Recently the BBC published a list of the 100 greatest films of the 21st Century because 2016 is as good a year to do this as any, I suppose. The list was compiled from top ten lists submitted by 177 film critics from across the globe. Mysteriously, I was not asked to contribute (an oversight, I’m sure). The following is the list of ten films released since 2000 that I would have submitted had the BBC not neglected to include me (which was, again, I am sure, an oversight).
1. No Country For Old Men (2007, Dir: Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Coen Brothers are, perhaps, the most effortlessly skilled filmmakers in the business. With No Country For Old Men, the Coens crafted the perfect crime movie that is also perfectly subverts the genre.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Dir: George Miller )
With Fury Road, technology finally caught up with the vision in George Miller’s head. It’s as well conceived and executed, and thought provoking as any action movie you will ever see.
3. Winter’s Bone (2010, Dir. Debra Granik)
Debra Granik’s country-noir announced Jennifer Lawrence as a tremendous talent, and is the most atmospheric and evocative neo-noir in recent memory. It’s a stark portrait of rural poverty and an engrossing mystery, set in and around a criminal patriarchy that looks more like a matriarchy.
4. The Master (2012, Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
While There Will Be Blood will (rightfully) go down as Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus, but The Master is just as compelling, reducing the scope to focus on the relationship between two self-destructive men who can’t help but enable each other. It’s a stunning, gorgeously photographed showcase for the acting talents of three of the greatest acting talents of this, or any era, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jaoquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, Dir: Andrew Dominik)
Many of the best westerns, particularly those made after the late 60’s, work to debunk the myth of the American frontier. Few films have done that as beautifully as Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, a western without the gunfights, that shows an American mythological figure as a killer no better than the “coward” who killed him.
6. The Dark Knight (2008, Dir: Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan’s superhero crime saga is the high water mark of the current wave of superhero films. Many have tried to imitate The Dark Knight’s formula but none have succeeded. It is epic in scope while also intimate, serious but not without a well-honed sense of humor.
7. Toy Story 3 (2010, Dir: Lee Unkrich)
Toy Story 3 is devastatingly adult in theme, though not in tone. What Pixar does better than anyone else is make children’s movies that do not condescend and none of their films has done that as well as the third entry in their flagship series.
8. Children of Men (2006, Dir: Alfonso Cuaron)
Children of Men is filled with great show-offy, mind-blowing tracking shots but it is more than a showcase for Alfonso Cuaron’s considerable directorial skill. It manages to be a moving parable about the importance of hope in the face of overwhelming bleakness.
9. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Dir: Wes Anderson)
The Grand Budapest Hotel is maybe the most Wes Anderson-y of Wes Anderson films, so if you don’t care for the director’s milieu, you won’t find much to like here, which is too bad because it’s as laugh-out-loud funny and quietly devastating as anything the director has done before. It’s a melancholy tribute to value of making something beautiful in world that is often ugly.
10. The Social Network (2010, Dir: David Fincher)
The marriage of the director of Se7en and Zodiac and the writer/creator of The West Wing doesn’t sound like a natural match but this movie works like gangbusters. Aaron Sorkin’s rapid fire dialogue is perfect coming out of the mouths of scary-smart characters, and David Fincher, a director who specializes in creepy atmosphere, expertly makes those super-smart characters look like creeps. What could have been a rote Mark Zuckerberg biopic turns out to be an endlessly rewatchable entertainment.
The 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002), Her (Spike Jonze, 2013), Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012), Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007), Goon (Michael Dowse, 2011), The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (Fincher, 2011), Fast Five (Justin Lin, 2011), Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012), Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009), The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013), City of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles)