The Best Movies of 2021

From ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ and ‘Dune’ to ‘The Matrix Resurrections,’ these are the best movies of 2021 released in theaters and popular streaming services.

Best Movies of 2021 Best Films of the Year
Image via Complex
Best Movies of 2021 Best Films of the Year

Twelve months ago, many moviegoers assumed that the cinema experience was dead. COVID-19 fears caused theater owners to decide whether they could wait out the coronavirus or if they should shut down entirely. The business lost millions, and many lost hope. Wise ones knew that Hollywood would find a way, and where are we at now? Spider-Man: No Way Home being the biggest film of 2021, both at the box office and in the hearts of moviegoers. Even with the Omarion Omicron hitting harder than previous variants, that didn't deter folks from hitting the theaters, which is a testament to the strength of a good film. Folks will figure out a way to see it—in theaters—if it’s good enough.

Another lingering thought from last year was what the impact of Warner Bros. dropping their films day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max would be. December of 2021? Folks are actually confused when a new film isn’t available on streaming the day it hits theaters. Streaming services have grown—we saw HBO Max joined by Peacock, Paramount+, and other new services in the last year—and opportunities to grow these services with highly-anticipated movies has been a blessing. Will these things continue on? It's hard to say; there's a lot of coin that Hollywood missed out on due to the theater situation, but the public has proven that they are more comfortable than ever enjoying new movies on the couch. It won't murder the theater industry, but there is a lot of room to grow.

What we're trying to say is that Hollywood has found ways to adapt in the last two years to give you the entertainment you’ve been looking for. Now the question is “what was actually good?” And of course, that’s where we come in. We sat on our couches and/or braved everything going on to hit the theaters and have returned with our picks for the best movies of 2021. Run back the best cinema 2021 had to offer.

20. 'I Care a Lot'

'I Care a Lot'

19. 'The Many Saints of Newark'

The Many Saints of Newark

18. 'Candyman'


17. 'Zola'

Riley Keough and Taylour Paige in A24's 'Zola'

16. 'North Hollywood'

'North Hollywood'

15. 'Pig'

Pig, starring Nicolas Cage

14. 'The Green Knight'

The Green Knight

Director: David Lowery

Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Ralph Ineson

Distributor: A24

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

Last year, Gretel and Hansel, which was based on the children’s tale and turned into a darker, more horrific tale, was released. While I didn’t care much for the actual story, I do applaud Oz Perkins for crafting this epic-feeling world for these familiar characters to frolic around in. The Green Knight, David Lowery’s adaptation of the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, finds Patel taking on the role of Gawain, a man with big dreams who may not have what it takes to fully fulfill his destiny. Like Perkins with Gretel and Hansel, Lowery transforms this poem into a living document. The world contained in The Green Knight feels like reading the poem on acid, and that’s barely discussing the image of the Green Knight we get. It’s the journey Patel takes us on, adding depth into every shot of this beautifully unique film. It’s a film that’ll sit with you after watching, having you not only question what happened but what it all meant. The true beauty is being able to dive back into the dream and experience it all over again. With so much of the content hitting the silver screen being some kind of adaptation or reimagining, one would hope that more directors could move like a Lowery or a Perkins and truly breathe new life into the source material. —khal

13. 'The French Dispatch'

Wes Anderson's 'The French Dispatch'

12. 'The Matrix Resurrections'

The Matrix Resurrections

11. 'Nomadland'


10. 'House of Gucci'

Lady Gaga in 'House of Gucci'

9. 'Don't Look Up'

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Timothee Chalamet in 'Don't Look Up'

8. 'No Time to Die'

No Time to Die

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes

Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer​​​​​​​

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

For the 25th film in the James Bond franchise also being the final time Daniel Craig portrays the iconic character, No Time to Die is a fitting send-off for Craig, who’s not the anti-Bond but definitely isn’t what many thought Bond was to be. That said, the film is aware that the world has changed, and with that comes the realization that old ways need to be changed so we can all keep up. Lashana Lynch stepping up as Nomi, the new agent assigned the 007 number, is a dope shift; she feels grounded from jump, not a caricature of a suave, sophisticated dude who always has it together. Maybe could’ve done without Rami Malek (and seen more of Ana de Armas’ Paloma), but the fun is far from messed up. A fitting end to this era of the Bond franchise.  —khal

7. 'The Suicide Squad'

The Suicide Squad

6. 'Dune'

Timothee Chalamet in 'Dune'

5. 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'

Spider-Man: No Way Home

4. 'A Quiet Place Part II'

A Quiet Place Part II

3. 'The Harder They Fall'

The Harder They Fall

2. 'Minari'


1. 'Judas and the Black Messiah'

Judas and the Black Messiah

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