Reel Talk's Pam Powell selects her favorite films of 2021.

The “Best Films of 2021” is certainly a subjective list, but it’s also a fluctuating one. As I pour through the titles and even rewatch a few of my top favorites, these movies jockey for position depending upon my mood and even the day’s events. And with that stated caveat, here are “the best” films of 2021.


Writer and director Kenneth Branagh takes us back to “The Troubles” of 1969 Belfast, Ireland, in this semi-autobiographical story of love, family and sacrifice. Strikingly visual and heartbreakingly beautiful, this violent time is depicted through the lens of a young boy, Buddy (Jude Hill). Lovingly told, we are immersed in this time and in this family as they navigate these difficult and troubling times.

”The Last Duel”

Told from three different perspectives, we see in riveting detail the horrific events that lead up to Marguerite de Carrouges’ (Jodie Comer) rape. Based on the writings and true story from the 14th century, we are plummeted back to this gritty patriarchal society, where women were property and #MeToo could not have even been imagined. Filled with stellar performances and sharp insightful writing, “The Last Duel” is a tale with an ending that will leave you breathless and speechless, making it even more relevant in today’s times.

”Don’t Look Up”

Admittedly, I have watched this four times and for good reason. Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio star as Michigan State University researchers who discover a planet-killing comet headed to Earth. Attempting to alert the powers that be and eventually the general population, their actions are the only thing that can save planet Earth and humanity. Believe it or not, this is a hysterically funny movie as writer/director Adam McKay weaves together a complicated tale of climate change and other socially-relevant issues and our responses.


Ann Dowd and Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton and Reed Birney, star as two couples who lost their sons during a mass school shooting; one son the victim, the other the shooter. As the two couples come together at a rural church, the school lurking in the background, their civil conversation is filled with brutally raw emotions boiling just below the surface until they blow. Succinct writing and deft direction by Fran Kranz, with emotional yet understated performances, allows us to walk, not in their shoes but certainly next to them, to establish empathy for both sets of parents.


Writer and director Michael Sarnoski tells an emotionally-loaded story of Rob (Nicolas Cage), a man living in the wilderness, hunting truffles when his prized pig goes missing. Teaming up with Amir (Alex Wolff), a truffle buyer for high-end restaurants, Rob goes in search of his pig, only to confront his troubling past. Beautifully shot, Cage gives us one of the best performances of his career. The film also possesses one of the best scenes of the year making it a movie not to be missed.

The remaining films, more than five, are all worth your time thanks to great storytelling, cinematography and acting. These include: “The Power of the Dog,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “C’mon, C’mon,” “King Richard,” “The Killing of Two Lovers,” “Violet,” “Tick Tick Boom,” “The Lost Daughter” and “Parallel Mothers.”

Pamela Powell is a film critic located in Bourbonnais and a member of the CFCA and the CCA and is a Rotten Tomatoes certified critic. Writing reviews for 10 years, Pamela also can be found on WCIA TV in Champaign. She can be contacted at

Film critic

New York native film critic Pamela Powell now resides in Bourbonnais where she has been reviewing big blockbuster films as well as independent gems for the last 10+ years.