Come On BBC, Are These Really The 100 Greatest Films Of The 21st Century?

26/08/2016 2:12 AM IST | Updated 30/08/2016 8:34 AM IST

The BBC recently released a list of the 100 greatest films of the 21st century i.e. from the year 2000 onwards. The list was selected by a panel of 177 international film critics including a handful from India. To say that I am utterly disappointed with the picks would be an understatement. More than anything, the list reflects the jury's lack of understanding of contemporary world cinema. The choices made by some of the Indian critics, especially, are almost hilarious. So I have endeavoured to write this piece with the hope of examining what actually went wrong.

100 greatest films of the 21st century

A cursory skim-through of the list tells us that it is heavily lopsided in Hollywood's favour. The influence of the IMDB Top 250 cannot be denied. Unfortunately, the jury seems to have given greater weightage to popularity rather than cinematic merit. Perhaps, it is because of the jury's lack of exposure to the best of contemporary global cinema. Or maybe it is a case of lack of understanding of the contemporary world cinema on the part of the eminent jury members. After all, one cannot expect all 177 of them to be well versed with the recent developments in cinema. They don't teach that at school, do they? Even in film appreciation classes, world cinema is seldom touched upon. Whatever may be the case, the end result is a disaster.

The moment you see a film like 'The Wolf of Wall Street' on a major "Top 100" list, you begin to sense something fishy.

The moment you see a film like The Wolf of Wall Street on a major "Top 100" list, you begin to sense something fishy. And then you suddenly spot The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, and you can hear your hopes dashing against the ground. Wait, the list also has Carol, Spotlight, Brooklyn and Her! That's what I call adding insult to injury. Another disturbing trend that I noticed in the list is that while the lesser works of some directors found a place, the better ones were omitted. Even a village idiot would put The Departed (even though it is a remake) ahead of The Wolf of Wall Street. While Claire Denis's White Material has found a place on the list, her far superior work, The Intruder, is missing. Similarly, some of the better Lars von Trier films are missing.

We are in the 21st century and the grammar of cinema is fast changing; special effects have become an integral part of filmmaking. And yet the list overlooks visually groundbreaking films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar and Hugo. Clearly, it is more than an oversight.

The list overlooks visually groundbreaking films such as 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, 'Avatar' and 'Hugo'. Clearly, it is more than an oversight.

The jury also seems to have overlooked some very important filmmakers working today, including Mike Leigh, Naomi Kawase, Carlos Reygadas, Giuseppe Tornatore, and Semih Kaplanoğlu. The greatest shock, as far as I am concerned, is the absence of the late Chilean master filmmaker Raúl Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon, which is believed by many to be the first and the only true epic film of the 21st century.

If one looks closely at the poll results, one observes that while some of the jury members voted very intelligently, a larger section took their mandate rather casually. Take the case of the jury members from India. Of the five voters, two seems to have cast their votes without applying much thought. While their bias towards Indian films is pretty understandable, what is really strange is their tilt towards Hindi cinema. One expects better than that from seasoned film critics. If critics act so cavalierly, we cannot really blame the audience for their deteriorating tastes, can we?

But every cloud has a silver lining. While certain deserving films are expected to have their rightful place on such a list (such as There Will Be Blood, Pan's Labyrinth, The Great Beauty, etc.), it is quite heartening to see, in particular, films such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Return, Only Lovers Left Alive, A History of Violence, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Tree of Life, The Turin Horse, Leviathan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Certified Copy. Hopefully, next time the BBC will come up with a better compilation. Perhaps, they can take a leaf out of this eclectic list created by film blogger Jugu Abraham.

Here, reproduced for your convenience, is the full list of 100 films:

100. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)

100. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)

100. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010)

99. The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2000)

98. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)

97. White Material (Claire Denis, 2009)

96. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, 2003)

95. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)

94. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

93. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)

92. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)

91. The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella, 2009)

90. The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)

89. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)

88. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)

87. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

86. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)

85. A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, 2009)

84. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)

83. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)

82. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)

81. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)

80. The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003)

79. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)

78. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

77. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)

76. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)

75. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)

74. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

73. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)

72. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)

71. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

70. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)

69. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)

68. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)

67. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)

66. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003)

65. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)

64. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

63. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)

62. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

61. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)

60. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

59. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)

58. Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembène, 2004)

57. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

56. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, director; Ágnes Hranitzky, co-director, 2000)

55. Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013)

54. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)

53. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)

52. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)

51. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)

50. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)

49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)

48. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)

47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)

46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)

45. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

44. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

43. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)

42. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

41. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)

40. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

39. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)

38. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)

37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)

36. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)

35. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)

34. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)

33. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

32. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)

31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

30. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)

29. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)

28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)

27. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

26. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)

25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)

20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)

17. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)

16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)

14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)

13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)

12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)

10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)

7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)

4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)

1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

A version of this article was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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