The Best Blockbuster Films of 2021

Ikem Nnadi ’23

Contributor

2020 was an interesting year for the movie industry. Due to COVID-19, many of the year’s most anticipated films were delayed several months, and in some cases, years. Thankfully, these delays did not affect the releases of 2021 too heavily, as this year has been decent financially for the Hollywood film industry. Here are the ten best movies of the year thus far.

10. Free Guy

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy is a story about Guy, a non-playable character within the fictional open world video game called Free City. Guy is just a side character; he plays no real role in the game’s progression, and he follows the same routine daily. Yet when Guy comes to consciousness after a program is implanted in him by the game’s development team, he embarks on a mission to save the game from being shut down. This film is not a masterpiece by any means. The plot is familiar, the humour sometimes misplaced, and the script predictably written. However, Free Guy has heart. It tells a relatable story about a person searching for purpose in a world that does not accept them. Consistent from beginning to end, Free Guy is an enjoyable summer flick. 5.5/10

9. A Quiet Place II

Picking up right after the ending of the first film, A Quiet Place II follows the Abbot family as they recover from the death of their patriarch, Lee, played by John Krasinski. This movie is an engrossing rollercoaster that provides much needed context for the franchise. We get to see how life was for the family prior to the alien invasion, and how horrifying the alien arrival really was. This film also adds some revered new actors into its cast with Cillian Murphy’s Emmett and Djimon Hounsou’s unnamed character. The tension in this movie was magnificent, and the character work is sound too. The set pieces here also trump that of the first film. Overall, A Quiet Place II is a satisfying sequel to an already great film. 6.5/10

8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Starring Simu Liu, Shang-Chi is a Marvel film featuring epic stunts and a heartfelt story. This movie follows Shang-Chi, also known as Sean, on his quest to save the planet from his tyrannical father Xu Wenwu. Shang-Chi has the best action scenes in any Marvel property since Endgame. A lack of quick cuts and good camera work kept everything engaging, which was a pleasant change from the CGI Marvel consistently uses. While the plot was conventional, I think the scale, action, and emotional aspects of the movie do enough to keep you invested. This was a nice introduction to an intriguing new sector of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it serves its purpose well. 6.5/10

7. The Last Duel

Directed by the legendary Ridley Scott, The Last Duel features Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, and Adam Driver in a medieval time piece based on true events. It follows Marguerite (Jodie Comer) on her quest to get justice after Jacques (Adam Driver) physically and sexually assaulted her. This movie plays out from three viewpoints, each lasting about 40 minutes: Matt Damon’s Jean, husband of Marguerite; Jacques; and finally, Marguerite, whose perspective concludes the film. This film succeeds at drawing you into this world where there are no real heroes. Noblemen are corrupt, and kings fight for their own glory and honour alone. While The Last Duel is a slow-burn, I found all three perspectives to be engrossing, and the sense of uneasiness is contagious throughout. 7/10

6. The Suicide Squad

Both a sequel and a soft reboot to 2016’s Suicide Squad, The Suicide Squad is an ultraviolent, chaotic, and oddly heart-warming movie directed by James Gunn. It does not continue the plot threads established in the 2016 film, and I found the movie much better off because of it. Most of the film takes place in Corto Maltese, a fictional island nation in the DC Comics. This was a great change of pace for the superhero genre, and it allowed for fantastic set pieces and spectacle. Think of this film as Guardians of the Galaxy on hyperdrive. Heart, style, action—it’s got it all. Gunn was able to resurrect this team of antiheroes with a solid, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoy-able flick. 7/10

5. The Green Knight

This is a polarizing movie to say the least. Starring Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s determined nephew embarks on a quest to prove himself to the world. This film has been called a boring, uninteresting slog to get through, but I find it to be the complete opposite. While The Greek Knight is not a summer blockbuster, this film kept me interested throughout with it’s incredible visuals and world building. While watching, you really feel as though you are experiencing these trials with Gawain, and that alone makes this a great movie. This epic retelling of the classic Arthurian story is an adventure I found to be great. 7/10

4. No Time to Die

No Time to Die marks the conclusion of the pentalogy of Daniel Craig James Bond films. After being delayed three times, the film was finally released on October 8, 2021. And, my goodness, this movie was intense, touching, and expertly crafted. It took the gritty realism of previous Craig movies and utilized some of the classic Bond tropes of the Brosnan and Connery eras (such as the eccentric cars and gadgets) to create an excellent homage to the legacy of James Bond. These components were aided by great performances from side characters such as Ana de Armas’ Paloma, as well as an excellent score from the mastermind Hans Zimmer. This film would be higher on the list if the villain was more memorable, but what we got was still great. I really enjoyed this movie. 7.5/10

3. The Harder They Fall

Yes, this is a Netflix movie, but my goodness is this film amazing. Set in the Wild West, this Black western features some of the best cinematography, editing, and pacing I have seen this year. Despite clocking in at around 139 minutes, I wasn’t bored once. This long runtime allowed the character building to shine. I cared for both gangs (despite their twisted methods of justice) and did not want any of their members to die. One could go on and on about the technical masterpiece that this movie is, but it would be a crime to spoil it here. Please, just go watch it. 8.5/10

2. Zack Snyder’s Justice League

After the disaster that was 2017’s Justice League, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) was in turmoil. Joss Whedon was hired to finish directing the project after Zack Snyder stepped down due to his daughter’s death. Critics and fans alike slammed the movie, and it seemed to appeal to no one. It was too “Marvel-y,” too quippy, and it completely scrapped the tone introduced in the first DCEU film, Man of Steel. So, when Zack Snyder’s Justice League was announced on May 20, 2020, after years of protest, there was a renewed sense of hope for DC fans. The movie was granted 89 million CAD more to work with, and the runtime was going to be 4 hours long. It was clear that Warner Brothers, the company that produces the DC films, allowed Snyder to have complete creative control over his version of the film and, my goodness, was that an excellent choice. Thanks to the added 2 hours of movie, each member of the Justice League is allowed to shine, and their individual character arcs were fantastic. The score, cinematography, and action were incredible. The level of scope in this film is unparalleled, to the point where it resembles a Homeric epic. Restore the Snyder Verse! 8.7/10

1. Dune

This film is a masterpiece. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Dune features an ensemble cast with the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, and Jason Momoa. This film is based off the classic novel of the same name (1965), so naturally it follows the same story beats. Dune is remarkable in the sense that it’s able to transport you to a word that feels lived in. Every-thing from the city landscapes, different houses, architecture, sound design, music, and political/religious allegories are handled expertly. While this film only covers the first half of the first novel in the series, the story structure is still incredibly solid, and I wanted to see where these characters would end up next. (Daniel Stipanovich has covered this movie in more depth in a separate article.) For me, this is movie of the year thus far. A masterpiece. 9/10

Photo Credit: IMDB