Top 5 movies of the year so far

Movies are back, baby! As the world slowly crawls out of the dark hole we all lived in during 2020, movie theaters are opening back up and trilled for audiences to experience movies again. The back half of this year will be packed with huge movies – FOUR MCU movies, F9, The French Dispatch, Space Jam 2, Jungle Cruise, The Green Knight, The Suicide Squad, Dear Evan Hansen, West Side Story, Dune, Top Gun: Maverick and more!

But the first half of 2021 has seen some fantastic releases already. Here are my top five movies of the year so far (and a shoutout to two of the best 2020 movies that only got wide releases this year):

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Credit: Lionsgate

From the stars and writers of Bridesmaids, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is more than just a movie – it’s an entire experience. I’ve watched this movie four times already in 2021. No movie has given me everything I never knew I needed more recently than Barb & Star. The way I fell in love with these two middle-aged, Midwestern best friends and their trip to Florida has brought me so much joy. It’s absolutely insane, pretty stupid at times, but completely hysterical and wonderful. I won’t spoil some of the best cameos, but this movie has everything – from a singing Jamie Dornan to an Austin Powers-style villain to teaching me what culottes are.

Bo Burnham: Inside

Credit: Netflix

During the pandemic, comedian Bo Burnham wrote, directed, filmed, produced, edited and starred in this new “comedy” special all by himself. The result is one of the most incredible pieces of art to come out of the pandemic era (only beaten by Taylor Swift’s albums). I literally could not take my eyes of the screen for this entire special. Featuring Burnham’s signature wit and cutting lyrics, it’s labeled as a “comedy” special, but this made me think more about life, purpose and my own existence more than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I’m the same age as Burnham, so his critique and analysis of what it’s like growing up on the internet feels personally targeted to me. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but Inside is something I’ll be thinking about for a while.

In the Heights

Credit: Warner Brothers

Movies were gone for a long time during the pandemic. So to see a movie on an IMAX screen with hundreds of people dancing in unison to incredible music blasting in my ears nearly brought tears to my eyes. In the Heights, based on the Broadway smash from Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the story of a block in New York City’s Washington Heights, largely populated by Latino and Latinx immigrants and their descendants. Anthony Ramos truly shines in the lead role – everyone is great, but it’s really his story. The movie has some phenomenal show-stopper numbers and one of the most heartbreaking moments right smack in the middle. You’ll want to jump up and dance along with this movie.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Credit: Warner Brothers

Judas and the Black Messiah may be forgotten by the time the end of the year rolls around because it came out so early and already competed in this year’s Oscars (even winning Best Supporting Actor for Daniel Kaluuya’s incredible performance). But to watch this movie in 2021 is a little haunting because of how relevant its story and themes still are today. Judas tells the story of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (the “Black Messiah”) and the undercover FBI agent charged with infiltrating his ranks and bringing him down (“Judas”). It’s a powerful story anchored by Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield’s stellar performances.

The Mitchells vs the Machines

Credit: Netflix

Sometimes you don’t truly appreciate your family until you’re all being threatened by a robot apocalypse. The Mitchells vs the Machines is the latest animated movie from the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Lego Movie. This movie has a frantic and electric energy throughout with some incredibly funny action moments (the Furby scene is a masterpiece). It’s an animated movie that works really well for adults as well as kids, especially when it looks at the way technology has affected our lives – for good and for bad. But the movie’s heart shines as well – the family dynamic, especially the generational conflict between children and their parents, is fantastic. Plus, their last name is Mitchell, which is a personal delight for me.

And special shout out to Minari and Nomadland for being two of the best movies from last year. I didn’t get to add them to my Best of 2020 list because they hadn’t been released wide until after I made it. Both movies are beautiful stories about achieving the American Dream from often overlooked groups of Americans.

What are some of your favorite movies you’ve seen so far in 2021? What are you most looking forward to in the second half of the year?

Most anticipated movies of 2020

2019 was a record-setting year for movies. Beloved franchises like The Avengers, Star Wars and How to Train Your Dragon closed out final chapters of their franchises and original stories like Parasite, Knives Out and Jojo Rabbit also did well, delivering a wide variety of movie options for moviegoers to enjoy.

Now with 2019 behind us, we can look forward to a new decade with endless possibilities. Here are 10 of the biggest and most anticipated movies to look forward to next year.

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Feb. 7)

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the only decent piece of 2016’s Suicide Squad, so it makes sense that DC would try to salvage what they could to bring new life to their cinematic universe. The outrageous title shows that this movie will be like nothing we’ve seen before from a superhero franchise. Between Birds of Prey, Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984, female heroes and villains will have a big year in 2020, but after Joker, it will be interesting to see how DC markets their shared universe moving forward.

Mulan (Mar. 27)

This live-action remake has the potential to truly be a unique retelling of Mulan’s story, unlike most of Disney’s previous remakes, which did little more than make the same movie as before. This version of Mulan looks much more serious and grounded (there’s no Mushu and it’s not a musical), so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays with audiences going to see it with nostalgia for the original cartoon on their minds.

Black Widow (May 1)

Marvel begins Phase 4 by looking back. Black Widow is certainly an interesting choice to kick off Phase 4, but it’s certainly something fans have wanted for years. Natasha deserves her own story and as one of the main heroes we know so little about, there will be plenty to cover in her solo movie. I just hope it gives this iconic character a respectable sendoff since this could be the last time we see her in this universe.

Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5)

Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air for the DCEU back in 2017 and gave us some truly iconic superhero moments. Now, the sequel jumps to the 1980s and has Diana facing the Cold War and new foes while a blast from her past confuses everything. I loved the first Wonder Woman and the 80s so this should be another favorite for superhero fans.

Soul (June 19)

Soul is the second of two original movies Pixar will release next year. After a few years of (somewhat unnecessary) sequels to their greatest hits, it’s nice to see Pixar telling new stories again. Soul looks like the more interesting of the two 2020 Pixar offerings and already gives off serious Inside Out vibes (one of my personal favorites). Hopefully Soul matches that same level of creativity and emotion to bring another Pixar hit.

In the Heights (June 26)

Has anyone had a better decade than Lin-Manuel Miranda? Following the earth-shattering success of Hamilton, Miranda’s first musical is coming to the big screen. In the Heights tells the story of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City with Miranda’s trademark lyrical wizardry. Anthony Ramos (another Hamilton alum) leads the cast in this incredible story of a Latinx community’s hopes and dreams.

Bill & Ted Face the Music (Aug. 21)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is an incredible underrated masterpiece that came to me at a truly formative time in my life (seventh grade). The original movie was followed by a less-than-stellar sequel in 1991, but now that Hollywood will reboot or revive literally anything that came out in the 1980s and early 90s, a third film is scheduled for next year. It’s turned out to be perfect timing with Keanu Reeves experiencing a resurgence in his career in 2019. I cannot wait to see what middle-aged Bill and Ted are like and how the music of Wyld Stallions will save the future this time.

The King’s Man (Sept. 18)

The original Kingsman movie is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I’m super interested in this origin story of the elite spy agency. The first two Kingsman movies relied so heavily on gadgets and technology, so it’ll be challenging to make that a crucial part of this story when it’s set in the 1910s. And with a third Kingsman starring Eggsy potentially on the way, I’ll bet this will somehow tie in to that story as well.

The Eternals (Nov. 6)

This feels like Marvel’s biggest gamble since Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s about a group of beings that not even many die-hard Marvel comics fans know much about but could change the MCU as we know it. The Eternals has an incredible cast (Angelina Jolie! Richard Madden! Salma Hayek! Kumail Nanjiani!), so here’s hoping that the story matches their star power.

West Side Story (Dec. 18)

The original West Side Story is a cornerstone of movie musicals. Normally, I would be opposed to remaking something so iconic, but with Stephen Spielberg at the helm of this new version with a great cast, it has a chance to be worth seeing. I think the Jets/Sharks dynamic will also be interesting in today’s climate, especially given the racial divide between the two gangs.