The 100 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far) – Part 3: #50-26

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Click here for Part 1 (#100 – 76)!

Click here for Part 2 (#75-51)!

The first decade and a half of the 21st century has brought a lot of changes to the landscape of film. The advancement and sophistication of computers has made realistic computer generated effects a mainstay in both big-budget and small-budget films. The internet and streaming technologies have given big Hollywood new competition in films produced independently and by non-traditional means. We went from purchasing films on yards of tape to plastic disks, and now we can simply upload them to the cloud. Advertisements for films have reached a higher, more ruthless level where generating hype through trailers and teasers is crucial for a film’s commercial success. Movie attendance has fluctuated along with the economy, but that hasn’t stopped films from breaking box office records, including having films gross more than $1 billion on a regular occasion. Finally, as technology has developed, so too has a worldwide appreciation of film. No longer is a film’s commercial success dependent mainly on the North American market. Asian markets especially have become a major source of business for film studios worldwide. Also consider that easier access to film has created an appreciation for films of foreign countries and cultures.

To reflect on all the changes that film has gone through over the past 15 years, we’ve chosen the 100 best films of the 21st century (so far). These are films released in theaters or independently in the years 2001-2015 (the 20th century century ended in the year 2000, not 1999). To create this list, we reviewed several hundred of the best-received films of the last fifteen years. An algorithm was generated to create rankings based on a number of important criterion for all of these films. These criteria include a film’s impact on filmmaking, society, and pop culture. We looked at box office earnings to determine commercial success, and awards nominations and wins to determine critical success. We compared ratings from popular movie websites such as Rotten Tomatoes, MetaCritic, and IMDB which combine audience and critic opinions. Finally, we included a bit of our own preferences in order to come up with the final ranking of movies you see here. For films that have come out recently, we’ve taken into account the incompleteness of their box office results, critical reviews, and awards nominations/wins by making predictions as best we could based on previous years. For films released earlier during this time period, we took into account the effect of inflation as well as the growth of information technology and the impact this would have on everything from website ratings to number of awards nominations.

 Note that we have decided to leave off documentary films. There are plenty of fantastic documentary films that have been released over the last 15 years, some of them among the best films released in a particular year. But the truth is that a documentary is difficult to compare to a traditional film for purposes of ranking when taking into account the criteria mentioned above.

Here are our picks for the 100 best films of the 21st Century (So Far), Part 2 #75 – 51:

50. Argo (2012)

121218025738 ben affleck argo story top

Synopsis: On Nov. 4, 1979, militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking 66 American hostages. Amid the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge with the Canadian ambassador. Knowing that it’s just a matter of time before the refugees are found and likely executed, the U.S. government calls on extractor Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to rescue them. Mendez’s plan is to pose as a Hollywood producer scouting locations in Iran and train the refugees to act as his “film” crew.

49. Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out

Synopsis: Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions — led by Joy (Amy Poehler) — try to guide her through this difficult, life-changing event. However, the stress of the move brings Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley’s mind, the only emotions left in Headquarters are Anger, Fear and Disgust.

48. Spider Man (2002)

Spider Man

Synopsis: “Spider-Man” centers on student Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) who, after being bitten by a genetically-altered spider, gains superhuman strength and the spider-like ability to cling to any surface. He vows to use his abilities to fight crime, coming to understand the words of his beloved Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

47. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty

Synopsis: Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden becomes one of the most-wanted men on the planet. The worldwide manhunt for the terrorist leader occupies the resources and attention of two U.S. presidential administrations. Ultimately, it is the work of a dedicated female operative (Jessica Chastain) that proves instrumental in finally locating bin Laden. In May 2011, Navy SEALs launch a nighttime strike, killing bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

46. Selma (2014)

Selma 2

Synopsis: Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

45. The Queen (2006)

The Queen

Synopsis: Following the death of Princess Diana in an auto accident, Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) struggle to reach a compromise in how the royal family should publicly respond to the tragedy. In the balance is the family’s need for privacy and the public’s demand for an outward show of mourning.

44. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln

Synopsis: With the nation embroiled in still another year with the high death count of Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) brings the full measure of his passion, humanity and political skill to what would become his defining legacy: to end the war and permanently abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment. Having great courage, acumen and moral fortitude, Lincoln pushes forward to compel the nation, and those in government who oppose him, to aim toward a greater good for all mankind.

43. Let The RIght One In (2008)

 let the right one in

Synopsis: When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor, the mysterious and moody Eli (Lina Leandersson), they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of bloody local murders.

42. Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan

Synopsis: Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose passion for the dance rules every facet of her life. When the company’s artistic director decides to replace his prima ballerina for their opening production of “Swan Lake,” Nina is his first choice. She has competition in newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) however. While Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, Lily personifies the Black Swan. As rivalry between the two dancers transforms into a twisted friendship, Nina’s dark side begins to emerge.

41. The Departed (2006)

The Departed

Synopsis: South Boston cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes undercover to infiltrate the organization of gangland chief Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). As Billy gains the mobster’s trust, a career criminal named Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) infiltrates the police department and reports on its activities to his syndicate bosses. When both organizations learn they have a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin must figure out each other’s identities to save their own lives.

40. The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles

Synopsis: In this lauded Pixar animated film, married superheroes Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are forced to assume mundane lives as Bob and Helen Parr after all super-powered activities have been banned by the government. While Mr. Incredible loves his wife and kids, he longs to return to a life of adventure, and he gets a chance when summoned to an island to battle an out-of-control robot. Soon, Mr. Incredible is in trouble, and it’s up to his family to save him.

39. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Ingluorious basterds

Synopsis: It is the first year of Germany’s occupation of France. Allied officer Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) assembles a team of Jewish soldiers to commit violent acts of retribution against the Nazis, including the taking of their scalps. He and his men join forces with Bridget von Hammersmark, a German actress and undercover agent, to bring down the leaders of the Third Reich. Their fates converge with theater owner Shosanna Dreyfus, who seeks to avenge the Nazis’ execution of her family.

38. Incendies (2010)

incendies

Synopsis: Nawal (Lubna Azabal), a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away. Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover a startling family history, and have revelations about themselves.

37. Room (2015)

Room

Synopsis: Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.

36. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

brokeback mountain

Synopsis: In 1963, rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) are hired by rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) as sheep herders in Wyoming. One night on Brokeback Mountain, Jack makes a drunken pass at Ennis that is eventually reciprocated. Though Ennis marries his longtime sweetheart, Alma (Michelle Williams), and Jack marries a fellow rodeo rider (Anne Hathaway), the two men keep up their tortured and sporadic affair over the course of 20 years.

35. Lost In Translation (2003)

Lost In Translation

Synopsis: A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a conflicted newlywed, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful.

34. Ratatouille (2007)

ratatouille

Synopsis: Remy (Patton Oswalt), a resident of Paris, appreciates good food and has quite a sophisticated palate. He would love to become a chef so he can create and enjoy culinary masterpieces to his heart’s delight. The only problem is, Remy is a rat. When he winds up in the sewer beneath one of Paris’ finest restaurants, the rodent gourmet finds himself ideally placed to realize his dream.

33. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 (2011)

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 Wallpapers 3

Synopsis: A clash between good and evil awaits as young Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) prepare for a final battle against Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Harry has grown into a steely lad on a mission to rid the world of evil. The friends must search for the Horcruxes that keep the dastardly wizard immortal. Harry and Voldemort meet at Hogwarts Castle for an epic showdown where the forces of darkness may finally meet their match.

32. Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo

Synopsis: Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clown fish, is overly cautious with his son, Nemo (Alexander Gould), who has a foreshortened fin. When Nemo swims too close to the surface to prove himself, he is caught by a diver, and horrified Marlin must set out to find him. A blue reef fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) — who has a really short memory — joins Marlin and complicates the encounters with sharks, jellyfish, and a host of ocean dangers. Meanwhile, Nemo plots his escape from a dentist’s fish tank.

31. Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash

Synopsis: Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite music conservatory. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble, forever changing the young man’s life. But Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher pushes him to the brink of his ability and his sanity.

30. The King’s Speech (2010)

the kings speech

Synopsis: Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite music conservatory. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble, forever changing the young man’s life. But Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher pushes him to the brink of his ability and his sanity.

29. The Hurt Locker (2008)

the hurt locker

Synopsis: Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are members of a bomb-disposal unit in Baghdad. As their tour of duty enters its final weeks, the men face a set of increasingly hazardous situations, any of which could end their lives in an explosive instant.

28. Up (2009)

Up movie

Synopsis: Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), a 78-year-old balloon salesman, is about to fulfill a lifelong dream. Tying thousands of balloons to his house, he flies away to the South American wilderness. But curmudgeonly Carl’s worst nightmare comes true when he discovers a little boy named Russell is a stowaway aboard the balloon-powered house.

27. Before Midnight (2013)

Before Midnight

Synopsis: On the last night of their idyllic Greek vacation, longtime lovers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) reminisce about their lives together and what different choices might have brought.

26. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine

Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey) from her mind. When Joel discovers that Clementine is going to extremes to forget their relationship, he undergoes the same procedure and slowly begins to forget the woman that he loved. Directed by former music video director Michel Gondry, the visually arresting film explores the intricacy of relationships and the pain of loss.

Check back next week for the final 25!