After last year, 2021 feels like a more normal year in film. Just a reminder that for 2020, we adjusted to the extended Oscar eligibility calendar, so there are some films from early in the year that are on the 2020 list, like Barb and Star. So, if you’re wondering where a certain film is, either I didn’t like it as much as you, or it came out under that extra wide 2020 umbrella. As always, this list is alphabetical, not ranked.


Drive My Car

It’s no wonder everyone is losing their minds over Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. A drama full of yearning, regret, recrimination, and seemingly endless time spent in a car, shuttling from one place to another, Drive My Car reveals the true nature of things slowly and through prolonged exposure as characters lower walls within the intimacy of a Saab 9000. Sure, it’s three hours long, but what is time, really? It’s meaningless in the face of compassion and understanding extended over a driver’s console. And that performance from Hidetoshi Nishijima is a knockout.

I’m Your Man

Of all the films of 2021, this one stuck with me the most. I have rewatched it more than any other new film, and each time I go back to it, I find new layers in the story. The delicacy of I’m Your Man belies its complexity, its rom-com style covering an intimate emotional drama exploring love, sex, desire, and fulfillment in an age where we can have almost anything we want tailored just for us by increasingly refined algorithms. Maria Schrader’s unfussy direction gives the story plenty of space to subtly unwind, and gives Maren Eggert and Dan Stevens ample room to shade in their characters. The best romance of the year, and one of the year’s most thoughtful, forward-looking stories.

Full review here.


Petite Maman

Celine Sciamma’s exploration of motherhood and childhood unites in an unusual tale of sisterhood by way of a time vortex. Taking place in a strange liminal space between then and now, Petite Maman is a portrait of fleeting time—childhood, autumn, the space after death when grief is freshest. It’s also a portrait of mothers and daughters afforded a unique opportunity to transcend parent-child barriers and relate, and for a child to see her mother as an individual. In a year full of films about mothers and motherhood, Petite Maman is the sweetest reflection of a complicated relationship.

Full review here.


Initially made to appear like John Wick but with a pig, Pig is in fact an achingly morose reflection on loss, memory, and food. Nicolas Cage gives his best performance since Mandy as Rob, a once-renowned chef who gave up everything to live off the grid in the forest with his beloved truffle hunting pig. When his pig goes missing, Rob begins an odyssey that reconnects him with the chefs he inspired, the meals he cooked, and the people whose senses he imprinted with his food. Michael Sarnoski’s take on the restaurant world as a sort of organized crime arena toes the line of humorous, but the melancholia in Pig is too deep, the memories evoked by food too precious and hallowed, for that story point to ever seem absurd. Instead, Pig is a quiet, introspective drama that will make you extremely hungry.



Pablo Larraín does it again with an offbeat, more-imagined-than-not biopic of a famous woman at a moment of private crisis. This time, Princess Diana is centered in his lens, embodied by a vulnerable and vulpine Kristen Stewart. A little bit strange and a lot focused on the misery induced by an emotionally bankrupt institution, Spencer is that rare treat, a biopic that doesn’t care about historicity or impression as much as experience and feeling.

Full review here.

The Gaze

Barry Jenkins’ non-narrative film companion to The Underground Railroad is an unusual and striking work, an immersive experience within the alternate history created in the series. But it’s also a kind of record, imagined but no less effective, of the ancestors lost to real history. Is there a story? No. Is it a story? Yes. And it’s unlike anything else you’ll see this year.

Watch The Gaze here.

The Green Knight

David Lowery’s relapsing narrative reimagines Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a tale of petulant boyhood giving way to chivalric manhood by way of a series of meandering, magical travails. With a shifting sense of time that honors this story’s thousand-plus year tradition and the morphing nature of legend, The Green Knight is the mystical trip of the year.

Full review here.


The Lost Daughter/Parallel Mothers/Titane

Yes, I am fully cheating to sneak a couple extra films on my list, but these three films also form an interesting triptych of motherhood, from pregnancy as full-blown body horror (Titane), to motherhood as a direct challenge to personhood (The Lost Daughter), to motherhood as a wheel of generational trauma (Parallel Mothers). All three films are chock full of brilliant performances, and none of these films go where you expect. 

Full review of The Lost Daughter here.

The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion’s brutal reflection on masculinity is as unforgiving and unexpectedly poignant as the harsh Western landscape she photographs and features a towering performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as a crusty, cruel rancher. At times achingly lonely and at others, sinister as hell, and built around a power struggle defined not by might, but by pure viciousness The Power of the Dog is one of the absolute best of the year, with an unforgettable ending.

Full review here.


Janicza Bravo’s adaptation of a tweet thread (co-written with Jeremy O. Harris) is a roiling tale of toxic friendship, racism, and how white femininity can be weaponized in anti-Black racism. Bravo captures the wild spirit of the original Twitter story and the particular Florida griminess of the whole affair with a bold, unapologetic lens matched by a pair of similarly bold and unapologetic performances from Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, not to mention Colman Domingo’s brilliantly menacing turn as a pimp. One of the best ensembles of the year, and a demented Alice In Wonderland tale for the social media age.

Full review here.



The Beta Test

The Card Counter

The Harder They Fall

The Last Duel

The Tragedy of Macbeth


Best Performance By a Fake Baby

Baby Annette – Annette 

(Marionette artists: Estelle Charlier and Romuald Collinet)


Okay Movies Featuring Stellar Performances

Catriona Balfe – Belfast 

Daniel Craig – No Time To Die

Nina Arianda – Being The Ricardos

Peter Dinklage – Cyrano

Udo Kier & Jennifer Coolidge – Swan Song


Are You F-cking Kidding Me?

Don’t Look Up