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100 most critically acclaimed films of the 21st century

  • 100 most critically acclaimed films of the 21st century

    Though the Golden Age of Hollywood ended decades ago, the magic of Hollywood may be even more remarkable this century. Consider how technology enables filmmakers to include incredible CGI creations or to create thought-provoking documentaries filmed on smartphones. Hollywood has started opening its doors to allow women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and others to tell new, diverse stories that appeal to critics and audiences alike. What’s more, there are countless publications and online outlets to critique and discuss the latest films, highlighting smaller, more obscure movies that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.

    The rise of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms have similarly changed the game. While most of their innovations have been geared toward changing the TV landscape as we know it, they’re also producing original movies faster than the biggest studios and working with some of Hollywood’s best stars to do it. As their feature films and documentaries continue picking up awards and critical acclaim, in 20 years, a list like this might feature more Netflix and Amazon originals than big-budget blockbusters or indie flicks.

    So which movies do critics say have bested the rest? Stacker collected data on the top movies of all time on Metacritic (as of April 6, 2020) and ranked the top 100 from the 21st century according to Metascore, ties being broken by the number of critic reviews. Films with less than seven reviews were not considered.

    As many are forced to stay home, streaming services are an ideal way to watch many of the countless films made in the 21st century through stories that have transported viewers to far-flung worlds, taught lasting lessons about life, or inspired empathy. Read on to find out the 100 best films of this century according to critics. 

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  • #100. Persepolis (2007)

    - Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 31
    - Runtime: 96 min

    Keeping much of her artistic aesthetic intact, Marjane Satrapi brought her own graphic novel onto the big screen with this vivid adaptation. Set both during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, it follows young Satrapi as she leaves an oppressive regime behind to attend a boarding school in Vienna. It’s there that she discovers a different kind of torment, leading her to wonder where she truly belongs.

  • #99. A Prophet (2010)

    - Directed by Jacques Audiard
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 31
    - Runtime: 155 min

    This French crime movie won the grand prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Jacques Audiard, the film is about the violence and dehumanization of prison life, following the story of a man named Malik.

  • #98. The Act of Killing (2013)

    - Directed by Anonymous, Christine Cynn, and Joshua Oppenheimer
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 33
    - Runtime: 115 min

    When former Indonesian death-squad leaders are asked to reenact their mass-killings in Hollywood style, it paves the way for a nightmarish vision of humanity. Not only do the death squad leaders express no remorse for their heinous deeds, but they seem to enjoy the act of recreation. While the documentary’s main focus is on the banality of evil, it also conjures relevant questions about the nature of entertainment.

  • #97. Gosford Park (2001)

    - Directed by Robert Altman
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 34
    - Runtime: 137 min

    2001’s “Gosford Park” is a British mystery film starring Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Gambon, and Kristin Scott Thomas. The upstairs-downstairs drama with a large ensemble cast snagged an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

  • #96. Almost Famous (2000)

    - Directed by Cameron Crowe
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 122 min

    “Almost Famous” is based on the true story of director Cameron Crowe’s experience working as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. This coming-of-age film is set in the 1970s as a young journalist goes on tour with a famous rock band.

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  • #95. Finding Nemo (2003)

    - Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 100 min

    In “Finding Nemo,” a Pixar classic, a little clownfish gets separated from his father and has to traverse the wide ocean to find his way home. The movie features voice acting from Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks, among others.

  • #94. Winter's Bone (2010)

    - Directed by Debra Granik
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 100 min

    “Winter’s Bone” rocketed actress Jennifer Lawrence into mega-stardom at age 19. The film follows a young woman living in a largely drug-addicted community in the Ozarks, set against a stark, wintery backdrop.

  • #93. Burning (2018)

    - Directed by Lee Chang-dong
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 38
    - Runtime: 148 min

    Unfolding at a purposefully gradual pace, this South Korean mystery centers on an aspiring novelist named Lee Jong-su. When his young female friend goes missing, Jong-su begins to suspect foul play. Entangled in the subsequent investigation are themes of psychological torment and class divide.

  • #92. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

    - Directed by Andrew Jarecki
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 39
    - Runtime: 107 min

    This HBO documentary follows the story of Arnold and Jesse Friedman, a father and son arrested for child molestation. The director was initially making a short film about children’s party entertainment. He filmed a clown named David Friedman, who happened to be Jesse’s brother, and was pulled into a new story.

  • #91. Before Sunset (2004)

    - Directed by Richard Linklater
    - Metascore: 90
    - Number of reviews: 39
    - Runtime: 80 min

    “Before Sunset” is part of the “Before Trilogy,” which includes 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2013’s “Before Midnight.” All three films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. “Before Sunset” follows an afternoon spent by lovers reuniting nine years after their first meeting in Paris.

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