Okay, let’s do the bad news first: 2020 changed the movie industry forever, or at least for the foreseeable future. The way films are released, the way we engage with them, and the rate at which they come out is different now than it was a year ago and there’s no telling when or if there’ll be a return to normal.
On the bright side, good movies still exist. They’re still being made, remastered, and re-released as limited theatrical runs, on streaming services, and from boutique home media outlets like Criterion and Arrow Video, who specialize in bringing old films back better than ever before. Whether you’re rediscovering an old favorite thanks to one of those flashy new releases or taking in some of the new films 2021 has to offer, these are the movies you need to add to your watch list this year (full disclosure, some of these came out last year but weren’t widely available until recently).
Reception to Tenet has been understandably split since the film’s turbulent release last year. For a while, it was simultaneously the most talked-about film in the world and the most difficult to see. No longer is that the case now that the film is available on home media. Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster spectacle is a relentlessly paced thriller involving time travel that some find exhilarating while others find hopelessly confusing and frustrating to engage with. Either way, it’s one of the lone blockbuster spectacles we have to obsess over right now. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, there’s never been a better or more accessible time to do so.
One of the more stunning documentaries of the last few years is getting the fancy-schmancy Criterion release it deserves. Bing Liu’s Minding The Gap explores the lives of three close friends in the town of Rockford, Illinois whose friendship circles around a love of skateboarding. It’s a stunning piece of intimate documentary filmmaking that should not be missed. While the film is available to stream on Hulu, the Criterion release comes with a boatload of special features sure to make the viewing experience far more in-depth and engaging.
If you count Captain America: The Winter Soldier among your favorite MCU films, you’ve got to pick up Criterion’s release of The Parallax View. This Warren Beatty vehicle is one of the primary sources of inspiration for the acclaimed superhero film and it’s never had a Blu-ray release until now. Warren Beatty stars in this political thriller revolving around a conspiracy connected to a presidential assassination. It’s can’t-miss stuff, both as a piece of paranoid thriller filmmaking and as a key text in understanding how one of the more widely acclaimed superhero films of all time came to be.
There’s no shortage of films that play with superhero archetypes and genre conventions these days, twisting and subverting them into something that often aims to feel new but fails to break free of the trappings of what it lampoons. You could be forgiven for side-eyeing yet another entry in that subgenre. But trust me: the Joe Manganiello vehicle Archenemy is a tremendously unique film, one very much worth the time of superhero fans and skeptics alike. We’ve linked the trailer above but consider going into this one blind.
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall for one another. Asteroid headed for Earth is destroyed (yay!), but the radioactive fallout causes every cold-blooded creature on earth to mutate into a horrifying monster. Boy is separated from girl. Boy and his dog (a great dog) travel across post-apocalyptic monster-infested wasteland to reunite with girl.
Love and Monsters is unlike anything you’ve seen in a long time. Just watch it.
Split into two parts, Tiger reaches for the high bar set by recent televised sports docs like The Last Dance and OJ: Made In America and doesn’t miss. Focusing on the rise, fall, and return of golf legend Tiger Woods, it’s a riveting piece of documentary filmmaking that provides compelling insight into a uniquely private actor. Moreso though, it’s a portrait of our complex relationship with greatness and the concept of celebrity at large.