The 10 Most Thought-Provoking Movies of The 21st Century

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017, Martin McDonagh)

With the “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” the Oscar-nominated director Martin McDonagh created one of the most powerful black comedies in his career. Mildred Hayes, a grief-stricken mother whose daughter was killed and raped, is seeking justice. After seven months and no arrests, she addresses the police. She pays for the billboard space and calls on the police chef to take action. But the law enforcement officers don’t take the provocation kindly and Mildred has to face the whole system. She has to defend herself and ask for justice for her daughter.

Mildred Hayes is portrayed by the two-time Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand and she portrays the woman with complete accuracy; a woman who has nothing to lose and who intends to bring the case to an end, even if it means a war or anarchy.

Tragedy, tears, and laughter are remarkably combined in this black comedy. The excellent performance by McDormand doesn’t allow the viewer to be distracted for a second. The anarchy created in the movie is followed by grotesque humor in true Martin McDonough style. Mildred Hayes, played with cold rigidity and heartbreaking tragedy, is one of the best in McDormand’s filmography.


7. No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel and Ethan Coen)

Frances McDormand is the wife of director Joel Coen and oftentimes the main star of his movies, but she hasn’t played a part in four-time Oscar-winning film “No Country for Old Men”, which is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. This neo-western criminal thriller has an amazing cast starring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem and is considered among the 10 best movies of the 21st century. It is a story about how a hunter became a victim himself.

While hunting in the desert, Llewellyn Moss finds two million dollars – the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad. Llewellyn knows he will find himself in danger if he touches the money, but he can’t resist the temptation and thus becomes the victim of a brutal killer. An old sheriff who tries to reflect on a changing world and to handle his own dark secrets tries to protect Llewellyn Moss.

The film is brutal; with every appearance of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), the audience freezes in anticipation of new cold-blooded murder. Joel and Ethan Coen create iconic environments that are characteristic for the neo-western genre. The movie is full of archetypes, where each detail of every character is meaningful; for example, sociopath Chigurh’s hair or hideous weapon.

The cinematographer of the movie is the legendary Roger Deakins, and his brilliant cinematography and editing creates ambience and a narrative that fully reflects on McCarthy’s gothic western style. The script follows in the footsteps of the novel, creating the feeling that the camera is navigating through the writer’s mind and conveying every detail McCarthy has written and imagined. The atmosphere created in the film is identical to the book, and the directors also pay huge attention to the details. The Coen brothers love to take American culture into the cinema and they masterfully create an authentic environment here. They perfectly reflect on the dark humor that McCarthy has in his novel.


8. The Hunt (2012, Thomas Vineberg)

Thomas Vinterberg, who became known to the world as a member of the famous filmmaking movement “Dogme 95”, makes a film set in rural Denmark, in a community with lower-middle class families. Mads Mikkelsen offers yet another stunning performance here; his character, Lucas, is a daycare employee, friendly and kind, but his world collapses after he is falsely accused of exposing himself to a child.

Vinterberg doesn’t offer us an answer regarding whether Lucas is guilty or not guilty. The director shows from the beginning that the accuser is lying; however, everyone in the city believes her. After a child psychologist intervened in the case the investigation began, but already every parent in town is convinced that Lucas has molested their children.

The topic of false accusations is Vinterberg’s main idea here. Lucas is considered guilty, even though there is no evidence to prove it. Mikkelsen portrays a man who was forced to feel guilty without committing a crime. “The Hunt” is a plain movie, without any special emotional interference from the director. Mikkelsen’s talent and the film’s crafted cameramen add some extra charm to the film.


9. Mr. Nobody (2009, Jaco Van Dormael)

Mr Nobody

It’s 2092 and mankind has reached immortality thanks to cell renewal. Nemo Nobody is a 118-year old man and the last mortal on the earth. One life and many life choices is Nemo’s past, present and the future, which he remembers on his deathbed. The main character is portrayed by the Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto, who has said that Nemo Nobody is the most complex character in his career. Nemo Nobody is everyone and no one at the same time; he is a creation of his own dreams. Leto has confessed that playing a character that is so complex, with their identities and life narratives, was really hard without losing his own identity. This is the fairy tale movie about life choices and parallel lives.

The film also discusses the chaos theory, the string theory, and the butterfly effect. The search for his one true love is the driving force for the protagonist. The music, editing, and special effects add a special charm to the movie, and along with being interesting and thought-provoking, “Mr. Nobody” is also an exciting experience to watch.


10. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)


When we talk about the movies that remain in the minds of viewers for years and are always discussed from scene to scene, we have to talk about David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”. The film is considered to be divided into two parts.

The story begins with a car accident on the famous Los Angeles street, Mulholland Drive. A brunette woman loses her memory and walks into the nearest house; in the next morning she is found by an aspiring blonde actress named Betty. The house belongs to Betty’s aunt, Ruth. A brunette woman with amnesia calls herself Rita, like Rita Heyworth. In search for Rita’s real identity, Betty finds a huge amount of money and a mysterious key in her bag. Soon Betty and Rita become lovers. In the second part of the movie, the first part’s narrative disappears as a dream and we see a failed actress who resembles Betty. She is in love with a woman who looks like Rita.

The film critics can’t stop arguing about the first and second part of this film. What does it mean and what was the director’s intention? Is the first part Betty’s dream, or is it just her imagination? The director left a lot of space for interpretation in the movie, one that is considered among the best in the cinematic universe.

The Hollywood legends, the gangs, and striving for success in David Lynch style is “Mulholland Drive.” The director shows the toxic side of the so-called “dream factory”. The critics often joke that anyone who claims to have understood “Mulholland Drive” from the very first time they have watched it is lying, but everyone agrees that “Mulholland Drive” is one of the best and the most thought-provoking movies of the 21st century.