Best Movies 2021

The Best Movies category awards the best-reviewed film regardless of their release, whether they went straight to streaming or swung onto the silver screen. Spider-Man: No Way Home became the mega-cultural event that would entice moviegoers back into theaters, and it lived up to the hype for critics, as well. It was a music-filled year with In the Heights, West Side Story, and Summer of Soul. On the heavy side, some big tomatoes for Pig and a career-best Nicolas Cage, Jane Campion’s first-in-11-years The Power of the Dog, and A Quiet Place Part II, everyone’s collective exhalation through horror. Meanwhile, Raya and the Last Dragon, The Mitchells vs the Machines, and Coda brought representative, progressive ingredients to family storytelling.

The order reflects Tomatometer scores (as of December 31, 2021) after adjustment from our ranking formula, which compensates for variation in the number of reviews when comparing movies or TV shows.

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 114410%
Critics Consensus: A bigger, bolder Spider-Man sequel, No Way Home expands the franchise's scope and stakes without losing sight of its humor and heart.
Synopsis: For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero's identity is revealed, bringing his Super... [More]
Directed By: Jon Watts


#2

In the Heights (2021)
94%

#2
Adjusted Score: 113789%
Critics Consensus: Lights up for In the Heights, a joyous celebration of heritage and community fueled by dazzling direction and singalong songs.
Synopsis: The creator of "Hamilton" and the director of "Crazy Rich Asians" invite you to the event of the summer, where... [More]
Directed By: Jon M. Chu

#3
Adjusted Score: 110176%
Critics Consensus: Deftly interweaving incredible live footage with a series of revealing interviews, Summer of Soul captures the spirit and context of a watershed moment while tying it firmly to the present.
Synopsis: In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary-part music film, part historical... [More]

#4

Pig (2021)
97%

#4
Adjusted Score: 109577%
Critics Consensus: Like the animal itself, Pig defies the hogwash of expectations with a beautiful odyssey of loss and love anchored by Nicolas Cage's affectingly raw performance.
Synopsis: Living alone in the Oregon wilderness, a truffle hunter returns to Portland to find the person who stole his beloved... [More]
Directed By: Michael Sarnoski

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 111180%
Critics Consensus: Brought to life by a stellar ensemble led by Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog reaffirms writer-director Jane Campion as one of her generation's finest filmmakers.
Synopsis: Severe, pale-eyed, handsome, Phil Burbank is brutally beguiling. All of Phil's romance, power and fragility is trapped in the past... [More]
Directed By: Jane Campion

#6

CODA (2021)
96%

#6
Adjusted Score: 109929%
Critics Consensus: CODA's story offers few surprises, but strong representation and a terrific cast -- led by Emilia Jones' brilliant performance -- bring this coming-of-age story vividly to life.
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the sole hearing member of a deaf family -- a CODA, child of deaf adults.... [More]
Directed By: Siân Heder

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 108699%
Critics Consensus: Another gorgeously animated, skillfully voiced entry in the Disney canon, Raya and the Last Dragon continues the studio's increased representation while reaffirming that its classic formula is just as reliable as ever.
Synopsis: Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known... [More]

#8

West Side Story (2021)
92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 111129%
Critics Consensus: Steven Spielberg's West Side Story presents a new look at the classic musical that lives up to its beloved forebear -- and in some respects might even surpass it.
Synopsis: Love at first sight strikes when young Tony spots Maria at a high school dance in 1957 New York City.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 110594%
Critics Consensus: A nerve-wracking continuation of its predecessor, A Quiet Place Part II expands the terrifying world of the franchise without losing track of its heart.
Synopsis: Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they... [More]
Directed By: John Krasinski

#10
Adjusted Score: 107366%
Critics Consensus: Eye-catching and energetic, The Mitchells vs. the Machines delivers a funny, feel-good story that the whole family can enjoy.
Synopsis: Young Katie Mitchell embarks on a road trip with her proud parents, younger brother and beloved dog to start her... [More]
Directed By: Mike Rianda

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 110304%
Critics Consensus: Enlivened by writer-director James Gunn's singularly skewed vision, The Suicide Squad marks a funny, fast-paced rebound that plays to the source material's violent, anarchic strengths.
Synopsis: Welcome to hell--a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst... [More]
Directed By: James Gunn

#12
Adjusted Score: 109059%
Critics Consensus: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn't entirely free of Marvel's familiar formula, but this exciting origin story expands the MCU in more ways than one.
Synopsis: Marvel Studios' "Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings" stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past... [More]
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton

#13

Shiva Baby (2020)
97%

#13
Adjusted Score: 104090%
Critics Consensus: A ruefully funny calling card for debuting director Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby transcends its sitcom setup with strong performances and satisfying insights.
Synopsis: While at a Jewish funeral service with her parents, a college student has an awkward encounter with her sugar daddy... [More]
Directed By: Emma Seligman

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 103435%
Critics Consensus: The Velvet Underground takes a fittingly idiosyncratic approach to delivering a rock documentary that captures the band as well as its era.
Synopsis: The Velvet Underground created a new sound that changed the world of music, cementing its place as one of rock... [More]
Directed By: Todd Haynes

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 102405%
Critics Consensus: The Truffle Hunters explores a world most viewers will know nothing about -- with delightfully savory results.
Synopsis: A handful of men search for rare, expensive and delicious white Alba truffles deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy.... [More]
Starring:

#16

Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020)
100%

#16
Adjusted Score: 103012%
Critics Consensus: Quo Vadis, Aida? uses one woman's heartbreaking conflict to offer a searing account of war's devastating human toll.
Synopsis: Bosnia, July 11th 1995. Aida is a translator for the United Nations in the small town of Srebrenica. When the... [More]
Directed By: Jasmila Zbanic

#17

Luca (2021)
91%

#17
Adjusted Score: 105825%
Critics Consensus: Slight but suffused with infectious joy, the beguiling Luca proves Pixar can play it safe while still charming audiences of all ages.
Synopsis: Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar's original feature film "Luca" is a coming-of-age... [More]
Directed By: Enrico Casarosa

#18

Slalom (2020)
100%

#18
Adjusted Score: 102493%
Critics Consensus: Led by Noée Abita's outstanding central performance, Slalom offers a moving account of oppression and abuse in the guise of mentorship.
Synopsis: This riveting, Cannes-selected #MeToo drama from debut filmmaker Charlène Favier follows the relationship between a teenage ski prodigy and her... [More]
Directed By: Charlène Favier

#19

Drive My Car (2021)
98%

#19
Adjusted Score: 104084%
Critics Consensus: Drive My Car's imposing runtime holds a rich, patiently engrossing drama that reckons with self-acceptance and regret.
Synopsis: Two years after his wife's unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer... [More]
Directed By: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

#20

Coded Bias (2020)
100%

#20
Adjusted Score: 102010%
Critics Consensus: Clear, concise, and comprehensive, Coded Bias offers a chilling look at largely unseen side effects of modern society's algorithmic underpinnings.
Synopsis: An exploration into the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini's discovery of racial bias in facial recognition algorithms.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Shalini Kantayya

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 103210%
Critics Consensus: Their albums may be cult favorites, but this Edgar Wright-directed documentary offers an introduction to Sparks that has something for everyone.
Synopsis: How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Edgar Wright's... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#22

Parallel Mothers (2021)
97%

#22
Adjusted Score: 102612%
Critics Consensus: A brilliant forum for Penélope Cruz's talent, Parallel Mothers reaffirms the familiar pleasures of Almodóvar's filmmaking while proving he's still capable of growth.
Synopsis: Two women, Janis and Ana, coincide in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single... [More]
Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 105099%
Critics Consensus: A strikingly assured debut for writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter unites a brilliant cast in service of a daringly ambitious story.
Synopsis: Alone on a seaside vacation, Leda becomes consumed with a young mother and daughter as she watches them on the... [More]
Directed By: Maggie Gyllenhaal

#24

Mayor (2020)
100%

#24
Adjusted Score: 101539%
Critics Consensus: A clear-eyed look at an extraordinary subject, Mayor makes essential viewing out of one politician's quest to preserve dignity in the midst of bureaucracy.
Synopsis: A look at the life of Musa Hadid, the charismatic mayor of Palestinian city Ramallah, who aspires to lead the... [More]
Starring: Musa Hadid
Directed By: David Osit

#25

Two of Us (2019)
98%

#25
Adjusted Score: 101706%
Critics Consensus: A remarkable feature debut for director/co-writer Filippo Meneghetti, Two of Us tells a deceptively complex love story while presenting a rich acting showcase for its three leads.
Synopsis: Two retired women, Nina and Madeleine, have been secretly in love for decades. Everybody, including Madeleine’s family, thinks they are... [More]
Directed By: Filippo Meneghetti

#26

Mass (2021)
95%

#26
Adjusted Score: 104749%
Critics Consensus: Mass requires a lot of its audience, but rewards that emotional labor with a raw look at grief that establishes writer-director Fran Kranz as a filmmaker of tremendous promise.
Synopsis: Years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney... [More]
Directed By: Fran Kranz

#27

Luzzu (2021)
100%

#27
Adjusted Score: 101825%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully filmed and emotionally impactful, Luzzu uses one man's story to capture the struggles of a region at a cultural crossroads.
Synopsis: A hardworking Maltese fisherman, Jesmark is faced with an agonizing choice. He can repair his leaky luzzu -- a traditional,... [More]
Directed By: Alex Camilleri

#28

Changing the Game (2019)
100%

#28
Adjusted Score: 101415%
Critics Consensus: Urgent and empathetic, Changing the Game takes an affecting and admirably nuanced look at young transgender athletes.
Synopsis: This intimate story takes us into the lives of three high school athletes from across the US -- all at... [More]
Directed By: Michael Barnett

#29

Acasa, My Home (2020)
100%

#29
Adjusted Score: 101360%
Critics Consensus: Acasa, My Home presents a powerful documentary portrait of one family's odyssey that illustrates bittersweet truths about freedom and society.
Synopsis: A rural Romanian couple and their nine children must learn to live in the big city.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Radu Ciorniciuc

#30

Sabaya (2021)
100%

#30
Adjusted Score: 101656%
Critics Consensus: Sabaya presents a scary and sobering look at human suffering -- and the efforts of those dedicated to ending it.
Synopsis: Members of a group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls who are being held as sex... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Hogir Hirori

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