The 10 best UK movies of 2021


From a WWI period drama to a Giallo-inspired thriller and the final outing of Daniel Craig as 007, this year has offered some British films. Here are the best 10 of 2021, picked by critic Lillian Crawford.

The Souvenir Part II

Coming to Cinemas - 4 February 2022 | Times & Tickets

Not so much a sequel as an extension of the first film, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II is not only the greatest film of the year, but possibly the most powerful exploration of female creativity in cinema. After playing second fiddle to messed-up boyfriend Anthony (Tom Burke) in the first film, Honor Swinton-Burne truly comes into her own here. Julie’s student film beautifully recreates Hogg’s own student film, Caprice, adding layers to an astonishingly honest self-portrait.

Benediction

Coming to Cinemas - 13 May 2022 | Times & Tickets

Terence Davies is perhaps Britain’s best director. From Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes to Sunset Song and The Deep Blue Sea, the man never misses. Benediction is no exception—his biopic of WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon being a quiet epic about a life of missed opportunities and regrets for a gay man living through a period when one could not be open about one’s sexuality. Jack Lowden is astonishing as Sassoon, not least in his moving readings of poems by Sassoon and fellow war poet Wilfred Owen.

Ammonite

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For his follow-up feature to God’s Own Country, Francis Lee turned to the largely unknown story of paleontologist Mary Anning’s relationship with a married woman. Both Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are in top form in Ammonite, bringing subtlety to another story about forbidden love and sexuality in a less accepting era of British history. The film’s beauty truly lies in its languorous attention to the beach and wildlife, breaking the story up with gorgeous pillow shots that allow the audience to feel the rawness of the wind on our faces as we watch.

The Dig

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  • Netflix

Another tender look at life in parochial England, Simon Stone’s The Dig is a Netflix film focusing on the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial mound at Sutton Hoo. With stunning lead performances from Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes, as well as a rare good turn from Lily James, the film’s characters add a moving human edge to a familiar archaeological story. The cinematography is breathtaking, reminiscent in the way it captures sunlight over beautiful fields of the late films of Terrence Malick.

The Nest

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Sean Durkin’s The Nest is one of the more stressful films of 2021—an anxiety-inducing drama played out in the realm of the financial elite, with a sickening Jude Law as a man trying to fit into a society in which he does not belong. The standout performance however has to be Carrie Coon as his long-suffering wife. It’s a brilliant film that will have your heart pumping.

No Time To Die

In Cinemas Now | Times & Tickets
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The latest James Bond film has been a very long time coming, and it was certainly worth the wait. While perhaps overly long, Daniel Craig’s final turn as 007 was a surprisingly moving one, with terrific supporting roles for Léa Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, and Ana de Armas (although woefully underused). The film tied all the Bond films since Casino Royale perfectly together, leaving the world of Bond open to real change that will hopefully see the franchise take an exciting new direction.

Last Night in Soho

In Cinemas Now | Times & Tickets
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It’s been a busy year for Edgar Wright, having also directed an epic documentary about the Sparks Brothers. The better film, however, is giallo-esque horror Last Night in Soho, which follows a fashion student played by Thomasin Mackenzie as she faces flashbacks to the 1960s. Anya Taylor-Joy is well cast as her historic counterpart, crafting several perfectly edited sequences mirroring the two women as they navigate the seedy streets of Soho.

Censor

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It’s been a strong year for British horror. Pano Bailey-Bond’s Censor is a terrifying look at the era of the video nasties, reminiscent of Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio. The film follows a woman who works for the BBFC as she tries (and fails) to protect the public from the malicious influence of graphic cinema. A powerful debut from Bailey-Bond, it will be exciting to see what she does next.

Cow

Andrea Arnold returns to Britain for her latest film: a documentary feature following the life of a dairy cow from birth to merciless death. It’s a nauseating look at the dairy industry and the exploitation of animals for the benefit of humans, focusing on the cow’s eyes as they grow wearier with exhaustion. It’s certainly one of the more effective looks at the evils of animal cruelty, and one that will hopefully have a real impact on those who see it.

Quant

A fascinating examination of one of the country’s most influential and creative women, Quant looks at designer Mary Quant’s career from the peak of her success in the 1960s to her lasting appeal today. With an array of insightful talking heads, it’s great to see Quant finally get the documentary treatment.