The 2021 film catalog came out with numerous hits that were well worth the past year of delays. From box office hits like A Quiet Place: Part II to the long-awaited Marvel Cinematic Universe standalone film Black Widow, the silver screen did not disappoint.
Grab some popcorn and settle down because here are some of the best movies to come out in 2021.
Bo Burnham: Inside
Bo Burnham: Inside was one of those 2021 films that wouldn’t have happened had the lockdown order not been initiated. Starring, directing, and producing the film is comedian Bo Burnham. He films sketches and musical numbers about his day-to-day life inside his home.
The film was widely praised, earning Emmy Awards in numerous categories, including Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Music Direction, and Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special.
Raya And The Last Dragon
In 2021, Disney once again released a knock-out animated film. Raya And The Last Dragon brought viewers to South East Asia, where Princess Raya took up the quest to find the last dragon in order to save her people from Druun.
With a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was praised for its voice acting and animation.
Judas And The Black Messiah
The biographical drama Judas And The Black Messiah follows the story of William O’Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in order to gather information about the party and its chairman, Fred Hampton.
Widely praised, the film earned actor Daniel Kaluuya numerous accolades, including Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines
A fun, quirky, and weirdly relatable concept, the animated Netflix film The Mitchells Vs. The Machines was the much-needed family comedy people needed in 2021. The movie follows the Mitchelle family as they band together during the robot apocalypse with the hopes of saving the world.
Praised for its humor, animation, and themes, The Mitchells Vs. The Machines earned 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
A Quiet Place: Part II
When A Quiet Place: Part II was released in 2021, it broke a few box office records, including having the biggest opening weekend of the year, grossing $297.4 million worldwide.
The film was widely praised by critics, namely for John Krasinski’s direction. Justin Chang from NPR said, “Not being able to fall back on verbal exposition has forced Krasinski to become a ruthlessly efficient visual storyteller.”
Malcolm & Marie
Starring Zendaya and John David Washington, Malcolm And Marie was a surprise for many. The chemistry between the two actors playing a Hollywood filmmaker and his girlfriend figuring out their relationship was widely praised, especially Zendaya’s portrayal of Marie.
The black and white drama earned the actress a Best Actress nomination at the 26th Critics’ Choice Awards.
The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things
The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things was a standout film in 2021. A modern retelling of Groundhog Day, the movie follows Margaret and Mark, two teenagers stuck in a time loop reliving the same day over and over again.
Actress Kathryn Newton’s performance was praised by critics, with many calling the movie charming and heartfelt.
Ryan Reynolds gives a standout performance as the background player of an open-world video game in Free Guy. The hero of his own story who tries his hardest to make sure his friends aren’t deleted from the game, the concept was met with positive reviews.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said, “Thanks in large part to the vibrant, funny, sweet, endearing work by Reynolds and Comer, Free Guy delivers.”
Perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated movies of 2021, Black Widow gave MCU fans the origin story of super-spy Natasha Romanoff while bringing viewers into the days post-Civil War.
Finally introducing the infamous Red Room, the mysterious Budapest mission, and Nat’s quirky family, the film gave the spy a send-off worthy of an Avenger.
In The Heights
The film adaption of the Broadway musical In The Heights made its way to HBO Max in 2021.
The dance numbers and musical numbers were widely praised by critics, with one saying, “Lights up for In the Heights, a joyous celebration of heritage and community fueled by dazzling direction and singalong songs.”
Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar
Starring the comedic genius of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar follows the story of two life-long friends who go on vacation only to find themselves mixed up with a villainous plot.
The film garnered positive reviews by critics, with one calling the movies “Bright, colorful, and unabashedly silly…Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig are still as fun—and funny—as ever.”
Directed by Amy Poehler, the comedy-drama Moxie was a must-see Netflix movie in 2021. Following the story of Vivian, the film explores an underground feminist magazine distributed at a high school.
The coming-of-age story was praised for its timely themes of finding one’s voice, no matter the age of the person.
In 2021, Pixar did it once again, bringing viewers to tears with the animated film Luca. A young sea monster living in the Italian Riviera, Luca is brought up thinking humans are the real monsters. Yet, he soon finds himself living among them and making friends.
David Rooney of The Hollywood Report praised the film’s animation, saying, “the real magic of Luca is its visuals. The character designs are appealing both in the marine world and on land, and the richness of the settings in both realms is a constant source of pleasure.”
While Concrete Cowboy was technically released in 2020, it made its Netflix debut in 2021. Starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin, the film follows the story of a teenager who, after moving in with his estranged father, finds a community of cowboys in rural Philadelphia.
One critic wrote, “Well-acted and solidly directed, Concrete Cowboy lassos old-fashioned uplift with its story of a father and son in a little-seen corner of American culture.”
What would 2021 be without a quirky Nic Cage film? This one comes in the form of Pig, a movie that follows truffle hunter Robin “Rob” Feld as he tracks down the person who pig-napped his beloved pig.
Even with its interesting concept, the film was met with positive reviews and a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Suicide Squad
With a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Suicide Squad did what its predecessor failed to do — make a comprehensive plot that is funny, linear, and full of characters who viewers liked.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the movie “what the first Suicide Squad should have been…The Suicide Squad comes sizzlingly alive as all-cylinders comic-book moviemaking. There’s a frowsy destructive joy to the staging.”
The Green Knight
Based on the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the medieval fantasy film The Green Knight was a surprise success. Following Gawain, as he embarks on a quest to defeat the Green Knight, the movie is full of adventure that only a Camelot setting can manage.
The movie was praised for both sticking with the original source material while veering off in new directions.
No Time To Die
After numerous delays, No Time To Die was finally released in 2021. The 25th James Bond tale and Daniel Craig’s last romp as the M16 agent, this particular movie follows 007 as the CIA recruits him to find a missing scientist.
The movie was met with positive reviews and went on to become the third-highest-grossing film of the year.
In 2021, Taylor Takahashi stepped out in his acting debut as the star of the coming-of-age drama Boogie. All Alfred “Boogie” Chin wants to do is make it to the NBA, but with wild academic expectations from his parents, he’s not sure if he is ever going to see his dream come true.
The movie was met with positive reviews, especially for its representation.
In 2021, Disney fans finally got to watch the origin story of one of the studio’s biggest villains, Cruella De Vil.
Starring Emma Stone as the title character, the film explores how Estella, a young woman wanting to make a name for herself in the fashion world, becomes bent on revenge, eventually becoming the fur-obsessed villain.
Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the biographical musical drama Tick, Tick…BOOM! is full of musical numbers viewers won’t be able to get out of their heads. Based on the story of Broadway screenwriter Johnathan Larson, lead actor Andrew Garfield’s performance has garnered universe acclaim.
Critics have said, “Tick, tick… BOOM! makes musical magic out of a story focused on the creative process—an impressive feat for debuting director Lin-Manuel Miranda.”
One horror movie that stands out in 2021 is Old. Finding themselves on a hidden beach, a family finds themselves rapidly aging and reducing their lives to a single day.
Glenn Kenny of The New York Times especially praised director M. Night Shyamalan, saying, “Shyamalan’s fluid filmmaking style serves him especially well here [and] the way he switches out his actors as their characters age is seamless…”
Holding a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, Together Together is comedy gold. A lonely woman decides to be a surrogate for a man who wants a child; the movie explores a friendship between strangers, love, and how unexpected relationships can form meaningful connections.
One critic wrote, “Together Together explores love and parenthood from unexpected angles, capturing a broad spectrum of emotions through Patti Harrison and Ed Helms’ starring performances.”
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an MCU film many fans were waiting for. Going into the backstory of the mysterious Ten Rings organization and follows Chang-Chi as he confronts his past and rewrites his future.
The eighth-highest grossing movie of 2021, the movie was widely praised for its action sequences, choreography, and representation.
Bob Odenkirk brings his A-game in the action film Nobody. Starring as Hutch “Nobody” Mansell, a former assassin for the CIA, the film was praised for not only his performance but also the intense action sequences.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times said, “Most impressive of all is Odenkirk, who looks and sounds nothing like an action star until it’s time for Hutch to become an action star…”
The coming-of-age drama CODA follows the story of a 17-year-old hearing girl as she navigates her life while helping her deaf parents and brother. The movie was met with a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and positive reviews of the film’s representation.
Delbert Whetter, the vice-chair of nonprofit RespectAbility, said, “it is so refreshing to see a story with Deaf characters that are small business owners and leaders in their fishing community, with depth and nuance that rival and even exceed that of their hearing counterparts in the story.”
Released in the United States in 2021, Zola tells the story of a young woman as she is persuaded by her friend to go to Tampa, Florida, to earn some extra cash only to get way in over her head.
Based on a true story that was documented via Twitter, the film wound up garnering positive reviews and an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Based on the John Preston novel of the same name, The Dig follows the story of the Pretty family as they have archeologists dig up the mysterious mounds in their yard.
The drama wound up earning numerous award nominations at the British Academy Film Awards, including one for Outstanding British Film.
Based on a young girl’s desire and determination to compete, Skater Girl is a coming-of-age drama that should be on everyone’s watch list.
Starring Rachel Sanchita Gupta as Prerna, a young girl who falls in love with skateboarding, the Netflix film was met with positive reviews and earned an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The funny, witty, and yet serious film Plan B was widely praised in 2021. The plot follows two best friends as they frantically look for a Plan B pill in the state of South Dakota.
Directed by The Middleman actress Natalie Morales, the film wound up earning 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it “a sharp, funny script.”