Thanks to a global plague that shall not be named from 2020, most studios decided to delay their releases until 2021. There was no point in releasing movies into a market that just wasn’t going to watch them, which led to a dearth of content last year. We’ve said that 2020 was a disaster of a year that had some bright spots, but 2021 was a beacon of light in comparison. There were still some terrible movies that were released, and the state of the worst still isn’t all that great, but for the most part, 2021 gave us hope that good movies/times were on the horizon. And here we are, getting ready to discuss the best movies of 2021.
We here at Flixist reviewed a lot of movies of the past 365 days. We reviewed well over 127 over the course of 2021 and we’ve given them a variety of scores. But what we consider a movie truly being excellent, truly being great, is if it earns an 8.5 or more. In total, we’ve 13 movies are appearing on this list, with only one movie getting in the 9 range.
Being on this list should be special. You look at other film sites that ramble on for 50 entries about the best movies of the year, but at that point what makes those titles unique from each other? It’s hardly an exclusive honor if there are so many recipients. We are strict with our scores because they matter. We define an 8.5 as “one of the best films of the year. You should see it immediately, without question” and that alone should be a solid benchmark to make this list. If you’re one of the best films of the year, you deserve a list dedicated to your greatness.
So in chronological order, as well as in ascending score order, here are Flixist’s best-reviewed movies of 2020!
Recovery – 8.5
“I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a film as much as Recovery this whole year. For something that could at a first glance seem to trivialise the crisis we’ve endured [in 2020], I like to think it served the purpose that old comedies did during wartimes: keeping up morale, lampooning threats, and lifting spirits.” – Sian
Joe Buffalo – 8.5
“Skateboarding can be a magical thing. For most, it’s a fun time to push around with your friends. For others, like Joe Buffalo, it’s a necessary escape. In a documentary short where his name doubles as the subject and title, the story focuses not only on Joe, but sheds light on a discriminatory school system made to, in his words, ‘kill the Indian, save the child’.” – Nick
“I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is a small-budget film that tells a heartening story during the time of a pandemic, which unfortunately is relatable to everyone and preys on those feelings. Add in the loss of a spouse and her income, and Danny’s story hits a different note altogether. The connection she shares with her daughter is everything, and together they keep the memory of Danny’s husband alive and use it as a special bond that can’t be broken by a pandemic or lack of money.” – Nick
In The Heights – 8.5
“In the Heights delivers a Broadway experience from the comfort of a movie theater and your living room without any major concessions. It does something that many have tried and failed, and Jon Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda should be damned proud at accomplishing that.” – Jesse
“By the end, I could have laughed out loud for the joy and satisfaction that the final scene brought. It’s a pleasure to watch such mature characters easily slip back into a childlike state, years of heartbreak and disappointment melting away and miraculously de-aging them. The final scene is just so healing that it makes you want to watch it over and over again, if not to live it yourself.” – Sian
“Nearly everything about The Mitchells vs The Machines is, dare I say, phenomenal. The animation is lively, the humor is wild and eccentric, and it’s all wrapped in a package that actually has something to say and teaches applicable and valuable lessons about family and technology… Don’t let this get swallowed up by the glut of content released by Netflix.” – Jesse
Spencer – 8.6
“A stunning performance (or embodiment) by Kristen Stewart, set in sumptuous grounds with gorgeous cinematography, Spencer is an exquisite biopic of the late Princess Diana and a masterclass in filmmaking. A far cry from her earlier days, Spencer is a career-best for Stewart, a mature and thoughtful portrait of a deeply complicated woman.” – Sian
Hit the Road – 8.6
“Hit The Road has just won the London Film Festival 2021 award for Best Film, and I can’t recommend a more deserving feature. How can one sum up this film? Is it a tragi-comedy, a drama, a farce? An Iranian buddy road movie with a wild child, an ailing dog, a wayward young adult, and two diametrically opposed parents, it’ll have you speechless one minute and laughing the next.” – Sian
West Side Story – 8.6
“To me, this remake felt just as charming as the original: the songs make it feel so alive, but it’s really the innocence and grace that saint-like Zegler and cherubic Elgort bring to the roles of Maria and Tony that perfect it. They’ve certainly done Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood proud.” – Sian
Pig – 8.7
“Pig does not waste your time in the 90 minutes that it has. Each moment lasts just long enough to drive home the message, and your heart will break for its cast at least once during this experience. Pig should not be as emotionally effective as it is, but its simplicity, muted soundtrack, and small cast elevate what could have been a hammy B-movie fit for a VOD release to something special.” – Jesse
How It Ends – 8.8
“Lister-Jones takes the novel approach of using some of the collective frustrations and fears brought about [from 2020], but rather than creating something morbid and melancholy, has channelled them into a warm, big-hearted film.” – Sian
Drive My Car – 8.8
“An understated slow-burn thriller, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car is a three-hour feat I can’t recommend enough. The winner of this year’s Best Screenplay award at Cannes, it’s easy to see why it’s garnered the accolades. A masterful narrative, it moves along at just the right pace without feeling that it dragged at all, despite its runtime.” – Sian
“It is movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home that will keep the MCU strong for years and years to come. Yes, most MCU movies are enjoyable and well made and good, but every so often they’re more than that. They’re modern myths, writ large on a big screen, delivering morality, adventure, and insight. Superhero movies may dominate the box office but their continued success is because sometimes, just sometimes, they become more. Spider-Man: No Way Home is more.” – Matthew