Every 2021 Film I Watched, Ranked

Happy New Year!

2021 is finally over, and the less said about it, the better.

But while a fair amount of misery came our way, there were a fair few decent films that made their way onto our screens, both big and small.

Overall, I watched approximately 50 films this year. Of those 50, 23 were new releases (in the UK, at least) and so to kick off the new year, I’m going to rank all 23 of those films from worst to best.

There’ll be some spoilers, obviously.

#23. F9: The Fast Saga

Coming in in last place is the newest entry to the Fast and Furious saga, in which Vin Diesel’s Dom Torretto and the gang do their absolute best to assure you that there are absolutely no stakes to this franchise whatsoever.

It was fun for a while, but for me, this franchise has well and truly jumped the shark.

#22. Death to 2021

As we started watching this film to round out New Year’s Eve, I suddenly recalled how the last entry, Death to 2020 had started off moderately amusing and quickly fizzled out by the midway point.

It seems for the most part the decline in quality continues, although I must admit that there was one quip I did actually find very funny: namely when the narrator explains ‘Prince Phillip decided to remove himself from the [Royal Family/Racism] conversation. By dying’.

#21. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Better than the first. But dear lord is that a low bar.

There are some amusing moments here, and the symbiotes look better than ever, but like its predecessor, this is just another Sony Spider-Man film where they bank so hard on the popularity of the character that they forget to actually put some effort into the writing. And it doesn’t help that the film has clearly been hacked to bits in the editing bay.

It’s telling that the part of this film people spoke about the most was the credits scene.

#20. Mortal Kombat

I really wanted this film to be good. But alas, the curse of bad video-game adaptations strikes again.

While the scenes featuring Scorpion (the very beginning and the very end) are top-notch, the majority of the run time is unfortunately devoted to a brand new character, the incredibly bland Cole Young, whose power is literal plot armour.

They should have just remade Mortal Kombat ’95.

No, I’m not joking. I love that movie.

#19. Fatherhood

The low placement of this film isn’t a reflection of its quality. From what I remember, it was heartfelt and amusing enough.

The problem is that I don’t remember it that well. I think it was inoffensive. I think Kevin Hart gave a good performance. I’m sure Lil Rey Howery and Anthony Carrigan were the highlights.

But really, who’s to say?

#18. Red Notice

The film that Netflix claims everybody watched.

And to be honest, is that so hard to believe? Two crowd-pleasing powerhouses in Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson, with Gal Gadot thrown in for good measure.

An entertaining enough romp that’s undermined by the fact that, at its core, it’s still a fairly bog-standard Netflix movie.

Side note: seeing Dwayne Johnson kiss someone on film feels weird to me.

#17. Cruella

A fascinating film, in some ways. Taking the vile villain Cruella De Vil, and turning her into a loveable anti-hero? Bold move Disney.

And they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids Estella’s slow build into becoming the fashionista Cruella wasn’t suddenly jettisoned halfway through the movie, as she’s suddenly transformed into Cruella overnight. I know a lot of people liked this film, but that’s where it lost me.

Still, who doesn’t love Emma Stone?

#16. Godzilla vs Kong

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I liked it when the giant monkey punched the giant lizard.

Look, you know what you’re getting with a film like this. *Insert ‘big monsters’ Hulk meme/gif*

#15. Free Guy

It’s nothing special, but at the same time, this film was just nice. It’s got a simple feel good message, and a pleasant conclusion to the story.

Plus, Ryan Reynolds going wild in a Grand Theft Auto-esque film across from the excellent Jodie Comer certainly makes for an entertaining watch. While this film certainly won’t win any Oscars, in terms of entertainment value, I think it was time well spent.

#14. Eternals

Whether you love them or hate them, I’d argue that Marvel Studios doesn’t really make bad movies. Sure, you’ve got your Iron Man 2s and Thor: The Dark Worlds, but even they arent as bad as your Fateful Findings, your The Rooms or, heck, even your Venoms.

The same is true of Eternals. But even so, as far as Marvel movies go, it falls a bit flat. Overlong and stuffed with exposition, this was perhaps the least exciting Marvel movie to come out in a while. I didn’t hate it, but I doubt I’ll be watching it again any time soon.

Lauren Ridloff as Makkari was dope, though.

#13. Nomadland

Maybe Chloe Zhao films just aren’t for me? To be honest, the positions of #14, 13 and 12 are all fairly interchangeable on this list. Enjoyable enough but nothing to write home about.

I appreciated Zhao’s exploration of contemporary nomadic culture, and I understand why this film won an Oscar. But for me, it’s one of those films you watch once and never really think about again.

I said what I said.

#12. Black Widow

With that in mind, I obviously don’t actually think Black Widow is a better film than Nomadland, but I enjoyed it more, and that’s ultimately what this list is about. My enjoyment. Not yours. Fight me.

It was refreshing for Scarlet Johansson to finally get her chance to star in her own Marvel solo project, and Florence Pugh was an absolute delight throughout. I can’t wait to see where her character goes from here.

It’s just a shame this came five years too late.

#11. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

I’ll be honest with you now, I’m starting to question myself here. Did I actually enjoy Ghostbusters more than Black Widow? I’m not so sure. A fan-service bonanza that eventually, essentially, just becomes a retread of the original Ghostbusters, but with a more heartfelt approach than an improv comedy one.

It’s The Force Awakens of Ghostbusters movies, but it’s made competently enough and the characters are all enjoyable. It would probably rank higher if I actually, truly cared about this franchise.

But I’m happy for those of you that do.

#10. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

An event years in the making. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the same film that came out back in 2017, but this time it’s… good?

As a superhero fan, this certainly was a great experience. A mammoth film that actually tied the DCEU together, gave better arcs to its characters, and gave the Justice League that mythic quality their comic book counterparts posses.

It’s just a shame they had to tack on those stupid Martian Manhunter and Joker scenes that undermined the rest of the movie.

#9. Don’t Look Up

Controversial, perhaps, but I just dig what Adam McKay is laying down. Is it a subtle allegory for climate change? Not at all. It’s very in your face.

But it never claims to be anything else but a big, abrasive reflection of who we are as a society. The first part may have been a bit slow and meandering, but by the second half I was entertained and thinking about climate change, and isn’t that the whole point?

Add on a great cast and great performances, and it’s certainly worth the watch in my opinion.

#8. King Richard

Rating films can be a messy business. I’ve spoken about how I’ve enjoyed certain films. What they’ve done right. What they’ve done wrong. Whether or not I’ve enjoyed them. But here, at number 8, is the turning point. The point where we start touching on the film’s of this year that I think are genuinely good. Not that the others are bad. Or not good. But from here on out we’re dealing with the 4/5s out of 5s, the 8/9/10s out of 10s, the 80/90/100s out of 100s, or whatever your preferred scoring system is.

King Richard wasnt a film I was especially excited to see, but my mum wanted to see it on her birthday and I’m glad she made that choice. As someone who isn’t particularly into tennis, I was entertained, educated, and impressed by great performance from Will Smith.

An inspiring, feel-good film with a banger of a Beyoncé song taking us into the credits.

#7. A Quiet Place, Part II

I still can’t believe this film only came out this year.

But apparently, it did in the UK, so let’s talk about it.

I enjoyed the first Quiet Place, but I found Part II to be much more enthralling, mostly due to its increase in forward momentum. The first one is just about survival, but the second one gives the characters a mission, and teaming Millicent Simmonds’ character with Cillian Murphy gives the proceedings something of a Last of Us vibe.

It’s tense, it’s exciting, it’s got strong characters and a good pace. The monsters remain scary, and seeing the inciting incident of them coming to Earth was a good way to get John Krazinski back in front of the camera, albeit briefly.

#6. Dune

To be honest, Dune is arguably the best made film on the list.

Pretty much everything about it was brilliant. The cast, their performances, the story, the absolutely gorgeous visuals that Villeneuve has become known for, and that sound design. Oh, the sound design. It’s so unique and alien.

It’s an absolutely great piece of science fiction, and the way it’s put together makes it easy to understand why Villeneuve called it ‘Star Wars for adults’.

But unlike Star Wars, it’s characters didn’t manage to make me fall in love with them (beyond Duncan and Leto – who, y’know, died). It ranks so highly because I’m impressed with it more than I am in love with it. As such, it just misses out on the top 5.

#5. No Time To Die

It’s been a long hard journey to get here, but Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond has finally arrived.

And thank god, it was worth the wait. Exhilarating, bombastic and surprisingly emotional, this is Bond as we’ve never seen him before – impressive, considering he’s the series is 25 films long, and a great capper to Craig’s time as the character.

It’s well shot, the action is great, the performances (particularly Ana de Amas) are excellent and I’m a big fan of the intensity of the score. The only flaw that sticks with me was the villain being a bit weak.

#4. The Suicide Squad

A year with not one, but two impressive DCEU movies? It’s not unheard of, but it’s certainly a rarity.

Soft rebooting the franchise, James Gunn takes Task Force X on a new mission with an all-new cast, and in the process makes a film that truly lives up to the source materials potential.

Hilarious, brutal and goofy, with loveable characters and a lot of heart. If I had to chose between Gunn only being able to make Suicide Squad movies or Guardians of the Galaxy movies going forward, I’d pick the Suicide Squad, no contest.

Although I’m still a bit salty Captain Boomerang didn’t make it. R.I.P.

#3. The Green Knight

If I put aside my biases, then The Green Knight has the potential to be my top movie of the year.

A fascinating take on the Arthurian Legend, with an excellent performance from Dev Patel and his co-stars, The Green Knight is an excellent film. From the great designs to the intriguing plot, it’s very intelligently put together, and the result is a movie that’s equal parts poignant and weird as shit.

But I’m not putting aside my biases, so it’s not my top movie of the year.

#2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Because as much as I am a movie fan, I’m an even bigger comic book fan. As such, seeing Shang-Chi was something of a revelation.

A movie that’s part of the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s able to cement itself in the top ten without being some big epic conclusion or turning point, and with a brand new (to the series) character, no less.

The martial arts are a joy to watch, as are the cast, who are all easy to root for. Even the antagonist, played by Tony Leung, easily becomes a stand-out, in this film that genuinely feels like something different in a sea of sometimes same-y Marvel movies.

#1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Is this the best film of the year? Certainly not. But as a lifelong Spider-Man fan, it was an epic experience.

What will win many over is the thrill of seeing previous Spider-Men and their supporting characters return, but for me, what made this movie so good was the way it really captured the heart of who Spider-Man is, and made for a great adaptation.

The hardship, the humour, the action, the romance, the themes of responsibility. This film excelled in nearly all these facets, and quickly became a contender for ‘best Spider-Man film’.

With great performances from Holland, Garfield, Dafoe, Molina and Foxx, this film not only delivered a great new entry into the Homecoming trilogy, it also elevated all the Spider-Man films that came before it.

No Way Home wasn’t just a good movie, it was a great experience, and one I’m sure to revisit again and again. One that cemented Tom Holland as my personal favourite cinematic Spider-Man.

And with a soft reboot of sorts capping it off, it may have been an ending, but I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

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