The best films of 2021

Here are the movies that stood out during a cinematically crowded year

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By Nic Roy, Collegian Correspondent

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 movie release schedule was jam-packed with films originally slated to be released this year and those pushed back from 2020, yielding plenty of competitors vying to be ranked among the best of the year. With so much content, what made the year’s best movies stand out?

Several of the films on this list feature characters attempting to make sense of new and overwhelming circumstances ­— attending fashion school in London, surviving in a desert full of sand-worms and getting impregnated by an automobile. Though strange, these themes hit home as our own world continued to confuse us.

 

Here are the top ten best movies of 2021:

10.“The Humans”

“The Humans” finds the horror in Thanksgiving dinners and Lower Manhattan apartments. While the supernatural seems to wait on the edges of the frame, the true tension arises from the taut family relationships that unravel until the truth is revealed in the climax. The believable ensemble cast makes the relationships so engaging.

 

9.“No Time to Die”

Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond still finds ways to build upon the beloved character’s 25th entry in new and interesting ways. Beyond the surprising and emotional additions to the Bond mythos presented here, this is the most fun Craig’s Bond has been allowed to have in his series full of political intrigue and grit. It’s the goofy, globe-trotting, charismatic send-off he deserves.

 

8.“The Medium”

No film this year left me more faithless and horrified than this Thai mockumentary film. No character escapes unscathed, including the camera men. Far from your typical possession story, “The Medium” is, for over an hour at least, a look at culture and faith through the eyes of a local medium and her extended family. Getting to know the characters and their relationships only makes the third act’s descent into chaos even more gut-wrenching.

 

7.“The Power of the Dog”

Set on a beautifully shot mountainside ranch, “The Power of the Dog” is a film of silent, (sans Johnny Greenwood’s stunning score,) power struggles, perfectly acted by Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst. Because of their character archetypes, we immediately think we know how their war will playout, but with the introduction of Rose’s (Kirsten Dunst) son, the dynamics are shifted. You’ll be left wondering how until director Jane Campion expertly brings the puzzle pieces together in the film’s final minutes.

 

“Dune” courtesy of official IMDB page

6.“Dune”

“Dune’s” production level is rarely seen or felt in modern blockbuster filmmaking. Even when its human characters look like specks under the shadow of sandworms, “Dune” never feels alienating. It’s a credit to Timothée Chalamet’s emotionally vulnerable performance as Paul and the smart use of close-ups and editing that put the audience within Paul’s dreams, which could be the key to making sense of the epic world Denis Villeneuve crafted.

 

5.“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”

Focusing less on interview footage and more on what is seen in the unsaid, “The World’s a Little Blurry” showcases Billie Eilish’s coming of age and rise to fame. The camera follows Eilish as she creates music, goes on tour and lives her life. Seeing the context of her songs’ creation gives new meaning to each performance scene and the release they provide to teary fans.

“Last Night in Soho” courtesy of official IMDB page

4.“Last Night in Soho”

“Last Night in Soho’s” muddled ending cannot detract from what much of the film manages to accomplish. Drenched in neon lighting and backed by both a killer soundtrack and ensemble, Edgar Wright’s campy foray into the horror genre tells its story from the perspective of two different women in Soho, London during different time periods. Wright weaves between these worlds before intertwining them to tell a potent story about how the ghosts of one’s trauma outlasts anything else.

 

3.“Titane”

With “Titane,” director Julia Ducournau crosses lines of gender, morality, life and death to a horrifying and surprisingly emotional affect. As the film blazes through increasingly insane subject matter, it’s held together by Agathe Rousselle in her acting debut. She can shape-shift in a way that represents this film’s ability to tackle so much while still feeling tied together by a cohesive and thrilling vision.

 

2.“Bergman Island”

Set on the island where infamous director Ingmar Bergman lived and worked, “Bergman Island” is the perfect breeding ground to examining the power of film. What better way to do so than  allowing a second movie written by one of the film’s characters, Chris, to play out in the middle of this one? It soon becomes clear Chris’ fiction is engrained in truth as it collides with her reality in a way that changes our perception of everything we thought we knew about her and her filmmaker husband.

 

1.“Spencer”

To be with her children during the holidays, Princess Diana must mask her feelings about her husband’s recent affair to please the rest of the family and the swarms of paparazzi around Sandringham, the royal Christmas residence. The estate, located next to her childhood home, triggers memories of youthful freedom, which is contrasted with the performance of her adulthood. This contrast and a perfectly cast Kristen Stewart make Diana’s escape from the festivities with her children the most cathartic moment in film this year.

 

Nic Roy can be reached at [email protected]