Fri. Jan 21st, 2022


2021 has come to a close, and it is time for the film critic’s tradition to name the best movies of the year. This was a year when more and more cinemas opened up worldwide, and we began to go back to the old ways of watching movies. Of course, there were some unique qualities, with Warner Bros. releasing their films in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day and a few more delays caused by new variants in the ongoing pandemic. But this was a year where movies could bring us together and entertain us when we needed them. And if you’re ever staying at home and need a movie to turn on, here are some films you can’t go wrong with.

RELATED: Best of 2021: Jeff Ames’ Favorite Movies of the Year

C’Mon C’Mon

My favorite movie I saw at the New York Film Festival was easily C’Mon C’Mon, a heartfelt black-and-white drama starring Joaquin Phoenix as a radio journalist who has to care for his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman). This movie features some gorgeous cinematography, and it wraps you in with its warmth as a beautiful relationship grows between them, all with exquisite writing and direction from Mike Mills.

C’Mon C’Mon is now available on PVOD platforms.

tick, tick…BOOM!

This has been an excellent year for the movie musical. I’ve had so many amazing musicals to choose from for this list, but one that I knew I couldn’t leave out was tick, tick…BOOM!, the autobiographical musical of Jonathan Larson as he approaches his 30th birthday and tries to get his musical Superbia produced. This film features fantastic songs from Larson, and it tells an investing story about a struggling artist, all from first-time director and Broadway legend Lin Manuel-Miranda. Complete with an all-star performance from Andrew Garfield, this is a movie that Broadway lovers cannot miss.

tick, tick…BOOM! is now streaming on Netflix.

In the Heights

The second movie on this list to feature the talents of Miranda is In the Heights, an adaptation of his Broadway musical. Jon M. Chu helms this grand musical about a group of people living in Washington Heights, all in pursuit of a dream. This movie tells a beautiful story with characters you get invested in. Chu does a fantastic job with the musical numbers, especially with “96,000,” and it’s a movie that exhilarates you and makes you smile and cry like every tremendous musical.

In the Heights is now streaming on HBO Max.

Free Guy

One of the most purely entertaining movies of the year is Free Guy, an action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a non-player character in a video game who decides to become the hero of the story and save the game from the CEO, Antwan (Taika Waititi). This movie offers some of the best laughs of the year with phenomenal action sequences and kick-ass performances from Reynolds and Jodie Comer. The references to other films and video games are done perfectly, and it’s one of the most feel-good movies of the year.

Free Guy is now available on VOD platforms.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

This is the movie that brought audiences back to theaters. This was the most successful movie at the box office since the pandemic began, and for good reason. Spider-Man: No Way Home brings in villains from two decades of Spider-Man films, opening up a multiverse of possibilities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the best comic book movie of the year, allowing for a darker, more emotional story about the web-slinging hero as he is forced into dark places. Finally, everything culminates in one of the most exciting, satisfying final battles in MCU history. This is a must-watch for those who want to see another adventure with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theaters.

No Time to Die

Daniel Craig’s swan song as the iconic 007 agent is in No Time to Die, the 25th spy action film in the James Bond series. This movie features Bond thrown back into action as the CIA recruits him to find a kidnapped scientist, and it is one of the best installments of the series. Filled to the brim with references to the earlier films, this is the most emotionally resonant Bond film while also offering fantastic action sequences and a scene-stealing performance from Ana de Armas. The final act provides the perfect conclusion to Craig’s marvelous tenure as Bond.

No Time to Die is now available on VOD platforms.

Being the Ricardos

I had never seen an episode of I Love Lucy before this film. And yet, a movie about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz facing a tumultuous week during the production of an I Love Lucy episode is one of my favorites of the year. The film mainly works due to a firecracker screenplay from Aaron Sorkin with some of the most engaging dialogue of the year. Nicole Kidman gives a magnetic portrayal of Lucille Ball, nailing her voice and mannerisms, and Javier Bardem is excellent as Arnaz. It does a wonderful job of taking us through the writer’s room of a famous sitcom, and every emotion lands very well.

Being the Ricardos is now streaming on Prime Video.

Mass

Fran Kranz’s directorial debut is Mass, a gripping drama taking place in one room. This film has the parents of a school shooting victim meeting to have a conversation with the school shooter’s parents in one of the most tragic films of the year. It’s a movie that everyone should see as it deals with real-world issues in a grounded, nuanced way, not taking sides in a political debate but instead showing how grief has torn these families apart. Every performance in the movie feels organic, and Kranz’s dialogue is natural but gut-wrenching. It’s moving, powerful, and doesn’t shy away from addressing a real problem in the United States.

Mass is now available on VOD platforms.

The Mitchells vs the Machines

The best animated movie of the year is one that you cannot miss. The Mitchells vs the Machines is a fantastic movie about a family on a road trip who must team up to save the world from a robot apocalypse. It has a gorgeous, unique visual style, and it’s easily the funniest movie of 2021. Every single joke in this movie lands, all while telling an incredibly entertaining story with characters you grow to love. The robot apocalypse story is grounded in an emotional relationship between the father and daughter, which pays off perfectly in a finale so good it will give you chills. This is the perfect feel-good movie of the year, and it should be your go-to if you ever need a belly laugh.

The Mitchells vs the Machines is now streaming on Netflix.

CODA

This is one of the last movies I saw this year to prepare for this list, and I’m so glad I did. CODA is about a teenage girl who wants to be a singer. Her brother and parents are deaf, and she helps keep the family fishing business afloat, all while pursuing a dream that her family can never fully appreciate as they cannot hear her voice. This coming-of-age comedy-drama is the best movie of the year. It’s a funny movie that knows how to shift the tone perfectly and gets you invested in every family member. Every character is likable, and the conflict feels organic and true to life. The final half-hour of this movie offers the most tear-jerking scenes of the year. This is a beautiful film from start to finish that will likely make you shed a few tears by the end of it, and it is the must-see movie of 2021.

CODA is now streaming on Apple TV+.

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Honorable Mentions: Last Night in Soho, King Richard, West Side Story, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, The Last Duel, Red Rocket, The Card Counter, The Suicide Squad, Don’t Look Up, and The Power of the Dog.

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