When the BBC polled 62 international film critics last year to rank the 100 greatest American movies of all-time, an interesting omission mostly went unmentioned: There weren’t many films from the 2000s. And by not many, I mean there were six. The Dark Knight, 12 Years A Slave, 25th Hour, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Tree of Life, and Mullohand Drive.
Two modes of thinking kind of conspired to produce this result: a) film critics tend to hold a slavish, reverential eye to cinema past and b) the film community constantly bemoans that the movies are dying. Or, as a 12 year-old might put it, “movies are trash now.”
Is this true? Not really. Masterpieces are still being made. Auteurs and their big budget visions still receive proper support. Goodness: Quentin Tarantino hosted a 70mm roadshow for Hateful Eight last year that brought back the feeling of cinema past with film programs and projectors, plus plenty of backstabbing and bloody bloody violence. (Okay, that last part’s more of a Tarantino thing.)
Anyways, it might be more difficult and (*shakes fist*) streaming’s ruining “the culture,” sure. But are there only six movies made since 2000 worthy of joining the annals of film history? No. Of course not. That’s why the BBC commissioned a new poll of 100 greatest movies made since 2000, asking 177 critics from around the world—“every continent except Antarctica.” Only the BBC would include that important tidbit the-more-you-know style.
Here’s a quick peak at the top 10:
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
A pretty solid bunch, to be sure. But rankings have only ever served one real purpose—to be debated. So let’s analyze the list with some quick, stream-of-consciousness thoughts.
- Is Mulholland Drive the best movie of our modern century? Possibly. It’s about movies and storytelling which always elevates art in the critics’ eyes because it’s commenting about itself. The final 10 minutes (no spoilers) blows your fucking brains out. It’s like acid in movie form. But how often is anyone “in the mood” for Mulholland Drive? Debatable. It’s an argument is all I’m trying to say.
- Speaking of Tarantino, he appears a sum total of one (1) times on this list. That movie: Inglourious Basterds at No. 62. A tragedy? Well, tragedies should probably be reserved for real, impacts the well-being-of-others tragedies but…this is a tragedy. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 should appear separately and at the very least together within the top 66. What about Django Unchained, Tarantino’s biggest box-office hit ever? I prefer it over Basterds. Maybe international critics don’t like the color of red?
- Recency bias alert: Brooklyn somehow ranks at No. 48 on this list. Good movie, but not top 50 of all 2000s movies good. Also, get Spotlight out of here. No. 88, really? I can name 88 better YouTube clips. However: Inside Out is properly ranked at No. 41. It could even be higher.
- Frank Ocean made a better list.
- I like the recognition of Hiyao Miyazaki’s genius, ranking Spirited Away at No. 4. This would not happen if only American critics voted.
- Do me a favor and peruse the 100 movies. If you can, pinpoint a comedy for me. Not a comedic movie, but a full-blown Comedy. Wes Anderson and Pixar movies don’t count. I’ll do you a favor: there isn’t one. No Judd Apatow, no Bridesmaids, no Borat, no pre-trash Sandler, no Rogen-Goldberg joints, nothing. Not even love for Britain’s own Edgar Wright. Seriously pick any one of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, At World’s End), slap it anywhere on the list, and it’ll (probably) be correct. Comedians get no love.
- This list needs 100 percent more Herzog and his hot takes.
- Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese’s late-career masterpiece, continues to be underrated. Ranked No. 88 here, it should be much higher. On a separate note: Kudos to Charlie Kaufman, whose Synechdoche, New York finally receives its credit as classic at No. 20.
- The following directors have two movies each in top third of the list: Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight, Memento), Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master), David Fincher (Zodiac, The Social Network), and Joel and Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis, No Country for Old Men). Other than Tarantino’s absence, that feels correct.
Though more thoughts and opinions pour through my head (How is Inherent Vice on this list but not Punch-Drunk Love!?), those are the main ones. So, um, the point here is simple: Movies aren’t trash now. Don’t let a 12-year-old tell you otherwise.