The year 2020 left the world in a state of uncertainty and panic but 2021 saw it picking up the pieces, a sentiment that can also be applied to film. Delayed theatrical releases, halted film productions, and the accelerated growth of streaming services could not keep the film experience at bay; cinema is alive and it’s here to stay! This year gave us new films from proven directors as well as debuts for promising new filmmakers. As we reach the end of 2021, it’s time to look back and celebrate what cinema brought us this past year. Here are some of my favorite things about some of my favorite films of 2021.
10) Peter Parker’s Arc in Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: No Way Home
I’m admittedly not particularly fond of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man films; I think the character has had access to too many resources that it’s robbed us of truly connecting with the character on a personal level. With No Way Home, everything Peter ever had to fall back on is slowly taken away from him until he’s left with nothing but his wits and intellect. No Way Home has Peter learn the true meaning of responsibility as he fully embraces what it means to be Spider-Man. Let’s hope they don’t undo everything too soon.
9) The Fight Choreography of Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi
It’s official: Shang-Chi has some of the best action sequences in a Marvel film to date. From the graceful and balletic fight sequence of the film’s opening to the vicious bus fight between Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi’s action isn’t engaging simply for its immaculate choreography, but because of the emotional stakes attached to it.
8) The Conclusion of Cary Fukunaga’s “No Time To Die”
The Craig era of Bond films borrowed heavily from Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and much like The Dark Knight Rises, Cary Fukunaga and co. give Bond an emotional conclusion that’s both shocking yet earned. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Bond dies! From Casino Royale to No Time to Die, each subsequent film saw Bond slowly tearing down his cold exterior until we finally get a James Bond who’s not afraid to love. It’s a wonderful swan song for Daniel Craig and a cathartic conclusion for fans of his interpretation of the character.
7) The Message of David Lowery’s The Green Knight
Gawain is kind of a terrible protagonist. He’s impulsive, selfish, and in over his head, which is what makes him a compelling character. Gawain’s journey is an odyssey of self-discovery as he learns what it truly means to be a man. He stumbles along the way but once the film reaches its conclusion, Gawain’s transformation is one that feels earned and triumphant.
6) Tammy Faye’s Final Song in Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye
This sequence is all about perspective. It may play out differently depending on where you stand on the character of Tammy Faye, but no matter where you fall, it doesn’t matter to our lead protagonist. In the eyes of Tammy Faye, she’s a superstar and we’re all just living in her world.