summer-hours40. “Summer Hours” (2008)
Olivier Assayas is one of the most restless, mutable filmmakers we have, but his best film is quite a distance away from something like “Irma Vep” or “Demonlover” — it’s “Summer Hours,” his low-key Chekhovian drama about a family’s last gathering in the country estate of their mother (Edith Scob). Gentle, quiet and talk-heavy, but totally beautifully observed, and immaculately played by a cast including Juliette Binoche and Jérémie Renier, it’s one of the best-ever meditations on the way that things and places can hold a sentimental power over us.

39. “Leviathan” (2014)
Everything that Andrey Zvyagintsev, maybe Russia’s best director working today, has made so far is worth checking out, but his most major work to date is his epic “Leviathan,” loosely inspired by the Book of Job and following a mechanic (Aleksei Serebryakov) involved in a property dispute with his town’s corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov). Scabrous in its criticism of Putin’s Russia and the Orthodox Church, and feeling mammoth in its scope while telling an intimate story, it’s a beautiful, darkly hilarious, utterly distinctive film.

irreversible-238. “Irreversible” (2002)
It’s not a film you particularly want to rewatch — it’s a famously horrifying and extreme picture — but while Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible has its flaws (principally a queasily homophobic streak), it’s immaculately crafted and packs a gigantic gut-punch. The film’s an almost Jacobean story of revenge, as Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) attempt to avenge the beyond-brutal rape of Marcus’ partner Alex (Monica Bellucci), but told backwards in a way that proves utterly haunting. For all its queasy, juvenile impulses, it’s a film that doesn’t let audience, or men in general, off the hook even for a second.

37. “Tabu” (2012)
His recent “Arabian Nights” trilogy might have been his magnum opus, but to us, Portuguese helmer Miguel Gomes’ masterpiece is “Tabu,” a black-and-white tribute to/pastiche of F.W. Murnau’s film of the same name that tells the story of an elderly woman in Lisbon, and then her romance in Africa 50 years earlier. The first half is principally set-up, but the second is something truly gorgeous: a swooning, sexy postcolonial Romantic tragedy with a sly sense of humor and a great soundtrack.

7adc0-millenium-mambo-2001-01-g36. “Millennium Mambo” (2001)
On first glance, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “Millennium Mambo” seems a world away from his recent, much-acclaimed “The Assassin” — it’s a film lit by neon and street light and haunted by the thud of a techno beat from the night before. But even aside from Shu Qi’s lead performances, the film, which follows young Vicky and her tumultuous romance with Hao-Hao (Tuan Chun-hao), is united by sheer beauty, the tactility with which he films the environments, and a soulfulness that sneaks up on you. Dismissed as slight by some at the time, it now feels anything but.

35. “Ida” (2013)
2015 Best Foreign Language film Oscar-winner, the ravishing beautiful black-and-white photography of Pawel Pawlikowski‘s “Ida” is the first thing that strikes you, but its mood of quiet, deep-rooted introspection is even more memorable. The slim story, set in 1960s Poland, of an orphaned Catholic novice visiting her worldly aunt only to discover that her parents were Jewish, it is a film of deceptive simplicity but tremendous power: the very definition of still waters running fathomlessly deep.

mommy-xavier-dolan34. “Mommy” (2014)
Canadian director Xavier Dolan is a divisive presence on the international cinema scene — there are those who find his high-anxiety, Almodóvar-esque melodramas just too rich to stomach. But “Mommy” represents the most overwhelmingly generous and accessible version of his recurring themes. Set off by revelatory performances from Anne Dorval and Antoine-Olivier Pilon, the story of a troubled youth’s combative relationship with his tigerish mother, it’s a film overflowing with tough love, tragedy and transcendently trashy tunes.

33. “Girlhood” (2014)
A coming-of-age tale that’s been shaken by the shoulders and given a hard, unsentimental edge, Céline Sciamma‘s “Girlhood” definitely made good on the promise of her debut, “Water Lilies.” A gruffly lyrical evocation of the struggles of a young black woman (Karidja Touré) growing up in the literally marginalized suburbs of Paris, it’s a beautiful, profoundly moving evocation of the desire to belong and the dawning realization that sometimes the cost of that belonging is too high.

04-a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night132.”A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” (2014)
It’s a mark of the assurance and flair of Ana Lily Amirpour‘s debut that it immediately snaps you round from wondering how an Iranian vampire movie could possibly work to wondering why on earth it took us so long to get an Iranian vampire movie. Doomy, deliberate and delicious, and shot in toothsome black and white, it also features a terrific soundtrack in which a song literally called “Death” becomes the most swooningly romantic ballad you’ve ever heard.

31. “Two Days, One Night” (2014)
It was a coin toss as to which Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne film would slot in here as representing one of the most consistent corpuses of work the 21st century has to offer. But we’ve gone with their Marion Cotillard-starrer partly because it features such a stunning performance from the actress, and partly because, in its structure as a ticking-clock thriller, it’s maybe their most accessible film, yet still makes a powerful, complex social statement.

  • Daniel

    i like everything of this list except the number one. volver is not even top 10, I think that Like Someone In Love is the best movie of this century, and is not debatable. period.

    • Matt

      I’ll take Certified Copy over Like Someone In Love any day.

  • Jim

    Did I miss something? Is Almodovar’s ‘Talk To Her’ not on this list? You’re nuts.

    • Amateurcinephile

      Only one film per director, which winds up excluding a lot of great films. But I do appreciate that they spread the love and gave a lot of films and filmmakers some more exposure and recognition.

    • Katya Meyer

      Head On, Wild Tales, Talk to Her, Carlos, The Great Beauty, The Best of Youth.

    • D Isaacs

      Maybe it’s finally catching up to people that it’s a film about a guy who rapes a woman who’s in a coma/unconscious, one that never condemns the act, indeed one that suggests, in the end, it was all for the best–she comes out of her coma! gets a miracle rape baby to raise! This wouldn’t be a good week for that film to be on a list like this.

    • xxxgreta

      It’s not on the list when it’s much better than Volver (no. 1 on the list).

  • filmaboutlove

    Pleasently surprised to see “Volver” as the number one film on here but I’m kind of liking the idea. As one of my favorite directors ever, Pedro can do no wrong. Also as spanish being my first language “I’m So Excited” was absolutely hilarious. Maybe the subtitles didn’t translate well for you guys.

  • Mike Donnelly

    Did “Pheonix” not make it on there?

    • Levi

      Yes I agree that Phoenix should definitely be here, as should The Turin Horse, The Tribe, House of Tolerance, La Sapienza, Humanité (released here in 2000), Touch of Sin, Child’s Pose, Les chansons d’amour, Mysteries of Lisbon, The Milk of Sorrow, Crimson Gold, The Day He Arrives, Import/Export, Les amants réguliers,The Barbarian Invasions, Audition, Stray Dogs, Police Adjective, The Strange Little Cat, Post Tenebras Lux, Gomorrah, Eureka (Yurîka), etc. I also would switch out Volver for Talk to Her. In fact any of Almodovar’s films from this century (other than I’m So Excited, obviously), I find myself rewatching. Especially Talk to Her, The Skin I’m In and Bad Education. I have never returned to Volver. Maybe I will.

  • MAL

    I kept waiting for Werckmeister Harmonies to appear on the list. It is utterly mesmerizing (if you have the patience for it) and I would personally have it in the top 10. I think Cache is the perfect choice for a Haneke film and I might have put it in the number one spot. Also glad you recognized Kurasawa’s Pulse, a chilling and haunting film that doesn’t go away. Great list overall with excellent choices for any serious film-goer but a futile endeavour trying to rank them in any order.

  • JJ

    Volver is deservedly number one.

  • Oscar Carlos Jalife

    And what about Okuribito (Departures)?

  • GilbranoS

    Loved the list. I screamed at my screen with the number 3 ’cause I thought you forgot that film. But no Entre Les Murs (The Class)? Wow, that’s heavy

  • Allan

    Honestly can’t really disagree with the list a lot of great films but I was a bit disappointed that “A Prophet” didn’t make the cut or wasn’t even included in the honorable mentions, it has to be considered one of the best crime films ever made

  • thenystateofmind

    Not sure if I missed it but Audiard’s “A Prophet” is without question one of the best. Very surprised to see this excluded. Even his newest Dheepan is worthy of a lower spot. Besides that, Certified Copy is Top 10 and Let The Right One In is much deserving of a higher spot on this list, IMO.

  • a_digital_index

    I would be tempted to rank Tabu by Gomes higher. I would have Castaing-Taylor’s and Paravel’s Leviathan somewhere high on this list. And perhaps Godard’s Adieu au Langage

  • ahnmin

    Love Exposure!

  • fable jay scorcher

    You had Edgo of Heaven in your also rans, but Head-On towers over most of this. Also sorry not to see any mention of The Best of Youth. Otherwise, you guys are pretty good with the subtitled stuff.

  • jammamon

    No Amelie (2001)???

  • Benutty

    is this list a joke

  • Amateurcinephile

    A Prophet (or Rust and Bone for director Jacques Audiard), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Oslo August 31st, The Broken Circle Breakdown, & The Secret In Their Eyes were all films I was hoping to see on the list, also surprised to see Amelie missing. I would have had Amour on there too, but the “only one film per director” kept it from the list. Overall though, I tip my hat to the list, it’s a nice starting point for film fans looking to enter the world of international cinema.

  • Brett

    I would argue “A Prophet” definitely deserved to be on the list. So did “The White Ribbon”. Also think a case could be made for the original version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Secret in their Eyes.” “Persepolis” deserved to make the main list.

    I would have moved “Incendies” much higher on the list. I was blown away by that film.

  • Username too long

    Not bereft until the fall at all. Right Now, Wrong Then is released on the 24th of June.

  • Howard Carson

    Amélie should have been on there somewhere…

  • lauramoreaux

    Interesting list, really.

  • Jacob Gehman

    Not bad!
    I would have liked to see Martyrs make the cut, especially since the list doesn’t shy away from controversial films.

  • mike

    Tell no one? Or did I miss it. Brilliant film I though no?

  • James

    Great list, terribly our of order. I would have put Embrace Of The Serpent right near the top.

  • Sam Hamilton

    pls do a list of the best scores of the 21st century so far
    thank u very much, goodbye
    ly playlist xo

  • cababanga

    There should have been at least a movie from Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Winter Sleep, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Three Monkeys…

    • Guestbusters

      Distant is his masterpiece, with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia a close second–a virtual tie.

  • D Isaacs

    Post Tenebras Lux

  • A man with a knife

    Response to this list:

    – Terrible list by NY-guy. Typical smug + self-indulgence; focus on ‘relevant mediocrity’ that no one will remember after three months. This list with all its faults is still incomparably better, most people will find something here that they like – films that inspire and films that will be remembered. But anyway, that kind of cultural racism is representative considering who published it.

  • Sophie

    I liked the list, especially to see Two Days One Night and Volver in it.

  • shashibiya

    A list that doesn’t include Jia Zhang Ke can’t be taken seriously.

  • newcolour

    A notable title missing form this: Spirited Away, by Hayao Miyazaki.

    • Paulo A. Bueno

      Agreed! It’s Top 10 and so many people agree with that!

  • JT

    Honestly can’t take this list seriously with no mention of Amelie or Departures. And no Intouchables either.

    • Levi

      Three of the most rubbish foreign films of the new century. Clearly, you like treacle.

      • JT

        Ok professor.

  • Amy Harris

    I love this list and agree wholeheartedly with pretty much all of it. If there was room for more I would add The Piano Teacher, Girlhood, Pure, A Wolf At The Door and Lust Caution.

    • buddy

      Girlhood is #33.

  • sotiris

    Though ‘White Material’ seems to perfectly suit the ‘characteristic post-colonial film’ identity, M Haneke’s ‘Cache’ still is the most typical example of the burden, a post-colonial democracy bears.

  • sotiris

    Moreover, Srdan Golubovic ‘Klopka’ is a very clear film about the prospects in a post-communist serbian society, for the likes of Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu.

  • No list of 21st century foreign language films is complete without the Tabárez classic, Merchants of the Undead Sea. Or how about Cogan’s Arugula? This list is gibberish.

  • ladyday

    The man without the past by Aki Kaurismäki

  • Richard Feilden

    I’d love to see at least an ‘also ran’ for Or: My Treasure. Hard to watch, but wonderful central performances.

  • Cristina

    I want to add two Hungarian movies, Taxidermia (2006) and Kontroll (2003), and a French one Une nouvelle amie (2014)

  • Mark Sartor

    I found it laughable that ‘Like someone In Love” was the 3rd best film on the list. I just watched it, and it’s at best Average.. wow.. what a let down..

    • xxxgreta

      Are you referring to this list? No. 3 on this list is a Korean film.

  • THX11384EB

    Laughable having ‘Volver’ at number 1. Around 25 films on this list are better than it.

  • Philip Heard

    No anime? That’s a problem.

  • vladdy

    Being a person who doesn’t expect (or even really want) someone else’s list to look exactly like mine, I absolutely loved this list. It led me to a few things I wasn’t familiar with, doubled my desire to see quite a few I haven’t gotten to yet, and reminded me of the pleasure I found when watching the ones I had already seen. What else could you want from a list like this? I love Volver at number one. I’ve been expecting this film to eventually receive the acclaim it deserves–nice way to start! I also loved the one director-one film rule, since it allowed you to spread the wealth a little more. It seems silly to complain that A Prophet and Lust, Caution are not on here (although I would have put them both) when their directors are mentioned for other films and those films are at least considered. All in all, thanks for a great afternoon’s activity!

  • Mr. Project

    Too many notable missing pieces to be taken 100% serious:

    – Rust and Bone
    – A Prophet
    – Amelie
    – The Intouchables
    – A Secret in Their Eyes
    – Battle Royale

    …..but with that being said, I appreciate having some unseen foreign films to add to the list.

  • JackN

    La Haine (1995)
    Home (2008)
    The great beauty (2013)
    A prophet (2009)

    My fav foreign films.

  • daniel23

    Yeah, as many have mentioned here, `A Prophet’ is the most baffling omission – it’s probably my favorite foreign language film of this new century. (Rust & Bone, Read my Lips, also great). It seems animation didn’t make the cut, but `Spirited Away’ feels like it should be here. And `Hero’ – for all the debate on its politics – is one of the most visually beautiful films in existence. I also think more recent films `Embrace of the Serpent’, `Theeb’, `Force Majeure’ are worthy, but maybe they need more time to sink in. Fantastic list overall, love the article.

  • jintsyboy

    Any Top 50 list that does not include “Secret In Their Eyes”, “Mustang” or “Lady Vengeance” (or fails to even mention “The Club” as an Honorable Mention), but puts “Dogtooth” in the top ten, is someone’s idea of a joke.

  • xxxgreta

    Tangerines (aka Mandariniid).
    I don’t agree with Volver being number 1; Talk To Her is much better.
    And yes, Spirited Away is much better than half of the films on the list.
    Farhadi’s About Elly is also deserving.

  • Dying_in_this_Crap_World

    Only 1 scifi fantasty or horror? WHAT THE FUCK!@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Po Tater

    No mention anywhere of Gegen die Wand (Head-On) from Fatih Akin. Birol Unel’s performance is amazing.

  • Phil Surtees

    Ah … contrary to your claim, the Second World War did NOT end when Hitler died. Remember those pesky Japanese? You know … those guys who kept fighting even after copping the first atomic bomb? Yeah … them…

  • Obedaea

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

  • Erick Aguilar

    After the Wedding (2006)

  • Derek

    This writer got “The Lives of Others” wrong. Sebastian Koch plays a well-known PLAYWRIGHT. He does not play a composer in the film.

  • yeildoo .

    El Orfanato…. Great movie, scary but not a slasher movie at all. Love it.