Even though the 5 best movies of 2021 is a highly subjective list, most critics agree that this past year was extraordinary from a cinematic perspective.
Many of this year’s greats were slated to be released in 2020, but with theaters closed, studios held most of their best work in the wings for 2021. With COVID lingering far longer than expected, theater goers didn’t pack the cineplexes as those in the industry hoped, but perhaps streaming opportunities allowed the best to be seen more than they would have in a normal year.
Box office returns were certainly not reflective of quality. Our number one pick, for example, was considered a financial flop, not because it wasn’t brilliant, but because musicals are not particularly popular these days, and it was released one week prior to the behemoth known as Spider-Man: No Way Home (which, incidentally, did not make our list).
Just in case you’ve forgotten, the Really Rather staff has more than its fair share of Rotten Tomatoes and accredited critics, so we’ve seen practically everything, and know of what we speak…er…write.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with our choices, every single one of these films on our list of 5 best movies of 2021 is definitely worth watching, and also, by the way, available online to watch at home. So take a look, and if we’ve left off a movie off that you’d really rather, feel free to let us know.
The 5 Best Movies of 2021
1. West Side Story
We believe our first pick pick is hands down the best movie of the year, and even of the decade…so far. How can you miss when you have one of the world’s greatest directors working with some of the best source material ever created? Steven Spielberg pays due respect to the original work, which we feel verges on sacred, then he enhances it with all the technilogical and artistic resources available today—they hadn’t been dreamed up yet when the original was produced. Then there’s the casting, especially of Rachel Zigler as Maria, Mike Faist as Riff, Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for playing Anita in the original, as new character Valentina and Ariana DeBose as the current Anita. Oscars for everyone!
Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece tells the story of a nine-year-old boy growing up in Northen Ireland, when “The Troubles,” or the conflict between Catholics and Prostestants, ragied. But it’s about so much more than riots and conflict — it centers on family, with the relationships between parents (Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan), grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) and son (sweet newcomer Jude Hill) at the touching forefront. That’s all backed up with luscious black and white cinematography, and music by Van Morrison. It would likely be our top pick any other year.
We believe the next great sci-fi franchise has arrived with the release of outrageously talented director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One. It’s based, of course, on Frank Herbert’s seminal series of power struggles, sand worms and “Spice” as the ultimate power and currency. Brilliant casting includes Oscar Isaac, Timothée Chalamet in the starring role, Rebecca Ferguson and Zendaya, among others. The story is told with brilliant subtlety, by whispers and profound images, although there’s plenty of action as well, while Hans Zimmer’s etherial score weaves it all together.
4. Being the Ricardos
Forget about all the casting outcries you may have heard regarding Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem. They absolutely bring down the house in their portrayals of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez in this week-in-the-life pic entrancingly written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. We have come to expect nothing less from him, and he doesn’t disappoint. Even though most of us were not around when I Love Lucy was breaking broadcast boundaries, we couldn’t help but be absorbed by the costumes, the characters, the set design, the performances and the music. This is an all around entertaining film, cerebral yet comedic as well.
Who can resist a brightly colored, highly imaginative Latin flavored flick, especially when it doesn’t share the same, tired, overdone animated feature theme of “You can be anything you want to be if you just try really hard”? Not only does Encanto have a fantastical plot and characters, it has a mesmerizing message, somewhat open to personal interpretation. Balance that with fabulously fun music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and you have one of the most memorable films Disney animation has ever made. Just try getting “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” out of your head. You’re welcome.