The Best Films of 2021

Okay, I’m back on the writeups. It likely won’t last.

But first, the caveats.

Among the very best things I saw this year were Derek Delgaudio’s In and Of Itself and Bo Burnham’s Inside, but even in a list that meshes fiction and documentary, it still felt wrong to rank a filmed stage performance and a piece of performance art against a clearly-defined artform that’s on a whole other evolutionary track. It’s okay, I don’t really know what that means either. I think maybe I just didn’t feel like it.

This list was compiled with the usual hand-wringing, hair-pulling, and hand-pulling that always accompanies these things. The lower the stakes, the harder it is. My best-of fails to include a number of titles I spent most of the year convinced would come out on top: Baba Yar. Context is yet another tremendous work from Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa who has long-since perfected the art of the observational, narration-free documentary, and this one ranks up there with Austerlitz, The Event, or his masterpiece Maidan. Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch were also excruciating near-misses. At the start of the year, I told a number of people that if Regina King’s astonishing One Night In Miami somehow got edged out of the top ten, it would mean 2021 would turn out to be a pretty great year for film. Guess what.

Release date rigmarole and general distraction meant I couldn’t see the likes of C’Mon C’Mon, The Lost Daughter, Drive My Car, Parallel Mothers, and a number of other popular 2021 titles that seem entirely up my alley. At some point early in the year, I happened to catch up on the 2020 fantasy Wendy from Beasts of the Southern Wild director Ben Zeitlin, a film I adored with such ferocity, I almost included here out of belligerence. But then, that would be breaking the incomprehensible and seemingly arbitrary rules I’ve set up for myself as to what may and may not be included. Don’t try to make sense of it, just know that the system works. Continue reading