Best films of 2021?

As 2021 comes to a close, all movie fans — especially film critics — feel pressure to reveal their lists of the year’s best films. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Many critics haven’t seen enough good films by December 31 to form an accurate list. And, sadly, that includes members of reputable groups such as the Hollywood Foreign Press and various critics circles. Most often missing from these rushed rankings are little-known independent and foreign films, documentaries that didn’t get a wide festival release and small films with no marketing budget.

But pressure is pressure. Society likes its year-end lists. And so do I. But if 2021 — a year in which I took a sabbatical from regular film reviewing — has taught me anything, it’s that some of the things that I thought mattered really don’t. So instead of pretending like my list is the cat’s pajamas and others’ are dirty laundry, I’m going to wait until closer to Oscar time to politely put forth my rankings, which, of course, keep changing as I see more movies. Until then, I’ll simply direct you to my ever-evolving Yearly List, which ranks all the feature films I’ve ever seen, by year, from 1911 to today. That’s 4,082 movies. So you better get busy watching.

But if you want a 2021 CliffNotes, do not miss Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God, Fran Kranz’s Mass and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which is probably the early Oscar favorite.

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