24 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2021 On Netflix UK

Staff & contributors

Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2021. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

Difficult but essential viewing, Procession tracks the progress of six men undergoing art therapy—specifically, by creating short filmed scenes to process their trauma from being sexually abused by Catholic priests. The resulting films we get to see are wildly varied in the emotions they express, forming a rich and powerful tapestry of the effects abuse can leave on individuals. And to see these men confront the worst events of their lives through filmmaking begins to feel like validation for filmmaking itself, that it can truly be an art form that changes and saves lives. But even more striking, somehow, is the unbreakable bond that forms among these survivors throughout this entire process, captured with reverence and overflowing compassion by director Robert Greene.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dan Laurine

Director: Robert Greene

One of the most thrilling biographical films to come out of Hollywood in the 2020s, Shaka King's exhilarating take on a truly remarkable leader within the Black Panther Party—and the young man who would eventually be twisted into betraying him—also provides a respectful, honest space to voice out progressive views that still aren't fully embraced in the United States. Much of the film is made up of beautiful, powerful rhetoric, contrasting in fascinating ways with scenes of violence or deception that only remind us how ahead-of-his-time chairman Fred Hampton was and still is. And in a thunderous, Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Kaluuya brings all of Hampton's words roaring to life while still reminding us of how tragically young this inspirational figure was at the time of his death.

But Judas and the Black Messiah tells an equally powerful second story over this one: that of FBI informant William O'Neal who reluctantly agrees to sell Hampton to the feds, and quickly realizes that he's been scammed too. Rivaling—and, arguably, besting—Kaluuya's performance is LaKeith Stanfield, whose tortured and increasingly despairing performance as O'Neal is the stuff of pure Shakespearean drama. Together, both stories ask us what real freedom looks like, and that we believe we can still fight for it.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Algee Smith, Amari Cheatom, Amber Chardae Robinson, Ashton Sanders, Caleb Eberhardt, Chris Hahn, Daniel Kaluuya, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Fishback, Dominique Thorne, Graham Lutes, Ian Duff, Ikechukwu Ufomadu, James Udom, Jermaine Fowler, Jesse Plemons, Khris Davis, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Linda D Gaines, Martin Sheen, Nicholas Velez, Nick Fink, Robert Longstreet, Terayle Hill

Director: Shaka King

A healthy mix of despair and self-deprecation has always been Bo Burnham's signature, but Inside takes it to the next level. It's a deconstructed film, rather than a simple one-night special; a one-man-show that constantly undercuts itself. Even more so, it sabotages its own immersive qualities and explores the depths of self-loathing by turning oneself into comedy material. Some may say, it's a classic move, but the pandemic reality and Burnham's unkempt look predispose us to embrace all the cringe (YouTube reactions), quirkiness, (the sock puppet), and frightening angst (suicide jokes) he puts forward. Emotional rawness and a polished DIY look fits the Netflix bill, but as far as the content goes, this one goes straight to the world heritage lockdown archives.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bo Burnham

Director: Bo Burnham

Rating: R

One of the most overlooked films in recent years, Boiling Point is an intense British drama about the life of a head chef. We get to view his world for exactly 90 minutes and, yes, it is all shot in one go. No camera tricks or quirks, just pure filmmaking. Many other movies have tried to capture the chaotic life inside the restaurant business, but none have worked quite well as Boiling Point.

Working alongside the phenomenal actor Stephen Graham, director Philip Barantini hits it out of the park in his second feature-length film. Together, they bring to life some of the most unnerving 90 minutes ever put to film. Think Uncut Gems but with Gordon Ramsay as the lead.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Áine Rose Daly, Alex Heath, Alice May Feetham, Caroline Garnell, Daniel Larkai, Diljohn Singh, Gary Lamont, Hannah Traylen, Hannah Walters, Hester Ruoff, Izuka Hoyle, Jason Flemyng, Kieran Urquhart, Kimesha Campbell, Lauryn Ajufo, Lourdes Faberes, Malachi Kirby, Philip Hill-Pearson, Ray Panthaki, Robbie O'Neill, Rosa Escoda, Stephen Graham, Stephen McMillan, Taz Skylar, Vinette Robinson

Director: Philip Barantini

This Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of the events leading up to the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8372 Bosnian Muslims were killed. It focuses on one U.N. worker who was caught between trying to protect her family, herself, and helping people in need.

The film is as horrific as it is relevant: up until the actual killing starts, people are constantly being assured that everything is under control and that there is no reason to panic. This gives an eerie feeling of resemblance to the tone many minorities in distress receive nowadays.

Still, Quo Vadis, Aida? stops at depicting any of the acts that were committed that day. Instead, it focuses on Aida’s unrelenting race against the clock to save whatever she can.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Alban Ukaj, Boris Isaković, Boris Ler, Dino Bajrović, Dražen Pavlović, Emina Muftić, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Ermin Bravo, Ermin Sijamija, Izudin Bajrović, Jasna Đuričić, Job Raaijmakers, Joes Brauers, Johan Heldenbergh, Juda Goslinga, Micha Hulshof, Raymond Thiry, Reinout Bussemaker, Rijad Gvozden, Sanne den Hartogh, Sol Vinken, Teun Luijkx

Director: Jasmila Žbanić

Belfast stars Outlander’s Caitríona Balfe as the mother of a working-class Northern Irish family during The Troubles. Religious tension and the lack of opportunities put the family in a difficult position: they're the first in many generations to think about leaving the city of Belfast. They all have to navigate so many difficult questions on belonging, religion, and identity.

The story,  based on the director’s own childhood, is packaged in a noise-canceling black and white format. Also stars Judi Dench.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Bríd Brennan, Caitriona Balfe, Chris McCurry, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, Conor MacNeill, Drew Dillon, Elly Condron, Gerard Horan, Gerard McCarthy, James O'Donnell, Jamie Dornan, John Sessions, Josie Walker, Jude Hill, Judi Dench, Kit Rakusen, Lara McDonnell, Leonard Buckley, Mairéad Tyers, Mark Hadfield, Michael Maloney, Olive Tennant, Oliver Savell, Orla McDonagh, Sid Sagar, Turlough Convery, Vanessa Ifediora, Victor Alli

Director: Kenneth Branagh

The Hand of God is the autobiographical movie from Paolo Sarrantino, the director of the 2013 masterpiece The Great Beauty. He recently also directed The Young Pope with Jude Law and Youth Paul Dano, both in English. He is back to his home Italy with this one. 

More precisely, he’s in his hometown Naples, in the 1980s, where awkward teenager Fabietto Schisa’s life is about to change: his city’s soccer team Napoli is buying the biggest footballer at the time, Diego Maradona.

Sarrantino, who is also from Naples, made this movie that is half a tribute to the city and half to what it meant growing up around the legend of Maradona.

The Hand of God is to Sarrantino what Roma was to Alfonso Cuarón, except it’s more vulgar, fun, and excessive. It is equally as personal though, and it goes from comedy to tragedy and back with unmatched ease.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alessandro Bressanello, Alfonso Perugini, Betti Pedrazzi, Birte Berg, Ciro Capano, Cristiana Dell'Anna, Daniele Vicorito, Dora Romano, Enzo De Caro, Filippo Scotti, Lino Musella, Luisa Ranieri, Marina Viro, Marlon Joubert, Massimiliano Gallo, Monica Nappo, Renato Carpentieri, Sofya Gershevich, Teresa Saponangelo, Toni Servillo

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

The Father is a compelling inner look at the ways dementia distorts memories. By occupying the unstable headspace of 80-year-old Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), the film allows us to experience his frustration and confusion firsthand. We, too, are unsure about the ever-shifting details we’re presented with. Conversations are circular and time seems inexistent. The faces we know are swapped with names we don’t know. Even the tiniest elements, such as the wall tiles and door handles, are constantly changing in the background. We grasp for the slippery truth with Anthony but always come up empty and unsure.

In a thoughtful move by director Florian Zeller, we also get a glimpse of the lives surrounding Anthony. The daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), in particular, is often the victim of her father’s tirades, but she takes care of him still, conflicted as to where to draw the line between his needs and hers. 

With its fluid editing, subtle detail-swaps, and empathic portrayal of characters, The Father is just as technically impressive as it is movingly kind.

Genre: Drama, Family, Mystery

Actor: Anthony Hopkins, Ayesha Dharker, Brian Rodger, Evie Wray, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Roman Zeller, Romulus Stoicescu, Rufus Sewell, Scott Mullins

Director: Florian Zeller

Rating: PG-13

All the synopses going around the internet won’t fail to let you know that The Falls takes place at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. The film is certainly marketed that way, with commercial posters featuring the leads in ubiquitous face masks, socially distanced from the blurred crowd. 

But interestingly, The Falls is not just a situational, pandemic-era story. More than anything else, it tells the story of Pin-wen and Xiao Jing, mother and daughter who, despite previously living a life of comfort, are now dealt with unfavorable circumstances (exacerbated but not entirely caused by the pandemic). Now, they are forced to navigate life with only each other, and it’s in the isolation they instate from the rest of the world do they forge a genuine and heartwrenching bond any and all family members will immediately recognize and perhaps even sympathize with. 

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Alyssa Chia, Chen Yi-wen, Chen Yiwen, Gingle Wang, Guan-Ting Liu, Huang Hsin-Yao, Kuan-Ting Liu, Lee-zen Lee, Liang-Tso Liu, Shao-Huai Chang, Shau-Ching Sung, Tiffany Hsu, Waa Wei, Yang Li-yin, Yi-Wen Chen

Director: Chung Mong-hong

Rating: Not Rated

, 2022

Based on a true story, Darin J. Sallam’s controversial debut feature Farha is, at heart, a brutal coming-of-age film. Set in 1948, the film is about a girl who gets locked into her family’s storeroom at the start of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe. Sallam’s choice to limit most of the film’s perspective to that small storeroom is brilliant – in some ways, it echoes the surrounding discussion about the conflict. Most of what the world knows of Palestine is limited due to having to deal with censorship, lost records, and only hearing word-of-mouth stories from ancestors who just barely survived. But what we see is already too horrific to begin with. And what the film knows is the tragedy of losing your home - having to leave childhood, leave your dreams, and leave a vibrant and living culture in order to survive.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Ali Soliman, Ali Suliman, Ashraf Barhom, Sultan Alkhail

Director: Darin J. Sallam

Rating: TV-14

You don't need to be familiar with the rest of the Rurouni Kenshin live-action movie series—or the original manga and anime, for that matter—to appreciate The Beginning as a powerful period drama in its own right. This is a story that courses its historical context about a tumultuous time in Japan's past through a stoic, fearsome protagonist who can't seem to escape the violence that's become his only function. And even more impressively, as a prequel, the film keeps a heavy sense of dread about it, even if you're sure about which characters are meant to survive in order to appear in the previous films. It's the mark of any great tragedy that even the things that are destined can still feel so painful.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Romance

Actor: Eiki Narita, Eita Okuno, Emi Takei, Hoshi Ishida, Issey Takahashi, Kasumi Arimura, Kazuki Kitamura, Kinari Hirano, Makiko Watanabe, Mansaku Ikeuchi, Masanobu Ando, Masataka Kubota, Mayu Hotta, Nijiro Murakami, Shima Onishi, Soko Wada, Takahiro Fujimoto, Takeru Satoh, Towa Araki, Wataru Ichinose, Yosuke Eguchi

Director: Keishi Otomo

Rating: R

Even if you aren't familiar with the original, Tony Award-winning Broadway production from Lin-Manuel Miranda, this adaptation of In the Heights is still infused with the same infectious energy and loaded with many of the same eclectic songs. This is musical theater at its most fundamental (cheesy, us-against-the-world romance; unstoppable optimism) and also at some of its most unique—with old-school Broadway numbers mixing seamlessly with hip hop, Latin dance, and cheery 2000s pop. But beyond its music, In the Heights offers a gorgeous tapestry of stories about life in a proud immigrant community and the challenges of staying rooted to home while reaching for the stars.

Genre: Drama, Family, Music, Romance

Actor: Anthony Ramos, Ariana Greenblatt, Christopher Jackson, Corey Hawkins, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dascha Polanco, Dean Scott Vazquez, Gregory Diaz IV, Javier Muñoz, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony, Mateo Gómez, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Olivia Perez, Patrick Page, Ryan Woodle, Seth Stewart, Stephanie Beatriz, Susan Pourfar, The Kid Mero, Valentina

Director: Jon M. Chu

After receiving virtually unlimited funding from a wealthy businessman, Lola (played by the always excellent Penelope Cruz) sets out to mount an ambitious adaptation of a bestselling novel. To make her vision work, she employs renowned actors Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez) and Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas), knowing full well that their opposite philosophies in art and life will clash. What follows is a series of preps and rehearsals that play out like social experiments in their twistedness, which all in all speak to the outrageousness of film, art, and life itself.

In this Spanish dark comedy, no one is spared from satire—from the idiosyncratic auteur down to the sell-out actor, all are parodied in equal measure, each of their egos broken down in great and hilarious detail.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ana Belén, Antonio Banderas, Daniel Chamorro, Irene Escolar, Isabel García Lorca, José Luis Gómez, Juan Grandinetti, Ken Appledorn, Manolo Solo, María Guinea, Mary Ruiz, Melina Matthews, Mónica Bardem, Nagore Aranburu, Oscar Martinez, Penélope Cruz, Pilar Bergés, Pilar Castro, Sue Flack

Director: Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn

Rating: R

With its origins as a full-length rock monologue, it's understandable if Tick, Tick... Boom! comes off as overly concerned with its protagonist's personal anxieties and not the larger social and health crises happening right outside his door. But while it really doesn't offer much insight into the AIDS epidemic, or even the art scene of 1990s New York, the helplessness that Jonathan Larson feels in the face of his own inability to save the world comes off as honest expression nonetheless. Andrew Garfield and a strong cast that includes Robin de Jesús and Vanessa Hudgens give purpose and energy to this somewhat messy character study that still manages to land its emotional beats.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Adam Pascal, Alex Lacamoire, Alexandra Shipp, André De Shields, Andrew Garfield, Bebe Neuwirth, Ben Levi Ross, Bernadette Peters, Beth Malone, Bradley Whitford, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chad Beguelin, Chita Rivera, Christopher Jackson, Chuck Cooper, Danielle Ferland, Danny Burstein, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Eddy Lee, Ehizoje Azeke, Eisa Davis, Elizabeth Chestang, Gizel Jimenez, Howard McGillin, Ilia Jessica Castro, Jeanine Tesori, Jelani Alladin, Joanna Adler, Joel Grey, Joel Perez, Jonathan Larson, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, Judy Kuhn, Ken Holmes, Laura Benanti, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Shaiman, Mason Versaw, Micaela Diamond, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Nick Blaemire, Phillipa Soo, Phylicia Rashād, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Ricardo Zayas, Richard Kind, Robin de Jesús, Roger Bart, Ryan Vasquez, Sheila Tapia, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Levenson, Tariq Trotter, Tom Kitt, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Vanessa Hudgens, Wilson Jermaine Heredia

Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Rating: PG-13

, 2021

Beautifully directed and blessed to be led by the wonderfully gentle and curious dog Zeytin, Stray commits to its unique point of view by reimagining Istanbul as a place made up of cars, torsos, and trash on the street. Such constraints on one's filmmaking might make it seem like director Elizabeth Lo is in the perfect position to manipulate her animal characters in order to get the "story" she wants, but it genuinely never feels that way. If anything, Zeytin is the one who pulls Lo into orbit, and there's a sense that the director is simply recording what the dog is revealing to us about human beings' daily rituals and how they end up creating structure, culture, and (sadly) outcasts from this culture.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Elizabeth Lo

Rating: NR