All the Award-Winning or Critically-Acclaimed Films and Stars of 2021

Here are the movies and performances that are making the most noise heading into 2022.

As we exit the year, we enter the season of the Gold Derby. Major award-giving bodies and critics associations are in the middle of nominating, voting, and recognizing the best titles that 2021 had to offer.

READ ALSO: 2021 Recap: These Highest-Selling Works And Auction-Winning Artists Defined A Record Year For Contemporary Art

As we (hopefully) pass the worst days of the pandemic and as cinemas and productions begin to reopen and restart, we hope to see the industry pick up as a whole. Here are just some of the films and stars that earned our attention throughout the year and deserve yours now. 

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The National Board of Review (NBR) ate up Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, sending their compliments in the form of Best Film and Best Director.

PTA’s awards campaign will find this fact easy to digest as the NBA’s Best Film recognition has been an easy indicator for a Best Picture nomination by the Academy. In the past 30 years, those that received such distinction from the NBR received at least a nod at the Academy Awards, save for about one exception every decade.

The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) went a different route for Best Film with Drive My Car. But it was still Netflix’s The Power of the Dog that led the pack, collecting the association’s Best Director trophy for Jane Campion, on top of both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor accolades.

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But not so fast, says Focus Features’ Belfast, which went home with the People’s Choice Award in the Toronto International Film Festival. Track record shows that the 12 of the past 13 films nominated for the same award scored an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, with five winning. Belfast was also expected to haul in many of the leading 11 awards it was nominated for in the British Independent Film Awards, but concluded the ceremony empty-handed.

Steven Spielberg’s reimagined West Side Story earned Best Comedy/Musical Film and Best Director nominations at the upcoming Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) Awards, not to mention the NYFCC’s Best Cinematography title. However, it was CODA, Belfast, and Dune that dominated the HCA Awards nominations.

The expansive Dune, helmed by Denis Villeneuve, is not one to leave out of the race for Best Picture and Best Director awards, with 10 nods each at the upcoming HCA Awards and Satellite Awards.

Rounding out the other picks are the remainder of NBR’s Top 10 Films of 2021: Don’t Look Up, King Richard, The Last Duel, Nightmare Alley, Red Rocket, and The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Media favorites, at least in the case of The New Yorker, Empire, and Vanity Fair, include some of the aforementioned, as well as other speculated frontrunners like C’mon, C’mon, Parallel Mothers, and The French Dispatch.

At the most prestigious film festivals, Titane took home the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes, Happening the Golden Lion at Venice, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn the Golden Bear at Berlin, and CODA the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award (US Dramatic Competition) at Sundance.


Will Smith is armed with his 78-page plan to dominate as “King Richard, and he just might end up taking home the crown. The NBR named him Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of the herstory-making sisters Venus and Serena.

He is so far being challenged by the likes of Andrew Garfield’s explosive performance in Tick, Tick…Boom! and Bradley Cooper’s more threatening turn in Nightmare Alley.

Benedict Cumberbatch and his performance in The Power of the Dog should also not be forgotten. The NYFCC found it to be the best among actors this year.

Newcomer Rachel Ziegler’s turn in West Side Story struck a chord with the NBR, which named her Best Actress—a feat celebrated more so as only the second Latina to grace the category. 

Although the critics weren’t gaga for House of Gucci, they certainly gave more praise for its lead star. Lady Gaga received the New York Film Critics Circle’s distinction for Best Actress.

Not farthest from the crown is Kristen Stewart, whose accent alone is a contender for Best Actress as many experts say she nailed Princess Diana in Spencer.

Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Frances McDormand, Jennifer Hudson, and Jennifer Lawrence similarly might just sweep their way to returning once more on the Oscars stage.

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