As always, I have not seen every film made in the decade, so this list is only complete as of posting. There are those diamonds in the rough I’ve yet to witness that could render this entire list obsolete.
The ‘Naughts’, I believe an appropriate term being used for the decade spanning from 2000–2009, the years we feared wouldn’t come thanks to Y2K, brought with them some amazing films. Technological advancements aside, this time period contained a number of singular auteurs both continuing on already stellar careers and others beginning what should hopefully be long and fruitful ones. So many feel that cinema has fallen into an abyss of remakes/revisions, a world where only a handful of plots exist that continue to be recycled and called new. I don’t think this is completely true and my list shows some visions that are unique to themselves, while others touch on familiar premises told in a way that makes them brand new. Directors like Darren Aronofsky (3 films included here), Spike Jonze (2 films), Charlie Kaufman (2 screenplays), Lars von Trier (2 films), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (2 films) show there’s an international flavor making amazing works inside and outside the Hollywood system. Cinema just keeps getting better and better.
And before you say it, yes, I know There Will Be Blood and Quentin Tarantino in any way are absent here, as are many others. If I made this a Top 100 Films of the Decade, you’d be seeing them both, but, for whatever reason, these 50 films struck me more on an emotional and personal level. I’ll be the first to say this list is purely subjective and while both TWBB and Inglourious Basterds may be dissected in film classes for years to come while none of these will, I still stand by my selections.
The Top 50 in reverse order:
50. Where the Wild Things Are (2009) review –
Spike Jonze has brought a classic from my childhood to life and has made it resonate with a new generation on film. The special effects are superb, the darkness of sorrow depicted truthfully, and an ample amount of heart displayed to be both broken and repaired. Where the Wild Things Are may not be as kiddie-friendly as one may hope, but that just makes it all the better. Most don’t understand the pain of childhood nor how prevalent it is worldwide; Jonze, however, never shies away from that fact.
49. Munich (2005) –
Who thought Steven Spielberg had another really good drama in him? In a year that had already seen a very mediocre remake of War of the Worlds, there was this political thriller/actioner hidden away to be released during Christmas week. Munich is a relevant story of intrigue with a stellar ensemble cast showing the fine line separating vengeance, murder, and retribution. If nothing else, this film shows that Spielberg has some more masterpieces in him.
48. 300 (2007) review –
The film that made Zack Snyder a household name when it comes to comic book adaptations, 300 utilized the technology that made Sin City such a success, but added its own artistic flair. More painting than graphic frames come to life, the tale of courage and honor in the face of sure death is depicted in all its bloody glory. Never has a battlefield been soaked in so much red and yet appeared so gorgeous. This is war as a rock and roll music video, and it works.
47. Avatar (2009) review –
They said it would be the future of cinema, they said it would make 3D technology the standard in movie theatres across the world … and you know what? It really does. Yes, the story behind Avatar may not be Shakespeare or fighting for best original screenplay, but this is a blockbuster film of fantasy, action, and adventure. You go for the spectacle, to be transported into another world for two and a half hours, basking in the beauty of Pandora and its fantastical creatures. James Cameron delivered on his promises and has shown how 3D is done. Hopefully he allows everyone to use his new system because the seamless depth of field is light years ahead of anything else ever done.
46. Cashback (2007) review –
Sean Ellis’ Cashback is the epitome of style over substance, but oh what pretty pictures it is. This thing is a work of museum art brought to life to tell a tale of an insomniac art student looking for love. A feature length version of his Oscar-nominated short, the film shows the power visuals can hold over an audience, vaulting a not so great story to the status of amazing cinematic achievement. All the camera tricks remain and a stunning finale of a stopped snowfall is added to increase the runtime, introducing us to a new young auteur at work. Too bad his follow up The Brøken couldn’t retain the same splendor.
45. Revolutionary Road (2008) review –
No one does suburban psyche quite like Sam Mendes and he doesn’t disappoint with Revolutionary Road. Based on the novel for which “Mad Men” has gleaned off of, the aesthetic is there as well as the secrets, adultery, and lies. Life’s regrets and loss of hope can have devastating results when the mundane monotony is finally revealed to a couple that has been hiding their true selves for way too long. You don’t get much better than this when adding in a terrific supporting role from Michael Shannon and a disturbingly perfect ending.
44. Moon (2009) review –
How can you not love a movie that reveals its big question, the one shown in the trailer, before the halfway point? I thought I would be wondering why there were two Sam Rockwell’s in his one-man space station right up until the end, but finding out so early allowed me to feel the suspense, leaving me to wonder what could possibly happen next. A performance so good that I know he’ll get no Oscar love and direction showing pure artistic talent from David Bowie’s son, freshman Duncan Jones, Moon is a new masterpiece of science fiction minimalism, the ultimate locale for psychological thrills.
43. My Life Without Me (2003) review –
Heartbreak and the use of loss to express hope are central themes in My Life Without Me. With a notable performance from Sarah Polley that could be spoken of when looking for roles of the decade, the film deals with one woman’s mortality and how she copes after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She begins to think about all the things she missed out on having gotten married and pregnant at such a young age, yearning to discover new experiences while she can. But this isn’t a clear-cut portrayal of life changing events, she loves her family more than ever even as she goes out and has an affair. Real life is messy and emotions will run high when watching this solid tearjerker drama.
42. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) review –
The film that finally gave director Danny Boyle his due, (but not my fav of the decade by him as you’ll soon see), Slumdog Millionaire lived up to the hype. It is a story of coincidence and contrivances, but that is the point. Here is love being orchestrated by fate, true love waiting just around the corner once a television game show appearance can put the lead back into the sights of his soulmate. And what more could you need than a life of random trivia moments, inconsequential when they occurred, but oh so important when it mattered, to get you there? Containing the kind of gimmicks and cliches that could derail any lesser film, Boyle waves his baton and pulls together perfection.
41. Rachel Getting Married (2008) review –
Simplistic storytelling at its best, this in-depth and personal account of a wedding is emotionally heavy on both the good and bad ends of the spectrum. Rachel Getting Married is handheld and free-flowing, a slice of life as one sister marries while the other is reintroduced to the family after a stint in a rehab/mental institution. The cheery facade always seems to be just a little too glowing and it is soon torn down when the truth about the girls’ brother, mother, and every other suppressed fault is brought to light. This is a mirror being held to the trials and tribulations we all go through in our personal lives, seeing how they cope with the memories and realities, either by facing them or hiding far far away. It’s the kind of catharsis we all should hope to be strong enough to experience.
40. Sunshine (2007) review –
Here is Boyle’s masterpiece. The best strictly science fiction work I can think of since 2001, Sunshine is a feat to behold. So many criticize a faulty change of tone for the third act, but I don’t buy it. The beginning of the movie is a taut thriller with impeccable pacing and tone leading up to the final confrontation with God himself in a fast-paced action-packed finale. You cannot avoid the philosophical ideology being thrown about on the question of whether saving humanity is really something we should consider doing. How far should we go against nature’s will? It is a valid query and one that can drive any man mad. I could watch the visual lens flares, blurring, and strobe-like cuts over and over again … and I have.
39. Once (2007) review –
The indie film that could, Once was a revelation at the same time as it was a phenomenon. Built around the amazing soundtrack from Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, this could be the most realistic portrayal of love I have ever seen. Friendship, romance, pain, forgiveness … they all play a huge role. And the music, the hauntingly beautiful melodies, is unforgettable and essential to the work as a whole. I remember how I couldn’t even write my review until I put the album on to wash over me again. Talk about aural memory, I listen to the songs and a smile forms on my face, making me stop what I’m doing to go home and watch it again.
38. Sin City (2005) –
This is a comic book brought to life. I’d almost go so far as to say that those new Motion Comics coming out are a direct result of this film. Every frame is lifted from Frank Miller’s seminal series, bringing Sin City to life in its starkly contrasted black and white ink aesthetic, splashed with just the right amount of color to enhance. Culling together a who’s who cast of has-beens and B-list stalwarts, the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and pulp style exude cool in all its degradation and oft-spoken of misogyny. Robert Rodriguez showed that mediums could merge with extensive green screen usage and Hollywood hasn’t stopped since.
37. Garden State (2004) –
I still have fond memories of seeing Garden State at Hollywood’s ArcLight Theatre a month before it came out in Buffalo to very strong buzz. I felt as though I had entered this thing on the ground floor and it was indie quirk greatness, and I recommended it to everyone I knew. A superb soundtrack of college radio tunes complement this tale of growing up and coming to grips with the fact that life’s sorrow might have been largely caused by oneself. Zach Braff shows the workings of a talent both on screen and off while Natalie Portman adds one more feather to her cap on cornering the cute as a button market. It doesn’t hurt that it brought Imogen Heap’s distinctive voice to the world’s collective consciousness either.
36. Junebug (2005) review –
What? Another family dysfunction tale? Well, it is my genre of choice; the more depressing, the more real; the darker it is, the more opportunity for hope and change. Junebug is the ultimate culture clash between a Southern country boy’s new urban couture wife and his very conservative family. They don’t know exactly how to treat her and she definitely doesn’t know how to act around them. Being that she is only there to possibly extort a simple man’s artistic genius for cultural wealth only makes the chasm between them further, especially with Amy Adams’ revelatory turn as the pregnant and naive, but smarter and more cognizant of the world around her than she lets on, sister-in-law. This film hit me on a very emotional level and is a masterpiece as a result.
35. Gone Baby Gone (2007) review –
I’ve never shied away from enjoying Ben Affleck as an actor in comedic roles. Not so much his serious/action fare, though, with the exception to the rule being Hollywoodland. But with the second adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel to come down the pipeline in Gone Baby Gone, Affleck shows his true strength, that of director. The film is deftly handled on all fronts with a star-making lead performance by brother Casey and a moral quandary of a story so much deeper and more intense than you can ever imagine at the start. Affleck has an eye for drama and introspective acting and I hope he continues to work behind the camera while also going back in front of it, especially if Kevin Smith comes calling.
34. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) review –
Civil War is always an intriguing topic, so when it concerns a nation that is unfamiliar to me, (I got enough of America’s in school), it is all the more so. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a harrowing tale of a band of terrorists, more or less, who stand up for their rights and Ireland. The IRA are staging bombings and kidnappings and doing whatever it takes to show they mean business and will not fold to political pressures. The film shows it all faithfully with some impressive guerrilla-type battles as well. Don’t blink too hard, though, because the lead pair of brothers find themselves on opposite ends of the fight, making the film all the more real and difficult to continue watching.
33. Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) (2000) –
Ang Lee’s action/adventure opus Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been copied so many times, but never replicated. It seemed as though every film coming out of Asia was using the wire-work brought into the mainstream with this film, trying their best to strike gold twice. Lee has been a master at his craft for some time and known and praised for more subdued fare such as Brokeback Mountain or Lust, Caution, but I’ll always go back to this mix of beauty, danger, and physicality. A brilliant story, amazing cast, and stunning visuals, this film showed what cinema in the 21st century held and scratched at the surface of what was to come.
32. The Wrestler (2008) review –
Talking about films that lived up to their hype, The Wrestler is a major inclusion to that discussion. Fresh off its win of the Golden Bear at Venice, I had the pleasure of seeing it at the Toronto International Film Festival and was blown away. Coming from one of my favorite directors, Darren Aronofsky, whose name will be spoken of again on this list, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect having been penned by another and a bit out of his visual aesthetic wheelhouse. But make no mistake, this has his stamp all over it and Mickey Rourke shows that he still has many years left in that broken down body. As much a comment on his own life, the story shows how much a dream and lifestyle can mean to someone, especially when they have nothing else to live for.
31. Up (2009) review –
It took many years and some amazing films, but finally 2009 brought my first true 10/10 movie from Pixar. Say what you will about all the other great work the company has done, nothing matches the accomplishment of Up. With inspired storytelling, a crotchety old man with a heart in need of thawing, a fictional bird wrecking havoc, and the most lovable young wilderness scout, we are sent on a journey of the imagination. It belongs on this list for the opening collage alone, catching us up on the life of old Carl Fredricksen. Eliciting as many tears as smiles, this gorgeous and pure slideshow sets the emotional stage for what is to come. Just brilliant from start to finish and incomparable visuals to boot.
30. Children of Men (2006) review –
What more needs to be said than the fact that Children of Men is constructed from a series of impressively long and elaborate one-shots? Even after knowing that they are composed and spliced from multiple takes, the effect is still astonishing just the same. Depicting a future that may not be so hard to imagine, Alfonso Cuarón shows his talent once more in what I believe is his best work yet.
29. Amores perros (2000) –
Another of that Mexican wunderkind trio of auteurs consisting of Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s debut film Amores Perros is just the beginning of a trilogy of emotive cautionary tales. A lot is said about writer Guillermo Arriaga and how much he brought to the director’s success, but you can’t deny the visual prowess on display. Weaving multiple storylines in this Spanish language film sets the stage for his sophomore work, one I hold in very high esteem as you will soon find out.
28. Memento (2001) –
Before all the praise in reviving the Batman saga and the intrigue behind his newest puzzler Inception, Christopher Nolan took the film world by surprise with his unique Memento. Buzz was big early on, but still never vaulted it to the cult status it retains today until months later. I remember going with my friend Laura before many people in Buffalo even knew what the movie was, basking in the intense flashback format while it was still fresh and untainted by watercooler chat. Definitely one of those films that cause you to let out a breath you never knew you were holding upon its completion.
27. Synecdoche, New York (2008) review –
Maybe it was the fact that Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry weren’t involved as directors, or the seemingly mixed talk I had been hearing, but I actually think I avoided seeing Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York. Boy was that a mistake. In all its confusion, multiple narratives existing on the same plane, numerous versions of the same person, sometimes played by other actors, and whatever other craziness thrown in, this is a masterpiece of epic proportions. Film as life and life as film, trapped into a cycle that continues round and round to infinity, Kaufman has hit the mother load of meta-narrative potential. Mesmerizing and unforgettable, no one does what this screenwriter can do … no one.
26. Dancer in the Dark (2000) –
It is widely known that Lars von Trier is far from the cuddliest of men to work for. Just ask Björk who has been said to have retired from acting after just one transcendent role, that in von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. The film shows us the darkside of humanity and how selfish we can be when given the opportunity while juxtaposing against possibly the kindest woman on earth, a veritable Mother Theresa in her trust of others. As with all his films, this is not a trip through the park and it will drain you by its conclusion, but its lead performance and infusion of wondrous music behind fantastical dream sequences will keep you riveted and wanting to find how it all turns out.
25. CQ (2001) –
When I think of Roman Coppola’s CQ I can’t help but wonder why he has still yet to direct a follow-up. Seeming to be comfortable as a second unit director to everyone in his family, it is a shame that we haven’t caught a new original vision from his own eye. This film is a movie within a movie within a movie and a spitting image of old 70s era sci-fi aesthetic. Jeremy Davies is fantastic, Jason Schwartzman is hilarious, and Angela Lindvall begs to be given another starring role. It may be a guilty pleasure to some extent, but I love this film.
24. The Village (2004) –
Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan, but The Village is the masterpiece that made me reconfigure my opinion of everything he did before it. I know I am in a very small minority with this fact. After a horrible marketing campaign that falsely advertised its genre, yet still managed to get me in the seat after being underwhelmed by his previous three films, I was absolutely blown away. It is a romantic, idyllic world thrown into chaos, risking destruction. There are no twists and the reveal isn’t meant to be astonishing. The direction is air tight, visuals beautiful, acting unforgettable—I get chills remembering a speech delivered by William Hurt—and the tension high. And how great is Shyamalan for trusting his audience with an ending as abrupt and perfect as here?
23. Sin Nombre (2009), review –
Here is a film full of humanity resilience rising above the easy way out. Sin Nombre tells the tale of a gangbanger finding what heartbreak means, as well as the value of life when murder is no longer a rite of passage, intertwined with the journey of a young girl hoping to find greener pastures in New Jersey than home country of Honduras. Both Édgar Flores and Paulina Gaitan radiate with the hope that perhaps not all is lost for the future, that some of the world’s youth, no matter how entrenched in brutality or hopelessness, can exceed expectations to live another day.
22. Stay (2005) –
A cinematic puzzle that begs to be watched multiple times, the beauty of Stay is in the details. All we see is a composite of what is going on in the mind of Ryan Gosling’s Henry Letham’s distressed mind. The cinematography is breathtaking and the direction by Marc Forster only adds another notch to his always exciting filmography. I can no longer listen to The Guess Who’s “These Eyes” without thinking about this movie.
21. Das weiße Band (The White Ribbon) (2009) review –
Writer/director Michael Haneke has been crafting intelligent dramas that provoke their audiences for years. His goal seems to be making viewers uncomfortable enough to ask themselves why they insist on being subjected to the horrors they face each and every day. One could say he almost begs people to not see his films; he makes them to prove that we are all masochists looking to be tortured. The White Ribbon is his most recent, and most accomplished, work to date, showing us the seemingly innocuous upbringing of a small Austrian town’s children. What we don’t know until later on is how that education is slowly creating monsters behind those innocent eyes, beasts that may or may not be the precursors to Nazi Germany.
20. The Proposition (2006) review –
Here is a western that shows all the filth and grime in outlaw lifestyle. John Hillcoat’s The Proposition is a bleak story about one brother’s search for his wanted sibling, the capture of whom is necessary if their younger brother is to survive the noose. Added to the mix is a star-making performance from Ray Winstone as the lawman behind the agreement and put in charge of the young man’s safety until the devil is brought in. Australia is depicted as a hellish place and the filmmakers make no mistake in showing all its horrors.
19. Atonement (2007) review –
After a gorgeous debut with his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Joe Wright tackles another highly regarded novel in Atonement. The scope of this story is grandiose in its period details and brutal scenes of war, culminating in a seamlessly shot long-take that is astonishing in its orchestration and effectiveness. This isn’t some love story romance to be tossed aside, nor is it just some war tale of missed opportunity. Instead it is an epic of the heart and soul, showing how one instance of naivety can affect the lives of so many. And with an originally unique score composed of typewriter noises, Wright hits every note, making him a director that begs to be watched.
18. Brick (2006) review –
Brick’s intriguing trailer debuted a long time before it finally made its way to theatres in my hometown, but the wait was not in vain. Rian Johnson created something completely fresh and new while utilizing multiple styles that were not. Taking hard-boiled noir dialogue and placing it into the mouths of high schoolers is as inspired as it is crazy, but the cast pulls it off. Think Bugsy Malone if it took itself seriously as a piece of art rather than an entertaining gimmick. It warrants multiple viewings and will have you talking afterwards, whether you liked it or not.
17. Mar adentro (The Sea Inside) (2004) –
Director Alejandro Amenábar is a visionary and The Sea Inside’s rather straight-forward biography helps enhance the fact. One would think a story about a quadriplegic trying to achieve the right for assisted suicide wouldn’t have much room to be creatively inventive. Luckily Amenábar didn’t share those sentiments because he crafts it all into a devastatingly real portrait of pain, suffering, and hope. Javier Bardem is a revelation and he will make you side with his plight no matter your political beliefs, embedding you into the proceedings right up until its conclusion.
16. The Fall (2008) review –
Tarsem’s The Fall is the most important piece to the puzzle that is my thesis on films being worthy of heavy praise on the merits of visuals alone. I have not seen a more gorgeous cinematic vision than what’s put on display here. The story itself may be a simple one, but it also effectively allows the visuals to enhance the emotions our narrator and his friend are experiencing in the reality of their hospital setting. Young Catinca Untaru will win your heart over as the scenery takes your breath away.
15. Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain (Amélie) (2001) –
It seems to be somewhat in fashion to put Amélie on any list of great films. I don’t think it’s to pretend to be cool though, the movie is that amazing. There is something transcendent about the whole thing, an innocence that travels above the restraints of language or culture. With Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wonderfully light and colorful world housing the joyous pixie that is Audrey Tautou’s titular character, you will not be able to stop a smile from spreading across your entire face while watching.
14. Closer (2004) –
Talk about a segue from ultimate visuals to stripped down dialogue-driven cinema, Closer is a high point of the latter. The script, adapted from the theatre, is fast-paced and lyrical in its crass vulgarity. Two couples that breakup and reform with members of the other, over the course of a few years, show the selfishness and vanity of love. Culminating with an identity twist of sorts that I for one didn’t see coming, it might be the smartest written film of the decade … and it brought Damien Rice’s haunting voice to the mainstream.
13. The Constant Gardener (2005) –
Say what you will about the message being driven down your throat while watching The Constant Gardener, but do not deny the stunning cinematography or the memorable turns from both Rachel Weisz and especially Ralph Fiennes. I never could see eye to eye with people that absolutely loved Fernando Meirelles’s City of God—it’s good, don’t get me wrong—because this, his second film, blew it out of the water for me. Bleak and darkly suspenseful despite its heavy-handed message, the final scene stayed with me for days afterward.
12. Bloody Sunday (2002) review –
This is cinema verite at its finest. Bloody Sunday is Paul Greengrass’s debut masterpiece depicting the atrocity in Ireland that spawned a U2 song. This depiction is as close to a real life documentary of the day’s events, following James Nesbitt’s Ivan Cooper as our entry point into Derry. Everything that makes United 93 and the Bourne Series exciting and kinetic was born through this film. Greengrass is a master at pulling emotions from the audience, allowing tragedies that could easily be exploited retain the care they deserve.
11. Wonder Boys (2000) –
Just as Curtis Hanson came into my consciousness with L.A. Confidential, his next film solidified him as a guy to watch out for, (unfortunately he has done nothing to continue that thought since). Wonder Boys is smartly written and acted by quite the ensemble cast, with Michael Douglas’s stoned literature professor leading the way. This is intelligent comedy with some weight as every character faces turmoil and life-altering decisions. Maguire and Downey Jr.’s roles certainly don’t hurt in its enjoyment either.
10. Requiem for a Dream (2000) –
Like Memento, Requiem for a Dream not only introduced me to a new cinematic phenom, but it also was one I went to see at the theatre through indie buzz before the critical acclaim began. Here was Darren Aronofsky utilizing actor-mounted Steadicams, time lapse sequences, and heroin-afflicted speed cuts to advance the plot of four drug addicts. Talk about a PSA that will get your children to steer clear of illicit substances, this film is not uplifting by any means. It shows the darkness of addiction through tough visuals and industrial sounds, exposing composer Clint Mansell to the film world where he has been successfully working ever since.
9. Mulholland Dr. (2001) –
David Lynch is an acquired taste and he is also the director that opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities of film. He was my first real exposure to experimental auteurs and I discovered him at just the right time, a year or so before Mulholland Dr. was released. Seeing the crazy dream/nightmare imagery on the big screen was mind-blowing. And with a Rubik’s Cube puzzle of a story, I left the theatre in awe at what I had experienced, wanting to go right back in to try and figure it all out.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) –
I vividly recall the awesome trailers for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, getting ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” permanently stuck in my head. I was so psyched to see this thing that I went out opening night despite having four wisdom teeth pulled that morning. Michel Gondry’s visual stylings and Kaufman’s uniquely original screenplay could not have meshed together any more perfectly. It is the ultimate love story, showing that maybe fate does play a part in our relationships. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are on the top of their game projecting the highs and lows of love and how the good times are only such because of the bad times for which to compare them.
7. American Psycho (2000) review –
American Psycho is the reason why Bret Easton Ellis is my favorite author that I haven’t read. I’ve seen almost all adaptations of his work, but have yet to take a novel off the shelf to delve into his sarcastic cynicism. All the stars aligned here, however, by telling a tale of corporate yuppie greed, traveling from reality to fantasy so quick that we never know what is real. The materialistic, inherited aristocracy is on display and Christian Bale becomes an iconic figure as he butchers innocent people while listening to the likes of Huey Lewis and Phil Collins.
6. Dogville (2003) –
Von Trier’s crowning achievement, in my mind, is this stripped-down take on greed and humanity’s predatory nature. Dogville is a three-hour diatribe about a country that he has never, nor will he ever, set foot on, all filmed on a stark sound stage with minimal props. It becomes the emotive power of the actors involved that drives the plot and keeps the audience’s interest. Nicole Kidman has never been better and a stellar cast surrounds her, holding her captive as their slave. Nothing like I had ever seen before, the minimalist Dogme style is utilized to great effect, all boiling forward to an unforgettable conclusion.
5. Moulin Rouge! (2001) –
I say hello to Kidman again as she shines bright in Baz Luhrmann’s feast for the senses, Moulin Rouge! The story is a simple tale of forbidden love told in the most ostentatious way. Complete with gaudily constructed sets—jam-packing every frame with color and reflection—and dialogue that is composed of popular contemporary music sung by the cast, this film is like no other musical you have seen. Luhrmann has assaulted our every sense in the best way possible, causing sensory overload as we attach ourselves to the leading lovers. I could seriously watch the “Roxanne” sequence on perpetual repeat if given the chance; the entire film will grab hold and whisk you away on an adventure full of both laughs and sorrow.
4. I Heart Huckabees (2004) review –
When a film gets existential it starts to polarize its audience into love it or hate it status. I fell head first onto the love it side with I Heart Huckabees. If you buy into the story and the characters you will find it to be absolutely hilarious. This is Philosophy 101 in the real world, seeing how everything connects within one giant blanket of existence. David O. Russell gets the best performance out of each and every actor, (whether he needed to berate it out of them or not), and even Mark Wahlberg turns in the funniest and best role of his career. God, oil, mommy issues, and Shania Twain all get thrown into the fire and dissected to achieve the huge laughs and poignant conclusions.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) –
Everyone has their favorite Wes Anderson film and if you have a group of five friends they all might have a different choice. To me—there is no question about it—The Royal Tenenbaums is the crème de la crème. The cast could never be assembled together again, there are seriously that many A-listers involved, and the script is full of wit. A family of geniuses who have all imploded in some way or another are all finding themselves together again under the same roof for their matriarch’s wedding. Hijinks and power plays run amok as the end product becomes the most intelligently told comedy in quite some time. The soundtrack is awesome and the aesthetic vintage Anderson … he’s been trying to replicate this lightning in a bottle ever since.
2. 21 Grams (2003) –
Beyond harrowing, 21 Grams is a religious experience of dramatic excellence. Iñárritu and Arriaga reached a pinnacle in their short-lived working relationship with this masterpiece of intertwining tragedies. The body loses twenty-one grams upon death and the thought is that the weight belongs to your soul escaping. With a trio comprised of Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, and Naomi Watts, you know that there will be some weighty stuff. Death breeds life and life leads to death; sometimes the cycle rests within the realm of coincidence, chance, and fate, bringing together strangers that will become integral parts of each others’ lives for the better or worse.
1. The Fountain (2006) review –
And the number one film of the decade is Aronofsky’s masterpiece The Fountain. Religion, history, romance, war—every example of conflict in existence—is coexisting inside this astonishing work. Spanning three different centuries consisting of a medieval tale, the present day world, and a future of complete being, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are forever bound together. With a love stronger than anything else in their lives, it is just not enough to keep them on the same dimension as death always comes in the way. It is a spiritual journey in search of the Tree of Life and immortality so that they may live forever in each others’ arms, but the concept of eternal life may not be as literal or as physical as one may think. With some of the greatest special effects of the past ten years and more—all created by practical means instead of a computer—The Fountain will leave you both satisfied and wanting more.