The very best crime movies of 2021
From No Time to Die to I Care A Lot, Steve Charnock has his say on the best crime movies of 2021. Which films would make your list?
2021 hasn’t exactly been a golden year for cinema for fairly obvious reasons. Hollywood has slowly been getting back to normal, however, with movies drip fed to us hungry film fans throughout the year – especially via streaming services.
Thankfully, to compile this round up of the year’s most outstanding crime flicks, we’ve not had to search too hard. We’ve enjoyed plenty of high quality films over the past twelve months; some you may have seen, some you may not have. All – we reckon – are worthy of your attention.
Here’s our pick of the very best crime films of 2021!
The best crime movies of 2021:
Wrath of Man
Guy Ritchie still makes macho cinema aimed squarely at a certain audience. And casting Jason Statham in the lead for his latest hardly suggests a change of direction or newfound love of quiet nuance. But approach this heist thriller about a mysterious cash truck security guard and a gang of robbers with an open mind and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
It’s a lot of fun, with Statham ably assisted by a manly supporting cast including Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Andy Garcia and Scott Eastwood. More than holding her own against the tide of testosterone is the always great Niamh Algar (The Virtues, Raised by Wolves, Censor).
Heavy shades of the Amanda Knox case loom over this intelligent and thought-provoking crime drama. Matt Damon stars as a good ol’ Oklahoma boy who moves to Marseille to help clear his daughter’s name of a murder he’s convinced she didn’t commit. Damon is superb as oil rig worker Bill Baker who’s determined to win back his daughter’s trust and love. Abigail Breslin is that daughter, while French actress and comedian Camille Cottin plays Baker’s love interest.
No Time to Die
Multiple release delays only served to heightened the hype around this 25th Bond outing hitting the big screen. When it finally came out on the last day of September, it made a significant impact at the box office, with most 007 fans considering it a fitting way to end Daniel Craig’s tenure as the all-action secret agent.
It wasn’t perfect, with Rami Malek’s bad guy offering up the biggest disappointment during the film’s hefty 163-minute running time. However, Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch more than make up for Malek’s slightly underwritten Lyutsifer Safin. Both revel in their roles as subverted Bond girls.
The Card Counter
Hollywood great Paul Schrader writes and directs this low-key drama about a former military prison guard turned professional gambler who gets caught up in a revenge scheme to bring down a psychopathic former army major. Oscar Isaac heads things up with Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe rounding out the cast.
There’s a real standoffish 90s feel to this that keeps itself emotionally detached, yet somehow still involving. There’s no cooler A-lister than Oscar Isaac operating today – reason enough to seek this off-the-radar gem out.
Liam Neeson’s transition to craggy-faced old action star took a lot of us by surprise over the past 15 years. Yet still nothing could prepare the world for Bob Odenkirk doing the same. The Better Call Saul actor and comedian took this generic-sounding but surprisingly fun action film seriously, though. So the fight scenes – one of which is genuinely and unforgettably brilliant – are realistic. At least they look it. We’re not sure how realistic it is to expect a 59-year-old to beat up a bus full of Russian gangsters.
Odenkirk is Hutch ‘Nobody’ Mansell, an ex-government assassin who – wouldn’t you know – has to come out of retirement and break bad when his past catches up with him. Funnier, more stylish and far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
The Many Saints of Newark
It’s been 14 years since the finest television drama ever made reached its controversial conclusion. Loyal fans of The Sopranos still grieve for the loss of their favourite show, while a new generation of box set-hungry viewers came out of the worldwide lockdowns of 2020. So its eventual movie spin-off, The Many Saints of Newark, came along with a fair whack of anticipation.
Creator David Chase had a tough job on his hands replicating the quality of the show with this prequel. Without the talents of the late James Gandolfini, it was even harder. The addition of the man’s real-life son Michael pepped things up and for fans of the show, this big screen outing was a fun trip out.
No Sudden Move
Prolific film director Steven Soderbergh (Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Contagion) announced his retirement from the industry in 2013, fed up with ‘how badly directors are treated’. He must’ve missed it, though. The next year he was back behind the camera for TV medical drama The Knick and soon back directing films again. Like Lucky Logan in 2017.
This year saw him direct and edit a low-key crime thriller that really got the best out of its stellar cast. Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Brendan Fraser, Julia Fox, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta and Matt Damon combine to create an absorbing little period piece set in 1950s Detroit. Its basic premise sees a small gang of small-town crooks steal a mystery document. The plan, as you can imagine, goes wrong in all directions. Whereas the film doesn’t.
I Care a Lot
Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage are both as brilliant as always in this vicious black comedy about a conwoman who scams elderly folk by working as their court-appointed guardian before siphoning off their money. It all goes swimmingly for the huckstress until she crosses a murderous gangster. Stay tuned for a killer ending.
House of Gucci
An all-star cast help flesh out the fascinating and somewhat unknown full story of how one woman inveigled her way into Gucci and pitted a family against each other in a story that ends in murder.
Lady Gaga is Patrizia Reggiani, a devious type who seduces Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) and marries her way into Italy’s famous clothing label. Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons and Jack Huston support in a film that’s arguably overlong and a little melodramatic, but matches the luxury feel of the brand perfectly.
A film about a man who vows to track down his kidnapped pig (pignapped?) may sound exactly like the bizarre and frankly quite rubbish thing that Nicolas Cage would get involved in. And he did. The difference here is, this isn’t a bizarre and quite rubbish porcine-based revenge film. It’s a deeply touching one that’s also a stirring story of grief and trauma.
Cage plays a grizzled and reclusive man who’s retreated to live off grid in the Oregonian wilderness. His meagre income coming from the truffles his piggy pal snuffles up from the earth for him. One day he’s attacked and his prize pig is taken, leaving him distraught. Having to venture back to the city and life he rejected to find his only spiritual connection, Cage’s character is forced to face up to the life he left behind.
Of course, while poignant, it’s still a Nic Cage film. So there’s a mad subplot about an underground fighting ring that’s a little out of place but still a lot of fun. Watch Pig. It’ll surprise you.
No Man of God
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’s Luke Kirby is uncanny here as the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. The film treads no real new ground in terms of what the world knows about Bundy or his grotesque crimes, but Kirby’s performance is worth the rental fee alone. Elijah Wood co-stars as the fed Bundy opens up to.
Tom Clancy’s source material provides plenty of inspiration for this above average action crime thriller. Michael B Jordan is a reliable presence in the lead and the team behind Sicario: Day of the Soldado – writer Taylor Sheridan and director Stefano Sollima – build the tension well.
Don’t go looking for themes or morals or any great enlightenment on the human condition. Just enjoy elite Navy SEAL Michael B on a mission to avenge his pregnant wife’s murder and, in particular, a prison cell fight scene only perhaps rivalled by Tom Hardy’s in Bronson or Vince Vaughn’s in Brawl in Cell Block 99.
Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Jónsi from Sigur Rós, weirdly, provides the (excellent) score.
Marketed like a cheap horror film and starring Megan Fox, you’d be more than forgiven for scrolling past Till Death and dismissing it as trashy rubbish. That’d be a mistake, though. S K Dale’s directorial debut has an abusive husband drive his wife out to an secluded lake house in bad weather, only to handcuff himself to her and shoot himself in the head.
And then it gets weird(er). Megan Fox’s Emma must work a way out of her predicament all while fighting off her former stalker who’s out of prison and out for payback. It’s trashy fun, but slickly put together and hinged around a surprisingly strong performance from Transformers survivor Fox.
Based on the book Dead End on Silk Road by David Kushner, this fascinating crime drama follows the real-life story of Ross Ulbricht, the dark net web entrepreneur that set up an enormous online empire of illicit drug trading. And, of course, the US government’s attempts to bring it crumbling down.
Absorbing and interesting, Silk Road might not be the most heart-stopping movie you’ll watch this year, but it tells its incredible true tale with heart and enthusiasm.
There you have it – the best crime movies of 2021! Don’t see your favourite on our list? Let us know in the comments below…