25 Greatest Films of 21st Century

Film critics at NY Times—A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis rate their top 25 greatest films of 21st century. Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award for Best Picture winner Moonlight is the most recent film in the list. Alfonso Cuaron’s universally acclaimed 2018 drama Roma is certain to make the list in its next rendition.

25 Greatest Films of 21st Century 25 Greatest Films of 21st Century Source : Miramax

1 There Will Be Blood Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007

A 21st-century masterpiece about love, death, faith, greed and all the oil and blood gushing through the American 20th century. It distills a harrowing story through a prospector - played with demonic intensity by Daniel Day-Lewis - who pursues a savage, hollow dream. He embodies the best of the United States only to become the very worst of it. The film offers a profound and deeply unsettling vision of the country, but it's also a testament to one of this nation's sublime achievements: the movies.

A.O. Scott writes "It is stranger than any of its themes, mightier than its influence and bigger than any of the genres it explores. The grandeur of Mr. Anderson's vision is matched by the precision of his technique. But you are also aware of his artistic self-confidence, and the way he has marshaled the talents of his cast and collaborators (notably the cinematographer Robert Elswit and the composer Jonny Greenwood) in the service of his ideas. Plainview is a creature of his own time, a self-made man from the American heartland. He's both demon and demigod, able to tap into the essence of the earth itself and driven to dominate and corrupt his fellow men - Mephistopheles and Faust rolled into one. A movie big enough to contain him could only be the greatest of its time."

Manohla Dargis writes "It is like an old-studio masterwork "The Big Sleep" for his impeccable craft is of course one reason. Yet much as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola did in their greatest movies, Mr. Anderson took all that he'd learned from Hollywood to create work of radical, intensely personal vision. It takes on a question that rests, I think, at the heart of the United States: how could something as astonishing as the movies (or democracy) emerge amid so much horror?"

2 Spirited Away Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2002

Guillermo del Toro says "Miyazaki's monsters are completely new in design, but they feel rooted in ancient lore. They seem to represent primal forces and, in many cases, spirits that are rooted to the earth, to the wind, to the water. They are very elemental. There's a beautiful, very melancholic meditation - the same melancholy that permeates all Miyazaki's films."

3 Million Dollar Baby Directed by Clint Eastwood, 2004

Scott: "The glory of "Million Dollar Baby" is that rather than strain for novelty, it settles into the conventions of the genre with masterly confidence and ease, and discovers deep currents and grace notes of feeling that nobody had noticed before. The images, shot by Mr. Eastwood's longtime cinematographer, Tom Stern, glow with unexpressed, somber feeling. Fifty years from now, as the end credits scroll on whatever screen viewers are watching on, they will reach the same conclusion my editor did back in 2004. This is what a movie looks like."

4 A Touch of Sin Directed by Jia Zhangke, 2013

Dargis: "Steeped in violence and sorrow, it is an astonishing movie from the Chinese director Jia Zhangke. Divided into four chapters, it was inspired by a series of widely reported violent conflicts in China that haunted him. Together the vignettes allow Jia to "paint the face" of contemporary China. Like all the sections, this one is largely a slice of brute naturalism spiked with beguilingly surrealistic moments, many involving animals. The overall mood is one of escalating, palpable unease. Jia may have taken his inspiration from contemporary China, but here he also borrows from King Hu's "A Touch of Zen," a 1971 martial arts classic. All at once, a scene of ugly, recognizably and disturbingly real violence turns into an interlude of stylized violence with sharp editing, exaggerated gestures and images - a close-up of the knife in a fist - bordering on the hieroglyphic. One minute, the only red is that coloring Xiao Yu's flushed cheeks; the next, a man has been sliced open and an ordinary woman has become the hero of her own story."

5 The Death of Mr. Lazarescu Directed by Cristi Puiu, 2006

Scott: "Why should we care? That is the question - not at all rhetorical - posed by Cristi Puiu's bleak, gripping, weirdly funny second feature. Mr. Puiu's film was an early sign of the flowering of Romanian cinema that would bring international acclaim to young auteurs like Cristian Mungiu ("4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days") and Corneliu Porumboiu ("Police, Adjective"). Like his colleagues (and sometime rivals), Mr. Puiu uses long takes and minimal camera movement to create a sense of lived reality that is absorbing almost to the point of claustrophobia. He zeroes in remorselessly on the petty absurdities and large iniquities that define life in Romania more than a decade after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist dictatorship. But though this is an intensely local experience, it opens up and reverberates far beyond the streets, tenements and emergency rooms of Bucharest. Poor Mr. Lazarescu is his own kind of Everyman, caught not in the shiny wheels of midcentury American capitalism but in the rusty gears of Eastern European bureaucracy and the detritus of his own bad decisions. He is imperiled by the arrogance and indifference of the powerful - the doctors and hospital bureaucrats so entranced by their own authority that they are blind to his suffering. This movie is a harrowing and darkly humorous metaphysical fable disguised as a slice-of-life tragedy."

6 Yi Yi Directed by Edward Yang, 2000

Scott: "Edward Yang, the director of "Yi Yi.", serves as the filmmaker's impish, earnest alter ego, a visual artist intent on exploring life from all angles. A packed, enthralling three-hour chronicle of modern Taiwanese family life, "Yi Yi" has the heft and density of a great novel. Roger Ebert described "Yi Yi" as "a movie in which nobody knows more than half the truth, or is happy more than half the time," something that could also be said (optimistically) of life itself. And "Yi Yi" is one of those movies that you remember less as something you saw than as something you experienced, as if you were one of the Jians' Taipei neighbors. To invoke the cliché that the cities themselves are characters in the films would be to understate their significance. The character of modern cities - spaces of loneliness and intimacy, where the shiny global future rests on a buried bedrock of local tradition - is among Mr. Yang's main themes. And few artists in any medium have matched his ability to examine contemporary urban life from all sides."

7 Inside Out Directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, 2015

8 Boyhood Directed by Richard Linklater, 2014

Richard Linklater said: "It was deeply personal to people and I didn't really anticipate that, I was just telling this little intimate story. But then when those responses came in, I was like, well, of course - it was powerful. We look for connection. This movie pulls you into caring about people and feeling what it's like for time to pass, for life to change, for relationships change. Who hasn't grown up or had siblings or left home? I thought it would be older people who maybe responded, but I realized that I was telling the life and times of a generation. People would just tout the connection they had to it. "Oh, my daughter just went off to college or my son went off to college" or "I just went off to college. I saw your movie and I called my mom and told her that I now realize what she was going through." We all go through the world trapped in our story, our own point of view. But a film can really enforce those other points of view - that's storytelling power."
9 Summer Hours Directed by Olivier Assayas, 2009
Dargis: "The film draws you in because everything is so effortlessly lovely - and French - the people, homes, furnishings, gardens. "Summer Hours" is about life, death, impermanence (and cinema), but it's also about being French."

10 The Hurt Locker Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, 2009

Dargis: "While it may seem paradoxical that Ms. Bigelow was honored for a war movie in which women are largely physically absent, masculinity - with its discontents, rituals, enigmas and staggering, annihilating capacity for violence - has long been her great subject. War gives him rank, status, camaraderie (at times begrudging) and, ostensibly, a purpose. War has also destroyed James, though not literally and certainly not in the way most movies teach us when they show the catastrophe of war, with their perfected heroic gestures and narratives of noble sacrifice. James's death isn't remotely spectacular or inspiring; it doesn't arrive with a bullet. It is instead the slowest of living deaths, one that eats away at him with everyday horror that is as unvarying and familiar as the ticking of all those bombs. The French director François Truffaut once said, "Every film about war ends up being pro-war." I wish he had lived long enough to see "The Hurt Locker," a movie that is antiwar not because it offers an easy critique of war but because it reminds us of how human beings need war, how they live for war as intensely as die for it. Ms. Bigelow, who directed from a script by Mark Boal, told me by email that they faced the challenges of making it with as much honesty as they could."

11 Inside Llewyn Davis Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013

12 Timbuktu 
Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, 2015

13 In Jackson Heights 
Directed by Frederick Wiseman, 2015

14 L'Enfant 
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2006

15 White Material 
Directed by Claire Denis, 2010

16 Munich 
Directed by Steven Spielberg, 2005

17 Three Times 
Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2006

18 The Gleaners and I 
Directed by Agnès Varda, 2000

19 Mad Max: Fury Road 
Directed by George Miller, 2015

20 Moonlight 
Directed by Barry Jenkins, 2016

21 Wendy and Lucy 
Directed by Kelly Reichardt, 2008

22 I'm Not There 
Directed by Todd Haynes, 2007

23 Silent Light 
Directed by Carlos Reygadas, 2008

24 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 
Directed by Michel Gondry, 2004

25 The 40-Year-Old Virgin 
Directed by Judd Apatow, 2005

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Reference: The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century, NY Times, 2017/06/09