Something in my head kept telling me this wasn’t a good decade for movies. The Aught, I thought, didn’t produce many instant classics like the late 1990s did.
But then, I started looking over my DVD collection and the Oscar winners from the last 10 years. It led me to increasing my Top 10 of the decade to a Top 15.
And even then, I couldn’t find room for a lot of films I loved:
Gladiator, Walk The Line, The Departed, Frost/Nixon, Milk.
I also wrote this list soon after seeing the brilliant Up In The Air for the second time. I flirted with the idea of including it on this list, but I think I like better labeling it as the first great movie of the 2010s.
So here are my 15 favorite films from 2000-09:
1. Good Night, And Good Luck
I’ve always summed up this George Clooney-directed ode to early television journalism with this: It’s the most subtly thrilling film I’ve ever seen. I was on the edge of my seat, and not one building blew up. A classy, master-class movie.
Arguably the most times I have ever laughed in one sitting. I don’t care: Random, stupid humor is funny. Period.
3. High Fidelity
A Woody Allen-like walk through two of the things that drive life: love and music. And the film that made guys — not just girls — like John Cusack.
5. Ocean’s 13
Wanna know what cool is? Watch Clooney and Pitt ooze calm and charm. And keep your eyes peeled as the surprises un-spool.
A flick I can always watch any time it’s on TV. It has its own voice — hip, pleasant and pensive.
7. The Queen
Some critics say this was too much like a TV movie. Bullshit. It’s graceful, captivating and incredibly well-acted.
8. Role Models
Maybe it’s just me, but this decade produced eons worth of seemingly stupid comedies that transcended dumb. Sometimes, funny is just funny — especially when Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are lauded by Sean William Scott.
9. Michael Clayton
Kind of a dense, heavy plot — but who cares? It’s impeccably acted all around. And the last scene thrills me.
10. Casino Royale
I’m not a big action film guy. But I like action films that mix charm, excitement, comedy and class. Die Hard did that in 1988. Now, Bond does again.
11. Hamlet 2
On this list if only for the title. But it’s also endlessly clever — and manages to make a song called ‘Raped In The Face’ hilarious.
12. Match Point
Woody Allen has been slammed the last 20 years for becoming erratic and lackluster. This, though, was excellent: a sad, shocking tale of infidelity.
13. A Beautiful Mind
Early this decade, Russell Crowe was the most talented, captivating actor alive. And this was his best performance: nuanced, touching, powerful.
14. The Aviator
Another nuanced, touching, powerful — and utterly engrossing — performance, this time from Leonardo DiCaprio, who showed he was more than a kid actor who starred in Titanic by channeling Howard Hughes. It’s also an entertaining, flashy biopic, and one of a few great films from Martin Scorsese this decade.
15a. Garden State
Not because it’s a pean to New Jersey. It’s also a cute, touching little flick that’s relatable to anyone who’s been lost in life.
15b. Letters From Iwo Jima
This Clint Eastwood-directed film was one that surprisingly stuck with me. Its beige tones and graphic images are hard-hitting and emotional — a reminder that war is the heaviest of experiences.
To me, the Aughts were the decade where my movie sensibilities came alive. I became a ravenous film enthusiast. I probably saw well over 100 films in the theater this decade, countless on DVD (thank you Netflix) and I’m still yearning for more.
To put a list of the best films I saw this decade was tough. How I could leave off so many great films? I tried a Top 10 and even a Top 15, but I felt so many movies near and dear to my heart would be left off, so I went with a Top 20. Even then, films like: The Bourne Identity, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Inglorious Basterds, Big Fish, The Hangover, The Lookout, 300, District 9, Knocked Up, Superbad and a slew of other films didn’t make the cut.
So compiled below is a list of my favorite films of the decade.
1. Lord of the Rings [The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King]
Let’s get past the ending of the third film. Yes, it took forever, we all had to pee, I know, I did too. Let’s get past that and reflect on how these three films were the most impressive film spectacles to ever hit celluloid. Peter Jackson’s ability to make the book deemed “unfilmable” to not only be filmed, but to burst to life with brilliant acting, the best effects work ever seen and still being true to the massive text is the work of a genius.
2. The Royal Tenenbaums
Highly quotable, hilarious and touching. Gene Hackman delivers his best performance as the cranky troublemaker Royal Tennenbaum. Nuanced to the hilt, I can watch this film everyday of my life.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I saw this while still in a relationship and my best friend Victor Reyes said to me, “I can’t wait til you break up with your girlfriend, you’ll appreciate this film so much more.” And he was right. The best film to ever be created about relationships. Visually fantastic. Jim Carrey’s best dramatic performance was tragically overlooked.
4. V For Vendetta
A “message” movie wrapped in an action films clothes. Throughout the film you are challenged “do you support the actions of a terrorist?” even if he is the hero of the film? Now that’s film making.
I have never, ever laughed so hard before in my life. My chest hurt, my eyes hurt, my head hurt. And it was all worth it.
6. Shaun of the Dead
My love of Simon Pegg’s comedy started here. Who knew a romantic comedy set to a zombie apocalypse could work? Hilarious and horrifying at the same time.
7. Ocean’s 11
The coolest actors in Hollywood of the Aughts adapted a film starring the coolest cats of the 60s. The result, an overwhemingly enjoyable caper flick that has un-ending rewatchability.
8. Garden State
I have never seen a film more times in the theater. I saw this film right after I graduated college and it spoke to me. I felt this movie was made just for me. As time past, that element faded away, but the remnants- a sweetheart comedy set in my home state, still stands.
9. Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2
Quentin Tarantino is the most creative writer today. Deftly blending martial arts films with anime, westerns and blaxploitation flicks, this two part revenge flick is his magnum opus.
It’s tough to pick the best Pixar movie of the decade– but Up! wins out. Whimsical and adventurous while utterly devastating and sad and it’s a cartoon. Brilliant.
11. The Hurt Locker
The most tense theatrical experience I’ve ever had. A generational film that is a brusque, brutal and taught military thriller and fragile, personal look at soldiers. Best war movie created in the last 30 years.
12. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Take Homer’s Odyssey and put it in the Depression-era South…oh and it’s a bluegrass musical. This movie never should’ve worked, but the Coen Brothers made it a masterpiece.
13. Pan’s Labyrinth
I’m noticing that I dig movies that can be two things at the same time and Pan’s is no different. Guillermo del Toro creates a beautiful balance between a young girl’s escape into the fairy world and the utterly crushing world of World War II Spain. Features one of the best endings I’ve seen this decade.
14. The Wrestler
A film about pro wrestling set in New Jersey with an 80s metal soundtrack. Perfect.
15. The Departed | Gangs of New York
Go figure. An Italian director makes not one, but two great movies about the Irish. The Departed is a superior adaptation of its source material, The Infernal Affairs. Damon and DiCaprio tag team this film with brilliant acting while Baldwin, Wahlberg, Sheen and Nicholson chew up scenery. As for Gangs of New York, three words: Daniel Day Lewis.
16. The Dark Knight
Best comic book film ever made? I’ll agree to that. While everyone raves about Heath Ledger’s Joker (and they should), I personally found Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face to be the far more interesting character.
17. Casino Royale
The re-start of the Bond franchise, heavily influence by the Bourne Identity, was by far one of the best Bond’s ever made. Daniel Craig proves that Bond can be brutal and badass, but still suave.
We were entertained. The defining “sword-and-sandal” epic of the decade, still has yet to be matched. (300 came close).
19. Michael Clayton
The kind of movie you sit quietly and watch intently and absolutely love. Clooney is dynamite as the eponymous lead character, while Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson chime in with brilliant supporting performances. The ending is pure gold.
This is the film every caper aspires to be. Guy Ritchie’s best film, even better than Sherlock Holmes. Memorable lines, top notch fight sequences, brilliant camera work and a killer soundtrack.