The Most Underrated Movies of 2021 (So Far)

Fall in love with these movies.

Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber

To find out what platform these movies are streaming on in Australia, head to flicks.com.au.

These days it’s never too difficult to find something to watch. Between all the streaming services, plus the options available to rent on demand, the possibilities are literally endless. But sometimes you don’t want to watch the hot new TV show or the superhero movie everyone is talking about; sometimes you want to watch a film that feels like a discovery. Then you can go run to all your friends tell them that they simply¬†have¬†to see this amazing new work. That’s why we have this list. These are the best movies of the year that just haven’t gotten the attention we think they deserve. They aren’t all arthouse picks (though some of them are)-these are simply cool selections that have somehow been overlooked and underhyped. Peruse and find your new favorite.

For more movie recommendations, read the Best Movies of 2021 (So Far), and our favorite underrated movies from last year.


Night of the Kings

Release date: February 26
Director:¬†Philippe Lac√īte
Cast: Bakary Koné, Issaka Sawadogo, Steve Tientcheu
This film from Philippe Lac√īte layers fables on top of fables to document a night inside a notorious prison in C√īte d’Ivoire. The place known as MACA in Abidjan is very much real and the site of frequent violence, but there’s a mystical quality that hangs over¬†Night of the Kings‘¬†tale of warring factions and political upheaval. In Lac√īte’s telling, the correctional facility is lorded over by Blackbeard, the reigning “dangoro,” whose power is being threatened by a group of his lackeys as he grows ill. As a last grasp at control, he anoints a new arrival the “Roman” and orders him to tell a story upon the appearance of the red moon. The terrified young man’s life is at stake as he weaves the narrative of Zama King, the saga getting more fantastical as he continues. As Roman speaks, his rapt audience uses dance and song to act out Zama’s trials. It’s a hypnotic combination of magical realism, choreography, and true life terrors. –¬†Esther Zuckerman
Where to watch: In theaters; rent on virtual cinema, or rent or buy on Amazon Prime (Watch the trailer)


Space Sweepers

Release date: February 5
Director: Jo Sung-Hee
Cast: Song Joong-Ki, Kim Tae-Ri, Jin Seon-Kyu, Yoo Hae-Jin
Right from its first electrifying sequence involving a bunch of bounty hunting spaceships chasing after a careering piece of garbage,¬†Space Sweepers¬†spins a far-future of multicultural, multilingual human life in space that’s as exhilarating as it is crushingly dystopian. Tae-Ho is a pilot aboard the freighter Victory, along with Captain Jang, engineer Tiger Park, and loudmouthed robot Bubs, all of them part of an outer-space trash-collecting bounty-hunter guild known as the Space Sweepers, who capture space junk and sell it for parts. After a particularly harrowing chase, the crew finds a little girl hiding in a derelict spaceship, who just happens to be a nanobot-filled android that a group of space terrorists have fitted with a hydrogen bomb. At first the Victory crew plans to sell the “little girl” back to the terrorist group who lost her, before they realize that she’s much more special than she seems. –¬†Emma Stefansky
Where to watch: Netflix (Watch the trailer)

Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber

Test Pattern

Release date: February 12
Director: Shatara Michelle Ford
Cast: Brittany S. Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean
The love story that dominates the first 15 minutes of Shatara Michelle Ford’s tight and stunning feature-length directorial debut is seductive. Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) meets Evan (Will Brill) at a bar. When they run into one another at a grocery store sometime later, a romance starts to unfold. But Test Pattern is not about love. It’s about bodily autonomy and what happens when a Black woman’s is ripped from her, first by a predator and then by someone she loves. One night, well into her and Evan’s relationship, Renesha goes out with a friend. They are targeted by two men and encouraged to drink and take weed gummies. Renesha ends up in a strange bed with no idea how she got there. In the aftermath, Evan drivers her to get a rape kit, a gesture that slowly becomes more and more oppressive as they realize how difficult it is to obtain one in Texas. Evan’s insistence starts out with concern for Renesha’s well-being, but turns into a violation-a white man having little regard for what his Black girlfriend is actually experiencing. Ford’s use of music to shape tension is astounding, as is the way she films Renesha’s trauma. Test Pattern is a tense, upsetting film, that is nonetheless utterly striking. –¬†EZ
Where to watch: In theaters; rent on Kino Now (Watch the trailer)

IFC Films
IFC Films
IFC Films

The Vigil

Release date: February 26
Director: Keith Thomas
Cast: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Lynn Cohen
Yakov (Dave Davis) has recently left his Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn and is struggling to make a living on the outside, slowly teaching himself how to use a smartphone and getting rejected from job after job. When Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig), an old friend from the community, asks Yakov to act as a shoymer, watching over the body of a now-deceased Holocaust survivor for one night, Yakov, in need of cash to make rent, agrees. Spooky, but a dead body is just a body, right? But a parasitic mazzik attached itself to the old man while he experienced the atrocities of the Holocaust, and it plans to find a new host once the night is up. The movie expertly builds its best scares, crafting an effective horror movie out of elements from the Jewish faith, and its interpretation of the mazzik, reimagined as a man-like form with its head twisted backwards, is a potent visual metaphor for a trauma that can’t simply be exorcised, a catharsis that is never fully reached. – ES
Where to watch: Rent or buy on Amazon Prime or iTunes (Watch the trailer)


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef,¬†Cuong Nguyen¬†will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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