Review: The top 10 films of 2021

2021 saw Kiwi movie lovers watching more from home than in a cinema but regardless of how cinematic stories were savoured this year the bar was high.

Kate Rodger counts down her top 10 films of the year.

You know what? 2021 was a stink one for many reasons but what a cracker year for NZ filmmaking.

Allow me two right honourable mentions - James Ashcroft's Coming Home in the Dark and Oscar Kightely and the Dawn Raid boys for their romp of a doco.

10 - The Justice of Bunny King

Now charging into my top 10 for the year at 10. Potent and heroic with top-notch performances all round.

9 - The Matrix Resurrections

At number nine and just in the nick of time comes The Matrix Resurrections. Loyal, meta, jampacked with gorgeous set pieces and Matrix allegory, I loved every minute.

8 - Juniper

Back on hometurf is the formidable Charlotte Rampling in New Zealand film Juniper. The tenderness of the telling here makes the slow thaw incredibly rewarding, the moments of joy offsetting the enormity of the heartache. 

7 - Pig

At seven is Pig. The most simple of premises can be the most wonderful thing when it's done right and Nicolas Cage brings home the bacon, delivering one of the performances of his career.

6 - Licorice Pizza

Oh the joy of young love in LA in the 70s. Licorice Pizza is a delectable smorgasbord of cinematic treats and must be seen for the Bradley Cooper almost-cameo alone.

5 - The Father

Kicking off the top 5 is Oscar-heavyweight and with phenomenal performances and heart Olivia Coleman and Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Father.

4 - Cousins

Identity, loss, connection. Three Māori women, their lives spent navigating all of those things.

Cousins is powered by a mighty heart, the blood coursing through the veins of this story is Aotearoa's. A stunning film.

3 - Spider-Man: No Way Home

Here is a Spider-Man for fans of every age, filled with spidey lore, emotional performances, and a cohesion and connectivity I've never experienced in a live-action Spider-Man film before. Top-notch.

2  - The Power of the Dog

There's cinematic storytelling and there's poetry. At their intersection always is Jane Campion. Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee deliver entirely on the haunting, mesmerizing heart of this story. Divine.

1 - Dune

I have a well-documented weakness for sci-fi and expected Dune to feed my soul. I didn't expect it to entirely blow my mind.

The extraordinary story, the epic visual feast and the sheer immersive scale and majesty of it all on the big screen. 

Betrayals, revelations, war, ridiculously cool spacecraft, I want left wanting for nothing except for repeat viewings.