Best Limited Release Movies 2021

Pig had a headline-grabbing premise that seemed to invite ironic viewership, but director Michael Sarnoski and Nicolas Cage brought their A-game to cook up a searing meditation on loss. If you were feeling locked down in local scenery, most of the Best Limited Release Movies took viewers all over the world, including Japan (Drive My Car), Italy (The Truffle Hunters), Bosnia (Quo Vadis, Aida?), France (Slalom, Two of Us), and Spain (Parallel Mothers). In addition, we were delighted with some passion projects: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter and Edgar Wright’s fanboy explosion The Sparks Brothers.

The order reflects Tomatometer scores (as of December 31, 2021) after adjustment from our ranking formula, which compensates for variation in the number of reviews when comparing movies or TV shows.

#1

Pig (2021)
96%

#1
Adjusted Score: 109997%
Critics Consensus: Like the animal itself, Pig defies the hogwash of expectations with a beautiful odyssey of loss and love anchored by Nicolas Cage's affectingly raw performance.
Synopsis: Living alone in the Oregon wilderness, a truffle hunter returns to Portland to find the person who stole his beloved... [More]
Directed By: Michael Sarnoski

#2

Shiva Baby (2020)
96%

#2
Adjusted Score: 104436%
Critics Consensus: A ruefully funny calling card for debuting director Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby transcends its sitcom setup with strong performances and satisfying insights.
Synopsis: While at a Jewish funeral service with her parents, a college student has an awkward encounter with her sugar daddy... [More]
Directed By: Emma Seligman

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 102348%
Critics Consensus: The Truffle Hunters explores a world most viewers will know nothing about -- with delightfully savory results.
Synopsis: A handful of men search for rare, expensive and delicious white Alba truffles deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy.... [More]

#4

Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 103369%
Critics Consensus: Quo Vadis, Aida? uses one woman's heartbreaking conflict to offer a searing account of war's devastating human toll.
Synopsis: Bosnia, July 11th 1995. Aida is a translator for the United Nations in the small town of Srebrenica. When the... [More]
Directed By: Jasmila Zbanic

#5

Slalom (2020)
100%

#5
Adjusted Score: 102437%
Critics Consensus: Led by Noée Abita's outstanding central performance, Slalom offers a moving account of oppression and abuse in the guise of mentorship.
Synopsis: This riveting, Cannes-selected #MeToo drama from debut filmmaker Charlène Favier follows the relationship between a teenage ski prodigy and her... [More]
Directed By: Charlène Favier

#6

Drive My Car (2021)
97%

#6
Adjusted Score: 107578%
Critics Consensus: Drive My Car's imposing runtime holds a rich, patiently engrossing drama that reckons with self-acceptance and regret.
Synopsis: Two years after his wife's unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer... [More]
Directed By: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 103203%
Critics Consensus: Their albums may be cult favorites, but this Edgar Wright-directed documentary offers an introduction to Sparks that has something for everyone.
Synopsis: How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Edgar Wright's... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#8

Parallel Mothers (2021)
96%

#8
Adjusted Score: 107465%
Critics Consensus: A brilliant forum for Penélope Cruz's talent, Parallel Mothers reaffirms the familiar pleasures of Almodóvar's filmmaking while proving he's still capable of growth.
Synopsis: Two women, Janis and Ana, coincide in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single... [More]
Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 105164%
Critics Consensus: A strikingly assured debut for writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter unites a brilliant cast in service of a daringly ambitious story.
Synopsis: Alone on a seaside vacation, Leda becomes consumed with a young mother and daughter as she watches them on the... [More]
Directed By: Maggie Gyllenhaal

#10

Two of Us (2019)
98%

#10
Adjusted Score: 101767%
Critics Consensus: A remarkable feature debut for director/co-writer Filippo Meneghetti, Two of Us tells a deceptively complex love story while presenting a rich acting showcase for its three leads.
Synopsis: Two retired women, Nina and Madeleine, have been secretly in love for decades. Everybody, including Madeleine’s family, thinks they are... [More]
Directed By: Filippo Meneghetti

#11

Mass (2021)
95%

#11
Adjusted Score: 104184%
Critics Consensus: Mass requires a lot of its audience, but rewards that emotional labor with a raw look at grief that establishes writer-director Fran Kranz as a filmmaker of tremendous promise.
Synopsis: Years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney... [More]
Directed By: Fran Kranz

#12

Luzzu (2021)
100%

#12
Adjusted Score: 101974%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully filmed and emotionally impactful, Luzzu uses one man's story to capture the struggles of a region at a cultural crossroads.
Synopsis: A hardworking Maltese fisherman, Jesmark is faced with an agonizing choice. He can repair his leaky luzzu -- a traditional,... [More]
Directed By: Alex Camilleri

#13

Acasa, My Home (2020)
100%

#13
Adjusted Score: 101332%
Critics Consensus: Acasa, My Home presents a powerful documentary portrait of one family's odyssey that illustrates bittersweet truths about freedom and society.
Synopsis: A rural Romanian couple and their nine children must learn to live in the big city.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Radu Ciorniciuc

#14

Sabaya (2021)
100%

#14
Adjusted Score: 101681%
Critics Consensus: Sabaya presents a scary and sobering look at human suffering -- and the efforts of those dedicated to ending it.
Synopsis: Members of a group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls who are being held as sex... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Hogir Hirori

#15

Paper Spiders (2021)
100%

#15
Adjusted Score: 101563%
Critics Consensus: A coming-of-age drama that thoughtfully handles hard-hitting themes, Paper Spiders is anchored by heartbreaking performances from its leads.
Synopsis: Dawn (Lili Taylor) recently lost her husband and experiences growing anxiety as her daughter Melanie (Stefania Owen) plans to move... [More]
Directed By: Inon Shampanier

#16

The Woman Who Ran (2020)
100%

#16
Adjusted Score: 101628%
Critics Consensus: Narratively slight yet cumulatively absorbing, The Woman Who Ran finds writer-director Hong Sang-soo continuing to work in a beguilingly minor key.
Synopsis: The 24th feature from Hong Sangsoo, THE WOMAN WHO RAN follows Gamhee (Kim Minhee), who has three separate encounters with... [More]
Directed By: Hong Sang-soo

#17

Hive (2021)
100%

#17
Adjusted Score: 103254%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by Yllka Gashi's outstanding performance, Hive leads viewers on one woman's fact-based quest for self-determination in a patriarchal society.
Synopsis: HIVE is a searing drama based on the true story of Fahrije (Yllka Gashi), who, like many of the other... [More]
Directed By: Blerta Basholli

#18

Azor (2021)
100%

#18
Adjusted Score: 101681%
Critics Consensus: An uncommonly patient thriller, Azor elegantly slips the viewer into its cool grasp and never lets go.
Synopsis: Argentina, the late 1970s. Private banker Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione) arrives from Geneva with his wife Ines (Stéphanie Cléau) to replace... [More]
Directed By: Andreas Fontana

#19

Gunda (2020)
98%

#19
Adjusted Score: 101309%
Critics Consensus: Gunda takes an absorbingly meditative look at farm life from the animals' perspective, tacitly posing questions about our relationship to food along the way.
Synopsis: Experiential cinema in its purest form, GUNDA chronicles the unfiltered lives of a mother pig, a flock of chickens, and... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Victor Kossakovsky

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 102631%
Critics Consensus: A darkly humorous revenge thriller with satisfying depth and a dash of savory quirk, Riders of Justice makes another compelling case for Mads Mikkelsen as an all-purpose leading man.
Synopsis: RIDERS OF JUSTICE follows recently-deployed Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), who is forced to return home to care for his teenage daughter... [More]
Directed By: Anders Thomas Jensen

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