25 Favorite 21st Century Films

What Time Is It There?

I usually post a “favorite films of the year so far” list right about now, but in 2017, I’m just not feeling it. Sure, I’ve seen a bunch of good films—A Quiet Passion, Get Out, Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, The Trip to Spain—I’d have no qualms recommending each of them to anyone. But, none are what I’d call “great” like last year’s Cemetery of Splendour or even Gett or Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter from the year before.

So, as I hope 2017 proves particularly backloaded with gems, in lieu of a YTD report, I present my 25 favorite films of the 21st century (so far), like all the cool kids are doing. I’ve arranged them in alphabetical order, along with director and year of release; I’ve also limited myself to one title per director because even I have to admit a Wes Anderson or Richard Linklater-heavy list would look suspect.

You may scan this list and wonder why so many selections are from 2001 or why there’s only four from this decade. Let’s just say 2001, like 1939 was an exceptional year for cinema; and, increasingly, unless something hits me hard right away, I need more time to let it sink in and fully affect my senses, thanks to my ever-more critical eye.

I would happily watch any of these again, anytime, anyplace:

35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008)
Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2005)
Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)
Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke, 2004)
The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
In the Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Still Walking (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2008)
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
What Time Is It There? (Tsai Ming-Liang, 2001)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)

Best Films Since 2000

Y Tu Mama Tambien
Y Tu Mama Tambien

The BBC recently published this poll in which 177 critics submitted their ten favorite films since 2000.  Here’s my own list:

  1. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
  2. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
  3. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
  4. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
  5. Yi Yi: A One and A Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
  6. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001)
  7. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
  8. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
  9. Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke, 2004)
  10. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)

If I had been able to submit this ballot, it would not have changed the poll’s results much – its top three titles are on my ballot (including the same number one – yes, Lynch’s Los Angeles dreamscape has finally taken over Wes Anderson’s New York family saga for me) and four of my other selections made the poll’s top 100. I chose Before Sunset over Boyhood because I prefer the former’s deliberately limited scale and tightness, although we’ll see if that holds once I get around to watching the latter again.

As for my three outliers, I’m not surprised at Maddin’s singular “docu-fantasia” or Eimbcke’s ultra-charming micro-indie not making the list, but I am shocked at the decreasing visibility of Cuaron’s breakthrough film. Granted, I haven’t seen it in about a decade now, but at the time, it had a considerable impact on nothing less than how I watch movies. Perhaps, it’s simply been supplanted by Children of Men as the Cuaron film to watch (which I loved, but need to see again).

The problem with any top ten list, of course, is that it’s way too short and constricting. Other movies I considered (in addition to Boyhood): C.R.A.Z.Y., Far From Heaven, Frances Ha, Gosford Park, Holy Motors, Spirited Away, Stories We Tell, Synecdoche, New York.