This past year’s (2021, byyyeee) top ten movie post starts off much the same way as 2020’s.
I was really hoping not to type those words, but here are!
Yes, we are still amid a pandemic. And consequently, streaming is as popular as ever.
With Spider-Man: No Way Home bringing in numbers that would be considered a smashing success in any normal year, it would be tempting to suggest that the box office is swinging back!
Is it, though?
Spidey was powered by a brilliant marketing campaign made up of unsubstantiated “rumors” and nostalgia. That kind of thing is hard to replicate.
That and there still appears to be an over reliance on superhero movies and franchises to stay afloat. Consider: The biggest non-franchise movie of the year is Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy, followed closely by Jungle Cruise, clocking in at 10th and 11th place in earnings.
No, we were trending towards streaming even before Covid-19 hit and this global event seems to have just accelerated us towards the inevitable. We’re just being far choosier about what movies are worth (risking?) venturing out of our homes to see, and more times than not, spectacle wins out. This is the new movie-watching reality.
Okay, enough of my old man ramblings and musings. Let’s get to the main event: The Silver Screen Self Care Top Ten of 2021!
10. The Dig (PG-13, on Netflix)
I uncovered this one late in the game and it bumped off another title to sneak into the top ten! Set in the backdrop of WWII, it is the true story of the famous Sutton Hoo excavation in 1938. I loved the chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. It’s about success and failure, chasing dreams, and forging ahead even when recognition is fleeting.
"We all fail. Every day. There are things we just can't succeed at no matter how hard we try." -Basil Brown
The lesson: Don’t beat yourself up too much. That said, also celebrate your little victories every day.
9. Mitchells vs the Machines (PG, on Disney+)
Dysfunctional families have been mined for comedy for generations. And with good reason. Everyone can identify with the feeling. The Mitchells, however, take it to almost a whole new level. This road trip-meets-Terminator movie never lets its foot off the gas pedal with the joke delivery!
"I’ve always felt a little different from everyone else, so I did what any outsider would do. Made weird art." - Katie
The Lesson: Art breeds creativity and creativity can save the world.
8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (PG-13, on Disney+)
It’s a Marvel movie and as such, it follows the tried and true formula. But I, for one, eat up the formula (NOM NOM NOM). And martial arts movies! Also, it gives us extended exposure to Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who is a legend in the Hong Kong cinema scene. Oh, and Michelle Yeong? Yes, please.
"Lead with your breath. Look into your heart, the light, and the dark. To know yourself, you must face them both." - Xialing
The Lesson: We love to talk up our strengths but also need to acknowledge those parts of ourselves we aren’t proud of. It’s how we grow!
7. Encanto (PG, on Disney+)
Yes, this year’s Disney cartoon entry is NOT Pixar. It’s hard not to fall in love with the Madrigals, a family hidden in the mountains of Columbia, who each inherit a magical gift. All except for Mirabel, who instantly becomes a force of empathy for anyone of us who have ever felt hopeless ordinary. When the magic of the house is threatened, she is the family’s only hope. Encanto is full of catchy music, splashy color, a dash of mystery, and one of the most impressive chase scenes ever put to animation. And for the love, CAN WE TALK ABOUT BRUNO?
"The miracle is not some magic you’ve got. The miracle is you." - Mirabel
The Lesson: Nuff’ said.
6. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (PG-13, on VOD)
Part sequel, part reboot, this latest iteration in the franchise leans hard into the nostalgia, and themes surrounding family and legacy. So who better to helm it than Jason Reitman, son of the original director, Ivan? With the focus on OG Ghostbuster Egon’s grandchildren, it serves as the perfect bridge between old and new and is affecting tribute to the late Harold Ramis.
“My grandfather died. My mom said we’re just here to pick through the rubble of his life.” - Phoebe
The Lesson: Legacy is sometimes worth exploring if we want to move forward, whether it be furthering what was started or breaking painful cycles.
5. Dune: Part One (PG-13, on VOD)
This adaptation of the source material is lavishly faithful! That’s great news for fans of the popular OG sci-fi novel. Amidst the spectacular visuals and futuristic flourishes, is a meditation on power dynamics. In an interview with Den of Geek, director Denis Villeneuve said, “At the core of Dune is a warning. Anyone who is trying to blend religion and politics – that is a dangerous cocktail. I think Herbert wrote it as a warning [against] leaders that pretend to know what will happen, who pretend to know the truth, who might be lacking humility. When someone behaves like a messiah, you have to be careful.”
“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”
The Lesson: Revel in the beauty of the mysterious.
4. A Boy Called Christmas (PG, on Netflix)
his Netflix original is an origin story of sorts for Jolly Old St Nickolas with a fantasy bent. Despite some moments of humor provided by the talking mouse, Miika, it takes a bit of time to get up to speed on the jolly! This film is dark, but fun. With lessons of kindness and an adorably psycho, explosive-obsessed “Truth Pixie.”
“Grief is the price we pay for love and worth it a million times over.” – Aunt Ruth
The Lesson: To love and be loved. It’s a ripple effect and how those who have touched our lives live on.
3. PIG (R, on VOD)
Don’t be fooled by the trailers. This tale of a man seeking out the people responsible for kidnapping his pig is not in the vein of John Wick. It’s quirky, unconventional and introspective, paced by a quiet (!), restrained performance by Nic Cage. I legitimately didn’t know which direction it was going to go. In a market dominated by formulaic franchises, I, ahem, pig out on films like these.
“I remember every meal I’ve ever cooked. I remember every person I’ve ever served.” - Rob
The Lesson: When you demonstrate that you take the time to remember someone, for good or for ill, it really makes a mark on that person.
2. West Side Story (PG-13, in theaters)
Steven Spielberg took some heat when it became known that he was remaking this Sondheim (RIP) classic, with a resounding chorus of WHY? Instead maybe we should be asking ourselves, WHY NOT? After all, every time another theatre troupe takes it to the stage, isn’t that be considered a remake in its own right? It easily captures the spirit and energy of the original and even features one of the original stars – Rita Moreno. Its themes surrounding the fear of immigrants, toxicity of racism, and love rising above hatred remain as relevant today as it did 60 years ago. Bah.
“All of you, you killed him not with bullets or guns, but with hate.” - Maria
The Lesson: In short, to not seek reconciliation is to seek destruction. Few come out on the winning side.
1. Coda (PG-13, on Apple TV+)
Here it is. The best movie of 2021 … and sadly, one of the least known. The title, CODA, holds double meaning. In movies and music, it is a concluding passage of a piece or movement, distinct from the main part. But it is also an acronym: Child of Dead Adults. Emilia Jones shines as Ruby, a 17-year-old aspiring singer, caught between two worlds – her dreams of a future in music and her obligations to the family fishing boat business, serving as the bridge between her deaf parents and brother and the hearing world. It results in poignantly funny situations and tensions and is easily one of the most emotionally satisfying movies of the year. It’s on Apple TV+!
Frank: “That song you sang tonight, what was it about?” Ruby: “It was about… what it is to need another person.” Frank: “Can you sing it for me?”
The Lesson: Sometimes it feels impossible to be understood by others, the communication barriers too much. But taking the time and using some imagination, we can forge connections.
What were your favorite movies of 2020 and what did you learn? Share in the comments below!
Scott is a movie lover who brings over 20 years experience in mental health, journalism and vocational ministry. He has a Masters of Divinity degree, which is not nearly as amazing sounding as Masters of the Universe, but it is what it is. It is here at Movies That Move Us where his powers combine! It is not uncommon to find him pretending to open automatic doors using The Force.