100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics

Published 7:30 pm Monday, November 14, 2022

Esperanto Filmoj

100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics

Though the golden age of Hollywood ended decades ago, the magic of Hollywood may be even more remarkable this century. Consider how technology enables filmmakers to include incredible CGI creations or create thought-provoking documentaries filmed on smartphones. Hollywood has started opening its doors to allow women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and others to tell new, diverse stories that appeal to critics and audiences alike. What’s more, there are countless publications and online outlets to critique and discuss the latest films, highlighting smaller, more obscure movies that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.

The rise of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms has changed the game. While most of their innovations have been geared toward changing the TV landscape as we know it, they’re also producing original movies faster than the biggest studios and working with some of Hollywood’s best stars to do it. As their feature films and documentaries continue picking up awards and critical acclaim, in 20 years, a list like this might feature more Netflix and Amazon originals than big-budget blockbusters or indie flicks.

So which movies do critics say have bested the rest? Stacker collected data on the top movies of all time on Metacritic (as of October 2022) and ranked the top 100 from the 21st century according to Metascore, with ties broken by the number of IMDb user votes. Films with less than seven reviews were not considered.

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Read on to find out the 100 best films of this century, according to critics.

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Daniel Giménez Cacho in a scene from ‘Zama’

Bananeira Filmes

#100. Zama (2017)

– Director: Lucrecia Martel
– Metascore: 89
– Runtime: 115 minutes

This Argentine period drama adapts a 1956 novel of the same name and takes place in the late 18th century. Awaiting a transfer from the Spanish crown, a frustrated magistrate remains stranded in a remote village. Director Lucrecia Martel employs a brooding and occasionally comic style while exploring themes of class and colonialism.

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from “The Power of the Dog”


#99. The Power of the Dog (2021)

– Director: Jane Campion
– Metascore: 89
– Runtime: 126 minutes

Director Jane Campion won an Academy Award for this revisionist Western, which gradually builds toward a bone-chilling finale. At the heart of the story is rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose brutish behavior belies a deeper internal conflict. National Herald India critic Namrata Joshi called it “a long-delayed contemplation on masculinity from the female eye, both about repression and control.”

Amin Simiar and Mohammad Hassan Madjooni in ‘Hit the Road’

JP Production

#98. Hit the Road (2021)

– Director: Panah Panahi
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 93 minutes

The feature debut from Iranian director Panah Panahi follows an idiosyncratic family on a road trip across the desolate countryside. As memories and tensions arise within the confines of their vehicle, the story wrangles in broader examinations of Iranian society. Expect to cry tears of both joy and sorrow before the final credits roll.

Honor Swinton Byrne in ‘The Souvenir: Part II’

BBC Film

#97. The Souvenir: Part II (2021)

– Director: Joanna Hogg
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 107 minutes

This acclaimed sequel finds its protagonist (Honor Swinton Byrne) coping with the aftermath of a tragic romance. Her reflective journey takes the form of a student film project, which blurs the line between fact and fiction. Costar Tilda Swinton hinted in an interview that a third installment is in development.

Colin Farrell in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

20th Century Fox

#96. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

– Director: Martin McDonagh
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 109 minutes

“In Bruges” director Martin McDonagh reunited with actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for this pitch-black comedy about the sudden rift between two lifelong friends. Set in 1923 Ireland, the story’s simple plot line functions as a gateway to increasing chaos and cultural insights. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival and took home awards for writing and acting.

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Royalty Hightower in ‘The Fits’

Yes, Ma’am!

#95. The Fits (2015)

– Director: Anna Rose Holmer
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 72 minutes

An 11-year-old tomboy (Royalty Hightower) goes to extremes while trying to fit in with a local dance troupe in this unconventional drama. Director Anna Rose Holmer drew inspiration from the historical connection between hysterical fits and dance choreography when crafting the story. It blends slow-burn horror with coming-of-age themes to cultivate a unique exploration of racial and gender identity.

Leonid Yarmolnik in ‘Hard to Be a God’

Sever Studio

#94. Hard to Be a God (2013)

– Director: Aleksei German
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 177 minutes

The final film from Russian director Aleksei German follows a team of scientists to a distant planet, where civilization is in the midst of its own Dark Ages. From this premise swells a philosophical treatise with no shortage of contemporary undertones. It was made over several years and completed after German’s death in 2013.

Ronit Elkabetz in a scene from ‘Gett’

Arte France Cinéma

#93. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (2014)

– Directors: Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 115 minutes

This Israeli drama makes up the third part of a trilogy about the life and marriage of Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz). It chronicles her three-year struggle to obtain a divorce after her husband refuses to grant a dissolution. Tragedy and absurdity collide as the outmoded laws of a patriarchal society present her with one obstacle after the next.

A black and white illustrated frame from ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’

Don Hertzfeldt

#92. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

– Director: Don Hertzfeldt
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 62 minutes

Don Hertzfeldt’s animated masterpiece strings together three award-winning short films to create a purposefully fractured whole. It follows a young man named Bill as he suffers a neurological breakdown with philosophical ramifications. Portions of the story are based on Hertzfeldt’s personal experiences and former diary entries.

Laura Dern in a scene from ‘The Tale’

Gamechanger Films

#91. The Tale (2018)

– Director: Jennifer Fox
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 114 minutes

Director Jennifer Fox explores her traumatic past in this autobiographical drama about sexual abuse. It finds Laura Dern playing a thinly veiled alter-ego who uncovers a suppressed memory while working on a documentary. Writing for Little White Lies, critic Hannah Strong called it “harrowing but essential viewing.”

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James Nesbitt in a scene from ‘Bloody Sunday’

Paramount Pictures Classics

#90. Bloody Sunday (2002)

– Director: Paul Greengrass
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 111 minutes

Before joining the Bourne franchise, British director Paul Greengrass crafted this gripping dramatization of the Bloody Sunday massacre. At the height of political unrest, British soldiers killed or injured a reported 28 unarmed Irish protestors in 1972. It won two prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, including the Golden Bear (in a tie with “Spirited Away”).

Hope Davis and Paul Giamatti in a scene from ‘American Splendor’

Good Machine

#89. American Splendor (2003)

– Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 101 minutes

The film “American Splendor” is based on a series of autobiographical comic books by Harvey Pekar. Paul Giamatti stars in the biopic, which uses realistic footage and comic book-style art brought to life through animation.

Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig in a scene from ‘Cold War’

Opus Film

#88. Cold War (2018)

– Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 89 minutes

Star-crossed lovers fight to stay together during the Cold War as they travel through Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris. This foreign movie was filmed in black and white and nabbed the 2018 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Director.

Renate Reinsve in a scene from ‘The Worst Person in the World’

Oslo Pictures

#87. The Worst Person in the World (2021)

– Director: Joachim Trier
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 128 minutes

This Norwegian dramedy trails a young woman named Julie (Renate Reinsve) through a series of existential dilemmas and romantic misadventures. It caps off director Joachim Trier’s beloved Oslo trilogy, which depicts various characters in a perennial state of self-doubt.

Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, and Jeon Jong-seo in a scene from ‘Burning’

Pandora Films

#86. Burning (2018)

– Director: Lee Chang-dong
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 148 minutes

Unfolding at a purposefully gradual pace, this South Korean mystery centers on an aspiring novelist named Lee Jong-su. When his young female friend goes missing, Jong-su begins to suspect foul play. Entangled in the subsequent investigation are themes of psychological torment and class divide.

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Adam Driver in a scene from ‘Paterson’

K5 International

#85. Paterson (2016)

– Director: Jim Jarmusch
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 118 minutes

Indie auteur Jim Jarmusch brings his unique sensibilities to this understated drama, which follows a week in the life of New Jersey bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver). Paterson is tethered to a series of daily rituals and channels his mundane observations through poetry. While the movie failed to snag Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, its canine actor, Nellie, did win a posthumous award for Palm Dog.

Ryan Phillippe and Helen Mirren in a scene from ‘Gosford Park’

Capitol Films

#84. Gosford Park (2001)

– Director: Robert Altman
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 137 minutes

2001’s “Gosford Park” is a British mystery film starring Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Gambon, and Kristin Scott Thomas. The upstairs-downstairs drama with a large ensemble cast snagged an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in Hamilton

Walt Disney Pictures

#83. Hamilton (2020)

– Director: Thomas Kail
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 160 minutes

A live recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” was recorded in 2015 and features the play’s original cast, including Miranda as the titular Alexander Hamilton. Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of the founding father, the show tells the real-life tale of Hamilton’s life from childhood to death. Originally slated to be released in 2021, the movie hit streaming services early as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A black and white illustrated frame from ‘Persepolis’

2.4.7 Films

#82. Persepolis (2007)

– Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 96 minutes

French Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi adapted her own graphic novel when co-directing this stunning animated drama. It draws from her experiences as a precocious young girl in Iran who witnessed the Islamic Revolution firsthand before attending school in Vienna. At simultaneous odds with two starkly different worlds, young Marjane’s journey becomes a bewildering search for self-identity.

Niels Arestrup and Tahar Rahim in ‘A Prophet’

Why Not Productions

#81. A Prophet (2009)

– Director: Jacques Audiard
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 155 minutes

A young convict of Algerian descent (Tahar Rahim) begins his first adult prison stint in this violent French drama. With his subsequent climb up the mob ranks comes newfound power and conflict alike. “Although it is 2 hours 29 minutes long and its story is not surprising, it is always riveting,” wrote critic Ed Koch for The Atlantic.

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Tom O'Rourke and Becky London in a scene from ‘United 93’

Universal Pictures

#80. United 93 (2006)

– Director: Paul Greengrass
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 111 minutes

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that changed lives around the world. “United 93” follows the real-time story of one of the hijacked planes that crashed in a field. Passengers worked together to foil a terrorist plot, sacrificing themselves in the process.

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim in Licorice Pizza


#79. Licorice Pizza (2021)

– Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 133 minutes

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sweeping dramedy brings the director back onto his home turf of California’s San Fernando Valley. Set in 1973, it follows a savvy teen (Cooper Hoffman) and his older counterpart (Alana Haim) through a series of wild misadventures. Most of the events are based directly on the experiences of film producer Gary Goetzman.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread

Focus Features

#78. Phantom Thread (2017)

– Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 130 minutes

“Phantom Thread” is a slow, beautiful movie about the tragic and terrifying collision of larger-than-life personalities. Set in the 1950s, the film portrays a famous dressmaker whose life is turned upside down by the young woman he falls in love with. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis in a role he claims will be his last.

Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from ‘Winter’s Bone’

Anonymous Content

#77. Winter’s Bone (2010)

– Director: Debra Granik
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 100 minutes

“Winter’s Bone” rocketed actress Jennifer Lawrence into mega-stardom at age 19. The film follows a young woman living in a largely drug-addicted community in the Ozarks, set against a stark, wintery backdrop.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in a scene from ‘Before Sunset’

Warner Independent Pictures (WIP)

#76. Before Sunset (2004)

– Director: Richard Linklater
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 80 minutes

“Before Sunset” is part of the Before trilogy, which includes 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2013’s “Before Midnight.” All three films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. “Before Sunset” follows an afternoon spent by lovers reuniting nine years after their first meeting in Paris.

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Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit in a scene from ‘Almost Famous’

Columbia Pictures

#75. Almost Famous (2000)

– Director: Cameron Crowe
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 122 minutes

“Almost Famous” is based on the true story of director Cameron Crowe’s experience working as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. This coming-of-age film is set in the 1970s as a young journalist goes on tour with a famous rock band.

Christian Bale and Amy Adams in a scene from ‘American Hustle’

Annapurna Pictures

#74. American Hustle (2013)

– Director: David O. Russell
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 138 minutes

“American Hustle” follows the story of con artists who take part in an FBI sting operation. Starring powerhouse actors Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jennifer Lawrence, this film became known for its flashy, late-1970s style and brilliant moments of comedy. Interestingly, its plot is loosely based on a true story.

An illustrated frame from ‘The Incredibles’

Walt Disney Pictures

#73. The Incredibles (2004)

– Director: Brad Bird
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 115 minutes

In Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” a family of superheroes attempting to lead a normal life gets sucked into a top-secret assignment. It won Oscars for Best Animated Film and Best Sound Editing.

Charlize Theron in a scene from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Warner Bros.

#72. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

– Director: George Miller
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 120 minutes

The film that spawned thousands of Halloween costumes, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has become one of the most famous post-apocalyptic action movie franchises. Starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, the story chronicles a man who teams up with a band of women fleeing a psychopathic tyrant.

An illustrated frame from 'Finding Nemo’

Pixar/Walt Disney Pictures

#71. Finding Nemo (2003)

– Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 100 minutes

In “Finding Nemo,” a Pixar classic, a little clownfish gets separated from his father and has to traverse the wide ocean to find his way home. The movie features voice acting from Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, among others.

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A scene from the film ‘Moolaadé’

Ousmane Sembène

#70. Moolaadé (2004)

– Director: Ousmane Sembene
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 124 minutes

“Moolaadé” confronts the tradition of female genital mutilation, telling the fictional story of a woman who shelters a group of girls fleeing the procedure. The film, set in Burkina Faso, was made by Senegalese writer and director Ousmane Sembène.

Natar Ungalaaq in a scene from ‘Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner’

Isuma Igloolik Productions

#69. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)

– Director: Zacharias Kunuk
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 172 minutes

Starring Inuit actors, this film revamps an ancient legend. It follows a young man who falls in love with a woman betrothed to the tribal chief’s son. The movie became known for its riveting scenes in the Arctic.

TIlda Swinton în a scene from ‘Memoria’

185 Films

#68. Memoria (2021)

– Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 136 minutes

The latest effort from award-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul was played exclusively in theaters with no plan of ever arriving on video-on-demand platforms. It tells the story of a Scottish expatriate (Tilda Swinton) who experiences mysterious sensations while traveling in Colombia. General moviegoers were less receptive than critics, hence the film’s current IMDb user rating of 6.6.

Tom Burke and Honor Swinton Byrne in a scene from ‘The Souvenir’

BBC Films

#67. The Souvenir (2019)

– Director: Joanna Hogg
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Critics and audiences are thus far divided on Joanna Hogg’s coming-of-age drama, which takes place in the 1980s. Based on the director’s experiences, it chronicles the destructive relationship between a young film student and a mysterious older man. Writing for the London Evening Standard, critic David Sexton called it “one of the best U.K. films in years.”

Jafar Panahi in a scene from ‘Taxi’

Jahar Panahi Film Production

#66. Taxi (2015)

– Director: Jafar Panahi
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 82 minutes

When the Iranian government banned director Jafar Panahi from filmmaking, he pretended to be a taxi driver. He then affixed a camera to his dashboard and interviewed his passengers, which resulted in a docu-fictional film about social issues in Iran.

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Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tôko Miura in a scene from ‘Drive My Car’

Bitters End

#65. Drive My Car (2021)

– Director: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 179 minutes

Winner of Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Academy Awards, this meditative Japanese drama unfolds in careful layers. What opens with the story of a man and his wife pivots on the turn of a tragic event, giving way to a troubled stage production and themes of grief and acceptance. It’s a slow drive perhaps, but one with impactful destinations in mind.

Actors in a scene from ‘Son of Saul’

Laokoon Filmgroup

#64. Son of Saul (2015)

– Director: László Nemes
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 107 minutes

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards, this Hungarian drama takes place in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. It follows a prisoner named Saul Auslander as he seeks proper burial for a young child. The first full-length feature from director László Nemes, “Son of Saul” introduced a powerful new voice in cinema.

An animated still from ‘The Triplets of Belleville’

Les Armateurs

#63. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

– Director: Sylvain Chomet
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 80 minutes

When “The Triplets of Belleville” was released in 2003, it dazzled audiences worldwide with its unique animation style. The French comedy narrates the story of Madame Souza, whose professional cyclist grandson is kidnapped. The film earned two Academy Award nominations.

Agata Trzebuchowska in a scenę from ‘Ida’

Music Box Films

#62. Ida (2013)

– Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 82 minutes

Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white film is set in 1962 Poland. A young woman is about to take her vows to become a nun—when she discovers from her only living relative that she is Jewish.

Helen Mirren in a scene from ‘The Queen’

Pathé Pictures International

#61. The Queen (2006)

– Director: Stephen Frears
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 103 minutes

Dame Helen Mirren snagged an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in this period drama. The movie chronicles the days after the death of Princess Diana, and the surprises, controversy, and mourning that followed.

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Olivia Colman in a scene from ‘The Favourite’

Fox Searchlight Pictures

#60. The Favourite (2018)

– Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 119 minutes

This period film set in 18th-century England stars Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman. Amid war, a friend of Queen Anne becomes enraged when a servant threatens to usurp her role as the favored royal adviser. Stone, Weisz, and Colman each earned Academy Award nominations for their respective performances, with the latter winning the Best Actress Oscar.

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in ‘Little Women’

Columbia Pictures

#59. Little Women (2019)

– Director: Greta Gerwig
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 135 minutes

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 take on “Little Women” is the seventh movie interpretation of the Louisa May Alcott novel, though its Oscar win (Best Costume Design) and six total nominations (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score), underlines its impact and universal praise. The March sisters are played by Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen, and their performances elevated this movie from an iteration to one of the best films of the century.

Adam Sandler, Kavin Garnett and Maksud Agadjani in a scene from ‘Uncut Gems’


#58. Uncut Gems (2019)

– Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 135 minutes

The Safdie Brothers’ anxiety-inducing “Uncut Gems” earned critical acclaim. Adam Sandler impresses as a motormouth Manhattan diamond dealer whose sports gambling and extramarital affairs unsurprisingly stress viewers out and lead to his downfall. The cinematography, sound, and frantic energy are the backbones, and the themes are dark and tragic, even if predictable. By its end, audiences may be more relieved than satisfied.

Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from ‘Her’

Annapurna Pictures

#57. Her (2013)

– Director: Spike Jonze
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 126 minutes

“Her” will likely inspire science fiction writers and creators of technology for generations to come. A romantic sci-fi film starring Joaquin Phoenix, it is about a lonely man who falls in love with his AI assistant, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Susi Sánchez and Bárbara Lennie in a scene from ‘Sunday's Illness’

Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (ICEC)

#56. Sunday’s Illness (2018)

– Director: Ramón Salazar
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 113 minutes

In this Spanish drama, a wealthy woman is unexpectedly reacquainted with the daughter she abandoned decades earlier. Over the 10 days that follow, the daughter reveals an ulterior motive with shocking consequences.

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Alex Descas in a scene from ’35 Shots of Rum’

Soudaine Compagnie

#55. 35 Shots of Rum (2008)

– Director: Claire Denis
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by French filmmaker Claire Denis, “35 Shots of Rum” was inspired by the Japanese film “Late Spring.” Originally called “35 Rhums,” the movie follows the relationship between a father-daughter duo and their neighbor.

Lars Rudolph in a scene from ‘Werckmeister Harmonies’

13 Productions

#54. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

– Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 145 minutes

This black-and-white Hungarian drama mystery is based on the novel “The Melancholy of Resistance” by László Krasznahorkai. Set against the communist regime, it’s about a circus that comes to town and fails to perform a promised act, resulting in riots.

Ibrahim Ahmed in a scene from ‘Timbuktu’

Arte France Cinéma

#53. Timbuktu (2014)

– Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 96 minutes

This French Mauritanian drama is about a cattle herder and his family. Though they live quietly, a horrific regime of Islamic militants looms in the nearby city of Timbuktu. It’s inspired by the true story of a couple stoned to death for alleged adultery.

Brady Jandreau in a scene from ‘The Rider’


#52. The Rider (2017)

– Director: Chloé Zhao
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 104 minutes

Featuring staggering scenes of the Pine Ridge Reservation and of beautiful horses, “The Rider” is about a rodeo rider who fights to get back in the saddle after being critically injured in an accident. This Chloé Zhao film blends fact and fiction—the lead actor plays a character whose story is significantly based on the thespian’s real-life past.

Actors in a scene from ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

BBC Films

#51. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

– Director: Eliza Hittman
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 101 minutes

A powerful film about teen pregnancy and the realities of being a woman in the United States, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” follows two teenage cousins as they travel from Pennsylvania to New York to obtain a second-trimester abortion. Tenderly written and stunningly performed, the movie is just as much of a character study as it is a telling of an all-too-real tale.

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François Bégaudeau in a scene from ‘The Class’

Haut en Court

#50. The Class (2008)

– Director: Laurent Cantet
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 128 minutes

Based on an autobiographical novel of the same name, “The Class” is about an idealistic young teacher working with underprivileged youth. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2008.

Actors in a scene from ‘Leviathan’

Non-Stop Productions

#49. Leviathan (2014)

– Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 140 minutes

In “Leviathan,” a Russian fisherman fights government corruption to keep his ancestral home. Written, directed, and produced by Andrey Zvyagintsev, it earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Mathieu Amalric and Anne Consigny in a scene from ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’


#48. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

– Director: Julian Schnabel
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 112 minutes

In this now-famous docudrama, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine suffers a stroke in his early 40s. Afterward, he faces locked-in syndrome. This film is based on the memoir of the same name by Jean-Dominique Bauby, which was composed by “dictating” his memoir through blinking, the only way he was able to communicate.

Actors in a scene from ‘The Florida Project’

Cre Film

#47. The Florida Project (2017)

– Director: Sean Baker
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 111 minutes

Set just outside of Disneyland over the course of a summer, this film by Sean Baker depicts a mother and daughter living at a budget motel run by Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Much of the film focuses on the resilience of the young girl and the sacrifices her mother must make for her.

An animated still from ‘Toy Story 3’


#46. Toy Story 3 (2010)

– Director: Lee Unkrich
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 103 minutes

Pixar’s “Toy Story” series follows the adventures of toys that come to life when humans aren’t looking. The third movie is about what happens when the owner of the toys heads off to college, and they’re accidentally put in the trash. It features voice work from Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack.

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Josh Brolin in a scene from ‘No Country for Old Men’

Paramount Vantage

#45. No Country for Old Men (2007)

– Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 122 minutes

“No Country for Old Men,” a crime thriller, is based on a 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy of the same name. After a hunter (Josh Brolin) stumbles across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong, he steals the cash left behind. Little does he know that he’ll soon be the target of a terrifying killer, played by Javier Bardem.

Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

New Line Productions

#44. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

– Director: Peter Jackson
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 178 minutes

The first installment of the Lord of the Rings fantasy saga is about a hobbit named Frodo (Elijah Wood) who acquires a dangerous, magical ring and must assemble a group that can help get him to Mordor, the place where the ring was forged and the only place where it can be destroyed. It’s based on the 1954 book of the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.

An animated still from ‘Sita Sings the Blues’

Nina Paley

#43. Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

– Director: Nina Paley
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 82 minutes

“Sita Sings the Blues” is an animated romantic comedy. Directed, produced, and animated by American artist Nina Paley, the film reimagines events from the Indian epic poem “Ramayana” mixed with autobiographical events.

Nina Meurisse, Joséphine Sanz, and Gabrielle Sanz in a scene from ‘Petite Maman’

France 3 Cinema

#42. Petite Maman (2021)

– Director: Céline Sciamma
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 73 minutes

French filmmaker Céline Sciamma followed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” with this acclaimed fantasy drama. In the wake of her grandmother’s death, a young girl makes a mysterious new friend. Employing a stark and delicate execution, Sciamma squeezes multiple kinds of magic into the brief runtime of just 73 minutes.

Jonathan Chang in a scene from ‘Yi Yi’

1+2 Seisaku Iinkai

#41. Yi Yi (2000)

– Director: Edward Yang
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 173 minutes

“Yi Yi,” a dramedy, is about the year in the life of a middle-class family in Taipei. The film director, Edward Yang, a famous Taiwanese New Wave filmmaker, won the Best Director Award at Cannes.

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Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller in a scene from ‘Toni Erdmann’

Komplizen Film

#40. Toni Erdmann (2016)

– Director: Maren Ade
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 162 minutes

“Toni Erdmann” tells the tale of a father so desperate to reconnect with his business-focused daughter that he poses as her CEO’s life coach to spend time with her. The German Austrian dramedy was written, directed, and co-produced by Maren Ade and stars Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller.

Actors in a scene from ‘Shoplifters’

AOI Promotion

#39. Shoplifters (2018)

– Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 121 minutes

Directed, written, and edited by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, “Shoplifters” is a drama about a poor family that takes in an abused girl. The twist? The family gets by with a small government pension and supplements their income by shoplifting.

Oscar Isaac in a scene from ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

CBS Films

#38. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

– Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 104 minutes

There are many stories of struggling artists, but this one focuses on a fictional folk singer named Llewyn Davis in 1961 Greenwich Village. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and John Goodman. The Coen brothers, who wrote, directed, and co-produced the film, were inspired by the story of a musician named Dave Van Ronk.

Frances McDormand in a scene from ’Nomadland’

Cor Cordium Productions

#37. Nomadland (2020)

– Director: Chloé Zhao
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 107 minutes

Director Chloé Zhao’s revealing drama features a cast of both veteran actors and real-life nomads. Frances McDormand gives a boldly unfettered performance as Fern, who takes up a life on the road after losing everything she has to the Great Recession. It won Academy Awards for Best Actress, Best Picture, and Best Director, the latter of which made Zhao the first Asian woman to win an Oscar for directing.

Timothee Chalamet in a scene from “Call Me by Your Name”

Sony Pictures Classics

#36. Call Me by Your Name (2017)

– Director: Luca Guadagnino
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 132 minutes

This lush film set over a summer in Italy dives into the story of an American teenager (Timothée Chalamet) who has a sexual awakening when his family hosts an older graduate student named Oliver (Armie Hammer). Based on a novel of the same name, the gay romance film is known for a few shocking moments, as well as a haunting final scene with music from Sufjan Stevens. A sequel is reportedly in talks.

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Saoirse Ronan in a scene from “Lady Bird”

IAC Films

#35. Lady Bird (2017)

– Director: Greta Gerwig
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 94 minutes

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age insta-classic “Lady Bird” depicts the daily life of a strong-willed Catholic high schooler in Sacramento as she deals with friends, boyfriends, and her mother. The film was also known for notable performances by Saoirse Ronan as the title character and Laurie Metcalf as her mother.

Michael Keaton and cast in a scene from ‘Spotlight’

Participant Media

#34. Spotlight (2015)

– Director: Tom McCarthy
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 129 minutes

Based on real events, “Spotlight” traces the footsteps of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe looking into allegations against a priest accused of abusing boys. Soon, they learn of a larger cover-up within the Catholic Church. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and today, the real-life investigative team still works to uncover scandals.

Daniel Day-Lewis in a scene from ‘There Will Be Blood’

Paramount Vantage

#33. There Will Be Blood (2007)

– Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
– Metascore: 93
– Runtime: 158 minutes

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair, a greedy silver miner-turned-oil prospector moves to California and tries to con landowners out of their oil-rich land. It earned Daniel Day-Lewis an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Actors in a scene from ‘Mr Turner’

Sony Pictures

#32. Mr. Turner (2014)

– Director: Mike Leigh
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 150 minutes

“Mr. Turner,” directed by Mike Leigh, covers the last 25 years in the life of the English painter J.M.W. Turner. The controversial figure had many affairs, including with a landlady and his housekeeper, and was known for his eccentric behavior.

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in a scene from ’45 Years’

BFI Film Fund

#31. 45 Years (2015)

– Director: Andrew Haigh
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 95 minutes

In “45 Years,” a husband and wife are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when the husband learns that the body of his long-lost former lover has been found in the Swiss Alps—a discovery that threatens to change their lives forever. This British film is based on a short story titled “In Another Country” by David Constantine.

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Emmanuelle Riva in a scene from ‘Amour’

Les Films du Losange

#30. Amour (2012)

– Director: Michael Haneke
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 127 minutes

Don’t forget your tissue box: The French romance film “Amour” is about a loving marriage torn apart by a woman’s debilitating stroke. The New Yorker’s Hannah Goldfield called it depressing “to the point that I seriously contemplated escaping to the bathroom to have it out and collect myself, and considered leaving the theatre altogether.” It won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Cate Blanchett in a scene from “Carol”

The Weinstein Company

#29. Carol (2015)

– Director: Todd Haynes
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 118 minutes

This bewitching drama follows the romance between a married woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett) and a young shopkeeper (Rooney Mara). Set in 1950s New York, the film is based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in a scene from ‘Before Midnight’

Sony Pictures Classics

#28. Before Midnight (2013)

– Director: Richard Linklater
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 109 minutes

In the final installment of the Before trilogy, the two lovers (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) reminisce on their lives together and how things might have been different. This time, the story is set during their vacation in Greece.

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in a scene from ‘Sideways’

20th Century Fox

#27. Sideways (2004)

– Director: Alexander Payne
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 127 minutes

Wine snobs and film buffs alike adore this black comedy about two friends who have a series of adventures (and misadventures) through California’s Santa Ynez Valley. Starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, the film was nominated for five Oscars.

Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh in a scene from ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’

Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia

#26. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

– Director: Ang Lee
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Martial arts movies are often considered relics: not so for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The Chinese film by Ang Lee, which tells the tale of a stolen sword, was released in 2000 and nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.

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Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in a scene from ‘Marriage Story’


#25. Marriage Story (2019)

– Director: Noah Baumbach
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 137 minutes

Indie legend Noah Baumbach examines the crumbling marriage of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) in this poignant dramedy. Divided between two coasts, the drifting partners struggle to balance their personal lives with the demands of their respective careers. Along with films like “Roma” and “The Irishman,” this work further establishes Netflix as a provider of Oscar-worthy content.

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Ray Romano and others in a scene from ‘The Irishman’

Fábrica de Cine

#24. The Irishman (2019)

– Director: Martin Scorsese
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 209 minutes

Based on an alleged work of nonfiction, Martin Scorsese’s latest mob saga promises to reveal the true fate of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Bringing the tale to life is former hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who claims to have partaken in the union leader’s disappearance. Much of the film’s costly budget went toward de-aging technology to present Sheeran at various points in his life without swapping actors.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a scene from ‘La La Land’

Summit Entertainment

#23. La La Land (2016)

– Director: Damien Chazelle
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 128 minutes

“La La Land” follows two star-crossed lovers—one an actress, the other a jazz musician—as they pursue their dreams in Los Angeles. One big twist? The romantic dramedy, which won six Oscars, also happens to be a musical.

Fionn Whitehead in a scene from ‘Dunkirk’

Warner Bros.

#22. Dunkirk (2017)

– Director: Christopher Nolan
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 106 minutes

Christopher Nolan, known for blockbusters like “The Dark Knight” and “Inception,” directed this war film. The movie, which has an ensemble cast, illuminates the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II, showing it from the perspectives of air, sea, and land.

An Illustrated frame from ‘Inside Out’


#21. Inside Out (2015)

– Directors: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 95 minutes

What if your feelings had personalities? That’s the idea explored in Pixar’s “Inside Out,” a colorful film about the emotions of a young girl who moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Her emotions are voiced by Amy Poehler (“Joy”), Phyllis Smith (“Sadness”), Lewis Black (“Anger”), Mindy Kaling (“Disgust”), and Bill Hader (“Fear”).

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Viggo Mortenson, Ian McKellen and Orlando Bloom in a scene from ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’

New Line Cinema

#20. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

– Director: Peter Jackson
– Metascore: 94
– Runtime: 201 minutes

The final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy lived up to the hype as Frodo the hobbit nears Mount Doom. The other members of his fellowship fight to defeat the evil armies deployed to take them down. Though some mocked it for being long-winded (the runtime was nearly 3 1/2 hours), it was nominated for 11 Oscars—and won each one.

Bukky Bakray and Kosar Ali in a scene from ‘Rocks’

British Film Institute (BRI)

#19. Rocks (2019)

– Director: Sarah Gavron
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 93 minutes

After the sudden departure of her mother, a British teen (Bukky Bakray) must take care of herself and her younger brother (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) in this heartfelt drama. It offers a stark portrait of London life through the eyes of young women with authentic performances to match. At the BAFTAs, Bakray became the youngest actress to ever win the EE Rising Star Award.

Adele Haenel and Nome Merlant in a scene from “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Lilies Films

#18. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

– Director: Céline Sciamma
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 122 minutes

It might be set in the 18th century, but Céline Sciamma’s latest effort is far from the average costume drama. When a French artist named Marianne is commissioned to paint the portrait of a young woman, the two gradually develop a forbidden romance. In addition to winning Best Screenplay at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Sciamma became the first female director to win the Queer Palm.

Leila Hatami and Payman Maadi in a scene from ‘A Separation’

Sony Pictures Classics

#17. A Separation (2011)

– Director: Asghar Farhadi
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 123 minutes

This Iranian drama film is about the separation of a couple and the fallout from their decision. In 2012, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. This was a big accomplishment, considering it was the first foreign-language film to garner a nomination in that category in five years. Though it didn’t win, it did snag an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Jessica Chastain and Jessica Ann Collins in a scene from ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.

Columbia Pictures

#16. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

– Director: Kathryn Bigelow
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 157 minutes

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her critically acclaimed film “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” stars Jessica Chastain as CIA operative Maya, who spearheads the SEAL team-led search for Osama bin Laden. The story is based on actual events.

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Jeremy Renner in a scene from ‘The Hurt Locker’

Voltage Pictures

#15. The Hurt Locker (2008)

– Director: Kathryn Bigelow
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 131 minutes

Kathryn Bigelow’s drama takes on the high-stakes world of bomb disposal. This story depicts a sergeant in the Iraq War (Jeremy Renner) who faces conflict with his squad for his unconventional methods.

Jesse Eisenberg in a scene from ‘The Social Network’

Columbia Pictures Corporation

#14. The Social Network (2010)

– Director: David Fincher
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Today, billions of people around the globe use Facebook. David Fincher’s snappy drama fictionalizes the roots of the company, starting with its complicated beginnings at Harvard. Fincher digs into the darker side of Facebook’s founding, from the friendship-ending legal fights to the ways social networking has changed human interaction.

Ben Burtt in a scene from ‘WALL·E’

Walt Disney Pictures

#13. WALL·E (2008)

– Director: Andrew Stanton
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 98 minutes

Pixar’s sci-fi extravaganza “WALL·E” is about the last robot left on an abandoned Earth. He spends his days cleaning up trash until an encounter with a sleek space probe called EVE changes his life. Not only was this film by Andrew Stanton lauded for its beautiful art direction, but it was also beloved for its timely environmentalist message.

Promotional cast photo of ‘Roma’

Esperanto Filmoj

#12. Roma (2018)

– Director: Alfonso Cuarón
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 135 minutes

In this black-and-white, semi-autobiographical movie, Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men” and “Gravity”) takes viewers to 1970s Mexico City. It recounts a year in one household, examining the life of a housekeeper and the mother of four who employs her.

Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler in a scene from ‘Manchester by the Sea’

Amazon Studios

#11. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

– Director: Kenneth Lonergan
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 137 minutes

Filmed in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, this drama was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and based on a story by actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski. When the main character’s brother dies, he must care for his teenage nephew. Though star Casey Affleck’s performance was lauded, even winning him an Oscar, he later came under fire for sexual harassment allegations. As a result, he broke the tradition of presenting the Academy Award for Best Actress the following year.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o in a scene from ’12 Years a Slave’

Regency Enterprises

#10. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

– Director: Steve McQueen
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 134 minutes

Adapted from a slave memoir of the same name, this movie tells the real-life story of a free Black man in New York (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is kidnapped and sold back into slavery. During his 12th year of slavery, he has a chance meeting with a Canadian that changes his life. The film, which also earned Lupita Nyong’o her breakout, Oscar-winning role, won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

An animated still from ‘Ratatouille’

Pixar Animation Studios

#9. Ratatouille (2007)

– Directors: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 111 minutes

What would you do if you found out that your fancy French meal was made by a rat? That’s the premise of this 2007 Pixar film, wherein a rat named Remy teams up with a young kitchen worker at a restaurant named Linguini to secretly become a chef.

An animated still from ‘Spirited Away’

Studio Ghibli

#8. Spirited Away (2001)

– Director: Hayao Miyazaki
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 125 minutes

Beloved Japanese director and founder of the animation studio Studio Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki may be best known for “Spirited Away.” The coming-of-age, animated fantasy is about a 10-year-old girl who enters the spirit world.

A scene from the film ‘Parasite’

Barunson E&A

#7. Parasite (2019)

– Director: Bong Joon Ho
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 132 minutes

From the director of “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” comes this pitch-black comedy, in which the underprivileged Kim family inserts itself into a wealthy household. As a bizarre symbiotic relationship develops, parasitic metaphors bubble to the surface. It won the Palme d’Or at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival by unanimous decision.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a scene from ‘Gravity’

Warner Bros.

#6. Gravity (2013)

– Director: Alfonso Cuarón
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 91 minutes

This Alfonso Cuarón film focuses on a medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) on her first space mission and a veteran astronaut (George Clooney) on his last. When their shuttle is destroyed, the two of them are lost in space, fighting to survive.

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Jasna Djuricic in ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’

Deblokada Produkcija

#5. Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020)

– Director: Jasmila Zbanic
– Metascore: 97
– Runtime: 101 minutes

This gripping Bosnian drama unfolds against the backdrop of a violent war and dramatizes the notorious Srebrenica massacre. When the Serbian army takes control of her small town, a local UN translator tries desperately to save her family. Director Jasmila Zbanic’s minimalist approach renders palpable authenticity and severe emotional impact.

Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu in a scene from ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’

Mobra Films

#4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

– Director: Cristian Mungiu
– Metascore: 97
– Runtime: 113 minutes

Four months, three weeks, and two days: That’s how long a young Romanian woman has been pregnant. Aided by her university roommate, she seeks an illegal abortion. Directed by Cristian Mungiu, this film set in the late 1980s won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007.

Ivana Baquero in a scene from ‘Pan's Labyrinth’

Estudios Picasso

#3. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

– Director: Guillermo del Toro
– Metascore: 98
– Runtime: 118 minutes

Director Guillermo del Toro spins a twisted fairy tale with “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Set in Spain just after the Spanish Civil War, it relates the story of a young girl named Ofelia, whose stepfather is a murderous military officer. While her pregnant mother grows ill, Ofelia meets magical creatures who draw her into a whimsical, sometimes terrifying place called Pan’s Labyrinth.

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in a scene from “Moonlight”


#2. Moonlight (2016)

– Director: Barry Jenkins
– Metascore: 99
– Runtime: 111 minutes

The story of Chiron, a black boy living in Miami, is told in three parts. First, young Chiron befriends a drug dealer named Juan, who becomes a father figure to him. Next, he’s an adolescent struggling to survive in a household with a crack-addicted mother. Finally, he’s an adult man reckoning with how his life has turned out. Though this beautiful, emotional film was awarded the Academy Award for Best Picture, the ceremony is largely known for a gaffe from Oscar presenters, who accidentally announced “La La Land” as the winner before correcting themselves in one of the most awkward moments in Oscar history.

Ellar Coltrane in a scene from ‘Boyhood’

IFC Films

#1. Boyhood (2014)

– Director: Richard Linklater
– Metascore: 100
– Runtime: 165 minutes

Richard Linklater knows how to dedicate himself to his art. He filmed “Boyhood,” which examines a kid’s life over the course of 12 years, from his childhood up until he turns 18. He began with only basic plot points for this coming-of-age epic. The rest of the story evolved over the course of more than a decade of filming.

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