The New York Times’ list of top 25 films of the 21st Century is nirvana for movie fans
In the New York Times’ list of top 25 films of the 21st Century, everything from Mad Max: Fury Road to the work of the Dardenne (and Coen) Brothers is honoured.Updated: Jun 10, 2017 18:04 IST
The New York Times on Friday unveiled its list of the top 25 films of the 21st century, casting a net across the length and breadth of the world’s cinematic landscape.
Helping the Times’ chief film critics - Manohla Dargis and AO Scott - were some of the industry’s top film directors, like Guillermo Del Toro, Ava DuVernay, Kathryn Bigelow, Richard Linklater, and recent winner of the Academy Award for Best Director, Barry Jenkins.
“As the chief film critics of The Times, we decided to rank, with some help from cinema savants on Facebook, the top 25 movies that are destined to be the classics of the future. While we’re sure almost everyone will agree with our choices, we’re equally sure that those of you who don’t will let us know,” begins the piece, lavishly produced with large images, and animations.
Here’s the list, in reverse order:
25: The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
“When The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released, I had no idea I was watching a defining movie about stunted masculinity or that its director, Judd Apatow, would soon emerge as a force in American comedy. I had expected jokes, though not scenes of violent chest-waxing and lonely tuba playing and certainly not such depth of feeling,” wrote Dargis.
24: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a wintry pop song of a film, one you want to play on repeat with a cast in top form. In addition to the startlingly credible Jim Carrey and the irresistibly orange-haired Kate Winslet as lovers, it has Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson and Mark Ruffalo. Charlie Kaufman’s writing has the perfect equipoise of cynicism and sensitivity, and finds a perfect correlative in the director Michel Gondry’s whimsical ingenuity,” wrote the duo.
23: Silent Light (2008)
“In Silent Light, the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas does more than tell a religious story – he invites you into a world of grace and wonder so beautiful that it turns his film into a kind of prayer,” wrote Dargis and Scott.
22: I’m Not There (2007)
“I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’s film about Bob Dylan, is not a biopic. It’s an extended essay in Dylanology, with six actors (among them Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett) incarnating aspects of the future Nobel laureate’s protean personality,” wrote Scott.
21: Wendy and Lucy (2008)
“All of (director) Kelly (Reichardt)’s movies are political, but you would have to maybe have been told that to be aware of it. She’s able to slip it into everything she does, but it’s never didactic or heavy-handed. It’s an essential part of who Kelly is. She’s interested in a lot of genres, but the backbone of it is, how do people get along? How do people get by?” said actor Michelle Williams to AO Scott.
20: Moonlight (2016)
“I have loved and championed a number of films over the past 17 years, but this one is somehow special. From the first time I saw it, I felt an unusually intense and intimate affection for it, an almost protective investment in its flourishing,” Scott wrote.
19: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
“The best action movie of the 21st century – the action movie that sails into contention as one of the best movies, period – is Mad Max: Fury Road. By a dusty outback mile,” said the duo.
18: The Gleaners and I (2000)
“In true punk spirit, The Gleaners and I doubles as a programmatic aesthetic statement and a protest against the way things are,” wrote Scott.
17: Three Times (2006)
“I first saw Three Times at the 2005 Telluride Film Festival. It was wonderful, (the critic) Roger Ebert introduced the film. He loved it and thankfully gushed over it in a way that didn’t hype such a delicate film,” remembers director Barry Jenkins.
16: Munich (2006)
“Strange as it may sound, there’s a strong case to be made that Steven Spielberg is among the most underrated American filmmakers of the 21st century,” say Dargis and Scott.
15: White Material (2010)
“I saw White Material about seven years ago and she became an immediate favourite,” says actor Robert Pattinson.
14: L’Enfant (2006)
Part of what’s thrilling about their (directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) films is that while the stories seem relatively simple, the narrative stakes are always profound and, as in“L’Enfant, a matter of literal and death.
13: In Jackson Heights (2013)
“Frederick Wiseman, the director of In Jackson Heights, is not just one of the greatest documentary filmmakers working today; he’s one of the greatest directors.”
12: Timbuktu (2015)
“The quietly devastating Timbuktu creeps up on you crystalline scene by crystalline scene. Set in the present, it takes place in the Malian city of its title, soon after the arrival of an Islamist group that quickly imposes Shariah law on the resistant population,” wrote Dargis.
11: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
“We went with the drama Inside Llewyn Davis because … because of the cat,” wrote Dargis and Scott.
10: The Hurt Locker (2009)
“Kathryn Bigelow made history when she became the first woman to win the Oscar for best director, for The Hurt Locker. At long last, a brilliant female director was recognized for her art by a male-dominated industry that remains pathologically resistant to equality,” wrote Dargis.
9: Summer Hours (2009)
“Olivier Assayas is the kind of director who sends critics into reveries, but he’s also a smart, shrewd storyteller,” wrote Dargis.
8: Boyhood (2014)
“It was deeply personal to people and I didn’t really anticipate that, I was just telling this little intimate story. But then when those responses came in, I was like, well, of course – it was powerful. We look for connection. This movie pulls you into caring about people and feeling what it’s like for time to pass, for life to change, for relationships change,” remembers director Richard Linklater about making his film.
7: Inside Out (2015)
“More than any other studio or individual filmmaker in the 21st century, Pixar Animation Studios has upheld the venerable ideal of making movies for everyone,” wrote Dargis and Scott.
6: Yi Yi (2000)
“A packed, enthralling three-hour chronicle of modern Taiwanese family life, Yi Yi has the heft and density of a great novel,” wrote Scott.
5: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2006)
“ The title is a spoiler. When we first meet Dante Lazarescu, a retired Bucharest resident in his early 60s (though he looks older), he is complaining of stomach pains. A little more than two and a half hours later – more or less in real time – he has left this world, unmourned and all but unnoticed,” wrote Scott.
4: A Touch of Sin (2013)
“Steeped in violence and sorrow, A Touch of Sin is an astonishing movie from the Chinese director Jia Zhangke. Divided into four chapters, it was inspired by a series of widely reported violent conflicts in China that haunted him,” wrote Dargis.
3: Million Dollar Baby (2003)
“Clint Eastwood sometimes releases his movies the way he shoots them: quickly and efficiently, without a lot of fuss and hype,” wrote Scott.
2: Spirited Away (2002)
“(Director Hayao) Miyazaki has an approach to making monsters that is unique. They are completely new in design, but they feel rooted in ancient lore. They seem to represent primal forces and, in many cases, spirits that are rooted to the earth, to the wind, to the water. They are very elemental,” wrote filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro.
1: There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a 21st-century masterpiece about love, death, faith, greed and all the oil and blood gushing through the American 20th century.
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First Published: Jun 10, 2017 17:58 IST