List

2021 Staff Picks: Movies

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • Dune

    2022

    Going in mostly cold, I did not know much about the plot; however, that didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of this epic space opera. For example, I liked the diverse ensemble cast and that the screenplay leaves room for deeper reflection concerning such themes as greed, oppression, exploitation, and might vs. right. Also, it is absolutely one of the most visually stunning movies that I have ever seen, and I’m eager for the next installment. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Judas and the Black Messiah

    2021

    An engrossing historical drama with memorable performances by Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Standfield. It’s easy to fall into a research hole trying to sort out what was true and what was fictionalized about the assassination of Fred Hampton after watching this Oscar-nominated film. But also, it puts things into perspective of how powerful young people are and can be, and that Fred Hampton was stolen from this world too soon. Recommended by Rummanah and Jade.

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  • Respect

    2021

    Jennifer Hudson really puts everything she has into playing the legendary Aretha Franklin. Her brilliant performance is the best reason to see this biopic. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Minari

    2021

    Tender, heartbreaking, and hopeful, this moving drama of a Korean American family trying to achieve the American dream feels universal and will have you experiencing all sorts of emotions simultaneously. The story has a rawness to it and a reminder that beauty can bloom from disaster. Recommended by Paul and Rummanah.

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  • One Night in Miami

    2021

    Kudos to Regina King for her directorial debut. Working with an excellent screenplay from Kemp Powers, it fictionalizes a real meeting in a room at the Hampton House between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown to celebrate Ali’s 1964 title bout win. Every actor has moments to shine in this powerful and captivating drama. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Time

    2022

    One of the most powerful documentaries in recent years, filmmaker Garrett Bradley focuses on Sibil Fox Richardson, who spent two decades fighting to get her husband paroled from prison. Bradley ingeniously combines original film and home videos, which leads us to the impactful and unforgettable final scene. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • A Call to Spy

    2021

    I found A Call to Spy to be completely riveting and highly informative. I was not aware of the contributions of these incredibly brave women who held a pivotal role in World War II. After watching this movie, I fell into a research hole and I did not mind it one bit. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Black Widow

    2021

    I thoroughly enjoyed this female-led-and-directed Marvel film. The origin story did justice to the character of Black Widow, who was often sidelined and objectified in previous Marvel films. Its nonstop action kept me enthralled the entire length of the film. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Candyman

    2021

    The original had some very racist tropes, for example Black men being predatory/obsessive (especially towards white women), and we see that so clearly since it's centered around Helen. For the reboot, the writers (Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and Nia DaCosta), along with DaCosta in her directing, were able to make it clear that this represents racism, gentrification, and how white people are more than happy to acknowledge the pain/labor of Black people, as long as they're benefitting. DaCosta's movie felt much more layered and was visually striking in many moments. Recommended by Jade.

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  • Colectiv: Collective

    2021

    This documentary is a riveting and eye-opening account of investigative journalism. I had not heard of the horrific fire at Budapest's Colectiv club that occurred in 2015. It emphasizes how health care is truly a human right that everyone deserves to have. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Final Account

    2021

    This documentary reminded me that the great majority of elderly Germans living today experienced the Third Reich firsthand, while the very oldest actually participated in it. I am grateful that the filmmakers collected these testimonies from Germans who witnessed Hitler’s regime and used them to raise disturbing questions about how ordinary people respond to the extraordinary times they live in. This makes a good companion to the equally troubling documentaries The Sorrow and the Pity, The Act of Killing, and The Last of the Unjust. Recommended by Steven.

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  • Godzilla vs. Kong

    2021

    Godzilla: King of the Monsters was my absolute favorite film of 2019, so I was beyond excited to hear that we’d get another MonsterVerse movie. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint! It was such a fun movie to watch with friends and family—I mean, who doesn’t love giant monster fights, right? Oh, and even though I love Kong so much, I’m team Godzilla all the way! Recommended by Penny.

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  • The Green Knight

    2021

    This adaptation of a 14th-century poem is downright kaleidoscopic, weird, beautiful, and haunting; what's onscreen and its apparent meaning never stop shifting. Medieval legends are always intriguing, but the picturesque cinematography and Dev Patel's stellar performance will keep your eyes glued to the screen. Recommended by Andrew and Leslie.

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  • Te Llevo Conmigo: I Carry You With Me

    2021

    Documentarian Heidi Ewing made a feature film to fictionalize a true story of romance, courage, heartbreak, and dedication. Ivan and Gerardo met as young men in Mexico, fell in love, and illegally crossed over to the U.S. with hope to find opportunities and acceptance, but leaving behind loved ones. The actors playing younger versions of Ivan and Gerardo are affecting and beautifully convey the multifaceted meaning of “you” as well as home and family, while the real Ivan and Gerardo appear as their older selves to bring everything full circle. Recommended by Sharon and Rummanah.

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  • In the Heights

    2021

    I temporarily forgot about the pandemic while watching this movie. It is bursting with family, joy, and Latinx culture. I could not stop listening to the soundtrack for days after watching this film. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Injustice

    2021

    This is definitely the year for the DC franchise. Because not only do we finally have Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but we also get to experience Injustice. What happens if Superman, the most powerful being in the universe and a symbol of hope, consumed by grief, snapped? I had been waiting for this storyline to get adapted for so long, and this animated film did not disappoint. Recommended by Penny.

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  • Justice League

    2021

    This is the epitome of what fans can do. We have asked for so many years to see the completion of Zack Snyder’s vision, his version of Justice League. With so many high expectations, Zack Snyder was somehow able to fully deliver. It’s 4 hours long, but I enjoyed every moment of it. This is one of the most epic superheroes films I’ve seen in recent years. Recommended by Penny.

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  • Love and Monsters

    2021

    It’s an ideal mix of action, comedy, found family, and a little romance. Of course, you must accept that the Monsterpocalypse happened; animals mutated into giant creatures and have the run of Earth. Not only are the Oscar-nominated visual effects quirky and awesome, but the monsters are realistically scary! Recommended by Sharon and Lynnanne.

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  • The Mauritanian

    2021

    A powerful courtroom drama based on a true story, that was wrongly snubbed at the Oscars and completely underrated. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Mitchells Vs. the Machines

    2021

    Perfect for family movie night, this crowd pleaser is whacky, creative, and clever. I loved the bright visual style, plus the animation within the animation is supercool. The family dynamics are oftentimes hilarious, the tech stuff is relatable, and the jokes hit the mark. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • The Night

    2021

    I don't like gory, horror movies so I tend to avoid them, but The Night is my kind of horror: psychological. It kept me riveted with well-timed jump scares and eerie suspenseful music, with a light brushstroke of violence. If you do pick this movie up, let's talk! The ending left me speechless. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Paper Tigers

    2021

    I randomly checked out this movie from one of the library displays and I'm so glad that I did! It is a great blend of humor and action without gratuitous violence. It reminds me a lot of Cobra Kai, which I enjoyed last winter. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Perfect Candidate

    2021

    Returning to Saudi Arabia where she made her 2012 movie Wadjda, trailblazing director/writer Haifaa al-Mansour delivers another thoughtful, empowering, and feminist film. The story focuses on a young doctor who finds herself running in a local election, and her surprising candidacy shakes up the community as she pushes for acceptance and respect. This should’ve gotten more attention upon release. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Promising Young Woman

    2021

    Brilliant, brutal, compelling, and thought-provoking. I immediately wanted to talk to someone after I watched this movie. Carey Mulligan gives an outstanding performance. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It

    2021

    She’s won the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Born in Puerto Rico and eventually making her way to Hollywood, challenging racism and sexism, Moreno is iconic and inspirational. With new interviews, archival movie clips and photos, along with current footage of Moreno, I was completely engaged and firmly on team Rita. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

    2021

    In addition to stunning martial arts choreography, I love this movie because it provides, quite possibly, the MCU's most complex villain. We are given enough context and development about Wenwu to see why he does what he does and, as a result, the stakes feel even higher. Recommended by Paul.

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  • Shiva Baby

    2021

    An absolutely glorious hot mess of a movie where the somberest of occasions disintegrates into something hilarious, searing, and pitch-perfect. Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Suicide Squad

    2021

    Yes, another DC film. What can I say? I’m such a fan. I will be honest and say there’s this one thing that made me furrow my eyebrows a bit, but other than that, this film is a super fun, entertaining, and weirdly heartwarming ride for me. The cast did such an amazing job with their performances, especially Daniela Melchior, Idris Elba, and John Cena. Recommended by Penny.

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  • Supernova

    2021

    This is a heartbreakingly beautiful and touching drama of how an illness can affect a relationship. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • A Thousand Cuts

    2021

    Exploring a subject more relevant than ever, documentary filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz follows journalist Maria Ressa, CEO of the Philippine online news site Rapple. Under attack from the government and combating fake news, Ressa’s mission is to hold the line for free press. Ressa is a co-winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Together Together

    2021

    I really enjoyed this unconventional comedy featuring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison, who play two characters that are navigating a platonic love story. The movie had a clever script and the performances by the actors were wonderful. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Truffle Hunters

    2021

    If you are in the mood for armchair traveling to scenic Northern Italy to learn about a small community of aged men who go into the hills at night with their dogs to find the incredibly rare white Alba truffle, this documentary is for you. Truly, these men are competitive and their methods and secrets may never be passed on. But I love that we get to witness the dear relationships between these men and their extraordinary dogs. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Yellow Rose

    2021

    Rose is an undocumented Filipina teen living in Texas, whose dream is to become a country music singer. However, when her mother is picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Rose has to figure out a different path. A totally under-the-radar movie--the topic is timely and the result is heartfelt. Two-time Tony nominee Eva Noblezada is terrific in the lead role. Recommended by Sharon.

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