For the next few posts, I’m going to list my top 25 films of this new century, organized by my excessive nerdiness and a ridiculous metric I designed to rate each film mathematically.
Here are numbers 25 through 21:
#25: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Bigger than both its predecessors in nearly every regard, this final installment in the Rings trilogy offers an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the saga. The battles are appropriately huge, but the film thrives on small, quiet moments, like Gandalf’s soliloquy on death and Frodo and Sam on the slopes of Mount Doom.
One of Pixar’s most surprisingly mature films, this one is blessed with one of the best scripts of the 21st century. Special highlights include Anton Ego’s monologue about the nature of criticism.
Spike Jonze’s only-slightly futuristic look at loneliness, technology, and human relationships in the 21st century pulls off the silly-sounding premise of a man falling in love with an operating system with its realistic tone. The screenplay and performances are all exceptional. One of the best recent films about modern Western humanity’s inability to connect despite increased “connectivity.”
#22: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
An absolutely mind-bending script from Charlie Kauffman and in-camera tricks from director Michel Gondry highlight this surreal trip.
Joel (Jim Carrey) decides to undergo an experimental treatment to erase all the memories of his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). We watch as an unconscious Joel realizes from inside his mind that he doesn’t want to lose Clementine after all, and the pair run through Joel’s memories, desperately trying to hide from their impending erasure. It’s funny, surreal, and has a surprising amount to say about how we deal with pain and memory.
Fresh off the success of “Prisoners” and the artistry of “Enemy,” director Denis Villeneuve turned what could’ve been a by-the-book movie about Mexican cartels into a much deeper thing. The whole film is acted and timed impeccably, and there’s a sense of dread over all the proceedings. But the crowning achievement comes in what happens on the level of narrative: 3/4 of the way through the film, there’s a jarring shift in protagonists, and the fact that we as an audience are willing to follow the story in a completely new direction says a lot about Villeneuve’s mastery.