18 Jan 22
Despite everything that happened over the course of 2021, we can certainly say this: cinema made its return in style. As we look back at all the great films from the last twelve months, spanning high-octane action, thoughtful drama, and enlightening documentaries, it's almost impossible to decide what our favourite is. That's why we asked our Members to do it for us – and they did.
We heard from over a thousand Picturehouse Members about their favourite films of 2021, and the list that follows showcases a selection of cinema-goers discerning in their tastes, passionate in their answers, and proud to be back in their seats, popcorn (and Membership card) in hand.
Without further ado, our Members' Top Ten Films of 2021:
The Father is an intense watch, charting the changing life of a man as dementia encroaches on him. But it's an exquisitely rendered, powerfully acted film – Peter Church describes it as "an amazing journey of emotions, with brilliant actors. I love films that challenge my perception of life – and this certainly did that."
It's also worth noting that almost every vote we got for The Father mentioned Anthony Hopkins, whose staggering performance is the film's anchor, sweeping award ceremonies in 2021 – if we did Best Actor awards, he'd be our winner too.
After living in the shadow of Woodstock, the untold story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was brought vibrantly to life by director Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson, helped along by a stunning collection of archive footage and a staggering lineup of performers.
"So many musical legends, heroes and heroines all in one place," says Jane Champion, "along with affectionate and wistful present-day reflections from performers and audience members. It was exuberant and energetic – and the outfits were amazing!"
Hitting our list just a month after its release, Tom Holland's third outing in his Spidey suit is a Marvel fan's dream: as Tristan Oliver says, "It was everything I ever wanted from a Spider-Man film." The young Avenger's got to battle a sudden PR crisis, teenage angst, and a lot of trouble from the character's past – and asking Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange to meddle around in the multiverse for him certainly doesn't help matters.
To say any more would be a spoiler, but Caroline nails it: "Pure cinematic joy. Funny, thrilling, moving – it just put the biggest smile on my face."
"An utterly intoxicating blend of comedy, tragedy and everything in between," is how Martin Jackson describes Thomas Vinterberg's tale of middle-aged drinking buddies. Inspired by a Danish philosopher, four high school teachers (including the ever-watchable Mads Mikkelsen) attempt to maintain an extremely low level of drunkenness throughout the day to reap the benefits of being tipsy – naturally, the consequences are very mixed.
Although tinged with plenty of darkness and thought-provoking ideas, the result is an incredible concoction, guaranteed to have you laughing and crying in equal measure. Drink up.
"I don't think I'm exaggerating in saying that this is a perfect film," Donald Rositano tells us. Céline Sciamma's follow-up to the magnificent Portrait Of A Lady On Fire is a pint-sized miracle (literally, at a mere 73 minutes long), following a young girl's friendship with a girl she meets in the woods, following her grieving mother's sudden departure from their home.
Petite Maman is tender, delicate and moving, almost certain to pull at the heartstrings of anyone who sees it. Donald gets right to the point: "I left in awe."
Picking up a Best Picture Oscar may well have made Chloé Zhao's Nomadland a lock for this list, and her incredibly natural tale of life lived on the road (with a never-better Frances McDormand) is worthy of all its plaudits.
We got an excellent recommendation from Laura Oliver: "Nomadland's portrayal of people living on the margins is a story being played out around the world today. I don't think this could have been achieved without the bold mixing of professional actors and real people, nor the stunning cinematography that captures America's vastness and makes the landscape a character of its own. Nomadland doesn't glorify van life, nor does it brutalise it, but shows the very real ways in which people today are living, and trying to survive, in a tough world."
Sarah Eagle tells us that "this musical inspired me to become a professional musician – I knew every song inside out by the time I was a teenager. I've since played in the pit band for several different performances of West Side Story and I never grow tired of it. I was worried that the new version wouldn't live up to my own expectations, but I was spellbound throughout." So were we – and it's hard not to be, with a powerhouse team behind it.
Just as the musical reinvents Romeo and Juliet, Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner, and the musical geniuses that were Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim all come together to create a West Side Story both timeless and thoroughly reinvigorated.
When talking about The French Dispatch, our Member Will Trickey really puts it best: "Wes Anderson really out-Wes Andersoned himself."
The French Dispatch is a lot of things, and its central team of journalists and their eccentric editor-in-chief (none other than Bill Murray) paint portraits of a student revolution, a criminal artist and his prison guard muse, a kidnapping saved by the very specific menu of a police chief's private chef, and Owen Wilson in a beret on a bicycle. What it is, without a doubt, is a Wes Anderson film – beautiful to look at, poignant and wry, and with the kind of ensemble you'd be pressed to find anywhere else.
Science fiction really doesn't get more epic than Dune. A classic story of a hero's journey set amongst desert planets and gigantic sand worms, the scale and substance of the story made it something special – and it just missed out on our top spot by a mere twenty votes.
Beatrice Murphy describes it as "a film that was in every way a love letter to the books and films before it. Tight pace, amazing visuals and audio, and a strong cast. I was initially sceptical before seeing it to see if they made the right choices, but I am very happy to be proved wrong." Don't doubt Denis Villeneuve – we'll see you for Dune: Part 2.
What else? The biggest film of the year was also our Members' favourite film of the year, with June Torrance summing up how many must have felt about it: "It was just wonderful after being in lockdown for so long to sit in a cinema and see a great big, brash, glamorous movie."
Proving for the final time that nobody does it better, Daniel Craig's 007 got a farewell filled with bombast, humour and emotion – and made us all realise there's no better way to see it than on the big screen.
Stay tuned for a glimpse at what our Members are looking forward to in 2022. Happy New Year!
To coincide with the Great Big Green Week, we bring you a special screening of The Ant & The Grasshopper, presented in collaboration with Greener Henley, The Regal & Picturehouse Green Screen.
To celebrate Pip and Posy coming to our screens, we’re giving you two chances to win! We have a price bundle of a totebag and an activity book, or a jigsaw and an activity book! The competition closes on Monday 31 October 2022.
To celebrate the release of Mrs Harris Goes to Paris we’re giving you the chance to win an overnight getaway for two at a luxury hotel in Paris, France. In cinemas Friday 30 September.
Before you see Decision To Leave (because we know you will) why not get to know director Park Chan-wook a little better...
You'd be hard-pressed to find two "buzzier" names in Hollywood than Florence Pugh and Harry Styles right now. In cinemas from Friday 23 September.
To celebrate the release of Ticket To Paradise we’re giving you the chance to win an overnight getaway for two at a luxury hotel in the beautiful St Ives, Cornwall. In cinemas from Tuesday 20 September.