I can’t vote in the BBC Poll of the 21st Century’s greatest films because I just don’t deserve to, but I thought it would be fun to make up my own list. While I don’t normally think ratings out of 10 are good ways of putting together a list, I looked through my IMDb to figure out what movies I gave a 10/10 star rating to that came out in the 21st century. Here are all of those films in no particular order:
Since there were 13, I had to narrow it down a bit. I have a deep love for all of these films, and plenty of other 21st century films outside of these 13, so narrowing these down was hard. Ultimately, I took off City of God, Up, and Lost In Translation because they haven’t left as much of a lasting impression on me as the 10 other films.
So my 10 choices for the greatest films of the 21st century so far would be:
And then I had to rank them. Every one of these 10 are nearly perfect, so ranking them is extraordinarily hard. I believe that only #1 is truly solidified. “And so it begins.”
#10 is Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In,” the best vampire film I’ve ever seen. It completely engaged me on a level I couldn’t describe. The film meanders a bit in the second act, and yet it totally works. It’s subtle and contains a beautiful friendship which develops slowly and yet is always engaging. Writing about it now makes me want to watch it again.
#9 is Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster,” one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen and yet also one of the ones that has left a huge impression on me. The first watch was hard; there were scenes where I covered my eyes, where my jaw dropped, and yet it was always earned. I love the subtle details of the world that develops, one that is so different from ours and yet still feels familiar. I was lucky enough to watch the film on the big screen for a second time, this time with a big group of film-obsessed friends around me, and it was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had. Everything about the film was still effective, and yet because of my awareness of what was going to happen, it was so much fun to see all my friends just react to it, because every reaction was my reaction on that first viewing. It was even more darkly funny on the second viewing, because I could just react to the subtle details the actors added to their characters. It’s such an experience to watch this film, and it’s one I want to experience many times over.
#8 is Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” Over time, this film has gained a crowd that thinks it’s just a gimmick, that the people who love it only do because it took 12 years to make. They criticize the awkward dialogue even though life is pretty awkward. They criticize the flat, boring cinematography, the look of which is what you would get if you looked outside. AKA, the film looks like real life. They criticize Mason, saying he becomes boring and pretentious as he becomes a teenager, and yet I would say that most teenagers are pretentious and think they know better, myself fully included in that statement. In fact, this film helped me to realize that. They say the movie is lifeless and yet it has more life than 99% of the films released; it feels completely realistic. There’s moments throughout that not only feel relatable, but moments that contain people I know standing in the frame. There’s people that don’t want to watch this film ever again, and yet I needed to watch this film again; the second time, I saw more and more people I knew standing in the frame. I wonder what I’ll notice the fifth time I see it. It’s a masterpiece.
#7 is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood.” It’s one of the most common choices for the critic’s lists, and for good reason. Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano give fantastic performances, the score is haunting, the writing is sharp, and it never crosses the unintentionally funny despite how close it can get at parts. (“I drink your milkshake!”) Paul Thomas Anderson is a filmmaker who grew up while making this film. Boogie Nights and Magnolia are both good films, ones in which PTA is having a great time using long takes and every other stylish thing a director can do. But that only gets you so far. In There Will Be Blood, his direction is more subtle and more effective. “I’m finished.”
#6 is Edgar Wright’s “Hot Fuzz.” While some would vote for Wright’s other work, particularly Shaun of the Dead, I think that “Hot Fuzz” is the best of his filmography. It’s got so much subtle comedy along with some of the more obvious jokes. It rewards repeat viewings because you’ll notice more and more jokes as you watch it more. And, more than any other movie, I just crack up at the way the actors portray their characters. Wright gets jokes out of the way people walk offscreen, the way they say “no.” The thing about comedy is that everyone will laugh at different things; but there’s not a single scene in Hot Fuzz where I don’t find amusement. When it wants me to laugh, I laugh. I hope it makes you laugh as hard as it makes me. (For an insight into Wright's style, watch this video.)
#5 is the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” A Serious Man (also great) and Inside Llewyn Davis, both by the Coens, are very similar films. The difference? A Serious Man is about a man who can’t accept that life has a grudge against him. Inside Llewyn Davis is about a man who accepts that life has a grudge against him and continues moving on. While Inside Llewyn Davis is certainly sad, it has a life to it, emphasized through both the music and the Coens’ always great writing. The ending was something I was unsure of at first, but the more I think about it the more I think that it’s genius. Even though I’m not a cat person, I still think that this film is absolutely phenomenal.
#4 is Todd Haynes’ “Carol.” Honestly, I could see myself recording an audio commentary for this masterpiece because there’s so much I have to say about every single scene. It’s got a fantastic ending, a beautiful score by Carter Burwell which represents Therese Belivet’s feelings of love so well. Rooney Mara gives her best performance. The dreamlike cinematography, the subtle attraction towards Carol’s hair and hands established by Todd Haynes’ camera, just… everything about Carol. Everything.
#3 is Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Despite being a film marketed towards children, it appeals equally to every age imaginable. It’s got everything that’s great about Wes Anderson’s films (a unique style, humor, some memorable characters and the witty and occasionally satirical dialogue) gets rid of everything bad about them, (mainly the lack of heart and substance in his worse films) and Anderson makes a film that is vastly superior to all of his others. It’s a masterpiece, one which I want to say more about. (So I will. Soon.)
#2 is a film that seems to be both underseen and underrated: Bong-Joon Ho’s “Memories of Murder” from 2003. It’s a South Korean film based on a still unsolved streak of rapes and murders. It’s often compared to “Zodiac” from 2007, except it transcends Zodiac, an already great film, in lots of ways. It manages to be dramatic, horrifying, suspenseful, action-packed, funny, and has a final scene which implies something deeply true and yet deeply disturbing about every human being. It’s a masterpiece, one which you should watch if you ever get the chance to.
#1 for me is and most likely always will be The Social Network. I’m certainly biased; it’s the film that made my jaw drop and say, “Wow! So that’s what you can do with a movie!” But I think it’s a combination of everything great about film: perfect direction, writing, acting, cinematography, score, etc. Basically, it’s a film that holds a dear place in my heart while also being a truly fantastic film, and that’s why it’s here.
So there you go. If you haven’t seen any of these films, please do. It was incredibly hard to rank them, and they’re all masterpieces. Other films from the 21st century that came close to being on this list included (in no particular order):
Keep watching movies.