a captivating, dreamlike watch at every moment. And that’s why it’s my pick for the very best film of 2021.