Though the Golden Age of Hollywood ended decades ago, the magic of Hollywood may be even more remarkable this century. Consider how technology enables filmmakers to include incredible CGI creations or to create thought-provoking documentaries filmed on smartphones. Hollywood has started opening its doors to allow women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and others to tell new, diverse stories that appeal to critics and audiences alike. What’s more, there are countless publications and online outlets to critique and discuss the latest films, highlighting smaller, more obscure movies that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.
The rise of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms have similarly changed the game. While most of their innovations have been geared toward changing the TV landscape as we know it, they’re also producing original movies faster than the biggest studios and working with some of Hollywood’s best stars to do it. As their feature films and documentaries continue picking up awards and critical acclaim, in 20 years, a list like this might feature more Netflix and Amazon originals than big-budget blockbusters or indie flicks.
So which movies do critics say have bested the rest? Stacker collected data on the top movies of all time on Metacritic (as of October 15, 2020) and ranked the top 100 from the 21st century according to Metascore, initial ties being broken by the number of critic reviews. Films with less than seven reviews were not considered.
As many are forced to stay home, streaming services are an ideal way to watch many of the countless films made in the 21st century through stories that have transported viewers to far-flung worlds, taught lasting lessons about life, or inspired empathy. Read on to find out the 100 best films of this century according to critics.
#100. Gosford Park (2001)
– Director: Robert Altman- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 34- Runtime: 137 minutes
2001’s “Gosford Park” is a British mystery film starring Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Gambon, and Kristin Scott Thomas. The upstairs-downstairs drama with a large ensemble cast snagged an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.
#96. Almost Famous (2000) (tie)
– Director: Cameron Crowe- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 38- Runtime: 122 minutes
“Almost Famous” is based on the true story of director Cameron Crowe’s experience working as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. This coming-of-age film is set in the 1970s as a young journalist goes on tour with a famous rock band.
#96. Finding Nemo (2003) (tie)
– Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 38- Runtime: 100 minutes
In “Finding Nemo,” a Pixar classic, a little clownfish gets separated from his father and has to traverse the wide ocean to find his way home. The movie features voice acting from Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks, among others.
#96. Winter’s Bone (2010) (tie)
– Director: Debra Granik- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 38- Runtime: 100 minutes
“Winter’s Bone” rocketed actress Jennifer Lawrence into mega-stardom at age 19. The film follows a young woman living in a largely drug-addicted community in the Ozarks, set against a stark, wintery backdrop.
#96. Burning (2018) (tie)
– Director: Lee Chang-dong- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 38- Runtime: 148 minutes
Unfolding at a purposefully gradual pace, this South Korean mystery centers on an aspiring novelist named Lee Jong-su. When his young female friend goes missing, Jong-su begins to suspect foul play. Entangled in the subsequent investigation are themes of psychological torment and class divide.
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#94. Capturing the Friedmans (2003) (tie)
– Director: Andrew Jarecki- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 39- Runtime: 107 minutes
This HBO documentary follows the story of Arnold and Jesse Friedman, a father and son arrested for child molestation. The director was initially making a short film about children’s party entertainment. He filmed a clown named David Friedman, who happened to be Jesse’s brother, and was pulled into a new story.
#94. Before Sunset (2004) (tie)
– Director: Richard Linklater- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 39- Runtime: 80 minutes
“Before Sunset” is part of the “Before Trilogy,” which includes 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2013’s “Before Midnight.” All three films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. “Before Sunset” follows an afternoon spent by lovers reuniting nine years after their first meeting in Paris.
#93. United 93 (2006)
– Director: Paul Greengrass- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 40- Runtime: 111 minutes
September 11, 2001, was a day that changed lives around the world. “United 93” follows the real-time story of one of the hijacked planes that crashed in a field. Passengers worked together to foil a terrorist plot, sacrificing themselves in the process.
#91. The Incredibles (2004) (tie)
– Director: Brad Bird- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 41- Runtime: 115 minutes
In Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” a family of superheroes attempting to lead a normal life gets sucked into a top-secret assignment. It won Oscars for Best Animated Film and Best Sound Editing.
#91. Paterson (2016) (tie)
– Director: Jim Jarmusch- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 41- Runtime: 118 minutes
Indie auteur Jim Jarmusch brings his unique sensibilities to this understated drama, which follows a week in the life of New Jersey bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver). Paterson is tethered to a series of daily rituals, and he channels his mundane observations through poetry. While the movie failed to snag Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, its canine actor Nellie did win a posthumous award for Palm Dog.
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#89. American Splendor (2003) (tie)
– Directors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 42- Runtime: 101 minutes
The film “American Splendor” is based on a series of autobiographical comic books by Harvey Pekar. Paul Giamatti stars in the biopic, which uses both realistic footage as well as comic book-style art brought to life through animation.
#89. Hamilton (2020) (tie)
– Director: Thomas Kail- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 42- Runtime: 160 minutes
A live recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” was recorded in 2015 and features the play’s original cast, including Miranda himself as the titular Alexander Hamilton. Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the show tells the real-life tale of Hamilton’s life from childhood to death. Originally slated to be released in 2021, the movie hit streaming services early as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
#88. Cold War (2018)
– Director: Pawel Pawlikowski- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 45- Runtime: 89 minutes
Star-crossed lovers fight to stay together during the Cold War as they travel through Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris. This foreign movie was filmed in black and white and nabbed the 2018 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Director.
#86. Her (2013) (tie)
– Director: Spike Jonze- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 47- Runtime: 126 minutes
“Her” will likely inspire science-fiction writers and creators of technology for generations to come. A romantic sci-fi film starring Joaquin Phoenix, the film is about a lonely man who falls in love with his AI assistant, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
#86. American Hustle (2013) (tie)
– Director: David O. Russell- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 47- Runtime: 138 minutes
“American Hustle” follows the story of con artists who take part in an FBI sting operation. Starring powerhouse actors Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jennifer Lawrence, this film became known for its flashy, late-1970s style and brilliant moments of comedy. Interestingly, its plot is loosely based on a true story.
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#84. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) (tie)
– Director: George Miller- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 51- Runtime: 120 minutes
The film that spawned thousands of Halloween costumes, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has become one of the most famous post-apocalyptic action movie franchises. Starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, the story chronicles a man who teams up with a band of women fleeing a psychopathic tyrant.
#84. Phantom Thread (2017) (tie)
– Director: Paul Thomas Anderson- Metascore: 90- Number of reviews: 51- Runtime: 130 minutes
“Phantom Thread” is a beautiful, slow movie about the tragic, terrifying collision of larger-than-life personalities. Set in the 1950s, the film portrays a famous dressmaker whose life is turned upside down by the young woman he falls in love with. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis in a role he claims will be his last.
#83. Gavagai (2018)
– Director: Rob Tregenza- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 7- Runtime: 90 minutes
To complete a project started by his late wife, a German businessman visits Norway with hopes of translating Norwegian poems into Chinese. After hiring a tour guide, the widower and his new travel companion grapple with a range of humanistic themes. Largely overlooked by audiences, the film struck a massive chord among critics.
#81. A Bread Factory Part One: For the Sake of Gold (2018) (tie)
– Director: Patrick Wang- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 9- Runtime: 122 minutes
Roger Egbert called “A Bread Factory” “the most original filmgoing experience of the year.” The first half of this slow-paced, character packed tale follows a fictional community in Upstate New York that finds itself upturned by the arrival of a celebrity couple seeking to make an impact on the local community arts center.
#81. A Bread Factory Part Two: Walk With Me a While (2018) (tie)
– Director: Patrick Wang- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 9- Runtime: 120 minutes
Part one of “A Bread Factory” does quite a bit to set up the story, detailing life itself. Meanwhile, the second part focuses on making a statement about how art makes an impact on everyday life and how, for artists, taking away one’s ability to create is equal to taking away life itself. Viewed together, the film’s create an incredibly thoughtful piece of work.
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#80. Nostalgia for the Light (2011)
– Director: Patricio Guzmán- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 19- Runtime: 90 minutes
Originally titled “Nostalgia de la Luz,” this 2010 documentary is about the impact of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. Director Patricio Guzmán filmed in the Atacama Desert, where people search for the bodies of political prisoners.
#79. Beau Travail (2000)
– Director: Claire Denis- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 20- Runtime: 90 minutes
In “Beau Travail,” a Foreign Legion officer reminisces on leading troops through Africa. His life takes a turn when his jealousy is piqued by a new recruit. This French film is based loosely on “Billy Budd,” a novella by Herman Melville.
#78. EX LIBRIS: The New York Public Library (2017)
– Director: Frederick Wiseman- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 22- Runtime: 197 minutes
This documentary takes viewers behind the scenes of the New York Public Library system. It chronicles everything from board meetings to galas to after-school programs across the system’s 92 branches.
#77. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (2015)
– Director: Jafar Panahi- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 25- Runtime: 82 minutes
When the Iranian government banned director Jafar Panahi from filmmaking, he pretended to be a taxi driver. He then affixed a camera to his dashboard and interviewed his passengers, which resulted in a docu-fictional film about social issues in Iran.
#75. Moolaadé (2004) (tie)
– Director: Ousmane Sembene- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 26- Runtime: 124 minutes
“Moolaadé” confronts the tradition of female genital mutilation, telling the fictional story of a woman who shelters a group of girls fleeing the procedure. The film, set in Burkina Faso, was made by Senegalese writer and director Ousmane Sembène.
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#75. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) (tie)
– Director: Peter Jackson- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 26- Runtime: 99 minutes
Legendary director Peter Jackson veered far from fantasy with this harrowing documentary. Using innovative computer technology, Jackson and his team restored and colorized never-before-seen WWI footage. The film serves as more than a tribute to the war’s end—it’s a stunning reminder of civilization’s brutal past.
#74. The Gatekeepers (2013)
– Director: Dror Moreh- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 27- Runtime: 101 minutes
“The Gatekeepers” marks the first time that secret service members for former heads of Israel have agreed to speak publicly about their work. The resulting documentary by Dror Moreh was nominated for an Academy Award.
#73. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2002)
– Director: Zacharias Kunuk- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 29- Runtime: 172 minutes
Starring Inuit actors, this film revamps an ancient legend. It follows a young man who falls in love with a woman betrothed to the tribal chief’s son. The movie became known for its riveting scenes in the Arctic.
#71. Waltz with Bashir (2008) (tie)
– Director: Ari Folman- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 33- Runtime: 90 minutes
“Waltz with Bashir” blends genres as an autobiographical animated documentary film. The 2008 movie follows Ari Folman, a filmmaker and former soldier, as he pieces together the events of the Sabra and Shatila massacres he witnessed as a 19 year old.
#71. The Act of Killing (2013) (tie)
– Directors: Anonymous, Christine Cynn, Joshua Oppenheimer- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 33- Runtime: 115 minutes
When former Indonesian death-squad leaders are asked to reenact their mass-killings in Hollywood style, it paves the way for a nightmarish vision of humanity. Not only do the death squad leaders express no remorse for their heinous deeds, but they seem to enjoy the act of recreation. While the documentary’s main focus is on the banality of evil, it also conjures relevant questions about the nature of entertainment.
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#70. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
– Director: Eliza Hittman- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 34- Runtime: 101 minutes
A powerful film about teen pregnancy and the realities of being a woman in the United States, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” follows two teenage cousins as they travel from Pennsylvania to New York in order to obtain a second-trimester abortion. Tenderly written and stunningly performed, the movie is just as much of a character study as it is a telling of an all-too-real tale.
#68. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) (tie)
– Director: Sylvain Chomet- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 35- Runtime: 78 minutes
When “The Triplets of Belleville” was released in 2003, it dazzled audiences around the world with its unique animation style. The French comedy narrates the story of Madame Souza, whose professional cyclist grandson is kidnapped. The film earned two Academy Award nominations.
#68. Ida (2014) (tie)
– Director: Pawel Pawlikowski- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 35- Runtime: 82 minutes
Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white film is set in 1962 Poland. A young woman is about to take her vows to become a nun—when she discovers from her only living relative that she is Jewish.
#67. Stories We Tell (2013)
– Director: Sarah Polley- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 36- Runtime: 108 minutes
Canadian director Sarah Polley turned the lens on her own family and their close-held secrets. This documentary marked the third feature for the Oscar-nominated filmmaker.
#65. The Queen (2006) (tie)
– Director: Stephen Frears- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 37- Runtime: 103 minutes
Dame Helen Mirren snagged an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in this period drama. The movie chronicles the days after the death of Princess Diana, and the surprises, controversy, and mourning that followed.
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#65. No Country for Old Men (2007) (tie)
– Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 37- Runtime: 122 minutes
“No Country for Old Men,” a crime thriller, is based on a 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy of the same name. After a hunter (played by Josh Brolin) stumbles across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong, he steals the cash that’s left behind. Little does he know that he’ll soon be the target of a terrifying killer, played by Javier Bardem.
#64. The Souvenir (2019)
– Director: Joanna Hogg- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 45- Runtime: 120 minutes
Critics and audiences are thus far divided on Joanna Hogg’s coming of age drama, which takes place in the 1980s. Based on the director’s own experiences, it chronicles the destructive relationship between a young film student and a mysterious older man. Writing for the London Evening Standard, critic David Sexton called it “one of the best U.K. films in years.”
#63. Son of Saul (2015)
– Director: László Nemes- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 49- Runtime: 107 minutes
Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards, this Hungarian drama takes place in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. It follows a prisoner named Saul Auslander as he seeks proper burial for a young child. As the first full-length feature from director László Nemes, it introduced a powerful new voice in cinema.
#62. The Favourite (2018)
– Director: Yorgos Lanthimos- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 53- Runtime: 119 minutes
This period film set in 18th-century England stars Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman. Amid war, a friend of Queen Anne becomes enraged when a servant threatens to usurp her role as the favored royal adviser.
#61. Uncut Gems (2019)
– Directors: Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 56- Runtime: 135 minutes
The Safdie Brothers’ anxiety-inducing “Uncut Gems” earned critical acclaim. Adam Sandler impresses as a motormouth Manhattan diamond dealer whose sports gambling and extramarital affairs unsurprisingly stress viewers out and lead to his downfall. The cinematography, sound, and frantic energy is the backbone, and the themes are dark and tragic even if predictable. By its end, audiences may be more relieved than satisfied.
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#60. Little Women (2019)
– Director: Greta Gerwig- Metascore: 91- Number of reviews: 57- Runtime: 135 minutes
Greta Gerwig’s 2019 take on “Little Women” is the seventh movie interpretation of the Louisa May Alcott novel, though its Oscar win (Best Costume Design) and six total nominations (Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score) underlines its impact and universal praise. The Marsh sisters are played by Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen, and their performances elevated this movie from best iteration to one of the best films of the century.
#59. Werckmeister Harmonies (2001)
– Directors: Ágnes Hranitzky, Béla Tarr- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 8- Runtime: 145 minutes
This black-and-white Hungarian drama mystery is based on the novel “The Melancholy of Resistance” by László Krasznahorkai. Set against the communist regime, it’s about a circus that comes to town and fails to perform a promised act, resulting in riots.
#58. One More Time with Feeling (2016)
– Director: Andrew Dominik- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 14- Runtime: 112 minutes
Andrew Dominik’s documentary “One More Time with Feeling” is about Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. In the film, the band reels from the death of the lead singer’s child while recording their 16th studio album.
#57. 35 Shots of Rum (2009)
– Director: Claire Denis- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 17- Runtime: 100 minutes
Directed by French filmmaker Claire Denis, “35 Shots of Rum” was inspired by the Japanese film “Late Spring.” Originally called “35 Rhums,” the movie follows the relationship between a father-daughter duo and their neighbor.
#56. Tower (2016)
– Director: Keith Maitland- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 22- Runtime: 96 minutes
“Tower” is an animated documentary about the University of Texas shooting. The 1966 attack left 16 dead and is considered to be the first mass school shooting in America. The film mixes animation with live-action footage.
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#55. The Look of Silence (2015)
– Director: Joshua Oppenheimer- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 29- Runtime: 103 minutes
An optometrist learns the identity of those who murdered his brother during the Indonesian genocide and confronts them in this documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer. The film was nominated for an Oscar.
#53. The Class (2008) (tie)
– Director: Laurent Cantet- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 31- Runtime: 128 minutes
Based on an autobiographical novel of the same name, “The Class” is about an idealistic young teacher working with underprivileged youth. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2008.
#53. Timbuktu (2015) (tie)
– Director: Abderrahmane Sissako- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 31- Runtime: 97 minutes
This French-Mauritanian drama is about a cattle herder and his family. Though they live quietly, a horrific regime of Islamic militants looms in the nearby city of Timbuktu. It’s inspired by the true story of a couple stoned to death for alleged adultery.
#51. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (tie)
– Director: Peter Jackson- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 34- Runtime: 178 minutes
The first installment of “The Lord of the Rings” fantasy saga is about a hobbit named Frodo (played by Elijah Wood) who acquires a dangerous, magical ring and must assemble a group that can help get him to Mordor, the place where the ring was forged and the only place where it can be destroyed. It’s based on the 1954 book of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.
#51. Leviathan (2014) (tie)
– Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 34- Runtime: 140 minutes
In “Leviathan,” a Russian fisherman fights government corruption to keep his ancestral home. Written, directed, and produced by Andrey Zvyagintsev, it earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
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#50. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
– Director: Julian Schnabel- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 36- Runtime: 112 minutes
In this now-famous docudrama, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine suffers a stroke in his early 40s. Afterward, he faces locked-in syndrome. This film is based on the memoir of the same name by Jean-Dominique Bauby, which was composed by “dictating” his memoir through blinking, the only way he was able to communicate.
#49. Toy Story 3 (2010)
– Director: Lee Unkrich- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 39- Runtime: 103 minutes
Pixar’s “Toy Story” series follows the adventures of toys that come to life when humans aren’t looking. The third movie is about what happens when the toys’ owner heads off to college, and they’re accidentally put in the trash. It features voice work from Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack.
#48. The Rider (2018)
– Director: Chloé Zhao- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 42- Runtime: 104 minutes
Featuring staggering scenes of the Pine Ridge Reservation and of beautiful horses, “The Rider” is about a bronc rider who fights to get back in the saddle after being critically injured in an accident. The movie by Chloé Zhao blends fact and fiction—the lead actor is a young man who went through much of the same trauma as the character he plays.
#47. The Florida Project (2017)
– Director: Sean Baker- Metascore: 92- Number of reviews: 44- Runtime: 111 minutes
Set just outside of Disneyland over the course of a summer, this film by Sean Baker depicts a mother and daughter living at a budget motel, run by Bobby (played by Willem Dafoe). Much of the film focuses on the resilience of the young girl, and the sacrifices her mother must make for her.
#46. Shoah: Four Sisters (2018)
– Director: Claude Lanzmann- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 7- Runtime: 273 minutes
The final project from French documentarian Claude Lanzmann consists primarily of unused footage from 1985’s “Shoah,” his nine-hour masterwork. Breaking down into a quartet of features, it centers on four female Holocaust survivors and their respective stories of life both during and after the war. It first aired as a miniseries on French TV before making a brief run in American theaters.
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#45. Sherpa (2015)
– Director: Jennifer Peedom- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 9- Runtime: 96 minutes
This documentary isn’t your typical Mount Everest story. Originally intended to tell the story of a regular climbing season, the film focuses on the stories of the sherpas who survived a deadly avalanche in 2014.
#44. Sita Sings the Blues (2009)
– Director: Nina Paley- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 11- Runtime: 82 minutes
“Sita Sings the Blues” is an animated romantic comedy. Directed, produced, and animated by American artist Nina Paley, the film reimagines events from the Indian epic poem “Ramayana” mixed with autobiographical events.
#43. Yi Yi (2000)
– Director: Edward Yang- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 25- Runtime: 173 minutes
“Yi Yi,” a comedy-drama, is about the year in the life of a middle-class family in Taipei. The film director Edward Yang, a famous Taiwanese New Wave filmmaker, won the Best Director Award at Cannes.
#42. Toni Erdmann (2016)
– Director: Maren Ade- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 36- Runtime: 162 minutes
“Toni Erdmann” tells the tale of a father so desperate to reconnect with his business-focused daughter that he poses as her CEO’s life coach in order to spend time with her. The German-Austrian dramedy was written, directed, and co-produced by Maren Ade, and stars Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller.
#41. Shoplifters (2018)
– Director: Hirokazu Koreeda- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 40- Runtime: 121 minutes
Directed, written, and edited by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, “Shoplifters” is a drama about a poor family that takes in an abused girl. The twist? The family gets by with a small government pension and supplements their income by shoplifting.
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#40. There Will Be Blood (2007)
– Director: Paul Thomas Anderson- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 42- Runtime: 158 minutes
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair, a greedy silver miner turned oil prospector moves to California and tries to con landowners out of their oil-rich land. It earned Daniel Day-Lewis an Academy Award for Best Actor.
#39. Spotlight (2015)
– Director: Thomas McCarthy- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 45- Runtime: 128 minutes
Based on real events, “Spotlight” traces the footsteps of investigative journalists at The Boston Globe looking into allegations against a priest accused of molesting boys. Soon, they learn of a larger cover-up within the Catholic Church. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture and, today, the real-life investigative team still works to uncover scandals.
#38. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
– Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 52- Runtime: 104 minutes
There are many stories of struggling artists, but this one focuses on a fictional folk singer named Llewyn Davis in 1961 Greenwich Village. It stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and John Goodman. The Coen brothers, who wrote, directed, and co-produced the film, were inspired by the story of a musician named Dave Van Ronk.
#37. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
– Director: Luca Guadagnino- Metascore: 93- Number of reviews: 53- Runtime: 132 minutes
This lush film set over a summer in Italy dives into the story of an American teenager (Timothée Chalamet) who has a sexual awakening when his family hosts an older graduate student named Oliver (Armie Hammer). Based on a novel of the same name, the gay romance film is known for a few shocking moments, as well as a haunting final scene with music from Sufjan Stevens.
#36. We Were Here (2011)
– Directors: Bill Weber, David Weissman- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 11- Runtime: 90 minutes
San Francisco, once a must-needed haven for the queer community in the 1970s, underwent a shock in the 1980s when the AIDS crisis hit. “We Were Here” is a documentary film that tells the stories of five individuals who experienced this tragedy.
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#35. Carlos (2010)
– Director: Olivier Assayas- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 21- Runtime: 325 minutes
2010’s “Carlos” recounts the real-life tale of Carlos the Jackal, an infamous terrorist-for-hire. The story begins with Carlos as a young Marxist and shows how he was recruited by a Palestinian terrorist organization. The French-German biopic by Olivier Assayas follows two decades in the titular character’s life.
#34. Faces Places (2017)
– Directors: Agnès Varda, JR- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 22- Runtime: 89 minutes
In this documentary, French New Wave director Agnès Varda joins a muralist named JR to travel around France. Along the way, they create giant portraits of the people they meet. “Faces Places” won a Cannes Golden Eye for Best Documentary.
#33. Amazing Grace (2018)
– Directors: Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 27- Runtime: 87 minutes
Originally helmed by Syndey Pollack, this 1972 Aretha Franklin concert film sat on the shelves for decades due to audio synchronization issues. Upon purchasing the raw footage in 2007, producer Alan Elliott synced the audio and then battled with Franklin herself while pushing for the film’s release. It was only after the singer passed away that the movie made its big-screen debut at the Doc NYC festival.
#32. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
– Director: Ang Lee- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 32- Runtime: 120 minutes
Martial arts movies are often considered a retro relic: not so for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The Chinese film by Ang Lee, which tells the tale of a stolen sword, was released in 2000 and was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.
#31. 45 Years (2015)
– Director: Andrew Haigh- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 36- Runtime: 95 minutes
In “45 Years,” a husband and wife are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when the husband learns that the body of his long-lost former lover has been found in the Swiss Alps—a discovery that threatens to change their lives forever. This British film is based on a short story titled “In Another Country” by David Constantine.
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#29. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) (tie)
– Director: Peter Jackson- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 41- Runtime: 201 minutes
The final installment of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy lived up to the hype as Frodo the hobbit nears Mount Doom. The other members of his fellowship fight to defeat the evil armies deployed to take them down. Though some mocked it for being long-winded (the run time was nearly 3.5 hours), it was nominated for 11 Oscars—and it won each one.
#29. Before Midnight (2013) (tie)
– Director: Richard Linklater- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 41- Runtime: 109 minutes
In the final installment of the “Before Trilogy,” the two lovers (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) reminisce on their lives together and how things might have been different. This time, the story is set during their vacation in Greece.
#28. Sideways (2004)
– Director: Alexander Payne- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 42- Runtime: 126 minutes
Wine snobs and film buffs alike adore this black comedy about two friends who have a series of adventures (and misadventures) through California’s Santa Ynez Valley. Starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, the film was nominated for five Oscars.
#27. Mr. Turner (2014)
– Director: Mike Leigh- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 44- Runtime: 150 minutes
“Mr. Turner,” directed by Mike Leigh, covers the last 25 years in the life of the English painter J.M.W. Turner. The controversial figure had many affairs, including with a landlady and his housekeeper, and was known for his eccentric behavior.
#25. Amour (2012) (tie)
– Director: Michael Haneke- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 45- Runtime: 127 minutes
Don’t forget your tissue box: The French romance film “Amour” is about a loving marriage torn apart by a woman’s debilitating stroke. The New Yorker’s Hannah Goldfield called it depressing “to the point that I seriously contemplated escaping to the bathroom to have it out and collect myself, and considered leaving the theatre altogether.” It won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
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#25. Carol (2015) (tie)
– Director: Todd Haynes- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 45- Runtime: 118 minutes
This bewitching drama follows the romance between a married woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett) and a young shopkeeper (Rooney Mara). Set in 1950s New York, the film is based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith.
#24. Lady Bird (2017)
– Director: Greta Gerwig- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 50- Runtime: 94 minutes
Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age insta-classic “Lady Bird” depicts the daily life of a strong-willed Catholic high schooler in Sacramento as she deals with friends, boyfriends, and her mother. The film was also known for notable performances by Saoirse Ronan as the title character and Laurie Metcalf as her mother.
#22. Dunkirk (2017) (tie)
– Director: Christopher Nolan- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 53- Runtime: 106 minutes
Christopher Nolan—known for blockbusters like “The Dark Knight” and “Inception”—directed this war film. The movie, which has an ensemble cast, illuminates the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II, showing it from the perspectives of air, sea, and land.
#22. Marriage Story (2019) (tie)
– Director: Noah Baumbach- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 53- Runtime: 137 minutes
Indie legend Noah Baumbach examines the crumbling marriage of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) in this poignant comedy-drama. Divided between two coasts, the drifting partners struggle to balance their personal lives with the demands of their respective careers. Along with films like “Roma” and “The Irishman,” this work further establishes Netflix as a provider of Oscar-worthy content.
#21. La La Land (2016)
– Director: Damien Chazelle- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 54- Runtime: 128 minutes
“La La Land” follows two star-crossed lovers, one an actress and the other a jazz musician, as they pursue their dreams in Los Angeles. One big twist? The romantic dramedy, which won six Oscars, also happens to be a musical.
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#19. Inside Out (2015) (tie)
– Directors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 55- Runtime: 94 minutes
What if your feelings had personalities? That’s the idea explored in Pixar’s “Inside Out,” a colorful film about the emotions of a young girl who moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Her emotions are voiced by Amy Poehler (“Joy”), Phyllis Smith (“Sadness”), Lewis Black (“Anger”), Mindy Kaling (“Disgust”), and Bill Hader (“Fear”).
#19. The Irishman (2019) (tie)
– Director: Martin Scorsese- Metascore: 94- Number of reviews: 55- Runtime: 209 minutes
Based on an alleged work of nonfiction, Martin Scorsese’s latest mob saga promises to reveal the true fate of Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino). Bringing the tale to life is former hitman Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro), who claims to have partaken in the union leader’s disappearance. Much of the film’s costly budget went toward de-aging technology, so as to present Sheeran at various points in his life without swapping actors.
#18. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
– Director: Raoul Peck- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 36- Runtime: 93 minutes
When he died, noted author and thinker James Baldwin left an unfinished manuscript, titled “Remember This House.” The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” uses archival footage and Baldwin’s own words to explore the story of this work along with the state of racial politics in America today.
#17. The Hurt Locker (2009)
– Director: Kathryn Bigelow- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 37- Runtime: 131 minutes
Kathryn Bigelow’s drama takes on the high-stakes world of bomb disposal. This story depicts a sergeant in the Iraq War (played by Jeremy Renner) who faces conflict with his squad for his unconventional methods.
#16. WALL-E (2008)
– Director: Andrew Stanton- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 39- Runtime: 98 minutes
Pixar’s sci-fi extravaganza “WALL-E” is about the last robot left on an abandoned Earth. He spends his days cleaning up trash until an encounter with a sleek space probe called EVE changes his life. Not only was this film by Andrew Stanton lauded for its beautiful art direction, but it was also beloved for its timely environmentalist message.
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#15. A Separation (2011)
– Director: Asghar Farhadi- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 41- Runtime: 123 minutes
This Iranian drama film is about the separation of a couple, and the fallout from their decision. In 2012, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. This was a big accomplishment—considering it was the first foreign-language film to garner a nomination in that category in five years. Though it didn’t win, it did snag an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
#14. The Social Network (2010)
– Director: David Fincher- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 42- Runtime: 120 minutes
Today, billions of people around the globe use Facebook. David Fincher’s snappy drama fictionalizes the roots of the company, starting with its complicated beginnings at Harvard. Fincher digs into the darker side of Facebook’s founding, from the friendship-ending legal fights to the ways social networking has changed human interaction.
#13. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
– Director: Kathryn Bigelow- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 46- Runtime: 157 minutes
Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her critically acclaimed film “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” stars Jessica Chastain as CIA operative Maya, who spearheads the SEAL team-led search for Osama bin Laden. The story is based on actual events.
#12. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
– Director: Céline Sciamma- Metascore: 95- Number of reviews: 48- Runtime: 122 minutes
It might be set in the 18th century, but Céline Sciamma’s latest effort is a far cry from the average costume drama. When a French artist named Marianne is commissioned to paint the portrait of a young woman, the two gradually develop a forbidden romance. In addition to winning Best Screenplay at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Sciamma became the first female director to win the Queer Palm.
#11. Ratatouille (2007)
– Director: Brad Bird- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 37- Runtime: 111 minutes
What would you do if you found out that your fancy French meal was made by a rat? That’s the premise of this 2007 Pixar film wherein a rat named Remy teams up with a garbage boy named Linguini to secretly become a chef.
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#10. Spirited Away (2002)
– Director: Hayao Miyazaki- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 41- Runtime: 125 minutes
Hayao Miyazaki, beloved Japanese director and founder of the animation studio Studio Ghibli, may be best known for “Spirited Away.” The coming-of-age, animated fantasy is about a 10-year-old girl who enters the spirit world.
#9. Gravity (2013)
– Director: Alfonso Cuarón- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 49- Runtime: 91 minutes
This Alfonso Cuarón film focuses on a medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) on her first space mission, and a veteran astronaut (George Clooney) on his last. When their shuttle is destroyed, the two of them are lost in space, fighting to survive.
#8. Roma (2018)
– Director: Alfonso Cuarón- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 50- Runtime: 135 minutes
In this black-and-white, semi-autobiographical movie, Alfonso Cuarón (who directed “Children of Men” and “Gravity”) takes viewers to 1970s Mexico City. It recounts a year in one household, examining the life of a housekeeper and the mother of four who employs her.
#6. Manchester by the Sea (2016) (tie)
– Director: Kenneth Lonergan- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 52- Runtime: 137 minutes
Filmed in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, this drama was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and was based on a story by actors Matt Damon and John Krasinki. When the main character’s brother dies, he must care for his teenage nephew. Though star Casey Affleck’s performance was lauded, even winning him an Oscar, he later came under fire for misconduct. As a result, he broke the tradition of presenting the Academy Award for Best Actress the next year.
#6. Parasite (2019) (tie)
– Director: Bong Joon-ho- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 52- Runtime: 132 minutes
From the director of “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” comes this pitch-black comedy, in which the underprivileged Kim family inserts itself into a wealthy household. As a bizarre symbiotic relationship develops, parasitic metaphors bubble to the surface. It won the Palme d’Or at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival by unanimous decision.
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#5. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
– Director: Steve McQueen- Metascore: 96- Number of reviews: 57- Runtime: 134 minutes
Adapted from a slave memoir of the same name, this movie tells the real-life story of a free black man in New York (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is kidnapped and re-sold into slavery. During his 12th year of slavery, he has a chance meeting with a Canadian that changes his life. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture.
#4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2008)
– Director: Cristian Mungiu- Metascore: 97- Number of reviews: 37- Runtime: 113 minutes
Four months, three weeks, and two days: That’s how long a young Romanian woman has been pregnant. Aided by her university roommate, she seeks an illegal abortion. Directed by Cristian Mungiu, this film set in the late 1980s won the Cannes’ Palme d’Or.
#3. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
– Director: Guillermo del Toro- Metascore: 98- Number of reviews: 37- Runtime: 118 minutes
Director Guillermo del Toro spins a twisted fairy tale with “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Set in Spain just after the Spanish Civil War, it relates the story of a young girl named Ofelia. Though her stepfather is a murderous military officer and her pregnant mother grows ill, Ofelia meets magical creatures who draw her into a whimsical, sometimes terrifying place called Pan’s Labyrinth.
#2. Moonlight (2016)
– Director: Barry Jenkins- Metascore: 99- Number of reviews: 53- Runtime: 111 minutes
The story of Chiron, a black boy living in Miami, is told in three parts. First, young Chiron befriends a drug dealer named Juan, who becomes a father-figure to him. Next, he’s an adolescent struggling to survive in a household with a crack-addicted mother. Finally, he’s an adult man reckoning with how his life has turned out. Though this beautiful, emotional film was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, the ceremony is largely known for a gaffe from the presenters, who accidentally announced the award as going to “La La Land” before they corrected themselves.
#1. Boyhood (2014)
– Director: Richard Linklater- Metascore: 100- Number of reviews: 50- Runtime: 165 minutes
Richard Linklater knows how to dedicate himself to his art. He filmed “Boyhood,” which examines a kid’s life in Texas from age 6 to 18, over the course of 12 years. He began with only basic plot points and an ending for this coming-of-age epic. The rest of the story evolved over the course of more than a decade of filming.
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The post 100 Best Films of the 21st Century, According to Critics appeared first on Newsweek.