Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023

The Best Films of 2021 So Far (And What’s Coming Soon)

It’s been a complicated year for the film industry. 

For starters, most US movie theaters have only been open for about half the year. After missing out on big-screen releases for most of 2020 and much of 2021, movie theaters have only just started making a comeback. 

Many observers worried that a comeback might never happen at all, but after the rollout of vaccines and a slow return to something resembling normalcy, this summer and fall has witnessed blockbuster films return to theaters. 

Given the strong box office returns for many of these tentpole films, audiences have made it clear they still want to experience movies in theaters. 

These are some of the best movies of the year so far to see on the big screen — and a few yet to come. 

Arthouse: The Green Knight

A surprise hit and a moving reinterpretation of a 700-year-old medieval poem, “The Green Knight” offers stunning cinematography and a fascinating story that will have you pondering it for days afterwards. 

Dev Patel of “Slumdog Millionaire” gives an outstanding performance as Gawain, a squire in King Arthur’s court who sets out to prove his honour. The film is essentially Gawain’s journey through the slightly supernatural world of Arthurian legend before his final meeting with the enigmatic Green Knight. 

It’s a gorgeous, thought-provoking film from a smaller studio, and the rare release with wide distribution that’s not a franchise film. 

Sci-Fi: Dune

Arguably the most iconic science-fiction novels of all time, the Dune series has long been considered unfilmable, at least partly because of the perceived failures of previous attempts at adapting the sweeping saga for the big screen. 

Most Dune fans rejoiced when it was announced that Canadian filmmaker Denis Villenueve was tapped for the new film. Having proved himself adept at sci-fi with “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049,” Villenueve was clearly the right choice, as the critical reception of Dune as been overwhelmingly positive and it has already brought in major dollars during its opening weekend in October. 

Superheroes: Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings

You can’t have a best movies list without superheroes, right? At least not in today’s cinematic landscape. Luckily, Marvel’s latest offering, “Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings” takes the predictable formula for superhero origin stories in some interesting new directions. 

As the first martial arts film within the now enormous pantheon of Marvel offerings, “Shang-Chi” focuses as much on its all-Asian cast as it does on the big-budget special effects, placing it in a similar category as “Black Panther,” which remains one of the most successful films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

While many observers expected the film to flop, it has actually done incredibly well at the box office, surpassing $400 million at the global box office. As one of the first major releases during the pandemic, “Shang-Chi” might be remembered most as the film that proved audiences still want to see major releases the way they are meant to be seen: on the big screen. 

Movies To Watch For

The pandemic pushed back the entire schedule of Hollywood, which means that this fall will see quite a few large-studio releases in just two months. 

Given the success of the movies above, we can expect many of these upcoming films to make a splash. They include Marvel films like “Eternals” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” a Paul Rudd-led reboot of the classic franchise.

“The Matrix Resurrections” will bring Keanu Reeves back to the iconic role of Neo, and “King Richard” is already generating buzz for Will Smith’s performance as the father of Venus and Serena Williams. 

As for indie films, there are some very interesting things happening in the industry. The rise of cryptocurrency has led to new financing models. Examples include “Bonded,” which startup Mogul Productions bills as “the first crypto film,” and “ZERO CONTACT,” which another startup Vuelve calls “the first NFT film.” 

If you’re unsure what any of that means, you’re not the only one. 

But the bigger meaning should be clear to all of us: The film industry might be changing, but movies and movie theaters are here to stay.