The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films

INTRODUCTION to The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films (including films from 2000)
Current Version: February 2021 (14th edition)
Published on February 20, 2021
The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films is an annually updated amalgamation of critics' end-of-year, end-of-decade, all-time, and miscellaneous lists/ballots relating to films released from 2000 onwards. It contains, based on TSPDT's calculations, the 1,000 leading films (critically-speaking) from 2000 to 2020. It has been compiled from the multiple lists/ballots of 3,806 critics/sources.

Well, it was certainly a challenging year for cinema in 2020, and 2021 doesn't appear to be any less so. Despite this, there was some cracking films released, and many of those have made their way into this year's edition. In summary, a total of 60 films came and went, including 36 entrants from 2019 and 2020. Some notable movements were as follows-:


- Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann was the biggest climber within the top-50, and is now in striking distance of the top-10.
- The battle for number one is on.
In the Mood for Love is once again this year's number one, as it has been since the first listing in 2008, however, there is now only a small number of points separating it from David Lynch's second-placed Mulholland Dr.
- The highest entrant was Kelly Reichardt's First Cow.
- The biggest climber within the Top-1000 was
Pedro Costa's Vitalina Varela, which featured in many of the end-of-decade ballots added throughout 2020.
- The biggest climber within the Top-250 was
Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
- Courtesy of
Tenet, Christopher Nolan now has the most films in the top 1,000. Wong Kar-wai still remains the most acclaimed director, though.

The 10 Most Acclaimed Films of the 21st Century
1. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE Wong Kar-wai
2. MULHOLLAND DR. David Lynch
3. YI YI Edward Yang
4. THE TREE OF LIFE Terrence Malick
5. THERE WILL BE BLOOD Paul Thomas Anderson
6. SPIRITED AWAY Hayao Miyazaki
7. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND Michel Gondry
8. CACHÉ Michael Haneke
9. TROPICAL MALADY Apichatpong Weerasethakul
10. UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES Apichatpong Weerasethakul

TSPDT's 50 Most Critically-Acclaimed Films of 2020 (based only on 2020 end-of-year ballots)
According to TSPDT's numbers, Kelly Reichardt's First Cow was the most critically-acclaimed film of 2020. Last year I noted how fantastic it was to see four films in the top ten directed by women. Well, this year there are five films, and in actual fact six of the first eleven, helmed by women filmmakers. Also of note is Spike Lee's two appearances in the top-ten with wildly differing works, and Steve McQueen's Small Axe series has captured the number 2 spot (Lovers Rock) and number 18 spot (Mangrove).

1. FIRST COW Kelly Reichardt
2. LOVERS ROCK Steve McQueen
3. NOMADLAND Chloé Zhao
4. NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS Eliza Hittman
5. I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS Charlie Kaufman
6. DA 5 BLOODS Spike Lee
7. TIME Garrett Bradley
8. DAVID BYRNE'S AMERICAN UTOPIA Spike Lee
9. THE ASSISTANT Kitty Green
10. BACURAU Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho

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11. DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD Kirsten Johnson
12. BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS Bill Ross IVl & Turner Ross
13. COLLECTIVE Alexander Nanau
14. MINARI Lee Isaac Chung
15. MANK David Fincher
16. WOLFWALKERS Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart
17. CITY HALL Frederick Wiseman
18. MANGROVE Steve McQueen
19. SOUND OF METAL Darius Marder
20. BEANPOLE Kantemir Balagov
21. SHIRLEY Josephine Decker
22. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN Emerald Fennell
23. VITALINA VARELA Pedro Costa
24. SAINT MAUD Rose Glass
25. THE INVISIBLE MAN Leigh Whannell
26. MARTIN EDEN Pietro Marcello
27. PALM SPRINGS Max Barbakow
28. SOUL Pete Docter
29. THE VAST OF NIGHT Andrew Patterson
30. POSSESSOR Brandon Cronenberg
31. DAYS Tsai Ming-liang
32. ROCKS Sarah Gavron
33. TENET Christopher Nolan
34. SHE DIES TOMORROW Amy Seimetz
35. BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM Jason Woliner
36. KAJILLIONAIRE Miranda July
37. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Aaron Sorkin
38. THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION Radha Blank
39. ANOTHER ROUND Thomas Vinterberg
40. THE NEST Sean Durkin
41. RELIC Natalie Erika James
42. HIS HOUSE Remi Weekes
43. THE WOMAN WHO RAN Hong Sang-soo
44. MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM George C. Wolfe
45. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… Regina King
46. ON THE ROCKS Sofia Coppola
47. THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF Benjamin Ree
48. THE DISCIPLE Chaitanya Tamhane
49. THE YEAR OF THE DISCOVERY Luis López Carrasco
50. THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD Armando Iannucci

Directors with the most films in the 21st Century list:
9 - Christopher Nolan
8 - Steven Spielberg, Claire Denis, Richard Linklater, Martin Scorsese
7 - Wes Anderson, Spike Lee, Jia Zhangke, Frederick Wiseman, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Quentin Tarantino
6 - Steve McQueen, Jean-Luc Godard, David Cronenberg, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Hong Sang-soo, Pedro Almodóvar, Tsai Ming-liang
5 - Gus Van Sant, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, Bong Joon-ho, Clint Eastwood, Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, Abbas Kiarostami, Edgar Wright, Steven Soderbergh, Hou Hsiao-hsien, James Gray, Kelly Reichardt, Michael Haneke, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Olivier Assayas, Paul Thomas Anderson, Pedro Costa, Denis Villeneuve, Lars von Trier, Jafar Panahi.

Breakdown of 1,000 films by Year:
2000 = 64 (no change)
2001 = 52 (-2)
2002 = 62 (-6)
2003 = 56 (-3)
2004 = 67 (-4)
2005 = 47 (-1)
2006 = 58 (-5)
2007 = 53 (-2)
2008 = 54 (-1)
2009 = 46 (-2)
2010 = 50 (-1)
2011 = 48 (-2)
2012 = 41 (-6)
2013 = 44 (-1)
2014 = 45 (-1)
2015 = 42 (-1)
2016 = 39 (+1)
2017 = 38 (-1)
2018 = 37 (+3)
2019 = 33 (+11)
2020 = 24 (+24)

Breakdown of 1,000 films by Decade:
2000s = 559 (-26)
2010s = 417 (+2)
2020s = 24 (+24)

Breakdown of 1,000 films by Country (Top 10 in bold):
Argentina 12 (-1), Australia 10 (-1), Austria 10 (+2), Belgium 6 (-1), Brazil 9 (+1), Cambodia 2, Canada 21 (+1), Chad 1, Chile 4 (-1), China 21, Colombia 2, Czech Republic 1, Denmark 9 (+1), Finland 4, France 114 (-7), Germany 21 (-4), Greece 3, Hong Kong 7, Hungary 4 (+1), India 2 (-1), Indonesia 2 (-1), Iran 12 (-1), Iraq 1, Ireland 9 (+1), Israel 2 (-2), Italy 23 (+4), Japan 19 (-3), Mali 1, Mauritania 1, Mexico 8 (+1), Nepal 1, Netherlands 2 (-1), New Zealand 5, Norway 2, Philippines 3, Poland 2, Portugal 14, Romania 9, Russia 11 (+3), Saudi Arabia 1, Senegal 1, South Africa 1, South Korea 26, Spain 20 (-2), Sweden 12, Switzerland 3, Taiwan 9 (+1), Thailand 7, Turkey 5, Ukraine 1, United Kingdom 100 (+3), Uruguay 1, USA 423 (+8).

For those that disagree with the inclusion of made-for-television content in the 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films listing, listed below are the seven titles that would be included to replace Li'l Quinquin, The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear, The Wire, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, O.J.: Made in America, and Twin Peaks: The Return-:

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)
Flanders (Bruno Dumont, 2006)
La Vie nouvelle (Philippe Grandrieux, 2002)
March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet, 2005)
Barbara (Christian Petzold, 2012)
All or Nothing (Mike Leigh, 2002)
Blancanieves (Pablo Berger, 2011)

Please Note-: There is no correlation between this listing of the 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films and the 1,000 Greatest Films. You will note that the highest ranked 21st Century films within the 1,000 Greatest Films do not line-up with the rankings within this listing. The core difference is that this listing incorporates end-of-year ballots, whereas the 1,000 Greatest Films does not.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the compilation of this edition (and previous editions for that matter) and to everyone who has contacted me with their ongoing support. Your enthusiasm and assistance is very much appreciated. Please email your feedback (good, bad, or ugly) to bill@theyshootpictures.com.

Begin browsing the 2021 edition of The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films.

Download the list of the 21st Century's most acclaimed 1,000 films
Download the starting list of 8,696 films (featuring, for the first time, rankings for every film)