Saturday, 25 July 2015

My 50 favourite 21st Century films - including no less than 14 animated movies

I watched a trailer for the new Pixar film, Inside Out, this afternoon. I'm really looking forward to seeing it, because no other film studio has given me as much pleasure since the release of Toy Story in 1995. I know several people whose taste I respect can't be bothered with animated films, but I've also noticed that they tend to be childless, and therefore haven't been forced to sit through any since they themselves were little, or, if they have, haven't been forced to see them through a child's eyes (ankle-biters tend to let you know if they're not enjoying what they're watching). I'm pretty sure I would have watched every Pixar film, whether or not I'd had a son as an excuse.

I started wondering how many animated films would appear in a list of my all-time favourite movies, but that proved too time-consuming an exercise, so I limited the list to the current century - starting, controversially, on 1st January 2000. I was surprised to discover that no less than 14 of the 50 were animated, with another two receiving honourable mentions. The majority are suitable for children, but two (Waltz with Bashir and Team America) certainly aren't. If you're wondering why some recent releases aren't on the list, I'm waiting for them to turn up on my Sky Movies package (American Sniper is another one I'm looking forward to).

Best films of the century
O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) – still magical
Gladiator (2000) – manly, stirring, violent
Memento (2000) – complex, compelling memory loss thriller
Sexy Beast (2000) – best British gangster film of the century
Spirited Away (2001) – haunting animated film, very Japanese and very alien
Shrek (2001) – seen at least ten times and it’s still funny
Ice Age  (2002) – charming, warm-hearted animation
Signs (2002) – science fiction with religious themes – the aliens are pretty useless, but the film works: best Mel Gibson performance ever
Finding Nemo (2003) – just...lovely
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – yes, I know – but I loved it
Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003) – old-fashioned virtues abound
The Bourne Identity (2002)/Supremacy (2004)/Ultimatum (2007)/Legacy (2012) – best action thriller series of the century: the last one’s the best
Belleville Rendezvous (2003) – Gallic charm in spades
Night Watch (2004) – deranged Russian urban vampire movie
Team America: World Police (2004) – gloriously crude, rude, anti-PC polemic with puppets
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) – very Christian interpretation of C.S. Lewis children's classic, which is fine by me
The Incredibles (2005) – another Pixar classic
Walk the Line (2005) – best rock ‘n’ roll biog so far this century
Capote (2005) – astonishing Phillip Seymour Hoffman performance as the diminutive mincer
Oldboy (2005) – barking but effective South Korean horror: unlike anything else I've ever seen
A Scanner Darkly (2006) – filmed, then animated (you have to see it) version of Philip K. Dick's droogy classic
United 93 (2006) – best of the 9/11 films: naturalistic, understated
The Lives of Others (2006) – superb anti-communist German film
Casino Royale (2006) – James Bond returns as Jason Bourne
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – creepy, enthralling, violent fantasy-horror set during Spanish Civil War - utterly original
The Last King of Scotland (2006) – Forrest Whittaker is magnificent as Idi Amin
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) – Clint Eastwood-directed war film: sensitive, thoughtful
Volver (2006) - classic Almodovar, with a great central performance from Penelope Cruz
Michael Clayton (2007) – easy anti-business target but a well-made thriller
3.10 to Yuma (2007) – excellent Western remake
Persepolis (2007) – animated political film set in Iran
There Will Be Blood (2007) – mannered but mesmerising performance by Daniel Day-Lewis using John Houston’s voice
No Country for Old Men (2007) – one of the most memorable killers ever seen on screen
Taken (2008) – ex-CIA man Liam Neeson saves his daughter – splendidly enjoyable tosh
Waltz with Bashir (2008) – atmospheric Israeli animation
Tropic Thunder (2008) – just because it's very, very funny
Let the Right One In (2008) – brilliant, unsettling Swedish vampire movie
In Bruges (2008) – very funny gangster film in an usual setting
Paranormal Activity (2009) – pant-wetting US found footage horror
Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) – excellent, knowing script: funny throughout
Up (2009) – another marvel from Pixar: the fat kid and the dog are splendid
District 9 (2009) – comedy horror set in South Africa with aliens as blacks
Toy Story 3 (2010) – the final instalment of the greatest-ever animated film series
The King’s Speech (2010) – very traditional, solid and effective
A Prophet (2010) – moody French prison thriller
The Artist (2011) – ultimate feelgood black and white French “silent” movie for grown-ups: oodles of charm
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) – great to have George Smiley back
Skyfall (2012) – best Bond since Connery
Gravity (2013) – special effects and Sandra Bullock are both splendid
Lone Survivor (2013) – good old-fashioned, unapologetically patriotic US war movie set in Afghanistan, based on a true story
The Lego Movie (2014) – funniest film of the year

Honourable mentions:
Zoolander (2001) – worth the price of admission for the male models' petrol fight alone
Crash (2004) – accomplished ensemble piece about racism in LA
Apocalypto (2006) – Mel Gibson-directed Mayan jungle action movie – dialogue entirely in the Yucatec Maya language
The Queen (2006) – it has its faults, but it hits the spot
Eastern Promises (2007) – Russian mafia nastiness in London
Me & Orson Welles (2009) – fine central performance
Young Victoria (2009) – jolly, plush and zestful
13  Assassins (2010) - rip-roaring Japanese Samurai movie
Troll Hunter (2010) - Norwegian horror-comedy
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) – how Bin Laden got what was coming to him
WALL-E (2008) - only excluded from the main list because of its "green" premise
Brave (2012) - almost made it onto the main list: I'd better watch it again

Worst films of the century so far:
Easy - Avatar and Frozen


  1. Sorry, Old Chum, you've lost me here.
    I can quite honestly say I have seen only FIVE of the above. But I have seen: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Withnail and I; The Graduate; If; A Clockwork Orange; Love Actually; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Airplane; Grease; Reservoir Dogs; Inglorious Basterds; Delicatessen; Mary Poppins and West Side Story each about a dozen times, if not two dozen in the case of the first six.
    I don't know much about cinema - but I know what I like.

    1. I've definitely lost you, Riley. Several of the films you mention would appear on a list of my favourite 20th Century films - but the films in my post were all released after 1st January 2000, not 1900 - they're my favourite 21st Century films! Only a handful of 21st Century films would make it onto my all-time list. You've ignored the evidence of the glazzies.

    2. By the way, Riley, that's a truly eclectic list - Love Actually AND A Clockwork Orange, Mary Poppins AND Reservoir Dogs? Fascinating!

    3. our purposes are slightly crossed. Outlining my list of tip-top films - most of which are cob-webbed, dusty relics in the archive of cheerful memory was there to point out my

    4. I was saying... to point out my woeful awareness and almost zero experience of modern films.
      I appreciate your delight in my choice and I am sure I could muster a few more strange bedfellows....

    5. Oh, I see. I wonder if the reason so many people of our age who used to watch lots of films in their teens and twenties don't watch many these days is Hollywood's overwhelming emphasis on the teen/young adult market: the number of films on Sky Movies which include the word "teen" in the synopsis is maddening, especially if it also contains the word "comedy". I suspect the fact that so many British films are dreary, unwatchable, subsidised, heavily political whingefests also doesn't help.

  2. I have'nt seen many of Mr.Gronmark's top 50 (of the 21st Century) except for all of the wonderful 'Toy Story' films.

    1. I went through my list again with you in mind, southern man - and I'd be susprised if you didn't find something to enjoy in most of them. You have many treats in store, should you ever decide to retire.

  3. Great post. My daughter scored an impressive 24, which I topped with 27 off your list and a couple of your honourable mentions too. We both thought Crash should have been promoted and that The Lives of Others was the overall winner. If Riley has never seen that classic, it would be a good place to start.

    1. You have evidently raised your daughter well!

      I need to see Crash again - I was very impressed on first viewing when it was released, and it probably should have been in the Top 50.

      Looking at the list again, I probably agree with you about The Lives of Others, which is just as fresh in memory as the day I saw it. I tear up just thinking of the final scene. Genuine masterpiece.

  4. Thank you ex-KCS. I shall look out for The Lives of Others. Starring? Story-line?

    1. It doesn't sound promising, Riley, as it's a German film set in East Germany in 1984, and the central characters are a Stasi agent and a state-approved playwright. But it is absolutely rivetting. As ex-KCS suggests, probably the best film of the century so far on pretty much every level. Recommended, to put it mildly.

    2. My eldest daughter recommended it to me while she was studying German with a view to her degree choice. Maybe because I had spent some time in Berlin before and after the wall came down, she was always interested in that period of European history, as I was and still am. The film captures the absurd horror of life in the 'GDR', is tragic, understated, compassionate and balanced, with brilliant performances. But, as the Blogmeister hints, it is not the sort of thing I'd want to see with my mates after a few pints at the Dog and Duck and a takeaway Vindaloo.

      I'd be interested to know what you make of it.

  5. I shall respond to your entreaties and prepare myself accordingly. I know nothing much about that bit of European history, perhaps I should do a little homework. I assume The Lives of Others is available from Messrs Amazon. I shall report.
    Talking of Amazon: I bumped into the voice of Adele recently and with the keen encouragement of Martin Datta bought two of her CDs (namely 19 and 21 - the titles refer to her age). Crikey, what a voice. But of course, you urban cosmopolitans would know all about takes a while for hot news to get to me, even more so since my flock of carrier pigeons has had a nasty bout of avian flu.

  6. just bought it....10 pence plus p&p - bargain.

  7. Good luck Mr Riley. If you want a bit of background reading, you could try Frederick Taylor's Berlin Wall or Revolution 1989 by Victor Sebestyen, although the Ibooks version of the latter is full of irritating mistakes. The Blogmeister once opined that there hadn't been any great new voices in popular music for ages so maybe Martin Datta can persuade him to give Adele a listen.

    1. I know Adele from the theme song to "Skyfall" - and i am happy to admit she has a great voice. (The same cannot be said for a female singer who my son assures me is called Rita Ora who keeps cropping up on a Samsung Galaxy advert warbling away like Aretha Franklin at her melismatic worst - she's driving me totally tonto.)

  8. Very interesting post in spite of my almost total ignorance of animated films. It would be fascinating to see a post about the worst films of the century so far. My own three immediate nominations would be the American-made war films that appeared in 2000 and 2001 - Pearl Harbour, U-571 and Enemies at the Gate. They are all badly made, written and acted and veer between historical inaccuracy and plain mendacity and above all, they cost an arm and several legs at a time when production investment was tight. For example, the launch party for "Pearl Harbour" cost the studio $3 m which was ludicrous.

    Since then the American studios have proceeded to make a series of excellent and award-winning films about the Iraq and Afghan wars - including the 2014 Clint Eastwood directed "American Sniper" [which I think you can safely put in your "Best So Far" list].

    1. I'm relieved to be able to say that I've seen none of them - mainly because the reviews suggested they'd all been produced by Bernard Matthews. (When a studio feels it has to piss away $3m on a launch party, you know it's got a vast, gobbling turkey on its hands.) For Hollywood's current crop of studio execs and creatives, the past is evidently a foreign country - and they don't speak the language.

      I'm pretty sure that American Sniper will be appearing on my list - just as soon as I've seen it.