Last week, the BBC posed the following question to film critics (not me, but I still wanted to play!): What are the 10 best movies of the 21st century, so far? In the past 16 years, some truly great films have come out. Even a few masterpieces. Boiling it down to 10 is a daunting task. Part of the fun about writing about movies is all the arduous list making that comes with it.
The following 10 movies are what I landed on. Tomorrow, I would probably move things around or change some movies. The number one film, for me, is a no-brainer. Anyways, my choices are:
1. The Social Network (2010): Nothing is perfect, they say. Well, that doesn’t apply here. David Fincher’s dramatization of the creation of Facebook is a perfect film. Rarely does every aspect of a movie work in concert so perfectly. From the performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, to Fincher’s direction, Aaron Sorkin’s script and the score, this is a perfectly assembled film. It’s more thrilling than the average thriller dumped in a multiplex on a weekly basis.
When you boil it down, The Social Network is the tech generation’s Citizen Kane. It is about a deeply flawed character who built an empire that separated them from the rest of the world. If you put these films side-by-side Charles Foster Kane and Mark Zuckerberg aren’t all that different. Their creations consumed them and their characters end up alienating everyone around them and each film closes with the characters alone in a room.
2. Zero Dark Thirty (2012): As The Social Network captures a moment in time, so does Kathryn Bigelow’s meticulously crafted Zero Dark Thirty. Her follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker detailed the 10-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The movie fell subject to some controversy but every great film is worthy of a discussion.
3. Million Dollar Baby (2004): Clint Eastwood packaged his film as a formulaic boxing movie but it ended up being so much more. The final act is haunting and devastating, also worthy of a discussion after. The movie won four Oscars: Best Picture, Director (Eastwood), Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). This is the best boxing movie since Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.
4. Requiem for a Dream (2000): Darren Aronofsky’s movie about drug addiction is one of the toughest movies to sit through. Most people who have seen it can only stomach it once but like the subject matter, it’s quite addictive. Ellen Burstyn gives quite possibly the performance of her career as a woman addicted to diet pills. This is a sad and scary movie but it’s impossible to ignore its greatness.
5. No Country For Old Men (2007): What a career Joel and Ethan Cohen have. Some filmmakers strive to make just one film that they will always be remembered for but the Coens have managed to craft two masterpieces (Fargo and this). No Country For Old Men is as tense as a movie comes and took home the Best Picture (among Director, Supporting Actor and Screenplay) at the Oscars. This is a brutal, masterful film.
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001): There is no movie-going experience like having seen your first Harry Potter film for the first time. The magic, the effects and the genuine thrills of it all created a movie that will forever stand the test of time. I read the books when I was younger but am not even that devout of a Potter fan. This is just a wonderful movie.
7. The Dark Knight (2008): Christopher Nolan’s second film in his Batman trilogy is a transcendent superhero film. It’s like a peak Michael Mann thriller wrapped in Batman packaging. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is a performance for the ages. Unlike the last film in this trilogy, this movie earns every minute of its lengthy runtime.
8. Sideways (2004): Sideways is a funny movie at times but it’s a melancholy one throughout. Paul Giamatti’s performance as a sad-sack writer, who takes his friend on a trip through California wine country just before he gets married is a thing of delicate beauty. Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen earned Oscar nominations for their performances (and deserved to win), while Giamatti’s snub still stings after all these years.
9. Boyhood (2014): Sometimes the big ideas produce simple results and they are perfect. Richard Linklater’s near-three-hour film follows a family over the course of 12 years, using the same actors throughout. It’s a gorgeous time capsule for audiences. The film won Patricia Arquette an Oscar for her sympathetic portrayal of a mother trying to provide the best life for her two children.
10. Cold Mountain (2003): The majesty of the late Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain was woefully overlooked when it came out. Thought to be a sure-fire Oscar player, the movie did manage to get seven nominations but missed out on Best Picture. This is an old fashion romance film set during the Civil War. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.
With any Top 10 list, there are have to be honorable mentions. At some point these following movies were apart of the 10 above:
A History of Violence (2005)
In the Bedroom (2001)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Hours (2002)
Mystic River (2003)
The Departed (2006)
Little Children (2006)
Up in the Air (2009)