My Favourite Movies and TV Shows Of 2021

By Bilal Hafeez

(2 min read)

The pandemic has affected my viewing habits – much less movies, and much more TV. In fact, it seems all the good stuff is in TV shows. So, my movie list is shorter than normal, and my TV list is bigger such that I break it into categories! Let me know what you think of my choices and of course, let me know what your favourites were!

Movies

Dune. It’s hard to find a big-budget sci-fi movie that feels truly different from the usual fare of CGI and over-busy third acts. But Dune delivers a truly different visual experience. Each scene is so well thought out and shows the power of big movies. The story was half-finished, so we’ll need to wait for part 2. In the meantime, immerse yourself in the world of Dune.

Palm Springs. Groundhog Day is one of my favourite films and this film uses a similar premise of a time loop. This time, two wedding guests are stick in the loop and re-live the day over and over again. The film starts with the funny stuff and then morphs into a more meaningful meditation on romance.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The DC universe has so far failed to deliver any great films, so my expectations were low for this newly edited (and partly re-filmed) Justice League. The original was a total mess as it tried to knock Marvel. But the new version was actually quite good. It also used the tormented Cyborg as a central character which gave the film more meaning.

The first half of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. There was a whole slate of new Marvel movies in 2021 – Black Widow, Eternals and Shang-Chi. Of the three, I liked Shang-Chi the best. The dynamic between Shang-Chi and Katy (Awkwafina) was excellent and I liked the more grounded action. But the stand-out was the Tony Leung character, Xu Wenwu. He stole the show as a kind of hero/villain. The film does get let by the third act with all the CGI dragons, though.

Free Guy. This was a surprisingly funny Ryan Reynolds-led movie about a person/character realising he is a background character in the video game. Jodie Comer’s Molotov Girl added a lot to the film.

Jolt. I stumbled across this on Amazon Prime. It stars Kate Beckinsale as a bouncer with anger management issues who controls it with electric shocks. A friend of hers gets killed and she goes on a rampage to find the murderer.

Spider-Man: No Way Home. A lot of hype around this film, I’m watching it tomorrow, but I’m expecting good things!

 

Drama and Comedy

Succession. I love this show. Season 3 just came out. The show is based around a Rupert Murdoch-type media mogul and his family. The kids are vying to be his successor. The latest season has the usual wit and uncomfortable moments and had an amazing finale with the ‘TomFather’. You have to watch this.

Hawkeye. Amazingly, Marvel found a way to make an irrelevant character interesting. It helps that they feature the excellent Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, who pairs up with Hawkeye to make this almost a buddy comedy.

The White Lotus. A diverse collection of couples and families go to a resort in Hawaii and watch them slowly implode as all simmering issues come to the surface. We also watch the staff of the resort go on their own often nutty journeys. The show is funny, disgusting, and dramatic – a must-watch.

Mare of Easttown. Kate Winslet starts in this crime drama set in a small town in the middle of America. At the centre, is the murder of a teenage girl, but it’s the lives of all the people around it that is compelling. There is no flashiness, rather you see the real emotional and physical pain everyone is going through. The characters are very relatable and the who-dunnit nature of the murder keeps the show gripping.

We Are Lady Parts. This was super funny and very very original. A group of religious Muslim girls, who wear head-coverings, form a punk rock band. It has a hint of Fleabag, with its lead character sharing her thoughts at opportune moments. The dissonance of seeing religious woman singing vulgar punk lyrics ends up being very funny.

Loki. There’s been a slew of Marvel TV shows. I found The Falcon and the Winter Soldier disappointing, WandaVision quirky but I loved Loki. It really pushed the boundaries in terms of expanding the Marvel universe and introducing the multiverse concept that will power the next phase of Marvel movies. Hiddleston was great as always.

Reality TV

Selling Sunset. This has it all. Expensive house. Glamourous characters. Soap opera style relationship blow-ups! How do they do it, well we follow a bunch of (female) real estate agents in LA as they go about selling houses and undermining each other.

Love Island UK. I feel guilty admitting this, but I love this show. I even blogged on how I saw parallels between Shakespeare and Love Island. The premise of the show is simple – throw a bunch of single men and women on to an island and see what happens.

The Circle USA.  The premise is for contestants to live in different apartments in the same complex and interact with each other through a specially-designed social media platform. They can be themselves or pretend to be someone else (a catfish). Then they regularly vote for the people to be ejected and for winners. Great fun.

International TV

Squid Game. This has become a global phenomenon and for good reason. It’s disturbing, insightful and original. Think of it as a cross between Hunger Games, Parasite and The Purge. Almost every episode has something that shocks and surprises. There’s also a deeper social commentary on the gap between the rich and the poor. Watch it and enjoy the Squid Game memes that have exploded.

My Name. I loved this Korean action-drama. It follows the main character, Yoon Ji-Woo, as she tries to find the killer of her father. She ends up joining a criminal gang, who then guide her to join the police force. The action was great, but it is more than that with great characters and relationship arcs.

Attack On Titan. Perhaps of the best Japanese anime shows of recent years. Half of the final season four was released in 2021 and it was great. It’s hard to explain the whole story but it involves a world where people live inside walled cities to prevent man-eating giants from entering. The latest season reveals how these giants came about. Trust me. It’s very good.

Jujutsu Kaisen. Another excellent anime. The story follows student Yuji as he discovers his powers and joins the Jujutsu Sorcerers. They in turn need to kill a powerful Curse named Ryomen Sukuna, which is actually inside Yuji. Again, trust me, it’s great.

The Way of the Househusband. My third anime on my list. It’s very funny. The premise: an ex-Yakuza boss retires to become a house-husband. Enough said!

Thanks,

Bilal



Bilal Hafeez
 is the CEO and Editor of Macro Hive. He spent over twenty years doing research at big banks – JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, and Nomura, where he had various “Global Head” roles and did FX, rates and cross-markets research.

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