A belated welcome to 2022 with one last look back at the best releases of 2021.
As most of us are no longer full-time critics, and many other are understandably wary about seeing movies in theaters at the moment, we haven’t had the same access to films as most film critics. For that reason, many of our regular contributors respectfully dropped out this year. For those of us who did participate, these are snapshots of what we have been able to see, and what impressed us over the last year.
Also, among those we lost in 2021 was one of our own, fellow film critic and good friend Tom Keogh, who passed away from long-term health issues.
Contributors listed in reverse alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted).
Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times)
Favorite movies of 2021
My Favorite Movie of the Year: The Power of the Dog
The Movie That Gave Me the Most Joy: In the Heights
The Movie I Most Wished I Could Have Seen on the Big Screen: Passing
The Movie I’m Most Grateful to Have Seen on the Big Screen: Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Movie That Was Exactly What I Thought It Would Be, and I Loved It: The French Dispatch
The Movie That Wasn’t At All What I Thought It Would Be, and I Loved It: West Side Story
The Movie With the Most Glorious Fashion: Cruella
Richard T. Jameson
Back in 2017, the most riveting screen experience I had was season one of Mindhunter (David Fincher et al.) on Netflix. In 2021 it was another Netflix limited series, Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass, each of the seven episodes casting a spell all its own, mounting toward the extraordinary finale with its utterly unexpected swarm of conflicting emotions. Midnight Mass premiered in September. Most of the films on the Ten Best list and addenda came along later. And no, I haven’t seen Drive My Car.
1. The Lost Daughter
2. The Card Counter
3. The Power of the Dog
4. The Worst Person in the World
5. Licorice Pizza
6. Bergman Island
8. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
I’ll forgo a tenth slot if I may salute Passing, The Last Duel, Don’t Look Up, Last Night in Soho, Dune (Part One), Red Rocket, and The Night House.
1. What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Aleksander Koberidze, George/Germany)
2. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
3. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
4. Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, USA/Australia/New Zealand etc.)
6. Herr Bachmann and His Class (Maria Speth, Germany)
7. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, Romania)
8. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
9. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)
1. Drive My Car (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi)
2. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude)
3. No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh)
4. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
6. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
7. Pig (Michael Sarnoski)
8. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
9. Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman)
10. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader)
David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)
Procession (Robert Greene, US)
Swimming out Til the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhangke, China)
The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes, U.S.)
The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo, S. Korea)
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn/Uppercase Print (Radu Jade, Rumania)
Days (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)
There is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof, Germany, Iran)
Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, NZ)
Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Lili Horvat, Hungary)
Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
Passing (Rebecca Hall, US)
You Will Die at Twenty (Amjad Abu Alala, Sudan)
Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)
1. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhall, US)
2. The Green Knight (David Lowery, US)
3. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, US)
4. Spencer (Pablo Larrain, US/UK)
5. Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
6. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)
7. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, New Zealand)
8. Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, France)
9. Quo Vadis, Aida (Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
10. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)
Runners-up and honorable mentions: Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Sweden), C’mon, C’mon (Mike Mills, US), A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, Iran/France), The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, US), Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, UK), Passing (Rebecca Hall, US), Pig (Michael Sarnoski, US), Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US), The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, UK), Titane (Julia Ducournau, France)
Surprises and joys:
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Josh Greenbaum) – a whimsical comedy played for utter absurdity that came along just when I needed a belly laugh.
Get Back (Peter Jackson) – an utterly immersive experience and an unexpectedly joyous exploration of creation and collaboration.
The Seattle Film Critics Society will announce their 2021 awards on January 17.
Polls / Lists
Remembering those we lost in 2021