A few weeks ago the BBC began conducting a poll of the ‘greatest films of the 21st century’ by surveying a large number of international film critics. I know lists like these are fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things but they can be good gateways to learning about great films. Public voted ones can be very frustrating (just look at the IMDb’s top 250), but I was more interested in this than a few other recent ones as it was only considering films released since 2000, which would exclude the majority of entries that typically fill up ‘greatest films of all time lists’. While obviously I’m not a professional critic and wasn’t surveyed, when I first heard of the poll I thought it might be interesting to note down what I’d choose just off the top of my head without any checking any other lists or re-watching anything. Here’s what I quickly came up with:
10. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
09. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter & Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2004)
08. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
07. Cloud Atlas (The Wachowskis & Tom Tykwer, 2012)
06. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
05. Lilya 4-Ever (Lukas Moodysson, 2002)
04. The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
03. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
02. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
01. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
I put up my list on Facebook looking to see what feedback I’d get, and to compare it to the final list once it was published, which occurred today. The full list can be found on the BBC’s culture section here; http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160819-the-21st-centurys-100-greatest-films
My first thought glancing through it was that there was nothing especially surprising, there aren’t any massive left-field picks, and the top choices are pretty much what I’d expect, even if I couldn’t have predicted the order. Of my choices, 6 made it onto the top 100 which was nice to see. A few of them I’d expected, such as the eventual number one film, Mulholland Drive (my number 2), but I’m very happy to see that Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring made it too. I didn’t honestly think my more divisive picks would get on, but looking at the complete critics choices only 2 others selected Lilya 4-Ever, leading me to believe that maybe it’s still quite under-seen.
I’m pleased to see that there aren’t any films that I outright hate on the list, and there are plenty that I love. What does surprise me a little is the strong showing for awards-season type movies that I found merely to be alright but nothing special; the likes of Brooklyn, Lost in Translation, Brokeback Mountain, and Almost Famous – these are all movies that would be nowhere near my top 100 films of the 21st century.
The list is also, unsurprisingly littered with films that I can respect if they didn’t do much for me personally, most notably the number 2 film In the Mood for Love, along with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (15) and The White Ribbon (18). I can’t pretend to have particularly enjoyed any of these movies, but I wouldn’t say they were bad either. They clearly hold their power for many others.
I think the choices that most surprised me were Moulin Rouge! Coming in a 53, as I thought that was as divisive a pick as The Fountain would have been and Spring Breakers at 74, not a film I thought was so well regarded. I’d also throw in The Dark Knight’s appearance at 33 as I had thought such a populist movie might have been left off. I’m glad to be proven wrong there.
The main reason I was interested to see the full list though was of course to check what I hadn’t seen. Of the 102 films listed (three films tied for spot 100), I’ve seen 82. Not bad I thought, but when I whittled the list down to the films that eluded me I could see that they’re nearly all examples of challenging world cinema that aren’t quite as accessible. Anyway, it’s given me a rough list of 20 more films to try and seek out, some of these were already on my radar but I’d been putting off due to their length, particularly the only top ten entry I’ve missed, Taiwanese epic drama Yi Yi, which I’ve been meaning and failing to see for years now. Anyway, here’s what I’ve missed.
100. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
100. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010)
99. The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2000)
98. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
97. White Material (Claire Denis, 2009)
89. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
80. The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003)
71. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
63. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
60. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
58. Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembène, 2004)
54. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
52. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)
46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
Anyway, while it’s not an hugely enlightening list, I’m just fine with Mulholland Drive being declared the best film of the last sixteen years, and to reminded on a few things I still need to catch up on.