The 10 Best Amazon Prime Video Original Movies Of 2021
2021 is certainly the year when people started to go back to the theaters to enjoy movies on the big screen, with Spider-Man: No Way Home breaking all kinds of box-office records right now. Yet, small-screen, OTT releases dominated the discourse around entertainment, with Prime Video being one of the biggest players. And with the advent of yet another COVID variant, it looks like that’s going to be the case in 2022. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and start dwelling in negativity again. Instead, let’s go through some of the stuff that enthralled us this year. To be specific, 10 of the best Prime Video original movies of 2021.
Before we go any further, here are two disclaimers. One, this list is not a ranking. And two, this list is made of movies that I have seen and appreciated. If you don’t see your favorite movie there, it’s either because I didn’t like it or I haven’t watched it yet.
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this crime drama is directed by Dileesh Pothan and written by Syam Pushkaran. The plot revolves around a wealthy family led by Kuttappan (Spadikam Sunny), who has three sons, Jomon (Baburaj), Jaison (Joji Mudakayam), and Joji (Fahadh Faasil). In addition to them, there’s Jaison’s wife Bincy (Unnimaya Prasad) and Jomon’s teenage son Popy (Alister Alex) in the family. One day, while aiding a bunch of workers to dig a pond in his vast backyard, Kuttappan suffers a cardiac arrest and becomes paralyzed. Joji sees this as an opportunity to finally escape Kuttappan’s abusive hand and get a hold of his money. Hence, he begins to plot ways to kill him, with some help from Bincy.
As someone who has read Macbeth multiple times (not because I wanted to but because my teacher forced me to learn every single line by heart), I walked into this movie thinking where’s Lady Macbeth? You know, since the titular character is single. Then Bincy revealed her true nature and my jaw hit the floor. It added such a brilliant and unexpected layer of complexity to the dynamic between Joji and Bincy. The performances from the actors only enhanced the tension in the movie. And the way Pothan and his team integrated the themes of isolation caused by the pandemic, despite the magnanimity of the family land, into the plot scared me quite a lot. Also, I think this is a great example of how malleable Shakespeare’s plays can be if it’s in the right hands.
Watch Joji Here
Related to Prime Original Movies of 2021 – The Tragedy Of Macbeth  Review – Joel Coen’s Retelling Of The Shakespeare Play Is A Classic In Its Own Right
Loosely based on the 2009 Beemapally police shooting, this political thriller is written, directed, and edited by Mahesh Narayanan. It largely follows the story of Ahammadali Sulaiman/Alikka (Fahadh Faasil), who is kind of the godfather of a coastal town called Ramadapally which is populated by the Muslim and Christian communities. While preparing to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage, he is arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive (Prevention) Act, although the real reason is his fallout with politician friend Aboobacker (Dileesh Pothan). After a failed attempt to kill Sulaiman in the jail, Freddy (Sanal Aman) i.e. Sulaiman’s nephew is roped in to do the same. Before the ill-fated task, Sulaiman’s life story is explained to Freddy via Jameela (Jalaja) i.e. Sulaiman’s mother and David (Vinay Forrt) i.e. Sulaiman’s childhood friend and brother-in-law.
I think this is one of the only movies after Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur duology that managed to give the impression that I have actually watched the life of one person (as well those around him) unfold in an interesting way. “Interesting” is the keyword here because most movies or shows that try to do that usually end up becoming boring. But Narayanan keeps the focus on police brutality, communalism, and how personal lives can be harmed by those two aspects. That allows you to draw parallels with what’s happening right now in India while being invested in this saga. Faasil, as always, is a highlight. But everyone from Nimisha Sajayan, Forrt, Joju George, Pothan, to Jalaja, Sanal, Amal Raj, and Parvathy R. Krishna brings their A-game to the floor as well.
Watch Malik Here
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3. Jai Bhim
Based on a true incident of casteism that took place in 1993 which was fought by Justice K. Chandru, this legal drama is written and directed by T. J. Gnanavel. The movie opens with Sengeni (Lijomol Jose) and Rajakannu (Manikandan), a couple from the Irular tribe going about their life. However, things go sideways when Rajakannu is arrested under suspicion of stealing valuable items from an upper-caste household where he had gone to catch a snake. He is beaten up mercilessly. And after a few days, he along with two other people from his tribe who were jailed with him are nowhere to be found. That’s where Chandru (Suriya) comes into the picture to not just solve the case, but also expose the casteism prevalent in the society.
Suriya is undoubtedly the biggest star in this movie. But unlike the rest of his filmography, in Jai Bhim, he actually does everything that he does to accentuate Lijomol Jose’s performance and of course, the topic at hand. Talking about the topic at hand, that’s handled by Gnanavel ferociously. Now, before you say that he should’ve been subtle about it, take a look at the country you’re living in. If the country’s too big to cover, just analyze your apartment complex. If you aren’t blinded by your prejudices, you’ll certainly see the bigotry. And after that ask yourself if the hatred and venom that’s so deep-seated can be countered with subtlety or not. The “controversial” reactions that Jai Bhim has garnered is clear proof that it’s one of the most important movies of our time and we need more stories like this to be unearthed and put in front of us.
Watch Jai Bhim Here
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Co-directed and co-written by Haseen Khan and Esham Khan, this out-and-out comedy takes place entirely in Jhanvi (Bhoomi Shetty) and Vasu’s (Nagabhushana) house. The two have been married for a long time and are just about done with each other. When they decide to get a divorce, the COVID lock-down descends upon them, thereby ruining their plans to go their separate ways. Things escalate when the couple fears that their house has suddenly become haunted. And then the conflict hits the stratosphere once Vasu’s uncle, Karna (Sunder) arrives out of nowhere and plants himself there, showing no intention to leave anytime soon.
I am sure that this is one of the funniest movies that I have ever seen, period. The fact that Haseen and Eshan not only manage to point at every relatable limitation that has come with the pandemic, but also shows how those limitations impact a woman is simply mind-blowing. Nagabhushana and Bhoomi Shetty are an absolute riot, with the highlight being Bhoomi’s revenge fantasies. If you have ever dealt with an annoying relative or multiple annoying relatives, you will see them in Sunder. However, the surprise factor is RJ Vikki’s, Dude Maga. He isn’t on-screen too much. But whenever he appears, he sets the screen on fire with his expressions alone. What he says and does is like the cherry on the cake.
Watch Ikkat Here
5. Drishyam 2
The sequel to the hit 2013 film Drishyam is written and directed by Jeethu Joseph. Set six years after the events of the first film, Drishyam 2 follows Georgekutty (Mohanlal), Rani (Meena), Anju (Ansiba Hassan), and Anu (Esther Anil) who are living their lives peacefully, with the death of Varun Prabhakar (Roshan Basheer) in their rear-view mirror. Initially it seems that the family has fallen off of the Kerala Police’s radar. But with each passing second, it’s revealed that Georgekutty and his family are being monitored more closely than they think. And of course Georgekutty responds to it appropriately, leading to some of the most fascinating plot twists in Indian cinema.
Talking about Indian cinema, it doesn’t have a good history when it comes to sequels, right? I can’t even say that Indian sequels are hit or miss. Nine out of ten times they are a miss. So I was understandably worried that Drishyam 2 is somehow going to ruin the already perfect Drishyam. But I was surprised upon seeing Joseph building on the first movie brilliantly and fleshing out the character of Georgekutty in a way that I didn’t anticipate. That’s because he practically portrays Georgekutty as a character who should be feared. Not respected in the traditional sense because he’s a family man. In fact, Drishyam 2 even manages to comment on how the system corrupts the common man instead of introspecting about the corruption in the system.
Watch Drishyam 2 Here
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6. Sarpatta Parambarai
This Pa. Ranjith directorial, set in the 1970s, revolves around the clash between two clans: Idiyappa Parambarai and Sarpatta Parambarai, that’s traditionally resolved via boxing. The protagonist here is Kabilan (Arya), a Dalit laborer who wants to become a prominent boxer like his father Munirathnam (Kishore). But his mother Bakkiyam (Anupama Kumar) is strictly against it because it was Munirathnam’s proximity to boxing that got him killed. Eventually, Kabilan manages to thwart his mother and impresses Rangan (Pasupathy) enough to represent the Sarpatta Parambarai. At his peak, Kabilan is unfairly humiliated causing him to spiral out of control. It’s Kabilan’s return to his former glory that forms the latter half of the movie.
You know how I was talking about sequels in India and how they can be more of a miss than a hit? Well, the same can be said about sports movies. They are either choreographed really well but are very by-the-numbers in terms of storytelling. Or they have a decent story but the depiction of the sports in question is abysmal. Sarpatta Parambarai does a very good job of walking the line between storytelling and the depiction of boxing. To be honest, Pa. Ranjith’s handling of casteism, politics, and masculinity, coupled with the blistering performances, helps you digest the somewhat over-edited action set-pieces. The emotions are high enough and the intention behind every punch is strong enough to keep you invested, is what I am saying. Here’s to hoping we get more movies like this that look into how sports in India are intertwined with so many sociopolitical elements.
Watch Sarpatta Parambarai Here
Directed by Amit V. Masurkar and written by Aastha Tiku, Sherni is about a tigress that’s apparently wreaking havoc and attacking humans. Indian Forest Service office Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) is given the task to track this tigress and bring an end to this menace. But she faces a lot of unnecessary hostility from political parties, her boss Bansal (Brijendra Kala), and a trigger-happy poacher Pintu (Sharat Saxena) for doing her job diligently. Not just that, she faces a lot of negativity from her husband, her mother, and her mother-in-law because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a wife. On top of that, it becomes a commentary on the outdated and yet corrosive nature of the Government.
I don’t think anybody should’ve been surprised upon realizing the greatness of this movie because it’s by the same guy who made Newton (2017) i.e. the movie that almost made it to the Oscars. Nevertheless, it was surprising to see a movie critical of the government’s way of handling things successfully making its way to the masses in this day and age when the government is doing everything in its power to not let entertainment take any swipes at them. The performances in it are so varied and good. The cinematography and editing are so sublime. In fact, even though it feels like I had watched Sherni ages ago, the one frame of Brijendra Kala hiding amongst dirty cobwebbed shelves in a Government office filled with files that haven’t been touched in ages is burned into my brain. So much for Digital India, am I right?
Watch Sherni Here
Related to Prime Original Movies of 2021 – Sherni (2021) Review: A Muted Vidya Balan Roar
8. Without Remorse
Based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy, this action thriller is directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples. The story is about John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), a U.S. Navy SEAL who is tasked with rescuing a CIA operative in Aleppo, Syria. During the mission, Kelly finds out that the captors are Russian military forces. Three months later, several members of Kelly’s team are covertly killed by Russian FSB operatives. Eventually, they arrive at Kelly’s house, they kill his pregnant wife, and fatally wound Kelly. But he survives, thereby setting him on the path of revenge.
I am not the biggest fan of movies based on the army. Because they always end up glorifying them. And since the army is a branch of the government, it becomes an act of glorification of the government as well. Hence, all the atrocities they commit on an hourly basis get justified and consumed by millions of people. What I am a big fan of though are movies, such as Without Remorse, which actually show the government to be villainous and the army to be their pawns, blindly following what they’re told to do since they’ll eventually be revered as heroes. This movie is an out-and-out Michael B. Jordan vehicle and there’s a prison brawl scene that is just amazing.
Watch Without Remorse Here
Directed by Leos Carax and written by Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks (the band), Annette is about the whirlwind romance between stand-up comedian Henry McHenry (Adam Driver) and Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard) which soon devolves into jealousy because of Ann’s success. During the downhill slide, Ann gives birth to Annette, who is portrayed by a wooden marionette puppet. Yes, an actual wooden marionette puppet. There’s a justifiable reason for it. Don’t worry. What can’t be justified though, are Henry’s actions who is unable to cope with Ann’s fame and turns into a murderer. What’s worse though is that he uses Annette to stay in the limelight, thereby partaking in child exploitation.
There are very few movies that make me ask, “How did this get made?” Annette definitely makes the cut because I genuinely don’t know how this movie was green-lit. We live in a world of entertainment that is gradually being defined by hollow blockbusters, sequels, reboots, and remakes with nothing to say. And even if they have something to say, the execution is bland. Amidst all this mess is this vibrant, gorgeous, profound, and beautiful piece of art with searing commentaries on the world of showbiz, male ego, and the corruption of the soul. It is like an anomaly. In addition to all that, it is one of the best musicals of all time and features some of the best performances of this year, courtesy of Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg.
Watch Annette Here
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This drama-thriller masquerading as a sci-fi thriller is written and directed by Michael Pearce. It shows U.S. Marine Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) going on a crusade to save his two young boys, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada) from the harmful effects of a supposed alien invasion. The boys live with their mother Piya (Janina Gavankar) and her husband Dylan (Misha Collins). Suspecting that the aliens have taken over Piya and Dylan, Malik overpowers them and runs away with Jay and Bobby. But after a visceral confrontation on the highway with a police officer, it seems that maybe Malik’s worldview is a little warped.
Hollywood’s portrayal of mental illnesses and PTSD has been far from perfect. I am not an expert. So, I won’t comment on that aspect of the movie. What I can say is that Encounter is further proof that there’s no role in the world that Riz Ahmed cannot inhabit and then do it justice. And while you can say that it’s kind of expected of Riz to deliver, you’ll be shocked to see him get overshadowed by Chauhan and Geddada’s performances. The chemistry between Riz, Chauhan, and Geddada is undoubtedly awesome. But when the kids don’t have a seasoned actor like Riz to play off of, they still do a great job of keeping your eyes glued to the screen. Also, going by that final action set-piece, I want to see Pearce helm a full-on action movie.