70 – Manchester By The Sea (2016, Kenneth Longerman)
At Number 70 is a film that caused controversy for its Oscar winning leading man, however, there is no denying that Manchester by the Sea is an outstanding film, largely due to its masterful script-writing by writer, director Kenneth Longerman. The film tells the story of Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck, a plumber with a troubled past. When his brother dies, he is forced to return to his home town and look after his nephew Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges, and ultimately face the demons he had left behind. The film seamlessly tells a timeline jumping narrative where past and present are never confused or mistakenly woven together. Considering he’s a screenwriter first and foremost, Longerman perfectly elevates his masterful script with his surprisingly strong direction. He never gets lost in his films multi-stranded narrative, always focusing on what matters most. He’s also able to get excellent performances from his cast, however it is Casey Affleck’s internalized performance that steals the show. Say what you will about the man, but as someone who tries to separate art from artist, the actor delivers a deservedly awards worthy performance.
69 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, Anthony and Joe Russo)
Have you stopped giggling now? Good. At number 69 (oh grow up) is the film that completely changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the better. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is Anthony and Joe Russo’s first of four Marvel movies and boy did they made their presence known. The story follows Cap and Black Widow as they find themselves on the run after it’s revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D has been infiltrated by enemy Hydra agents. The stakes are surprisingly high for a second film in a standalone trilogy, making the action and adventure all the more gripping. I could never have expected this film to have been an against all odds espionage thriller full of loads of surprisingly effective twists and turns, as well as, a mini Avengers movie featuring Nick Fury and Black Widow. Captain America: The Winter Soldier marked a significant quality shift in the 21st century’s biggest blockbuster franchise and fortunately, studio executives took note and that quality has been maintained ever since.
68 – Mandy (2018, Panos Cosmatos)
You were probably wondering; “At what point will Nicolas Cage make an appearance on this list?” What can I say? I read minds. Well think no more because at number 68 is the Heavy Metal horror drug trip that is Mandy. Panos Cosmatos blends together a crazy revenge story with his rather high art direction style to create this unique action horror film. Cage is perfectly cast as Red, a man who embarks on a plot for revenge after a cult set their sights on his girlfriend, Mandy. Cage brings that comedic crazy energy he’s become infamous for, however, Cosmatos is able to direct Cages energy into such a way as to result in one of the actors greatest performances of his career. It’s gritty, oddly beautiful, crazy as hell, funny at the right times and most importantly, Mandy is heavy fucking metal.
67 – Punch-Drunk Love (2002 Paul Thomas Anderson)
Growing up, I adored Adam Sandler comedies, Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy were amongst my favorites. However with age comes wisdom and, for me, an acknowledgement that those films fit into the “they are what they are” category of guilty pleasure movies. This being said, Adam Sandler has proven he is a surprisingly good actor, having starred recently in the Safdie Brothers Uncut Gems, as well as my 67th pick, Punch-Drunk Love. Sandler plays Barry Egan a toilet utensils salesman who wants out of his dead-end depressing life. Having just discovered a marketing mistake that could earn him unlimited airline miles, Egan meets Lena, a woman he may be able to run away with and have a future, however Barry’s happy future hangs in the balance when a phone sex line begins to black mail him. Written and Directed by the mastermind that is, Paul Thomas Anderson, Punch-Drunk Love is a
surreal, yet wholesome love story about how love makes us stronger.
66 – The Imposter (2012, Bart Layton)
Coming in at number 66 is a documentary like no other. Directed by Bart Layton, The Imposter tells the story of Frederic Bourdin a French con artist who manages to convince a Texan family that his is their missing son. It’s a truly extraordinary story that is gripping enough on its own, however with Layton’s unique blend of documentary and dramatic reconstruction, The Imposter is one hell of an engrossing mystery that you’ll desperately want to see resolved… But will you? You’ll just have to watch it to find out.
65 – Captain Phillips (2013, Paul Greengrass)
My number 65 pick finds Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum director; Paul Greengrass team up with screen legend, Tom Hanks, in the nonstop edge of your seat thriller, Captain Phillips. The film tells the story of Richard Phillips, the captain of a container ship that gets ambushed and invaded by Somali pirates. Greengrass uses his handheld, near documentary style of film-making to create and maintain such an extreme amount of tension, that you can all but cut it with a knife. The film also features strong performances from its Somali non-actors, whilst also featuring Tom Hank’s most authentic performance of his entire career. Captain Phillips simply features one of the best crying scenes in all of cinema, period. A hostage negotiation movie that’s never boring, Captain Phillips is one hell of an intense ride and number 65 on this list.
64 – The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)
From modern horror maestro, James Wan, comes my number 64th film on this list, The Conjuring. The film follows just one supernatural case investigated by the paranormal investigators; Ed and Lorraine Warren. This particular case concerns the Perron family who having recently moved into a farmhouse find that they are being haunted by an evil spirit. The Conjuring successfully removed James Wan’s legacy from the ultra-bloody Saw franchise and instead changed the studio horror movie game by stripping it back to simple old school scares. Despite its subsequent universe gradually undoing at the seams with each new entry (with the exceptions being The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case and Annabelle Creation), there is no denying that The Conjuring made a statement when it debuted back in 2013. Watch it if you dare…
63 – Short Term 12 (2013, Destin Daniel Cretton)
I’m a huge fan of the coming of age genre, so prepare to see many of them on this list, like my 63rd best film, Short Term 12. The debut of writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12 is one of the 21st Century’s biggest hidden gems. The film tells the story of Grace, played by Brie Larson, a councilor at a care unit for kids from broken homes. Grace, her boyfriend and her co-workers spend their days navigating the lives of their troubled youth when one day, a girl named Jayden, played by Kaitlyn Dever, moves in, prompting Grace to face some unresolved demons of her past so that she may help the girl. Cretton writes and directs a story that is equally heartfelt as it is heart-breaking, featuring excellent performances from its ensemble cast of up and coming stars including; News Room’s John Gallagher Jr, Brookyln 99’s Stephanie Beatz, Sorry To Bother You’s LaKeith Stanfield, Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever and future Oscar winners, Brie Larson and Rami Malek.
62 – Sin City (2005, Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller)
Robert Rodriguez returns at number 62 on his list with his excruciatingly faithful adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Sin City. This anthology film follows three protagonists; Marv, played by Mickey Rourke, a man seeking revenge after his sweetheart is murdered, Dwight, played by Clive Owen, an everyday guy who finds himself roped into a world of prostitutes and rival gangs, and lastly, Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis, aging cop who tasks himself with saving a girl, played by Jessica Alba, after she is kidnapped. Rodriguez rips out the pages of the comic book and puts it directly onto the screen, so much so Frank Miller gained a directing credit. Sin City is an exciting, stylized and truly unique neo-noir that will leave you begging for more.
61 – Spotlight (2015, Tom McCarthy)
Rounding off this 10 is my 61st best film of the 21st century, the academy award winning best picture, Spotlight. The film follows an elite team of journalists for the Boston Globe comprising of, Mark Rezendes, played by Mark Ruffalo, Walter “Robby” Robinson, played by Michael Keaton, Sacha Pfieffer, played by Rachael McAdams and Mark Carroll, played by Brain d’Arcy James, who investigate into the Catholic Church and its history of covering up cases of child molestation. Expertly written by the Oscar winning writing pair of Tom McCarthey and Josh Singer, Spotlight is a classic journalism film in the making. The film uses its head and its heart as it documents their investigation and the film is also boosted by strong performances from Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and especially Mark Ruffalo. Spotlight is a film that satisfies on all level and marked one of those rare years in which the Oscars got it right.
40 down, 60 more to go, thanks again for reading my top 100 films of the 21st century thus far, expect numbers 60-51 later this week. See you soon.