Top 100 // GREATEST MOVIES OF THE 21ST CENTURY (SO FAR)

Countdown the monumental films that define this century, so far.



The 2018 film year is halfway over and, up to this point, we've been gifted with some pretty stellar work. Black Panther smashed records and became the seminal superhero film we needed to shake the superfluous Marvel slate as of late. Hereditary offered a unique and terrifying take on the horror genre. Won't You Be My Neighbor? has become the film we need for the current political and societal atmosphere, plus it could be the first documentary to make it into the Best Picture race.


With another half of a year, plus the busy awards season, ahead of us, let's take a look back at the movies that have come to define cinema for the 21st century, so far. This list takes into account the films that kickstarted the careers of directors who'd go on to become names in and of themselves, actors who've dominated the awards stages and box office lists, and the actual films that have become synonymous with modern cinema.


This list is 100% subjective of taste, crafted with a very personal choice of delight in content (specifically screenplay, performances, cinematography, and emotional connection) over merely craftsmanship, which is why you may not see films from the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings franchises. I agree there are definitely filmmaking achievements present in films from both series, but none of the specific films have taken to my liking like the films that have made the cut. I also only included films I've seen and am prepared to update this list as needed when and if I see a film from the past 18 years that deserves a spot. And, lastly, I decided to halt on including films from 2018 just yet, allowing for the year's scope to become fully realized before taking any of the films into account. If I were to include any, those would be Hereditary and Annihilation, two films that defied their genres in incredible ways.


Let me know what I've missed in the comments below!


100. MELANCHOLIA (2011)

Lars von Trier, director

Cannes Film Festival, Best Actress winner (Kirsten Dunst)


99. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005)

Rob Marshall, director

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner

Academy Awards, Best Art Direction winner

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design winner


98. GRAVITY (2013)

Alfonso Cuaron, director

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Mixing winner

Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects winner


97. RATATOUILLE (2007)

Brad Bird, director

Academy Awards, Best Animated Feature winner


96. ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)

Sam Mendes, director

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner


95. THE ARTIST (2011)

Michel Hazanavicius, director

Academy Awards, Best Picture winner

Academy Awards, Best Actor winner (Jean Dujardin)

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner

Cannes Film Festival, Best Actor winner (Jean Dujardin)

Cannes Film Festival, Palm Dog winner (Uggie)


94. I HEART HUCKABEES (2004)

David O. Russell, director


93. DUNKIRK (2017)

Christopher Nolan, director

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Mixing winner


92. SHUTTER ISLAND (2010)

Martin Scorsese, director


91. FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)

Wes Anderson, director


90. BEST IN SHOW (2000)

Christopher Guest, director


89. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008)

Charlie Kaufman, director


88. A GHOST STORY (2017)

David Lowery, director


87. KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005)

Shane Black, director


86. MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)

Clint Eastwood, director

Academy Awards, Best Picture winner

Academy Awards, Best Actress winner (Hilary Swank)

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Morgan Freeman)

Academy Awards, Best Director winner


85. BLACKFISH (2013)

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director


84. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

Martin Scorsese, director


83. THE DREAMERS (2003)

Bernardo Bertolucci, director


82. ADAPTATION. (2002)

Spike Jonze, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Chris Cooper)


81. VANILLA SKY (2001)

Cameron Crowe, director


80. NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

Dan Gilroy, director


79. HOLY MOTORS (2012)

Leos Carax, director

Cannes Film Festival, Award of the Youth winner


78. BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (2002)

Michael Moore, director

Academy Awards, Best Documentary Feature winner

Cannes Film Festival, 55th Anniversary Prize winner


77. ATONEMENT (2007)

Joe Wright, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner


76. HER (2013)

Spike Jonze, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


75. 21 GRAMS (2003)

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director


74. A SINGLE MAN (2009)

Tom Ford, director


73. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

George Miller, director

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design winner

Academy Awards, Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Mixing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Production Design winner


72. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016)

Mike Mills, director


71. HUGO (2011)

Martin Scorsese, director

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Mixing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects winner

Academy Awards, Best Art Direction winner


70. THE GREAT BEAUTY (2013)

Paolo Sorrentino, director

Academy Awards, Best Foreign Language Film winner


69. DOGVILLE (2003)

Lars von Trier, director

Cannes Film Festival, Palm Dog winner (Moses)


68. UNDER THE SKIN (2013)

Jonathan Glazer, director


67. MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006)

Sofia Coppola, director

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design winner

Cannes Film Festival, Cinema Prize of the French National Education System winner

Cannes Film Festival, Palm Dog winner (Mops)


66. THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)

Guillermo del Toro, director

Academy Awards, Best Picture winner

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner

Academy Awards, Best Production Design winner


65. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016)

Tom Ford, director


64. COLLATERAL (2004)

Michael Mann, director


63. JUNO (2007)

Jason Reitman, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


62. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

David O. Russell, director

Academy Awards, Best Actress winner (Jennifer Lawrence)


61. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2011)

Lynne Ramsay, director


60. BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001)

Ridley Scott, director

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound winner


59. TRAFFIC (2000)

Steven Soderbergh, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Benicio Del Toro)

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay winner

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner


58. THE HOURS (2002)

Stephen Daldry, director

Academy Awards, Best Actress winner (Nicole Kidman)


57. WEEKEND (2011)

Andrew Haigh, director


56. DOUBT (2008)

John Patrick Shanley, director


55. WHIPLASH (2011)

Damien Chazelle, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (J.K. Simmons)

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Sound Mixing winner


54. GHOST WORLD (2001)

Terry Zwigoff, director


53. BIG FISH (2003)

Tim Burton, director


52. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)

Steven Spielberg, director


51. SPOTLIGHT (2015)

Tom McCarthy, director

Academy Awards, Best Picture winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


50. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009)

Spike Jonze, director


49. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000)

Darren Aronofsky, director


48. SPRING BREAKERS (2012)

Harmony Korine, director


47. MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)

Wes Anderson, director

Cannes Film Festival, Palme de Whiskers winner (Tabitha)


46. TOY STORY 3 (2010)

Lee Unkrich, director

Academy Awards, Best Animated Feature winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Song winner


45. LADY BIRD (2017)

Greta Gerwig, director


44. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002)

Paul Thomas Anderson, director

Cannes Film Festival, Best Director winner


43. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

Quentin Tarantino, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Christoph Waltz)

Cannes Film Festival, Best Actor winner (Christoph Waltz)


42. THE NEON DEMON (2016)

Nicolas Winding Refn, director

Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Soundtrack Award winner


41. LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007)

Craig Gillespie, director


40. UNITED 93 (2006)

Paul Greengrass, director


39. THE OTHERS (2001)

Alejandro Amenabar, director


38. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)

Michael Gondry, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


37. BOYHOOD (2014)

Richard Linklater, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress winner (Patricia Arquette)


36. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)

David Fincher, director

Academy Awards, Best Art Direction winner

Academy Awards, Best Makeup winner

Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects winner


35. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, directors

Cannes Film Festival, Grand Prize of the Jury winner


34. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006)

Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, directors

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Alan Arkin)

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


33. THE NEW WORLD (2005)

Terrence Malick, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress winner (Renee Zellweger)


32. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2001)

Alfonso Cuaron, director


31. THE AVIATOR (2004)

Martin Scorsese, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress winner (Cate Blanchett)

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Art Direction winner

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design winner


30. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012)

Stephen Chbosky, director


29. MOULIN ROUGE! (2001)

Baz Luhrmann, director

Academy Awards, Best Art Direction winner

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design winner


28. FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002)

Todd Haynes, director


27. MOONLIGHT (2016)

Barry Jenkins, director

Academy Awards, Best Picture winner

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Mahershala Ali)

Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay winner


26. INTO THE WILD (2007)

Sean Penn, director


25. CAROL (2015)

Todd Haynes, director

Cannes Film Festival, Best Actress winner (Rooney Mara)

Cannes Film Festival, Queer Palm winner


24. LA LA LAND (2016)

Damien Chazelle, director

Academy Awards, Best Actress winner (Emma Stone)

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Song winner

Academy Awards, Best Production Design winner


23. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, directors

Academy Awards, Best Picture winner

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Javier Bardem)

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay winner


22. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Christopher Nolan, director

Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor winner (Heath Ledger)

Academy Awards, Best Sound Editing winner


21. ELEPHANT (2003)

Gus Van Sant, director

Cannes Film Festival, Palme d'Or winner

Cannes Film Festival, Best Director winner

Cannes Film Festival, Cinema Prize of the French National Education System winner


20. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)

Wes Anderson, director


19. SHAME (2011)

Steve McQueen, director


18. ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (2005)

Miranda July, director

Cannes Film Festival, Critics Week Grand Prize winner

Cannes Film Festival, Golden Camera winner

Cannes Film Festival, Prix Regards Jeune winner

Cannes Film Festival, Young Critics Award winner


17. BABEL (2006)

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner

Cannes Film Festival, Best Director winner

Cannes Film Festival, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury winner

Cannes Film Festival, Technical Grand Prize winner


16. ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)

Cameron Crowe, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


15. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

Wes Anderson, director

Academy Awards, Best Costume Design winner

Academy Awards, Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner

Academy Awards, Best Production Design winner


14. WALL-E (2008)

Andrew Stanton, director

Academy Awards, Best Animated Feature


13. THE MASTER (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson, director


12. AMELIE (2001)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director


11. LOST IN TRANSALTION (2003)

Sofia Coppola, director

Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay winner


10. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)

Alfonso Cuaron, director


9. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017)

Luca Guadagnino, director

Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay winner


8. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

David Fincher, director

Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay winner

Academy Awards, Best Film Editing winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner


7. MEMENTO (2000)

Christopher Nolan, director


6. YOUTH (2015)

Paolo Sorrentino, director


5. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005)

Ang Lee, director

Academy Awards, Best Director winner

Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay winner

Academy Awards, Best Original Score winner


4. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2005)

Paul Thomas Anderson, director

Academy Awards, Best Actor winner (Daniel Day-Lewis)

Academy Awards, Best Cinematography winner


3. AMERICAN HONEY (2016)

Andrea Arnold, director

Cannes Film Festival, Jury Prize winner

Cannes Film Festival, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention winner


2. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch, director

Cannes Film Festival, Best Director winner


1. THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)

Terrence Malick, director

Cannes Film Festival, Palme d'Or winner


© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.

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