Supercut: The 25 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

As this video shows, the BBC's top 25 films are matters of life and death.

The BBC recently released its list of the 21st century's 100 greatest films (so far), according to 177 critics from 36 countries. As with any of these attempts, this one is sure to be hotly contested, but one thing can be said with certainty: due likely to the diversity of the critics themselves, the list contains more than just the usual suspects. 

We discussed the list at length on a recent Indie Film Weekly podcast. Then, we asked video essayist Nelson Carvajal to give you a visual taste of the critics' top 25 choices. Carvajal points out that he chose to include moments from the films that focus on the common threads of birth and death, "as an attempt to give a cross-section of the type of 21st century semiotics we are sharing in our modern age."  Indeed, in a century that kicked off with the 9/11 terror attacks, it's no wonder that fundamental questions about life and death are at top of mind.

Here are the films, in order of 25 to 1:

What common themes do you notice among the films? Haven't seen them all yet? Don't worry. This handy list of the top 25 (and where to find them online) will keep you busy, and perhaps inspire you to create #101.

25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
17. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)

Scarlett Johannson in Sofia Coppola's 'Lost in Translation'
Scarlett Johannson in Sofia Coppola's 'Lost in Translation'
14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000) [DVD only]
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) [DVD only]
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)  [DVD only]
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)     

Nelson Carvajal is a Webby-nominated video artist from Chicago, Illinois. His video essay work can be found at Fandor, Indiewire and

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Your Comment


So 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) are on the list. Yet The Silence of The Lambs (1991), Fight Club (1999), American Beauty (1999), Goodfellas (1990), Der Untergang (2004), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Delicatessen (1991), Edward Scissorhands (1990), In Bruges (2008), L.A. Confidential (1997), Mystic River (2003), Dead Poets Society (1989), Good Will Hunting (1997), The Shining (1980), Se7en (1995), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), TO NAME A FEW, are not. And I'm supposed to take it seriously? Nah. F**k no.

August 25, 2016 at 12:10PM, Edited August 25, 12:11PM

Cosmin Gurau

"21st Century," man. Almost every film you listed was from the 20th century.

August 25, 2016 at 12:22PM

Ian Reid
Director of Photography

I think you fail to grasp the concept of 21st Century. Are we supposed to take your rant seriously? Nah. F**k no.

August 25, 2016 at 12:25PM

Dan Horne

TWENTY FIRST as in starting with 20** nothing starting with 19**. read before you flip out

August 25, 2016 at 6:44PM


Why? it's always good to flip out first. grAAAAAAAAAAnGRRR

November 25, 2016 at 5:09AM


Noah Gehman, dude virtually 99 years of the 20th Century start with 19**...

May 5, 2017 at 2:47PM

Vic Barrett
Screenwriter l Unit Stills Photographer l Beginner Filmmaker

Good list. I haven't watch a lot of these so it gives me a good incentive to do so! :) I think Lost In Translation is insanely awful and Gladiator was not found on the list. Good call with Tree of Life and Eternal Sunshine. I have to watch the others...

August 25, 2016 at 6:18PM, Edited August 25, 6:48PM


Lost in Translation might not really be insanely awful but it is boring as hell, indeed. I'm not that much into Sofia Coppola's films but The Virgin Suicides was way better.

May 5, 2017 at 2:51PM

Vic Barrett
Screenwriter l Unit Stills Photographer l Beginner Filmmaker

I'm going to relish writing this, because it's so obnoxious and persnickety: 21st century began in 2001, not 2000, because there was no year 0.

Therefore, Memento shouldn't be on the list.

August 25, 2016 at 8:21PM

Benjamin Lebeau
Cinematographer, Colorist, Editor

BBC addresses this in their article:

"For the purposes of this poll we have decided that a list of the greatest films of the 21st Century should include the year 2000, even though we recognise that there was no ‘Year Zero’ and that 2001 is mathematically the start of the century. Not only did we all celebrate the turn of the millennium on 31 December 1999, but the year 2000 was a landmark in global cinema, and, in particular, saw the emergence of new classics from Asia like nothing we had ever seen before."

August 25, 2016 at 11:41PM


Your boyhood link goes to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind itunes listing

September 25, 2016 at 12:13PM

Vicky Mittal
Video Production Assistant Bioware

For me, these should be the top tier.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
As I was moving ahead ... (2000)
In Vanda's Room (2000)
Yi Yi (2000)
Gleaner's and I (2000)
Blissfully Yours (2002)
Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003)
Syndromes and Centuries (2006)
Turin Horse (2011)
Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

November 24, 2016 at 8:26PM, Edited November 24, 8:26PM


"The Tree of Life", really? It was one of the worst films i have ever seen...

November 25, 2016 at 1:35AM


No Drive? I rate 0/10. Worst list of all time.

(Drive is just my favourite movie and I'm butthurt.)

November 25, 2016 at 3:05AM, Edited November 25, 3:05AM