The Best Movies Of 2021

Even though Hollywood is notorious for saving the “best” movies for the latter half of the year, there are plenty of gems to enjoy before next year’s awards season rollout — from film festival dramedies (Shiva Baby) to blockbuster animated features (Raya and the Last Dragon) to critically-acclaimed shorts (The Human Voice).

Thanks to the pandemic, which forced Hollywood to halt production and postpone premieres, this year’s movie release schedule has been unusual, to say the least — and many films on this list were completed (and seen and reviewed by critics) well before their U.S. debuts. One feature included below, Judas and the Black Messiah, was even eligible for awards contention in the 2020 cycle, even though it wasn’t released in the U.S. until February 2021. Several others, like Zola and Shiva Baby, were supposed to hit theaters last year, but saw their release dates delayed amid COVID-19. Still more, like The Human Voice, were shot (safely) in the midst of the pandemic after the production hiatus.

After last year’s disastrous series of events, these movies are well worth the wait. Below, see the best movies of 2021 — and be sure to bookmark this list, as we’ll be updating it throughout the year.


Judas and the Black Messiah

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


In the Heights

Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Entertainment





Shiva Baby


Shiva Baby refuses to give its audience any respite. Taking place in realtime at a shiva in Brooklyn, Shiva Baby film follows Danielle (comedian Rachel Sennott), a recent-ish college grad floundering in early adulthood, as she makes her way through a series of cringe-inducing conversations. Fiercely relatable, Shiva Baby will make you feel less alone about all the things going wrong in your life.


Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar

Cate Cameron/Lionsgate

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is like Bridesmaids on an acid trip. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star as two Nebraskan women who vacation to Florida’s (fictional) Vista Del Mar, hoping to get their groove back — and find themselves fending off villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig), who seeks personal revenge on the resort town. With a singular comedic vision and a visual palette reminiscent of Lisa Frank stationery, Barb and Star is irresistible.


Raya and the Last Dragon


Disney Animation Studios did it again with Raya and the Last Dragon, a delightful animated feature that will win over both children and adults. Inspired by Southeast Asian cultures, featuring a largely Asian-American cast (lead by Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, and Sandra Oh), and written by Vietnamese-American playwright Qui Nguyen and Malaysian-born screenwriter Adele Lim, Raya is a fantastical tale of power, loss, and resilience.


The Mitchells vs. the Machines


It’s been a good year for animated flicks, in no small part thanks to The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Starring iconic comedians like Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson, and Danny McBride (among many others), the film is being praised for the way it handles LGBTQ+ representation — not to mention its madcap plot, about a robot apocalypse that forces the Mitchell family to save the world.


Summer of Soul

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

Famed music producer Questlove makes his directorial debut with Summer of Soul: a documentary takes audiences back to the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, aka “Black Woodstock,” a six-week concert series that featured icons like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Sly and the Family Stone. The doc took home both the Grand Jury: Documentary and Audience Award prizes at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.


The Human Voice

Sony Pictures Classics

Spanish visionary Pedro Almodóvar’s first English-language film is a loose adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s play of the same name. In a short runtime of just 30-ish minutes, Tilda Swinton delivers one of the most vulnerable and poignant roles of her career. Like the play, the whole thing is essentially one big monologue, which Swinton delivers expertly — particularly in the scenes where she’s on the phone with her (off-screen) ex-lover. The Human Voice is a half-hour well spent.

This list will be updated throughout the year.

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