Scott Sumner’s 25 best movies of the new millennium

Top 25 of the Century

First Tier:

Mulholland Drive

Nobody Knows


Lord of the Rings

In the Mood for Love

Three Times*

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives

Spirited Away*

Inland Empire

Second Tier:



Winter Sleep

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Three Monkeys

The Wailing

Mountains May Depart

Happy Hour

Third Tier:

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes


Yi Yi*

Japanese Story


Memories of Murder



Here is the link, that is not even the main point of his post.  Scott’s list is much better than the NYT “weak tea” effort.


I'm watching old movies, just finished the 1970s B-film "The Wild Geese" (mercenaries in Africa movie, fiction but based on real life happenings in the Congo).

Bonus trivia: lots of Greeks in the Congo during the 1960s, mercs, and they even have a city called "Kalamata", which is a famous Greek town, I wonder...

I'm still banned on Sumner's site...I've been banned at every website now except this one (and I'm not sure how long I'll be allowed to post here, one of these days I might set off TC, like I have the Econlog moderator)...and those websites where I leave lame positive +1 comments (NY Times). Dangerous minds... I have to say my favorite banning was the Austrians at the Mises Institute, where I had the temerity to say there was such a thing as Aggregate Demand (I had no idea they don't believe in AD, literally).

'Real business cycle theory is becoming like a fringe political movement that successively purges itself of the ideologically impure until only a handful of members are left' - Paul Krugman, quoting one of this commentators.

Do you know why you are banned at Sumner's site(s?)? I have never seen you say anything offensive, unless one considers bragging about family wealth offensive.

I myself seem to get banned once in a while, but there are signs that the banning is automatic, and percolates through WordPress sites. I have been banned by David Brin, which I interpret to mean that my counterarguments to his lunatic ravings about oligarchs and the new confederacy are better than his arguments.

NB: (After some reflection, I get the banning: Money is neutral!!!!!!!!)

Ray isn't offensive he is just dangerous in the sense of making you really succeptible to strained creduilities. And those take a long time to recover.

I think I was banned for some technical reason, maybe automatically or by one of his minions that monitors his site (he's said he uses people to monitor his site), since Sumner has said he won't specifically ban me, but I'm too lazy to email him begging him to un-ban me. As for David Brin, his blog site looks like from the 1990s...I don't know anything about his work, but a 15 second glance seems he's a sort of SciFi author; those guys tend to get extreme.

You're also too dumb to read, see Sumner's personal invite to you below in this very thread.

Dogville. Sweet Jesus Lord. What a vile piece of unwatchable wreckage.

Yes that gave me pause.

From the Wikipedia summary it seems Dogville (2003) is a modern remake of "En folkefiende", an 1882 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, but with a M. Night Shyamalan twist.

No, actually it's just an excuse to torture and rape a woman on screen for a couple of hours (I think 3, but maybe it just seemed that long).
Lars von Trier is a well known mysogyinist. During filming Nicole Kidman reportedly asked him "What would it take for you to like me?" and his reply was "Fuck me and give me all your money."

Also, literally every actress who has ever worked with him has said they wouldn't do it again.

Where are the female directors? Drinking tea?

Not directing foreign films. And Scott summers list is going to be very foreign.

Charlotte Gainsbourg has worked with him four times.

bet he drives a lambo

Danish humor don't go well with the Hollywood actresses. Or actors for that matter.

Who says he's humorous? He's a self promoting cultural vandal.

Thanks Hazel, I guess that's one way to look at it, though the plot seems like "Enemies of the People" warmed over. They had a B-movie like that (never watched it) "I spit on your grave" or some such, it's a common horror film theme (another one is some crazy people locked in a room, couple of movies on this theme). I think to a degree that many directors make profitable films by skirting the line between porn and art. I am thinking Q. Tarantino (I've never seen his films, sorry!) are like this to a degree (playing the violence card). Fake blood. I can't stand the sight of fake blood it's so fake. I've slaughtered animals and rarely do they spurt blood in gallons like in horror films, that's ridiculous.

Ever sliced open a carotid artery?

Well, it's not really "porn", since I don't recall them showing much.
But it seems like all of Lars von trier's films have a similar bent - the plot centers aorund a helpless woman being raped and abused. 'Breaking the Waves' is basically the same thing, but more violent.

There's not a lot of blood either. it's more the psychological torture with physical abuse happening off screen or at oblique angles.
It's just that it goes on for a long time. Look watch her suffer ... watch her suffer some more ... here's more suffering. Etc.

I think it's fantastic, but it suffers from the fact that all the meat is concentrated in the last couple of minutes. But all that precedes it is necessary to set that up.

Lord of the Rings is far too high.

Her is far too low.

I thought the same thing.

I only saw the first two LOR movies maybe because I liked the books so much that I finally read in before the first movie. Great visuals, but I didn't want to sit through the third movie.

No Terrence Malick, and no La Grande Bellezza? What planet are you guys living on?

man la grande bellezza was fantastic

Really really good, almost made me cry!

Came to say same thing. Multiple from Von Trier and Lynch, but none from Malick? Hard to understand that. Based on his revealed taste, I would expect something from Haneke to be there too...

I share his enthusiasm for the controversial Melancholia and Dogville. Lars von Trier is one twisted dude but I like it.

I haven't heard of most of these, I assume the bulk of the list is signaling. However, is Lord of the Rings really considered the best movie of the entire trilogy? I thought the final movie - the Oscar winning one - was the best?

The actual names [matching the books] are:

Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King

Return got the Oscar but Fellowship was the best imho. It was a career Oscar in effect.

People generally lump them together into one movie now.

None of them were any good; they just varied in length.

has anyone watched LOTR lately? it's very mediocre! it may have been trailblazing for modern epic filmmaking, but it does not deserve to be on this list.

How many of these will be remembered in 25 years? Maybe 2 or 3.

True. And yet one cannot say the same of film from every era. For example, clearly the best 25 or 30 films of the 1940s and 1950s are truly and deservedly memorable.

In his post Sumner does concede that moviemaking as an art form is in decline, so there are fewer and fewer all time great movies being made. And this isn't very controversial in my opinion, as Sumner notes all art forms peak and decline: the hey days of symphonic music, jazz, figurative painting, novels, rock music, movies are all in the past.

I share Scott's enthusiasm for anything by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Why no Romanian?

Have tried to develop a taste for Korean cinema - to no avail.


"Oldboy (Hangul: 올드보이; RR: Oldeuboi; MR: Oldŭboi) is a 2003 South Korean mystery thriller neo-noir film directed by Park Chan-wook. It is based on the Japanese manga of the same name written by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. Oldboy is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance."

Is it really Korean?

BTW, have you seen the semi-documentary "A Little Pond"? Another Korean film, also Korean War era, was "Welcome to Dongmakgol" has some M*A*S*H esque type scenes.

Why no Romanian? Wtf?

Why no films from the Neo-Scandinavian movement in Portuguese cinema, to quote a funny writer?

These are all great Romanian films:

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Beyond the Hills
Child's Pose

which century was AI in?

I think the NYT list had a bunch of really good movies on it

Mulholland Drive is a good TV pilot. As a movie, I find it overrated. The show would probably have had no trouble getting on the air today.

I learn a lot about foreign movies from Scott

I've heard of exactly six of those, of which I've seen three: LOTR, Her and Spirited Away.

You are more urbane than me. Heard of two, only saw LOTR.

Scott has finished at most 20 of these and genuinely enjoyed maybe half. Where's there's Scott there is signaling.

How do you know whether he's finished or enjoyed them or not? Do you have some kind of mind-sharing thing going on? Do you know him personally, and have had film conversations with him?

To me, the simplest and best explanation is that he actually has seen these movies, and enjoyed them. As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone shares the same tastes in film.

Anyway, I've seen a lot of the ones on that list, and agree with them being on a best-of list. Many of them would not be on mine (I loathed Her, for example), but that's the way lists go.

What's interesting, and rather gives the game away, is that modern "best off" lists are deliberately obscure and anti-populist, but that older "best of" lists by the same critics are populist and well known by contemporary standards.

It's almost as if the critics are signalling something....

Apparently, Sumner is a pretentious film snob. My opinion of him just took a hit. Dogville? Mullholland Drive? Yeah, no.

Where are Downfall and Black Swan?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?
There Will Be Blood ?
No Country for Old Men?
The Lives of Others?

Apparently "The Tree of Life" isn't high-brow enough for him either.

Mulholland Drive is way above Das Leben den Anderen and No Country for Old Men, the only two i have seen on that list. Dogville never seen. And not really interested...

A Zvyagintsev fan calling others "pretentious film snobs"...really?

'Leviathan' was great because it dares to give an honest portrayal of life in modern Russia. It's rare and unusual. I wouldn't say that cinematically it's terribly innovative though.

The Visitor, speaking of economics, is a fine rare film, the best of the Babel Caste. Paul Thomas Anderson?

Terry Gilliam:

Ridley Scott:
Blade Runner
Face-off (92% rotten tomatoes)/ The life of Pi

Richard Linklater:
Waking Life

Children of Men
12 Monkeys

I wonder just how long you think this millennium has been going on for

I'm surprised that Children of Men was left off both of these lists. I guess it's polarizing, but I loved it.

Children of men took one of the most intriguing books of the past 30 years and turned it into a ponderous chase movie.

Absolutely agree with "Nobody Knows".
I also find Koreeda a top tier director for consistently delivering high quality movies. Niche taste perhaps.
(Is it fairer to rank directors on the basis of consistency?)

I haven't seen those movies. My list would start with 22 Jump Street and end with 21 Jump Street. I can't think of anything to go in between at the moment.

21.5 Jump Street

Crazy hijinx in the summer between fake high school and fake college. Could be funny, but no guarantees - harder than it looks, probably.

So, SS's list makes me think watching "The Lobster" as part of ticking off the "arty movie" box every couple years, was a fatal miscalculation. I am left with nothing.

Dogtooth (also by Lanthimos) is much better but I think he's a one (or one and a half) trick pony

Haven't heard of one of them, bar LOTR. Since Sumner likes them, I'm unmotivated to see them.

Mulholland Drive was so bad it made me angry. Sorry, the emperor has no clothes with that one. It's a movie without a plot, and the only entertainment it provided was from pretentious critics struggling to illuminate its deeper meaning. The director didn't even try to explain what it was about.

There is enough varied commentary on this film that saying it has no plot rather straightforwardly signals ignorance.

"Mulholland Drive" started off as a lazy, incoherent David Lynch TV pilot that, to his surprise, didn't get picked up by the network. So then he buckled down and made up a plot for his movie version that successfully ties together maybe 80% of what he'd already filmed for TV. "Mulholland Drive" wound up a lot more coherent than Lynch's next film "Inland Empire," which has some great moments but is mostly a mess.

+1. 'Inscrutable' is the kindest word I can use to describe Inland Empire.

A high quality and humanist bunch. Heavy on the best Korean pictures, a bit of Zhangke and Wong Kar-wai (though I cannot love In The Mood For Love), the Joe film I actually liked. The later period Lynch and Von Trier, I have not watched and cannot form an opinion on. Best 25? I don't know. But these are films which will effect you (if you can grok the pace of some of them).

There's an early-mid 2000s spin going on here, and very little in the '10s; certainly the '10s of the West. I suspect there really was a higher quality in the pre-Recession, pre-social media, pre-Social Justice Warrior, pre-hipster (really almost pre-Millennials) early 21st century cinema world, but that may just nostalgia speaking.

I guess I have quit watching movies the last 17 years. The only movies on that list I have seen are The Lord of the Rings movies (The Two Towers is by far the best of the three), Her, Melancholia, and the two David Lynch films. I wouldn't have listed any of them on a top 25 list except for Melancholia, with Inland Empire and Mulholland drive just on the outside looking in.

One gets the impression from just the list itself that Sumners is trying tell you he is an intellectual.

"The Two Towers" LOTR movie struck me at the time I saw it in 2002 as the peak film of the era.

Peter Jackson's various weaknesses have become more apparent since then, but should that undermine one's response to his best film?

I don't understand how Upstream Color is missing from so many "best films of the millennium" lists.

+1, and even though I think it's a bit flawed, I loved the (somewhat mysterious) causal structure of the ecosystem depicted. Also good if you like drone music or pigs.

Ray, You are not banned at my site. Please come back, we all miss you.

Hazel, Those are also fine movies. The NYT list was limited to 25, so I did the same.

Everyone, I forget about Kill Bill, which probably should have made the list.

And signaling? Yes, I suppose I'm signaling to people with similar tastes. "You are not alone in the universe."

Anon, I felt that that film was aimed at people much smarter than I am. Ditto for his previous effort.

Widmerpool, The Death of Lazarus was excellent.

I don't know enough about movies to rate any of them, but as a "meta" comment I will note that Scott S included Mulholland Drive and so did the Guardian's list of best movies since 2000. But not the NYT. It seems consensus among film critics only emerges over a long stretch of time (e.g. they all agree on Citizen Kane now). However, is this just because as time passes they can't keep hundreds of films in mind, and so default to a shorter list (e.g. "Aw heck I ain't gonna go look up 40's movies right now, so sure, Citizen Kane gets my vote")? Makes me wonder if there really is any objective standard of "greatness" in film ... or any art form? If there were, wouldn't a majority of critics mostly agree on a short list of great films in the years immediately after they are released? Why do the "greatest" lists only converge after decades pass? Or am I way off base and critics do agree more than they seem so, to me?

Three Monkeys is probably only 25% as good as 12 Monkeys. Maybe there is a great stagnation after all.

What a coincidence! I found "The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films" at TSPDT last week and there's a lot overlap once you start comparing various lists. There does seem to be some sort of general consensus.

Nice to see Memento making an appearance. One of the early 21st century classics (2000)

Yes, Memento would have made my list. It surprised me this was after 2000, though. For some reason my memory was that it was 2 or 3 years earlier than that. Your mentioning it, though, made me think other Chris Nolan movies that I would be thinking about as top 25 for the millenium- Insomnia and Inception, and maybe even The Dark Knight.

I guess the question is what the point of such lists is. My opinion is similar to what Jonathan Rosenbaum espouses in his "List-o-Mania"alternative to the AFI 100 -- to spread the word on great films people may not aware of. If that's the rough goal, it seems like a mistake to include a list which is so narrow (a lot of repeat directors), where so much more diversity could be celebrated. (I don't want to be too picky about any particular omission, but I agree with widmerpool's suprise at the lack of Romanian films, or really anything from ex-communist Europe.)

The point of such lists is the arguing about them, and all the clicks generated.

Msgkings - and, of course, the hope that some future artist will say what needs to be said in part because others worked at honestly praising the artists of earlier days.

That was #4 on the list of the Top 25 Reasons For Lists.

Thread winner!

Meh. No Avatar? Both good and groundbreaking, how can you omit it?

And as usual comedies get no respect. Tropic Thunder, Burn After Reading, etc.

La La Land should be alt least second tier, probably first.
A classical musical set in today's date masterfully directed and scored by two guys that are barely 30.

Is it too soon to put the movie version of "Hamilton", which I'd guess will be out in 2019, on the list?

I'm going to try to resist the urge to think about this for the next 24 hours, but I cannot resist the urge to comment. The immediate titles that come to mind as having an impact on me at the time they were released:

SFF: Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. Star Wars III. Star Trek (2009). Avengers.

Drama: There Will Be Blood. Memento. Inception. Brokeback Mtn. Departed. Blood Diamond. Moneyball. Lost in Translation. Hurt Locker. The 24th Hour. Charlie Wilson's War.

Animated: Spirited Away. Shrek. Incredibles. Inside Out. Zootopia.

Docs: Room 237. No Direction Home. The Act of Killing. Grizzly Man.

Action: Bourne Identity. Kill Bill 2. John Wick. No Country For Old Men. True Grit.

Comedy: Super Troopers. Love Actually. Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

I couldn't find a Spielberg or a Tom Hanks to add, but both were consistently great. Does Clooney make great movies? I remember 2007 as being a year that offered many great films. The absence of foreign films is my failing.

I like most of this list. Clooney's made a couple good/great movies: Three Kings, Michael Clayton, Ocean's 11

No Country For Old Men was simply stupid, a truly bad movie, a little like Fincher's The Game in requiring total innocence and gullibility to even sit through it.

Ryan T - nice list. You might like "My Son the Feminist" from season one of the Partridge Family (out-Spielbergs Spielberg at those things Spielberg is best at, except for production values, which is of course understandable given the differences in budget); "Green-Eyed Gomez "(marred by less than fully thought through acting choices but with more art packed into its 23 minutes or so than any average 10 superhero movies), and the pilot episode of F Troop (a more realistic version of True Grit?). So out of the thousands of hours of dreck that TV was in those days, there were moments of true art, as one would expect. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a tragedy, not a comedy (hint: nobody gets the Mila Kunis character in a bounce back situation, in the real world - dream sequences do not elevate tragedies to comedies -ask Dante). Tom Hanks and Wilson predates 2000, I think; has he acted with a more congenial partner since? Clooney was good with Jennifer Lopez in an Elmore Leonard movie for the first half hour or so (the snow falling outside the window scene is amazing, movie goes downhlll faster than a hailstorm on a sled after that), but again I think that is a pre-2000 movie. The Brady Bunch movie was overall horrible but I would sit through it ten times for the astronomically rare aesthetic thrill of the scene where Alice, driving a truck at night along fantastically lonely Western highways, discusses with the actress playing (in, up until then, a horrendously badly directed way) the character "Jan" (short for Janet, Jeanette, Giovanna -- who knows?) how she has been a truck driver for like, forever, extending back even beyond the days when she would have worked for Robert and Florence. One of the most time-defying and thrilling night scenes in all of world cinema (from the first Brady Bunch movie, but I think it predates 2000). That scene was not even all that well written, but still....This is not signalling: this is part of a conversation, of a sort, as S. Sumner said at 4:24 PM.

For the record, one has to have watched a lot of the Brady Bunch for that scene I described to be as good as I described. Still, Ann Davis was an extraordinary actress, and a decent and wonderful person, and I am not the only person who over-praises decent people when they put themselves out there in a way that could be criticized.

also, "downhill faster than a hailstorm on a sled" sounded Much better in the original Language! Picture the personified Hailstorm, like Queequeg on the Pequod (a summer to winter analogy) not really sure what it (the Hailstorm) or he (Quohog) has gotten himself into. Then, whoosh! Sad, in its limited context, anyway.

Seems a good list: would also like to mention The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence, Like Someone in Love, Va Savoir, Talk To Her, Notre Musique, The Limits of Control, The Wolf of Wall Street

Half of these I wouldn't even pick as the best 21st century film by their respective directors.

1. Valhalla Rising (Refn) (2010)
2. There Will Be Blood (Anderson) (2007)
3. Leviathan (Zvyaginstev) (2014)
4. Distant (Ceylan) (2002)
5. Borgman (van Warmerdam) (2013)
6. The Witch (Eggers) (2015)
7. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (Kim) (2003)
8. The New World (Malick) (2005)
9. The Lobster (Lanthimos) (2015)
10. Cloverfield (Reeves) (2008)
11. No Country for Old Men (Coens) (2007)
12. Bad Lieutenant (Herzog) (2009)
13. Climates (Ceylan) (2006)
14. The Tree of Life (Malick) (2011)
15. The Master (Anderson) (2012)
16. A History of Violence (Cronenberg) (2005)
17. Miami Vice (Mann) (2006)
18. I am Love (Guadagnino) (2009)
19. Wall-E (Stanton) (2008)
20. Sicario (Villeneuve) (2015)
21. Winter Sleep (Ceylan) (2014)
22. The Rover (Michod) (2014)
23. Only God Forgives (Refn) (2013)
24. Three Monkeys (Ceylan) (2008)
25. Eastern Promises (Cronenberg) (2007)

Strong list. Especially pleased to see Bad Lieutenant, which is criminally underrated (other than by the late great Ebert). Grizzly Man seems to be the critically-loved Herzog film of this millennium, but IMO Bad Lieutenant is a much better showcase for his talents.

Oldboy was the first on the list that I'd not seen and could find on Netflix. Very hard to watch but well worth it. I'll keep working through the list. Thanks for the tips

That is the worst fucking list I've ever seen.

You should look at more lists.

Good list, but somewhat narrow. Most of these films are arthouse/filmfest offerings. Short on laughs.

I really liked Wong-Kar Wai's 2046, which is sort of an erotic sci-fi reverie along the likes of Nabokov's "Ada." But not many others did.

Ok here's one movie per year, the usual caveats apply:

2000: O Brother
2001: Spirited Away
2002: Hero
2003: Oldboy
2004: Kung Fu Hustle
2005: The New World
2006: Departed
2007: Ratatouille
2008: Departures
2009: Revanche
2010: Winter's Bone
2011: A Separation
2012: Amour
2013: Touch of Sin
2014: Grand Budapest Hotel
2015: Max Max
2016: After the Storm

I loved Max Max.

Why is Three Times on everyones list? It's my least favorite Hou Hao Hsien film, Flight of the Red Balloon is much better imo.

Layer Cake, Snatch, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang all deserve at least a mention, if only by me. Also, am I really the only one who would choose Inglourious Basterds over Kill Bill?

Check out the really fine list of Caspar Salmon, an excellent critic:
The Return
The Master
Stranger by the Lake
The Son's Room
Tropical Malady...

Good List. I've seen most of these, some back before I stopped watching English-language movies. Winter Sleep is gorgeous, but I was burnt out on middle-age male bourgeois existential crisis 40 years ago. Not a big fan of Lars von Trier. Think Wong Kar-wei's later stuff is way overrated, sentimental and commercial. However, you watch Three Times for Shi Qu of course. Sion Sono is underrated, and I could probably come up with an alternative list of Asian arthouse films.

Somebody asked about Korean films, and I could say that Korea makes some of the best arthouse films, some of the best commercial films, and some good crossovers. That industry was/is on a roll. There is a number of excellent action/violence films to choose from: Once Upon a Time in Manchuria, Train to Busan, The Man From Nowhere it's a long list. Korean also makes great tearjerkers and romances, and inspired Japan to get back into softcore pornography, a genre Korea now owns.

I watch more older movies now. Bergman, Godard, Italians. Czech New Wave.

As far as Sumner's "fllm's in decline" I strongly disagree mostly on principle.

1) Consider it an assumption, but I think talent and intelligence are evenly distributed in all times and places. There are as many smart people, per thousand, in medieval London or Tang Chang'an or any other selection as there were in 1960s Paris. This is a biological fact I will need very strong evidence to question. So there is likely as many potential Kurosawas making films as there were 60 years ago, considered as people.

2) There are however very intense and important differences in resources and their distribution. Not really money, Winter Light and Breathless were cheap movies. But maybe the recent memory of WWII and the rise of Baby Boomers and the decline of studios made a difference in the kinds of movies that were made in the 60s. Ideological resources. Social. Spiritual.

3) I usually presume, that if I don't like an artwork that has almost any recognition or acclaim, it's my fault. A movie I don't like is one I don't understand. It's my project to discover what other people saw in the film, and somehow share and feel it. I find this rewarding. I'm almost tasteless, and haven't a clue if Persona < Still Walking < Metropolis. Setting up criteria that make rankings possible is only about yourself, which is fine. David Bordwell had an article on the tricks of making a popular festival movie, and my preferences for long takes and long shots, audacious art direction, serious mature adult themes about ordinary people are just that, preferences. and whether they are morally politically or aesthetically superior to my enjoyment of explosions, knife fights, and Shi Qu will always be debatable.

4) So, in sum, movies tell me more about the material, historical, and social conditions in which they were made than about the auteurs or narratives. Cause I'm a communist.

Why quote that and not the ridiculous other statement, "Pop music [peaked] in the 1960s and 1970s."? I am always amazed at the extent to which lazy old men think that nothing good has happened after their time.

The NY Times film critic calls this list too snobby for him.

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