[best family movies]We Ranked the 10 Best Movies of 2021 (So Far), From In The Heights to Cruella
June 29, 2021 – 5:44 PM
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These are the top movies that started 2021 off with a bang. Following a year that was unprecedentedly tough on Hollywood (and on all of us) it’s been more than invigorating to see so many good reasons to go to the movies (or, of course, enjoy from home). We’ve rounded up and ranked the best movies this year that we’ve seen so far. For our list of the best movies of 2021 (so far), any feature released in the first six months of the year is fair game: we’ve included everything from family fare to horror, drama and animation, musicals and more!
In ascending order, here are the 10 best movies of 2021 so far.
Grounded more in discovery and exploration than conflict or threat, Luca is an understated, underrated pure pleasure. The voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer and Maya Rudolph star in a fantasy bildungsroman about the summer that changed everything. Imagine the intoxicating world of Call Me By Your Name in a family film—like if that movie collided with The Little Mermaid. That’s kind of what this is. It’s transporting.
Related: The Best Movies of 2020, Ranked
Welsh-born filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond‘s debut feature (as director and c0-writer) Censor plunges a harrowing tale of loss and madness into the infamous “video nasty” movement of 1980s Britain. Thanks to committed nostalgic stylishness and a gripping, gonzo central performance from Niamh Algar, this is one of 2021’s best, most novel horror films.
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I, Tonya helmer Craig Gillespie delivers a summer treat as unexpected as it is delicious: a comic crime saga that’s indeed edgy and even violent, mostly safe for families. The caper showcases brilliant work from leads Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, playing warring fashionistas. Frankly, everything works, the only minor annoyance is the obligatory sequel setup.
Cruella is smashing entertainment. Most surprisingly, it’s really good, innovative, wild filmmaking (specials props to the smoky, exquisite photography and killer retro soundtrack). Splendid as the performances are (and they really are)], the costumes by Mad Max: Fury Road Oscar winner Jenny Beavan (Stone has 47 changes in the film) are MVP here. Garments haven’t told a story like this since—well, another picture starring Stone, The Favourite.
Related: We Ranked All Disney Live-Action Remakes From Worst to Best
A juicy viral Twitter thread becomes a deliriously entertaining dark satirical feature film, thanks in no small part to yet another ripper of performance from Riley Keough, now unquestionably one of her generation’s most daring, unpredictable talents. Save for some tonal missteps and questionable taste, Janicza Bravo‘s stylish, often shocking crime thriller about strippers on a high-stakes road trip is a blast altogether, but this is the Riley Keough show. She’s awards-worthy here.
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Shaka King and Ryan Coogler‘s dramatic thriller biopic followup to Black Panther stars Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. It centers on the true story of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and FBI informant William O’Neal. Thanks to more than anything to Kaluuya’s towering, Oscar-winning tour de force, Judas and the Black Messiah delivers a powerful, timely message from American history.
Exquisite, truly unique fantasy visuals, and female protagonists we love to root for are the main draw of Blindspotting director Carlós Lopez Estrada and Moana co-helmer Don Hall‘s adventure, a winner for all ages, the best-animated movie so far this year. Star Kelly Marie Tran was shortchanged—defrauded, practically—by the abysmal Rise of Skywalker; her vocal talents shine here.
Questlove‘s jaw-dropping music film is an early frontrunner for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. The musician-turned-director presents a rocking account of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, featuring Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King and more. This is an instant classic concert film worthy of mentioning in the same breath as Gimme Shelter, Amazing Grace and The Last Waltz.
Lin Manuel-Miranda‘s long-awaited big-screen spin on his pre-Hamilton Broadway smash (from Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu) delivers the summer’s most rocking big-screen block party. Semi-autobiographical tale of big dreams romance in Washington Heights puts all-singing all-dancing phenom Anthony Ramos front-and-center. He’s one of the year’s great breakthroughs, invaluable to the movie’s success.
((Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures))
The easy route for John Krasinski‘s brilliant sequel to instant-classic claustrophobic “family horror” (or is it “mom horror?”) thriller smash A Quiet Place would have been to copy and paste its story and elegant, highly effective beats. Part II, instead, is an expansion, an unexpected new direction, with much of the heavy lifting going to truly talented, screen-commanding young performer Millicent Simmonds.
Given Part II‘s record-obliterating post-pandemic box-office haul, a third installment is inevitable. Whether he continues making post-apocalyptic thrillers or not, Part II further cements Krasinski as a modern pop auteur audiences will line up for.
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Look, 2020 was rough on all of us. Even if it was released in an alternate reality where the pandemic never happened, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo‘s follow-up to the best studio comedy so far this century (they co-wrote the Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids script) would still be sublime escapism—combining the WTF zaniness of The Naked Gun with two leads as simply endearing as Wallace and Gromit, and an inspired Jamie Dornan turn—but its spring 2021 release spun the infectious go-for-broke sunniness into something kind of profound—affecting, even.
The plot is about two middle-aged Nebraskan besties who become entangled in a super-she-villain’s nefarious plot while on Florida vacay, but the plot only matters so much. Lovingly directed by Josh Greenbaum (helmer of Becoming Bond, obviously spy-movie-obsessed) this is a showcase for world-class performers (the leads and supporting cast) to cut loose and bring out the best in each other. The enterprise never feels uninspired, and a rock-candy undercurrent keeps it from ever feeling saccharine or forced. Like Bridesmaids, it’s a celebration of tight-knit female friendship at its core. And it’s a romp, plain and simple. Surrender to its enchantments and it’s glorious.
(Courtesy of HBO Max)
Recommended honorable mentions: Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Nobody, The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
Next, check out the best family and kids movies on Netflix right now.
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