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Denis Villeneuve's favourite films of the 21st century

Over the course of 21st-century cinema to date, Denis Villeneuve has steadily established himself as one of the industry’s leading directors. Films such as, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 have set him aside as the sort of classy auteur who transcends usual genre boundaries, imparting the often marmite realm of sci-fi with enough depth and striking design to stir up any old philistine. 

After adding to his canon of greatness and managing to avoid incurring his first disaster with the troubled-sounding production of the notoriously difficult to adapt Dune received with fanfare, we’re looking at the directors’ favourite films since the dawn of the millennium. As part of a New York Times feature, the French-Canadian director selected his six favourites so far. 

The two films he championed as his absolute favourite would reside in the very same spots among many film fans: There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. Weirdly these two films were shot at the exact same time as each other and only a matter of miles apart. The director mused: “Which movie is the best one…” After that trailing ellipsis, he never really does come to a final conclusion as to which 2007 epic is the best, adding: “I’m driven by the impact these movies had on me then, and still today. Time is the ultimate judge.”

The director then continues to eulogise both outings and the masterful shots contained therein. “There are specific shots that went directly through my skull, like a bullet spreading particles of my brain on my walls,” he says. “Like the shot of Daniel Day-Lewis baptizing a baby with oil, making There Will Be Blood an instant new classic. I felt the same way watching the Coen brothers’ opus No Country for Old Men. The image of the policeman’s boots making dark marks on the floor as he is being strangled by the nightmarish killer, portrayed by Javier Bardem, has haunted me since then.”

If the opinion of the Academy Awards is worth anything, then they helped to sort out the split decision by awarding No Country for Old Men with the Best Picture statuette. In fact, the film took home four Oscars in total. While There Will Be Blood picked up Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert Elswit took the cinematography prize… but as you all already know, few things are more arbitrary than the Academy. 

Elsewhere on the list, he was also deeply moved by the French-Algerian movie A Prophet directed by Jacques Audiard. Villeneuve remarked: “The deer being killed in slow motion by a car in A Prophet remains one of the most powerful cinematic shots of the last decade.” Before also going on to compare the shot to another of his favourite films, Jonathan Glazer’s deeply sui generis 2013 sci-fi film Under the Skin. “But is it better than following Scarlett Johansson in a pool of darkness,” he mused, “Apples and oranges. Lists are for grocery stores.”

He also goes on to state: “The madness in Dogtooth is the most refreshing thing I’ve seen in a long time. Yorgos Lanthimos may be one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. I’m still laughing at the crazy adults running to catch aeroplanes falling into their garden because their father convinced them that they were fruit dropping from the sky.”

You can check out Villeneuve’s full selection of six below, including three sneaky honourable mentions.

Denis Villeneuve’s favourite films of 21st century:

  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood
  • A Prophet
  • Under the Skin
  • Dogtooth
  • Dogville
  • Honourable Mentions: Children of Men, Inception, Amores Perros