The Movie Waffler TMW’s 25 Best Movies of 2021 so Far | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

TMW’s 25 Best Movies of 2021 so Far

1982
Our favourite movies of the first half of 2021.

For most of the first half of 2021 cinemas were shuttered but VOD, streaming services and online festivals served up plenty of treats in our living rooms. At the halfway point of the year, here in alphabetical order are the 25 movies that most impressed us so far in 2021.




1982

1982
We said: Oualid Mouaness has achieved something of a marvel with his remarkably accomplished debut. He's crafted a story set in a part of the world synonymous with hardship, but from the first frame it's clear he's not interested in our pity.



A Dark, Dark Man

A Dark, Dark Man
We said: With immaculately framed widescreen imagery that often recalls Sergio Leone, A Dark, Dark Man plays out like a Film Noir transplanted to a western setting. It's the sort of movie the McDonagh brothers have been trying and failing to make their whole careers.



After Love

After Love
We said: The great Joanna Scanlan, of course, offers a tour de force of emotional subtlety. She is both dignified and desperate, frightened and, at times, even funny.



Apples

Apples
We said: The titular fruit has proven a metaphor for sentience ever since Adam took a bite out of one in the garden of Eden. Apples suggests that no matter how rotten things may seem, there's always a fresh apple left in the bowl.



Cocoon

Cocoon
We said: What makes Cocoon such a sincere pleasure is its affection for its subject matter, warts and all.



Cowboys

Cowboys
We said: As a domestic drama lovingly painted within frontiersman wide-frames, and with its deliberately old fashioned milieu offering centre stage to a contemporary cultural issue, the film is a winning combination of seemingly incongruous styles and ideas, aesthetically fitting for a storyline which features the disaffection and estrangement of a transgender boy.



Dead Pigs

Dead Pigs
We said: The weighty two-plus hour runtime of the film can be felt at times but Dead Pigs is largely a treat for the eyes, intellect and emotion.



Deadly Cuts

Deadly Cuts
We said: A silly, funny and irresistibly warm-hearted film. Never mind a bit off the back and sides, I’m wondering how I will ever remove the wall to wall grin which Deadly Cuts has styled me with.



The Djinn

The Djinn
We said: In this age of helicopter parenting and molly-coddled kids, it's refreshing to see a movie that dares to inflict horrors - of both our own world and other dimensions - on a child without coming across as mean-spirited. I would have loved this had I seen it as a kid, though I may have slept with the lights on that night.



The Fallout

The Fallout
We said: The Fallout tells a remarkable story about an important modern subject through amazing character work, topped off by the most crucial ending it could have conceived.



The Father

The Father
We said: For anyone either approaching old age themselves or with loved ones at such a milestone, The Father is a sobering, difficult watch, more disturbing than any horror movie. It's a warts-and-all glimpse of a future we're all set to face, and that's if we're lucky enough to make it that far.





Fidelity

Fidelity
We said: Nigina Sayfullaeva's sexually explicit drama suggests that women like its heroine are progressing at a rate that Russia is unwilling to keep up with.



Gatecrash

Gatecrash
We said: It’s not so much that the narrative turns of Gatecrash are surprising, more that the plot developments are destabilisingly strange, unsettlingly leftfield and coolly shocking.



Ham on Rye

Ham on Rye
We said: Imagine Haddonfield without Michael Myers, Springwood without Freddy Krueger, Lumberton without Frank Booth. Now imagine the teens of those fictional suburbs dealing not with evil men but with the existential dread of encroaching adulthood.



The Killing of Two Lovers

The Killing of Two Lovers
We said: Most of the movie plays out in long takes, the protagonists regularly framed at the bottom of the screen, dwarfed by an indifferent landscape. As they argue and carry out their petty human dramas, the Utah mountains refuse to stir, like a house cat that's heard it all before. But it's that indifference of the natural world that makes this story so tragic and so human.



Malmkrog

Malmkrog
We said: It’s Cristi Puiu’s commitment which astonishes, the unflinching dedication to his theme: his challenge to the audience. Although, while the film’s raison d’etre is talk, there are visual pleasures to savour, too.



Nomadland

Nomadland
We said: Chloé Zhao is as poetic a filmmaker as it gets, the closest to a John Ford figure we have today; and like that great American master, she knows where to find poetry in America, in its people and its panoramas.



Offseason

Offseason
We said: Mickey Keating traps us in a hell of his creation along with his terrified but resolute heroine. If that's your cup of tea, you'll be drawn to the eerie delights of Keating's terrifying tourist trap.



Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Songs My Brothers Taught Me
We said: Chloé Zhao may be Chinese, but her films are more American than most of the movies made by her American contemporaries. Her storytelling is as American as that of Ford, Hawks and Peckinpah. Her stories are populated by the same sort of people – stubborn, rugged individuals who symbolise everything that makes America so equally fascinating and frustrating.



The Stylist

The Stylist
We said: Most of the best horror movies take a very simple, even well-worn premise and enliven it with a combination of a creator's personal vision, a gripping central performance and an understanding of the technical tricks that make the genre tick. The Stylist checks all these boxes, and I'll certainly be booking an appointment with director Jill Gevargizian in the future.



Threshold

Threshold
We said: Using limited means, directors Powell Robinson and Patrick R. Young have crafted an engaging horror story that focusses on the one element so often overlooked by low budget practitioners of the genre – the people at its centre.



Treasure City

Treasure City
We said: Hungary may be in a sorry state as a society, but Treasure City is the latest of many recent movies that prove the Eastern-European nation boasts one of the continent's most exciting film industries.



Verdict

Verdict
We said: In the film canon of women enacting retribution for violence, Verdict is a sobering tonic to the cathartic pleasures of rape revenge movies, where sluggish, and obscured due process is almost as painful and beleaguering as the crime itself.



Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt
We said: Witch Hunt offers an effective metaphor of racism, this time through one of the best modes of political storytelling – the horror movie.



zana

Zana
We said: In the fragmented culture of Kosovo, Antoneta Kastrati seems to suggest, fringe beliefs and archaic misunderstandings proliferate within the cracks.