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Critics picked the best movies of the past 25 years, and here are the Top 5

Published Jul 28th, 2023 3:46PM EDT
Audience members in a movie theater
Image: Mr. Music/Adobe

In honor of its 25th anniversary this year, the popular review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reached out to a group of select critics and asked them to do two things. They were to identify the best TV shows of the last 25 years — as well as the top feature films over the same time period. We shared a snapshot of those critics’ picks for the Top 5 TV shows in a separate post, and now it’s time for the movies that critics think are the best of the best.

Individually approved “Tomatometer” critics were given a survey by Rotten Tomatoes, which asked them to list in no particular order the movies that they think were the five best movies of the last 25 years. After tailing the votes, these were the results — in ascending order:

#5: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

In this period film from director Céline Sciamma, the daughter of a French countess in 1770 develops an intense attraction to the female artist who’s been hired to paint the portrait for her wedding. “There’s almost no single moment in Portrait of a Lady on Fire that couldn’t be captured, mounted, and hung on a wall as high art,” raved Entertainment Weekly critic Leah Greenblatt.

#4: The Dark Knight

Director Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie from 2008, The Dark Knight, might be the greatest superhero movie ever made. Right from the get-go, the bank heist scene in which the bad guys kill each other one by one, leaving only Heath Ledger’s maniacal Joker standing at the end, was a jaw-dropper that pulled you in immediately. Ledger’s performance was a thing of dark magnificence, and the movie also worked not only as a superhero drama but as a twisty crime saga.

The best word I can think of to describe The Dark Knight? Unforgettable.

#3: Mulholland Drive

David Lynch’s 2001 noir mystery film Mulholland Drive regularly makes these kinds of “best-of” lists, and it certainly earned scads of awards upon its release. From the Rotten Tomatoes “movie info” section about the film:

“A dark-haired woman (Laura Elena Harring) is left amnesiac after a car crash. She wanders the streets of Los Angeles in a daze before taking refuge in an apartment. There she is discovered by Betty (Naomi Watts), a wholesome Midwestern blonde who has come to the City of Angels seeking fame as an actress. Together, the two attempt to solve the mystery of Rita’s true identity. The story is set in a dream-like Los Angeles, spoilt neither by traffic jams nor smog.”

#2: Parasite

Of the five films on this list, I’d have probably slotted director Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 film Parasite at #1. Can you blame me? Parasite became the first Korean film to win the top prize at Cannes in 2019, won four top awards at the 92nd Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and ultimately grossed more than $263 million (on a less than $16 million budget!).

The movie is something of a black comedy, addressing issues of class and social status, and it’s built around a poor family that wants to have a better life. The various family members each get themselves employed by a wealthy family, pretending they don’t know each other.

#1: Mad Max: Fury Road

We’ve finally come to the #1 spot, which I must confess surprised me a bit. Of all the movies released since 1998, the group of critics that participated in the Rotten Tomatoes survey thinks Mad Max: Fury Road outshines them all. Tough luck for some of my favorite films from over the past 25 years, like Gladiator and Lost in Translation … (sigh).

At any rate, most of you no doubt already know the story here: George Miller’s post-apocalyptic thriller stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult, and it’s pretty much an extended chase sequence that extends over two hours. If it’s spectacle and high-octane, unrelenting action you seek, look no further.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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