Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At the movies: My 20 favorite films of the '00s

Having run through my favorite TV shows of the decade and the year, and then having invited comments yesterday on your favorite films of '09, I guess the only thing that's left is a movies of the decade list, which follows after the jump...

First, a few caveats. In this decade, I had a kid, started a blog to go with my column-writing, and saw The Star-Ledger's TV department shrink from three people to just me, and those three things drastically cut down on my ability to either go to the movies or watch them on DVD. So there are many movies big and small that I just never got to. Because of that, and because my tastes are idiosyncratic, I want to be clear that I'm not saying these were the 20 best movies of the decade, just my favorite 20 of the films I saw.

Here's how I would sum up "best" vs. "favorite": my favorite movie of all time is "Midnight Run," but I doubt it would crack a list of the 100 "best" movies I've ever seen, if you catch my meaning. The 20 films below (and the handful of runners-up) are a mix of films I think are genuinely great ("Children of Men"), ones that I've watched a million times ("Wonder Boys," which, to be fair, came out in the decade's second month, and so had a head start on the other entries), ones that happen to strongly check a particular box for me ("Miracle"), and some combination of all three ("The Incredibles").

So in alphabetical order, here's the list:

"Almost Famous" - Deeply auto-biographical films can feel self-indulgent (see a later Cameron Crowe film from the decade, "Elizabethtown"), with lots of scenes, characters and storylines thrown in simply with the defense of "this is what happened to me, man!" With "Almost Famous," Crowe told his own story, but it was a great story, and one that turned out to be universal to anyone who's ever been passionate about music, or writing, or, really, passionate about anything.

"American Splendor" - I'm a comic book fan, but I'd never read Harvey Pekar's work until I saw Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini's film, which deftly, hilariously and at times movingly mixed the real Pekar with a bunch of fictional stand-ins, some live-action (most obviously Paul Giamatti, in a performance I liked even better than his work in "Sideways"), some animated. Great work as well from Hope Davis as Harvey's wife, and if the movie had contained nothing but the "Revenge of the Nerds" scene, it might still be on this list.

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" - The funniest, silliest, most spectacularly quotable movie of Will Ferrell's career. It makes me laugh every damn time, and I like it so much that I've even watched "Wake Up, Ron Burgundy," the straight-to-video "sequel" that's essentially a collection of (understandably) deleted scenes and subplots. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.

"Before Sunset" - Like many Gen X'ers, this movie caught me right in the sweet spot, as I'm around the same age as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's characters, just like I was for "Before Sunrise." Richard Linklater made what seemed like one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time feel essential and powerful, and now, like many of my bretheren, I hope like hell the trio keep revisiting the characters every 10 or 15 years, "7 Up"-style.

"Children of Men" - Just balls-out filmmaking by Alfonso Cuaron and company - not just the famous tracking shots (like the ambush scene), but the creation of a believable, terrifying dystopian world, the performances by Clive Owen and Michael Caine, the music and the rest.

"City of God" - Foreign language films probably suffered the most in my movie downsizing this decade. The Brazilian "City of God" is one of the few I saw, and I was damn glad. Like "Children of Men," it's a marriage of incredible filmmaking technique (by director Fernando Meirelles and company) with a nightmarish world - only this one is the very real slums of Rio, as seen over several years. Loved the TV spin-off "City of Men" (which Sundance Channel aired a few years back), too.

"The Dark Knight" - The first of several comic book movies on the list, and also the first of three Christopher Nolan movies. In addition to giving us the justly-celebrated performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker, "Dark Knight" also did as good a job as I've seen of a live-action movie showing what it would be like to live in a comic book world, to live in terror of people like the Joker and even Batman himself.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - Kate Winslet's best performance in a very good decade for her, a Charlie Kaufman script that managed to marry his usual inventiveness with a real depth of feeling often lacking in his other scripts, and beautiful direction from Michel Gondry. What's not to like? (Other than the fact that Clementine and Joel are probably toxic for each other, that is.)

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin" - Still the best of the Apatow brand of films (both those directed by him and those made by his pals and/or former "Freaks and Geeks" stars). It has a lead performance by Steve Carell so good that it more or less helped save "The Office" (Greg Daniels credits this movie with helping him figure out how to write Michael Scott) and one explosively funny joke or set piece after another. Often imitated, (still) never quite duplicated.

"High Fidelity" - It leaves out a couple of key moments from the Nick Hornby book - Rob refusing to buy the records from the woman with the cheating husband (which is on the DVD as a deleted scene), and Rob and Laura arguing about the mix tapes he always made her - but otherwise Stephen Frears, John Cusack and his screenwriting buddies expertly translate Hornby from England to Chicago. A great (and, whenever Dick or Barry are on-screen, hilarious) meditation on love, be it of music or a woman.

"The Hurt Locker" - I had 19 films set on this list and couldn't pick a 20th. Then I did the post yesterday about the year's best movies, and I just couldn't get "Hurt Locker" out of my head. Among the many things that are cool about it - Jeremy Renner's performance (I can't believe ABC had this guy under contract for a show and let him go), the various action set pieces expertly set up by director Kathryn Bigelow, all the effective cameos - I may be most impressed with how Bigelow and writer Mark Boal managed to make a 100% non-political Iraq War movie. "The Hurt Locker" never asks why we're there; it just accepts that we are, and then goes to show you what that experience is like (terrifying, but also thrilling, mostly) for one specific unit that's there.

"The Incredibles" - I could probably put a half dozen Pixar movies on this list and not blink, but for diversity's sake, I'm going to let my favorite one stand in for all of them. A tremendous superhero movie (and at times spy movie), a great family story, a fantastic commentary on the "Everybody gets a trophy!" mentality our society falls prey to (case in point: my endless Best of the '00s in TV lists), impeccable voice casting and the follow-up I was hoping for from Brad Bird after the wonderful "Iron Giant."

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" - A tale of two comebacks. Shane Black had more or less dropped out of the movie business after "The Long Kiss Goodnight," and Robert Downey Jr. was in the midst of another of his troubled, underemployed periods, when the two teamed up for this self-aware modern noir played half-straight, half for laughs, and all of it fun. Val Kilmer hadn't been this good in a long time, and no one has ever used Michelle Monaghan this well before or since. A high rewatchability level, as well.

"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy - Ask me to pick one of the three, and I'll probably go with "Return of the King" (even with the endless epilogues), but everyone seems fine treating them as one single work, so I will, too. I remember going to a critics' preview of "Fellowship" with Matt Zoller Seitz, and when the Balrog came out to battle the fellowship, Matt turned to me with an 8-year-old's smile on his face and whispered, "I'm so happy right now." "Me too," I said back, and I'm sure I was wearing a matching goofy grin. A tremendous technical achievement, but unlike "Avatar" (which I admittedly enjoyed), one that also seemed invested in the more traditional aspects of storytelling like plot and characterization.

"Memento" - The one that put Nolan on the map to make the other two of his films on this list (with a minor bump along the way in the solid-but-nothing-more "Insomnia"). You know a gimmick movie works if it stands up to multiple viewings, and this one does, thanks not only to the clever device that Nolan and his brother used to tell Leonard's story ("I have this condition..."), but the performances by Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss and Joey Pants. If anything, multiple viewing prove rewarding, as the story only becomes creepier and more tragic once you get out of Leonard's mindset and can remember all the pieces at once.

"Miracle" - The list's token Underdog Sports Movie, it's one I think is really underrated because it was one of a wave of Disney assembly-line sports flicks of the decade. What elevates "Miracle" above the likes of "Remember the Titans" or "The Express" are two things: Kurt Russell giving one of the best, most committed performances of his career as Herb Brooks (jump to the 1:50 mark of this clip and watch how Russell plays Brooks' uncertain reaction to the victory he devoted his whole life, and arguably too much of it, to achieving) and director Gavin O'Connor's long recreation of the Miracle on Ice game, a rare sports movie game sequence that feels almost as thrilling as the real thing.

"The Prestige"
- Our third and final Nolan movie, it's a bit of a puzzle box like "Memento," but on a grander scale, as we watch a pair of magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, both at the top of their games) try to outdo each other with ultimately deadly consequences. The Nikola Tesla stuff alone is wonderful, but this is another one of those "watch til the end every single time you see it on cable" movies for me.

"Spider-Man 2" - The overcrowded nature of the third film, and the greatness of "Dark Knight," have made it easy to forget how many people were happy to crown this one as The Greatest Superhero Movie Ever when it came out in 2004. With the origin story out of the way (and it still amazes me that everyone feels the need to do origin movies for these franchises, when the second film is usually much better), Sam Raimi got to tell a classic Spider-Man story on screen, with one great action sequence after another (Spidey vs. Doc Ock on the skyscraper is my favorite), a good command of the idea of Peter Parker as the guy with the world's worst and best luck at the same time, and a very strong supporting performance from Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius.

"Wonder Boys" - Based on a book by one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon (and far more adaptable than "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," which spent the decade in development hell, and which is probably better off unmade), "Wonder Boys" is a funny, shaggy, exceedingly likable story of one memorable weekend in the life of a one-hit wonder author (Michael Douglas), and the various eccentrics (including Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Downey Jr.) trying to help or hinder his return to usefulness. I'm a writer, so the subject may speak to me more than most, but it's my go-to DVD whenever I need to put a movie on while getting something else done.

"You Can Count on Me"
- The smallest movie on this list, it's the simple story of an estranged sister and brother briefly coming back together before the usual forces send them apart again. It's carried by great performances by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, and by playwright-turned-filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan's attention to the small details that define a sibling relationship.

Others considered: "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Sideways," "Lost in Translation," "Serenity" (just for the TV fanboy in me), "Casino Royale" and many other Pixar films (notably "Wall-E" and "Up").


Tim said...

Ratatouille was the best film of the decade, followed by No Country for Old Men. Also, three of my favorite films from the '00s were documentaries: Fog of War, Spellbound and Capturing the Friedmans.

Good list. I wonder why Almost Famous isn't on TV more often. It's terrific and the perfect cable movie.

Paul said...

...There Will be Blood had to make this list, best movie of the decade

Alan Sepinwall said...

There Will be Blood had to make this list, best movie of the decade

It can be on your list if you like. It's not on mine. Again, read the whole "best" vs. "favorite" thing.

Paul said...

"It can be on your list if you like. It's not on mine. Again, read the whole "best" vs. "favorite" thing."

Considering how often our tastes in media align, I'm surprised you didn't even have it in the discussion.

IMHO, it's the strongest piece of filmaking of the decade and has probably the best individual performance by Daniel Day Lewis.

Heather said...

Love this list. Wonder Boys and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are two of my all time favorite movies, and highly underrated in my opinion. I haven't seen them on many other lists, I'm happy to see them included here! :D

Dave said...

I'm really glad you included Miracle and The Prestige on the list... both very highly enjoyable, though hardly a grand spectacle on the Lord of the Rings level. I was going to try to criticize you for putting the Incredibles over Wall-E, but that's like arguing which Toy Story was better. I definitely approve of all the movies on your list that I've seen (which is, sadly, like 7 of them).

Abe said...

I'd still call Spider-Man 2 the best superhero movie ever, even after The Dark Knight.

Anonymous said...

This is an incredible list, especially films that others overlooked like Wonder Boys and High Fidelity. Couple things:

-- Batman Begins was far, far better than Dark Knight, which had a great performance by Ledger but too many plot holes and clumsy action. Batman Begins was perfect.

-- Lost In Translation may have been the best film of the decade. It gets better with time. Sofia understands the unique value of silence and white space, and how it can make dialogue scenes that much richer. Also underratedly funny ("Thank you, we are Sausalito!"), but mostly just poignant, and possibly the greatest sense of place in any movie I've ever seen.

Carmichael Harold said...

That's a great list, Alan (especially for it not necessarily being a "best" list), and has many of the movies on it that I enjoyed the most this decade (KKBB, 40-YOV, Memento, ESotSM).

My own personal favorite list would probably also include "A Serious Man" (which I've now seen twice and find that it worked for me on nearly every level, though I wonder if my Jewish upbringing explains my love for it), No Country for Old Men and some Tarantino (KB v.2 and, if it holds up on repeat viewing, Inglourious Basterds).

gladly said...

I'm so glad to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on your list. That movie made me remember how much I love watching Robert Downey Jr. on screen.

I loved You Can Count on Me. That's the movie that made me thaw out on Laura Linney (she'd been playing a lot of icy, cutthroat blondes) and start really liking her.

Stephen Frears had a pretty good decade, didn't he? My favorite of his was Dirty, Pretty Things, but I'd give almost any movie he made a chance.

For me, The Prestige movie was better than the novel. The leaner format worked much better for that story.

Anonymous said...

Children of God TV series is City of Men

Alex Mullane said...

Good list, I've seen maybe half of those films. Some I agree completely (Children of Men) and some i enjoyed but wouldn't feature of my personal faves list (40YOV is good, but I prefer Superbad).

One thing though Alan; in the City of God paragraph you mention the spin-off TV series "City of Men" except you've written "Children of Men" again by accident. Just a heads up :)

Andrew said...

Did any studio have a better decade than Pixar? I would consider Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up all as candidates for a best of the decade list. (My favorite of the Pixar films would also be The Incredibles-- it's becoming one of those watch it to the end when it's on TV films for me.)

Jenn and Evan said...

Love your list, Alan.

And I hated and despised There Will Be Blood. The only parts of it that I liked were when Daniel Day Lewis's face got slapped. Which was not often enough to enable me to forget how much I was hating the rest of the film.

Zac F. said...

You meant the Up Series, not 7-Up. I laughed for a minute when I saw that.

When I saw that you had 3 Nolan films on the list, I was thinking The Dark Knight, Memento and Batman Begins. I was surprised to see The Prestige on there, which I feel is a step down from the others.

I feel the same way you do about Wonder Boys. If it's on TV, I'll watch it, even if it's fullscreen, edited for content and edited for time. I wonder if it had been released in the final three months of 2000, if Michael Douglas could have gotten a richly deserved Oscar nomination.

Anonymous said...

The Prestige! Yes! In my opinion, it's Nolan's best work, and this is coming from someone who considers The Dark Knight to be the best action movie ever made, Batman Begins the best superhero origin story, and Memento was the first film I truly loved and still do to this day. The best part about TDK making a billion dollars is that Nolan now has a carte blanche to make any movie he wants with any budget.

Really great list though Alan, I didn't realize you're a comic fan, I love comics, but due to the expensive nature, it's something where I need someone to recommend a series to me before I pick something up. Obviously I love Alan Moore and Frank Miller, and I just finished Y The Last Man, do you have any recommendations? Since your blog convinced me to watch Mad Men, I feel like I'd follow you blindly to watch or read anything you tell me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, re: There Will Be Blood, it's a movie I admire more than I like.

George said...

Great method for compiling a Best Of list. I can't disagree with any of your choices and nice to see Miracle on there. I'm not a sports guy but I love it for the same reasons you do. Kurt always delivers. Incredibly underrated actor. But Man on Wire would have been on mine.

Dr. Milton von F├╝nkdoctorspock said...

Hallelujah someone finally delineates the difference between "critical best" and "favorite." Well done, per your m.o., AS.

On the foreign frontier you'd be well served to peep France's usual haul of top shelf thrillers. 'Cache (Hidden)' for one, and 'Tell No One' was the snap cracklingest action thriller of the naughts.

Anonymous said...

I have no defense against The Incredibles and watched it again the other night. The scene about what exit to take to get to the robot makes me laugh every time.

Alan Sepinwall said...

'Cache (Hidden)' for one,

Oh, I saw that one, and I couldn't stand it. I understood exactly what it was trying to do, but I found it excruciating to sit through.

JT said...

Real shame that HUMAN CENTIPEDE didn't make this list. The CITIZEN KANE of the 00's.

President of the James Brown Hair Club for Men said...

At least Wonder Boys gets some appreciation, even ten years later.


Alex Mullane said...

If you're not already aware of it... Do NOT google The Human Centipede.

(I know that's the equivalent of the "Do Not Push This Button" bit in The Simpsons, but seriously. What you get will not be a super-fun slide.)

Robin said...

Great list. Of the ones I've seen, I agree with you on most of them. I thought Children of Men was a better idea on paper than the execution (kind of like Public Enemies and 9 from this year), and I just could never buy Toby Maguire as a super-hero, even one as nerdy as Peter Parker.

Loved all of the Christopher Nolan films. I think I could watch him directing paint to dry. Especially if Christian Bale was reading a phone book at the same time. :)

mac35 said...

I have a decidedly scifi/fantasy leaning so my list would definitely include Serenity and Avatar.

It's a tough debate amongst the Pixar films but I agree that The Incredible, Up and Wall-E are at the top of the heap.

Pleasantly surprised to see The Prestige and Miracle on the list since I don't think either gets enough credit.

Josh said...

You know, it's always encouraging to get a reminder every once in a while of exactly why you're my favorite TV-based writer on the Internet or anywhere else. Odd, then, that it should come in a list of your favorite movies of the decade, but there you have it.

I would also echo the There Will Be Blood love, but I can easily see it being pushed aside as a favorite of yours. Moreover, how can I argue with the placement of Anchorman ("I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!"), or the trio of Nolan films (having just rewatched The Prestige, I was surprised at exactly how great it was, as opposed to just very good).

This is a great list (so much so that I'll actually watch Wonder Boys again, a movie I saw at age 15 and was baffled by), and part of a great website. Thanks for your hard work.

Bix said...

Alan, FYI: http://www.youtubetime.com/

gina said...

Great list, Alan, and I share many of your favorites. And like @Robin, I am defenseless against not only The Incredibles but also The 40 Year Old Virgin when I see them on TV. (Ocean's Eleven also has that effect on me)

Tracey said...

The Incredibles also belongs on the DVD of the Decade list, because in addition to this wonderful movie it has some amazing extras, like the Clutch Cargo-style cartoon based on Mr. Incredible and Frozone, with in-character commentary by Mr. Incredible and Frozone. Also a lot of cool Easter eggs floating around that DVD.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I haven't seen all the movies on your list, but I've liked the ones I have seen. I was really glad you put Before Sunset on the list. It has one of the best endings ever--so satisfying. I just love it--even more than Before Sunrise.

Hatfield said...

Ahh, so happy to see The Prestige, Anchorman, High Fidelity and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on here. Great list.

On the foreign language front, I wonder if you saw Pan's Labyrinth? That would probably make my list just slightly ahead of City of God, even as musch as I loved that film too.

anonymoose said...

I don't know if it's just because you and the writers at Pajiba.com are from the same generation or that they reflect such similar tastes but you and they have 9 (or 10 if you count your 'Also Rans') that intersect with yours.


Of the ones on their list but not on yours, the one I would recommend the most is 'In Bruges' if you haven't seen it yet. It was a truly wonderful movie.

srpad said...

I ma sitting at work trying to remember all the movies I saw in the last 10 years...here are some favorites in the order I thought of them:

LOTR: The Two Towers. By far the best of the three. The tightest story. I love this one the most and have rewatched it more than the other two.

X-Men 2: The best Super hero movie to date. The Dark Knight was great but I like this one better.

Superbad: The funniest movie of this decade.

Revenge of the Sith: I know all the cool kids rag on George Lucas but I loved this movie. I loved it so much it made my opinion of Episodes 1 and 2 improve. Even though it was techincally the middle episode, it was a perfect bow on the saga. I came home from first seeing it at 11 o'clock at night and I *had* to watch Episode 4 as soon as I got home. I had to.

Something from Pixar. I can't decide between my favorites, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Up.

I am sure I will think of more when I have more time.

BTW I thought I was the only eprson in the world that liked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

groovekiller said...

Man, this list is another reminder why I love you, Alan.

Unknown said...

Great list. I'd heartily recommend 'Lives of Others' when you have the time. A truly *amazing* movie.

And in my world, Iron Man gets 'best super-hero movie' over Spider-Man 2 any day. :)

Faye said...

Yay! You Can Count on Me. Often feel like i'm the only person in the world who loves or even knows that film. Maybe the Sepinwall stamp of approval will finally convince my other half that this needs watching!

JanieJones said...

Great list!
I love Memento, enjoyed the concept, the actors and the dark tone.
ESoftSM, Almost Famous, High Fidelity, You Can Count on Me, Children of Men, Wonder Boys and The Prestige are wonderful for reasons already cited also included are TDK and BB.
I like the list based on favorites rather than just a critical vision.
I would like to add No Country for Old Men, Far From Heaven, American Psycho, Requiem for a Dream, 25th Hour, Gomorrah, Thumbsucker among others to my list of personal favorites.

Unknown said...

Great list - you and I have very similar tastes. One huge exception I would take though is-What's the deal with Eternal Sunshine? I'm a huge Kaufmann fan and I'd put any one of his movies (yes including Synecdoche and Human nature) I really don't get people's fascination with it. I'd definitely replace it with probably History of Violence or maybe Once.

Other than that though I'c consider all those favorites too (at least in my top 40)

LA said...

Great list, and I'd put Almost Famous and High Fidelity on mine, too. And the 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Personally, my list would not be complete without The Visitor and The Station Agent.

Brent said...

I like your list Alan. About the only thing I would disagree with is The Prestige, which I didn't think was so great and I didn't actually see You Can Count on Me but I love Laura Linney enough that I can believe it deserves any accolades you send its way, sight unseen. Another great movies with Laura Linney, in which her role is also as a sibling (in this case Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays her brother) is The Savages. Tour de force performances from both Linney and Hoffman.



Thanks for including, and reminding me of, You Can Always Count on Me. I have it on VHS (!) and still manage to watch it again about once a year. Since it did get several Oscar noms, I guess we can't say it's been ignored, but by now, I thought it had been forgotten.

J said...

Gosh, three Nolans? Three superhero movies? Incredibles is the Pixar I'd go with, too, and I also loved Before Sunset, City of God and YCCoM.

My own list of idiosynchratic personal picks would probably also include...24 Hour Party People, All the Real Girls, Capturing the Friedmans, The Five Obstructions, Gozu, In the Mood for Love, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Kill Bill Vol 1, Oldboy, Punch Drunk Love, Shaun of the Dead, The Squid and the Whale, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Waking Life, Wendy and Lucy, and The White Diamond.

Though there should be some note for those who just did lots of great work for the decade: Almodovar, Charlie Kaufman, The Coens... and something for the best performances of the decade: Daniel Day-Lewis (TWBB), Moon So-ri (Oasis), Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast), Sibel Kekilli (Head-on).

J said...

What's the deal with Eternal Sunshine? I'm a huge Kaufmann fan and I'd put any one of his movies (yes including Synecdoche and Human nature) I really don't get people's fascination with it.

It's the one with more heart than head.

Billiam said...

It's silly to comment on this list since it's YOUR favorites, though I will say two things:
1. Kudos for NOT putting "There Will be Blood" or "No Country For Old Men" on the list: both are overrated, especially "Blood"
2. My personal favorite Apatow movie is "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", which made me laugh more than "Virgin" (but part of my love for the movie may come from seeing so many of my favorite TV stars together in this movie).

Billiam said...

I somehow initially missed your Spider-Man 2 comment:
I strongly agree that Marvel or DC should, at least sometimes, skip the origin story and just tell a good story about the characters (for example, not every cop movie starts with the story of why they became a cop). As great as Batman Begins was, Dark Knight could have been just as great without the intro movie.

Anonymous said...

Really great list Alan, and thanks for the stellar work all year.

This list will definitely force me to rewatch "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". I certainly didnt like it when it came out and my fading memory distinctly remembers thinking both Kilmer and Downey Jr. overplayed those parts.

Henry said...

I love every movie on this list, Alan (even the Honorable Mentions). It's so great that Before Sunset is on there. I didn't think many people would name that film but it's one of the best films out there.

Henry said...

Anchorman, I couldn't stand for a while when it first came out. It got better for me after some time. Also, I more liked 40-Year Old Virgin than loved it when it first came out, but I just watched it over the Christmas holiday on Bravo and I remembered why I loved it after repeated viewings.

Mike F said...

So many great movies from this decade that haven't been mentioned...

Here's my list...

Match Point
Mystic River
Finding Forrester
The Devil Wears Prada
The Pursuit of Happyness
Finding Neverland
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Inside Man
Gone Baby Gone
Road to Perdition
Cinderella Man
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Last Samurai
A Lot Like Love
Reign Over Me
Lost in Translation
The Hurt Locker

More I'd consider...

Million Dollar Baby
American Gangster
State of Play
Walk The Line
No Country for Old Men
Training Day
Little Miss Sunshine
Away We Go
Children of Men
The Butterfly Effect
Vanilla Sky
The Bourne Supremacy
Dark Knight
The Departed
Spiderman 2
The Hangover
40 Year Old Virgin
Cast Away
A Beautiful Mind
The Rookie
High Fidelity
Meet the Parents
Keeping the Faith
The Break-Up
50 First Dates
Dan in Real Life

Craig Ranapia said...

My personal favourite 20 films of the Naughties:

1= Spirited Away / Howl's Moving Castle / Ponyo (2001/04/09) - Hayao Miyazaki).

4=Hero / House of Flying Daggers / Curse of The Golden Flower (2002/04/06 - Zhang Yimou)

7= In The Mood For Love / 2046 (2000/2004 - Wong Kar Wai)

9. Pan's Labyrinth (2006 - Guillermo del Toro)

10. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001 - Wes Anderson)

11. Mulholland Drive (2001 - David Lynch)

12. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000 - Ang Lee)

13. Paranoia Agent (2004 - Satoshi Kon)

14. The Queen (2006 - Stephen Frears)

15. Death Proof (2007 - Quentin Tarantino)

16. My Voyage To Italy (2001 - Martin Scorsese)

17. Of Time and The City (2008 - Terence Davies)

18. Bad Santa (2003 - Terry Zwigoff)

19. Match Point (2005 - Woody Allen)

20. Serenity (2005 - Joss Whedon)

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that Michael Caine is in (at least) three of your 20? Any other single actor in more?

bsangs said...

First one that pops into my mind is "Wedding Crashers" so I guess that's my favorite of the decade. And I do love that movie!

(Also Alan, not to sound like a kiss-ass, but "Midnight Run" happens to be my favorite movie of all time as well. "Sidney, Sidney, make yourself a sandwich, drink a glass of milk, do some fucking thing." Just typing that makes me laugh my ass off!)

Think my 20 faves would be:

Wedding Crashers
Dark Knight
Two Towers
Bourne Identity
The Passion of the Christ
Batman Begins
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Spider Man 2
Tropic Thunder
Matchstick Men
Knocked Up
There Will Be Blood
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou
Ocean's 11
About a Boy
Spirited Away

ben said...

objectivity is myth. i find this whole "objective" vs. "subjective" dual lists thing kinda annoying.

gerry/last days/elephant
no country for old men
peppermint candy
the beat that my heart skipped
russian ark
werckmeister harmonies
every night
the white diamond
yi yi
half nelson
last resort
mulholland dr.
my summer of love
the new world
rachel getting married
a dirty carnival
autumn ball

most underrated (not including real obscurities) and/or misunderstood: speed racer, boarding gate, zoo, mister lonely, lonesome jim, sunshine, shattered glass, birth, miami vice, zodiac

Taleena said...

Alan, I have always thought Children of Men to be a vast disappointment. I read the book first and was sorry to see a shoot 'em up dystopia replace the the insidious blanket of totalitarianism and the sixties radical replace the careful Oxford don. While not an action thrill ride it could have been a sinister, cerebral movie deserving multiple views.

Cuaron's a fine film maker but I think he took the easy path as far as story telling is concerned.

Anonymous said...

"My own list of idiosynchratic personal picks would probably also include...24 Hour Party People"

This might be because I love Joy Division, but don't like the Happy Mondays, but the 2nd half of that movie, after Curtis's suicide is unwatchably bad. I hear a lot of hype for it and was very excited to see it, but I really don't think it's very good.

ruby2sday said...

Love the list. Michael Chabon is also one my favorite authors -- wasn't he one of the key writers on Spider Man 2?

I think we can keep Kavalier and Clay in book form (where it is perfect), and have Chabon focus on writing comic book movies -- I would be perfectly happy.

Anonymous said...

The Fountain
Hotel Chevalier & The Darjeeling Limited
Children of Men
Speed Racer
The Dark Knight
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Goodnight & Goodluck
I Heart Huckabees
Punch Drunk Love
Assassination of Jesse James
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
Minority Report
Death Proof
The Constant Gardener
Tokyo! (3 short films about Tokyo!)
Lilo and Stitch

honorable mentions:
departed, finding forrestor, there will be blood, no country for old men, walk the line, ray, aviator, barbershop

Anonymous said...

Rachel Getting Married is fabulous too, so that would easily be up there. I knew I forgot something.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Three of my personal faves that were not on the list would be:

Requiem for a Dream[1]
Into the Wild

First two were dark, but very powerful, and the third is just a pure pleasure to watch ... everytime.

[1]JanieJones also had Requiem, but was the only one (and surprised no one else has mentioned Into the Wild)

Anonymous said...

I think the french film "The Class" was very good and would be on my list. It did not get alot of attention, and is probably the best movie many folks would have missed

Chip said...

For your best TV series of the decade. Pretty good list, a lot more respectable in terms of order than hitfix's. But no Alias? The show went downhill s4 and only haflway bounced back in 5 but s1 or s2 def deserved an Honorable Season mention I think.

rcobeen said...

Just want to say that a lot of people who are passionate about music writing didn't like Almost Famous, particularly those of us who were around at the time. Crowe lied about his sycophantic role at Rolling Stone and created a movie that was one falsehood after another. I love Crowe's movies previous to Almost Famous and the movie critics I respect most almost all loved Almost Famous, but the only people I know who praise the movie are non-music writers/critics. Maybe I and other are too close to the subject, or maybe I just couldn't take one more soft-focus, too-long-held of Kate Hudson.

Boricua in Texas said...

I was really glad to see Kiss kiss bang Bang and Wonder Boys in your list.

Anonymous said...

No lists from me but I think Alan is blurring the lines between favourite and best within his own picks. Best example: City of God. Great film but would anyone be revved to sit through a second or third viewing of something that was pretty bleak. That'd be the reason for Anchorman or the Pixars.

Mark B said...

FWIW, Lost in Translation has endured in my memory. When Bill Murray reaches out and lays his hand upon a sleeping Scarlett Johansson it captures exactly the emotional blend of fascination, desire, respect and restraint that makes an individual a good adult. That one scene works because the rest of film beautifully captures the tenuous balance of certainty and confusion each person has with time and place and others.

belinda said...

Cache (Hidden)' for one,

Oh, I saw that one, and I couldn't stand it. I understood exactly what it was trying to do, but I found it excruciating to sit through.

My list would differ from yours by quite a bit (though I'm now itching to reread High Fidelity and some Chabon books now), but excruciating is EXACTLY what I thought of Cache. People would say, oh, that's because you don't get it, but the trouble is like you said - I get what it's trying to do, but I HATE it.

Audacia said...

Best = favourite, favourite = best. There is no objectivity in art. I thought a professional critic would know this.

Hyde said...

My two favorites--way above everything else I saw the last 10 years--were Children of Men and Mulholland Dr.

Alan, given where it's set, I'd be curious to know what you thought of The Wrestler? I would probably have that in my decade Top 10.

Number Five said...

Interesting comment from Greg Daniels about The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Didn't it also help save The Office more directly, as ratings quickly went up in season two after season one's ratings were cancellation-worthy? In fact, I may have read it here before.

Many of my favorites have already been mentioned, but Donnie Darko hasn't. This is partly generational - I first watched it as a high school senior. It's also a definite case of favorite over best - on the latter, if there were doubts before, the weaker director's cut and other comments have exposed more of its flaws. But to me, the story, soundtrack, acting (especially Jake Gyllenhaal and Mary McDonnell), and above all the overwhelmingly powerful atmosphere are unforgettable.

Chalmers said...

Movie audiences almost never want to see a film that recounts what they are seeing or have recently seen on the news.

I think this led two of my favorite films of the decade to be overlooked, "Breach" and "United 93."

bsangs said...

I need to add one to my list - the wonderfully awful "The Room." If you haven't had the chance, you need to watch this, umm, well I really don't know how to describe it. It is acted, directed, produced, filmed and written terribly. But it's a non-stop laugh riot because of those shortcoming. It truly is fantastic to watch. And don't deny yourself the DVD extras - especially the interview with Tommy Wiseau. Gold.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, given where it's set, I'd be curious to know what you thought of The Wrestler?

Great performance by Rourke, pretty good movie overall, not one considered for this list.

(And in looking at the start of Fienberg's movies of the decade list, I'm wondering if I should have given more thought to Ocean's Eleven. At the very least, should've been on my honorable mention list.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: Best vs. Favorites, keep in mind also that I've seen only a small percentage of movies this decade, so I couldn't in any good conscience refer to a list as the "Best" (unless it was "Best movies I actually saw").

Alan Sepinwall said...

City of God. Great film but would anyone be revved to sit through a second or third viewing of something that was pretty bleak.

I've seen it at least three times, and, as mentioned, watched the TV spin-off.

Anonymous said...

Thinking back to how Alan described some of his faves as go to DVDs, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World fits the bill for me for films in this decade. Only Russell Crowe could have pulled off that role.

Alan Sepinwall said...

On the foreign language front, I wonder if you saw Pan's Labyrinth?

Yeah, and as with most Guillermo Del Toro movies (see also both Hellboys), I found the technique far more interesting than the story being told.

Dan Jameson said...

I'm a little surprised that only one person (and in a list of 30-40 movies) mentioned The Departed. That was probably my favorite movie of the decade and in my top 10 of all time.

AndyW said...

I'm intrigued by the "Children of Men" love around here. I thought it was great movie-making, but less than the sum of its parts. It was too cold and the plot too efficient to embrace the horror of the situation. Having said that, if the boat hadn't come, the ending would have haunted me for months.

justjoan123 said...

First of all, Alan, Happy New Year and thank you for a wonderful year of blogging along. Second, thank you again for this, which I have read with a second tab open in order to add almost half of these titles to my Netflix queque. Some to discover, many to rewatch with pleasure and a sense of solidarity.

Like so many readers, I am so pleased to see "The Prestige" on your list. It is a film I enjoyed in the theater, but then found that I could not leave behind. I read the novel (and agree, the film is tighter and better) and then found myself ordering it repeatedly on Netflix. I suspect I will have to buy it one of these days.

I kept searching for one favorite movie of mine that did not make your list -- or anyone else's -- and then checked to find it is extra-00s: 1993's "Groundhog Day." No matter, I am sure I'll be watching it repeatedly well into the 10s. That's almost the point, yes?

Jin's English Tutor said...

Seeing your list just reconfirms why I'll give anything you recommend a whril even if it's not in my wheelhouse.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Before Sunset were two of the most pleasant suprises I've ever had watching a movie.

A few of my favorites that haven't been mentioned: The Bank Job (with Jason Statham playing it relatively straight) and Layer Cake.

Anonymous said...

I agree almost completely with this list, except that The Royal Tenenbaums and Lost in Translation would have made my list, and The Dark Knight and The Prestige would not. Since our taste in movies seems remarkably aligned, I would recommend that you see Spirited Away if you haven't already. That would definitely make my list as well.

Hatfield said...

I feel you on the Hellboy films, though they fascinate me and I pretty much adore Ron Perlman, but for me Pan's Labyrinth actually worked remarkably well, even given that the fantasy elements were barely a third of the story. The guy who played the evil general was just incredible. And Doug Jones' physical work as both Pan and that white monster with eyes in his hands was great as always. But to each his own, obviously.

Side note: since you love The Prestige so much (as should everyone, IMNSHO), I'd recommend the book, which is weirder than the film but still worth checking out.

Happy New Year and thanks for all the fun lists!

dez said...

but for me Pan's Labyrinth actually worked remarkably well, even given that the fantasy elements were barely a third of the story. The guy who played the evil general was just incredible.

Sergi L├│pez is amazing. Check him out in With A Friend Like Harry (Harry un ami qui vous veut du bien) for another spectacularly evil performance.

Hatfield said...

Thanks, dez! Is that a French film?

Craig Ranapia said...

but for me Pan's Labyrinth actually worked remarkably well, even given that the fantasy elements were barely a third of the story.

I'd kind of disagree with you there, because the whole film (IMO) is a remarkably subtle and complex exploration of how closely intertwined "fantasy" and "reality" are. Del Toro himself has said that he views the whole film as a very dark fairy tale; Ophelia is on a classic hero quest, and it's all the more effective because it happens against the terrifyingly brutal RW backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.

Hatfield said...

@Craig, definitely. I think what I was getting at, but failed to actually articulate at all, was that I went to see it based on previews that sold her quest and the fantasy elements very hard while largely ignoring the war story (at least the previews I saw), but still loved it despite not getting as much of the fantastical as I had expected.

In the end, I still choose to believe that it was all real, though I suspect that wasn't the case.

Anonymous said...

The two movies that haven't been mentioned here but would make my personal top 20 are Brokeback Mountain and In America. In America is one of my favorite films and gets me every time.

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

40 Year Old Virgin was comic genius and more than deserves its place on your list. Definitely the movie that made me laugh the most this decade, and I've seen it half a dozen times.

My personal vote would go to The Fountain. Amazing, moving, philosophical film. Along with The Prestige, X Men, and Australia, I'd say Mr. Jackman had a pretty great decade.

Anonymous said...

The Fountain is my favorite movie of the decade.

To the other poster that commented on Children of Men, aren't you still assuming a boat is coming for the best? It's still a very open ended movie. You don't know what's coming. It's left to the viewer.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad, I have only seen like 6 of these. I really need to go down to the video shop and hire the rest.

dez said...

@Hatfield, I think so, yes. But it's worth reading the subtitles if you don't speak the language, I swear :-)

Hatfield said...

Ha, I was just asking because I assume he's a Spanish actor, but the title looked French. Obviously I can handle subtitles; I watched Pan's Labyrinth, after all. I'll pop that sucker in the ol' Netflix queue, thanks.

David J. Loehr said...

Late to reading the list, for obvious holiday reasons, but that's a damn fine list there. "Tenenbaums" would be on my list, I think, even if only for Alec Baldwin's narration.

And it's nice to see some love for "Wonder Boys." I think I might prefer it to the book, because it streamlines the story perfectly, keeps it moving when it needs to move. But I'm also a writer, so I love how it catches what it's like to write (or not write).

No matter what time of day or night, when the movie ends, I just want to sit down and write. Never fails.

Red Beard said...

Best films of the decade are tough to come up with. There are so many.

Your list is pretty good. I like that you include fun films like Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. I think it would be easy to make this a pretentious list full of There Will Be Bloods. (Which is very much what my list will be on blog.) But I've always maintain that I'm a movie snob.

Anonymous said...

Pretty shitty list.

Helene said...

Great list Alan!!
Here’s mine:
American Splendor
Bad Santa
Before Night Falls
Chicken Run
The Constant Gardener
The Departed
The Devil Wears Prada
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Ghost World
Gone Baby Gone
High Fidelity
Howl’s Moving Castle
Mulholland Drive
O Brother Where Art Thou
Shanghai Noon
The Triplets of Belleville
Wonder Boys
#20 is up in the air (I haven't seen that yet, I just mean it's left open for adaptability)!

Lisa said...

For me, the best movie of the decade was "The Lives of Others." Terrific people story, amazing performances.

Hutch said...

For me, the best film was Let the Right One In. It captured shades of longing, lonliness, isolation, and intimacy in a minimalistic style that took my breath away. The performances of the two young leads were quietly stellar. Amazing!

Jape77 said...

Killer list, Alan -- though I must strongly, almost violently, disagree with 'Wonder Boys' ... to me and my wife, Wonder Boys and High Fidelity, which came out within weeks of each other in 2000, represent two sides of the same coin: one is THE way to do a film about fans; the other is not.

Believe me: I really wanted to love 'Wonder Boys'... I went to school in Pittsburgh, had a number of friends who worked on the production of the movie when it shot in the city, and spend my time paling around with writers, both famous and failed. If ever there was film I was predisposed to love, it was this one.

Yet ... yet ... I found the whole adaptation frustrating, the entire presentation contrived and the final payoff utterly false and unearned. I was so disappointed with it I spend weeks being angry with the director and the movie and was still annoyed with its failures weeks later -- until I saw High Fidelity.

Now here, HERE was a movie that got it, that understood its subject, and the reality of fans and fandom and blank-o-phile, whether it be vinylphilia or bibliophilia -- and understood passion and creativity.

Yes, absolutely, there is no accounting for taste, and if it is one of your favorites so be it -- but for myself, where Wonder Boys is concerned, it missed the mark and the arrow flew a hundred yards past, into the rough.

Helene said...

Runners-up to my list above would be:
Kill Bill, v.1 and v.2
Starting Out in the Evening
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

debbie said...

I'm SO glad someone is including "American Splendor" on a "Top Movies" list, and then you go and link to one of the most awesome exchanges of dialogue in movie-history. That's just pretty much guaranteed I'll be reading this blog for a long while.

Unknown said...

Alan, Great list. You and I are generally on the same wavelength when it comes to most of the pop culture stuff you write about, so I will definitely check out the ones that I have not seen. I love Kiss,Kiss,Bang,Bang and always try to convince people to watch it. And great point about The Incredibles, the island scenes reminded me of all of my favorite things about the old Connery Bond movies.