The 100 best movies of the century so far - Part II, with trailers
We asked our readers to vote for their favourite five films released since 2000.
The votes are now in, and we have compiled the top 100 movies of the century from them.
We’ve revealed numbers 100-51 in Part I, and here our film critic, Mark Liversidge, counts down from 50 to your number one. How many have you seen?
Readers, you’ve done a brilliant job. What’s clear from your choices – the first 50 of which we have already revealed – is that you’ve got fairly broad tastes, from horror to animation and from thoughtful drama to big-budget action; this list represents a wonderful cross-section of cinema over the last 23 years. If you’re only just discovering the delights of movies, gradually ticking off the films on this list would be a great way to continue your education.
It’s clear there’s still a place for bold, intelligent film making. I’ve only a few minor quibbles: I’d have preferred Rocketman over Bohemian Rhapsody, and you might still have to explain to me why Joker is so great, but if I agreed with all of your picks, it wouldn’t be any fun, would it?
With three entries in your top 10, Christopher Nolan would seem to be the king of the bold, intelligent genre, and his new blockbuster Tenet – seemingly a new spin on time travel, but a film still pleasingly shrouded in mystery – is due in cinemas in July. Whenever we get to see it, keep your fingers crossed that it’s great, keep supporting cinema and keep loving film.
Good work, everyone.
50. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
More of Tarantino’s revisionist history, and while it might be his most talkative film since Jackie Brown, he’s still a master of bottled-up tension and the final stand-off is a blackly comic triumph.
49. Wreck-It Ralph
Fun for all of the video game cameos waiting to be spotted, but this is just another example of how Disney can match its stablemate Pixar in the heart, drama and animation stakes.
48. Let The Right One In
This Swedish rethinking of the vampire myth not only succeeds in breathing fresh life into some tired old clichés but is also a supremely well observed story of adolescence and the trials of being bullied.
47. Finding Nemo
It’s an epic adventure movie crossed with a prison break story (substitute fish tank for prison cell), and it may just have made clownfish better known to a generation of children than goldfish.
I’m sure sometimes we could all do with someone like waitress Amélie Poulain in our lives, helping us to delight in simple pleasures and old memories as she does in this joyful romantic comedy.
45. Green Book
Controversy during the press tour and the promotion for the film ultimately didn’t harm the awards chances of this odd couple tale which eventually picked up Best Picture at the Oscars.
44. The Bourne Ultimatum
The final film in the original trilogy and the second directed by Paul Greengrass, it features the best action sequences of the series and also gives some closure to Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne.
43. Pan’s Labyrinth
Guillermo Del Toro has become a master of fantasy tales juxtaposing fairy tale worlds full of bizarre creatures with real world horrors, and this was his first notable triumph.
I can think of few films I’ve cried more during, or laughed harder at, and to be able to encompass the whole emotional spectrum so successfully is one of Pixar’s regular gifts.
41. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The middle part of the Middle Earth epic, which in Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum set a new benchmark for motion capture and even made talking trees believable.
40. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Yes, it’s got more endings than a Choose Your Own Adventure, but the spectacle served up – especially by Orlando Bloom’s Legolas - resulted in the first standing ovation I ever remember seeing in a cinema.
39. Bohemian Rhapsody
There’s an earnestness to the film that can sometimes be slightly comic, but Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury is note-perfect and the Live Aid recreation is breathtakingly good.
38. Gosford Park
Before there was Downton Abbey there was Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes’ Upstairs Downstairs whodunnit benefitting from Robert Altman’s direction and an all-star cast.
37. Hidden / Caché
Michael Haneke’s film, at times provocative and deliberately alienating, nonetheless won you over;this upper-class French couple being stalked remains the pinnacle of the Austrian director’s career.
36. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
My personal favourite of the Potters, in no small part thanks to double Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron’s direction, it also sees the series debuts of Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon.
35. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The previous impossible missions each had a different director, but Christopher McQuarrie’s blend of solid storytelling and Tom Cruise clinging to a plane has seen him get the role full time.
Daniel Craig’s third outing with the tux and the vodka martinis brings Q and Moneypenny back into the fold, in Javier Bardem features the recent Bonds’ strongest villain, and has a wonderful inverted climax at Bond’s secret base.
33. Mission Impossible: Fallout
Six films in, most series would be flagging, but by bringing back characters we care about and setting new action benchmarks – from Tom Cruise jumping out of a plane to flying his own helicopter – Fallout turns out to be the best mission yet.
Richard Linklater has become a master of long form cinema – the Before trilogy followed a couple over 20 years at three distinct points, and Boyhood was filmed over 12years for a defining portrait of adolescence.
31. V for Vendetta
Natalie Portman having her head shaved on camera might have helped to raise the film’s initial profile, but this future dystopia view of Britain taken from Alan Moore’s graphic novel holds up remarkably well throughout.
30. The Bourne Identity
The original Bourne film, here with Doug Liman directing before Paul Greengrass took over the series, setting up the world of Treadstone and making a believable action hero out of amnesiac Matt Damon.
29. Mulholland Drive
Twin Peaks director David Lynch set out to make another series, but when network execs rejected the pilot he turned it into this mind-bending film instead. Just don’t ask me to explain it to you.
28. 12 Years A Slave
Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen brings true moments of art and doesn’t sugar coat the agony in this devastating portrayal of the life of a man sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender are all tremendous.
27. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi’s adaptation of a novel by New Zealand author Barry Crump sees odd couple Sam Neill and Julian Dennison marooned in the wilderness. Bitingly funny and packed with quotable dialogue.
A calm, measured and devastating examination of the breaking of the Catholic priest child abuse story and the power of good journalism, with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.
The film that launched Christopher Nolan into the mainstream and gave us a taste of things to come, mixing a backwards narrative with flashbacks that still manages to have a twist ending.
24. The Departed
Martin Scorsese finally won his Oscar for this remake of Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, relocating to Boston and drawing on gangster film history as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon swap sides.
Student Miles Teller and teacher J K Simmons engage in a battle of wills in the unlikely world of jazz drumming. A whirlwind of rhythms and inflamed passions culminate in a dizzying finale.
Unlike Marvel’s successful universe-building, DC world of Batman and Superman has found most success with spin-offs and what-ifs, such as this alternate take on the clown prince of crime with Joachim Phoenix giving his interpretation.
21. Infernal Affairs
Debates have long ranged as to whether Martin Scorsese’s remake or the 2002 original, which also spawned two sequels, is better. Looks like we’ve settled that one, then.
20. Gone Girl
David Fincher has directed 10 feature films, and strangely every other film he’s made is a masterpiece. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s marriage hides dark secrets in Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her own novel.
19. La La Land
Damian Chazelle followed up Whiplash with one of the best musicals of recent years; this tends to alternate with the Hamilton soundtrack on the smart speakers at home. Kudos to Ryan Gosling for his piano skills as well.
18. The Grand Budapest Hotel
There are few writers or directors that can operate with the precision of Wes Anderson, but it’s all the more remarkable that this never gets in the way of his storytelling gifts. Ralph Fiennes is a comedic revelation too.
17. There Will Be Blood
Given that when I saw this film in a Cambridge cinema I counted 23 walk outs, it’s pleasing to see those that stayed had so much love for Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus.
16. Shaun of the Dead
Making the leap from the small screen’s Spaced, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg teamed up again to craft the tale of a shop assistant slacker sleepwalking his way into a zombie apocalypse.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy
What’s amazing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is how many of the lesser-known comic books have been converted into box office gold, helped by Chris Pratt’s quirky charisma.
14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
If you ever want to make yourself feel really old, watch this first entry in the JK Rowling wizarding series and realise that all those people were that young once.
13. A Star is Born
When he’s not voicing a space raccoon for Marvel, Bradley Cooper is remaking classic films with Lady Gaga, with yet another remarkable soundtrack sung mainly by the two leads.
After producing one of the most intelligent sci-fi films of recent years, Denis Villeneuve followed up this tale of Amy Adams as a linguist talking to aliens with Blade Runner 2049 and has a Dune adaptation in the works.
11. Avengers: Endgame
The only thing more remarkable than Marvel producing a 22-film series of such consistently high quality is that they absolutely nailed the dismount in this supremely satisfying resolution to their first cinematic era.
A throwback to the era of swords and sandals epics such as Spartacus and Ben-Hur, but swelled by CGI crowd scenes and with Russell Crowe giving one of the most quoted speeches of the century.
9. Kill Bill: Volume I
Quentin might treat this as one film, but it’s the first part, released in 2003, that works best; somehow this hotchpotch of martial arts, blaxploitation and spaghetti Western homages is brilliant at all of them.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Both visually brilliant and narratively challenging, the off-kilter world views of director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman sees Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet struggling desperately to forget each other.
7. The Prestige
The first thing I’ll be doing after lockdown is completely over and we can all hug again is coming round to every one of you that picked Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece – and my favourite film of the century – for your choice of a big hug or a firm thank you handshake.
6. Ocean’s Eleven
Steven Soderbergh is deeply enamoured with the heist movie genre, but this is his finest example, another cracking cast having the time of their lives with a remake of a Rat Pack comedy.
5. Casino Royale
It’s almost impossible to think that there was a significant backlash to the casting of Daniel Craig, but he owns the role of Bond from the minute he sets foot on screen; Eva Green is perfect as his partner.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
DiCaprio and Scorsese have made five films together, and their most recent collaboration might just be Leonardo’s best work, the butter-wouldn’t-melt grin and surprising physical comedy bringing to life stockbroker Jordan Belfort.
One of my favourite parts of seeing films such as this with an audience is seeing their reactions, and the collective gasp of frustration at the end of Inception showed just how much Christopher Nolan had sucked audiences into his multi-layered dream world.
2. The Dark Knight
Unquestionably the best comic-book adaptation of the century, it also put initial doubters – in this case, those questioning Heath Ledger’s casting as The Joker – firmly in their place.
1. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
A former splatter horror director and a cast that included a Goonies alumnus as a hairy-footed hobbit? On paper it was a disaster, but Peter Jackson’s incredible translation of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy epic was nothing short of a triumph on screen and is a worthy winner of this poll.
More by this authorMark Liversidge
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