2021 was an odd year in all respects, and my movie watching was no exception. Since time continues to march on, I figure it’s time to take a look back at the year that was… in movies. I know that this sort of navel gazing is perhaps too trivial given that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and assorted social strife, but that’s what makes it sort of fun. In accordance with tradition, we’ll be doing a much deeper dive on the movies of 2021 including the Kaedrin Movie Awards and the usual Top 10, but it’s also instructive to take a look at overall movie watching for the year.
I keep track of all my movie watching on Letterboxd, so if you’re reading this and are a member, we should be friends there. They also provide some stats, which I’m going to dive into below…
This is what I watched in 2021:
- 384 films watched
- 725.2 hours watched
- 32 movies a month on average
- 7.4 movies a week on average
Breaking that down by decade:
While this is a lot of movies, it is basically returning to pre-pandemic numbers. Last year’s record 445 movies watched is great and all, but it was set while the world was fighting a pandemic with lockdowns and social distancing. In other words, ideal conditions for sitting around and watching a bunch of movies. I honestly wouldn’t be too surprised to see these numbers continue a decline, though it might be nice to see an uptick in pre-1980 movies…
This year did see the conclusion of the 1978 project, but I only watched 11 of those movies this year (the bulk of that project was covered in 2020). Not sure if I will be embarking on another effort like that this year, but they are a good way to provide structure to the media diet. I’ve considered doing a 50 from 50 (watch at least one movie from 50 different countries), but I probably come pretty close to that without even particularly trying (more below). I could do another year, or perhaps a companion to 50 under 50 that would be for movies between 1950 and 2000… but again, I kinda do that already. Well, there’s no requirement to start this at the beginning of the year (the 1978 project was started mid-year and lasted nearly 2 years, for what it’s worth), so we don’t need to keep speculating about it now.
More variability by week than last year, but pretty consistent throughout the year. A few spikes driven by various events throughout the year (like The Six Weeks of Halloween), but pretty much on par with pre-pandemic levels of viewing. In terms of day of the week, Tuesday and Wednesday continue to lag behind the rest of the week (at least partially due to a group of friends and I maintaining a remote RPG game night over discord). The biggest divergence from previous years is that Saturday dips below Friday and Sunday. I suspect this is partially driven by a halting return to normalcy and a bit of a social life on Saturdays. Go figure.
Genres, Languages, and Countries
The usual dominance of US and English language presents itself here, with a solid showing from other anglosphere countries like UK and Canada. South Korea and Spain make the top 10 in countries, while Australia and Hong Kong fall off the list (the latter probably because the 1978 project concluded, and thus the inexhaustible supply of Hong Kong martial arts movies made in the 1970s was temporarily skipped in favor of other stuff). The top 10 genres are basically the same, but the ordering is different (comedy stumbled from the top spot in 2020 to #6 in 2021)
The map this year has pretty good global coverage, though obviously the number of movies from each country is relatively small. The map is also a little odd in that there are lots of movies that have broad financing and that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a movie from that country (i.e. a large proportion of Chinese movies are co-productions with Hollywood, etc…) That said, the grand majority also have real movies made in that country as well.
Ratings and Other Patterns
- 24.2% of my watches were a 2021 release, a big increase from last year (which was 16%). This is partially due to last year’s higher volume of movies watched, but also because studios held back a lot of releases until this year, which sorta gave me a double bump this year. This number usually hovers around 20%, so the variance isn’t that high, and I certainly still have a lot of movies to watch before I do my top 10, etc… but anecdotally, this year felt more packed with new releases, even during the pre-vaccine times…
- 24.2% of my watches were actually rewatches. Not a typo – same number of rewatches as 2021 release (93 movies). A minor decrease over last year, but pretty much on par.
- Ratings continue to resemble a bell curve centered on the 3 out of 5 star rating. Slightly lower than the past due to an increase in 3.5 star ratings, though the numbers are surprisingly even above and below 3 and 3.5. I suspect part of the higher rating bias has to due with rewatches (i.e. I tend not to rewatch low rated movies, though there are certainly some!)
- Letterboxd has a watchlist where you can add movies you want to watch (or at least, not lose track of). This year wasn’t so bad – almost parity between movies added to that list and then subsequently watched (though at least some were added long before this year). The list continues to grow. Some of this has to due with availability – I might want to watch a movie, but it could be out of print or only available via physical media, etc…
Stars and Directors
Keanu and Tom take the top slot this year, mostly driven by rewatches (particularly of the John Wick and Mission Impossible franchises), though there were new watches from both. I did go on an Eddie Murphy kick earlier this year, which was really a lot of fun and recommended if you haven’t seen his early movies recently. Jamie Lee Curtis is the lone woman on the list, something that has been sadly prevalent in these year end roundups. It strikes me that a lot of the people that show up on this list are there more because of franchise rewatches, which is fine, but doesn’t really capture the breadth and depth of what I watched over a year.
In terms of directors, I’ve tended towards white and male in the past, but while still plenty of white dudes, there’s a woman this year, and a few men of color too. Not going to claim I’m the most diverse dude out there, but I’m moving the in the right direction I think. As with last year, I followed along with the Blank Check podcast a bit this year, so some of these folks are certainly there because of them. Onwards and upwards.
Highs and Lows
Welp, the highest rated movie I watched all year was… a tv show. A glorious tv show, but still. I know it seems a bit tacky to track tv shows as movies on Letterboxd, but there are a handful that make sense and this is one of them. Lowest rated was actually an MST3K watch, but before that it was Abduction, a not so great thriller with a surprisingly good cast that was directed by John Singleton. Again, not good, but also almost certainly not the worst thing I watched all year. Knives Out takes most popular for the second year in a row. I don’t know why, but I’ve rewatched that movie quite a few times the last few years. Finally, the most obscure is actually a short film about a real-life 1996 tornado which hit a drive-in movie theater that was playing the movie Twister.
So there you have it, 2021 was a fun year in movie watching here at HQ. Not record setting, but again, that’s probably a good thing.