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Ryan C. Bradley’s Top 10 Movies 2021


I feel weird reflecting on 2021 publicly, because I got one piece of horrible news that isn’t mine to share and two pieces of great news, one which I’ll share once the contract is signed and the other that’s going to stay private so Mark Zuckerberg can’t make money off it. Either way, my life has changed significantly in the last year, and the evidence all points to my life transforming in ways beyond what I can imagine. 

In happier news I can share, I transitioned into teaching guitar lessons as my main hustle this year and started the Horror Hangover podcast with my friend Cass Clarke.

The movies I’m listing below (and the other 200 or so more I watched) got me through this year. I’m excited for the movies that’ll keep me floating next year! 


Frequently, gothic novels would try to pass off fiction as fact. The feat is harder to pull off on film, but first time director Jordan Graham makes it work in Sator. He mixes real footage and audio of his grandmother talking about a man or creature she calls “Sator” that she believes lives in the woods where the rest of the film takes place. Graham blurs the lines between fiction in reality in a way that will really get under your skin. 

Godzilla vs. Kong 

Adam Wingard built his reputation with two indie hits: You’re Next and The Guest. It’s been a pleasure to watch him take his style to blockbusters, culminating in Godzilla vs. Kong. This movie is a blast because Wingard and his crew take the time to block out the fight. There’s a moment when one of the kaiju pulls off a head fake so it can work in a cheap shot. After decades of guys in rubber suits charging straight ahead, it was nice to see a fight that felt real. 

Godzilla vs. Kong

Psycho Goreman 

Psycho Goreman mixes a family friendly storyline (an alien found by two children who help him find his way home while learning important emotional lessons along the way) with over-the-top adult gore. Instead of falling apart at the seams, the film is hysterically funny. The gore tempers the sweetness, and the sweetness makes the gore hilarious. 

Psycho Goreman


This list isn’t in any specific order, but if it were, Pig would be near the top. (Full disclosure: the film’s director Michael Sarnoski and my brother are friends). Boasting one of Nicholas Cage’s best performances ever, Pig tells the story of Rob, a man whose truffle pig and sole companion is kidnapped. Rob goes on an existential journey through the Portland culinary scene, having increasingly wholesome moments as he tries to get his pig back.

Nick Cage and His Pig

Jakob’s Wife 

Barbra Crampton and Larry Fessenden anchor Jakob’s Wife with strong performances as a Preacher (the titular Jakob) and his wife. While the title sounds reductive, the film is about Crampton’s character, Anne, forming her own identity outside of Jakob as she turns into a vampire. There have rarely been films as tender or insightful about middle-aged romance. 

Jakob’s Wife

Martyrs Lane 

I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, and Martyrs Lane may be a great one. Ruth Platt’s third feature tells the story of Leah (Kiera Thompson), a little girl who is growing up in a house haunted by both ghosts and grief. What works best is a repeated game of two truths and a lie between Leah and the ghost, which is more frightening with each subsequent game. 

Martyr's Lane


Prano Bailey-Bond’s debut feature, Censor, follows Enid Baines (Niamh Algar), a mousey film censor during England’s Video Nasties era. She hates the gore in the films of that era—which Bailey-Bond recreates with gushy practical effects—until she sees a woman that might be her long missing sister in one of the films. The incident starts her on a journey through her trauma and into the production of the films she’s been cutting. 

Censor is an Unsettling, Tightly Wound Nightmare [Review]

The Vigil

The Vigil is another astounding debut. Writer-director Keith Thomas does phenomenal work telling the story of Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis), a man who left his Orthodox Jewish community, battling a demon that only looks backward as he sits over a recently deceased man. Thomas laces a great metaphor for trauma through the story. The cinematography is full of wide shots with Yakov in the foreground and something that audiences just know is going to move soon in the background.



After I watched Titane for the first time, I couldn’t tell you what it was about. Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to her 2016 debut Raw ostensibly tells the story of a serial killer (Agathe Rousselle) who becomes pregnant after having sex with a car and then assumes the identity of a missing boy to live with his father (Vincent Lindon) at a fire station. That may sound wild, but watching the actual film is even more so. It left me feeling adrift the same way Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession had when I first saw it. Both films are incredible, surrealistic explorations, even if I couldn’t say what they were exploring.  



Slaxx is another film that shouldn’t have worked. The premise, a killer pair of pants is loose in a store full of obnoxious influencers, sounds dumb on paper. But director Elza Kephart makes it work. The film is hilarious, it has tense moments as the pants stalk their victim, and it’s got a lot to say about where consumer goods come from. On top of all of that, it has a pair of pants that dance bhangra by themselves. 

Related Post: Slaxx Boasts One Seriously Killer Pair of Pants [Review]


Other New(ish) Movies I Loved:

We Need to Do Something, Fever Dream, She Dies Tomorrow, The Queen of Black Magic, Lucky, Game of Death, Synchronic, #LIKE, Seance, Caveat, The Manor, After Midnight

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Written by Ryan C. Bradley
Ryan C. Bradley (he/him) has published work in The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, Dark Moon Digest, Daikaijuzine, and other venues. His first book, Saint's Blood, is available from St. Rooster Books now! You can learn more about him at: ryancbradleyblog.wordpress.com.
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