The NY Times 25 Best Movies of the 21st Century, According to Critics and Filmmakers

NYT's rankings of the best movies of the 21st century are both satisfying and surprising (especially #25). 

Today, the New York Times ranked the 25 best movies of the 21st century. The results are as eclectic as they are satisfying. 

New York Times Chief Film Critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott led the effort, with input from Facebook users and various filmmakers and actors, including Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Richard Linklater, Robert Pattinson, and Michelle Williams.

"We decided to rank, with some help from cinema savants on Facebook, the top 25 movies that are destined to be the classics of the future," wrote Dargis and Scott.

Although the list features a majority of American directors—Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Clint Eastwood, the Coen brothers, and Kelly Reichardt, to name a few—the top 10 films represent a more global perspective, with entries from Hayao Miyazaki (Japan), Cristi Puiu (Romania), Jia Zhangke (China), and Olivier Assayas (France).

The list's most surprising selection is Judd Apatow's 40-Year-Old Virgin, at #25, lauded by both critics for bringing a feminist perspective to the blockbuster comedy.

One film from 2016 made the list: Barry Jenkins' Moonlight. Scott remarked that the film "shows how black lives matter."

Dargis responded: "That’s one of criticism’s essential questions, isn’t it: how do directors make characters—with their interior lives, their specificity and universality—come alive on screen?....You want to sweep [Chiron] into your arms. Part of the movie’s genius is how it folds its argument into its actual narrative structure."

The critics selected Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood for the coveted #1 spot, calling it a "21st-century masterpiece."

Below, we've listed the full rankings, along with pertinent quotes from the top three choices.  

1. There Will Be Blood (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

'There Will Be Blood'Credit: Miramax Films
Dargis: "Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a 21st-century masterpiece about love, death, faith, greed and all the oil and blood gushing through the American 20th century.... He embodies the best of the United States only to become the very worst of it. The film offers a profound and deeply unsettling vision of the country, but it’s also a testament to one of this nation’s sublime achievements: the movies." 

Scott: "It is stranger than any of its themes, mightier than its influence and bigger than any of the genres it explores… That opening sequence lasts almost 15 minutes before the first line of dialogue is uttered, and it sets the table (or stirs the milkshake) for the many bravura set pieces that follow, like the explosion of the drilling rig midway through. I never tire of thinking about There Will Be Blood. But every time I watch it, I find it outruns all my thoughts. Not many films do that."

Dargis: "It’s still fascinating to see how Mr. Anderson drew from two traditions to make the film: classical Hollywood cinema and European art film."

2. Spirited Away (Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 2002)

Del Toro: "As a young adult, I saw My Neighbor Totoro and it moved me to tears. I mean, I basically couldn’t stop crying at the beauty and the enormous feat of capturing the innocence of being a child. I immediately chased down everything he had done."

3. Million Dollar Baby (Dir. Clint Eastwood, 2004)

Scott: "You sometimes hear that that they don’t make them the way they used to, but Mr. Eastwood–almost uniquely in 21st-century Hollywood–most assuredly does."

The rest of the rankings are as follows:

4. A Touch of Sin (Dir. Jia Zhangke, 2013)

5. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Dir. Cristi Puiu, 2006)

6. Yi Yi (Dir. Edward Yang, 2000)

7. Inside Out (Dir. Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, 2015)

8. Boyhood (Dir. Richard Linklater, 2014)

9. Summer Hours (Dir. Olivier Assayas, 2009)

10. The Hurt Locker (Dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 2009)

11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)

12. Timbuktu (Dir. Abderrahmane Sissako, 2015)

13. In Jackson Heights (Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 2015)

14. L’Enfant (Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2006)

15. White Material (Dir. Claire Denis, 2010)

16. Munich (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 2005)

17. Three Times (Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2006)

18. The Gleaners and I (Dir. by Agnès Varda, 2000)

19. Mad Max: Fury Road (Dir. by George Miller, 2015)

20. Moonlight (Dir. Barry Jenkins, 2016)

21. Wendy and Lucy (Dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

22. I’m Not There (Dir. Todd Haynes, 2007)

23. Silent Light (Dir. Carlos Reygadas, 2008)

24. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2004)

25. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Dir. Judd Apatow, 2005)

Your Comment


Mulholland Drive???

June 9, 2017 at 9:29PM

Ankur Jadhav
Portrait & Street Photographer & Short Documentary Maker

No Country for Old Men? All of the Spike Jonze films.

June 10, 2017 at 4:06AM, Edited June 10, 4:06AM

Jesse Yules

No Wes Anderson or Spike Jones? Fuck off.

June 10, 2017 at 8:01AM


Missing Zodiac, Black Swan, and No Country for Old Men.

June 10, 2017 at 4:25PM

d shay

This list is not accurate... :(

June 11, 2017 at 12:36PM

Sameir Ali
Director of Photography

This is actually one of the better lists i've seen. One thing that immediately raises it above most lists of this type is that the people that voted for it are clearly knowledgable and realise that filmmaking does exist outside of the u.s. Thats always the biggest giveaway as to wether or not the list was created by actual cinephiles or morons.

June 12, 2017 at 5:34AM, Edited June 12, 5:34AM


This is a great list! It's hard to make a top 25. I think the only film that it is unfairly missing is In the Mood for Love. That film inspired some of the films on this list.

June 12, 2017 at 6:10AM

Josef Lorenzo

Why in the hell is Boyhood on there?! Because it took 12 years to make? Lame gimmick is all that movie was. That movie was god awful. 3 hours of nothing of any significance happening.

June 12, 2017 at 7:28AM

Brendan McNamara
DP, Editor, Colorist

i was tempted to insult and belite you, but then i tought, man this guy lives by the motto: "ignorance is bliss" which is a sad thing since if you haven`t grasped the humanist masterpiece that is Boyhood, you probably had a sad sad sad life and can`t cope with revealing it :(

June 16, 2017 at 9:42PM


I have to agree, boyhood was massively over rated as a story. A cool film experience and a good story, but nothing great and certainly not a masterpiece.

September 30, 2017 at 2:08PM, Edited September 30, 2:08PM


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Lucid Dreaming Pro

June 16, 2017 at 2:53AM


Mullholland Drive and No Country for Old Men missing in any list, makes it shit, just like that.

June 16, 2017 at 9:43PM, Edited June 16, 9:43PM


A good film list tells you about movies a bad one tells you about its authors.
Only 3 of these would be in any serious top fifty and then there is the usual American myopia.
Overall reads as grab bag of ponderous mediocrity with a couple of film school touchstones for belated cred.

June 17, 2017 at 2:20AM


No Scorsese?
Either the Departed, Wolf of Wallstreet or Silence should be on the list!

September 30, 2017 at 8:59AM, Edited September 30, 8:59AM


Its hard for me not to read this list and think "I enjoyed x and y way more than i enjoyed some of these". but this list isnt stating "these are the best movies", its stating "according to data gathered from filmmakers/critics, these are the top rated". Its data, and its pretty useless to call data stupid

September 30, 2017 at 2:16PM



March 18, 2018 at 12:36PM


I agree with some, Strongly disagree with some, I miss a lot of movies and I haven't seen some. I wonder what facebook metrics were used, also agenda perspectives should not matter while deciding the quality of artwork, at least there is no utter nonsense like black panther.
Edit: 40 year old virgin is on the list...

May 22, 2019 at 5:41AM, Edited May 22, 5:42AM



The Hurt Locker?...The 40-Year-Old Virgin?... really?

May 22, 2019 at 9:25AM, Edited May 22, 9:30AM

Victor Villasenor-Tejeda
Graphic Artist

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July 13, 2019 at 9:00AM