Last week, the BBC released their list of the best films since 2000, after polling 177 film critics to submit a top 10. Since it was created in aggregate, it’s an interesting list, but critiquing the particular choices is a completely invalid reaction to the list, especially since I’ve only seen about half of them. The individual critic lists are way more interesting. Angie Han of Slashfilm chose Pain & Gain, which is an amazing choice. Two people had Avatar on their lists! In that spirit, I am offering up my own list, had I been asked to participate.*
These are in no particular order:
1. Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
Has there ever been a more relatable or moving depiction of loneliness? The Tokyo setting of this is perfect, as the most depressing kind of loneliness only comes when you are surrounded by people. It also perfectly matches the characters. Bill Murray’s character wants to disengage with the world, remaining in the simple decor of the hotel, while Scarlett Johansson’s character desperately wants to throw herself into busyness, running from her dying relationship. The film’s visuals underline the story, adding layers of depth even for viewers not picking them out the first time.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
Edgar Wright might be the most “now” director. While his films draw on films and media of the 1980s and 90s, They aren’t strictly nostalgic. Rather, all of Wright’s characters are simply baked in the same pop culture currents as we are. They understand films and story construction in an intrinsic way, like native English speakers understand grammar before knowing how to diagram a sentence. Scott Pilgrim gets the edge simply because it also happens to be the best video game film to date, and is also based on a comic book which itself is very inspired by manga. The rise of all three of these art forms into the public consciousness has been most pronounced in the last 15 years, and this film is the only one that manages to translate all of these influences to film with minimal compromise.
3. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
The fact that this film is about Facebook is incidental to its greatness. The script is the second best work by writer Aaron Sorkin, and is also the best film by David Fincher. The story of friendship, creation, and betrayal are themes that stretch back to before the written word. But this particular version is also tied immediately to our time and place, and showing how the particular acts of creation and those who end up holding power seems like a looser determination. Although Mark Zuckerberg comes from a privileged background, it is hard to get more privileged than the Winklevoss twins (smart, male, Olympic athletes from Connecticut!), and there is something intrinsically satisfying when Zuckerberg gets the better of them. And the agony when he turns on Eduardo Saverin is just as affecting. While they are all in college it seems as petty as a high school election, but in the real world there are millions of dollars at stake. The Social Network captures the absurdities of our world, as well as the very human actors behind them.
4. The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012)
Of all the superhero films we’ve gotten in the last 16 years (so many that I’m not going to bother to try and count), this one still stands at the top of the heap for being the most well-made and the most significant. This film singlehandedly ushered in the idea of a “shared universe” between films (Freddy vs. Jason and Aliens vs. Predator may have paved the way slightly, but represent the least essential films in their respective franchises) and showed that the kinds of auteurs that flourish in blockbuster filmmaking are those that are able to put all the toys back in the toybox when they are done playing with them. Joss Whedon came from television, largely considered the writer’s domain, and has plenty of experience in longform storytelling. These skills dovetail wonderfully with superhero comics, where the illusion of constant change covers the status quo. There’s not much proper character development in The Avengers, just everyone advancing down their path a little bit more. But seeing these characters interact via Whedon’s snappy dialogue makes them sitting around a table just as entertaining as the action. It’s these moments that tickle superhero fans the most. How Captain America befriends Thor is more rewarding than finding out what happens when Thor hits Captain America’s unbreakable shield with his magical hammer (but that’s pretty cool too).
5. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)
This is the best Pixar film. Hands down. By a nose. For a studio that has a catalog full of inventive concepts, this one somehow feels the most unique. And from an oddball idea of a foodie rat dreaming of being a chef comes an amazing work of art about what art means to our lives. Most of us spend our days toiling away at jobs that offer little in the way of creative outlets, and so seeing someone pursuing that goal in the face of everything in their way is inspiring. That’s the core of what makes this film special, but add in the gorgeous animation (one of the best renditions of Paris on screen) and colorful characters, and a rare film that completely nails the ending, and you have one of the best films of all time.
6. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
A master class in tension and suspense. Divided into five “chapters,” two of them would rank on this list individually. The opening, where we are introduced to Hans Landa (still Christoph Waltz’ best performance) is completely and absolutely terrifying, while also being gorgeously shot. The fourth “chapter,” where our heroes are caught in a situation in a basement is equally harrowing, and both are amazing self-contained stories. And yet I could also say that these are not the best scenes in the film (it’s where Hans Landa and Shosanna share dessert, as seen in the GIF above). This film also plays with languages in a way that serves the plot twists, but also as a comment on European relations. By bringing the tone of Spaghetti Westerns to World War II, Tarantino breathes new life into two tired genres, which is the cream on top of the strudel.
7. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)
This story is adapted from Roald Dahl, but this version continues the story beyond Dahl’s take on mutually assured destruction. It ends up feeling the most Wes Anderson of any of his films. Chock full of quirky, sly humor, Anderson indulges his most madcap tendencies, and to great effect. The film is a heartwarming, eccentric adventure. Putting my affection for this film into words is an intense challenge.
8. The Italian Job (F. Gary Gray, 2003)
If this list were ranked by the amount of times I’ve seen the film, The Italian Job would be at the top. This film has almost everything I love. Heists, car chases, fun characters, great dialogue, and clever solutions. It has become the cinematic equivalent of a favorite pizza place, where the particular combination of ingredients don’t seem special, but somehow resonate in a way that is unique. I challenge anyone to hate this movie. It is a perfect piece of entertainment.
9. Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012)
I generally don’t enjoy horror films, mostly because I am a wimp when it comes to jump scares, and also because I have an overactive imagination. But they fascinate me. I love how they have “rules,” as lovingly explored by Scream, but Cabin in the Woods takes it to another level entirely, intertwining the fantastical human sacrifice with the banalities of office work is genius and takes the film beyond most metafiction.
10. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
Both a blistering action film and a rally for gender equality, Mad Max: Fury Road may actually be perfect. There is nothing about this film that should be changed, from the simple story to the pounding score by Junkie XL, to the amazing digital photography, editing, and color grading. To have a film work on every single story and technical level and for that film to essentially be a giant car chase is astounding.
*I excised any spots that would have gone to Certified Copy, Grand Budapest Hotel, Stranger Than Fiction, or The Brothers Bloom since I just wrote about them and I’d likely end up repeating myself, which is interesting to no one, not even me, which is generally who I write for.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.