The Biggest Movies of 2021

The Biggest Movies of 2021

Despite serious obstacles, the biggest movies of 2021 still found incredible success. In 2021, audiences finally got to return to theaters, enjoying big blockbuster movies on giant screens, surrounded by a community enraptured by the power of cinema. Accordingly, the biggest movies of the year boasted incredible effects, emotional depth and even unprecedented collaboration across decades-old franchises.

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several tentpole releases either suffered severe delays or were extremely compromised. In fact, many of the biggest movies of 2021 were either hangovers from the previous year or opened on a radically different timeframe to what had originally been proposed. Understandably, this led many pundits to reevaluate the metrics that determine a film’s size and success. Coupled with the rise of streaming services and simultaneous home releases, it’s clear that the cinematic landscape has shifted radically in 2021.
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However, for all the difficulties that beset the entertainment industry this year, many movies have risen above the chaos and become stand-out successes. Whether it’s a $200-million Netflix movie or a four hour-long superhero epic made five years ago, 2021’s biggest movies spoke to the zeitgeist and inspired people to fall in love with the movies again. As the curtain falls on 2021, it’s important to remember the movies that wowed. Here are the biggest movies of 2021.

The Matrix Resurrections

Neo walks through a digital street in The Matrix Resurrections

Despite all the odds, director Lana Wachowski came back to the franchise that made her and her sister Lily some of the most-revered filmmakers of the 2000’s. Her latest film, The Matrix Resurrections spawned a social-media firestorm over series’ leads Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves revisiting their iconic roles–and more importantly, how impeccably well they have both aged–more than twenty years since The Matrix first hit theaters in 1999. While the movie itself was more of a divisive conversation-starter than a triumphant return, with many viewers complaining that The Matrix Resurrections was too much of a retread of what came before, most people were more than happy just to see Neo and Trinity in action once again.

F9: The Fast Saga

F9 poster

They say family is forever, but The Fast and Furious franchise takes the saying to a whole other level. The ninth film in the series (and that’s not even including Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw), F9: The Fast Saga came with a big shock: Dom Toretto has a secret brother, played by John Cena. It was delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, but audiences didn’t seem to notice. The movie earned in nearly $200-million domestically even without a streaming release. After a reception like that, it’s not hard to imagine Universal Pictures green-lighting more Fast and Furious movies.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Carnage shooting daggers from his body in Venom Let There Be Carnage

Carnage has come a long way from his cheap, curly red wig at the end of the first Venom movie. In Venom: Let There Be Carnage, character actor Woody Harrelson gets to chew the scenery as serial-killer-turned-alien-human-hybrid-villain Cletus Kasady. With Tom Hardy displaying his full range as odd-couple Eddie Brock and Venom, the threat posed to his screen presence by Carnage created a maelstrom of mayhem that saw both performers giving it their all. The dynamic clearly worked. Venom: Let There Be Carnage became the third-highest grossing movie of 2021. With some key teases of a broader world of heroes and villains, and Jared Leto’s Morbius just around the corner, Venom may be the unlikeliest launchpad for a cinematic universe.

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Godzilla vs. Kong

Godzilla vs Kong

It may not have been the most lucrative or critically successful entry on this list, but Godzilla vs. Kong is the movie that welcomed audiences back to the movies. The film proved that even a deadly pandemic can’t stop the magic of the silver screen. A sister release on HBO Max didn’t stop the action extravaganza from making $100-million in the domestic box office. The streaming release may have even been a benefit to Warner Brothers and the theater industry long-term. Viewers were able to have a good time with the movie at home, then logged on to social media to read scores of tweets about how much better the movie was in a big-screen experience. Years from now, Godzilla vs. Kong may be remembered as the blueprint for a successful hybrid movie release.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyders Justice League

After nearly four years of waiting, it’s surprisingly fitting that Zack Snyder’s Justice League would end up being a film about faith rewarded. Zack Snyder’s restored original plan for the 2017 superhero team-up movie was a bombastic capstone to his tenure as the creative voice behind DC’s cinematic universe. It was also the culmination of a four-year long social-media phenomenon driven by Snyder’s most devoted fans to encourage Warner Brothers to finally release the mythical “Snyder Cut”. At four-hours long, and with production on new movies locked down, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a perfect vehicle for Warner Media to test drive their new streaming service, HBO Max. The film was a huge streaming and social-media success. Critics praised the movie’s measured editing and commitment to being totally and unabashedly itself, even if the run-time and Zack Snyder’s signature style aren’t for everyone.

Red Notice

red notice

Nobody knows exactly how Netflix turns a profit, but whatever their system is, it’s definitely working. Netflix poured $200-million into making Red Notice, wrangling together three of the world’s biggest movie stars for a globe-trotting treasure hunt adventure movie with echoes of old Hollywood, and then delivered it straight to the living room. The charismatic trifecta of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot was worth the investment. Red Notice has already earned the title of the most streamed movie on Netflix ever. Ed Sheeran’s bizarre cameo trended all on its own. Wasting no time at all, Netflix has already started sequel talks writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber. At the rate Netflix moves, it’s likely Red Notice 2 ends up on this list this time next year.

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No Time To Die

Bond looking up in the sky in No Time to Die

After multiple delays, directorial difficulties, and a very real global threat that even Bond himself would struggle to shoot his way out of, it’s a minor miracle that No Time To Die made its way to screens at all. However, when it did finally arrive, the 25th installment in the venerable franchise was undoubtedly worth the wait. Featuring action aplenty, stylish direction courtesy of True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga, and one of the most shocking movie endings in recent memory, No Time To Die was unquestionably one of the most talked-about films of the year.

Army Of The Dead

Army of the Dead: New Poster Teases Colorful Turn for Zack Snyder Film

Just over a month after releasing a superhero movie that was longer than Lawrence of Arabia, Zack Snyder went viral again, this time for Army of the Dead, an original movie for Netflix that took Snyder back to his roots as the advocator-in-chief of the running zombie. This time, Snyder took matters into his own hands, literally, by serving as his own cinematographer on Army of the Dead. The biggest talking point surrounding the movie was its use of visual effects to seamlessly integrate Tig Notaro into the cast. Notaro filmed her scenes entirely on a green screen and never actually interacted with the other actors in the movie, but the final product dared to put Notaro in heavily-populated shots anyway. According to producer Deborah Snyder, the effect cost more than the entirety of Army of Theives, a spin-off film that heralds an endless Army of the Dead cinematic universe for Netflix.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man No Way Home Doctor Strange

Spider-Man: No Way Home completes two trilogies: the MCU’s Spider-Man trilogy starring Tom Holland, as well as trilogy of Spider-Man movie series. Taking advantage of their rich backlog of Spider-Man movies, Marvel opens up the multi-verse, letting in characters from previous cinematic interpretations of the Spider-Man myth. Both Sam Raimi’s beloved trilogy as well as Marc Webb’s edgier series, The Amazing Spider-Man, are integrated into the MCU, with a third-act reveal that rivals the climax of Avengers: Endgame. Spider-Man: No Way Home has already made half-a-billion dollars in two weeks, and that’s just in the United States. This unquestionably marks it out as one of the biggest movies of 2021.

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