Top 20 Best Movies of the Century So Far



Top 20 Best Movies of the Century So Far

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Richard Bush
These are the top 20 best movies of the century... so far. For this list, we'll be looking at the best movies released in the 2000s and 2010s, from 2000 to 2019. Our countdown of the best movies of the past 20 years includes "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Get Out," "Lord of the Rings," and more!

Top 20 Best Movies of the Century (So Far)

These are the crème de la crème. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 20 Best Movies of the Century (So Far).

For this list, we’re ranking the 20 most impressive and memorable movies released from 2000 through 2019, from rom coms to martial arts epics to affecting dramas. Oh, and before any Disney fans start rage-quitting halfway through, we just want to be clear: animated films are not included.

#20: “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

Although mainly set in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the story of Jordan Belfort feels all too relevant in today’s world. We live in an era where big business reigns supreme. In Belfort’s eyes, the little guy is so insignificant that we never even see the countless people he’s scammed over the years. Instead, Martin Scorsese’s electrifying biopic, as powerful as his Oscar-winning “The Departed,” focuses on how a Wall Street mogul sold his soul in exchange for the American Dream: a fancy mansion, luxury vehicles, and loads of cash. In other words, greed and the American Dream have become one and the same. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Belfort as a con artist who’s beyond despicable, yet so charming that we’d still probably buy his pen.

#19: “Parasite” (2019)

Bong Joon-ho’s much-anticipated satire propelled South Korean cinema to greater world prominence in 2019. The “Okja” creator pulls out all the stops for this smash hit, with “Parasite” being as side-splittingly hilarious as it is hauntingly realistic and relatable. Following two very different families from two very different social classes, the film is a beautifully shot masterpiece, with an awesome musical score to match. It took home Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes, and was nominated for six Academy Awards. If you like your movies jam-packed with the sharp cleverness of a comedy, yet brimming with the relentlessly dark themes of a thriller, then “Parasite” may just burrow its way into you.

#18: “The Wrestler” (2008)

This caught everyone off-guard back in 2008. A movie about an aging professional wrestler, played by Mickey Rourke, directed by the same guy who brought us “Requiem for a Dream”? But it just so happens to be a deeply touching drama about growing old and plucking up the courage to start a new life for yourself. As well as giving us tons of realistic, backstage insights into the world of wrestling, it also offers up two Academy Award-nominated performances from Rourke and Marisa Tomei. It may be mostly a somber story, but as is the case with other Darren Aronofsky’s movies, you can’t help but want to re-watch it multiple times for the opportunity to enjoy something new.

#17: “City of God” (2002)

Every once in a while a movie will come along and offer up such unrelenting realism that moviegoers need to stop to catch their breath when leaving the cinema. “City of God” is one of those movies. Following the very different life paths of two kids from the slums of Rio, we learn how violence and crime can be an almost inescapable way of life, and if you don’t find a way to veer in a different direction, it will completely consume you. Serving up some unbelievably good believable performances, many by unknown actors, “City of God” has a searing message to convey, and it doesn’t pull any punches along the way.

#16: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000)

The movie that put the cool back into martial arts spectaculars kicked off the millennium in great style. Combining gorgeous and stunning action, courtesy of acclaimed choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, with the revenge-fuelled drama of a Western and simply wondrous and surreal special effects, “Crouching Tiger” manages to take the somewhat ageing martial arts template and make it even more relevant and entertaining than ever before. Featuring huge international stars such as Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh, and directed with enormous verve by Ang Lee - it’s larger than life in all the best ways. Take that, laws of physics!

#15: “Kill Bill” (2003-04)

We go from one Western-inspired thrill-ride to another, with the “Kill Bill” series showing us that there is still a place in cinema for cheesy, over-the-top, ridiculously-violent action movies. The “Kill Bill” movies offer up a smorgasbord of Tarantino trademarks, with iconic characters, weapons, sound effects, monologues and close-ups everywhere. Essentially, it’s one big revenge plot, with a series of satisfyingly savage, arterial spray-filled moments littered throughout. Yes, we know, we’ve included both volumes “1” and “2” in this entry, but as far as we’re concerned, each one is just as important as the other, and both unite to create one of Tarantino’s finest works.

#14: “Pan's Labyrinth” (2006)

As with pretty much every Guillermo del Toro movie, “Pan's Labyrinth” is just as beautiful as it is heavy, provocative and unsettling. In essence, it’s a story about a little girl who wants to prove her worthiness of being a princess, but it’s the eclectic characters and subplots throughout that make this a true spectacle. Picture “Alice in Wonderland” . . . but R-rated. The themes are so vast in this movie that it really needs to be watched multiple times to fully appreciate it. And its various characters, be it the vicious Captain Vidal, the mysterious Faun or the nightmarish Pale Man, feel as though they could have movies of their very own.

#13: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

If you’re after a vibrant color palette and endlessly-quotable, four-dimensional characters, then Wes Anderson is usually a pretty safe bet. Case in point: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. On the surface, it’s about a concierge running a hotel - but on an emotional level, it’s so much more than that. Not to mention it’s effortlessly hilarious. Wes Anderson has the ability to create surreal worlds in his movies that, as a viewer, you can easily get lost in - and “Grand Budapest” is a perfect example of that. Plus, its cast is simply superb: we’re talking Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton . . the list of talent just goes on and on.

#12: “Get Out” (2017)

“Hereditary” might be scarier, but “Get Out” challenges preconceived notions about horror in film. It’s by no means the first movie to blend horror with dark comedy and satire, but it makes us think about current racial and social tensions in ways we never anticipated. And in doing so, it attains heights rarely seen within the genre. And this all comes from the mind of a former “Mad TV” cast member! While writer/director Jordan Peele has always been a great talent, the 2010s saw him emerge as one of the decade’s defining voices, seamlessly mixing homage with original concepts., Peele should remain every bit as prominent in the 2020s and beyond, but for now, his debut feature is his magnum opus.

#11: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)

Mixing science fiction and romance, this Michel Gondry film is a departure for funnyman Jim Carrey, whose performance was widely hailed as one of the best of its time, alongside Kate Winslet, another accomplished thespian taking on a challenging role. The movie is a refreshing delight that nabbed the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. After discovering his former love has deleted him from her memory through a new and advanced procedure, protagonist Joel Barish sets out to do the same. But he soon has second thoughts. As doctors attempt to chase down all memories of Joel’s love, we enter the frightened labyrinth of his mind.

#10: “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

Picking up on the themes of their previous films, the Coen brothers faithfully adapt this Cormac McCarthy novel. When a man finds a mother lode of cash after a drug deal goes sour, he becomes the target of a compassionless assassin. We watch as this monosyllabic hit man plows through all that gets in his way as he hunts the money down. It’s an Academy Award-winning case of cat and mouse, masterfully executed at the hands of the Coen brothers, which, they later followed with the also astonishing, but quite different, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

#9: “Hereditary” (2018)

This decade was a horror renaissance, but no other movie disturbed us to the core quite like “Hereditary”. A supernatural horror drama such as this easily could’ve come out in the late ‘60s or ‘70s, drawing parallels to classics like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Omen.” At the same time, “Hereditary” still feels like a product of the 2010s, touching upon mental health and trauma with a modern sensibility. Toni Collette dominates the screen as a woman who’s either being torn apart by an evil presence or the madness within. Where so many other horror films literally jump out at the audience, director Ari Aster lures us in with tense foreshadowing and subtle scares, leaving us completely unprepared when insanity takes over.

#8: “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

Another filmmaker you can always guarantee is going to serve up something unique is David Lynch. Being the mind behind so many provocative, interesting and bizarre offerings like “Eraserhead,” many might have expected his movie about a car crash victim suffering from amnesia to be a little, well, weird. And “Mulholland Drive” delivers, in the best possible way. There are time shifts, character shifts, dream sequences, weird psychological hallucinations, you name it. As with so much of his oeuvre, “Mulholland Drive” is something to be experienced rather than fully understood. And if you do fully understand it, well, maybe you can explain it to the rest of us!

#7: “Lost in Translation” (2003)

One of the most layered and subtle movies on our list, this Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson dramedy deftly explores themes of loneliness and cultural isolation, as their characters Bob and Charlotte, decades apart in age, meet cute as they both visit Tokyo. And as each of them is tackling their own existential confusion, they help each other understand what they each want from life. Not only is Sofia Coppola’s work beautiful to look at, it’s also an example of intricate filmmaking that prioritizes the emotional journey over flashiness, a quality in films that can be difficult to find. Plus, it gets bonus points for its ambiguous and intriguing ending.

#6: “Moonlight” (2016)

“Moonlight” signified a major shift in Hollywood, both for indie filmmaking and representation. The word “diversity” has been thrown around a lot during the early 21st century and for good reason. Where many movies are obvious in how they address race, gender, and sexuality, though, nothing is ever spelt out in “Moonlight.” This Best Picture-winning drama requires its audience to look closer, making them see that there are multiple sides to every human being. A drug dealer can actually be an affectionate father figure. A juvenile delinquent can actually be a scared little boy trying to survive in an unaccepting world. Everyone is forced to fit the mold they were born into. Through love and understanding, however, our protagonist may come to embrace his true identity.

#5: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)

Completing the iconic trilogy initiated back in 2001, Peter Jackson’s opus“The Return of the King” splits its epically long runtime between Aragorn and his men battling Sauron’s army, and Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring. Thanks to these two running plots, we get a heady mix of heavy violence and delicate storytelling that’s been called one of cinema’s great achievements. By closing mirroring J.R.R. Tolkien’s stirring and beloved novel, this movie gives fan-boys something to shout about. The Academy was equally impressed, awarding the picture a record-tying 11 Oscars.

#4: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

In today’s blockbuster landscape, audiences are used to seeing movies with excessive CGI, overly-complicated plots, and repetitive action. “Fury Road” is the complete opposite, emphasizing practical effects and stunts, keeping the story as simple as possible, and putting so much thought into the composition of the action that individual stills could hang in a museum. While not exactly a sequel or a reboot, “Fury Road” takes the best aspects from George Miller’s previous “Mad Max” films and pushes them into overdrive. The best way to describe the film is the climactic chase of “The Road Warrior” sustained for two hours. Although that sounds incredibly straightforward, the film’s emotive characters, inventive production values, and high-octane direction set a new standard for the genre.

#3: “There Will Be Blood” (2007)

Brought to us by Paul Thomas Anderson, this drama follows prospector Daniel Plainview as he builds his empire during the Southern California Oil Boom. While he’s met with many speed bumps along the way, it’s watching Daniel Day-Lewis portray the character’s descent into greed and madness at the cost of all else that makes it a truly gripping watch (and for another stunningly gripping psychological drama, check out Anderson’s 2012 “The Master” with Joaquin Phoenix). Both the character and Anderson’s film are unyielding and ambitious, and both helped win Day-Lewis his second Oscar for Best Actor.

#2: “The Dark Knight” (2008)

Proving superhero movies don’t need to be filled with spandex and cheesy sendoff lines, Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film redefined the genre, and impressed both comic book fans and the general public alike. Dark, twisted, and deeper than the franchise’s previous entry, (and as dark, twisted and deep as Nolan’s later epic “Inception”), the story follows the Caped Crusader as he faces off against the infamous Joker, played by an electric Heath Ledger. Though Ledger passed away before the film’s release, he was awarded a posthumous Oscar for his work, which helps give Batman’s story a gritty and realistic spin.

#1: “The Social Network” (2010)

When “The Social Network” hit theaters, Facebook was still a relatively new phenomenon. Jump ahead ten years later and it’s impossible to imagine the world without this social media platform. Together, director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin shape the story of Mark Zuckerberg into a modern Shakespearean drama. The question is whether this is a story of triumph or tragedy. It’s hard to say since Facebook’s story is far from over. But this film depicts a legendary origin story that was relevant in 2010 and remains very much a part of the zeitgeist after a decade. Expertly crafted, brilliantly written, flawlessly acted, and timely while also being timeless, we can’t think of a better film to represent the past decade of cinema.
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