Friday, January 28, 2022

By Harry Westergaard

Members of the Bijou Film Board share their favorite new releases, first watches and film-related experiences of 2021. Did any of your favorites make the lists? Read on to find out...

Harry Westergaard (Executive Director)

Top 10 films of 2021:

  1. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
  2. Pig (dir. Michael Sarnoski)
  3. Heard She Got Married (dir. Charlie Roxburgh)
  4. The Velvet Underground (dir. Todd Haynes)
  5. Licorice Pizza (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
  6. Annette (dir. Leos Carax)
  7. Red Rocket (dir. Sean Baker)
  8. C’mon C’mon (dir. Mike Mills)
  9. Bad Trip (dir. Kitao Sakurai)
  10. Godzilla vs. Kong (dir. Adam Wingard)

Top 10 Discoveries:

  1. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973, dir. Sam Peckinpah)
  2. Where is My Friend’s House (1987, dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
  3. Shin Godzilla (2017, dir. Hideaki Anno)
  4. Sons of the Desert (1933, dir. William A. Seiter)
  5. Basket Case (1983, dir. Frank Hennenlotter)
  6. The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976, dir. Radley Metzger)
  7. Possession (1981, dir. Andrzej Żuławski)
  8. Boys in the Sand (1971, dir. Wakefield Poole)
  9. Speed Racer (2008, dir. Lana and Lilly Wachowski)
  10. Clifford (1994, dir. Paul Flaherty)

Top 5 Movie Experiences:

  1. My film, Killer Koosa playing before Laserblast (a stone cold classic) for Grindhouse. Just a great, supportive community to show your work to.
  2. Being in the audience for the first EVER theatrical screening of Matt Farley’s Local Legends.
  3. Watching The Creature from Black Lake and with my brother and deciding we should make our own version. Two months later, we released The Creature from Muddy Creek, starring us and our friends.
  4. Marathoning eight Dragon Ball Z movies with my brother on New Year's Eve
  5. The return of Late Shift at the Grindhouse with The Big Boss. Bruce Lee is an incredible martial artist, but his movies can be hit or miss. The Big Boss isn’t one of his best, but it absolutely ruled with an audience.


Matthew Huh (Programming Director)

2021 Films:

  1. Titane (Dir. Julia Ducournau)
  2. Drive My Car (Dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
  3. Bo Burnham: Inside (Dir. Bo Burnham)
  4. Licorice Pizza (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
  5. The Sparks Brothers (Dir. Edgar Wright)
  6. The French Dispatch (Dir. Wes Anderson)
  7. Spencer (Dir. Pablo Larrain)
  8. West Side Story (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
  9. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Dir. Jon Watts)
  10. C’mon C’mon (Dir. Mike Mills)

New-to-Me Films:

  1. Minari (Dir. Lee Isaac Chung)
  2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  3. Gone Girl (Dir. David Fincher)
  4. Funny Games [1997] (Dir. Michael Haneke)
  5. Raw (Dir. Julia Ducournau)
  6. Strike (Dir. Sergei Eisenstein)
  7. An Autumn Afternoon (Dir. Yasujiro Ozu)
  8. The Wolf of Wall Street (Dir. Martin Scorsese)
  9. Nomadland (Dir. Chloe Zhao)
  10. When Harry Met Sally (Dir. Rob Reiner)

Movie Experiences:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home (opening night) @ AMC Hawthorn - The best opening night experience I have ever had in a theater. The excitement in the audience during major scenes are unmatched. Everybody was hyped beyond belief.
  2. Licorice Pizza (70mm) @ Music Box Theatre - Was finally able to see a film in 70mm in one of my favorite movie theaters. On top of the stunning imagery of the 70mm projection, I got a great movie to go along with it.
  3. Stop Making Sense (Bijou After Hours) @ FilmScene at the Chauncey - One of the most electrifying and energetic movie experiences. Everything from the sound mixing, the cinematic immersion, and the incredible music from Talking Heads, this is what theatrical experiences were made for.
  4. Titane (opening night) @ FilmScene on the Ped Mall - My favorite film of 2021 offered emotions and reactions that were unbelievably disturbing and entrancing. Everybody in the theater collectively felt the same roller coaster of emotions.
  5. Memoria (Chicago screening) @ AMC River East - Was fortunate to catch this in Chicago due to Memoria being released in one theater for one week, one week at a time. It’s a slow-burn and very experimental, but the filmmaking on display is a rare one that I would consider hypnotic.


Dana Woolery (After Hours Committee)

Top 10 of 2021:

  1. The Father (dir. Florian Zeller)
  2. Judas and the Black Messiah (dir. Shaka King)
  3. Mass (dir. Fran Kranz)
  4. A Cop Movie (dir. Alonso Ruizpalacios)
  5. Spencer (dir. Pablo Larraín)
  6. Tick, Tick… Boom! (dir. Lin Manuel Miranda)
  7. Titane (dir. Julia Ducournau)
  8. Belle (dir. Mamoru Hosoda)
  9. The Harder they Fall (dir. The Bullitts)
  10. Flee (dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen)

Top 10 new watches:

  1. Giant (1956, dir. George Stevens)
  2. Head (1968, dir. Bob Rafelson)
  3. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988, dir. Todd Haynes)
  4. Napoleon (1927, dir. Abel Gance)
  5. Gun Crazy (1950, dir. Joseph H. Lewis)
  6. Waking life (2001, dir. Richard Linklater)
  7. When the Wind Blows (1986, dir. Jimmy T. Murakami)
  8. A Clockwork Orange (1971, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
  9. Salesman (1969, dir. Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin)
  10. Police Story (1985, dir. Jackie Chan)


  1. Watching Oggieloves And The Big Balloon Adventure with an old friend I haven't seen in a year.
  2. Binge-watching a bunch of bad superhero movies from the 80s and 90s.
  3. Joining Bijou
  4. Predicting the Oscars 2021
  5. Making a film for class


Chris Soseman (After Hours Committee)

Top 10 of 2021:

  1. Inside (Burnham)
  2. C'mon C'mon (Mills)
  3. Dune (Villeneuve)
  4. Licorice Pizza (Anderson)
  5. Limbo (Sharrock)
  6. Pig (Sarnoski)
  7. The Beta Test (Cummings and McCabe)
  8. The Suicide Squad (Gunn)
  9. The French Dispatch (Anderson)
  10. Red Rocket (Baker)

Top 10 First Watches:

  1. Border (Abbasi)
  2. Men & Chicken (Jensen)
  3. A Man Called Ove (Holm)
  4. The Green Butchers (Jensen)
  5. Flickering Lights (Jensen)
  6. About Endlessness (Andersson)
  7. Ema (Larrin)
  8. Gremlins (Dante)
  9. Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio)
  10. Bride of Frankenstein (Whale)

Top 5 experiences:

  1. Titane
  2. Bergman Island
  3. The Night House
  4. Spider-Man: No Way Home
  5. The Velvet Underground

Jack Ager (After Hours Committee)

Top 10 New Releases of 2021:

1. Belle (dir. Mamoru Hosada)
2. The Green Knight (dir. David Lowery)
3. Drive My Car (dir Ryuske Hamaguchi)
4. Pig (dir. Michael Sarnoski)
5. West Side Story (dir. Steven Spielberg)
6. The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (dir. Wes Anderson)
7. Spencer (dir. Pablo Larrain)
8. Malignant (dir. James Wan)
9. Luca (dir. Enrico Casarosa)
10. The Tragedy of Macbeth (dir. Joel Coen)

Top 10 First-Time Watches of 2021:

1. Whisper of the Heart (1995, dir. Yoshifumi Kondo)
2. Stop Making Sense (1984, dir. Jonathan Demme)
3. Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang)
4. American Honey (2016, dir. Andrea Arnold)
5. Rango (2011, dir. Gore Verbinski)
6. Brazil (1985, dir. Terry Gilliam)
7. Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984, dir. Shoji Kawamori and Noburo Ishiguro)
8. North by Northwest (1959, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
9. A Ghost Story (2017, dir. David Lowery)
10. Speed (1994, dir. Jan de Bont)

Top 5 Movie Experiences:

1. Luca: Although Luca was sadly sent straight-to-streaming via Disney+, I actually had the unique opportunity to watch the film with a handful of my online friends on a rented out screen at the Music Box theater in Chicago. This trip holds a special place in my heart as it was the first time I got to meet these friends in person, and it was an amazing experience getting the chance to hang out with them for a couple days. Also, the film was pretty good!

2. Studio Ghibli Binge-Watch: Last summer, I sat down and watched the entirety of Studio Ghibli’s filmography, from Nausicaa of the Valley to the Wind to Earwig and the Witch. It was a life-changing few weeks, getting to rewatch old favorites and discover new ones in the process, even if the binge-watch ultimately ended on a bit of a sour note thanks to Earwig.

3. The Green Knight: Watching this on opening night was a near religious experience for me. It was easily my most anticipated film of 2021 and it more than exceeded those lofty expectations.

4. Zack Snyder’s Justice League: This was quite easily the biggest unexpected surprise of 2021. I had low expectations going in, thanks to the awful aftertaste the 2017 theatrical cut left in my mouth, but the Snyder cut truly caught me off-guard with how much I ended up liking it. The fact that this film even exists at all is perhaps one of the greatest movie miracles in recent memory.

5. Fast and Furious Binge-Watch: Aside from the Ghibli films, this series was the second biggest binge I did last summer, in preparation for F9. For as dumb as these films can get, they all succeed in providing grade A entertainment with how they continually top one another in increasing insanity and ludicrousness, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.


Dylan Masse (Horizons Committee)

Best of 2021:

  1. Drive My Car (Hamaguchi)
  2. C’mon C’mon (Mills)
  3. Belle (Hosoda)
  4. Flee (Rasmussen)
  5. The Worst Person in the World (Trier)
  6. In Front of Your Face (Hong)
  7. Titane (Ducournau)
  8. The French Dispatch (Anderson)
  9. Red Rocket (Baker)
  10. Dune (Villeneuve)

Favorite New Watches:

  1. Chungking Express (Wong)
  2. City of God (Meirelles, Lund)
  3. The Handmaiden (Park)
  4. Love Exposure (Sion)
  5. La Haine (Kassovitz)
  6. Police Story (Chan)
  7. A Taxi Driver (Jang)
  8. Secret Sunshine (Lee)
  9. Close-Up (Kiarostami)
  10. Fallen Angels (Wong)

Favorite Movie Experiences:

  1. Paprika in theaters
  2. Drive My Car and Belle in theaters
  3. Watching Fantastic Mr. Fox for the first time
  4. Watching The Way of the Dragon in theaters
  5. Lupin III in theaters

Dylan Sgamba (Film Forum Committee)

2021 Top Ten (in no specific order):

  • West Side Story (Spielberg)
  • Red Rocket (Baker)
  • Titane (Ducournau)
  • C’mon C’mon (Mills)
  • The Velvet Underground (Haynes)
  • The Phantom of the Highland Park Ebell
  • The Harder They Fall (The Bullitts)
  • tick, tick… BOOM (Miranda)
  • Licorice Pizza (Anderson)
  • The French Dispatch (Anderson)

2021 Top Ten First Watches (in no particular order):

  • Mother (2009)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
  • A Separation (2011)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Polyester (1981)
  • Wings of Desire (1987)
  • La Haine (1995)
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
  • Orpheus (1950)
  • Breathless (1960)

Top five movie experiences 2021:

  • Nomadland (2020) - I watched the Best Picture winner on Hulu shortly after it was released to streaming services. While it wasn’t my favorite film I watched in 2021, it was arguably the most beautiful. Some of the scenes made me bawl my eyes out.
  • Toy Story 4 (2019) - I watched the fourth film in the Toy Story franchise with one of my roommates one night. I was extremely delighted by how much I enjoyed it. The animation was absolutely beautiful, and that final hug between Buzz and Woody made me feel like I was watching myself give a final hug to my childhood.
  • Searching (2018) - I had never seen a movie set entirely on computer screens / smartphones, so I was completely blown away while watching this film. The story is an entertaining one, but the editing and aesthetic of the film is what totally had me encapsulated.
  • Pink Flamingos (1972) - I was so hungry before I started watching this film, so I decided to warm up the oven and put the pizza in. By the time it was cooked and ready to be eaten, I had lost all of my appetite. I haven’t ever seen a more repulsive movie.
  • Titane (2021) - I saw the Palme d’Or winner at FilmScene with a couple of my buddies. I was so squeamish throughout the film that my friend sitting next to me said afterwards, “It was so annoying that I thought about putting you in that Malcolm McDowell chair from A Clockwork Orange!”


Jacqueline Wahl (Film Forum Committee)

Top Ten New Releases:

  1. Drive My Car dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  2. The Velvet Underground dir. Todd Haynes
  3. Spencer dir. Pablo Larraín
  4. Belle dir. Mamoru Hosoda
  5. Dune dir. Denis Villeneuve
  6. The Eyes of Tammy Faye dir. Michael Showalter
  7. Encanto dir. Byron Howard, Jared Bush
  8. The French Dispatch dir. Wes Anderson
  9. Benedetta dir. Paul Verhoeven
  10. The Last Duel dir. Ridley Scott

Top Ten New-to-Me:

  1. In the Mood for Love dir. Wong Kar-wai
  2. The Hunger dir. Tony Scott
  3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire dir. Céline Sciamma
  4. In Between dir. Maysaloun Hamoud
  5. The Evil Dead dir. Sam Raimi
  6. Possession dir. Andrzej Żuławski
  7. Rocky Horror Picture Show dir. Jim Sharman
  8. Barbie as Rapunzel dir. Owen Hurley
  9. Earwig and the Witch Gorō Miyazaki
  10. Assault on Precinct 13 dir. John Carpenter

Top Five Film Experiences:

  1. Grindhouse at FilmScene
    1. Attending these weekly screening series at FilmScene was one of my favorite things about 2021.
  2. Film Scream
    1. FilmScene’s 12-hour movie marathon in October. It was such a great night, even though I technically fell asleep for the last movie.
  3. Dune
    1. I managed to speed read the book 24 hours before opening night and had some great conversations with folks who were long-time fans of the series while waiting for the movie to begin.
  4. Rocky Horror Picture Show
    1. I finally got the opportunity to participate in this Halloween tradition in 2021.
  5. Studio Ghibli Marathon
    1. Now that all these films are on HBO Max, it is so much easier to have Studio Ghibli Marathons over Zoom with long-distance friends.

William Etienne (Horizons Committee)

Top five first watches:
- City Hall by Frederick Wiseman
- Attenberg by Athina Rachel Tsangari
- César and Rosalie by Claude Sautet
- Dogtooth by Yorgos Lanthimos
- Pieces of a Woman by Kornel Mundruczo
Jacob Smithburg (Open Screen Committee)
Top 10 2021 Releases:
  1. French Dispatch (Anderson)
  2. Suicide Squad (Gunn)
  3. Luca (Casarosa)
  4. 14 Peaks (Jones)
  5. The Alpinist (Mortimer, Rosen)
  6. Becoming Cousteau (Garbus)
  7. C'mon C'mon (Mills)
  8. The Rescue (Vasarhelyi, Chin)
  9. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Jude)
  10. Tick, Tick... Boom! (Miranda)
Top 10 Discoveries:
  1. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (Blamire)
  2. Hail Satan? (Lane)
  3. The Long Goodbye (Altman)
  4. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (Fothergill, Scholey)
  5. The Rugrats Movie (Virgien, Kovalyov)
  6. Rams (Hakonarson)
  7. Rugrats in Paris (Bergqvist, Demeyer)
  8. Valley Uprising (Lowell, Mortimer)
  9. Fantastic Fungi (Schwartzberg)
  10. Star Wars Holiday Special (Acomba)
Top 5 Film Experiences:
    1. Streaming Luca with pals in El Dorado National Forest
    2. Star Wars Holiday Special viewing party
    3. Countless theatrical viewings of The French Dispatch
    4. Viewing a theatrical screening of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
    5. Live group roasting of Dear Evan Hansen