The 2021 Sundance Film Festival has officially come to a close and what a festival it was. Though being virtual and not being able to go to the mountains of Park City this year, I thought that the festival was really good this year. The quality of films was excellent, the software the festival used to stream the films worked seamlessly, and the scheduling allowed you to see a lot of movies. I was able to view 31 feature films and eight short films at this year’s festival and there a number of films that I liked and a few that I loved. I was most impressed with documentaries at this year’s festival and was able to view more foreign films, which was awesome.
You can find my reviews from this year’s festival here, but here are my picks for the best movies and performances of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
TOP 10 MOVIES
10 – STRAWBERRY MANSION (Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney)
- A weird, dreamy, brightly colored love story.
9 – PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND (Sion Sono)
- Nicolas Cage is at his Cageiest in Sion Sono’s wild, violent, gorgeous apocalyptic samurai western ghost story.
8 – HIVE (Blerta Basholli)
- Winner of best film in the World Dramatic section of the festival, Hive is a quiet, effective look at an Albanian woman (an outstanding Yllka Gashi) making a name and business for herself in a society where men look down on women.
7 – ON THE COUNT OF THREE (Jarrod Carmichael)
- Led by an firy performance by Christopher Abbott, Jarrod Carmichael’s directorial debut is a darkly funny, gripping story of a suicide pact between two friends.
6 – CODA (Sian Heder)
- As big of a crowdpleaser as I’ve seen in a long time, CODA is a smart, funny, heartwarming look at a hearing girl living in a deaf family.
5 – CAPTAINS OF ZAATARI (Ali El-Arabi)
- A Hoop Dreams-like sports documentary about two refugees trying to make it into professional soccer.
4 – MASS (Fran Kranz)
- An acting and writing masterclass, Mass is a powerful film about two sets of parents who meet each other after a horrific tragedy.
3 – CUSP (Isabel Bethencourt, Parker Hill)
- A documentary in the vein of Andrea Arnold, Cusp is a hot-blooded, unfiltered look three Texas teenage girls growing up in a male-dominated world.
2 – JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (Shaka King)
- Daniel Kaluuya gives a towering, Oscar-worthy performance as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Shaka King’s riveting biopic.
1 – FLEE (Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
- This masterful animated documentary portrays the refugee experience better than any film I’ve ever seen. An astonishing film in every sense.
BEST OF THE REST
BEST DIRECTOR: JONAS POHER RASMUSSEN, FLEE
Runner Up: Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah
BEST ACTOR: CHRISTOPHER ABBOTT, ON THE COUNT OF THREE
Runner Up: Clifton Collins Jr., Jocky
BEST ACTRESS: EMILIA JONES, CODA
Runner Up: Yllka Gashi, Hive
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: DANIEL KALUUYA, JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Runner Up: Reed Birney, Mass
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: MARTHA PLIMPTON, MASS
Runner Up: Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah
BEST SCREENPLAY: MASS
Runner Up: CODA
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: STRAWBERRY MANSION
Runner Up: Eight for Silver
BEST SCORE: JUDA AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Runner Up: Strawberry Mansion
BEST MIDNIGHT MOVIE: PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND
Runner Up: Violation
BEST DOCUMENTARY: FLEE
Runner Up: Cusp
BEST FOREIGN FILM: FLEE
Runner Up: Hive
BEST SHORT FILM: YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND
Runner Up: The Fourfold
LEAST FAVORITE: PLEASURE
Runner Up: A Glitch in the Matrix
OVERALL RANKING OF EVERY FEATURE FILM I SAW
1 – FLEE
2 – JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
3 – CUSP
4 – MASS
5 – CAPTAINS OF ZAATARI
6 – CODA
7 – ON THE COUNT OF THREE
8 – HIVE
9 – PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND
10 – STRAWBERRY MANSION
11 – SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
12 – EIGHT FOR SILVER
13 – JOCKEY
14 – STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET
15 – MISHA AND THE WOLVES
16 – LAND
17 – HOW IT ENDS
18 – VIOLATION
19 – CENSOR
20 – FIRST DATE
21 – THE WORLD TO COME
22 – R#J
23 – MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
24 – CRYPTOZOO
25 – KNOCKING
26 – PASSING
27 – IN THE EARTH
28 – WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR
29 – PRIMETIME
30 – A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX
31 – PLEASURE
1 – YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND
2 – THE FOURFOLD
3 – THE AFFECTED
4 – WIGGLE ROOM
5 – DOUBLESPEAK
6 – UP AT NIGHT
7 – GNT
8 – THE TOUCH OF THE MASTER’S HAND
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