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100 most critically acclaimed films of the 21st century

  • #10. Spirited Away (2002)

    - Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
    - Metascore: 96
    - Number of reviews: 41
    - Runtime: 125 min

    Hayao Miyazaki, beloved Japanese director and founder of the animation studio Studio Ghibli, may be best known for “Spirited Away.” The coming-of-age, animated fantasy is about a 10-year-old girl who enters the spirit world.

  • #9. Gravity (2013)

    - Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
    - Metascore: 96
    - Number of reviews: 49
    - Runtime: 91 min

    This Alfonso Cuarón film focuses on a medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) on her first space mission, and a veteran astronaut (George Clooney) on his last. When their shuttle is destroyed, the two of them are lost in space, fighting to survive.

  • #8. Roma (2018)

    - Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
    - Metascore: 96
    - Number of reviews: 50
    - Runtime: 135 min

    In this black-and-white, semi-autobiographical movie, Alfonso Cuarón (who directed “Children of Men” and “Gravity”) takes viewers to 1970s Mexico City. It recounts a year in one household, examining the life of a housekeeper and the mother of four who employs her.

  • #7. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

    - Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
    - Metascore: 96
    - Number of reviews: 52
    - Runtime: 137 min

    Filmed in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, this drama was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and was based on a story by actors Matt Damon and John Krasinki. When the main character’s brother dies, he must care for his teenage nephew. Though star Casey Affleck’s performance was lauded, even winning him an Oscar, he later came under fire for misconduct. As a result, he broke the tradition of presenting the Academy Award for Best Actress the next year.

  • #6. Parasite (2019)

    - Directed by Bong Joon-ho
    - Metascore: 96
    - Number of reviews: 52
    - Runtime: 132 min

    From the director of “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” comes this pitch-black comedy, in which the underprivileged Kim family inserts itself into a wealthy household. As a bizarre symbiotic relationship develops, parasitic metaphors bubble to the surface. It won the Palme d'Or at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival by unanimous decision.

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  • #5. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

    - Directed by Steve McQueen
    - Metascore: 96
    - Number of reviews: 57
    - Runtime: 134 min

    Adapted from a slave memoir of the same name, this movie tells the real-life story of a free black man in New York (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is kidnapped and re-sold into slavery. During his 12th year of slavery, he has a chance meeting with a Canadian that changes his life. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture.

  • #4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2008)

    - Directed by Cristian Mungiu
    - Metascore: 97
    - Number of reviews: 37
    - Runtime: 113 min

    Four months, three weeks, and two days: That’s how long a young Romanian woman has been pregnant. Aided by her university roommate, she seeks an illegal abortion. Directed by Cristian Mungiu, this film set in the late 1980s won the Cannes’ Palme d’Or.

  • #3. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

    - Directed by Guillermo del Toro
    - Metascore: 98
    - Number of reviews: 37
    - Runtime: 118 min

    Director Guillermo del Toro spins a twisted fairy tale with “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Set in Spain just after the Spanish Civil War, it relates the story of a young girl named Ofelia. Though her stepfather is a murderous military officer and her pregnant mother grows ill, Ofelia meets magical creatures who draw her into a whimsical, sometimes terrifying place called Pan’s Labyrinth.

  • #2. Moonlight (2016)

    - Directed by Barry Jenkins
    - Metascore: 99
    - Number of reviews: 53
    - Runtime: 111 min

    The story of Chiron, a black boy living in Miami, is told in three parts. First, young Chiron befriends a drug dealer named Juan, who becomes a father-figure to him. Next, he's an adolescent struggling to survive in a household with a crack-addicted mother. Finally, he's an adult man reckoning with how his life has turned out. Though this beautiful, emotional film was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, the ceremony is largely known for a gaffe from the presenters, who accidentally announced the award as going to “La La Land” before they corrected themselves.

  • #1. Boyhood (2014)

    - Directed by Richard Linklater
    - Metascore: 100
    - Number of reviews: 50
    - Runtime: 165 min

    Richard Linklater knows how to dedicate himself to his art. He filmed “Boyhood,” which examines a kid’s life in Texas from age 6 to 18, over the course of 12 years. He began with only basic plot points and an ending for this coming-of-age epic. The rest of the story evolved over the course of more than a decade of filming.

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