Seven best films of 2021, a year that reinvented movie-going as we know it

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Photo Credit: photo via Pixabay under creative commons license

Spider-Man: No Way Home was the highest-grossing movie of 2021, earning over a billion dollars at the box office. 2021 may have not broken many records, but at least movies are returning.

By: Joseph Sanfilippo, Editor

After a tumultuous year due the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 reinvented the movie-going experience. Films were subject to unique release strategies as studios found a way to profit during a surging pandemic. Some films remained exclusively in theaters, while some had day-and-date theatrical and streaming releases. On top of that, most delayed movies finally got a release date.

Exhibitors relied on films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and No Time to Die to make money and entice viewers. CNN stated, “Overall, the North American box office snagged $4.5 billion in 2021, a 101% increase over 2020, but a nearly 60% drop from 2019, according to Comscore (SCOR).” While 2021 didn’t completely revive the box office, it definitely improved since 2020.

2021 contained these seven noteworthy films.

7) Licorice Pizza

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest hit is a slice-of-life romance with two bold new stars. Alana Haim steals the show as her emotionally complex character must come to terms with her life and her love interest, Gary.

Cooper Hoffman plays the charming Gary. Gary aspires to be a successful actor, but also tries to enjoy his life as a teenager. Licorice Pizza has a non-linear story, but focuses on the nostalgia of 1970s Hollywood. It’s a well-directed film with messages on love and youth against the setting of the San Fernando Valley.

6) Dune

Denis Villeneuve may have just changed the sci-fi genre as we know it. Dune follows Paul Atreides, a gifted young man born into his father’s dynasty, House Atreides. House Atreides are tasked to protect the most dangerous planet in the universe, but evil forces emerge and an ongoing war over spice continues.

Dune gets everything right about the hero’s journey trope, and Timothée Chalamet is incredible as Paul. Paul is intense and he knows he has to take over his father’s empire. Dune has the best cinematography I’ve seen in years. The film’s shots are beautiful and they add more to its already grand atmosphere. There’s also a lot of hidden messages about political corruption, faith, and gender roles that make the movie even more ambitious.

5) Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder finally gets his justice! The Snyder Cut finally released last March and it didn’t disappoint. Snyder takes everything we hated about Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut and expands upon it. Zack Snyder’s Justice League was shot in 4:3 aspect ratio and its cinematography feels like it came right out of a comic book.

All of the characters are well-developed and we can’t help but sympathize with them. Ben Affleck’s journey as Batman has fully evolved and his story in this movie is engaging to follow. Henry Cavill may be the best Superman on screen and his story arch is crucial to the DC Extended Universe.

Snyder’s direction, the film’s beautiful special effects, and the well-developed characters make this one of the most emotional comic book films to date. Characters like the Flash and Cyborg also have to time to stand out. We even get a a villain we can empathize with.

4) The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s latest flick is love letter to journalists of all kind. The film follow three unique stories that each have a core theme or message. One story follows a volatile painter who’s tasked with a painting while in jail. The second story is about a revolt and the third story is about a police commissioner who must save his kidnapped son.

Anderson’s writing doesn’t disappoint and the film’s dry humor succeeds. Anderson’s star-studded cast are fantastic in this movie. The French Dispatch features actors like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright. This film is different than his movies because it focuses more on societal problems and issues. Each story contain their own political or social messages. The movie even satirizes newspapers like The New York Times.

3) C’mon C’mon

Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon is a beautiful film that covers the complexity of emotions. Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a emotionally stunted journalist who’s tasked with taking care of Jesse. Jesse is Johnny’s nephew and his childlike- wonder enlightens Johnny as they travel state to state. Mike Mills’ directing is one the film’s highlights. C’mon C’mon has a non-linear story line and at times it’s almost as if you’re not watching a movie.

C’mon C’mon is like going through a bunch of pictures. Some of the shots show Johnny and Jesse slowly walking through the beach, others show cityscapes, and others just show raw human emotion. It’s a deep film that reminds its viewers to stay hopeful. The entire film is shot in black and white and its themes of self-discovery and personal connection are felt strongly.

2) Spider-Man: No Way Home

Marvel finally returned to the big screen since 2020. Spider-Man: No Way Home may be one of the best Marvel films of all time. It’s a perfect send-off to Tom Holland’s iteration of the character. No Way Home is unsurprisingly entertaining as it picks up where the last movie ended.

It’s also a nostalgia-filled movie with callbacks to the past three generations of Spider-Man films. No Way Home brings back many of the previous iconic villains from over the years. Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin was truly menacing serving as a great villain to end the trilogy.

1) Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up may be the most divisive film of this year. It follows two low-level astronomers played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, who have to warn the country that a comet is coming to destroy mankind. Adam McKay brilliantly satirizes our modern-day government and how the public reacts to threats.

The film rips on everything from our government to the climate crisis. Leonardo DiCaprio’s role as Dr. Randall Mindy was definitely one of my favorites of the year. Meryl Streep’s performance was funny but in a scarily realistic way. Don’t Look Up takes a cynical look at modern-day culture and the debate between science and politics.

With filming studios getting back to “somewhat” normal, movie goers have high expectations for 2022. However, amid movie buffs should be prepared that movies may continue reach audiences in other ways than a movie theater.