Best of 2001

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the film that will be remembered from 2001, but five films appeared on more top 10 lists than the first LOTR film.  Ghost World led the way, appearing on 133 of the 258 lists from 2001.

50. Faithless (10 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Bergman is nothing if not an artist finely focused on secret narrative weaponry and snowballing decimation, and before you know it, his structural strategy has made it a Kevlar kind of day.” — Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

50. Kandahar (10 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Worthy of some attention because it happens to portray the [Afghanistan] culture — specifically the treatment of women in that Taliban stronghold — in forceful and dramatic terms.” — Elvis Mitchell, New York Times

49. The Widow of St. Pierre (11 lists)

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“The film seems to be saying, though, that the taking of a life — whether by murderers or by the state — is only possible when we refuse to recognize the humanity in others. And this is a message we all need to hear.” — Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle

48. Our Lady of the Assassins (11 lists; 1 top spot)

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“The whole film seems to keel over at the end, weary and debilitated by the savagery it chronicles. But the urgency and sadness resound in its wake.” — Gene Seymour, Newsday

47. The Day I Became a Woman (12 lists)

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“The images evolve from poignant to oblique, but the effort to express the theme of independence in different ways keeps the film from seeming heavy-handed.” — John C. Davenport, Dallas Morning News

46. L.I.E. (12 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Cuesta’s film never succumbs to Larry Clark-esque seediness. The film’s take on Oliver Twist is utterly dispassionate and all the more creepy and compelling for offering us no clues as to what will happen between Big John and Howie.” — Kevin Maynard, Mr. Showbiz

45. Divided We Fall (12 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Shows that it’s not only possible to make a spine-tingling World War II saga without bloodshed, but also to use such stories to examine the agonizing-but-necessary values of conscience, loyalty and forgiveness.” — Gene Seymour, Newsday

44. Bridget Jones’s Diary (13 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Women here and abroad are going to laugh with her, cry with her, steam with her, frost with her and totally identify after this gloriously full, heartfelt, generous performance.” — Susan Stark, Detroit News

43. Va Savoir (13 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Va Savoir is, as far as I can recall, however, in a class by itself in Mr. Rivette’s career with its lighthearted charm, its accessible nuance and its remarkably in-tune ensemble acting.” — Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

42. Yi Yi (13 lists; 3 top spots)

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“As I watched the final credits of Yi Yi through bleary eyes, I struggled to identify the overpowering feeling that was making me tear up. Was it grief? Joy? Mirth? Yes, I decided, it was all of these. But mostly, it was gratitude.” — A.O. Scott, New York Times

41. Innocence (14 lists)

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“Innocence has all the other ingredients, too: a marvelous cast, a touching story, some lovely camera work (shot on location in South Australia and Belgium) and a palpable emotional connection between its characters and its audience.” — Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

39. Eureka (14 lists; 1 top spot)

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“It’s more an experience than anything else, and if you’re looking for a transformative, redemptive one yourself, at the moment you can’t do any better than go to see this film.” — Peter Brunette, Film.com

39. The Road Home (14 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Without postcard prettiness, he lays the beauties of this village and its mountains before us so quietly and proudly that a warrant of nativity, of belonging, suffuses the film.” — Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic

38. Werckmeister Harmoniak (14 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Six years after the 7-1/2-hour Satan’s Tango, Magyar maverick Bela Tarr makes a stunning feature return with “Werckmeister Harmonies,” another hypnotic meditation on popular demagogy and mental manipulation that’s a snap at 145 minutes.” — Derek Elley

37. Our Song (15 lists)

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“It’s a stroke of genuine artistry to craft a movie in a raw and glancing documentary style that is not merely ‘authentic’ but dramatic.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

36. Lantana (16 lists)

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“Solving the mystery of the dead body would be enough for most Hollywood movies. In Lantana, it’s merely a device to launch us into more rewarding explorations.” — Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle

35. The Pledge (16 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Mystery-thriller buffs, promise yourselves that you’ll see The Pledge. And while you’re at it, be sure to invite along Jack Nicholson fans and anyone who saw the first two movies that Sean Penn directed.” — Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune

34. With a Friend Like Harry (19 lists)

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“Anybody so inclined can connect the dots, and they lead not only to the weirdly seductive Robert Walker in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train but to the sudden, luminous interiors of Kubrick’s The Shining, with their air of unreality.” — Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle

33. Startup.com (20 lists; 1 top spot)

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“This movie explains why friends should never go into business together. It’s not exactly a new insight, but Tuzman and Herman are so vivid they make it seem revelatory.” — Joe Baltake, Sacramento Bee

32. Apocalypse Now Redux (22 lists; 7 top spots)

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“Remains what it always was — a phantasmagorical trip through the spookhouse followed by a descent so precipitous you can’t believe it’s really happening.” — J. Hoberman, Village Voice

31. The Others (23 lists)

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“A welcome change of pace from most contemporary scary stories, where the shocks come with all the subtlety of flashers jumping out of park bushes.” — Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

30. Monster’s Ball (23 lists; 1 top spot)

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“A powerful and poignant motion picture not about racism and redemption, as one might initially suppose, but about one of the most urgent and universal of human needs — that of finding solace for pain and loneliness.” — James Berardinelli, ReelViews

29. The Circle (24 lists)

“Just like Tomb Raider, it is fiction. It just unfortunately comes a lot closer than the American film to the truth of how its female characters live.” — Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle

28. Under the Sand (24 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Ozon shoots it all with such haunting economy and breathless intimacy, and Rampling acts it with such candor and recklessness, that the film keeps lingering in your mind after you see it.” — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

27. Donnie Darko (28 lists)

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“Kelly is a supple and courageous storyteller, boldly free-associating as he mixes parody and satire with earnest psychodrama and coming up with plot points no one could anticipate.” — Lisa Alspector, Chicago Reader

26. Ali (28 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Will Smith’s Muhammed Ali isn’t an impersonation, it’s a transformation. There is no narration to tell us the story, no treacly music cues to tell us when to cry. Some audiences might be disconcerted at being treated so intelligently.” — Joel Siegel, ABCNEWS.COM

25. No Man’s Land (28 lists; 2 top spots)

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“It’s not a pretty picture, but it is a funny one, if you agree with Tanovic that all human behavior tends toward folly, cowardice, self-deception, corruption and hopelessness.” — Stephen Hunter, Washington Post

24. Fat Girl (29 lists)

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“[W]hen I saw this movie I was kind of mad at the way things had this arbitrary development … That’s what happens in real life. Things happen at random like that and I thought a lot about this movie after I saw it — days afterwards, a week afterwards.” — Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper

23. The Gleaners & I (29 lists; 2 top spots)

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“[The] characters are defined by dawdle and drift as much as Varda is in The Gleaners and I, catching life on the fly — and implicitly inviting us to do the same.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

22. Together (30 lists)

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“Has universal appeal — giving the leftist movement a good-natured punch in the ribs even as it waxes nostalgic about an idealism that soon became unfashionable.” — Lou Limenick, New York Post

21. The Deep End (32 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Exquisitely made with a mesmerizing sense of style, it shows the wonderful things that can happen when traditional material is both handled with care and adroitly updated.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

20. Black Hawk Down (33 lists)

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“Films like this are more useful than gung-ho capers like Behind Enemy Lines. They help audiences understand and sympathize with the actual experiences of combat troops, instead of trivializing them into entertainments.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

19. Monsters, Inc. (37 lists)

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“The analogy to our dependence on, say, oil is soon abandoned, the better to blur the distinction between abstract and concrete–something older viewers of this 2001 animated adventure may appreciate more than younger ones.” — Lisa Alspector, Chicago Reader

18. A Beautiful Mind (45 lists; 3 top spots)

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“Russell Crowe sometimes summons up one of the most powerful depictions of mental illness I have ever seen with barely an eyelid flicker separating manifestations of sickness from utterly sane displays of creative concentration.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

17. Amores Perros (47 lists; 4 top spots)

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“[The] sense that even hair-trigger lives, always poised on the edge of self-destructive lunacy, deserve to be sympathetically understood is Amores Perros’ redeeming grace.” — Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine

16. Hedwig & the Angry Inch (47 lists; 5 top spots)

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“Strange, how the movie seems to be loud, flashy and superficial, and yet gives a deeper dimension to its characters.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

15. Gosford Park (49 lists; 3 top spots)

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“Robert Altman and a ridiculously talented group of English actors have crafted an upstairs-downstairs comedy of true originality — a British costume film that’s funny but not at all fusty.” — Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle

14. Sexy Beast (50 lists)

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“What distinguishes Sexy Beast from the recent rash of British gangster films is Glazer’s investment in character and performance.” — Amy Taubin, Village Voice

13. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (52 lists; 9 top spots)

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“The most philosophical film in Kubrick’s canon, the most intelligent in Spielberg’s, and quite possibly the film with the most contemporary relevance that either one has made since Kubrick released Dr. Strangelove in 1964.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

12. The Man Who Wasn’t There (54 lists; 2 top spots)

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“The Man Who Wasn’t There is the visual equivalent of single-malt scotch, smoky and smooth and bracing in its simplicity. At the same time, it’s sometimes too clever for its own good. The humour is as much parched as it is dry.” — Peter Howell, Toronto Star

11. Shrek (71 lists; 8 top spots)

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“What gives Shrek its special artistic distinction is its witty and knowingly sassy dialogue, delivered by vocally charismatic performers whose voices remind us of their stellar screen personae in live-action movies.” — Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

10. Waking Life (72 lists; 4 top spots)

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“This inventive animated film, which takes Linklater back to his roots in Austin and Slacker, represents a summation of all the philosophical concerns that have defined him as spokesperson for Gen-X.” — Emanual Levy, Variety

9. Moulin Rouge (74 lists; 12 top spots)

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“A postmodern fantasia guaranteed to polarize its audience into believers and non-believers — though it’s impossible to come away feeling like you’ve ever seen anything quite like it.” — Kevin Maynard, Mr. Showbiz

8. In the Mood for Love (82 lists; 13 top spots)

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“In The Mood For Love demands to be seen at least twice, and it would reward third and fourth viewings. You could spend one of them just marvelling at Cheung’s incredible dresses, watching how the colours affect the emotional hue of the moment.” — Peter Howell, Toronto Star

7. The Royal Tenenbaums (91 lists; 10 top spots)

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“That it works is due to director Wes Anderson, who has made something eccentric and hilarious that can suddenly — or maybe not for hours or even days later — choke you up with emotion.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (91 lists; 22 top spots)

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“Not since the original Star Wars trilogy has film dipped into myth and emerged with the kind of weight and heft seen in Peter Jackson’s first installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.” — Jay Carr, Boston Globe

5. Amelie (98 lists; 13 top spots)

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“The sunniest face and the greatest acclaim belong to Audrey Tautou, who is new to these shores. A delight in the title role, she’s like a young Audrey Hepburn, making us laugh and feel empathy without feeling manipulated.” — Peter Howell, Toronto Star

4. In the Bedroom (100 lists; 12 top spots)

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“The uncoagulated anguish of parents mourning the death of a child has rarely been more powerfully depicted than in the collected vignettes of grief, rage, and retribution that make up the riveting domestic drama In the Bedroom.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

3. Memento (126 lists, 20 top spots)

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“Provocatively structured and thrillingly executed film noir, an intricate, inventive use of cinema’s possibilities that pushes what can be done on screen in an unusual direction.”  — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

2. Mulholland Drive (127 lists; 22 top spots)

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“One of the very few movies in which the pieces not only add up to much more than the whole, but also supersede it with a series of (for the most part) fascinating fragments.” — Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

1. Ghost World (134 lists; 10 top spots)

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“A refreshing change from the usual summer fare, offering interesting characters, smart dialogue, biting satire (the concept of ‘high art’ gets shredded), and dark comedy.” — James Berardinelli, ReelViews

2 responses to “Best of 2001

  1. Kirk

    Together (#22) was my favorite movie of 2001. I only saw it once but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with Beijing. The quoted review under its entry here might be for another movie.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0203166/?ref_=nv_sr_2

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