As insane as it sounds, 2021 is already halfway over, and what a year it has been. People are getting vaccinated, places are opening up, masks are slowly vanishing, and life seems to be getting almost back to normal. One of my favorite things about the world getting back to normal is that movie theaters are opening back up, and being able to see movies on the big screen once again.
I have seen 127 films total in 2021 so far. However, only 68 of them have had a proper 2021 release so far, so those are the films that qualified for this list. In looking at those 68 movies, 2021 is off to a great start. What I’ve liked most about these movies is the diversity in them. My favorites range from small indie picks to blockbusters to foreign films and it feels nice that we are once again given so many great options of movies again.
Here are my picks for the best movies and performances of 2021.
*NOTE – For each category, I am going to list the “nominees” for the category and then choose one winner. For Best Picture, I am going to rank them from 10 – 1.
Best Supporting Actress
Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah
Tiffany Haddish, Bad Trip
Riley Keough, Zola
Olga Merediz, In the Heights
Emma Thompson, Cruella
WINNER: Olga Merediz, In the Heights
- This was a tough category to pick a winner in, but Merediz’s performance in In the Heights stole my heart and never gave it back. As Abuela Claudia, the matriarchal figure of the neighborhood who helped raise the kids who live there, Merediz gives a sweet, endearing, heartwarming performance as a woman who just wants to see her “children” succeed and be happy. She also has a showstopping number with “Paciencia y Fe”, a song that hits every emotional note and will have you shedding a tear or two. Merediz won a Tony for this same performance and she could be on her way to an Oscar for it, too.
Best Supporting Actor
Colman Domingo, Zola
Paul Walter Hauser, Cruella
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Shazad Latif, Profile
Jimmy Smits, In the Heights
WINNER: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
- What more is there to say about this performance that hasn’t already been said? Kaluuya plowed through awards season for his monumental, towering performance as Black Panther’s leader Fred Hampton, winning the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and eventually the Oscar. It’s an incredible performance in an incredible movie. It’s one of those performances we will be talking about for years to come.
Angelina Jolie, Those Who Wish Me Dead
Valene Kane, Profile
Taylour Paige, Zola
Millicent Simmonds, A Quiet Place Part II
Kristen Wiig/Annie Mumolo, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
WINNER: Valene Kane, Profile
- I didn’t have high expectations for Profile, a thriller that takes place entirely on a computer where characters communicate through video messaging, email, and instant messaging. But I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed the tense thriller and a lot of that was because of the incredible performance by Kane. She plays a new reporter who has found her big break when she goes undercover online and starts talking with a recruiter from the Islamic State terrorist group, only to get too deep into her story and lose who she is. Kane is on screen for the entire movie and is captivating for every second. Watching Kane go from a motivated journalist and descend into a person completely different is riveting. This is a performance that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
Eric Bana, The Dry
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Courier
Kevin Hart, Fatherhood
Bob Odenkirk, Nobody
Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
WINNER: Bob Odenkirk, Nobody
- Between Keanu Reeves doing the John Wick movies and Liam Neeson doing any action movie that comes his way, “old-man” action movies have been on the rise over the last decade. We’ve seen actors like Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan, and Jackie Chan get similar types of roles but did we ever think funny-guy Bob Odenkirk would be next-in-line for one of these? I know I didn’t, but Odenkirk surprised the hell out of me, giving what I consider to be the best performance out of all these “old-guy” action movies. What’s great about Odenkirk’s performance is that he makes his character a real, relatable guy, making us empathize with his mundane life and need for excitement while also being incredibly badass and having us rooting for him at every turn. Nobody was one an absolute blast and it is carried by Odenkirk.
Jon M. Chu, In the Heights
Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah
John Krasinski, A Quiet Place Part II
Alex Noyer, Sound of Violence
Mohammad Rasoulof, There is No Evil
WINNER: John Krasinski, A Quiet Place Part II
- All of these directors did incredible work in great films, but Krasinski’s work on A Quiet Place Part II was astounding. I keep thinking about how Krasinski made a movie that closest resembled a Spielberg picture. There is an assured quality to A Quiet Place Part II. When you watch the film, you get the sense that Krasinski has complete control of everything on set. From the camera moves and blocking to the performances, editing, and sound mixing, Krasinski knew every inch of how this movie should be made. A Quiet Place Part II marks Krasinski as one of the great directors of our future.
Top 10 Movies of 2021 So Far
10 – Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Questlove)
- Questlove’s directorial debut features incredible found footage of a concert almost nobody knew existed.
9 – Werewolves Within (Josh Ruben)
- Josh Ruben’s sophomore effort is a hilarious and violent werewolf whodunit with an all-star ensemble.
8 – Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (R.J. Cutler)
- A sprawling, intimate look at Billie Eilish’s rise to superstardom.
7 – Sound of Violence (Alex Noyer)
- A unique, bloody, shocking, twisted look at a hearing-impaired artist’s obsession with completing her masterpiece.
6 – A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski)
- A Quiet Place Part II is one of the great horror sequels ever made thanks to the terrific cast and assured direction from John Krasinski.
5 – Nobody (Ilya Naishuller)
- Bob Odenkirk kicks some serious ass in this smart and exciting domestic action film.
4 – Wrath of Man (Guy Ritchie)
- Director Guy Ritchie’s darkest movie to date is a brutal, bone-crushing heist drama with a never-better Jason Statham.
3 – There is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof)
- A powerful look at life, death, and morality in the Iranian army from director Mohammad Rasoulof.
2 – In the Heights (Jon M. Chu)
- Bright, colorful, lively, and full of emotion, In the Heights will have your toes tapping and your heart soaring.
1 – Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King)
- Led by dynamite performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Oscar-winner Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah is a riveting, complex, expertly crafted look at the leader of the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panthers, Fred Hampton.
BEST OF THE REST
Best Original Screenplay – Judas and the Black Messiah
Runner Up – Werewolves Within
Best Adapted Screenplay – Zola
Runner Up – A Quiet Place Part II
Best Editing – A Quiet Place Part II
Runner Up – Wrath of Man
Best Cinematography – Judas and the Black Messiah
Runner Up – Zola
Best Documentary – Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry
Runner Up – Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Best Comedy – Bad Trip
Runner Up – Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Best Horror/Thriller – A Quiet Place Part II
Runner Up – Sound of Violence
Best Animated Movie – The Mitchell’s vs the Machines
Runner up – Luca
Best Action Movie – Wrath of Man
Runner Up – Nobody
Biggest Surprise – Sound of Violence
Runner Up – Wrath of Man
Biggest Disappointment – Mortal Kombat
Runner Up – The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Worst Movie – Things Heard and Seen
Runner Up – Malcolm & Marie