(This article is part of our Best of 2021 series.)
2021 was essentially “2020: Part Two” in that a whole bunch of delayed films from 2020 were finally released. Marvel returned with a bang not a whimper releasing four new films. And while I enjoyed each of them for various reasons, I didn’t feel strongly enough about any of them to include in my top five.
Instead, I decided to select five films that either surprised me or gave me everything I was expecting. They are ranked in no particular order. Let’s get started.
A Quiet Place Part II
I don’t know why I waited so long to watch this. It had been sitting in my Prime Video watchlist for most of the year before I finally decided to hit play on it a couple months ago. If John Krasinski decided to retire from acting and just start directing features I don’t think anyone would complain. A Quiet Place Part II continues to show how much potential Krasinski has as a director. The opening flashback in particular is one of best scenes I have seen all year. It’s only purpose was to give Krasinski some screentime, but it gave viewers a tense, nerve-biting, hold your breath scene that perfectly dovetailed into the present setting. I’d have to rewatch A Quiet Place before I could confidently say this, but I feel like Part II might be the better film in the franchise. At any rate, it’s a great continuation of the world and its characters, and I gladly await a proper Part III to conclude the Abbott family’s story.
I really enjoyed Afterlife. As someone who openly admits that the two ’80s Ghostbusters films do absolutely nothing for him, Afterlife was a film I was counting down the days until I could see. Now, let’s get some facts straight. I enjoy the first two-thirds of both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. My problem lies with their third acts and how boring they are. It’s like someone flipped a switch and forgot to make them a) funny, and b) exciting. The first film kind of just ends after they defeat Gozer while the second is just terribly repetitive. So yeah, I know some of you (*cough Sailor cough*) will say that Afterlife is essentially a remake of the plot of the first Ghostbusters movie, but to that I say, “Who cares?” I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of legacy sequels where we come back to characters decades after we last saw them and see how their unseen adventures have aged or changed them. (It’s why I like the Old Man Luke portions in The Last Jedi.) To give Egon—a character who really had no major arcs in the first two films—family history and a ghost secret worked for me. Were there moments that could have been improved? Of course, but every film has those moments. Hardcore Ghostbusters fans may have mixed opinions on Afterlife, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.
No Time to Die
Daniel Craig will forever be my 007. Casino Royale was the first Bond film I saw and I’ve stuck by this iteration through its lows (Quantum of Solace, which is much better on a rewatch I might add) and highs (Skyfall). No Time to Die manages to bring Bond’s story to a close without sacrificing story for action and thrills. The film manages to pay homage to all aspects of Craig’s Bond tenure from his hardened, realistic take on the character seen in Casino Royale to the more classic Bond tropes that were slowly introduced back into the franchise beginning with Skyfall. There’s also that scene stealing Ana de Armas as the best Bond girl the Craig films have ever had. The ending may feel a bit anticlimactic for some, but I thought it tied a nice bow over Craig’s five-film run. I’ll miss seeing you in the role, Craig, but I look forward to seeing you back on the screen later this year as Benoit Blanc in the Knives Out sequel.
I’m not really an M. Night Shyamalan fan. That’s not to say I don’t like his films, because I do. I just mean that a new film from him wouldn’t exactly interest me in the way it would for some other people. But what I do like are mysteries and the trailers for Old presented itself as one hell of a mystery. I know critical and audience reception were mixed on Old, but I quite surprised and entertained throughout its 108 minute runtime. Although, I was a bit disappointed that we were never given a definitive answer on how the beach’s aging abilities worked I did enjoy the final twist on why the hotel was sending its guests to their deaths. Overall, no matter the flaws the film may have had I’m glad I went to the theater to see this. Sometimes you have to take a chance and support an original film. Otherwise, there might come a day where it’s all remakes, blockbusters, and superheroes.
Negative reviewers be damned because I loved this film. It may not be perfect, but for a ninety minute science-fiction film it’s all I expect from it. The visuals are stunning, the performances are great, and there are a couple cool ideas here that I really like. Does it feel like a cross between The Terminator and The Mitchells vs. the Machines? Of course it does, it’s about robots becoming sentient and slaughtering humans! Despite these obvious comparisons, it’s a fine directorial debut from Mattson Tomlin and I look forward to his next project (which ironically is a Terminator anime series).
Those are my five favorite films of 2021. The runner-ups would be The Suicide Squad, Minari, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Tender Bar, and Eternals.
What are your thoughts on the movies that made my top five? Share them down below!