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VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
So many great films to choose from! Welcome to Watchmojo, and today we'll be counting down the top 30 most impressive, memorable and overall best movies of the century so far. Our countdown includes movies “Get Out”, “Lost in Translation”, “Pan's Labyrinth” and more!
Welcome to Watchmojo, and today we’ll be counting down the top 30 most impressive, memorable and overall best movies of the century so far. Which of these films takes the top prize in your books? Let us know in the comments.

#30: “Whiplash” (2014)

Damien Chazelle has certainly made a name for himself in the 21st century as a great director, and his success began with this film. “Whiplash” is about an aspiring drummer and his emotionally sadistic band conductor. It is a much smaller film in scope than some entries on this list, but it is in no way less dramatic. The psychological battle between teacher and student brings a true intensity to every frame. The performances of Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, the latter of whom won the Oscar, play off each other like two master Jazz musicians in tune and on tempo.

#29: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017)

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Frances McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes - a woman who lost her daughter to a violent crime. When the investigation into her daughter’s case goes nowhere, Mildred rents three billboards in town to “encourage” the police chief into action. This darkly comic crime drama was one of the surprise hits of 2017 - grossing over $162 million. In addition to critical acclaim, the film garnered multiple Oscar nominations - including a win for McDormand’s riveting lead performance. Director Martin McDonagh returned to the Best Picture conversation five years later with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but “Three Billboards” may be his rawest and most challenging film to date.

#28: “The Wrestler” (2008)

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This caught everyone off-guard back in 2008. A movie about an aging professional wrestler, played by Mickey Rourke, directed by the same guy who brought us “Requiem for a Dream”? But it just so happens to be a deeply touching drama about growing old and plucking up the courage to start a new life for yourself. As well as giving us tons of realistic, backstage insights into the world of wrestling, it also offers up two Academy Award-nominated performances from Rourke and Marisa Tomei. It may be mostly a somber story, but as is the case with other Darren Aronofsky’s movies, you can’t help but want to re-watch it multiple times for the opportunity to enjoy something new.

#27: “Dune” (2021)

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Opinions of David Lynch’s “Dune” are mixed - leaning towards negative, and even Lynch himself has distanced himself from the film. However, almost 40 years later, director Denis Villeneuve took his shot at the story and made one of the best films in recent memory. The scope of the book on which the film is based could be intimidating, but Villeneuve was able to keep it under control and not lose the audience in the vastness of the narrative. It also helps that Villeneuve’s “Dune” was conceived as the first part of a two-film project. “Dune Part Two” was released to similarly rave reviews in 2024 and provided the continuation of Paul Atreides’ journey that fans were hoping for.

#26: “Black Panther” (2018)

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A lot of superhero movies have been released since 2014, but only a handful of them were influential enough to be considered for this list. “Black Panther” was one of those handful. It took the MCU nearly a decade to produce a film with a primarily Black cast. Anyone who thought “Black Panther” wouldn’t reach Marvel’s usual levels of success couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did “Black Panther” make over $1 billion, but it earned unprecedented levels of acclaim for the MCU. This extended to the Oscars where it became the first comic book superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. This was sadly Chadwick Boseman’s only opportunity to take center stage as T'Challa. Few things last forever, but Wakanda will.

#25: “RRR” (2022)

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“RRR” stands for “Roudram Ranam Rudhiram” - but given the quality of the film, they could just as easily stand for Really, Really, Really Good. Because that’s what this film is. “RRR” is an epic period action drama about the battle of two Indian revolutionaries against British rule in the 1920s. At over three hours, the film is definitely one of the longer films you’re going to see this decade. But, oh is it worth it! Action, adventure - and did we mention the dancing yet? The visuals are big and bold, but the tale of brotherhood at the heart of “RRR” is what gets us pumped above all else.

#24: “City of God” (2002)

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Every once in a while a movie will come along and offer up such unrelenting realism that moviegoers need to stop to catch their breath when leaving the cinema. “City of God” is one of those movies. Following the very different life paths of two kids from the slums of Rio, we learn how violence and crime can be an almost inescapable way of life, and if you don’t find a way to veer in a different direction, it will completely consume you. Serving up some unbelievably good believable performances, many by unknown actors, “City of God” has a searing message to convey, and it doesn’t pull any punches along the way.

#23: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

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In “Avengers: Infinity War,” Thanos destroyed half of all life in the universe. In “Avengers: Endgame,” the good guys team up again to reverse his actions. They’re both great movies, but when it came to selecting one for our list, it had to be “Endgame.” Technically, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was the final film in Phase 3 of the MCU, but “Endgame” was truly the climax that Marvel had been building to. And to paraphrase Fifth Harmony, it was Worth It! Even with the first-rate special effects and larger-than-life action, the film never loses the characters and honors our emotional connection to them.

#22: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000)

The movie that put the cool back into martial arts spectaculars kicked off the millennium in great style. Combining gorgeous and stunning action, courtesy of acclaimed choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, with the revenge-fuelled drama of a Western and simply wondrous and surreal special effects, “Crouching Tiger” manages to take the somewhat ageing martial arts template and make it even more relevant and entertaining than ever before. Featuring huge international stars such as Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh, and directed with enormous verve by Ang Lee - it’s larger than life in all the best ways. Take that, laws of physics!

#21: “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022)

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Fans of the first “Top Gun” from 1986 were beyond excited and nervous when they heard the long-awaited sequel was finally getting made. Excited because it would mean more jets, air action, and, of course, more Tom Cruise. Over 30 years later, though, would it be able to capture the excitement and energy of the first one? The answer was a resounding YES! “Top Gun: Maverick” not only had even better in-air action than the first one, but it was a surprisingly thoughtful film about redemption and making the most of the time you still have. This one was a runaway hit with both audiences and critics - raking in over $1.4 billion and earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

#20: “Kill Bill” (2003-04)

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The “Kill Bill” series proved there is still a place in cinema for cheesy, over-the-top, ridiculously-violent action movies. They offer up a smorgasbord of Tarantino trademarks, with iconic characters, weapons, sound effects, monologues and close-ups everywhere. Essentially, it’s one big revenge plot, with a series of satisfyingly savage, arterial spray-filled moments littered throughout. Yes, we know, we’ve included both volumes “1” and “2” in this entry, but as far as we’re concerned, each one is just as important as the other, and both unite to create one of Tarantino’s finest works.

#19: “Pan's Labyrinth” (2006)

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As with pretty much every Guillermo del Toro movie, “Pan's Labyrinth” is just as beautiful as it is heavy, provocative and unsettling. In essence, it’s a story about a little girl who wants to prove her worthiness of being a princess, but it’s the eclectic characters and subplots throughout that make this a true spectacle. Picture “Alice in Wonderland” . . . but R-rated. The themes are so vast in this movie that it really needs to be watched multiple times to fully appreciate it. And its various characters, be it the vicious Captain Vidal, the mysterious Faun or the nightmarish Pale Man, feel as though they could have movies of their very own.

#18: “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

Another filmmaker you can always guarantee is going to serve up something unique is David Lynch. Being the mind behind so many provocative, interesting and bizarre offerings like “Eraserhead,” many might have expected his movie about a car crash victim suffering from amnesia to be a little, well, weird. And “Mulholland Drive” delivers, in the best possible way. There are time shifts, character shifts, dream sequences, weird psychological hallucinations, you name it. As with so much of his oeuvre, “Mulholland Drive” is something to be experienced rather than fully understood. And if you do fully understand it, well, maybe you can explain it to the rest of us!

#17: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)

Mixing science fiction and romance, this Michel Gondry film is a departure for funnyman Jim Carrey, whose performance was widely hailed as one of the best of its time, alongside Kate Winslet, another accomplished thespian taking on a challenging role. The movie is a refreshing delight that nabbed the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. After discovering his former love has deleted him from her memory through a new and advanced procedure, protagonist Joel Barish sets out to do the same. But he soon has second thoughts. As doctors attempt to chase down all memories of Joel’s love, we enter the frightened labyrinth of his mind.

#16: “Lost in Translation” (2003)

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This Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson dramedy deftly explores themes of loneliness and cultural isolation, as their characters Bob and Charlotte, decades apart in age, meet cute as they both visit Tokyo. And as each of them is tackling their own existential confusion, they help each other understand what they each want from life. Not only is Sofia Coppola’s work beautiful to look at, it’s also an example of intricate filmmaking that prioritizes the emotional journey over flashiness, a quality in films that can be difficult to find. Plus, it gets bonus points for its ambiguous and intriguing ending.

#15: “Oppenheimer” (2023)

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One-half of 2023’s most celebrated movie meme, “Oppenheimer” surprised many prognosticators with its almost billion-dollar gross worldwide. At three hours long and without a lot of conventional “action,” it might not have seemed like an obvious blockbuster. But that’s what Christopher Nolan does. He makes great movies that usually make a whole lotta money. This biographical drama about the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer is exactly that. In fact, The A.V. Club called it Nolan’s best movie yet (which, if you look at his impressive filmography, is no easy feat).

#14: “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

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Although mainly set in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the story of Jordan Belfort feels all too relevant in today’s world. We live in an era where big business reigns supreme. In Belfort’s eyes, the little guy is so insignificant that we never even see the countless people he’s scammed over the years. Instead, Martin Scorsese’s electrifying biopic, as powerful as his Oscar-winning “The Departed,” focuses on how a Wall Street mogul sold his soul in exchange for the American Dream: a fancy mansion, luxury vehicles, and loads of cash. In other words, greed and the American Dream have become one and the same. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Belfort as a con artist who’s beyond despicable, yet so charming that we’d still probably buy his pen.

#13: “Arrival” (2016)

Needless to say, Denis Villeneuve is on an incredible run of films. His thoughtful sci-fi drama “Arrival” follows a linguistic professor attempting to figure out how to communicate with recently arrived alien spacecraft before a war breaks out. Rather than relying on big action and explosions like so many alien movies do, Villeneuve gives us a smart, completely engaging film about connecting. It got Oscar voters talking as well, picking up nominations in multiple categories, including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Cinematography.

#12: “Get Out” (2017)

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Today we all know that Jordan Peele is one of the great psychological horror filmmakers working in Hollywood. But back in 2017, very few of us would have guessed that one-half of the sketch comedy duo “Key & Peele” would make one of the best horror films of the 21st century. In a genre where we thought we’d seen it all… turns out we hadn’t. Peele’s film is social commentary, satire, and horror. It’s a film as funny as it is scary, blending the two in ways that make for an experience unlike any other.

#11: Inception (2010)

It would be impossible to list the best movies of the century without talking about “Inception”. It stars Leonardo Dicaprio as Dom Cobb, an expert dream thief who is tasked with the difficult goal of planting an idea in a target’s mind and having it grow as if it was their own. With its star studded cast, incredible set pieces, and electrifying action all built on the foundation of a brilliant concept, it is yet another example of Christopher Nolan’s mastery. Much like Nolan’s “Interstellar”, it is a story as emotional, personal and intimate as it is a science fiction tour-de-force.

#10: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022)

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A mix of genres and film styles, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is an experience that can’t be described, but instead must be seen to truly be appreciated. IndieWire described it as an “orgiastic work of slaphappy genius,” and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The film was a surprise hit. Beyond the $141 million box office (on a $14-25 million budget), it won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director, Actress, and Screenplay. In fact, the film seemed to win every accolade, everywhere all at once - taking home a whopping 266 awards out of 405 nominations.

#9: “Hereditary” (2018)

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In case you thought that smart, thought-provoking horror films had gone away since the heyday of classics like “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary's Baby,” the past decade has shown otherwise. Amazingly, “Get Out” and “Hereditary” were both feature film directorial debuts. With “Hereditary,” Ari Aster shows a directorial mastery beyond his years. He isn’t without seasoned talent to work with. Toni Collette is a revelation as Annie Graham, a grieving mother spiraling into madness - and not just of the psychological variety. The fact that Collette wasn’t nominated for Best Actress might be the snub of the decade, but “Hereditary” will persist for generations.

#8: “Parasite” (2019)

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Using literal staircases, director Bong Joon-ho explores class structure and social and economic disparity in modern-day South Korea in this brilliant black comedy thriller. While taking first place on our list is obviously “Parasite’s” most impressive accomplishment, the film did reach a few other milestones worth mentioning. After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, it became the first Korean film to win the coveted Palme d’Or. Then, almost a year later, it became the first non-English-language film to ever take home the Oscar for Best Picture.

#7: “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

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Picking up on the themes of their previous films, the Coen brothers faithfully adapt this Cormac McCarthy novel. When a man finds a mother lode of cash after a drug deal goes sour, he becomes the target of a compassionless assassin. We watch as this monosyllabic hit man plows through all that gets in his way as he hunts the money down. It’s an Academy Award-winning case of cat and mouse, masterfully executed at the hands of the Coen brothers, which, they later followed with the also astonishing, but quite different, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

#6: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

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In 2015, we aren’t sure how many moviegoers were even aware of the first “Mad Max” movie - released back in 1979. Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen that one - or the two sequels that followed in the 80s - “Mad Max: Fury Road” is well worth your while. We could get into the film’s narrative, but the whole post-apocalyptic story is secondary to the action. The film puts all its eggs in one basket - the basket being the chase through the desert landscape which comprises the vast majority of the movie. It’s a bold move and it pays off big time. The energy is palpable, and the stunts (90% of which were done practically) are incredible.

#5: “Moonlight” (2016)

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The film might best be remembered as part of the “Best Picture” announcement mistake at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony. What we hope no one ever forgets is how wonderful “Moonlight” is - and completely deserving of its Oscar win - even if it was the second film announced that night. Both Black and sexual identities are explored by writer-director Barry Jenkins. This LGBTQ-themed coming-of-age movie brings to the big-screen characters rarely given this kind of loving, thoughtful, and forward-facing treatment. Along with its “Best Picture” Oscar, “Moonlight” also held the top spot on numerous best of the year lists.

#4: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)

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Completing the iconic trilogy initiated back in 2001, Peter Jackson’s opus“The Return of the King” splits its epically long runtime between Aragorn and his men battling Sauron’s army, and Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring. Thanks to these two running plots, we get a heady mix of heavy violence and delicate storytelling that’s been called one of cinema’s great achievements. By closing mirroring J.R.R. Tolkien’s stirring and beloved novel, this movie gives fan-boys something to shout about. The Academy was equally impressed, awarding the picture a record-tying 11 Oscars.

#3: “There Will Be Blood” (2007)

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Brought to us by Paul Thomas Anderson, this drama follows prospector Daniel Plainview as he builds his empire during the Southern California Oil Boom. While he’s met with many speed bumps along the way, it’s watching Daniel Day-Lewis portray the character’s descent into greed and madness at the cost of all else that makes it a truly gripping watch (and for another stunningly gripping psychological drama, check out Anderson’s 2012 “The Master” with Joaquin Phoenix). Both the character and Anderson’s film are unyielding and ambitious, and both helped win Day-Lewis his second Oscar for Best Actor.

#2: “The Dark Knight” (2008)

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Proving superhero movies don’t need to be filled with spandex and cheesy sendoff lines, Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film redefined the genre, and impressed both comic book fans and the general public alike. Dark, twisted, and deeper than the franchise’s previous entry, the story follows the Caped Crusader as he faces off against the infamous Joker, played by an electric Heath Ledger. Though Ledger passed away before the film’s release, he was awarded a posthumous Oscar for his work, which helps give Batman’s story a gritty and realistic spin.

#1:“The Social Network” (2010)

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When “The Social Network” hit theaters, Facebook was still a relatively new phenomenon. Jump ahead ten years later and it’s impossible to imagine the world without this social media platform. Together, director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin shape the story of Mark Zuckerberg into a modern Shakespearean drama. The question is whether this is a story of triumph or tragedy. It’s hard to say since Facebook’s story is far from over. But this film depicts a legendary origin story that was relevant in 2010 and remains very much a part of the zeitgeist after a decade. Expertly crafted, brilliantly written, flawlessly acted, and timely while also being timeless, we can’t think of a better film to represent the past decade of cinema.

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