220px-TheAmerican2010PosterBy The Editors

We’ll start with a reminder. The 21st century began on January 1st, 2001.

BBC.Com Culture has started an interesting social media discussion about the best films of the 21st century with their just published list, culled from 177 critics down to a rather unsatisfying list of just 100 films using some black magic British Critic alchemy. While rankings and handicapping are the lifeblood of the sports and competitive-minded, we here at Step On Magazine don’t subscribe to that approach or point systems (or rate films out of  a possible 10 points in reviews). We’ve been out of school a long time, so have the century’s best filmmakers, and this isn’t a football pitch. So we’ve done it another way.

We take issue with the cheat that was employed in the much-hyped BBC list that has caused mass confusion and near-anarchy in the lists that have followed elsewhere online. The 21st century does not include the year 2000. The BBC’s choice to do so, just because they love Memento (don’t we all) means that the actual output of 2001-present was stretched and diluted further through this scoring system and spread across almost 200 critics. We find this problematic. Seven spaces on their already short list went to pre-21st century movies.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou was released in 2000. So was American Psycho. So was Requiem for a Dream, Almost Famous, Memento, Billy Elliot, Best in Show, Sexy Beast and Gladiator. We’re not going to fudge it, because that would take away from the many great films of the new century.

Rules we applied: No animated films and no documentaries. (Thus, no Team America: World Police, Spirited Away, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up, Ratatouille or Grizzly Man to name a few exceptional films, and no When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts, Spike Lee’s Hurricane Katrina (and aftermath) tour-de-force that belongs on any and all “best ofs” of all time.)

We looked to highbrow films, assured classics, prestige films and awarded films but also to the much less respected comedy genre and the weird little indies that give us hope for the genre itself, especially in a time of shrinking budgets. A good and a real laugh, as we’ve found over the years as filmgoers, is not so easy to earn, and is worth its weight in gold. It’s time to rethink the place of comedic films in critical views (especially as there’s an uncomfortable push to validate superhero films, most of which do not survive a critical look and aside from kids and fanatics, will not likely have staying power.) We’ve focused on films we’ve watched multiple times that hold up over time, in most cases more than twice.

Read All Our Film Reviews

And unlike the BBC’s project which focused on American films, we paid attention to US films, UK films, and those from other countries; major productions and Indie films. The US ain’t the center of this game, anymore. Nor is the UK.

We didn’t fix a number to this list but rather trimmed it from a first pass (long list) to a final list. It is not ranked. There is no click-baity “one and only best” (and if there was, it would not be Mulholland Drive). We’ve sorted it alphabetically and by year instead.

Our criteria for “best of” is films that have rewatchability, that compel us to actually buy them and want to own them, that spark discussion or stay with us, that have that rare element of surprise and spark of originality, and that redefine or add something very new to a genre or to the wider world of film and culture.

Finally, we invite our readers to comment, tweet or Facebook comment us with your own additions, exclusions or thoughts on the “best of”. Should any wayward writers wish to weigh in we’d be happy to include some follow up lists in a future post. We’ve also created an accompanying podcast to break this down into easily digestible chunks, discuss or defend our choices, challenge each other and come out swinging. Listen to the hows, the whys, the usual suspects and the missing, clips of some of our touchstone films, disagreements and discussion points. We are cuddlier than Siskel & Ebert who really disliked each other, but we have the freedom to swear. One of us does, here. And a few tangents about INXS and the importance of Air Conditioning. Let us know what you think! Trash Number 2 podcast (one hour in 6 minute segments). Here our 117 picks for the best films of the 21st century so far.

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Alphabetical list

28 Days Later (2002) Danny Boyle
About A Boy (2002) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz
About Schmidt (2002) Alexander Payne
The American (2010) Anton Corbijn
American Hustle (2013) David O. Russell
Another Year (2010) Mike Leigh
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Andrew Dominik
Attack the Block (2011) Joe Cornish
The Babadook (2014) Jennifer Kent
Bernie (2012) Richard Linklater
Birdman (or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) Alexandro G. Inarritu
The Bourne Legacy (2012) Tony Gilroy
Boyhood (2014) Richard Linklater
Broken Flowers (2005) Jim Jarmusch
Bubba Ho-Tep (2003) Don Coscarelli
Burn After Reading (2008) Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Capote (2005) Bennett Miller
Casino Royale (2006) Martin Campbell
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) Olivier Assayas
The Constant Gardener (2005) Fernando Meirelles
Control (2007) Anton Corbijn
The Dark Knight (2008) Christopher Nolan
Deadpool (2016) Tim Miller
The Departed (2006) Martin Scorsese
The Descendents (2011) Alexander Payne
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)Stephen Frears
District 9 (2008) Neill Blomkamp
Donnie Darko (2001) Richard Kelly
Doubt (2008) John Patrick Shanley
Drive (2011) Nicholas Winding Refn
The Drop (2014) Michael R. Roskam
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Doug Liman
An Education (2009) Lone Scherfig
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Michel Gondry
Ex Machina (2015) Alex Garland
Far From Heaven (2002) Todd Haynes
Foxcatcher (2014) Bennett Miller
Frozen River (2008) Courtney Hunt
The Gift (2015) Joel Edgerton
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Ana Lily Amirpour
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden, 2009)
Gone Baby Gone (2007) Ben Affleck
Gosford Park (2001) Robert Altman
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Wes Anderson
Hamlet 2 (2008) Andrew Fleming
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) John Cameron Mitchell
The Hours (2002) Stephen Daldry
I am Love (2009) Luca Guadagnino
The Imitation Game (2014) Morten Tyldum
In Bruges (2008) Martin McDonagh
Inside Man (2006) Spike Lee
Interstellar (2014) Christopher Nolan
The Judge (2014) David Dobkin
Junebug (2005) Phil Morrison
The King’s Speech (2010) Tom Hooper
Layer Cake (2005) Matthew Vaughn
Let the Right One In (2008) Tomas Alfredson
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Wes Anderson
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) Brad Furman
The Lobster (2015) Yorgos Lanthimos
Locke (2013) Steven Knight
Lost in Translation (2003) Sofia Coppola
Mad Max Fury Road (2015) George Miller
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) Sean Durkin
The Martian (2015) Ridley Scott
Mean Girls (2004) Mark Waters
Melancholia (2011) Lars Von Trier
Michael Clayton (2007) Tony Gilroy
Million Dollar Baby (2004) Clint Eastwood
Moon (2009) Duncan Jones
Moulin Rouge! (2001) Baz Luhrmann
Mud (2012) Jeff Nichols
Mulholland Drive (2001) David Lynch
Mystic River (2003) Clint Eastwood
Napolean Dynamite (2004) Jared Hess
Nebraska (2013) Alexander Payne
Nightcrawler (2014) Dan Gilroy
Old School (2003) Todd Phillips
Once (2007) John Carney
Pacific Rim (2013) Guillermo del Toro
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro
Philomena (2013) Stephen Frears
Pineapple Express (2008) David Gordon Green
The Prestige (2006) Christopher Nolan
Rabbit Hole (2010) John Cameron Mitchell
R.E.D. (2010) Robert Schwentke
Room (2015) Lenny Abrahmson
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Wes Anderson
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) Colin Trevorrow
School of Rock (2003) Richard Linklater
Shaun of the Dead (2004) Edgar Wright
Short Term Twelve (2013) Destin Daniel Crettin
Sicario (2015) Denis Villeneuve
A Single Man (2009) Tom Ford
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Danny Boyle
Spike Island (2012) Mat Whitcross
Spotlight (2015) Tom McCarthy
St. Vincent (2014) Theodore Melfi
Star Wars: The Force Awakens J.J. Abrams
Straight Outta Compton (2015) F. Gary Gray
Sugar (2008) Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Super 8 (2011) J.J. Abrams
There Will Be Blood (2007) Paul Thomas Anderson
This is England (2006) Shane Meadows
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Tomas Alfredson
The Trip (2010) Michael Winterbottom
The Trip to Italy (2014) Michael Winterbottom
Trollhunter (2010) Andre Ovredal
True Grit (2010) Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Tsotsi (2005) Gavin Hood
Under the Skin (2014) Jonathan Glazer
Warrior (2011) Gavin O’Connor
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Taika Watiti, Jemaine Clement
Winter’s Bone (2010) Debra Granik
The Witch (2015) Robert Eggers
Zodiac (2007) David Fincher
Zombieland (2009) Ruben Fleischer

LostInTranslation_RatPackShoot 1

Sorted by Initial Year of Release:

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) John Cameron Mitchell
Mulholland Drive (2001) David Lynch
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Gosford Park (2001) Robert Altman
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Wes Anderson
Donnie Darko (2001) Richard Kelly
Moulin Rouge! (2001) Baz Luhrmann
28 Days Later (2002) Danny Boyle
About A Boy (2002) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz
About Schmidt (2002) Alexander Payne
The Hours (2002) Stephen Daldry
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)Stephen Frears
Far From Heaven (2002) Todd Haynes
Lost in Translation (2003) Sofia Coppola
Bubba Ho-Tep (2003) Don Coscarelli
School of Rock (2003) Richard Linklater
Old School (2003) Todd Phillips
Mystic River (2003) Clint Eastwood
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Michel Gondry
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Wes Anderson
Shaun of the Dead (2004) Edgar Wright
Million Dollar Baby (2004) Clint Eastwood
Napolean Dynamite (2004) Jared Hess
Mean Girls (2004) Mark Waters
Tsotsi (2005) Gavin Hood
Layer Cake (2005) Matthew Vaughn
Junebug (2005) Phil Morrison
The Constant Gardener (2005) Fernando Meirelles
Broken Flowers (2005) Jim Jarmusch
Capote (2005) Bennett Miller
Casino Royale (2006) Martin Campbell
The Departed (2006) Martin Scorsese
The Prestige (2006) Christopher Nolan
Inside Man (2006) Spike Lee
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro
This is England (2006) Shane Meadows
Control (2007) Anton Corbijn
Once (2007) John Carney
There Will Be Blood (2007) Paul Thomas Anderson
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Andrew Dominik
Michael Clayton (2007) Tony Gilroy
Zodiac (2007) David Fincher
Gone Baby Gone (2007) Ben Affleck
District 9 (2008) Neill Blomkamp
Frozen River (2008) Courtney Hunt
Burn After Reading (2008) Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Pineapple Express (2008) David Gordon Green
Doubt (2008) John Patrick Shanley
Sugar (2008) Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Let the Right One In (2008) Tomas Alfredson
In Bruges (2008) Martin McDonagh
The Dark Knight (2008) Christopher Nolan
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Danny Boyle
Hamlet 2 (2008) Andrew Fleming
I am Love (2009) Luca Guadagnino
Zombieland (2009) Ruben Fleischer
Moon (2009) Duncan Jones
An Education (2009) Lone Scherfig
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden, 2009)
A Single Man (2009) Tom Ford
Get Low (2010) Aaron Schneider
Winter’s Bone (2010) Debra Granik
Rabbit Hole (2010) John Cameron Mitchell
Trollhunter (2010) Andre Ovredal
The King’s Speech (2010) Tom Hooper
True Grit (2010) Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
The American (2010) Anton Corbijn
Another Year (2010) Mike Leigh
The Trip (2010) Michael Winterbottom
R.E.D. (2010) Robert Schwentke
Warrior (2011) Gavin O’Connor
Attack the Block (2011) Joe Cornish
Drive (2011) Nicholas Winding Refn
Melancholia (2011) Lars Von Trier
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Tomas Alfredson
The Descendents (2011) Alexander Payne
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) Brad Furman
Super 8 (2011) J.J. Abrams
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) Sean Durkin
Bernie (2012) Richard Linklater
The Bourne Legacy (2012) Tony Gilroy
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) Colin Trevorrow
*Spike Island (2012) Mat Whitcross
Mud (2012) Jeff Nichols
Nebraska (2013) Alexander Payne
Philomena (2013) Stephen Frears
Locke (2013) Steven Knight
American Hustle (2013) David O. Russell
Pacific Rim (2013) Guillermo del Toro
Short Term Twelve (2013) Destin Daniel Crettin
St. Vincent (2014) Theodore Melfi
The Trip to Italy (2014) Michael Winterbottom
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Doug Liman
Under the Skin (2014) Jonathan Glazer
The Drop (2014) Michael R. Roskam
Nightcrawler (2014) Dan Gilroy
*A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Ana Lily Amirpour
The Judge (2014) David Dobkin
Interstellar (2014) Christopher Nolan
*The Imitation Game (2014) Morten Tyldum
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) Olivier Assayas
*Foxcatcher (2014) Bennett Miller
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Wes Anderson
*The Babadook (2014) Jennifer Kent
Birdman (or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) Alexandro G. Inarritu
Boyhood (2014) Richard Linklater
*What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Taika Watiti, Jemaine Clement
*The Witch (2015) Robert Eggers
The Lobster (2015) Yorgos Lanthimos
*Mad Max Fury Road (2015) George Miller
The Gift (2015) Joel Edgerton
*Ex Machina (2015) Alex Garland
*Straight Outta Compton (2015) F. Gary Gray
The Martian (2015) Ridley Scott
Spotlight (2015) Tom McCarthy
*Sicario (2015) Denis Villeneuve
*Room (2015) Lenny Abrahmson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) J.J. Abrams
Deadpool (2016) Tim Miller

Stars with an * are ones previously reviewed on Step On Magazine. Find them by typing a partial film title in the search bar at the top right of the page.

Bonus: Films That Dave “Never wants to see again.” (Would have precluded them from being on the list, if not for Jacqueline’s insistence.)

The Witch, Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, Moulin Rouge!, The Constant Gardener.

Bonus: Films that were great last minute additions from Dave:

Nebraska, The Lincoln Lawyer, True Grit, Get Low, Bernie.

Films that were deliberate omissions: We never want to see them again.

Whiplash, No Country for Old Men (too much, it was too much for us.)

If I had to pick 15/ Desert Island Films: Films so good you never want them to end. (picks by Jacqueline)

The Babadook, The Gift, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Lobster, Get Low, District 9, Gone Baby Gone, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, 28 Days Later, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Doubt, The Prestige, Lost in Translation, Winter’s Bone.