Top 100 movies of the decade

Top 100 movies of the decade-attachment0

I’m sure this collaborative list from Justin Souther and myself (and it really is a collaboration—we’ve been batting these choices back and forth for weeks) is going to have its fair share of detractors—and that’s fine. I can already make a pretty good guess at the outrage over the omission of certain titles, and what those titles will be. That can’t be helped. All we can do is present an honest list of the films from 2000 through 2009 that impressed us as the most artistically significant of the decade.

I should note that only the first 20 titles are ranked. The rest are listed alphabetically. After much discussion it was decided that this was the best way, because ranking the other 80 movies would be futile. By the time you’re past 20 titles, it would be strictly mood of the moment that was guiding. As a result, the list would be constantly shifting—even more than most lists do. So, without further ado …

20. Gangs of New York (2002) Grand in scope, this remains Martin Scorsese’s most ambitious to date. Stunning in it’s portrayal of grimy 19th-century New York, the film marks a turning point for Scorsese towards a more complex, lofty style of filmmaking. With an ace cast around Leonardo DiCaprio—Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, John C. Reilly—it’s the movie where DiCaprio legitimized himself and became Scorsese’s go-to actor. But what really makes it all worthwhile, what makes the film truly special, is Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher,” a brilliant creation of one the most memorable movie villains ever.—J.S.

19. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) This is the movie that introduced John Cameron Mitchell to moviegoers, which was a key moment in the decade so far as I’m concerned (if only he was a little more prolific). It actually took two viewings before I truly fell in love with the movie, but since then it’s been a film that only seems better—and more moving—to me every time I see it. Mitchell starts out working from a deliberately outrageous concept—a drag queen glam rocker who’s had a botched sex-change (resulting in the “angry inch” on the title)—and slowly makes the film more and more human, only to turn around in the last two scenes and burst into dramatically viable surrealism that delivers a punch like no other.—K.H.

18. The Boat That Rocked (Pirate Radio) (2009) Richard Curtis’ The Boat That Rocked opened elsewhere in the world to split reviews and so-so box office results, so when it made it to the States months later, it had been retitled Pirate Radio and trimmed of about 17 minutes. Even in that form, it’s a remarkable film—a celebration of rock music and the anti-authoritarian mind-set of the 1960s. Moreover, it’s a film that recognizes the fact that so much of that era was not in the hands of kids, but also had much to do with more free-thinking older people, as well (yet it’s not afraid to touch on their limitations). Beyond that, it’s about friendship and relationships—and about the way celebrities (in this case, disc jockeys) can become part of our sense of extended family. In the end, it is perhaps best described as a celebration of those things that connect us to each other.—K.H.

17. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) Fans of the stage musical were not entirely happy with Tim Burton’s film version of the Sondheim show. There were complaints that it was too literal-minded and, especially, that Helena Bonham Carter’s Mrs. Lovett lacked the energy and fun of Angela Lansbury’s stage incarnation. Perhaps because I never cared much for the stage show and found Lansbury’s performance altogether too broad, it was the film that finally won me over on the material. Some of that had to do with the more subdued take on Mrs. Lovett, who here became an oddly touching figure. As filmmaking, it shows Burton at his strongest, skillfully blending his horror-movie-infused background with the material. Formally, it’s probably his most accomplished film—and it’s not too far behind emotionally, while still retaining his own personality. That it’s all set against an extremely gory tale—that never forgets that it is a very blood-spattered affair—makes it all the more remarkable.—K.H.

16. There Will Be Blood (2007) Paul Thomas Anderson’s view of greed, God and hubris through the eyes of a California oil man is the director’s most important work, and every inch an outgrowth of his previous output. But at the same time, it plays like the anti-Anderson—instead of characters trying to search for connection with others, it’s about the dangers that occur when we don’t bother to try and connect in the first place. It’s all held together by a juggernaut performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. He may be choosy about his roles, but he sure makes them count in the end.—J.S.

15. Children of Men (2006) It’s the science-fiction film of the Oughts. A subtly idiosyncratic yet harrowing view of the future, it’s a story about finding hope in hopelessness. The film is a stunning technical achievement, which combined with director Alfonso Cuarón’s sense of humanity, set the movie apart, and proves that, yes, gritty realism can work—as long as there’s heart there.—J.S.

14. The Brothers Bloom (2009) Only a handful of films from the decade gave me anywhere near the sheer delight that Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom did. From its breathless opening scenes—done with a voiceover that recalls his take on Dashiell Hammett in Johnson’s first film, Brick (2005)—to its deliciously quirky development and on to its surprisingly moving ending, this is very close to a perfect movie. It’s also a movie that pays rich dividends on repeat viewings, when you start realizing just how seamlessly everything in the film is set up and integrated. Funny, stylish and more, The Brothers Bloom is something of a wonder.—K.H.

13. Talk to Her (2002) It’s very hard to single out one Pedro Almodóvar film as his best of the decade. I could almost as easily gone with Bad Education (2004) or Volver (2006)—and possibly Broken Embraces (2009), except I haven’t been able to see it yet. All of Almodóvar’s films—even the lesser ones—present the viewer with a challenge (often more than one), but after much thought I think this tale of two men in love with comatose women—and possibly in love with each other on some strange level—offers the biggest challenge. It presents a main character who thinks his relationship with a patient in a coma is perfectly normal and that the two of them are a typical couple—except that they “get along better than most”—and it asks you to sympathize with him, which you do against your will. In many respects, it’s typical Almodóvar-heightened soap opera, with a quirky take on life. But it’s more than that—and it may also be his most stylistically daring work.—K.H.

12. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Despite the astonishing technical virtuosity on display in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, I think its greatest achievement is that I never think of it as an animated film when I’m away from it. Now, I’m not good at what is called “suspension of disbelief.” I’m always conscious that I’m watching a movie, no matter how involved I am in it, or how much emotional investment I have with the characters. I know this is an animated film. I know that it is a magnificently animated film. But I’m so completely sold on the characters—and the voice performances—that I take it all as real and remember it that way. At the same time, I like the fact that the film seems to be almost a response to Anderson’s detractors who accuse his live-action films as being Anderson moving dolls around in a dollhouse. Well, here that’s pretty much exactly what he is doing—and it works as both an animated film and as a pure Wes Anderson film.—K.H.

11. Be Kind Rewind (2008) We’re bound to catch a lot of flack for omitting Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). But for our collective money, the director’s love letter to the movies is Gondry’s real high-water mark. Whimsical, creative and subtly touching, it’s a film about the wonder of movies, made by a man who carries that same kind of light-hearted, wide-eyed awe.—J.S.

10. The Rules of Attraction (2002) Making films about disaffected, selfish, drug-abusing college kids with little to no redeeming qualities is probably not the best career move. Seeing as how director Roger Avary has spent the remainder of this decade collecting writing credits, this is probably true. But the price that’s been paid for popularity is Avary’s true nerve. While the film is bitterly funny and just oozes style, it is often a difficult film to like. Not necessarily because of the subject matter (though Avary’s refusal to shy away from anything doesn’t help). But more so due to our ability to see our own faults in these grotesque characters—an achievement which is nothing to scoff at.—J.S.

9. Across the Universe (2007) Following Titus (1999) and the admittedly flawed Frida (2002), Julie Taymor established herself as the truly great female filmmaker of the decade with Across the Universe. With it she crafted a film that not only captured an era (I’ve only caught one glitch in the depiction of the 1960s—and I won’t tell you what it is), but did so by following the arc of the career of the Beatles in the bargain. Her film follows the course of the fab four from the Cavern Club days all the way to the concert on top of the Apple building that marked the last time they played together in public as a band. Moreover, the whole film is obviously made by someone who absolutely adores the Beatles’ music, but refuses to embalm it like some tribute band. The songs are treated respectfully—and are obviously being overseen by someone who knows every note of the records—but are also approached in fresh ways that often cause you to rethink them and discover something new in them. I call that a major achievement.—K.H.

8. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) The Coen Brothers finest and most grand work—their take on Homer’s The Odyssey (with a little bit of Preston Sturges thrown in) set in the 1930s South—is the movie that made George Clooney a full-blown movie star. Every bit a Coens’ picture (who else would dare have a Busby Berkeley-styled Klan rally?), it’s quirky, referential, reverential and yet consistently funny. In short, it’s the closest thing to a perfect film the Coens have ever made. The top-notch blues and bluegrass sound track that the film revolves around is just gravy.—J.S.

7. The Hours (2002) Stephen Daldry’s The Hours is one of the most meticulous adaptations of a book I’ve ever encountered. It at least affords the illusion of containing nearly everything in the book within its framework, but it never feels like the Masterpiece Theatre approach. There’s no sense of stifling reverence, because Daldry has crafted such a wholly cinematic work that it flows as smoothly as its Philip Glass score. The patterning of the film, the attention to detail, the subtle foreshadowings that may not be obvious on a single viewing, add up to a work of both great power and humanity. The three central performances from Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore are stunning. There really isn’t a moment in the film that feels false or doesn’t work.—K.H.

6. I Heart Huckabees (2004) David O. Russell’s self-styled existential comedy is a love-it or hate-it affair. Luckily for Ken and me, we love it. An occasionally absurd, often ridiculous, always complicated look at our attempts at connecting with the rest of the world, filtered through a satirizing (or is it?) of new-age philosophy. Funny in the most outrageous of ways and convoluted in the best possible manner, it’s a movie few would make and even fewer could make work.—J.S.

5. Synecdoche, New York (2008) The feature debut from über-screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, it’s a movie only Kaufman could—and should—have made. Bizarre is an understatement when describing this odd, weird, wonderful portrayal of the battle between life and art. Kaufman constantly surprises you with his eccentric imagination. Brilliantly frustrating and frustratingly brilliant, it’s a giant, beautiful, ambitious avalanche of ideas and creativity.—J.S.

In this one instance, I’m going to add a few words to Justin Souther’s take on this film, which was the unfortunate victim of being booked in between two “bigger” pictures locally, and so never had the chance to find its audience. Worse, it scarcely allowed time for those who did see it to see it again. All good movies benefit from being seen more than once, but this one requires it. You can follow the film—as long as you aren’t put off by casual intrusions of surrealism—in a single viewing, but you’ll never really “get it” without a second or even third viewing. And it’s not that the film is willfully confusing. It’s just too complex to unravel without seeing it more than once.—K.H.

4. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is quite possibly the most beautiful film of the decade—and one of the most unusual in its refusal to quite settle on either a genre or how real the fantasticated events of its story are. In some respects, it’s a horror film. In others, it’s a fairy tale. In still others, it’s a Buñuel-esque drama that’s ever so slightly surreal, but never crosses the line. What is astonishing is that it succeeds on every one of these levels—and others I’ve not even mentioned. It’s charming, horrifying, playful and finally heartbreaking. Even within del Toro’s admittedly impressive filmography, there’s nothing like it. It is simply a masterpiece.—K.H.

3. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) As the host of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? says in the course of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, “What a show!” From 28 Days Later … in 2002, Boyle turned out not a single clunker from the rest of the decade. He just seemed to get better with each film, but this is the best of them all—a sprawling, nonstop cinematic marvel that tickles the brain (the construction of the story is amazingly assured), while working as a truly glorious tale of romance and redemption. It’s truly rare that a film this complex and daring—and anchored to no star power—becomes a crowd-pleaser. But after this little film—which Warner Bros. was all set to send straight to video until Fox Searchlight offered to release it—crossed the $100 million mark at the box office, there was no denying that Slumdog had done it—and it couldn’t have been more deserved.—K.H.

2. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) If I had it to do over again, Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou would be in the top spot for best film of 2004. Subsequent viewings (I saw this at least six times during its theatrical run) made me appreciate it more every time I saw it—and that still happens today. Actually, we had a little trouble settling on whether to put this film or The Darjeeling Limited (2007) on this list—and it was a very near thing. But I think Life Aquatic is slightly more important—a little broader in scope. It’s also the film where Anderson fully came into his own as one of the most individual voices working in film. The thing is that you either respond to Anderson’s particular style, his deadpan sense of humor, his quirky use of music, his creation of a world that is like ours, but not quite—and his overriding interest in damaged people and broken families—or you don’t. I very much do.—K.H.

1. Moulin Rouge! (2001) It’s probably immaterial that I like Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!. It’s also immaterial that there are films on this list that I might like better. What counts for me—and why it occupies this exalted spot—is that it’s a film that in many ways defines that which is best about the decade. Love it or hate it, it is truly a spectacle of a kind previously not seen, and while it most assuredly has its roots and influences in movies of the past, it emerges as something truly its own. It is simply alive with the thrill of filmmaking—and indeed the very act of creation. I don’t believe there is a single frame in the entire film that isn’t carefully gauged for maximum impact. It’s also a film with a strangely—and hard to define—sinister undercurrent that gives its simple story line badly needed gravity, but don’t make too much of that statement. In the end, it’s a giddy musical romance with a tragic ending. Yes, I know, for some people the film is just sensory overload, but as time passes and many of Luhrmann’s techniques become assimilated by other filmmakers, it seems less frenetic and much more carefully crafted than it did in 2001.—K.H.

The 80 others:

28 Days Later … (2002) Not every movie completely revitalizes an entire genre (in this case—for better or for worse—the zombie flick). But this is no fluke, since Danny Boyle’s sparse, apocalyptic vision is the goods. Horror filmmaking at its finest, intelligent yet gruesome and innately human, it’s the movie that started Boyle off on a decade of versatile, top-notch output.—J.S.

About a Boy (2002) A good book becomes a great movie—and from the most unlikely of sources, Chris and Paul Weitz, who up to that time were best known for American Pie (1999). Suddenly the brothers seemed to grow up and this film—that redefines several things, including the romantic comedy—was the result. That neither has done anything nearly this good since is unfortunate, but we have this as a reminder of how good they could be.—K.H.

Australia (2008) In a decade where the word “epic” got thrown around willy-nilly, Baz Luhrmann actually accomplished the kind of full-throated entertainment that truly deserves that adjective. Grandiose, ambitious and energetic, it’s what movies have always been about.—J.S.

Bad Education (2004) Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education is second only to Talk to Her (2002) as his most challenging film in terms of subject matter. In some ways, it’s even harder to come to terms with for some people, as was evidenced by a reader from Hendersonville, who wrote an outraged letter about my having recommended this “vile” movie that was nothing but “nonstop sex between two men.” (She saw a much steamier version than I did.) As a friend of mine remarked at the time, “You said it was disturbing—and it disturbed her. I don’t know why she’s complaining.”—K.H.

Big Fish (2003) Tim Burton’s unusual, fanciful vision filtered through a real-world sensibility made for the most heartbreaking work of his since Edward Scissorhands (1990). The most mature movie in his filmography is also his most touching and complex.—J.S.

Black Book (2006) After decades of Hollywood junk, Paul Verhoeven returned to Holland to make his best work since 1983’s The Fourth Man. This World War II drama is a perfect example of Verhoeven at his best, mixing overheated entertainment with brash filmmaking, all the while getting a daring performance from the still underused Clarice van Houten.—J.S.

Black Snake Moan (2007) It’s God, sex and the blues in Craig Brewer’s ode to the grimy-side of the South, a topic (along with 2005’s Hustle & Flow) he never handles as caricature. The big surprise, though, is how a movie centered around the premise of a God-fearing Samuel L. Jackson chaining a half-naked, sex-addicted Christina Ricci to an old radiator could turn out to be so sweet natured.—J.S.

Breakfast on Pluto (2005) Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto is very probably the best film the talented filmmaker has yet made. A warm, winning, funny and moving look at the life of cross-dressing Patrick “Kitten” Brady (Cillian Murphy), the film also boasts an amazing sound track of late 1960s and early 1970s pop music. It veers from the comedic to the tragic and back without missing a beat.—K.H.

Brick (2005) This movie shouldn’t work. A high-school version of a hard-boiled detective film—filled with teens who speak like they’re straight out of a Dashiell Hammett novel—is just too gimmicky to be good, right? Maybe in most people’s hands it would’ve devolved into self-parody, but director Rian Johnson never allows this to happen, instead creating one of the most creative, original debuts of the decade.—K.H.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005) did the unthinkable—it turned a gay love story into a popular film. Yes, it’s still in the tragic mode that most gay films that crossover into the mainstream market use, but there’s a difference this time, since the tragedy isn’t founded on a character’s gayness, but on his fear of living the life he wants.—K.H.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) Perhaps it’s because I’ve always disliked the Gene Wilder version of this story that I am so drawn to Tim Burton’s take on the same material—that and the fact that I find Burton to be one of the most consistently interesting filmmakers of the past 20-plus years. As filmmaking, it’s certainly more creative that the Wilder film, but much of what appeals to me is rethinking the Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) character as a burnt-out rock star, which gives the film an extra edge.—K.H.

Closer (2004) Mike Nichols’ Closer is one of the most elegant, yet brutally frank films about sexual relations ever made. That might be enough right there, but it’s also such a complex—and sometimes enigmatic—examination of the lives (real or pretend) of its main characters—flawlessly played by Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman—that it becomes a genuine work of art in the bargain.—K.H.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) Confessions of a Dangerous Mind marked George Clooney’s directorial debut—and while he’s done other good work, he’s yet to make a film this clever or daring again. It’s from a Charlie Kaufman screenplay that was adapted from Chuck Barris’ loony book about his life as a secret agent. This allows room for endless creativity in blending fantasy with reality—to a degree that you’re not always sure which is which. It’s the comedic art film antidote to Ron Howard’s too safe A Beautiful Mind (2001).—K.H.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Yes, Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) and Fantastic Mr. Fox both made it in our top 20 list. Ken and I went back and forth on which to include, and finally we decided that The Darjeeling Limited would be the odd man out. But please, don’t perceive this as a slight against this film. While Life Aquatic might, in the end, be the more significant film, here we get Anderson at his most mature and personal, fully embracing his own style and idiosyncrasies. A perfect piece of filmmaking.—J.S.

The Departed (2006) After decades of work, it was this film that finally won Martin Scorsese his Oscar. Thankfully, it was fully deserved and not just some pity award. This crime drama, which turns almost Shakespearean, might be Scorsese’s great opus. It’s Scorsese further growing into his constantly flowering artistic abilities, never forgetting to be the entertaining, stylish filmmaker he’s always been, but underscoring it all with depth and complexity that’s all too often missing from movies.—J.S.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001) In a decade that could be called uneven, Guillermo del Toro started off with what can best be described as a peek at things to come. A somewhat simplistic ghost story at base becomes a wholly creepy, chilling piece of horror filmmaking, filtered through the same childlike view of the world that later cropped up in his brilliant Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Viewed as a part of del Toro’s filmography, it’s an important work that shows an artist coming to grips with his vision. As a standalone movie, it’s one of the best horror film’s of the decade.—J.S.

Dirty Pretty Things (2002) If Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things did nothing else, it introduced me to the work of the remarkable Chiwetel Ejiofor—and for that matter, Sophie Okonedo. But actually, it did a lot more than that in that it is something quite unusual—a riveting crime thriller that isn’t afraid to be much more than its genre requires.—K.H.

The Dreamers (2003) Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers captures the feel of the late 1960s film nerd better than any movie ever has or is likely to do. (Is it sad that I recognized every pantomimed movie reference before the film revealed what they were? Probably, but hey I am a film nerd and I know this era very well.) It also delves into the politics and sexuality that are part and parcel of the time. Shattering and brilliant.—K.H.

Easy Virtue (2009) Stephan Elliott’s Easy Virtue is both a wild comedy and a penetrating drama that manages the considerable feat of balancing them both in at least close to equal measure. A top-flight cast—and, yes, I include Jessica Biel in that—and seemingly effortless style bring it all together. And there’s an amazingly playful sound track in the bargain.—K.H.

Femme Fatale (2002) A lot of people don’t like Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale, but for me it was—and is—a return to form for the filmmaker. It’s a trashy thriller taken to every possible extreme—and one that plays like a compendium of the filmmaker’s best work.—K.H.

The Fountain (2006) Sure, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2008) got all the attention, but here’s the real deal. It’s Aronofsky as artist—and an ambitious one at that. A dense, complex journey through time and love, it’s one of the most visually striking films of the decade. An understated epic.—J.S.

From Hell (2001) If you’re going to make only one film in a decade, you’d best take a cue from the Hughes Brothers and make sure it’s damn good. Based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel, this tale of Jack the Ripper and the laudanum-addicted inspector (played by an excellent Johnny Depp) attempting to track him down is—even eight years later—the most purely stylish horror film to come around this decade.—J.S.

Grindhouse (2007) This much-maligned attempt at an old-school B-movie double feature (something that simply confused moviegoers) is not on here for Quentin Tarantino’s half of the bill, the admittedly tedious Death Proof. No, what gets this film on the list is Robert Rodriguez’s schlock-a-thon Planet Terror, a splattery, stylish zombie flick that stands as the director’s best. Add in some fake trailers (by such filmmakers as Rodriguez, Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright) about movies involving Nazi werewolves, and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a movie theater.—J.S.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Yes, the first two Harry Potter movies from Chris Columbus were entertaining enough, but with Alfonso Cuarón brought in to helm this third film, we got a Harry Potter film that exploded onto the screen with wild creativity like nothing we’d seen in the series before. In fact, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban crosses that line between entertainment and art.—K.H.

A History of Violence (2005) Someday in the future, we may look back at the films of David Cronenberg and see A History of Violence as a shift into a different style. For the longest time, the master of “body horror” dealt more in the offbeat, making science-fiction films where this revulsion could be excused as fantasy. Not anymore, as Cronenberg brought all this into the real world, making it all the more unsettling. Combine this with a great role by William Hurt, and it’s just a simple reminder as to how lucky we are for having someone as unusual as Cronenberg working today.—J.S.

Hollywood Ending (2002) I was a little disappointed by Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending when it first came out, but after hearing Allen assess it as one of the few of his films that entirely works for him, I gave it another shot. I still think the film is at its funniest before Allen’s character is stricken with psychosomatic blindness, but all in all, it’s Allen’s funniest starring film of the decade. And though it shouldn’t work, he and Téa Leoni make a good screen team.—K.H.

Hot Fuzz (2007) Shaun of the Dead (2004)—Edgar Wright’s first team-up with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost—is the more popular pick, but it has nothing on this film. A frenetically stylish, reverential send-up of low-grade action movies, the movie’s surprisingly complex plot is only outdone by its clever sense of humor.—J.S.

Idlewild (2006) Bryan Barber’s Idlewild is such an odd film that it never really stood a chance. Yet this very creative, full-blown musical/gangster drama is one of the most interesting films of the decade. If you’ve never seen it, give it a try. There’s really nothing out there like it—which is one of the main reasons it never stood a chance.—K.H.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) A late-in-the-day addition to this list (since I’d not seen it till last week), Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Paranassus can best be described as a darkly funny allegorical fantasy. It’s also a movie that I can imagine bumping something off the top 20 of the decade someday. Time alone will tell.—K.H.

In Bruges (2008) Black comedy done right. Martin McDonagh’s debut feature is a juggling act of violence, intelligence and unmitigated offensiveness, all set—in of all places—Belgium. It all works not just because of McDonagh’s talent behind the camera, but behind the pen as well, making for one brilliantly written, cleverly plotted movie.—J.S.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) For me this wild and woolly World War II yarn—that is marvelously unconcerned with historical accuracy— is Quentin Tarantino’s best film—at least so far. It’s still more or less in the same “trash masterpiece” mode as his earlier films, but there’s a new maturity here in both his writing and his filmmaking style. That may seem a strange assessment of a film that rewrites the ending of WWII, but it’s true.—K.H.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003/2004) OK, so theatrically these were released as two separate films, but we’re going to cop-out and use director Quentin Tarantino’s original intentions of this being one single movie and go with that. And since one can’t really exist—or be enjoyed—without the other, it seems right. Regardless, it’s the movies where Tarantino’s love—and embracing—of B-movie schlock reared it’s head on-screen, something that later culminated with Inglourious Basterds (2009). A smorgasbord of bloody, ridiculous absurdity that marks the first time the man became a full-fledged, stylish filmmaker.—J.S.

Kinsey (2004) Bill Condon is a filmmaker whose work we don’t see often enough. Granted his Dreamgirls (2006) was a bit of a letdown, but his two biopics—Gods and Monsters (1998) and Kinsey—are pure gold. Gods and Monsters is only sort of a biopic, since the story of the last days of filmmaker James Whale is pure speculation, and that might be why it’s slightly the stronger film. Still his film on sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) is a brilliant film that ought to be better appreciated.—K.H.

The Ladykillers (2004) Yes, we picked this over the Coen Brothers Oscar winner No Country for Old Men (2007). Yes, it got a pretty lukewarm reception from both audiences and critic. Nevertheless, this remake of Alexander Mackendrick’s 1955 original is funnier (featuring some of the Coens’ cleverest dialogue) and quirkier than it ever gets credit for, and has one of the few truly original Tom Hanks performances.—J.S.

Let the Right One In (2008) It’s a pity that vampires in this now-expired decade will forever be defined by Twilight, especially while this Swedish vampire flick exists. A bizarrely touching tale of a young boy who befriends a vampire girl who lives next door, director Tomas Alfredson never skimps on the atmosphere or the blood-letting, in this complex tale of innocent—and not-so-innocent—youths.—J.S.

Lilo & Stitch (2002) OK, I am not a Disney fan, so the fact that Lilo & Stitch made this list is noteworthy. However, I think it belongs here—and I suspect that the key to why this film works for me as few Disney productions do lies in the fact that it’s almost entirely the vision of two men: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders. Plus, it wasn’t subjected to the corporate mind-set where a film ends up with half a dozen (or more) writers until the original concept is watered down to nothingness.—K.H.

Love Actually (2003) As readers of my Screening Room column know, it’s only recently that I re-watched Richard Curtis’ über-romantic (in every sense of the word) Love Actually—and I found it to be as good or better than I remembered. The question I’m left with after this Christmas offering of his is why we have to wait several years between Curtis’ movies?—K.H.

Milk (2008) After years of futzing around with unwatchable navel-gazing indie films, Gus Van Sant got down to cases with this intense and intensely moving biopic on outgay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. It’s fairly traditional filmmaking, which in this case is exactly what the material needs. Everything is built around Sean Penn’s towering performance as Milk, but there’s not a single performance in this film that didn’t give me new respect for the actors involved.—K.H.

Miracle at St. Anna (2008) Unwieldy, it’s Spike Lee at his most ambitious. It’s a movie about World War II and about race, but it’s so much more than that—from spirituality to death to plain old human interaction. But most importantly, it’s the kind of overreaching cinema that doesn’t get made often enough. —J.S.

Mulholland Dr. (2001) The closest thing to an accessible movie David Lynch made in this decade, Mulholland Dr. really isn’t all that accessible. It only seems that way when you put it up against his online work and Inland Empire (2006). Otherwise, this is a deeply sinister film that sometimes seems to exude evil without it ever being exactly clear why, which is part of its appeal.—K.H.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) Yeah, it’s a lightweight film, but it may also just be one of the few nearly perfect entertainments out there. In fact, this reworking of the really pretty bad 1960 Frank Sinatra film of the same title is very likely the most enjoyable movie Steven Soderbergh has made. And if he hadn’t put the scene that paved the way for the sequel on the end of it, I’d say it actually becomes art. Well, it does become art—till that happens.—K.H.

Once Upon a Time In Mexico (2003) The final entry in Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi trilogy is the director at his most self-indulgent. A convoluted plot that revels in its own absurdity—from blind gunmen to face transplants to double crosses—shows off a playful Rodriguez coming into his own as the decade’s preeminent action director.—J.S.

The Orphanage (2007) In a decade where horror was defined by torture porn—and the Saws and Eli Roths of the world made small fortunes—Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage got it right. It’s always harder to be creepy than it is to gross an audience out, and Bayona masters this, piling on atmosphere while never skimping on the scares. Easily the creepiest movie of the decade.—J.S.

The Others (2001) Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others may not be quite as clever as it thinks it is, which is to say that you’ll likely figure out what’s really going on before the end. But in terms of impact, the ghost story is one of the decades most chilling films.—K.H.

Paprika (2007) If only all animation was this ludicrously eccentric. Sotshi Kno’s anime is a compendium of offbeat weirdness as fantasy and reality meld together into one big pile of outlandish surrealism that’s never strange for the sake of strange. A reminder that anything is possible in animated film.—J.S.

Paris, Je T’Aime (2006) The fact that this film’s ersatz sequel New York, I Love You hasn’t come to town is proof enough that film anthologies such as this don’t usually work. They’re too often uneven or inconsistent, but Paris, Je T’Aime is the exception. A happy accident where 20 disparate filmmakers with different styles—from the Coens to Alexander Cuarón to Alexander Payne—all come together to show off their love of cinema.—J.S.

Peter Pan (2003) Not so long ago I watched P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan again—and was pleased to find it just as wonderful as I’d remembered. Absolutely everything about this film works—and yet it was a movie I’d originally dreaded sitting through. Oh well, I can be wrong. What’s funny to me is I’m much more transported to another world with Hogan’s Neverland than anything offered by the technology of Avatar.—K.H.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004) I have a friend who actually walked out of Joel Schumacher’s film of the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of The Phantom of the Opera. I am probably as mystified by that as he is mystified by why I rate it so highly. To me, it’s simply the perfect, soaring, operatic telling of the tale. Does it lose the horror in the bargain? Yes, in some ways it does, but it’s a trade I’m willing to make.—K.H.

A Prairie Home Companion (2006) I don’t believe any filmmaker has ever gone out with such a magnificent final film as Robert Altman did with this. What’s most amazing about the film to me is that while it’s a perfectly good film about the Garrison Keillor radio show of the same name, it becomes a meditation on death and dying—from a man whose health was so precarious that Paul Thomas Anderson was on hand to take over filming at any moment. Yet, it’s never a gloomy work. It’s as fast-paced and playful as anything Altman ever did. What a way to go!—K.H.

The Prestige (2006) No Dark Knight (2008) to be seen here; we’re instead going with Christopher Nolan’s blackened thriller. Its preoccupation with identity—as illustrated by a rivalry between fellow magicians—is perfectly suited to Nolan’s usual thematic concerns. Nolan manages to squeeze as much mood and style out of the material as possible. It remains one of the rare cases of a movie working in spite of its twist, not because of it.—J.S.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002) While Paul Thomas Anderson has made weightier films, that doesn’t mean his take on the romantic comedy should be dismissed. Very much an Anderson film in both content—with its concerns over human connection—and style, it doubles as a critique of lead Adam Sandler’s film persona. That it’s also given Sandler the one genuinely good screen performance of his career is nothing to scoff at.—J.S.

The Ring (2002) It’s a pity this film opened up the floodgates on any number of half-baked remakes of dreary Japanese horror films, since Gore Verbinski’s The Ring is the real deal. Based on Hideo Takata’s J-horror film Ringu (1998), Verbinski manages to improve upon the original in every conceivable fashion. It’s moody, atmospheric horror at its very best. -JS

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) This is the film that introduced me to Wes Anderson, and while I still think it’s a great movie (especially when I’m watching it), I admit it’s just not quite in the same league as his later films. I’m not sure why that is either, but I notice it tends to be held in somewhat lower esteem by most Anderson fans. Even so—and maybe it’s just because it was my introduction to Anderson’s work—it strikes me as the perfect film to start newcomers on. But I could be wrong.—K.H.

Running With Scissors (2006) It’s too bad that this film from Ryan Murphy never really found an audience. (Locally, I think the mistake was booking it into a multiplex rather than an art house.) While Running With Scissors isn’t without its problems, it’s also a film with far more than its fair share of things that work splendidly. Alternately funny and disturbing, it’s a movie that has a lot more heart and humanity than it at first seems. Subsequent viewings pay huge dividends.—K.H.

The Science of Sleep (2006) Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep is one of the filmmakers most accomplished—and difficult—works. What at first seems a charming comedic fantasy gradually reveals itself as something altogether different and considerably darker. Yet somehow, Gondry never loses the charm of the film in the process.—K.H.

Scoop (2006) Generally dismissed as lesser Woody Allen, Scoop has always struck me as one of Allen’s most assured and funniest films. But I think what perhaps makes it even more worth noting is it marks the first time Allen—as a performer—was able to come to terms with his age, thereby getting him off the path of late-in-the-day Bob Hope, which he was edging precariously down.—K.H.

A Serious Man (2009) The Coen Brothers’ most recent film is a bleak affair—at bottom it’s about the basic inability of religion to solve anything—and not everyone’s sort of movie. I’m not even sure it’s my sort of movie, but it’s a film that keeps revealing new aspects of itself to me in a way that I’ve never quite experienced before. I figure in a year or two I might really understand its mysteries.—K.H.

Shadow of the Vampire (2000) Whatever became of E. Elias Mehrige? After a stint in the indie world, he made the remarkable Shadow of the Vampire, followed it up years later with the disappointing Suspect Zero (2004) and then almost completely fell off the radar. Maybe he’s simply not commercial enough, though this brilliant, vastly entertaining and often very funny shaggy vampire story suggests otherwise. The film is an imagining that the actor Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) in F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) actually was a vampire. Despite the fact that the film goes completely over the top in its last few minutes, it’s a premise that, for most of its length, almost makes a compelling case.—K.H.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) Guy Ritchie’s take on Holmes and Watson—with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law respectively playing each brilliantly—is popcorn filmmaking done right. It’s got the usual panache you expect from a Ritchie film, all the while never forgetting to be thoroughly entertaining.—J.S.

Shortbus (2006) It’s John Cameron Mitchell’s follow up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch—and it’s almost as good. The problem is that Mitchell opted to include hardcore pornography in the film—and in so doing, made a case for such as artistically defensible—which greatly limited its audience, and in fact, theaters that would show it. A reader asked me about the film and I cautiously recommended it—explaining what was in it. To this he said, “So I shouldn’t take mom?” Most emphatically, no.—K.H.

Sin City (2005) Probably the most faithful comic-book adaptation ever made, Robert Rodriguez teamed up with Sin City creator Frank Miller to make the most fluid page-to-screen creation ever. The movie revels in it’s bad taste—misanthropy, dismemberment, cannibals, perverts, you name it—but gets away with this because, somehow, it never forgets all this macho tough-guy fantasy stuff is supposed to be fun.—J.S.

Snatch (2000) Still Guy Ritchie’s best, it took him eight years (and a marriage to Madonna) to get back to anywhere near the quality of this heist comedy. Playfully nasty and with style to spare, its tangled up plot lines are a staple of the director’s work, but this is the time he nailed it with frenetic verve. Few have made films with more pure energy.—J.S.

Speed Racer (2008) A friend recently mentioned to me how, in an interview, James Cameron mentioned that Avatar was the movie he’d always wanted to see as a kid. Apparently Cameron never watched Speed Racer, he could have saved himself the time. Whatever shriveled-up vestiges of my inner-child remain, it loves this movie. What the Wachowski Brothers have created is energetic and colorful, a near perfectly tuned visual assault and cinematic bombardment that’s as groundbreaking as it is entertaining.—J.S.

The Spirit (2008) With comic-book movies becoming more and more serious, Frank Miller’s version of Will Eisner’s The Spirit came as a relief. Occasionally goofy and always carrying around its own bizarre sense of humor (Samuel L. Jackson in a Nazi uniform, anyone?), this is the antithesis of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, a carefree oddity that’s hated less for what it is than what it’s not. To paraphrase Jackson’s villainous character The Octopus, it’s just damn weird. And that’s what makes it so enjoyable.—J.S.

Spirited Away (2001) I think I’m still a little cheesed that Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away stole a lot of the thunder (and the awards) from Lilo & Stitch in 2001, but it’s long enough ago that I’m ready to concede that this is a wonderful film—perhaps the director’s best of the decade.—K.H.

Spy Kids (2001) Who’d ever have guessed that Robert Rodriguez would hit his creative potential with a kids’ movie? With a small filmography of good—but not great films—Rodriguez discovered his voice—and his swagger—with a kiddie fantasy flick about (what else?) kids who are spies. The results are nothing short of unmitigated fun, due in no small part to the fact that Rodriguez (with his signature stylistic flair) gives kids more credit than most Hollywood products do, making for family fare that’s surprisingly intelligent and thoughtful.—J.S.

Stay (2005) Marc Forster’s Stay is probably the single most brilliantly hallucinatory film of the decade—and that proved to be a problem for a lot of viewers who were simply perplexed by the whole thing. I’d like to think this film will one day get the serious re-evaluation it deserves. The problem with that is that it really needs to be shown on the big screen to fully appreciate it.—K.H.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) Alphabetically, Marc Forster’s next film, Stranger Than Fiction, turns out to follow Stay. That’s strangely apt since the two films have more in common than might be assumed. Regardless of that, this is one of the sweetest—but never cloying—films of the decade. Look, this is a movie that can make Will Ferrell palatable. That’s an achievement you could probably build a religion around.—K.H.

Sunshine (2007) With a career bent on never attaching himself to a single genre, Danny Boyle finally ventured into science fiction with results that can only be described as spectacular. What could’ve been a generic sci-fi thriller turns into something else entirely in Boyle’s hands. It’s not just his usual humanity on display, but his flair for the unexpected and his knack for stunning visuals that makes the film exceptional.—J.S.

Syriana (2005). We’re all screwed. This is the gist of Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana, the most accomplished political thriller of the decade. But instead of moping around in its own pessimism, the film instead acts as a call to arms in its sense of urgency. And to top it all off, it’s one of the few times a film trading in high-mindedness has managed to justify its own importance, something that’s no small feat.—J.S.

The Tailor of Panama (2001) John Boorman’s film version of John le Carre’s novel The Tailor of Panama is one of the most overlooked films of the decade. Though similar in many respects to Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana (1960), this is very much a film of its time—wickedly cynical and bitter to the core. Its view of spying as nothing more than a means to start wars (on bogus information) has actually become more relevant with the passage of time.—K.H.

Talk to Me (2007) Kasi Lemmons’ Talk to Me—a biopic on Washington, D.C., radio-show host Petey Greene (Don Cheadle)—has one basic flaw in that its dramatic high point occurs about 30 minutes before the film is over. That’s a problem, but it’s not enough to keep this from being one of the decade’s most overlooked gems.—K.H.

Tetro (2009) For my money, this boldly operatic explosion of creativity from Francis Ford Coppola is quite possibly the filmmaker’s best work ever. It is certainly his most visually striking. I’d suggest checking it out, but the film has yet to make it to DVD, nor is there any indication when that will happen.—K.H.

Up (2009) The only Pixar film on this list, this animated adventure is either a kids’ movie for adults or an adult movie for kids. Either way, it’s sneaky in its emotional weight and maturity and even heartbreaking—and that’s just in the film’s opening. But even with this, directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson never forget that the point is to have fun. Up is a near perfect piece of family entertainment in every respect.—J.S.

A Very Long Engagement (2004) A lot of people will be surprised to find this Jean-Pierre Jeunet film on the list rather than the far more popular Amélie (2001). The fact is that I simply think this is the better film—certainly it’s the more ambitious. But it’s an ambitious film that Jeunet is completely up to. Amélie, charming as it is, pales in comparison.—K.H.

Volver (2006) Okay, so it has a bit of child abuse, a justifiable homicide, the disposal of a body in a refrigerator, revelations about not-so-justifiable homicides and a few other oddities, but Volver is probably Pedro Almodóvar’s sweetest-tempered and warmest film. Maybe it was the joy of having his old star Carmen Maura back after 18 years, or maybe it just happened. Whatever the case, it’s one of the filmmaker’s most beguiling works.—K.H.

The Weather Man (2005) Maligned and pretty much ignored, Gore Verbinski’s The Weather Man was never much of a crowd-pleaser. Of course, when your film deals with a character coming to terms with him his own mediocrity (has there ever been a film more suited to Nicolas Cage and his talent as an actor?), you’re not going to make a ton of people happy. Many see it as depressing, but the beauty in Verbinski’s film lies in its own innate hope in coming to terms—and accepting—yourself. Easily his most accomplished work, it’s a pity it’s so often overlooked.—J.S.

Whatever Works (2009) Originally written in 1977 as a project for Zero Mostel, it’s not just Woody Allen recycling material from his days making Annie Hall (1977) or Manhattan (1979). No, instead this comes across more as vintage Woody, but modernized, a grouchy curmudgeon at war with the world. Fundamentalists, the NRA, people who ride bicycles on sidewalks—no one is safe from Allen’s bitterly funny onslaught. The movie is a line in the sand against everything pointless, antiquated, rude and just plain stupid, but beyond all that is a warm, hopeful film.—J.S.

X2: X-Men United (2003) After a succession of duds like Superman Returns (2006) and Valkyrie (2008), we’ve forgotten just how good Bryan Singer can be. On its surface, its hard to make a better superhero movie than X2, since it’s already an entertaining—but not intelligence-insulting—popcorn movie. But if we choose to dig deeper, there’s a whole slew of subtext underneath, dealing with Singer’s own sexuality, making it the rarest of movies: a big-budget summer movie that also reflects the director’s own personal concerns.—J.S..

Y Tu Mamá También (2001) Alfonso Curaón is one of the key filmmakers in the past decade, and this bold, yet ultimately rather gentle, examination of sexuality, coming-of-age and coming to terms is how he entered the era. He would do a better film before the decade was out, but this remains a major achievement.—K.H.

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113 thoughts on “Top 100 movies of the decade

  1. Ken Hanke

    So is this where we tell you the great films you missed?

    If you feel so inclined, sure.

  2. Dread P. Roberts

    All we can do is present an honest list of the films from 2000 through 2009 that impressed us as the most artistically significant of the decade.

    And I genuinely appreciate and respect that attitude. This list is obviously personal in one way or another to each of you, and I ultimately think it’s all the better for that – despite the fact that there are some omissions (inevitable, really) that I would absolutely have had on this list (such as LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring). But I know, that you guys know, that such big name movie omissions as this were going to be brought up.

    We’re bound to catch a lot of flack for omitting Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

    …so long as you guys understand the dark, evil travesty against humanity that you’ve committed.

    I believe this movie was actually one of the first Cranke Hanke movie reviews that I ever read. My considerable agreement and appreciation over that review is part of what kept me coming back to the Mountain Express for more trustworthy movie reviews thereafter.

    Thank you Ken Hanke and Justin Souther for all of your reviews!

  3. Ken Hanke

    Or where we tell you had bad some of these films you like actually are?

    Well, yeah, Steve, but you’ll be in error, of course.

  4. davidf

    Did you intentionally leave out documentaries, or did it just work out that way?

    Also, I’m excited to see SYNECDOCHE, NY so high on your list.

  5. davidf

    Did you intentionally leave out documentaries, or did it just work out that way?

    Also, I’m excited to see SYNECDOCHE, NY so high on your list.

  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban crosses that line between entertainment and art.
    I’m curious as to what you think the distinction is? Is not all cinema art by definition?

    I have to say I was very pleased my the inclusions here – a few of my favourites (MEMENTO, CHICAGO, THE QUIET AMERICAN) have been omitted, but not unexpectedly.

    With the placement of MOULIN ROGUE! at number one, I expect I’ll soon have to go through my yearly ritual of pulling the DVD out and watching, in the hope that it will click for me this time. It’s ranking above O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? and PAN’S LABYRINTH irks me, which I expect would be the case even if I did like it.

  7. Jonathan Barnard

    Thanks for the list. I agree with many of the choices, and I gratefully have some new films to put on my “to see” list. Of course, these lists are made for disagreements, so here goes (I’ll keep it short):

    How could you not include “Crouching Tiger, Sleeping Dragon”? The fight scene between the two women is the best fight scene in the history of cinema. And as long as we’re on the topic of Chinese films, what about “Kung Fu Hustle”? It was just as good a send-up on its genre as “Hot Fuzz” (which I also loved) but a more interesting and inventive film. And no Wong Kar Wai? O.K. I’ll stop there with your Chinese language omissions.

    As for what you liked too much: I love Altman (“Nashville,” “Short Cuts” and so forth) and like the “Praire Home” radio show but thought the film was a little boring. “Love Actually” was uneven. It had some good bits but also some pretty uninspired bits. It was far from a great film. And “Darjeeling” was better than “Life Aquatic.”

    Cheers.

  8. Did you intentionally leave out documentaries, or did it just work out that way?

    I am compiling a second list myself just for documentaries. There are quite a few that are pure entertainment, like SLACKER and KING OF KONG, but I don’t have any on mine either.

  9. Justin Souther

    I would absolutely have had on this list (such as LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring).

    I know Ken and I briefly discussed if this (or even all three movies) should end up on here. I’m not sure we came up with a definitive reason to leave LotR off here (they’re certainly important films in the scheme of the things as far as the decade goes), but for me — while I enjoyed them when I originally watched them — I’ve never felt like rewatching them since. Sometimes it’s as simple as that, since there’s not a movie on this list that I wouldn’t want to watch again.

    Also, I think secretly, deep down, we’re both a little peeved that the LotR films have ruined Guillermo del Toro for the next few years of Hobbit movies.

  10. Justin Souther

    Did you intentionally leave out documentaries, or did it just work out that way?

    You know, I don’t think there was ever a documentary either one of us considered. A lot of that has to do with the two of us just not being huge documentary fans.

  11. Dread P. Roberts

    Also, I think secretly, deep down, we’re both a little peeved that the LotR films have ruined Guillermo del Toro for the next few years of Hobbit movies.

    Seeing as how the wonderfully dark and fantastical Pan’s Labyrinth would probably be in my personal top five for the decade, I can understand the desire to see more original work coming out of Guillermo del Toro. The thing is that I’m looking forward to his take on The Hobbit, but I don’t fully understand why it has to be such a long, huge undertaking. From what I understand, they’re basically making one long movie, and then splitting it in two. (Just like Kill Bill and the last Harry Potter film.) My point is that I’m reserving hope that Guillermo del Toro will have the opportunity to move on to something else, long before the second part of The Hobbit is released.

  12. Justin Souther

    The thing is that I’m looking forward to his take on The Hobbit, but I don’t fully understand why it has to be such a long, huge undertaking.

    My guess is that it’s what’s now expected. With Peter Jackson making three three hour plus movies, I’d suspect that anything on a smaller scale would be dismissed by a lot of fans and maybe even some critics. And while I’d watch a del Toro Hobbit before just about any other director, I’d personally rather see him making — as you put is — more original work. But then again, Hollywood never made a nickel making movies just for me.

  13. Jonathan Barnard

    Oops. I meant “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” not “Sleeping Dragon” of course.

  14. Justin Souther

    I Heart Huckabees? surely you must be joking…

    ‘Fraid so. Though I’m appalled that anyone would even consider Ken and I might do something as unthinkably callow as joke about a list of movies.

  15. Vince Lugo

    Moulin Rouge as #1? Surely you jest. Mom and I tried watching that one and neither of us could stand it. We had to turn it off it was so bad (and understand that that’s something I very, very rarely do).

    As to what’s not on the list, as I mentioned elsewhere, I think Shrek 2 should have been there. Also, Persepolis definitely deserved a spot. I read the book in college a couple of years before the film came out and I can tell you that none of the powerful emotion of the story was lost in translation. In fact, I think the move to film enhanced it greatly.

    Another absence is 2001’s Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (original title: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door), one of the best films ever to be spun out of a TV series but also vastly underrated.

  16. Ken Hanke

    So many differing opinions, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? As I’ve said elsewhere, all we could do is give you an honest list of what we called “the best.” And no jesting was involved. What we did not do was attempt to make a list with the idea that it would necessarily be to everyone’s liking. Wouldn’t be much point to that, would there?

    I will say that The Fellowship of the Ring (the only of the LOTR movies I’ve ever felt a desire to see twice) almost made it, as did Eternal Sunshine. In the case of the latter, as much as I admire it and important as it is, I think both Gondry and Kaufman have done better work.

    And, no, Jeremy, I don’t think all film is art. I defy you to sit through Transylmania and cling to that idea.

  17. And, no, Jeremy, I don’t think all film is art. I defy you to sit through Transylmania and cling to that idea.
    I sat through TRANSFORMERS and still cling to it. TRANSFORMERS may be crap, but it’s still art – crap art. There are plenty of terrible paintings around – does that make them not art? I don’t think the term ‘art’ has any implications regarding quality. All movies are art, from TRANSYLMANIA to PAN’S LABYRINTH.

    Roger Ebert just published his ‘Best of the Decade’ list, and it contains some extremely curious choices – BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, WANKING LIFE, CRASH. He puts THE HURT LOCKER at Number 2 (therefore ahead of PAN’S LABYRINTH, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, MOULIN ROGUE, etc.)
    http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/12/the_best_films_of_the_decade.html

  18. Ken Hanke

    I sat through TRANSFORMERS and still cling to it. TRANSFORMERS may be crap, but it’s still art – crap art. There are plenty of terrible paintings around – does that make them not art? I don’t think the term ‘art’ has any implications regarding quality.

    It’s a definitional difference and we’re simply not going to agree. For me, sure there is crap art. I would call Michel Gondry’s Human Nature crap art. It sets out to be a work of art, but it simply fails (in my view). A film like Transformers or Transylmania is just crap — they don’t even attempt art.

    Roger Ebert just published his ‘Best of the Decade’ list, and it contains some extremely curious choices

    I suspect our choices would seem equally curious in many quarters. They probably seem less so to you because you’re familiar with our taste and had some idea of at least the sort of thing to expect. I also cannot fault Ebert for choosing these films based on how they impacted him emotionally. Some of his choices left me emotionlly untouched, but that’s okay.

  19. Ken Hanke

    I’m a little surprised STARDUST isn’t on here.

    It was in one draft.

  20. Bert

    LOTR, Borat, and Munich strike me as major omissions. Whatever one thinks of them; I’m pretty sure people will still be watching them 50 years from now. Can the same be said for Praire Home Companion and Across the Universe?

  21. Ken Hanke

    LOTR, Borat, and Munich strike me as major omissions. Whatever one thinks of them; I’m pretty sure people will still be watching them 50 years from now. Can the same be said for Praire Home Companion and Across the Universe?

    I’d agree about LOTR, but the other two? Not so much. In any case, I’m not claiming the gift of prophecy. I never said these are the movies that will still be around 50 years from now. But if they aren’t? Maybe that’s all the more reason to celebrate them now.

  22. Steven

    [i]Almost Famous[/i] is what strikes me as the biggest omission.

  23. MissEmmaLee

    The Kill Bill series is an assault.

    I commend you for your bravado in taking such a task head on, but some of these are obvious you drank the Hollywood Kool-Aid

  24. Dread P. Roberts

    …as did Eternal Sunshine. In the case of the latter, as much as I admire it and important as it is, I think both Gondry and Kaufman have done better work.

    I can agree that they’ve done better work (and I do think Be Kind, Rewind deserves a higher spot). But I wonder if their respective stylized projects that followed would have had as good of a chance of being widely (sort of, anyway) distributed to the public, without Eternal Sunshine? Maybe, maybe not. No one knows, but I tend to think that Eternal Sunshine was important, for Gondry especially (since Kaufman already had Being John Malkovich). And even though Focus Features already had some great films, I also tend to think that this was an important film in their establishment as a big name for art house film distribution. Of course, I have no way of proving my theories, since I’ve yet to actually experience this alternative decade reality. But stay tuned.

    Plus, in my opinion, this movie sort of did for Jim Carrey what Stranger Than Fiction did for Will Ferrell, and Punch-Drunk Love did for Adam Sandler. Granted, Carrey had already done that for me with his previous film, The Truman Show, but Eternal Sunshine helped.

    Bear in mind that I’m not really arguing with your decisions (since that is just silly for this sort of thing), but merely pointing out my own opinion(s).

  25. Justin Souther

    The Kill Bill series is an assault.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  26. Justin Souther

    Bear in mind that I’m not really arguing with your decisions (since that is just silly for this sort of thing), but merely pointing out my own opinion(s).

    And they’re all understandable. And while I won’t deny that the movie is important for any number of reasons, it’s still something I never personally warmed up to. Yes, it’s a very neat, clever movie, but it’s one I never felt much connection to (and I know there’s a ton of people who disagree with me on this). That’s not something I can say about his movies (including his short in Tokyo!) that have followed. To me, that’s where the difference lies.

    Is it important or significant? Yes, of course. Is it a film I ever personally truly enjoyed? Unfortunately, it wasn’t (though I think it would have been on our list if he afterwards hadn’t put out two films we both feel were much better). Yeah, there are a few films that are on there for what we’ve called their significance, but the way I see it, it was a cheap excuse to add a handful of personal favorites to the list.

  27. Dread P. Roberts

    And while I won’t deny that the movie is important for any number of reasons, it’s still something I never personally warmed up to.

    Well, that’s ultimately the important part, now then isn’t it. The way I see it, the ‘best of’ list should either be a collection of ones favorites, or collection of what one would consider to be the most important, for the particular period of time in question. Either way it’s naturally going to be personal to one degree or another, and sometimes the two options will collide. But if they don’t, then there’s really no point in mixing things up. Otherwise you’d end up not fully knowing what exactly the list is supposed to be.

  28. Bert

    My own thoughts on Borat was it did for George W. Bush’s America what Huckleberry Finn did for pre-Civil War America. I know that’s an artistic stretch, but that’s what the movie did for me. Munich I thought was an incredible portrayal of terrorism for our times. Does the hunt for vengeance against the terrorists ultimately dehumanize the vengeance seekers? To wrap that in a mainstream thriller package was pretty daring, I thought, and especially for a Jewish director who had to know he was going to take flak for it among his people.

  29. Dread P. Roberts

    Strictly for my own fun amusement, here’s a few more of this decades movies that I probably would’ve had on this list (depending on if there was room, which would be very, very hard for me):

    3:10 to Yuma (2007)
    Almost Famous (2000)
    American Psycho (2000)
    The Brothers Grimm (2005)
    Casino Royale (2006)
    Catch Me if You Can (2002)
    Chocolat (2000)
    City of God (Cidade de Deus) (2002)
    The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
    Death at a Funeral (2007)
    District 9 (2009)
    Donnie Darko (2001)
    Enchanted (2007)
    Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
    Into the Wild (2007)
    Juno (2007)
    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
    Kung Fu Hustle (2005)
    Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
    Millions (2004)
    Minority Report (2002)
    The Pianist (2002)
    Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
    Shrek (2001)
    Stardust (2007)
    V for Vendetta (2006)
    Zombieland (2009)

    …good grief! When combined with the other choices already listed, I don’t know how I’d ever limit this down to 100. And this is just what I came up with while looking over Wikipedia’s movie listings for the decade. I’m glad this isn’t my job.

  30. Ken Hanke

    but some of these are obvious you drank the Hollywood Kool-Aid

    I don’t even understand what that means in this context.

  31. RS

    Phantom was an appalling adaptation of the musical. Joel Schumacher should have never gone anywhere near it.

  32. michael

    Lists like this need as disclaimer. Films are art and art is highly dependent on personal preference. I do think they are good for ideas as to possibilities.

    I haven’t seen most of the movies in your top 20 but I found Across the Universe to be basically unwatchable. One of the few movies I have quit halfway through.

  33. Daniel

    Hello, I would like to understand why is it that some of the 100 greatest movies of the decade didn’t get 5 stars when you originally reviewed them, while other movies that actually got the 5 stars are not here. Thanks (a reader from Colombia)

  34. Jason

    I think you guys did an admirable job compiling this list. I agree with about 80% of your choices, especially the top 20, and I haven’t seen about 10% of them. I would add:

    Almost Famous
    Amelie
    Bowling For Columbine
    Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind
    Everything Is Illuminated
    Lord Of the Rings Trilogy (For the sheer magnitude of it)
    Master and Commander: The Far Side Of the World
    No Country For Old Men
    The Pianist
    Requiem For A Dream
    Spellbound
    Taxi To The Darkside
    The Triplets of Belleville

    Thanks for all your insight these ten years.

  35. Me

    Good to see Science of Sleep on there its probably became my favorite Gondry surpassing Eternal Sunshine. I still say Slumdog is one of the most overrated films of the decade. Im hoping Paul Schraders Bollywood film hes working on will be something more worthwhile.

  36. Ken Hanke

    Lists like this need as disclaimer. Films are art and art is highly dependent on personal preference.

    It has one at the beginning. I thought we made it clear that this is our take on the 100 best of the decade.

  37. Ken Hanke

    Hello, I would like to understand why is it that some of the 100 greatest movies of the decade didn’t get 5 stars when you originally reviewed them, while other movies that actually got the 5 stars are not here.

    For the simple reason that subsequent viewings — or even mere reflection — can make a huge difference in your perception.

  38. Ken Hanke

    Im hoping Paul Schraders Bollywood film hes working on will be something more worthwhile.

    Oh…dear.

    By the bye, I should note — since this seems to be the happening place — that I have not been around much. What I thought was a cold suddenly looked like pneumonia to my doctor, which had me running around to x-ray places with an eye toward being slapped into the hospital. Turned out that what I have is two — count ‘em — different types of throat infection. It’s better than pneumonia, but it’s not much fun and I’m spending most of my time asleep. In fact, I’m leading back that way in a moment.

  39. It’s better than pneumonia, but it’s not much fun and I’m spending most of my time asleep. In fact, I’m leading back that way in a moment.
    My deepest sympathies Ken. Hope you recover swiftly. If you need any assistance getting off to sleep, perhaps some Michelangelo Antonioni pictures would help?

  40. Sean Williams

    I can’t imagine the difficulty involved in compiling this list. Although I don’t agree with all of your inclusions or with all of your omissions, I think that you gentlemen have done an admirable job. And really, even if it were possible for you to agree with me on every point, why would it be desirable?

    I can barely decide on my top ten of the decade, although it definitely includes Pan’s Labyrinth, Howl’s Moving Castle, Slumdog Millionaire, Let the Right One In, The Darjeeling Limited, Across the Universe, Moulin Rouge! and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. (If that final choice seems absurd to you, remember that your choice of Speeder Racer and The Spirit would be regarded equally absurd in some quarters!)

    We had to turn it off it was so bad (and understand that that’s something I very, very rarely do).

    Actually, the first time I saw Moulin Rouge! I had the same reaction to the opening ten minutes. So did Tomislav. So, if I recall correctly, did Mr. Hanke. I guarantee you that the rest of the film is worth watching at least once.

  41. Sean Williams

    A couple of thoughts that struck me after I posted my first comment:

    I know that I prefer Howl’s Moving Castle to Spirited Away, and I think that I just may prefer Brick to The Brothers Bloom and The Darjeeling Limited to The Life Aquatic. But they are all on my best of the decade list.

    For the simple reason that subsequent viewings — or even mere reflection — can make a huge difference in your perception.

    I guess I’m unusual in that, because of my near-perfect recall, I seldom rewatch films — even films I call my favorites — unless I believe that I misunderstood them the first time. By the same token, if I do have the desire to see a film repeatedly, I know that I’m onto something special.

  42. Sean Williams

    Finally — and I apologize for chain-posting, but I’m absentminded tonight — my favorite Miyazaki film of the decade is Colours.

  43. Dave

    If I were grading this list of top 20 as an exam, you would be getting about a 15%.

  44. Ken Hanke

    If I were grading this list of top 20 as an exam, you would be getting about a 15%.

    Tell you what, you post your 20 and we’ll see how others grade it.

  45. davidf

    I’m curious how much deliberation occurred before THE SPIRIT made it on the definitive list and if there were other specific movies with which it competed for its spot.

  46. Uncle Charley

    What shocked me about this list wasn’t how much or little of it fell in with my own, but how much I tend to a agree with your weekly reviews…followed by the sight of something like Moulin Rouge at the top. At moments like this I’m reminded of what tends to make me disagree with nearly everyone in my choice of favorite films–and why I’m seriously considering having James Cameron indiscreetly killed after attempting Avatar with an open mind: film is a visual medium, and I just keep looking at writing. With that foundation, it’s impossible for the world not to share my thoughts here and there, because all good films tell a story. It is far less impossible, however, to imagine a world where Chasing Amy doesn’t make the list. Is it a great tall tale (Kevin Smith once joked that it was his science ficiton picture, “’cause you ask any lesbian out there–it ain’t happenin’. If not in spite of then because of the fact that the guy is Ben @#$%in’ Affleck.) Absolutely. Could you scrape by in a human sexuality course just by seeing it? Sure, if you don’t raise your hand too much in class. Can Kevin Smith work a camera worth a damn? Sadly no.

    Days like today I’m reminded to get out there, see the optometrist and make with the watching, not the reading.

  47. Dread P. Roberts

    I’m curious how much deliberation occurred before THE SPIRIT made it on the definitive list and if there were other specific movies with which it competed for its spot.

    Honestly, I enjoyed The Spirit a fair amount for what it was. Do I personally think it deserved to be on this list, in place of several of the omissions; or that it was better than other comic book films of the decade, such as V for Vendetta? Hell no! But this isn’t my personal ‘best of’ list, so it ultimately doesn’t really matter.

  48. davidf

    To be clear, I’m not complaining at all that THE SPIRIT is on this list. I personally think that’s fantastic. Though, it also feels a little bit like a political decision, as if to say, “Take that, super-hero movies that take yourselves so seriously!” Seeing as how that also seemed to be the point of the movie, perhaps its spot on the list is completely deserved. Anyway, these are just my thoughts, but I’d really like to know more of what Ken and Justin were thinking when they made their decision.

    Also, I’m holding on to my hopes that Michel Gondry’s GREEN HORNET will give us another example of how playful a superhero movie can be.

  49. michael

    Ken, my bad yo. You definitely had a disclaimer on there.

    Still can’t believe you liked Across the Universe. A worse butchering of the Beatles I have never experienced.

    To each their own though.

    Here’s a quick list of movies somewhere around my top 20.

    1) The Departed

    2) The Wrestler

    3) The Royal Tenenbaums

    4) No Country for Old Men

    5) The Kill Bill Series

    Man on Wire

    Ratatoullie

    V for Vendetta

    The Squid and the Whale

    Monster’s Inc

    There Will Be Blood

    Triplets of Belleville

    O Brother Where Art Thou?

    Little Miss Sunshine

    Brokeback Mountain

    Grizzly Man

    The Bourne Trilogy

    Wall-E

  50. Justin Souther

    I’m curious how much deliberation occurred before THE SPIRIT made it on the definitive list and if there were other specific movies with which it competed for its spot.

    Actually, I seem to remember Ken very early on saying he wanted The Spirit on the list. It was pretty firmly entrenched from the onset, believe it or not. It’s name never even came up as a movie that might not make it (for the record, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the last film to be cut).

    I wouldn’t say that the reason I enjoyed The Spirit — or the reason that it’s on the list — is based solely on its not being as self-serious as The Dark Knight, though I can see how the blurb I wrote can come across as just that. I think that’s the most interesting aspect of the film — and probably more so its reception — but I never felt like we were including it simply to be spiteful towards a lot of superhero movies I just don’t care for.

    Instead, it’s on the list because both Ken and I enjoy the hell out of it. For all the bigger name comic book movies that came around, that made more money or got a lot of critical praise, I would prefer to just watch this silly, odd little movie. And that’s why it’s on here. I guess that’s the long and the short of it.

  51. Ken Hanke

    Still can’t believe you liked Across the Universe. A worse butchering of the Beatles I have never experienced

    And that is a fascinating assessment to me, because I think it’s the best tribute to the Beatles I’ve ever encountered or ever expect to encounter — and this coming from someone who is a huge Beatles fan and who would include A Hard Day’s Night and Help! on a list of 100 best movies period (assuming I’d be dumb enough to attempt such a list).

    Here’s a quick list of movies somewhere around my top 20

    Well, I don’t have an actual problem with your choices, though it’s too Pixar-heavy for my taste, but then it’s not supposed to be my taste. I do think you cheat by bringing in all three Bourne films, especially since they’re not all from the same director. But I can’t help but ask — do you actually prefer Tenenbaums to the Anderson films we have in the top 20? (It is in the 100.)

  52. Ken Hanke

    Days like today I’m reminded to get out there, see the optometrist and make with the watching, not the reading.

    Well, sometimes you do get both in one package.

  53. With all the praise being heaped on AVATAR for its supposedly stunning visuals, I think THE SPIRIT should be praised not only for its delicious sense of humor and quirky personality, but for being one of the most visually stunning films of the last few years – taking the ideas Miller and Rodriguez developed for SIN CITY and developing them further into an even more stylized comic-book world.
    Actually, THE SPIRIT and THE BOAT THAT ROCKED are two of the most visually impressive pictures I’ve seen in recent memory.

  54. And who would Mr Hanke and Mr Souther rate as FILMMAKER OF THE DECADE?
    I think you could make the case for either Wes Anderson or Danny Boyle, with Tim Burton and the Coen Bros also doing some of their best work.

  55. davidf

    Being snowed in is conducive to making lists.
    Here is my completely personal and absolutely tentative top twenty of the decade:

    20. The Prestige
    19. City of God
    18. There Will Be Blood
    17. Brokeback Mountain
    16. Inland Empire
    15. The Fountain
    14. The Fall
    13. Inglourious Basterds
    12. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    11. Where the Wild Things Are
    10. Pan’s Labyrinth
    9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
    8. The Science of Sleep
    7. Before Sunset
    6. Children of Men
    5. Moulin Rouge!
    4. Be Kind Rewind
    3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
    2. The Brothers Bloom
    1. Synecdoche, NY

  56. Andrew

    Wonderful list. Congratulations – and thanks for the countless hours that must have gone into this, it was a pleasure going through it.

    For my own part, I tend to find Marc Forster’s films irritating rather than intriguing – ‘Stay’ seemed to me to be more or a less a twist on ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ – but one thing I would probably put on my list is one of the two films Charlotte Rampling did with Francois Ozon, with ‘Swimming Pool’ probably beating out ‘Under the Sand’ by a hair’s length.

  57. Ken Hanke

    I never felt like we were including it simply to be spiteful towards a lot of superhero movies I just don’t care for.

    I’m not saying that its inclusion has nothing to do with the fact that it takes the piss out of the increasingly serious comic book movies, but there’s definitely more to it than that. If this was strictly a case of getting at the more seriously intended comic book movies, then X2 wouldn’t also be on the list.

  58. Following the popular trend, I present my own selections for the twenty best of 2000 – 2009

    20. THE DEPARTED (2006) dir. Martin Scorsese
    One of America’s greatest directors turns the Hong Kong thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS into the last word on Irish-American machismo. This brings together everything I love about Martin Scorsese pictures – a great pop soundtrack (including The Stones and John Lennon), a perfect cast (including Mark Wahlburg’s best performance), plenty of swearing and violence and the crime drama as Macbeth.

    19. SIN CITY (2005) dir. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
    It’s often said that comic books read like storyboards for movies. This was literally true for SIN CITY, a frame for frame adaptation of Frank Miller’s magnificent trash-noir anthologies. Hysterically funny, visually stunning and swimming in the overwrought quotable dialogue that makes Miller great.

    18. LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) dir. Richard Curtis
    The Romantic-Comedy to end all Romantic-Comedies. The master of the form steps into the Director role after years as a screenwriter to deliver a film that not only showcases every type of romcom known to man, but gives us Liam Neeson’s best performance in years and introduced the world to the brilliant Bill Nighy, for which we owe Curtis a debt of gratitude.

    17. SYRIANA (2005) dir. Stephen Gaghan
    An impeccable cast (including George Clooney in character actor mode) bites into a tight, juicy script by TRAFFIC scribe Stephen Gaghan. The film is political without lecturing, a skill that is all too rare these days.

    16. THE QUIET AMERICAN (2002) dir. Phillip Noyce
    One of the best Graham Greene sourced films of all time. Michael Caine digs deep into his role as an apathetic journalist forced to take an interest in the affairs of his adopted country, and Brendan Fraser matches him. Fraser is the real pick of this picture – his greatest performance since GODS AND MONSTERS, easily holding his own against Caine.

    15. SNATCH (2000) dir. Guy Ritchie
    It stars Brad Pitt as a romany boxer. That’s all that needs to be said really. F-words up the wazoo, much violence, another great Jason Statham performance and good lord, it’s fun!

    14. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) dir. PT Anderson
    The greatest lead performance by any actor in the last ten years has to be Daniel Day Lewis as the magnificent bastard Daniel Plainview – the spiritual and vocal ancestor to John Huston’s Noah Cross. Lewis’ performance is nothing short of ferocious and it’s impossible not be glued to him, even when he doesn’t open his mouth for the first ten minutes, accompanied only by Johnny Greenwood’s brilliant score.

    13. CHICAGO (2002) dir. Rob Marhsall
    One of the great movie musicals. Deliciously amoral in tone, the cast has an obvious ball indulging in their crooked characters. Queen Latifah’s Matron Mama Morton comes out as the best of the lot, but there’s not a weak link among them, musically or otherwise. Rob Marshall turns a show built as a vaudevillian stage revue into a tight, spellbinding movie that is infinitely rewatchable.

    12. THE PRESTIGE (2006) dir. Christopher Nolan
    Christopher Nolan’s best picture. The preoccupations Nolan has developed as a director suits perfectly the material, which he handles a stylish, chronologically jumbled fashion. The film is emotionally rich, intense and disturbing, with a cracking performance from Christian Bale which ranks among his best. It’s also a nerd’s wet dream, featuring Batman, Wolverine, Alfred, Jareth the Golbin King and Gollum.

    11. I’M NOT THERE (2007) dir. Todd Haynes
    A fascinating series of sketches of the different incarnations of himself Bob Dylan has shown the public over the years. Cinematic references to Fellinni and Lester hang over the most full realised sketch, with Cate Blanchett as the catty Blonde-On-Blonde era Dylan, playing with the press and machine-gunning his folky fans (the most satisfying moment in the film). We also get Dylan in the wilderness during his cowboy period (Richard Gere), Dylan the husband (Heath Ledger), Dylan the Preacher (Christian Bale) and more, each with a unique cinematic style. Great reinterpretations of Dylan’s songs abound, including a gorgeous cover of Going to Acapulco

    10. ADAPTATION (2002) dir. Spike Jonze
    Charlie Kaufman writes Strange movies. This one features himself and a fictional brother as the main characters. It features cameos from real people and actors playing other real people from the same industry (a wonderful sequence involving Brian Cox as Bob McKee is a highlight). It boasts Nicolas Cage’s finest performances. And it climaxes with an shoot-out involving a journalist from The New Yorker, Charlie Kaufman and Orchard poacher John Laroche.

    9. BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (2002) dir. Michael Moore
    Moore’s documentaries are really essay films – one-sided polemics that never pretend to be anything but. BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE is his wittiest and most cinematic effort, showcasing his wry comedic commentary against a deeply disturbing and sombre issue. The film manages to be alternately hilarious, disturbing and touching.

    8. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (2007) dir. Julie Taymor
    It’s hard to conceive of a better movie being made about The Beatles. A traditional biopic couldn’t possibly have captured the scope and impact of the group, so Taymor uses the greatest pop song catalogue of all time as a metaphor for upheaval of the 60s, following the trajectory of the Fab Four’s career and perfectly capturing the spirit of their music.

    7. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004) dir. Wes Anderson
    A beautiful, slightly strange and wonderfully engaging little movie about family and underwater revenge. This may be the role Bill Murray was born to play, and how can you go wrong with a soundtrack comprised of Portuguese David Bowie covers?

    6. OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001) dir. Stephen Sodeburgh
    Pure, glorious, unadulterated entertainment! Clooney turns his movie star charm up to 11 and the rest of the cast rises up to meet him, from Pitt and Damon to veterans Elliot Gould and the wonderful Carl Reiner. It’s Cool, it’s hip, it captures the spirit of the Rat Pack and kicks the ass of the original OCEAN’S 11 into a cocked hat. The dialogue crackles, style oozes of the screen and out of the fabulous score by David Holmes and it contains the following exchange:
    TESS; You’re a thief and a liar.
    DANNY: I only lied about being a thief.

    5. THE BOAT THAT ROCKED (2009) dir. Richard Curtis
    The last decade has seen the advent of torture-porn. This film is rock’n’roll porn. The film is built around (and celebrates the spirit of) the music of The Who, Otis Redding, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, The Small Faces and many more. It’s about love – love of music, love through music. People connected by the spirit of pop music and the joy it brings.
    It’s got the most likable performance Phillip Seymour Hoffman has ever given, Bill Nighy being his usual God of Charisma self and Rhys Ifans as a DJ that exudes so much rock star cool that I wanted to sleep with him.

    4. THE BROTHERS BLOOM (2009) dir. Rian Johnson
    Oh, the joy of film. This is what I go to the cinema for. A truly unique voice creating a truly individual con-man movie. Johnson’s debut feature BRICK was wonderful, but THE BROTHERS BLOOM is in a whole other ball park. It has charm spilling out all over the place, with completely unforced quirkiness and infinitely engaging performances from Ruffallo, Brody and Weisz.

    3. CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (2003) dir. George Clooney
    The greatest directorial debut since CITIZEN KANE. What a movie -and it’s a proper movie movie, with in-camera magic, beautifully stylized cinematography and a great screenplay by one of the decade’s most fascinating writers – Charlie Kaufman.
    Clooney (who also turns in a completely ‘George Clooney’-less performance in the film) handles the material with the deftness of a much more experienced filmmaker, creating one of the best spy-romantic-comedy-physcological thriller-drama-fantasy-biopics I’ve ever seen.

    2. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000) dir. Joel and Ethan Cohen
    The film that proves one thing: The Coen Brothers should make more musicals. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, the Coens take on Homer brought bluegrass temporarily back into the mainstream with it’s brilliant soundtrack, including the film’s signature version of Man Of Constant Sorrow. It’s the first in the Coen-Clooney Trilogy of Idiots that’s brought joy to the world throughout the decade, and it’s as much fun as Mr Hanke’s ‘firkin full of simians’.

    1. MEMENTO (2000) dir. Christopher Nolan
    A transfixing character study anchored by a superb central performance from Guy Pearce. Nolan has made better films, but he’s never captured the same level of intimacy as the film affords us with Pearce’s Leonard Shelby. The film’s structure allows us to quickly understand and empathise with Shelby’s condition, as well as adding layer upon layer of irony as the film progresses. Touching emotional beats are made all the more so by the knowledge that Pearce’s character won’t recall them, and the twisted sense of justice at the crux of the plot makes it a true neo-noir.

  59. Dread P. Roberts

    And who would Mr Hanke and Mr Souther rate as FILMMAKER OF THE DECADE?

    I, too, would be rather curious to know the answer to this, from each of you respectively. More importantly, with such a great decade of directors, why would you choose said director? For this decades newest, up and coming director, I would go with Rian Johnson. But he needs a few more movies to make the cut for best director of the decade. I really don’t know who I would go with.

  60. Ken Hanke

    And who would Mr Hanke and Mr Souther rate as FILMMAKER OF THE DECADE?

    There was a point when I seriously considered undertaking this as opposed to a top movie list, but I opted against it, mostly because there were so many filmmakers who crossed over from other decades. Even a couple of old guard filmmakers like Robert Altman and Mike Nichols made their marks on the decade. And certainly folks like Burton, the Coens and Neil Jordan made substantial contributions. What of Baz Luhrmann? He only made two films in the decade, but I could argue both were significant, even if Australia was at once too peculiar and too familiar to have much impact. And Roger Avary? Only one movie — which I watched again this morning — but to me it’s an essential one. Nasty but essential. I could go on, but to what end — other than to say I’m not wholly comfortable with a filmmaker of the decade label. The closest I could come would be Wes Anderson or Danny Boyle — with a nod to Alfonso Cuaron. Boyle certainly dates back to the 90s with a couple significant movies, but then he seems to me to be flailing about with A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach. However, once he hits 28 Days Later…, he’s on his game for the decade. Anderson, on the other hand, has been on his game since Rushmore in ’98 and hasn’t been off it since. I’d pretty much call it a tie — with an admission that Boyle is probably less for specialized tastes than Anderson.

  61. Ken Hanke

    Here is my completely personal and absolutely tentative top twenty of the decade

    And it’s a solid list — with two exceptions for me (I’ll leave that for you to figure out, I’m betting you can) and that one damned movie, The Fall, which I still haven’t seen.

    What I’m liking about these lists isn’t whether they agree or disagree with ours, but that they’re — and I’m including all of them, even the ones posted after Davidf’s — obviously personal and very little dictated by any flavor of the year thinking. For want of a better word, they’re quirky.

  62. Ken Hanke

    Lost in Translation — Yeah, I’m also one of those Sofia Coppola people.

    I never got this movie. But try to make a case for Marie Antoinette, I dare you. That was one of the decade’s biggest letdowns for me.

  63. Ken Hanke

    For my own part, I tend to find Marc Forster’s films irritating rather than intriguing – ‘Stay’ seemed to me to be more or a less a twist on ‘Jacob’s Ladder’

    I can understand that, though I have to admit I found Jacob’s Ladder hard to sit through.

    but one thing I would probably put on my list is one of the two films Charlotte Rampling did with Francois Ozon, with ‘Swimming Pool’ probably beating out ‘Under the Sand’ by a hair’s length.

    For what it’s worthy, Swimming Pool was on the list until quite late in the game.

  64. Ken Hanke

    Following the popular trend, I present my own selections for the twenty best of 2000 – 2009

    Congratulations, Jeremy! You are the only person I’ve ever seen manage to literally go outside the box length in the comment section who wasn’t getting there without a lot of copy and paste!

    I’m actually glad to see Ocean’s Eleven on a list — Adaptation…well…and Chicago is a movie I like less all the time.

    Rhys Ifans as a DJ that exudes so much rock star cool that I wanted to sleep with him.

    Fine talk for a straight boy.

  65. Ken Hanke

    For this decades newest, up and coming director, I would go with Rian Johnson. But he needs a few more movies to make the cut for best director of the decade

    Exactly. So far, he’s batting 1000 with me, but that’s only on two movies. Still, those are two terrific movies.

  66. davidf

    “and that one damned movie, The Fall, which I still haven’t seen.”

    Indeed, it was damned, damned to be viewed only on DVD for most of us. I would LOVE for someone in Asheville to find a way to screen this in a theater, or at least project it on anything larger than my home television screen.

  67. Ken Hanke

    I would LOVE for someone in Asheville to find a way to screen this in a theater, or at least project it on anything larger than my home television screen.

    That just might happen yet. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I just need to see it period.

  68. Dread P. Roberts

    I would LOVE for someone in Asheville to find a way to screen this in a theater

    I second that! I would pay to see this again on the big screen (in 3-D!) [joke]

  69. Tonberry

    Thank you both for writing a very interesting and very entertaining list of your top picks of the decade. I just can’t imagine how tough this was for the both of you (I’m attempting it myself currently, taking a break, and already feel overwhelmed.) The one that I’m just dying to see listed on here is “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” because everyone I know who has seen it proclaim how wonderful it is (even my Boba Fett loving room mate.)

    I know I will be visiting this list over and over for a very long time.

    It’s also a nerd’s wet dream, featuring Batman, Wolverine, Alfred, Jareth the Golbin King and Gollum.

    Another great list from Jeremy, and the above line made me laugh really loud at work.

    But try to make a case for Marie Antoinette, I dare you.

    I really liked the movie’s soundtrack, one of the few I’ve purchased.

    second that! I would pay to see this again on the big screen

    Count me in Dread P!

  70. Sean Williams

    I have mixed feelings about The Fall. It was one of those movies that are ninety percent perfect but are somehow totally overshadowed by the ten percent that’s imperfect.

    My major problem was with the story sequences. They are too self consciously clever to seem like a story made up on the spot and lack the emotional resonance of the simplest fairy tales.

    I also feel that, as sumptuous as the production values are, their weirdness is overstated. It’s easy to bombard the audience with strange images but difficult to give them the appearance of underlying logic. Paprika manages that feat; The Fall doesn’t.

    By the way, has anyone here seen Waking Life? People keep recommending it to me when I tell them I like Paprika.

  71. Ken Hanke

    The one that I’m just dying to see listed on here is “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” because everyone I know who has seen it proclaim how wonderful it is (even my Boba Fett loving room mate.)

    Don’t hold that last against it.

  72. Ken Hanke

    By the way, has anyone here seen Waking Life?

    Yes.

    People keep recommending it to me when I tell them I like Paprika

    I cannot imagine why.

  73. Dread P. Roberts

    It’s easy to bombard the audience with strange images but difficult to give them the appearance of underlying logic. Paprika manages that feat; The Fall doesn’t.

    I think the biggest problem is comparing the two films, since I don’t see any similarity, and I ultimately think that each movie has a completely different intent behind the imagery.

    By the way, has anyone here seen Waking Life? People keep recommending it to me when I tell them I like Paprika.

    Again, in no way comparable.

    Have you by any chance seen Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991) (NOT the 2002 film Slackers)? I’d say that is a more comparable movie to use as an example. Of course they are not the exact same movie, but the biggest difference between the two, is that Slacker is live action, whereas Waking Life is rotoscoped. Both films essentially deal with a series of philosophical discussions taking place. Although Waking Life does have a little more of a plot (which certainly sounds interestingly enough), and ultimately is a little more bearable than Slackers. In both instances, I really wanted to enjoy the films. I can enjoy sitting around spewing philosophical BS with my friends, so in theory I thought I would really enjoy something like Waking Life. I think the problem for me is that it’s just not as entertaining to watch other people do it, as it is to participate in such things. That’s the beauty of spontaneous random conversations, that Linklater is trying so desperately to capture, but I just don’t think it works as well in the film medium. It’s been awhile since I saw the film, but I remember laughing because I nodded off twice while trying to sit through it. Linklater should have called it “Fighting Sleep,” since that’s the reaction it (unfortunately) ultimately elicits from me. Which I guess is bad, because I’m told that this is one of those movies that serious, smart film buffs are supposed to love.

  74. Sean Williams

    Thanks for the warnings about Waking Life, everyone. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea — or my bowl of cannabis, as the case may be. There is probably a reason that rotoscoping was once considered a good idea, but I can’t imagine what it is.

    I think the biggest problem is comparing the two films, since I don’t see any similarity, and I ultimately think that each movie has a completely different intent behind the imagery.

    I don’t mean that they’re similar, just that I think that one is more wholly successful in its attempts to create weird atmosphere.

    Again, I did love The Fall. It just didn’t tap my subconscious the way that I think great fantasy should (although one could, of course, argue that The Fall is not really fantasy).

  75. Ken Hanke

    Thanks for the warnings about Waking Life, everyone. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea—or my bowl of cannabis, as the case may be.

    Ever been in a dorm room with a bunch of stoned college students getting philosophical at 3 a.m.? It’s a lot like that. (You can look up my review of Wanking Life on here.) But bear in mind, up until Me and Orson Welles, there’s never been a Richard Linklater film I’ve much cared for.

    There is probably a reason that rotoscoping was once considered a good idea, but I can’t imagine what it is

    Well, it’s really cool if what’s being rotoscoped is Cab Calloway in a Betty Boop cartoon.

  76. Dread P. Roberts

    I don’t mean that they’re similar, just that I think that one is more wholly successful in its attempts to create weird atmosphere.

    Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to compete with Paprika for the ‘weird atmosphere’ category. Then again, I don’t think I’d want to compete with any japanese anime creator for something like that.

    although one could, of course, argue that The Fall is not really fantasy

    I’m reminded of a time when someone once asked me what type of movie Pan’s Labyrinth was. To which I replied, “it’s the good type; just go watch the damned thing, and decide for yourself.”

    Ever been in a dorm room with a bunch of stoned college students getting philosophical at 3 a.m.?

    You know, that’s exactly what I was thinking about, but I opted to not go there. I didn’t know how appropriate that would be, but I guess it would’ve been more acceptable than I initially thought.

    I love Slackers one of my favorite movies from the 90’s

    In that case, I highly recommend Waking Life, if you have not seen it yet.

  77. Ken Hanke

    I guess it would’ve been more acceptable than I initially thought

    It’s possible that I’m simply cruder than you inititally thought.

  78. Piffy!

    [b]Ever been in a dorm room with a bunch of stoned college students getting philosophical at 3 a.m.? It’s a lot like that. (You can look up my review of Wanking Life on here.) But bear in mind, up until Me and Orson Welles, there’s never been a Richard Linklater film I’ve much cared for.[/b]

    You just described waking life to a ‘t’, ken.

  79. davidf

    I, for one, while recognizing it’s flaws and unevenness, enjoy the hell out of WAKING LIFE. The film often tries too hard, but I think boiling it all down to stoned sophomoric musings is selling it a little bit short. That aspect is there, but there’s more than just that. Of course, this isn’t the type of movie that I would try to convince someone else to like or try to hype up like so many folks did when it came out. Total boredom is a completely reasonable reaction to the film. I, however, have gotten many hours of entertainment from that film.

  80. Ken Hanke

    Of course, this isn’t the type of movie that I would try to convince someone else to like or try to hype up like so many folks did when it came out.

    I remember being told at the time that I was going to get a lot of grief for panning the movie. I was braced for it, too. And then it never happened. For that matter, the film didn’t do well in Asheville (and I doubt I was the cause). My guess is that it did better on video.

    Total boredom is a completely reasonable reaction to the film.

    I saw the film on a screener. I had some friends with me. After 20 minutes I said, “Look, I get paid to sit through these things. You don’t. So if you’d rather watch something else, I can watch this when you’re not here.” I think we watched Amelie or maybe Gosford Park.

  81. Ken Hanke

    You didn’t even like Dazed and Confused?

    No, I’m afraid not.

  82. Sean Williams

    To which I replied, “it’s the good type; just go watch the damned thing, and decide for yourself.”

    I like that response. Unfortunately, I suspect it might get me into trouble with some people who have rather different definitions of good….

    Well, it’s really cool if what’s being rotoscoped is Cab Calloway in a Betty Boop cartoon.

    That’s a fair point.

    Also, the one regard in which Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings is superior to Jackson’s is that it features a balrog in fuzzy bedroom slippers.

    http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/theories/slippers.htm

  83. Ken Hanke

    I like that response. Unfortunately, I suspect it might get me into trouble with some people who have rather different definitions of good…

    Do this often enough and they’ll stop coming around altogether, which might be a desirable thing.

  84. Dread P. Roberts

    I like that response. Unfortunately, I suspect it might get me into trouble with some people who have rather different definitions of good….

    Well, of course different people warrant different responses. It turned out that my grandmother wasn’t all to fond of my smarmy response to her inquiry either.

  85. Me

    What about Dazed and Confused turned you off?

    You wrote about a Serious Mans ” I figure in a year or two I might really understand its mysteries.” Did you read the story about this film and quantum theory? It gets pretty involved when it gets to Schrödinger’s cat. There’s also a pretty good discussion about the movie over at the great Chicago Public Radio show Filmspottings messageboard.

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091123/LETTERS/911249998/-1/letters

    http://www.filmspotting.net/boards/index.php

  86. Leif

    Care to comment why Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) didn’t make even the extended list?

  87. Ken Hanke

    What about Dazed and Confused turned you off?

    I really don’t recall anything about it that appealed to me, though I admit it’s years since I saw it. Someone would have to make a strong case for me to feel I should see it again.

    Did you read the story about this film and quantum theory? It gets pretty involved when it gets to Schrödinger’s cat.

    Pretty interesting — to the degree I can actually follow it — though it’s approaching the film’s mysteries from a little different angle than I am, I think.

  88. Ken Hanke

    Care to comment why Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) didn’t make even the extended list?

    My knee-jerk response is probably the correct one — I don’t like it as much as I’m supposed to. That’s not to say that I dislike it, but I wasn’t blown away by it.

  89. davidf

    “The year 2000 was the last year of the twentieth century and also not part of this decade.”

    I keep hearing this. We all know there was no year zero, and so you’re technically right, blah, blah, blah, but until you can convince a decade-obsessed press and all of their readers that 1960 wasn’t part of the 60’s and 1970 wasn’t part of the 70’s, etc, etc, I won’t be paying any more attention to these smartypantsed reminders.

  90. Ken Hanke

    The year 2000 was the last year of the twentieth century and also not part of this decade.

    Yes, this was brought up by a friend of mine when I first mentioned this — and I already knew it in the first place. However, it’s impractical for this purpose. To the degree that there is any interest in these lists, the time is now. Try publishing one next year. It won’t fly.

    In terms of historical approaches to groupin movies by decades, you won’t find any “Hollywood in the 1920s” books that throw out movies from 1920 or include movies from 1930. It’s all fairly nonsensical anyway and mostly exists as an organizational tool. Realistically, what we think of as the 1960s, for example, doesn’t start till about 1965 and doesn’t end till about 1975, but people aren’t comfortable thinking that way. It’s got no hook.

  91. Ken Hanke

    tetro- absolutely, the best movie of the decade.

    I don’t agree (obviously), but I think that’s a defensible choice. I’m just curious as to why you tag this one.

  92. Dave

    The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was horrible and you watched it how many times? The Angry Inch? Sick! Some of the others were great like Moulin Rouge and Across the Universe.

  93. Ken Hanke

    The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was horrible and you watched it how many times?

    Which would tend to indicate that I don’t think it’s horrible, woudn’t it?

    The Angry Inch? Sick!

    Why?

  94. I’m kinda miffed at myself….I’ve seen maybe 10% of this list.
    At the most! Time for a Netflix account.

  95. Ken Hanke

    I’m kinda miffed at myself….I’ve seen maybe 10% of this list.
    At the most! Time for a Netflix account

    I’m sure Marc at Orbit would be glad to see you about these titles, too.

  96. Zee McGee

    A little disappointed that none of the Blade trilogy is mentioned anywhere. If we want to talk about 28 Days Later revitalizing “zombie flicks” or X2 being an improvement on hero movies..I must ask: what about what Blade did for the cliche vampire action/horror movies?

  97. Ken Hanke

    ..I must ask: what about what Blade did for the cliche vampire action/horror movies?

    Is there really a “vampire action/horror” subgenre? And, frankly, I don’t think the Blade movies are very good.

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