A report by Peter Sblendorio for The New York Daily News.
No Broadway? No problem.
Award-worthy movie musicals helped fill the void in a year when Broadway was shuttered for nearly nine months and many shows took even longer to return.
A robust selection of big-screen musicals lifted spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic with stories featuring diverse characters, re-imagined classics and catchy songs like “America” from “West Side Story” and “Carnaval del Barrio″ from “In the Heights.”
The genre stood out during one of the best years at the cinema in recent memory, which also gave audiences heart-pumping dramas, science fiction thrillers and superhero flicks that left our Spidey senses tingling.
Here are the Daily News’ Top 10 movies of 2021.
‘West Side Story’
It’s alarming how charming Steven Spielberg’s reinterpreted “West Side Story” is, from its authentic casting to its dazzling dance sequences.ADVERTISEMENT
Making his first career musical, Spielberg brought his A-game, balancing fun moments with building tension amid a violent turf war between New York City gangs the Jets and the Sharks.
Rachel Zegler, making her movie debut as Maria, proves why she’s on the fast track to superstardom with her incredible vocal range, while the ultra-talented Ariana DeBose excels in every scene she’s in.
‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’
In a year packed with stellar biopics, no performance was more transformative than Andrew Garfield as “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson.
You’d never guess it was Garfield’s first singing role by the way he seamlessly crooned — and danced and played piano — through the film about a struggling songwriter’s mission to make it in Manhattan.
You’d also never know it was the feature directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who clearly drew from his own Broadway journey to emphasize the most important parts of Larson’s experience.
‘In the Heights’
The music of “In the Heights,” adapted from Miranda’s first Broadway show, is worth the price of admission alone.
But when you mix in large-scale choreography, stunning sets in New York’s Washington Heights, and an inspiring story about a predominantly Latino community with big dreams, you get the movie of the summer.
The sprawling scale of the movie was on full display during the spirited “96,000″ number, which featured 90 dancers.‘In the Heights’ is a celebration of culture that shows the ‘whole beautiful world uptown,’ cast and director say »
In addition to beautiful animation and songs you’ll listen to on repeat, Disney’s “Encanto” is really funny.
Stephanie Beatriz’s awkward-but-lovable Mirabel — the only member of a magical Colombian household who doesn’t have a special ability — is one of Disney’s most-relatable heroes.
The soundtrack, which features songs in English and Spanish, also has original music from Miranda. Audiences will be talking about “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” for years to come.
‘The Power of the Dog’
The first non-musical on the list is Jane Campion’s gripping dark drama about a cruel cattle rancher who torments his brother’s new wife and her sensitive teenage son.
No movie in 2021 will make you think as much as the stress-filled “Power of the Dog,” which lends itself to fan theories through its brilliant moments of subtlety and ambiguity.
It’s the first film directed by Campion — whose seminal 1993 drama “The Piano” won three Oscars — in 12 years. It was well worth the wait.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s leading portrayal of a callous cowboy will have audiences debating whether he’s the movie’s villain. A scene in which he embarrasses his brother’s bride as she struggles to play the piano is particularly affecting.
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
The box office was back in full swing for the new “Spider-Man,” which had the second-biggest opening weekend of all time.
That’s with good reason, as “No Way Home” is one of the best Marvel movies ever made. It has everything you want in a superhero film, from nostalgia to jaw-dropping action to incredibly high stakes. The addition of the fan-favorite Doctor Strange helps conjure up an even more epic adventure.
It’s time to consider Tom Holland’s first three “Spider-Man” films among the best movie trilogies.
“King Richard” gives yet another reminder that comedy-and-action superstar Will Smith is an exceptional dramatic actor, too.
Smith aced his performance as Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, whose unusual methods for training his daughters made for a captivating story.
The film succeeded in showing there’s much more to the famous family’s journey than what’s been told before. It also featured very realistic tennis scenes — not an easy feat to accomplish when depicting two of the sport’s greatest athletes.
‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’
Marvel Studios’ first movie to center on an Asian superhero truly was a big-screen marvel.
It features a predominantly Asian cast and a visceral story that pays homage to Chinese culture, with star Simu Liu proving to be the full package as a nuanced action hero with humor and charm. And New Yorker Awkwafina, playing Shang-Chi’s best friend, steals every scene she’s in.
“Shang-Chi” also gave us some of the most memorable martial arts sequences we’ve seen.‘West Side Story’ stars Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose on how they ‘reinterpreted’ the timeless story for Steven Spielberg film »
Denis Villeneuve’s monumental adaptation of the classic novel spiced up the movie scene with a science fiction film deserving of awards-season contention.
“Dune” features stunning cinematography and doesn’t waste a single moment as it transports audiences to the war-torn desert world of Arrakis.
Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin lead an adventure in which everyone felt perfectly cast in their roles. Fans were left wanting more after the 2½-hour movie, but will have to wait until 2023 for the much-anticipated sequel.
The clever Spanish drama is filled with twists and turns, and centers on a moral dilemma that will leave audiences questioning what they’d do.
Oscar winner Penélope Cruz turns in one of the year’s best performances, playing a conflicted single mom with a big secret in the movie, which was written and directed by longtime collaborator Pedro Almodóvar.