Top movies of 2021

If 2020 was a shock to the movie-going system, 2021 was – in many ways – worse. Lockdowns, delays and uncertainty cruelled both the Australian and international film industries. Many studios deferred their biggest releases, hoping for smoother sailing ahead. As a result, it was no coincidence that the two biggest films at the box office according to BoxOfficeMojo (Spider-Man: No Way Home and No Time to Die) were released late in the year. Around 260 films were officially released in Australian cinemas over the year, but that figure is slightly misleading. Many (including some notable releases from acclaimed directors) appeared for a week or two before moving to streaming services.

As always, the quality was mixed. True blockbusters were comparatively few, although four of the top 10 – Spider-Man, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Black Widow – were all part of the Marvel stable. The relative lack of these “big” films left at least a little “free air” for smaller films. The fact indie films like Nomadland and Promising Young Woman were relatively high on the box office tables says something. But then again, so does the fact they were both easily outpaced by F9: The Fast Saga and the lacklustre Peter Rabbit 2.

Apart from Marvel, another “winner” was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who featured in In the Heights, tick, tick… Boom! and Encanto. The downside was that (thanks largely to pandemic-related delays), they all came out at once, prompting a reaction. It wasn’t so much as backlash as a weariness with so many LMM songs ringing from cinema speakers.

Top directors like Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson all had new films released. Though perhaps the biggest news for Down Under film buffs was the return – after nearly 10 years – of Jane Campion to the scene. On the local front, some wonderful Australian films were released; among them The Dry, High Ground and Long Story Short (the latter being the highest grossing local film). But when the AACTAs came around, it was the controversial and arguably marginal Nitram that took top honours.

So to our critics’ lists of the top 10 films of 2021

Other reviews you might enjoy: