100 Best Movies of the Decade in 2009, films have continued to get bigger and better. Here’s an update to the original list
THE KING’S SPEECH
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
THE TREE OF LIFE
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
ZERO DARK THIRTY
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
THE RAID: REDEMPTION
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
ALL IS LOST
SAVING MR. BANKS
WORLD WAR Z
Here’s what we originally wrote five years ago.
We are leaving Kubrick behind and fast approaching Hyams. If you get that reference, go grab yourself a cookie. It is time for us to reflect back on the decade that was. On January 1st, 2000, Disney released FANTASIA 2000. On Wednesday, December 30th, 2009, THE WHITE RIBBON is set to bow. Between the release of these two films, thousands of films came and went, and some of them were far more memorable than others. It was a long trek getting this list together, but here are our collective top 100 films of the past decade.
Quick Year-to-Year by the Numbers:
2009 – 11
2008 – 11
2007 – 7
2006 – 14
2005 – 12
2004 – 8
2003 – 7
2002 – 12
2001 – 10
2000 – 8
100. MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) – Clint Eastwood
99. JUNO (2007) – Jason Reitman
98. AN EDUCATION (2009) – Lone Scherfig
97. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) – Sam Raimi
96. MUNICH (2005) – Steven Spielberg
95. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004) – Wes Anderson
94. THE KING OF KONG (2007) – Seth Gordon
93. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (2001) – Chris Columbus
92. CLERKS 2 (2006) – Kevin Smith
91. FEMME FATALE (2002) – Brian De Palma
90. TASOGARE SEIBEI (THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI) (2002) – Yoji Yamada
89. FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002) – Todd Haynes
88. MURDERBALL (2005) – Henry Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro
87. THE HURT LOCKER (2009) – Kathryn Bigelow
86. BABEL (2006) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
85. A MIGHTY WIND (2003) – Christopher Guest
84. ZODIAC (2007) – David Fincher
83. KIRSCHBLUTEN – HANAMI (CHERRY BLOSSOMS) (2008) – Doris Dorrie
82. CASINO ROYALE (2006) – Martin Campbell
81. 28 DAYS LATER… (2002) – Danny Boyle
80. ONCE (2007) – John Carney
79. IRON MAN (2008) – Jon Favreau
78. BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (2006) – Larry Charles
77. SIN NOMBRE (2009) – Cary Fukunaga
76. THE FOUNTAIN (2006) – Darren Aronofsky
75. UP IN THE AIR (2009) – Jason Reitman
74. IN BRUGES (2008) – Martin McDonagh
73. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: AI (2001) – Steven Spielberg
72. SUNSHINE (2008) – Danny Boyle
71. THE PROPOSITION (2006) – John Hillcoat
70. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) – David Cronenberg
69. YING XIONG (HERO) (2002) – Yimou Zhang
68. HIGH FIDELITY (2000) – Stephen Frears
67. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008) – Sam Mendes
66. LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006) – Clint Eastwood
65. HAK SE WUI (ELECTION) (2005) – Johnnie To
64. SEN TO CHIHIRO NO KAMIKAKUSHI (SPIRITED AWAY) (2001) – Hayao Miyazaki
63. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) – Gore Verbinski
62. ONG-BAK (2003) – Prachya Pinkaew
61. MOULIN ROUGE (2001) – Baz Luhrmann
60. SIN CITY (2005) – Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, and Quentin Tarantino
59. DES LEBEN DER ANDEREN (THE LIVES OF OTHERS) (2006) – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
58. BIG FISH (2003) – Tim Burton
57. UNBREAKABLE (2000) – M. Night Shyamalan
56. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005) – Rob Zombie
55. UNITED 93 (2006) – Paul Greengrass
54. MINORITY REPORT (2002) – Steven Spielberg
53. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) – Ang Lee
52. FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009) – Wes Anderson
51. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001) – Wes Anderson
50. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) – Edgar Wright
49. KING KONG (2005) – Peter Jackson
48. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000) – Mary Harron
47. THE PRESTIGE (2006) – Christopher Nolan
46. LAT DEN RATTE KOMME IN (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) (2008) – Tomas Alfredson
45. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009) – Marc Webb
44. THE DEPARTED (2006) – Martin Scorsese
43. OLDBOY (2005) – Chan-wook Park
42. THE PIANIST (2002) – Roman Polanski
41. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (2007) – Andrew Dominik
40. 25th HOUR (2002) – Spike Lee
39. BATMAN BEGINS (2005) – Christopher Nolan
38. AOCALYPTO (2006) – Mel Gibson
37. WO HU CANG LONG (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) (2000) – Ang Lee
36. STAR TREK (2009) – J.J. Abrams
35. ALMOST FAMOUS (2000) – Cameron Crowe
34. ROAD TO PERDITION (2002) – Sam Mendes
33. AVATAR (2009) – James Cameron
32. LE FABULEUX DESTIN D’AMELIE POULAIN (AMELIE) (2001) – Jean-Pierre Jeunet
31. GRIZZLY MAN (2005) – Werner Herzog
30. ADAPTATION. (2002) – Spike Jonze
29. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU (2000) – Joel & Ethan Coen
28. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008) – David Fincher
27. THE WRESTLER (2008) – Darren Aronofsky
26. CIDADE DE DEUS (CITY OF GOD) (2002) – Fernando Meirelles & Katia Lund
25. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001) – Peter Jackson
24. BRICK (2005) – Rian Johnson
23. SIDEWAYS (2004) – Alexander Payne
22. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) – Michel Gondry
21. DONNIE DARKO (2001) – Richard Kelly
20. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008) – Danny Boyle
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? is boring. Bollywood is boring. Who knew a Bollywood-esque look at WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? would be so damned invigorating. Danny Boyle’s Piece de resistance (or some people would think that) is a highly stylized and hopeful look at love in the midst of impoverished India. It elicits so many emotions that, by the time the closing dance number takes its first step, you may have long hit your limits. Nonethless, the movie is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and heart-exhausting, and it remains one of if not the best movie to come out in 2008.
19. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) – Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel about drug abuse is one of the most powerful dramas of the last decade. It’s less about drugs than the psychology of addiction and shows that addiction to a drug, any drug, can result in chaos and suffering. This is nothing new but it is how it is conveyed that makes it such a strong and unflinching film (the split-screen effect and time-lapse motion effects certainly contribute to the overall film’s power). Ellen Burstyn deserved the Best Actress Oscar that year for her devastating, heart-wrenching performance as a pill-popping older woman and the entire cast is top-notch.
18. GLADIATOR (2000) – Ridley Scott
“My name is Gladiator.”
Almost like the “I am Spartacus” line but with added bad-ass-ery, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe pulled no punches with GLADIATOR, an epic tale of one man’s mission to bring down the emperor that cost him everything. From it’s opening battle to the amazing “chariot” scene that reminds us of BEN-HUR on steroids to the culminating one-on-one between Crowe’s Maximus and Joaquin Phoenix’s wuss of a ruler, GLADIATOR is a sword-and-sandal epic for a new generation. The film is loaded with all kinds of goodies for action junkies and drama lovers alike. To answer Maximus’ momentous quandery to the crowd, yes, we were certainly entertained.
17. MOON (2009) – Duncan Jones
Director Duncan Jones got plenty of notice before MOON’s release for being the son of David Bowie; afterward, he was getting notice for being one of the most promising up-and-coming filmmakers we have. A true piece of science fiction in a year that did the genre justice, Jones’ tale of a lone moon miner (Sam Rockwell) could easily be performed as a stage play. Rockwell’s centerpiece performance should make him a bona fide star.
16. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002) – Peter Jackson
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING was a good film, action packed had some amazing moments and special effects, it could have easily won the oscar for best picture that year, but it wasn’t a whole completed story. When TWO TOWERS came along everyone was excited to see just how well made and how much more epic the LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy could get. While not the conclusion to the full story, it still had a lot of amazing moments and an epic finale the likes of which cinema had never seen. While the Hobbits did take a bit of a back seat in this story, the human characters really shown through. It had more locations, more actors, more drama, and and some how managed to have a convincing love story where the two people involved never actually were on screen together, a feat never pulled off in film before or since. THE TWO TOWERS is maybe the best second film in a trilogy since EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. It’s just bigger and better in every single way.
15. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) – Sofia Coppola
LOST IN TRANSLATION is one of my favorite films of all time. Not only is it’s cast of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson just a blast to watch as the get lost in the brightly lit streets of Tokyo, but it’s also incredibly well directed by Sofia Coppola. It was one of the most highly praised films of 2003, getting 4 star reviews from over EIGHTY critics. That’s almost unheard of. Watching this film actually pushed me to go to Japan in 2005 and coming back I had a whole new appreciation for the film. Not only did it PERFECTLY represent what it’s like to be in Tokyo with severe jet lag, but it also captured the spirit of the city through beautiful sound design and camera work. Almost no other place in the world sounds like Tokyo, and LOST IN TRANSLATION has all that ambiance down in a way most films dream they could. It’s quite simply, a perfect film. If LORD OF THE RINGS hadn’t come out that year, it would have easily pulled the oscar for best picture, no question.
14. THE INCREDIBLES (2004) – Brad Bird
Maybe it’s just that we’ve got an insatiable disposition to superhero stories, but of all the incredible Pixar films to date, the one that is hands down the most enjoyable, most exciting and most consistent from beginning to end would have to be THE INCREDIBLES. The story itself isn’t groundbreaking, for all intents and purposes ripped straight from the textbook definition of old school comic book superhero stories. However, Brad Bird does this story great justice, developing fantastic characters and showing audiences he has a flawless eye for action, as translated into CGI filmmaking. The cast is nothing short of perfect, especially the villain Syndrome. Jason Lee was born for the role of the former Incredibles fan-boy, now all grown up and bitter that Mr. Incredible never gave him the time of day. While the film easily lent itself to a sequel, we’re better off remembering this one as a stand alone achievement.
13. UP (2009) – Peter Docter & Bob Peterson
If there’s anything you might NOT be expecting from a PIXAR film, it’s to be drenched in your own tears less than ten minutes after the opening short has come to its conclusion. That is exactly what Peter Docter and Bob Peterson with UP, the latest, and some would even say, the best PIXAR movie yet. Filled with as many emotionally tugging moments as it is with thrills, chills, and loads of laughs, the film is just about the perfect example of the care and precision the animation studio takes with each and every one of its projects. After the premise was first released and the first, few trailers came out for UP, there were a few who even felt the film looked like it could be the worst film in PIXAR’s lineup. The naysayers were silenced, and it is going to be a long, long time before anyone doubts the level of talent at work within PIXAR’s walls. UP is a triumph of animation, an immensely engaging story filled with unforgettable characters that will forever be remembered as not only one of PIXAR’s best films, but one of the best, animated films ever released.
12. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) – Christopher Nolan
THE BEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE OF ALL TIME PERIOD. Let’s be honest for a second. The fact this film didn’t even get NOMINATED for Best Picture is a god damn crime against film. The stigma attached to comic books is bullshit and this film is a prime example of why. Heath Ledger gives one of the best performances ever put on film (EVER) and gets the Oscar for it, deservedly so, but for some reason the director and producers get snubbed because the Oscars don’t want anything to do with a genre of film based on something that was once called “the funny books”. Comics are a medium to be taken seriously as art, films based on the characters, equally so, and decades from now people will look back at THE DARK KNIGHT’s lack of nominations in those categories as a MASSIVE over site and one of the dumbest moves ever made. THE DARK KNIGHT is a great film and if you haven’t seen it, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! (sorry for the movie geek rage)
11. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001) – David Lynch
MULHOLLAND DRIVE is David Lynch’s hypnotic 2001 take on the Hollywood Starlet story. Lynch skillfully blends dreams, nightmares, memories and flashbacks with reality to create a strange and twisted film-noir that is his greatest work to date. The dialogue is witty, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the music is haunting. The cast, especially Naomi Watts who delivers a technically dazzling performance, is perfect. With MULHOLLAND DRIVE, Lynch shows us a Hollywood that may be spectacular and desirable but behind the illusion, it is a nasty and contemptible place. Maybe that’s just Lynch’s worldview, but I’ll take it.
10. KILL BILL VOL. 2 (2004) – Quentin Tarantino
There are always two camps when it comes to the KILL BILL series about which half is better. No matter which side you’re on you can’t deny that they’re both incredible pieces of cinema and some of the best work Tarantino has done. Vol. 2 of the series takes the series to it’s inevitable conclusion and is quite a bit more wordy than Vol. 1, but, boy, is that dialogue good? David Carradine’s performance at the end of the film is incredibly strong and really does show that the man had range. The monologue about Superman is some of the best writing integrating pop culture in modern cinema. Maybe it’s not as good as Vol. 1, but it’s still one of the best films of the past ten years and belongs on any cinema fan’s shelf.
9. EL LABERINTO DEL FAUNO (PAN’S LABYRINTH) (2006) – Guillermo del Toro
We knew Guillermo del Toro from BLADE II, HELLBOY, and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, but what we didn’t know until 2006’s PAN’S LABYRINTH was that the man is a visionary storyteller. PAN’S LABYRINTH isn’t just a fully fleshed out fantasy with some of the best practical effects work on display in modern filmmaking. It’s also one of the best examples of good, classical storytelling, an art that many have forgotten.
8. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009) – Quentin Tarantino
As long as it was in development, Quentin Tarantino’s World War II film was well worth the wait. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS revels in the thought of flinging just as much verbiage at its audience as it does bullets and grenades, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The dialog in this film is truly amazing, and it is arguably Tarantino’s best screenplay since PULP FICTION. So rich in both texture and design, it is a film that succeeds on so many levels that it takes more than a couple of viewings to gather it all in for consumption. Everything works from the opening dual of languages to the closing exclamation of its own masterpiece creation, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is epic in both action and verbosity. Leave it up to Tarantino, too, to drop a nuclear size bomb on the historical textbooks. This film is amazing.
7. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) – Paul Thomas Anderson
In what is arguably one of the most all-around perfectly constructed films of the decade, and what may even be called the closest thing to Stanley Kubrick having been resurrected to embody the filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson has perhaps achieved his opus amongst a list of very fine films with THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Every element of this film is brilliantly craftedâ€¦ the set design, the costumes, superb cinematography from Robert Elswit and music by Jonny Greenwood, but the performances in collaboration with Anderson’s direction are the true “black gold” in this powerful film about the early days of crude oil in America. Paul Dano is shockingly strong and creepy, like a weasel concealing his rabies from his prey, but Daniel Day-Lewis (as always) is extraordinary – perhaps even near his best, as the simple but ambitious prospector turned oil tycoon. From beginning to end, this film is engaging and has masterpiece written all over it.
6. WALL*E (2008) – Andrew Stanton
It’s very rare for audiences to feel the emotions of an animated character. Pixar certainly blew our minds and our hearts wide open with this one in 2008. WALL-E is a waste compactor set in the future. His only friend was a mere cockroach until EVE was sent to earth to find signs of life. Once he sets his big, metal eyes on her, he falls in love. Despite WALL-E’s isolation, his world is filled with wonder. He has a collection of things that are interesting ad valuable to him, even though they would be just trash to most of us. Pixar calculated every movement to such a tee that there is no need for much dialog throughout most of the movie. WALL-E is unlike any other film of it’s kind, landing its’ rightful place in our top 10.
5. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) – Joel & Ethan Coen
If there’s one thing the Coen Brothers do well, it’s never failing to surprise their audience and tell a good story. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, is a strange and sinister tale told from the point-of-view of an old man witnessing the rise of a new era of crime immorality that he feels has no place for his more traditional mentality. The odd thing about the story is that Tommy Lee Jones’ aging Sheriff Bell takes something of a back seat to the unflinching coldness and brutality of Javier Bardem’s sociopath killer Anton Chigurh and Josh Brolin’s slightly dated and misguided anti-hero Llewelyn Moss. Bardem is mesmerizing and frightening in his performance and the Coen Brothers puzzle-like method of storytelling adds to the uneasiness of this contemporary story of moral ambiguity.
4. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – Alfonso Cuaron
Humanity can no longer have kids. Think about how scary that is for a second. It’s a bold choice making a movie about that kind of subject, and Alfonso Cuaron does an amazing job of taking that subject and turning it into a story of hope in the face of true tragedy. Clive Owen gives what is undoubtedly the best performance of his career to date, and Clare-Hope Ashitey’s portrayal of Kee, the first pregnant woman in eighteen years is so strong that it will bring tears to your eyes by the time the film ends. CHILDREN OF MEN gives a truly realistic look at the future of my generation, and that’s probably what makes it ring true so much. Michael Caine’s character in the film, is well into his 60s or more, and is actually from my generation. A character type not often, if ever, presented in film or any sci-fi really. CHILDREN OF MEN’s action set pieces also set it far apart from other films, with long single take shots that move and flow unlike anything present before. Long dramatic scenes full of pathos and drama punctuated by in your face violence and and bullets whizzing by. You know you’re in for something different right away when this film starts, and it will never let you go. A sci-fi treasure to be sure.
3. MEMENTO (2001) – Christopher Nolan
This is the movie that put Christopher Nolan on the map, securing his place as one of the rising young filmmakers to watch and has he ever proven himself worthy! MEMENTO is an incredibly meticulous but understated tale of mystery with suspense and wonderful performances from Guy Pearce, Carrie Anne-Moss and Joe Pantoliano. The film intricately weaves the main character’s desperate search for his own memory, struggling to uncover the truth about his wife’s murder, all while interpreting this in a fascinating and seemingly simple but effective visual style. This little slice of modern film noir is a must-see film that marks the beginning of a true master’s magnificent career.
2. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING (2003) – Peter Jackson
The culmination of Peter Jackson’s triumphant LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy proves that the entire journey of both Frodo and company and us as the viewer, was completely and utterly worth the wait. The film won Best Picture in 2003 and Peter Jackson snagged the award for Best Director. Highlights of the film are the epic battle sequences at Pelennor Fields and of course, the finale at Mount Doom. The most important aspect of this final film, however, is the character work of its ensemble cast. Elijah Wood and Sean Aston stand out as true carriers of the story during their mission to Mount Doom. If you haven’t experienced this victorious final chapter, do yourself a favor and get on it immediately. This is truly a vital piece of cinema and one that should be cherished for generations as one of the greatest films of the decade.
1. KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003) – Quentin Tarantino
Here it is! Number 1! The best film of the past ten years (according to We Are Movie Geeks), and it’s Tarantino’s bloody, hack and slash homage to Japanese and Chinese cinema. What’s crazy about this film is that even with how good it is, how amazing it’s character The Bride is, and how great the action is, it’s hard to talk about in such a short block of text. Where do you start? Sure Uma Thurman portrays what might be the strongest female lead in film history, and the action is violent in a way that it over takes you, no matter what kind of sensibilities you might have on the subject of blood gore, and it’s dialogue is epic in a way few films ever approach, but there’s so much more than that. Even the small characters like Sonny Chiba’s Hattori Hanzo are incredible and really important in planting Kill Bill as a genuine piece of Asian cinema. Sonny played Hanzo thirty years earlier, and now connecting the films together he plays Hanzo’s ancestor.
Little things like that show that Tarantino really knows what he’s doing and that he has a true and pure love of this kind of film. And who can forget the anime sequence in the middle of the film, changing the way you you can tell a narrative, but still stay true to the spirit of the movie. It’s simply incredible. The mystery behind the Bride, Bill, the Deadly Viper Squad, will pull you in and never let you go. KILL BILL VOL. 1 is cinema perfection and I’m proud to have written about it on this list. Q & U have created one of the best film series in history, and we The Movie Geeks salute them.