Best Wide Release Movies 2021

Wide release? Nothing cast a wider net than Spider-Man, which saw some theaters devote all their screens exclusively to No Way Home to keep pace with demand. The movie’s fast, multiverse-crashing plot and unexpected emotional and redemptive arcs have made this another touchstone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that connected audiences and critics. Further, it was a muscular year for sci-fi and fantasy filmmaking, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Suicide Squad, and The Green Knight with its iconoclastic take on legend.

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: 114879%
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: 113930%
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: 110494%
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
#4
Adjusted Score: 108828%
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]

#5

West Side Story (2021)
91%

#5
Adjusted Score: 111860%
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

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 110590%
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

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 109340%
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

#8
Adjusted Score: 109314%
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

#9

The Green Knight (2021)
89%

#9
Adjusted Score: 106451%
Critics Consensus: The Green Knight honors and deconstructs its source material in equal measure, producing an absorbing adventure that casts a fantastical spell.
Synopsis: An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, THE GREEN KNIGHT tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev... [More]
Directed By: David Lowery

#10

Dune (2021)
83%

#10
Adjusted Score: 110162%
Critics Consensus: Dune occasionally struggles with its unwieldy source material, but those issues are largely overshadowed by the scope and ambition of this visually thrilling adaptation.
Synopsis: Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the... [More]
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

#11

Licorice Pizza (2021)
91%

#11
Adjusted Score: 106640%
Critics Consensus: Licorice Pizza finds Paul Thomas Anderson shifting into a surprisingly comfortable gear -- and getting potentially star-making performances out of his fresh-faced leads.
Synopsis: Alana Kane and Gary Valentine grow up, run around and fall in love in California's San Fernando Valley in the... [More]
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson

#12
Adjusted Score: 98776%
Critics Consensus: Demon Slayer's visually stunning animation and masterful action set pieces serve a heartfelt plot that is sure to satisfy fans.
Synopsis: Falling forever into an endless dream... Tanjiro and the group have completed their rehabilitation training at the Butterfly Mansion, and... [More]
Directed By: Haruo Sotozaki

#13

No Time to Die (2021)
83%

#13
Adjusted Score: 106169%
Critics Consensus: It isn't the sleekest or most daring 007 adventure, but No Time to Die concludes Daniel Craig's franchise tenure in satisfying style.
Synopsis: In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace... [More]
Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga

#14

Encanto (2021)
91%

#14
Adjusted Score: 101681%
Critics Consensus: Encanto's setting and cultural perspective are new for Disney, but the end result is the same -- enchanting, beautifully animated fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: The Madrigals are an extraordinary family who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a charmed place called the... [More]
Directed By: Jared Bush, Byron Howard

#15

Zola (2020)
88%

#15
Adjusted Score: 100228%
Critics Consensus: Zola captures the stranger-than-fiction appeal of the viral Twitter thread that inspired it -- and announces director/co-writer Janicza Bravo as a filmmaker to watch.
Synopsis: "Y'all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It's kind of long but full... [More]
Directed By: Janicza Bravo

#16

Candyman (2021)
84%

#16
Adjusted Score: 102142%
Critics Consensus: Candyman takes an incisive, visually thrilling approach to deepening the franchise's mythology -- and terrifying audiences along the way.
Synopsis: For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost... [More]
Directed By: Nia DaCosta

#17
Adjusted Score: 98385%
Critics Consensus: An emotionally raw and respectful portrait of Anthony Bourdain, Roadrunner marks another unflinchingly honest documentary from director Morgan Neville.
Synopsis: It's not where you go. It's what you leave behind.... Chef, writer, adventurer, provocateur: Anthony Bourdain lived his life unabashedly.... [More]
Starring: Anthony Bourdain
Directed By: Morgan Neville

#18

Black Widow (2021)
79%

#18
Adjusted Score: 102848%
Critics Consensus: Black Widow's deeper themes are drowned out in all the action, but it remains a solidly entertaining standalone adventure that's rounded out by a stellar supporting cast.
Synopsis: Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her... [More]
Directed By: Cate Shortland

#19

Belfast (2021)
86%

#19
Adjusted Score: 103386%
Critics Consensus: A deeply personal project for writer-director Kenneth Branagh, Belfast transcends its narrative deficits with powerful performances and directorial craft.
Synopsis: BELFAST is a movie straight from Branagh's own experience. A nine-year-old boy must chart a path towards adulthood through a... [More]
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh

#20

The Last Duel (2021)
85%

#20
Adjusted Score: 100368%
Critics Consensus: The Last Duel's critique of systemic misogyny isn't as effective as it might have been, but it remains a well-acted and thought-provoking drama infused with epic grandeur.
Synopsis: The Last Duel is a cinematic and thought-provoking drama set in the midst of the Hundred Years War that explores... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

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