20 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Valerie Faris & Johnathan Dayton)
After 8 tremendously well written articles, we’ve finally reached my top 20. Starting us off at number 20 is a two time Oscar winning dysfunctional family comedy, Little Miss Sunshine. The film follows the Hoover family as they set off on a journey after their youngest, Olive, decides she wants to participate in a beauty pageant across the country. The film boasts a strong all-star cast, featuring excellent performances from; Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, and an Oscar winning performance from the hilarious Alan Arkin. Speaking of Oscars, the film also fittingly won an Oscar for Michael Arndt’s hilarious screenplay. Perfectly balancing 6 characters and their equally engrossing character arcs, Little Miss Sunshine is an entertaining feel good family drama that works without the need for schmaltz.
19 – Parasite (2019, Bong Joon-Ho)
At number 20 is 2020’s historic Palme D’Or and Best Picture winning film, Bong Joon-Ho’s, Parasite. The film tells the story of the Kim’s, a poor family who con a rich family into hiring them all as their servants, however when their plan is threatened by exposure, the Kim’s must ask themselves; “how far are we willing to go in order to ensure our survival?” Parasite demonstrates writer, director, Bong Joon-Ho’s unrestrained cinematic talent and the result proves him to be a filmmaking force to be reckoned with, earning him 4 academy awards, including the first best picture Oscar for a non-English speaking film. Parasite is meticulously written, blending genres to tell a profound story with incredibly weighty themes on the class divide. Joon-Ho is in complete control of his craft as the director and he brings his beautiful vision to life as confidently as any master filmmaker would and should. Boosted also by an outstanding ensemble cast, Parasite is a powerful and painfully relevant call to arms, whilst also being a cinematic gift that keeps on giving.
18 – Lost In Translation (2003, Sofia Coppala)
At number 28 is yet another best original screenplay winner with Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. The film follows the blossoming friendship between; Bob Harris, played by Bill Murray, an American actor who arrives in Tokyo to shoot a whisky commercial, and Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, a woman with nothing to do in Tokyo other than to wait around for her incredibly busy photographer of a boyfriend, played by Giovanni Ribisi. Coppola pens two likable lonely characters we can easily empathize with and relate to in our own personal ways. Although sparse on plot, Lost in Translation aptly allows you to get lost with its characters as it draws you in with its expertly written characters and their dynamics. These characters are then brought to life perfectly by, the unlikely match made in heaven that is, Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson. With an outstanding script and cast to boot, Lost in Translation is a moving, endearing and beautifully depressing film that demonstrates Sofia Coppola’s own distinctive cinematic voice.
17 – The Lobster (2015, Yorgos Lanthimos)
Speaking of distinctive cinematic voices, coming in at number 17 is the second and final appearance of Yorgos Lanthimos to this list, with his surrealist relationship allegory The Lobster. The film follows David a single man who is taken to a hotel in which he must stay for 45 day in order to find a romantic partner, however if he should not, David will be transformed into an animal of his choosing, that being a Lobster. As odd and hilarious as its premise leads you to believe, The Lobster is an immaculately made surrealist expression of society’s deluded and toxic ideas and expectations concerning romantic relationships. Ambitious to a fault, The Lobster shows Lanthimos’ experimentalist expression at its most refined, whilst also showcasing hands down the best intentionally wooden performances you’ll ever see. With a unconventionally outstanding star studded cast, experimental direction and an ambitiously surreal and hilarious screenplay, The Lobster just clicks with me and its more than worth finding out it if will click with you too.
16 – The Orphanage (2007, J. A. Bayona)
At number 16 is a Spanish psychological horror thriller from one of my new favorite filmmakers, J. A. Bayona. The Orphanage tells the story of Laura, played by Belen Rueda, a woman who lives in a renovated orphanage with her husband Carlos and son Simon. When Simon suddenly disappears, Laura suspects something in the house may have taken him and must do whatever it takes to get him back. Writer Sergio G Sanchez pens an emotionally impactful horror film and, most importantly, a heart breaking and deeply satisfying mystery. Backed by Guillermo Del Toro as producer, Bayona proves a talented horror filmmaker as he competently directs intense scare sequences whilst also creating a haunting atmosphere throughout. Bayona also proves his talents aren’t limited to the horror genre, as he is able to connect us to the films characters and authenticate a variety of different emotion effectively. Scary, heart breaking and satisfying on every level, The Orphanage is a winning horror film that has something profound to say.
15 – Moon (2009, Duncan Jones)
At number 15 is the second and final time Duncan Jones appears on this list with his film-making debut, Moon. The film follows Sam, played by Sam Rockwell, a lone astronaut who works at a lunar station with his computer companion GERTY, voiced by Christopher Plummer… I mean Kevin Spacey. When Sam’s three year contract is about to expire and he could head back home to earth, he has an accident that would change his life forever. Lead by a captivating performance from an always great Sam Rockwell, Moon is a contained psychological sci-fi film that harks back to the more minimalist sci-fi’s of the past. Smartly written and intelligently directed by Jones, Moon demonstrates his film making potential even if his later bigger budget films work against that. Driven by substance rather than content, Moon is homage to classic Sci-Fi that acts as proof that intelligent storytelling can be just as, if not more, satisfying than lightsabres and Death Stars
14 – Take Shelter (2011, Jeff Nichols)
At number 14 we have mental health drama and director, Jeff Nichols sophomore effort, Take Shelter. The film tells the story of Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, a construction manager who begins to have nightmares of terrifying storm. Getting increasingly more paranoid, Curtis does what he can to protect his wife, played by Jessica Chastain, and children, however the question is; “do they need protecting from the coming storm, or Curtis himself?” Nichols is known for making films about the complexity of masculinity and Take Shelter is, in my opinion, his most absorbing watch of all. Lead by a truly awe-inspiring performance from Michael Shannon, Nichols is able to take a mature look at men’s mental health and how a traditional sense of masculinity can often worsens things. Take Shelter is a beautifully acted and intensely poignant film that men everywhere should watch and take notes from.
13 – Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Curon)
Alfonso Cuaron is one of the 21st century’s most versatile filmmakers having won academy awards in editing, cinematography and directing, whilst also being nominated as a writer and producer. It’s difficult to pick between his films, this being said, the film of his that made my list had to be his dystopian thriller, Children of Men. Set in the near future where mankind has become infertile, Children of Men tells the story of Theo, a cynical former activist who is approached by his ex-wife and resistance leader Julian, played by Julianne Moore, to help her transport a young pregnant girl to sanctuary. Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki outdo themselves with this film, as Cuaron’s signature long take is used to mesmerizing effect in this action packed post-apocalyptic joy ride of a movie. Children of Men is one of those rare films that kills two birds with one stone, as its story naturally delivers both action packed adventure and a poignant political commentary. The film simply excels at everything it sets out to do, thus making it one of the greatest films of the 21st Century thus far.
12 – Blade Runner 2049 (2017, Denis Villeneuve)
At number 12 is a sequel that simply did the unthinkable; it bested the iconic film it was following. Blade Runner 2049 was directed by Denis Villeneuve and tells the story of K, played by Ryan Gosling, a young blade runner who digs up a secret that leads him on a journey to find Rick Deckard, infamously played by Harrison Ford. Blade Runner 2049 is a perfect sequel, period. It expanded further on its predecessors themes concerning humanity, as well as, boasting dazzling Oscar winning visual effects and cinematography, whist also standing on its own two feet as an excellent film in its own right. Denis Villeneuve did such an excellent job with this seemingly impossible task that he’s now perusing the infamously cursed Dune. If anyone can break the curse, it’s the man that made a sequel that bested Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner. It’s a flawless sequel, I demand you watch it and that’s that.
11 – Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi)
And now, just missing out of my top 10 at number 11 is a film that shaped my life forever, which is of course, Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man. The film tells the legendary tale of Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, a nerdy kid who, on a school field trip, gets bitten by a radioactive spider and starts to adopt strange new abilities he’s never encountered before. Whist he makes sense of himself and matures into the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, his best friend’s father, Norman Osbourne, played by Willem Dafoe, endures a more sinister supernatural discovery that transforms him into the villainous, Green Goblin. Spider-Man is the origin of origin stories that paved the way for such major cinematic successes such as; the blockbuster machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With an iconic and pioneering origin story, pulpy action packed direction and strong performances across the board, Spider-Man is an inspirational movie for me and it still holds up to this very day.
So that’s 9 down and just 1 more to go. Thank you for following my countdown, as always let me know what you think and hopefully I’ve got you interested in a new film you never thought you’d see. In the final a part I shall also list some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the list before revealing my number 1 film of the 21st century thus far. Stay tuned, I’ll speak to you soon.