The best films of 2021: 10–6

The List's best films of 2021: 10–6

Afterlife proved a charming addition to the Ghostbusters canon

We start to count down the highlights of another strong cinematic year

With long-awaited, pandemic-delayed projects being unleashed upon appreciative audiences and more intimate films stealing the spotlight during periods of greater restriction, what a year in film it was. Many of the blockbusters delivered the goods but we've also looked beyond them to bring you our personal picks

10) Ghostbusters: Afterlife
The safest pair of hands possible, Jason 'son of Ivan' Reitman, took the reins of this much-hyped supernatural sequel, fashioning it into a real charmer. A direct descendant of the first two Ghostbusters films, Afterlife soars due to its winning gags, unimprovable casting (Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd and exceptional newcomer Mckenna Grace are joined by some familiar faces), and infectiously nostalgic and warm-hearted tone.

9) Judas And The Black Messiah
An incendiary, essential-to-know true story is recreated with style and substance by writer-director Shaka King, who takes a look at the FBI-backed infiltration of the Illinois Black Panthers in the late 1960s. Lakeith Stanfield is compellingly conflicted as the traitorous Bill O'Neal, but Londoner Daniel Kaluuya steals the show as the party's chairman Fred Hampton, lighting up the screen with his righteous fury and deservedly bagging an Oscar for his efforts.

The List's best films of 2021: 10–6

The compelling and stylish Judas And The Black Messiah

8) Drive My Car
Haruki Murakami's short story is spun into an utterly engrossing, meticulously performed drama about finding your way back from grief, whose three-hour running time absolutely flies by. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi directs Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tôko Miura in a haunting film set in and around Hiroshima, which sees Nishijima's theatre actor/director and Miura's driver forge a touching connection.

7) Spencer
After 2013's disastrous Diana, another big-screen biopic of the much-obsessed-over princess may have looked like folly. But the great Chilean director Pablo Larraín (Jackie, Ema) handles things masterfully, turning Christmas at Sandringham into a nightmare akin to The Shining. It's capped off by the inspired casting of Kristen Stewart in the title role, playing Diana shortly before her separation from Prince Charles as a rebellious outsider facing off against a fearsome Timothy Spall as the Queen Mother's enforcer.

6) Zola
This exhilaratingly modern, exuberantly bitchy film from Janicza Bravo about warring strippers is based on a Twitter thread that went viral. It stars the always-entertaining Riley Keough as the shady Stefani who suckers our eponymous heroine (Taylour Paige) into a trip to Tampa. With a majorly sketchy dude (Colman Domingo) and Stefani's more savoury but highly preposterous boyfriend (played by Nicholas Braun aka Succession's Greg) as their companions, it's not long before things go absolutely loco.

Agree or disagree? Give us your opinion on Twitter. Check out our rundown of numbers 5 to 2 on Wednesday. Tomorrow it's TV's turn with numbers 10 to 6 of this past year.