Top Ten Films of 2021 – Thomas’s Picks

Something something Covid, something something Groundhog Day. It certainly felt like the latter at times as we once again went without cinemas for an extended period. It did, however, give me a chance to check out some films that were streaming that I might have originally looked over.

Still, we did get blockbusters as well as some wee gems as cinema in the UK struggled to get back on its feet. For those of us in Scotland, notably Glasgow, we had to watch as our geographical neighbours enjoyed the cinema as we stayed lockdown. But I digress…

Here are my top ten films of 2021. Some films narrowly missed out (sorry Minari) while Oscar bait Nomadland did little to keep my attention. The following films aren’t necessarily the best films of the year but they are the ones that left a mark for many different reasons.

As usual, feel free to agree or disagree just don’t be a dick x


10. Halloween Kills

The twelfth installment in the Halloween franchise is also part two of a new trilogy and technically part three of this timeline. Confused? Don’t worry, Halloween Kills is a fun thrill kill slasher that isn’t as taxing as the convoluted production history. Sure. it’d be nice to see some more of Laurie Strode, but this is clearly the middle part of a story that sets up what to come without leaving too much of a teasing cliffhanger. The mob mentality subplot is a little on the nose, but if you want to see Michael Myers brutally murder a bunch of idiots (and why wouldn’t you?) then you can’t really go wrong here.

9. Red Dot

Alain Darborg’s Netflix thriller is as tense as they come. A simple premise finds a young couple camping in the snowy wilderness when they find themselves targetted by a psychotic shooter with an apparent grudge. In a classic case of less is more, Darborg ramps up the tension by use of a rifle’s laser sight. Its presence is unnerving and eerily prescient as the couple seem at the mercy of the elements and their pursuer. Nerve shredding and disturbing, at less than ninety minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Nobody Movie8. Nobody

There have been many unlikely action heroes over the years that excelled in the role: Colin Firth, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt etc, however, when Bob Odenkirk was cast in Nobody, it certainly raised a few eyebrows. Was it going to be some sort of parody on films like Death Wish or could the Better Call Saul star pulls of a surprise upset? Thankfully, for us, it was the latter. Nobody is an ultra-violent revenge flick that plays to Odenkirk’s strengths without making him look silly. He’s convincing, threatening and ultimately badass. It’s worth seeing for the bus fight scene alone which is one of the best action sequences in modern cinema.

7. Cruella

Did Cruella de Vil really need an origin story? I’d argue no but when it’s as much fun as this, who cares? Well, some fans weren’t happy with how the film played down her villainous traits however it’s an absolute delight of a film with a killer soundtrack. Emma Stone is excellent as she commands our attention, often locking horns with the true villain of the story in Emma Thompson’s the Baroness. It’s a lighthearted revenge story that sows the seeds for one of Disney’s greatest villains, even if she’s painted more favourably here. Rather than a straight prequel, it looks to potentially set up its own franchise and might exist in its own universe – similar to that of the Joker.

6. A Quiet Place Part II

The film opens with a little backstory that shows the aliens coming to earth. Before their arrival, we’re treated to a few minutes of calm. Enjoy it, because for the next ninety minutes you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat. A nerve-shredding horror, director John Krasinski will keep you in so much suspense you’ll be amazed that you’ve managed to hold your breath for an hour and a half. Frightening and fast-paced, Emma Blunt proves again why she should be a much bigger action star. Cillian Murphy is a welcome addition that adds an extra layer of depth to the film with his excellent performance. Wonderfully acted and finely crafted it’s hard to believe it was made by the same guy that helped put smiles on faces during the pandemic.

5. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

The idea of a director’s cut is nothing new but with The Snyder Cut, we don’t just get an extra twenty to forty minutes of footage, we get a recut movie that’s almost double the runtime of the original. What we get in Snyder’s film is a lot more backstory to the same characters along with additional plot points that flesh the movie out. This works wonderfully as it gives depth to characters such as Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Steppenwolf that is sadly absent the first time around. It’s is a grandiose entry to the genre that packs an emotional punch in its drama while still managing to find some laughs along the way. Love it or loathe it, it exists and that can no longer be disputed.

4. Sound of Metal

Originally released in 2019, Sound of Metal didn’t make its way to the UK until 2021. Released on Amazon Prime to little fanfare, it’s a gripping story about a drummer struggling to come to terms with the loss of his hearing. Riz Ahmed is brilliant in the lead – angry and bitter as he lashes out at those trying to help him. Director Darius Marder utilises the use of sound and silence wonderfully while straying respectful to the deaf community who exist at the heart of the story.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO3. Last Night in Soho

A visual feast of a film that flirts between murder mystery and violent horror, Last Night in Soho sees Edgar Wright cut back on the jokes to present a highly effective horror film. Tonally, he pulls us in different directions like a magician setting up his trick before unveiling a disturbing finale. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are excellent in the lead roles, playing apparent opposites with enough layers to show their similarities. Matt Smith is delightfully devilish as he charms with each scene revealing more of his true character.

Mads Mikkelsen - Another Round2. Another Round

When a group of middle-aged school teachers realise they’re leading boring and uneventful lives, what can be done to spice things up a little? Well, they decided to test an experiment that will keep them more or less permanently drunk. While it all seems fun and games, to begin with, it slowly spirals into tragedy. Director Thomas Vinterburg crafts an effective black-comedy that is laugh out loud funny and deeply moving. A wonderful performance by Mads Mikkelsen in the lead further proves he’s one of the finest actors on the planet. The ending scene is utterly insane and incredibly captivating yet doesn’t feel out of place. I’m not against remakes as a general rule, but Hollywood, I don’t think you’ll pull this one off.

Promising Young Woman1. Promising Young Woman

When a film leaves you dazed, thrilled, cheering and unable to stop thinking about it, chances are it’s had an impact. Promising Young Woman does all of these things in a film that transcends genre. Part rom-com, part revenge thriller, director and writer Emerald Fennell masterfully weaves all of this together and delivers a powerful message. Carey Mulligan was deserving of her Academy Awards nomination and many would say (at least I would) that she should have won. She is stone-cold and driven yet ultimately human as her quest for revenge is driven by love as much as it is hate. Gut punching and thought-provoking, it’s essential viewing.

Thomas Simpson
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