There have been some amazing films that have come out over the past 20 years, ever since we entered the new millennium, and here are just some of my absolute favourites.
Firstly, here are some honourable mentions: Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, God’s Own Country, Gone Girl, Her, I, Tonya, La La Land, Little Miss Sunshine, Little Women, Memento, Moonlight, Mulholland Drive, Phantom Thread, Searching, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead, Spirited Away, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Train to Busan, Wild Tales & Zodiac
10. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Mission: Impossible has always been one of the most underrated film franchises of recent times. Despite a bevy of famous directors (including, Brian de Palma, John Woo, JJ Abrams, Brad Bird and Christopher McQuarrie) and famous actors (including the man himself, Tom Cruise) at the helm, the franchise has always been on the verge of widespread success, producing fun and serviceable popcorn action thrillers.
However, with it’s sixth instalment, Fallout, the franchise crosses the threshold from serviceable entertainment into a real sophisticated, classy and visceral piece of cinema. With brilliantly directed action sequences, compelling characters (particularly Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust), thrilling tension, and great performances, Fallout is not just a great Mission: Impossible film, but a great film altogether. It’s definitely the best action film of the 21st century (and sorry, but it’s much better than Mad Max: Fury Road). Hell, it might even be the best action movie ever made.
9. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
This isn’t the last Coen brothers film that will appear on the list (see: number 2), but this is definitely the best film they’ve made in the last 10 years. It’s possibly their most Marmite film in their filmography (some people rank it as one of their favourite films of Coens; some people rank it among their worst), however, I absolutely love it.
It’s depressing, melancholy, sombre, subversive, darkly funny and strange in all the best ways, and I love it’s cinematography, songs, performances (including by a breakout Oscar Isaac) and some glorious cameos (including by the always great Adam Driver). It’s the sort of film that sticks with you long after the credits roll, and stays with you your entire life.
8. A Separation (2011)
Asghar Farhadi’s brilliant fifth feature, A Separation is him at his best and most heart-breaking. It’s most definitely the second best non-English language film of the 21st century (we’ll get to number one soon enough), and one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen.
The film boasts one of the greatest scripts ever written, with brutally frank and straight-talking dialogue, and makes us feel sympathy equally all of our lead characters, despite their bad or morally ambiguous actions. One of the most underestimated films to come recently, A Separation is most definitely worth a look.
7. Knives Out (2019)
Rian Johnson’s epic murder mystery comedy isn’t for everyone, but for the people that get it (like me), they really get it. The film is odd hybrid of an Agatha Christie murder mystery and a witty, suspenseful and darkly funny popcorn thriller. It’s neither a straight-up mystery, nor a spoof movie – it finds itself somewhere in the middle. It’s a strange pastiche of the whodunnit genre that simultaneously embraces and subverts the genre’s conventions.
What’s so brilliant about the film, however, is that you never notice all this while you’re watching it. It’s properly cinematic, really thrilling, entertaining, funny and filled to the brim with great performances and compelling characters. I mean, Ana de Armos is a frigging star through and through. I can’t wait to see the sequel, even it’s just for Daniel Craig’s barmy accent alone.
6. Paddington 2 (2017)
If you’d asked me about 3 years ago, I would probably say Paddington 2 is my favourite film of the 21st century. However, eventually ending up at number 6 is still pretty good.
This sequel to the 2014 adventure comedy centred on the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond, improves everything about the original in spades. It’s more entertaining, more thrilling, funny and even more heartfelt. By the end, you’ll both be in floods of tears and your heart will be lifted by the level of compassion that Paddington has for the planet and it’s people.
It’s just the film we need for right now, and anyone with a soul and beating heart will surely be incredibly moved by this wonderful, wonderful movie.
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man have gone through a hell of a lot through the past two decades – we have had three separate actors portraying the Marvel superhero across three distinct franchises (in 7 movies). However, who’d ever thought that the best portrayal of Spider-Man would actually come from an animated movie, with Miles Morales as the lead.
Spider-Verse is really beautifully animated, and filled to the brim with wonderful and hilarious characters. It’s also a film with a real love of comic books, and has a willingness to embrace the more wacky, crazy parts of the medium. It’s possibly the best animated films of the past 20 years, and definitely my favourite superhero movie of all time (and yes, its better than The Dark Knight – there, I said it).
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman’s 5th feature, is a masterclass in how to tell an tired, unoriginal story in a new and innovative way. Centring on a estranged, bickering couple (Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey), who decide to erase each other from their memories, the film combines a nonlinear narrative and wild genre experimentation to create something wholly original.
It’s the sort of film the explores the concept of romantic love, and the importance of memories and how our memories are what defines us, yet manages to do it in a very mainstream, and accessible (yet very strange) way. It’s also got some glorious performances by Kate Winslet and an out-of-character dramatic Jim Carrey. If you’re looking for something a little unorthodox coming from the 21st century, then definitely check out Eternal Sunshine.
3. The Social Network (2010)
Sometimes a film comes along where the writer and the director are both collectively working at the height of their powers. And The Social Network is one of those movies. In this movie, we see director, David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, Gone Girl) and writer, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Trial of the Chicago 7) coming together to make arguably the greatest biopic movie of all time (and it’s a movie about Facebook).
Not only that, but the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is absolutely fantastic, and the editing is some of the best editing done in the history of cinema (that hacking scene is utterly incredible). What is really miraculous about the film, however, is that Fincher is able to turn a film about Facebook (which could of been so boring) into a rollicking, cinematic, and oddly, fun feature film.
The Social Network does not get half as much attention as it should do – give it another 25 years, and hopefully, it will be seen as the classic that it deserves to be seen as.
2. No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen brothers’ 1996 classic, Fargo is definitely my favourite film of theirs, but if I had to pick their most polished, most well-made feature in their filmography, it would definitely be No Country for Old Men. Like a lot of their films – the plot is extremely simple (it’s essentially a cat-and-mouse thriller about the hunt for a suitcase of money), but that doesn’t mean it’s any less extraordinary.
What’s so brilliant about No Country is that it’s a masterclass in “show, don’t tell” storytelling – it gives just the right amount of exploratory dialogue, and treats it’s audience with the upmost of intelligence. It the possibly the absolute pinnacle of visual storytelling, only made more impressive by some beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins (who, if you didn’t know, is the greatest cinematographer in the whole world – and that’s not a opinion, that’s just a fact).
Also, Javier Barden as Anton Chigurh – possibly the best bad guy ever?
Now, every film on this list is absolutely brilliant, but Parasite is on an another level. Parasite is a special movie – the sort of movie that comes around once every few decades or maybe even once in a lifetime.
The black comedy-cum-thriller-cum-social satire is the 7th feature by South Korean writer-director, Bong Joon-ho (who formerly crafted the brilliant films, Mother, Snowpiercer and Memories of Murder), and is a real miracle of film. Film students and film critics will be analysing it for decades to come to figure out just how Joon-ho did it. Somehow, Parasite manages to be equal parts funny, tense, suspenseful and dramatic, and manages to work as about 10 different genres all at once.
But what might be the best thing about Parasite (and the reason why it got widespread media coverage, universal critical acclaim, and huge box office success) is just how entertaining the film is. Joon-ho is able to turn a tired social message into something that is really cinematic and gloriously thrilling. Watching Parasite is like watching Alfred Hitchcock at his best – we are seeing Joon-ho at the absolute total command of his craft, and he has proven himself to be one of the greatest film directors of his generation.
Yes, Parasite is the best film of the 21st Century, but Parasite may even be more than that. It may even be the greatest film ever made in the history of cinema.