My 16 Top Movies of the 21st Century

Short story short: The New York Times released a list of the best movies of the 21st century. The list is wrong, but it’s fun and interesting and, more to the point, inspired some friends of mine to come up with their own lists.

You can guess where this post is going.

So here’s my list, but I’ve made a change: I’m going to list 16 movies instead of 25, for no better reason than that I can more speedily come up with 16 titles rather than 25. I’ll also include year 2000 in my list, even though, as my friend Hal explained, that year technically doesn’t belong to this century. I, like Hal, do not care.

Pan’s Labyrinth dir. Guillermo del Toro

The best film of the 21st century: A brutal fantasy that joins together wonder and terror in an unforgettable story.

There Will Be Blood  dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Daniel Day-Lewis, the greatest screen actor of the century, gives his best performance.

No Country For Old Men dir Joel & Ethan Coen

Cited by many as THE best movie of the century, a flawless masterpiece of crime and punishment.

Cast Away dir Robert Zemeckis

Tom Hanks is the best movie star of the New Hollywood era, and this, his best performance, is a criminally underappreciated metaphor for existence and dignity.

The Prestige dir Christopher Nolan

Not Nolan’s most ambitious movie (Interstellar) or his most important (The Dark Knight), but certainly his most compulsively watchable, and rewarding.

The Lord of the Rings films dir Peter Jackson

The most important movies made in the 21st century so far. An era-defining trilogy.

The Incredibles dir Brad Bird

Best animated film of the century, and Pixar’s best product not named Toy Story.

Calvary dir. John Michael McDonagh

In a just world, both Calvary and Pan’s Labyrinth would have been Best Picture winners. Here is the most profound religious film of the century, a parable of forgiveness and frailty.

The Passion of the Christ dir Mel Gibson

There’s simply no other film quite like it.

The Social Network dir. David Fincher

David Fincher tells the story of Facebook as an utterly absorbing tale of dorm room betrayal and east coast elitism. Perhaps the most rewatchable movie ever to not win the Oscar.

Grizzly Man dir Werner Herzog

Far and away the greatest documentary of the century, following the life and psychosis of grizzly bear-friend Timothy Treadwell.

Arrival dir. Dennis Villeneuve

A science fiction masterpiece.

Moneyball dir. Bennett Miller

A sports movie that utterly transcends every border of its genre.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michael Gondry

I admire this film more than I like it. Like “The Passion,” it’s a film that defies comparison. A one-of-a-kind achievement.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) dir. Joe Wright.

Perhaps the most gorgeously photographed romantic drama of the 21st century. Its delicious performances and intelligent script spawned years of imitators.

Spider-Man 2 dir. Sam Raimi

I agree with the late Roger Ebert–this is the best superhero film of the pre-Dark Knight era, and in some ways, it passes Nolan’s movie.

Author: Samuel D. James

Believer, husband, father, acquisitions editor, writer.