In between every blockbuster released in a given year, there’s a pile of brilliant movies that go under the radar. Truth is, when you do a little digging, you will realize some of the best movies that come out every year are often completely ignored because they are under-represented by the major movie studios that made them.
Here are 5 amazing movies from 2021 that no one saw, but everyone needs to.
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1. Fear and Loathing in Aspen
Watch on: Amazon Prime (rental)
Fear and Loathing in Aspen does something amazing. It is a Hunter S. Thompson movie that actually has someone playing Hunter S. Thompson and not his insane alter ego, Raoul Duke (who Johnny Depp portrayed so perfectly in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). The end result is a time capsule showing the world the time that Thompson ran for Sheriff in Aspen, Colorado in 1970.
Thompson is portrayed by Jay Bulger, and it is the best representation of him on film yet, capturing the man’s manic energy and impulsive ways. But the movie portrays Hunter with honesty and empathy. As crazy as he was, you learn his true intent was to try to make an actual difference, which is probably why so many people feared and loathed him.
Both this movie and the lead performance deserve a great deal more attention. If you are a Hunter S. Thompson fan, it is a must-see. And even if you aren’t, it may well turn you into one.
2. The Boy Behind the Door
Watch on: Shudder (subscription)
The Boy Behind the Door caught me off-guard and haunted me for weeks. A dark and relentless film that feels palpably real, The Boy Behind the Door is easily the most shaken and creeped out I have been by a film in recent years.
Beginning with two best friends musing about childhood before being snatched up by a stranger and driven to a strange house against their will. One of the boys get brought inside while the other almost gets away, but stops himself to go back and save his friend. That is the premise of the movie: one scared child trying to save another from a fate worse than death (namely, child trafficking).
What sets this apart outside is the pair of young actors in this film. Lonnie Chavis and Bobby and Ezra Dewey as Kevin come across as legitimately terrified throughout the film, lending it air of realism that drives the plot home.
It is a tense watch, but a hell of a ride you won’t soon forget.
3. The Green Knight
Watch on: Amazon Prime (rental)
The Green Knight is a dark retelling of the Green Knight story from Arthurian legend, and it’s a masterful piece of work. Starring Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, a lethargic young man adrift in a court of kings and knights who has yet to find his place. Then an opportunity arrives – quite literally on his doorstep – for him to prove himself.
One fateful Christmas evening, the titular knight shows up at the festivities and declares that whoever strikes him down will have to meet up with him in a year to suffer the same fate. Seeing it as an easy kill and way to get some medieval court kudos, Gawain lops off the Green Knight’s head in one swoop without thinking the consequences through. This sets the tone for the movie: an impulsive young man in over his head learning to tread water.
What follows is a visually stunning journey of a boy becoming a man, finding his courage, and realizing you cannot outrun fate. It’s a wonderful cinematic addition to the many Arthurian movies out there.
The Green Knight was pretty hyped in the build-up to release but didn’t exactly smash the box office. You can help fix that!
4. The Guilty
Watch on: Netflix (subscription)
When people hear that The Guilty is a movie where everything takes place on a phone call and you see none of it, it turns a lot of people off. What cannot be captured in words is just how engrossing they make that premise.
It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Baylor, a cop who has been put on leave following an incident we don’t know anything about for much of the film. He is working at a 9-1-1 dispatch, fielding calls and clearly not into his work, yearning to be back out in the field.
Then he gets a call that changes everything.
A woman calls expressing she is in danger, and Joe goes all in on saving her. There are twists and turns in this film that even a psychic couldn’t see coming. It’s a tale of redemption, but one that has you gripping the edge of your couch like you’re in a race car.
And per usual, Jake Gyllenhaal gives a staggeringly powerful performance as a broken man trying to fix himself. The fact that he can star in a movie about a guy on a phone and make it compelling proves just how good of an actor he is.
5. No Man of God
Watch on: Amazon Prime (AMC+ subscription)
In No Man of God, Elijah Wood portrays real-life criminal profiler Bill Hagmaier, who helped the world understand the minds of some of the world’s most horrific serial killers. One of those killers was Ted Bundy, and this film is an honest retelling of the time they spent together.
While Wood is his usual fantastic self, the real star of this movie is Luke Kirby as Ted Bundy. From his looks to his mannerisms and speech, it’s clear that Kirby dives into this role head first, and you cannot see where he ends and Bundy begins.
Though the subject matter can hard to swallow, this movie is two masterful actors just bouncing off each other back and forth and it is like watching two chess masters go head to head.
Just a reminder that sometimes finding some of the best movies of each year can take a bit of research and work. But if you only consume what gets advertised, you will be missing out on some truly memorable deep cuts which are well worth the effort to find.