Here are the best movies of 2021 so far, as presented by the /Film staff. This list will be continuously updated throughout the rest of the year.
Denis Villeneuve’s big, epic, overwhelming adaptation of “Dune” Movies 2021 is not a complete movie. It ends in the middle of its story, with hope that a sequel will soon be on the way. This is a bit disappointing, but it doesn’t take away from how effective the film ultimately is. Huge in scope and featuring near-flawless VFX work, “Dune” is an event picture, an extravaganza, a spectacle. Here’s hoping audiences actually want that so we can get that sequel. The complicated story involves warring houses, ancient worlds, and spice – lots and lots of spice. But “Dune” is more than its story.
The very nature of “Dune” might be overwhelming to some, with its world-building and strange terminology. But if you stick with the film, you’ll find yourself witnessing great blockbuster filmmaking, and that’s harder than it might seem. Whether or not the film is viewed on the biggest screen possible – an argument that keeps going around – really feels immaterial here. Will this look great on a big screen? Absolutely. But “Dune” will also work just as well at home. It’s not the size that matters, it’s the overall vibe, and “Dune” is overflowing with an atmosphere that feels entirely unique. Villeneuve’s humourlessness often bothers some filmgoers, but it works to his favor here. “Dune” takes itself very seriously, and that helps make the film feel legitimately epic. (Chris Evangelista)
Take “Last Action Hero,” “Ready Player One,” and “The LEGO Movie” and put them in a blockbuster blender and you get this hilarious, charming, clever, and action-packed flick that makes excellent use of charming leading man Ryan Reynolds. Inside an open-world “Grand Theft Auto”-inspired video game called “Free City,” non-player character Guy (Reynolds) suddenly wants more from his routine bank teller life, and he just might get it when he’s awakened to the fact that he’s actually an automated part of this massive video game world. Taking the power of real life video gamers into his own hands, and with a little help from a gamer (Jodie Comer) in the real world, Guy inadvertently becomes the last hope for stopping “Free City” from being deleted by the game’s douchebag creator Antwon (Taika Waititi). The mechanics of video games have never been utilized on the big screen in such an entertaining fashion, even if there are some nonsensical elements in the real world for the sake of the plot. This could very well be the best video game movie ever made without actually being based on a real game. With a perfect blend of action, comedy, and heart, not to mention a few surprises in the final act, “Free Guy” Movie 2021 is a 1980s movie in 21st century clothes, and it’s better than it has any right to be. (Ethan Anderton)
There are three horror movies I’m writing about (thus far, that may change as the year goes on), and they’re all vastly different from each other. So much so, in fact, that many would likely dismiss two of them — or at least one — for being more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie.
Ah, the dreaded argument horror fans such as myself and many of my colleagues absolutely f**king loath. It’s been going on for decades, gave birth to “elevated” horror, and makes folks clutch their pearls any time they deign to enjoy a scary movie. Nope, must label it something else because horror is ugly and nasty and violent and crude!
Well, “Malignant” Movie Online is ugly, nasty, violent, and crude, and it’s stunning in its vulgarity. James Wan returned to the horror director’s chair after 5 years away and knocked it out of the park with one of the most absurd and unapologetic genre movies of the year.
Is it the most revolutionary horror movie ever made? No way, not even close. Is it highly referential and arguably a little derivative? Yeah, but what isn’t? Hell, “Saw” was hugely derivative, and look at how many people tout that as a game-changer.
The key here is love and commitment. No, Seriously.
Wan knew he wanted to make something that felt original in a sea of “elevated” horror and big-budget productions. So he took the parts of the genre he loved most and molded them into a creature of his very own, nodding slyly to the folks who paved the way for him. It’s referential but it’s also reverent, managing to avoid the specific circle of hell dedicated to those who market their new movies as the latest cult classic. He took the entire process very seriously, and it shows.
It reminds me of Guillermo del Toro’s approach to “Pacific Rim.” In the film’s special features, he talks about how imperative it is to approach even what may seem like the silliest thing in the world seriously. Pour your heart into it, treat it with respect, and take the process seriously, and what you’ll get will shine as what it’s supposed to be.
“Malignant” shines in the exact way it’s supposed to — doused in blood while nodding admiringly at Frank Henenlotter and 42nd Street. (Ariel Fisher)
PAW Patrol: The Movie
PAW Patrol: The Movie is a 2021 Canadian computer-animated action-adventure comedy film based on the television series PAW Patrol created by Keith Chapman. The film was produced by Spin Master Entertainment, the toy company behind the series, with animation provided by Mikros Image. It was directed by Cal Brunker, who co-wrote the screenplay with Billy Frolick and Bob Barlen from a story by Frolick. It is the first of several planned films produced under the Spin Master Entertainment banner. In the film, Ryder and the pups are called to Adventure City to stop Mayor Humdinger from turning the bustling metropolis into a state of chaos.
This is the second theatrical films based on the Nick Jr. series after Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019). The film was produced almost entirely in Canada; according to Cal Brunker, “95 percent of everything” happened in Canada, with the exception being some audio recording. Several cast members from the original series reprised their roles, including Kingsley Marshall (as the voice of Marshall), Keegan Hedley (Rubble), Shayle Simons (Zuma), Lilly Bartlam (Skye), and Ron Pardo (voicing both Cap’n Turbot and Mayor Humdinger). They are joined by newcomers Iain Armitage, Marsai Martin, Yara Shahidi, Kim Kardashian, Randall Park, Dax Shepard, Tyler Perry, Jimmy Kimmel, and Will Brisbin in his first acting role.
The film had its red carpet premiere at the Vue Leicester Square in London on August 8, 2021. It was theatrically released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on August 9, 2021, and in both Canada and the United States on August 20, 2021. It was also made available on Paramount+ on the same day. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics and became a box office success, grossing over $105 million worldwide against a budget of $26 million.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions Movie (released in some markets as Escape Room: No Way Out) is a 2021 American psychological horror film directed by Adam Robitel and written by Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, and Oren Uziel. A sequel to 2019’s Escape Room, it stars Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, and Deborah Ann Woll reprising their roles from the first film, alongside new cast members Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, and Carlito Olivero, and follows a group of six people trying to survive a new series of more deadly escape rooms.
After the first film became a surprise hit in 2019, Columbia Pictures approved a sequel. Robitel returned as the director with Schut writing the script, and Russell and Miller reprising their roles alongside the addition of new cast members. Filming took place on Cape Town, South Africa, from November 2019 to January 2020, with additional filming in January 2021.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was theatrically released in Australia on July 1, 2021, and in the United States on July 16, by Sony Pictures Releasing, following several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film has grossed $51 million and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the elaborate puzzles, but noted the film’s failure to improve upon its predecessor.
The Ice Road
The Ice Road is a 2021 American action thriller film written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh. The film stars Liam Neeson and Laurence Fishburne, with Benjamin Walker, Amber Midthunder, Marcus Thomas, Holt McCallany, Martin Sensmeier, Matt McCoy, and Matt Salinger in supporting roles. It marks Hensleigh’s first film since 2011’s Kill the Irishman. It follows a team of truck drivers on a dangerous mission over frozen lakes and winter roads to deliver a crucial component to save workers trapped in a collapsed mine. The film was digitally released by Netflix in the United States and by Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom on June 25, 2021. The film received mixed reviews from critics.