Best Movies/TV Series 2021

I did a much less consistent job of keeping track of movies than I did of books this past year. But to the best of my ability, here we go.

The movies and tv series’ that stand out from what I watched this past year are:

Note: I have mentioned if some of the content is edgier in some of these selections, but I didn’t necessarily mention it for all of them. Please do your own research and make your own decisions before watching any of these movies or shows.


The Sound of Metal(2019)

Ruben, a drummer by trade, loses his hearing. At first he focuses solely on how to regain his hearing, but eventually his journey is to find peace with himself through an inner stillness. I easily related to both his desire for physical healing and his need for heart healing. Directed and co-written by Darius Marder. Starring Riz Ahmed. 

“Stillness is the kingdom of God.” The Sound of Metal

Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019)

I watched this earlier in the year and then re-watched it recently just to see if I really did like it and, it turns out, I did. This is the story of a single mom and her teenage son and all the challenges they face individually and together. The film does a great job of sharing the perspective of both the mom and the son. I was able to empathize, groan, and laugh with them as they make their way through the awkward parts of the teen years and the middle years. Plus it’s done with the wonderful quirky, dry humor that only the British can really pull off. In the end, you want to hug both of the characters, give them some tea, and let them know they’re doing okay. Directed by Simon Bird, adapted by Lisa Owens. Starring Monica Dolan and Earl Cave. Musical Score by Belle and Sebastion

Tick, Tick…Boom (2021)

This (musical) movie came out toward the end of 2021 on Netflix and it’s my favorite movie of the year. The film tells the true story of Jonathan Larson (he wrote the musical Rent) and his struggle to get a show up on Broadway. It’s an honest portrayal of how hard it is to pursue a creative dream and also balance relationships, pay the bills, etc. It’s a homage to struggling writers, directors, dancers, and it’s also a homage to Broadway itself. One of the scenes features a handful of Broadway legends like Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters. It’s also a peek into the head of a writer and how he sees the world through a mind that is constantly composing. It’s directed by Lin Manual Miranda and stars Andrew Garfield, who plays Larson. Garfield embodies the character and songs in a way that seems effortless when, in reality, he’d barely sung before taking on the role. I liked this movie better than Hamilton and better than Into the Heights. My family is still singing the songs a month later but I can’t remember one song from Into the Heights right now. You don’t have to love Rent or even to have seen it to enjoy this movie. It’s also miraculously slim on the kind of sexual or violent content that is so prevalent in movies and shows these days.  Written by Steven Levenson and adapted from Jonathan’s Larson’s musical.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?(2019)

This movie made the long, late flight home to Nashville from California, mercifully tolerable. This is an adaptation of a book that I started but didn’t finish several years ago. It follows Bernadette, a mother and wife and retired architect, as she realizes what it has cost her to focus all of her energy on being a mother while her creative mind has lain dormant for years. I’m not really a fan of Cate Blanchett but she’s very convincing in this role. When I look at the year ahead and contemplate how much time to allocate for creative endeavors, this movie reminds me of the impact of that decision for myself and for those around me. Directed by Richard Linklater, adapted from the novel of the same name by Maria Semple. Starring Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristin Wiig, and Judy Greer. 

Nicholas on Holiday (2014)

This is a delightful french film that I watched once on my own and then shared with the family. As with the Britishness of Bagnold Summer, there is something about French movies that only work for the French. An aesthetic style, a certain attitude and humor that can’t be duplicated. This is the story of Nicholas, on vacation with his family, and the adventures he gets into with some of the other kids at the hotel. His parents find some adventures as well. Family friendly, except for brief nudity that shows up in one scene with the Dad and an attractive female guest (it’s easy to skip once you know where it is). Directed by Luarent Tirard, based on a series of books. 


Davis is a lawyer who recently lost his wife in a car accident. When the hospital vending machine fails to deliver the snack he purchased, he begins writing letters of complaint to the vending machine company. His letters get more personal and elaborate and eventually the woman who receives the letters makes contact with him and they form a platonic relationship of support for each others’ catastrophic lives. This is a messy film about grief and about adults not finding it easy to fill the expected roles of their lives. It’s not really a pleasant movie and there are plenty of caveats I could give about the content, but it does give a raw, cathartic picture of grief. Directed by Jean Marc-Vallee, written by Bryan Sipe, starring Jake Gyllenhal and Naomi Watts. 

Cold Mountain(2003)

I’ve seen this movie a few times but it had been a good while until I watched it this year. It’s a film that stands the test of time. It’s perfectly cast, beautifully shot, and painfully told until the very last bittersweet moments. It’s not a movie to watch when the kids might wander into the room and it definitely has scenes that I personally choose to skip completely but it will land you smack in the middle of the Civil War and take you through all the losses that accumulate with such a devastating conflict. Written and directed by the talented Anthony Minghella, starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman and a supporting role for Jack White.  Adapted from the book with the same title by Charles Frazier.

In the Name of the Father(1993)

I’ve always been a big Daniel Day-Lewis fan but my kids have never really seen anything he’s done. So I re-watched this movie with our nineteen-year-old. This is my favorite Daniel Day-Lewis movie, a powerful true life story of a father and son who are wrongly imprisoned. I can’t imagine anyone else inhabiting this role and the drastic changes his character goes through from wayward son to fighter of justice. Equal to Daniel Day-Lewis, is Pete Postlethwaite who plays his father. Their father-son scenes are electric. Directed and co-written by Jim Sheridan, also starring Emma Thompson. 

King Richard(2021)

This is based on the real life of Serena and Venus Williams and their father Richard. I didn’t know anything about their lives going into this move, except that the girls became successful tennis players. It was mesmorizing and disturbing to watch the intensity of “King” Richard and his plans for how his daughters can carry the family out of their poverty and gang-filled neighborhood through the tennis skills he and his wife have instilled in them. You can’t help but watch with fascination over the success but also the overpowering expectations that hovered over the girls from a young age and the control that their father had over their lives and careers. Do you root for him or wish that he would leave them alone? It made me curious to hear the story of their childhood from their girls’ perspectives and as I was writing this post I discovered that Serena and Venus are the Executive Producers of the movie. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, written by Zach Baylin, starring Will Smith. 

All Creatures Great and Small(2021)

A PBS series based on the books by James Herriot. The best part of watching this series was the small miracle that every single person in my family wanted to watch it (from age 12 to 21). The kids were familiar with the books from when they were younger and we watched it as a family as each episode was released weekly. A breath of fresh air during the pandemic.

Trying (2020,2021)

A British series released on Apple TV about a couple trying to adopt. The two main characters are so well-written and performed, my husband and I regularly laughed at the honest portrayal of this relationship. Starring Rafe Spall, Esther Smith and the scene stealer, Imelda Staunton.

Ted Lasso (2020, 2021)

Released on Apple TV, my husband and I found ourselves looking forward to the release of each episode. It follows the fictional story of an American football coach that is hired to coach a British Soccer Team. Created by and Starring Jason Sudeikis with an excellent supporting cast. Especially as the series moved toward and into season 2, I found myself less and less in love with the content, language, and growing darkness of the themes. But it has some golden moments.

Loki (2021)

The series is making it to the list mainly because it was a series I could watch with my teenage son. I’m the non-Marvel fan in the family and Loki is low on my totem pole of flat villains in the series, but I enjoyed having a regular time to connect with my husband and son. And I didn’t always dislike the series (Alligator Loki, anyone?). I also did my best to stick with Wandavision, for the similar reasons, though I don’t think I made it all the way to the end.