Tuesday, December 29, 2009

End of the Aughts: Movies

This isn't really a list of the best movies of the decade or my favorite movies of the decade. It's more a list of what I'd call the "essential" movies of the Aughts. The movies that affected pop culture and stand out as maybe the most cherished or most remembered. There's an argument to make for "guilty pleasure" movies (like Drumline; Euro Trip; Dude, Where's My Car?), but they don't make the list. Hard to explain because there was no science here, just a sniff test as to what movies felt "right". The rankings come from a mix of everything, so once a movie was on the list, quality could push it up higher. No sequels allowed, except for one obvious series that's here as a whole, because influence played a big role in my decisions and no sequel can be but so influential because they're only but so original. So, my top thirty movies of the decade (I'm sure there will be disagreements, so please air them out in the comments):

  • 30. Finding Neverland (2004): Marc Forster's adaptation of Allan Knee's play about the friendship that inspired Peter Pan. Pirates of the Caribbean propelled Johnny Depp to uber-stardom in 2003 and this film cemented that by garnering him his second consecutive Best Actor nomination.
  • 29. Unbreakable (2000): Was The Sixth Sense a fluke or could Shyamalan follow it up with another great film? In 2000, we couldn't have known to what heights superhero films were about to be propelled, but this first one of the decade snuck up on us and set its writer/director's place in the Hollywood elite.
  • 28. Avatar (2009): The newest movie on the list is here for the influence it will have on cinema in the future. So well done that I'm actually starting to hear quite a bit of Best Picture buzz.
  • 27. Garden State (2004): Yes, this hit me in the right time of life -- right after I finished grad school and right before I got married -- but I gather that this movie had the knack of doing that for a lot of people of my age. It also dropped one of the best movie soundtracks ever.
  • 26. Super Size Me (2004): Tell me this, the only documentary on my list, didn't have a significant impact on pop culture. Some might say that An Inconvenient Truth deserves the title as most important documentary of the decade, but it was just a freaking lecture!
  • 25. Napoleon Dynamite (2004): Wow, 2004 wasn't too bad. Jared Hess's bone-dry comedy that came out of nowhere.
  • 24. American Psycho (2000): Christian Bale's stepping stone to super-stardom.
  • 23. Pan's Labyrinth (2006): Beautiful, beautiful movie. Guillermo del Toro deserves recognition for this visual masterpiece.
  • 22. Best in Show (2000): 2000 was also pretty good. The UK (read: real) version of The Office premiered in 2001. Does that become as big if this movie hadn't brought the "mockumentary" format back to light?
  • 21. Remember the Titans (2000): Disney made out like bandits this decade with what I like to call their "chick flick sports movies." None were as big as this one, which started the whole trend.
  • 20. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): The highest-grossing foreign language film ever and beautifully shot. It made Ang Lee famous enough to get Hulk made, but don't hold that against it.
  • 19. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): A big decade for Disney as they defied the "all-movies-based-on-theme-park-rides-are-garbage" conventional wisdom to unleash an epic action film for the whole family.
  • 18. Shrek (2001): As Pixar changed the face of animation, DreamWorks showed they could do it, too.
  • 17. Spider-Man (2002): None of the other big superhero movies of the decade happen unless this one is as good and as successful as it was.
  • 16. Finding Nemo (2003): Toy Story was cute, but Pixar made the first truly great computer-animated film. But not the last, by a long shot.
  • 15. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004): This isn't my top comedy of the decade -- I'm hoping the top one is reasonably obvious -- but why? It was the "oop" to Old School's "Alley-" to make Will Ferrell a superstar. It wasn't the same kind of "gross-out" comedy as Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin or The Hangover, but it still managed to push the comedy envelope. I guess that's it -- it didn't push the envelope quite as much as my top comedy, but we'll get there.
  • 14. Ocean's Eleven (2001): Coolest movie of the decade.
  • 13. Inglourious Basterds (2009): Upon consideration, the movie theater scene is, yes, my single favorite scene from any movie of the Aughts. It is among the most glorious and exhilarating scenes I've ever seen on film.
  • 12. Little Miss Sunshine (2006): The buzz on this coming out of Sundance was immense and yet it lived up to the hype. How did this movie not immediately get picked up by a major distributor?
  • 11. Catch Me If You Can (2002): Spielberg deserves a mention here for putting out a lot of good (AI, War of the Worlds, yes, Indiana Jones) to great (Munich, Minority Report) films in this decade, but I'll go with this one. It's probably the best and it's certainly the most fun to watch. Who could not love this movie?
  • 10. Memento (2000): I think it's (no pun intended) surprisingly easy to forget this one because a) it came out so long ago, and b) it was only the first of the great movie after great movie that Christopher Nolan has put out this decade.
  • 9. Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Best feel-good movie of the decade. The kind of movie that might win a lot of awards in a time when, say, people are feeling pretty depressed and unsettled about their economic situations.
  • 8. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001): The third of three foreign films on the list. The only other foreign film I pondered was City of God (which I'm mentioning because it deserves it). Director Alfonso Cuaron also made the best Harry Potter film (Prisoner of Azkaban) and the criminally underappreciated Children of Men.
  • 7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): Of all of the stars of cinema this decade, writer Charlie Kaufman was one of the most underrated. This film tops a lot of "best of" lists because of its script and because it's totally not cool to like big movies.
  • 6. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006): This one pushed the envelope. How far? Nobody will be able to duplicate it. Ever. Sacha Baron Cohen invented a new type of movie and then laid the genre to rest. Anything from now on will not be as successful technically and will only be copying this one. Also, while Anchorman may be the best-made actual comedy of the decade, this one is the funniest movie of the decade. I'd like to see someone try to argue that.
  • 5. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000): The Coen Brothers deserve representation and they've also had a pretty good decade. Besides this and their Best Picture winner, they've put out The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, and A Serious Man. All very strong. This one gets the nod because it helped cement Clooney as one of the leading men in Hollywood and it even made Bluegrass music popular for a second.
  • 4. Mystic River (2003): It would have won Best Picture in any other year. It also put Clint Eastwood into the directorial elite and he has earned that place well since then.
  • 3. WALL-E (2008): Much like Avatar, this will mean more in five years than it does now. It opened up the idea of a dramatic animated film.
  • 2. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003): The great epic achievement in film for the decade must rank among the greatest ever. To spend that much money making three movies of those lengths at the same time, and to succeed? It may seem like a no-brainer now because they were so successful, but that's a heck of a risk for a studio and a not that well-known director to take.
  • 1. Gladiator (2000): The first epic film of the decade, the first Best Picture winner, the movie that vaulted Russell Crowe into superstardom, the movie that unleashed a cliche that has been beaten to death by football players. When I think of movies in the Aughts, this is the movie I think of.

I can see complaints about leaving off Almost Famous (not that big a fan). The last few cut from the list were the aforementioned City of God, V for Vendetta, and Stranger Than Fiction. Have at it.


Josh said...

I'm not changing the list, but, in retrospect, add The Royal Tenenbaums to the "could also be on this list" list.

angie said...

Three comments --

Shockingly enough, I've seen a full third of the movies on your list! (10.75 movies actually; I missed a few parts of "Super Size Me")

Did you know that this list doesn't exactly match up with your list of best movies of all time? Shouldn't it?

I was going to not comment on any of your specifics, but...GLADIATOR!??!?!? Ugh. I detested that movie. I think there are other movies that you've loved that I couldn't stand that I would've been happier to see you put number one (WALL-E, No Country for starters). But I REALLY don't get the love for Gladiator.

Oh, and Happy New Year!


Josh said...

I didn't match it up with my top movies, was trying to do something different in terms of movies I thought were good, not necessarily my favorites.

But the important thing: you hated WALL-E??? I'm blown away. The more I think about it, the more I think that actually may be the best movie of the decade.

Happy New Year to you too, we missed you at Jaimie's!

angie said...

Oh my gosh, it was so incredibly BORING!!! It was like an animated No Country for me. And since I was watching it at home via Netflix dvd (so I don't feel like I'm paying for that movie specifically), I came much closer to not watching the whole thing. At least in No Country, I could recognize the fantastic acting. I didn't really find any comparable redeeming quality to WALL-E.

I will concede that you may be right about it having a big impact by opening the door to dramatic animated films, but in my view, just because it CAN be done, doesn't mean it SHOULD be done (or at least not that it will always be good).