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KT Community Picks: Movies that upped the ante (and our screen time) in 2021

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

For another year spent mostly indoors, OTT platforms had an unmissable golden run. Awaited theatrical releases were far and few in between as producers pushed their movies on streaming platforms amid the still uncertain pandemic. But what was once a predominantly communal experience--a weekend event or a usual date night--movies were primarily personal this year, just like the last, opening room for genre experimentation even for the most rigid of audiences.

The following came out shining brighter than the rest for our readers. A boredom-proof list to carry you through to the end of this year.

1. Pagglait on Netflix

A young widow is unable to grieve her late husband in this unique, crazy, and necessary take on family, grief, and loss. Sanya Malhotra as Sandhya is perfectly cast and delivers a noteworthy act brimming with hope, candor, and confusion.

| Picked by the editor |

2. The Green Knight on Amazon Prime Video

This epic medieval fantasy film rooted in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight positions Dev Patel to deliver a performance that's one for the history books. The movie banks heavily on its remarkable cinematography, Patel's career-defining act, and the rousing background score.

| Picked by the editor |

3. Shiva Baby on Amazon Prime Video

Writer-director Emma Seligman's semi-autobiographical debut is a tense black comedy teeming with standout performances and clever writing. Rachel Sennott plays Danielle, a twenty-something Jewish woman who runs into her sugar daddy at a shiva (Jewish wake) and does her best to keep her part-time gig under wraps.

Picked by @reendropsonthewindow

4. Sardar Udham on Amazon Prime Video

Soojit Sircar's stirring biopic of Sardar Udham Singh (played by Vicky Kaushal), the Indian freedom fighter who avenged the Jalianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 by assassinating General Dyre, is a nuanced portrayal of an often forgotten revolutionary of the Indian Freedom Movement. Kaushal is as good as, if not better than his act in Masaan.

Picked by Anjali Bharti

5. Don't Look Up on Netflix

McKay's persuasive satire starring Meryl Streep, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jonah Hill hits the ground running from its first scene. Kate, a PhD candidate (played by Lawrence), discovers a catastrophic, planet-destroying asteroid hurtling toward Earth. Along with her socially awkward professor (Di Caprio), she ventures to get the news out to many as possible. Climate Change, rising fascism, misinformation, clickbait culture, and sexism are just the first few of the many social layers the movie unravels. An important watch, by all measures.

| Picked by the editor |

6. Free Guy on Disney Hotstar

Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, a bank teller woefully unaware that he is an NPC (Non-player Character) in a popular online multiplayer, role-playing video game. When a code in his programming is triggered, Guy begins gaining consciousness, engaging with the lives of those within and outside the game. The movie is downright hilarious and is a perfect antidote for those year-end blues.

Picked by Rahul Singh Katoch

7. Palm Springs on Netflix

Max Barbakow's debut feature is a science-fiction romantic comedy starring Andy Samberg and Christin Milloti--two strangers who meet at a wedding and accidentally fall into a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again.

| Picked by the editor |

8. Udaan on Amazon Prime Video

Udaan is inspired by the book Simply Fly and tells the story of Needmaaran Rajangam, the son of a school teacher, taking on the most capital intensive industry in the world.

Picked by Rajat Roy

9. Geeli Puchi (Ajeeb Dastaan) on Netflix

Recent Netflix anthologies developed in India have been more misses than hits. And although Ajeeb Dastaan doesn't knock it out of the park in its entirety, Geeli Puchi stands out for its seminal portrayal of homosexuality and caste bias in small Indian towns.

| Picked by the editor |

10. Spiderman: No Way Home

"The biggest movie of the year worldwide," and the third of the franchise starring Tom Holland and Zendaya, finds Peter Parker seeking Doctor Strange's help as the multiverse opens up after a spell gone wrong, exposing the world to grave threats. Watch out for those cameos! They'll have you screaming and weeping.

| Picked by the editor |

11. The White Tiger on Netflix

The 2021 screen adaptation of Aravind Adiga's Booker Prize-winning novel is a searing look into the ever-widening economic gap and power-politics prevalent in modern-day India. The story follows Balram (played by Adarsh Gourav), who hails from a poverty-stricken village and relies on his tacts, wits, and flexible morals to make it in a society designed to support the privileged and the wealthy.

| Picked by the editor |

12. Dune

Denis Villeneuve's first of the two-part adaptation starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Rebecca Ferguson, is a visually immersive tale of Paul Atreides ( played by Chalamet) and his noble family of Atreides finding themselves at war against the evil house of Harkonnen.

| Picked by the editor |

13. Ludo on Netflix

Anurag Basu exercises his comedic muscle in this outrageously hilarious mash-up of four disparate subplots involving a sex tape, a fake kidnapping, a mafia on a quest to eliminate murder witnesses, and a rogue suitcase stuffed with cash. In this thorough entertainer, the actors do not disappoint and the script holds up until the very end.

Picked by Cipun Mishra

14. Parineeta on Netflix

The post-colonial glamour of 1960s Kolkata comes alive in Pradeep Sarkar's musical adaptation of Sharad Chandra's acclaimed 1917 novel of the same name. Class distinction, friendship, loyalty, and the makings of a traditional marriage contend with Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, and Sanjay Dutt's unfortunate love triangle. If you fancy some old-school charm, come for the story, but stay for Shantanu Moitra's timeless, era-defining album.

Initially released in 2005, Parineeta hit the OTT platforms in late 2019. Nonetheless, it remains a classic deserving of 2021-screen time.

Picked by Maitri Bharadwaj

15. West Side Story

Director Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner transpose Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to 1950s Manhattan, much like its predecessor, the 1957 Broadway musical (score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) and the screen adaptation that followed closely. A myriad of socio-political layers pile in this impressive narrative about immigration, race, forbidden love, class, violence, and identity.

| Picked by the editor |

16. Sir: Is Love Enough? on Netflix

Tillotama Shome and Vivek Gomber shine in Rohena Gera's grounded reimagination of a slow-burn romance viewed through the lenses of the class divide in urban India. The movie begets several questions, the most crucial being, is love simply enough?

| Picked by the editor |

17. The Dig on Netflix

This British-American drama starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James recreates the events of the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo. The movie earned five nominations for the British Academy Film Awards, including one for the Outstanding British Film.

| Picked by the editor |

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