The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films listing has once again undergone its yearly facelift, and now incorporates many of 2011′s end-of-year critics’ ballots. It can get pretty tedious at times adding all these new lists, but our eye-popping persistence has paid off, and here we are again with another update. Of course, in truth, these folks – amongst others – do all the hard work: indieWIRE Critics Survey, Village Voice Film Poll, Sight & Sound’s Year in Review, Film Comment’s Best Films of 2011. We merely scavenge their efforts, run some not-so-fancy formulas against them and do some well-intentioned updating here and there. Really rudimentary stuff.
I won’t go into what made 2011 such a wonderful year for film (or whether it was in fact wonderful – or not), I’ll leave that to the experts. What I can offer up, if I may, is my list of the ten best films I saw during the 2011 calendar year. And the winners are Chikamatsu monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi; 1954), Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda; 1964); One Hour with You (Ernst Lubitsch; 1932), Angel (Ernst Lubitsch; 1937), The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet; 2010), Shoah (Claude Lanzmann; 1985), The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda; 2008), Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich; 2010), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul; 2010), and Coeur fidèle (Jean Epstein; 1923).
The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films serves as an ongoing companion to our listing of the 1,000 Greatest Films of all time. The 1,000 Greatest Films list, by nature of the sources used and formulas applied – and we believe quite rightly so – leans towards films that have so far stood the so-called ‘test of time’. This listing therefore 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 will, no doubt, eventually find a spot within the 1,000 Greatest Films part of our website.
Based on our compilation and calculation efforts, Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life was easily 2011′s most critically acclaimed film. It wasn’t a film that clearly ‘worked’ for me (I seem to be in the minority here), but it is a film that I must clearly return to at some point. It was followed by Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. A total of 16 films came and went which equates, approximately, to a 6.5% change to the list.
Close, but no cigar… Some recent films that just missed the cut include Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt), Beginners (Mike Mills), Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin), Shame (Steve McQueen) and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul).
This is our seventh 21st Century listing, and despite calls from followers to increase it to 300-and-beyond, for now it once again encompasses 250 films. It is primarily based on critics’ year-end lists (from 2000 to 2011), plus it also takes into account mentions given to any films from 2000 onwards that show up in critics’ all-time-best-of lists (that are also used for the compilation of our 1,000 Greatest Films list). Additionally, it also incorporates many best-of-the-decade lists from 2010.
Please note that 21st Century films that appear in all-time lists (and best-of-decade lists) as opposed to end-of-year-lists are weighted much higher within our formulas.
We will continue to update this 21st Century listing on an annual basis. The next update will be in January 2013 and will, of course, incorporate 2012′s most acclaimed films, as well as the results of the 2012 Sight & Sound poll.
The following five films, made prior to 2000, garnered enough points to make our 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films listing (mainly thanks to end-of-year lists from 2000). However, they have been excluded due to the fact they were not made this century. They are: Beau travail (Claire Denis; 1998), The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami; 1999), Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay; 1999), Army in the Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville; 1969), and L’Humanite (Bruno Dumont; 1999).
TSPDT’s own recommendations for this century can be found here.
Note: Strictly speaking, the 21st Century began on January 1, 2001. Our list, however, also includes films from 2000, and always will!
Some 21st Century List Numbers
Breakdown by Year
2000 = 29 (-1)
2001 = 26 (-2)
2002 = 29 (-1)
2003 = 27 (no change)
2004 = 29 (-1)
2005 = 15 (-3)
2006 = 23 (-1)
2007 = 17 (-1)
2008 = 18 (-1)
2009 = 12 (no change)
2010 = 14 (no change)
2011 = 11 (+11)
Breakdown by Country (first listed in credits)
114 = USA (+7)
35 = France (+1)
23 = United Kingdom (-2)
12 = Germany (-3)
5 = Hong Kong, Japan (-1), Spain
4 = China, Iran (+1), Sweden
3 = Canada, Denmark (+1), Mexico (-1), Romania (-1), South Korea, Taiwan
2 = Argentina, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Russia,
1 = Austria, Brazil, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel (-1), Senegal, Thailand (-1), Turkey
Directors with 3-plus films
5 = Gus Van Sant
4 = Joel & Ethan Coen, Clint Eastwood, Jia Zhangke, Martin Scorsese
3 = Pedro Almodóvar, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Olivier Assayas, Danny Boyle, David Cronenberg, Michael Haneke, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Peter Jackson, Mike Leigh, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Jafar Panahi, Alexander Payne, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Tsai Ming-liang, Lars von Trier