film4's 100 (5™) Must-See Films of the 21st Century

Hello and welcome. We’re proud to present the result of months of consideration from the Film4 website team and the votes of 30 carefully selected film critics: this is our collectively collated 100 must-see movies of the 21st century so far.

Drawn from 29 countries around the world, the most recent release on our list is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which stormed into the chart at number 5. Other recent releases in the top 20 include Steve McQueen’s landmark 12 Years A Slave and Jonathan Glazer’s mesmeric Under The Skin. Glazer is one of just a handful of directors with two films on the list – the others are the afore-mentioned Linklater, indie essentials the Coen brothers, US powerhouse David Fincher and of course Austrian auteur Michael Haneke.

Something else we’re really proud of is the mixture of different types of film this list represents – there’s everything from modern teen classics like the Tina Fey-scripted Mean Girls, to massive animated blockbusters like Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee’s Frozen, to Oscar winners like Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, to austere art-house triumphs such as Kelly Reichart’s Old Joy, to the acutely humane social realism found in The Selfish Giant by Clio Barnard. And much, much more.

The difficulty with these lists is always what gets left off (we're saving documentaries for another list entirely). Our long-list ran to an unwieldy 300+ which we had originally intended to cut down to a top 50 before realising that the 21st century has already generated too much brilliant cinema to represent in any meaningful way with 50 films. So with apologies to the many wonderful filmmakers whose work we were unable to include, we present our list of 100 must-see films of the century so far...

84. Attack The Block (2011)

UK. dir. Joe Cornish

Graduating from the bedroom antics of the Adam & Joe show, Cornish here gives inner city London a much-needed break from grime and grit for an unlikely visit from outer space. Lead anti-hero John Boyega may be off to to a galaxy far, far away, but the Carpenter-esque thrills of this aliens vs hoodies monster flick will take some beating. Believe!


24. Memories of Murder (2003)

South Korea. dir. Bong Joon-Ho

One of the key releases in South Korea's post-millennial filmmaking boom, this stylish, based-on-true-events thriller bears all the hallmarks of its slick, cine-literate home country, especially co-writer/director Bong Joon-Ho's gentle reconfiguration of the gloomy murder-mystery genre to include period satire and unexpected, farcical humour.


13. Margaret (2011)

USA. dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Famous for its delayed release (it was filmed in 2005, but got stuck in legal wrangles with the studio over acceptable runtime), Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret became a UK critical darling in 2011 when ecstatic reviews of the 150 minute theatrical cut boosted its profile and helped deliver much-deserved awards success. Anna Paquin plays Lisa, a teen who witnesses - but initially denies causing - a fatal accident. Lonergan's script worries at concepts of responsibility, blame and forgiveness like a compulsive nail-biter picking at a hangnail, in the process teasing a complex performance out of Paquin, who is - like most teenagers - by turns irritating, endearing, sympathetic and amusing. The director's preferred three hour cut is now available on DVD.


6. In The Mood For Love (2000)

China. dir. Wong Kar-Wai

A ravishing non-romance from the ever-slippery Wong, who makes his films look and feel like one thing while taking the action in a different direction entirely. The impossibly glamorous figures of Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung come together in a cramped apartment block when they suspect that their respective spouses are having an affair; their own relationship becomes one of resistance and roleplay, as they attempt to prevent mutual attraction from turning into adultery. Rain, food, clothes, colour, slow-motion, repetition, Nat King Cole – Wong allows his cryptic story to emerge stealthily out of the style and detail; what’s going on is never quite what you think. The film is also a showcase for the talent of Christopher Doyle, Wong’s mercurial Director of Photography.


5. Boyhood (2014)

USA. dir. Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater's instant classic may be the most recently released film on our list, but its high placing reflects critics' immediate embrace of its mesmerising, nuanced and amusing take on the mundane magic of growing up. Shot over 39 days spread out over twelve years, we follow Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his mom (Patricia Arquette), sister (Lorelei Linklater) and frequently absent dad (Ethan Hawke) as they negotiate everything life throws at them during that time, big and small. The fact that each year within the drama was shot that same year in real life pays dividends - the contemporary detail feels natural and unforced, and watching the actors age 12 years onscreen over the 160 minute runtime is an unnerving but utterly gripping experience.

the other 95 at the source
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