As the year comes to an end, critics and viewers alike are looking back at the selection of films that broke records in 2021. While some were tear-jerkers, others were evocative. Some were action-packed, and others tackled deeply existential issues. This year's critics' favorites include a diverse assemblage of stories.
Here's a look at the top 10 critically acclaimed films of 2021. Make sure you watch them all before the year ends!
Top 10 critically acclaimed films of 2021
10) The White Tiger
Directed by Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger is a cinematic adaptation of Arvind Adiga's 2008 novel of the same name. The film revolves around a rich, ambitious family, whose driver uses his wit and cunning maneuvers to escape from the clutches of poverty and become a successful entrepreneur.
The White Tiger was released in limited movie theaters in the United States on 13 January 2021 and was eventually released globally via Netflix on 22 January 2021. The film has a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Luca is an animated, coming-of-age fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios.
Set in the Italian Riviera, the movie revolves around Luca Paguro, a young sea monster with the ability to assume human form on land. The film follows his adventures in the town of Portorosso with his new best friend Alberto Scorfano.
Luca began streaming worldwide on Disney+ starting 18 June 2021. It has an approval rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and an IMDb rating of 7.5.
8) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Simu Liu starrer Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It revolves around a martial arts master Shang-Chi, who is forced to confront his past when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
It was released theatrically on 3 September 2021 in the US and went on to become the ninth highest-grossing film of 2021, with mostly positive reviews from the critics. The film has an approval rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Academy award-winning Nomadland is a 2020 American drama film written and directed by Chloe Zhao. It released theatrically and for streaming on Hulu in 2021.
The film follows a woman in her sixties who lost everything in the Great Recession. She embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling, modern-day nomad.
Nomadland has an IMDb rating of 7.4 and an approval rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. It received widespread critical acclaim for its direction, editing, screenplay, and cinematography.
6) Judas and the Black Messiah
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah is an American biographical crime drama that won two awards at the 93rd Academy Awards among its other numerous accolades.
The film is about the betrayal of Fred Hampton, Black Panther Party's Illinois chairman in the late-1960s. After cutting a deal with the FBI, William O'Neal infiltrated the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Fred Hampton.
Judas and the Black Messiah was released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on 12 February 2021. It has an approval rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and an IMDb rating of 7.5.
5) Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry
Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry is an American documentary film that centers on the famous pop singer and songwriter Billie Eilish. It takes a deep dive into the behind-the-stage life of the prodigious teenage singer.
The film follows her journey on the road, on stage, and at home with her family during the creation process of her debut studio album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It was released in select theaters via Neon and on Apple TV+ on 26 February 2021.
The film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96% and an IMDb rating of 7.8.
CODA is an American coming-of-age drama film that follows a hearing teenage girl who is a child of deaf adults (CODA for short). The film was an international co-production between the United States, France, and Canada. It premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on 28 January 2021 and was released in theaters and on Apple TV+ on 13 August 2021.
CODA was named one of the top 10 films of 2021 by the American Film Institute and has an approval rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes in addition to an IMDb rating of 8.1.
3) Shiva Baby
Shiva Baby is a 2020 American comedy written and directed by Emma Seligman. It was released in theaters and became available for streaming on 2 April 2021.
Shiva Baby follows a directionless young bisexual Jewish girl who has an awkward encounter with her ex-girlfriend and sugar daddy while attending a shiva with her family.
The film received positive reviews from the critics and was praised for its representation of bisexual and Jewish people. It has an approval rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
2) One Night in Miami
One Night in Miami is a 2020 American drama film that presents a fictionalized account of a 1964 meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke. They discussed the responsibility of being successful black men during the Civil Rights Movement in a room at Hampton House, celebrating Ali's surprise title win over Sonny Liston.
The film was released digitally on Amazon Prime Videos on 15 January 2021 and earned three Academy Award nominations. It has an approval rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic rating of 83%.
Minari is a 2020 drama film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung and is a semi-autobiographical take on Chung's upbringing. The film follows a family of South Korean immigrants who try to make it in the rural United States during the 1980s.
Minari was released theatrically via virtual cinema on 12 February 2021. The film received wide critical acclaim and several nominations. Youn Yuh-jung, who portrayed Soon-ja in the film, received an Academy Award for her performance, making her the first Korean to win it.
The film has an approval rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic rating of 89%.