25 for 21

by jhoberman.

People have been asking me so I thought I might as well join (or crash) the party initiated by The New York Times last week and put in my two cents regarding the 25 Best Films of the 21st Century (so far). I don’t see “everything” anymore and I haven’t been to Cannes since 2011 still there’s nothing that even a recovering film critic likes better than a list.

There is some overlap but this list is not the same as the proposed 21-film syllabus of 21st Century cinema included in my book Film After Film. Those were all in their way pedagogical choices. Begging the question of what “best” means, these are all movies that I really like, that I’m happy to see multiple times, that are strongly of their moment and that I think will stand the test of time.


My single “best” film-object is followed by a list of 11 filmmakers and one academic production company (in order of “best-ness”) responsible for two or more “best films,” these followed by another eight individual movies (again in order) and finally four more tentatively advanced films (these alphabetical). I’m sure I’m forgetting some but that’s the nature of the beast—or best.


Christian Marclay: The Clock


Lars von Trier: Dogville & Melancholia (and none of his others)

Hou Hsiao Hsien: The Assassin & Flight of the Red Balloon

Jean-Luc Godard: In Praise of Love & Farewell to Language

David Cronenberg: Spider, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, & A Dangerous Method

David Lynch: Mulholland Drive & Inland Empire

Ken Jacobs: Seeking the Monkey King, The Guests (and more)

Cristi Puiu: The Death of Mr Lazarescu & Aurora

Chantal Akerman: No Home Movie & La Captive (assuming that 2000 is part of the 21st Century)

Paul Thomas Anderson: The Master & There Will Be Blood

Kathryn Bigelow: The Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty

Alfonso Cuarón: Gravity & Children of Men

Sensory Ethnology Lab: Leviathan, Manakamana, People’s Park


The Strange Case of Angelica–Manoel de Oliviera

Corpus Callosum–Michael Snow

West of the Tracks–Wang Bing

Carlos—Olivier Assayas

Che–Steven Soderbergh

Ten–Abbas Kariostami

Russian Ark–Aleksandr Sokurov

The World–Jia Zhangke


Citizenfour–Laura Poitras

Day Night Day Night–Julia Loktev:

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia–Nuri Bilge Ceylan

WALL-E–Andrew Stanton