100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

The editors of BBC Culture had commissioned film critics all over the world to arrive at this list, polling “every continent except Antarctica.”  They received responses from 177 film critics. The list was published yesterday.

Sounds like a formidable task, albeit in actuality, the critics only had to look at 17 years of cinematic works (including the year 2000). Nevertheless, the titles are self evident of the positive effects of globalization, for the critics’ choices are markedly diverse.

You can check out the whole list here. I’ll just excerpt the top 50. Here, you can find directors from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, South America. What a fantastic representation. I’ve no apology for using the #2 film image here instead of the top one; with Wong Kar-wai’s “In The Mood for Love”, I’m totally partial and very glad it reached this spot.


No matter how you look at it, don’t get blown away by blockbuster mega productions. The independent cinema still remains the imaginary window to look into ourselves as well as out to the world, expanding our point of view with old tales to current issues.

50. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)
49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
48. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)
47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)
46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
45. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
44. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
43. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
42. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
41. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)
40. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
39. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
38. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)
37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
36. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)
35. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
34. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)
33. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
32. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
30. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
29. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
27. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
26. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
17. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

Which ones have you seen? What do you think of the list? Mulholland Drive #1? You might ask.


Click on the link in the title to read Arti’s review.

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

33 thoughts on “100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century”

  1. Interesting list, Arti. Thanks for sharing. I’ve forwarded it to my friend, Milton, who has probably seen every film on it, or almost every one. He sees far more films than me and I am sure he will be over the moon to see that Mulholland Drive came it at #1. No complaints from me, either. David Lynch is in a league of his own as a filmmaker. I’ve only seen 70 of them on this list. Before I got so into theater, I used to see well over 100 films a year, but all of my play-going has taken a big bite out of ll my movie-going. Now, I barely see 50 films a year, if that many, and I saturate see most of them at the New York Film Festival, which is starting soon. This year’s festival looks terrific: http://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2016/Tomorrow night, I’m seeing the new Werner Herzog documentary about the internet, Lo and Behold. Certain films I simply can’t miss.


      1. LA,

        Thanks for the link. It’s that time of the year again and yes, I’ll be going to TIFF come Sept. They have similar films as NYFF, albeit I must say, one of these years I’ll head to NYC instead, as their ‘Special Events’ look very appealing. Would love to attend some of those. Maybe next time. I often watch over 100 films a year but I admit it’s very time consuming. Would be great if that’s a day job. Yes, would be curious to know what Milton think of the list.


        1. I just heard from him. All he had to say was, “At least they are right about No. 1?” I told him that I thought they got that one right, too. I imagine when I see him tomorrow night, after he’s thought about it more, he’ll have plenty more to say. WE saw TIFF’s line up for this year. It looks great. Milton was hoping we’d get a lot of what’s screening at TIFF down here, but I think our line up is very good, too. The opening night selection is unusual, a documentary, Ava DuVernay’s “The 13th”, but if we can score cheap tickets to it at one of their smaller screens, I want to go. I’m on board (naturally) to see it, but I also want to support her and to support the festival for devoting the kick-off screening to a huge problem in the US, racial inequality. In recent years that screening has gone in the direction of a more main stream Hollywood film.


          1. Yes, I’ve a feeling that TIFF is heading that direction. The new Mag 7 is their Gala Opener. I won’t be seeing any of their Galas, and only hope I can get into the ones I want to see in the other programs. More about TIFF in future posts.


            1. Mag 7 is the exact type of film I would have expected to open the NYFF. The NYFF screenings are at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The main stage screen at Alice Tully Hall is the more expensive ticket on opening and closing nights as well as for the centerpiece screening. But, sometimes they screen those films on one of their smaller screens at a lower ticket price without the bells and whistles. We often try for those tickets and their smaller screens are all terrific, too. We’re seeing Herzog’s doc on one of those screens tomorrow night. We love the Film Society’s screening facility and they also have a great cafe. Lincoln Center’s really got its act together. Plus, it’s located on the Upper West Side, walking distance from my sanctum sanctorum.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Arti! Wow unless I missed it in reading the list just now, I see some huge misses namely director Clint Eastwood’s work — film Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, and Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. What about American Hustle with the most amazing performances from the entire cast and Birdman? Gosh there were many others but those jumped out at me first. Quickly also what about the German film Remembrance — a touching story — and the silent film The Artist?


    1. Heather,

      Do note that this list has an international perspective, which is meaningful in that it reminds us that there are very good films which are made outside of the Hollywood framework. For the movies you feel being left out, maybe you’d like to check out this list which BBC Culture prepared by polling 62 critics in 2015: “100 Greatest American Films“. Mind you, that’s all time. So, you might not find Eastwood either.


  3. I was a film student once, before changing majors and yet I’ve only seen three of these. I’ve seen many partially because I started to watch and then gave up on them. In my eyes it’s a rather odd list.


    1. Ti,

      Many of these films are acclaimed works in the film festival circuits. But then again, there are many that’s popular too right here in N. America. As you can see from the links I’ve embedded in the titles, 10 of them I’ve reviewed right here on Ripple. You’re welcome to check them out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved Brooklyn, Broke Back Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, WALL-E… There are quite a few there I haven’t seen yet. We are so happy that an art house and international theater opened up closer to us and we’ve been getting to the movies more often, especially on excessively hot and humid summer weekend days!


    1. Barbara,

      I’m so glad you’ve seen and appreciated some of these titles. This is a good list for us to see what we’ve missed. As for your arthouse cinema, Bravo! I’ve only seen them being shut down, rather than being opened up. Looking good, as we enter another Festival Season come September. Enjoy your movies! 🙂


  5. I’ve seen some of these, maybe 10? Maybe not quite that. But I’m a bit puzzled on why The Artist wasn’t included and I would have put Midnight In Paris and maybe Nebraska in there, too. But that’s just me. I need to look at the full list — maybe some of those are included. Glad to see Brooklyn made the top 50!


    1. Jeanie,

      That “The Artist” is being left out just shows how popular opinion might differ from critics’ view. I feel this list is a good reference guiding us to seek out what critics think are ‘good films’, and figure out why they are so. I’ve seen probably about 60 of the 100, leaving out many ‘popular’ ones like “Inside Out”. Many here I agree but some I’m surprised to find them on the list. Some I want to watch again.


  6. Mulholland Drive #1? Maybe it’s me but I just don’t get David Lynch and most of the time have no idea what his movies are even about. Hunh, just like best book lists we can argue the merits of the movie list too! 🙂


    1. Stefanie,

      You know, “Mulholland Drive” has its fans. The first commenter above, LA, and her friend Milton are two devotees, and they are happy that the film takes the top spot. I admit I’m not a fan of MD, but I’m always intrigued by Lynch’s works. I just might watch it again. You’re absolutely right about different people have diff tastes and preferences when it comes to ‘best of’ lists. I can think of this year’s Booker long list. Just finished Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton and wonder how it could get there on the list. I know, maybe because of the reputation of the author. And then, just last night, I finished listening to Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You and thought, now this is awards material. But of course, it’s not on the Booker List. However, my prediction is that she’ll be listed some day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I need to find a recommendation for my book group and I keep seeing good things about EINTY. I might go for that.
        It was great to get your post, because our local cinema coincidentally screened Mulholland Drive the previous Thursday and so at least I had seen it! I liked the imaginative use of images in the film, and pastiches of different film types, and the way all sorts of themes swam in and out, but with nothing to tell the viewer what to think – it was up to the viewer to draw out their own interpretation. I wouldn’t have put it at top spot, but would love to hear someone explain to me why it would be there. I feel I don’t have enough knowledge about film to articulate that.


        1. Denise,

          I think EINTY is a good book club title, I’m sure it will generate some discussions. Mixed race family, children of Asian parents (or mixed raced here in this case) placing high academic expectations on their children… etc. Celeste Ng herself is a Harvard grad, so likely she is writing something that she has lived. No matter, I for one can testify that as an immigrant parent in Canada, I know education achievement is the minimum and crucial criterion through which my child can get into the “mainstream” society. Not that I subscribe to the “Tiger Mom” principles, but I’ve come to know having high expectations would definitely bring about higher results. I think Ng handles the issues and characterization very effectively. I’d like to hear what you think of it if you elected to use it for your book group.

          As for Mulholland Drive, it’s been years since I watched it and for some reasons, had not have great interest to re-watch or find more about it. Recently I’ve been researching and watching films by the acclaimed Taiwanese director Edward Yang. His “Yi Yi” is #8 on the list. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate that one to watch. Just finished watching the Criterion Collection edition of his “A Better Summer Day” and found it brilliant. As for Wong Kar-wai, I remain a fan, and am very glad that “In the Mood for Love” comes in #2.


  7. I am woefully uninformed about films, not because I don’t love them, but because my husband doesn’t. I rarely go by myself, which is certainly my own fault. When I was in Toronto several years ago for a class at the University on The Idiot by Dostoevsky, we saw The Tree of Life, and I found it profoundly moving. The story, as well as the way it was filmed, was so piercing. And beautiful in its own way. Loved Wall-E for the way there wasn’t talking, very much, and its message. I also loved Crouching Tiger which was so imaginative. I’m not sure when Departures, a Japanese film, was made, but I loved that. I think foreign films are actually my favorite, but I always have to see them on DVDs. Such an interesting post, Arti. Wish I could see movies with you!


    1. Bellezza,

      Oh yes, I’d love to go to a movie with you. I totally understand your predicament, for my better half doesn’t like going to the movies either. So, I’ve learned to adapt, going to movies on my own, and thoroughly enjoying such experiences now. You have great taste if you love “The Tree of Life”, and I can understand why too. Director Terrence Malick holds a Christian world view, and his works show it. Other than that, it’s an innovative masterpiece I think, in terms of cinematic art. You also mentioned some other films which are deserving recognition. Not so ‘woefully uninformed’ after all. BTW, films are getting into the classrooms as wonderful teaching materials. I’ve used them in adult ESL classes before. 😉


  8. My favorites on this list are Mad Max, Lost in Translation and No Country for Old Men. I am surprised Life of Pi is not on the list, nor any Hunger Games or Lord of the Rings. I really enjoyed those too.


    1. Bob,

      I thought about “Life of Pi” too. I think it’s a better movie than “Crouching Tiger”. I like “Lost in Translation” too. I know you must be very happy about “Mad Max” ranking so high. 😉


  9. Well, I haven’t seen a single one. However: lest you think I never darken the doorway of a theater, I did see Florence Foster Jenkins yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m sure it never would make a critics’ list, but the theater was full, and they’ve increased the number of showings here because of the response. Interesting.


  10. I’m surprised the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn’t on the list, I watched Fury Road with my parents, I think it was a better film for me than them because they had memories of the original.
    I really liked The Dark Knight too.


    1. Charlotte,

      You see, these are ‘critics picks’. They well may have a different yardstick and criteria for judging that’s quite different from the general audience. 🙂 If you’re looking for something for entertainment and purely for enjoyment and escape, go along with your instinct and personal preference. I like the original Swedish version of the Tattoo Girl too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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