The Best Six Movies of the First Half of 2021
With my childhood best friend (and vice president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association) Tim Grierson, I host a weekly movie podcast, called Grierson & Leitch. (Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!) Tim and I grew up in Central Illinois obsessed with “Siskel & Ebert,” and the podcast is meant to be just like that show: Two Midwestern dopes who see way too many movies and love nothing more than to talk about them with each other.
Ever since 1991 — when I was 16 years old — we, at the end of the movie year, announce our Top 10 Movies of the Year to each other, a podcast tradition that is now known as “Dorkfest.” But at the midway point of the year, which, as you might have noticed, just passed, we give our six best films of the first six months. It’s a way to point out movies that people might have missed, and make sure we don’t forget them when the movie year ends.
We did this show two weeks ago, right before Grierson left for the Cannes Film Festival. (He saw some great movies there: Here’s his ranking of every movie he screened.) It occurred to me that, other than that podcast, I had not actually listed my six best films of the year so far anywhere. So this seems like the right place for it.
Before I list, though, I must say: It has been truly glorious to be back in movie theaters again. Everyone has their own risk tolerance, but going to the movies was basically the first thing I wanted to do when I was fully vaccinated. I’d missed it terribly. Going to the movies has always been a place of peace for me, a refuge I can enter where, for two-or-three hours, my own world peels away and I get to go somewhere else entirely. Ebert once wrote, about the first time he saw Star Wars, that “my imagination has forgotten it is actually present in a movie theater and thinks it’s up there on the screen. In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them.” This is what the best movies do for me. They transport me to another universe, another life, entirely. I like the life I have; movies are not a place to escape from some torment or pain. But movies expand the limits of my imagination. They allow me, for a while, to be something else.