The 50 best films of 2021 in the US: 50-31

 

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50

The First Wave

Overwhelmingly emotional documentary shot inside a New York hospital at the start of the Covid pandemic, a remarkable film that feels like it could become a time capsule. Read the full review.

49

Sabaya

Extraordinary film that follows a team of volunteers as they infiltrate the dangerous al-Hawl camp in Syria to liberate Yazidi women trafficked as sex slaves. Read the full review.

48

Worth

‘Career best’ ... Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg alongside Stanley Tucci as Charles Wolf in Worth.
‘Career best’ … Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg alongside Stanley Tucci as Charles Wolf in Worth. Photograph: Monika Lek/Netflix

Michael Keaton excels as the lawyer tasked with allocating funds for those who lost someone during the terrorist attacks in 2001, a story brought to the screen with sensitivity and care. Read the full review.

47

Boiling Point

Dizzying single-take drama featuring a potent lead performance from Stephen Graham as a chef enduring a nightmarish evening. Read the full review.

46

Last Night in Soho

Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith star in Edgar Wright’s horror-thriller that takes a trip to the sleazy heart of London’s past and toxic 60s glitz. Read the full review.

45

Titane

Quite a show ... Agathe Rousselle in Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane.
Quite a show … Agathe Rousselle in Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane. Photograph: BFA/Alamy

Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to her smart 2016 debut, Raw, is a freaky Cronenbergian body-horror that facetiously explores identity with yucky flair. Read the full review.

44

State Funeral

The eerie last rites of Stalin’s Soviet Union are enacted as massed mourners hail the dictator’s flower-clad body in a film that gives long-lost footage, assembled by In the Fog director Sergei Loznitsa, a new and unnerving lease of life. Read the full review.

43

Shiva Baby

All relative ... Rachel Sennott in family drama Shiva Baby.
All relative … Rachel Sennott in family drama Shiva Baby. Photograph: Organic Publicity

Writer-director Emma Seligman’s debut about a young woman running into her sugar daddy at a family event is an amusing, transparently personal piece, a black comedy festival of excruciating embarrassment. Read the full review.

42

C’mon C’mon

Written and directed by Thumbsucker’s Mike Mills, this coming-of-age heartwarmer, shot in classy monochrome and starring Joaquin Phoenix, oozes prestige as it tackles weighty themes. Read the full review.

41

The Reason I Jump

This documentary inspired by the bestselling book of the same title is an empathic study of nonverbal autism that takes us into the world of young neurodivergent people across the world. Read the full review.

40

New Order

Director Michel Franco leaves no room for sympathy or redemption in this violent, cynical thriller, a brutally unforgiving attack on Mexico’s super-rich that delivers a vivid warning against the consequences of inequality. Read the full review.

39

Pig

A familiar revenge thriller setup with Nicolas Cage hunting for a stolen animal turns into something quieter and stranger with an unusually restrained performance from its outsize star. Read the full review.

38

Annette

Marion Cotillard in Annette.
Marion Cotillard in Annette. Photograph: Lifestyle pictures/Alamy

Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard brim with nervous energy in this bizarre musical collaboration between Leos Carax and the Sparks brothers, which kicked off this year’s Cannes film festival. Read the full review.

37

Censor

A woman working as a film censor in the 80s is shocked to discover a horror movie that recreates a traumatic incident from her childhood in Prano Bailey-Bond’s disturbing descent into video nastiness. Read the full review.

36

Never Gonna Snow Again

A mysterious masseur visits a dysfunctional gated community in this absorbing fairytale from Polish film-maker Małgorzata Szumowska, resulting in a rich brew of strangeness in an unsettling vision of suburbia. Read the full review.

35

About Endlessness

About Endlessness
About Endlessness Photograph: PR

Swedish auteur Roy Andersson’s mesmerising odyssey to the heart of existence is a masterpiece of the human condition, ranging from the evils of war to the redemptive power of love. Read the full review.

34
The Velvet Underground

Todd Haynes’ documentary about the celebrated art rockers, with insights from former members and friends, takes its job seriously and gets under the band’s skin. Read the full review.

33

House of Gucci

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci.
Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. Photograph: Lifestyle pictures/Alamy

True-crime fashion-house drama directed by Ridley Scott as a pantomimey soap following a stylish Lady Gaga, as Patrizia Reggiano, as she plots to kill her ex, Maurizio Gucci. Read the full review.

32

I Care a Lot

Rosamund Pike is exquisitely nasty in J Blakeson’s toxic thriller, playing a black-hearted con artist who drains the bank accounts of well-off elderly patients after gaining legal guardianship of them. Read the full review.

31

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand hit top form in Joel Coen’s austere, noirish reimagining of Shakespeare’s Scottish bloodbath. Read the full review.

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