Last year was a rough one for Hollywood, with COVID-19 shuttering production for months and closing theaters in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. But there was light at the end of the tunnel in 2021, with most of the delayed films from last year finally making their debut in some form or another. The Marvel Cinematic Universe made a triumphant return, while long-awaited remakes and sequels will hit screens alongside plenty of new indie gems. Here are the best new releases we saw this year.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Ever since its debut at the Venice Film Festival, Chloé Zhao’s based-on-real-life drama kept on gathering buzz, and went on to win Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars. Starring Frances McDormand in an Oscar-tipped performance, Nomadland follows the story of a woman who leaves her small-town life behind after a job loss. She sells most of her possessions, buys a van, and sets out to travel around the country. Struggling to find work on the road, she’s introduced to the nomad lifestyle and develops survival skills that redefine her attitude toward the world.
Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins. Need we say more? This Oscar winner and guaranteed tearjerker centers on an aging man (Hopkins) who is finally forced to overcome his pride and confront the memory loss he’s long been denying when his daughter (Colman) moves into his flat to take care of him. Described by critics as a devastating portrayal of dementia, The Father is tough but essential viewing.
Coming 2 America
A dizzying number of sequels and remakes came down the pike this year, but few are as intriguing as this sequel to the iconic 1988 rom-com. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall reprise their roles as Prince Akeem Joffer and Semmi in the sequel, which sees the prince dealing with an unexpected personal crisis on the eve of his coronation as King of Zamunda. After discovering that he has a long-lost son in America, Akeem sets out to find him and fulfill his father’s dying wish.
No Time to Die
Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as 007 is intriguing for a number of reasons, even if you’re not typically a Bond person—chief among them the fact that Phoebe Waller-Bridge worked on the script. Given the long history of thinly veiled chauvinism baked into this franchise, the idea of Waller-Bridge getting her teeth into Bond is hard to resist. Set five years after the events of Spectre, No Time To Die begins with Bond coming out of retirement to face down Rami Malek’s villain, described as “a danger the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
A Quiet Place Part II
John Krasinski’s hit horror movie A Quiet Place won over audiences three years ago with a deceptively simple yet haunting premise: What if making any sound at all could get you killed? This sequel sees Emily Blunt reprising her role as the newly widowed Evelyn Abbott, who must continue fighting to protect her children from mysterious sound-seeking monsters in a post-apocalyptic world. Cillian Murphy joins the cast, while Krasinski returns in flashback form.
In the Heights
The debut of Hamilton on Disney+ was a much-needed bright spot in the garbage year that was 2020, so the long-awaited release of the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical couldn’t be more welcome. Directed by Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M. Chu, In The Heights takes place in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights, where Miranda grew up, and follows a bodega owner (Anthony Ramos) torn between two futures. Should he stay in America, or move to the Dominican Republic, where he just inherited a fortune?
Can you even believe it’s only been six years since the Zola Twitter thread went viral? Time has lost all meaning—but the good news is, if you need a refresher on this absolutely wild saga, the movie adaptation finally hit screens this year. The thread written by Aziah ‘Zola’ Wells recounts what happens after Zola befriends a woman named Jessica while serving her at Hooters. Jessica persuades Zola to road trip from Detroit to Tampa in order to make money stripping, and things…do not go entirely to plan. Taylour Paige stars as Zola, along with Riley Keough as Jessica and Nicholas “Cousin Greg” Braun as Jessica’s dimwitted boyfriend.
The Many Saints of Newark
Making a sequel—or in this case, a prequel—to a show as acclaimed as The Sopranos is a fraught prospect, but David Chase’s much-anticipated crime drama is unlikely to let fans down. Set in 1960s New York, The Many Saints of Newark delves into tensions between the Italian-American and Black communities, laying the groundwork for what’s to come in the show while also exploring Tony Soprano’s childhood. In a moving touch, the young Tony is played by the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini (pictured), and the all-star cast also includes Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, and Vera Farmiga.
After Black Widow, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued this year with Eternals. Led by an ensemble cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, and Richard Madden, the movie follows a race of immortal aliens who’ve lived undercover among humans for centuries, but have to come out of hiding and join forces to defend Earth from their ancient enemies.
Streaming on Disney+ starting Jan. 12, 2022.
Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s hugely influential sci-fi novel was already one of the most feverishly anticipated movies of 2020, even before the coronavirus pandemic delayed it along with so many other blockbusters. It’s not easy to pithily summarize Dune, but the saga depicts a universe in which the ownership of planets is divided up among noble families, inspiring plenty of power struggles. Oscar Isaac stars as a nobleman in charge of a brutal and treacherous desert planet. Alongside his son (Timothee Chalamet) he must protect his territory in an intergalactic battle and oversee the mining of a powerful spice that gives people superpowers.
West Side Story
Blending the romantic melodrama of Romeo and Juliet with the energizing thrills of a Broadway show, West Side Story is exactly the kind of escapism we could all use in 2021. Adapted from the iconic musical, the movie follows the passionate but ill-fated love affair between Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler), whose ties to rival New York street gangs threaten to tear them apart. With Steven Spielberg at the helm and Pulitzer-winning scribe Tony Kushner (Angels in America) writing the script, this big-screen take on the Sharks and the Jets is well worth the wait.
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s latest off-kilter comedy takes place at the European bureau of a Kansas newspaper and chronicles a series of separate but interconnected stories from the magazine’s final issue, all set in a fictional French city. Described as a “love letter to journalists,” the film brings together a number of Anderson regulars including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Tilda Swinton.
The Lost Daughter
Italian author Elena Ferrante is best known for her seminal Neapolitan Novels, which have been adapted into an HBO series. Based on Ferrante’s novel of the same name, The Lost Daughter is written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, won the Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay at Venice. Starring Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley and Normal People‘s Paul Mescal, the film follows a woman who becomes obsessed with a mother-daughter duo while on vacation for reasons linked to her own painful past.
Tick, Tick… Boom!
Lin Manuel Miranda’s adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical is a joyous and emotional tribute to the creative struggle. Andrew Garfield stars as the young Larson, an aspiring theater composer who’s beset by anxiety on the eve of his 30th birthday, and must navigate how to balance his relationships with his artistic ambitions. Larson went on to create the Broadway classic Rent, before dying at the untimely age of 35, which lends a moving layer to a story in which he feels he’s in a race against time.
An extraordinary drama about the complex dynamics of race in 1920s America, Passing stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as two mixed-race Black women who have been friends since childhood. After years of estrangement, the two are reunited during the Harlem Renaissance–but Irene (Thompson) is stunned to discover that Clare (Negga) has chosen to hide her heritage, and “pass” as a white woman. Actress Rebecca Hall adapted the film from the 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen, and also makes her directorial debut.
The Power of the Dog
New Zealand writer-director Jane Campion is best known for telling exceptional female-driven stories like The Piano and Top of the Lake. But her first film in a decade is an empathetic exploration of toxic masculinity, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a volatile, cruel ranch hand who taunts his brother when he brings home a new wife and her young son–until the dynamics take an unexpected turn.
Kristen Stewart stars as a fragile Princess Diana in this psychological horror story from Jackie director Pablo Larraín. Set over Christmas of 1991, the drama sees Diana preparing to spend the festive period with the royal family at their country retreat, despite the increasingly obvious discord between she and her husband Prince Charles. On the verge of a breakdown, Diana is forced to confront herself and reevaluate the direction her life has taken.
The Green Knight
You may think you have no interest in watching an adaptation of a 14th century medieval poem, but just trust us–you do. Directed and written by David Lowery, The Green Knight stars a winsome Dev Patel as Gawain, a headstrong nephew of the legendary King Arthur. Desperate to prove himself, Gawain embarks on an epic quest to confront a mysterious giant known only as The Green Knight.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below