Newsflash! 2021 has been a weird year. For everything. In the entertainment world, the year began with studios fully unsure movies would even come out. Thanks to the vaccines, we have an absolutely stuffed holiday movie schedule. (Of course, still abide by your city’s health ordinances and your own comfort level.) But that means there have been a blessedly high number of genre movies of various sizes and types that have found an audience. This list is based on my personal preference through the lens of Nerdist as a whole. So think of these as Kyle Anderson’s top 10 Nerdist movies of 2021.
This list will be alphabetical, because we’ve been through enough without having to resort to the pain of trying to rank things. So away we go!
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
I saw this one via Fantasia Fest in August, and boy did I love it. It’s a clever, one-shot take on a timeloop movie. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of lo-fi time travel flicks, but this endearing comedy from Japan has the owner of a cafe learn that he can communicate with himself in the past via two computer monitors, one in his apartment, and one in the cafe. Things get out of hand very quickly as the filmmakers stretch the concept, but at the core it’s a sweet little romantic comedy. With time cops.
We were hoping against hope Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of (the first half of) Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi tome would finally live up to the promise of the source material. Not only weren’t we disappointed, it completely shattered expectations. From the design of the planets and societies to the fantastic sound-based score from Hans Zimmer everything about the aesthetic worked beautifully. And you really can’t beat a cast like that. We cannot wait for part two to see the next part of Paul and Lady Jessica’s journey.
The Green Knight
One of the movies that got pushed back a whole year because of the pandemic. The dark fantasy take on Arthurian myth was lavish without being lush, and enigmatic without being unknowable. We have never seen a movie quite like the one David Lowery gave us. It changed a lot about the myth, but in fascinating and modern ways. Plus there’s a cute talking fox, which will always give it points in our book.
In the Earth
I’m a huge Ben Wheatley fan, and I think he does eerie, hallucinatory horror better than just about anyone. Wheatley made this horror flick during 2020 and it takes place during some fictional future pandemic. But that’s all sort of window dressing to get to the real meat of the piece, which is a pair of scientists out in the wilderness who happen upon a reclusive scientist who has communed with some kind of strange nature spirit which has turned him homicidal. It’s a surprisingly effective, quite scary movie. And trippy as hell.
Last Night in Soho
Edgar Wright’s most straightforward horror movie mixes ’60s style and a killer soundtrack with elements of Italian Gothic and giallo cinema. A young fashion student rents a flat in an old building in Soho and begins experiencing hypnotic, vivid hallucinations of life in the 1960s through the eyes of a go-getting wannabe singer. Unfortunately the gloss wears off pretty quickly and a decades-old murder mystery plot unravels. But it sort of isn’t about any of that. Maybe the movie that rewarded me most on repeat viewing of any of these.
Let Guillermo del Toro make all the movies set in 1940s sideshows he wants. More of them. More I say! He and co-writer Kim Morgan mounted a very handsome and divinely bleak look at hucksters and charlatans in middle-America on the brink of World War II. While the director’s work is always preoccupied with monsters, this movie shows us how it doesn’t take much to push normal people toward the bestial.
No Time to Die
It really could have gone either way with Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond. While his first and third entries were excellent, his second and fourth were decidedly not. But what we got, in addition to excellent action direction from Cary Joji Fukunaga, was a surprisingly heartfelt and sentimental farewell. It really looks at what such a man would be like after years of being a brash secret agent and how he could possibly say goodbye to all that. It’s a long movie, but quite a rewarding one.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Yes, this movie is just barely coming out, and no spoilers, don’t worry, but we absolutely loved this movie. It’s not just the third of Tom Holland’s MCU/Sony Spider-Man movies; it’s an exploration of what it means to even be Spider-Man in the first place. What does it mean for him to have great power and great responsibility? How does he cope with villains he’s never met who already hate him? Can he, like Peter Parker always wonders, be a superhero and have a normal life? It’s also just a blast.
The Suicide Squad
Speaking of blasts. I’ve watched James Gunn’s sort-of follow-up to the terrible 2016 movie more than any other new release this year. I just think it’s the perfect synthesis of everything great about DC’s wide array of villains who aren’t just one-note baddies. It’s very funny, but also surprisingly sad at times. Gunn wasn’t afraid to actually kill characters we care about. It’s clever and exciting and just the most fun I had watching any movie in 2021.
Look, it’s not every year we get to put the Cannes Palme d’Or winner on our list of best genre movies. It almost does a disservice to Julia Ducournau’s second feature to even describe it. Her feature debut, Raw, shocked and pushed boundaries in some very unpleasant ways; Titane does the exact same thing, while also seemingly giving even fewer effs about everything. It’s a horror movie, a dark comedy, a sci-fi movie, and a touching story about loss, grief, and loneliness all in the same film. I watched the last 25 minutes of it with my hands on my head and I can’t think of any higher praise than that.
Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!
Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks