The best films of 2021: 5–2
- Emma Simmonds
- 15 December 2021
We count down more highlights from another strong cinematic year
As we zero in on our number one, here's our latest selection of the year's top movies, from a sci-fi spectacular to a family fable
Humane and hilarious, this impeccably judged dramedy from Ben Sharrock finds a Syrian asylum seeker (movingly played by Amir El-Masry) temporarily rehoused on a remote Scottish island in frequently farcical circumstances. Recalling the films of the wonderful Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, it sees our hero find friendship, get to grips with the quirks of local culture, and try but fail to get a mobile phone signal.
There's nothing like sci-fi spectacle done right, and Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's beloved novel bristled with tension and threw up incredible imagery as it transported us into a distant, space-faring future, whilst wiping David Lynch's disastrous 1984 version from our minds. Timothée Chalamet is the messiah-like protagonist, with Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and Stellan Skarsgård amongst the weighty support.
Telling something like his own family's story, Lee Isaac Chung gives us an utterly gorgeous portrait of domestic turmoil as a South Korean immigrant (The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun) moves his clan to rural Arkansas and turns his hand to farming in a desperate quest for a better life. With scene-stealing stuff from Alan S Kim as seven-year-old David and Oscar-winning work from Youn Yuh-jung as his salty grandmother, Minari is pure joy from start to finish.
Chloé Zhao followed up the stunning Songs My Brothers Taught Me and The Rider with a film that deservedly won her a shower of acclaim by examining a phenomenon which forces elderly, impoverished Americans to live wild and free. In an awards season that lacked flashier rivals, Nomadland's serenity, spirituality and non-judgementalism cut through, taking home three Oscars earlier this year for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for Frances McDormand, who brought the project to Zhao.
Find out on Friday which film made the top slot.