Home > Uncategorized > LIST: My 80 Favorite Films of the Decade

LIST: My 80 Favorite Films of the Decade

Since everyone and their cross-eyed Uncle is doing a “_____ of the Decade” list, I figured why not do my own? Except I’m not going to do the work necessary to narrow it down to 10 and rank them, or even limit it to 10. That’s just arbitrary and narrow-minded.

Despite its ability to entertain, not take itself seriously, and garner mass appeal while bringing in substantial profits, make no mistake about film. Film is art. It deserves better than to have the majority of it be discarded for the sake of seeing “these ten films and these ten films only are worth your time and attention.”

As such, I’ve chosen an arbitrary number – 80. And I don’t profess them to be the 80 best films, since I’m positive that there’s plenty of brilliant films that I’ve never had the opportunity to see. Although I’d love to see what you would include in this list, and what you think doesn’t belong. In other words, fire away in the comments section!

MY 80 FAVORITE FILMS OF THE DECADE
in no particular order (except alphabetical)


3:10 to Yuma (2007)
28 DAYS LATER (2002)
The 25th Hour (2002)
Adaptation (2002)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Larry Gopnik faces one of many ethical dilemmas in "A Serious Man"

A SERIOUS MAN (2009)
Their 2009 effort was the Coen Brothers’ driest and quite possibly most complex, thematically speaking. It’s also, arguably, their best yet. Though I lean towards giving that distinction to “No Country for Old Men,” this film showed that they’re only getting better and have a wildly broad vision in their filmmaking.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

BAMBOOZLED (2000)
I completely understand the apprehension towards Spike Lee. He’s a man with a vision and a message, which he delivers with abrasive condemnation and all the subtlety of a gas-powered chainsaw. This film retains those elements, but it’s also a very smart, funny, precise, and jarring satire of the entertainment industry’s subjugation of black culture to entertain whites. So many elements of this film ring truer than people would like to think and while most have criticized the film for its sermonizing, few of the warnings given were heeded over the course of the decade.

Best in Show (2000)
Borat (2006)
Brick (2005)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Capote (2005)
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Casino Royale (2006)
Changeling (2008)
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

The Joker relays one of his many origin stories in "The Dark Knight"

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Who knew a comic book movie could – and would – win Oscar nominations, let alone awards for crying out loud? Despite some having faith in Ledger’s acting chops, he shocked the world with his manically charismatic vision of The Joker in a performance that blew Nicholson’s turn in Burton’s ’89 adaptation of the comic book franchise right out of the water. As impressive as his performance was, though, Christopher Nolan pulled off a far more amazing and mysterious feat: he made angsty film noir under the guise of a superhero movie and not only got away with it, but came out with one of the biggest critical and financial successes in Hollywood history. Would you like to see a magic trick?

Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)
Donnie Darko (2001)

EASTERN PROMISES (2007)
While the film itself is intriguing with a strong script, it’s Viggo Mortensen’s brilliant performance that makes the movie. Everything, right down to the manner in which he tilts his head during a conversation, is undeniably Russian. It’s performances like this that simultaneously thrill and depress me as an actor. It’s thrilling because it’s a perfect performance, but depressing because I know I could never come close to delivering a performance that good.

Elephant (2003)
Finding Neverland (2004)
Grizzly Man (2005)
Hellboy (2004)
High Fidelity (2000)
I’m Not There (2007)
In the Valley of Elah (2006)

IRON MAN (2008)
Marvel’s answer to “Batman” has always been billionaire industrialist Tony Stark. He has no powers to speak of, but he does have a lot of tech, more money than God, and a lot of free time to fight the forces of evil. It’s only appropriate then that in the same year as “The Dark Knight”, Marvel Comic’s “Man of the Future” launched his own film franchise. It was not nearly as rich and complex as its DC counterpart, but it was ridiculously entertaining and did not fall too far behind “The Dark Knight” in terms of critical reception. We’ll see what the future holds for the franchise: while Batman has a famous and seemingly endless rogues gallery, “Iron Man” has a dude with whips and another one with rings. It’ll be interesting to see if future installments have any legs.

Jesus Camp (2006)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)
La Vie en Rose (2007)
Lonesome Jim (2005)
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
Margot at the Wedding (2007)

Relating to the unrelatable: "Me and You and Everyone We Know"

ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (2005)
As quirky as this entire film was and as uncomfortable as it got at times, nothing released that year was more honest and true to life. The film was the first full-length film from performance artist Miranda July, who both wrote and directed it. Unfortunately she never followed it up with anything substantial (in the realm of film), but it’s just as well. Her contribution and place in cinema lore is safe and secure.

Michael Clayton (2007)
Milk (2008)
Mongol (2007)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Munich (2005)

MYSTERIOUS SKIN (2004)
The film is a brutal, disturbing, and uncomfortable tale of the trauma and effect of pedophilia on its victims. It was also the first film that made me take notice of Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I think is the best actor of his generation. He just needs to take more roles like this to make everyone aware of that fact.

Mystic River (2003)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Open Range (2003)

Jesus (the guy with the long hair) with his followers in "Passion of the Christ"

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004)
As controversial as this film was when it was first released six years ago for its perceived persecution of Jews, it’s only become more so in recent years as Gibson’s anti-semitism and racism was blown wide open during an infamous DWI stop. Despite questions of anti-semitism and the uncomfortable level of violence brought to the screen, it was undeniably art. This film is as close as we’ll get to the medieval paintings that recreate and re-enact the most violent aspects of the Bible. The efforts brought forth, including the decision to have all dialogue spoken in the long-dead language of Aramaic, showed a true craftsman’s hand at work, and the film was also brilliantly shot. It’s also not as straightforward as most people, including the filmmaker (Gibson), think it is. While many have seen it as validation of the suffering of The Christ and a lesson that all Christians should take in stride, I see it instead as a shocking insight into the violent world portrayed in the Bible and also of the deep internal conflict faced with most Christians like Gibson: balancing their alleged disgust with excessive sex, violence, and other acts they consider sinful with their need to recreate it themselves in their own image (see?) and thrust it forth for the whole world to see. Faith and spirituality, or a God complex and repressed desires? Art is truth, and truth is subjective.

Phone Booth (2003)
The Queen (2006)
Redbelt (2008)
Rescue Dawn (2006)

Royal teaches his grandchildren the finer points in life in "The Royal Tenenbaums"

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)
It’s often hard to put into words exactly what it is I like about Wes Anderson’s love letter to Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons.” It was the first (and best) thematic installment of Anderson’s over-arching need to deconstruct, humiliate, rebuild, and humanize the alpha male. It’s also ultimately a story about the dual nature of family as both a fragile structure easily upset by the entrance of new participants or old unwanted ones, and also a testament to its strength and resolve in the face of shocking upheavals and revelations. It’s certainly not groundbreaking stuff, but Gene Hackman’s performance puts the film over the top and makes it not just one of my favorites of the decade, but of all time.

The Rules of Attraction (2002)
Scratch (2002)
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Sin City (2005)

The agony of defeat: Mark Kerr in "The Smashing Machine"

THE SMASHING MACHINE (2002)
Few sports documentaries are brave enough to show the consequences many face in the pursuit of competition and excellence in professional sports. What was going to initially be a simple film about Mark “The Hammer” Coleman became a heartbreaking study of Team Hammerhouse teammate Mark Kerr’s struggles with professional decline, addiction, and a spectacular fall from grace.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spirited Away (2001)

One of many familiar, awkward moments in "The Squid and the Whale"

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005)
A simply magnificent film. Jeff Daniels puts in the performance of his career as the academic and would-be writer Bernard Berkman, a husband in a failing marriage whose attempts to bond with his sons come in the form of pretentious ego trips and power plays against his soon to be ex-wife Joan (Laura Linney). I’ve never seen a film so relatable to the experience of parents divorcing, and particularly the positions they end up placing their children in despite their best efforts to avoid doing so.

Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Tarnation (2004)
Team America: World Police (2004)
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
There Will Be Blood (2007)

THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA (2005)
Tommy Lee Jones simply wowed me with this film, which was also his debut as a director. A great modern Western with noir elements that, despite being in essence a grand vengeance and morality tale, remains remarkably grounded. I only hope Jones gives himself another opportunity to direct in the next decade.

Traffic (2000)
Tsotsi (2005)
Twelve and Holding (2005)

THE WRESTLER (2008)
It was heralded as “the comeback of Mickey Rourke,” even though he’d just starred in a blockbuster (“Sin City”) a scant three years earlier. Regardless, it was a phenomenal performance by Rourke, and a tremendous character examination of every single professional wrestler that ever lived. To wrestling fans, it was a validation of the industry’s place in pop culture; a film that was honest and respectful towards its protagonist’s struggles and wants while gaining critical and cultural favorability. What they don’t realize is that the film exemplifies everything that’s wrong with the industry and how its existence in its present form and its drug-addled psychologically damaged participants are a recipe for personal chaos, abuse, self-destruction, and an early death.

Up (2009)
Waking Life (2001)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Work all day, dream all night: "Wall-E"

WALL-E (2008)
I think the following year’s “Up” was the better film as well as the pinnacle of Pixar’s creative abilities. That said, “Wall-E” is a great achievement in and of itself. Imagine a major studio making a film with no dialogue for the entire first act (45 minutes in total) that people still universally loved. With this film, it became apparent that Pixar was pulling a fast one on its corporate sponsors, putting out complicated arthouse films with real depth that made ambitious statements on the nature of human relationships under the guise of making cute animated films for kids. Before this film, an oft heard and read cliche was to describe a good animated film as “not only one of the best animated films, but one of the best films” of a certain time frame. Pixar’s contribution to the decade is that it removed the need for that disclaimer, and instead would see its films pop up in critics’ top ten lists of best films of the decade without marveling at the fact that an animated film had somehow snuck onto their ever-so-important “Top 10.”

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)
Zodiac (2007)

Alright, guys. What’re some of yours?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 4, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    The only comment I can think to leave at the moment is that Mulholland Drive is on there but not Inland Empire. They’re nearly on par with each other, but Inland Empire is Lynch’s pièce de résistance. It’s a bit of everything he’s ever done (and a few new things), all wrapped together in this dense, nearly-impenetrable, 3-hour epic. Personally, picking a favorite David Lynch film is nearly impossible, but from an objective point of view, Inland Empire is Lynch’s most fully realized project to date.

    • January 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm

      Its omission is (as of this writing) purely because I haven’t seen it. I definitely will at some point.

      Though I have to be honest, considering his body of work, the idea of something being “a bit of everything he’s ever done” it is a bit worrisome even for a fellow Lynch fan.

      • January 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm

        Well okay, all the weird shit. His short films, Eraserhead, Wild at Heart, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr…. that stuff.

      • January 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

        Heh. Figured as such.

        Love all those films except “Lost Highway.” Wow, what a mis-step.

  2. mike
    January 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Your list is extremely good and there’s very little that I disagree with. In response, I started a list of movies I would add, but it started getting out of hand, so I narrowed it down to 20. Add these and make it 100 films of the decade:

    21 Grams (2003)
    Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
    Blow (2001)
    Children of Men (2006)
    City of God (2002)
    The Fountain (2006)
    Frost/Nixon (2008)
    Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
    The Invention of Lying (2009)
    Morvern Callar (2002)
    The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
    Oldboy (2003)
    Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
    The Prestige (2006)
    Primer (2004)
    Snatch (2000)
    Sideways (2004)
    V for Vendetta (2005)
    Waking Life (2001)
    Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

    As a side note, I saw the Invention of Lying the other day and I think it is one of the most original, clever, and witty comedies to come out in quite some time. It’s refreshing in the age of Will Farrell and Judd Apatow (as good as they are, their shticks are wearing thin). I’m sad that it seems to have been overlooked by so many year-end lists.

    • mike
      January 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      Wait… you’ve already got Waking Life… scratch that and add Night Watch (2004).

    • January 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      (re: Waking Life. I was gonna say, I thought I included that one!)

      I still haven’t seen the following:
      21 Grams (2003)
      Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
      Children of Men (2006)
      City of God (2002)
      The Fountain (2006)
      Frost/Nixon (2008)
      The Invention of Lying (2009)
      Morvern Callar (2002)
      The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
      The Prestige (2006)
      Primer (2004)
      Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

      All of them are on my Netflix queue.

      Of the ones on your list I did see:
      Blow (2001) – By the time I finally saw this film, I felt like I’d seen it a hundred times already, and it was the type of familiarity that bred contempt. Particularly the whole Goodfellas-inspired voiceover narration. I didn’t find any of it particularly insightful or compelling, and sitting through it both times (at the behest of friends) was a chore for me.

      Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) – I fell in love with this film and gushed about it when I first saw it, although I have to be honest in saying that it’s one of those films that I completely forget about until someone else brings it up. It just barely missed the cut.

      Oldboy (2003) – This was literally the last film to be cut from the final list, and admittedly if I was to do this list again I would’ve left it on there. Although I’ve read that the “single-shot” axe scene was actually just clever editing, what an amazing sequence.

      Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – I really should revisit this, as I was astounded at the amount of love and praise heaped onto it. Nothing wowed me about it in the theater, and in fact at one point in the second act I nearly fell asleep. At the time I understood all the allusions, metaphors, homages, etcetera. It just didn’t move me nearly as much as del Toro wanted it to.

      Snatch (2000) – This is one of those movies that a few years ago might have been in my top twenty. It was certainly a sentimental favorite for a long time, and is probably my favorite Guy Ritchie film. It ended up, to my own surprise, being one of the first ones taken out of my initial list of about 120. I attribute it to too many viewings (sometimes you’ll see a movie or hear a song so many times that it almost becomes pedestrian) along with my discovery and subsequent exploration of classic noir/caper films in the last year

      Sideways (2004) – I saw it, didn’t hate it. It was already the cinematic flag of the growing pretentious foodie crowd by the time I saw it, and it’s possible that over-hype and excessive praise in advance of my viewing of the film heightened my expectations to a point that it couldn’t be anything but a disappointment (see also: “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”; “Flight of the Conchords”). I will say that while Giamatti put in an excellent performance as usual, I don’t think the role was nearly as fascinating or challenging as those he took before and after this. Thomas Haden Church also received adulation for his performance, although personally I was impressed with his portrayal of the character at his emotional breaking point but didn’t find anything else about the character itself to be all that unique.

      V for Vendetta (2005) – Something about this adaptation rang hollow. I suppose it’d be fair to say that much of it is owed to my dislike of Natalie Portman’s performance: I find her to be dreadfully dull, and can’t for the life of me find a single performance of hers that made me think she was anything other than a cute girl that dorky guys go ga-ga over. And for a film that was attempting to be so inflammatory based on the original subject matter and the parallels it was trying to draw to the Bush Administration and the dangerous post-9/11 American jingoism that hadn’t died down at the time of the film’s release, it still seemed like not many chances were being taken by the filmmaker or the actors. The filmmaker I can forgive: doing a comic book adaptation is a harrowing balance of striking new ground in a different medium while trying not to stray too much as to offend the fans (the creator’s a basketcase who will never be satisfied), and in many cases you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. I’d always prefer a filmmaker take a chance in pissing off fanboys if it’s in the pursuit of art (rather than dollars), but in this case I’d be damned if I cared.

      Edit: And I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to see “Invention of Lying.” If for anything other than the concept, which you hear and go “Of course! That’s brilliant, yet so simple. Why the Hell wasn’t it done earlier and why didn’t I think to pitch it as a Ricky Gervais vehicle?!”

      Reply

      • mike
        January 4, 2010 at 8:10 pm

        That’s exactly the reaction I had towards Invention of Lying and I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint. It’s perfect for Gervais and surprisingly subtle (at least more-so than I thought considering the concept) and hilarious.

        Of the ones you haven’t seen, I think Children of Men is probably the best. If I was making a top 10 list for the decade, I would consider it. Specifically, it has the most incredible single-shot action scene I can think of.

        Morvern Callar is a good film, but I love it mostly for its opening scene and its closing scene. I don’t want to spoil it, but those scenes are both among my favorites.

        And I agree with you about Natalie Portman. If I like a film she’s been in, it’s usually despite her. The one exception, other than “The Professional”, is Closer (which should have been included, now that I’ve thought of it) where I found her genuinely attractive and compelling. Typically, I find her dull, annoying, and unbelievable. I just saw Brothers and she very nearly ruined that one.

      • January 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

        I can’t believe I didn’t call you out for omitting Children of Men and Oldboy. It was probably because I hate “best of” lists and wasn’t thinking of my own, aside from the one I mentioned. And fwiw, I really did enjoy the hell out of Pan’s Labyrinth.

  3. January 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Go. See. City of God. I had the most interesting discussion with my Brazilian friends after that movie.
    I’ve seen a shocking few of your choices…shameful. I guess I have some work to do now.

    • January 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      I’m glad I could make you cultured (finally).

  4. Jessica R
    January 4, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I’m glad Squid and the Whale is on here. It’s one of my top 3 movie picks, and I feel so few people have seen it!

    • January 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

      I’m shocked that movie isn’t one of the most sought-after in terms of rentals. Simply an amazing film.

      I’ll be honest – if I had to pick a single favorite film of the decade? It might be that. No foolin’.

  5. whitevolvowagon
    January 5, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I commented. But WP ate it. Mean. 500 Days of Summer. J G-L at his finest. It’s cynical and so am I.

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