8.26 update: I tapped out a similar list in April 2016, but here’s a refresh anyway. If you start with 1.1.00, the 21st Century is now 18 and 1/2 years old. By my count there are 117 films from this period that made a significant dent in the zeitgeist. If you haven’t seen the vast majority of these, you need to get cracking.
Since the beginning of 2010, or the start of the 21st Century’s second decade, at least 73 films that were and are really good opened commercially. 73 films within eight and a half years, or roughly nine per year. Add to these HE’s best of the first decade, which number 44, and you have 117. By the end of this year the tally will probably be at 122 or thereabouts.
Best of 2017 so far: Dunkirk, Call Me By Your Name, Graduation, Baby Driver (except for the last 15 minutes), Get Out, Personal Shopper (long-delayed commercial release), Logan (excessive violence excepted) (7)
Best of 2016: Manchester By The Sea, La La Land, Personal Shopper (Cannes/Toronto screenings), Elle, A Bigger Splash, The Witch, Eye in the Sky, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, The Confirmation, The Invitation. (11)
Best of 2015: Spotlight, The Revenant; Mad Max: Fury Road; Beasts of No Nation; Love & Mercy, Son of Saul; Brooklyn; Carol, Everest, Ant-Man; The Big Short. (12)
Best of 2014: Birdman, Citizen Four, Leviathan, Gone Girl, Boyhood, Locke, Whiplash, Wild Tales, Nightcrawler, Grand Budapest Hotel, It Follows. (11)
Best of 2013: The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Dallas Buyers Club, Before Midnight, The Past, Frances Ha (8).
Best of 2012: Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Barbara, The Grey, Moonrise Kingdom (7).
Best of 2011 (ditto): A Separation, Moneyball, Drive, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, X-Men: First Class, Attack the Block (7).
Best of 2010: The Social Network, The Fighter, Black Swan, Inside Job, Let Me In, A Prophet, Animal Kingdom, Rabbit Hole, The Tillman Story, Winter’s Bone (10).
42 Best of the First Decade (’00 to ’09): Zodiac, Memento, Traffic, Amores perros, United 93, Children of Men, Adaptation, City of God, The Pianist, The Lives of Others, Brokeback Mountain, Sexy Beast, Avatar, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Almost Famous (the “Untitled” DVD director’s cut), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Collateral, Dancer in the Dark, A Serious Man, Girlfight, The Departed, Babel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Ghost World, In the Bedroom, Talk to Her, Bloody Sunday, No Country For Old Men, The Quiet American, Whale Rider, Road to Perdition, Open Range, Touching the Void, Maria Full of Grace, Up In The Air, The Hurt Locker, Million Dollar Baby, The Motorcycle Diaries, An Education, Man on Wire, Revolutionary Road, Che and Volver. (44)