Adam’s Super Smooth Top Ten Films of 2021!

I must start this year’s top ten list off by radiating my excitement about this particular list.  I have been lucky enough to write for Whysoblu for approaching 3 years now.  I have written reviews, top ten lists, and published PR too.  I have loved all the work I’ve been able to do – even when the movies haven’t been great.  The fun of this list for me, and what makes me so excited is that I’ve finally seen enough movies to make a year-end list, and it’s been a blast being able to take in so many varied movies… The good, the bad, and the ugly…


This years’ releases were up and down in quality.  To be honest, a lot of the films I saw weren’t the greatest. It felt like a lot of what ended up getting released in theaters also hit home right away, and some of those films really felt kind of like… “well, I see why this hit HBOMax….” I also found myself often watching things met with audience acclaim or critical acclaim and finishing a film scratching my head, wondering why it wasn’t that good to me. It happens, as film criticism is certainly something extremely subjective.  Seeing forums, Facebook groups, and retweets of people arguing over the quality of films have been a regular occurrence for me this year. Within all those things, I’ve found myself siding with some, and disagreeing with others. But no matter – The beauty of these lists is that they’re all different, and you’ll likely find some films you’ve seen or haven’t. You’ll see films you loved or hated. The adage of variety stands strong. And that’s why I love writing these and why I also love to read them. My biggest joy will come from those of you that find a film you’ve been apprehensive about seeing and feel encouraged to check it out from this or any of my brilliant colleague’s lists.

Now, with all my flowery prose out of the way, here are my top ten films of 2021! I have included paid associates’ links for the discs that are available too, so if you’re curious enough to make a purchase, click away!

10. Wrath of Man

 Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham made a powerful but quiet comeback as collaborators with Wrath of Man, a tense action thriller that was released right at the top of the Summer.  Statham stars as “H”, a man who joins an armored truck company as they face a series of robberies.  Without giving too much of the plot up, the film is told in sections with a lot going on.  Plot twists, shootouts, and chases abound, and this is one of Statham’s best in recent years. I know it isn’t saying much, but I was very taken with this film.  I was sucked in right away, finding myself fully engrossed with each ensuing chapter.  The “jump back” nature of this crime caper adds some cool layers, and the performances are good all-around too.  Some of the action sequences in the film really do get you some good moments of “rush” as well.  I don’t want anyone to think this one is perfect. The dialogue is a little hammy at times, and some of the roles aren’t as fleshed out as I’d like, but all the same, I still fully enjoyed Wrath of Man, and look forward to the next Statham/Ritchie collaboration!

9. Raya and the Last Dragon

A rare original find from the Disney camp! Raya and the Last Dragon is a lot of fun and something that feels wholly original, with familiar tropes being nuanced and enjoyed throughout.  Raya’s story is very different from the typical Disney princess. She’s a warrior and she’s worked all her life to be steadfast in her determination to keep her kingdom.  Led by her determination to find Sisu (a very recognizable Awkwafina), Raya goes on her search to bring peace and normalcy to her kingdom after a power struggle for a sacred gem.  The story unfolds in a near-action movie pacing, with a lot of heart and comedy thrown in for good measure.  This one stands tall against Disney’s typical Pixar fair, with a wonderfully positive outlook to it.  There’s also action and violence which for me harkens back to my childhood where things could be a little scary or a little violent or a little fast-paced for us to think on and have childhood fears to face – Things sorely missed in a lot of new animated features.

I was charmed, and this one is an easy recommendation from me. Beyond the story and the originality, this one is a gorgeous film too.  Filled with the kind of imagery that arrests children’s minds, I found myself just as taken in as most kiddos would be. I can’t say enough about this wonderful film… Just see it!

8. Luca

I mentioned that Raya and the Last Dragon stood tall against Pixar films released nearest to it, and I think that that film only elevated my expectations for Luca. The story of a sea monster who has the ability to shapeshift into human form on land, Luca was a hard sell, forgoing a theatrical release – the pandemic influenced this I’m sure, but it seems that this one was never going to be a theatrical film… Luca has all the makings of an all-time Pixar film.  Charm, humor, sweetness, relatability – It’s all there, within the confine of a cute, idyllic Italian Riviera setting.  The children at the heart of the film: Luca, Alberto, and Giulia, are all wonderfully fleshed out. The parents of these children are also fully fleshed out.

I would be remiss If I didn’t mention how stunningly beautiful the animation is.  A 4K animation showcase, even in the digital stream, this one was a fully immersive-looking film.  I loved the movie the first viewing, and subsequent viewings only capitalize on that love.  The message of love and acceptance even when someone is so different or thinks/dreams differently than you even reached my cold adult heart, and I was fully touched by the payoff at the end.  I had fun spending time in Portorosso and look forward to coming back to this film again and again.

7. Cruella

If you haven’t stopped reading after all my family film choices, I am ecstatic to sing my praises for Cruella.  A movie that is definitely not meant for small children, from the first moments I was immediately sucked into the world of Estella (Emma Stone), as she evolves from losing her mother, becoming an independent but homeless teenager, and then becoming a fully fleshed out, punk rock fashion icon.  The 70’s London setting is grimy and dirty.  The music is all classic songs. Emma Stone gives Oscar-worthy work here. Emma Thompson steps out of her sweet roles to become a bitch-on-wheels fashionista and the film turns darker than I anticipated too! While marketed as a family film, I really disagree with that, but this is great for teenagers and adults.  Supporting roles are also worth a mention with Paul Walter Hauser (of I, Tonya and Richard Jewell fame) giving another standout performance, going for humor that is understated yet spot on.  The film also blasts through a ludicrously long-looking runtime, going through layers at a speed I was pleasantly surprised by too.  I have to say it – the scale of this one is huge, and for me, this film was a wonderful one for me this year.

6. Nobody

Talk about pleasant surprises.  This one came out of nowhere.  Bob Odenkirk as an action lead? Pfffffffttt….. Not likely. Not today.  I get it – Everymen make great action heroes. But Bob? My answer is simple – Absolutely Hell Yes.  Nobody came out of nowhere. Beginning with a bored Hutch (Odenkirk) going through his day-to-day, with his bored wife and annoyed son. Hutch works for his in-laws and they also treat him as second class.  Little weird things seem to be linking to Hutch’s past, but it’s during a home invasion and the loss of his daughter’s bracelet, something is triggered to incite violence.  Then, a barrage of action follows that must be seen to be believed.  Breakneck gunfights, fists of fury flying and violence galore, this is an action fan’s wet dream.

At 92 minutes, this one doesn’t take time to develop things, but it also doesn’t need to.  This movie doesn’t play for those looking for supreme juxtaposition. This film is all about an escape and a release.  We’ve all been Hutch, we’ve all wanted to just right a wrong with a bit of violence. This is where the film becomes relatable. We may have families to protect or feel misrepresented or resented.  It’s all relatable for anyone in my opinion. Add to the fold a government assassin twist, some Russian gangsters and Christopher Lloyd and the RZA having a blast, and you’ve got 92 minutes of amazing action that I can’t recommend enough!

5. No Time To Die

A late entry to my list that ousted another great that made my top ten 4K UHD Blu-ray list.  No Time To Die operates in a way that I wasn’t expecting it to. The film starts quietly, with a flashback.  The openings of Bond films often set up the film’s main plot and this one has some differences but tries to attain the same aesthetic but tells a different story.  Daniel Craig’s James Bond is one that has a love/hate relationship with MI6, and this one sees Bond trying to embrace retirement and settle down with his second love (after his dearly departed Vesper Lynd). Of course, things don’t go as planned, with Bond being separated from his love before the opening credits sequence rolls (Spoiler alert (kind of…): The opening theme is another drag, going off of the energy of Sam Smith’s atrocious theme for Spectre…).

After credits, we are given a plot device, a MacGuffin of sorts, surrounding a deadly chemical weapon that can be breathed in or touched and lethal to whomever it is meant to attack.  In this case, we are given the Bond staple of Spectre, but in a huge turn of events, the Spectre agency is somehow the victim (I won’t give it away for those who have seen it…) and Bond is called into work for the CIA by his pal Felix Leiter.

After a few major losses and setbacks, Bond is forced out of retirement, to team up with the new 007 (the stunning Lashana Lynch), and also Q (Ben Whishaw, finally letting me know that his Q is gay, as I suspected…) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). The plot is nothing without the villain right? Rami Malek’s Safin is a villain from a Bond era long gone… Menacingly calm, a little off, and scarred for life, he works so well against Bond and Dr. Swann (Lea Seydoux), with whom he has a past with as well.  The film is long… Let that be known.  This is no complaint though.  At nearly 3 hours, No Time To Die has a surprisingly breezy flow, with a lot going on but nothing hard to follow.

For me, this Bond outing stands tall next to Casino Royale and Skyfall and provides an emotional send-off for Daniel Craig, who leaves some big shoes to fill for whoever takes over for him next time.  I loved this one, and I was genuinely invested in the film from moment one.  When the credits rolled, I immediately was hoping and wishing they’d selected a new bond and were developing the next installment.  Bond films were always a bonding (pun intended) moment for my father and me and seeing this just reignited my love for the films and the world of Bond all over again. Bond, James Bond fan for life!

4. Judas and the Black Messiah

Going over the films I watched from 2021, which was surprisingly a lot, I wrote down Judas and the Black Messiah and the first thing I said out loud was “Man that was good…” Immersed performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield and a confident meaningful direction by Shaka King, the film has so much meaning and is a wonderful and timely true story of Fred Hammond.  Hammond’s story has been on the way to the screen for a long while, with F. Gary Grey once attached to the project.  Told through a modern lens, the film feels like a story being told from now, while taking place in the heart of the civil rights movement.  The movie seeks to open the eyes of younger people and reached me profoundly.  Hammond (Kaluuya) was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and was betrayed by an FBI informant (Stanfield) and the story told here shows what a vehement mistake was made in that betrayal.  Hammond worked for his community and isn’t the racist or fascist he was initially made out to be.

The film unfolds as a great crime drama should.  The facts are laid out, with all the principals given an opportunity to present themselves respectfully.  The story unfolds with a tension, and even with facts and knowing that Hammond would not make it to the final frame, I was still emotional and angry about how things meant.  Touched is not quite the word I’d use for this film.   King really hits you with the story and his vision for Hammond and with his family’s blessing, shows Hammond in many lights, and even the ones that aren’t flattering. The light shed on Hammond, not always someone at the forefront of freedom fighters for civil rights, we are given a history lesson that I personally won’t soon forget. I hope the film reaches the audience it was intended to, and people see a new person to read more on, gain appreciation and respect for, and will continue to elevate as time goes on.

3. The Suicide Squad

This was a movie I wanted to avoid like the plague.  Firstly, if you have read my reviews or my WSB Bio, you know my movie tastes.  Like our fearless leader, Blu-ray Brian, I have “Adam” movies.  Things that speak to me… Movies from my childhood or that remind me of fond memories… or genres that really grab me. I tend to lean towards more mainstream films (obviously…) but I try to keep an open mind.  Then there are movies like The Suicide Squad that I just don’t want to see.  I hated (HATED) the 2016 Suicide Squad. It felt like a movie nobody asked for with characters I had no desire to invest time in.  I watched most of it, and even though I’d gone past the halfway point, the film felt empty. Knowing a new version of the film was coming, watching sneak peeks or previews, I got mildly interested, but I still was resistant.  I had some reservations because I’m not a fan of other James Gunn films.  As with most movie criticism, my words and thoughts are subjective, and both Guardians of the Galaxy films are just not my cup of tea.  I don’t think they’re that funny, or exciting, or interesting.  However, I know in the grand scheme of things, these films are beloved.

So, thanks to my friend and boxing coach Izzy (not only teaching me and encouraging my health journey, but he’s also a film fan…) came over for a movie night and had purchased a digital version of the film.  We were due to watch another film the same day but preceded it with this one.  From the outset, I had to just eat my words.  I was laughing at the first moments when we meet “The Weasel.” And I didn’t stop there.  The film works on all levels.  As a comedy, the laughs are consistent and solid.  As an action film, it is always non-stop and busy.  As a superhero film, it works better than most because it throws conventional superhero film tropes out the window. I had a blast with this one.  I loved King Shark, and Harley Quinn came to life for me finally (Sorry on both counts Brian… ) and I really think that Idris Elba provided further proof of his capabilities as a leading man. Seeing him be so suave and commanding here just makes me wish further for Elba to be the next James Bond (one can certainly hope so….). I am certain most of you have seen this one, but I’m happy to join the crowd in recommending this one.  It’s a blast from start to finish!

2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

I was excited to see this film long before it ever came to a theater or Disney+. I love a good origin story and could anticipate some major enjoyment from trailers and vague plot details.  Xu Shang-Chi is born to Wenwu and Ying Li. Wenwu runs the Ten Rings organization (trained assassins) and Ying Li is a guardian of Ta Lo (which exists in another dimension). Following the death of his mother, and a traumatizing incident involving his father, Shang-Chi flees to America and becomes Shaun, an everyday guy living in San Francisco.  He befriends Katy (Awkwafina ::again!:: ) and they are friends forever! They work as valet parkers and somehow manage to survive in a savage bay area real estate market. Shaun trains hard in his free time and is very fit and is oblivious to the obvious affection Katy has for him, of course.

The plot points are simple, yes.  The story is clearly one of those origin things, yes.  But did I mention what a great time this movie is? Pure engaging entertainment in every sense of the word, there was never a moment I wasn’t happy and near the edge of my seat. I found myself talking back to the screen, laughing, cheering. I don’t get that emotion for movies a lot lately, and it felt good to take this one in.  I related to Shaun and his outsider feelings.  I related to that trauma he experienced with his father, even though our experiences are of course completely different.  There really is something to be said when you can see glimpses of your reality in a fantastical action film, but this is what draws people to comic book or superhero films.  They like to relate to what they’re watching, and, in this case, those relations are no different.

I haven’t loved a superhero/comic book film this much in a long time, and I know with every revisit, I will remember that first viewing fondly.  Firstly, because I enjoyed it with great company (my husband and my boxing coach) but also because of the relatability in the Shang-Chi character and the laughs and thrills I got from the film. I love this movie, simple as that!

1. Dune

Denis Villeneuve in my humble opinion has yet to make a film I haven’t enjoyed.  His incredible eye and love for film is evident in every piece he has made thus far.  His thoughtful way of bringing grand scale to the screen is magnetic and he has done wonders in making films wholly original (Arrival comes to mind) or collaboratively (Sicario is still a staggering achievement) or continuing a story that seemed to be one and done (haters can hate, but Blade Runner 2049 is a masterpiece…). With all that in mind, I was feverishly anticipating Dune. I got myself up to speed with the origins of the film, learning about the book, and securing a copy of the David Lynch original (thanks to Arrow Video for that great 4K edition!).

I was fully aware of the difficulties in bringing Frank Herbert’s novel to the screen.  The novel has its ardent fans and there had been attempts before, via Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Lynch’s vision is often berated too.  Even before Villeneuve’s version hit screens, the film had its detractors. As with many, I couldn’t see Dune on the big screen, but with the little knowledge I had, and previewing the Hans Zimmer score in Atmos at home leading up to the HBO Max stream, I was only further excited to take this one in.  When the images first dawned my screen, I was sucked into the many worlds of Dune. I was right there alongside Paul Atreides hunting for spice, facing sandworms, and seeing visions of Chani. I was facing villains dispatched by Baron Harkonnen and learning swordplay from Duncan Idaho (yes, it’s true, the name is funny…). This is all a testament to modern cinema.

The overall look of the film is what sets it apart from the pack as well.  Greig Fraser and Villeneuve worked to get an overall aesthetic for Dune that shines throughout, and the music and the costuming only bring the vision further.  I need but to only mention the names of the cast, which I won’t because it’s long, but even roles that are small are given passionate performances, knowing everyone involved gave their all and invested in their characters.  It’s even more inspiring to see the universal enthusiasm from all involved when the sequel to this subtitled “Part 1” was greenlit shortly after its release.  I personally didn’t see a better film this year, large or small.  The grand scale of this one is stunning, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the coming installments.  I can only imagine a bigger picture each time and am excited to see where the journey takes us.  Brilliant in all ways!


2021 sure had some ups and downs for films and the world of cinema.  It was a big year for us physical media enthusiasts and a downer for fans who love to go to the movies.  But this list wouldn’t be complete without some honorable mentions from me for this year.  Admittedly my list of honorables isn’t too big, but it must be shared, so here goes:

  • Val
  • The Beatles: Get Back
  • Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar
  • The Green Knight (a truly outstanding achievement, knocked off my list by Bond…)
  • The Mitchells Vs. The Machines

Told you it was short… I have so many other 2021 films to still see, so I’m sure that list of honorable mentions will only grow.

I will close this list out by once again thanking my colleagues at Whysoblu for making my job a little harder, for making me want to see films I wouldn’t normally watch, and for giving me ideas on what to challenge myself to do in my writing.  I would also like to give thanks to my husband for being forgiving when it comes to movies he wouldn’t ever bother watching and sitting through them with me.  I also must thank all of you for keeping with me through all of my writings and for valuing my opinion.  That’s a very big deal for me.  With this list hitting the site right before the new year, I am so looking forward to another great year for physical media and more wonderful films in 2022. Thank you all for reading!


4 Responses to “Adam’s Super Smooth Top Ten Films of 2021!”

  1. Brandon Peters

    Adam – NICE LIST! The Suicide Squad is such a delightful, unfiltered movie, enjoy seeing your double love for it here and on your 4K list!

    I was pretty big on Raya, too. Cool movie! And yea – Shang-Chi definitely Marvel’s best movie, what a fun breath of fresh air it was after Black Widow.

    I think Why So Blu’s all-stars this year are Bond and Dune…appearing on most of ours.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    You guys are convincing me to give Wrath of Man another shot. I liked it, but perhaps it will raise for me.

    Fun list Adam! I enjoyed all of these movies. Raya is very cool. Good stuff from Disney and Pixar this year. If anything, I look forward to hearing what you have to say about Encanto.

    Dune is probably the Why So Blu film of the year at this point, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    And yay for Judas – an incredible film.

  3. Brian White

    Thanks Adam now Liz wants to watch Judas.
    I’m still in disbelief how much you loved Suicide Squad especially after not liking the GOTG movies, but I guess same could be said for me and my hardship with it.
    Dune for the win! Yes!!!
    I do need to watch Cruella yet. I have it. But Nobody I cannot finish that one. 🙁

  4. Gregg

    Great list, Adam! Nobody is going to the top of my list on what to watch next. I had never even heard about that one until I saw this. Also, despite my struggles with animated films, I will give Raya a watch.