Richard Whittaker's Top 10 Films of 2021

The Chronicle's Culture desk editor makes his list


In a year packed with incredible releases reviewed by my sterling team of critics in these very pages, it's sometimes been hard to select the very best movies that came out in 2021: but here's my choices.

1) Pig

Nicolas Cage as a man dealing with the last great loss of his life in an uncategorizable and beautiful tale.

2) The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Spider-Verse team drop this year’s most dysfunctional and loving family into a hilarious and chaotically wondrous robo-apocaylpse.

3) Mass

Four parents, one room, one impossible tragedy. The American gun crisis stripped back to its emotional core.

4) The Souvenir: Part II

Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical sequel only enhances the first film.

5) The Power of the Dog

Benedict Cumberbatch grasps the murky moral core of a broken man in Jane Campion’s chilling frontier drama.

6) Minari

A welcome repost to the generic immigration story, overflowing with compassion for a family that struggles through.

7) Dune

Denis Villeneuve takes the time to dismantle the white savior narrative that Frank Herbert didn’t subvert until his later books, an act that fits his SF epic.

8) The Killing of Two Lovers

An Andrew Wyeth painting come to life, in a keening portrait of a man struggling to maintain his life.

9) The Humans

Family as claustrophobia. Stephen Karam’s adaptation of his own Broadway smash melds Chekov, Beckett, and Roeg.

10) Red Rocket

An object lesson in presenting a likable but despicable protagonist. Simon Rex is astounding as a vile but charming manchild.
Last Night in Soho

Near Misses

Last Night in Soho, The Green Knight, CODA

Most Overrated

Titane, No Time to Die, Spencer

Most Underrated

The Killing of Two Lovers, CODA, Lapsis, The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Wild Card

As the sell-out and self-betraying Chef Derek Finway in Pig, David Knell showed that even the smallest supporting part can be impactful. His line delivery about Scotch Eggs is a lifetime of emotion.

Acting Kudos (Male)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, Electrical Life of Louis Wain), Nic Cage (Pig), Stephen Yuen (Minari)

Acting Kudos (Female)

Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog), Kathryn Hunter (The Tragedy of Macbeth)

Best Director

Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Denis Villeneuve (Dune), Fran Kranz (Mass)

Best Original Screenplay

Pig, Mass, The Mitchells Vs. the Machines

Best Adapted Screenplay

Zola, The Green Knight, The Power of the Dog


TV Series/Event


Worst Film

Old. Boring, mean, with a veneer of technical competence that disguises all its horrible choices.

The Little Film That Could

Sator. The only thing wilder than Jordan Graham’s handmade, homemade and bizarrely personal family horror is the story of how he made it. Check both out.

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More by Richard Whittaker
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Top 10s, Top 10 Films of 2021, Top 10s 2021

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