83 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2021 (Page 4)

Staff & contributors

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

This offbeat drama is about a Syrian refugee who gets sent to a remote island in northern Scotland. “There was a better signal in the middle of the Mediterranean,” another refugee tells him when he arrives. Omar is as the title suggests stuck: until his asylum request is processed he can't work or continue his journey onwards. His situation is frustrating and difficult, but it's also full of absurdities, as Omar is stuck around some very weird people.

Limbo perfectly portrays the duality between sad and nonsensical in the refugee experience. In the entrance to the isolated and rundown facility that houses Omar, a handmade sign said "refugees welcome". The next day a "not" is added between "refugees" and "welcome", in the exact same paint. 

If you like Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's work, this has a similar brand of dark humor to his also refugee-themed 2017 drama The Other Side of Hope.

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.

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.

Minari is a film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, about a Korean-American family in search of the so-called American Dream. It is an intimate drama that is powerful yet quiet, and filled with moments of innocence. With dreamlike scoring, unique characters, and a captivating climax, this movie tugs on the heartstrings, and serves as a great reminder of the beauty of gratitude.

Thanks to these, plus winning performances across the board, Minari earned plenty of nominations at the 2021 Oscars, with Youn Yuh-jung eventually bagging the Best Supporting Actress award—a monumental first for South Korea.

The Innocents is a Norweigan thriller that follows four kids who discover they have supernatural powers over the summer. They play around and experiment in the woods nearby, but what begins as harmless fun quickly develops into something much more disturbing and sinister.

This unnerving film, a blend of fantasy and horror, doesn't waste time explaining the origins of its mysticism. Instead, it goes straight into action—bending, twisting, and splitting open anything and anyone that gets in its way. This kind of rawness is shocking given the age range of the characters, but it also works to subvert what we've come to expect from kids, youth, and goodness. The Innocents isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can manage some bloody and unhindged scenes, then it's sure worth checking out. Directed by Eskil Vogt, co-writer of critically-acclaimed films like Thelma and The Worst Person in the World

Gunda offers an empathetic look at the lives of farm animals with its minimalist approach to the nature doc. Director Victor Kossakosvsky films without a sentimental score or voice-over narration, and shoots in a sparse yet striking black and white. This decision gives the film an intimacy often missing from more traditional modes. 

We watch a sow named Gunda, her piglets, and a few other animals through their daily routines. Long natural sequences allow the viewer to sink into the zen of the animals’ natural rhythms. The result is an astounding and bittersweet film that hints at the brutalities of factory farming without ever stepping foot in a slaughterhouse.

In Compartment Number 6, two different people strike an unlikely friendship during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk. One is Laura, a Finnish student looking to observe ancient rock carvings at their destination, and the other is Ljoha, a gruff miner who hopes to secure a job once there. While the pair are initially unable to get on the same page, their friction eventually lends way to curiosity and empathy, especially as they learn more about each other and life itself.

It’s a great film to put on if you’re a fan of smart but subdued movies like the Before trilogy and Lost in Translation, and there is a lot to mine beyond their already-rich conversations, especially in terms of class and romance. It’s little wonder then that this delightful two-hander shares the 2021 Grand Prix award with another brilliant piece of art, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero.

In this office comedy of errors, Javier Bardem plays Blanco, the titular boss, but whether he is actually good is what the movie wryly examines.

As head of a small manufacturing company, Blanco treats his employees intimately, going so far as make their problems his own. He believes this is why his company is nominated for an excellence certification, but as he waits for the possible award, cracks start to appear in his “work is family” facade as everything that could go wrong, starts going wrong. The Good Boss is an anxiety fest for Blanco to be sure, but a winning tragicomedy for us all.