(Credit: Netflix / Best of Netflix)

Films

The 10 best Netflix Original films from 2021

Netflix has been treating us to delightful original films and series over the years, delivering astounding work across all genres. With its benevolent nature, it isn’t easy to keep up with all the films that Netflix begins streaming every month.

It can make the platform quite difficult to navigate. While we tend to go back to our comfort movies whenever we can, it is hard to ignore the new delights that grace the platform. 

Over the relentless pandemic, 2020 witnessed some amazing Netflix Original series, including Ratched, The Queen’s Gambit, Tiger King and more, to name a few. Films like Mank, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Lost Girls, Da 5 Bloods and more were a delight to cinephiles and film buffs who secretly thanked Netflix for keeping their sanity alive. 

As we move towards the end of 2021, it is essential to acknowledge some of the most brilliant Netflix Original films that have provided food for thought and fed out film-loving souls. 

Here are the ten best Netflix Original films from 2021: 

The 10 best Netflix Original films from 2021

10. Vivo – Kirk DeMicco, Brandon Jeffords 

Sony Pictures’ first-ever musical with various original songs transposes the viewers to a land of vibrant colours with a series of adventures that shall quench their wanderlust amidst such dreadful times. Featuring the voices of Lin Manuel Miranda, Zoe Saldana and Ynairaly Simo, the film is a fun and heartfelt watch for all, where a simplistic quest is driven by love and adoration.

Vivo is a rainforest honey bear who performs alongside his amicable owner Andres, enthralling the crowd with his musical talent. However, tragedy strikes when Andres dies of a broken heart, and Vivo must deliver a piece of sheet music to Andres’ long-lost lover, the wonderful songstress Marta before her farewell concert. 

9. The White Tiger Ramin Bahrani 

Adapted from Arvind Adiga’s eponymous 2008 novel, the film is a dark comedy that witnesses the journey of a poor villager in India, Balram Halwai, who becomes a driver for Ashok and Pinky, an affluent couple in the city. He feels a kind of connection with his wealthy masters until a night of furious betrayal, which makes him see through their corrupt facades. He decides to rebel against the inequality and discrimination meted out to his kind. 

Starring Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra, the film received a great deal of positive reaction worldwide and even won a nomination at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. While exposing the unbridgeable class conflict, malaise and poverty plaguing rural India, the protagonist’s sheer cunning and wit coupled with the brilliant twist, in the end, makes the film an exhilarating watch. 

8. The Harder They Fall Jeymes Samuels 

In his homage to the western genre, Samuels provides an interesting and provocative subversion of the generic western tropes, primarily by viewing the story through an all-black lens. A scathing commentary on racism, violence and revenge, the film is a well-styled and brilliant exploration of the genre and exists as a homage to the likes of Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino and more. Starring a brilliant ensemble, namely Idris Elba, Regina King, Jonathan Majors and more, the wonderful cinematography of the film is reminiscent of some of its most iconic predecessors.

While the story remains somewhat underdeveloped, the suave Black gunslingers add to the charm. Rufus Buck has been released, and he, along with his notorious gang, is back in time. Having witnessed his parent’s brutal death at the hands of Buck, Nat Love and his ragtag team of rebels set out on a quest for vengeance.  

7. The Swarm – Just Philippot 

 Netflix’s most underrated yet terrifying French eco-horror drama, The Swarm or La Nuée, had taken the world by storm with its violent and eerie premise. Based in rural France, it documented the story of a woman who desperately tried hard to provide for her family by engaging in locust farming. After not gaining many profits, she soon developed the habit of feeding locusts blood, especially human blood, to appease her daily survival needs. 

A wonderful insight into how the economic and financial crisis and poverty lead to psychological obsession, dwindling sanity and depravity, the film shows how the woman does not stand back from providing her own blood just to chase profits.  Starring Suliane Brahim, Sofian Khammesas, Marie Narbonne and more, the film is downright harrowing.

6. The Mitchells vs the Machines – Michael Rianda 

Katie Mitchell is accepted into her dream school and cannot wait to fly the nest to find her own kind when her father arranges for a road trip to take her to the school in an attempt to initiate family bonding. As the Mitchells embark on this journey, they are caught in a robotic apocalypse where robots plan to capture humans to seek revenge. The dysfunctional Mitchells, along with their friendly robots and a silly pug named Monchi, must save humanity from the wrath of the robots. 

A hilarious twist to the road-trip genre, the film is a must-watch for all. Quirky and bizarre, this lighthearted exploration of dysfunctional family relationships and love also holds touching topics, including coming out of the closet and fighting for one’s identity against the backdrop of flailing humanity. 

5. Concrete Cowboy – Ricky Staub 

Based on Staub and Dan Walser’s screenplay adapted from Greg Neri’s novel Ghetto Cowboy, the film stars Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin in lead roles. It is a spectacular exploration of the iconic cowboy subculture within the urban landscape while taking a look at how it has persisted in the face of violence, unimaginable poverty and rapid gentrification.   

In this beautiful western with its wonderful selection of mellow and evocative music, the film draws intimate attention to the nuances of a father-son dynamic amidst a tumultuous and unique moment in American culture. Set in the Fletcher Street Stables, the 15-year-old boy forges a renewed relationship with his estranged father while basking in the amicable vibrance of Philadelphia cowboys. 

4. The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion  

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons and more, the film is adapted from Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel. With dramatic twists, the film is a commentary on darker themes like misogyny, bullying and internalised homophobia. It also marks a homosexual reawakening as one of the tormenters, the demonic Phil Burbank, played by Cumberbatch, gradually and unexpectedly falls in love. 

Set in the 1920s Montana ranch, Phil is seen tormenting his brother’s newly-wed wife and her son before finding love and affection for the young boy. With a spectacular cast, brilliant performances, and a wonderful premise that also touches on the romanticisation of cowboys and toxic masculinity, The Power of the Dog is a brilliant analysis of powerplay and sexuality that only a filmmaker of Campion’s stature could deliver. 

3. Malcolm & Marie – Sam Levinson  

Starring John David Washington and Zendaya in the only two roles, this film is a monochromatic and claustrophobic exploration of a fragile relationship that takes a hit when an evening of confrontation forces the couple to face their inner demons and shared struggles. Their constant examination and introspection of their own selves and their relationship are embedded in heavyweight dialogues and profound acting that helps heighten the overwhelming dramatic tension, anguish and melancholy. 

The film constantly challenges the viewer’s discretion by presenting a brilliant dichotomy between the characters and their struggles. They have their own complex backstories that touch upon racism, colourism, misogyny, mental health and assault. The tense and toxic arguments end the film on an ambiguous note where realism and love converge in a beautiful yet poignant final shot. 

2. Pieces of a Woman – Komel Mundcruzo

A deeply personal and poignant tale of grief, mourning, loss and healing, the film documents the loss of a child that leaves expectant parents Martha and Sean devastated. Hit by this violent tragedy, Martha finds it difficult to cope amidst raging troubles in her life that include her dwindling relationship with her husband, her domineering mother, and the obligation to meet the midwife in court whose misjudgement has befallen this tragedy. 

A searing and poignant exploration of trauma and survival, it is a jarring and difficult watch. Starring Vanessa Kirby, Shia LeBeouf and Ellen Burstyn among others, the film is a brutal and challenging watch with intense dramatic tension and slow-burn anguish that gradually culminates into a transcendental tale of healing and acceptance.  

1. tick, tick…BOOM! – Lin-Manuel Miranda 

Starring Andrew Garfield and Vanessa Hudgens among others, the film is based on the real-life story of the legendary playwright and lyricist Jonathan Larson and his brilliant yet tragic career trajectory and artistic precarity while constantly highlighting the artist’s paranoia and anxiety as he races against time.

Garfield thrives as the nervous Larson, whose desperation and immense adoration for his craft helps him persevere despite various hiccups. This determination and talent lead him to become the greatest Tony Award-winning playwright, albeit posthumously. 

Much like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock, the lack of time and mortality of man haunts and disillusions Larson. His yearning to earn himself a name is overridden with anxiety and vulnerability. The film also gives a subtle tribute to Stephen Sondheim, the legend who recently passed away, as well as acknowledges the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was prevalent back then.