Quite an ambitious post here, but you know, go big or go home.
There have been lots of Best of the Decade lists coming out recently. Check out Time, or SI, or the AV club if you want some. They are pretty fun to look at. This is the first decade that is truly in the Internet Age, so lists like this lend themselves pretty well to blogs and other forms of online media. Also, it was quite a decade for me – last years of high school, college, Philadelphia, Montana, months on a bus.
I decided to compose my own. It is my list of favorite movies of the decade, not necessarily the best movies of the decade. Enjoy.
Purposeful omissions: I wanted to start off with a few movies very high on most people's list, but which will be missing from mine.
25th Hour - I liked it, but didn't love it. Spike Lee too full of himself and his craft
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - wasn't really blown away by this film, not something I want to see again.
Lost in Translation - I liked this one, but couldn't identify with anyone or anything
A.I. - interesting composition, almost 3 separate movies. Beautiful and thought provoking, though part Kubrick, Spielberg's best work of the decade.
City of God - great, powerful. I know lots of people that love it much more than me.
Requiem for a Dream - Man, depressing, but greatly acted and made, ditto to other people loving it more than me
Return of the King - Loved the Speech by Theoden, amazing special effects, and some awesome parts, but I just didn't like it as much as the other two
Collateral - just a great entertaining movie
Training Day- seems to be a movie people forget about, maybe it loses allure after seeing it the first time, but it holds up for me
Role Models - Hilarious. See it if you haven't already. Better than Knocked up and Superbad, but those and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are great too.
Hustle & Flow - Whomp that Trick!
Love Actually - number one chick flick
The Dark Knight
Spider-Man 2 - This is THE comic book movie. It stays true to the character as well as creating new visual elements. Great special effects, but what makes the movie stand out is the Peter Parker/Spider-Man dynamic
20a: Capturing the Friedmans - I don't really want to say that this is one of my favorite movies, but I think it was more captivating than anything else on the list. I could not take my eyes off it.
20. Billy Elliot - Showing my varied tastes right off the bat here. I remember seeing this movie in high school at the Oriental back when I used to go on dates, so maybe that's why it holds a high place for me. It is a great, fun, uplifting movie. I'm not much for ballet, but I'm not ashamed to have this in my top 20.
19. No Country for Old Men - One of two best picture winners on the list. Quality from start to finish.
18. 21 Grams - I have only seen this movie once, but it was pretty intense. It's weird movies people remember and forget. I feel this movie is awesome and super dramatic and amazingly acted, but it is rarely mentioned when talking about great movies of the decade. Maybe it is over shadowed by other similar intense, lifelike dramas like Mystic River and Traffic and Crash.
17. Spirited Away - This is probably my most pretentious pick on the list, but at least I didn't call it Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi. Not really my genre, and I'm sure there were things I didn't totally get, but it was pretty addictive.
16. Garden State - Probably the most watched films by me on this list. Some people think it is too clichéd and stereotypical, but I love it. I see it as a celebration of life even in the randomness and B.S. it sometimes sends us. Funny too. Love Peter Sarsgaard and the rich friend that inventing silent velcro and the dude from The Big Bang Theory as the Fast Food Knight and the dog scratching its balls. I could go on and on.
15. Spellbound - Yes, a spelling bee documentary. Love it! You cannot make this shit up. It is hilarious. You got the super hard immigrant parents driving their kids to succeed, the rural shy kid, the black girl from DC, and a few others who are beyond intense about spelling words. A great movie.
14. Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers: Why is this movie better than The Return of the King? Ents. Why is this movie #14? Angry Ents. Lots of great visual elements here - Helm's Deep, the transformation of Theoden, Gollum vs. Smegol, Uruk-hai vs. Orcs, and of course the Storming of Orthanc. Surprisingly, this was the only LOTRs movie I saw in the theater.
13. Casino Royale - If this isn't the best Bond movie it is sure very close. A great combination of the classic dramatic, spy thriller Bond and the newer special effects, crazy action Bond. This movie is awesome starting from the beginning foot chase scene (I forget what that is called despite Dwight's love for it in The Office) to the meeting of Bond and Eva Green to the Casino scenes (Hold 'em instead of Baccarat) to the epic betrayal ending. Couldn't ask for more from a Bond movie.
12. Kill Bill - Ok this might be cheating, but I'm not choosing between vol 1 or vol 2. If I could choose the second half of vol 1 and the first half of vol 2, that could be a top 5 movie, but as a whole we'll go with 12. Highlights - the cartoon about O-Ren, the wedding flashbacks, Hattori Hanzo, any scene with Michael Madsen (who was also the father in Free Willie and according to IMDB has 26 movies filming, in post-production, or in pre-production. Wow), and the Pei Mai scene. Already planning on my next Halloween Costume to either be Pei Mai or the Shower from Karate Kid
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - This is the movie that made me get into Harry Potter. I was very intrigued by the tournament and the other wizarding schools. My favorite book among the 7 by far and my favorite HP movie. Everything builds upon everything else. The action and mystery builds to a great conclusion. Even the stuff that is not part of the main story line, like Harry trying to get a date for the Ball and Rita Skeeter is excellent. Also, my favorite part of the series may be Dumbledore's speech after Cedric Diggory has been killed.
10. Batman Begins - Might have a little controversy here by having this and not Dark Knight on the list, and though I really like Dark Knight, I like this one a little better. It's a more simple movie. The background with Ra's Al Ghul is incredible. Plus it helps that I love Ra's and Liam Neeson. Katie Holmes is a much better Rachel than Maggie Gllynehaal. The origin is great. I guess I just love all the beginnings of Batman Begins. It stays true to the character, updates the story and makes Dark Knight possible. This movie is more about who is Bruce Wayne than who is Batman.
Bruce: Rachel, all of….All this...It's... It's not me.
Inside, I am...I am more.
Racehl: Bruce......deep down you may still be
that same great kid you used to be.
But it's not who you are underneath...
...it's what you do that defines you.
9. Little Miss Sunshine - This is probably the most unlikely movie on the list. I think I saw it on HBO randomly. I knew people were touting it as a real good movie, but it didn't really attract me as something I would enjoy. But then I saw it and realized I was wrong. I think it is the amazingly complex, varied characters that make this movie so great. Again, it is like Garden State, making the most of what we are given. The actual premise of the movie is pretty ridiculous, as is the dance scene which most people remember the movie by. But I love the combination of the poignant with the inappropriate, the sad with the funny, much like The World According to Garp, Little Miss Sunshine has lots of that.
8. Gladiator - "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
I had a friend in high school who would always recite this speech. He continued to do so in college and after. It is a pretty bad ass speech. The entire movie is pretty bad-ass for that matter. Even the beginning war scenes are great, as well as the performance of Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius. The meat of the movie though is obviously the Coliseum fight scenes, especially the first one with the recreation of the 2nd battle of Carthage. Yes. You got Russell Crowe, Djimon Hounsou, and the big German guy. And Commadus (Joaquin Phoenix) is a pretty great bad guy. He is pretty messed up and you pretty much hate him strongly by the end of the movie. Oh, and the Jay-Z What More Can I Say? sample "Are you not entertained?" gets me going too. One of two Oscar Best Picture winner's on the list.
7. Gangs of New York - Speaking of Best Picture winners, Chicago is better than this movie? Shit. Besides the great acting and directing, this movie has a very cool visual element. Bill the Butcher looks giant and intimidating. The city looks great too. I even wanted to read more about the Five Points, so if a movie makes you want to read, it must be good.
6. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - Wow, I really can't impart to you how much I love this movie. Like my other documentaries on the list, this movie shows that truth is much stranger than fiction, that some stuff is so crazy you can't make it up. This movie is about someone trying to break the Donkey Kong record and it is super addictive! I think I watched twice in two days. That is how good it is.
Steve Wiebe vs. Billy Mitchell. Humilty vs. Pride David vs. Goliath Good vs. Evil I feel that these are not hyperbole. Watch the movie and see if you disagree. So much great stuff in this movie. You got the video game dorks that worship Billy Mitchell. You got the video game record establishment that Steve Wiebe is up against. You have the official scorer who insists on wearing a referee jersey to ever event. You have Steve's wife crying because he can never catch a break. You have a video game player with the self proclaimed name of Mr. Awesome. You have Steve's kid literally popping his pants while Steve is breaking the top score. Wow. When I was looking for a picture to include here there was so much I wanted to include. Watch this movie if you have not already seen it!
5. The 40 Year Old Virgin - This is the movie that all comedies since try to emulate. It started an entire genre. I think it is better than the other Apatow movies because the story is better. Despite the subject and sometimes extreme raunchiness, there is a cuteness to the plot. You really want Andy to succeed and in the right way. It is also more simple than the later ones. The dialogue seems much less forced, though it is a bit too much at times. Oh, and you got Steve Carrel, comic genius. Plus Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan, the funny Indian guy and my first introductions to Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, and Jane Lynch.
You know what? I respect women! I love women! I respect them so much that I completely stay away from them!
All you got to do is use your instincts. How do you think a lion knows to tackle a gazelle? It's written, it's a code written in his DNA, says, "Tackle the gazelle." And believe it or not, in every man there's a code written that says, "Tackle drunk bitches."
Oh man, Friday, I really wanted an egg salad sandwich and I was just obsessing about it and I was like, 'Man, I'm gonna make one of those.' So Saturday, I went out and got, like, a dozen eggs and then I boiled them all and I just, I spent, I dunno, probably three hours, like three and a half hours making, you know, the mayonnaise, and the onions and paprika and, you know, the necessary accoutrement. And then, by the time I was done, I didn't really feel like eating it.
[cuts to Andy painting one of his soldier toy figures] Now, I'm going to make your silver pants, blue!
You know what my problem is? I am not interesting. What am I supposed to say? I went to magic camp? That I'm an accomplished ventriloquist? Oh, I *am* the Seventh Degree Imperial Yo-Yo Master. "Ooh, do me, Yo-Yo Master, I want you to do me cause you're the yo-yo guy!"
I dated this girl for a while. She was really a... nasty freak. She just loved to get down with sex all the time. It was like... anytime of day, she was like, "Yeah, let's go! I'm so nasty!" And I'd be nailing her and she'd be like, "Oh, you're nailing me! Cool!"
Wow. This is graphic.
4. Amelie - Here is my token foreign film, but seriously, I really like this movie. Some may think it is too quirky and too positive and has too neat of an ending, but not me. There are two types of love story movie people - the optimists who identify with Amelie, believing that love on conquer all and the right people will get together in the end and the pessimists - people who identify with Closer, believing that pretty much everyone is selfish and wants to use everything they have against someone else and hurt them as much as possible. I'm definitely glad to be the Amelie type and not the jaded Closer type. I like the humor as well and the great color of the film.
3. Memento - Another one that goes back to high school. This was before the internet days. I think I read about this movie in Entertainment Weekly or something like that and knew I needed to see it. I'm pretty sure it was another of those Oriental or Downer movies, back when it was cool to go to the indie theaters. Quite a novel concept, which isn't just a gage, but a clever story telling device. If it wasn't done well, it would have sucked, but Christopher Nolan makes it work. So much is unveiled in just the right way at just the right time. Great acting. Great ending (or beginning?). Oh, and Guy Pearce's character would actually be my ultimate Halloween costume. I just need to get ripped and find a fake tattoo artist.
Remember Sammy Jankis
2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Much like the original Star Wars, I like the first movie the best. It just introduces so much - characters, story, magic, motifs, and possibilities. This is why I like Fellowship best out of the three LOTR movies. It opens up an amazing world. This actually the first DVD I ever purchased. Pretty much you need not look past the opening origin of the rings scene when talking about the greatness of this movie. Plus loads of amazing scenes - The Council of Elrond, Gandalf vs. Saruman, the flight to the Ford, the Mines of Moria, Lothlorian, the giant statues on the River, the Final Battle scene, the Death of Boromir, and the amazing Bridge of Khazad-Dum. This one sets up more greatness to come.
Boromir: [holding the ring after Frodo has lost it] It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.
I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. "Don't you leave him Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to. I don't mean to.
"One Ring to Rule Them All. One Ring to Find Them. One Ring to Bring Them All and In The Darkness Bind Them."
Our people, our people. I would have would have followed you, my brother... my captain... my king
Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums... drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We cannot get out... they are coming
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!
1. In America - This may be a surprising pick, but it is definitely number one for me. It may not have action like Gladiator, great quotes like The 40 Year Old Virgin, or amaze like Fellowship. What makes it so great for me is that it just feels so real. I don't have kids, I'm not an immigrant, I don't have AIDS, I don't live in Hell's Kitchen, but this movie still really speaks to me. It is about America. It is about making the most of what we have. It's about what pain does to our lives, how it makes us miss out on it. The two girls are great as is my man Djimon Hounsou and a great performance by Paddy Considine. Incidentally, director Jim Sheridan's next movie was Get Rich or Die Tryin'
Pretty much every scene evokes some emotion and empathy for the characters - from the arrival at the border to the air conditioner scene to the ET ball game scene to the Halloween scene to the snowball fight to the final saying goodbye to Frankie. And my favorite is Christy's speech in the hospital.
Maybe a surprise choice for number one, but I find the movie seamless.
Johnny: Are you in love with her?
Mateo: No... I'm in love with you. And I'm in love with your beautiful woman. And I'm in love with your kids. And I'm even in love with your unborn child. I'm even in love with your anger! I'm in love with anything that lives!
And here is the scene I mentioned earlier.
Johnny: Are you okay little girl?
Christy: Don't "little girl" me. I've been carrying this family on my back for over a year, ever since Frankie died. He was my brother too. It's not my fault that he's dead. It's not my fault that I'm still alive.
Johnny: Ah, Christy.
Christy: Mom was always crying because he was her son. But he was my brother too. I cried too... when no one was looking. I talked to him every night.
Ariel: She did, Dad.
Christy: I talked to him every night, until...
Johnny: ...until when?
Christy: Until I realized I was talking to myself.
There you go. A pretty nice list if I say so myself.
According to this, my favorite actors (multiple appearances on the list) are everyone from Lord of the Rings, Steve Carell, Liam Neeson, and a bit of a surprise Brendan Gleeson.
Hope you enjoyed. A fun decade. Let me know any picks you got.