The Top 20 Movies of the Past Decade – Part 1
Some people might argue that the past decade hasn’t been that great for film. There’s been tons of bad romantic comedies, countless horrid spoof movies, and billions of dollars wasted on hollow summer blockbusters. But it also brought us some truly classic films and saw the emergence of a handful of directors who define and will continue to define the movies we watch.
I actually started this list off with the intention of only doing a top 10. But as I started to get a list of the movies I loved I realized just how long it was how much I didn’t want to not talk about so many of them. So instead I’m going to make it a top 20 list in two parts. And Just so we’re clear, I’m defining the last decade as movies release from 2000-2009 according to IMDB.
20. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright) – 2007
A lot of people would probably pick Shaun of the Dead over Hot Fuzz, but I seem to be in the very small minority who actually enjoy this more. Much like Shaun, Hot Fuzz does a great job of both embracing and spoofing the genre it’s a part of. This time instead of zombies we’re treated to a spoof of the police action films of the 80′s and 90′s. The reason I like Hot Fuzz better is because of the ending. The shootout is Wrights best work to date at showing just how masterful he is at walking that line between spoof and homage. By action movie standards it’s fantastic. All sorts of guns, shit blowing up, and a town just being destroyed in a hail of bullets. But it’s the people involved in the shootout that make it genius. Who needs well chiseled thugs when you have an old lady packing serious heat. The whole thing is a genius blend of comedy and action.
19. (500) Days of Summer(Marc Webb) – 2009
While England seemed to do a good job of making romantic comedies over the past decade, America decided to take it the completely opposite direction releasing crap and a near constant pace. 500 Days, thankfully, broke away from the trend and gave us a movie that was charming, genuinely funny, original, and above all else honest. Whereas most romantic comedies need some sort of gimmick to work 500 Days simply just presented you the entire span of a relationship. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are perfectly cast as two people in a relationship that see that relationship in completely different ways.. Webb does a great job of balancing both sides and letting you choose what the relationship was instead of telling you. When I first saw this movie I hated Summer for what she did, but upon thinking it over and talking about it I came to realize she was always honest and upfront about their relationship and while there’s reason to be upset with the outcome, it’s not fair to be mad at her.
18. Hedwig and the Angry Inch(John Cameron Mitchell) – 2001
Thanks in large part to the success of Moulin Rouge the past decade brought the movie musical back into the mainstream. Coming out only a little over a month later Hedwig didn’t have anywhere near the box office success that Moulin Rogue did. But it remains to me the best musical of the bunch. Like any musical, without good music it just doesn’t work. Not only does it need to be music that you enjoy, but it also has to tell and advance the story. The punk/glam rock in Hedwig is a fresh change from most of the show tune numbers in most other musicals and Mitchell plays them with such intensity, humor, and confidence that you fall in love with Hedwig from the first song and feel for him when you learn his back story. Michael Pitt also shows us why he’s one of the best young actors working with his role as Tommy Gnosis. Hedwig is touching, funny, strange, and filled with great music.
17. Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze) – 2009
I can’t speak for anyone else, but a lot of the times I tend to over hype a movie in my own head and when I see the movie I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. Wild Things was one of the few examples where that wasn’t the case. From the second I saw the brilliant Arcade Fire trailer I devoured everything about the movie. I read interviews, watched clips, I even reread the book. Add to that I was already a huge fan of Jonze and the hype for me was huge. And the movie is exactly what I had hoped. It’s exactly what you imagine the feelings and imagination of a little kid is like. The rage, the wanting of attention, the loneliness, and everything else each manifested in a different monster. Max Records(how awesome is that name?) was spot on as Max and the monsters where all had the right voice to go with what they represented and the blend of CGI and puppetry was expertly blended and didn’t distract from the movie at all. Just a great, touching story about childhood.
16. Anchorman (Adam McKay) – 2004
For the most part the best comedy of the past decade came from two different camps. The first being Judd Apatow and his camp. The other was Adam McKay and Will Ferrel. While Apatow went for a much more grounded and heartfelt style of comedy, McKay and Ferrel went crazy and absurd, doing anything they could for a laugh. There’s no better example of that then in Anchorman. There’s dog punting, a jazz flute solo, and a fight between the San Diego news teams. Anchorman was also the big break for Steve Carell who we all love as Michael Scott on The Office. Anchorman even managed to make Christina Applegate funny, which is no easy task. So while Apatow’s films might have had more heart, no other movie had more laughs.
15. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black) – 2005
While Anchorman but have been the most laugh filled comedy of the past decade, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the best. After being out of the spotlight for nearly 10 years, Shane Black(Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight) came back out of nowhere to write and direct his best movie yet. Kiss Kiss has a bit of the buddy cop setup that Lethal Weapon had, but done to a much more comical degree. Instead of two actual cops, Downey is a crook pretending to be an actor learning from Val Kilmer how to be a cop for a role. And much like Lethal Weapon and Black’s other films, Kiss Kiss also has its fair share of action. Shootouts, car chases, and fights are all really well done. But it’s the writing and chemistry between Kilmer and Downey that make the movie so damn good. Black’s script gives everything a comedic undercurrent filled with hilarious moments and great lines. All the while Kilmer and Downey work so well together and bring the script to life while still keeping the movie grounded in reality.
14. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson) – 2008
A coming of age vampire movie. Even hearing that gives me pause. If you were to pitch that idea to a major studio we’d get a completely different movie. Thankfully that’s not the case and instead we got what’s one of my favorite vampire movies ever. Based on the book of the same name, Let The Right One is less about being a vampire and more about how to exist as a vampire. What I love about the movie is that Eli, the vampire in the movie, isn’t your typical bad-just-because-I’m-a-vampire vampire. She’s a decent person trying to live her life as a good vampire while still needing blood to survive and knowing the power she possess. The love story between Eli and Oscar is the other highlight. Oscar doesnt so much want a girlfriend as he just wants a friend and the love that develops between them is natural and honest. Nothing feels forced or fake and it really carries the entire movie. There’s still a bit of a feeling of a good horror movie and there’s scenes with blood, death, and other things you expect out a vampire movie but Alfredson does a great job of balancing both the horror and the humanity throughout.
13. District 9(Neill Blomkamp) – 2009
In addition to being one of my favorite movies, District 9 also has the honor of being my favorite theater experience. I managed to grab two passes to an advanced screening care of AICN. I of course took my older brother with me because he’s just as much a geek as I am. I was very excited about the movie and had my hopes set high and there was a buzz in the air that felt like everyone felt the same way. And boy did this movie deliver. Right away Niel Blomkamp shows us why Peter Jackson took him under his wing. His vision is executed to the smallest degree. From alien housing slums of Johannesburg to their stalled spaceships above it the entire world of District 9 is fully realized. But the movie also never loses itself in all of that and stays very personal and down to earth(bazinga!) by staying focused on Wikus and his transition from one side of the fight to the other. Like all of the best sci-fi, District 9 carries a message and makes you think while still giving you a couple of hours of entertainment.
12. Memento (Christopher Nolan)-2000
Starting with Memento, Christopher Nolan tore his way through the decade and showed everyone else how it’s done. Memento takes the guy looking for his wifes killer genre and flips it on its head. Instead of doing it the way all the other movies of that type did it, Memento instead tells the entire story backwards. It’s this device that really makes us feel what Leonard is going through. Leonard, of course, has no short-term memory and so he must take notes on everything in order to solve the crime. Nolan does a masterful job of playing with you throughout the whole movie. Nothing is what it seems and everyone will surprise you. Guy Pearce is fantastic too, and with a lesser actor Leonard would not be such a sympathetic and believable character.
11. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater) – 2004
Richard Linklater has had a very interesting career. He manages to weave back and forth between the indie and the mainstream and fitting in great in both worlds doing everything from Slackers to School of Rock. When I hear Linklaters name I always think of his dialogue driven movies that exist almost entirely of people just talking. Be it the people of Austin, Texas in Slackers going about their daily life or the discussion of our dreams in Waking Life. His best example of this though is Before Sunset. While it’s a sequel to the also great Before Sunrise, it doesn’t require watching the first one. We’re told rather quickly that we’re now years after Jesse and Celine had the night of their lives in Paris, fell in love, and made a pact to meet at a later date. Instead of just showing us what did or didn’t happen at the train station we find out by the two walking once again around Paris and talking about the night they shared, that day at the train, and how there lives have changed since then and because of each other. Linklater does a damn near perfect job of capturing the emotions of both Celine and Jesse and the paths their lives took. But Julie Delpy absolutely steals the show and gives one of my favorite performances ever as Celine. Every word and action that comes out of her is filled with true emotion. There’s a scene towards the end of the film where she reaches out to touch Jesse while he looks out the window but pulls away when he looks back. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene and the perfect example of why she’s so great in this movie.