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The Top 10 Films Of The 21 Century – And Why No.2 Should Have Been No.1


The century’s two best films invite a questioning of the criteria by which any work of art is judged.

Recently, the BBC called upon 177 film critics to establish a list of the best 100 films made in the 21st century, i.e.; after 2000. The complete and detailed results can be found here. But for now we’ll share but the top ten:

  1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
  2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
  3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
  4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
  5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
  6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
  7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
  9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
  10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

Beyond mere personal preferences, the ranking may seem acceptable and consistent. At a glance, both an amateur and a cinephile may agree that these ten films represent an astonishingly high degree of cinematic quality from these past 16 years.

On the website, Quartz, journalist Huang Zheping proposed an interesting point of discussion regarding the two highest ranking films; Mulholland Drive and In the Mood for Love. Both are masterpieces, no doubt. The two are together multiple times in the lists of top five films even among critics who ranked others above them. This seems to suggest that while Mulholland Drive seems to be an unrivalled first for critics of a certain profile, In the Mood for Love might well take the same position if another critical profile is preferred.

In suggesting this, Huang pointed out that of the 177 specialists who participated in the BBC poll, 55 were women (almost a third), and among them, the Wong Kar-wai film won the majority of votes.

Even without reducing the question to gender, Quartz’s reporter notes that the emotions conveyed in In the Mood for Love – a story of infidelity and love between two abandoned spouses – and indeed, the how of that emotions translation to the cinema. In a video essay, another critic, Evan Puschak highlighted scenes from the film in which the protagonists are doubly framed. First, they’re under the proper frame of the film camera and then within another frame within that filmed environment: within a window frame, or reflected in a door. Wong Kar-wai’s direction seems to suggest that infidelity lives secretly, stealthily, delimited by both social and individual morality.

Is it possible to explain Mulholland Drive with that same simplicity?

It’s been said that art doesn’t have to be simple. But if we’re to expound on the criteria of a new century, might it not be worth questioning this and other premises?

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