Top 10 Best Movies of 2021 (So Far)



Top 10 Best Movies of 2021 (So Far)

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
If these films are an indication of things to come, we can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store! For this list, we'll be looking at the movies, including documentaries, that were released throughout the first half of 2021 and left the strongest impressions. Our countdown includes "Godzilla vs. Kong", “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”, "Nobody", and more!

Top 10 Best Movies of 2021 (So Far)

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Movies of 2021 (So Far).

For this list, we’ll be looking at the movies, including documentaries, that were released throughout the first half of 2021 and left the strongest impressions. Keep in mind that some of these technically premiered in 2020 and 2019, but received general releases this year. We’re excluding “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” because a director’s cut of a 2017 film arguably belongs in another category. That doesn’t mean it’s not awesome, though!

What’s your favorite movie of 2021 so far? Let us know in the comments.

#10: “Nobody” (2021)

Bob Odenkirk has had a fascinating career trajectory. Over the years, we’ve seen him evolve from a comedian to the comedic relief in dramas to a dramatic actor. Now we get to see him as an action hero in “Nobody,” which is best described as a suburban “John Wick.” This isn’t surprising, as writer Derek Kolstad also worked on that franchise. While not as sleek or polished, “Nobody” still packs a powerful punch thanks to Odenkirk’s convincing performance, the kinetic energy of Ilya Naishuller’s direction, and a few standout supporting players. The scene-stealer is Christopher Lloyd, who proves that he’s still got it, even in his 80s. A blast from start to finish, “Nobody” is definitely a name to remember.

#9: “Godzilla vs. Kong” (2021)

Whether you streamed it or made a long-awaited trip back to the theater, this monster mash gave audiences exactly what they needed coming off a year like 2020: one hell of a good time! In typical MonsterVerse fashion, the human characters aren’t that deep and the story is kinda an afterthought, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the three words in the title, and director Adam Wingard delivers. Godzilla has rarely been more intimidating onscreen. Kong shows off his beastly side, but the film also unearths the beauty, in a few surprisingly effective scenes. And unlike some other “Vs.” movies, we get to see just enough of the titular characters duking it out in a series of colorful, well-crafted set-pieces.

#8: “Acasa, My Home” (2020)

On one side of the road is Văcărești Nature Park where a father, a mother, their nine children, and some animals reside. On the other side is the big city, which has a significantly larger population. These two worlds collide in director Radu Ciorniciuc’s debut documentary about family, community, and adapting to change. On the surface, this may seem like a story about the Romanian government forcing a poor family to leave their peaceful paradise behind. “Acasa, My Home” is far more nuanced than that, though. Some members of the Enache clan have an easier time adjusting than others. Whoever you identify with the most, watching all of these people live their lives makes for an intimate and emotional experience that never feels one-sided.

#7: “I Care a Lot” (2020)

Antiheroes have never been more commonplace in media, but Marla Grayson is in a league of her own. Flawlessly played by Rosamund Pike, Marla is an all-around despicable human being. Profiting off the suffering of the elderly, Marla has few, if any, redeeming qualities. That’s part of what makes “I Care a Lot” such an engrossing satire. Watching this black comedy, it’s hard to tell if the filmmakers want us to loathe or root for Martha. It isn’t until the final scene that the film takes a stance. We won’t spoil what happens, but the journey is sometimes thrilling, sometimes infuriating, and always fascinating. Whatever you think of Marla, she’s impossible to ignore.

#6: “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021)

Many animated Disney films have inspired sequels and TV shows. We can only hope that “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be one of them. Kumandra is such a vast land with layered characters and rich mythology that we def want to explore more. Even as a standalone story, “Raya” is an epic with powerful voice acting, rousing action, and some of the most atmospheric artistry we’ve ever seen in a Disney picture. The central theme of trust is especially relevant in today’s divided world, but “Raya” doesn’t simplify its message. The film acknowledges that there are times when people need to be cautious, and times when they need to open up. At the end of the day, though, there’s only one path to unity.

#5: “Saint Maud” (2019)

“Saint Maud” warrants comparison to classics like “The Exorcist” and modern masterworks like “Hereditary.” It’s a hair-raising showcase for two rising talents: director Rose Glass, who’s crafted a psychological horror film draped in sinister imagery, and leading lady Morfydd Clark, who literally lights up the screen as Maud. The titular character is tasked with taking care of Amanda, a woman dying from lymphoma. Maud is more concerned about saving Amanda’s soul, believing that she’s being tested by God. The more obsessed Maud becomes, the God she speaks of starts sounding more like the Devil. Or is this just another voice in her head? The struggle within Maude is a constant war between reality, delusion, and faith, building to one hell of an ending.

#4: “Quo Vadis, Aida?” (2020)

An Oscar nominee for Best International Film, “Quo Vadis, Aida?” takes place during the Bosnian War, as Srebrenica is attacked. Many thousands of Bosnians seek refuge at a UN camp, but if you’re familiar with that terrible time, you know that a tragedy will unfold. We follow a translator named Aida Selmanagić, based loosely on real-life survivor Hasan Nuhanović. Jasna Đuričić’s performance as Aida takes us on an emotional rollercoaster, calling to mind Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice” or Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rwanda.” As others panic, Aida must serve as a voice of reassurance while also trying to save her own family. Director Jasmila Žbanić has made an uncompromisingly intense and tragic film that makes us feel every once of Aida’s desperation.

#3: “The Father” (2020)

Whenever adapting a story from stage to screen, there’s always the challenge of not making it feel like a filmed version of a play. This Best Picture nominee couldn’t be more cinematic, however. The editing, production design, and Florian Zeller’s direction create such an intricate environment, that it’s easy to forget so much of “The Father” takes place in a flat. The limited setting is both comforting and intimidating through the eyes of Anthony Hopkins’ character. In his second Oscar-winning performance, Hopkins couldn’t be more heartbreaking as an aging man losing his memory. The film almost veers into physiological thriller territory as even the audience begins to question what’s happening. When we do get a grasp on reality, it’s difficult not to shed a tear.

#2: “Judas and the Black Messiah” (2021)

Here’s another Best Picture nominee with another Oscar-winning performance. Daniel Kaluuya garnered widespread praise for his portrayal of Black Panthers activist Fred Hampton. Kaluuya captures Hampton’s charisma and natural leadership, but also his tender and romantic side. Just as integral to the film’s success is Lakeith Stanfield as William O’Neal, the titular Judas. Stanfield and the filmmakers do an effective job at making O’Neal sympathetic, but not necessarily someone who deserves forgiveness. The film’s true villain is a broken justice system that still isn’t changing fast enough. Director/co-writer Shaka King is a former student of Spike Lee’s, and with more films of this caliber, his career could be equally prominent.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (2021)
The Writers of “Bridesmaids” Reunite for Their Most Bonkers Comedy Yet

“The Truffle Hunters” (2020)
Like Its Subject Matter, This Documentary Is a Delicacy

“Shiva Baby” (2020)
Rachel Sennott Is a Strong Contender For This Year’s Breakthrough Star

“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” (2021)
Further Proof Why She’s the Voice of a Generation

“The Courier” (2020)
A True Espionage Story With a Surprising Friendship at Its Core

#1: “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (2021)

This fantastic film combines the fast-paced humor of “Gravity Falls,” the visual ingenuity of “Into the Spider-Verse,” and the nostalgia of your favorite ‘80s movies. It’s astonishing just how well this film balances different styles, tones, and themes. The animation is state-of-the-art, while somehow having a homemade feel. The action and comedy overflow with energy, but the heartfelt moments always feel earned. Although the story demonstrates how we’ve become over-reliant on technology, it also reminds us how tech can bring people together. For many future generations of animators and filmmakers, this movie will likely be part of the reason why they got into the industry. Also, for anyone who thinks Furby ripped off “Gremlins,” this film ingeniously brings things full circle.
Seriously? The Raya movie over Godzilla Vs. Kong? Why. Just why.
No Godzilla vs Kong? Bummer.