2021 was a good year for movies; we’ve seen some absolute crackers hit the big screen.
It feels like the last two or three years have been quite bountiful regardless of the Coronavirus slowing down the big screens.
There are still some great films to have come out of the 2021 year. We live in an era where you can find just about anything to watch.
There are thousands of films on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, not to mention all the movie channels. But with so many options, it can be hard to know what’s worth watching or if you should even get off the couch.
Now everyone knows the usual movie picks of 2021, and they belong to the same popular genre or are made by blockbuster directors or actors.
And I know most people will be enamored with one of these movies next year. But I want to be different and show you underrated movies of 2021.
That’s why we put together a list of underrated movies of 2021.
Table of Contents
- 1. Holler (2021)
- 2. Needle in a Timestack (2021)
- 3. No Sudden Move (2021)
- 4. I’m Your Man (2021)
- 5. The Humans (2021)
- 6. Alien Conquest (2021)
- 7. Plan B (2021)
- 8. Respect (2021)
- 9. In the Earth (2021)
- 10. The French Dispatch (2021)
- 11. The White Tiger (2021)
- 12. Happily (2021)
- 13. Swan Song (2021)
- 14. Gaia (2021)
1. Holler (2021)
First, on our list of underrated movies of 2021, we have Holler, Directed by Nicole Riegel, which tells the story of Ruth (Jessica Barden) hauling scrap metal during winter with her brother Blaze (Gus Halpher) for cash; however, they didn’t get much for their efforts.
Her mom’s a drug addict, who is hiding eviction notices regularly, and the fact that things are pretty bleak.
Ruth receives a college acceptance letter, which takes her by surprise since she never applied, and as it turns out, Blaze did that for her.
But the odds are slim as everyone believes there is a limit to what they can do based on their situation.
Barden delivers such a solid performance as Ruth, caught between the security of what she has always known or venturing into the unknown to see if she has a chance to make something of herself.
It’s a story that’s been done before. Still, Riegel explores the subject matter honestly and authentically – Ruth’s life doesn’t miraculously transform overnight because of this acceptance letter.
Still, it does light the way for a glimmer of something different.
2. Needle in a Timestack (2021)
Our no.2 spot on our list of underrated movies of 2021 goes to Needle in a Time stack. The film is about Nick Mikkelsen (Leslie Odom Jr.) and the development of romantic love in his adult life.
The film follows three romantic love stories in linear trajectories, beginning with “Nick and Janine.” In Nick and Janine’s romantic love story, Nick falls in love with and marries Janine (Cynthia Erivo) after Janine married and divorced their good mutual friend, Tommy (Orlando Bloom).
In Nick and Alex’s Love Train, the second linear train, Tommy jumps out of the present where Nick and Janine are married to the right, the past mistake of letting his and Janine’s marriage fall apart.
The time travel succeeds despite it being a time crime, and now, in the revised present, Tommy is married to Janine, and Nick is married to Alex (Freida Pinto).
Nick discovers that his timeline has been tampered with and decides to spend time putting things right again.
We embark on Nick’s third linear romantic love journey as he returns to the present. He struggles with loneliness and is married to neither Janine nor Alex after going back in time and convincing Alex that Tommy is the right person for her.
In the film’s final minutes, Nick sees Janine at a restaurant. Her eyes meet, and something in her and something in his knowledge. You know there is something there.
The film ends with this knowledge felt and understood, but his love is not yet realized, which seems to be the next chapter in the linear trajectory of Nick and Janine’s romantic love.
3. No Sudden Move (2021)
No Sudden Move is a 2021 American thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh.
The film features an ensemble cast that includes Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Noah Jupe, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, David Harbour, Craig Grant (in his final appearance), Ray Liotta, Frankie Shaw, Julia Fox, and Bill Duke.
Reunited under mysterious circumstances, a group of criminals must work together to find out what’s going on when their simple job goes wrong.
4. I’m Your Man (2021)
I’m Your Man, Directed by Maria Schrader, explores A.I. and people through romantic relationships.
A company can build a dream humanoid that suits your needs and wants – the absolute epitome of artificial intelligence in the film. Alma (Maren Eggert) is chosen to be one of the early testers of these A.I.
It is a decision she disagrees with. But her boss insists, so she reluctantly agrees after he makes some professional promises.
Enter Tom, a lovable humanoid beautifully played by Dan Stevens. Who would have thought that he could speak German so perfectly?
Alma finds it repulsive that she’s not human, but she’s attracted to him too. One of the factors Alma struggles with is Tom’s agency and whether he has any.
Suppose this A.I. is scheduled according to Alma’s needs. Will Tom ever be able to tell her no or argue with her? Would this be a satisfying relationship if your partner was always there for you?
As Alma gets closer to Tom, she ponders these questions, and the film wants you to think about them too. As technology evolves, this possibility could be only a few years away from becoming a reality.
Isn’t it better to have company than to live a lonely and desperate life longing for a bit of love? Watch the movie to find out.
5. The Humans (2021)
Directed by Stephen Karam, A24 releases have a strong reputation among moviegoers, who often enjoy watching films with the A24 label. It speaks of a certain quality – The Humans is no exception.
Based on the Tony Award-winning play by Stephen Karam and adapted for the screen by Karam himself, The Humans follows the Blake family as they gather for Thanksgiving dinner.
The apartment where they meet is Brigid’s (Beanie Feldstein) new place with her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun).
The setting gives the whole meal a somewhat claustrophobic feel as each character pulls certain things off their chests.
There is love between family members, but at the same time, there is a desire to hurt, to hurt. The suspense is gripping, and the talented actors do an excellent job of making this a compelling film to immerse yourself in – an underrated 2021 film to watch, but perhaps not right after Christmas dinner.
6. Alien Conquest (2021)
This movie is one of the top underrated movies of 2021, directed by Mario N. Bonassin, written by Joe Roche(screenplay) and H.G. Wells (based on a novel). This movie Stars; Emily Killian, Anthony Jensen, and Tom Sizemore.
In this underrated movie of 2021, the Astronomer brothers discover that the Martians are threatening to attack Planet Earth.
Still, no one believed them until the Martians landed and destroyed most of New York City. As the brothers attempt to leave town with their families, they discover that the Martians have no immunity to Earth’s diseases.
And now they must figure out how to infect the invading army to wipe out the aliens before the whole Earth gets destroyed.
7. Plan B (2021)
This particular movie couldn’t miss our list of underrated movies of 2021, and here’s why.
Released on May 28 Director: Natalie Morales Cast: Victoria Moroles, Kuhoo Verma, Timothy Grenanderos, Mason Cook, Rachel Dratch If I’ve Never Had A Baby, Booksmart And Grandma It Might Look Like Plan B, A Charming Comedy About, it’s hard trying not to have a baby.
After groping her way through her first sexual encounter, a hard-working South Dakota teen (Victoria Moroles) asks her outgoing best friend (Kuhoo Verma) to help her find emergency contraception.
This sends them on a road trip involving a playground drug dealer, an unwelcome Prince Albert piercing, and Planned Parenthood miles away. Plan B hits familiar coming-of-age beats but does so with a zigzag magnetism resisting contrived political messages.
This is one of two 2021 films heralding the directorial talent of Natalie Morales, known for her roles in Parks and Recreation, Trophy Wife, and Dead to Me.
Morales’ other directing work was Language Lessons. Also, an ode to platonic friendship shows a filmmaker’s deep understanding of intimate human connections.
8. Respect (2021)
Liesl Tommy’s Aretha Franklin biopic, featuring Jennifer Hudson in the prime of her career, was largely forgotten by reviewers because it came out at the wrong time of year, or perhaps because Tommy and screenwriter Tracey Scott Wilson were incredibly clever in their plans.
Respect doesn’t jump through the rhythms of the biographical form, instead of reveling in the resonances between art and Franklin’s demeanor.
The famously enigmatic and often self-destructive Queen of Soul gave it her all on every note, taking vocal performance to new heights.
Respectfully follows the sound closely as she mixes Franklin’s genius with her avoidance and sadness.
9. In the Earth (2021)
Our ninth on the list of underrated movies of 2021, we have In the Earth, Released on January 29, Director: Ben Wheatley Cast: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Hayley Squires Ben Wheatley returns to his roots (or rather his mycorrhizae) in ‘In the Earth,’ a bloody horror retrospective on a group of humans in-network) back threatened by a crazy cloud of hallucinogenic spores in the forest.
Martin (Joel Fry), a scientist researching how certain fungi can grow harvest efficiency, shows up at a remote outpost in a mysteriously fertile forest close by Bristol to help take some tests.
After he and park guide Alma go off to find the testing ground, Alma (Ellora Torchia) tells Martin that her colleague Olivia has gone missing.
When they are captured by a strange man (Reece Shearsmith) who seems to have succumbed to the forest’s dark influence, Martin and Alma discover the true power behind the forest’s deadly ability.
The film opens with a very apt flash warning, as most of the climax takes place in the middle of a growing field that pulses with colored lights and loud noises as the eerie spirit of the forest come to life.
10. The French Dispatch (2021)
In this movie on our list of underrated movies of 2021, Arthur Howitzer Jr., the editor of The French Dispatch newspaper, dies suddenly of a heart attack.
After a final farewell pamphlet, in which three articles from previous paper issues are reprinted along with an obituary, the report’s publication is immediately discontinued per his will in his will.
The movie had been described as “a love letter to journalists, set in an American newspaper outpost in a fictional 20th-century French town”, centered on four stories with an impressive cast list including Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Tilda Swinton, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, and Adrien Brody.
It brings to life a collection of short stories published in The French Dispatch of the same name and set in the fictional French town of Ennui-Sur-Blasé (literally, boredom over apathy).
The movie on our list of underrated movies of 2021 is inspired by Anderson’s love of The New Yorker, with some characters and events in the film based on real-life equivalents of the magazine.
The film was released digitally on December 14, 2021, followed by a Blu-ray release on December 28, 2021, by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
To promote the film, pop-up exhibits featuring recreations of the film’s sets were set up in Los Angeles, New York, and London for a limited time around the film’s release.
The London store featured the Le Sans Blague coffee shop window and housed various props from the film, including costumes and the Rosenthaler mural.
11. The White Tiger (2021)
With its initial release in the middle of Oscar season, which has drawn attention to many other movies, it’s only fair to single out The White Tiger.
This Netflix movie starring Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Still, other than that notable Oscar nod, this movie in our list of underrated movies of 2021 flew under the radar.
However, after being compared to popular films like Joker and Parasite, it is a movie that deserves attention.
He is destined to work his fingers to the bone at his family’s tea stall. Intelligent and ambitious, Balram sees a golden opportunity to extricate himself from the plight of his caste and pave his way to financial success.
After perfecting the subtle art of flattery, the bright-eyed Balram learns to drive, then lands a job as a chauffeur for Ashok, his young, wealthy, American-educated new boss.
In a world structured so that Balram remains forever dispossessed, where corruption, bribery, and betrayal go hand in hand, fulfilling his dream is easier said than done.
Then, after a shocking but revealing incident, Balram’s pent-up anger erupts, and no one is safe. In the end, what does it take to become a wild white tiger?
12. Happily (2021)
Are we destined to be unhappy? Is marriage inherently destined to deteriorate over the years? If you are still happily married after 14 years, is there something wrong with you? Wrong with you?
Those are the questions posed in the intriguingly bizarre “Happily,” a comedy that may have flown under the radar in these strange pandemic times but delivers on its unconventional premise with surprising results.
In this story, making our list of underrated movies of 2021, Joel McHale and Kerry Bishe star is visited by a mysterious stranger (the consistently outstanding Stephen Root) who explains that his wonderfully happy marriage is not all that it seems.
What follows would be too riveting to mess up, but it all makes for a stylish escapade starring an all-star comedy cast including Paul Scheer, Charlyne Yi, Jon Daly, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, among others.
It’s a bizarre and ultimately daring comedy that poses the sad questions of life that we’ve always feared too much.
13. Swan Song (2021)
Benjamin Cleary’s sci-fi drama Swan Song was an early Christmas present for Apple TV+ subscribers and received many positive reviews.
While critics heaped praise on Cleary (who made her film debut after impressing Stutterer with her Oscar-winning short), it’s Mahershala Ali’s captivating dual role that makes Swan Song a must-see.
Set in a chillingly plausible near-future, Swan Song follows successful graphic designer Cameron Turner, a devoted family man who discovers he has a terminal illness.
His wife (Naomie Harris) is pregnant with their second child, and he can’t face the thought of not being there for her. Luckily (or so he thinks), he offered a radical solution.
Cloning has been perfected in this world, and Cameron can replace himself. He undergoes the procedure and plans to spend the rest of his days at a luxurious forest facility run by Dr. Scott (Glenn Close), but as the day of transition approaches, he begins to regret his decision.
After consulting with another doctor’s patient (Awkafina) and meeting his clone (identical in every way except for a single freckle), Cameron begins to feel guilty.
Is it worth protecting your family from grief? Is he doing it for her, or is he just doing it for himself? Swan Song raises interesting moral questions that will keep you pondering long after the credits have rolled.
14. Gaia (2021)
Gaia joins our list of underrated movies of 2021 at number 14. Directed by Jaco Bouwer with a Cast: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi Not unlike the other film on this list about being caught in the woods with infamous mushrooms, Jaco Bouwer’s Gaia stands out because it epitomizes its mushroom danger as a creature with hands and feet that terrifies at night.
It’s not often we see the spawn of Mother Earth, causing tension in the dense forest of Tsitsikamma, South Africa, when two forest service workers, Winston (Anthony Oseyemi) and Gabi (Monique Rockman), go in search of a drone.
Lost And cults meet father and son survivors, but when we do, it’s a mind-blowing nightmare. Commenting on nature’s rebellion as humans destroy the planet is profound; A good monster movie is contemplative fun that ends in isolated beauty.
Worthy mentions that didn’t make our list of underrated movies of 2021 include 2021 and Done with Snoop Dogg & Kevin Hart, The Souvenir: Part II (2021), and Encanto (2021).
Without a doubt, this list of underrated movies of 2021 will resonate easily with moviegoers. More great films are likely to be made, more people will watch movies at home, and new technologies will allow viewers to interact with films more immersive and engaging.
It’s also worth noting that while it’s hard to predict which movies will be underrated in any given year, it’s often possible (and fun!) to identify the underrated film that never found their feet when they first hit the big screen.