Readers Say

These are the best movies of 2021, according to readers

There may have been some hometown bias involved.

Emilia Jones in "CODA."
Emilia Jones in "CODA." Apple TV

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees for the 2022 Oscars Tuesday morning, with Netflix’s Western drama “The Power of the Dog” leading the Academy’s de facto list of the best movies of 2021 with 12 nominations. Also raking in a number of nods were sci-fi epic “Dune” (10 nominations), black-and-white drama “Belfast” (7) and Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic musical “West Side Story” (7).

Rounding out the 10 Best Picture nominees were neo-noir “Nightmare Alley,” coming-of-age drama “Licorice Pizza,” Williams sisters biopic “King Richard,” Japanese drama “Drive My Car,” and a pair of movies filmed in Massachusetts — star-studded satire “Don’t Look Up” and indie drama “CODA.”


Last week, we asked readers to name the best movies of 2021 prior to the Oscar nominations announcement, and it seems like respondents’ cinematic preferences largely mirror that of the Academy: Eight of the top 10 readers’ picks for the best movie of 2021 were nominated for Best Picture.

One other poll takeaway? There may have been some slight hometown bias involved. Two movies filmed in Massachusetts (“Don’t Look Up” and “CODA”) finished no. 1 and no. 2 in the poll, while another Massachusetts production, Ben Affleck’s “The Tender Bar,” also made the top 10. That said, with almost 300 responses and 31 movies named in total, there was plenty of variety overall.

In their own words, here are the best movies of 2021, according to readers.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

1. “Don’t Look Up”

“It was an unexpected comedy that fit well with the times. Perhaps I should say parody, instead of comedy. The acting matched the roles and I never lost interest. I’ll admit that I didn’t expect, nor appreciate, the conclusion, but it was the appropriate ending.” — Bob S., Boxford

“Satire well presented. I like it because it tells the truth. Our planet is at a tipping point and we need to pay attention and act.” — PM


“Great plot, great performances, important theme, relatively easy to follow. Both my wife and I definitely want to see it again before the Oscars.” — David K., Centerville

How to watch: “Don’t Look Up” is streaming on Netflix.

2. “CODA”

“It was beautiful and different. It made me think about the challenges of the hearing impaired, fishermen, the beauty of music and voice. I loved the family dynamics, the teen dynamics. The movie had so many layers. I watched it once by myself, then again with my daughter. She loved it too.” — Eimar C., Westwood

“Heartfelt and real, extremely well-acted and believable, with characters you could root for. — Judith R., North End

“Never has the deaf community been portrayed in such a compelling manner.” — Dave G., Hollis, N.H.

How to watch: “CODA” is streaming on Apple TV+.

3. “Dune”

“This was my first trip to the movies since COVID, and I was reminded how amazing movies can be. The surround sound audio and large screen made for such an amazing experience to experience sci-fi.” — Cory G., Franklin

“Dune brought back the big screen experience we craved during this pandemic.” — Christopher L., Melrose


“World building, engaging story, well acted, amazing visuals, and spectacular sound! The only movie in 2021 that has all of those qualities.” — CJ, Attleboro

How to watch: “Dune” is available to rent and stream on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and various other on-demand platforms.

4. “Belfast”

“Seeing the Troubles through a child’s eyes provided a great humanistic approach to story telling. We are all just people in this troubled world. It reminded me of seeing Scout navigate the segregated South of Maycomb County [in “To Kill A Mockingbird”]. — Jennifer O., Everett

“Such a wonderful telling of horrible times in ‘Belfast,’ as seen through the eyes of a child. Sad, funny, tragic….all those things. Also great performances by a wonderful cast.” — Maureen B., Hingham

“‘Belfast’ was my favorite for three reasons. First, director Kenneth Branagh deftly universalized his own childhood, allowing us to experience the strife they faced and survived. Second, Jude Hill’s exuberant performance. Third, Caitriona Balfe’s performance as the mom: when she’s on screen, one cannot take one’s eyes off of her.” — Ann P.

How to watch: “Belfast” is currently showing in theaters, but is also available to rent and stream on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and various other on-demand platforms.

5. “The Power of the Dog”

“How masterfully [writer/director Jane] Campion kept her adapted screenplay so close to the original material of the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage in the late ’60s. I read the novel years ago and have revisited it multiple times due to its advanced themes. Benedict Cumberbatch also gave a masterclass performance in a surprisingly different type of role.” — DM


“Original theme, excellent acting, beautiful cinematography.” — David R., Belmont

“Great acting, great story line and unique.” — Geno, Dennis

How to watch: “The Power of the Dog” is streaming on Netflix.

6. “Licorice Pizza”

“A combo of ‘Ladybird’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ with great character growth, this movie pushes the norm on what a coming of age movie should be and throws society norms out the window. Entertaining and emotional.” — Kevin M., Madison, Wis.

“It was entertaining and well done in a cute way.” — Elise Y., Dorchester

How to watch: “Licorice Pizza” is playing only in theaters.

7. “The Tender Bar”

“I read the book a long time ago and loved it. Ben [Affleck] did a great job as the uncle/father and JR stole your heart.” — Carol M., Lynnfield

How to watch: “The Tender Bar” is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

8. “tick, tick… BOOM!”

“Not since ‘All That Jazz’ has any film truly captured the creative process, particularly in regards to musical theatre. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s deft hand as a first time director allow the film to be accessible while speaking a fluent shorthand to any musical fan. Andrew Garfield gives the strongest of his three terrific performances this year, and Bradley Whitford’s impeccable Stephen Sondheim is only outdone by the master himself, whose vocal cameo marks the final performance of the master.” — Tim L., Dorchester

How to watch: “tick, tick… BOOM!” is streaming on Netflix.

9. “King Richard”

How to watch: “King Richard” is available to rent and stream on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and various other on-demand platforms.

10. “West Side Story”

“It’s a movie I will watch again and again.” — L Orozco


How to watch: “West Side Story” is playing only in theaters.

Here is the full list of readers’ favorite movies of 2021, listed alphabetically.

  • “Being the Ricardos”
  • “Belfast”
  • “C’mon C’mon”
  • “CODA”
  • “Don’t Look Up”
  • “Drive My Car”
  • “Dune”
  • “Encanto”
  • “House of Gucci”
  • “King Richard”
  • “Licorice Pizza”
  • “No Time To Die”
  • “Oasis Knebworth 1996”
  • “Old Henry”
  • “Passing”
  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
  • “Spider-Man: No Way Home”
  • “Stillwater”
  • “The French Dispatch”
  • “The Green Knight”
  • “The Last Duel”
  • “The Lost Daughter”
  • “The Power of the Dog”
  • “The Suicide Squad”
  • “The Tender Bar”
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
  • “tick, tick… BOOM!”
  • “West Side Story”
  • “Zola” occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.