Best Movies of 2021

Since 2021 has officially come to an end, it’s time to discuss the best movies from this eventful year. The movies I will be mentioning either have lots of press surrounding them, were critically acclaimed, had high profile cast members, and are awards contenders. Even though we were still dealing with the global pandemic, the movie industry was still going strong all year long.
Many drama films exceeded expectations and garnered an abundance of praise throughout the year. Spencer, a fictionalized story of Princess Diana’s Christmas Eve spent with the Prince of Wales, was praised for Kristen Stewart’s amazing performance as the late princess. The movie was well received by critics and audiences alike, despite not having done very well at the box office. Another amazing film this year was Dune, starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya–among many other recognizable names. Many people who watched the film have said that it was incredibly engaging and an impressive sci-fi flick. Finally, a highly anticipated film this year was No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s last film as the iconic 007. The film’s production was pushed back many times because of the pandemic, so fans of the franchise were eager to finally see the movie. This huge blockbuster also stars Rami Malek and Ana de Armas and features an original song by Billie Eilish.
Everyone loves escaping into a good comedy movie and this is well needed for many people. Luckily, we were given quite a few good comedy films to see this past year. In October, the Wes Anderson film The French Dispatch was released, which is a movie about three segments in a newspaper in France. The movie has a very stacked cast with movie icons like Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, and Owen Wilson. Licorice Pizza, a new coming of age film set in Los Angeles during the 1970s, is another highly talked about film with an impressive 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and lots of attention from the media. One incredibly unique comedy this year was the Bo Burnham special, Inside. This hour-long show gives the viewer a look into isolation with the entire special being filmed in one room. Bo Burham’s use of music and comedy has always been very unique and his brand of comedy leaves us hysterically laughing at one point and crying the next.
This year saw many great animated and live-action films. Back in March, Disney released Raya and the Last Dragon, a great fantasy film that anyone of any age can enjoy. Then, in April, Netflix put out The Mitchells and the Machines, a movie about a family’s road trip that’s interrupted by a technological revolution. More recently, Disney produced another great, and incredibly popular animated film, Encanto. The film centers around a family of people with special gifts and Mirabel, the only family member who doesn’t have a special power. Encanto has an impressive 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been a box office hit.
2021 also was a great year for movie musicals, indeed, so many impressive productions were released that some regard it as “the year of the movie musical.”Earlier in the year, Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda graced us with a movie adaptation of his earlier musical In The Heights. Set in New York’s Washington Heights, the movie has a great message of chasing one’s dreams and has amazing music written by Miranda. He also directed another huge movie musical later in the year: Tick, tick, boom. This movie is based on the life of Jonathan Larson (played by Andrew Garfield), who’s known for writing the hit musical Rent, and his journey being a struggling musical theater writer in the 1990s. The movie centers around the theme of running out of time since, unfortunately, Larson passed away at the age of 35 the night before Rent opened off-Broadway in 1996. Andrew Garfield puts in an amazing performance as Larson with other outstanding performances from Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens, and Joshua Henry. And this past December, the remake of the classic West Side Story was released in theaters. This modern-day Romeo and Juliet love story tells the story of Tony (played by Ansel Elgort) and Maria (played by Rachel Zegler) and the two rival gangs they are a part of. This movie is Steven Spielberg’s first musical and it has garnered much praise from critics and audiences alike. There really are some stand-out performances from newcomer Rachel Zegler and Broadway vets Ariana DeBose and Mike Faist.
With the return of the in person movies in theaters came the return of superhero films. In September, Marvel released the film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings starring Simu Liu as the title character. Not only is this film a great addition to Marvel’s long list of films, but it’s also a huge deal for Asian representation in film. It is the first Marvel solo film led by an Asian hero, which is a significant event for the Asian community. Not to mention, just a few weeks ago, Spiderman: No Way Home was released in theaters. The crowd really seemed to love it, and it has been widely praised and talked about since its release. It even broke some records and is the third biggest worldwide opening of all time. The movie features the usual Spiderman stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marissa Tomei, and Jacob Batalon along with some classic villains reprising their roles for the newest Spidey installment.
While I think that all of these movies were the holy grail of movies from this past year, I was still interested in seeing what Berkley’s students had to say. When I asked junior Nyla Scarber about her favorite movie of 2021, one movie in particular instantly sprung to mind for her. She said, “ENCANTO because the imagery and animation were beautiful, the characters were very well developed and loveable, and the songs were bangers”.
Sophomore Charley Burns, however, agreed that one of the titles I already mentioned was their number one choice. They responded with, “The French Dispatch. Great writing, strong characters, and a really good homage to that style of New Yorker-like writing”.
2021 was filled with huge and entertaining films in all genres. And with all of the great films on the horizon, 2022 should be just as noteworthy.