Rewind: 2021 in film

December 5, 2021

From cannibalism to lax safety to the resurgence of Avatar…what didn’t our second year into this decade and its very modern plague bring to us through the world of cinema? Sameen Amer breaks it down.

Rewind: 2021 in film


- Cinema continued to face Covid-19 side effects, but movie theatres eventually reopened, and movie screenings subsequently resumed. Because even a global pandemic can’t keep us from our big screen entertainment. #Priorities

- A whole lot of tumbleweed blew across the barren landscape that was the Pakistani film release calendar. Reluctance to venture out into the unknown, take risks, and experiment with platforms resulted in local movies remaining shelved.

- Few were brave enough to release their projects in uncertain times. Among the bravest was Nabeel Qureshi who unveiled the well-meaning mess that is Khel Khel Mein. Jalal’s Kahay Dil Jidhar and Wajahat Rauf’s Parde Mein Rehne Do promise to soon follow.

- Full-length features may have been M.I.A., but the short film, on the other hand, flourished in comparison. Digital channels like See Prime and Digestive Showtime brought big screen stars to the smallest of small screens in shorts like Prince Charming, Road Trip, and Full Circle, among many others. The results may have been uneven, but the efforts remained worthy.


- The release of all films everywhere was delayed around 927415 times apiece.

Rewind: 2021 in film

- With movies kneecapped at the box office because of the pandemic, the highest grossing film of the year was … a Chinese war movie called The Battle at Lake Changjin that you probably heard about for the first time just now.

- People continued to want to watch Avatar for some reason. The movie, once again, became the highest-grossing film of all time after a rerelease in China generated enough in revenues to push its numbers past US$2.8 billion and help it overtake Avengers: Endgame for the record.

- Nomadland won the Best Picture trophy at every major award ceremony held in the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

- It was a good year to be a Netflix subscriber. The streamer released over a hundred movies in 2021, two and a half of which were totally worth watching.

- Disney+ kept experimenting with premier access, releasing Raya and the Last Dragon (very good), Cruella (good), Black Widow (meh), and Jungle Cruise (shrug) under the strategy.

- The Tomorrow War – simultaneously one of the most expensive and one of the dumbest films of the year – was among the movies that landed on Amazon Prime Video.

Rewind: 2021 in film

- HBO Max got its biggest hit in the form of Godzilla vs. Kong.

- In “mega corporation makes even more money” news, Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe became the world’s first film franchise to gross US$23 billion, with the releases of the middling Black Widow, the entertaining Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and the insomnia curing Eternals. (See also: the imperfect but fun Venom: Let There Be Carnage.)

- As for the world of DC, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was marginally better than Justice League. And The Suicide Squad proved what we had suspected all along: that James Gunn really can work miracles.

- Adieu was bid to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, with the actor making his final appearance as the character in the misleadingly titled No Time to Die.

- Denis Villeneuve made yet another attempt to adapt the unadaptable Frank Herbert novel Dune. It was noticeably deficient in pugs. Like, what even is the point then?

- F9 was a thing – because hey, it still makes money!

- A Quiet Place Part II proved that sequels don’t always have to suck. A pity Don’t Breathe 2, The Addams Family 2, Coming 2 America, and Space Jam 2: A New Legacy didn’t get that memo.

- In a tragic accident on the set of the film Rust, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed, and director Joel Souza injured when Alec Baldwin discharged a gun that was being used as a prop. Much debate about film set safety ensued.

- Oh, and it turned out that Greek-god-lookalike Armie Hammer is maybe kinda sorta “100% a cannibal”. Because that’s just the kind of bonkers 2021 was.

Rewind: 2021 in film