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Mid-year Report: The 10 best films of 2021 thus far

Film - A Quiet Place Part II
Posted at 12:00 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 00:00:42-04

Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.

In some ways, it's hard to believe we're half-way through 2021...but following 2020 (the year that felt like an entire decade in and of itself), the faster we get back to some sense of "normal" the better.

Movies are just now starting to pick up into full swing, with Summer blockbusters like "F9" setting post-pandemic records and inching towards pre-pandemic levels. Theaters across the country are open and at full capacity, and we're somehow just a few months away from what is hopefully a "normal" awards season for film.

Before that rush of "award films" in the Fall, I thought it would be nice to take a look back at the best of 2021 so far. I've left off films that came out in early 2021 that were still eligible for last year's pandemic-adjusted awards season (films like "The Father" and "Supernova" were omitted). And you'll note four of my top ten thus far are documentary films (it's already a strong year for the genre).

With that, here are my Top 10 films of 2021 so far...in no particular order...as well as where you can watch them currently.

"A Quiet Place Part II"

What I Had Said About The Film: "On a surface-level, it's a well-done horror/thriller/monster movie that will make audiences cheer, scream and laugh...and perhaps even cry, that they're back in a theater and that this is what they've been missing. But it's also about so much more, for those that wish to peer into it in such a way. Finally, it's a confidently-made sequel that gives people who loved the first film exactly what they want, but it expands its universe just enough to keep it thoroughly interesting moving forward. "

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently in theaters, available on Paramount Plus on July 12th.

"Test Pattern"

What I Had Said About The Film: "From top to the bottom, "Test Pattern" is a revelation. Brittany S. Hall is mesmerizing, with real chemistry shown on-screen with Will Brill. The movie feels organic and real at all times, and situations are shown as they happen, with no added manipulation from writer/director Ford, who showcases strong storytelling ability, and who confidently allows silence to live and breathe within her characters, to great effect."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently available for rent on Apple TV+.

"The Courier"

What I Had Said About The Film: "The film works incredibly well as a spy thriller, with Cumberbatch really showing new range in going from an unsuspecting rube to a crafty secret agent over the course of the movie. But the relationship/friendship that develops between Wynne and Penkovsky really gives the film an emotional heart. Russian actor Merab Ninidze is stunningly effective as Penkovsky, and if this film had actually been released during awards season, I could see both Ninidze and Cumberbatch creating some waves."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently in theaters, available on Paramount Plus on July 12th.

"Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)"

What I Had Said About The Film: "Questlove - in this, his directorial debut - has made "Summer of Soul" not just a remembrance of an important, forgotten cultural event, but he makes sure that context is king. Yes, in many ways this can be considered a "concert film," but it is much more than that in how Questlove decides to structure it...​This is one of the best films of the year, let alone documentary films, and here's hoping its light can shine on you."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently in theaters and on Hulu.

"Together Together"

What I Had Said About The Film: "Perhaps most importantly of all, "Together Together" seems to have a lot to say about its subjects. That, combined with the winning duo of Helms and Harrison, make this one of the early, pleasant surprises of 2021, a film that even has a chance at being remembered...I mean, remembered remembered...as one of the better films when we look at that sort of thing later in the year."​

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently available for rent on Apple TV+.

"Tina"

What I Had Said About The Film: ""Tina" is of course a "music documentary," but this one digs deeper than most. It's not just a fond look back at her body of work (although it does include many of her famous live performances), it's a lesson in self-preservation, of self-dignity, of hope and courage."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently on HBO Max.

"Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street"

What I Had Said About The Film: "There is no weak point, no uninteresting tidbit, no false note and nothing that seems unexplored. But more than that, it captures the very essence of what "Sesame Street" was: Education that was so fun, you didn't mind learning. Watching "Street Gang" was fun and educational in the same vein, and it was also tremendously refreshing...a reminder of a place that existed - and still exists - where people of all color, creeds and backgrounds could live together in peace, happiness and laughter. It may have only existed on a television set, but it's legacy lives on in all of us."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently available for rent on Apple TV+.

"The Mitchells vs. The Machines"

What I Had Said About The Film: "It's early, but great animated movies have been hard to come by in recent years, especially if they haven't come from Pixar. This is one of those films. It will be hard to beat "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" when it comes to best animated films of 2021, and it may even find itself on a few "Best of" lists just in general. Coming on the heels of "Raya and the Last Dragon" - which was also original and exceptional - when it comes to Animated Films, 2021 is off to one heck of a great start. There is nothing artificial about this intelligent, heart-warming and thoroughly enjoyable family adventure, and I can't recommend it enough."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently on Netflix.

"Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go For It"

What I Had Said About The Film: "Most documentaries made about aging stars in their twilight years come across as some sort of preemptive "In Memoriam" segment...a fond look back at a stellar career that was, but with an inherent sadness that things are wrapping up. The feeling given off by this film couldn't be more opposite. Moreno is not accustomed to looking back, and if there is one take-away, it's that the best for her may in fact, be yet to come."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Not currently streaming, TBD.

"Boss Level"

What I Had Said About The Film: "It's "Groundhog's Day" meets "John Wick," in one of the most entertaining, surprisingly funny action films you'll ever see."

Read the Full Review Here.

Where to Watch: Currently available on Hulu.