The Best of 2021
Time for some rankings!
It’s the last day of 2021, so I might as well do the easiest and most obvious thing I can do with my platform: rank things! I apologize for nothing. One caveat I made for myself: each of my selections were new in 2021. In other words, a new season of a show that started prior to 2021 or new issues for a comic series that launched prior to 2021 are not eligible. Without further ado, here are my five favorite movies, television series, and comic book series that I partook of during the year.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (directed by Jon Watts)
Is this the best piece of filmmaking in 2021? No. Obviously not. It is, however, the film I most enjoyed watching in 2021. There might be some recency bias here, but as a lifelong Spider-Man fan it was going to be tough for any movie this year to top this one as a personal favorite.
The Green Knight (directed by David Lowery)
This was easily the most gorgeous looking film I saw all year. The cinematography is outstanding throughout. There’s a long continuous take fairly early in the film that is just Galwain (played by Dev Patel) riding a horse towards the camera as Camelot slowly fades away behind him. The shot lasts barely over a minute, but it’s utterly captivating. It’s the type of shot that makes me love film as an art form, and this film is littered with these types of shots.
Candyman (directed by Nia DaCosta)
As a fan of Clive Barker and the original Candyman film, I came into this film with high expectations. I was pleasantly surprised when those expectations were exceeded. Nia DaCosta crafts an excellent little horror film that builds on the mythology established in the original. There are some very creative shots for the murder sequences that elevate the material to another level, and it has a strong message that resonates throughout.
Halloween Kills (directed by David Gordon Green)
This one falls under the “guilty pleasure” category for me. It is nowhere near the same level of quality as the other films on this list, but it does deliver plenty of great kills that further add to the legend of Michael Myers. If you love bloody slasher flicks, then this movie is for you.
Lamb (directed by Valdimar Johannsson)
This is easily the strangest movie I watched all year, but it was also the most touching. The trailers made it seem like a horror film, but really it’s a family drama. It’s just that this family happens to be one where the child is a half sheep/half human hybrid. It has some bizarre moments and a wild ending, but it’s impossible not to fall in love with this family and their unique little child.
Midnight Mass (created by Mike Flanagan)
This isn’t just my favorite series of the year, it’s one of my favorite series ever. Midnight Mass is a horror/drama series about a small New England island town dealing with the arrival of a new priest (played magnificently by Hamish Linklater) and the strange happenings that follow. Some of the best monologues ever written for television are impeccably delivered by a great cast. It’s easily the most emotionally resonant series I watched all year.
Mare of Easttown (created by Brad Ingelsby)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a hard boiled detective must juggle their personal drama with their professional duties while trying to solve a murder in a small town where everyone knows each other. While the premise may not be original, the performances make this series stand apart from others. Kate Winslet is great as the lead, and supporting performances from the likes of Evan Peters, Jean Smart, Guy Pearce, and others elevate the material.
Loki (created by Michael Waldron)
Let’s be honest: if you haven’t been watching the various Marvel movies dating back to Iron Man in 2008, then this series will be completely impenetrable. If you have been watching (and reading the comics), then Loki is an absolute treat. Tom Hiddleston is as charming as ever as the trickster god as he tries to navigate the time stream governed by the omnipresent Time-Keepers and their enforcement arm: the Time Variance Authority.
Squid Game (created by Hwang Dong-hyuk)
This Korean drama satirizes the dehumanization of workers under capitalism by turning them into players in a literal game of life and death for the entertainment of the wealthy. It is equal parts horrific, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Lee Jung-jae is excellent in the lead role, and Oh Yeong-su steals the show whenever he’s on screen.
WandaVision (created by Jac Schaeffer)
Everything I said in my disclaimer for Loki applies here as well. It’s easily the most ambitious project undertaken in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each episode is done in the style of an older American sitcom with an underlying sense of dread as the mystery of what’s really going on is slowly unraveled.
Inferno (written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Valerio Schiti, R.B. Silva, and Stefano Caselli)
If you know me, then you know this was going to be my favorite new series of 2021. Jonathan Hickman returned the X-Men line of comics to the best Marvel property in 2019 when he wrote House of X and Powers of X, and he’s maintained that level of X-cellence (I’m so sorry) as the titular “Head of X” ever since. Inferno is his swan song before leaving the line (at least for now) while he takes over an as-yet-unnamed Marvel property going forward. Hickman has dropped one major revelation after another in this series, and the final issue releases the first week of January to wrap things up. I can’t wait to see how it ends,
Eternals (written by Kieron Gillen with art by Esad Ribic)
While the motion picture may not have lived up to expectations, Gillen and Ribic’s comic series has vastly exceeded them. Gillen has realized that the drama of a small race of immortal god-like beings has less to do with big superhero fights and more to do with the political machinations and maneuvering. It’s basically all of the best parts of Dune, Game of Thrones, and Avengers mixed together with Esad Ribic’s gorgeous artwork bringing it all to life. Also, Thanos is one of the main characters. What’s not to love?
Tales Told in Techni-Horror (written by Kiyarn Taghan with art by Christian Dabari)
I’m a sucker for a good horror anthology, and 2021 saw quite a few of them. My favorite of them all was Tales Told in Techni-Horror published by Scout Comics. It really captures the feel of old horror anthology comics and magazines like Creepy and Erie right down to some fake ads mixed in parodying the types you’d see in those old issues. It’s a lot of fun, and I hope we get more issues in the future.
Kang the Conqueror (written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly with art by Carlos Magno)
I should preface this by saying I’m probably the only person in the world who is a Kang fan (not including comic book writers), but even I was skeptical that the time traveling villain would be able to carry his own solo title. I am no longer a skeptic. Kang is an incredibly epic series that sees a younger version of the character fight various adversaries (including other variants of himself) across multiple periods of time from ancient Egypt to the 31st century all in the name of love. It does an excellent job of establishing Kang’s motivations and why he is so incredibly dangerous.
Ultramega (written and drawn by James Harren)
Ultramega is James Harren’s love letter to old Japanese kaiju films (especially Ultraman) with a heavy dose of Cronenberg-style body horror added to the mix. It’s the most metal comic of the year by far. It answers questions like, “What would happen if a being bigger than a skyscraper were decapitated during a battle in a major city?” The answer: thousands (if not millions) of people would drown in a tidal wave of blood. It’s the type of comic that makes you fall out of your chair in shock after each page turn.
Thus concludes my arbitrary rankings. I hope everyone has a wonderful 2022. I’ll see you then.