My "favorite" films from the young century

by swalt-1 | created - 10 Sep 2011 | updated - 16 Mar 2012 | Public

I won't think the exact same tomorrow, next month, next year, next decade, but I like this list of films. They make up roughly the top 1/7th of the films I have seen during this nearly twelve-year segment of time/history.

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1. Atonement (2007)

R | 123 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

85 Metascore

Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a thirteen-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.

Director: Joe Wright | Stars: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Brenda Blethyn, Saoirse Ronan

Votes: 215,437 | Gross: $50.93M

The most powerful film I have seen from this century. So tense. Such a tragic story. Incredible cinematography and script. Knightly is perfect. There is a reason why lies, love, and war are behind many of the absolute greatest stories. And I won't give away this film's ending.

2. Lost in Translation (2003)

R | 102 min | Drama

89 Metascore

A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

Director: Sofia Coppola | Stars: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

Votes: 355,388 | Gross: $44.59M

Sofia's best film. Non-stop series of spot-on scenes. This is driven by wonderful performances and a well-executed theme.

3. Memento (2000)

R | 113 min | Mystery, Thriller

80 Metascore

A man juggles searching for his wife's murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior

Votes: 967,390 | Gross: $25.54M

What a rush. Just enough stylizing. Compelling thriller. Pearce is the man.

4. The Brown Bunny (2003)

Not Rated | 93 min | Drama

51 Metascore

Professional motorcycle racer Bud Clay heads from New Hampshire to California to race again. Along the way he meets various needy women who provide him with the cure to his own loneliness, but only a certain woman from his past will truly satisfy him.

Director: Vincent Gallo | Stars: Vincent Gallo, Chloë Sevigny, Cheryl Tiegs, Elizabeth Blake

Votes: 12,412 | Gross: $0.37M

I am a sucker for its "difference" factor. What minimalism can achieve. Love, beauty, America, how-things-go

5. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Jeanne Bates

Votes: 272,952 | Gross: $7.22M

So weird and exciting.

6. Before Sunset (2004)

R | 80 min | Drama, Romance

90 Metascore

Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse's book tour.

Director: Richard Linklater | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Louise Lemoine Torrès

Votes: 191,946 | Gross: $5.79M

The talking, walking, and song at the end.

7. The Wrestler (2008)

R | 109 min | Drama, Sport

81 Metascore

A faded professional wrestler must retire, but finds his quest for a new life outside the ring a dispiriting struggle.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis

Votes: 269,573 | Gross: $26.24M

Better than The Black Swan. The locations are more interesting and the situations are capable of tremendous heart-warming. Rourke is brilliant, as is the camera style and grainy look/feel. And my god what incredible female characters!

8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

R | 108 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

When their relationship turns sour, a young couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.

Director: Michel Gondry | Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Gerry Robert Byrne

Votes: 768,016 | Gross: $34.40M

A life-affirming fantasy.

9. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

R | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

78 Metascore

A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Andrews

Votes: 123,729 | Gross: $17.84M

Tense. Funny. Whimsical. Does a lot to reject the film the viewer thinks this would be.

10. L'enfant (2005)

R | 95 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

87 Metascore

Bruno and Sonia, a young couple living off her benefit and the thefts committed by his gang, have a new source of money: their newborn son.

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne | Stars: Jérémie Renier, Déborah François, Jérémie Segard, Fabrizio Rongione

Votes: 15,813 | Gross: $0.65M

The film i saw that preceded my decision to spend time making this list. Only the second film I have seen from the Dardenne Bros. To me, they are the epitome of human dramatic artists.

11. There Will Be Blood (2007)

R | 158 min | Drama

93 Metascore

A story of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness, focusing on a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds, Martin Stringer

Votes: 433,376 | Gross: $40.22M

A good deal better than No Country for Old Men (I mention because they MIGHT go down as half-cousin films). A bit long and its sinister quality has kept me from wanting to sit through this a third/fourth? time. But this is massive filmmaking.

12. In the Bedroom (2001)

R | 130 min | Crime, Drama

86 Metascore

A New England couple's college-aged son dates an older woman who has two small children and an unwelcome ex-husband.

Director: Todd Field | Stars: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei

Votes: 34,337 | Gross: $35.93M

A moral tale (read: tragedy) in the classical sense. Pitch-perfect pacing and performances.

13. Adaptation. (2002)

R | 114 min | Comedy, Drama

83 Metascore

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean for the screen.

Director: Spike Jonze | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton

Votes: 157,990 | Gross: $22.25M

A trip that has everything.

14. The Pianist (2002)

R | 150 min | Biography, Drama, Music

85 Metascore

A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox

Votes: 587,728 | Gross: $32.57M

Powerful stuff. A refreshing perspective on World War II.

15. Drive (I) (2011)

R | 100 min | Crime, Drama

78 Metascore

A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks

Votes: 491,269 | Gross: $35.06M

I need to see more from director Nicolas Winding Refn: the dude clearly knows the arts of contrast and delivering the unexpected. Drive teeters on the right side of stylized. A joy to watch.

16. Loong Boonmee raleuk chat (2010)

Not Rated | 114 min | Drama, Fantasy

87 Metascore

Dying of kidney disease, a man spends his last, somber days with family, including the ghost of his wife and a forest spirit who used to be his son, on a rural northern Thailand farm.

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul | Stars: Thanapat Saisaymar, Jenjira Pongpas, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Natthakarn Aphaiwonk

Votes: 10,817 | Gross: $0.18M

A wonderous film, somewhere between Rashomon (for place, attention) and Spirit of the Beehive (for mood, pace, and ellipses). Will have to see more from this apparently incredible director.

17. Shame (2011)

NC-17 | 101 min | Drama

72 Metascore

A man's carefully cultivated private life is disrupted when his sister arrives for an indefinite stay.

Director: Steve McQueen | Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Lucy Walters

Votes: 163,510 | Gross: $4.00M

Full of vitality. Perfect performances, made more incredible by there being an intensely conflicted protagonist and a perfect-size supporting portrait of his sister. The direction is crisp and patient. The cinematography is gorgeous. The score is powerful but not overdone.

18. Junebug (2005)

R | 106 min | Comedy, Drama

80 Metascore

A dealer in "outsider" art travels from Chicago to North Carolina to meet her new in-laws, challenging the equilibrium of this middle class Southern home.

Director: Phil Morrison | Stars: Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, David Kuhn, Alicia Van Couvering

Votes: 20,093 | Gross: $2.68M

Indie films often strive and fail. The trick is to be honest with the script and mise-en-scene. This has many memorable scenes and emotions.

19. Somewhere (2010)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Drama

67 Metascore

After withdrawing to the Chateau Marmont, a passionless Hollywood actor reexamines his life when his eleven-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.

Director: Sofia Coppola | Stars: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Erin Wasson

Votes: 38,893 | Gross: $1.77M

Even more beautiful than Lost in Translation.

20. Wendy and Lucy (2008)

R | 80 min | Drama

80 Metascore

Over the summer, a series of unfortunate happening triggers a financial crisis for a young woman and she soon finds her life falling apart.

Director: Kelly Reichardt | Stars: Michelle Williams, Lucy, David Koppell, Max Clement

Votes: 13,795 | Gross: $0.86M

Minimal in order to provide time for us to think and feel. Stunning.

21. Paradise Now (2005)

PG-13 | 90 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

71 Metascore

Two childhood friends are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

Director: Hany Abu-Assad | Stars: Kais Nashif, Ali Suliman, Lubna Azabal, Hamza Abu-Aiaash

Votes: 20,857 | Gross: $1.45M

This blew me away. I have been meaning to see this again.

22. Milk (I) (2008)

R | 128 min | Biography, Drama

84 Metascore

The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna

Votes: 149,163 | Gross: $31.84M

Kind of a conventional film, but only kind of. Everything works, here. The perfect weight and tone.

23. Superbad (2007)

R | 113 min | Comedy

76 Metascore

Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.

Director: Greg Mottola | Stars: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader

Votes: 460,988 | Gross: $121.46M

I have only seen this once, so there is a chance I will like it less on second viewing. But for me, this is the peak of what this genre can offer. Most other offerings in this vein are pretty terrible.

24. Before Night Falls (2000)

R | 133 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

85 Metascore

The life of Cuban poet and novelist Reynaldo Arenas.

Director: Julian Schnabel | Stars: Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, Olatz López Garmendia, Giovanni Florido

Votes: 22,108 | Gross: $4.22M

Underrated. Educational and inspiring WITHOUT forcibly trying to be either.

25. Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (2004)

Not Rated | 99 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

69 Metascore

Be Here to Love Me - Chronicles the fascinating and often turbulent life of Townes Van Zandt.

Director: Margaret Brown | Stars: Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson

Votes: 1,065 | Gross: $0.13M

The guy lived a life, that's for sure.

26. The Hours (2002)

PG-13 | 110 min | Drama, Romance

80 Metascore

The story of how the novel "Mrs. Dalloway" affects three generations of women, all of whom, in one way or another, have had to deal with suicide in their lives.

Director: Stephen Daldry | Stars: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane

Votes: 111,592 | Gross: $41.68M

This is an engrossing tale featuring an amazing cast.

27. Iklimler (2006)

Unrated | 101 min | Drama

72 Metascore

A dowdy university instructor Isa is an inattentive husband to his younger, TV-business wife Bahar. Self-absorbed and selfish, Isa only communicates in the most rudimentary way, while she, similarly, detaches into crying jags and juvenile behavior.

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Stars: Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Nazan Kesal, Mehmet Eryilmaz

Votes: 9,127 | Gross: $0.12M

Large. Poetically depressive. Reminds me sorta of what I like a lot about Antonioni.

28. Cyrus (I) (2010)

R | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

74 Metascore

John and Molly, a divorced middle aged man and a single mother meet at a friends party and start up a small relationship, all John has to do now is meet Molly's son... Cyrus

Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass | Stars: John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener

Votes: 31,710 | Gross: $7.46M

I had no real complaints about "what happens" in the film. I dig the camera style a lot. This has heart, no joke.

29. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

PG-13 | 112 min | Biography, Drama

92 Metascore

The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed.

Director: Julian Schnabel | Stars: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny

Votes: 95,722 | Gross: $5.99M

Definitely gives the viewer new things to DO when watching a film. Good story.

30. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

PG-13 | 106 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

70 Metascore

A delusional young man strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet.

Director: Craig Gillespie | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, R.D. Reid

Votes: 125,926 | Gross: $5.97M

I think Gosling is a great actor. This movie is psychologically affecting. And everything is so realistic. Made me cry.

31. Donnie Darko (2001)

R | 113 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

88 Metascore

A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident.

Director: Richard Kelly | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne

Votes: 660,787 | Gross: $0.19M

There's actually a lot going on here. This movie sits in a place all its own.

32. The Dark Knight (2008)

PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama

82 Metascore

When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

Votes: 1,912,254 | Gross: $534.86M

When I saw this on opening night, I declared that I had just had the most thrilling movie-theatre experience of my life. Upon subsequent viewings, this just feels like a high water mark in the generally trite genres of "action film" and "super-hero movie" that are dominating mainstream cinema offerings and consciousness. Except, I shouldn't forget that Ledger's performance is one of the best ever.

33. Up in the Air (I) (2009)

R | 109 min | Drama, Romance

83 Metascore

Ryan Bingham enjoys living out of a suitcase for his job, travelling around the country firing people, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a potential love interest, and a new hire.

Director: Jason Reitman | Stars: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman

Votes: 289,277 | Gross: $83.82M

Close-to conventional, but features a great topic, a better-than-most sense of form, and understated acting. And Clooney is so classic, here.

34. Half Nelson (2006)

R | 106 min | Drama

85 Metascore

An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret.

Director: Ryan Fleck | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Shareeka Epps, Jeff Lima

Votes: 77,473 | Gross: $2.69M

Gritty feel and the right type of root-for-them story.

35. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

R | 102 min | Drama

68 Metascore

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Votes: 657,685 | Gross: $3.64M

I used to like this a bit more. Nowadays, I still greatly admire it for its acting, intensity, and score.

36. Australia (2008)

PG-13 | 165 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

53 Metascore

Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.

Director: Baz Luhrmann | Stars: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Shea Adams, Eddie Baroo

Votes: 110,071 | Gross: $49.55M

Something to marvel at--surprisingly majestic. Good love story. Equally great story about a kid.

37. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

R | 91 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

67 Metascore

A year after their father's funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other.

Director: Wes Anderson | Stars: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Amara Karan

Votes: 155,185 | Gross: $11.90M

This is pretty quirky yet full of pathos. I like this more than many of Anderson's films in part because it LOOKS fantastic.

38. Still Life (2006)

Unrated | 111 min | Drama

81 Metascore

A town in Fengjie county is gradually being demolished and flooded to make way for the Three Gorges Dam. A man and woman visit the town to locate their estranged spouses, and become witness to the societal changes.

Director: Zhangke Jia | Stars: Tao Zhao, Zhou Lan, Sanming Han, Lizhen Ma

Votes: 4,844 | Gross: $0.07M

Good story and presentation. I felt like I was fly along for the ride.

39. The Departed (2006)

R | 151 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

85 Metascore

An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg

Votes: 1,001,217 | Gross: $132.38M

Only slightly unsatisfying upon reflection; effin badass while in the moment. Edge of your seat crime drama that is brilliant and raw and "classic rock".

40. Talk to Her (2002)

R | 112 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

86 Metascore

Two men share an odd friendship while they care for two women who are both in deep comas.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Stars: Rosario Flores, Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Leonor Watling

Votes: 93,580 | Gross: $9.28M

A different kind of story filmed exceedingly well. If I saw it tomorrow, I might consider it to be much better than the 25 films I have ranked above it.

41. George Washington (2000)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

82 Metascore

A group of children, in a depressed small town, band together to cover up a tragic mistake one summer.

Director: David Gordon Green | Stars: Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Curtis Cotton III

Votes: 6,861 | Gross: $0.24M

Think about how this movie was made by the same dude who made Pineapple Express (another really good movie). ...It feels like a first film, but it hits unusual chords, powerfully.

42. Oldeuboi (2003)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

74 Metascore

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

Director: Chan-wook Park | Stars: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang, Dae-han Ji

Votes: 422,625 | Gross: $0.71M

Captivating thriller that deserves to be as well regarded as it is.

43. Volver (I) (2006)

R | 121 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

84 Metascore

After her death, a mother returns to her home town in order to fix the situations she couldn't resolve during her life.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Stars: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo

Votes: 84,187 | Gross: $12.90M

A magical realism featuring a stunning lead actress.

44. Capote (2005)

R | 114 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

88 Metascore

In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.

Director: Bennett Miller | Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Clifton Collins Jr., Catherine Keener, Allie Mickelson

Votes: 111,495 | Gross: $28.75M

Philip Seymour Hoffman is a beast. A dramatic investigative movie that's a bit twisted and best-loved for its disturbing qualities.

45. Waking Life (2001)

R | 99 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

82 Metascore

A man shuffles through a dream meeting various people and discussing the meanings and purposes of the universe.

Director: Richard Linklater | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Trevor Jack Brooks, Lorelei Linklater, Wiley Wiggins

Votes: 54,594 | Gross: $2.89M

This feels a bit minor to me. But it is certainly a fun ride for the open-minded/existential.

46. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

R | 110 min | Comedy, Drama

76 Metascore

The eccentric members of a dysfunctional family reluctantly gather under the same roof for various reasons.

Director: Wes Anderson | Stars: Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller

Votes: 232,830 | Gross: $52.36M

This one starts slow for me. In general, its pacing is worse than films like Rushmore and Bottle Rocket. Also, I am not very big on the score this time around. But it is still a pretty great effort with some highly effective scenes. I don't mean to act like I don't like Tenenbaums. Classic

47. Once (2007)

R | 86 min | Drama, Music, Romance

88 Metascore

A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

Director: John Carney | Stars: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová, Hugh Walsh, Gerard Hendrick

Votes: 101,315 | Gross: $9.44M

Really smart/emotional on my first viewing. Still "mostly" convincing on later viewings.

48. The Fountain (2006)

PG-13 | 96 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

51 Metascore

As a modern-day scientist, Tommy is struggling with mortality, desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzi.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Sean Patrick Thomas, Ellen Burstyn

Votes: 208,596 | Gross: $10.14M

Barely misses being over-the-top with emotion and story. What we have here is a deliberately awe-inspiring mini epic that packs many-a-punch.

49. Elephant (2003)

R | 81 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

70 Metascore

Several ordinary high school students go through their daily routine as two others prepare for something more malevolent.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Elias McConnell, Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson

Votes: 76,891 | Gross: $1.23M

Frightening. Enjoyable voyeuristic experience.

50. Sideways (2004)

R | 126 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

7.5