My Top 5 Pick for the Best Films of 2021


2021 has been a bit of a chaotic year as we slowly try to reembrace a new normal.  The film industry took a huge blow during the pandemic. Filmmakers, actors, and audiences all around the world were impacted by the setbacks Hollywood faced over the last year. But in 2021 it seems we’ve made a comeback. So many amazing and memorable movies were released this year, and here are just a few of my favorites.

Zola  – 9/10

Directed by Janicza Bravo. 

Warning: Zola contains themes of sexual assault and prostitution. If these are sensitive topics for you, I advise you to avoid watching this movie. 

In 2015, A’Ziah “Zola” King took to Twitter to describe a trip she took to Florida with a woman she’d never met. Those tweets eventually went viral being recognized as the first ever Twitter thread and this year, they were adapted into a feature-length film. The best way I can describe this movie is a psychedelic trip you simultaneously want to escape from and be trapped in. Zola is put into some of the most dangerous situations you could ever imagine. She’s stuck in Florida with people she’s never met, and suddenly she’s becoming involved in prostitution and her life and the well-being of her family are being threatened. I believe Zola is one of the smartest women to exist. Even though you know how serious this situation is, you always feel like Zola is in control. She is determined to make the best out of a terrible situation. This truly feels like her narrative and that’s what makes the ending when we see her finally able to go home, so satisfying. The visuals of this movie are very dreamlike which is ironic considering the themes of the movie but ultimately makes the audience feel nostalgic like they are back in 2015 reading the original Twitter thread. Anyone who is a pop culture fanatic is sure to love this movie. 

Bo Burnham Inside – 10/10

Directed by Bo Burnham. 

After taking a five-year break from stand-up, Bo Burnham returned this year with his masterpiece Inside. Bo explores his endless creativity through the confinements of total isolation. Aside from being one of the funniest comedy specials I’ve ever watched, Inside manages to perfectly encapsulate what it has been like to live through the COVID-19 pandemic.  Feeling trapped, trying to hold onto the things that make you happy while the terrifying reality of what’s happening outside slowly seeps in.  Throughout this special, he is constantly trying to break the fourth wall that is closing in on him. We watch his sanity slowly deteriorate as he realizes that even if his work is able to reach people, he is still trapped where he is, he’s stuck inside. Stand-up comedy is unique in that it receives an immediate reaction from the audience. This is the comedy Bo is used to doing, but with Inside he’s the only judge, and every artist knows that your own opinion is always the most critical. You get the feeling that working on this special is what’s keeping Bo motivated while simultaneously destroying him. This special is a unique twist and thought-provoking twist on stand-up comedy, and anyone who is a fan of Bo Burnham is sure to enjoy it.

Judas and the Black Messiah – 9/10 

Directed by Shaka King. 

Judas and the Black Messiah follows Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Chicago Black Panthers Party, and William O’Neal, the FBI informant who infiltrated the BBP and helped police assassinate Hampton. Shaka King does an amazing job analyzing the relationship between Hampton and O’Neal. Hampton was young, but he had such clear visions of what he wanted the future of his people to look like. He was passionate, and so naturally people were drawn to him and his cause. Daniel Kaluuya portrays his charisma so perfectly, you can’t help but feel inspired by his character. O’Neal was a black man who agreed to help police by infiltrating the Black Panther Party in order to avoid jail time for crimes he had committed. We see him struggle with his own morality as he betrays everyone around him. He becomes intertwined with the movement that he is actively working to destroy to protect himself. You can compare a lot of the events that happened in this movie to events that are happening right now in our country. Themes of racial injustice and power are constant throughout this movie. How far have we gone to destroy the humanity of black and brown people in the country? This is a question King leaves her audiences pondering, and a conversation that has recently resurfaced following a summer of protest against police violence. Judas and the Black Messiah set a wonderful starting point for anyone willing to dive into the history of racism in our country.

Candyman – Horror – 8/10

Directed by Nia DaCosta. 

The legend of Candyman was first brought to the big screen in 1992. After being falsely accused of placing razors in children’s candy, a man was targeted by a mob and killed. Seeking revenge, he returned as Candyman. Say his name five times in the mirror, and he will appear ready to slice your neck open with his hook of a hand. This year, Nia DaCosta brought us a cunning continuation of the original 1992 Candyman. The movie can be seen as a social commentary in the way it manages to take the Candyman legend and turn it into a representation of the horrors of the black experience. Candyman reclaims his trauma and uses it as a symbol of power. This movie is an utterly terrifying horror experience. The aesthetic is dark and heavy. The moments where we see Candyman in action are suspenseful and drawn out. When I first watched it, I remember going back and forth between holding onto my seat and being completely amazed by what I was seeing. This is the perfect example of how to continue a classic. While the plot twists at the end was a bit predictable, it did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the film and ultimately still helped create a compelling story. Anyone who enjoyed the original Candyman is sure to love this one as well.

Dune – 10/10

Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

It would be impossible to talk about movies that came out in 2021 without mentioning Dune. Based on the 1965 novel written by Frank Hubert and a remake of the 1984 film, Dune (2021) proves itself to be worth all the praise it received. It is easily one of the most visually stunning movies I’ve ever seen. One of the most impressive facts about the filming of this movie is that only a handful of scenes were actually shot using green screen. You can tell the creators put so much care and effort into making this movie live up to everyone’s expectations. The experience of reading the book and watching the movie is just as compelling. Timothee Chalamet, who stars as Paul, proves once again that he is worthy of your time, setting the bar for a new generation of actors. The end of the movie sets up a second part, which is already announced to be released in 2023. Dune has already made itself a classic and will not leave fans of the book disappointed.