From cramming for exams to finishing those last-minute assignments, it’s hard to catch every quality piece of media during the year. Luckily, there were a lot of great movies and TV shows in 2021 that deserve your time when things get less stressful. Not sure where to start? At the griff, we’ve got you covered. Below is a comprehensive list of our favourites from last year.
Jason Husak (assistant editor and resident movie buff)
When I saw Memoria at The Edmonton International Film Festival last year, I was completely blown away. Memoria is an incredible film that moves at a snail’s pace for its over 120 minutes of run time. Though this quality sounds negative, it sets the background for Memoria’s blissfulness.
Like Yasujirō Ozu’s Late Spring or Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Memoria forces you to let go of your expectations and just exist in the theatre as the movie plays. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee, Cemetery of Splendor) has done a great job capturing the mood of Scottish protagonist Jessica Holland (Tilda Swinton) as she explores Columbia to find the source of the weird sounds she has been hearing.
The film’s commentaries on the meaning of life, the connections between living beings, and existence within nature are absolutely brilliant and nuanced as it showcases cinematic art at its finest. Memoria will absolutely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a trip nonetheless.
In a bizarre move by the film’s distributor, Neon, the film is touring across the United States as similar to an art exhibit. It will hit other markets in 2022, with no plans of Blu-Ray or on-demand release as “The only means of experiencing Memoria will be in theaters… forever,” according to Deadline.
Licorice Pizza is by far one of the funniest movies of 2021 that is a riot from start to end. Written and directed by the iconic Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love), Licorice Pizza follows Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) as they navigate growing up in California in the 1970s.
However, Licorice Pizza has garnered controversy due to the age gap between the two main characters and its showcase of racial stereotypes (the latter issue, I believe, depends on your perspective of the 1970s). Regardless, Licorice Pizza is a gorgeous movie to watch as the cinematography is colourful, bright, and painstakingly Californian — you can almost feel the heat of a 1970s California summer ruminate through the screen. Plus, the movie features the members of the band HAIM (as well as their parents); anything with HAIM is always awesome!
Licorice Pizza is currently still playing in theatres, as of this article’s posting.
Coming out at the beginning of the year, I believe many people missed the action-packed greatness that was Nobody. Nobody is a fantastic action movie that will warm the hearts of those who love action films like John Wick, The Raid, or Drive. Starring the incredible Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show), Nobody follows family-man Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) as he leaves his violent past behind him. After a break-in at his house, Mansell suits up to find who endangered his family.
Directed by Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry), produced by David Leitch (director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2), and written and produced by Derek Kolstad (writer of all three John Wick films), Nobody features some of the best action set pieces and fight choreography that will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end. Most importantly, Nobody is not another John Wick as it features more drawn-out characters, a different film aesthetic, and deals with themes regarding family, life balance, and loyalty. Nobody is by far one of the best films of 2021 and should not be missed.
Nobody is currently available on Crave.
Mia Holowaychuk (assistant editor)
Don’t Look Up
I would say Don’t Look Up is the perfect satirical comedy. I was really intrigued to see many A-list actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep play type characters that they don’t usually portray. What made this movie one of my favourites this year is that it almost mirrors the happenings of the real world. We are currently living through a pandemic, and no matter how much science has proven the virus to be real, some people will just not believe it. I think the movie did an amazing job of progressing that concept in a humorous way.
Don’t Look Up is available on Netflix as part of Netflix’s catalogue of original programming.
Megan Lockhart (managing editor)
The Fear Street trilogy
Is it cheating to pick a trilogy as my favourite movie of the year? Maybe, but I don’t care. As both a ‘90s kid who grew up reading R.L. Stine and an insatiable fan of horror movies, this Netflix film series just worked for me. They were the perfect mix of camp, nostalgia, and genuine scares. As impressed as I was with the first installment, 1994, I felt that the series only improved as it progressed, and the final payoff in 1666 is well worth the time spent getting there.
Fear Street is available on Netflix as part of Netflix’s catalogue of original programming.
Claudia Steele (digital content editor)
Don’t Look Up
Don’t Look Up was a witty and yet very realistic movie that flaunted real-world parallels between its storyline and the reality we face today. The showcasing of the division between science believers and science deniers hit so close to home it began to look less like a fictional film and more like a documentary of current times. The statement on how the media plays into division and how we see the world around us was quite accurate and eye-opening. In the end, the realization of society’s mistake comes too late to save the planet. Yet, the travesty instills an awareness of what matters most in the audience and the lead characters. It was a well-put-together film wrapped in humour that made the important message easier to swallow. The acting was really great, and the cast was well chosen for their roles. I would highly recommend watching this movie.
Eva Driessen (online editor)
A Quiet Place Part II
Directed and written by John Krasinski (The Office, Jack Ryan), A Quiet Place Part II was easily my favourite movie of 2021. I particularly liked how there are major plot twists right up until the end, which made my heart race the entire movie. While it is, of course, a thriller, I also love how this movie highlights the importance of family and loyalty. I definitely recommend this one for your next movie night with friends.
A Quiet Place Part II is currently available on Prime Video.
Brett Boyd (photo editor)
The Mitchells vs the Machines
This was a charming coming-of-age story that didn’t just show one-sided relationships. I liked that the movie depicted parents struggling with their children growing up and being unable to communicate the issues that come with that. It gave younger audiences and parents both characters to root for while bringing the characters closer together in the end. Also, the animation was beautiful, interesting, and fun — a move away from the dull and grey colours we are so used to seeing.
The Mitchells vs the Machines is available on Netflix as part of Netflix’s catalogue of original programming.
Nawaal Basha (graphics editor)
Encanto is a fantastic family movie that represents a diverse group of individuals and people of colour. The movie emphasizes the importance of family and individuality, which made the film stand out. The storyline, animations, and music make for a fantastic movie that is excellent for all ages.
Encanto is available on Disney +.
Copshop stars Gerard Butler (300, Law Abiding Citizen), Alexis Louder (The Tomorrow War, Watchmen), and Frank Grillo (The Grey, The Purge: Anarchy). The story revolves around con artist Teddy Murretto (Grillo) as he gets himself arrested in a small town precinct to avoid being hunted by bounty hunter Bob Viddick (Butler). When Viddick shows up to kill Teddy, local cop Valerie Young (Louder) is caught in the crossfire. The film was written by St. Albert’s Kurt McLeod.
Copshop is available to rent or buy on video-on-demand services (Apple TV, Prime Video etc.).
Come True follows Sarah Dunne (Julia Sarah Stone), a teenage runaway that takes part in a sleep study to earn some cash. After a few sessions, Dunne is haunted by what she sees in her dreams and begins a descent into the dark places of her mind. Come True features numerous Canadian talents and is all shot in Edmonton. Look closely, and you can see the movie feature Metro Cinema, the University of Alberta, and the neighbourhoods of Clairview.
Come True is available to rent or buy on video-on-demand services (Apple TV, Prime Video etc.).
The Matrix Resurrections
Spider-Man: No Way Home — check out our full review here
The Green Knight
The Card Counter
The French Dispatch
HBO’s Succession is one of those shows (like Mad Men) that is incredibly boring on paper but a super entertaining and thematically deep show in actuality. Revolving around the unbelievably wealthy Roy family, who owns one of the biggest multimedia conglomerates in the world (akin to Rupert Murdoch and Fox/News Corp), Succession is full of plot twists, iconic lines, and laughs that provide subtle satire and commentary of the modern media world.
For another show about wealthy billionaires, showrunner Jesse Armstrong (Fresh Meat, In the Loop) does a great job balancing satire and drama with the show’s unique, morally terrible, and quirky characters — while not taking itself too seriously in the process. Whether with Jeremy Strong’s eccentric performance as Kendall Roy or Kieran Culkin’s zany Roman Roy, Succession is by far one of the best shows on TV right now.
All seasons of Succession are available on Crave as part of HBO’s catalogue.
It’s hard to make a 2021 list without Ted Lasso. In 2020, Ted Lasso took the world by storm due to the show’s positive themes, deep characters, and thoughtful depiction of anxiety, multiculturalism, and feminism. The first season showed audiences that the show was not just about a typical American coach pinned to coach football in the United Kingdom. Ted Lasso was something much more nuanced and special.
This year with season two, Ted Lasso has grown into one of the best shows on TV bar none. Though season two is a little slower to get started than the first, season two did a great job of building off the story and character beats laid by the first season while also subverting expectations. The second season doesn’t retread the ground of the first season but also continues to deliver quality TV with deep, sympathetic, and realistic characters at the helm.
Ted Lasso is available on Apple TV + as part of Apple’s catalogue of original programming.
I’ve always loved what Mike Flanagan has done for horror. Whether with Haunting of Hill House or consistently delivering on adapting Steven King to film (i.e. Doctor Sleep and Gerald’s Game), Flanagan is no doubt a king of horror. Midnight Mass is arguably Flanagan’s best work as it does so much as a limited series with only seven episodes. Though the show can come off a bit heavy on the monologues, performances by Rahul Kohli (iZombie, The Haunting of Bly Manor), Hamish Linklater (The Big Short, Fargo), and Kate Siegel (who is actually married to Flanagan and appears in most of his work) give rise to the show’s nuanced commentary on racism, faith, and repentance.
Midnight Mass is available on Netflix as part of Netflix’s catalogue of original programming.
Mya Colwell (assistant editor)
Made For Love
The show is a dark comedy where technology has run amok and stars the wonderful Cristin Milioti (Palm Springs, Fargo) — what’s not to love? The concept behind Made For Love felt just new and absurd enough to keep me entertained. Come for the satirical riffs on technology and stay for Ray Romano as Milioti’s dysfunctional father.
Made For Love is available on Prime Video as an Amazon Exclusive in Canada.
I loved the series; it was unpredictable and had me on the edge of my seat. I also thought it was amazing, even though I watched it entirely with the subtitles. The best part was that the very last episode left me wanting to watch the next season. What also stuck with me throughout the show was that Squid Game gives good life advice: money doesn’t buy happiness, and sometimes being too nice and naive can be detrimental to your health and success in life.
Squid Game is available on Netflix as part of Netflix’s catalogue of original programming.
“It is intriguing, and intense at times. It also depicts a very real situation which makes it more unsettling, the only aspect I was not a fan of was the bouncing between timelines. I would recommend this show to anyone interested in true crime.”
The above quote has been pulled from Mia’s full review, found here.
Dr. Death is currently available on Prime Video through a premium subscription to STACKTV.
Yellowstone is as outrageous as it is entertaining, or maybe the outrageousness is exactly what makes it so entertaining. It’s what would happen if you mixed a soap opera with a mob show if ranchers were mobsters and the mountain range of Montana was their turf to fight over. In this show, there are no clear heroes or villains as ethical lines are blurred or darn right erased. Along the lines, there are a few innocents that wind up getting caught in the web of chaos that is the Dutton family — as well as a few too crazy to be real characters such as Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly). That said, it is a great show to binge-watch that doesn’t require any deep thinking but offers some of the most beautiful mountain views outside of our own rocky mountains.
All seasons of Yellowstone are currently available on Prime Video or via Paramount + with a premium subscription on Apple TV.
Money Heist — check out our review of season five here.
Mare of Easttown
Only Murders in the Building
Bo Burnham: Inside
What was your favourite TV show/movie of 2021? Leave us a comment below!
Graphics: Nawaal Basha