Laura Harring and Melissa George in David Lynch’s "Mulholland Drive." BBC Culture poll of 177 film critics around the world puts David Lynch’s 2001 surrealist masterpiece in top spot. Photograph: @asifahsankhan. 

25 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

If there’s one thing that pop culture obsessives love doing, it’s making lists. If there’s another thing they love doing, it’s dissecting and arguing about a list made by another pop culture obsessive. What was included? What was overlooked? What ranked way too high and what should’ve ranked higher? These are the questions on which the discussion is built. So when the BBC published a list of the best 100 films of the 21st century based on top 10 lists of the most prominent critics worldwide, controversy was sure to erupt.

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” — How often have we all heard that resigned expression? How often have we said it ourselves? ‘The death of cinema’ is debated in university film studies programs worldwide. Critics lament the loss of ‘small movies’ in favour of superhero spectacles. Box-office analysts look for signs of an industry on the brink. Studio executives fear that video-on-demand may destroy the idea of going to the cinema more than broadcast and cable TV ever did. There have been a lot of great films released since the year 2000, but some of them stood above the rest and elevated the medium to a whole new level of storytelling.

BBC Culture reached out to 177 of the world’s most prominent film critics and asked them each for their top 10 picks for films released between the beginning of 2000 and the present day. When it was all said and done, BBC looked over the votes and came up with a list of the “100 greatest films of the 21st century.”

And . . .

David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive‘ lead the pack — as ‘the greatest film of the 21st century’
Laura Harring and Melissa George in David Lynch’s
Laura Harring and Melissa George in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” BBC Culture poll of 177 film critics around the world puts David Lynch’s 2001 surrealist masterpiece in top spot. Photograph: @asifahsankhan / Universal Pictures.

David Lynch’s 2001 landmark film, ‘Mulholland Drive,’ which even its most ardent fans admit is as maddeningly baffling as it is mesmerising, has been named the greatest film of the 21st century. 

If you want to skip to the extra good stuff, and give yourself a quick education in great film, here are the top 25 with a few containing links to where you can watch them on any of your devices:

‘The Top 25 Greatest Films of the 21st Century according to BBC’

(Out of 100)

BBC Culture's list of
BBC Culture’s list of “100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century” – Photograph: @asifahsankhan /

(These are the top 25 out of 100 best films of the 21st century according to BBC, based on film critics around the globe, and where you can watch them for yourself (just a few). All title Links will take you to

25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

Christopher Nolan’s Memento, an airtight puzzle of a movie about a man who can’t form new memories searching for his wife’s killer, set a standard for narrative sophistication that few mainstream films have tried to duplicate. Yet its challenging structure – opening with the final scene and working its way backward – isn’t a gimmick; it serves a thematic purpose, too, putting us as deeply in the dark as our protagonist. The film forces us to consider the unreliability of human memory and our tendency toward self-deception, even as it thrills us with a captivating crime-noir story. An existential tragedy masquerading as a twisty bit of pulp fiction? Unforgettable.

24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s ambitious, powerful and ultimately elegiac masterpiece centres on the question of whether man is, in fact, an animal. Tormented alcoholic Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) returns from World War Two and struggles, unsuccessfully, to conform to post-war America’s social evolution. Eventually he finds some sort of deliverance in the company and teachings of the leader of an urban cult, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Much has been made of the analogies between Scientology and Dodd’s cause, but the real point of the film is an exploration of thought and consciousness, and whether submission to belief systems can genuinely tame atavism. It all ends cryptically – and hauntingly. A mysterious phone call, a wistful serenade, an unseen goodbye. Repeat viewings confirm that this singular creation of Dodd was indeed Hoffman’s apotheosis, which would be apt, and even funny, if it weren’t so, so sad.

23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

All of Michael Haneke’s films are bound to haunt you. With Caché he cuts to the chase and makes the idea of haunting the theme of the story itself. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche star as a bourgeois Parisian couple that start to receive disturbing video tapes showing their home. Who is watching them? And what is actually revealed on those tapes? As soon as you realise that the true revelation lies in the couple’s reaction to the tapes, things start to dissolve. Interior and exterior conflict, individual and collective guilt become one as Haneke makes you face somebody who is made to face his and his country’s historical crimes. The act of not looking away is the moral imperative at the heart of Caché, which makes it a supreme political and cinematic movie at the same time.

22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, came in at 22 on the list. Photograph: Imagenet
Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, came in at 22 on the list. Photograph: Imagenet.

Please stop trying to figure out what Bill Murray says to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Sofia Coppola’s beautiful and ineffably bittersweet second film; the words don’t matter, and the moment is only so powerful because you can’t hear them. The 21st Century’s reigning empress of cinematic ennui, Coppola has always used celebrity as a shortcut to the loneliness that exists between private lives and public images. But it’s this brief encounter on the streets of Shinjuku — this last goodbye between a dislocated young philosophy grad and a disenchanted old movie star — that solidifies Lost in Translation as her most perfect film, the one that best articulates how it can be to find yourself in a world that seldom lets you forget where you are.

21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
The Grand Budapest Hotel – one of three Wes Anderson films featured on the list – reached 21. Photograph: Rex Features
The Grand Budapest Hotel – one of three Wes Anderson films featured on the list – reached 21. Photograph: Rex Features

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the 21st Century’s farewell salute to the century before. It vaults backwards in time from today to 1985 to 1968 to 1932, where Ralph Fiennes’ concierge Monsieur Gustave welcomes us to proper civilisation with a nod. We know Gustave’s immaculate world is ticking towards destruction, first by war, then by decades of neglect. Inevitably, the lazy and impersonal present will win, mass-producing not just our hotels, but our cinemas and the blockbusters on their screens. Wes Anderson has spent his career fussing over wallpapers. The Grand Budapest Hotel ennobles his craftsmanship; suddenly, Gustave’s decadent lamps represent mankind’s hope to outshine the darkness. This oddball tragicomedy enlists us in the fight for beauty. Sir, yes, sir.

20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

Synecdoche, New York was initially conceived when Charlie Kaufman was approached about doing a horror film. Instead of masked killers and extraterrestrial monsters, though, Kaufman set out to make a movie about the stuff that really keeps us up at night. Synecdoche, New York is every deep-seated fear you’ve ever had, writ large: you’ve disappointed your spouse and failed your children, you’ve let your loved ones die lonely, excruciating deaths, and you’ll never complete the work you were put here to do because you, too, will reach the end before you know it. And that, paradoxically, is what makes it so affirming. Kaufman’s masterpiece isn’t joyful, but it’s bursting at the seams with wild ambition and brimming with empathy. It’s a reminder that even at our lowest and darkest, we are not alone

19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in 'Mad Max: Fury Road (2016)'
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road (2016)’

With Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller dialed up the modern blockbuster to full blast. A cohesive vision with a structured journey built around themes of survival and endurance, the fourth entry in the dystopian franchise showcased what is otherwise the narrative and thematic drought within the Hollywood blockbuster machine. Cast in silver and gold, the film redefines the place of auteurism within mainstream cinema, as it portrays an idiosyncratic and singular perspective that refutes committee-driven film-making. Without resorting to cheap cynicism and faux-grittiness, Miller zeroes in on the sensuality of the environments, the carefully crafted machines and scorched landscapes. His future may be bleak, but it is filled with wonder and a hope derived from human ingenuity.

18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
The White Ribbon (2009) ― the black-and-white German-language drama film written and directed by Michael Haneke.
The White Ribbon (2009) ― the black-and-white German-language drama film written and directed by Michael Haneke.

“A group of children act together as silent perpetrators of crimes” is an already disturbing premise. By setting the story in a north German village in the months prior to World War One, Haneke not only challenged the myth of childhood innocence but also delivered a fictional prequel to the upcoming events in Germany. The crisp black-and-white photography adds to the feel of an allegory but parallels are only slightly suggested (as in the purging of the “unwanted” that takes place). With any Haneke film, guilt and malice are in the air and no one in particular is to be blamed. Though it appears to look at the past, The White Ribbon speaks to this century’s audiences: an unsettling view of the danger of righteousness, an ominous threat that always seems to recur.

17. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006) ― Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece about a young girl living in the post Spanish civil war era who finds a portal to a magical fantasy world.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) ― Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece about a young girl living in the post Spanish civil war era who finds a portal to a magical fantasy world. (Tale Twins Studio)

Was there a more auspicious year for Mexican directors than 2006? Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo Del Toro offered intriguing and substantive examples of their vision in Babel, Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth. The last of these, the solitary Spanish-language title in this triad, is a counterpoint to the other two: it’s Del Toro going back to his roots, to his alchemy of pop and auteur cinema, to give us a look into the horrors of war – in this case the Spanish Civil War. A twin of Del Toro’s other beautiful Civil War picture, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth gives us tragedy through the filter of fantasy, going deep into a well of suffering and magic. Its power lies in its purity: nothing we can imagine is as terrible as what we can do to each other.

16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
'Holy Motors' is a 2012 French-German fantasy drama film written and directed by Leos Carax, starring Denis Lavant and Édith Scob. But Kyle Minogue and Eva Mendes steals the show for a short period of time.
‘Holy Motors’ is a 2012 French-German fantasy drama film written and directed by Leos Carax, starring Denis Lavant and Édith Scob. But Kyle Minogue and Eva Mendes steals the show for a short period of time.

Check out the awesome trailer:

Holy Motors is not a movie. It is an act of grief designed as an expression of love, and while enfant terrible Leos Carax has been an essential director for any film fan since his debut, he has never before laid himself bare in the way he does with this movie, in which a man is driven around in a limousine, assumes various disguises and personas, and connects and disconnects with people who flit into his life. Surreal, silly, sexy and sad, Holy Motors is a guided tour through everything about cinema that matters to Carax. He was drowning as a man in his own life – Holy Motors was his first feature in 13 years after struggling to get financing – and he turned his art into a life raft. Movies matter. Here’s why.

15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
'4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile) is a 2007 Romanian art film written and directed by Cristian Mungiu. It won the Palme d'Or and the FIPRESCI Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile) is a 2007 Romanian art film written and directed by Cristian Mungiu. It won the Palme d’Or and the FIPRESCI Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

Just so you know, (4 months 3 weeks) + (2 days) = 144.7474 days! (You’re welcome).

One scene, one cut, zero music. Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 Palme d’Or winner is a touchstone of the Romanian New Wave, a stark wonder of a film exemplified by visual precision, a bracingly clear-eyed script and glacial detachment. Imbuing a backstreet abortion with the brutal tension of a crime thriller – and abortion was a crime in 1980s Romania – Mungiu evokes the callous and repressive atmosphere of Ceausescu’s foundering dictatorship. Yet despite much harrowing imagery, depicted in unblinking detail within a fraught 24-hour timeframe, the film’s underlying humanism is glimpsed through the unbeatable spirit of protagonist Otila, a college student who takes unthinkable risks and goes through grueling lengths to help her friend Gabita fix her unwanted pregnancy.

14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
The Act of Killing is a 2012 documentary film about the individuals who participated in the Indonesian killings of 1965–66. The film is directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and co-directed by Christine Cynn and an anonymous Indonesian. – (Image Credit:

Harrowing, confrontational and surreal, The Act of Killing ends with Anwar Congo, the gangster who murdered nearly 1,000 people in 1965-66 following the military coup in Indonesia, coming to terms with his heinous crimes. Possibly. He sobs, vomits and laments the lives he had willfully taken away, and yet we’re never sure if he’s genuinely repentant or if it’s all a high-wire act on his part. But we want to believe that he is; we want to believe that justice is possible; that the killers may one day live through the agony they inflicted on the one million people they butchered. That’s the hidden drive behind Joshua Oppenheimer’s formally innovative debut feature. Few films have dared to capture the full spectrum of human evil so candidly, so perceptively, as Oppenheimer does in his unclassifiable non-fiction epic in which the Texas-born Danish film-maker convinces members of the death squads to reenact their murders in the style of their favourite Hollywood films. The Act of Killing is a piercing, multilayered study about national amnesia, about the power of self-deceit and the questionable morality of truth-seeking. Its status as the 21st Century’s most celebrated documentary will likely be preserved for a long time to come.

13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Clive Owen as “Theo Faron” ― In a politically motivated secular alternative to the Nativity story, Owen makes his way through a war-torn world in 2027 to protect humanity’s savior. “Children of Men” (2006). Director: Alfonso Cuarón.

Here’s a bold statement about a bold movie: Children of Men, like no other film this century, and perhaps no other movie ever, solves the meaning of life. (The answer? More life, of course.) Alfonso Cuarón’s staggering 2006 adaptation of PD James’ novel is that rare picture that astounds with technical marvels – long, exquisite unbroken shots; a beguiling, but subtle, development in camera technology that allows for one of the most stunning scenes ever shot inside a car. But it is also rich and vital in its emotional and philosophical depth: its sadness, its anger, its reverence and worry for humanity. Cruelly overlooked in its initial release, Children of Men has endured to become a cult favourite that should be required viewing for anyone grappling with feelings of dread about modern civilisation. Which is to say, probably everyone. In the end there is transcendent hope, found amongst Cuarón’s beautiful, bracing rubble.

12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as “Robert Graysmith,” Robert Downey Jr. as “Paul Avery” and Mark Ruffalo as “Dave Toschi” ― David Fincher’s excellent, yet very underrated 2007 film includes several violent murder scenes (a stabbing is especially grisly!).

In one of the real-life Zodiac Killer‘s last letters he asked who would play him in the movie about his life. Now he knows the answer.

David Fincher, famed for doing dozens of takes, might know something about obsession. Zodiac, his meticulous, gorgeous and haunting true crime movie, is a deep dive into obsession, following a newspaper cartoonist who becomes consumed by the 1970s Zodiac murders. Featuring astonishing performances from a pre-resurgence Robert Downey Jr and a pre-Nightcrawler Jake Gyllenhaal, Zodiac pulses with jittery energy while luxuriating in its own peculiar slow burn to nowhere. Gloriously detail-driven, Zodiac drags viewers into a compulsive world where the smallest hint can be the biggest clue, and it presents the obsessive’s worst nightmare: that, in the end, answers are utterly unattainable. .

11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
Starring Oscar Isaac ― 2013’s ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Might Be The Most Subversive Film The Coen Brothers Have Ever Made!

The Oscar-winning Directors, Joel and Ethan Coen― the Coen Brothers, perhaps the most broad-terms successful American independent filmmakers of our time, made a film about failure. Having enjoyed a near-unprecedented level of consistent respect as artists, they wrote a story about an artist faced with consistent peer indifference. They cast imminent megastar Oscar Isaac, now a lynchpin of the America’s highest-grossing film of all time, as this also-ran, this nearly-man, this future obscurity. Into a vortex of high expectations, as the Cannes-competing follow-up to the Coens’ biggest-ever box office hit “True Grit,” which netted them 10 Oscar nominations, came a movie that deals almost exclusively in the currency of disappointment. Critics adored it. Well, the majority did, enough to have the film hold a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though safe to say J.Hoberman was not among them. And a small section of the moviegoing public was just as worshipful, giving it a remarkable per-screen average when it opened in limited release. But then, when it expanded, general audiences largely stayed away, maxing its domestic gross out at just over $13 million — far less than 1/10th the take of “True Grit” and just under half that of the inarguably lesser “Burn After Reading.”

Here’s how Monica Castillo, ‎Film Writer at The New York Times sees it:

“He’s a messy haired loner strumming an acoustic guitar, struggling to show the world he’s got talent. No one cares, and no one wants to listen. Set in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s, the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is an achingly melodic tribute to an unloved underdog. Davis (Oscar Isaac) is striking out on his own after his musical partner goes solo. Along his dour journey, he’ll find others vying for similar success and others just trying to survive, in a very Coen-esque manner. Inside Llewyn Davis is a solemn song for anybody trying to become somebody.” – Monica Castillo, The New York Times’.

10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
The “Best Picture” winner at the 2008 OSCARs ― another one of ‘the Coen Brothers. But this time ‘The Coens’ squeeze us without mercy in a vise of tension and suspense, but only to force us to look into an abyss of our own making. Javier Bardem as ‘Anton Chigurh’ won his well-deserved OSCAR for ‘best actor’ as well.

The man is named Anton Chigurh. No, I don’t know how his last name is pronounced. Like many of the words McCarthy uses, particularly in his masterpiece Suttree, I think it is employed like an architectural detail: The point is not how it sounds or what it means, but the brushstroke it adds to the sentence. Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is a tall, slouching man with lank, black hair and a terrifying smile, who travels through Texas carrying a tank of compressed air and killing people with a cattle Stun-Gun. It propels a cylinder into their heads and whips it back again. 

Don’t take this one-of-a-kind-killer so lightly — that’s your cautionary warning! Anton Chigurh is one strand in the twisted plot…

The man has his principles. Which he lives by. . .

Aanton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).gif

If your answer is yes, congrats! on your last ever sightings…

Where to watch: Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and available for rent or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube. Also available on DVD/Blu-ray.

9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
At its core, “A Separation” (2011) is basically a standard potboiler — it could have been ripped from the pages of a dime store novel. A very Powerful art cinema that challenges political and social unity in Iran.

If there is a film that makes you take a deep look at yourself in the mirror again and again, this is it. Asghar Farhadi’s searing relationship drama does not make a judgement about its characters. Rather, it pitches the situations so realistically that the viewer ends up sympathising with both protagonists even though they are pitted against each other. It isn’t surprising if most viewers find some reflection of their own lives in the events that occur during the course of the film. The gripping pace, the perfectly-pitched acting, the way the situations unfold – all made to look as if one is watching one’s neighbours, or maybe someone in one’s own home – create an unparalleled cinematic morality play.

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

Audiences in 2000 were astonished by how fluently Edward Yang’s Yi Yi portrays contemporary life through the intermingling stories of members of a Taipei family separated by the dilemmas specific to their stations in life. That’s quite ironic, because in today’s world of personal alienation through the allure of social media, the film now feels like a period piece, yet somehow, it resonates with an even greater urgency. Yi Yi is a reverently meticulous film, with its painstakingly detailed moods, and rituals that are seemingly endemic to the characters and their customs. Yet, it is also grandly universal. Its quiet reflections on life, love, family and death are all gracefully affecting, no matter the gap in generation and culture.

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

Like a great poem, The Tree of Life opens itself to a thousand interpretations, as director Terrence Malick takes a spiritual and lyrical journey through time, from a dusty 1950s childhood in Texas back to the beginnings of the cosmos itself. This strange new pillar in the cathedral of US cinema stars Brad Pitt as an authoritarian father and Jessica Chastain as a tender and deeply religious mother of three sons. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is sun-dappled, or oozes images of boiling lava, dinosaurs and exploding planets, all to a soundtrack of Preisner’s Requiem — in this case a requiem to a dead son. The joys and aching losses of parenting become transcendent, even Biblical, in Malick’s hands.

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’ is one hell of a kind film that makes almost every one of the Greatest and Weirdest feature lists everywhere at the same time.

The story of a breakup gone wrong, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could easily have gone wrong itself. But this wasn’t your average whimsical tale of romantic yearning. After delivering some of the best music videos and commercials of the ‘90s, director Michel Gondry finally found his groove with Charlie Kaufman’s layered, head-spinning screenplay, injecting its jagged structure with warmth. Jim Carrey, meanwhile, boldly pushed against type to portray a perennially sad man literally trapped by his grievances and eager to let them unravel. But the movie belongs just as much to Kate Winslet, whose character’s decision to erase her own memories of the ex-couple’s time together sets the drama in motion. Eerie and surreal, charming and tragic, the movie wrestles with the fundamental instability of all human relationships, achieving a wise and powerful vision that is — ironically for a tale about fading memories — unforgettable.

5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)

This 21st Century masterpiece took most of the 21st Century to make. For more than a decade, Richard Linklater spent a few weeks each year chronicling the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane). He begins the movie in first grade; about three hours later, he graduates from high school. In between, Linklater crams in an astonishing survey of modern life. His bold logistical gamble – What if an actor had died? Or lost interest? – was way more than simple technical gimmick. Letting the story and characters evolve organically over the years gave them an authenticity that a young Linklater could never have faked, and watching the cast, which also includes Ethan Hawke and a remarkable Patricia Arquette, age before our eyes, adds an extra layer of poignancy to every single scene. In an era when every aspect of society was accelerating, Linklater slowed down to tell the one of the definitive stories of our time.

4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was a popular choice among film critics polled by BBC Culture. Photograph: BFI
Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was a popular choice among film critics polled by BBC Culture. Photograph: BFI

It’s hard to place any one of Studio Ghibli’s sweet, passionate animated films above the others, but Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away does particularly stand out for its visual sophistication and elaborate themes of determination, courage and good cheer. Miyazaki’s story of a young girl trapped in the spirit world, trying to rescue her parents, feels like a throwback to an earlier age of hand-drawn animation. Made at a point where CGI was taking over animated features in the US, Spirited Away has a lovingly handmade feel. But it also has an ambitious sweep to its elaborate visuals of Japanese spirit-monsters and a sense of soaring adventure. It’s a traditional fairy tale turned into an exciting narrative of transformation and discovery.

3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, reached 3 on the list. Photograph: PA
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, reached 3 on the list. Photograph: PA

From its near-wordless opening scene, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood feels like something forged, not filmed. Daniel Day-Lewis, as turn-of-the-century prospector Daniel Plainview, grunts, spits and scrapes his way into a hole under baked Western earth; he strikes silver, drags his half-broken body to certify his claim, winds up discovering oil. The rest of the movie – a sprawling, half-mad testament to greed, industry, moral hypocrisy and ballyhoo at their most elementally American – could be watched with no sound at all and still be perfectly understood. But that would mean missing Jonny Greenwood’s musical score – one of the finest, most disquieting ever written – not to mention Plainview’s immortal words in the film’s confounding final act, a drunken distillation of capitalistic will as disarmingly childish as it is perverse: “I drink your milkshake.” Cheers!

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

The opaque and ashen ache of stolen moments, and the often painful passage of time hangs heavy upon Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, particularly in his masterpiece from 2000, In the Mood for Love. As anthem to the agony and ecstasy of close-lipped affection, this film, more than any other in Wong’s considerable oeuvre, is a Proust-like conjuration of memory and misgiving.The second installment of a rather loose trilogy that began with Days of Being Wild (1990) and concluded with 2046 (2004), In the Mood for Love unravels in Hong Kong, 1962, centering on two neighbors living in a close quarters tenement house.Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung shimmer as Su Li-zhen and Chow Mo-wan, the neighbors in question, who rightly suspect their respective spouses are having an affair. Leung and Cheung, it must be said again and again, are wondrous in these roles, and are every bit as iconic as Bogie and Bacall before them. 

The fugitive motions and fleeting looks of chiming clocks, the whorling of smoke rising from a cigarette, and the sentimental croon of Nat King Cole superabound Wong’s elegant period drama. Mr. Chow is something of a journalist, Mrs. Chan is a secretary for a shipping company, and soon the two of them will find themselves in the ephemeral fog of anguish, contrition, and the sweetest nostalgia. As next-door neighbors in close approximation they soon discover that their spouses are always absent at the same time. Their lives intersect more and more and soon a strange and strained relationship forms between them both. As a sensual memory piece In the Mood for Love is luminous, and the slowly simmering romance therein is an inextricable blending of physicality and formalism.

“Wong Kar-wai leaves the cheating couple offscreen. Movies about adultery are almost always about the adulterers, but the critic Elvis Mitchell observes that the heroes here are ‘the characters who are usually the victims in a James M. Cain story.’ Their spouses may sin in Singapore, Tokyo or a downtown love hotel, but they will never sin on the screen of this movie, because their adultery is boring and commonplace, while the reticence of Chow and Su elevates their love to a kind of noble perfection.” – Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun Times).

In the Mood for Love was supposed to be made fast, dirty, and on the cheap, in a fashion not unlike Chungking Express (1994). Maybe it was inevitable that this project, a long gestating follow-up to Days of Being Wild, concerned with pain and longing, should inflict similar damage on its designer, for Wong’s anguish is palpable in every loving, wistful, and spectacularly detailed frame. The bright colors and unconventional compositions that Wong’s name became synonymous with in the 1990s is here faultlessly fulfilled, even when hemmed in. In the Mood for Love renders on an intimate scale the intersection of misery and euphoria, of romance in retrospect, and makes it into cinema’s saddest song of love lost to history.

Where to watch: Available on DVD/Blu-ray, and you can sometimes find it on YouTube.

And here’s the Number One Film of the 21st Century . . .

1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

David Lynch (One of my personal favorite directors) is a true indie film maker. He makes his movies his way and never seems too concerned with whether or not they’re accessible or will find an audience. But every few years, one breaks through and goes beyond his own cult audience, hitting hard with mainstream success. Movies like Blue Velvet (1986 movie) and Lost Highway (1997 movie) will pop up, and remind regular movies goers that the dude who made Twin Peaks (TV series) is still around. The last movie of his that I remember breaking through big, was Mulholland Drive the 2001 movie.

Lynch’s themes are wild and unconventional: dreams materialised; crazy thought bubbles brought to life. Whereas Orson Welles’ great film begins with a brief moment of surrealism – involving a snow globe and the cryptic word “Rosebud” – but then proceeds in a more straight-forward manner, Lynch maintains the surreal atmosphere throughout. In this sense Mulholland Drive picks up where Citizen Kane left off. 

Its dream-like qualities give rise to many confusing and unexplained things that naturally encourage interpretation. But as critic Roger Ebert, one of the film’s greatest champions noted: “There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery.”

The best explanation was the long one on The site suggests the old couple are judges of the jitterbug contest that Betty won and then at the end, signs of her innocent past come back to terrorise her. It answers some of the smaller puzzles, too, such as: who is Jennifer Syme, the woman the film is dedicated to? (An actress who appeared in Lost Highway, who died in a car accident.) The movie is hypnotic; we’re drawn along as if one thing leads to another but nothing leads anywhere, and that’s even before the characters start to fracture and recombine like flesh caught in a kaleidoscope. Mulholland Drive isn’t like Memento, where if you watch closely enough you can hope to explain the mystery. There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that David Lynch’s mind-bending mystery-drama Mulholland Drive has been named by BBC Culture’s critics’ poll as the best film of the century so far. Its very roots lie in television: the film began as a failed TV pilot and was salvaged into feature-length format. 

Mulholland Drive’s own troubled history, and the studio politics and power plays depicted by Lynch in the film itself, hardly feel like coincidences. Under its dream-like veneer, Mulholland Drive is a brilliant commentary on Hollywood’s machinations, at least partly informed by its own woes.

Beginning life during the development of Lynch’s cult TV show Twin Peaks, the director eventually pitched an idea for Mulholland Drive as a series in 1998. He was given a green light by US cable network ABC, which hoped to replicate the success of the director’s small-town mystery serial.

ABC was unimpressed with the first episode, which they considered slowly paced and drawn out – 37 minutes too long to fit into a conventional TV timeslot. They also objected to several things captured in the shoot, including an extreme close-up of dog excrement. In early 2000 Lynch managed to rescue the project by agreeing to turn Mulholland Drive into a feature film, equipped with a budget twice the original size.

Just to let you know guys, that took me 4 months to figure out. Sorry for the spoiler. A reason why it’s also one of the ‘Weirdest films of all time!’

Now, check out the complete list of all 100 films below:

(And if you’re curious who the critics are and what each of their lists looked like, you can see that here).

BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

No. Title Director Year
1 Mulholland Dr David Lynch 2001
2 In the Mood for Love Wong Kar-wai 2000
3 There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson 2007
4 Spirited Away Hayao Miyazaki 2001
5 Boyhood Richard Linklater 2014
6 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Michael Gondry 2004
7 The Tree of Life Terrence Malick 2011
8 Yi Yi: A One and a Two Edward Yang 2000
9 A Separation Asghar Farhadi 2011
10 No Country for Old Men Coen Brothers 2007
11 Inside Llewyn Davis Coen Brothers 2013
12 Zodiac David Fincher 2007
13 Children of Men Alfonso Cuaron 2006
14 The Act of Killing Joshua Oppenheimer 2012
15 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu 2007
16 Holy Motors Leos Carax 2012
17 Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro 2006
18 The White Ribbon Michael Haneke 2009
19 Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller 2015
20 Synecdoche, New York Charlie Kaufman 2008
21 The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson 2014
22 Lost in Translation Sofia Coppola 2003
23 Caché Michael Haneke 2005
24 The Master Paul Thomas Anderson 2012
25 Memento Christopher Nolan 2001
26 25th Hour Spike Lee 2002
27 The Social Network David Fincher 2010
28 Talk to Her Pedro Almodóvar 2002
29 WALL-E Andrew Stanton 2008
30 Oldboy Park Chan-wook 2003
31 Margaret Kenneth Lonergan 2011
32 The Lives of Others Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck 2006
33 The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan 2008
34 Son of Saul László Nemes 2015
35 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Ang Lee 2000
36 Timbuktu Abderrahmane Sissako 2014
37 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2010
38 City of God Fernando Meirelles Kátia Lund 2002
39 The New World Terrence Malick 2005
40 Brokeback Mountain Ang Lee 2005
41 Inside Out Pete Docter 2015
42 Amour Michael Haneke 2012
43 Melancholia Lars von Trier 2011
44 12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen 2013
45 Blue Is the Warmest Colour Abdellatif Kechiche 2013
46 Certified Copy Abbas Kiarostami 2010
47 Leviathan Andrey Zvyagintsev 2014
48 Brooklyn John Crowley 2015
49 Goodbye to Language Jean-Luc Godard 2014
50 The Assassin Hou Hsiao-hsien 2015
51 Inception Christopher Nolan 2010
52 Tropical Malady Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2004
53 Moulin Rouge! Baz Luhrmann 2001
54 Once Upon a Time in Anatolia Nuri Bilge Ceylan 2011
55 Ida Paweł Pawlikowski 2013
56 Werckmeister Harmonies Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky 2000
57 Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow 2012
58 Moolaadé Ousmane Sembène 2004
59 A History of Violence David Cronenberg 2005
60 Syndromes and a Century Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2006
61 Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer 2013
62 Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino 2009
63 The Turin Horse Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky 2011
64 The Great Beauty Paolo Sorrentino 2013
65 Fish Tank Andrea Arnold 2009
66 Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring Kim Ki-duk 2003
67 The Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow 2008
68 The Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson 2001
69 Carol Todd Haynes 2015
70 Stories We Tell Sarah Polley 2012
71 Tabu Miguel Gomes 2012
72 Only Lovers Left Alive Jim Jarmusch 2013
73 Before Sunset Richard Linklater 2004
74 Spring Breakers Harmony Korine 2012
75 Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson 2014
76 Dogville Lars von Trier 2003
77 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Julian Schnabel 2007
78 The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese 2013
79 Almost Famous Cameron Crowe 2000
80 The Return Andrey Zvyagintsev 2003
81 Shame Steve McQueen 2011
82 A Serious Man Coen Brothers 2009
83 Artificial Intelligence: A.I. Steven Spielberg 2001
84 Her Spike Jonze 2013
85 A Prophet Jacques Audiard 2009
86 Far From Heaven Todd Haynes 2002
87 Amélie Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001
88 Spotlight Tom McCarthy 2015
89 The Headless Woman Lucrecia Martel 2008
90 The Pianist Roman Polanski 2002
91 The Secret in Their Eyes Juan José Campanella 2009
92 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Andrew Dominik 2007
93 Ratatouille Brad Bird 2007
94 Let the Right One In Tomas Alfredson 2008
95 Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson 2012
96 Finding Nemo Andrew Stanton 2003
97 White Material Claire Denis 2009
98 Ten Abbas Kiarostami 2002
99 The Gleaners and I Agnès Varda 2000
100 (tie) Carlos Olivier Assayas 2010
100 (tie) Requiem for a Dream Darren Aronofsky 2000
100 (tie) Toni Erdmann Maren Ade 2016

Reference: The 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century is a list compiled in August 2016 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), chosen by a voting poll of 177 film critics from around the world. It was compiled by collating the top ten films submitted by the critics who were asked to list the best films released since year 2000.

⇒ About The LIST⇐

♣ Scanning through the list, the first eyebrow-raising result is also a thumpingly satisfying one. At 10, there’s a Coens dead heat between Inside Llewyn Davis and No Country For Old Men – two films that more or less encompass the brothers’ inimitable house style, flawless technique and scaldingly funny pessimistic worldview. The Coen brothers are two of the most popular directors on the list: the others are Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Michael Haneke, Paul Thomas Anderson and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. All men, of course – though I count nine films directed by women on the list, including Britain’s own Andrea Arnold, whose astonishing Fish Tank rightly made the cut. (Three more were co-directed by women).

The two steps down comes another: at 12, in a tie with Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, is David Fincher’s Zodiac: widely overlooked on its original release and ignored by the Oscars (it had the misfortune to surface in the same year as There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men), it now stands vindicated as one of the great works of American cinema of recent times, topping even The Social Network at 27. (Personally, I think it’s Fincher’s best film.)

The resulting top 100 list has Mulholland Drive (2001) at No 1, followed by Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000); There Will Be Blood (2007); Spirited Away (2001); and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014). The most popular directors in the list, all with three films each, were Wes Anderson, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Christopher Nolan, Michael Haneke, Paul Thomas Anderson and Joel and Ethan Coen.

Matthew Anderson, the editor of BBC Culture, said greatest film polls often looked right back into the past.

“…we wanted to find out about the best films in recent memory. These are the films that most people feel strongly about. We hope that this list will spark discussion and debate, not just among critics and film aficionados, but among everyone who enjoys movies and has an opinion about what makes a good one.”— Matthew Anderson, the editor of BBC Culture.

Each Critic was allowed to submit 10 films which resulted in a total of 599, then sorted into the top 100.

Mulholland Drive, originally planned as a six-part TV show, came in at No 1 was described by the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw (a legendary Critic and perhaps the ‘Roger Ebert’ of another planet) as “creepy, fascinating, dreamily self-indulgent” as well as being “very enjoyable”.

The most popular year for films was 2012, with 10 films in the top 100 including The Act of Killing (14) and Holy Motors (16). Nine films from 2013 also featured, including 12 Years a Slave and Blue is the Warmest Colour. There is no room for some of the most popular films of the last 16 years, no Harry Potters or Hobbits or Pirates of the Caribbean; but there is a place for the more obviously commercial movies such as George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) at 19, WALL-E at 29 and Ratatouille at joint 90. Even Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012) made the cut —came in at #74— which means it manages to beat Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013), Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001) and Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) — Sticke Three!

♠ Take a look at the Infographic below (click the thumbnail) and find some of the most interesting facts about BBC’s list (sort through the data to find out more about how the critics voted):

Surprising facts from the 100 greatest films of the 21st Century list

⇒ Selection criteria

BBC Culture requested 177 film critics from around the world to submit their responses for ten films which according to them are the greatest. The time period was limited from January 2000 to June 2016 (when the responses were completely collected). Each film listed in these responses were then given points based on their ranking. For instance, if a film was ranked at #1 in a critic’s list, that film would get 10 points, whereas the one ranked at #10 would get 1 point.

The list has 102 titles to be exact, due to a tie between Carlos, Requiem for a Dream, and Toni Erdmann for the 100th rank. With three each, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Haneke, and the Coen brothers have the largest number of films in the list.

A total of 177 critics from 36 countries participated in the poll, with the largest number (81) from the United States followed by the United Kingdom. Out of the 177, 122 are men and 55 are women, and are primarily newspaper/magazine film reviewers, website film reviewers, academics, and cinema curators.It goes without saying that this list, like all lists, is subjective. There is no objective way to gauge a film’s quality and each critic looks at a movie through their own complicated and highly personal set of criteria. It’s probably more useful to consider this as a measure of movies are popular among the critics surveyed (which, full disclosure, includes yours truly), and a way of starting conversations about the films and filmmakers we dearly love. 

There’s a little overlap with the OSCARS: three Best Picture winners (No Country For Old Men, 12 Years a Slave and Spotlight) and 16 more nominees – one of which, Inglourious Basterds, was directed by one of the few filmmakers who might justifiably feel hard-done-by at the results. And as further proof that critical praise and Academy votes don’t always match up, you have to go to #10 before you hit your first Best Picture Oscar winner. In fact, of the 15 films that have taken home Best Picture since 2001 (since the 2001 ceremony celebrated films released in 2000), only four made it into the top 100.

Some types of films are more heavily represented than others. Comedies and documentaries seem to be rare, as are superhero movies despite the fact that it sometimes feels like they’re all Hollywood makes anymore. In addition, while it’s great to see so many different countries and languages featured in the top 100, it’s disappointing that female filmmakers made up only 10.5% of the 85 directors included. 

Quentin Tarantino might be one of the trustiest American auteur brand names at the box office, but his critical standing appears to be trailing those of the two main Andersons (Paul Thomas and Wes), Richard Linklater, Fincher, the Coens and Terrence Malick. Mind you, there are more than a few iconic directors represented by just one film apiece, including Martin Scorsese, David Cronenberg – and, of course, David Lynch.

Many excellent films missed out on BBC’s top 100. But the biggest one was this: 

the-lord-of-the-rings-trilogy _ @asifahsankhan
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003) – The LOTR trilogy is a groundbreaking piece of filmmaking. From the beauty of the score and its breathtaking visual effects, to the perfect casting and extraordinary commitment of Peter Jackson in bringing Tolkien’s Middle Earth to life, the films did what was deemed impossible: to bring to the big screen one of the most epic tales ever written. The 3rd film in the series: The Return of the King won a record 11 OSCARS for crying out loud! This incredible attention to detail means that The Lord of the Rings will forever remain as the most perfect movie series of all time!

♣ Many can and will argue or have argued that lists like these do more harm than good, by reducing the nuances of film criticism into simple rankings and framing an unavoidably biased consensus as a definitive statement of judgment. On the flip side, though, they can make for an interesting way to take the temperature of contemporary film culture, and offer an opportunity to discuss films we haven’t heard much about lately.


Please do take note that this list —and the way the movies are ranked —doesn’t actually come from me and me alone. It’s from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). All I did was ‘bringing the whole thing here.’  The ‘List’ and the order of ranking — both were published beforehand by BBC. 

But yeah, the details and all or everything else is from me. No doubt!

Thank you,

Have a Nice Day!

Asif Ahsan Khan

SMILE : ) - @asifahsankhan

© 2017 Asif Ahsan Khan. ® All Rights Reserved.


4 thoughts on “25 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

    1. Thanks for being so honest. 😀
      And hey, I don’t blame you. Most people didn’t even heard about most of these films or was aware of the fact that they do exist. A reason why this list can get very interesting and controversial. A list where the most famous movie is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ – which if I’m not mistaking is not as popular around the globe as it is in America. (The world loves Mel Gibson!)

      A large number of foreign films – the non-english films — would’ve never been the case if they were all French or maybe Italian? But they are German or Iranian or Romanian. And the last time I checked, none of us were fluent or understood even a single word in Mandarin Chinese. . . 😛

      Thanks for the comments. It really means alot to me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Interesting collection, and I have so many movies, yet to see!!
    Some of my personal favourites are in your list, as well as the BBC list!!
    But am surprised why, both the BBC & you, have included films from Year 2000!!
    2000, was the last year of the previous century.
    None the less, another interesting looooong article, that took me a few days to read!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 haha. I know. Thanks for taking the time. I try to include everything one might end up thinking or wondering afterwards or may just ask after reading an article in my posts which makes them a bit lengthy. And sometimes pretty huge! 😛 But it’s for the benefit of the readers (if they can manage to stay calm and give it a chance).

      As for including the year 2000. (Yes it was questionable I know) Here’s what BBC said:

      ‘For the purposes of this poll we have decided that a list of the greatest films of the 21st Century should include the year 2000, even though we recognise that there was no ‘Year Zero’ and that 2001 is mathematically the start of the century. Not only did we all celebrate the turn of the millennium on 31 December 1999, but the year 2000 was a landmark in global cinema, and, in particular, saw the emergence of new classics from Asia like nothing we had ever seen before.’

      Thanks for checking it out mate. CHEERS! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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