"Superhero films are going to destroy independent film as we know it, you just wait and see!"
So whispered one of my fellow film students as we accepted our diplomas back in 2012. Slowly but surely, CGI-loaded blockbusters would dominate every money-grubbing, stadium-seated multiplex until the last indie filmmaker was sent packing. It was only a matter of time, and it was definitely going to happen.
As he announced the Apocalypse of the very industry we were about to enter, I resisted the urge to remind him that we were graduating in the year some had declared (as recently as eight months previous) would mark the end of world as we knew it.
Instead, the past decade has turned out some of the most original, daring, and well-produced films in movie history. And for a variety of reasons we couldn't have possibly understood or predicted. Netflix's surprisingly effective shift to original content. The proliferation of additional streaming platforms that did the same. The sustained power of television to challenge and improve what showed up in theatres. The ability of of cell phones and YouTube to empower anyone with a good story idea to make it and get it out there.
Meanwhile, major disruptions within the film industry and society generally - Harvey Weinstein and MeToo, resurgent white nationalism and Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump and the political claims of the LGBTQ+ community, just to name a few - led to an irrepressible avalanche of demand for new voices, fresh perspectives, broader representation, and the exploration of subjects hitherto ignored on big and small screens alike.
By every measure, movies and TV shows have gotten better and more diverse since we left film school, with more opportunities than ever for passionate storytellers to find audiences.
2021 was no exception. In fact, I think it was one of the best years in film, period.
Here are my top 10 movies of the year, including runners up and more than a few I still need to see:
*Caveat: I don't pretend these were “the best”, just my personal faves:
2. Get Back
3. Summer of Soul
4. The French Dispatch
5. The Power of the Dog
6. Don’t Look Up
7. Spider-Man: No Way Home
8. I Care A Lot
9. No Time To Die
Licorice Pizza, West Side Story, The Hand of God, Drive My Car, Dune, Raya and the Last Dragon, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, A Quiet Place 2, The Suicide Squad, Justice League (Snyder Cut)
Still need to see:
1. Bo Burnam: Inside
2. In The Heights
4. The Green Knight
6. The Tragedy of Macbeth
7. Last Night in Soho
8. Drive My Car
9. Tick, tick…BOOM!
11. The Card Counter
12. The Worst Person In The World
13. The Night House (“best horror”)
14. Nightmare Alley
15. Swan Song
17. House of Gucci
18. Being The Ricardos
19. The Guilty
20. Psycho Goreman
22. The Killing Of Two Lovers
24. Riders of Justice
How about you? What did you love? And what story might you have locked up inside?
One thing I know for sure: there's never been an easier time to tell it.