My Favourite Films of 2021

Because I don't know the meaning of the word relevant, my list on 2021 films has only just been finalised. UK releases from this year such as Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal would rank highly, although they'd be counted in my 2020 list. So now, let's see what I ranked so highly from 2021's offerings.

Honourable Mentions

Slaxx, mixing the horrors of retail and the fun antics of murderous jeans with effective social commentary. Available on Shudder and to rent

Boiling Point, a restaurant-set thriller which occurs in a single take, magnificently conveying the high-pressure environment.  Available on Netflix and to rent

The Columnist, a razor sharp satire following one woman's quest for vengeance against online trolls. Available to rent

No Man of God, an engrossing two-hander detailing an FBI agent's conversations with Ted Bundy, while dismantling the serial killer's myth. Available on Now and to rent

Supernova, a devastating and intimate story about a couple fearing for the future after a diagnosis of on-set dementia. Available on Now and to rent

Sator, a haunting tale questioning whether demonic forces or a psychological breakdown are at work, based on writer/director Jordan Graham's familial history.  Available on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and to rent

Lucky, in which one woman's never-ending cycle of fighting off a murderer mirrors the societal issues women face.  Available on Shudder and to rent

A Ghost Waits, the story of a man fixing up a house and the ghost haunting it bonding over their desire for connection.  Available on ARROW and to rent

Candyman, an exemplary way to continue on the fearsome legend as Nia DaCosta pairs unsettling set-pieces with thoughtful commentary.  Available to rent

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes, an inventive and humorous spin on a well-worn genre which occurs in a single-take.  Available to rent

20. Petite Maman

After losing her beloved grandmother, a young girl helps her parents clean out her mothers childhood home. While exploring the surrounding woods, she befriends a young girl who's building a treehouse. Through her latest film, Céline Sciamma uses a child's perspective to explore themes of grief and growing up in heartfelt ways within a slender runtime.

Available on MUBI and to rent

19. The Green Knight

Of all the films on this list, this is the one I wish I could've experienced on the big-screen. David Lowery adapts Arthurian legend into a stunningly realised fantasy film, beginning with a Christmas game where the Green Knight offers his axe to whoever strikes him on the condition he returns that exact wound to the attacker. Gawain takes the challenge with full bravado, only for the newly-decapitated knight to pick up his head and await their confrontation a year later. Dev Patel magnificently conveys Gawain's desire to prove himself and meet weighty expectations, something which turns out worse until the masterful finale captures the idea of "heavy is the head that wears the crown." Ye gods, what a film.

Available on Amazon Prime

18. Malignant

After two $1 billion grossers into popular franchises, James Wan returns to the horror genre and goes all-out in fantastic ways. Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is horrified to discover she's having visions of people's murders as they're happening, events linked to a previous childhood friend named Gabriel. The marketing kept much back about this film for good reason, as what unfolds is a slickly directed and highly entertaining feature which unfolds in gruesome and unflinching ways. Here's hoping we get more adventures with Gabriel in the future.

Available on Now and to rent

17. Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar

After losing their dream job, best-friends Barb and Star decide to venture out of their comfort zone by taking a vacation to Vista Del Mar. Their wish certainly gets granted as they cross paths with Jamie Dornan's character, who they don't know is working with a supervillain that intends to murder the small town's residents with killer mosquitos. Josh Greenbaum's feature takes various routes which, however out of the blue they may seem, each feels like a natural extension of what was seen before. An absurdist gem that succeeds through its shining themes of friendship and genuine hilarity. If you're on this films wavelength, you'll find it to be a real tit-flapper.

Available on Now and to rent

16. Spencer

Described as "a fable from a true tragedy", screenwriter Steven Knight and director Pablo Larraín craft a fictionalized account of Diana's crumbling marriage to Charles in the guise of a psychological horror. Kristen Stewart delivers a phenomenal portrayal of the People's Princess, overwhelmed with having her agency and privacy stripped away just to be used as currency for the tabloids, while also suffering from bulimia, suffocating in the grasp of the royal family, and experiencing visions which capture the fragility of her mental health. Aiding matters are Johnny Greenwood's stunning score and Timothy Spall's quietly menacing performance, helping to make a gripping subversion from the typical royal biopic.

Available to rent

15. Titane

For those who have been longing for original cinema, Julia Ducournau has you covered with her sophomore feature. What can be revealed is that a childhood car-crash left Alexia with a titanium plate in her skull and an erotic love for cars, leading her on a wild and unpredictable journey. Blending relatable themes with fantastical ideas, gnarly kills and body horror lurk amidst this warm-hearted tale of lost souls finding various forms of love. This magnificent concoction cements Ducournau as one of the most fiercely original minds working today.

Available on MUBI and to rent

14. Dinner In America

After committing arson and a close call with the police, a punk-rocker hides out at the home of a socially awkward girl struggling to stand-up for herself. What develops is a punk-rock romance as the pair fall in love, their shared company allowing them to grow and open up to each-other. What Adam Carter Rehmeier mixes are darkly comedic moments with endearing eccentricities, and a stunner of a musical performance which is criminally not available to endlessly stream. Some people may need to take it down a notch, although this film does not.

Available on ARROW and to rent

13. Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train

Immediately following the first season of Demon Slayer, this feature film sees the main characters investigating the demon-related disappearances of innocent passengers onboard the Mugen Train. What occurs carries real weight and consequences to the circumstances, as the story dives into the characters dreams ala Inception to look into their personalities, hopes, and determinations. Balancing pulse-pounding action alongside stunning characterisation, heart, and humour, this is effective for both series fans and newbies.

Available to rent

12. Riders of Justice

From the initial plot, the latest film by Anders Thomas Jensen sounds like another revenge-thriller in the vein of Taken. After a train accident results in his wife's death, military man Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) returns home to care for his daughter only to be told the accident may have been a carefully orchestrated assassination. The result is a fantastic subversion where men literally plot bloody vengeance instead of going to therapy, as dark humour, thrilling action and emotional impact blend together for an tremendous feature. See it before the inevitable American remake is announced.

Available on Now and to rent

11. Bo Burnham: Inside

Has there been a better reflection of the struggles endured during lockdown? Over 87-minutes, Bo Burnham bares his soul with an equally funny and devastating introspection into himself, grappling with issues of self-doubt and reckoning with the past alongside facetiming with his parents and sexting a significant other. The catchy songs imaginatively emphasize these weighty issues in the same breath as humorous non-sequiturs, approaching what impact he truly has on the world while also comparing his penis to the Eraserhead baby.

Available on Netflix

10. Cured

Through archive footage and interviews, directors Bennett Singer and Patrick Sammon capture the story of how homosexuality was medically defined as a sickness and the fight to change that. This important piece of queer history is captured in engrossing ways, as recollections detail the saddening lengths people took to escape being ostracised, the fury burning through as activists seek to change things for the better, and the rays of happiness during these turbulent times. An emotional story honouring how those tireless efforts have paid off.

Available on Now under the Documentaries section

9. Dune

Following David Lynch's film and a miniseries for the Sci-Fi channel, Denis Villeneuve poured his all into giving Frank Herbert's novel the adaptation it deserves. To sum up this expansive story, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) becomes thrust into a destiny beyond his understanding as his noble family becomes part of a war to control the galaxy's most valuable aspect. Part One of this epic journey is realised with such breathtaking scope and scale, aided by Hans Zimmer's glorious score, Greig Frader's stunning cinematography, and the phenomenal cast. Here's hoping Part Two will live up to this sweeping epic.

Available to rent

8. The Matrix Resurrections

It was only a matter of time before The Matrix got a continuation in this era of nostalgic follow-ups, so it's commendable Lana Wachowski used the opportunity to take a far more interesting route than expected. In the spirit of Wes Craven's New Nightmare, this is a meta-commentary on behind-the-scenes drama as well as a scathing commentary on legacy sequels and how nostalgia can be weaponised. This addendum to the trilogy balances such ferocity alongside genuine warmth, and is all the better for it.

Available to rent 

7. Minari

Set in 1980s Arkansas, Lee Isaac Chung tells a warm and resonant tale about a Korean family in new surroundings, as the father wishes to build a farm in the hopes of making a better life for his loved ones. What unfolds is a heartfelt and gentle tale that is wonderfully portrayed by all involved, particularly the adorable Alan Kim A sweet-natured film in ways that feel utterly genuine.

Available on Now and to rent

6. Judas and The Black Messiah

Co-writer and director Shaka King recounts the story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party who was tragically assassinated under the FBI's orders. It's told through the perspective of Bill O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), a man forced to become an FBI informant and spy on Hampton's activities. This viewpoint and its subsequent ramifications creates a tense, engrossing, and emotional look at the racial injustices perpetuated by those in power.

Available on Now and to rent

5. Pig

Living in the isolated wilderness, a truffle hunter ventures into Portland to locate his beloved pig that's been taken. What co-writer Vanessa Block has crafted alongside director Michael Sarnoski sounds like an action premise ala John Wick, yet the final product is a somber and affecting tale about how grief can change a person. Central to it all is Nicolas Cage, delivering an expressive performance as somebody who's closed himself off from the outside world, conveying so much sadness with his facial expressions when words won't do. It's one of 2021's best performances in one of the years best films, and it's a shame awards bodies overlooked both of them.

Available on Now and to rent

4. Summer Of Soul (...or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Everybody's heard of Woodstock, the 1969 music festival that's considered pivotal for music, although that same summer had another musical festival occurring. Across six weeks, the Harlem Cultural Festival played with an unbelievable line-up only for word of the festival to virtually disappear and the footage being lost for 50-years. Questlove delivers a phenomenal restoration of the event, as the electric performances are queued up alongside historical context of Black and Latinx people of the time, to recontextualise the performances as expressions of rebellion and pride in ones self. It ends on one of 2021's most beautiful scenes, as an attendee watches the footage in tears, finally having confirmation that what he experienced was true.

Available on Disney+ and to rent

3. tick, tick...BOOM!

As somebody with no prior experience of Jonathan Larson's work, I had few expectations regarding this adaptation of his semi-autobiographical stage musical. The story depicts Larson putting his all into writing a musical, desperate to enter the industry while set on the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. What's left is a phenomenal reflection of mortality and struggling creativity, never forgetting about the real-life issues while the tremendous cast perform exceptional musical numbers. The biggest asset is Andrew Garfield, who puts in a career-best portrayal that will hopefully lead to more musical roles.

Available on Netflix

2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Eager to leave for film school and find her people, Katie Mitchell is thrust into a family road trip as her nature-loving dad attempts to bond one last time. Interrupting the journey is a robot uprising intent on capturing every last human, leaving the Mitchells as the last family on Earth. Aided by producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, director Mike Rianda delivers a kinetic adventure which pairs character development, heart-pumping action and rib-tickling humour so effortlessly. It's responsible for the best cinematic use of a Furby, and at its core a heartwarming story about the importance of finding ones place while not leaving behind those who love you.

Available on Netflix and to rent

1. Mass

In a year which offered multiverse thrills, Godzilla battling Kong, and the Fast & Furious venturing into space, my most gripping experience involved four people sat around a table trying to verbalise their pain. Years after a school shooting, the parents of a victim and the perpetrator meet to work through their emotions and make sense of what happened. The quartet of exceptional actors powerfully capture their characters inner turmoil, as writer/director Fran Kranz delivers a somber and absorbing experience about people looking to share, listen, and heal. A masterful tale ready to leave viewers stunned, teary, and finding hope where it may seem absent, this was my favourite film of 2021.

Available on Now

Agree/Disagree with my choices? Sound off below.