My 25 Favorite Films of 2021

It’s that time of the year folks – the end. It’s that time where we all look back, take a hit of recency bias and make our top (insert number here) films of the year. I do mine a little differently than others. I pick a large number in 25 because I see a lot of great films each year, and if I just did a top 10 then I’d have a long “honorable mentions” section which is pointless – just make the list longer. Please note, this is a list of my favorite films of the year, not a list of what I think are the best films of the year – that’s a completely different list and it’s not as much fun to make so I’m not gonna do it. There is simply no joy in making that list. Also please note, if I have written about the film I will embed a link to said writing in the title of the film. 

Some notes:

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there are multiple bangers from this year I’m just not going to see before the end of the year. Working retail in December pretty much negates free time for a whole month, and on top of that I personally just don’t feel that great about going to the theater right now. So you can just go ahead and pretend that Licorice Pizza, Red Rocket, Nightmare Alley and The Tragedy of Macbeth are somewhere on this list. But I’m not going to put off making this list for another month or two just for them. Respectfully. Also, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair would undoubtedly be one of my favorites this year as I caught it at Sundance, but it’s not premiering until 2022 so it gets a nice cushy spot in my favorites of 2022. I’m very excited for you all to see it.

Also, this is as good of a venue as any to disclose I’ll be breaking my streak and not covering Sundance this year. A big part of this decision is the fact that they’ve all but gutted the online section of the festival, having only the episodic and new frontier titles – the shit nobody cares about – as available to watch online. This is a terrible decision on their part as we’re still pretty fucking deep into a pandemic, and pivoting this harshly back to in theater only screenings this quickly is a boneheaded move. Plus, as I was looking over the schedule, I realized there were honestly only like three movies I actually wanted to see this year. It’s a tremendously weak lineup. I love Sundance, but it’s just not worth it to do this year. 

Alright, let’s get to it.

25. Coming Home in the Dark

Just a nasty, brutal piece of genre filmmaking from New Zealand. Dude who looks like Guy Pearce is electric in each scene.

24. In the Same Breath

I’m a huge fan of Nanfu Wang, she’s an expert documentarian whose films always include great risk and courage on her part. This should be the only documentary about Covid that you should feel any obligation to watch. 

23. A Quiet Place Part II

Hate to like John Krasinski as a director but here we are.

22. Flee

A gorgeous documentary about the power of a story. Seek this one out. 

21. Bad Trip

Eric Andre has a direct line to my funny bone. A rare hidden camera film that showcases the best of strangers somehow. The White Chicks gag had me dying.

20. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin

I’ve dearly missed this film series as I’m a sucker for a good found footage film. This is a refreshing entry and marks a very dope way forward for the series if they continue with it.

19. Nobody

Give me 9 more films of Bob Odenkirk whooping ass.

18. Judas and the Black Messiah

Tough to say that there was a better acted film this year, everyone is just unreal. There’s two separate moments where several different emotions flow across LaKeith Stanfield’s face in a flash, and it’s just transcendent. 

17. Old

While this is Shyamalan’s silliest film premise wise and you roll your eyes at some of the dialogue, it’s also his most deeply sad film, which is a new one for him. I’d rather see 12 big swings like Old than a single Marvel movie.

16. The Power of the Dog

The more I think about the film the more in absolute wonder I am by it. I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t seen it. That’s all.

15. F9

This was one of the most absolutely dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Loved every second of it.

14. In the Earth

Now this is how I like my Ben Wheatley.

13. Pig

The scene where Nicolas Cage rips apart the chef that gave up his dream to run some hipster bullshit restaurant is one of the finest acted scenes this year.

12. The Last Duel

The last title card is a heavy hitter. Ben Affleck is having the time of his life in this movie.

11. Godzilla vs. Kong

Just felt like a kid again watching this movie.

10. Spencer

“Nobody is above tradition.” Love it when a film can encapsulate itself so wonderfully into a small line. The “All I Need is a Miracle” sequence is just transcendent.

9. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

The thing about the first film is that it’s basically Tom Hardy sneaking in a bugfuck, bonkers comedic performance into an otherwise standard comic book movie. The whole film is on Hardy’s level this time. This film goes to 11. My buddy Huston put it best that it’s like when Steve Kerr got hired to coach Golden State and just told Steph “take as many threes as you want and we’ll just do it all for you” – that’s how Andy Serkis directs this. I liked Venom. I loved Venom: Let There Be Carnage. There are moments from this film that I think about every single day. Him showing up to the climactic battle and then Woody Harrelson turns into Carnage and Venom just goes “OH SHIT” and shrinks back into Tom Hardy might be the single best line reading this year. I want to shake the hand of whoever had the idea to sneak in hentai imagery into this film.

8. Ema

Listen, I was the highest I’ve ever been while watching this so that may have had something to do with it, but my god what a work of art from Pablo Larraín – his second film on this list! This film exists solely in a dream state between two battling subconscious egos. Again, I was so high that I merged with the consciousness of the film, but just trust me on this film.

7. The French Dispatch

Just had the biggest smile on my face while watching this. Could have watched a whole movie just following Jeffrey Wright’s character.

6. Malignant

Man just watch this shit it fucking rips. James Wan forever.

5. The Matrix Resurrections

This film is a goddamn miracle. One of the most achingly, beautifully romantic things I’ve ever seen. Lana Wachowski took what could have easily been a cash grab and made something deeply personal. A miracle.

4. The Green Knight

David Lowery forever.

3. The Card Counter

Paul Schrader put his own film as the best of the year and he’s right.

2. Wrath of Man

This film was tailor-made to my interests. It’s brutal, nasty and nihilistic in a way I never thought Guy Ritchie could ever be, or have been again. If you don’t like it, I get it. But for me, I loved it. There’s a part where Post Malone tells Jason Statham, who has him at gunpoint, to suck his fucking dick. Jason Statham responds “Suck your own dick.” and then blows his head off. That’s cinema to me.

1. Dune

When I first reviewed this film, I really liked it but couldn’t help but find the nitpicks that come with this film being definitely one half of a story. I said it was inches-away from being a once in a generation film. I was wrong. The second time I watched it, Paul’s arc to accepting that he’s the messiah totally shone through. I’ve now watched the film five times, I’m obsessed. Denis Villeneuve banged out another once in a generation film. Duncan Idaho is my favorite character of the year too, dude just fucking rocks. I can’t wait to see what Villeneuve dreams up for part 2. Dreams truly are messages from the deep.

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