The 30 Best Films of the Decade

I’m not exactly a movie buff, so I’d hardly consider my list of films from the 00s complete or remotely impartial. As you can see, I’m a fan of quirky, I’m a fan of unique, and I’m a fan of films that transcend genres. Get your Netflix queue fired up, and let’s begin:

30. Finding Neverland (2004)

This film about the man who created the iconic character Peter Pan unexpectedly charmed me. It’s cute and emotional at all the right moments. I mean, it’s still not as amazing as Hook, but they can’t all be cheesy 90s movies.

29. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

This clever film serves as a parable of sorts. Though many wish they could erase painful memories, would it be worth doing so at the cost of all of the positive memories? Love hurts, but this film reminds us that there is also beauty in the pain.

28. Poseidon (2006)

I love natural disaster films, so I’m willing to overlook the bad acting, dialogue, and Fergie. A large ship sinks and, enjoyably, mass death ensues. Think Titanic, but without the pretension and hour and a half of pointless character development. Let’s get straight to the body count!

27. The Corporation (2003)

There’s no point in pretending this anything but a three-hour, no-frills documentary on the role of contemporary corporations in our lives. What it lacks in visual stimulation, however, it makes up for with intellectual stimulation. The Corporation is a primer for everybody who wants to know why big businesses are so powerful.

26. Donnie Darko (2001)

Funny, yet utterly dark, it’s a film that I wanted to discuss with people immediately after I watched it. We struggle to understand the mysteries of Donnie’s world, just as he does. It’s complex, but in a highly consumable fashion.

25. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Going into this film, I figured it would be more pornographic than uplifting. For better or worse, and I’d argue for better, this film about a man’s relationship with a sex doll is void of sex. Instead, we have a touching portrayal of people struggling with interpersonal dynamics.

24. Orphan (2009)

What can I say that I haven’t already said about this film? Orphan is easily the best bad film of the decade.

23. Revolutionary Road (2008)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet prove that they can act even better without a sinking ship. This period piece perfectly depicts the ennui of suburbia in this tragic trail. You’ll relate even though you wish you couldn’t.

22. Amelie (2001)

Bjork-like in behavior, the interminably cute Amelie regularly lets her imagination run wild and invites us to witness her journeys and exploration for love. Copycats that came out in subsequent years never matched the genuine adorableness that Amelie captures.

21. The Dark Knight (2008)

Generally, I ignore blockbuster adventure/superhero films because they suck. I’ve always wondered why if the studios are spending so much money on the visuals and special effects, why they can’t put some effort into a good script as well? The Dark Knight is the first film of its kind that I’ve seen that actually combines a phenomenal script with a sea of special effects. I cared about the story! Encore!

20. Burn after Reading (2008)

This might not be the best reviewed film in the Coen brothers’ repertoire, but this black comedy is my favorite. Admittedly, I was pretty drunk when I first saw the film, but it might be the hardest I’ve ever laughed in a theater. Moreover, this film actually made me admire Brad Pitt. Black comedies (by which I do not mean Tyler Perry) should all be this good.

19. Thumbsucker (2005)

It’s hard not to connect with our teenaged protagonist, Justin. Life is hard to cope with, and he struggles to find his true identity while dealing with vices: thumb-sucking, girls, and marijuana. He discovers that his habits are no more debilitating than the one adults impose on him: Ritalin. If you’ve ever wondered if Keanu Reeves’s awkward approach to acting makes sense for a part, he actually fits perfectly here as the Justin’s orthodontist.

18. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

I doubt any real critics would count this film amongst the decade’s best, but I find Borat to be rip-roarious, and I say that as someone who wasn’t previously an Ali G fan. By putting non-actors, and some real actors too if Pamela Anderson counts, into Candid Camera like situations, Borat captures the authentic spirit of America: stupid and racist. Consider it a documentary on inhalants. Not!

17. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

I don’t like blood and violence; Kill Bill is nothing but… and yet – fantastic. Quentin Tarantino is at his finest as he turns something I’d normally consider unwatchable into beautiful art. The entire viewing, I couldn’t decide whether to cover my eyes or keep watching the masterful choreography unfold. Maybe there’s just something hot about women-on-women violence.

16. Wonderboys (2000)

Admittedly, I’m probably inordinately obsessed with this film since it’s all about the art of writing, but there’s enough sharp characters and witty dialogue here to hold anyone’s attention.

15. Thank You for Smoking (2006)

Aaron Eckhart plays a lobbyist who protects corporate interests through charm, trickery, and doublespeak. In a way, he is everything I despise, and yet it’s hard not to find him – disgustingly – likeable. I almost took up smoking! If you’re a fan of rhetoric and argument and like viewing issues from the other side, this is a fun flick.

14. Jesus Camp (2006)

I didn’t need a documentary to tell me that Evangelical summer camps are scary and manipulative, but being able to see the goings-on and confirm my suspicions is helpful, if not comforting. Lord, help these children.

13. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)

Generally, a lack of a plot can be a major issue with a film, but the vignettes of quirky, interconnected characters plays out in the most enjoyable fashion. For me, the standout character is Robby, as played by Brandon Ratcliff. With little effort, he is easily the cutest child star of the decade.

12. Frost/Nixon (2008)

It’s a piece of political and media history I was not too familiar with, but an entertaining, educational journey nonetheless. Frost, a flippant British TV personality, pays for the rights to the interview of the century with Nixon. The tension between the two title characters is palpable and riveting.

11. I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Can you tackle something as nebulous as existentialism in a film? I think I Heart Huckabees proves that you can’t, and delights in intentionally proving it. This movie is playtime for intellectuals who like thinking for thinking’s sake, even if there are no answers.

10. Talk To Her (2002)

From the beautifully bizarre mind of Pedro Almodavor comes a film in which people fall in love with comatose strangers. That may sound like a strange concept, but it’s great – unnerving, but great.

9. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wes Anderson is the king of quirky, emotional comedies, and The Royal Tenenbaums is the best piece on his resume. Following a family who we’d never want to be related to but can’t help but feel fascinated by, Tenenbaums is a film that holds its entertainment value with each rewatch.

8. Chicago (2002)
On the whole, I’m not too into musicals, but Chicago is the decade’s notable exception – and I’m including the overrated Mulin Rouge. In addition to being visually stunning and having some sultry performances, Chicago actually addresses musicals’ plaguing problem: characters randomly breaking out into song and dance. By pairing the musical numbers with the characters’ delusions of fame, the songs are not only fun but believable.

7. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

I like a gentle drama sprinkled with laughs and angst. Watching this broken family wade in its own dysfunction stops short of being heart breaking, but never fails to be entertaining. There’s poignancy, here, and it’s not contrived.

6. Memento (2000)

Though amnesia is a common convenient plot devise, Memento adds a wholly captivating, twist by showing the plot out of sequence. Then, it was up to the audience to put their own memories to the test and follow the action. This is definitely one of the most original screenplays of the decade.

5. Doubt (2008)

Before seeing Doubt, I had my doubts. Another priest molestation story? Well, even if Doubt didn’t do it first, it certainly did it best. Standout emotional performances from Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Viola Davis make this a film that will leave you slack-jawed.

4. In the Bedroom (2001)

I’ve found that the less you know about this film before seeing it, the more of an impact it has, so I’m going to avoid giving any real plot details, other than to say it is unforgettable. In the Bedroom features some of the best, nuanced acting I’ve ever seen. I find the dialogue especially amazing, particularly because this screenplay really demonstrates that what is not being said is often even more important than what is being said.

3. Gosford Park (2001)

I’m not always a fan of Robert Altman’s work, but when he tackled one of my favorite genres, the murder mystery, I was swept in by the British who-dunnit. Witty and intriguing, the ensemble cast of characters elevates the film to a whole new level.

2. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

You don’t have to be a fan of genocide to like this movie – but it helps. No, actually, this movie treats the subject matter with all of the sensitivity that I never could, and does so while maintaining integrity, story, entertainment, and education. Without being preachy, Hotel Rwanda inspires audiences to actually standup against injustices.

1. Adaptation (2002)

For many, this film is far too meta to be enjoyable, but I happen to love that Adaptation has so many layers it really requires a second viewing. When screenwriter Andy Kaufman couldn’t figure out how to successfully adapt The Orchid Thief into a movie, he wrote himself and his writer’s block into the story. As fun of a writing exercise as this must have been for Kaufman, it is equally as entertaining to see the creative process unfold on the screen.

Let me know if you agree/disagree/or have some recommendations that I might have missed out on.

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