Here are some exciting movies released this year and a must-see this year:


Photo credit: Variety

The Power of the Dog:

Release date: November 17, 2021, in theatres; December 1 on Netflix

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Why it’s worth seeing: The Piano director Jane Campion’s return to feature filmmaking after more than a decade away is an absolute triumph, a chilling exploration of a man driven to cruelty by the pursuit of a masculine ideal in the American West. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank, a rancher who prides himself on the dirt under his fingernails and his ability to live with as few amenities as possible. He worships a rider named Bronco Henry and calls his softer brother George (Jesse Plemons) “fatso.” When George marries a widowed innkeeper Rose (Kirsten Dunst), Phil makes it his mission to mentally torture her. He is similarly inclined to do that to her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who arrives at the ranch on summer holidays from college studies, but instead decides to take him under his wing, figuring he can mould him into the kind of man he thinks is worth being. Campion’s direction is dangerously erotic, while Benedict Cumberbatch gives one of his all-time great performances as a man so uncomfortable in his own skin he inflicts his pain upon others,

Where to watch it: Netflix (Watch the trailer)

The Worst Person in the World:

Release date: Limited release November 17, 2021; wide release February 4, 2022

Director: Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st)

Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum

Why it’s worth seeing: Director Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World opens by announcing that it’s a story told in 12 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. That might initially sound intimidating, but this warm and inviting film about a young woman basically just trying to figure shit out is anything but. The revelatory Renate Reinsve plays Julie, who we learn in that opening section was a type-A student wanting to be a doctor until she got distracted and tried psychology, and then tried photography and then tried writing. She meets Aksel, an older comic book artist and they fall in love and move in together. Trier finds plenty to mine in Julie’s uncertainty—about her future and her desire for children—and Reinsve is sensational playing all of her nerves and sensuality. It’s a very funny film with jokes about farts and buttholes, but also an astoundingly creative one that will take your breath away as it moves through its structured narrative,

Where to watch it: In theatres (watch the trailer)

Photo Credit: Empire

West Side Story:

Release date: December 10, 2021

Director: Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List)

Cast: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, Rita Moreno

Why it’s worth seeing: You really shouldn’t underestimate Steven Spielberg. The director’s decision to remake West Side Story, a musical that had already been turned into a 1961 film, was met with skepticism. But he proved doubters wrong with a stunning adaptation that rethinks the classic for a new era without losing its undying appeal. Much of this West Side Story’s success can be attributed to the new screenplay written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and frequent Spielberg collaborator Tony Kushner that deepens and contextualizes the story. It all comes together with excellent performances from Rachel Zegler as María, Ariana DeBose as Anita, Mike Faist and Riff, and, most touchingly, veteran Rita Moreno as a new character, Valentina. Spielberg and his trusted cinematographer, Janusz Kamiński, capture the dancing and heartbreak with vibrancy while highlighting the violence and anger in the narrative.

Where to watch it: In theatres (watch the trailer)

Photo Credit: IndieWire

The Green Knight:

Release date: July 30, 2021

Director: David Lowery (A Ghost Story)

Cast: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury

Why it’s great: The Green Knight isn’t an action fantasy, or even a fantasy in the way we’ve become accustomed to it: There are no dragons (though there is a whale fossil), no sparkly magic spells (though there is at least one sinister incantation and a companionable fox), no athletic sex scenes (though the whole movie is very sexy). Dev Patel plays soon-to-be-knight Gawain, who, in chopping off the head of a mysterious Green Knight during a game of chivalry, dooms himself to death when his foe challenges to return to him in a year so he can return the blow in kinda blow that, as he is not made of magical plants, Gawain is unlikely to survive. What follows is a gorgeous, surreal fable set in the medieval world of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, sending Gawain on a quest full of ghosts, giants, and magic that turns all the trappings of its source material on its head.

Where to watch it: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, or YouTube (Watch the trailer)

Photo Credit: Vulture

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar:

Release date: February 12, 2021

Director: Josh Greenbaum (New Girl)

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr.

Why it’s great: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar took us by surprise like a benevolent water spirit, a reference you’ll get if you watch this truly zany comedy from the minds of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who also star as the titular Barb and Star, best friends who decide to leave their little Nebraska town for a vacation in the fictional Floridian paradise of Vista Del Mar. What they don’t know is that a pale villain with a severe bob (also played by Wiig) is targeting that very spot because of a personal grievance. Barb & Star has multiple musical numbers, some wild camels, and an infectiously goofy spirit largely thanks to the brilliant work of the pair of women at its center. It’s hard to describe the specific lunacy of this film, so just go watch and be swept away by the good vibes.

Where to watch it: Hulu (Watch the trailer)

Photo Credit: Metro

The Lost Daughter:

Release date: December 17 in theatres; December 31 on Netflix

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Cast: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris

Why it’s worth seeing: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, based on a novel by Elena Ferrante, is a story about motherhood that will crawl under your skin and stay there. It centers on Leda (Olivia Colman), a professor on a solo Greek vacation. From her perch on a beach chair, she watches as a loud, aggressive family invades the beach, but her gaze centers on a quiet, beautiful mother named Nina (Dakota Johnson) and her crying child. Through watching this woman struggle with the toddler, Leda is flooded with memories of her own two daughters. As a young mother, Leda (played in flashbacks by the wonderful Jessie Buckley) was frustrated and frequently angry at her kids. She wasn’t an abusive parent, but she was one that didn’t fit naturally into the maternal stereotypes forced upon women. In the present, Leda is drawn closer and closer to Nina and her own doubts about her assigned role. It’s a tricky piece that Gyllenhaal executes almost flawlessly, creating a vivid universe of women and their internal strife. 

Where to watch it: Netflix (Watch the trailer)

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Published on HOLR Magazine.

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