'Mulholland Drive' Tops BBC's 100 Best Films of the 21st Century List

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in ‘Mulholland Drive’ (Photo: Everett)

Is it too soon to start ranking the 21st century’s best films? The BBC doesn’t think so. Today, the British news network published its list of the top 100 films since the year 2000, compiled from a survey of 177 critics and film experts around the world. The list is short on comedy and big on dark dramas, with healthy smattering of Pixar films and a surprising pick for No. 1: Mulholland Drive, David Lynch’s nonlinear nightmare about an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts, in her breakout role) whose dreams are crushed.

Released in 2001, Mulholland Drive actually started out life as a failed TV pilot for ABC and wasn’t an enormous hit with mainstream audiences — but it did well at the specialty box office and garnered a Best Director nomination for Lynch. Two other American films appear in the top five: Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 drama There Will be Blood (No. 3) and Richard Linklater’s 2014 coming-of-age saga Boyhood (No. 5), both Academy Awards favorites. The 2001 fantasy film Spirited Away, directed by master Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, appears at No. 4, and the No. 2 spot goes to Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 period romance In the Mood for Love.

Overall, the BBC list skews quite dark, including enough films by Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke, and Steve McQueen to make a really depressing marathon. No outright comedies made the cut — perhaps because international tastes in comedy vary so much — but some whimsical borderline-comedies did, including Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (highly ranked at No. 6), and four of Pixar’s animated family adventures (Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Inside Out and Ratatouille.)

Genre films are in short supply, with a few exceptions: post-apocalyptic fantasy Mad Max: Fury Road, sci-fi epic A.I., and artsy horror film Under the Skin made the list, but none of the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Kill Bill movies are included. Some favorite American directors are surprisingly underrepresented: the list includes only one film each from Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), and Steven Spielberg (the aforementioned A.I.), and none by David O. Russell or Woody Allen. On the plus side, their absence makes way for lesser-seen films like Sarah Polley’s stunning documentary Stories We Tell, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s fascinating romantic drama Certified Copy, and one of Brad Pitt’s least profitable films, the contemplative Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Read the complete list here, and the list that inspired it — last year’s 100 Greatest American Films poll — here.

Watch a trailer for ‘Mulholland Drive:’