Musicals, kaiju, superheros, dramas, and more, 2021 was a huge year for movies. With a lot of films that were pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences got the chance to see films on the small and the big screen again. We asked our writing team to pull together their list of the top movies of 2021. Now, we know there are still a couple of films left in 2021 but since we’ll be taking some time to break for the holidays we’re publishing it early.
In order for a film to make our top movies of 2021 list it had to have had a wide-release on either streaming or in theaters during the calender year of 2021. This means films that got pushed back but screened at festivals before this year could qualify and of course, that we’re including streaming originals as well. So without furth ado, here are out top movies of 2021.
Director: Nia DaCosta
Writer: Nia DaCosta, Jodan Peele, Win Rosenfeld
Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminsky, Vanessa Williams
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
An artist unwittingly unleashes a wave of violence after learning the true history behind the urban legend of Candyman in this chilling film from Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele.
14. Godzilla vs Kong
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: (Story by) Terry Rossio, Michael Dugherty, Zach Shields & (screenplay by) Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza González
Where to Watch: HBOMax
Legends collide as Godzilla and Kong, the two most powerful forces of nature, clash on the big screen in a spectacular battle for the ages. As a squadron embarks on a perilous mission into fantastic uncharted terrain, unearthing clues to the Titans’ very origins and mankind’s survival, a conspiracy threatens to wipe the creatures, both good and bad, from the face of the earth forever.
Director: Jeymes Samuel
Writer: Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin
Stars: DeWanda Wise, Jonathan Majors, Edi Gathegi, Woody McClain, Damon Wayans Jr., Danielle Deadwyler, Zazie Beetz, Julio Cesar Cedillo
Where to Watch: Netflix
When outlaw Nat Love discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Those riding with him in this assured, righteously new school Western include his former love Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), his right and left hand men — hot-tempered Bill Pickett and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth—and a surprising adversary-turned-ally. Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew, including “Treacherous” Trudy Smith and Cherokee Bill, and they are not a group that knows how to lose.
Shang-Chi, the master of weaponry-based Kung Fu, is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization.
11. Free Guy
A bank teller discovers that he’s actually an NPC inside a brutal, open world video game.
Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton.
Kate Dibiasky, an astronomy grad student, and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem — it’s on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem? No one really seems to care. Turns out warning mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest is an inconvenient fact to navigate. With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe, Kate and Randall embark on a media tour that takes them from the office of an indifferent President Orlean and her sycophantic son and Chief of Staff, Jason, to the airwaves of The Daily Rip, an upbeat morning show hosted by Brie and Jack. With only six months until the comet makes impact, managing the 24-hour news cycle and gaining the attention of the social media obsessed public before it’s too late proves shockingly comical — what will it take to get the world to just look up?!
Ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate in Mexico and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same.
A film version of the Broadway musical in which Usnavi, a sympathetic New York bodega owner, saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.
Set in 2092, spaceship Victory is one of the many that live off salvaging space debris. Crewed with a genius space pilot Tae-ho, a mysterious ex-space pirate Captain Jang, an spaceship engineer Tiger Park, and a reprogrammed military robot Bubs, Spaceship Victory surpasses all other space sweepers. After successfully snatching a crashed space shuttle in the latest debris chase, Victory’s crew find a 7-year-old girl inside. They realize that she’s the humanlike robot wanted by UTS Space Guards, and decide to demand ransom in exchange.
After failing to fight for his family during a robbery, an unassuming father calls on skills from his hidden past to become a lethal vigilante blazing a wild ride to revenge.
A truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved foraging pig after she is kidnapped.
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Writer: Steven Levenson (based on a musical by Jonathan Larson)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Robin de Jesus, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, MJ Rodriguez
Where to Watch: Netflix
tick, tick…BOOM! is an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of Rent. The film follows Jon, a young theater composer who’s waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 while writing what he hopes will be the next great American musical. Days before he’s due to showcase his work in a make-or-break performance, Jon is feeling the pressure from everywhere: from his girlfriend Susan, who dreams of an artistic life beyond New York City; from his friend Michael, who has moved on from his dream to a life of financial security; amidst an artistic community being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. With the clock ticking, Jon is at a crossroads and faces the question everyone must reckon with: What are we meant to do with the time we have?
King Arthur’s headstrong nephew (Dev Patel), embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight, a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself before his family and court.
Assemble a collection of cons, arm them heavily and drop them on the enemy‐infused island of Corto Maltese. If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.
With so many movies there are a few noticable absenses that our critics have screened and loved but aren’t openly available just yet, which leaves Nightmare Alley and Spider-Man: No Way Home narrowly missing spots on the top movies of 2021 list. Additionally, films like Titane, Saint Maud, and The Rescue also narrowly missed a chance at our top 15. Did your favorite make the list? Which would you add to the top movies of 2021? Let us know on social media: @butwhythopc.
Synopsis for Top Movies of 2021 were pulled directly from media pages for each film.