The 2021 Talkies: Talkhouse Film Contributors Share Their Top 10 Movies of the Year

A selection of poll ballots from filmmakers, including Megan Griffiths, Lloyd Kaufman and Sandi Tan, choosing their best of 2021.

Late last year, Talkhouse Film contributors and a select few friends of the site voted on their favorite theatrical releases of 2021; the aggregated results will be published on Talkhouse tomorrow. Below are ballots from a selection of the filmmakers who took part in the voting process.

Vashti Anderson
1. Judas and the Black Messiah dir. Shaka King
2. Titane dir. Julia Doucournau
3. The Green Knight dir. David Lowery
4. Lamb dir. Valdemar Johansson
5. Annette dir. Leos Carax
6. Licorice Pizza dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
7. Concrete Cowboy dir. Ricky Staub
8. Perfume de Gardenias dir. Gisela Rosario
9. King Richard dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green
10. Want to see: Memoria dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Titane – At first, I found the body horror hard to bear, especially because of the profound violence to the female protagonist’s body in particular. What kept me watching was the fact that it was directed by a woman, and I was interested in Doucournau’s vision and where she was going with it. In the end, the intensely visceral storytelling stayed with me, made me think about our impulses, our bodies, our pain. It seems to pull from one of my favorite documentaries, The Imposter, where humans bypass truth for a whiff of happiness.

The Green Knight dir. David Lowery – Instead of Hollywoodizing the original text, Lowery makes it even more curious, more intriguing, and more ambiguous about heroism. It does what most of my favorite films do, which is to take risks and walk the line of genre, in this case horror and epic. Dev Patel, another South Asian man in a prominent leading role (I mentioned Riz Ahmed last year), and Sarita Choudhury in the role she was made to play, are wins for non-conformative casting. Also loved the Jane’s Addiction album cover reference in the opening shot.

Lamb dir. Valdimar Jóhannsson – The opening sequence is absolutely killer; animals start the story, with subtext and point of view, their heightened sense of smell and hearing part of the experience. Humans barely say a thing, but I could feel their deepest desires. Perhaps representative of our collective anxiety about profound loss, the idea of parenting, in some way or another, appears in so many great films this year.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
The Trap of Perfect Victimhood by Amy Northup


Rod Blackhurst
1. Dune
2. Antlers
3. A Quiet Place Part II
4. In the Heights
5. Titane
6. Pig
7. The Card Counter
8. The Green Knight
9. The Power of the Dog
10. C’mon C’mon

The industry is upside down.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
Reflections on the Making of a Hybrid Film: This Is Not a War Story


Cheryl Dunn
1. Summer of Soul
2. The Power of the Dog
3. Parallel Mothers
4. Licorice Pizza
5. The Velvet Underground
6. Moments Like This Never Last
7. Paper & Glue
8. The First Wave
9. Spencer
10. Shiva Baby


Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
1. The Card Counter
2. First Cow
3. Annette
4. The Power of The Dog
5. Days
6. Memoria
7. Undine
8. The Hole
9. France
10. Summer of Soul

Unfortunate amount of films seen at home this year. Many films that came out during the pandemic deserve to be reassessed!


Alex H. Fischer
1. Licorice Pizza
2. The Hand of God
3. Bergman Island
4. The Souvenir Part II
5. The French Dispatch
6. Annette
7. Titane
8. Judas and the Black Messiah
9. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Sundance)
10. Red Rocket

ALSO! Mia Hansen-Love’s All is Forgiven (2007, but only released in theaters this year in the U.S.) at Metrograph)


Patrick Forbes
1. No Time to Die
2. The Power of the Dog
3. Belfast
4. Flee
5. The Tender Bar
6. The Rescue
7. Last Night in Soho
8. Licorice Pizza
9. C’mon C’mon
10. The Velvet Underground

Normally I hate Bond; meaningless stunts, stiff upper lips, and stiffer acting. But I loved No Time to Die. The photography was exquisite. The direction by Cary Fukanaga brilliant, turning Daniel Craig into a compelling, totemic figure, the camera trained on his every flicker of expression. And lo’ the script actually meant something – pain, love, loss, female strength. Not topics that have troubled Bond scriptwriters hitherto. And above all, a brilliant communal experience; a reminder of the power of cinema. The small boy in front of me who spilt his pop-corn in horror as Craig, sorry Bond, died; the gasp as Lea Seydoux said goodbye; the cheer that greeted the final caption, “James Bond will return.” He better had.


Michael Gallagher
1. Pig
2. Licorice Pizza
3. Some Kind of Heaven
4. Shiva Baby
5. Old Henry
6. A Film About A Father Who
7. The Killing of Two Lovers
8. King Richard
9. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
10. Zola


Jordan Graham
1. Titane
2. The Wanting Mare
3. The French Dispatch
4. Spencer
5. Licorice Pizza
6. C’mon C’mon
7. Red Rocket
8. The Green Knight
9. Lamb
10. My Heart Won’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Films I was hoping to see that might have made the list is: Memoria, Vortex, The Worst Person in the World, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Rang Zong.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
Death, Myth and Dreaming in Wuthering Heights


Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
1. The Rescue
2. Summer of Soul
3. King Richard
4. The French Dispatch
5. Spencer
6. No Time to Die
7. The Sparks Brothers
8. Nomadland
9. Minari
10. Dune

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
Home Alone is the Greatest Christmas Movie of All, Especially During a Pandemic


Megan Griffiths
1. C’mon C’mon
2. The Lost Daughter
3. Don’t Look Up
4. Drive My Car
5. The Last Duel
6. I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)
7. No Sudden Move
8. The Novice
9. East of the Mountains
10. King Richard



Chadd Harbold
1. West Side Story (Steven Spielberg)
2. Zeros and Ones (Abel Ferrara)
3. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
4. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. The Beatles: Get Back (Peter Jackson)
6. Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
7. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader)
8. Old (M. Night Shyamalan)
9. Annette (Leos Carax)
10. NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½ (Spike Lee)

Honorable Mentions: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, Benedetta, Cry Macho, Drive My Car, Dune, F9, The French Dispatch, Keep Punching: The Making of Rocky Vs. Drago by Sylvester Stallone, The Last Duel, Malignant, The Many Saints of Newark, The Matrix Resurrections, Naomi Osaka, No Sudden Move, Procession, Siberia, The Souvenir: Part II, Stillwater, The Velvet Underground, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
reRunning Happy Life by Michael M. Bilandic


Chad Hartigan
1. Ema
2. Licorice Pizza
3. Judas and the Black Messiah
4. Annette
5. Little Girl
6. The Last Duel
7. West Side Story
8. Shiva Baby
9. Mandibles
10. The Green Knight

I am very grateful that I got to see 9 of these top 10 films in a theater with an audience. Long may it continue!

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
No Script. No Budget. No Crew. No Problem.


Jim Hemphill
1. The Last Duel
2. Bad Trip
3. Cinderella
4. Benedetta
5. The Matrix: Resurrections
6. Licorice Pizza
7. No Time to Die
8. The Card Counter
9. Red Rocket
10. Cry Macho

In a year that saw several terrific musicals (In the Heights, West Side Story, etc.), the best of the bunch was Kay Cannon’s spectacularly entertaining Cinderella, a deliriously romantic and hilarious pop epic that deserves a lot more credit than it has been given.


Taylor Hess
1. The Power of the Dog
2. Quo Vadis, Aida?
3. The Truffle Hunters
4. Licorice Pizza
5. Bergman Island
6. Ascension
7. King Richard
8. Bo Burnham: Inside
9. Drive My Car
10. Lapsis

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
I loved the recent piece by Pete Ohs <3


Gillian Wallace Horvat
1. Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar
2. Old
3. Zola
4. A Film About A Father Who (this was on my list last year but it got a theatrical release this year so happy to have it back on)
5. The Trouble With Being Born
6. Ema
7. The Last Duel
8. Chaos Walking (with the original Charlie Kaufman script that I can only imagine)
9. Things Heard & Seen
10. Paul Schrader says it’s disingenuous not to put your own film on your year end list if you like it, and I like it and I live in fear of contradicting Paul Schrader so: I Blame Society

2021 was the year of go big or go home. If in this year of straitened resources and universal misery you weren’t trying something new, wild, or insane… I honestly don’t think you should be doing this job. This is not the time to play it safe. While some of the films on my list weren’t perfect, I respected their scope and the director’s fortitude to hold on to their vision in spite of what I’m sure were copious notes. There’s a lot of films that I expect would go in the list that I haven’t watched like Titane, Benedetta and Zeros and Ones, and there’s a lot that hasn’t come out in L.A. and is not available to a non-critic non-guild member but I’m sure I would have included The Worst Person in the World and Bad Luck Banging if I had the chance to see them.


Jim Hosking
1. Compartment No. 6 (Juho Kuosmanen)
2. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
3. Red Rocket (Sean Baker)
4. The Alpinist (Peter Mortimer & Nick Rosen)
5. In Front of Your Face (Hong Sang-soo)
6. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
7. The Most Beautiful Boy in the World (Kristina Lindström & Kristian Petri)
8. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
9. Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
10. Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almodóvar)

Most of these films are small-scale human stories exploring unlikely characters, unlikely friendships, unlikely relationships. The most arresting scene was in Memoria when fish-scrubbing Hernán lies down and sleeps / dies momentarily. The most terrifying film was The Alpinist as Marc-André Leclerc goes on insane climb after insane climb with his big ice-stabbing sickles to support him, or whatever they’re called. The biggest laugh was in Red Rocket when the camera zooms in for a half-second on some truly liberated al fresco Texan love-making. Hong Sang-soo always gets in there. It feels like I saw some of these films 58 years ago.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
My Journey To Adrienne


Ben Hozie
1. The Beatles: Get Back
2. Kajillionaire
3. The French Dispatch
4. Zola
5. The Card Counter
6. Annette
7. Shirley
8. We Are
9. The Velvet Underground
10. Project Space 13

There are so many films I haven’t seen yet so this list will surely change very shortly…


Lloyd Kaufman
1. #ShakespearesShitstorm
2. Divide And Conquer
3. Slashening: The Final Beginning
4. Cyrano
5. Jenny 4 Ever (a series)
6. I Need You Dead
That is all I remember…


Amanda Kramer
1. Titane
2. The Card Counter
3. Ema
4. Benedetta
5. Annette
6. Old
7. About Endlessness
8. Saint Narcisse
9. Sweet Thing
10. Zeros and Ones


Mynette Louie
1. Drive My Car
2. Identifying Features
3. The Pink Cloud
4. Last Night in Soho
5. The Worst Person in the World
6. The French Dispatch
7. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
8. Annette
9. Zola
10. Parallel Mothers

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
I Love Difficult Women


Ryan McGlade
1. The Beatles: Get Back (Peter Jackson)
2. About Endlessness (Roy Andersson)
3. Can’t Get You Out of My Head (Adam Curtis)
4. Evangelion: 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time (Hideaki Anno)
5. Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
6. A Dim Valley (Brandon Colvin)
7. Procession (Robert Greene)
8. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Jane Schoenbrun)
9. Old (M. Night Shyamalan)
10. Zeros and Ones (Abel Ferrara)

Would be remiss not to include that I also loved Annette, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Card Counter, Dune and West Side Story – as well as the standard disclaimer that there were many more films released this year that I still need to see and will no doubt end up on future revisions of my 2021 Top 10.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
Crayola Crayons and the Price of Being Black by Wendell B. Harris, Jr.


Crystal Moselle
1. A Chiara
2. You Resemble Me
3. The Worst Person in the World
4. The Lost Daughter
5. Red Rocket
6. Zola
7. Luna Piena
8. How It Ends


Kent Osborne
1. The Beatles: Get Back
2. Pig
3. The Green Knight
4. Bad Trip
5. The French Dispatch
6. Godzilla vs Kong
7. Nuclear Family
8. Cryptozoo
9. Zola

I haven’t seen Red Rocket, Macbeth or Licorice Pizza yet because I live in the woods

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
Memories of a Hollywood Dog Walker by Tipper Newton


James Ponsoldt
1. Drive My Car
2. The Power of the Dog
3. Licorice Pizza
4. Summer of Soul
5. The Green Knight
6. Titane
7. Listening to Kenny G
8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
9. Zola
10. C’mon C’mon

The comfort food I needed at the end of 2021 was season 2 of How to With John Wilson and, of course, The Beatles: Get Back. If I could loop them both and live in them for a while, I probably would.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
The Long Shadow of Las Vegas


Cooper Raiff
1. The Souvenir: Part II
2. Pig
3. Drive My Car
4. Petite Maman
5. Parallel Mothers
6. Bergman Island
7. Flee
8. The Lost Daughter
9. Test Pattern
10. The Worst Person in the World


Michael Reich
1. Annette
2. Luca
3. Licorice Pizza
4. Bergman Island
5. Dune
6. The Mitchells vs. The Machines
7. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
8. Summer of Soul
9. Giving Birth To A Butterfly
10. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair


Terrie Samundra
1. Drive My Car
2. The Beatles: Get Back
3. The Power of the Dog
4. Titane
5. The Hand of God
6. The Green Knight
7. Lamb
8. Dune
9. Writing with Fire
10. The Medium


Dash Shaw
1. Clay Dream by Evans
2. Circumstantial Pleasures by Klahr
3. Double Wow by Jacobs
4. No. 7 Cherry Lane by Yonfan
5. Dune Part One / The French Dispatch by Villeneuve / Anderson
6. Bad Attitude by Stern
7. El Planeta by Ulman
8. All Light, Everywhere by Anthony
9. Blue Fear by Jacotey and Legrand
10. The Spine of Night by Gelatt and King

I only listed new movies; my favorite movie was the remastered 1980 Bubble Bath by György Kovásznai. Clay Dream is a documentary about Will Vinton, of “claymation” fame, and it was especially powerful to see it while touring Cryptozoo and thinking about how to continue making unusual animated features in the States. Thanks so much to Marq Evans for making that doc.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
The Long Road to Strawberry Mansion


Leah Shore
1. West Side Story
2. Dune
3. Annette
4. Fear Street Trilogy
5. Swan Song
6. Bo Burnham: Inside
7. Titane
8. Halston
9. Sisters With Transistors
10. Superdeep


Chelsea Stardust
1. The Night House (Dir. David Bruckner)
2. Nomadland (Dir Chloe Zhao)
3. The Fear Street Trilogy (Dir. Leigh Janiak)
4. King Richard (Dir. Renaldo Marcus Green)
5. Lucky (Dir. Natasha Kermani)
6. Moxie (Dir. Amy Poehler)
7. Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings (Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)
8. Censor (Dir. Prano Bailey-Bond)
9. The Stylist (Dir. Jill Gevargizian)
10. The Beatles: Get Back (Dir. Peter Jackson)

I was way behind this year—I’m just now catching up on most of the award consideration films (just got my screeners for everything!) but these ones all come to mind when thinking of my top 10 of films I’ve seen so far. The Night House was my favorite theater-going experience of 2021. This film is best seen on a large screen, with the volume up and the lights out. It’s beautifully directed, full of unnerving scares that burrow under your skin, and a plot that keeps you guessing.


Travis Stevens
1. Violet
2. The Power of the Dog
3. Titane
4. All the Streets are Silent
5. Val
6. A Glitch in the Matrix
7. The Sleeping Negro
8. Come True
9. The Velvet Underground
10. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

The quality I enjoyed the most from the films on this list, was the courage and experimentation with cinematic form that the filmmakers used to tell these stories. Whether it was Todd Haynes utilizing other artworks to emphasize the cultural context surrounding The Velvet Underground, or Jane Campion using the conventions of a slasher film to heighten the feeling of helplessness in The Power of the Dog, Rodney Asher’s decision to use digital avatars to stand in for his interview subjects in A Glitch in the Matrix, or Val‘s use of home videos to reclaim the narrative of his creative and professional life, 2021 was filled with bold filmmaking choices that not only heightened the stories in simple and exciting ways, but felt like proof that there is still progression happening in this medium. In a year filled with interesting examples, the movie that touched me the most was Justine Bateman’s directorial debut, Violet. Her aggressive use of an inner monologue via voiceover and on-screen text so effectively conveys the moment-by-moment ups and downs of crippling insecurity, that you are not just watching the story of the title character trying to overcome her self-doubt, but you are experiencing her do it, along with her, in real time. It is cinema as an immersive emotional event … and powerfully engaging given how limited modern cinema can often feel.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
How My First Film Was Sabotaged from Within


Sandi Tan
1. The Souvenir Part II
2. Zola
3. Ascension
4. The Velvet Underground
5. The Worst Person in the World
6. Drive My Car
7. Procession
8. No Time To Die
9. The Power of the Dog
10. The Lost Daughter

I haven’t seen Licorice Pizza yet! It may unseat one of the above.


Alex Thompson
1. The Beatles: Get Back
Once surrendered to, it’s euphoric.
2. Bergman Island
I had similar experiences with Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere and Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, mysterious little movies I turned on or walked into at odd times with little expectation and haven’t stopped thinking about since.
3. Licorice Pizza
As masterful as you’d expect, but earnest, too, and thrilling for it.
4. The Green Knight
Haunted and lived-in in a way that would feel impossible were it not for Lowery’s other work, which somehow also feels ancient and Arthurian.
5. Ninja Baby
Defies expectation; also it is perfect and the hardest I’ve laughed in years.
6. / 7. / 8. The Power of the Dog / Petite Maman / The Lost Daughter
I love the simple pleasure of a great story told by a great storyteller.
9./10. Red Rocket/Nightmare Alley
Bradley Cooper = the spitting image of Bruce Bennett

Honorable mention: No Sudden Move
I watched it on my Yiayia’s iPad and I loved it.


Matthew Wilder
1. The French Dispatch
2. Gunda
3. About Endlessness
4. New Order
5. The Killing of Two Lovers
6. Memoria
7. France
8. State Funeral
9. A Quiet Place Part II
10. Dune

Superb performances of 2021: LaKeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah, Sean Penn in Flag Day and Licorice Pizza, Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Millicent Simonds in A Quiet Place Part II, Jodie Foster in The Mauritanian, Léa Seydoux in France, Devyn McDowell in Annette, Charlotte Rampling in Benedetta, Frankie Shaw in No Sudden Move, Timothy Spall in Spencer, and, above all, Jonah Hill in Don’t Look Up.


Eleanor Wilson
1. Licorice Pizza
2. The Souvenir Part II
3. Bergman Island
4. Annette
5. Judas and the Black Messiah
6. Red Rocket
7. Lamb
9. Summer of Soul
10. Titane

Also from Sundance 2021, not released yet: We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. I haven’t had the chance to see the following movies, but assume they could become favorites: Drive My Car, The Humans, The Worst Person In The World, Benedetta

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
Hamlet 2 Could Be a Cult Classic


Jonathan Wysocki
1. The Disciple
2. The Souvenir Part II
3. The Lost Daughter
4. Quo Vadis, Aida?
5. Tick, Tick… Boom!
6. West Side Story
7. Dune
8. The Power of the Dog
9. Licorice Pizza
10. Shiva Baby

I didn’t realize how emotional I’d be to return to movie theaters to watch films collectively in the dark. Whether it was a big, splashy musical or a small, intimate drama, seeing cinema in a cinema remains a transcendent experience for me. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to bring cinemas back from the brink.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2021:
How One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Helped Me Embrace My Transmasculinity