Best English movies of 2021: ‘Dune,’ ‘The Power Of The Dog’ and more

From sci-fi epics and western dramas to comedy anthologies and coming-of-age indies, it was yet another fantastic year at the movies

While it’s a pity that hot awards season favourites like Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age smash-hit Licorice Pizza, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Japanese drama Drive My Car, or Joachim Trier’s Norwegian dark comedy The Worst Person in the World haven’t made it to Indian cinema screens — or a streamer yet — there has been plenty of joy at the movies from the year gone by… onto the ‘best of’ lists already!

Also Read | Get ‘First Day First Show’, our weekly newsletter from the world of cinema, in your inbox. You can subscribe for free here


Arrival may still remain his best and most vulnerable work yet, but French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s ‘unfilmable’ sci-fi classic is truly an achievement for the ages. The ensemble cast of A-listers is magnificent, led by a true-blue star turn (one of many) from Timothée Chalamet, and Rebecca Ferguson who steals the show on more than one occasion. Coupled with Zimmer’s pounding score and spectacular special effects that truly warrants a 3D viewing, Dune is an easy Oscar frontrunner, and raises expectations frightfully high for the impending sequel.

King Richard

An immensely-watchable sports biopic (let’s just admit that we are all suckers for the genre globally), the drama looks at how Venus and Serena Williams achieved tennis stardom thanks to the coaching from their father Richard Williams. Will Smith is phenomenally charming in what is surely his best role in recent years, while Jon Bernthal knocks it out of the park as coach Rick Macci. While the movie does play it a tad too safe at times, there’s the perfect amount of laughter, sniffles and overall wholesome vibes to certify it an ace, if there ever was one.

C’mon C’mon

In a role as far removed as possible from his Oscar-winning performance as the Joker, Joaquin Phoenix stars as a radio journalist embarking on a cross-country trip with his nephew. It’s poignant, powerful and heart-breakingly profound all at once, and though Phoenix provides undeniable star value, it is child actor Woody Norman as nine-year-old Jesse who is the star of the film. Mike Mills’ simple yet affecting coming-of-age drama is also shot quite exquisitely in black-and-white — which lends it a fabulous aesthetic — and will linger on in your minds long after the final scene.


Rebecca Hall makes an assured directorial debut with Passing based on Nella Larsen’s eponymous 1929 novel. The black-and-white frames, while beautifully capturing 1920s New York, echo the themes of ‘passing’. Starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as childhood friends whose lives take different turns based on their choices, the film unflinchingly looks at tough questions of race, gender, motherhood and jealousy with a gossamer touch.

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s magical ode to The New Yorker is as eccentric, beguiling, and visually gorgeous as any of his previous works; an elegant treat served on the most ornate of platters by an A-list cast that includes the director’s favourite collaborator in Bull Murray. While perhaps not as emotional as some of his previous works, Anderson’s tenth feature — an anthology of sorts — is so terrifically funny in its big moments that it doesn’t matter. Be it Tilda Swinton’s art critic JKL Berensen, Jeffrey Wright’s food journalist Roebuck Wright or indeed, Frances McDormand’s Lucinda Krementz (who has an affair with student revolutionary Timothée Chalamet’s Zeffirelli), the characters are so wildly inventive and original, that you can’t help but just sit back – and strap in for an exhilarating ride.

The Green Knight

David Lowery’s reinterpretation of the 14th century poem, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, conclusively proves it is possible to delicately tell an epic tale of knights, giants, games and beheadings. Dev Patel is quite arresting as Gawain, a callow youth and King Arthur’s nephew who takes up the challenge by the Green Knight. Despite all the fantastical elements, The Green Knight goes for a stripped-down look to tell a story that is simultaneously medieval and modern.


Is it a rock opera or a fantasy? Is it a romance, a comedy or whodunit? French director Leos Carax’s English-feature debut is a genre-defying exploration of — among other things — creativity, jealousy and the modern-day obsession with celebrity. Adam Driver plays a provocative stand-up comic, who sweeps a world-renowned soprano off her feet (Marion Cotillard). Marriage follows the whirlwind romance and while the arrival of baby Annette (who no one seems to notice is a marionette) should have been the apogee of the relationship, it is not so. With music by the Sparks Brothers that segues smoothly with the narrative, Annette is an off-kilter delight.


Kristen Stewart is riveting in this un-fairy-tale like story of a princess in distress. While there is no dragon guarding Lady Diana in a tower, the Christmas of 1991 in Sandringham with the royal family — even as her marriage to Prince Charles is falling apart — is not much fun. Directed by Pablo Larraín, whose earlier film Jackie looked at a crucial week in Jacqueline Kennedy’s life, Spencer looks at the woman behind the shy smile and the beautiful gowns. Stewart is a shoe-in as the Princess of Wales, creating a living, breathing, hurting and humorous woman within the gorgeous outfits and battles with bulimia.

The Last Duel

Adam Driver is as comfortable playing the heir to a fashion empire, as he is to playing a medieval knight in this Ridley Scott film. Based on Eric Jager’s book, the film sees Matt Damon with a strange haircut playing a French knight Carrouges, who challenges Jacques Le Gris (Driver) to a duel after his (Carrouges) wife accuses Le Gris of rape. The movie is divided into three segments showing the same event from three perspectives: of Carrouges, his wife Marguerite, and Le Gris. Ben Affleck, with all the fun lines, has a supporting role in this lovely-looking film. That it turns a #MeToo lens on casual misogyny is an added bonus.

The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion’s adaptation of Thomas Savage’s eponymous book won the Silver Lion at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. While Benedict Cumberbatch is phenomenal as the conflicted, closeted rancher Phil, Kirsten Dunst is also a revelation as recently-wed widow Rose, who takes to drink when life gets too much. Campion’s reinvention of the Western looks at the pressure of being a man among men. Jesse Plemons as Phil’s gentler brother George, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rose’s son — who bears the brunt of Phil’s abrasiveness — round off the cast in this meditation on masculinity.

Source: Read Full Article