The 7 Most Underrated Movies I Saw in 2021

2021 was a wild and not good year for my movie watching. I spent most of it inside and spent a lot of that time watching movies. I would have liked to spend more time out and about. I also cut way back on games for a few reasons. And outside of some notable exceptions, I wasn’t watching much TV either. So I saw more movies this year (139ish) than ever, even one summer in high school when I wasn’t working.

I did spend a lot of that indoor time self-reflecting. I cleaned house in my favorite movie list - although I am slowly rewatching all of them, I moved the remaining 20 that I haven’t seen in 3 or more years to their own list. It feels good to acknowledge I’m a forever changing person and my favorite movies are just a snapshot of me at this moment. The 20 old favorites are what the Seglegs of a few years ago loved, which may not be what I love now.

I’m getting more into bombast and less into formalism. I watched some of the last few film-school staples that I missed so far, and was mostly unimpressed. I care less about cryptic themes and twist endings and more about in-your-face raw emotion, movies that never blink or hide their enthusiasm. Movies that are blank checks where the director enthusiastically chose a bizarre vision.

The 20 movies left on my list are an excellent time, with 4 being brand-new to me this year, The Matrix Reloaded being basically new, and Die Hard finally getting the recognition I should have given it 4 viewings ago. Cleaning up my favorites list lets me engage with each movie on it as a movie, not an untouchable god. I can easily slot in new movies by thinking about movies I saw recently.

The most underrated movies I saw this year:

1. Toys

Review here.

2. Prospero’s Books

Review here. I think I could’ve sold it harder with more images, but many shots have nude people.

3. The Polar Express

Review here.

4. The Matrix Reloaded

The highway scene is incredible. Even the slow scenes are good. Worst scene is the “control” scene in the belly of Zion, followed by the Merovingian’s babbling. But even those are watchable. Watch the prequel first - “The Final Flight of the Osiris”.

5. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Review here.

6. After Life

Review here.

7. Nightcrawler

Not really underrated but here’s my review.

Search my twitter and you might find quick takes on some of the other movies I saw this year.

I give special thanks to Trash Night Video. Formerly a Boston delicacy, it is available over the Internet maybe forever. The best trash I saw was Max Knight: Ultra Spy, a failed pilot for a TV show about a James Bond-wannabe who is, by mere virtue of spacetime, present in the year 2001. The computer aesthetic only feels possible in a pre-9/11 world. A lot of other Trash Night fare was straight up awful, but I always hold out hope for a winner like Voyage of the Rock Aliens, a movie where everyone is queer and you can’t convince me otherwise. Catch it on the third Tuesday of every month!

Finally, here’s every movie I saw. You can slice and dice my list (ex. by genre, average user rating, or decade) on Letterboxd, as well as follow me to get my ratings on a more regular basis.

I’m pretty sure I saw Speed Racer 3 times this year. My Little Pony: A New Generation I saw twice in the same day because my friends wanted to see it a second time. Maybe 20 of these were heavily fast-forwarded or stopped partway through, but I only rated them if I saw enough to have an opinion.

*Rewatch. The program that generates these images is available here.