The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films

INTRODUCTION to The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films
Current Version: March 2015 (8th edition)
Bill Georgaris

The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films is an annually-updated compendium of end-of-year, end-of-decade, all-time and miscellaneous lists and ballots. This is the eighth edition. It contains, based on TSPDT's calculations, the leading films (critically-speaking) from 2000 to 2014. It has been compiled from the multiple lists/ballots of 2,169 critics/sources.

For the first time, it has been expanded from 250 to 1,000 films (although the detailed presentation beginning on this page will remain for the top 250 place-getters only). These 1,000 films were the highest ranked from a starting list of 3,675 contenders.

Download the list of the 21st Century's most acclaimed 1,000 films
Download the starting list of 3,675 films

A list of 1,000 films from just the last 15 years may seem like overkill, but my main reasoning behind expanding the list from 250 to 1,000 was to give readers the opportunity to decide for themselves how much cinema from 2000 onwards is deemed worthy of attention. For some, the top 250 is enough and will remain the focus. For others, perhaps those who have seen all or most of the top 250, an extension of the list may prove useful in terms of your ongoing 21st century viewing. At the end of the day you can come to your own conclusion as to where the ‘quality’ ends. You can stop at number 250, 300, 500, etc. The choice is yours. Personally-speaking, I am pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the list, especially those films ranked beyond the traditional top 250. It is a much stronger and interesting collection of films than I had originally expected, and I would encourage anyone to delve in.

As per the recent update of the 1,000 Greatest Films, due to the ballots/lists added over the past year (in particular the Sight & Sound documentary poll), documentaries have received a nice little boost (many would say much-needed) up the 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films’ rankings. Within the top 250, Wang Bing’s Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003) is the most obvious benefactor rising deep into the top 50.

Unsurprisingly, Richard Linklater’s thoughtful and touching Boyhood was the highest 2014 entrant. You can view the top 25 films from 2014 below.

The film that ‘came from nowhere’ was Jiang Wen’s Devils on the Doorstep (2000). Thanks to strong showings in some recent Chinese polls, it blasted its way into the top 150 (from outside the top 250). I’ve certainly added it to my list of films to see.

In terms of the cream at the top, there was no change to the top 8, but there was one change to the top 10. Hello Mr. Gondry, and goodbye Mr. Lee.

The 10 Most Acclaimed Films of the 21st Century
1. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE Wong Kar-wai
2. MULHOLLAND DR. David Lynch
3. YI YI Edward Yang
4. SPIRITED AWAY Hayao Miyazaki
6. THE TREE OF LIFE Terrence Malick
7. THERE WILL BE BLOOD Paul Thomas Anderson
8. RUSSIAN ARK Aleksandr Sokurov
10. CACHÉ Michael Haneke

TSPDT's 25 Most Critically-Acclaimed Films of 2014
1. BOYHOOD Richard Linklater
3. UNDER THE SKIN Jonathan Glazer
4. WHIPLASH Damien Chazelle
5. IDA Pawel Pawlikowski
7. BIRDMAN Alejandro González Iñárritu
8. FORCE MAJEURE Ruben Östlund
11. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
13. GONE GIRL David Fincher
14. WE ARE THE BEST! Lukas Moodysson
15. INHERENT VICE Paul Thomas Anderson
16. SELMA Ava DuVernay
17. THE BABADOOK Jennifer Kent
18. CITIZENFOUR Laura Poitras
19. MR. TURNER Mike Leigh
20. THE LEGO MOVIE Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
21. LISTEN UP PHILIP Alex Ross Perry
22. SNOWPIERCER Bong Joon-ho
23. MANAKAMANA Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez
24. FOXCATCHER Bennett Miller
25. STRAY DOGS Tsai Ming-liang

Directors with the most films in the 21st Century list:
9 - Steven Soderbergh.
7 – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg.
6 - Wes Anderson, Olivier Assayas, Claire Denis, Michael Haneke, Werner Herzog, Jia Zhangke, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino.
5 - Pedro Almodóvar, Bong Joon-ho, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, David Cronenberg, Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, Clint Eastwood, David Fincher, Jean-Luc Godard, Paul Greengrass, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mike Leigh, Guy Maddin, Jafar Panahi, Tsai Ming-liang, Gus Van Sant, Lars von Trier, Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Breakdown of 1,000 films by Year:
2000 = 93
2001 = 78
2002 = 84
2003 = 81
2004 = 83
2005 = 63
2006 = 82
2007 = 71
2008 = 70
2009 = 60
2010 = 57
2011 = 52
2012 = 53
2013 = 44
2014 = 29

Breakdown of 1,000 films by Country (Top 10 in bold):
Argentina 9, Australia 7, Austria 10, Belgium 6, Brazil 4, Cambodia 2, Canada 24, Chad 1, Chile 3, China 24, Czech Republic 2, Denmark 7, Ethiopia 1, Finland 5, France 116, Germany 32, Greece 3, Hong Kong 9, Hungary 2, India 6, Indonesia 1, Iran 15, Ireland 3, Israel 6, Italy 14, Japan 29, Mali 1, Mexico 9, Nepal 1, Netherlands 4, New Zealand 3, Norway 2, Philippines 4, Poland 2, Portugal 9, Romania 8, Russia 6, Senegal 1, Serbia and Montenegro 1, South Korea 22, Spain 16, Sweden 12, Switzerland 2, Taiwan 8, Thailand 7, Turkey 5, United Kingdom 86, Uruguay 1, USA 449.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the compilation of this edition and to everyone who has contacted me with their ongoing support. Your enthusiasm and assistance is very much appreciated. Please email your feedback to or please leave comments below.

Begin browsing the 2015 edition of The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films.
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