Best Malayalam Films Of 2021 (2024)

After last year's disappointing no-show, the industry fired back with vengeance to give us a mix of celebrated big films and glorious small films. Call it the culmination of films that should have been released earlier and films made specially for this period, we seldom get a year with so many unmissables. Will we ever get another year like this at the movies? Aarkariyam?

Here are the best 16 films arranged in alphabetical order:

1. Aarkkariyam

Another director handling this covid-time mystery would have loved to scream from the rooftop about the cleverness of its very dark detour. But Aarkkariyam is shockingly understated, just like Biju Menon in the film. Even great Malayalam films give you a feeling of déjà vu of having watched a film that's at least reasonably similar to a world cinema classic. But there's none of that in this year's most original mystery.

2. Churuli

This confounding maze is one you find yourself getting back to, like that strip of sudoku you've been solving for years. Churuli builds a utopia where laws are pointless, turning even the gentlest man into a monster. Stunningly shot with the year's most disturbing score, Lijo Jose Pellishery remains our most fascinating filmmaker.

3. Drishyam 2

Jeethu Joseph is a superior writer when he enters the Drishyam universe and you feel this the second the sequel begins. It is not even close to the film we expected from the underwhelming trailer, with an almost philosophical approach to what's going on in Georgekutty's mind. A criminal who committed a crime on the same night as the family has even completed his sentence. But for George, the punishment will never end, giving us a complex study about the mind's decay, good intentions notwithstanding.

If Sunny presented us with the conflict of facing isolation, Rojin's new movie, #Home forced us to deal with the opposite kind of demon—family. But the year's most relatable movie gave us images that were right out of our lives and a father in Oliver Twist we've all not loved enough. A credit to this film is how we've all become unanimously patient when it comes to dealing with parents' doubts about a particular feature on WhatsApp or to help them set-up a GPay account. In a strange way, it's the only "message movie" that can actually bring about a quick change in our lives.

5. Jan E Man

Arguably the most important film of this year was also the year's funniest. This LJP-meets-Rafi Mecartin comedy became the kind of organic success story a film like Ramjirao Speaking must have been all those years ago. Every viewer became the film's champion and laughter returned to theatres after years of silence. The fact that the film's still holding strong despite the entry or exit of several Goliaths, makes Jan E Man the David of 2021.

6. Joji

Dileesh Pothan and Shyam Pushkaran reinterpreted Macbeth for the millionth time to give us a film that felt like it was one in a million. It replaced the kingdom with a rubber estate in Kottayam but the film is a study in Malayali minimalism, even when it deals with Shakespearean excesses. It gave us the year's most puzzling character in Lady Macbeth (Unnimaya Prasad) and the most clever use of a Covid facemask as a mask for a dangerous mind to hide behind. Joji's score is also easily the year's best.

7. Kala

If LJP is our most fascinating, Rohith VS is perhaps the most baffling. Each of films comes from a brain that looks at the world and cinema differently, and with Kala, he's created poetry out of violence. "Who is civilised?" asks this gem, giving us a moody masterpiece where the "hero" turns into the villain and vice versa. The shot of a man reclaiming his rightful throne (it's a toilet seat) is among the most striking visuals, just like that shot of a cactus tearing into Tovino's back.

8. Malik

Fahadh Faasil's second tragedy of the year reinterprets Godfather in interesting ways but it lasts for so long in our heads because it is a character study of a man who lost everything in his efforts to help his community. The mood is always somber and it's rarely treated as a story of triumph. It's impossible to remain an observer here because Malik expects us to be an executioner, constantly asking us to decide if Allika is a nallavar or a kettavar.

9. Madhuram

Among the year's sweetest films also brought to us a solid love story between Sabu (Joju George) and Chitra (Shruti Ramachandran), where food is so much more than just flavour. It's also a mood piece that needed the sweetness because it is set in the waiting room of a government hospital. Deep introspective conversations between strangers are commonplace in Madhuram but one can never complain because that's where these characters are mentally. Indrans proved yet again how he's got a direct line to our heartstrings with an ability to make us cry at will.

10. Minnal Murali

Whoever thought that we would be talking about a love story a week after the release of our first ever superhero movie. But that was always the plan with Minnal Murali, a film that's so well written that the superpowers are simply an embellishment for a deeply moving emotional drama. Guru Somasundaram delivered one of the year's best performances and Tovino will always remain the first image that comes to mind as a Malayali superhero thanks to a film that has the powers to make every adult feel like a child again.

11. Nayattu

Problematic politics aside, Nayattu is a daunting thriller with a pace and mood that's impossible to escape. You feel trapped in the weight of a system that has the power to swallow everything in its path. The spectacularly well-made movie is also an example of how every complex topic can be packaged accessibly without alienating the very people this film should speak directly to.

12. Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam

Perhaps just a first step, but 2021 was the year a larger audience discovered the masterful works of Don Palathara. This single-shot film dealt with heavy topics in what's a loaded situation. But it's a film that marries form with content in a way that's as original as it is evocative. Add to this "Everything Is Cinema" and it's further proof of how far ahead the industry is when it comes to dealing with Covid as the new reality.

13. Sara's

The film could simply have been titled "Sara", but it needed the apostrophe and the 's' because it's a film about her choices and her dreams, as much as it is about her. This pro-choice drama opened up conversations on a topic most mainstream movies actively avoid, choosing instead to address this with sincerity and maturity. The climax, with a movie theatre replacing the images we associate with a delivery room, was an absolute delight, making Jude Anthany a surprisingly nuanced feminist filmmaker.

14. Sunny

This quarantine drama took us to a mental space a lot of us found ourselves trapped in at some point during the last years. It is particularly disturbing in the beginning when we're forced to battle our own inner demons just like Sunny has to. But it also evolves into a cathartic movie as this inner confrontation eventually leads to clarity. We cry, we laugh, we pause but most importantly, we also grieve. Sunny created the impact of clouds passing held together by an excellent Jayasuriya.

15. Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam

Senna Hedge's little classic is an absolute delight and the most-rewatchable comedy of the year. We've never seen any of these actors before but we quickly become their biggest fans in what's the year's biggest discovery. For a state that rarely sets films in Kasargod, this discovery is also cultural which will hopefully lead to a revolution with equally compelling stories and equally compelling characters.

16. The Great Indian Kitchen

The year began with arguably the best film of the year. Jeo Baby used a series of overhead shots and repetition to trap us inside an inescapable routine with the full weight of patriarchy pushing down on us. It is suffocating and painful with little hope for the weak. Which is why Nimisha's nameless character becomes a stand-in for the many women we see on a daily basis, except that they might not get the moment of revolution she gets in the end. Instead of dialogue, it's the film's sounds as well as the images that do all the talking in a film that redefined the term "kitchen-sink" as a genre.

Special mention: Kaanekkaane, Thirike

Best Malayalam Films Of 2021 (2024)


Best Malayalam Films Of 2021? ›

“What makes Malayalam cinema unique is that we make small, realistic films that are very rooted in our culture. And I don't think we should aim for big-scale films just because they are working in other industries. Even Manjummel Boys, for that matter, resonated with a large audience because of its rootedness.

Why Malayalam movies are the best in India? ›

“What makes Malayalam cinema unique is that we make small, realistic films that are very rooted in our culture. And I don't think we should aim for big-scale films just because they are working in other industries. Even Manjummel Boys, for that matter, resonated with a large audience because of its rootedness.

Which is the rarest Malayalam movie? ›

One of the rarest Malayalam films that received wider critical acclaim at international level, Margam was exhibited at 16 international film festivals and won six international awards in categories including best film and scripting. The script was co-written by Rajiv Vijay Raghavan, Anvar Ali and Dr. S P Ramesh.

Which is the highest grossing Malayalam film ever? ›

The recent film Manjummel Boys directed by Chidambaram, made history by becoming the highest-earning Malayalam film ever. It surpassed the previous record set by the movie 2018, starring Jude Anthany Joseph, last year. Manjummel Boys has earned over Rs 180 crore worldwide.

How many Malayalam movies are there? ›

Malayalam cinema
4 more rows

Who is the biggest flop in Malayalam cinema? ›

Worst Malayalam Films
  1. Panchavarnathatha. 20182h 28m. 5.6 (519) Rate. ...
  2. Heylassa. 20092h 12mNot Rated. 2.2 (117) Rate. ...
  3. Love in Singapore. 2009. 2.5 (420) Rate. ...
  4. Ee Pattanathil Bhootham. 20092h 25mNot Rated. 3.4 (502) Rate. ...
  5. Changathipoocha. 2007. ...
  6. Ring Master. 20142h 35m. ...
  7. Aadu. 20152h 22m. ...
  8. Aadu - Oru Bheegara Jeevi Aanu 2. 20172h 40m.

Is Tamil or Malayalam better? ›

All languages are equally good. There is no meaning in comparing them as you do. For Tamilians Tamil would be better than malayalam, because he or she understands it better than any other language. For a malayalee ,like me malayalam is the best laguage;that too the type of malayalam I speak.

Which is the fastest 100 Cr Malayalam movie? ›

Vigathakumaran (1928) was the first Malayalam film. Drishyam was the first film to gross ₹50 crore. Pulimurugan (2016) and Manjummel Boys (2024) became the first film to gross ₹100 crore and ₹200 crore respectively.

Who is the most famous Malayalam actor? ›

1. Mohanlal. Mohanlal was born to Viswanathan Nair (father) and Santhakumari (mother) in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, which is located in the southern part of India on the 21st May 1960. Starting his career with a classic villain role, he has now become an outstanding actor in Malayalam Cinema.

Who is the king of the Malayalam film industry? ›

Mohanlal Viswanathan (IPA: [moːhɐnlaːl ʋiʃʋʷɐn̪aːt̪ʰɐn]; born 21 May 1960) is an Indian actor, film producer, playback singer, film distributor, and director who predominantly works in Malayalam film industry besides also having sporadically appeared in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada films.

Who is the father of Malayalam film industry? ›

Joseph Chellayya Daniel Nadar (25 November 1900 – 27 April 1975) was an Indian filmmaker who is considered the father of Malayalam cinema. He was the first filmmaker from Kerala. He produced, directed, wrote, photographed, edited and acted in the first film made in Kerala, Vigathakumaran (The Lost Child).

Which is the longest Malayalam movie? ›

1. Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (2009) - 3 hr 15 mins.

Which Malayalam movie has a 200 crores collection? ›

The film has been causing ripples since the day of its release in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with its themes of a survival story and friendship, and its warm tribute to Kamal Haasan's 'Guna'.

Who is the legendary figure in Malayalam film industry? ›

Even though over three and a half decades have passed since the demise of the legendary figure in Malayalam cinema, Prem Nazir, his accomplishments remain a topic of ongoing discussion. On this day in 1989, the then 62-year-old Nazir took his last breath at a hospital in Chennai.

Who is the first actor in Malayalam movie? ›

Vigathakumaran (English: The Lost Child) is a 1930 Indian silent film written, produced and directed by J. C. Daniel. He also played the role of hero in the movie. A social drama, Vigathakumaran was the first Malayalam feature film and J. C. Daniel is considered as the father of Malayalam cinema industry for this work.

Which Indian state makes the best movies? ›

It is Mollywood which is leading the way in variety and sophistication. (The name nods to Malayalam, the language of Kerala state, where the film-makers are based.) It is arguably India's most productive film industry: some 200 Malayalam films were released in 2023.

Which film industry is better in India? ›

The biggest and most well-known film industry in India is Bollywood, headquartered in Mumbai. It produces lavish, musical, and dance-filled Hindi films that are well-known for their quality. Bollywood films have a sizable fan base in India and worldwide.

Who is the best Malayalam actor in India? ›

Who is the best super star in Malayalam film industry? Mohanlal: Often regarded as one of the greatest Indian actors ever, Mohanlal boasts a prolific career spanning over four decades.

Who is the king of Malayalam film industry? ›

Mohanlal has won five National Film Awards—two Best Actor, a Special Jury Mention and a Special Jury Award for acting, and an award for Best Feature Film (as producer), also nine Kerala State Film Awards and Filmfare Awards South and numerous other accolades.

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