The Decade’s Best: 2000-09 – Part 2 – 65-33
Ok, part 2 of my Best of the Decade 2000-09 and before you head on to this portion of the list make sure you read Part 1 100-66.
On with the list…
65. Road to Perdition
Sam Mendes follow up to his heralded debut is a graphic novel adaptation that dives into the mobster world of Illinois and the survival of a family that is on the brink of being wiped up. Tom Hanks is on the run with his son, Michael, after Michael witnessed his dad take out a fellow crime figure and the family Hanks works for decides they must be wiped out. Hanks is great as the hitman with a bit of a heart as he and his son hit the roads on the run creating a bond that we fall for. Daniel Craig and Jude Law are both excellent in supporting roles and Paul Newman turns in possibly his last great role as the head of the family Hanks is on the run from. The film never lets up and is full of memorable moments from start to finish. Be it the family’s attempt to pay him off, the bank heist montage, or the awe inspiring rain shoot out, the film is a beautiful and compelling work.
64. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Tom Tykwer’s creepy and original film some how visualizes smell and tells an amazing a bizarre story around one young man’s obsession with smell and recapturing and creating the most powerful scent in the world. To do this he unfortunately must kill women in the process and becomes a menace to society killing off all of the beautiful women from town to town. Ben Whishaw is creepy and brilliant as the killer, Jean-Babtiste, with Dustin Hoffman shining as a perfume maker who teaches Whishaw how to create perfume. Alan Rickman is also wonderful as a father desperately trying to protect his daughter from Whishaw in the final act. The finale of the movie is quite shocking and a bit out of no where and will definitely turn people off, but Jean-Babtiste’s final moment in the film is a brilliant conclusion to the picture even if it is quite a bit messed up.
63. Brotherhood of the Wolf
This fun and genre bending French import is equal parts martial arts, horror, creature feature, historical piece, romance, detective story, and drama and features a solid cast and story that will keep you on your toes till the end. Surrounding the hunt for a mythological wolf killing people in the French country side a pair of detectives/trackers is brought in to bring the terror to an end. The film is full of beautiful imagery, fantastic creature work, legitimate scares, clever plot twists, and fantastic fight scenes the film has a little something for everyone. Christophe Gans is able to skillfully balance the genre shifting and never lets up on the pacing and oddness of the story making it both accessible to genre film lovers and the normal viewing pubic, even if they might find it all a bit weird. Gans throws the kitchen sink at us and not only does it mostly stick but it entertains from start to finish as well.
62. A Single Man
Tom Ford’s confident and beautiful directorial debut is not only a sight to be seen but has me excited for his future endeavors into the film world. A story about overcoming lost love, Colin Firth brilliantly moves through the picture as a man trying to come to terms with his loss and battling with which path of coping he should take. We follow Firth through a series of moments throughout his day and get to experience and get to know so much about this man’s life in a single day. Featuring great supporting turns by Matthew Goode and Julianne Moore among others the film has a strong cast to carry out the tenderness and brilliantly dark humor of the picture that will sadden you one moment and having you laughing out loud the next over things you probably normally wouldn’t find funny. This film will move up on subsequent viewings I imagine and is a rewarding experience that will be remembered with age.
Sean Penn becomes Harvey Milk and Gus Van Sant creates his most accessible film since Good Will Hunting to create one of the finest biopics of the decade. The film is relentlessly paced, never wasting a moment, and is full of fantastic character actors turning in some of their best work to support Sean Penn. Capturing Milk’s rise and sad fall from public office in San Francisco is a wonderful look back in time when homosexuality was beginning to become more apparent to the common man and the film expertly dives into the battle against the idiocy of the people that opposed it. And that is why the film soars, it is a fantastic portrait of a man who defied the odds, a wonderful political tale, and is a look back to a frustrating time of intolerance that sadly hasn’t gotten much better today at a political level.
This stylish and unconventional bio-pic surrounds the tragic life of lead singer of Joy Division Ian Curtis and is a fantastic feature debut for Anton Corbijn. The music, the visuals, and that acting are all in top form and Sam Riley makes a star turn as the aforementioned Ian Curtis. He captures all of his mannerisms on stage and weaves a complex and conflicted performance of an artist battling with his lust, love, and disability. Samantha Morton is enjoyable is incredible as she seethes with anger while trying to hold it together and encapsulates the sad home life of Curtis to a T. The soundtrack is one of the best of the decade and Corbijn integrates not only Joy Division’s work into the picture but other songs from the era perfectly to capture the mood and spirit of the times and the coming change to the British music scene. One of the finest bio-pics in a decade full of them, and sadly probably one of the least seen.
59. Eastern Promises
The second collaboration between Mortensen and Cronenberg is a smart and different take on the mob genre and while it is a rather personal story it feels part of an epic world. Viggo Mortensen is incredible as the Russian mobster Nikolai and is mysterious and brutal as he dances with Watts around a missing diary. Part detective story, part mob film, the film is full of surprises and features one of the best fights in recent memory. Brutal and naked, Viggo shows us everything he’s got as he squares off in one of the most thrilling and edge of your seat battles put on to screen. Add to this a clever twist and great supporting work from Watts and Cassel and you have an excellent companion to Cronenberg and Mortensen’s previous film A History of Violence. With Cronenberg Viggo is at his best and lets hope they make the follow up to this film soon.
58. Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood’s film starts off as a brilliant breath of fresh air to the sports film genre and quickly turns into a devastating account of survival. The three leads are a brilliant trio with Freeman and Swank both firmly deserving of their Oscars with Swank selling us on her becoming a amateur boxer both physically and emotionally. The third act of this film is absolutely crushing though and it came out of no where the first time I saw it back in theaters. The film will go down as one of the most memorable sports films of all time and an excellent alternative to the usual comedy angle that sports films only seem to be made with now. With that said, the humor in this film works just as good as the drama and Eastwood and Freeman have such impeccable chemistry it is a shame we didn’t get those two together more often when they were younger.
57. Finding Nemo
Arguably Pixar’s prettiest film to look at it is also one its most touching and heart warming stories about family that never once feels sappy or forced. The opening scene slays you from the get go and holds you emotionally hostage for the remainder of the film. Ellen Degeneres is hilarious as the short term memory deficient Dory and Albert Brooks’ worrisome Marlin is wonderful as the most unfunny clown fish in the whole ocean. The story remains compelling both in Nemo’s tank and in the ocean on the way to Sydney and always moves back and forth between the two at the right moment. None of the bits really fall short and you can’t help but fall in love with Marlin and his quest to prove not only to his son that he can save him, but tell himself that it is ok to move on and not live his life in a protective bubble. The film should be ridiculously over sentimental but never once feels untrue and this is a journey that will stick in our hearts for some time to come.
56. The Bourne Ultimatum/Series
This series reinvigorated the action genre and made Matt Damon a star. The first two films don’t sit much below the third act in this tale but can’t quite match the perfection of the latest (and final?) chapter. Full of gripping set pieces and action scenes the movie never lets up and is brutal and pulls no punches along the way. The train station scene is breathtaking exhilaration at its best and the film never really lets up. Damon doesn’t have to do a whole lot in these films but he is an incredible bad ass that can go toe to toe with any character put on film; he is a BMF. Paul Greengrass took Doug Liman’s solid original and improved on almost every level delivering tighter pacing, more intricate plots, and better action in the last two parts of the series making this trilogy a thinking man and action junkies staple for years to come.
55. Me and You and Everyone We Know
Possibly the closet thing to an art project in this list, this odd and weird film is full of heart and humor that is infectious if you can get past the bizarreness of it all. Following the exploits in love around a number of individuals both very young and old we are transported into a wonderful world by director and artist Miranda July that is altogether unique yet real. This poster to the right is hilarious if you know the film but is based around one of the cutest and most inappropriate conversations ever put on film, yes those adjectives should be together, and is a perfect example of what this film is. Full of a top notch cast and a lot of familiar indie faces, July is adorable and likeable in the lead with her supporting cast more than equally her talent on a number of occasions. The film as a whole feels like a giant breath of fresh air after watching it and while it is an odd experience it is one you were glad you spent taking.
54. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s stop motion animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic is a brilliant blend of humor, character, and our inner child that makes you smile at every turn. George Clooney shines as the brash and cavalier Mr. Fox who gets into more trouble than he might be able to handle and is constantly trying to talk his way out of it. The animation is beautiful and the old school look gives the film a unique feel as it is both lo-tech but super slick while remaining visually arresting as Anderson crafts some amazing takes behind the camera. Multiple gags delight me beyond belief here as well, from the use of ‘cuss’, to the glow around some characters, the spiral eyes, and the score is absolutely wonderful from Alexandre Desplat. The rest of the voice actors are wonderful as well and the unique way in which they recorded the dialogue really lends itself to the never ending charm of the picture. Full of little things that you pick up on subsequent viewings the film is endlessly re-watchable and is something I plan to treasure for years to come.
53. Harry Potter Series
The series started as a near literal interpretation of the source material and evolved into stream lined adaptations that got darker with each film and felt as rich as the novels. These films moved from solid kids movies to excellent fantasy films with the release of The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the series, and has only gotten better since. Alfonso Cuarón showed us that these films can be not on entertaining to all ages, but compelling as well and David Yates has fleshed out these characters and made them as real as ever in the 5th and 6th (the most recent entries) in the series. All in all, the series has been handled almost perfectly to set up the finale to be unleashed over the next 18 months with the Deathly Hollows and assembled one of the strongest ensembles ever put on film. The film is full of fine actors with Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes and Michael Gambon leading the way as the strongest faces in the series. The characters feel right in line with the book and the series will go down as one of the finest fantasy works on the screen of all time.
Ridley Scott’s swords and sandals flick that made it ok to make historical epics again in Hollywood has remained one of the top entries in the genre even after ten years of followers. Russell Crowe became a mainstream player after this film and he remained one of, if not the finest actor of the decade and it all started here. Joaquin Phoenix was delightfully evil as the sinister Commodus and the action and fight scenes stand up a decade later. Scott also used this to launch himself into the upper echelon of filmmakers making his best film since Blade Runner. As a fan of history I will always be thankful of the doors this opened for filmmakers to dive back into history and it stands on its own as an excellent and entertaining action film that is compelling at both a dramatic level and in the action. Were you not entertained? Sorry bad joke.
51. The Hours
Stephen Daldry’s adaptation is an incredible display of acting and storytelling that spans across almost a hundred years and draws engaging parallels among three women’s lives. The story follows Virginia Woolf writing Mrs. Dalloway, one woman reading it in the 50’s, and another woman living the book in modern times. The three leads of Kidman, Streep, and Moore are supported by the brilliant and haunting Ed Harris, John C. Reilly, Claire Danes, and Toni Collette among others. Throw in a fantastic score by Philip Glass, a pacing that bounces between our three paths with ease and intertwining themes that suck you in as the plots unfold and you wonder where the film is going next. Daldry’s craft is impeccable and his skill behind the camera and his visual style just works so well. A spellbinding film that gets better with age and is a looked over gem.
M. Night Shyamalan’s follow up to The Sixth Sense is a fantastic superhero origin story that slowly unfolds and intrigues along the way. People that were expecting a twist missed the point of this film as the journey and discovery of a super hero is where this movie really shines. The direction is solid as is the acting by Willis though I wish that Shyamalan allowed Bruce Willis a little more range. Samuel L Jackson is great as the fragile Mr. Glass and the origin flashbacks are some of the finest moments in the film. You can tell Shyamalan really adores comic books and the origin story and I agree with him that the origin is the best story in most instances when it comes to our super heroes. One of the few films on this list that I would love to see a sequel too and hopefully one day Shyamalan will get around to it one of these days.
Grindhouse was the second best theater experience I had in the decade (Snakes on a Plane being first, yes Snakes on a Plane, had to be there) and it is a shame next to nobody has seen this film that way. Death Proof stands up on its own as a solitary experience but Planet Terror I think is hurt being split up. Also the faux trailers haven’t been seen by even less people than those that have seen both parts as they are unavailable on home video; “Don’t” by Edgar Wright is brilliant. I prefer the excellent Death Proof but there is plenty to love in the silly zombie-ish flick Planet Terror. If you come into the film in on the joke this double feature is endlessly enjoyable and about as fun as you can have watching a movie(s). On top of all of this fun, Quentin Tarantino and Zoe Bell pull off quite possibly the best car chase every put on film that ends with one of the best fist pumping moments ever in the final frames of the picture. The fact that I would stack Death Proof up with any of Tarantino’s other films is a testament to the quality of this double feature.
48. Wet Hot American Summer
Absolutely the silliest film on this list, it is probably also the funniest. David Wain’s film was a hot bed for future comedic talent, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banka, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper to name a few and contains some of my favorite moments of the decade. The trip to town, ditching witnesses, capture the flag, the training montage, a can of peas, I could go on and on and list almost every scene; the quality is that good. The film has grown quite the cult following and I have never recommended this film to a friend that hasn’t liked/loved it and is possibly the most under seen film on this list for the amount of time it has been out. So seek this gem out, you will not be disappointed and will find out where a lot of your favorite stars got their start and you can consider yourself one of the cool kids that has seen this awesome flick.
47. Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough film is possibly the most horrifying film of the decade and will should be shown to every child to keep them off drugs. The film goes to places we could never imagine, unless you have done drugs in this capacity, and is one of the most visually stunning and inventive works of the decade. Ellen Burstyn is phenomenal and heartbreaking as an older woman who becomes addicted to prescription drugs and dreams of a life she will never have with her son. Her son’s life encapsulates the rest of the film and him and his friends struggles with heroin. The film is brutal, beautiful, has an amazing score by Clint Mansell and will haunt your dreams for days. It is one of those films you just can’t shake and contains and while it is probably the most depressing film on this list it is required viewing for exceptional film making.
46. The Pianist
Roman Polanski’s holocaust film is a completely different animal than Schindler’s List but is just as gripping of a tale of survival in Nazi occupied Europe. Adrien Brody turns in amazing performance as Wladyslaw Szpilman, a high society Jew in Poland that we follow as his life and family slowly crumbles around him as the Nazi’s tighten their grip. He carries the film almost entirely by himself for the second half of the film as he is forced into solitude and experiences horrors unfolding around him. Polanski’s film is gripping, disturbing, and unflinching in its imagery. To not be moved by this film means you should probably check your pulse as you are most likely a heartless bastard as you should be rooting and distraught at the events surrounding Szpilman. A truly marvelous film that keeps your heart racing until the final moments it shows us what humanity is made of, both good and bad. Also, the scene where he “plays” the piano is about as good as it gets.
David Fincher’s procedural crime masterpiece is a history lesson of the events and people surrounding the Zodiac murders in the Bay Area back in the 70’s and while it is basically a recreation of the events it is endlessly gripping and compelling. Obsession is the theme that is most prevalent here and we get to watch how this mystery affected three different men from three different backgrounds, one a journalist, one a police officer, one an everyman. Fincher keeps the pace quick, the violence real and terrifying, and gets top notch work out of all of his actors. The cast is also an amazing ensemble from top to bottom that is full of quality character actors with John Carroll Lynch stealing every scene he is in as the prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. You could argue this film against any of Fincher’s best and you wouldn’t be out of place as this stands toe to toe with the best of his work and will be remembered as one of many superb entries in one of the most talented director’s of our time’s filmography.
44. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
That’s right I said it. The finale to the Star Wars prequel trilogy is an epic and tragic tale that never misses a beat and is amazing from start to finish. The dialogue might be a bit wooden but the action, imagination, and adventure on display is some of the best fantasy work put on the screen. Plus the long awaited duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan doesn’t disappoint in the least and is one of the best fights ever put on screen. Add to this the incredible opening scene sequence and a great turn by Ewan McGregor and you have the third best entry in the Star Wars Saga. The prequel trilogy as a whole is undeservedly bashed and panned and while it is not as solid as a whole with the second half of the saga, it works quite well. Especially for new fans that are entering the series for the first time and start at Episode I, they really like the first three films. Episode III serves as an excellent bridge to the second half of the Saga and stands alone as one of the finer fantasy and action films of the decade.
Mike Nichols puts an all-star cast together in this brutal adaptation about love, betrayal, and infidelity. The film keeps its theatrical feel fairly intact as we jump from one extended scene to another of these characters lives as they intertwine with one another. The actors are all in top form, the dialogue is like acid it’s so volatile, and the conversations shy away from nothing. Two scenes in the film also rank up there with the best of the decade, one being the fight between Owen and Roberts in their apartment, the other being the amazing back and forth between Portman and Owen and the strip club. The scene is worth the price of admission alone and Portman has never looked sexier; except maybe in the final haunting moment of the film as she walks in slow motion through the streets of NYC. A classic final moment in any film.
42. Before Sunset
When Richard Linklater announced that he was making a sequel to Before Sunrise, which ended ambiguously perfect, people where horrified at the prospect. But some how, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Linklater not only pull it off but do it even better this time around. If you haven’t seen this films, one can’t be experienced properly without the other, so watch Sunrise then Sunset. The film is shot in almost real time, the actors are fantastic together, and their chemistry has seem to only grown since their previous meeting. The film is a great walking tour of Paris as well and you can’t help but fall in love with these characters all over again. The trio even manage to top their original ending as well and if they every make a Before Nightfall or something like that, they better have damn good reason! (hell, they can probably pull it off after this)
Spike Jonze’s follow up to Being John Malkovich was just as weird a vision and maybe a more complex tale from the mind of Charlie Kaufman but is a rewarding experience from start to finish that gets better with each viewing. Full of A performances from Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper, the story folds in and out of itself end over end and is an excellent dissection of a writers mind and process as the battle their inner demons and desires to create something new and original. Pulling from his own experiences, Kaufman creates a auto-biographical tale that expertly blends in fiction and mixes it into a story that is often sad and hilarious but never real. This tandem of Jonze and Kaufman is tough to beat and one can only hope we get more from them in the future and when we do we can only hope that their work continues to be as brilliant as it is here.
40. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s martial arts masterpiece is like a living piece of art that is both beautifully shot and acted while also containing some of the best fight scenes filmed in the decade. Filmed when wire fu was still considered creative, the film beautifully creates these battles in which these legendary warriors fight over vendettas, loss, and the chance to break free. And that is where this film sets itself apart from the pack in that the plot of the film is substantial and powerful stuff that every one can relate too. Untouched love, overcoming loss, anger, pain, and fighting for what we believe in; all these themes are there and we can’t help but be affected. Lee’s cast is superb and this entry into his work for the decade is his best in a decade in which he did some truly great work. An instantly timeless classic this foreign language film not only will stand the test of time but changed the landscape of foreign films in the U.S. forever by proving that they can be successful her opening up the flood gates for the market in the U.S.
Christopher Nolan’s literally backward film might have been written off as a gimmick by some, but the film still holds up as an engaging and perplexing thriller that demands the viewers attention and forces them to question what is actually going on here. A man chasing the facts that he can’t remember, as he no longer has a short term memory, chases down his wife’s killer through clues he leaves himself and as the story unravels so does our trust in almost everyone involved. The film is never lets you get comfortable or complacent in the events unfolding on screen and you find yourself actively engaged in trying to get to the bottom of the case along with Leonard who is played wonderfully by Guy Pearce. I feel like this film has been a bit forgotten with time, do yourself and re-watch this amazing film again and you will find yourself blown away at the suspense this film conveys. And oh man, that scene where he can’t find the pen, worth the price of admission alone.
Steven Spielberg’s re-telling of the events surrounding the massacre at the Munich Olympics is not only an incredible true story but one that is still sadly relevant today. Perfectly capturing the futility and meaninglessness of the Israel/Palestine conflict and the senseless violence it has cause through the years is still going on today. Luckily Spielberg handles all the delicate intricacies of this story with class and put together an A+ ensemble starting with Eric Bana. The story of these Jews eliminating Palestinian targets across Europe would be almost unbelievable if not true and Spielberg was able to create a thrilling and suspenseful tale out of series of missions that ultimately did nothing to better an already awful situation. Powerful stuff here and Spielberg’s best work of the decade. Lets hope Spielberg continues his success in the historical fiction genre into the next decade and beyond as this along with Schindler’s List show that real life material is when the man is at his best.
37. A Very Long Engagement
Audrey Tautou’s second pairing with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is an effecting and original war film that is able to squeeze in humor and romance into the subject of war without the slightest bit of sap. The films scope is epic and the film is one of the most beautiful to look at of the decade but it is the story that will keep you in your seat as a lover attempts to track down the love of her life as she refuses to believe he has been killed in action. The plot is full of surprises and takes us all over France to meet an endless list of interesting and eccentric individuals to create a war film unlike any we have ever seen. The film becomes richer with every viewing and I hope you don’t run away from this masterwork because it has subtitles.
36. V for Vendetta
James McTeigue’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel is a film full of great suspense and mystery that unfolds beautifully before or eyes as V’s plan unfolds. The style and story pack such a punch it is impossible to look away and not get lost in this dystopian that Moore created; even if the film strays from his vision. V is such an enjoyable and engaging character and Natalie Portman’s role her is often forgotten as it is some of the best work she has done to date. Unflinching and precise, the story will surprise you at every turn and it is all together surprising that we are able to identify with a terrorist simply from the mans rationale and logic on a world that sadly parallels our own today. A wonderful commentary on society of past and future and one can only hope we don’t see the day when someone like V is unleashed upon the world; even if we seem them as being just.
Brad Bird’s film about a rat who loves to cook is a heartfelt and exciting adventure that helps us realize that anyone can do anything. Following the rat Remy, we are taken on a journey that is not only entirely relatable but also serves as a love letter to Paris and cooking in general. A film has rarely captured the wonders and joy of cooking as this one has and it’s all done through the eyes of a rat. The film is also endlessly original and hilarious as well as being full of a plethora of interesting characters and scenarios for or little rat friend to interact with. We never once don’t buy into the fantasy before or eyes and fully give ourselves over to this world where a rat controls a man to cook and that is a true testament to the filmmaking. Michael Giacchino’s score is also one of the best of the decade.
34. Michael Clayton
Tony Gilroy’s corporate thriller is a fast paced film that is full of marvelous performances from all members of it’s cast including triumphant turns by George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson. Clooney’s Clayton is a hero unlike one we usually see in a film and coming from a place most of us are all not to familiar with. But the film’s messages of corporate greed and the lengths they will go to keep it made this a cautionary tale to our current political and economic climate. The ending is also one of the best FU moments in film and the credits sequence is one of my favorite ever put on film. Everything that comes before these scenes is just as engaging though and there is enough suspense and mystery here for anyone to get excited about. Most importantly though, George Clooney was able to cement himself her as one of the all time greats and while this might be his most remembered role it got him into that upper crust of actors that we will not forget from this decade.
33. The Rules of Attraction
This insane and hilarious adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name is at first a twisted dive into the darkness of the college psyche then over time evolves into a brilliant dark satire on college life. James Van Der Beek will always hold a special place in my movie heart for his work here and he is surrounded by a spectacular young cast from Shannon Sossaman to Ian Somerhalder as we follow these three main leads on a series of darkly humorous endeavors over the course of their college year. It’s rare that a film can be so messed up upon first viewing and win you over so much, completely changing your view of the film and the feelings it evokes in you, that I haven’t seen since Boogie Nights. Roger Avary showed a real knack for filmmaking here, hopefully he gets to make films again.
Come back for Part 3 tomorrow and don’t forget Part 1 if you missed it.