pulse_kyoshi-kurosawa15. “Pulse” (2001)
The beginning of the new millennium saw technological anxiety creep into all kinds of films, mostly terrible horror movies about haunted cell-phones or Diane Lane trying to find a webcam killer. Easily the most twitchy and disturbing of this sub-genre, or indeed arguably the most twitchy and disturbing film of the past 16 years, was Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Pulse.” Long buried by the Weinsteins in favor of their terrible Kristen Bell-starring remake, the original tells two loosely connected stories that see souls of dead people begin to invade the physical world through the internet. Which sounds silly, but in fact Kurosawa turns out something deeply, soul-shakingly sad, carefully curating an eerie mood to unsettle you completely, while also exploring the disconnected nature of internet life in a way that doesn’t come across as shaking the fist at kids. By the apocalyptic finale, you’ll be ready to throw your router in the dumpster.

Poetry-Lee-Chang-Dong14. “Poetry” (2010)
Such a quiet, perfect film it’s possible to believe afterwards that you only dreamed it, Lee Chang-dong‘s “Poetry” feels like the apex of the modern humanist tradition in Asian cinema, blending melodramatic, lyrical and realist elements into one seamless, devastating whole. The tapestry is held together however, by an impeccable central performance from the beautiful Yun Junghee, playing a grandmother whose encroaching Alzheimer’s sees her begin to forget the words she needs to complete a poem for her poetry class. With her doted-upon grandson implicated in a horrible crime, and financial pressures bearing down, somehow emotions that are impossible to verbalize shine through in the pinning on of a hat or in world cinema’s most heartbreaking badminton scene. Yet despite being replete with the sadness of experiencing the lights slowly dimming at the end of life, there is still room and time in Lee’s film for so much beauty.

Bamako-Sissako13. “Bamako” (2006)
There’s shamefully little African cinema here on this list — while countries as different as Iran, Korea and Romania have had major explosions on the world cinema scene in the last few years, African nations are yet to get the kind of crossover exposure on the whole that they should. But one of the major breakouts is the great Mauritian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, whose recent “Timbuktu” is one of the best films of the last few years, but whose “Bamako” might be even better. Set in Mali, it’s a fascinating sort of docu-drama hybrid that imagines a trial of the World Bank and globalization, and its effect on the African continent. Lest it feel like being barked at by a Bernie Bro for a couple of hours, though, Sissako helms with a sense of playfulness, poetry, humor, and humanity, up to and including a film-within-a-film, a Spaghetti Western called “Death In Timbuktu” starring Danny Glover, steering the film far away from ever becoming self-righteous.

Y Tu Mama Tambien, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal12. “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001)
At the turn of the millennium, Alfonso Cuarón was coming off “Great Expectations,” perhaps the lone real disappointment of the filmmaker’s career. But just three years later, he had a hell of a career reboot with “Y Tu Mamá También,” a deft little Spanish language picture that led to the acclaimed blockbusters that would follow. Something of a throwback to his debut “Sólo Con Tu Pareja,” it’s concerned with two sex-crazed young Mexican teenagers (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna) who end up on a spontaneous road trip with an older woman (Maribel Verdú). It could feel like a sort of juvenile wish-fulfillment comedy, but the film’s youthful, New Wave-ish energy combines with an incisive feel for male friendship and competitiveness and a laid-back assuredness that elevates it far above the familiar setup. It’s a reminder that it’s all in the execution: In the hands of a master filmmaker like Cuarón, something as seemingly modest as this can become a classic.

yi-yi-edward-yang11. “Yi Yi: A One And A Two” (2000)
The loss of Taiwanese director Edward Yang, who passed away from cancer in 2007 aged just 59, is one of the most devastating that cinema suffered this century: If the seven films he made were anything to go by, and particularly his last, “Yi Yi,” there would have been remarkable work to come from him, too. Winning him Best Director at Cannes, the three-hour “Yi Yi” is the sweeping tale of the Jian in the aftermath of the departure of their mother to a Buddhist retreat. Like a sprawling family saga of a novel brought to the screen, it showcases a quality that Yang shares with Yasujiro Ozu and few others: His work never feels constructed or artificial, but as if lives just unfolded that happened to be in front of a camera. It’s a deeply human masterpiece, a film that’s impossible to overpraise, and thinking about it makes Yang’s absence hurt even now.

  • 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: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/a-response-to-the-50-best-foreign-language-movies-of-the-21st-century-so-far?intcid=mod-latest

    – 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.