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50 Best of 21st Century

Hollywood Reporter Critics Pick the 50 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far)

Over the course of a few months, several Zoom meetings, and countless emails, six THR film critics came together to hash out, and rank, what they consider the greatest films since 2000.

By Jon Frosch , David Rooney , Sheri Linden , Lovia Gyarkye , Leslie Felperin , Jordan Mintzer April 6, 2023

Why now? Why not?

Sure, we’ve yet to hit the quarter-century mark, when these sorts of lists tend to start landing. But we’ve arguably already lived through 100 years’ worth of upheaval, progress, pain, destruction, hope and heartache in the world — not to mention the film industry — since 2000. We thought it as good a time as any to look back at the films that have, to us, stood the ever-unfolding test of time.

In the spirit of transparency, our methodology went something like this: We all offered up titles we thought were worthy of consideration (an initial list of well over 100 movies). Everyone voted “yea” or “nay” on each of those titles. The films with the most yeas — about 80 — advanced to the next round. Everyone scored each title from 0 to 3. We tallied up the points, and then hashed it out from there. Countless emails and a few long Zoom meetings later, we had our list.

Our only parameters: All six of us had to love, like or at least respect every film on the list. And we did not consider anything from 2022 ; it just felt too soon (translation: after the forever-long awards season, we needed a breather from talking about Tár , Everything Everywhere All at Once and the rest of ’em).

Picking the movies we love the most, while being mindful of variety and inclusivity, significance and staying power, was difficult (we know: world’s smallest violin). We wanted our list to reflect the breadth of world cinema and of our tastes, but we also didn’t want to placate or pander or allow fear of Film Twitter or Outrage Twitter (or any Twitter) to weigh on our process.

That doesn’t mean we weren’t plagued by doubts along the way. What are we missing? Who are we leaving out?  Why this movie and not that one? We know certain omissions and selections are bound to incite eye rolls, grumbles and maybe a shriek or two.

But we tried to stay true to our love of movies, these movies, and others that didn’t make the cut. (Remember, it’s only 50!) The final list is a reflection of that love, but also of a system that favors certain stories and storytellers at the expense of others. If the list is not a model of representational balance, call us out — we can take it — but also continue to call out an industry that hasn’t given us a more diverse landscape of voices to love, hate and argue over.

The most conspicuous, surprising (including to us) and, surely to some readers, infuriating, thing about our list is how many masters are missing. After all our deliberating, point tallying, reconsidering, revoting, retallying and re-deliberating, none of the following directors cracked the top 50 films or 15 honorable mentions: Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, Spike Lee, Gus Van Sant, Jean-Luc Godard, David Cronenberg, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Alexander Payne, Jim Jarmusch, James Gray, Jia Zhangke, Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Asghar Farhadi, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Ditto polarizing though prolific auteurs like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Lars von Trier.

This wasn’t the result of any kind of “out with the old, in with the new” intention. In some cases — Scorsese, Spike, Godard — we felt their best work was pre-21st century. In Spielberg’s case, there were several films that had love (including Minority Report and West Side Story ), but none that united all six of us in full-throated enthusiasm. In other cases, as in Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby , Malick’s The New World and The Tree of Life , and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood , there were ardent supporters but also just-as-ardent detractors.

In other words, we didn’t reverse-engineer the list by starting with great directors and pulling from their filmographies; we allowed the titles to emerge organically, via memory and good old-fashioned brainstorming. (Five directors — or six if you count the Coens separately — ended up with two films apiece on the list: Jane Campion, Joel and Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuarón, David Fincher and Richard Linklater. For more stats and specifics about the results, read this breakdown .)

Straight-up studio comedy, action, sci-fi and horror are largely, though not entirely, absent from our final selections (cue the cries of film-critic elitism). We love those genres, we swear! Movies like Borat , The 40-Year-Old Virgin , Collateral , The Bourne Ultimatum , Master and Commander and, yes, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy were all in contention at one point or another. But the scarcity of this type of entertainment on our list reflects what we see as a certain creative impoverishment in those genres over the past few decades. The lack of risk-taking in mainstream filmmaking, the sameness and safeness of so much of that “product,” results in few of those movies lingering in the mind for longer than their runtimes.

We could go on and on about the shortcomings of our work here — not enough animation! — but that’s what we count on you for! Without further ado, here are what we consider the 50 best films of the 21st century so far.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005); The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008); L’Enfant (The Child) (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2006); Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012); The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009); Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011); Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019); The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2002); The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001); Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2009); There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007); Under the Sand (François Ozon, 2001); Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014); Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004); Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)

'Weekend' (2011)

WEEKEND, 2011.

Heady but grounded in pragmatic reality, ecstatically romantic but marbled with sobering veins of melancholy, Andrew Haigh’s immersive account of a steamy hookup between two gay Nottingham men unfolds over 48 hours in what feels almost like real time. Tom Cullen and Chris New’s performances evolve with supple modulation from mutual desire to an unexpected emotional connection and wrenching acceptance of unaccommodating circumstances. As remarkable for its naked sensitivity as its sexual candor, this is an intoxicating queer odyssey of great chemistry and terrible timing, capturing one of those brief but unforgettable encounters destined to spark a lifetime of wistful “what if…” reflections. Haigh’s subsequent work in both film ( 45 Years , Lean on Pete ) and TV ( Looking ) has confirmed him as one of the major new-generation talents to emerge from Britain.

'Black Panther' (2018)


Navigating the Marvel Cinematic Universe — or is it a Multiverse now? — requires, for many of us, a certain tolerance for green or LED screens, mass destruction, snarky dialogue and cosmic shtick. There are a few notable movies in the canon, but distinguishing one from the other isn’t always easy — which is what makes Ryan Coogler’s stirring and majestic Black Panther all the more of a standout. In some ways, the 2018 blockbuster follows the MCU template in terms of style and story, but it also introduces something bold and new: a superhero saga where Black power is the subject both behind and in front of the camera. To populate the film’s Afrofuturist world of Wakanda — a place where Black beauty, intelligence and fortitude can thrive without oppression — Coogler brought in a wealth of talent, including the late, and very great, Chadwick Boseman , who made the titular character truly feel like a king.

'Time' (2020)

TIME, 2020.

Garrett Bradley’s documentary observes the brutality of the American carceral system from an uncommon vantage point. The filmmaker jettisons the expository soundbites of talking heads and the contextual support of charts and numbers, choosing instead to construct an impressionistic portrait of one family’s specific experience. Combining original footage with nearly two decades’ worth of home videos recorded by Fox Rich for her imprisoned husband, Robert, the film loosely chronicles Rich’s fight to secure clemency for Robert. But from its very first moments, Time makes clear that it’s operating in a singularly intimate register. With Rich’s voice and perspective guiding us,  Time  is that rarity in nonfiction filmmaking: a project that trusts its subject — a Black woman, a mother, an abolitionist — to tell her own story.

'Bright Star' (2009)


It’s the story of an unconsummated love affair in the final years of John Keats’ short life. Catnip for English majors? No question. But Jane Campion’s fine balance between the sumptuous and the trenchant will seduce even the sonnet-averse. In Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish’s elegant, deeply felt performances , the attraction between Keats and Fanny Brawne plays out across drawing rooms and the sunlit heath, in stolen kisses and fevered letters. As Keats’ ultra-protective friend, Paul Schneider injects jolts of full-throated snark, stooping to the 19th century equivalent of social media flaming as he baits the fashion-forward Fanny for her perceived superficiality. She feels the swipes, but, as one of Campion’s most resilient heroes, stands her ground. With a keen eye for the period’s oppressive social conventions, a vigorous rejection of the precious and fusty, and a rapturous embrace of the countryside, Campion conjures nothing less than the screen equivalent of Romantic poetry. 

'Pariah' (2011)

PARIAH, 2011.

Dee Rees’ breakthrough is a rare gem among coming-of-age films: a potent and sobering yet hopeful narrative about a young Black lesbian’s journey to self-acceptance. For that alone, the film — whose director recently became the first African American woman and queer woman of color to get a Criterion release — is well worth seeing. What lifts it onto this list is one of the century’s most stirring and unforgettable performances: Adepero Oduye as Alike, or “Lee,” a 17-year-old Black Brooklyn girl struggling to navigate her identity within the strictures set by her religious and socially conservative parents. Oduye radiates warmth and unshakable realness — an authenticity, deepened by Bradford Young’s intimate camerawork and Rees’ nimbleness with tone, that maintains a hold on our hearts right up to the film’s quietly triumphant end. 

'Bridesmaids' (2011)


“Finally, a film that lets women be funny!” was the word on the street upon the release of Paul Feig’s movie about a 30-something (Kristen Wiig) who spirals way, way, waaaaay out of control when her BFF (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. There’s truth to that take, but Bridesmaids was also just the most satisfying, richly realized and consistently laugh-out-loud-hilarious comedy in years — and has yet to be dethroned. With an inspired screenplay by Wiig and Annie Mumolo — there’s barely a line or gag that doesn’t land — Feig’s generous touch, and an A+ ensemble (Melissa McCarthy, MVP), it’s a seamless blend of gross-out humor, rom-com and gal-pal flick, fueled by one of the great passive-aggressive rivalries in film history (Wiig’s Annie vs. Rose Byrne’s trophy wife from hell, Helen). Not to mention a pair of sublime comic set pieces that deserve a spot in Film Studies textbooks: the dress fitting felled by food poisoning (“It’s coming out of me like lava!”) and a plane ride thrown into chaos by Xanax chased with scotch.

'Things to Come' (2016)

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Up until her quietly heartbreaking fifth feature, French director Mia Hansen-Love was something of a specialist in stories about young people experiencing life-changing events, whether breakups, the deaths of loved ones or careers cut short by failure. In Things to Come , she tackles the same themes from the perspective of a much older character, and the result finds her reaching an impressive new level of maturity. Isabelle Huppert stars as Nathalie, a 50-something philosophy teacher who’s suddenly dumped by her longtime husband and forced to start all over again. She goes through the doldrums, and then some, but eventually finds her footing in a movie that never panders to easy sentiments or offers pat answers to life’s toughest questions. What it does offer is one of Huppert’s finest, most deeply intelligent performances in a career already full of genius — and the thrill of seeing a French filmmaker take her place among her country’s greats.

'Grizzly Man' (2005)


Werner Herzog has always insisted there’s no real difference between his documentary and fiction films. His subject in  Grizzly Man , one of his greatest works, is environmental activist Timothy Treadwell — and indeed, he is as much a profoundly flawed, charismatic dreamer as the protagonists Klaus Kinski played in Herzog’s features Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God . Treadwell was killed in 2003 by one of the bears he spent many summers observing, filming, interacting with and obsessing over. A troubled man-child given to anthropomorphizing the carnivores around him, Treadwell comes across as at once ridiculous, likable and tragic in footage he shot himself, edited together with interviews Herzog shot for the film. Profoundly at odds with Treadwell’s sentimental worldview, Herzog is at his lugubrious best here, especially in incisive voiceover: “In all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature.” Richard Thompson’s superb guitar score at least offers some consolation as we join Herzog in looking into that abyss.

'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' (2020)


The pandemic shutdown hobbled the theatrical release of Eliza Hittman’s third feature but not its artistic impact — confirming the writer-director as a major talent in American independent cinema. Tracing a Pennsylvania teen’s odyssey through the bustle and cacophony of New York to end an unwanted pregnancy, the film is steeped in a naturalism that’s low-key yet electrifying. It introduced film watchers to two exceptionally gifted actors who etch an indelible portrait of friendship — Sidney Flanigan as the resilient high schooler who needs the procedure, and Talia Ryder as the cousin who goes to heroic lengths for her. In her readiness to meet a charged issue head-on, and her agile melding of civic alarm with a beautifully observed coming-of-age narrative, Hittman took the American abortion drama to places it had never before gone. The resonance of this quiet film of knockout moments exceeded its intimate scale even before the Supreme Court overturned  Roe v. Wade . Against a fraught landscape for reproductive rights , that’s even truer today. 

'Pan’s Labyrinth' (2006)


A filmmaker of limitless imagination, Guillermo del Toro took the exciting marriage of fantasy and political allegory in The Devil’s Backbone several steps further with this tonally audacious and visually beguiling dark fairy tale set soon after the Spanish Civil War, during the early days of the brutal Franco regime. The mainframe narrative of a 10-year-old girl, her pregnant mother and her new stepfather, a sadistic army officer hellbent on eradicating rebel freedom fighters, runs parallel to the child’s forays into an elaborate mythical underworld, the domain of mysterious creatures that lead her to an abandoned labyrinthine garden where she must pass a series of tests. The movie’s intricate storytelling, bracing originality and stunning technical accomplishment would fling open Hollywood doors for del Toro to continue creating fantastical worlds on a larger scale.

'Summer of Soul' (2021)


“Do you remember the Harlem Cultural Festival?” For most Americans, the answer to the question posed by Questlove at the start of his vital and intoxicating documentary would probably be no. Dexterously edited by Joshua L. Pearson,   Summer of Soul   isn’t just a concert film about “Black Woodstock.” It’s a paean to American music culture, a testament to the power of archives and a relic of a bifurcated nation, marked by the tensions of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. Questlove rescues the almost forgotten footage filmed by Hal Tulchin in 1969, expertly weaving the recordings of a powerhouse lineup — Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, B.B. King, Mavis Staples, Mahalia Jackson and Nina Simone — into the fabric of a story about a country on the brink of change. The film vibrates with ecstatic energy and historical urgency.

'I Am Not Your Negro' (2016)

best movie list since 2000

Many great documentaries have been released since the turn of this century, but none has shaken the rafters and shibboleths of political discourse with such potency as Raoul Peck’s searing film . A crucial contribution to the rediscovery of James Baldwin , a writer of blistering clarity and prescience, the doc plumbs American complexities far deeper than us-vs.-them electoral divisions, as Baldwin did in his dissections of race and identity and his warnings, fueled by love and rage, about “moral apathy, the death of the heart.” Peck’s starting point and main text is a manuscript left unfinished when Baldwin died in 1987, and his film is a bracing immersion in the insights of an incomparable intellect, in his own words, via archival clips and voiceover narration by a rarely better Samuel L. Jackson.

'Children of Men' (2006)


Dystopian sci-fi has become one of 21st century cinema’s most over-trafficked subgenres, but Alfonso Cuarón’s disturbing entrenchment in a war-torn fascist future where humanity’s fate hangs in the balance is striking because the world he so vividly creates is all but indistinguishable from our own. Peppered with technically dazzling set pieces and startling images that represent the redoubtable Mexican director’s collaboration with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki at its best, the riveting thriller casts Clive Owen as the dogged protector of a young Black refugee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) who’s pregnant. Given that women have lost the ability to reproduce naturally, her survival becomes imperative to the creation of a new society in a powerful story fueled by equal parts despair and hope, very much in sync with the prevailing anxieties of our time.

'Wendy and Lucy' (2008)


Persuasive arguments could have been made for other post-2000 Kelly Reichardt works, like Old Joy and First Cow , which might be considered companion-piece reflections on male friendship. But we settled on this fine-grained portrait of an American underclass drifter as the perfect distillation of the director’s slow-cinema austerity, her intimate gauge of character and indelible sense of place. Chronicling an almost penniless young woman’s heart-stopping search for her beloved dog, this poignant study of loneliness and struggle also epitomizes everything that’s unique and emotionally penetrating about two of the key collaborations of Reichardt’s uncompromising career — with actor Michelle Williams and Pacific Northwest writer Jon Raymond. That three-way association continues to bear fruit in the wonderful upcoming comedy-drama about creating art amid chaos, Showing Up .

'Lovers Rock' (2020)

Lovers Rock, 2020.

The best of the five films in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe  series, Lovers Rock pulses with pleasure, proving that the skilled British director doesn’t only peddle in austere and muscular depictions of brutality. Contrary to his Oscar-winning  12 Years a Slave  or genre foray  Widows , this film is loose, limber and animated by an intangible joyousness. The romance between Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) and Franklyn (Micheal Ward) unfurls over the course of a balmy London night in the 1980s, beginning on the dance floor of a house party (the title of the film refers to the romantic subgenre of reggae) and deepening into the daylight hours. The relationship between sound and body reigns supreme in  Lovers Rock , which revels in the way torsos sway and limbs entangle, finding sanctity in sweaty devotions to rhythm. It’s perhaps McQueen’s slenderest work — which is not to say it’s his slightest.

'The Favourite' (2018)


With his gift for combining pathos, acid comedy and absurdism, writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has made a few of the great art house originals this century. The Favourite  is his most accessible, but also arguably the richest in feeling and most dazzlingly performed, as well as chock-full of cruel ironies and caustic wit. Olivia Colman won an Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of Queen Anne (1665-1714), a woman haunted by the loss of 17 children in infancy or through miscarriage, and who was afflicted with gout and possibly bipolar disorder or severe depression. When Abigail (Emma Stone), a gentlewoman so down on her luck she’s working as a maid, arrives at court, she schemes to supplant the queen’s lover/adviser/best friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). The dialogue blends modern colloquialisms with mock-17th century turns of phrase and a liberal sprinkling of Anglo-Saxon cuss words. That bracing mix of old and new courses throughout this feast of a film, from Robbie Ryan’s digital cinematography, with its fish-eye lens, to Sandy Powell’s stylized but period-accurate costumes.

'The Social Network' (2010)


Ever since Silicon Valley billionaires became our generation’s robber barons, there have been attempts to dramatize their lives on both the big and the small screen. But nothing compares to David Fincher’s blistering, darkly comic chronicle of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise from Harvard undergrad to creator of the world’s most popular social media website — a tale told less as a hagiographic success story than as a coming-of-age thriller where the antihero loses his soul in order to win big. Working off Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenplay, Fincher captures the icy textures of a saga whose greatest battles were fought in corporate boardrooms, white-shoe law firms or on laptops, presaging an epoch where the virtual would replace the real. And yet what makes The Social Network such an indelible movie is the very human “asshole” at its core, played peerlessly by Jesse Eisenberg in a role he seemed destined for.

'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' (2019)


French writer-director Céline Sciamma’s film — among the most formally assured, emotionally devastating romances of the past several decades — is set in the late 18th century and revolves around women who have few options beyond marriage or domestic service. And yet part of its power is how profoundly personal it feels. The drama revolves around artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her subject Héloïse (Adèle Haenel, once Sciamma’s own partner), who must marry a man she’s never met (the portrait is meant to be a guarantor of her beauty for him), as they create a tiny Eden of love over the time it takes to finish the work. The parallel with filmmaking is obvious, but the movie doesn’t over-egg the pudding, staying grounded in period-accurate realism and the combustible chemistry of the leads. The last shot of Héloïse, listening to a Vivaldi concert years later, her heart breaking all over again, is (along with the final shot from number 25 on this list) one of the all-time great long takes of an actor seemingly doing nothing but showing every flicker of feeling with the subtlest shifts of expression.

'The Return' (2003)

THE RETURN, (aka VOZVRASHCHENIYE), Konstantin Lavronenko, 2003

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev ’s debut feature, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is perhaps his most Andrei Tarkovskian film — dense with obliqueness and mystery, with an unknowable, sometimes cruel patriarch at its center. Two brothers, 15-year-old Andrey (Vladimir Garin) and younger Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov), go on a camping trip with a man (Konstantin Lavronenko) who is supposedly their father, although he’s been missing since Ivan was a baby and no one dares ask where he’s been. His authoritarian parenting style soon rubs Ivan the wrong way, but the brothers have no real choice when he compels them to row out to a remote island in the far north. Taut as a bow, this painterly study in blues and grays offers a piercing portrait of boys and men unable to love or even trust one another. It’s one of the most exciting and influential Russian films of the quarter-century, spearheading a resurgence of the country’s cinema that sadly declined as Putin’s regime stifled artistic expression in more recent years.

'Manchester by the Sea' (2016)


Time collapses in Kenneth Lonergan’s devastating, deeply compassionate portrait of a man ravaged by trauma. The memories that haunt Lee (Casey Affleck), a Massachusetts handyman, flash across the screen in fits and spurts, barely discernible from the drudgery of life without his wife, who divorced him, and his kids, who died in a tragic accident for which he bears responsibility.  Manchester by the Sea  wrestles with Lonergan’s ongoing interests in the shades of guilt, the complexities of innocence and narratives chiseled out of hard materials: loss, despair, grief. When Lee becomes the legal guardian for his 16-year-old nephew (Lucas Hedges), he’s forced to return — both physically and mentally — to the site of his trauma. We love all three of Lonergan’s features to date. But with its rich dialogue, robustly realized characters and suppleness of tone and texture, we think Manchester is the playwright and director at his sharpest and most generous.

'Marie Antoinette' (2006)


Few directors can match Sofia Coppola’s ability to access the inner lives of young women, a gift evident from the start in The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation . Her bold, brilliant third feature remains both divisive and undeniably influential in its giddy mashup of opulent late 18th century historical drama with defiant 21st century attitudes, ushering in the French Revolution with a kick-ass post-punk soundtrack that plucks from The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, New Order and Bow Wow Wow, among others. As the doomed queen who seeks refuge from a cold husband and constricting society in extravagant distractions and female friendships, Kirsten Dunst has seldom been more fiercely spirited or more tragically vulnerable.

'The Death of Mr. Lazarescu' (2005)


The burgeoning Romanian New Wave leapt into the international limelight with this deadpan gem, announcing the arrival of a thrilling new current of world cinema whose unsentimental realism would prove a force to be reckoned with in major international fests and art house theaters. Set in a purgatory of Bucharest emergency rooms and spiked with doleful absurdity, it’s often described as a black comedy; director Cristi Puiu prefers to call it a film about “the extinction of an anonymous human being.” He exposes a dehumanizing bureaucracy and presents a damning indictment of modern health care, but what makes the movie profound rather than merely topical is the unforgettable way Puiu infuses the everyday with the existential, not to mention Luminita Gheorghiu’s remarkable turn as a paramedic who becomes a kind of guardian angel to the hapless title character.

'A Serious Man' (2009)


A Torah x Jefferson Airplane mashup for the ages, Joel and Ethan Coen’s devilishly adventurous comic drama begins by hitting you in the solar plexus with its wild composite of ingredients: a  schtickel  of Yiddish fable, a ferocious blast of Grace Slick, the surreal treeless expanses of postwar suburbia, a yammering household within the orderly grid. And it keeps upping the ante. The sibling writer-directors mine autobiography with an atypical directness, setting their tale of a modern-day Job in a Midwestern Jewish neighborhood not unlike the one they grew up in. In his first major film role, Michael Stuhlbarg is a revelation as mild-mannered Larry, under barrage from all sides and drawing no consolation from the learned men he consults: the lawyers with their fee structures, the rabbis with their pointless allegories. The Coens’ piercing look at the good, the bad and the sanctimonious is, like all great jokes, a gutsy declaration of vulnerability rooted in a bottomless well of fear and loathing. 

'At Berkeley' (2013)


At 93 years old and with more than 40 features under his belt, Frederick Wiseman — a true American treasure — has been tirelessly documenting institutions since the late 1960s. His lengthy films contain no interviews or voiceovers, but rather let the subjects speak for themselves via a fly-on-the-wall approach that brings out the drama in everyday working lives. Wiseman’s four-hour chronicle At Berkeley stands out among his late work as a magisterial portrait of both the promise and the pitfalls of American higher education. Plagued by state budget cuts, one of California’s — and the country’s — premiere (and public) universities, shown here in all its beauty and prestige, finds itself facing dwindling resources and a slew of compromises, with faculty and students working hard to keep things afloat. They are the true stars of a documentary that’s inspiring, foreboding and unexpectedly suspenseful, revealing what happens on the ground when a country hesitates to sufficiently invest in future generations.

'Y Tu Mamá También' (2001)


Possibly the steamiest film on our list, Alfonso Cuarón’s exhilarating fourth feature is sex-positive in the most endearing way (as well as beadily honest about the disconnect between the horny boasts of teenage boys and their actual bedroom skills). Two best buddies from Mexico City — middle-class Julio and wealthy Tenoch (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna , respectively, their real-life friendship shining through) — go on a road trip with a slightly older woman, Luisa (Maribel Verdú). Luisa has just had some life-changing news and is determined to wring maximum pleasure from their adventure; the guys just want to party. But they catch glimpses of Luisa’s sorrow, while the omniscient narrator notes evidence of tragedies along the road and speaks ominously of things to come. The juxtaposition of the mostly carefree bubble within the car and the turbulence just beyond it — the year is 1999, a time of protests, insurrections in Mexico’s provinces and political change — is almost unbearably poignant. Although nothing exactly earth-shattering happens to the trio during the trip, none of them will ever be the same. 

'Call Me by Your Name' (2017)

Call Me By Your Name

Rarely has the experience of falling in love — the gnawing, vertiginous mix of desire and embarrassment, elation and torment — been captured as ravishingly, and as acutely, as in Luca Guadagnino’s masterwork about a brainy, brooding 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet’s Elio) and his summer romance with the golden-boy grad student (Armie Hammer) staying with his family in Italy. Adapted by James Ivory from André Aciman’s novel, it’s one of those films that felt like an immediate classic, its greatness palpable in Chalamet’s brilliantly alive performance ; in the playful sensuality of the direction, reflecting the ripeness of the story’s emotions, bodies and — yes — fruit; in the monologue Elio’s dad (Michael Stuhlbarg) delivers at the end, inspiring a generation of well-meaning moviegoing parents to step up their game; in that shattering, Sufjan Stevens-accompanied final shot. And, above all, in the immeasurable tenderness with which the film conveys the transformative potential of first love, sexual awakening and heartbreak — their power to reveal ourselves to ourselves, to help forge our identities, to simultaneously imprison us and set us free.

'Timbuktu' (2014)


A surprise Oscar-nominated art house hit by a director whose work was relatively unknown in the U.S. beforehand, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu is a devastating look at religious extremism and its effects on a small city in Mali when it falls prey to a band of violent jihadis imposing Shariah. Told in a style at once frontal and distant, artful and polemical, the film never shies away from the most brutal sides of Islamism while shining a light on the more tolerant form of Islam practiced by the city’s besieged inhabitants. Winner of multiple César awards in France, including best picture, Timbuktu finds a way to channel contemporary tragedy through a series of memorable images and vignettes — including an opening sequence in which a gazelle is chased across the desert by a band of hunters wielding black flags and Kalashnikovs, and a game of soccer played with an imaginary ball.

'35 Shots of Rum' (2008)

35 Shots of Rum

While Beau Travail (1999) is Claire Denis’ dazzling tour de force, this quiet film is a masterwork in its own right — a finely tuned, minor-key drama that packs a subtle but lingering punch. Inspired by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, the movie follows widowed father Lionel (Alex Descas) and his daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop), in a working-class suburb north of Paris. Their laconic but loving relationship is upended when Josephine falls for their neighbor, Noé (Grégoire Colin), and Lionel must accept his daughter’s inevitable departure. Staging the action against a mundane banlieue backdrop (commuter trains, public housing projects, dive bars), Denis embellishes the quotidian with moments of melancholic beauty — most notably in a dance sequence, set to the Commodores’ “Nightshift,” that has rarely been surpassed in modern cinema.

'Before Sunset' (2004)

Before Sunset

For all the improvisational quality of many of his films, Richard Linklater is a formalist who loves to create a rule for himself and see how that shapes the outcome. Having made  Before Sunrise , about a couple in their early 20s — American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French Céline (Julie Delpy) — who meet on a train, spend a day and night together and maybe fall in love,   Before Sunset   limits itself to an even more restrictive time frame: Jesse and Céline meet again 10 years after the events of the previous film and, over 80 minutes of real time unfurled in long, beautifully lit takes, they walk, talk and discover that the spark they felt is still there. The dialogue was workshopped by Linklater and his leads, but sounds like they’re making it up as they go along. Tiny gestures hark back to the first film, like the heartbreaking moment Céline reaches to touch Jesse’s head and then hesitates. The last minutes, set to Nina Simone, are so unabashedly romantic you might cry with joy.

'Parasite' (2019)


There’s no shortage of films and TV shows satirizing the demise of the ruling class these days, but few rise to the level of Bong Joon Ho’s unsettling stunner . (The slyly constructed black comedy/thriller masterpiece even managed to circumvent the allergy most Americans have to subtitles, winning the best picture Oscar after snagging the Palme d’Or at Cannes.) Tracing the intersecting domestic dramas of the impoverished Kims and the ultra-wealthy Parks, the film unspools a restrained first act before entering increasingly farcical territory when the former family’s plans to infiltrate the other household hit an unpredictable snag. What begins as a droll study of the relationship between employee and employer takes a series of shocking turns as Bong, a master orchestrator of shifting tones and perspectives, coaxes out the latent horrors of capitalism’s social contracts.

'Far From Heaven' (2002)

Far From Heaven

Todd Haynes’ ravishing homage to 1950s “women’s pictures,” particularly the lush melodramas of Douglas Sirk, might have been merely high-style pastiche — or, worse still, camp — in less skilled hands. But the meticulously crafted design elements, the saturated colors and wraparound score here serve a probing consideration of gender, race, sexuality, class and female sacrifice. That thematic mix plays out in a quietly devastating performance from Julianne Moore , channeling her porcelain fragility into a Connecticut housewife whose well-heeled, seemingly perfect life begins to unravel when, after discovering her husband (Dennis Quaid) is gay, she seeks comfort in the companionship of her Black gardener (Dennis Haysbert). The first-rate cast is further enhanced by strong support from Patricia Clarkson, Celia Weston and Viola Davis. As an elegant excavation of queer subtext in mid-century Hollywood entertainment, the film has few equals.

'Drive My Car' (2021)

Drive My Car

Taking a sliver of a short story by Haruki Murakami as his foundation and folding in Chekhov’s brooding examination of wasted lives, Uncle Vanya , Ryusuke Hamaguchi shaped a deeply resonant reflection on work and art as tools with which to manage — or defer — grief. Over three symphonic hours that build steadily to a shattering emotional release followed by a whisper of hope and healing, the film observes the growing connection between an unforthcoming, recently widowed experimental stage director and the even more taciturn driver assigned to him during his preparations for a Hiroshima theater festival production. Those roles are played, respectively, by Hidetoshi Nishijima and Toko Miura in symbiotic performances of such churning depths that, had it not been for the usual blindness regarding non-English-language work, would have been major award contenders.

'Shoplifters' (2018)


When he made this sublime and wrenching ensemble piece, the fifth Japanese film to win the Palme d’Or, Hirokazu Kore-eda was already a consummate mapper of the human condition, peering at a cruel or indifferent world through the cracked prism of family. The auteur reached a career pinnacle with his story of a ragtag, scrabbling, petty-larcenous clan of Tokyo fringe-dwellers who rescue — or, if you want to be technical about it, kidnap — an abused 5-year-old. The precise relationships among the multigenerational residents of their cramped ramshackle house remain a mystery for much of the running time and, once revealed, take the drama into stirring emotional terrain. At the center of the superb cast, Lily Franky and Sakura Ando are achingly great as a long-married couple rediscovering their capacity for kindness and joy. The intricately woven stunner is alive with grit, offhand humor and fumbling tenderness, and its final 10 minutes are a miraculous crescendo of confessions and farewells that will tear your heart out. 

'Talk to Her' (2002)

Talk to Her

This exquisite mille-feuille of melodrama, black comedy and whimsy marked a summit for writer-director Pedro Almodóvar . Talk to Her has the queer insouciance of his campy early work, but the wildness is tempered by maturity, an interest in what makes love tick that goes deeper than his previous studies of beauty, lust and familial feeling. The plot braids together the stories of two men, both in love with women in comas. One is nurse Benigno (Javier Camára), who tends to comatose dancer Alicia (Leonor Watling). His advice to lovelorn journalist Marco (Darío Grandinetti), who visits dreadfully damaged bullfighter Lydia (Rosario Flores) on the same ward as Alicia, is to talk to the woman he loves even if she can’t respond — a metonymic call for the kind of emotional openness straight men often struggle to achieve on the daily with conscious women. But Benigno is hiding a secret that upends the story’s geometry of sympathy with a shocking reveal that probably would have been quashed in development as too controversy-generating had the film been made today. Luckily for us, it wasn’t.

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Infatuation, obsession, comfort, boredom, disgust, rejection and inconsolable grief — the seven stages of romance’s bloom and wilt have never been brought to the screen with such dynamic inventiveness as in this grungy-luminous drama . The second teaming of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry (after  Human Nature ) is an unequivocal love connection, a lo-fi sci-fi fantasy with brilliant cinematography by Ellen Kuras and a pulsing heart to match its twisty metaphysics. As ex-lovers who undergo a memory-erasure procedure to forget each other forever — a form of brain damage, its inventor (Tom Wilkinson) concedes — Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet created gorgeously flawed characters. He accessed the previously untapped melancholy behind his comic mania, and she laid waste to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl before it was even a thing. Whether or not you consider their love story, which begins on a wintry beach, a riposte to such Prozac-era notions as personality reconstruction, it winds up somewhere more honest, hopeful and scary than most romantic features dare go.

'The Power of the Dog' (2021)

Power of the Dog

It seems less a departure than an expansion that Jane Campion, a director who came to prominence with needling examinations of the female psyche, returned to features after a 12-year absence with this brilliantly uncomfortable chamber piece about corrosive masculinity fed by sexual repression. Adapted from the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, the film — which ranks near the very top of Campion’s filmography — casts Jesse Plemons as a gentlemanly Montana cattle rancher who brings his fragile widowed wife and her awkward beanpole son (beautifully played by Kirsten Dunst and a revelatory Kodi Smit-McPhee) to live in their gloomy family mansion, stoking first the cruelty and then the vulnerability of his hard-hearted brother. A never-better Benedict Cumberbatch makes that character a figure of vicious aggression but also a tragic victim of his own macho behavioral codes in a psychodrama whose epic scope is echoed in its majestic landscapes.

'Wall-E' (2008)


Pixar’s output has been so excellent over the years that it’s tricky to establish a consensus on which film is the best. We agreed that  Wall-E — the story of a lonely robot fulfilling his prime directive to clean up trash on an arid, abandoned, litter-heaped future Earth — has just the right blend of pathos, technical craftsmanship, topicality, joyfulness and batshit-crazy originality to give it a tiny edge. It’s a film buff’s film in a way, partly because of Wall-E’s passion for  Hello, Dolly!, viewed on a cruddy VHS tape, and partly because it’s half a silent film, nearly dialogue-free and told just through visuals for its first 40 minutes. But who needs dialogue with a protagonist who can express so much with just the tilt of his big camera eyes? Eventually, he finds love with Eve, a sleek, more advanced robot programmed to find any sign of vegetable life on Earth, and the way he croaks her name, struggling to use a voice box that’s been dormant for hundreds of years, is all the talk you need.

'Burning' (2018)


A formidable craftsman and storyteller whose movies manage to slowly but surely devastate the viewer, Lee Chang-dong has made only six features since his 1997 debut, Green Fish , but each one has him perfecting his voice. In the masterful Burning , adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami, a wayward young novelist (Yoo Ah-in) crosses paths with a childhood friend (Jeon Jong-seo) and eventually falls in love with her — until she’s suddenly swept away by a charming rich kid (Steven Yeun, giving a fascinating unsolvable riddle of a performance) who may, in fact, be a serial killer. On its surface, this is a hypnotically slow-building thriller with a real mystery at its core, but what makes Burning so memorable is Lee’s piercing depiction of class envy and thwarted desire in contemporary Korea. It’s a voluptuously enveloping viewing experience that brings us deep inside a world in which outward appearances obscure something darker and quite possibly deadly.

'Moonlight' (2016)


It’s hard to speak of Barry Jenkins’ stunning sophomore feature without resurrecting memories of its best picture win —  a surreal mishap of mixed envelopes, hurt feelings and too-short speeches. But one hopes for the day they will be decoupled, because the film is an event all on its own. Based on a shelved play by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who co-wrote the screenplay with Jenkins),  Moonlight  is a profound and heartfelt study of Black boyhood, masculinity and queerness. Who could forget the subtle shadings in the performances by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes playing protagonist Chiron as he finds, loses and finds himself again over the years? Or the rifts and grooves of his tender relationships with Juan (Mahershala Ali), Teresa (Janelle Monáe) and Kevin (played over the three acts by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and André Holland)? These powerful turns harmonize with Nicholas Britell’s haunting score and James Laxton’s lush visual language, resulting in a work of art that overachieves on every level — and crowned its director as one of the best of this century. 

'Boyhood' (2014)


The high point so far of a wonderfully rich and varied career, Richard Linklater’s sui generis project traces the Texas childhood and adolescence of its young protagonist — played with tender authenticity by Ellar Coltrane — from ages 6 to 18. The passage of time is made real by the film’s 11-year shooting schedule and a script developed throughout that period, contoured around Coltrane’s actual experiences. A coming-of-age drama and contemplation of marriage, parenting and family, this is a work laced with observations so achingly true you inevitably find yourself plunged into personal memories. As the mother watching her son go off to college and listing the milestones of her life, Patricia Arquette (who won an Oscar for her gorgeous work here) says through anger and sadness: “I just thought there would be more.” If you’re over a certain age and don’t recognize that feeling, you’re probably lying to yourself.

'Get Out' (2017)

Get Out

When Jordan Peele’s brilliant directorial debut premiered at Sundance in 2017, America was in an anxious state. Talk of change and progress was drowned out by chants to make the nation “great” again. Hard-won civil rights were suddenly coming under threat.   Get Out ’ s portrait of liberal hubris — characterized by quotable lines like “I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could!” — doubled as a deft critique of those who saw the 2016 election as an anomaly instead of an inevitability. Peele upends a  Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner- style plot to pierce the hopeful post-racial bubble of the Obama era. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams play, to perfection, Chris and Rose, an interracial couple whose visit to Rose’s parents’ house in upstate New York takes an uncanny turn when Chris realizes the family’s sinister intentions. While  Get Out  famously inaugurated the now-overplayed social horror genre, the power of its legacy lies in its narrative acuity, visual stylishness and introduction of a fiercely sharp writer-director who proved that accountability and entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive. 

'4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' (2007)

4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Twenty-four breathless hours in the lives of a college student seeking an illegal abortion and the dorm mate selflessly helping her near the end of the Communist Ceaușescu dictatorship, Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or-winning international breakthrough is equally effective as a nail-biting thriller and a hard-hitting social drama about the alarming realities faced by women who are denied control over their bodies. The influence of this visceral gut punch — rigorously naturalistic, morally complex and without an ounce of narrative fat — can be seen in similarly lucid and empathetic “abortion dramas” like Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always (number 42 on this list) and Audrey Diwan’s Happening . A masterwork of consummate control and unflinching focus, the film stands alongside Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (number 29 on this list) as one of the galvanizing works of the early-2000s Romanian cinema renaissance.

'In the Mood for Love' (2000)

In the Mood For Love

Wong Kar Wai’s rapturous evocation of romantic yearning and missed opportunity is a sustained swoon of a movie that ushered in the new millennium on a dreamy wave of seductive imagery, poetic storytelling and roiling emotional currents. Its stylistic influence has never waned in the years since. Set in Hong Kong’s Shanghai community at a transitional moment in 1962, the transfixing drama unfolds predominantly in the tight corridors and snug spaces of an apartment building where neighbors, played with exquisite restraint by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, pass each other in fleeting moments. Their encounters shift from reserved formality to slow-burning intimacy when a discovery about their spouses puts them on common ground. Expertly molded to the liquid rhythms of Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin’s cinematography, Michael Galasso and Shigeru Umebayashi’s score and William Chang’s editing, this is a film whose aesthetic beauty and sensual atmosphere work together in hypnotic concert.

'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)

Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee’s exquisite adaptation of the Annie Proulx short story (opened up masterfully in Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana’s screenplay) tends to be reduced, in the cultural memory, to fragments: the “gay cowboy movie” label; a shocking best picture loss to  Crash ; a magnificent, revelatory lead turn by Heath Ledger, who tragically died just a few years later; snippets of derisively quoted dialogue (“I wish I knew how to quit you!”). But the bigger picture is that this is, quite simply, one of the greatest — purest, saddest — of screen love stories, as well as a piercing examination of the wreckage wrought by the pressures of prototypical American masculinity. Lee’s graceful restraint in tracing the decades-long hidden relationship between the repressed Ennis (Ledger) and the more openly yearning Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal at his soulful best) proves the perfect contrapuntal match for the emotional and physical sweep of the narrative — its mounting crush of pent-up feelings and majestic Western backdrop. The final 15 minutes are a quiet gut punch like no other, leaving an ache that lasts and lasts and lasts.

'Spirited Away' (2001)

Spirited Away

Every animation fan has a favorite Studio Ghibli movie, and, as with Pixar (whose work was clearly inspired by the Tokyo-based animation house), it tends to be a film that makes you cry and think at the same time. Of the many glorious features made by Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is probably the one that captured the most hearts and minds, and for nearly two decades it remained the highest-grossing Japanese film in history. Set in a vivid netherworld of ghosts, demons and other phantoms who make nightly visits to a ginormous bathhouse run by an evil witch, Miyazaki’s alternative universe is so original and artfully created that it feels more real than waking life. Stuck in the middle of it is a young girl, Chihiro, who, while trying to make it back home, learns that death is not an end, but a beginning.

'Mulholland Drive' (2001)

Mulholland Drive

It’s hard to imagine that David Lynch’s sexy, surreal and scathing take on Hollywood was originally meant to be a primetime series for ABC. Lucky for us, the network canceled it at the pilot stage, leaving the director to salvage Mulholland Drive as a spellbinding feature film that, typical of Lynch, starts off somewhat classically and veers into thrillingly WTF territory midway through. In a breakout role — and still her best performance to date — Naomi Watts plays an aspiring actress who crosses paths with a mysterious femme fatale (Laura Harring), leading to a love affair and a case of corporal transference (or something like that). From there things grow even more sublimely weird, but it’s useless to sum up the film by its plot. One needs to experience it firsthand, plunging into a world of beauty and decay, fame and murder, movies and the mob that could only be Los Angeles — or at least Lynch’s haunting, iconic interpretation of it.

'Zodiac' (2007)

ZODIAC, Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, 2007.

David Fincher was no stranger to darkness ( Se7en ,  Fight Club ,  Panic Room ) when he took on the story of the hunt for a Bay Area serial killer known as Zodiac. But he conquered new territory with this true-crime masterpiece, working with cinematographer Harris Savides to spin subliminal menace into an atmospheric pressure that seeps into every frame.  Zodiac  is a newspaper story, a haunting mystery and a tripartite character study, at its center a trio of impossibly charismatic actors in peak form: Mark Ruffalo (as a whip-smart detective), Robert Downey Jr. (a preening reporter) and Jake Gyllenhaal, as the squeaky-clean cartoonist whose interest in the case becomes an obsession on the order of Richard Dreyfuss’ in  Close Encounters . The chain of false leads, dead ends and ghoulish suspects is all the more unnerving for the film’s breathtaking restraint. With this mesmerizing slow-boil thriller, Fincher didn’t so much shatter genre molds as sneak up on them in the thick of night, his maneuvers as deft as they are methodical.

'The Gleaners and I' (2000)

The Gleaners and I

Toward the beginning of this enthralling cinematic essay, the tour de force with which  Agnès Varda  kicked off the millennium and the final, immensely imaginative phase of a prolific and influential career, she enthuses over tech breakthroughs. “These new little digital cameras are fantastic,” the septuagenarian declares, and sets off across France to trace an age-old tradition — the salvaging of other people’s discards — into the present day. Heart-shaped potatoes, flea market finds, food waste and economic disparity are just a few of the matters she explores with deceptive lightness. A lyrical meditation on time, aging, usefulness, and the square pegs that make the world go round,  Gleaners  struck such a chord with audiences that Varda — who kept working until her death in 2019 at 90 — revisited the topic two years later. This is first-person nonfiction filmmaking at its most poetic and exhilarating, the gleaner’s craft in full flower.

'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013)

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, Oscar Isaac, 2013.

Showbiz is not the magic-tinged meritocracy that Hollywood movies often want us to believe it is, and while the Coen brothers aren’t the first to dismantle the myth, the way they pull this off makes for their richest, most affecting feature to date. In a happy paradox, their story of stardom denied made a star of Oscar Isaac, who delivers a performance of magnificent subtlety as a musician in 1961 New York who can’t catch a break. Set adrift by his folk-duo partner’s death, and seemingly trapped in the  Broadway Danny Rose  circle of entertainment-industry hell, Llewyn excels at self-sabotage. Still, his sarcastic jibes at corny careerists are usually well placed, the exhaustion in his gaze is heart-stopping, and the way he carries a handsome house cat through Manhattan speaks volumes. The substance of Llewyn’s story rests in the beauty of his voice: You hear the passion that brought him to these melodies of lament, and, unbearably, you hear that passion fading. The Coens’ wit and weirdness are expected; what feels revelatory for them is this flawless film’s wallop of aching sympathy.

'Yi Yi' (2000)

Jonathan Chang in YI YI, aka A ONE AND A TWO, 2000.

Although it was completed in 1999, Edward Yang ’s magnum opus didn’t premiere until the spring of 2000. The film’s immediate success, including a best director award at Cannes, sealed the director’s reputation as a major figure of a Taiwanese New Wave that had emerged a decade or so earlier, and whose other auteurs include Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. What makes Yang’s rise all the more remarkable is that he shot his first movie, at age 36, after a career spent working in software in Seattle. He died prematurely from cancer in 2007, which meant Yi Yi would be his last work, and one that now serves as his testament. Its epic three-hour portrait of a multigenerational Taipei family in the midst of a crisis is filled with humor, romance, quiet rage and despair, transforming modern lives into material worthy of a great novel, and captured by Yang in his masterly elliptical style. As a brilliant snapshot of its time, Yi Yi ushered in the 21st century with pessimism and promise. And as a prime example of an artist using his visual and narrative powers to draw you into a world, to fill you with empathy without ever pushing, to allow you to see through the eyes of others, it earned its spot atop our list.

(Read Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s reaction to Yi Yi topping this list here .)

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From left: Moonlight, The Handmaiden, There Will Be Blood, Under the Skin

The 100 best films of the 21st century

Gangsters, superheroes, schoolkids, lovers, slaves, peasants, techies, Tenenbaums and freefalling astronauts – they’re all here in our countdown of cinema’s best movies since 2000

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Quentin Tarantino’s latest jaw-dropper bumps Kill Bill: Vol 1 off the list in gloriously irreverent fashion. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as a fading western star and his mutt-loving stunt double in this relaxed and loving roast of bygone Tinseltown. CS Read the review

Bright Star (2009)

An early lead for Ben Whishaw as the ailing John Keats romancing Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) is the tremulous soul of this underappreciated Jane Campion drama. The butterflies are too tropical for Hampstead, but the rest is spot-on. CS Read the review

The Dark Knight (2008)

The only comic book movie to make the cut is Christopher Nolan’s genre masterpiece: fatalist, bracing and forever the legacy of Heath Ledger, posthumously awarded an Oscar for his terrifying performance. CS Read the review

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

Michael Moore’s finest hour: a blazing juggernaut with George W Bush, the Iraq war, the media, democracy and us, the gullible masses, in its crosshairs. Agitprop, and essential. CS Read the review

Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn in Private Life.

Private Life (2018)

Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti struggle to start a family, and to keep their marriage together, in this subtle, funny and often wondrously uncomfortable Netflix comedy written and directed by Tamara Jenkins. CS Read the review

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Rarely has summer lust been so headily captured as in Luca Guadagnino’s breakout Italian romance. Transformative leads from Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer captured the collective imagination; Michael Stuhlbarg gently grounded realities. CS Read the review

Maximus attitude … Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

Gladiator (2000)

Ridley Scott’s deluxe Roman blockbuster is toga soap turned up to the absolute maximus. Russell Crowe bellows and glowers opposite hyper-evil Joaquin Phoenix and lugubrious Oliver Reed (who died during production). Yet there are many grace notes under the fire and fury. CS Read the review

You, the Living (2007)

The second in Roy Andersson’s trilogy of wackily incisive Swedish vignettes comes at you thick and fast – about 50 micro-sketches, sometimes loosely linked – yet sticks like plasticine beneath your fingernails. CS Read the review

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Kathryn Bigelow’s extraordinary story of a controlled explosions team – headed by a never-better Jeremy Renner – is intense, immersive and impossible to shake. CS Read the review

Etre et Avoir (2002)

Events soured after the shoot but Nicolas Philibert’s sole big hit remains a disarmingly funny study of a graceful and kind schoolteacher caring for a motley crew of under-11s in rural France. CS Read the review

Eden (2014)

Even non-ravers can’t fail to be shaken by Mia Hansen-Løve’s vital tale of love and clubbing, vaguely based on the rise of Daft Punk . Giddy yet gripping. CS Read the review

The Selfish Giant (2013)

Clio Barnard’s second feature doesn’t have the shock of innovation of her verbatim cinema debut, The Arbor, but the story of two lads scrapping around junkyards to escape their homes is a masterpiece of lyrical social realism. CS Read the review

Savagery … Gomorrah.

Gomorrah (2008)

Director Matteo Garrone announced himself big-time with this blazing screen treatment of Roberto Saviano’s fearless account of the contemporary activities of Neapolitan mobsters: a thoroughly chilling chronicle of corruption and savagery rendered in tremendous style. AP Read the review

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)

When Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his film about the Irish rebellion against British rule, the tabloids went on the attack (Daily Mail: “Why Does Ken Loach hate his country so much?”). None of them had actually seen the film, a powerful, compassionate drama starring Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney as Republican brothers split by the civil war that followed independence in 1922. CC Read the review

Javier Barden in No Country for Old Men.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

The Coens’ Cormac McCarthy adaptation is a scorching study of benevolence and evil with rich and weathered turns from Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and a glossily horrible one from Javier Bardem. CS Read the review

Burning (2018)

One of the recent stream of fine dramas issuing from South Korea, Lee Chang-dong’s adaptation of a Haruki Murakami story is an elusive, unsettling thriller, in which a young writer reconnects with a former schoolfriend, only to find she mysteriously disappears after a trip away. AP Read the review

Hypnotic experimentalism ... Tropical Malady.

Tropical Malady (2005)

A young solider and a feral boy fall in love, dance to the Clash then trek to the jungle searching for a shaman dressed up as a tiger. Thai master Apichatpong Weerasethakul ’s hypnotic experimentalism has never been bettered; sorry, Uncle Boonmee. CS Read the review

The Son’s Room (2001)

Nanni Moretti’s Palme d’Or-winning drama about a father crippled by grief after the accidental death of his child is not for the faint-hearted. Yet the Italian writer/director/star performs miracles making a movie so wrenching also so hopeful. CS Read the review

Stories We Tell (2012)

Sarah Polley followed Away From Her and Take This Waltz by turning the camera on her own family secrets in this tricksy and compassionate documentary uncovering the true identity of her father. CS Read the review

Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank.

Fish Tank (2009)

Andrea Arnold ’s bad mum high-rise dance tragedy is singular, sensuous and alive with everyday upset. Actor Katie Jarvis took six years off after shooting; roughly the same as audiences needed to recover from the shake it gave, and the sight of Michael Fassbender. CS Read the review

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Hubert Selby Jr’s lacerating novel that lasers in on the exhilaration and tragedy of addiction is given expansive, stylish treatment by the then-emerging director Darren Aronofsky. Incredibly glamorous and miserably heartbreaking, this film gave notice of Aronofsky’s brilliance. AP Read the review

It still looks unique … Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

Persepolis (2007)

Iranian-French director Marjane Satrapi adapted her own graphic novel in this animated fantasy-memoir about a 10-year-old girl growing up in Tehran after the 1979 revolution. A real original, and it still looks unique. AP Read the review

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Steven Soderbergh is the Renaissance man of American cinema, and this intricately crafted heist movie – remade from the old Frank Sinatra chestnut – shows him on never-bettered, commercially minded form. George Clooney is at his most Cary Grant-ish as the leader of the crack team of robbers. AP Read the review

Utterly distinctive, wildly romantic and fleetingly queasy ... Lost in Translation.

Lost in Translation (2003)

Sofia Coppola’s second feature stands up: utterly distinctive, wildly romantic and fleetingly queasy. Scarlett Johannson and Bill Murray are impeccable casting as the unlikely soulmates thrown together in high-rise Tokyo. CS Read the review

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami had already proved himself a master in the late 20th century; this simple but effective piece – featuring a woman driving different people around Tehran – proved he could do it in the 21st. Kiarostami and his star Mania Akbari conjure knotty drama out of a series of conversations about marriage, family, religion and sex. AP Read the review

Philomena (2013)

Stephen Frears brings tonal tact and unobtrusive genius to this wonderfully funny and touching real-life tale of an Irish natterer (Judi Dench) and cynical reporter (Steve Coogan) who demolish red tape and challenge evil nuns to try to find her long-lost son. CS Read the review

Tahar Rahim in A Prophet.

A Prophet (2009)

French film-maker Jacques Audiard ’s blistering arthouse prison thriller begins with a 19-year-old rookie prisoner ( Tahar Rahim ) being made an offer he can’t refuse by the mob: execute a police informant or be killed. The murder, a brutal struggle with a razor blade in a six by eight cell, is unforgettable. It’s the start of the kid’s prison education. A film supercharged with edginess. CC Read the review

Love & Friendship (2016)

Whit Stillman, Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny reunite 20 years after The Last Days of Disco for the most blindingly funny – and faithful - Jane Austen adaptation yet. Spun from her first novel, Lady Susan , this is the tale of an epically bitchy and ambitious widow upending her nearest and dearest. Beckinsale has never been better; Tom Bennett steals the show as the fantastically dim lord lined up for her daughter. CS Read the review

Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Israeli soldier-turned-film-maker Ari Folman’s film is a kind of animated companion to Apocalypse Now, a hallucinatory statement about the trauma of conflict and the madness of war. It’s an autobiographical documentary, Folman interviewing the men he fought alongside, aged 19, in the first Lebanon war of 1982. He has repressed his memories of the time. The film’s climax is the massacre of Palestinian refugees by Christian Phalangists at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps . CC Read the review


Capernaum (2018)

A sprawling drama that functions both as an excoriating treatise on the nature of poverty in Lebanon, and an idiosyncratic drama in which a child takes his parents to court for their ill-treatment of him. We tend to think of the latter type of juvenile emancipation as the province of overprivileged westerners, but director Nadine Labaki makes it work in the toughest of social circumstances: a 12-year-old, living in the Beirut slums, takes steps to deal with his parents’ neglect. A highly original and affecting film. AP Read the review

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Such was the glut of Judd Apatow-ish comedies to come our way about 10 years ago that it’s easy to forget what a gem this is; how deep and weird the performances (stand up, Steve Carell), how fast the laughs and rich the detail. CS Read the review

Inventive … Paddington 2

Paddington 2 (2017)

Hugh Grant recently called this the best film in which he’s ever been involved – and he might well be right. Paul King did the unthinkable and made a sequel to his insta-classic yet more charming, inventive and across-the-generations entertaining. CS Read the review

Mr Turner (2014)

Passed over by the British and American film academies – though Timothy Spall’s glorious grunting lead was rightly recognised by Cannes – Mike Leigh’s painter biopic is meticulous, moving and still underappreciated. CS Read the review

Dogtooth (2009)

Yorgos Lanthimos ’s debut film was the only one, in the end, to make our list; its tonal idiosyncrasy and battily unsettling story and performances just edging out Alps, The Lobster and The Favourite. CS Read the review

Jake Gyllenhaal, left, and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Ang Lee’s romance missed out to Crash for the best picture Oscar, but its legacy as a five-hankie ode to doomed romance lives on. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger star as the farmhands whose love survives marriages, years of separation – and even death. CS Read the review

Happy as Lazzaro (2018)

A beautiful, strange dream of a film, Italian director Alice Rohrwacher ’s drama looks at first as if it’s set sometime in the dim and distant, a portrait of villagers exploited by feudal oppression. But no, there’s a mobile phone. OK, a flip-phone, but this is modern rural Italy. Well, the first half, anyway. After that, it’s complicated, with a flight into magic realism or perhaps even reincarnation. CC Read the review

The Incredibles (2004)

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw ranked The Incredibles as Pixar’s best ever film, the jewel in the crown. And only Pixar could make a superhero movie for kids about a midlife crisis. Mr Incredible is living in suburbia with his family after one lawsuit too many. Edna Mode, fashion designer to the supers, is an utter delight: “This is a hobo suit, dahlin, you can’t be seen in it!” CC Read the review

Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011)

Lynne Ramsay didn’t soften the blows adapting Lionel Shriver’s bestselling novel about a Columbine-style high-school massacre. A what-if feminist parable, this is a movie that thinks the unthinkable: what if a mother doesn’t like her child, or even love him? And the casting is killer, with Ezra Miller as Kevin and Tilda Swinton playing the mother. It’s a bruising watch, but Ramsay makes it’s impossible to turn away. CC Read the review

Waiting for Happiness (2002)

Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako won a lot of admirers for this slow-burn study of life in a west African town. Returning to Mauritania, his country of birth, Sissako puts together a string of vignettes and encounters, linked together by a returning, westernised student who can barely remember the local language. AP Read the review

The Souvenir (2019)

Joanna Hogg’s belated international breakthrough is a story of extraordinary specificity – young Hogg has disastrous affair while living in Knightsbridge and studying as a film student in the early 1980s – with rare cut-through and relatability. Honor Swinton Byrne is astonishing in her first film; Tom Burke inch-perfect as the charming but parasitic older man. CS Read the review

Foul-mouthed … Ted.

Seth MacFarlane ’s brief ascent to the Hollywood firmament was down to this scabrously funny talking-bear farce, which helped reinvent the grossout comedy. Mark Wahlberg is great as the straight man to the foul-mouthed toy of the title, with Mila Kunis as his censorious fiancee. MacFarlane’s creation was simultaneously endearing and outrageous. AP Read the review

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Mammoth two-part Indian crime film that’s a long, long way from Bollywood. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, this is conceived on a giant scale, as generations of three gangster families fight for supremacy over the course of half a century. Stylish, visceral film-making, violent and hard-hitting, it’s got a valid claim to be India’s answer to The Godfather. AP Read the review

Wuthering Heights (2011)

Andrea Arnold tossed out the costume drama rulebook with her raw, passionate retelling of Emily Brontë’s novel. I’d argue the case for Wuthering Heights as one of the most criminally underrated movies of recent years – though it’s been influential, blazing a trail for stripped-back period movies such as Lady Macbeth . Arnold was an early adopter of inclusive casting, too, giving the role of Heathcliff to black actor James Howson. CC Read the review

Leave No Trace (2018)

It took Winter’s Bone’s Debra Granik eight years to get this off the ground, but was worth the wait: a brilliantly moving eco drama with Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as a father and daughter living off grid in an Oregon forest, but whose relationship and priorities are changed as the child begins the transition to adulthood. AP Read the review

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Relegated to telly in the US, Steven Soderbergh’s wondrously funny and lavish Liberace biopic had a cinema release in the UK. Michael Douglas cast vanity aside and caution to the wind with virtuosic results as the promiscuous ivories-tickler; Matt Damon was terrific against type as his lover, Rob Lowe pinched and uproarious as their much-employed cosmetic surgeon. CS Read the review

An elaborately choreographed procession of tableaux and set pieces ... Russian Ark.

Russian Ark (2002)

Groundbreaking single-shot paean to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg from Russian director Alexander Sokurov. Exploiting then newly developed video technology, Sokurov crafted an elaborately choreographed procession of tableaux and set pieces that explored three centuries of Russian history and culture, from the imperial era to the wartime siege of Leningrad. AP Read the review

The Social Network (2010)

After the Cambridge Analytica revelations , the treachery and backstabbery in Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher’s Facebook origin tale looks positively quaint – the geeks and nerds fighting over who had the idea for Facebook first. Nevertheless, this is still an outrageously watchable hatchet job. Jesse Eisenberg is a knockout Mark Zuckerberg, the smartest guy in the room (though not sartorially, in flip-flops and a hoodie). CC Read the review

A documentary with evocative lyricism... Fire at Sea.

Fire at Sea (2016)

A beautifully shot observational documentary about the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean: the lethally dangerous boats that carry refugees from Africa and end up on the Italian island of Lampedusa . Shot by director Gianfranco Rosi with an evocative lyricism that sits in counterpoint to the blazing anger at the film’s heart. AP Read the review

Amores Perros (2000)

A film that grabs you by the neck and shakes hard, this brutal crime drama announced the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu as a major new talent in 2000. (And lumbered him for the while with the label “Mexico’s Tarantino”.) A film of mayhem and fury, three stories intersect around a car crash in which one of the passengers is a champion fighting dog. CC Read the review

Flying fighters … Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Western audiences unfamiliar with the wuxia martial arts genre had never seen anything like Ang Lee’s dazzling 18th-century-set epic in 2000 – fighters flying through the air with balletic grace. In the most exhilarating scene, the daughter of a regional governor (Ziyi Zhang) goes sword-to-sword with a famous warrior (Chow Yun-fat) in the branches of bamboo trees swaying high above the ground. CC Read the review

Before Sunset (2004)

In Richard Linklater’s gorgeous, romantic Before Sunrise , a pair of twentysomethings (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) spent the day together in Vienna. Here in the second movie when they meet again in Paris for another brief encounter, they are in their 30s. So the questions are for grownups. Am I with the right person? Where did my life go? It also has the best line ever about being in a couple with small children: “I feel like I’m running a small nursery with someone I used to date.” CC Read the review

24 Hour Party People (2002)

Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan’s truth-tickling hit a high note with this joyful sorta-biopic of the record label boss and broadcaster Tony Wilson. Playful, ingenious and prodigiously informative, it’s a triumph of vision over verite. It’s also a total blast. CS Read the review

Gillian Anderson and Eric Stoltz in The House of Mirth.

The House of Mirth (2000)

Terence Davies utilised Gillian Anderson’s poised elegance to good advantage in this brilliantly controlled adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel. Anderson plays Lily Bart, the woman whose reputation and standing are gradually sullied until she becomes an unmarriageable outcast in end of 19th-century America. AP Read the review

Margaret (2011)

Here’s another dark American tale from Manchester by the Sea writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret was completed in 2007 but only released in 2011 after a wrangle with the studio). Set in post 9/11 New York, Anna Paquin is an overentitled teenager partly responsible for a tragic accident. As in Manchester by the Sea, the effect is shattering; it is like watching actual lives fall apart. CC Read the review

Murder, family strife and supernatural shenanigans ... Volver.

Volver (2006)

Arguably Penélope Cruz’s finest performance, in one of Pedro Almodóvar’s key films: a heady stew of murder, family strife and supernatural shenanigans. Cruz plays a woman forced to kill and bury her ex-husband, while her dead mother appears to be haunting her hairdresser sister. All is resolved after various traumas are lanced. AP Read the review

13th (2016)

Intense, anger-driven documentary from Ava DuVernay on the racialisation of the US’s justice system, positing the idea that the massively disproportionate incarceration of African-American men is simply slavery by another name. With a title referring to the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery, DuVernay suggests that privatised prisons, cheap labour and light-touch capitalism are all in it together. Tough stuff. AP Read the review

Toni Erdmann (2016)

A knockout blow for the lazy, patronising stereotype that Germans don’t have a sense of humour, Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann is one of the funniest films to hit (arthouse) cinemas in years. It’s the story of a workaholic management consultant (Sandra Hüller) whose embarrassing dad turns up unannounced for the weekend wearing joke-shop false teeth. A genuine one-off, the film is partly a satire on Europe, globalisation and workplace misogyny, as well as being a prickly sweet father-daughter movie. CC Read the review

Outrageously entertaining … The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Possibly the most fun anyone’s had at the cinema so far this century, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street ought to be a cautionary tale. It’s based on the autobiography of crooked stockbroker Jordan Belfort, convicted in 1999 for fraud and money-laundering. But why focus on regret, when there are hookers, drugs and fast cars? Leonardo DiCaprio is outrageously entertaining as Belfort. CC Read the review

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

The film whose Palme d’Or win heralded the arrival of a new wave of Romanian cinema. A young woman, helped by her friend, arranges an illegal abortion in the late 80s; the squalid events that follow parallel the decay and chaos of the country as the communist dictatorship began to collapse. Harrowing but clear-sighted. AP Read the review

The most twisted of love stories ... The Handmaiden.

The Handmaiden (2016)

The Handmaiden is one of cinema’s great literary adaptations: Park Chan-wook transposes Sarah Waters’s crime novel Fingersmith from Victorian London to Korea in the 1930s. In this most twisted of love stories, a pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) poses as maid to a wealthy heiress (Kim Min-hee). But who is the double-crosser? Depending on your tastes, a candidate for sexiest film of the century. CC Read the review

Unrelated (2007)

At the age of 47, after a career directing TV soaps such as Casualty and EastEnders, Joanna Hogg reinvented herself as auteur of a new breed of cinema. In her feature debut, Unrelated, Kathryn Worth played a fortyish woman holidaying in Tuscany with two dysfunctional families and flirting outrageously with one of the lads (Tom Hiddleston in his first movie). A cinema of awkwardness, wielding a scalpel on the well-to-do middle classes, was born. CC Read the review

Meek’s Cutoff (2010)

Kelly Reichardt is a master of slow cinema, the maker of films about American outsiders, living without a safety net. Meek’s Cutoff is a western set in 1840s Oregon, following three families on the wagon train west. Their leader is show-offy Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), but Reichardt’s focus, as is customary for her, is on the women – a trio played by Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan and Shirley Henderson. CC Read the review

Yilmaz Erdogan and Firat Tanis in Once Upon A Time In Anatolia.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

Here’s a police procedural with a difference by the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan – the whodunnit and why playing second fiddle to long stretches of silence. It’s set in rural Turkey where officials are spending the night driving a murder suspect around looking for a body. What they find, however, is mostly existential despair. Not exactly easy viewing, but it’s a masterpiece of slow cinema. CC Read the review

Dogville (2003)

Lars von Trier’ s Brechtian parable about coercive capitalism remains arguably the Danish provocateur’s masterpiece. Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany both excel in this study of a woman on the run from gangsters who is offered shelter in a small town in return for undertaking chores. Von Trier’s use of stylised, floor-painted sets is the inspired final touch. AP Read the review

A Separation (2011)

The film begins with a couple in front of a judge asking for a divorce. She wants to leave Iran and take their daughter. He cannot go; his elderly father is sick. Everyone behaves badly in Asghar Farhadi ’s desperately painful family drama. Farhadi’s superpower is empathy, making the audience see all points of view. He lays depth charges in seemingly inconsequential moments with emotionally thrilling consequences. CC Read the review

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years.

45 Years (2015)

British director Andrew Haigh’s quietly devastating drama is a deeply moving portrait of marriage with the shiver of a ghost story. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play a Norfolk couple planning their 45th wedding anniversary. A week before the party, a letter lands on their doormat like a hand grenade with news of his early lost love. Rampling is sensational. CC Read the review

The Child (L’Enfant , 2002)

The Dardenne brothers’ second Palme d’Or was bestowed on this stark portrait of underclass desperation, filmed in their characteristic hyper-naturalist manner. Jérémie Renier plays a petty criminal who sells his newborn baby in the adoption black market, but his devastated girlfriend’s response forces a kind of redemption. AP Read the review

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Probably most Wes Anderson-y of Wes Anderson’s films and certainly his finest, with a to-die-for cast and the best fur coat in the history of cinema. Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller are the Tenenbaum siblings, all former child prodigies. The brilliance has faded. Who’s to blame? Enter paterfamilias Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), a man who consoles his grieving grandsons with: “I’m sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman.” CC Read the review

Gravity (2013)

If we are living through a golden age of space movies, here’s where it started, Alfonso Cuarón’s spectacular thriller, shot with unbearable tension and Discovery Channel realism. Sandra Bullock is the rookie astronaut with George Clooney by her side, a living, breathing Buzz Lightyear. When a storm of debris hits the pair, a terrifying fight for survival ensues. Astoundingly good. CC Read the review

Stop-motion breakdown … Anomalisa.

Anomalisa (2015)

Charlie Kaufman’s existential breakdown with stop-motion puppets is a miniature masterpiece of concept and execution. David Thewlis voices the depressed motivational speaker to whom everyone sounds the same – except for Jennifer Jason Leigh ’s scarred sales agent. “What is it to be human?” asks Michael Stone (Thewlis). “To ache?” Few films try to answer: this Fabergé egg of a film does. CS Read the review

Leviathan (2014)

The hardest-drinking movie on our list - with some stiff competition - Andrey Zvyagintsev ’s anti-Putin polemic is brilliant, ballsy and completely sozzled. Our hero fisherman is forced from his home so that the corrupt local mayor can build his own palace on the site. A priest speaks of “reawakening the soul of the Russian people” as their spirits lie crushed at his feet. Corruption is so endemic, these people have even lost God. This is the most almighty achievement. CS Read the review

Nebraska (2013)

Bruce Dern discards his marbles on a windmill-tilting road trip with loving but frustrated son Will Forte. Alexander Payne’s black-and-white ode to small-town America is his best this century ( Sideways has not aged like a fine wine). It also features June Squibb being completely filthy. CS Read the review

The Tree of Life (2011)

Terrence Malick’s return to cinema six years after The New World has been vaguely tainted by the slew of woozy filmic xeroxes that have followed, but his first comeback – in which Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain stand in for his parents in 1950s Texas – is a choking knockout. CS Read the review

Glorious camp … The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Just nudging Gene Hackman’s Tenenbaum clan down the list, Wes Anderson’s glorious 1930s confection is a delight with a hard nugget of politics at its core. Ralph Fiennes’s central turn as charming concierge M Gustave, all beneficent sex and abashed camp, remains the man’s finest hour. CS Read the review

A One and a Two (Yi Yi , 2000)

Edward Yang ’s final film is a delicate domestic miracle: the story of one family seen through the perspectives of the father, the son and the daughter. A wedding begins proceedings, a funeral ends them. The stuff in the middle is the everyday, dissected with rare beauty and gravity. CS Read the review

Chilling … Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out.

Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele ’s debut is a perfect, hard-polished gem of a film. A race satire that skewers beautifully, it’s also a chilling comedy, a proper horror and 104 minutes of complete entertainment. CS Read the review

Brief as a dream and just as devastating, Paweł Pawlikowski ’s black and white story of a novice nun on a road trip with her aunt in 1962 Poland to discover the fate of her Jewish parents is spare, shocking and utterly unforgettable. CS Read the review

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

Still Sacha Baron Cohen’s finest moment, a feature-length upscaling of his ludicrously hilarious TV character, whose purpose is to sucker the unsuspecting into condemning themselves out of their own mouths. Borat is on a trip in the US to try to marry Pamela Anderson; not everything works, but when it does it’s astounding: cruelly revelatory and hysterically funny at the same time. AP Read the review

Spirited Away.

Spirited Away (2001)

Hayao Miyazaki ’s wondrous animation, the greatest success of a spectacular run from Japan’s Studio Ghibli. A gentle, mysterious fable about a 10-year-old girl whose family stumble upon a haunted bathhouse. After her parents are turned into pigs, she works to lift the curse, encountering a variety of spirit-world beings along the way. AP Read the review

The White Ribbon (2009)

Michael Haneke won his first Palme d’Or with this chilling, steel-hard parable set in Germany just before the first world war. The inhabitants of a small village are dogged by mysterious, violent incidents that serve mostly to exacerbate the dysfunctional social codes they all live by – and elliptically suggests the moral climate that evolved into Nazism. AP Read the review

Lyrical … Roma.

Roma (2018)

Despite lingering controversy over its adoption by Netflix in its war with the film industry, Roma still stands as an absolutely major work. Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuarón returned to the Mexico City of his childhood, telling the story of a middle-class family and their nanny-cum-maid in swooning, lyrical black and white. Part memoir, part elegaic fiction, Cuaron hit the heights with this. AP Read the review

Lincoln (2012)

Steven Spielberg’s portrait of the great US president looked at the time like a history lesson come to life: graced by a monumental, Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis , it detailed the arm-twisting and chicanery behind the passing of his slave-freeing constitutional amendment. These days, it looks like a fantasy: a president with principles: who’d have thought? AP Read the review

A Serious Man (2009)

The Coen brothers don’t really do personal, but this is as close as they’ve got (so far). Set in their home town of Minneapolis in the late 60s, A Serious Man stars Michael Stuhlbarg as an academic whose life is roiled by continuing uncertainty and self-doubt – triggering repeat visits to his rabbis, a marriage breakdown and extended interactions with his oddball brother. AP Read the review

The Great Beauty (2013)

The Young Pope director Paolo Sorrentino crafted this swooningly beautiful love letter to Rome – “la grande bellezza” – in its decadent, jaded glory. Toni Servillo, Sorrentino’s regular onscreen foil, plays journalist Jep Gambardella, a bon viveur beginning to sense the dying of his personal light, and hunting out meaning and substance in the world around him. AP Read the review

An Act Of Killing.

The Act of Killing (2012)

An extraordinary documentary about the wave of barbaric killings that swept Indonesia in the mid-60s. Orchestrated by director Joshua Oppenheimer, this film revisits the perpetrators of some horrific events and asks them – with little need for encouragement – to re-enact them. The result is almost unwatchable: the murderers’ glee at performing, and the remorse they may or may not experience as a result. AP Read the review

Shoplifters (2018)

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or for this exquisitely turned drama that – like much of Kore-eda’s previous output – explores what it is to be a family in entirely non-conventional circumstances. A shoplifting gang take in a young girl who seems abandoned; how they hang together – or not – is the film’s key theme. AP Read the review

White Material (2009)

One of Isabelle Huppert ’s finest performances, and that’s saying something. Director Claire Denis drew on her own upbringing in colonial west Africa to give this study of a hard-as-nails plantation owner a pungent whiff of authenticity. Huppert is Maria, obsessed with getting in the coffee harvest as a violent civil conflict moves ever closer. Saddled with an untrustworthy husband and an erratic son, it’s all she can do to survive. AP Read the review

Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven.

Far From Heaven (2002)

From director Todd Haynes, this is pastiche at its most brilliantly acute. Haynes takes the bold, vivid melodrama beloved of Douglas Sirk, and reconfigures it to fully reveal the social faultlines of race, sex and class that were considerably more latent in the original. A beautifully crafted act of ancestor worship. AP Read the review

Son of Saul (2015)

Brutally visceral fable that plunges the viewer headlong into the all-encompassing horror of a Nazi extermination camp. Shot in remorseless, unforgiving close-up by first time Hungarian director László Nemes, the story of a Jewish prison-camp worker whose job it is to help clear the gas chamber of corpses is cinema at its absolute rawest. AP Read the review

Mulholland Drive (2001)

A magisterial achievement from David Lynch, despite the difficulties he had getting it off the ground. Originally conceived as the pilot of a new TV series, this expertly fuses Lynch’s softcore pulp obsessions with his trademark creepy surrealism. Naomi Watts was the big discovery here: she plays a wannabe actor who midway seems to switch personalities with another, more jaded one. AP Read the review

Fearless … Team America: World Police.

Team America: World Police (2004)

The most audacious slaughter of sacred cows seen on celluloid, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s marionette action-musical is a gleeful hail of precision-aimed bullets. It’s totally fearless: pops are taken at Hollywood, Broadway, evil dictators, gung-ho superpowers, the intelligence service, bleeding heart liberals, actors – especially actors – before signing off with a devastating, if obscene, defence of US interventionism. Politically, it’s scattergun; satirically, it’s spot-on. Mostly, though, it’s just ferociously funny, even if most of the humour does, finally, come from the sight of the 2ft puppets tottering around, getting drunk, having wild sex, attempting to walk through doorways and wrestling panthers played by kittens. CS Read the review

Zama (2017)

An official working for the Spanish crown descends into madness while waiting for a transfer out of his backwater post in 18th-century Paraguay in Lucrecia Martel’s fevered historical drama. Like a disorienting dream, it’s a film of fragments, moments that worm their way into your memory – a slave limping with flayed feet, a llama barging into frame during an uncomfortable meeting. Daniel Giménez Cacho is petty, wretched Zama, clinging to his white man’s sense of importance (and his ill-fitting periwig), a symptom of colonial rot. Martel has been called “the Malick of Latin American cinema” but this feels closer to Herzog. A strange masterpiece. CC Read the review


Moonlight (2016)

The triumph of Barry Jenkins’s coming-of-age tale over La La Land for the best picture Oscar was extraordinary in all sorts of ways, of which Faye Dunaway’s envelope mixup was maybe the least remarkable. It was the first film with an all-black cast as well as with an LGBTQ theme to scoop the prize – and it must also rank as one of the most visually and tonally ambitious: told in three parts, with three different leads, each showing the stages of repression and internalised loathing in the young life of a Miami man. It’s simply revelatory: innovative, wildly affecting, utterly beautiful. CS Read the review

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

After a string of brilliant, industry-transforming scripts, Charlie Kaufman made his directorial debut with this complex, convoluted drama, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as theatre director Caden Cotard, who is swamped by personal crises as he works on his dream project: building an ever-expanding replica of the city streets and buildings inside a giant warehouse, and populating it with lookalikes; the blurred boundary between performance and reality is mirrored in Cotard’s own breakdown, with the title giving the big clue – this is all symbolic. AP Read the review

Hidden (2005)

Having made his name as one of the pioneers of ordeal arthouse with unflinching chronicles of trauma and cruelty, Austrian auteur Michael Haneke achieved a unlikely popular success with this film that connected with France’s deep well of unease about events of the relatively recent past. Daniel Auteuil plays a successful TV host whose contentment is disturbed by the arrival of mysterious surveillance tapes. This seems to be connected with a young Algerian boy whose parents were apparently killed in the infamous 1961 Paris massacre . Haneke ratchets up the tension with an unerring sense of dread and dismay. AP Read the review

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in In the Mood for Love.

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Has there ever been a more beautiful couple in the history of cinema than Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-Wai’s smouldering love story In the Mood for Love? Not that they’re a couple, technically. It’s 1962. Chow (Tony Leung) and Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) move in next door to each other in a cramped Hong Kong block of flats. His wife is having an affair – with her husband. The cheated-on pair become friends, but vow not to behave badly. Like Brief Encounter, the film aches with the understanding that impossible love makes for a more romantic movie. It’s gorgeously detailed, drenched in sensuality – a scene in which the two squeeze past each other in a narrow alleyway by night has a humid sexiness. CC Read the review

Under the Skin (2013)

Jonathan Glazer’s first film in nearly a decade (and still his most recent) turned out to be an uncategorisable masterwork. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form, trawling the streets of Glasgow for unsuspecting males to “take home” – in fact, using them as a food source. From its unnerving alien-POV sequences, to the empathetic scene with actor Adam Pearson (who has neurofibromatosis ), to the sheer coldness of the predatory logic of its central figure, Under the Skin achieves a mood and texture unlike anything else before or since. AP Read the review

Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood.

Boyhood (2014)

Twelve years in the shooting, Richard Linklater ’s story of a child’s life between six and 18 is a vindication of artistic ambition in an age of cinematic snacking. Its downside is to ruin almost every single other film for you – at least all those in which the actors are conspicuously aged up or down. In watching the bonafide progress of Ellar Coltrane – as well as Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his parents – Boyhood provides its audience with an intimacy and an investment like no other. This is cinema as gentle revolution. CS Read the review

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Steve McQueen’s real-life story of Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in 19th-century Louisiana, exudes all of the dignity, impatience and artistic fidelity of its director. It is perfectly cast and paced, endlessly surprising, uncompromising and compassionate: a story purely and powefully told, yet full of the extraordinary visual grace notes. It never descends into cliche or even self-pity; it remains a film for adults, uninterested in anything but the truth. To read Northup’s 1853 memoir is to be astonished by the film’s fidelity. CS Read the review

Stark … Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s strange masterpiece, freely adapted by him from Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, has a dark title that threatens a calamity now visible on the horizon: destruction of the Earth itself. And it is all inscribed in the story of the movie’s leading character, a man with the Bunyanesque name of Daniel Plainview. Daniel Day-Lewis gives perhaps the greatest, certainly the most exotic performance of his career as an oil prospector in the early 20th century, rewarded with colossal wealth that never gives him the smallest pleasure.

The movie perhaps looks even stranger, starker and more unforgiving now than it did in 2007 when it first came out. But from 2016, there has been a raging Plainview in plain sight in the White House: Trump, the eccentric property billionaire and spoilt baby whose cranky tweets are as crazy as Plainview’s deranged “milkshake” pronouncement. What a spectacle Anderson and Day-Lewis create: a portrait of male belligerence and fear, a Tutankhamun of misery, walled up in his own sarcophagus of wealth and prestige. PB Read the full review

Most viewed

The Top 50 Films Since 2000

The very best of the past 12 years.

1. Mulholland Drive (2001)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Naomi Watts , Laura Harring , Justin Theroux , Jeanne Bates

Votes: 367,196 | Gross: $7.22M

David Lynch's magnum opus is a cinematic puzzle that is constantly missing pieces. It is a marvelous watch, full of allusions to films of years past and typical Lynchan absurdism. Mulholland Dr. is the kind of film one can watch over and over again and get nowhere in understanding it. But that is the beauty of it. It is a tightly wound Hitchcockian thriller cum Wilder noir masterpiece with a signature Lynch darkness. Beautiful in every way and fine in every aspect.

2. Amélie (2001)

R | 122 min | Comedy, Romance

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie, a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet | Stars: Audrey Tautou , Mathieu Kassovitz , Rufus , Lorella Cravotta

Votes: 769,980 | Gross: $33.23M

Following 9/11, Amélie was just the film that the US needed. Amélie is a 122-minute pick-me-up--a lovely little exercise in positivity. Bruce Delbonnel's gorgeous cinematography gives the film a wonderful green hue, while Audrey Tautou colors her character with her seductive smirk. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's deliberately overstated work here is light and friendly. And when a film includes quotes such as, "Without you, today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterday's," it's hard not to fall in love.

3. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

R | 111 min | Action, Crime, Drama

After awakening from a four-year coma, a former assassin wreaks vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Uma Thurman , David Carradine , Daryl Hannah , Michael Madsen

Votes: 1,141,418 | Gross: $70.10M

I would go so far as to say the Kill Bill films (I count them as one) are better than Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino's poured himself into this one, and it certainly shows. There's a 100-second unbroken shot, there's a massacre that ends with 100 or so dead bodies, and there's not a single boring moment here. Tarantino's dialogue, as it always does, snaps and crackles perfectly in this one. But is really the action in Vol. 1 that does this film justice.

4. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

R | 137 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

The Bride continues her quest of vengeance against her former boss and lover Bill, the reclusive bouncer Budd, and the treacherous, one-eyed Elle.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Uma Thurman , David Carradine , Michael Madsen , Daryl Hannah

Votes: 774,377 | Gross: $66.21M

For Vol. 2, Tarantino slowed the Bride's epic narrative down a lot, and probably for the better. Vol. 2 feels the perfect counterpart to its predecessor--it's stylish and yet still intelligent and competent as a standalone feature. Tarantino's screenplay and Uma Thurman's stunning performance carry would could have easily been a commonplace revenge flick to a new level.

5. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

PG-13 | 127 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

A poor Bohemian poet in 1890s Paris falls for a beautiful courtesan and nightclub star coveted by a jealous duke.

Director: Baz Luhrmann | Stars: Nicole Kidman , Ewan McGregor , John Leguizamo , Jim Broadbent

Votes: 291,385 | Gross: $57.39M

Moulin Rouge! is stunning. There's simply no other way to describe it. It's sensory overload from the very first second. The music numbers are dazzling (How could you forget "El Tango de Roxanne?"), and visual aspects of the film are too beautiful for words. It's never easy to tear your eyes away from a Luhrmann film, but he really has outdone himself here. It's gorgeous and entertaining, and yet still very moving and emotionally potent. I'm not one for movie musicals, but this never fails to entertain.

6. The Tree of Life (2011)

PG-13 | 139 min | Drama, Fantasy

The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Brad Pitt , Sean Penn , Jessica Chastain , Hunter McCracken

Votes: 180,492 | Gross: $13.30M

I'm a believer in the idea that the flaws of a film only make a film better. I suppose that is especially true here with The Tree of Life. This is simply the most beautiful film in creation, and certainly one of the most ambitious movies ever made. The Tree of Life takes us from the beginning of time to the end of time and asks some important theological questions about life in the process, all in 139 minutes. To write about this film in a paragraph is an injustice. This is a film that has to be seen to be believed. Films like this almost never get made.

7. The Dark Knight (2008)

PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama

When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, Batman must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale , Heath Ledger , Aaron Eckhart , Michael Caine

Votes: 2,720,380 | Gross: $534.86M

Unless you were living under a rock in 2008, you probably saw The Dark Knight. You probably fell in love with it just the way I did upon the first viewing. That said, what I never expected when I finished it was that this is a film that resonates far beyond a first viewing. Christopher Nolan has written and directed a compelling action, though it is not that which makes The Dark Knight a phenomenal film. It is actually the morality tale aspect of the film that makes it a modern classic. The Dark Knight revolutionized the superhero film in every way possible.

8. Memento (2000)

R | 113 min | Mystery, Thriller

A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife's murderer.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Guy Pearce , Carrie-Anne Moss , Joe Pantoliano , Mark Boone Junior

Votes: 1,264,307 | Gross: $25.54M

9. There Will Be Blood (2007)

R | 158 min | Drama

A story of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness, focusing on a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis , Paul Dano , Ciarán Hinds , Martin Stringer

Votes: 602,738 | Gross: $40.22M

Paul Thomas Anderson's magnum opus is certainly There Will Be Blood. In a Kubrickian meditation told through slow, lengthy, and magnificent cinematography, Anderson explores an oil baron and an ambitious priest's conflicting interests at the turn of the century. That sounds simplistic, but the film is a layered, intense, and eerily quiet work from a true auteur. Cue the Brahms.

10. City of God (2002)

R | 130 min | Crime, Drama

In the slums of Rio, two kids' paths diverge as one struggles to become a photographer and the other a kingpin.

Directors: Fernando Meirelles , Kátia Lund | Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues , Leandro Firmino , Matheus Nachtergaele , Phellipe Haagensen

Votes: 771,318 | Gross: $7.56M

11. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

PG-13 | 201 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood , Viggo Mortensen , Ian McKellen , Orlando Bloom

Votes: 1,888,329 | Gross: $377.85M

12. Oldboy (2003)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

Director: Park Chan-wook | Stars: Choi Min-sik , Yoo Ji-tae , Kang Hye-jeong , Kim Byeong-Ok

Votes: 596,849 | Gross: $0.71M

13. In the Mood for Love (2000)

PG | 98 min | Drama, Romance

Two neighbors form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Tony Leung Chiu-wai , Maggie Cheung , Siu Ping-Lam , Tung Cho 'Joe' Cheung

Votes: 156,955 | Gross: $2.73M

14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

R | 108 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories for ever.

Director: Michel Gondry | Stars: Jim Carrey , Kate Winslet , Tom Wilkinson , Gerry Robert Byrne

Votes: 1,031,905 | Gross: $34.40M

15. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

R | 102 min | Drama

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Ellen Burstyn , Jared Leto , Jennifer Connelly , Marlon Wayans

Votes: 862,153 | Gross: $3.64M

16. Up (2009)

PG | 96 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

78-year-old Carl Fredricksen travels to Paradise Falls in his house equipped with balloons, inadvertently taking a young stowaway.

Directors: Pete Docter , Bob Peterson | Stars: Edward Asner , Jordan Nagai , John Ratzenberger , Christopher Plummer

Votes: 1,070,321 | Gross: $293.00M

17. Inception (2010)

PG-13 | 148 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio , Joseph Gordon-Levitt , Elliot Page , Ken Watanabe

Votes: 2,414,782 | Gross: $292.58M

18. The Descent (2005)

R | 99 min | Adventure, Horror, Thriller

A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.

Director: Neil Marshall | Stars: Shauna Macdonald , Natalie Mendoza , Alex Reid , Saskia Mulder

Votes: 233,359 | Gross: $26.02M

19. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

R | 110 min | Comedy, Drama

The eccentric members of a dysfunctional family reluctantly gather under the same roof for various reasons.

Director: Wes Anderson | Stars: Gene Hackman , Gwyneth Paltrow , Anjelica Huston , Ben Stiller

Votes: 301,380 | Gross: $52.36M

20. Chicago (2002)

PG-13 | 113 min | Comedy, Crime, Musical

Two death-row murderesses develop a fierce rivalry while competing for publicity, celebrity, and a sleazy lawyer's attention.

Director: Rob Marshall | Stars: Renée Zellweger , Catherine Zeta-Jones , Richard Gere , Taye Diggs

Votes: 235,787 | Gross: $170.69M

21. The Social Network (2010)

PG-13 | 120 min | Biography, Drama

As Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, he is sued by the twins who claimed he stole their idea and by the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Jesse Eisenberg , Andrew Garfield , Justin Timberlake , Rooney Mara

Votes: 723,601 | Gross: $96.96M

22. Donnie Darko (2001)

R | 113 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.

Director: Richard Kelly | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal , Jena Malone , Mary McDonnell , Holmes Osborne

Votes: 819,889 | Gross: $1.48M

23. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

R | 118 min | Drama, Fantasy, War

In the Falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

Director: Guillermo del Toro | Stars: Ivana Baquero , Ariadna Gil , Sergi López , Maribel Verdú

Votes: 681,263 | Gross: $37.63M

24. Black Swan (2010)

R | 108 min | Drama, Thriller

Nina is a talented but unstable ballerina on the verge of stardom. Pushed to the breaking point by her artistic director and a seductive rival, Nina's grip on reality slips, plunging her into a waking nightmare.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Natalie Portman , Mila Kunis , Vincent Cassel , Winona Ryder

Votes: 789,242 | Gross: $106.95M

25. Melancholia (2011)

R | 135 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Kirsten Dunst , Charlotte Gainsbourg , Kiefer Sutherland , Alexander Skarsgård

Votes: 188,283 | Gross: $3.03M

26. WALL·E (2008)

G | 98 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Director: Andrew Stanton | Stars: Ben Burtt , Elissa Knight , Jeff Garlin , Fred Willard

Votes: 1,143,724 | Gross: $223.81M

27. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

R | 153 min | Adventure, Drama, War

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Brad Pitt , Diane Kruger , Eli Roth , Mélanie Laurent

Votes: 1,493,072 | Gross: $120.54M

28. Drive (I) (2011)

R | 100 min | Action, Drama

A mysterious Hollywood action film stuntman gets in trouble with gangsters when he tries to help his neighbor's husband rob a pawn shop while serving as his getaway driver.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn | Stars: Ryan Gosling , Carey Mulligan , Bryan Cranston , Albert Brooks

Votes: 665,086 | Gross: $35.06M

29. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

PG-13 | 179 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood , Ian McKellen , Viggo Mortensen , Orlando Bloom

Votes: 1,704,351 | Gross: $342.55M

30. A Separation (2011)

PG-13 | 123 min | Drama

A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.

Director: Asghar Farhadi | Stars: Payman Maadi , Leila Hatami , Sareh Bayat , Shahab Hosseini

Votes: 249,623 | Gross: $7.10M

31. Let the Right One In (2008)

R | 114 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl.

Director: Tomas Alfredson | Stars: Kåre Hedebrant , Lina Leandersson , Per Ragnar , Henrik Dahl

Votes: 221,490 | Gross: $2.12M

32. Spirited Away (2001)

PG | 125 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches and spirits, a world where humans are changed into beasts.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Stars: Daveigh Chase , Suzanne Pleshette , Miyu Irino , Rumi Hiiragi

Votes: 790,594 | Gross: $10.06M

33. No Country for Old Men (2007)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

Directors: Ethan Coen , Joel Coen | Stars: Tommy Lee Jones , Javier Bardem , Josh Brolin , Woody Harrelson

Votes: 1,002,327 | Gross: $74.28M

34. Zodiac (2007)

R | 157 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Between 1968 and 1983, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal , Robert Downey Jr. , Mark Ruffalo , Anthony Edwards

Votes: 562,084 | Gross: $33.08M

35. The Departed (2006)

R | 151 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio , Matt Damon , Jack Nicholson , Mark Wahlberg

Votes: 1,357,183 | Gross: $132.38M

36. Knocked Up (2007)

R | 129 min | Comedy, Romance

For fun-loving party animal Ben Stone, the last thing he ever expected was for his one-night stand to show up on his doorstep eight weeks later to tell him she's pregnant with his child.

Director: Judd Apatow | Stars: Seth Rogen , Katherine Heigl , Paul Rudd , Leslie Mann

Votes: 376,403 | Gross: $148.73M

37. The Artist (I) (2011)

PG-13 | 100 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

An egomaniacal film star develops a relationship with a young dancer against the backdrop of Hollywood's silent era.

Director: Michel Hazanavicius | Stars: Jean Dujardin , Bérénice Bejo , John Goodman , James Cromwell

Votes: 244,874 | Gross: $44.67M

38. The Hurt Locker (2008)

R | 131 min | Drama, Thriller, War

During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow | Stars: Jeremy Renner , Anthony Mackie , Brian Geraghty , Guy Pearce

Votes: 461,363 | Gross: $17.02M

39. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

PG-13 | 178 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Elijah Wood , Ian McKellen , Orlando Bloom , Sean Bean

Votes: 1,916,942 | Gross: $315.54M

40. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

PG-13 | 130 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Harry, Ron, and Hermione search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord as the final battle rages on at Hogwarts.

Director: David Yates | Stars: Daniel Radcliffe , Emma Watson , Rupert Grint , Michael Gambon

Votes: 901,231 | Gross: $381.01M

41. Children of Men (2006)

R | 109 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have somehow become infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón | Stars: Julianne Moore , Clive Owen , Chiwetel Ejiofor , Michael Caine

Votes: 511,871 | Gross: $35.55M

42. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

PG-13 | 112 min | Biography, Drama

The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed.

Director: Julian Schnabel | Stars: Mathieu Amalric , Emmanuelle Seigner , Marie-Josée Croze , Anne Consigny

Votes: 108,920 | Gross: $5.99M

43. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

R | 120 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

A Mumbai teenager reflects on his life after being accused of cheating on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?".

Directors: Danny Boyle , Loveleen Tandan | Stars: Dev Patel , Freida Pinto , Saurabh Shukla , Anil Kapoor

Votes: 858,912 | Gross: $141.32M

44. Brick (2005)

R | 110 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.

Director: Rian Johnson | Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt , Lukas Haas , Emilie de Ravin , Meagan Good

Votes: 108,252 | Gross: $2.06M

45. In Bruges (2008)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be.

Director: Martin McDonagh | Stars: Colin Farrell , Brendan Gleeson , Ciarán Hinds , Elizabeth Berrington

Votes: 445,707 | Gross: $7.76M

46. Volver (I) (2006)

R | 121 min | Comedy, Drama

After her death, a mother returns to her home town in order to fix the situations she couldn't resolve during her life.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Stars: Penélope Cruz , Carmen Maura , Lola Dueñas , Blanca Portillo

Votes: 104,675 | Gross: $12.90M

47. Paranormal Activity (2007)

R | 86 min | Horror, Mystery

After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.

Director: Oren Peli | Stars: Katie Featherston , Micah Sloat , Mark Fredrichs , Amber Armstrong

Votes: 247,251 | Gross: $107.92M

48. The Pianist (2002)

R | 150 min | Biography, Drama, Music

A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Adrien Brody , Thomas Kretschmann , Frank Finlay , Emilia Fox

Votes: 856,822 | Gross: $32.57M

49. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

R | 127 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet Agent within MI6.

Director: Tomas Alfredson | Stars: Gary Oldman , Colin Firth , Tom Hardy , Mark Strong

Votes: 206,711 | Gross: $24.15M

50. Almost Famous (2000)

R | 122 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

A high-school boy in the early 1970s is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour.

Director: Cameron Crowe | Stars: Billy Crudup , Patrick Fugit , Kate Hudson , Frances McDormand

Votes: 283,897 | Gross: $32.53M

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Brokeback Mountain

The 100 best movies of the 21st century so far

Counting down the very best films released since the turn of the millennium

Phil de Semlyen

Cinema has changed irrevocably since the millennium. We’ve seen the genesis and conclusion of billion-dollar franchises like Harry Potter  and Lord of the Rings ; the rise of the  Marvel Cinematic Universe ; the death, and then rebirth, of Star Wars ; and the influence of streaming services, which have graduated from producing small indie flicks to Oscar winners .

That quarter century has yielded some timeless masterpieces, like Brokeback Mountain , American Psycho  and Pan’s Labyrinth , while filmmakers such as David Fincher and Wes Anderson made good on their early promise.

The 2010s saw the blockbuster take centre stage: of the ten highest grossing films of all time, eight were released in the last decade. Still, among the many Avengers movies, the failed attempts to make 3D happen (again), and Disney’s ever-growing market share, are some killer movies from brilliant new voices like Ari Aster, Barry Jenkins, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele. And as we enter into the not-so-roaring twenties, even more diverse filmmakers such as Bong Joon-ho, Chloé Zhao and Jasmila Žbanić have left an indelible impression, too.

With two decades’ worth of releases to consider, we’ve combed through hundreds of films to pick the best of the best. So without further ado, here are the best films of the 21st century so far…

Written by David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf, Keith Uhlich, Stephen Garrett, Andrew Grant, Aaron Hillis, Tom Huddleston, Alim Kheraj, Tomris Laffly, Kevin B. Lee, Karina Longworth, Maitland McDonagh, Troy Patterson, Nicolas Rapold, Lisa Rosman, Nick Schager, Phil de Semlyen, Anna Smith, S. James Snyder. 

Recommended: The 100 best movies of all time

An email you’ll actually love

The 100 best movies of the 21st century so far...

Mulholland Drive (2001)

1.  Mulholland Drive (2001)

This David Lynch masterpiece is a film split in half: a glamorous romance that suddenly morphs into bitter rejection, a Hollywood mystery that plunges into doom. Can there be another movie that speaks as resonantly– if unwittingly – to the awful moment that marked the ‘00s? Viewers grappled over the meaning of the ‘blue box’, finding little purchase. But in the troubled autumn of this psychodrama's 2001 NYC release, we might have understood it all too well.  Mulholland Drive  is the monster behind the diner; it's the self-delusional dream turned into nightmare. The triumph belongs to Lynch, who could have rested on the laurels of his three landmarks,  Eraserhead, Blue Velvet  and  Twin Peaks . Creatively, though, he saved this project (originally a misunderstood TV pilot) from dismissal, retooling it and extending his story into complexity. Along the way, a star was born: the extraordinary Naomi Watts, whose fearless double performance wrecked all who submitted to its spell. – Joshua Rothkopf

There Will Be Blood (2008)

2.  There Will Be Blood (2008)

A man strikes a pickaxe against a stone wall. Later, after this same enterprising individual has found black gold, taken over a small town, gained the world and lost his soul (assuming he had such a thing to begin with), we watch him do the exact same gesture – only this time he's grasping a bowling pin, and that isn't rock he's bashing. Paul Thomas Anderson's revision of Upton Sinclair's  Oil!  jettisons the source material's muckraking in favor of something far more ambitious: mapping the moment that our nation's bootstrap mentality curdled into a cutthroat corporate culture. Credit goes to Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis, who transforms the movie's inscrutable gargoyle, Daniel Plainview, into the very embodiment of American rot; he even makes a ridiculous non sequitur (‘I drink your milk shake!’) sound terrifying. But this is Anderson's film, and his black-hearted epic proves that the New Hollywood acolyte deserves a seat in the pantheon. As an oblique critique of Bush II's self-made power brokers and winner-take-all capitalism,  There Will Be Blood  cuts to the bone. As the work of a visionary artist, it's truly sui generis . – David Fear

The Act of Killing (2013)

3.  The Act of Killing (2013)

Hard to watch and impossible to fully comprehend, Joshua Oppenheimer’s radical documentary tracks down some of the men who took part in the Indonesian mass killings of the mid-1960s and asks them to recreate and relive their crimes for the camera. Flattered by the attention, these mass-murderers willingly take part, only for some to find themselves perplexed and even traumatised by the experience. Stark, incisive and unafraid to confront the absolute worst of human nature, The Act of Killing is, for better and worse, unforgettable. – Tom Huddleston

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

4.  Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Monsters are everywhere in Guillermo del Toro's dark fairy tale, set in post-Civil War Spain. Dreamy 11-year-old Ofelia retreats into an imaginary world of feral fauns and fairies rather than face the Fascist in her mother's bed. But her fantasy world proves as brutal as the real one; the uses of enchantment have never seemed so bleakly powerful. –Maitland McDonagh

Spirited Away (2001)

5.  Spirited Away (2001)

It's easy to be impressed by vivacious animation, but Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki's timeless fantasia—about a ten-year-old girl who moves to a town inhabited by beasts and specters—also entrances with Shakespearean wit, brothers-Grimm--like folklore and more emotional complexity than most year-end prestige pictures. – Aaron Hillis

In the Mood for Love (2000)

6.  In the Mood for Love (2000)

The consummate unconsummated love story of the new millennium, Wong Kar-wai's masterpiece fetishizes early-'60s fashion more thoroughly than several seasons of  Mad Men  (how many cheongsam dresses can one person own?) and turns Nat King Cole's Spanish balladry into the official soundtrack of lonely hearts. Yet it isn't the nostalgia factor, pop-culture appropriation or even Wong's color-drunk visuals, courtesy of cinematographer Christopher Doyle, that makes the movie such a metaphysical aphrodisiac. His tale of two neighbors – the stately Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and would-be pulp writer Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) – who obsess over their spouses' affair in lieu of their own attraction works its spell by perpetually keeping passion at bay. Glances are exchanged, bodies brush against each other in hallways, hands are tentatively held... and then their buildup simply fades away before our very eyes. Thanks to Wong and his leads, both of whom give career-best performances, such small gestures turn unfulfilled longing into hothouse eroticism. The director himself would spend the rest of the decade burning out, and not even a sequel – the sci-fi-inflected  2046 –  could help him find his mojo again. This peerless ode to snuffed desire, however, still makes our hearts pitter-patter. – David Fear

Parasite (2020)

7.  Parasite (2020)

In 2020, director Bong Joon Ho made history when Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. A dazzling social-satire-meets-home-invasion-thriller about a poor Seoul family infiltrating the lives of a super-rich household probes at questions of inequality, class, manners and the lengths people will go to in order to grasp hold of what they believe ought to be theirs. Nevertheless, such a thematic melting pot and the film’s genre smash never jars, but is instead a dazzling work, surprising and fully gripping from beginning to end, full of big bangs and small wonders. 

Stories We Tell (2013)

8.  Stories We Tell (2013)

Sarah Polley’s melancholic investigation of her family’s history begins as a cosy personal journey, then eases into a much scarier proposition: let’s be more curious about our parents’ pasts. Blending first-person interviews and grainy Super 8 re-enactments with panache, Polley’s one-of-a-kind identity pursuit ends up resembling a memory piece – one that honours her mother’s unapologetically spirited misbehaving. – Tomris Laffly

Talk to Her (2002)

9.  Talk to Her (2002)

Pedro Almodvar's brilliantly eccentric girlfriend-in-a-coma melodrama combines a female matador, silent-film dream sequences and an exquisite depth of insight into the male psyche (rare for this feminist auteur). In a decade of comparatively conventional efforts, it's easily the director's most challenging achievement. – Stephen Garrett

Nomadland (2021)

10.  Nomadland (2021)

Frances McDormand steers this unexpected Best Picture winner about a van-dweller who drives across the US badlands in search for a life outside of the broken system of late capitalist America. Featuring a cast of real-life nomads, director Chloé Zhao’s lo-fi road trip movie expertly stitches together realism, moments of sheer transcendence and a lightly-worn radicalism in a way that feels nothing but unpatronising and empathetic. 

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

11.  Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Ang Lee's epic tale of a love affair between two male ranchers with big sky in their eyes was glibly labeled ‘the gay cowboy movie’. But beneath its sweeping vistas and breathless melodrama, the film brilliantly calls the bluff of the Western, that most American of film traditions, in order to excavate the universal loneliness and longing at the core of this country's bluster. – Lisa Rosman

Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

12.  Songs from the Second Floor (2000)

Buster Keaton and Ingmar Bergman haunt Roy Andersson's comic dystopia, a series of absurdist vignettes set in an out-of-time Scandinavian civilization and shot completely on soundstages. Stiflingly artificial and yet thrillingly alive, the movie's stone-faced look at the human condition lurches from bellyaching laughter to stomach-churning despair – perfect for a decade of global unease. – Stephen Garrett

Moonlight (2017)

13.  Moonlight (2017)

As aching and graceful as it is, Moonlight will always be synonymous with the greatest snafu in Oscar history. But it should equally be remembered as the film that heralded the arrival of Barry Jenkins, an American auteur possessing an unmistakably original voice, yet one comparable to giants like Wong Kar-wai and Claire Denis. A milestone in mainstream LGBTQ+ cinema, Jenkins’s early-career masterwork gently redefines black masculinity with specificity and universality. – Tomris Laffly

Inside Out (2015)

14.  Inside Out (2015)

If the opening of Up  made you blub, you might not have been ready for the bit in Pixar’s stunningly brainy, deeply emotional animation where the tweenaged Riley Andersen runs away from home, her world collapsing around her. We’ve all been there: a time in our lives where our emotions just became too big for our ability to process them. But only Pixar has the daring to reimagine those fast-changing young psyches as a dazzling landscape filled with globe-like memories, trains of thought and an imaginary friend called Bing Bong. – Phil de Semlyen

The Favourite (2019)

15.  The Favourite (2019)

If eighteenth-century England was half as much fun as director Yorgos Lanthimos’s regal romp makes it look, you’d say to hell with all the itchy skin complaints and rotten teeth and move there. The Favourite plays like The Crown on helium, with bawdiness and bitchiness vying for space with political manoeuvring that would have made Molière proud. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are a pitch-perfect duo as bitter rivals, but Olivia Colman steals the show as the sorta-object of their affections: a maverick, melancholy queen who never saw a crustacean she didn’t want to race. – Phil de Semlyen

Donnie Darko (2001)

16.  Donnie Darko (2001)

Disaffected suburban teen Donnie gets dire warnings about the future from a guy in a tatty rabbit suit: Is he losing his mind or is he the sole fixed point in a world whose center will not hold? The more often you revisit it, the better Richard Kelly's sly debut looks, and a 2004 director's cut takes the WTF trippiness to a whole other level. – Maitland McDonagh

A Separation (2011)

17.  A Separation (2011)

In Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning magnum opus, the humane Iranian master explores his customary theme of social justice, mapping out an unflinching study of a marriage’s dissolution intertwined with a shrewd whodunnit. En route to a divorce (not always granted in Iran), we experience an enormous amount of cultural texture as the complex custody case winds its way through the courts. Few films resolve to a final shot this devastating. – Tomris Laffly

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

18.  Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Action movies in the 2010s found their thrills in speed ( Fast Five , the Mission: Impossible films), spectacle ( Inception , the MCU) and raw-knuckled smackdowns ( John Wick , Atomic Blonde ). The decade’s standout actioner, Mad Max: Fury Road , just went ahead and put a bullet hole in all those boxes – and a few that we hadn’t seen before, including villains who, unusually, boast a house guitarist (shout out to the Doof Warrior). Director George Miller, whose hyper-kinetic style makes this movie the big-screen equivalent of defibrillation (he’s a doctor, it’s okay), made a majestic, sand-blasted road movie that also came alive in its quiet moments – not that there were too many of those. Four years on, the roar of the War Rig and Junkie XL’s thunderous score are still rattling around in our brains. – Phil de Semlyen

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

19.  Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Burned by the six-year, studio-mandated delay meted out to his sophomore film Margaret,  playwright-turned-filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan retreated from Hollywood for more than a decade. When he returned, it was in triumph. Brought on as a writer-for-hire to flesh out an original idea by actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Lonergan delivered a devastating (and ultimately Oscar-winning) treatise on grief. Casey Affleck – an actor who knows a little something about regretting your mistakes – plays Lee Chandler, the taciturn handyman who returns to the eponymous coastal town to bury his brother, only to find himself saddled with an obstreperous teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). One of the best films ever made about the emotional aftermath of deep personal loss, Manchester By the Sea can be spare and relentless, but it’s also unexpectedly hilarious. It recognises, and even celebrates those darkly comic absurdities that come hand in hand with trauma. – Tom Huddleston

Phantom Thread (2018)

20.  Phantom Thread (2018)

You may be tempted to write off the whole thing as another case of irritable male genius torturing his fragile muse. But a redemptive strain of female retaliation mushrooms in Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophisticated romance (our favourite of his three strong narrative features made during the decade), resulting in a perverse comedy set within the elegance of a fictional mid-twentieth-century London fashion house. What begins as flirtation morphs into a delicious battle of the sexes, fought by former PTA oilman Daniel Day-Lewis – here playing Reynolds Woodcock, a behind-the-times couturier who dresses the rich – and newcomer Vicky Krieps’s headstrong waitress who refuses to keep it quiet at breakfast. Draped by attractive yet fittingly severe costumes and Jonny Greenwood’s stylish score, Anderson’s Rebecca -meets-Ophüls fling is not only one of the decade’s most beautiful films, but also the most quotable. – Tomris Laffly

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

21.  The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Wobbling into view looking like a festive biscuit tin, the gorgeously ornate ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ could only be the creation of Wes Anderson. Controlled by the perfectly camp concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), it is the setting of a graceful character comedy that speeds up as its story gains urgency. War is the unwelcome influence, but the shift in tone is beautifully managed in one of Anderson’s most sophisticated stories. This plays with genre, and it wins. Murder, romance, politics, conflict, crime: all combine in an orderly fashion to create a story that’s as gripping as it is funny. And then there’s the cast: Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe… obviously we could go on. If you haven’t checked in, it’s never too late. – Anna Smith

Grizzly Man (2006)

22.  Grizzly Man (2006)

Fearless auteur Werner Herzog wouldn't be content with a mere character portrait of eccentric environmentalist Timothy Treadwell, who cohabitated with grizzly bears before being eaten by one. Deepening the possibilities of documentary, Herzog inserts himself into the chronicle, canonizes Treadwell's accidentally poetic nature films and disagrees with his subject's invasion of nature. – Aaron Hillis

Leviathan (2014)

23.  Leviathan (2014)

Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev exposed deep civic corruption (and an even deeper national cynicism) with this ominous Job-like fable, a microcosm of an anarchic post-Soviet culture stomping on the common man and favouring thuggish special interests. Besieged Kolya (Aleksei Serebryakov) may lose his house to a rapacious mayor who wants a dacha for himself. Marital estrangement, murder and iffy religious advice swirl into the mix, making Leviathan an especially cloudy shot of 190-proof vodka. How it got funded by the powers that be is a mystery. – Joshua Rothkopf

Syndromes and a Century (2006)

24.  Syndromes and a Century (2006)

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul turns the memories of his doctor parents into a narrative seed, planting it in both a jungle and a city hospital to see what will grow from each. Few recent films seem as driven by pure, organic intuition—and are as consistently sublime. – Kevin B. Lee

Shoplifters (2018)

25.  Shoplifters (2018)

Japanese maestro Hirokazu Kore-eda’s best films explore the mechanics of family: how we relate to, and care for one another. Made in the wake of global recession and inspired by real-life stories of Japanese families stealing to eat, Shoplifters tracks the fortunes of one such criminal collective, unrelated by blood but bonded by necessity and experience. Packed with moral complexity and shifting sympathies, Kore-eda’s film deservedly snatched the Palme d’Or at Cannes. – Tom Huddleston

Caché (2005)

26.  Caché (2005)

Someone is terrorizing Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil by delivering videotapes on which they are the secretly filmed subjects—but who's the culprit? A squirmy, jigsaw-puzzle allegory about guilt and revenge, Michael Haneke's icy masterpiece points his camera and finger at the audience, forcing us to question our own unresolved bloodlusts. – Aaron Hillis

Roma (2018)

27.  Roma (2018)

With Roma , Alfonso Cuarón joined the masters. Exploring the writer-director’s Mexico City upbringing from a unique and empathetic sideways angle, this gorgeous monochrome memoir focuses not on little Alfonso and his privileged siblings but on the experiences of his indigenous housekeeper and nanny, played with understated grace by first-timer Yalitza Aparicio. Robbed of Best Picture by the undeserving Green Book , Cuarón took the consolation prize of being the first Best Director winner for a foreign language film. – Tom Huddleston

Gravity (2013)

28.  Gravity (2013)

The rebirth of 3D in the late 2000s resulted in countless cinematic crimes and digital misfires – but Gravity made it all worthwhile. The pinnacle of special effects cinema to date, Alfonso Cuarón’s high-orbit road movie follows marooned astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as they struggle to reach safety in the wake of a catastrophic space shuttle accident. Viewed on the biggest available screen in pin-sharp 3D, it’s literally breathtaking. – Tom Huddleston

Oldboy (2004)

29.  Oldboy (2004)

Park Chan-wook's deliriously divisive fable is an escalating series of outrages, perpetrated against (and by) a hapless salaryman-turned-avenger whose quest is as romantic as it is perversely unforgettable. Park's beyond-the-pale sensibilities triggered the usual pop-culture alarms: Did Oldboy empower the Virginia Tech killer? How could Steven Spielberg and Will Smith have considered doing a U.S. remake (there would be a remake in 2013 directed by Spike Lee)? Now take a deep breath and step back: The movie that sparks such discomfiting thoughts is the movie you need to see. – Maitland McDonagh

Holy Motors (2012)

30.  Holy Motors (2012)

This  sui generis  masterpiece is the kind of bonkers gem that has you wishing that French auteur Leos Carax made a whole lot more movies. It’s only his fifth feature in a career that exploded into life in the early ’80s, but, wow, what a comeback: his muse Denis Lavant brings all his loose-limbed, acrobatic genius to the lead, well, 11 roles. One of them is a leprechaun. Another is an elderly beggar. Flowers get eaten. Armpits are licked. Kylie shows up. See? Bonkers – but utterly brilliant with it. – Phil de Semlyen

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

31.  Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Björk's screen debut and probable swan song (Oscar-dress pun intended) perfectly encapsulates director Lars von Trier's genius – and his faults. A multiple-camera experiment that obscures as much as it reveals, this often atonal musical about a innocent woman railroaded onto death row remains, in spite of (or maybe because of) its contradictions, deeply affecting. – Karina Longworth

Another Year (2010)

32.  Another Year (2010)

If the decade taught us nothing else, it’s that Lesley Manville is a truly stellar actor. Her standout performance came in Mike Leigh’s Another Year , a kind of filmic ‘Eleanor Rigby’ with a London postcode. As singleton Mary, she’s tortured by the contentment of Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent’s happy marrieds and stuck in a damaging spin cycle of expensive mistakes and cheap wine. A judgement-free study of everyday life – and struggle – Leigh’s compassionate film blossoms around her into something truly affecting and universal. – Phil de Semlyen

Before Sunset (2004)

33.  Before Sunset (2004)

Nine years after their brief encounter, we return to Before Sunrise 's Europass romantics—and how heartbreakingly fragile they seem. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy turn in career-high work in this golden-hour Richard Linklater drama, the ultimate argument for sequels done right. – Joshua Rothkopf

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2015)

34.  A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2015)

So deadpan you want to check its pulse, Roy Andersson’s straight-faced comic marvel feels more like a series of loosely connected tableaus than a narrative whole in the traditional sense. But then, there’s nothing traditional about the Swedish director’s way of synthesising the universal business of being human into an artform that’s somehow larky, profound and existential. Time Out’s review at the time compared him with Monty Python. This is his ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch. – Phil de Semlyen

Five Dedicated to Ozu (2003)

35.  Five Dedicated to Ozu (2003)

The best of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's shot-on-video features strings together five hypnotic long takes of the seashore. Whether gazing at a waddling group of ducks or listening to the harmonizing sounds of frogs by moonlight, the director uncovers the profound poetry underlying the natural world. – Keith Uhlich

Black Panther (2018)

36.  Black Panther (2018)

For better or worse (Martin Scorsese would probably say worse), the 2010s were the decade of Marvel. The MCU entered our lexicon in a big way: 21 films released during the last ten years alone, amassing upward of $21 billion globally. Pop culture – its production, its marketing, its consumption – was changed forever, and even if the movies themselves weren’t always worthy of the footprint, at least Ryan Coogler’s was. Dense with creative production design and Hamlet -like intrigue, Black Panther was the superhero movie ennobled. Wakanda forever. – Joshua Rothkopf

Cold War (2018)

37.  Cold War (2018)

Director Pawel Pawlikowski (also of Ida ) made one of the most romantic films of the 2010s: a decades-spanning, David Lean-esque epic about the pains of unattainable love. Shot in sparkling black-and-white and embellished with music ranging from Polish folk songs to classic chanteuse ballads (the latter performed by breakout star Joanna Kulig), Pawlikowski’s post-WWII melodrama offers everything we crave from stories of passion: a handsome central couple, unruly surface emotions and beguilingly sexy undertones. – Tomris Laffly

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

38.  The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Encapsulating both Wes Anderson's idiosyncratically mannered style and his unjustly underrated humanism, this Salingeresque storybook of familial genius and dysfunction stands as his most majestic film. Led by Gene Hackman's regally flawed patriarch and electrified by bountiful pop songs, it's a dreamy tapestry of misery, regret and joy. – Nick Schager

Gosford Park (2001)

39.  Gosford Park (2001)

Set at an English country house, Robert Altman's last great film is both a scabrous class study and a whodunit that makes ‘Who am I?’ a central question. Working from  Downton Abbey -creator Julian Fellowes's consummately witty screenplay, the director revisits his fascination with hierarchies of power and rewrites the rules of the game. – Troy Patterson

The Raid (2012)

40.  The Raid (2012)

One cop. One towerblock. An army of bad guys. The plot of Wales-born, Indonesia-based writer-director Gareth Edwards’s ferocious action movie was so simple, it was surprising no one had thought of it before (though coincidentally, the makers of Dredd did think of it at roughly the same time). Punishingly choreographed by stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, The Raid introduced the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat to gobsmacked audiences and spawned an intermittently marvellous but wildly overcomplicated sequel. – Tom Huddleston

The Babadook (2014)

41.  The Babadook (2014)

Among the most assured debuts of the century so far, Jennifer Kent’s heartbreaking horror film – also a parable on motherhood – unearths the deeply feminine emotional and sexual frustrations intrinsic to maternity. A grief-soaked, contemporary Rosemary’s Baby told in gothic hues, Kent’s modern classic mines screams not via cheap jump-scares, but something several degrees more terrifying: a single parent (the soulful Essie Davis) on the verge of a nervous breakdown. – Tomris Laffly

Dogville (2003)

42.  Dogville (2003)

Call it Our Town 's evil twin: Lars von Trier's Brechtian takedown of hypocrisy, Amerikkkan-style, turns chalk outlines on a sparsely furnished stage into a full-fledged version of a typically quaint burg. It also allows the Danish enfant terrible to engage in his two favorite pastimes – bashing the USA's penchant for pious facades and dragging his hapless heroines through hell and back. For once, the stars perversely align, and Von Trier delivers what may be his funniest, most savage satire. The odd coupling of minimalist theatrical techniques and high-melodramatic grandstanding is the perfect pomo combination. A once-in-a-lifetime cast – Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, Harriet Andersson, James Caan, Udo Kier – complement the material, but it's Nicole Kidman as the avenging angel who wins the MVP award, proving that she doesn't need a prosthetic nose to give a great performance. Those end credits also qualify as the best parting flipped bird to an audience ever conceived. Check and mate. – David Fear

Carol (2015)

43.  Carol (2015)

The masterpiece his entire career seemed to have been building towards, Todd Haynes’s sumptuous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt gathers all of his previous preoccupations – forbidden passion, social anxiety, repressed emotion, painstakingly detailed ’50s fashions – into one majestic package. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are effortlessly convincing as the secret lovers kept apart by convention, and the final scenes are heart-stopping. It’s perhaps no wonder that Haynes has seemed a little directionless ever since. – Tom Huddleston

The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

44.  The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

A backward-glancing filmmaker but not a nostalgic one, Reading’s Peter Strickland emerged as one of the decade’s most unusual voices: a synth-loving retro stylist who infuses the grammar of ’60s and ’70s exploitation flicks with deep feeling. His third feature is the perfect entry point (gateway drug, to be honest). Clothed in the gauzy soft-focus eroticism of Jess Franco and Radley Metzger, it presents a heartbreaking conundrum: a loving couple on the verge of losing their spark. Sometimes, sadomasochistic bondage play isn’t enough. – Joshua Rothkopf

The Great Beauty (2013)

45.  The Great Beauty (2013)

Paolo Sorrentino’s elegant comedy harkened back to La Dolce Vita and its debauched journalist hero’s metaphysical yearnings. Jep (the magnificently louche Toni Servillo), a sunglass-shaded observer, is abruptly shaken by his own lifelong superficiality; he hopes to stretch out before it’s too late. Like Jep, the movie chases an evolving sense of beauty amid Berlusconi’s hedonism, but the confidence and panache of the filmmaking is never in doubt. – Joshua Rothkopf

Boyhood (2014)

46.  Boyhood (2014)

This brillaint film took 12 years to shoot – by design. That kind of gamble doesn’t necessarily equal a masterstroke, but given the humane outlook of director Richard Linklater, America’s most relaxed player of the long game, it did. Boyhood is about growing up and if you approach it on a granular level, scene by scene, the content is fairly conventional: school days, first love, bad decisions, families in flux. But something magical happens as we watch young Ellar Coltrane steadily become a Texas teen (not to mention Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke deepen into middle-aged resignation). It’s a shift away from melodrama and toward momentum, a remarkably subtle and life-affirming gesture. Boyhood feels experimental but it’s as familiar as a home movie; Linklater did something similar with his Before trilogy – a couple captured in a new film every nine years (each exquisite in its own way) – but Boyhood is the one he’ll be remembered for. It represents the kind of long-term commitment to storytelling that we, as viewers, feel for cinema itself. – Joshua Rothkopf

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

47.  The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

Heartwarming raunch? The Farrelly brothers scored big in the 1990s with sweet-and-shallow larks but Judd Apatow spent the next decade making the formula downright deep. Virgin is his masterpiece: a hilarious rendering of bromantic insecurity surrounding one decent man's search for someone to fuck. Or even love. – Stephen Garrett

God's Own Country (2017)

48.  God's Own Country (2017)

Passion blossoms on the Yorkshire moors in Francis Lee’s stunning debut feature. Josh O’Connor is the surly young farmer who initially resents the presence of hired hand Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), but who could resist that face? Never falling into stereotype, God’s Own Country manages to be both a nuanced portrait of a struggling farming community as well as a sensual romance: much more than just a Yorkshire Brokeback. – Anna Smith

Force Majeure (2015)

49.  Force Majeure (2015)

Probably the best film named after a boring legal term ( Double Indemnity aside), Ruben Östlund’s tragicomic Force Majeure charts the cracks that open in a well-to-do family when dad scarpers during an avalanche on a skiing holiday, leaving his wife and kids to fend for themselves. Sharper than the pointy bit of a ski poll, what follows feels like a defining satire on the fragility of the male ego. In a meta twist, the avalanche  became an internet sensation . – Phil de Semlyen

Children of Men (2006)

50.  Children of Men (2006)

A stunner of immersive storytelling, Alfonso Cuarn's apocalyptic thriller plays out almost in real time, propelled by hypnotic long takes. In a future world where infertility has made the masses hopeless and the ruling class has exploited fear to divide and conquer, a band of British fugitives rally around the first baby in 18 years, breaking police barricades to reassert the very best of humanity. – S. James Snyder

Lilya 4-ever (2002)

51.  Lilya 4-ever (2002)

She wanders the post-Soviet slums, dreaming of America. But after a brutal parental abandonment, this teen falls deeply into a trap. Young Oksana Akinshina gives the performance of a lifetime, worthy of Mouchette ; her director, Sweden's Lukas Moodysson, was, at this moment, the world's most compassionate filmmaker. – Joshua Rothkopf

Son of Saul (2016)

52.  Son of Saul (2016)

With anti-Semitism on the rise worldwide, the subject of the Holocaust feels as vital as ever – as do movies about it, especially those that commit to a studious, unsentimental reproduction of the horror in all its banality. Hungary’s László Nemes made his feature debut with this shattering landmark drama, an immersive plunge into the day-to-day operations of Auschwitz, seen through the eyes of a Sonderkommando, Saul (Géza Röhrig), one of the Jewish prisoners conscripted into the disposal of the bodies. – Joshua Rothkopf

Zodiac (2007)

53.  Zodiac (2007)

Has a director ever grown up so well in the limelight as David Fincher? Starting with platinum-tinted Madonna videos, he matured by millennium's end into a Hollywood subversive with style to burn. And still, no one—not his critics nor his fans—expected the shockingly intelligent exploration of obsession that  Zodiac  appeared to be. On its surface, Fincher's subject was California's notorious late-'60s serial killer, a vague memory from the filmmaker's own Marin County youth. But the movie's real power came in its latter scenes, the police leads running dry, our heroes unable to drop their quest even as it ruins them. Directorially, Fincher was transformed. Gone was the gruesome prankster who made 1995's  Seven . Instead, here was a cynical heir to Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang.  Zodiac  presents a city haunted by a ghost: We float high above nighttime San Francisco as voices whisper. It was way too close for comfort. – Joshua Rothkopf

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

54.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

If you'd had your heart broken, would you erase part of your consciousness? For Joel (Jim Carrey), the question's a no-brainer: he's so devastated over being dumped by his darling Clementine (Kate Winslet) that he'll have his remembrances of her wiped clean. Until, of course, Joel decides that a mind full of memories really is a terrible thing to waste. In the past, both director Michel Gondry's kindergarten arts-and-crafts aesthetic and Charlie Kaufman's Mbius-striptease scripts have come off as insufferably twee and gimmicky. So why does this existential meta-romcom always leave us teary-eyed and genuinely moved? That fact that it isn't simply McSweeney's: the Movie is faint praise. Rather, the duo finally finds the right combination of high-concept and humanity here, taking the what-if idea of a company that lobotomizes the lovelorn into territory that's funny, painful, poetic and unsettlingly weird. (That midnight parade of elephants marching through midtown Manhattan!) Sunshine is the rare mind-fuck that never takes its eyes off that aching, wounded organ beating away in your chest. It's a work whose oddball, off-kilter romanticism and bruised ideas about beginning again make it feel both of its moment, and somehow, eternal. – David Fear

Anomalisa (2016)

55.  Anomalisa (2016)

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson deliver a startlingly original look at loneliness and love with this stop-motion animation about a travelling businessman (David Thewlis) who tries to look up his ex. It’s a darkly funny character comedy with all the surrealism you’d expect from a Kaufman creation, but like his screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , it’s relatable in all kinds of unexpected ways. It also rivals Team America for the most memorable puppet sex scene in cinema. – Anna Smith

12 Years a Slave (2014)

56.  12 Years a Slave (2014)

If Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation was a fierce corrective to DW Griffith’s 1915 namesake, this Oscar winner dismantled the cosy myths of Gone with the Wind piece by piece, showing slavery as the traumatic, brutalising prison it was. The big houses in Brit director Steve McQueen’s Best Picture winner (and surprise commercial hit) are filled only with moral cowards (Benedict Cumberbatch’s William Ford) and drunken monsters (Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps). One, McQueen’s film suggests, is as bad as the other. Thankfully, the soulful Chiwetel Ejiofor as free-born New Yorker Solomon Northup and Lupita Nyong’o (spectacular in her breakthrough role) make it as much a cry of defiance as a litany of miseries. – Phil de Semlyen

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

57.  4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

Young Gabita needs an abortion in 1980s Romania, where such things are illegal, and her roommate helps her scrap together cash to pay a man with questionable credentials. When things go terribly wrong in a hotel room, these women find a means to grit their teeth and survive. Cristian Mungiu's pressure cooker of a drama, widely praised upon its release, is an unflinching journey into the waking nightmare of an oppressed people. – S. James Snyder

Eureka (2000)

58.  Eureka (2000)

With its four-hour running time, Shinji Aoyama's sepia-toned road movie (indebted to the work of John Ford) lacked mass appeal—that's fair. But as an exploration of the post-traumatic effects of a violent bus hijacking, it was a powerful and eerily prescient metaphor for the fear culture that plagued the decade. – Andrew Grant

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

59.  A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Steven Spielberg inherited Stanley Kubrick's project about a robot boy's quest to become human, furthering his own descent into dark, challenging entertainment. Met with exasperation upon its release, it's the rare superbudgeted spectacle that's ambitiously provocative, using jaw-dropping special effects to probe the nature and future of humankind. – Kevin B. Lee

The Tree of Life (2011)

60.  The Tree of Life (2011)

Simple as a fable, Terrence Malick’s yearning meditation on compassion and morality derives much of its emotional force from the writer-director’s own experience, dealing as it does with a boy in 1950s Texas who loses a brother, just as Malick did around the same age. But this spare central narrative is imbued with celestial importance, not least in the breathtaking special effects sequence tracking the origins of the universe and the dawning of empathy. Dizzying, frustrating, heavenly. – Tom Huddleston

Trouble Every Day (2001)

61.  Trouble Every Day (2001)

Shot and edited with Claire Denis’ customary expertise, but disappointing for both its (admittedly ambitious) script and its performances, this is rather too elliptical and enigmatic for its own good. It tells of two individuals consumed by cannibalistic bloodlust, but cared for by loved ones: Dalle, who keeps breaking out of the house in which disenchanted boffin Descas keeps her locked up; and Gallo, honeymooning with Vessey in Paris in the hope that he may make contact with Descas (or should that be Dalle?). Do the killers thirst for blood because they're victims of medical experiments, or are the experiments carried out to cure such impulses? Who knows or even, given Gallo and Dalle's hollow performances, cares. The murders are nasty, the play with genre tradition uneasy, and certain scenes (Descas wandering cool as a cucumber into a blazing house) laughably implausible.

The Turning Gate (2002)

62.  The Turning Gate (2002)

Though adored by critics, Hong-sang Soo's brutally honest exposs of masculine ego have yet to find commercial success. This 2002 drama about the romantic foibles of a washed-up actor is the Korean director's strongest and most erotic film to date. That it's never had a proper U.S. release is ridiculous – it made believers out of all who saw it. – Andrew Grant

Under the Skin (2014)

63.  Under the Skin (2014)

A stylish filmmaker turned increasingly thoughtful, Jonathan Glazer ( Birth ) re-emerged after a nine-year break from features with this stunner: a woman-who-fell-to-Earth sci-fi drama that poignantly anticipates the international migrant crisis. Somehow Glazer convinced Scarlett Johansson to wear a dark wig and shoot guerrilla-style on the streets of Glasgow. Her unnamed main character, an alien, lures men to a dark void, but this isn’t an artier version of Species . Rather, Glazer deepens the emotions into cosmic loneliness, with a critical assist from composer Mica Levi, one of the decade’s true finds. Despite Johansson’s Marvel omnipresence, she finds her way into a whole new register (this in a year when she also voiced a disembodied AI in Her ). Under the Skin is a definitive example of risk-taking on screen and off. – Joshua Rothkopf

Sightseers (2012)

64.  Sightseers (2012)

A caravanning couple’s dream holiday turns sour in this deliciously dark comedy penned by its stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. As the tension mounts, so does the body count and the pair must decide whether to turn Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Ben Wheatley, Sightseers combines alternative British character comedy with horror tropes and amusing sidekicks: if comedies were drinks, this would be a very bitter, black builders’ tea. – Anna Smith

Bridesmaids (2011)

65.  Bridesmaids (2011)

Two bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne) must work together to help their mutual friend plan her wedding, but rivalry and therefore hilarity ensues. It could have been awful, it could have been ordinary, but in the hands of writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids is hands-down hilarious. Never underestimating its audience, it swerved to avoid clichés as if they were littered across this well-trodden path and paved the way for more big-budget female-centred comedies. The aeroplane scene remains magnificent. – Anna Smith

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

66.  Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Feted by Cannes but ignored by audiences and the Oscars, Paul Thomas Anderson's cracked ode to the transformative power of love in a world that actively mocks sensitivity is perhaps his most original work. Starring Adam Sandler as a tantrum-prone man-boy whose unlikely bond with a luminous Emily Watson gives him strength, it may be the only romance to fully skirt clich. – Karina Longworth

Inception (2010)

67.  Inception (2010)

For his seventh feature film, writer-director Christopher Nolan took an instantly engaging premise and twisted into a terrifically complex tale, still finding a happy medium between arthouse and blockbuster. The notion is simple: teams of foraging scientists invade someone’s dreams and extract valuable information from their minds. But it’s a precarious business, people’s heads, and when something goes wrong, it has a profound knock-on effect. Impressively, Nolan balances bravura action sequences with a proper emotional payload, deep philosophical ideas and an ambiguous ending that kept the internet theorising for months. – Anna Smith

Lady Bird (2018)

68.  Lady Bird (2018)

After lending her distinctive voice to mumblecore indies and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha , Greta Gerwig burst on the scene as an undeniable directorial force with this witty semi-autobiographical triumph. A rich coming-of-age comedy that also engages with issues of faith, social class and teenage sex, Lady Bird boasts an ensemble made up of stage veterans and a new generation of talented actors, including emotive heartbreaker Saoirse Ronan and up-and-comers Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges and Beanie Feldstein. Full of attentive visual flair that romances the suburban Sacramento – from drab classroom corners to the comfy nooks of girlhood homes – the film is a reflective celebration of formative female friendships and the guiding voices of mothers. – Tomris Laffly

The Social Network (2010)

69.  The Social Network (2010)

‘You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.’ Does any speech from the past decade of cinema resonate more deeply than this one, delivered by college student Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) to her demanding date, Jesse Eisenberg’s socially challenged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg? As the real-life Zuckerberg continues to evade public scrutiny, hosts shadowy meetings with powerful men and quietly counts his billions, the world he helped to shape is going up in flames. Powered by a relentless, clinical Aaron Sorkin script, directed with sinuous grace by David Fincher and loaded with smirking, smart-ass central performances, The Social Network is arguably the most important and prophetic film of our era. Isn’t that a depressing thought? – Tom Huddleston

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

70.  We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Talk about a killer third feature. Lynne Ramsay’s chilling adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel is gripping from start to finish, with a constant sense of intrigue. Tilda Swinton is perfectly cast as the mother of a child who raises alarm bells, but perhaps not loudly or clearly enough, and Ezra Miller is a revelation as the older Kevin. And the story – sadly – remains relevant today. – Anna Smith

Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

71.  Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

What happened to the guy who opened for Bob Dylan? The Coens take that premise and develop it into a wintry folk fantasia, suffused with the glum frustrations of also-rans. Shivering in the blueish light of Bruno Delbonnel’s masterful cinematography, Oscar Isaac turns in one of the decade’s flintiest performances, dangerously close to unlikable. Fortunately for us (but not for Llewyn), the movie aches with gorgeous music, and is animated by the filmmakers’ total command – as well as the presence of a cat. – Joshua Rothkopf

Man Push Cart (2005)

72.  Man Push Cart (2005)

For director Ramin Bahrani, magic comes in neorealist mosaics that hover inches from the hopes and hurts of his characters. His breakthrough film was a stripped-down, steadfast study of an NYC food-cart operator, slogging through Manhattan's canyons at dawn. A celebration of the daily routine of perseverance, it's a movie fascinated with the little guy. – S. James Snyder

The Death of Stalin (2017)

73.  The Death of Stalin (2017)

Finding dark laughs in Stalin’s vicious inner circle, Armando Iannucci reminds us that with material this sharp, nothing is off-limits. With co-writer David Schneider, he reimagines the aftermath of Stalin’s death as a vaudevillian carnival of in-fighting and shameless manoeuvring, populating it with some of the greatest comic actors of their generation. It still hasn’t been released in Russia, although it has been illegally downloaded by 1.5 million people. Comrade Beria would have all their names on a list. – Phil de Semlyen

The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005)

74.  The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005)

The first volley of the decade's much-lauded revolution in Romanian cinema chronicles a pudgy retiree's fatal one-night journey through Bucharest's overburdened hospitals. Tinged with post–Soviet Bloc sarcasm but subtler than an anticommunist screed, Cristi Puiu's riveting drama features a protagonist who is unconscious half the time—an astonishing feat of orchestration and focus. – Nicolas Rapold

Synedoche, New York (2008)

75.  Synedoche, New York (2008)

Already one of the decade's most iconoclastic screenwriters, Charlie Kaufman upped the stakes with his directorial debut, a morose but playful psychological puzzle about the life of a tortured playwright (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that literally reconstructs reality as it grapples with issues of love, death and creation. A perfect snapshot of a midlife crisis, circa this very moment. – Andrew Grant

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

76.  Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Was it a hoax? Turns out that was the least thorny question emerging from this cryptic documentary, as wry and complex as a Robert Altman film. At first, its ostensible subject is Banksy (also credited as the film’s director), the mysterious street artist who likes to deface public spaces after midnight. But prophetically, the film shifts its attention to a phoney on the rise: Thierry Guetta, an amateur videographer reborn as an art star. Thanks to Rhys Ifans’s droll narration, you’re never not laughing, even as the concept of fame unravels. – Joshua Rothkopf

Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020)

77.  Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020)

Jasmila Žbanić’s film about 1995’s Srebrenica massacre in which more than 8000 Bosnian muslims were murdered General Ratko Mladić’s soldiers might sound harrowing, and indeed it is. But by telling that story through the perspective of Aida, a school teacher, mother and UN interpreter, Žbanić grounds this terrible moment of history by showing the very human cost of war from the most clear-eyed perspective imaginable. 

The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein (2001)

78.  The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein (2001)

A milestone for American independent cinema, this deeply affecting cri de coeur against Iraq War I, from experimental writer-director John Gianvito (who'd follow up with 2007's Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind ), interweaves three New Mexico–set tales. A woman with the surname Hussein is the victim of a horrible attack; a passionate high-school activist protests the war to his family's chagrin; and a shell-shocked soldier struggles to survive upon returning home from the battlefield. Gianvito clearly leans left, but his movie rises above any encumbering ideological slant, especially in an illuminating finale in which all the characters euphorically gather at a communal effigy burning. – Keith Uhlich

La La Land (2016)

79.  La La Land (2016)

Wunderkind Damien Chazelle breathes new life into a dying breed: the original Hollywood musical. Loaded with jazzy tracks and vintage dance moves, Chazelle’s romantic romp – the winner of the Best Picture Oscar for about four seconds – is indebted to both Jacques Demy and MGM’s legendary Freed Unit, but has a signature all of its own, stopping traffic in the first glorious sequence. A tonic for 2016’s political unsightliness, the movie now feels ageless. – Tomris Laffly

Femme Fatale (2002)

80.  Femme Fatale (2002)

After double-crossing her partners in crime during a film festival heist, a jewel thief goes on the run to Paris. Her adventures unfold with a sensual dream logic that shows writer-director Brian De Palma operating at peak form. Rife with sleaze and showboating (split screens galore; a tantalizing third-act striptease),  Femme Fatale  is also a playful inquiry into one of the oldest noir archetypes (see the title). – Keith Uhlich

Her (2014)

81.  Her (2014)

Released on Valentine’s Day 2014, this is no ordinary romance. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is in love with his computer’s operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Her entrancing voice helps make Spike Jonze’s futuristic film seem almost credible; as does the timely concept that’s explored with the writer-director’s usual wit and panache. It’s The Man with Two Brains for the internet age, and yes, that is very much a compliment. – Anna Smith

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

82.  Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Making good on the promise of his pulp-transcending genius, Quentin Tarantino's WWII revenge fantasy delivers a sublime assault on the senses of sight, sound and morality, audacious at every step. To invoke a closing line that can't get invoked enough, his New Wave spaghetti Western "just might be his masterpiece." – Troy Patterson

Margaret (2011)

83.  Margaret (2011)

Set for release in 2005 but shelved for six years when writer-director Kenneth Lonergan and studio Fox Searchlight couldn’t agree on a final cut, this slippery, intensely felt drama charts one self-absorbed teenager’s experience with tragedy. Anna Paquin is astonishing as Lisa Cohen, the child of New York privilege who witnesses a fatal bus crash and slowly goes to pieces. Part character study, part social satire and part mournful post-9/11 elegy, Margaret is a complex, unpredictable and exhausting masterpiece. – Tom Huddleston

84.  Domestic Violence (2001)

A hardy perennial across decades of top-ten lists, vrit auteur Frederick Wiseman again disproved stereotypes of his work with this heartrending look at a battered-women's shelter. Amid a resurgence of documentary filmmaking that saw numerous formulaic social-interest pictures, Wiseman achieved devastating emotional impact with his tried-and-true approach. – Nicolas Rapold

Lovers Rock (2020)

85.  Lovers Rock (2020)

Lovers Rock is just one slice in Steve McQueen’s five-film Small Axe anthology, which celebrates and explores Black London life from the 1960s to the ’80s. Unfolding over the course of one night, this ensemble piece tells of a pay-on-the-door reggae night at a house in Ladbroke Grove , and perfectly captures the beats of a night out: from queuing for the loo to the buzz of the dancefloor. Filled with period detail from the ‘80s, as well as an almost scratch-and-sniff level of immersion, McQueen doesn’t ignore the socio-political realities of the time. But rather than letting it dominate the narrative, the politics are implicit, issues of racism, class, power and money are smothered under the thundering noise of the soundsystem, the party offering the characters freedom for at least a night. 

25th Hour (2002)

86.  25th Hour (2002)

Two shafts of light pierce the sky above Ground Zero, lending a weighty sense of fatalism to this portrait of a convicted criminal's final night of freedom. It's the first and best of the 9/11-related movies, teeming with a bruised urbanity supplied by Spike Lee, who quietly topped himself. –Joshua Rothkopf

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

87.  Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

An era-defining political thriller in the tradition of The Battle of Algiers , Kathryn Bigelow’s plunge into the hunt for Osama bin Laden features the most driven main character since Zodiac . She is Maya (Jessica Chastain, portraying a character largely modelled on a still-undercover CIA analyst), the self-professed ‘motherfucker’ who discovered the terrorist’s hideout. Surpassing even her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s psychodrama is a career-best achievement, riven by mission doubts and ethical compromises. – Tomris Laffly

Head-On (2004)

88.  Head-On (2004)

German filmmaker Fatih Akin's fatalistic tale of two beautiful losers who enter into a marriage of convenience is the best chronicle of a punk-rock romance since Sid met Nancy. It's also a wonderful ode to the modern Teutonic-Turkish diaspora experience, adding sociological depth to what's already a supernova melodrama. – David Fear

Inland Empire (2006)

89.  Inland Empire (2006)

David Lynch inverts the arc of his great Mulholland Drive : instead of following an actor swallowed whole by tragedy, he follows one who blazingly overcomes it. Shot on consumer-grade camcorders over several years and through several countries, this is one of Lynch's deepest delves into the subconscious. Holding it all together is the great Laura Dern, who turns on a dime from a naive little-girl-lost to a hardened former vamp – and ultimately, a beatific savior. – Keith Uhlich

Midsommar (2019)

90.  Midsommar (2019)

It isn’t too soon to look at the two features of Ari Aster – the punishing Hereditary   and this equally impressive sunlit nightmare – and see a young master at work. Horror is Aster’s chosen genre but already he’s subverting it, deepening the vulnerability of his main characters with family tragedies and tenderising his audiences for the bigger chomp to come. Midsommar speaks in a fluent language of betrayal and revenge, beautifully supplied by breakout star Florence Pugh without recourse to strident you-go-girl moments. – Joshua Rothkopf

American Psycho (2000)

91.  American Psycho (2000)

Made during the dot-com boom and a shrewd comment on capitalist appetites, Mary Harron's comic-horror take on the Bret Easton Ellis novel styles a serial-killing banker as the embodiment of the Gordon Gekko '80s. Star Christian Bale goes over the top and takes flight like a winged demon, delivering one of the decade's most memorable performances. – Troy Patterson

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

92.  Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Is this ’80s-set summer holiday saga the most tactile film of the decade? It’s not far off. It feels like you can almost reach out and touch the fabric of Timothée Chalamet’s polo collar, or even graze a hand along Armie Hammer’s thigh. That’s just one of the reasons Call Me by Your Name captured imaginations around the world. It’s also a vivid gay love story that’s intelligent, characterful and funny, just like André Aciman’s source novel. Bravo Luca Guadagnino. – Anna Smith

The Father (2020)

93.  The Father (2020)

Set almost in entirely one location, Florian Zeller’s dementia drama manages to turn an expensive looking London flat into a disorientating space where you’re left wondering what is real and what isn’t. Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance mixes mute despair with an almost aggressive joie de vivre as his character grapples with a state of permanent self-gaslighting, his dementia turning a cosy and familiar space hostile, while the editing sees scenes concertina into one another, characters and actors often overlapping. Collectively, it communicates perfectly what dementia must feel like: a world stripped of its signposts, a feeling of being uncoupled, a sense of the familiar slowly becoming frighteningly ‘other’.

A Christmas Tale (2008)

94.  A Christmas Tale (2008)

Anybody can make a movie about how miserable holiday family get-togethers are; it takes a filmmaker like Arnaud Desplechin, however, to turn this premise into a sprawling, free-form meditation on morality, mortality and unresolved matters of the heart. The Vuillard clan's matriarch ( vive Catherine Deneuve!) has been diagnosed with leukemia, which killed her firstborn ages ago. The resident black-sheep son (Mathieu Amalric) is an eligible donor, though not even his good bone marrow can cure the bad blood between them. That's only one of several stories in Desplechin's novelistic take on the ties that bind and gag, which follows various siblings, grandchildren and cousins as they trade barbs and deal with age-old baggage. This French drama's subversion of the usual seasons-gratings conventions is enough to make it unique, but it's the graceful, organic way that the director lets these characters interact—and his refusal to pander with easy emotional resolutions—that make this movie such a rich, rewarding gift. – David Fear

Friday Night (2002)

95.  Friday Night (2002)

By the end of the ‘00s, French director Claire Denis stood tall as the respected purveyor of a signature sensibility: gauzy, intimate, suspended in time. Could it be that her sexy 2002 hotel-room romance, at the time considered minor, is actually her most profound and expressive work? Friday Night takes only the merest steps toward plot—in a cacophonous Parisian traffic jam, a young woman picks up a handsome stranger. Together, they are cocooned in a private spell that enraptures them; the evening is young. Lush imagery by Denis's cinematographer, Agns Godard, brings tears to any movie lover's eyes as the amorous duo slips between the sheets, into each other's consciousness and then, as these things go, apart. There's not a false note here. – Joshua Rothkopf

Minari (2021)

96.  Minari (2021)

Using moments from his own childhood as inspiration, Lee Isaac Chung’s big-hearted story about a Korean-American family coping with culture shock in ‘80s Arkansas is overflowing with heartache and hope. It’s a film that picks at what it means to belong, take root and assimilate to your surroundings – with all the fear, opportunities and hostility that comes along with that. 

Marriage Story (2019)

97.  Marriage Story (2019)

Noah Baumbach delivers his most mature work to date with this fiery masterpiece drawn from his own experiences: a divorce drama caressed by notes of humour and evenly split bravura performances by Adam Driver and a never-better Scarlett Johansson. The two play theatre people waging a bicoastal custody battle. A soul-crushing portrait of a marriage gone numb, the film improves upon the ambiguity of Kramer vs Kramer ; here, cravings for independence bump up against shared responsibilities and the reality of thwarted ambitions. Baumbach’s frank observations about falling out of love might rip your heart out, especially when an unforgiving argument uncorks things that can’t be unsaid. But almost miraculously for a tale about two combatants, Marriage Story ends generously, amid the soft-pink magic hour of an LA suburb. – Tomris Laffly

Get Out (2017)

98.  Get Out (2017)

This game-changing horror movie came out of nowhere and drilled straight into the consciousness of anyone who saw it. The reinvention of sketch-comedy star Jordan Peele as a kind of John Carpenter for the 2010s was one of the best stories of the decade: so too, the arrival of Daniel Kaluuya as an actor of serious range. Packed with Easter eggs (you need servicable  Swahili to decode one of them), the film’s scary takedown of liberal hypocrisy is constructed around the Londoner’s portrayal of unwitting boyfriend, Chris, as he discovers a cancer in the soul of affluent white suburbia. – Phil de Semlyen

The New World (2006)

99.  The New World (2006)

All of Terrence Malick's characters – from the romantic couple on the run in  Badlands  to the ruminating soldiers in  The Thin Red Line –  seem to spring from some Edenic source, only to be trumped by the indifference of the cosmos. So it was inevitable that the writer-director's lyrical eye would find its way to America's origin myth. Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and the Native American princess Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) frolic through Malick's trademark fields of wheat, their intimate snatches of voiceover as deeply rooted in the landscape as the trees. It's always clear that history is not on the side of their love affair, yet while tears are shed, melodrama is never indulged. The particular power of this tone poem comes from how quietly resigned both characters are to their fates, as if they sense a guiding hand in their every action. The final passages of Malick's idyll, after Pocahontas takes a fateful ocean journey, are the finest work of his career, most notably in his portrayal of the princess's death and transfiguration—a shattering five-minute sequence that never fails to move. – Keith Uhlich

Yi Yi: A One and a Two... (2000)

100.  Yi Yi: A One and a Two... (2000)

Too often, we critics will celebrate a movie's foreignness, forgetting that even curious viewers need a passport. So let's go the opposite way with Yi Yi , a masterful Taiwanese family drama that was certain to place in this list. The movie, set in a present-day city, is about every extended family you know. It's Rachel Getting Married and the Cosbys and Hannah and Her Sisters . The Jiangs, a middle-class clan of Taipei urbanites, are pivoting in transition: There's the long-foreseen death of their elder; a teenage love triangle preoccupying Sis; and a naughty younger brother who should study more. (These people are your neighbors.) Soulfully at the center of the whirlwind is the Jiang patriarch, played by the magnificent Nien-jen Wu, straining under the weight of his business. (He's your dad.) Director Edward Yang – lost to cancer in 2007 – struck a note of such universal clarity, his movie became instantly recognizable. To explore his legacy is to come home. – Joshua Rothkopf

The 100 best movies of all time

The 100 best movies of all time

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50 best movies since 2000

best movie list since 2000

Chadwick Boseman in "Black Panther." (Marvel)

Troy L. Smith,

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Last year was a big one for movies both in terms of critical acclaim and money. This year's Oscar category for Best Picture features one of the highest box office totals over.

But where do movies like "Black Panther" or "Roma" rank among the best of this era? The 21st Century has been packed with mesmerizing films that have captivated audiences. So much so that the list of movies that didn't make our list would probably drive you mad.

Still, we'll stand behind our updated list of the 50 best movies since 2000 that we chose.

best movie list since 2000

Merie M. Wallace

50. Mystic River (2003)

The performances of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins loom large over Clint Eastwood's powerful "Mystic River." They dig into the shattered souls of men who take different paths from childhood to adulthood. But regardless of who got in that car, their lives can't help but intersect.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Columbia Pictures)

49. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

With "Black Panther" scoring big with critics and audiences, it reminds us of the movie that previously held the title of best film based on a Marvel character. The blueprint for the modern, mainstream superhero movie film lies with “Spider-Man 2,” from the strong female lead to the flawed superhero we see ourselves in. There may never be a better Spider-Man than Toby Maguire in terms of portraying a young man struggling with accepting the burden of greatness.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

48. Bridesmaids (2011)

The past 10 years have featured an abundance of raunchy bro comedies. But Kristen Wiig topped them all in terms of showmanship with “Bridesmaids” by crafting an amazing script and assembling one of the best female-driven casts of all time.

best movie list since 2000

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

47. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele's original ending for "Get Out" had the main character getting arrested for the murder of the white family that intended to steal his brain. The change gives humor to a film with several twist and turns that prove haunting. Could it really happen? Probably not. Probably.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Newmarket Films)

46. Donnie Darko (2001)

“Donnie Darko” is a weird movie that’s hard to classify. But that’s why it continues to resonate. It’s a science fiction film filled with teenage troubles and battles with moralities. “Donnie Darko” accomplishes with an immense amount of tension driven by the first great performance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: DreamWorks)

45. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Will Ferrell created one of the most iconic film characters of the past two decades in Ron Burgundy. It’s an over the top, laugh out loud performance aided by several supporting turns, the best of which is Steve Carell’s Brick, who “loves lamp.”

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Universal PIctures)

44. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

During the mid-2000s, every studio wanted a “Bourne” style film. Most tried, but few succeeded in even coming close to measuring up to Matt Damon led franchise, whose peak comes with “The Bourne Ultimatum,” an absolute thrill ride that never stops.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

43. Her (2013)

“Her” is a movie that may always be ahead of its time. Spike Jonze’s story redefines the concept of love, as a lovable man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his operating system. It sounds nuts. But Jonze, along with Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s voice, pieces together a perfect love story of the future.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Fox Searchlight)

42. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Danny Boyle is been great at taking films focused on certain cultures and giving them a mainstream, international appeal. The best example of that is “Slumdog Millionaire,” an exciting and heartfelt film with a satisfying ending Oscar voters couldn’t help but embrace.

best movie list since 2000

Andrew Cooper

41. Apocalypto (2006)

Even after the controversial release of "Passion of the Christ" and his own personal problems, there was no denying Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" as the epic piece of filmmaking that it was. With very few words uttered, he tells a story of survival and family that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

best movie list since 2000

Warner Bros.

40. The Artist (2011)

There's an understating beauty and brilliance that comes with Best Picture winner "The Artist." Thus is the case for a silent movie that serves as a lover letter for old-school Hollywood. But don't let the cheesiness fool you. This is pure art with performances worthy of the awards they received.

best movie list since 2000

39. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

“40 Year-Old Virgin” takes what would become director Judd Apatow’s go-to premise – a down on his luck loser looking to land a hot girl – and rides it to perfection. Steve Carell is the most endearing of Apatow’s leading men, surrounded by the hilarious trio of Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen.

best movie list since 2000

38. 28 Days Later (2002)

The most riveting horror film of the past 15 years, “28 Days Later” defies the rules of the zombie apocalypse. The “infected” are fast and menacing. But it gives Danny Boyle’s picture bite (pun intended), while examining the social and political dismay that’s bound to come when the world falls apart.

best movie list since 2000

37. Traffic (2000)

“Traffic” was a bit too dark and real for Academy voters in 2001, earning four awards, but somehow not Best Picture. Looking back, “Traffic” plays like the best ensemble piece of its era with precise editing that ties together harsh stories about the drug trade and mesmerizing performances from Benecio Del Toro, Don Cheadle and Catherine Zeta- Jones.

best movie list since 2000

Universal Pictures

36. Munich (2005)

It was easy to gloss over Steven Spielberg's "Munich" when it was released for two reasons. 1) In some ways, it felt more like an action film than an examination of the 1972 Olympics tragedy. 2) That sex scene at the film's end is cringe-worthy. In retrospect this is a movie that moves you through intensity and thrilling scenes, only to realize that vengeance or even justice can't cloud the fact that violence brings about more violence.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Open Road)

35. Spotlight (2015)

The 2016 Best Picture winner accomplishes a small movie miracle. Thanks to restraint and brilliant performances, “Spotlight” takes a subject few want to rehash – the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church – and makes a stunning, moving and watchable film out of it.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Summit Entertainment)

34. The Hurt Locker (2008)

There’s more to making a war film than brutal action. “The Hurt Locker” has some of that, but focuses more on the psychology of an adrenaline junkie (the fantastic Jeremy Renner) who finds his only sense of purpose in what most would consider a death wish.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Miramax)

33. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2 (2003-2004)

It’s hard to choose between Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial arts epic. It’s also hard to separate them. “Kill Bill” is a revenge piece dressed up in style, creating a mesmerizing art piece with a high replay factor. It’s also the last time Tarantino’s vision seemed as precise as his 1990s classics.

best movie list since 2000

Daniel McFadden

32. Whiplash (2014)

There's a fine line between genius and psychopath, something magnified in the student/teacher relationship showcased in "Whiplash." The performances of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are top-notch in a movie with one of the best end scenes you will ever see.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Marvel)

31. Black Panther (2018)

You had a feeling "Black Panther" would be good. But not THIS good. The film rates as one of the best superhero movies of all time and one that served as a game-changer for Marvel. The amazing cast, story and larger worldview is one of the best winning combinations in cinema of the past few years.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: New Line Productions)

30. A History of Violence (2005)

Based on a graphic novel of the same name, David Cronenberg’s thrilling “A History of Violence” plays out like a coiled spring that explodes. It’s smart and powerful with performances that delight, from the mysterious Viggo Mortensen to the stunning wit of William Hurt.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Pixar)

29. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Pixar’s greatest film brings not only a story to its proper evolution, but also showcases how far the studio has come. “Toy Story” is Pixar’s richest film in terms of storytelling and packs the biggest emotional punch, as the lovable toys realize, like their owner, that childhood and innocence can’t last forever.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: FilmDistrict)

28. Drive (2011)

Ryan Gosling’s character never gets an actual name in “Drive.” That’s on purpose, as he’s supposed to function like an unemotional vehicle. But that changes when he meets Carey Mulligan’s Irene and their chemistry radiates off the screen. “Drive” is a modish film that has a tremendous cool factor. You’ll want to watch it again and again.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: The Weinstein Co.)

27. The Master (2012)

You can’t watch “The Master” just once. That wouldn’t do Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic justice. Nor would it allow you to fully grasp this dark and cunning story of Scientology (though that word is never uttered). The performances of an overpowering Philip Seymour Hoffman and a completely vulnerable Joaquin Phoenix serve as a master class in acting.

best movie list since 2000

26. Mulholland Drive (2001)

A film as unique as they come, David Lynch’s neo-noir masterpiece keeps you on the edge of your seat while it slowly ties together various storylines into one thrilling end game. “Mulholland Drive” is strange, sexual, stylish and engaging in the best ways possible.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

25. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, 16 years later, we’re finally getting a sequel to Ang Lee’s gorgeous martial arts film. It’s a visual masterwork that easily stands the test of time, elevating its genre into something that equals cinematic art.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Newmarket)

24. Memento (2000)

It wasn’t enough for Christopher Nolan to play with the way in which a film reveals its story. He had to give us the shocking ending as well. By the time “Memento,” one of the best psychological thrillers ever made, gets to its conclusion, you realize the unthinkable – you’ve been rooting for the wrong man all along.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Picturehouse)

23. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

There’s a reason people get excited when they see Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to a project. He has a few stellar films to his credit, but “Pan’s Labyrinth” is the one that will leave you in awe. It’s a monster movie with immense beauty; a creepy version of “Alice in Wonderland;” a poetic masterpiece.

best movie list since 2000

22. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

In a world of CGI and special effects, George Miller decided it was time to go old school. He spent months upon months building vehicles and choreographing stunts that would make “Mad Max: Fury Road” seem unlike any other film of today. Mission accomplished.

best movie list since 2000

21. The Wrestler (2008)

“The Wrestler” is the simplest move of stylish director Darren Aronofsky’s career. It’s also his most sincere. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of a lifetime, both physically and emotionally, as a professional wrestler who can only find happiness abusing his body in the ring. Your heart breaks for him.

best movie list since 2000

20. Almost Famous (2000)

Director Cameron Crowe puts his love of music on full display in “Almost Famous,” one of the easiest movies to fall for. Everyone brings his or her A-game, in an ensemble movie where the chemistry is through the roof. It’s a touching love letter to the joy of music that will hit you right in the heart.

best movie list since 2000

19. Wall-E (2008)

Pixar’s most visually impressive film operates, for the most part, without the need for words. The most impressive thing “Wall-E” accomplishes is making you fall in love with a trash compactor with a heart of gold. Perhaps no film showcases the magic of Pixar more.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Focus Features)

18. Lost in Translation (2003)

Even with all his fantastic comedies, “Lost in Translation” is Bill Murray’s greatest performance. Sure, there’s humor. But Sofia Coppola’s film paints a portrait of loneliness in a crowded world. And Murray scores with it, bringing a worthy Scarlett Johansson up to his level of poignant acting.

best movie list since 2000

17. Far from Heaven (2002)

Todd Haynes’ “Far from Heaven” is a period piece that carries a timeless vibe. The cinematography is fantastic and the performances are dead on. It’s a film that examines the societal restraints of race, gender, sex and classism in ways that they still resonate today.

best movie list since 2000

16. Sideways (2004)

Crafting a brilliantly written dramedy around the concept of wine, Alexander Payne scored a tasty result with “Sideways.” The film is as hilarious as it is touching, anchored by Paul Giamatti’s character, who brings an unprecedented level of humanity to his role.

best movie list since 2000

15. There Will Be Blood (2007)

The first part of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” functions, in a way, as a silent film. But the magnitude of what you’re watching never escapes you. The cinematography is out of this world, while Daniel Day Lewis gives an acting performance that’s beyond staggering. Altogether, “There Will Be Blood” functions like Anderson’s own modern day “Citizen Kane.”

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Artisan Entertainment)

14. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

The power of Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” makes itself known in so many different ways. There’s the acting (led by an Oscar-nominated Ellen Burstyn). There are the visuals, as Aronofsky puts his full mind-bending arsenal on display. There’s the haunting score and the overall ambition of a director to make a drug film that will scare the living daylights out of you.

best movie list since 2000

Mary Cybulski

13. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Upon its release, Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" felt like a bloated body of work that could have been trimmed. Upon repeat viewings, you don't want to miss a second. It's a film about the American economy and greed that's as entertaining as it is eye-popping. And it's all anchored by Leonardo DiCaprio in what might be the greatest performance of his career.

best movie list since 2000

12. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

“12 Years a Slave” is an agonizing movie, whose pain can be felt even after its antagonist escapes captivity. The performances of Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o are of the highest caliber. But the true power of the film lies in Chiwetel Ejiofor’s unrelenting eyes. It’s a movie of hope and heartache coexisting in a cruel world.

best movie list since 2000

11. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

The backbone of “Brokeback Mountain” isn’t the stunning cinematography or its groundbreaking status as a romantic drama featuring two of Hollywood’s biggest male stars. It’s the performance of its cast, led by Heath Ledger, who holds his face like a tightly clenched fist, until its heartbreaking ending that stays with you.

best movie list since 2000

10. The Social Network (2010)

It’s probably the ultimate movie for Millennials – a sensationalized story about the creation of Facebook. David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” written by Aaron Sorkin, isn’t just about new technology. It’s about how struggles with loneliness and longing for friendship can drive people to the fine line that exists between genius and self-destruction.

best movie list since 2000

9. Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” is one of the most intricate films you’ll see, centered on the idea that you can alter someone’s reality while inside their dreams. It comes with a mesmerizing score, solid performances and amazing visuals in a film that seems to never stop moving.

best movie list since 2000

8. City of God (2002)

If you’ve never “City of God,” brace yourself for a crime drama of epic proportions. The film takes on the journey of a group of young people trying to survive and, for some, thrive in the drug land of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a well-polished film that at times, feels almost too real to believe.

best movie list since 2000

7. The Departed (2006)

Martin Scorsese finally earned his Academy Award for Best Picture with “The Departed,” an acting showcase where many of the actors deliver career best performances. “The Departed” is a remake of the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs” (which could have easily be on this list), but gives the story a charismatic vibe that redefines the concept of good and bad.

best movie list since 2000

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Love is something that can’t be controlled. That’s the message writer Charlie Kaufman delivers with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” a mesmerizing love story for the ages. Director Michel Gondry’s surrounds Kaufman’s story with visuals to marvel at, while Jim Carrey (never better) and Kate Winslet make you feel every ounce of their angst. Love isn’t meant to be perfect and battling it is futile. I can’t think of anything about this film I don’t like about it.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: Universial Pictures)

5. Children of Men (2006)

Generally, films that touch on the end of the world tend to be sensationalized. But Alfonso Cuaron’s amazing “Children of Men” accomplished something far more daring. He crafted a movie and a scenario (where babies have become extinct) that could terrifyingly happen. It’s about the struggle for humanity to live on, a battle you find yourself swept up in.

best movie list since 2000

4. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Based on a great novel by Cormac McCarthy, “No Country for Old Men” is the Coen Brothers’ take on man’s desire to overcome his destiny. Set in 1980 Texas, the movie’s structural simplicities make way for thrilling performances, the best of which comes from Javier Bardem who basically plays the devil.

best movie list since 2000

(Photo: New Line Cinema)

3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Take your pick as to which is the best “The Lord of the Rings” film. Separate, each film would make its way onto this list. But together, they make for one of the greatest film epics in history. The story was already timeless before Peter Jackson got his hands on it. But the ambition visual production added an oomph that would create an escape for millions of moviegoers.

best movie list since 2000

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

The centerpiece of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” is more than just a superhero movie. In its most basic sense, “The Dark Knight” is about good versus evil. But it’s also about one man reaching his limits and being forced to trust in the people he’s chosen to protect. Mixed within that is arguably the best acting performance in two decades with Heath Ledger’s incomparable Joker.

best movie list since 2000

1. Moonlight (2016)

Sometimes movies can catch you off guard and be so subtly powerful they leave you sitting there for minutes after trying to comprehend the emotions you're feeling. "Moonlight" is one of those movies. The performances are flawless. But what stands out most about the coming of age tale that examines sexual identity and cultural understanding is that it's a stunning piece of African American filmmaking where racism isn't the centerpiece. It's a all-time great and critically acclaimed movie that just so happens to be about black characters.

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best movie list since 2000

best movie list since 2000

The Best Sci-Fi Movie of Each Year Since 1998

Critics and audiences come together to recommend 25 movies that defined sci-fi.

best movie list since 2000

We’re celebrating 25 years of Rotten Tomatoes with a look back on some of the most celebrated movies of each year, since 1998! Previously we took a stab at the horror genre , drew up an extensive guide to animation , and now we’re hitting warp speed with science-fiction. To choose the best sci-fi film of each year, we’re applying our recommendation formula, a calculation based on the Tomatometer and Audience Score that prioritizes titles that stood out among critics and fans, combined with a pinch of curatorial love from our editors.

The list begins in 1998 with Dark City , the moody, rain-drenched noir from director Alex Proyas. In a way, City feels like a precursor to the following year’s best: The Matrix (both movies even use some of the same sets). The Wachowskis’ game-changing mind-bender was an enigma that became a cultural revelation when released in 1999, and its themes and iconography resonate today. A sequel, Matrix Reloaded , appears as the most-recommended sci-fi movie of 2003. Frequency , which is featured after  The Matrix , was just fine for most critics, but its high Audience Score puts it over the top for the year 2000. Should note here that superhero movies were not considered for this list. Maybe expect its own separate article exploration in the near future?

Moving on, sci-fi takes a chilling turn with the fatalistic indie cult classic Donnie Darko , and Steven Spielberg ‘s post-9/11, surveillance-state missive Minority Report , based on the Philip K. Dick short story. The genre continued to grow as a playground for auteurs during most of the 2000s with some career-best works from Michel Gondry ( Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ), Joss Whedon ( Serenity ), Alfonso Cuaron ( Children of Men ), and Danny Boyle ( Sunshine ).

In tandem with the rise of the superhero, sci-fi entered its blockbuster and fan-driven era with the viral Cloverfield , produced by J.J. Abrams, who would go on to reboot Star Trek . As a Dark Knight follow-up, Inception cemented Christopher Nolan as one of few elite directors whose name alone will get audiences into theaters, with that film creating the appetite for more explosive puzzlers like Source Code , Looper , and Edge of Tomorrow .

Bouncing forward into the later 2010s, War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) was a stunning caper to the little reboot trilogy that could. And the highest-recommended sci-fi movies from 2018-2020 ( Upgrade , The Vast of Night, and Sputnik ) demonstrates the genre maxim of never letting small budgets get in the way of big imagination.

And it was with 2013’s Gravity that sci-fi became a regular fixture in the Oscar Best Pictures nominations inner-circle. There was The Martian , Arrival , and Dune , before Everything Everywhere All At Once became the first science-fiction movie to win it all at the 2023 ceremony.

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Dark City (1998) 76%

' sborder=

The Matrix (1999) 88%

' sborder=

Frequency (2000) 70%

' sborder=

Donnie Darko (2001) 87%

' sborder=

Minority Report (2002) 90%

' sborder=

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) 73%

' sborder=

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 92%

' sborder=

Serenity (2005) 82%

' sborder=

Children of Men (2006) 92%

' sborder=

Sunshine (2007) 76%

' sborder=

Cloverfield (2008) 78%

' sborder=

Star Trek (2009) 94%

' sborder=

Inception (2010) 87%

' sborder=

Source Code (2011) 92%

' sborder=

Looper (2012) 93%

' sborder=

Gravity (2013) 96%

' sborder=

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) 91%

' sborder=

The Martian (2015) 91%

' sborder=

Arrival (2016) 94%

' sborder=

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) 94%

' sborder=

Upgrade (2018) 88%

' sborder=

The Vast of Night (2019) 93%

' sborder=

Sputnik (2020) 88%

' sborder=

Dune (2021) 83%

' sborder=

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) 93%

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The 10 best movies since 2000 according to critics

To determine the best movies since 2000, BBC Culture  scoured the globe for the thoughts of film critics and received responses from 177. With those, it put together a list of the top 100 movies of this century.

There are major big-budget studio movies like "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" and "The Dark Knight," as well as intimate arthouse titles including "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" and "Lost in Translation."

But none of those cracked the top ten.

Below are the 10 best movies of the 21st century according to the critics polled:

See all 100 titles over at BBC's site.  

This adaptation of the gritty Cormac McCarthy novel earned Joel and Ethan Coen Oscars for directing and screenwriting. It also won best picture and a best supporting actor award for Javier Bardem as the sadistic Anton Chigurh. 

best movie list since 2000

The first Iranian film to ever win the best foreign language Oscar, the film looks at a family who must decide whether to leave Iran to start a new life or stay home to care for a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

best movie list since 2000

Life for a middle-class family living in Taipei is seen through three generations.

best movie list since 2000

Director Terrence Malick received a best director Oscar nomination for his deeply personal look at a young boy's loss of innocence.

Michel Gondry brings the words of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to life in this unique love story with a sci-fi twist.

best movie list since 2000

For one of the most ambitious American narrative movies ever made, director Richard Linklater spent 11 years shooting on and off. We watch actor Ellar Coltrane grow up as he plays the character Mason going through his adolescence in Texas.  

best movie list since 2000

The highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the only Japanese-produced animated movie to win the best animated feature Oscar, director Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece follows a young girl who finds herself in a spirit world where humans are turned into beasts.

best movie list since 2000

Daniel Day-Lewis (who won an Oscar for his performance) plays an oil tycoon at the turn of the 20th century in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic look at greed. 

best movie list since 2000

Director Wong Kar-wai examines temptation in his classic that follows two neighbors who share a bond after realizing their spouses are having affairs, but resist doing the same.  

best movie list since 2000

Once director David Lynch couldn't get what was supposed to be a TV series off the ground, he made it into a feature film. In typical Lynch fashion, the movie invites different meanings as it bounces from reality to dreams and back. It follows the friendship between a woman recently suffering from amnesia (Laura Harring) and an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) who tries to help her.

And, to critics anyway, it's the best movie that's been made this century.

best movie list since 2000

The 58 Best 2000s Movies

Juicy Couture tracksuit recommended, but not required.

The Devil Wears Prada film still meryl streep

The 2000s were marked by iconic '00s trends : Juicy Couture tracksuits, thin eyebrows, low-rise jeans, MTV's Cribs —and the films of that time were equally iconic. What other decade could we escape to such magical new worlds like those of Harry Potter , The Lord of the Rings , and Avatar ? Movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days signaled the golden era of rom-coms , while The Dark Knight and Iron Man brought on the superhero craze we know today. And don’t even get us started on the cultural reset that was Twilight . 

From Elle Woods reminding all of us that we can do anything we feel like to Napoleon Dynamite teaching us to just listen to our hearts, the best 2000s movies just hit differently. Maybe it's because it was one of the last decades before streaming made it big (RIP Blockbuster), so we were able to watch all of our favorites in a not-so-comfortable seat at the movie theater with a large bucket of buttery popcorn. Or maybe it's because it was the decade in which many of us felt like we were coming of age. The '00s were a kiss goodbye to the old Hollywood tropes as Tinseltown welcomed in all new kinds of stories. 

To remind you just how great of a decade it was, we've scoured the archives to round up the best 2000s movies. As ‘90s babies and self-proclaimed movie lovers, these are the movies we grew up on and turned to time and time again. More than a decade later, these movies from the aughts are still on our must-watch films list. And because the 2000s invited us to such a variety of great films, we’ve arranged this list by genre so you can easily navigate your favorites. Without further ado, here are the greatest, most essential 2000s movies. 

Best Comedies of the 2000s

'mean girls' (2004).

The high school comedy written by Tina Fey is  the  '00s pop culture staple. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), the new girl at school, is taken in by the uber-cool mean girl group "The Plastics." Everything is going well until Cady has eyes for the leader of the pack, Regina George's (Rachel McAdams) boyfriend. Chaos ensues!

'Almost Famous' (2000)

A kid is offered the chance to follow an up-and-coming band on tour and write about the experience for  Rolling Stone . What sounds like a dream for many aspiring music journalists is loosely based on what happened to rock journalist Cameron Crowe in real life. You'll be forever jealous after watching this one.

'The Hangover' (2009)

Three friends on a bachelor party in Vegas wake up after a wild night to find the bachelor is missing. The friends find themselves tracing their steps to find the soon-to-be groom, from returning Mike Tyson's tiger to figuring out how they ended up carrying around a baby. It's highly inappropriate at times, but oh, is it funny.

'Napoleon Dynamite' (2004)

A not-so-popular teenager named Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) decides to help the new kid at school, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), run for class president against the ever-so-popular Summer Wheatly (Haylie Duff). The story is one that most audiences will be familiar with, but with characters like these (Uh, hello Uncle Rico? Kip?), it becomes a tale all its own.

'Legally Blonde' (2001)

When your boyfriend dumps you and heads off to Harvard Law School because you're too "blonde," you get into said law school and prove you're far more than just a pretty face. Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) soon finds out that she'll have to do more than what made her stand out at her college in L.A. to win him back and close her case. What, like it's hard?

'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' (2005)

Judd Apatow's directorial debut is very funny and has a lot of heart. Andy Stitzer (Steve Carrel) is a 40-year-old geeky guy who works at his local electronic store. On the outside, he seems happy with his life, but one poker night he lets it slip to his friends that he's never been intimate with a woman. His friends then make it their own mission for Andy to meet "the one."

'Juno' (2007)

When 16-year-old Juno (Elliot Page) finds herself pregnant, she tries to get an abortion but then finds herself deciding to give the baby up for adoption to a wealthy couple.  Juno  was one of the first films to start a discussion about teenage pregnancy, and the Oscar-winning screenplay still holds up years later.

'Superbad' (2007)

It's safe to say  Superbad  was able to freeze in time what was so great about the year 2007 and throw it into a tale about a wild Friday night for two best friends who are about to graduate high school. The "McLovin" fake ID will live rent-free in my mind for all eternity.

'Zoolander' (2001)

So far, this has been a list FOR ANTS. And that's because it doesn't get any more early aughts than  Zoolander.  Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson play ridiculously good looking male models who become assassins. That's a quality script, folks. Plus, is that Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman and Paris Hilton we see in the trailer? Why yes, yes it is.

'School of Rock' (2003)

'00s kids will have a complete nostalgia trip watching this film and remembering the days when they hoped Jack Black would turn their classroom into a rock studio. Plus there's an appearance from 2000s It Girl Miranda Cosgrove, pre Nickelodeon.

'Step Brothers' (2008) 

This comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly might just be the most quotable movie ever made. From Brennan sneakily playing Dale's drumset to Brennan and Dale becoming best friends and building bunkbeds, this movie is downright hilarious. Sure, it may lean on the immature side, but Ferrell and Reilly are a match made in comedy heaven. 

watch it  

Best Rom-Coms of the 2000s

'bridget jones's diary' (2001).

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is kicking off the new year by keeping a diary, swearing off bad men, and abandoning her other bad habits. As luck would have it, when she starts to do these things, she meets two men that pique her attention. Bridget soon has to find out not only which one likes the real Bridget, but also must dig up the self-love she's had for herself all along. Can I tempt you further by saying Hugh Grant has ridiculously great hair in this?

'Mamma Mia' (2008)

Did someone call for one of the best musical films ever made? Because  Mamma Mia  answered. A bride-to-be, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried ) doesn't know who her real father is despite pleading with her mom (Meryl Streep) for the answer. Logically, instead of walking down the aisle alone, she invites all three of her potential dads to the wedding. There's a lot of ABBA music and dancing, which is equally as great as the all-star cast.

'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' (2002)

To love romantic comedies is to love  My Big Fat Greek Wedding . When Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) falls in love with a non-Greek man (John Corbett), it'll take a lot of convincing to her family for them to have a happily ever after.

'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' (2003)

Probably the ultimate 2000s rom-com, this one stars Kate Hudson as an ambitious journalist and Matthew McConaughey as a sorta-sleazy marketing rep who start dating to fulfill separate bets (though neither knows about the other's plot) but—surprise, surprise—they soon start developing actual feelings for one another. And don't forget about the love fern!

'She's the Man' (2006)

I don't care what anyone else may say, this is one of the funniest rom-coms ever. Amanda Bynes stars as Viola, a soccer player who disguises herself as her twin brother Sebastian to play on his elite boarding school's team. There, she meets the school's star player Duke (Channing Tatum) and soon a tangled web of relationships real and fake is spun. Just thinking about this movie, especially the tampon scene, get's a huge laugh out of me. 

'The Proposal' (2009) 

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds are a rom-com match made in heaven. Bullock plays snobby publishing exec Margaret who narrowly dodges deportation after announcing she's engaged to her assistant, Andrew (Reynolds). Andrew goes along with the charade only when Margaret agrees to meet Andrew's eccentric family in Alaska. Come for Bullock and Reynolds' chemistry, stay for Betty White's dancing to "Get Low." 

watch it 

Best Romances of the 2000s

'the notebook' (2004).

By the time you finish watching the love story of Allie and Noah, there will not be a dry eye in the house. This famous Nicholas Sparks novel is the classic poor boy (Ryan Gosling) who falls in love with a girl from the upper class (Rachel McAdams) kind of drama. Still, it's a classic romance movie I can't stop watching years later.

'Twilight' (2008)

Hear me out:  Twilight  was a cultural reset! The story of a teenage girl (Kristen Stewart) who moves to the sleepy town of Forks, Washington, where she meets a handsome dude (Robert Pattinson) with a bloodthirsty secret rocked my world as an adolescent. Maybe you watch for the plot or a young Taylor Lautner, but real cinema fans know it's all about the scene of Pattinson getting out of his Volvo at school wearing Ray-Bans.

'Pride and Prejudice' (2005)

Who knew eye contact could be so sexy? In this retelling of Jane Austen's novel of the same name, we meet Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew McFayden), two people who fall in love from different social classes. Can they put their pride and, yes, prejudice aside to be together?

'Love and Basketball' (2000)

Two L.A. basketball-loving next door neighbors have always been intertwined in each other's lives. When they get to USC and start playing college basketball, they begin to explore their hidden feelings for each other. As they make it to the big leagues, they still struggle to make the ultimate shot: committing to a life together.

'Love Actually' (2003)

Love Actually  is one of those films where everyone's connected in some way. Set in London five weeks before Christmas, eight very different pairs of people are  going through it.  From the Prime Minister falling in love with his assistant to a girl finding out her husband's best friend is in love with her, it gets very, very complicated.

'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)

Brokeback Mountain  walked so  Call Me By Your Name  could run! I said what I said. The Oscar-winning love story between two cowboys played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal brings tears to my eyes no matter how many times I see it.

'500 Days of Summer' (2009)

Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) at his greeting card company job and instantly falls in love with her. To his surprise, Summer tells him she doesn't believe in love. Over 500 days, we see the highs and lows of what happens next.

'Moulin Rouge!' (2001)

Usually, musical films using modern songs rely on just one artist to provide the soundtrack, like the ABBA-filled  Mammia Mia  and all-Beatles  Yesterday . But  Moulin Rouge!  turns the genre on its head, with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor bursting into songs from Elton John, Madonna, Nirvana, and more as they sing and dance their way through this Baz Luhrmann fever dream. You'll have the soundtrack stuck in your head for days (or, you know, the last 20 years).

Best Dramas of the 2000s

'devil wears prada' (2006).

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) has just graduated journalism school when she lands a highly sought-out position at  Runway  magazine, the fictional equivalent to  Vogue.  She soon realizes working as the assistant to editor in chief Miranda Presley (Meryl Streep) requires a lot of guts and some life-altering choices.

'The Departed' (2006)

The newest mission for an undercover cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) is to infiltrate one of the biggest mafias in South Boston. At the same time, a member of that very same mob starts to work undercover for the police department to report everything concerning said mob group to its head boss (Jack Nicholson). The stakes are high, and no one wants to get found out as a rat.

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' (2004)

Ever gone through a nasty breakup and wished you could forget it ever happened? That  literally  happens here. Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is upset about his ex-girlfriend Clementine's (Kate Winslet) decision to undergo a procedure to erase him from her memory, so he decides to do the same. However, as he watches his memories of her fade away, he starts to realize the feelings for her are still there.

'Million Dollar Baby' (2004)

Hilary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a 31-year-old boxer who pleads for trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to take her on. At first he says no, but soon gives in. The pair start to fill holes in each other lives that were always unfulfilled, but when Maggie faces a troubling hit in the ring and asks Frankie for a favor, their lives become forever changed.

'Walk the Line' (2005)

This biopic of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) follows his early years in his career and his relationship with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), who helps him find his greatness. Sure, you come for Cash's story, but you'll stay for the spark between Phoenix and Witherspoon. After all, it's the role that got Witherspoon her Oscar.

'Slumdog Millionare' (2008)

A teenager in Mumbai (Dev Patel) is one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India's  Kaun Banega Crorepati ?  ( Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ) when he's arrested for cheating. At the police station, he tells his life story of growing up in the slums and how his adolescent adventures have helped him answer the show's incredibly hard questions.

'Inglorious Basterds' (2009)

A group of Jewish U.S. soldiers and a theater owner in France both have plans to take down Nazi leaders, but they don't know about each other's intentions—yet. The first 15 minutes of this Quentin Tarantino flick get my heart racing every single time, no matter how many times I watch it.

'Lost in Translation' (2003)

While separately staying at a hotel in Tokyo, each feeling unmoored and lonely in their lives, Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) strike up an unlikely but intensely meaningful friendship that includes hangouts in the hotel bar and exciting jaunts around the city. I'm still holding out hope that ScarJo will someday reveal what Bob whispered in Charlotte's ear before he left for the airport.

'Remember the Titans' (2002)

When you think of a capital G GREAT sports movie,  Remember the Titans  must come to mind. Denzel Washington plays Herman Boone, a football coach on a mission to integrate a high school team in Virginia circa 1971.

'Catch Me If You Can' (2002)

Turns out a character played by young Leonardo DiCaprio can convince people of anything, including his made-up careers as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. In this film, the young scammer is tracked all over the country by a determined detective played by Tom Hanks.

'Atonement' (2007) 

All hail Keira Knightly, the queen of the period piece. At the heart of this film is a love story between two young people torn by World War II, but it's also about the tragic mistake of a young girl that has devastating consequences. Trust me, you're going to want to grab some Kleenex for this ending. 

Best Action Movies of the 2000s

'avatar' (2009).

The story of an ex-Marine (Sam Worthington) sent to the moon Pandora in disguise as one of the aliens who live there to find out information about the species captivated audiences when it dropped. Like any James Cameron film, it won big at the Oscars and has a longer runtime than most, but don't let that stop you from taking in this glorious cinematic journey.

'The Dark Knight' (2008)

Say what you will about Joaquin Phoenix's Joker, but in my heart, there's the one true supreme: Heath Ledger. In the second installment of Christian Bale's journey as Batman, he's put to the test when the Joker torments the city of Gotham with his psychological and physical tests. There are so many twists and turns, you won't be able to guess how it ends.

'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' (2005)

You didn't think I was going to talk about the '00s and not mention the movie that brought Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt together, did you? This film is about a married couple who each don't know that the other is a highly skilled assassin. They're then hired by competing agencies to kill each other. Typical marriage stuff.

'V for Vendetta' (2006)

In the year 2032, the U.K. is under the rule of the fascist and tyrannical Norsefire Party. Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) finds a target on her back after she has an accidental run-in with a freedom fighter named "V." The masked man persuades her to come underground for a year, during which time a bond quickly forms between the two that neither of them saw coming.

'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003)

Viewers finally see Frodo and Sam finish their mission of destroying the One Ring at the fires of Mount Doom. The final movie of the  Lord of the Rings  franchise is at its best, and its 11 Academy Awards aren't too shabby either. Also, Orlando Bloom with elf ears? Unforgettable.

'National Treasure' (2004)

Don't come for me, but  National Treasure  is a national masterpiece. I'll die on this hill. A historical treasure hunt that starts with our leading guy (Nicolas Cage!!!) stealing the Declaration of Independence? Sign us up for a rewatch!

'Iron Man' (2008)

The movie that started the MCU was a cultural event of the late '00s, when no one could expect what would come after Samuel L. Jackson stepped out on the shadows in the end-credits scene. It's definitely worth a watch for any superhero fan, and if you decide to continue on a binge marathon, just make sure to stay hydrated.

'Gladiator' (2000) 

Not everyone is into period pieces, but surely everyone can appreciate this action-packed revenge story. In a particularly star-making role, Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a war general who has been stripped of his title by the new emperor, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Director Ridley Scott paints ancient Rome as a grim, yet opulent backdrop and Crowe's Maximus is a hero you cannot help but root for in this Best Picture winner. 

'Casino Royale' (2006)

Daniel Craig's reimagining of the iconic 007 agent is moodier, buffer, and blonder than past versions, plus there's plenty of stunts to get the heart pumping. The first installment sees James Bond go against Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in a high-stakes poker game that turns deadly. 

'The Hurt Locker' (2008)

Before they were Marvel superheroes, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie stared in a little war drama called The Hurt Locker. The two star as members of a bomb squad in the Iraq War, which, of course, lends to plenty of gut-clenching moments. This film went on to earn six Academy Awards, including Best Director, which made Kathryn Bigelow the first female director to earn the distinction.

Best Scary and Thriller Movies of the 2000s

'donnie darko' (2001).

A sleepy-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie Darko, a teen who narrowly escapes death when an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom when he's not there. Soon, he finds himself committing crimes ordered by his imaginary friend Frank, a man in a large rabbit suit. This cult classic is definitely odd, but a must-see.

'Paranormal Activity' (2007)

The '90s had  The Blair Witch Project (which, of course, is on our list of the best '90s movies ) and the '00s were given  Paranormal Activity . A couple moves into a house, and one of them believes something is haunting them. To prove that nothing supernatural is going on, they set up hidden cameras during the night to make sure—and are quickly proven wrong.

'The Ring' (2002)

If you didn't watch this terrifying classic horror movie (about a videotape that kills you 7 days after you watch it) at a middle school sleepover, were you really a early 2000's kid? I think not! If not, you have seven days to put this film on your watchlist.

'28 Days Later'

Zombie movies were never the same after Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later . London bike messenger Jim (Cillian Murphy) has an unfortunately-timed accident that lands him in a coma during the onset of a zombie apocalypse. When he wakes up... 28 days later, the world is in shambles and its people are ravaged by a virus. Be warned: This one may keep you up at night with its especially gory zombies, but it's not to be missed for those that love horror. 

'Signs' (2002)

Maybe it's just me, but I think the presence of aliens is the most terrifying trope in horror, which is why I find this M. Night Shyamalan flick especially creepy. When I watched this in middle school, I had nightmares about that birthday party scene for months and months (IYKYK). Just like Shyamalan's other films, this thriller slowly builds the suspense, but you're guaranteed to get the chills. 

Best Family Movies of the 2000s

'harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone' (2001).

Ah, the first of the eight movies based on J.K. Rowling's popular book series! Harry Potter gets a letter (many letters actually) informing him that he is, in fact, a wizard, and is invited to attend the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he discovers a magical world he never knew and, also, the darkness that ultimately waits for him.

'The Princess Diaries' (2001)

As someone who saw this movie in theaters, has watched it on a fairly regular basis ever since, and once even watched it every day for a week just to say I did, I can attest that  The Princess Diaries  truly never gets old. What could be better than watching a young woman slowly but surely realize that she's had the power and grace needed to assume her rightful place as princess of Genovia inside her all along?!

'Spy Kids' (2001)

Did you want to be a spy kid when you were younger? Yes. Do you still want to be a spy kid? Also yes. This childhood classic follows two siblings who find out their parents are secret agents... and have gone missing. So, the school age duo has to save them and the world.

'Spirited Away' (2001)

This beloved Studio Ghibli classic follows a 10-year-old's journey through a world of spirits inspired by Japanese folklore, with surprises in every scene.

'Finding Nemo' (2003)

The 2000s were Pixar's golden era, with several of the animation studios' releases deserving spots on this list ( Monster's Inc. , The Incredibles , Ratatouille , Up ... we'll be here all day). Start with this film about a clownfish gone missing, which will make you laugh, cry, and quote memorable lines the whole way through. And remember, "fish are friends, not food!"

'Shrek 2' (2004) 

Don't come at me, but this may be one of the few sequels to be better than the original. Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona are back and this time they are heading to Far, Far, Away to meet Fiona's human parents. This sequel sees the addition of iconic characters like Puss in Boots, Prince Charming, and, of course, the Fairy Godmother—How could we ever forget her iconic rendition of "Holding Out for a Hero?" All of the Shrek movies are worthy of this list, but this sequel is especially funny. 

Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for  Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR,  and  Town & Country . She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.

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best movie list since 2000

The 10 best movies since 2000, according to critics

To determine the best movies since 2000,  BBC Culture  scoured the globe for the thoughts of film critics and received responses from 177. With those, it put together a list of the top 100 movies of this century.

There are major big-budget studio movies, like "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" and "The Dark Knight," as well as intimate art-house titles including "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" and "Lost in Translation."

But none of those cracked the top 10.

Below are the 10 best movies of the 21st century, according to the critics polled.

See all 100 titles over at the BBC's site.

10. "No Country for Old Men" (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

best movie list since 2000

This adaptation of the gritty Cormac McCarthy novel earned Joel and Ethan Coen Oscars for Directing and Screenwriting. It also won Best Picture and a Best Supporting Actor award for Javier Bardem as the sadistic Anton Chigurh.

9. "A Separation" (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

best movie list since 2000

The first Iranian film to ever win the Best Foreign Language Oscar, the film looks at a family who must decide whether to leave Iran to start a new life or stay home to care for a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

8. "Yi Yi: A One and a Two" (Edward Yang, 2000)

best movie list since 2000

Life for a middle-class family living in Taipei is seen through three generations.

7. "The Tree of Life" (Terrence Malick, 2011)

best movie list since 2000

Director Terrence Malick received a Best Director Oscar nomination for his deeply personal look at a young boy's loss of innocence.

6. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (Michel Gondry, 2004)

best movie list since 2000

Michel Gondry brings the words of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to life in this unique love story with a sci-fi twist.

5. "Boyhood" (Richard Linklater, 2014)

best movie list since 2000

For one of the most ambitious American narrative movies ever made, director Richard Linklater spent 11 years shooting on and off. We watch actor Ellar Coltrane grow up as he plays the character Mason going through his adolescence in Texas.

4. "Spirited Away" (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

best movie list since 2000

The highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the only Japanese-produced animated movie to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar, director Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece follows a young girl who finds herself in a spirit world where humans are turned into beasts.

3. "There Will Be Blood" (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

best movie list since 2000

Daniel Day-Lewis, who won an Oscar for his performance, plays an oil tycoon at the turn of the 20th century in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic look at greed.

2. "In the Mood for Love" (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)

best movie list since 2000

Director Wong Kar-wai examines temptation in his classic that follows two neighbors who share a bond after realizing that their spouses are having affairs, but resist doing the same.

1. "Mulholland Drive" (David Lynch, 2001)

best movie list since 2000

Once director David Lynch couldn't get what was supposed to be a TV series off the ground, he made it into a feature film. In typical Lynch fashion, the movie invites different meanings as it bounces from reality to dreams and back. It follows the friendship between a woman recently suffering from amnesia (Laura Harring) and an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) who tries to help her.

And — to critics, anyway — it's the best movie that's been made this century.

best movie list since 2000

Screen Rant

The best reviewed movies of each year since 2000 - according to rotten tomatoes.

What are the best films of each year since 2000? Here's what Rotten Tomatoes' aggregator says take home the top honors.

The best-reviewed films of each year since 2000 on Rotten Tomatoes include superheroes, hobbits and a whopping six animated features. The review-aggregation website has become one of the prime sources of film criticism in the 21st Century, and while its simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down collection method has led some to doubt about the Tomatometer's accuracy - especially since several movies out there show great discrepancies between critic ratings and user ratings (including recent films such as Zack Snyder's Justice League and Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi ) - it usually allows the cream to rise to the top.With that in mind, here are the biggest hitters on the site since the turn of the century: the movies with the highest score for each calendar year. Rotten Tomatoes' Best Films (2000-2005)

2000 - Chicken Run

The highest-rated movie of the first year of the millennium was Peter Lord and Nick Park's 2000 stop-motion animated film, Chicken Run , starring Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, and more. Chicken Run was enormously successful, not only becoming the top-rated movie of the year but also the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film ever to release (a record it still holds), grossing $224.8 million at the worldwide box office.

While the film wasn't nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, critics praised its acting and animation, as well as immense quotability.

2001 - Monsters, Inc.

Pete Docter's Monsters, Inc. took audiences by surprise when it released in 2001 and truly established Pixar Animation as a force to be reckoned with. The movie featured voice work from Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi, and it had been in various stages of development since 1996 - one year after Pixar launched their first animated movie. Monsters, Inc. was well-received by general audiences across the board (even the parents loved the movie), and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated feature (but lost out to Shrek ).

While Pixar routinely makes sequels for their animated films, they decided to take a different step with the Monsters series and made a prequel instead. Monsters University released in 2013 to critical and commercial success, proving that these characters are as everlasting as their movies.

Related: Disney's Upcoming Movie Releases From 2018 to 2021

2002 - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

As the second installment in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers became one of the most anticipated films of its year due to the incredible success of The Fellowship of the Ring the year prior. And it delivered, being a great movie by itself as well as within the wide franchise.

In addition to its reviews, The Two Towers became the highest-grossing film of the year, beating, Spider-Man , Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones , and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the worldwide box office. The movie was also nominated for six Academy Awards (the fewest in the trilogy) including for Best Picture.

2003 - Finding Nemo

Andrew Stanton's Finding Nemo , which tells the story of a father and his newfound but forgetful friend searching for his lost son across the Pacific Ocean, released in 2003 and quickly became a fan-favorite even in the lauded pantheon of Pixar, with nearly unanimous rave reviews.

In fact, Finding Nemo was so successful that it surpassed 1994's The Lion King to become the highest-grossing animated film of all-time - with $867.9 million under its belt - a record it held until Shrek 2 toppled it the following year. A highly-successful sequel, Finding Dory , released in 2016 to overwhelming critical acclaim.

Related: Finding Dory: Every Easter Egg & Pixar Reference

2004 - The Incredibles

Brad Bird followed-up on his beloved but commercially unsuccessful animated film, The Iron Giant with his first Pixar movie: The Incredibles . The film follows a family of superheroes, the Parr family, and features voice acting from Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and more. It garnered Bird his first two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Animated Feature, of which he won for the latter.

The Incredibles is not only one of the most-favorited animated movies out there but also one of the most beloved superhero movies overall. We'll just have to wait and see if Bird can capture lightning twice when Incredibles 2 hits theaters later this year.

2005 - Murderball

Unlike most movies that achieve critical acclaim and earn the right to be labeled the highest-rated film of the year, Murderball differentiates itself from the crowd by being a documentary, one that centers on the rivalry between the American and Canadian wheelchair rugby teams leading up to the 2004 Paralympic Games.

Coming from directing duo Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes said the film is "an entertaining and gripping documentary that shows being confined to a wheelchair doesn't mean the fun has to end." It's no surprise that Murderball went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

2006 - The Queen

Historical films and period dramas that depict real-life events in a fictionalized manner, if done properly, tend to earn substantial praise, and Stephen Frear's The Queen is a prime example. The film - starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II from a script by Peter Morgan (who later went on to create Netflix's The Crown ) - recounts the British Royal Family's response to the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Related: The 20 Worst Movies Of 2017 (According To Rotten Tomatoes)

As one can imagine, The Queen earned unanimous praise, with critics hailing the film for being "full of wit, humor, and pathos." Mirren eventually won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role. But what's more interesting is that Queen Elizabeth II herself loved the movie enough to invite Mirren to dinner at Buckingham Palace.

2007 - Ratatouille

Ratatouille is the second Pixar film and third animated film from director Brad Bird, who took over for co-director Jan Pinkava in 2005 following the overwhelming success of The Incredibles . In addition to penning the screenplay, Bird also reworked the story - about an anthropomorphic rat aiding a restaurant's garbage boy (and rightful heir) in becoming a chef and saving the restaurant from imminent closure - alongside Pinkava and Jim Capobianco.

That the film was such a hit with critics is particularly humorous given how the subplot involving a vicious restaurant critic (played by Peter O'Toole) humbled by the titular dish.

2008 - The Dark Knight

The second installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight shook the superhero movie genre to its core and became the gold standard for all comic book movies in the years since. Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, of which it won for two. Most famously, Heath Ledger posthumously won for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the Joker, following his death in January 2008. The fact that The Dark Knight wasn't nominated for Best Picture, however, caused quite an uproar and even forced the Academy to alter their rules the following year, increasing the number of nominees from five to 10.

Related: Things You Didn't Know About The Dark Knight Trilogy

What's more, the film became the first superhero movie ever to gross more than $1 billion globally. In fact, it's still the only non-team-up superhero film to gross more than $500 million at the domestic box office (with the only other comic book outing being Joss Whedon's The Avengers ).

Up 's opening sequence is often credited as being one of the best opening scenes of all-time - and one of the saddest. But that's only a small part of what makes the animated feature so special, which presents a joyous, uplifting look at life, death and moving on.

Up became the second animated movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards - the first being 1991's Beauty and the Beast - in addition to receiving a further four nominations. Plus, it garnered over $735 million at the worldwide box office. Suffice to say, Up was yet another resounding success for Pixar.

2010 - Toy Story 3

Pixar Animation burst onto the scene with Toy Story in 1995, which not only became a resounding success but also cemented them as a staunch contender in the animated field. A sequel, Toy Story 2 , released in 1999, with the third installment, Toy Story 3 , hitting theaters in 2010. That film earned unanimous praise from critics and audiences alike, and it topped Shrek 2 to become the highest-grossing animated film ever released (until 2013's Frozen ).

Related: Things You Never Knew About Toy Story

Film critics hailed Toy Story 3 as a "deftly blending comedy" with "adventure and honest emotion." The only mar on its legacy is that while Toy Story 3 was meant to be the concluding chapter in Pixar's flagship series, but they're bringing back Buzz and Woody for another go-around, Toy Story 4 , coming in 2019.

2011 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - directed by David Yates from a script by Steve Kloves based on the novel of the same name by J.K. Rowling, and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint - was an event of a lifetime that broke virtually every major box office record. After all, it was the final installment in Warner Bros.' Harry Potter series that began a decade prior, which itself became one of the most beloved and commercially successful franchises in cinema history.

Critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes praises the cast's superb acting and the film's outstanding visuals, while also calling it "a satisfying - and suitably magical - conclusion" to the Harry Potter series. What's interesting is that the series also popularized the concept of splitting a final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , into two films - although considering how much material needed to be covered, Harry Potter got away with doing it... properly.

2012 - Argo

Ben Affleck's third directing gig, following critically-acclaimed films Gone Baby Gone and The Town , was 2012's Argo , which told a relatively fictionalized account of the Canadian Caper during the Iran Hostage Crisis in the late 1970s.

Also starring Affleck - alongside Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and more - the became an astounding critical and commercial success. It won three Academy Awards from out of seven nominations, including Best Picture, although was controversial for lacking a Best Director nomination for Affleck.

2013 - Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón followed up his success with movies such as Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by directing what is considered one of the most visually-stunning space films ever made: Gravity . Based on an original script from himself and his son, Jonás Cuarón, critics called the film "an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that's masterfully directed and visually stunning."

Related: The New Golden Age of Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies

Thanks to the critical praise and the presence of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity became an enormous box office success, grossing $723.2 million worldwide against an estimated production budget of merely $100 million. Despite the low cost, the film's effects were so impressive one reporter was convinced that Cuarón actually filmed the movie in space.

2014 - Boyhood

Richard Linklater followed up 2013's Before Midnight , the third installment in his Before trilogy, with the coming-of-age film, Boyhood , starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke. The movie charts the childhood of a Texan child from six years old to eighteen, exploring the ebbs and flows of his life in a divorced home. Aside from the story, what makes Boyhood so special is that Linklater did something that was considered inconceivable: film a movie in real-time over the course of almost a decade.

That behind-the-scenes factor is part of why it was so praised when it finally released to the general public in 2014, earning it overwhelmingly positive reviews and several major awards.

2015 - Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller's iconic Mad Max franchise laid dormant ever since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome , starring Mel Gibson as the titular character, hit theaters in 1985. The acclaimed filmmaker managed to successfully reboot the franchise thirty years later, however, with the fourth installment in the series, Mad Max: Fury Road , starring Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

Related: Mad Max: George Miller Hopeful Fury Road Sequels Will Happen

The movie achieved unanimous critical acclaim - with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus citing the film's "exhilarating action" and "surprising amount of narrative heft" - and did better than a reboot of a cult hit had any right to do at the box office. To cap off its success, the film became a major awards frontrunner, winning the most Oscars of that year. Not bad from a highly troubled production.

2016 - Moonlight

Barry Jenkins' Moonlight was one of the most-talked-about movies in 2016, and rightfully so. The film, starring Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali, released to overwhelming critical praise, with everything, from script to performances to direction, getting top marks from critics.

The film ended up winning the Oscar for Best Picture (after a rather spectacular mix-up with La La Land , of course), marking out a bunch of firsts: it was the first time the award had gone to a film with an all-black cast or one with an LGBT subject matter.

2017 - Get Out

Jordan Peele took the industry by surprise in 2017 with his directorial debut, Get Out , starring Daniel Kaluuya as a black man lured into a trap by his white girlfriend. The horror film released in a politically-charged climate that not-so-subtly addressed present-day social issues in a wildly entertaining way, seeing it hit with all corners of the audience.

It was, in no uncertain terms, an astounding critical and commercial success, grossing $254.3 million against an estimated production budget of $4.5 million and going on to be nominated for multiple awards. Only time will tell, though, if it ends up being nominated for Best Picture , let alone taking the top prize.

More: Rotten Tomatoes is Not to Blame For Poor Box Office

7 best new to Netflix movies that are 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes

Recent batches of critically-acclaimed movies make Netflix better

A TV with the Netflix logo sits behind a hand holding a remote

The movie selection on Netflix in recent months hasn't been all that strong. Fortunately, June 2023's list delivers five truly great movies, giving movie lovers who don't love reality TV or documentaries a reason to keep paying for Netflix.

This batch (which includes two May debuts) features an all-time sci-fi action classic, one of the best Bill Murray movies, two beloved comic book movies, a recent drama with Oscar buzz, a very good animated family film and a great drama.

You'll find some of these films on our list of the best movies on Netflix , if you're looking for more recommendations. This list is comprised of films with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% or above, which is essentially like saying the critical mass rated them with an A-, A or A+.

To Leslie (2022) 

Everything was great for lotto winner Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) until she drank her money away. But as she re-enters the lives of families and friends, and tries to get her life on the right track, Leslie's not having an easy time with the straight and narrow. 

Riseborough got tons of critical praise for her performance, and she's joined by a stellar cast including Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Marc Maron and Andre Royo. Unfortunately, word of mouth may turn some off to caring about To Leslie's critical praise, as there's suspicion that the folks behind the film paid celebrities for positive chatter online to try and win an Oscar.

Arrived on Netflix: June 1 Genre: Drama Rotten Tomatoes: 93% Watch on Netflix right now

Spider-Man 2 (2004) 

Now that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has hit theaters, this is a perfect time to revisit the best live-action Spider-Man movies ever. Spider-Man 2, the sequel that thrives now that it's established Peter (Tobey Maguire) as the webhead, is a must-rewatch, especially because of all of the connective tissue between Sony's Spider-Man movies.

This chapter of Spider-Man's saga is our overall favorite because of Alfred Molina's pitch-perfect performance as Otto Octavius, Parker's professor who becomes the maniacal Doctor Octopus. Director Sam Raimi hits all the right notes for this villain, with horror movie touches that may remind you of his Evil Dead classics.

Arrived on Netflix: June 1 Genre: Comic book adventure Rotten Tomatoes score: 93% Watch on Netflix right now

Spider-Man (2002)

Of course, Netflix couldn't bring Spider-Man 2 over without also adding the first Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man film. Here, you see Peter's humble yet profoundly haunting origins, as his powers segue him into trying to make money in pro wrestling, followed by his selfishness leading to tragedy. 

But through the drama, a hero is born, and nerdy Parker gains a wildly manic villain to fight in Norman Osbourne (Willem Dafoe), who's quite a scientist himself. Dafoe fully embraces the camp of comic book movies here, and unleashes truly bewildering expressions. If you want more, check out our guide for how to watch Spider-Man movies online .

Arrived on Netflix: June 1 Genre: Comic book adventure Rotten Tomatoes score: 92% Watch on Netflix right now

Traffic (2000)

The war on drugs, especially in 2000, turned from an extremely black-and-white conversation to one with many shades of grey. Then, Steven Soderberg delivered Traffic, which showed how how deep the problems truly are. 

Traffic interweaves three stories, starting with that of cop Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) who is pulled into the world of Mexican politics to try and stop cartel hitmen. We also follow Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) a rising politician tapped by the President to fight the war on crime and Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) the wife of a drug dealer who didn't know what her husband was doing.

Each of these three storylines go down unexpected avenues, as each protagonist gets a deeper understanding of how flawed the system truly is.

Arrived on Netflix: May 1 Genre: Crime drama Rotten Tomatoes score: 92% Watch on Netflix right now

Chicken Run (2000)

One of the best stop-motion animation films of all time (second arguably to Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox), Chicken Run is family fun that's also a subtle homage to post-war films where prisoners of war have to escape to survive. 

Except this time, our heroes are a group of fowl who've been farmed for eggs at the Tweedy Farm in the England countryside in the county of Yorkshire. And they've just learned that their owners have more diabolical needs, having acquired a machine that turns chickens into chicken pies. 

Filled with excellent banter, expressive and zany animation and a uniquely odd energy, Chicken Run is a gem you need to see if you've never watched it. And it also packs tons of laughs that kids may not get, and enjoy more upon rewatching.

Arrived on Netflix: May 1 Genre: Comedy/adventure Rotten Tomatoes score: 97% Watch on Netflix right now

Groundhog Day (1993)

Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) met his true nemesis — a time loop — whilst covering Punxsutawney Phil, that groundhog that people think can predict seasonal weather patterns. Grumpy that he has to cover this nothing-burger of an event, Phil gets more upset when he wakes up and learns he has to live the day all over again. And again. 

Applauded by reviewers for providing a pleasant and clever spin on a traditional morality tale, and for the performances of Murray and Andie MacDowell (who plays his producer, Rita). That said, Groundhog Day offers a strong ensemble cast including excellent character actors such as Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky and Brian Doyle-Murray.

Arrived on Netflix: June 1 Genre: Comedy Rotten Tomatoes score: 94% Watch on Netflix right now

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

A ton of Arnold Shwarzenegger's movies just hit Netflix in time for his new Netflix Original series Fubar and his upcoming limited docuseries. And while most of them won't make our 90% Rotten Tomatoes cut-off, Terminator 2: Judgement Day does.

This epic action movie (one of James Cameron's finest films) sees the T-800 Terminator (Shwarzenegger) sent back in time to protect John Connor, who will play a key role in saving humanity's future. What do we have to be afraid of? Well, AI's taken over and its Skynet ruined humanity.

Beloved for its revolutionary (for their time) special effects, thrilling action and (currently) topical concept, Judgement Day is especially great for Robert Patrick's all-business T-1000 Terminator.

Arrived on Netflix: June 1 Genre: Action Rotten Tomatoes score: 91% Watch on Netflix right now

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