The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films list serves as a companion to the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? 1,000 Greatest Films of all time list which, - by its nature - tends to have very few films from the 21st century in it. The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films list attempts to highlight and honour this century's most critically revered films and act as a sort of 'resting bay' for many great films that are likely to be included in the 1,000 Greatest Films list sooner or later.
Can you remember a time without Rotten Tomatoes? Those sightless days of people reaching out and bumping into movies at random, like wandering through a Blockbuster with all the lights off. Those were dark and undirected times. Since the launch of RT in August of 1998, though – the site went live on August 18 of that year – movie fans have had immediate access to the largest accumulation of film reviews ever, distilled for one purpose: to get you watching the best kind of movies you want to see. (Or if you only want to watch bad movies, the site can help you find those more quickly, too.)
As we mark our 20th birthday, we’re looking back on the past two decades with this guide to the 200 best-reviewed movies released since that fateful day in August of 1998. To keep the competition tight, we only included movies that had at least 80 reviews, the number at which wide-release movies qualify for Certified Fresh status; applying that rule, and limiting the total list to 200 titles, the lowest Tomatometer score you’ll find is 95%. The criteria also meant that no films from 1998 made the cut (Shakespeare in Love did come awfully close).
The list, which we’ve ordered chronologically, runs the gamut of movies, ranging from popular blockbusters (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) to indies (The Wrestler, Nightcrawler) and the still underseen (Step, Gloria). Some 14 movies come from this very year made the list, among them Mission: Impossible – Fallout and BlacKkKlansman. There are seven Best Picture Oscar winners and 24 animated movies in there – 10 of which are Pixar products, and three of which come from the UK’s Aardman Animations. Documentaries make up a whopping quarter of the movies listed, and include landmark films like Bowling For Columbine and Man On Wire, while 53 of the movies listed are foreign-language, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the first film on the list, Pedro Almodóvar‘s All About My Mother.
A number of directors show up twice on the list – Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, and Sean Baker among them – and a handful show up even more than that: Lee Unkrich, Pete Docter, Brad Bird, and Richard Linklater. Meanwhile, series like the Paddington, Before, and Toy Story films appear more than once, along with both films in The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence documentary pairing feature.
So: 200 movies, 20 years. How many have you seen after all this time? And how many are you adding to your watchlist?
How good was 2011 for cinema? So good that even an unusually tepid awards-season crop didn’t keep us from expanding from our Top 10 lists to a Top 15 (plus a bonus five), which still left a diversity of great films off our ballots. If there’s a common theme to the year’s best, it’s the wealth of ambitious personal visions, from Terrence Malick evoking creation to tell the story of his upbringing in The Tree Of Life to Martin Scorsese channeling his boyhood enthusiasm for spectacle in Hugo to Kenneth Lonergan finally delivering the beautiful, wounded Margaret after six years in post-production purgatory. It was a year where documentaries sought to expand the form, where the best American independent films went far out on a limb, and where old masters like Abbas Kiarostami and Pedro Almodóvar released films that felt exuberant and alive with possibility. A few titles weren’t available to see before press time—The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, and Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked among them—but we’ve worked hard to give a special year its due. For your consideration...
In 2014, Sight & Sound polled 340 documentary critics, curators, academics and filmmakers asking for top 10 documentary lists. Over 1000 films got votes, from years as early as 1892 to as recent as 2013. This list is the combined critics and filmmakers list of all films that received 3 or more votes.
All credits go to IMDb user: RDLongoria
Last year was a surprisingly arty time for mainstream Hollywood. This year wasn’t. Despite the fact that wise-guy Martin Scorsese dropped a remarkably good children’s movie, the majority of 2011 was Hollywood business as usual: remakes, sequels, lurching franchises, and comic book adaptations. Granted, it was also the year of the (relatively) small pro-women’s film like Bridesmaids and The Help that crashed Hollywood’s CGI-machismo party, taking home a sizeable slice of the guests. But neither of those movies are any good (nor on our list), despite their claims to feminism. Which left Hollywood right where it generally likes to be: profitable and dull.
Which also left Tiny Mix Tapes in our most favored position. We young culture writers have noticed the trends, yes, but we’ve responded mainly by eschewing the big stuff (to be fair, we did favorably review Thor and Captain America) in order to keep our keen eyes and ears on what really mattered, on where and how film really thrived: among the outsiders, in fresh forms whose relevance may take time to become clear. The list below is our proof that 2011 can stand beside the best recent years for artistic genius in film, if, as we did, you look carefully.
Perhaps the individual greatnesses of our 25 picks have some common link, a sense of vibrant loneliness that puts them in touch with the modern world. Certainly the big names that appear on our list (Kiarostami, Apichatpong, von Trier, Malick, Almodovar, July) were aiming to define the isolation made real by an ungrounded, frenetic time. But look at the films we’ve noticed that the year all but passed over — Cold Weather, The Four Times, Meek’s Cutoff, Leap Year, William Never Married, Dragonslayer — and ask yourself if the link isn’t just as much a collective, unconscious backlash against Hollywood’s tentpole mentality, a simple need for good films possessed by the times themselves. Maybe all we’re doing is keeping our eyes open. —Alex Peterson