Every product is carefully selected by our editors and experts. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission. Why trust us?

Best movies of 2021

20 Best Movies of 2021

The last 12 months have marked an unusual year in the movie world, with plenty of cinemas still shut down around the globe. However, the film industry waits for no one, not even COVID, still managing to release an impressive repertoire of iconic movies throughout the year. If you’re playing catch up and don’t know where to start, here is our rundown of the 20 best movies of 2021.

You’ll also like: 
30 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix
10 Great Horror Movies You’ve Never Heard Of
25 Best Australian Movies of All Time

Final no time to die trailer

Image: UPI

How We Pick Our Best Movies

Choosing a list of the best movies of 2021 is no mean feat, so, in preparation, we hand-selected films across a broad range of genres released throughout this year. The criteria encompassed three major components;

  • Audience/critic review – Each of the films received a rating of at least 5 out of 10 on IMDB from critics and users, ensuring a collective appreciation for the release
  • Cultural significance – While some films are bigger and better than others, some have a certain cultural appeal that can’t be ignored. In the realm of 2021 films, delays have played a major role, with titles such as No Time to Die coming with the added weight of expectation.
  • Overall direction and execution – Some releases may have delivered outstanding individual performances, however, this critique takes into account the finished product as a whole, from the cinematography and direction to the acting and scriptwriting.

Best Movies of 2021

With that in mind, this list pulls together the best films of 2021. Needless to say, there will be some contention. The simple fact is this – 2021 was a big year for cinema and these were the films, in our eyes, that pushed it to the next level.

1. Dune

Fans of Timothe Chalamet, buckle up for another blockbuster film featuring the much-loved heartthrob. Dune is a well-adapted movie of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel about the son of a noble family entrusted with protecting the most important element in the galaxy. The conflict and anticipation will have you on the edge of your seat, literally.

Director: Denis Villeneuve
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
Run Time: 2 h 35 mins

2. No Time to Die

The much-anticipated sequel in the series that never dies, James Bond, No Time to Die, had a lot of expectations to live up to. The film was everything you’d expect from James Bond – plenty of action, shooting, gorgeous women, and several cringe-worthy moments. We can’t say it quite stacks up to its predecessors, but the movie is still a worthwhile watch nonetheless, with an emotional ending to match.

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
IMDB Rating: 7/4/10
Run Time: 2 h 43 mins

3. Free Guy

Definitely in the running for one of the best movies of 2021, Free Guy has it all-comedy, action, sci-fi, adventure and fantasy. The movie follows actor Ryan Reynolds, who plays a bank teller who discovers he’s actually an NPC inside a brutal, open-world video game. Gamers will love this one, full of realistic twists that are bound to get your imagination running wild.

Director: Shawn Levy
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Run Time: 1 h 55 mins

4. Pig

Pig is an intense drama-thriller that has gained the attention of many movie-goers in 2021. The film depicts a dedicated truffle hunter, Nicholas Cage, who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness and must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved pig after she is kidnapped. The film has is no Babe, but it’s still one of the best pig movies out there, for sure.

Director: Michael Sarnoski
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Run Time: 1 h 32 mins

5. Spider-Man: No Way Home

As one of the most anticipated Marvel releases in history, Spider-Man: No Way Home had a lot to live up to, and it didn’t disappoint. Tom Holland’s return as the web-slinger was met with a multiverse of villains, brought forward by the events of Far From Home and the antics of Doctor Strange. With a host of familiar faces making a comeback alongside the modern marvel that is Zendaya right now, No Way Home hardly put a foot wrong, and box office statistics prove it. A number one smash from the moment it released, this flick was a show-in for 2021’s best.

Director: John Watts
IMDB Rating: 9.4/10
Run Time: 2 h 28 mins

6. House of Gucci

Betrayal, decadence, murder, revenge- House of Gucci has it all. Ridley Scott has done it again with this deep dive into the famous Guggi family. With Lady Gaga playing the leading role, what more needs to be said? The film investigates the toxic world of power and family dynamics as newcomers attempt to navigate the complex family dynasty.

Director: Ridley Scott
IMDB Rating: 7/10
Run Time: 2 h 37 mins

7. Godzilla Vs Kong

Who would’ve thought Godzilla and Kong would ever be up against each other in an action-thriller? Well, the day has come in Godzilla Vs Kong, the epic next chapter in the cinematic Monsterverse. With humanity caught in the middle, the movie perfectly combines our favourite childhood icons and real-world complexities.

Director: Adam Wingard
IMDB Rating: 6.4/10
Run Time: 1 h 63 mins

8. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

It’s 2021, and about time Anthony Bourdain fans were treated to a film all about him. One of the best movies of 2021 in the documentary style, the movie dives deep into Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel. If you’re looking to improve your skills in the kitchen, you’re bound to learn a lot and will have plenty of fun along the way.

Director: Morgan Neville
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Run Time: 1 h 59 mins

9. The Mauritian

Director Kevin Macdonald impresses critics with his historical drama, The Mauritian. By depicting the trials of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who fights for freedom after being detained and imprisoned without charge by the U.S. Government for years, the movie gives an insightful look into the inhumane misgivings of government and prison systems. A thoughtful and considered approach offering reflections on Guantanamo Bay, The Mauritian deserves plenty of praise.

Director: Kevin Macdonald
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Run Time: 2 h 9 mins

10. Judas And The Black Messiah

One of the best movies of 2021 in the biopic realm, Judas And The Black Messiah, is emotional and equally as intense. Shining light on the Black Panther Party, William O’Neal is offered a plea deal by the FBI. He infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton. Intelligent, excellent performances and filled with drama- this one is a must-watch.

Director: Shaka King
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Run Time: 2 h 5 mins

11. The Little Things

The Little Things is a crime drama that attempts to balance mystery, crime, love and all of life’s other dramas in one jam-packed movie. Watch along in anticipation as Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe Deacon is sent to Los Angeles and becomes enthralled in the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city. A quick assignment gone wrong, the way the mystery unfolds will have you biting your fingernails.

Director: John Lee Hancock
IMDB Rating: 6.3/10
Run Time: 2 h 8 mins

12. The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson brings us a beautiful off-beat romantic drama starring a stellar cast with The French Dispatch. The film seamlessly interweaves a fictional French city with real-life journalism, as a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper brings a collection of stories to life. The quirky performances and witty dialogue give this film a unique, fresh touch, however, some may find it hard to keep up!

Director: Wes Anderson
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Run Time: 1 h 47 mins

 

13. Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

Jackie Chan, move over, Shang-Chi has been making some serious moves in 2021. This is one of the best movies of 2021 for an action-packed adventure, as it follows the trials of the master of weaponry-based Kung Fu, Shang-Chi, who is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization. Slightly over-Americanised, but not too much that we can’t handle it.

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Run Time: 2 h 12 mins

14. Nobody

We also don’t recommend you watch this one at home alone. The first scene is visceral and brutal in a way that keeps your eyes glued to the screen, as we are introduced to the true character of a seemingly regular family man. Watch as his character develops into a crime-fighting powerhouse, somehow finding himself in a bloody war with a Russian crime boss.

Director: Ilya Naishuller
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Run Time: 1 h 32 mins

15. A Quiet Place Part II

With a challenging task to live up to its prequel, A Quiet Place Part II gives it its best shot. One of the best movies of 2021 for all the horror fans out there, the movie follows the Abbott family as they face the terror of the outside world that is raging with deadly creatures, as they decide to leave their home only to discover more threats are lurking beyond the walls of their abode. Creepy, with a side of sci-fi extravagance.

Director: John Krasinski
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Run Time: 1 h 37 mins

16. F9

Living up to the fast and the furious series is a tough ask, so it’s no surprise many people believe F9 fell just short. The movie takes you on another speedy journey as Dom and the crew take on an international terrorist who turns out to be Dom and Mia’s estranged brother. Packed with adventure, twists and all your favourite characters, it’s a nostalgic and memorable film.

Director: Justin Lin
IMDB Rating: 5.2/10
Run Time: 2 h 23 mins

17. The Suicide Squad

Starring Australia’s very own Margot Robbie, The Suicide Squad is one of the best movies of 2021 if you’re in the mood for something a little bit naughty. A team of supervillains join the top-secret, super-shady Task Force X and battle their way through the world. The perfect dose of dark humour and post-apocalyptic dramas to get you through your Friday evening.

Director: James Gunn
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Run Time: 2 h 12 mins

18. Black Widow

Marvel Studios tackles another action movie with this sci-fi adventure blockbuster. Starring a female lead action hero, the film is off to a good start, with Scarlett Johanson, playing Natasha Romanoff, capturing our attention with her heroic moves. Watch as she confronts the darker parts of her ledger with lots of drama, GCI and out-of-this-world stunts in this 2-hour long movie- buckle up, it’s a long and wild ride.

Director: Cate Shortland
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Run Time: 2 h 14 mins

19. RESPECT

A biopic about one of the world’s most admired musical icons- Aretha Franklin, say no more. Jennifer Hudson succeeds in portraying Aretha’s legacy, as the film follows the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom. The film manages to provide a raw and authentic portrayal of a colourful and celebrated life- give this one a watch if you want to feel the feels.

Director: Liesl Tommy
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Run Time: 2 h 25 mins

20. Those Who Wish Me Dead

In this action-packed crime drama, Angelina Jolie stars a teenage murder witness who finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness. The anticipation this film builds will leave you on the edge of your seat- definitely not a relaxing watch; you will feel just as much as part of the action as the cast.

Director: Taylor Sheridan
IMDB Rating: 6.0/10
Run Time: 1 h 40 mins

General FAQs

What was the highest-grossing movie of 2021?

The Battle at Lake Changjin was the highest-grossing movie of 2021.

When was No Time to Die released?

No Time to Die was released on the 11th of November, 2021.

What was the best movie of 2021?

The best movie of 2021 was Dune, with an IMDB rating of 8.2.

CONTRIBUTOR

Aimee O'Keefe

Aimee O’Keefe is a Sydney-based freelance writer with a background in fashion, entertainment and technology coverage. She completed a Bachelor's degree in Media and Communications at the University of Sydney and has previously worked with Universal Magazines and the Ministry of Style. She currently works as Content Writer for a leading digital marketing agency.