2021 was supposed to be the year people would go back to theaters to watch movies. However, thanks to the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, movie studios continued to delay the releases of major films. They also sold a lot of movies to streaming services, fearing they weren’t big box office hits in today’s environment. So, our list of the best streaming movies of 2021 has a few movies destined for a theatrical release, ending up on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus.
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However, there were still plenty of great movies made specifically for streaming services in 2021. Our list this year ranges from animated family movies to sci-fi action movies to westerns (two of them). There’s even a four-hour superhero epic to stream.
We included some Netflix movies that had very small and limited stage performances. However, we also did not include films that had a wide theatrical release. That includes all of the Warner Bros. motion pictures that debuted on HBO Max, along with the Disney Plus Premier Access movies and a few more movies of the day and date that also released on Paramount Plus and Peacock. With that out of the way, here are the top ten streaming movies of 2021, in no particular order.
The best streaming movies of 2021
Army of the Dead (Netflix)
In Army of the Dead, co-writer / director Zack Snyder combined two popular movie genres that you might think wouldn’t go well together. A plague of zombies has swept through Las Vegas and the United States has entrenched the city on all sides. However, there is still a ton of money inside a vault at a Las Vegas casino. The casino owner wants it, so a team of mercenaries, led by Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward, is hired to come in and get the money, and hopefully avoid getting bitten by the undead.
This mix of zombie movie and heist is a lot of fun, and you have some time to meet many of the characters that wander the streets of the undead in Las Vegas. Also, be sure to check out Army of Thieves, a prequel film starring Matthias Schweighöfer as Ludwig, the film’s memorable locksmith (Schweighöfer also directed the film).
I care a lot (Netflix)
Before playing a sorceress on Amazon Prime Video’s Wheel of Time, Rosamund Pike starred in this Netflix original movie. She plays a woman who addresses wealthy seniors and forces herself into their lives as their court-appointed guardian. The title of the movie suggests that she might worry about her charges, but in reality, she just wants to take away her assets.
This black satire highlights the very real problem of older people finding out that they are no longer in control of their lives, due to people like the character of Pike. However, in this movie, he may have found his match, as his ultimate target turns out to be the mother of a great crime lord. It’s definitely one of the best streaming movies of 2021.
Tomorrow’s War (Amazon Prime Video)
Initially slated for its theatrical release by Paramount, the studio decided to sell the film to Amazon Prime Video, which released it during the week of July 4 in the US This was the perfect popcorn action movie for him. summer. Chris Pratt plays a former soldier turned teacher. He, and the rest of the human race, find their lives turned upside down when a group of humans appear from the future, wanting to recruit new soldiers to fight an alien invasion.
This movie echoes previous movies like Independence Day, Starship Troopers, and others. However, he also has surprising humanity (which we won’t reveal here). There are a lot of great action pieces, and the aliens themselves are pretty scary too. Sit back and enjoy this entertaining movie.
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Netflix)
Netflix picked up this great animated movie from Sony. It comes from co-writer and director Michael Rianda, who was previously one of the main creators of the excellent Disney Channel series Gravity Falls. Like that series, this movie focuses on ordinary people who have to deal with extraordinary circumstances. In this case, the Mitchell family is humanity’s only hope, as a rogue AI takes over all machines in an attempt to capture all humans and send them into space.
There are a lot of fun parts to this movie, but there are also some great themes for family bonding, particularly with daughter Katie Mitchell, who conflicts with her father, Rick. However, they try to put that aside as the rogue AI’s plans come true.
Tick, Tick… Boom! (Netflix)
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, makes his film directorial debut with this Netflix original movie. Jonathan Larson originally wrote this musical drama, but for the film version; Miranda also made it an autobiography for Larson, who died very early at the age of 35, just before his most famous musical, Rent, had its first off-Broadway performance in 1996.
The musical itself is excellent and is assisted by an excellent performance by Andrew Garfield as Larson. The character is depicted as a person trying to succeed as an artist, but at the expense of his relationships with his friends. There are some amazing pieces of music in this movie, which is just one of the reasons we chose this as one of the best streaming movies of 2021.
The harder they fall (Netflix)
Here’s the first western on our list, and even though it’s a fictional movie, the main characters are based on real people who lived in the Wild West. Nat Love, played by Jonathan Majors, wants to take down border crime boss Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba, who murdered Love’s parents in front of him when he was a little boy. Assemble a sniper gang to take down Buck.
There are some great Western shootouts in this movie, along with great performances from Major, Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, and others. It also has a great soundtrack.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (HBO Max)
Yes, Snyder has two movies on this list. In fact, the fact that this film exists is a testament to the dedication of Snyder and his loyal fans who demanded that the film be released. The DC Comics superhero team film Justice League first premiered in 2017, but Snyder, although credited as a director, did not handle the final cut of the film due to a family tragedy. Once again, the movie had extensive new recordings written and directed by someone else. The end result was a huge disappointment, and fans organized a campaign for Warner Bros to release “The Snyder Cut.”
Warner Bros. relented and allowed Snyder to cut Justice League and even film a new sequence in this massive four-hour epic. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg fight to save Earth from Steppenwolf and his armies, and ultimately from their master Darkseid. Despite its length, this movie feels like the version that should have been released from the beginning. You can also see a black and white version of this movie on HBO Max.
The culprit (Netflix)
After directing Infinite, a hyped action movie that was eventually downloaded on Paramount Plus, director Antoine Fuqua turned around and made a more realistic and intimate police thriller for Netflix. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a Los Angeles police officer with a checkered past. As a result, he has been assigned to a 911 call center. Things quickly get tense when he receives a call from a woman claiming that she has been abducted.
Gyllenhaal’s character desperately tries to help this woman while she’s still in the 911 call center. There is a lot of tension and suspense as we not only learn more about this crime, but also about Gyllenhaal’s character.
Luca (Disney Plus)
Disney decided to release the latest animated film from its Pixar division as an exclusive stream on Disney Plus. The end result is a beautiful movie, both in its story and visually. The city of Portorosso, located on the shores of Italy, seems like a magical place thanks to the artists and animators of Pixar.
The story centers on two sea creatures that live in this small town but under human disguises. The movie is about acceptance and friendship, no matter where a person is or what they look like. It is a great lesson to learn in a very entertaining and beautiful movie.
The Power of the Dog (Netflix)
Jane Campion, the acclaimed director of films like The Piano, is returning to feature films after 12 years with this Western flick (ironically shot primarily in New Zealand). Benedict Cumberbatch gives perhaps his best performance yet (and that’s saying something) as Phil Burbank, a 1925 Montana rancher trying to look like a real man.
Burbank’s life changes when his brother George (Jesse Plemons) marries a woman (Kirsten Dunst), who also has a near-adult son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Phil teases George’s new wife and stepson at first, but then things about Phil’s past come to light. It’s a powerful drama with great performances, including spectacular cinematography.
Best Streaming Movies of 2021 – Honorable Mentions
Here are some cooler movies that missed our top 10 list:
- No sudden movement (HBO max) – Steven Soderbergh directs another excellent heist movie, this time set in the 1950s, with an all-star cast.
- Off Cable (Netflix) – Anthony Mackie shines in this film when he plays an android in the near future who teams up with a human officer to prevent a nuclear attack.
- Blood Red Sky (Netflix) – This German movie turns what looks like a plane hijacking movie into a horror movie.
- Finch (Apple TV Plus) – Tom Hanks stars in this sci-fi epic about a man who tries to avoid dying on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with the help of his dog and his robot.
- Boss Level (Hulu) – Time loop movies seem to be a growing trend, but this also happens to be a solid action movie in the style of a B movie.
Those are our picks for the best streaming movies of 2021. Do you agree with our list? If not, what movies would you include? Let us know in the comments!
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