Films of my life – the best movies of 2021

After the pandemic affected previous year, 2021 was the year that cinema tried to bounce back. In the UK, cinemas started reopening in the summer, so the first half of the year was once again dominated by streaming services.

In terms of movies, there was plenty to admire, with 23 movies making it into my Letterboxd long list of films of the year .

Here is the final short list of my favourite films of 2021

  1. Dune – This intergalactic desert epic is my favourite film of 2021. If you are trying to get people back into cinemas, this is the spectacular movie to do it. A perfect blend of space opera, visuals and star power (the casting is perfect – especially Chalomet). However, it is the soundscape – the music and effects – that impresses most. Another sci-fi success for Denis Villeneuve who previously gave us the brilliant Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. You can read my review here
  2. No Time To Die – Finally we get to see Craig’s final outing as 007. I’m a big fan of Bond in general and Daniel Craig’s interpretation in particular. For me, he is the best Bond. I’ve always loved the physicality and laconic humour of Connery, but some of his movies haven’t aged well. The gradual updating of Bond to make him acceptable (if not relevant) for the 21st century has been a highlight of the Craig era. No Time To Die is a perfect end to his arc, with story choices that will split audiences. This was also the first big release of this year to get people back into cinemas in the UK and was a massive hit, showing that with the right movie, audiences still love cinema. This was reinforced with the huge success of Spiderman – No Way Home. You can read my spoiler laden review of No Time To Die here
  3. The big Oscar winner this year was Nomadland. “A modern day docu-drama version of How the West was Won coupled with a Steinbeck novel” was how I described it in my review. I didn’t get to see this beautiful movie in the cinema, so I didn’t get to see the sumptuous visuals on the biggest screen. However, the story, based on true accounts of life the in US following the financial crash of 2008, is engaging in any medium.
  4. The Green Knight is excellent cine-literature. The visuals are trippy and the story engrossing. Dev Patel would make an excllent JamesBond. Read my review here
  5. Summer of Soul (or how the revolution could not be documented) was the outstanding documentary of the year. The forgotten film of the forgotten ”Black Woodstock” is outstanding. In fact, the music is better than Woodstock, with far more remembered songs (and artists). The politics behind this event are covered but never in an intrusive way. There is also the joy of some of the surviving performers seeing themselves as they were 50 years ago, but in pristine 4K. Read my review here
  6. Identifying Features is a story for our times, examining the worldwide migration crisis by focusing on one story at the US / Mexico story. This is a very human story, not making any political points but asking us to empathise with the human cost behind these endeavours. Read my Letterboxd review here
  7. West Side Story – another remake, and like No Time To Die it takes the opportunity to fix some of the problems with the original. It is more hard hitting, but crucially, this is a respectful remake. It captures the energy, but with added grit and the music is timeless. Here is my review.
  8. Vying with No Time To Die for best British movie of the year is Last Night in Soho. This movie has the best soundtrack based on pre-exiting songs. The visual representation of 1965 Soho is very evocative (again, the songs help) and the story is clever and has a few surprises. May be a bit violent for some. Read my review here.

So, overall another excellent year for cinema. These are my highlights. What were yours?