Although a few people like to claim that cinema is dead, it is necessary to say that cinema is alive and well. Since the beginning of the 21st century, many new creative voices emerged in cinema, making remarkable masterpieces.
On this list, we approach some of them that are unique in one or more aspects. The themes, the visual, the mise en scène, or even the use of 3D and the time it took to be filmed are things that can be considered on an article like this.
Also, this is not a list that plans to represent the whole 21st century, but one that plans to introduce and talk about amazing films made from 2000 to 2017, the year when this article is being written. We know that the century started officially in 2001, but there is an approximation so we can talk about the number 9 on our list, a masterpiece by Béla Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky, especially because it premiered in 2001 in Hungary, the birthplace of Tarr & Hranitzky.
It is never late to remember that it is really impossible to fit all the “unique” movies of this century on an article and that we could fit hundreds or thousands of them on this one, but factors like memory and personal preferences are the main ones while making a list like this one. Please, if you think any other film should be on this list, leave it as a recommendation in the comments section below.
So, here are 10 very unique movies of the 21st century you should watch.
10. Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman)
Every work with the name Charlie Kaufman on it is very unique, and “Synecdoche, New York” is not different.
In this film, a theatre director experiences a sort of crisis in his work and his personal life while he builds a replica of New York City inside a gigantic warehouse in the time he is elaborating his new play.
With a great performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman (among the best in his career), this drama with a great touch of fantasy has an unique way of approaching dreams and the expectations we have in our life and careers.
This masterpiece written and directed by Kaufman, which has a great leading character and fascinating visuals, is definitely a movie worth watching for anyone who loves cinema.
9. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky)
This mysterious drama helmed by Béla Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky follows the story of a young man who faces brutal violence when a village receives the visit of a circus with a giant whale and a man called “The Prince”.
With amazing cinematography in black and white, this film has some of the most amazing shots from the beginning of this millennium. The long shots and the lyrical atmosphere of this film makes it definitely worth watching and, of course, very unique.
Even though it’s sometimes considered among the most “simple” works in Tarr’s career – even though the word “simple” is something very strange when referring to his films – “Werckmeister Harmonies” is definitely among the best films in his career. This movie – as with the rest of the works by the director – should definitely be watched by any cinephile.
8. The Assassin (2015, Hsiao-Hsien Hou)
This 2015 movie that gave Hsiao-Hsien Hou the Prix de la Mise en Scène (the Best Director Award) at the Cannes Film Festival is a film where every frame and movement is simply astonishing.
Starring Qi Shu as Nie Yinniang, the movie follows the daughter of a general who is trained in martial arts and becomes an extraordinary assassin that kills corrupt governors. One day, she fails a task she was given and is sent back to the place where she was born with a difficult mission. In that place, the assassin will have to make a very intricate decision: break the sacred way of the righteous assassins or murder the man she loves.
Having one of the most extraordinary mise en scène of the decade, “The Assassin” has an amazing performance by Qi Shu and a remarkable cinematography by Ping Bin Lee. This movie by Hsiao-Hsien Hou is really a movie that should be checked out by any cinephile.
7. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Guillermo del Toro)
Guillermo del Toro is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. Having a very unique approach on fantasy in his works, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is probably the best movie of his career so far.
In this film, in 1944 in the falangist Spain, the stepdaughter of a brutal army officer travels to a fantasy world after receiving the visit of a fairy that takes her to meet a faun on a labyrinth. There, she is told that she is a princess and she will have to survive three tasks to prove herself and see her real father, the king.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is such a beautiful movie – but really scary in many points – that has one of the greatest art directing seen in this century so far. The amazing script written by del Toro, and especially the great performance by Ivana Baquero as the girl Ofelia, make this film one of the best of this century. Definitely worth watching!
6. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
“Boyhood” is a movie that, with the same cast, was filmed from 2002 to 2013. This is information that, alone, should guarantee this film to be on this list. However, the movie is also a masterpiece, but not only because of the way it was filmed.
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, this movie follows the life of Mason Evans Jr. (Coltrane) while he grows up in Texas with his divorced parents (Arquette and Hawke). Starting when Mason is six years old and ending when he is 18, this movie is, above all, about time, as complex as it may sound.
With beautiful and powerful performances by Coltrane, Arquette and Hawke, this movie should definitely be considered among the most unique of this century for its realistic and impressive approach on the passing of time.