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Top 21 films of 2021 by local film critic Tom Santilli

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Posted at 3:11 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 15:11:00-05

(WXYZ) — 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.

I said this at the end of 2020 but I feel the same way: 2021 was certainly...a year. If anything we entered a "new normal" in which most of us were used to masking up, flashing vaccine cards and maintaining our distance. And that's just for those that didn't succumb to the virus or were too terrified to leave their houses.

But 2021 did represent a return to movie theaters, and the future looks bright. With a slew of films from 2020 held over and released into 2021 and beyond, there definitely was no shortage of content in 2021 at the box office or on the ever-increasing streaming platforms at our disposal.

I understand that there might be some films on my "Best of" list that you haven't heard of...and that's OK. I don't add them to be pretentious or to say "hey look at all of the smaller films I have access to!" But believe it or not, movies both big and small are actually way more accessible to mainstream audiences than ever before. There isn't a single movie on this list that you won't be able to find on a streaming platform or in theaters (I take that back...there is one), so I urge you to seek out the films you haven't seen on this list, and to share your feedback as to your top films of 2021.

There are two documentaries and two animated films on my list...including one that is actually an animated documentary, go figure.

There are some films that I share love for with other critics and many (too many, some might say) where I go my own way. I loathed the critical darling "The Green Knight," was only slightly warmer on P.T. Anderson's "Licorice Pizza" and only thought "C'mon C'mon" and "West Side Story" were just OK...I stand by the pure scientific fact that Jared Leto's performance in "House of Gucci" is among the worst cinematic performances and casting decisions in the history of cinema, despite his name (barf!) showing up on some "year-end" best lists...but I digress.

Having those debates is part of what I love about what I get to do for a living...so let some more of the debates begin! Here for you, is a list of my 21 Favorite Films of 2021, with the small privilege of being able to change/adjust this list as I finish out my list of "must-see" 2021 films ("Drive My Car," "Matrix: Resurrections," "The King's Man" and "The Tender Bar" are the few films I've yet to see).

One other small admission: My absolute favorite film of 2021 was "Come From Away" (Apple TV+), but since that is technically a filmed stage-play, I don't believe it qualifies for this list...but definitely seek it out.

So with that, my favorite 21 movies of 2021:

#21 "Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony/Marvel)

#20 "The Courier" (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)

#19 "Nightmare Alley" (Searchlight Pictures)

#18 "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins" (Paramount Pictures)

#17 "King Richard" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

#16 "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" (Netflix)

#15 "Nine Days" (Sony Pictures Classics)

#14 "Swan Song" (Apple TV+)

#13 "Flee" (Neon)

#12 "Blue Bayou" (Focus Features)

#11 "Spencer" (Neon)

#10 "Parallel Mothers" (Sony Pictures Releasing)

#9 "A Quiet Place Part ll (Paramount Pictures)

#8 "The Power of the Dog" (Netflix)

#7 "Respect" (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

#6 "Red Rocket" (A24)

#5 "Test Pattern" (Kino Lorber)

#4 "tick, tick...Boom!" (Netflix)

#3 "Coda" (Apple TV+)

#2 "Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street" (Screen Media Films)

#1 "Mass" (Bleecker Street)