'My top 10 films of 2021' - Reviewer lists his favourite movies of the year

Last Night in Soho, tick, tick...BOOM!, and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, Andrew Garfield and Alexandra Shipp in tick, tick...BOOM! and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman. - Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh, © 2021 Focus Features / Netflix / © 2019 PROMISING WOMAN.

Blockbuster movies returned to the big screen in 2021, albeit most were delayed from their original release dates.

The coronavirus pandemic caused chaos for schedulers, with films finally arriving when cinemas were allowed to open – and studios felt there would be a big enough audience.

Daniel Craig's final James Bond outing No Time to Die, Fast & Furious 9, and the long-awaited remake of Dune were among those big budget movies to finally hit cinema screens, along with Marvel's latest offerings.

Other films were released on streaming platforms such as Netflix or headed to Sky as Sky Originals.

Carey Mulligan as ‘Cassie’ in Emerald Fennell’s incredible debut Promising Young Woman

Carey Mulligan as ‘Cassie’ in Emerald Fennell’s incredible debut Promising Young Woman, which joined the Sky Original film line-up in 2021 in a partnering with Focus Features and Universal Pictures International to bring the acclaimed film to UK audiences. - Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace; © 2019 PROMISING WOMAN, LLC

However, showing there's still a marketplace for event blockbusters at the multiplex, December release Spider-Man: No Way Home – which came too late for our yearly round-up – has already taken over $1billion worldwide at the box office.

Here our film reviewer Paul Steward names his top 10 favourite films of the year.


10. I Care A Lot

Rosamund Pike is at her despicable best as a crooked legal guardian who drains the savings from her elderly wards.

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She meets her match when one victim turns out to be the mother of Peter Dinklage’s unscrupulous mob boss.

Gleefully vicious thriller from director J Blakeson with a caustic vein of black comedy.


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

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. - Credit: Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021

Marvel's fourth phase continues with the introduction of Simu Liu as Kung-Fu master Shang-Chi.

Director Destin Daniel Cretton delivers spectacular breakneck action whilst fully respecting the characters' Chinese heritage.

With Liu completely charming in the title role, and the excellent Awkwafina in support, this is as good an origin story as you can get and raises the bar for Marvel’s exciting new phase.


8. Another Round

Mads Mikkelsen shines in this intoxicating Danish drama about the dangers of over indulgence.

Mikkelsen plays Martin, a high school teacher who together with three colleagues begins to consume alcohol on a daily basis, in order to see how it affects their social and professional lives.

Winner of the best international feature at this year's Oscars, Thomas Vinterberg's film is funny and heart-wrenching in equal measure.


7. Freaky

After putting a horror spin on the Groundhog Day premise with his film Happy Death Day, writer/director Christopher Landon gives 80s body swap comedy Freaky Friday the same treatment with hilarious results.

Vince Vaughan and Kathryn Newton star as a deranged serial killer and high school student, who swap bodies and have 24 hours to reverse the switch before it becomes permanent.

Uproariously funny and gloriously gory, this is a treat for gore hounds and comedy fans alike.


6. Last Night in Soho

Acclaimed British director Edgar Wright returns with this time-hopping psychological thriller.

Starring Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, the film tells the story of an aspiring fashion designer who discovers the ability to enter the 1960s. 

Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho

Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, a Focus Features release. - Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features / ©2021 Focus Features, LLC

Wright, directing with his usual verve, switches effortlessly between haunting retro mystery and full on slasher, whilst superbly capturing the vibrant neon colours of Sixties Soho as well as its seedy misogynistic underbelly.

A delightfully tangled time-hopping mystery.

Matt Smith stars as Jack and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho.

Matt Smith stars as Jack and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. - Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Matt Smith stars as Jack and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho.

Matt Smith stars as Jack and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. - Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / Focus Features


5. Malignant 

Annabelle Wallis as Madison in Malignant.

Annabelle Wallis as Madison in Malignant. - Credit: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Picture: Ron Batzdorff

This twisted new horror from Saw director James Wan stars Annabelle Wallis as a girl paralysed by shocking visions of grisly murders that appear to be based in reality.

Featuring the most bizarre twist of the year, Wan opts for a completely straight-faced approach despite the ridiculousness of the premise, with wonderfully demented results.

A film that simply has to be seen to be believed.

Annabelle Wallis as Madison in horror thriller Malignant.

Annabelle Wallis as Madison in horror thriller Malignant. - Credit: Ron Batzdorff. © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc


4. tick, tick...BOOM!

Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson in tick, tick...BOOM! 

Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson in tick, tick...BOOM! - Credit: MACALL POLAY/NETFLIX © 2021

Featuring a wonderful, awards-worthy performance from Andrew Garfield, Lin Manuel Miranda's vibrant musical follows a promising young theatre director on the cusp of his 30th birthday as he navigates love, friendship and the pressures of New York City life.

Based on the life of RENT creator Jonathan Larson, this is a moving and fitting tribute to the late American composer.

tick, tick… BOOM!, the feature directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, stars Andrew Garfield.

tick, tick… BOOM!, the feature directorial debut of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, stars Andrew Garfield. - Credit: Netflix


3. Dune

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in action adventure Dune.

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in Warner Bros Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure Dune. - Credit: Chiabella James

Director Denis Villeneuve adapts the acclaimed Frank Herbert sci-fi novel with astounding results.

Timothée Chalamet leads a star-studded cast as Villeneuve brings his art house sensibilities to a blockbuster audience and expertly turns the notoriously labyrinthine narrative into an atmospheric cinematic epic.

A film that cries out to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Dune, the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal bestseller of the same name, can be seen at the cinema.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures' Dune, the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal bestseller of the same name, can be seen at the cinema. - Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures


2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Abbi Jacobson as 'Katie Mitchell', Maya Rudolph as 'Linda Mitchell', Danny McBride as 'Rick Mitchell' and Mike Rianda as 'Aaron Mitchell' in The Mitchells vs. The Machines - Credit: ©2021 SPAI. Sony Pictures Animation

Danny McBride and Olivia Colman lend their voices to this outrageously entertaining animation from the studio that brought you The Lego Movie.

Following a dysfunctional family, who become humanity’s only hope when their road trip is disrupted by a robot apocalypse, the film is laugh-out-loud funny and brimming with creativity and heart. 

The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Mitchells vs. The Machines - Credit: Sony Pictures Animation


1. Promising Young Woman 

Carey Mulligan as ‘Cassie' in Promising Young Woman.

Carey Mulligan as ‘Cassie' in Promising Young Woman. - Credit: Focus Features © 2019 PROMISING WOMAN, LLC.

Winner of the best original screenplay Oscar at the 2021 Academy Awards and featuring a career best performance from Carey Mulligan, Emerald Fennell’s searing debut shines a light on gender politics like never before. 

Mulligan is Cassie, an emotionally scarred medical school drop out, living a secret double life.

Promising Young Woman stars Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan as ‘Cassie'.

Promising Young Woman stars Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan as ‘Cassie'. - Credit: © 2019 PROMISING WOMAN, LLC.

The razor-sharp script from Fennell is completely deserving of the accolades bestowed upon it.

Full of wit and snappy dialogue, the debut filmmaker brilliantly blends the film's serious subject matter with a vein of dark humour to create a completely unique tale of twisted retribution.
 

Carey Mulligan stars in Promising Young Woman.

Carey Mulligan stars in Promising Young Woman. - Credit: © 2019 PROMISING WOMAN, LLC.