After the first of our two pandemic years, when we created last year’s preview of 2021 movies we admit we thought the year was looking iffy from a movie standpoint–so many films delayed or held back, others expected but canceled early in production, etc. All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, a smaller but still impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.
Genredom. As always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies. There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.
Come back tomorrow for our best print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees. And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2021 here and Best TV of 2021 here. Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2021:
Best Superhero Movie – Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony). Overlooked like the original Venom, sharp writing and faithful adaptation of the comics made for the best, most fun superhero movie of 2021. Runner-up: Black Widow (Disney). Despite the delays it was worth the wait, and it stands as a rewatchable and fun movie. Honorable mention: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney), a great tie-in to characters from throughout the MCU.
Best Action/Adventure Film, Best Visual Effects: Jungle Cruise (Disney), another Disney rollercoaster ride translated to the screen; a film that surprised us as the next incarnation of a Raiders of the Lost Ark-level adventure. Runner-up: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney). A solid martial arts adventure, a bus scene out of Speed, and great finale action.
Best Film, Best Drama, Best Director (Simon Stone), Best Cinematography (Mike Eley) – The Dig (Netflix). A powerful film, exploring life at the precipice of change, missed and almost missed opportunities, the fleeting nature of life, and the survival of humanity through what we leave behind. Runners-up for Best Film: The Courier (Amazon), Black Widow (Disney), one of the MCU’s best contributions.
Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Fantasy Film, Runner-up for Best Musical Score (Hans Zimmer) – Dune (Warner Bros.) – A great update to David Lynch’s version and an even better adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. More fantasy than science fiction, Director Denis Villeneuve nicely mixed a toned-down vision vs sci-fi spectacle with brief scenes of compelling actio–the novel finally received a worthy visual version. Honorable Mention for Best Sci-Fi: Black Widow (Disney), its chemical manipulation of the Russian operatives made this as much sci-fi as superhero fare; No Time to Die (MGM), its best scene was using the DNA-manipulated bioweapon to kill everyone in the room who wasn’t Bond. Runner-up for Best Fantasy Film: Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (MGM). Successfully re-established comic book and animation characters into a new cinematic universe.
Best Suspense/Thriller, Best Writing (Tom O’Connor), Best Musical Score (Abel Korzeniowski), Runner-up for Best Film, Runner-up for Best Director (Dominic Cooke), Runner-up for Best Cinematography (Sean Bobbitt) – The Courier (Amazon). True, biographical, or not, this Cold War spy thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is how to turn a true story into a movie worth seeing.
Best Costumes (Ruth E. Carter), Best Comedy Movie, Runner-up for Best Fantasy Film – Coming 2 America (Amazon). One of the best direct-to-television movies since studios started moving from movie houses to home screens. More than “just another sequel,” it was a fairy tale like The Princess Diaries, a bit A Knight’s Tale, a bit Crazy Rich Asians, and a worthy sequel in concept and art design to Black Panther. Runner-up for best Comedy: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney).
Best Animated Film – Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney). The best Disney animated film to date, filled with a great story combining all sorts of fantasy tropes, great visual action, exciting characters, good humor, blending historic themes with modern ideas and characters.
Best Animated Short, Runner-up for Best Musical Score – Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (Aardman/Netflix). A surprise year-end treat, every bit as incredible as Aardman’s previous Oscar-winning shorts, funny, cute, lovable, with impeccably gorgeous visuals and a rousing soundtrack.
Runner-up for Best Animated Film, Runner-up for Best Sci-Fi Film – The Mitchells vs The Machines (Netflix). A brilliant sci-fi, apocalypse, coming of age story about a weird family that ends up being the last family on the planet to be exterminated from the planet by the very technologies humans are so addicted to; its themes influenced by Tron and Tron: Legacy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and the Terminator movies.
Best Horror, Best Retro Fix, Runner-up for Best Musical Score (John Carpenter/Cody Carpenter) – Halloween Kills (Peacock). It had all that retro nostalgia that has audiences clamoring for shows like Stranger Things and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; it’s not just good horror but great–complete with all the non-apologetic, operatic gore and scares that have been the backbone of the modern monster movie mega-franchises. And John Carpenter’s new music took us right back to 1978. Runner-up for Best Horror: Army of the Dead (Netflix), Zack Snyder’s best film to-date merged action, humor, and lots of makeup for its classic horror zombies.
Best Borg Movie, Best Borg, Best Makeup (Nikki Gooley), Runner-up for Best Musical Score (Benjamin Wallfisch), Runner-up for Best Visual Effects – Mortal Kombat (New Line Cinema). With Mehcad Brooks’ Jax, one of the year’s best cyborg heroes, the movie embraced its Asian lore and backstory, a mix of Japanese and Chinese conventions with plenty of homages in the story to Enter the Dragon. Its story was eclipsed by its visual effects and special effects, a mix of the most gore in a movie in years and fantasy magic via CGI.
Best Documentary – This is a Robbery (Netflix). A smart, compelling, well-plotted unsolved mystery story unfolded that didn’t need to stretch too far to pull in potential culprits and crazy characters. Runner-up: 63 Up (BritBox), the weighty, sadder, ninth installment in the ground-breaking 7 Up series is probably the last; Michael Apted tied up its real-life characters consistent with its previous every-seven-years features.
Best Actress – Carey Mulligan (The Dig), the Oscars may not notice her strong but quiet performance, but she showed her range and her talent as one of cinema’s best actors. Honorable mention: Florence Pugh (Black Widow), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow).
Best Supporting Actress – Rachel Brosnahan (The Courier)- Even if her CIA agent character was fabricated for the story, in this movie her character was key to moving the story forward, and Brosnahan made the role interesting. Honorable mention: Lily James (The Dig), Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), Michelle Williams (Venom: Let There Be Carnage).
Best Actor – Ralph Fiennes (The Dig). In a year with Fiennes also in Bond movie and King’s Men entry, Fiennes showed he’s overdue for top acting awards with his dramatic turn here. Runner-up: Tom Hardy (Venom: Let There Be Carnage). Honorable mention: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Courier), Andrew Koji (Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins), Anthony Michael Hall (Halloween Kills).
Best Supporting Actor – Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat). The actor brought gravity to the movie and his Hanzo Hasashi aka Scorpion was one of the movie’s key features. Honorable mention: Joe Taslim (Mortal Kombat), Iko Uwais (Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins), Wesley Snipes (Coming 2 America).
Best Movie Villain – Carnage (Woody Harrelson in Venom: Let There Be Carnage). Easily the most memorable bad guy of 2021 was the Harrelson’s twisted baddie both with and without the Carnage on the outside.
Best Sidekick – Tuk Tuk (Raya and the Last Dragon). A third pill bug, third armadillo, and third pug hybrid, he was all sorts of awesome (along with his team of friends). Honorable mention: Katy (Awkwafina) in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, she carried her wait like a soldier in The Lord of the Rings; and Monchi (The Mitchells vs. The Machines), his scenes are the movie’s best and funniest.
Best Home Release – Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (MGM). Five deleted scenes filled in the blanks for some character development, and the features included a cartoon about the sword, two behind the scenes features and an explanation of the Arashikage from the source material comics–the biggest set of features for a major home release this year.
Keep coming back as we reveal more of the borg Best of 2021! And don’t forget to check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2021 here and Best TV of 2021 here.
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg