Top 10 Best Films of 2021


Shot from The Green Knight.

2021 was not a perfect year for films by any means, but we got a few great ones. Just like with the worst of the year list, I want to make it clear that I did not see every single film that was released this year, including some particularly acclaimed films such as Titane and Pig. With that said, let us not waste any more time and get right into the list.


Number Ten: News of the World

As the first film that I saw this year, I did not have many expectations for News of the World, despite it being a potential awards contender. I had my doubts going into this film, but after seeing it, I can safely say that I enjoyed it. The direction by Paul Greengrass was pretty impressive, the score by James Newton Howard was great, and the acting from Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel was good overall.

The cinematography was great in this film, and as someone who did not know too much about the story, I ended up being surprisingly invested., Besides taking a while to get started, News of the World was really good overall.


Number Nine: Spencer

I did not know a whole lot about Spencer, but I had heard nothing but good things, and endless praise for Kristen Stewart’s performance. With that in mind, I decided to check it out, and I can happily say that Spencer was a really good watch overall. It was an interesting, fictional snapshot of Princess Diana’s life.

All of the technical elements were impressive, from the cinematography by Claire Mathon to the score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The acting was great, and I was blown away by Kristen Stewart’s performance. My only real complaint is that the story while investing, feels a little slow in areas, and it is not a film I would rush out to see again. Regardless, Spencer is still a great film, and one I do not regret watching.


Number Eight: In The Heights

If I could use one word to describe In The Heights, it would have to be “fun.” Although musicals typically aren’t my favorite type of film, I was impressed by how much I enjoyed it. 

The acting is generally fantastic, with Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace giving great supporting performances, and I would argue that Anthony Ramos portrays the main character Usnavi far better than Lin-Manuel Miranda did in the Broadway show. The story was still really engaging. The editing and cinematography are largely on point, while the music itself is incredibly catchy. If you are ever in need of a fun, laid-back film to enjoy, I would easily recommend In The Heights.


Number Seven: Malcolm and Marie

I had no expectations going into Malcolm and Marie. The reactions I saw online were incredibly mixed. Plenty of people claimed the film was an underrated gem, while others thought it was an agonizingly boring arthouse film. But suffice to say, I found myself easily agreeing with the former.

Malcolm and Marie is an incredibly well-made film on every front. Sam Levinson’s direction and writing are fantastic, expertly calling out critics and the distorted and politicized way they view films. John David Washington and Zendaya were both amazing, with both actors delivering impressive monologues throughout. The simple story about a night with a couple at their breaking point is incredibly well presented, and even tense at some points due to the cinematography. Malcolm and Marie honestly blew me away, and I cannot wait to see it again.


Number Six: Nobody

Sometimes, all we need is just a dumb action film with a likable protagonist, some great writing, and some killer action set pieces to have a good time. This is the case with the Mission: Impossible series, John Wick, and now Nobody.

Bob Odenkirk’s transition from slimy lawyer Saul Goodman to unexpectedly intimidating action hero Hutch Mansell is uncanny, and he surprisingly manages to pull it off. Fellow actors RZA, Connie Nielsen, Aleksei Serebryakov, and Christopher Lloyd do a great job alongside Odenkirk. The technical aspects and music are near perfect, and the writing is strong and unpredictable, but what carries Nobody is the action. This film is violent and utterly insane, and it delivers with flying colors. 

Nobody is a surprisingly amazing film, both as a dumb action flick, and even as a serious film. At the end of the day, that is all we really need sometimes.


Number Five: Judas and the Black Messiah

Few stories in recent history are as utterly harrowing as the assassination of Fred Hampton and the silencing of the Black Panther Party. Judas and the Black Messiah captures that story to a tee. Shaka King makes a powerful directorial debut, with a script that perfectly shows William O’Neal and his tragic journey to get Hampton killed in exchange for his freedom. The cinematography and editing are spot-on overall. The music, while not the most memorable, is still great, and the supporting cast such as Jesse Plemons and Dominique Fishback does an amazing job.

Without a doubt, however, the best parts about this film are the lead performances by Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Daniel Kaluuya kills it as Fred Hampton, perfectly encapsulating a man who just wishes to fight for the equal treatment of his people. Lakeith Stanfield really stands out as William O’Neal, though, as a tortured man who is forced to betray his friends. Judas and the Black Messiah is an amazing film, and I cannot wait to see what Shaka King makes next.


Number Four: The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Of all the animated films to be released this year, none are anywhere near as fantastic as The Mitchells vs. The Machines, and it is safe to say that the directorial debut of Gravity Falls writers Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe is an absolute gem.

The animation is just as stellar as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, with the amazing writing and characters complimenting the great visuals. The entire cast is great, with Abbi Jacobson and Danny McBride being the biggest standouts. The score by Mark Mothersbaugh is a joy to listen to. The plot has a couple of typical plot beats, but they are nowhere near enough to diminish the film as a whole. More than that, the film is honestly so relatable to a lot of people (especially someone like me, who saw it when I was getting ready to go off to my dream school as a film major, like Katie) that I cannot help but love it. The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a joy to watch from start to finish, and I cannot recommend it enough.


Number Three: Nomadland

When I first saw Nomadland in theaters back in February, I knew absolutely nothing about it going in, other than that it was one of the biggest contenders at the upcoming awards season. After watching it, I was glad that I did not know anything going in because going into this film blind allowed me to truly savor the honest humanity at the center of Nomadland

Chloé Zhao brings a tremendous amount of heart into an incredibly simple story, feeling less like scripted events and more like people living their lives. The cinematography by Joshua James Richards is utterly perfect, and the score by Ludovico Einaudi is incredibly emotional and well put together. Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, and all of the non-actors that make up the cast bring the story to life, and it is truly special to watch. Nomadland is an incredible film, Chloé Zhao and the entire team did a fantastic job, and I just love the film to no end.


Number Two: Dune

For nearly sixty years, Dune has existed as the pioneer of the science fiction genre. There have been previous attempts to bring the classic novel to life in the film industry, but none have succeeded until now. Then, the pandemic weakened its release and bolstered the doubters who prayed for its downfall. Now, we finally have a successful, faithful, big-budget adaptation of this classic novel, and it was worth the wait.

The entire cast nails their roles, with Rebecca Ferguson and Timothée Chalamet giving some of the best performances of their careers. The film is a technical masterpiece in every way, from the jaw-dropping cinematography to the stunning costume and set design. Hans Zimmer’s score is overwhelming, grandiose, and simply awesome. The story is incredibly faithful to the book that inspired countless other science fiction stories for decades to come, and with the sequel thankfully on the way, it is a story that will be completed in due time. I cannot drag this out forever, so I will just be blunt: Dune is a masterpiece, and I cannot wait to see how Denis Villeneuve continues the story.


Before I get into my favorite film of the year, I think it is only fair to go over a few honorable mentions.

Vivo: Not a masterpiece by any means, but it is another winner from Sony with some good voice acting, animation, and music.

Last Night in Soho: My most anticipated film of the year fell somewhat flat in the second half, but the performances, production design, and style saved it for me.

The Harder They Fall: A pretty good western with some nice, bloody action, a killer soundtrack, and a great ending.

Wrath of Man: It is not as good as The Gentlemen, but it has some strong acting from Jason Statham, great action and music, and a really interesting plot.

The Suicide Squad: Not the strongest if you think too deeply about the plot, but it has some amazing characters and James Gunn’s fantastic style.


Number One: The Green Knight

Back at the end of July, I went to my local theater to see the new A24 film: The Green Knight. Even though I had loved plenty of A24’s films beforehand, I did not have too many expectations, and I had not heard anything about the film itself beforehand. With that said, I cannot stress enough that The Green Knight is not only my favorite film of the year by a country mile, it is in my top five favorite films and forever solidified A24 as my favorite studio.

I could gush about this film all day, but I will keep it brief; this film is fantastic in every single way. The story perfectly captures the flat-out bizarreness of Arthurian mythology, while also leaving me in complete shock at several points. Dev Patel gives a pitch-perfect performance as Sir Gawain, with other actors such as Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, and Ralph Ineson all doing a great job as well. The cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo is utterly breathtaking, with several long shots that left me in complete awe. The score by Daniel Hart is, in complete seriousness, one of the most hauntingly beautiful scores I have heard in a very long time. To top it all off, the writing and direction from David Lowery are incredible, and it tells this very A24-style take on Arthurian lore perfectly. I sincerely cannot recommend this film enough. If there is one film on this list that you need to see as soon as humanly possible, it is, without a shadow of a doubt, The Green Knight.


Click here to see Noah’s Top 10 Worst Movies of 2021!