As another year comes to a close, we shut the book on a year of surprising and often excellent movies. We reveal our choices for our favorite movies of year, along with some yearbook-style superlatives! Be sure to let us know which movies in 2021 connected with you!

Movie Yearbook Superlatives!

Best musical sequence

JOSH: This one is a bit tough. There were so many great musicals this year… Two in particular stood out for me, mainly because each of them depict stunning visuals meets fantastic vocals. They are the type of scenes that will go down in cinema musical history because they are so bold and memorable. For me, they are “Therapy,” performed by Andrew Garfield and Vanessa Hudgens in tick, tick… BOOM!, and “Balcony Scene (Tonight),” performed by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in West Side Story.

ALLISON: I think my favorite musical is also tick, tick… BOOM!, and by far my favorite scene is “No More,” performed by Andrew Garfield and Robin de Jesus. I also really enjoyed the lotto scene at the public pool in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other film, In the Heights: “96,000.”

Best action scene

JOSH: My #1 is definitely the big Statue of Liberty battle in Spider-Man: No Way Home despite some great competition from movies like The Suicide Squad, The Matrix Resurrections, and No Time to Die. It is perfectly executed, and plays out with big dramatic emotional beats. I loved it!

ALLISON: The only action movie I liked this year was Kate Beckinsale’s Amazon movie, Jolt. It’s not my favorite genre at all, but I loved watching Kate do her thing.

Funniest movie moment

JOSH: This is a bit of a cheat, as it technically also qualifies as a musical sequence—”Edgar’s Prayer,” performed by Jamie Dornan in Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar. Dornan gives a completely over-the-top performance full of kicks and thrusts. “Now I’m twirling, like a baby ballerina, who’s digging a hole with the force of his feet…”

ALLISON: I absolutely adored the Furby scene in The Mitchells vs. the Machines. I always was mildly terrified by my own childhood Furby talking without being provoked, so watching the giant Furby come to life was so great.

Scariest scene

JOSH: The scariest scene of the year for me comes from Shudder’s indie horror, Caveat. As our lead is trapped in a wall with a seemingly dead corpse, every time the lit hits the body, it seems to be in a different position. I had chills up my spine the entire time.

ALLISON: For me, I think the scariest film is measured by how many times I flinched while watching. A Quiet Place Part II was the first film I ever covered in theatres, and it reminded me how different a film is watching it in a theatre with an audience, rather than home alone. The most anxiety filled scene was watching Emily Blunt’s character, Evelyn Abbott, driving chaotically to avoid the monsters when they first appear in the prequel segment.

Biggest surprise

JOSH: Horror slasher Initiation was one of 2021’s biggest surprises, bringing a delightful array of thrills and chills. A whodunnit slasher that feels lifted from a bygone era, the cyber bullying takes center stage. Fans of the subgenre will love this one.

ALLISON: Shudder title, Superhost, was a great surprise for me! I expected it to be a generic horror film, but it was so unique and hilarious, and probably cumulated all my biggest fears of renting an Airbnb from a complete stranger.

Really weird award

JOSH: Obviously, you can interpret this prompt in two different ways: good-weird or bad-weird. I chose to stick with good-weird: Come True. This cerebral horror film delivers one of the biggest WTF endings I’ve ever seen. Runner-up is The Blazing World, an Alice in Wonderland-style descent into madness and the fantastical.

ALLISON: I can say with certainty that I have probably watched some of the weirdest films I ever have in my life this year alone. Prisoners of the Ghostland is a standout, as it still barely makes any sense to me. The premise of Nicolas Cage’s male parts exploding off one by one is definitely a narrative that will scar me for eternity. A good-weird film for me is definitely Chompy & The Girls. The premise of a character constructed primarily of a giant mouth who consumes people into an empty void could have easily been really dumb. However, it is really well done and full of laughs.

Quirkiest moment

JOSH: I’ll go the cute-quirky route with this one and pick a moment from the hilarious and sweet Lady of the Manor. The crazy faces Judy Greer makes in the mirror (and an adorkable laugh-out-loud fart joke) makes this underseen comedy worth its weight in gold. Runner-up status goes to the utterly bizarre Chompy and the Girls, during which a man with a grossly extended mouth lets the female lead enter, and she is transported into a trippy second dimension accompanied by the voice of Udo Kier. It is every bit as strange as it sounds.

ALLISON: The Tribeca Film Festival exposed us to a lot of fantastic films, but this year was comedically marked by Bollywood-esque, Dug Dug. I did not love the movie by any means (although it wasn’t bad either), but the scene of a street vendor consistently blowing up a pink balloon larger and larger was one I rewatched over and over again. It was so ridiculous, and is the only memorable element of that film. I assume the filmmakers feel the same way as the balloon made the poster. A close second is The Lodger, which I actually loved. A young woman and her landlord fight over a mannequin bearing the soul of the landlord’s late husband. Every time the mannequin steals the scene, I couldn’t help but laugh. Lamb‘s baby Ada, the lamb-human child hybrid, is another quirky character I enjoyed. She didn’t have to do anything except exist in a scene to be adorable.

Best dressed

JOSH: Emma Stone’s Cruella is the clear winner in a year brimming with high fashion. Runner’s up for me include Anya Taylor-Joy in Last Night in Soho, Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and Lady Gaga in House of Gucci.

ALLISON: The fashion in Last Night in Soho is all around fantastic! The scene where Cruella‘s dress is revealed in a burst of flames also steals the show.

Craziest kill

JOSH: A plethora of strong candidates for this category. Two really stick out for me: the bread-slicer death in Fear Street: Part One – 1994 and the final, emotionally devastating kill in Halloween Kills. I have to hand it to both features, in that there is no shortage of strong kills from either franchise.

ALLISON: I really don’t like kills… I have to look away. I’ll pass on this one.

Animated perfection

JOSH: This was a highly competitive year for animated movies, but none impressed me more than Pixar’s Luca. As usual, this is barely a kids film. Equal parts The Little Mermaid meets Call Me By Your Name, I was sucked into this adorable world of sea monsters and gelato.

ALLISON: The Mitchells vs. the Machines is the standout, but Vivo and Encanto were also incredibly strong offerings. Mitchells offered tons of nostalgia and comedy, while Vivo‘s and Encanto‘s not-quite-fitting-in leads are relatable. Vivo provides a great soundtrack: “My Own Drum” is one of the best animation songs this year.

MVP actor

JOSH: Between four (!) standout performances this year, there is no other answer here for me than Andrew Garfield. I have been a fan since 2010’s The Social Network, and all three of his major releases delivered in a huge way. Oh, and he can sing too.

ALLISON: I never really cared for Andrew Garfield, but he just so happens to have carried two of the best films of the year: tick, tick… BOOM! and The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He is so so good as Jonathan Larson. Leonardo DiCaprio is also insane in Don’t Look Up; he plays a character so starkly opposite from himself so well.

MVP actress

JOSH: Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye is utterly transformative and perfect, but I think my favorite of the year was Ann Dowd’s emotionally crushing grieving mother in Mass.

ALLISON: Ann Dowd absolutely shines in Mass; I will never forget her tearful emotional response to the story in the film’s virtual Q&A at Sundance. She is so incredibly talented, but clearly also one of the kindest souls on earth. Isabelle Fuhrman is fantastic in The Novice, which I watched with her sitting mere chairs away. I have never seen such an enthusiastic audience response to a performance at Tribeca. She is so intense and gripping in every scene as Alex Dall; her emotional collapse is completely palpable.

Most underrated

JOSH: Due to the appalling critical backlash for what I consider to be a very successful erotic thriller, I have to go with The Voyeurs on this one. It has all the ingredients one would want from this type of movie, sexually charged with fantastic performances. What more could did critics desire?

ALLISON: I second The Voyeurs, but also feel the same about Plan B. It had a strongly favorable response from my film critic peers, but not many people in my circle seemed to watch it. Those who did thoroughly enjoyed it! I can say the same about Finch, where I could not stop sobbing, and A Journal for Jordan, which almost no one I know has seen.

Most disappointing

JOSH: For me, quite a few movies let me down big time, but none so much as The Many Saints of Newark. As a casual Sopranos fan, it felt like a major slap in the face with little care for what came before. The framing of the revelations (and the bizarre choice to rarely focus on Tony) is frustrating indeed. The last 5 minutes should have been the starting point. What a mess. Other massively disappointing movies for me this year included Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, Prisoners of the Ghostland, and the Wrong Turn reboot.

ALLISON: I loved all the Kingsman films, and had high hopes for this year’s prequel, The King’s Man. While it wasn’t bad, it was far too focused on war for my taste, and not at all what I expected. Asking for It from Tribeca had such great potential from the fantastic cast. I thought it would be similar to one of my favorites from last year, Promising Young Woman. It was just not unfortunately.

Best performance of the year

JOSH: For all-around best performance of the year, Udo Kier is my pick. He delivers a career-best turn as a sassy gay retired stylist in Todd Stephens instant-classic, Swan Song. Who knew Kier with a pair of scissors could be so sublime?

ALLISON: This is nearly impossible for me as I watched so many fantastic performances this year. Instead of calling it best, for me, I’ll just say my favorite. Riley Keough as Stefani in Zola is pure gold. I rarely rewatch movies, and I willingly watched it three times on my own accord. Stefani is just so absurdly trashy, naive and unlikable in the best way.

Josh’s Favorite Films of the Year


Where to watch: Apple TV+

CODA is a touching movie that brings deaf culture to the forefront in a major way. The finale is one of the year’s most emotional, and Emilia Jones is revelatory.


Where to watch: Netflix

A quirky family comedy is which a road trip morphs into the robot apocalypse? Count me in! The stunning animation and bizarre scenarios pair well with the madcap energy of the narrative. Sprinkle in a heart-warming story about a girl on the cusp of adulthood, and you have one seriously great animated film.


Where to watch: VOD

Mainstream could easily be one of the most overlooked movies of the year. It’s a jumble of media-fueled insanity that was host to the first truly terrific Andrew Garfield performance I saw this year. His unhinged energy jolts through this movie like a bolt of lightning.


Where to watch: Theaters

Afterlife is a legacy sequel that truly respects the lore of what made this series fresh in the first place. Seeing this at an early screening with a packed audience at New York Comic Con felt truly magical, especially when the originals return.


Where to watch: VOD

Though I caught this one on HBO Max instead of in theaters, Malignant is nevertheless nearly perfect 80s-style schlock. I expected nothing less than perfection from James Wan. Gabriel is firmly established as one of the coolest horror monsters to come around in quite some time, and the massive set piece at the prison is absolutely fantastic.


Where to watch: Amazon Prime

God, how I missed the 90s erotic thriller. The Voyeurs mixes in the best of the forgotten subgenre with enough mystery and twists to fill several movies. The quick pace and constant shocks meant never knowing what was to come around each corner.


Where to watch: Limited theaters

Half documentary, half animation, Flee retells the harrowing story of one immigrant’s experiences grappling with his sexuality, and his lengthy journey to find his true self.


Where to watch: Disney+

Emma Stone as Cruella was a concept too irresistible to pass up, and one I had been anticipating for quite some time. I never imagined it would be nearly as good as it ended up. It’s like Disney’s The Devil Wears Prada. Best of all, it never forgets the essence of Cruella’s animated character. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson both deliver Awards-worthy performances.


Where to watch: VOD

One of the most divisive movies of the year is also one of the best pure slashers of our modern times. Halloween Kills does exactly what it promises, and brings the kills in a major way. Michael Myers absolutely decimates nearly everything and everyone that crosses his path in this one. It’s a bold, large-scale, shocking, and satisfying middle entry into David Gordon Green’s new Halloween trilogy. Now I just want to see how he’ll end it, as he has certainly set the bar high.


Where to watch: HBO Max

James Gunn is finally able to embrace his exciting vision for these characters in a semi-sequel to the original Suicide Squad movie. Not only is this one of the goriest superhero films you’ll ever see, it is just so much damn fun.


Where to watch: Disney+

The trailer promised Call Me By Your Name meets The Little Mermaid, and that is the exact tone we got. This story warmed my heart, and spoke to the true meaning of friendship. One of the most charming and adorable films in the entire Pixar catalogue, which is saying a lot considering how outstanding their output is in general.


Where to watch: VOD

A massive sci-fi epic with an all-star cast is still not the easiest thing to deliver, but director Denis Villenueve proved without a doubt he knows what he’s doing. I wish this had been filmed back-to-back with Part 2, as the story really leaves you hanging. However, this was otherwise absolute perfection. The mythology is utterly fascinating, and every single actor was perfectly cast. Timothee sticking his hand into the box became a meme for good reason.


Where to watch: Netflix

It takes tremendous effort to make one good movie, let alone an entire trilogy. All three films in this Netflix adaptation of R.L. Stine’s work are love letters to slasher movies of the past, and felt like they were made specifically with me in mind. From beginning to end, all three movies fit together like the perfect pieces of a puzzle. You never get the full story until 1666, which in turn strengthens everything that came before. I think it will be a long time before we get another trilogy as perfect as this one.


Where to watch: VOD

Candyman is a stealth-sequel rather than a remake or reboot, owing its entire existence on the mythology of old. It expands on ideas and concepts from the 1992 original, and updates it for the modern era. Everything about this movie felt fresh and organic, and that ending? One of the year’s best horror movies.


Where to watch: VOD

If you can picture a live-action version of Pixar’s Inside Out, just with souls instead of emotions, that is basically Nine Days. Meaningful, emotional, and gorgeously-filmed, I simply could not get enough of this one. I watched it over and over again, with further layers peeling back each time.


Where to watch: VOD

I was late to the party with the latest of Edgar Wright’s ridiculously impressive filmography, but Last Night in Soho proved to be well worth the wait. The bizarre plot and magical elements fold neatly into the horror of the final act. I was so swept up in the story that the final twist floored me and caught me completely by surprise. I cannot wait to watch this a second time.


Where to watch: Netflix

For even a casual Broadway fan, tick, tick… BOOM! is masterfully done. Director Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut in a movie that literally any creative will relate to on an almost spiritual level. Andrew Garfield’s transformative performance and the amazing lyrics and vocals shot this up into my top 5 favorite films of the year.


Where to watch: Hulu

All the way up until December, Swan Song remained my #1 movie of the year, and that is just a testament to the incredible script and direction from Todd Stephens. Swan Song is an LGBT love letter to a real-life person, but it also a showcase for the talents of Udo Kier, who I have never seen in a role like this one ever before. Aging in the gay community is often looked upon with a frown. Society is slowly eliminating the gay safe spaces of yesteryear as it becomes further part of the mainstream. Kier and Stephens are a dream team in a movie that will surely go down as one of my all-time favorites.


Where to watch: Theaters

The hype leading up to this newest Spider-Man was almost insurmountable, eventually leading to a box office result that broke a crazy amount of records despite the fact that we are still in the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic. Beyond the hype, there is an absolutely amazing movie, and for me, it is one of the top 3 best in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. It brings together three different generations of stories into a complete whole, while allowing Tom Holland an avenue to act his ass off in the most emotional Spider-Man entry to date. Whatever hopes and expectations I had going into the film were completely dashed. This isn’t just a great superhero movie, it’s a genuinely great film all-around.


Where to watch: Theaters

The margin between my top two favorite movies is incredibly small, but West Side Story has to be my #1 of the year. Held together by masterful direction from Steven Spielberg, this seemingly outdated musical is given a coat of new paint and a cherry-picked cast of excellent actors that outdo the 1961 movie at every turn. At over 2 and a half hours in length, the pace never drags for a second. The love story, hollow as hell in 1961, has been expanded. Every single one of the leads feels born to play their respective parts. The addition of veteran Rita Moreno as the store owner feels like a stroke of genius. Ansel Elgort plays upon his musicality and charms to be the best Tony to date. Other favorites in the movie include Ariana DeBose (who notably seems poised to snatch a Best Supporting Actress trophy), silky-voiced Mike Faist, and Rachel Zegler in a stunning debut. I have not stopped listening to the soundtrack since several days before the theatrical release. The musical’s message still endures: always choose love, never hate.

Editor’s Picks: Allison’s Favorites of 2021

Thank you for reading, and we look forward to experiencing an all-new year of excitement in 2022!

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