Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Todd's Top 100 Movies of the 2000s

NOTE: This article was originally written in August of 2010, but just recently dusted off and updated in preparation for posting. It only features films released in the US from 2000-2009. Enjoy! 
The ‘00s offered so many great films that narrowing the list down to just 10 was almost impossible. As a result, I expanded my lists to 100 films. It seemed appropriate, given the fact that I have seen somewhere north of 1200 films from 2000-2009. Basically, the ‘00s were ruled by huge box office films like The Dark Knight and Avatar and marked the emergence of widely-appealing indie comedies into the Best Picture lineups, such as Lost in Translation, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine. It is also impossible to deny the impact that Pixar has had on film during the decade, becoming perhaps the best film studio in the world. Some of those aforementioned films appear on this list, and some of them missed the cut. Narrowing the list down to 100 was even quite difficult. I tried to be as unbiased as possible. I spread the distribution throughout the years as evenly as I could, trying to ensure that the films that are most fresh in my mind did not unjustly dominate the list (2002 did that anyway). I will throw in some comments after each 10 films, progressively increasing until I speak in-depth about each one of my top 10. Check it out:

100. Crash (Paul Haggis, 2005)
99. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)
98. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
97. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2007)
96. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, 2009)
95. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints(Dito Montiel, 2006)
94. Better Luck Tomorrow (Justin Lin, 2003)
93. The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002)
92. The Aristocrats(Paul Provenza, 2005)
91. Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)

Starting the list off with Crash seems appropriate, given the fact that its Best Picture win over Brokeback Mountain was one of the most controversial and memorable things that happened in film during the ‘00s. Wes Anderson had a tremendous decade, and The Life Aquatic is his best movie. Waltz with Bashir represents the only animated-foreign-documentary-drama that will appear on this list, but it is joined by a couple additional unconventional docs in Anvil! and The Aristocrats. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is one of my favorite underrated/underseen films that I recommend to everyone. These are the bottom of the list? This is going to get interesting really quickly…

90. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
89. Sin City (Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller, 2005)
88. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004)
87. The Aviator (Martin Scorsese, 2004)
86. Monster's Ball (Marc Forster, 2001)
85. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
84. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(Michel Gondry, 2004)
83. What Doesn't Kill You (Brian Goodman, 2008)
82. Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)
81. Diary of the Dead (George A. Romero, 2008)

Here we have the second Best Picture Oscar winner in Million Dollar Baby, one slot below one of the two films that should have beaten it (if you know me, you will know what the other one is). We also have a couple more indie films that I recommend to everyone in What Doesn’t Kill You and Diary of the Dead, the best of all Romero zombie flicks. There are also a couple big budget films with highly-anticipated sequels coming in the next few years in Avatar and Sin City (whose sequel is finally official and getting a 2014 release!).

80. Capote(Bennett Miller, 2005)
79. Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007)
78. The Puffy Chair (Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass, 2006)
77. Audition (Takashi Miike, 2001)
76. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead(Sidney Lumet, 2007)
75. Grindhouse (Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez, 2007)
74. Igby Goes Down (Burr Steers, 2002)
73. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2001)
72. The Pianist(Roman Polanski, 2002)
71. Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003)

The most entertaining film-going experience I have ever had ranks at #75. The most uncomfortable movie experience I have had is two spots below in Miike’s Audition. My favorite indie filmmakers are represented with their fantastic debut The Puffy Chair. Capturing the Friedmans is my top-ranking documentary. Igby Goes Downmarks the first of my 74 four-star films, so from here on out, it is just the best of the best.

70. 3-Iron(Ki-duk Kim, 2005)
69. Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2001)
68. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 2000)
67. Talk to Her (Pedro Amodovar, 2002)
66. The Class (Laurent Cantet, 2008)
65. The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005)
64. Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
63. Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
62. Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005)
61. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)

I have to give some recognition to Judd Apatow, who redefined the comedy genre during the ‘00s. His two best films come in at numbers 61 and 65. The Gus Van Sant “Death Trilogy” is represented by its two best films at 63 and 64. I do like Last Days a fair amount, but Gerryand Elephant are just hauntingly good. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu had three films worthy of the list, but only his directorial debut cracks it. One spot above is another one my favorite debuts of the decade as well.
60. Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
59. Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006)
58. Up (Pete Docter, 2009)

57. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
56. American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, 2003)
55. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
54. A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009)
53. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles(Yimou Zhang, 2006)
52. Punch-Drunk Love(Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
51. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button(David Fincher, 2008)

Clint’s Iwo Jima saga makes its appearance here, both of which rank with the very best films to come out in 2006 (Yes, Flags of Our Fathersincluded…). A couple of the quirkiest and most brilliant screenplays of the decade rank next to each other at 56 and 57. A few of the elite cinematography achievements of the past couple decades show up here in Jesse James, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, and of course Fincher’s Benjamin Button. Riding Alonemarks Zhang’s only appearance on the list, despite several other contenders, Hero and House of Flying Daggers being chief among them.
50. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
49. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

48. Oldboy (Chan-wook Park, 2005)
47. Roger Dodger (Dylan Kidd, 2002)

46. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)
45. [Rec] (Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza, 2008)
44. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2005)
43. No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, 2007)
42. Manito (Eric Eason, 2003)
41. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly(Julian Schnabel, 2007)

The third Best Picture winner appears with No Country for Old Men. A couple indies that no one has really heard rank at 47 and 42. Manito is one of the best uses of a minimal budget I have ever seen. My top horror flick of all time is [Rec], since remade in America as Quarantine. The most surprising film of the decade was District 9. The original Oldboy comes in this group as well. Hopefully Spike Lee didn’t botch the remake…
40. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
39. Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, 2009)

38. A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001)
37. Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
36. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days(Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
35. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)

34. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
33. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2002)
32. WALL
·E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
31. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

Looking at this group, I realized that we are getting down to where every film is potential top 10 worthy. There is my top-rated animation in WALL-E, one spot above another fascinating animated film. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the most imaginative and beautiful films ever, which is paired appropriately with another one in Where the Wild Things Are. There Will Be Blood only gets better with additional viewings. It could keep moving up as time goes along. We have a fourth Best Picture with A Beautiful Mind. There are a couple devastating yet undeniably thrilling and haunting films with United 93 and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s second film on the list, but not the last. We have Catch Me If You Can, which is the only mention of both Spielberg and Hanks…it definitely is not the 90s anymore.
30. Once(John Carney, 2007)
29. Boiler Room (Ben Younger, 2000)
28. The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2009)
27. The New World(Terrence Malick, 2005)
26. Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002)
25. The Best of Youth(Marco Tullio Giordana, 2005)
24. Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002)
23. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
22. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)

21. Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)

This list is an interesting group. It has a bunch of films that I am probably alone on when ranking the best of the decade. Boiler Room is one of the most watchable movies I have ever seen. The Messenger absolutely destroyed me when I first watched it. It is such a haunting piece of work. The New World is a movie that sadly far too few connected with the way I did. Gangs of New York is now somehow one of the most underrated films of the ‘00s. I will never understand the hate. Then we have one of the most creative movies ever in Adaptation. There is one of the most devastating movies in Requiem for a Dream, which may also have the best score of the decade. Oncerepresents the best soundtrack of the decade. Into the Wild is probably a much more personal choice than most others on the list. Something about that movie just really stuck, and continues to stick, with me. 25th Hourfeatures some of the best ensemble cast chemistry of all time. Then there is The Best of Youth, or “a six hour Italian movie”, as Zach calls it. It is one of the most emotionally-satisfying movies I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
20. Closer(Mike Nichols, 2004)
19. Memento (Chistopher Nolan, 2001)
18. Matchstick Men (Ridley Scott, 2003)

17. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon(Ang Lee, 2000)
16. Monster(Patty Jenkins, 2003)
15. Tae Guk Gi (Je-gyu Kang, 2004)
14. Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2003)
13. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
12. In the Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001)
11. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000)

Here we have another group of films that I simply love more than everyone else. Closer is a movie that I have developed somewhat of an obsession over (with the song too). Memento is one of the more original screenplays ever written. Matchstick Men is one of my favorite movies to just sit down and watch. It is Ridley Scott’s best film, too…but don’t tell that to Gladiator or Alien fans. Monster is a film that shook me up like no other film I saw during the decade. Tae Guk Gi is the top war film of the decade (last two decades actually). Trafficand Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragonare two of the 10 or so best directed films of all time, so it is only fitting that they are near each other on this list. Mystic River marks the best film that Clint Eastwood will likely ever make. Before Sunset is perhaps the greatest sequel ever made. And of course we have In the Bedroom, one of the more unflinching and difficult to watch dramas of the 2000s.

Now to the top 10. We have one more Best Picture winner, a couple foreign films you might not expect or recognize, more Tarantino, and the rest of the undisputed best films of the 2000s.

10. Memories of Murder (Joon-ho Bong, 2005). This was the most surprising addition to my top 10 of the decade. It is the only one that I have seen only a single time, yet, now years since I first saw it, it is still present in my mind. This magnificent little fact-based crime drama from South Korea is about two brutal detectives investigating a series of murders and rapes in 1986. The tone of this film is very dark and mysterious. It is a twisting screenplay that will bring about shocks and thrills that the audience will not see coming. It blends dark humor and social satire into one nearly flawless picture, which has a final scene that will not soon be forgotten. Director Joon-ho Bong should be a director that people know about. He has had a terrific track record thus far, and not he finally has an American movie in Snowpiercer. His films succeed with their amazing tone and rich atmosphere. Anyone who loves a good crime-thriller needs to check this one out. It is one of the most suspenseful and rewarding of that genre that I have ever seen.
9. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000). This film is one of the craziest, most exhilarating and thought-provoking films I have ever come across. This has been cited by Tarantino as his favorite film since he has been in the industry, and it is right up there on my list too. I realize that this is not one of the absolute best films of the last decade, nor did it have the ambition of much larger-scale films. But the storyline and moral questions that this cult classic asks are among the most compelling and haunting of any film. The relentless violence and top notch performances help this film transcend the language and culture barriers to become what it is known as today: a masterpiece. It is one film that I can happily say will never and could never be remade in the United States (other than in a glossier form, like The Hunger Games). This film needs to be left alone. It is perfect the way it is.
8. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001). What could I possibly say about this maniacal and spellbinding film? What genre do I even put it into? It basically creates its own. Just when you think you have figured out movies and what is going to happen in basically all of them, master auteur David Lynch comes out with one and blows your mind and everything you ever thought you knew about anything. This is one of the two or three best directed films of the past decade, containing arguably the best female lead performance in that time span by the always reliable Naomi Watts. The mystery/thriller elements of the film are perfectly realized. The odd television pilot beginning is flawlessly interpreted and really adds to the overall mystique of the film. The visual elements are almost incomprehensible until about the third viewing. That is what the film is all about. You will never figure it out unless you discuss it in depth directly after watching it, or if you give in to your desires and watch the entire thing over and over. It is one of those films that you get the itch to watch every once in a while, if for nothing else than to escape into another reality. Lynch’s universe is one full of dreams, hallucinations, and the most priceless characters you could ask for. This is one film that will never leave my thoughts. See it, get weirded out, and take a crack at the puzzle. You won’t regret it.
7. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002). This film is a classic throwback to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the 1950s. It is about a family in crisis over a husband’s alternate lifestyle and the turmoil that it puts the wife through. It has flawless interpretations of that period’s racial tension and sexuality. Todd Haynes always has had a way with glamour, so this film is put together with some of the best costumes, set direction, cinematography, and one of the most beautiful scores I came across all decade. The performances are career bests by everyone involved. It has one of the greatest emotional impacts in recent memory. I can only honestly say this about a few films, but this one is as close to perfect as film can come. It may not be one of my absolute favorite films, but there are absolutely no flaws here.
6. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008). After the epic failure The Fountain, I was skeptical about Aronofky’s next effort. Little did I know how amazing of a talent the guy actually was until I saw this stripped-down and deeply emotional independent drama. It is about Randy “The Ram”, an aging professional wrestler who is about 20 years past his prime. He is tries to keep holding on to the life, despite his health concerns and now estranged family. Mickey Rourke was born to play the role, not only because of how similar his career is to The Ram’s, but because of his physicality and effortless charisma onscreen. It was one of my all time greatest joys watching the long dormant movie star coming back to life on screen. As the movie draws near its close, it is almost impossible to hold back the tears. We just care so much for these characters. “I’m here…I’m really here.” That is one of my favorite quotes of the decade. It also has one of the most fitting original songs of that time period too. It is a completely unblemished and richly rewarding film.
5. Little Children (Todd Field, 2006). Todd Field had two of the absolute best films of the decade, which are his only two features (In the Bedroom being the other one). This film is about an ordinary suburban neighborhood that is the home of a sex offender, two cheating spouses, and a police officer with a tragic history. All of their lives are connected, and this film shows in darkly humorous and sometimes incredibly bleak ways how they go about their daily lives. It is like no other suburban drama I have seen. Every moment is vital to the story, and every scene is just deftly put together by a master of tone and realism. The acting is as strong as any film of the past decade, and the score will haunt you long after the film is over. This also has one of the most awesome and random football scenes of all time. Showing this to friends who normally do not watch this style of artistic film was risky, yet every one of them connected to it in a major way, much to my surprise. Maybe it has that mass appeal that we never would have known about, simply because it barely had a theatrical release. Anyway, this is one of my favorite films of the decade, and it never gets old.
4. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006). This represents the only Best Picture winner on the top 10. It is one of Scorsese’s many masterpieces, and certainly his best film since Goodfellas. It is the remake of an action film out of Hong Kong called Infernal Affairs. Since that was such a good film to begin with, Scorsese definitely had great shoes to fill, but Scorsese can do anything. He assembled one of the finest casts in modern film and made perhaps the shortest 150 minute movie of all time. There is not a wasted moment in the entire film. The editing is so relentless that the film will blow you away and leave you breathless. The twists and turns are all flawlessly done, and it is some of the most fun you will ever have at the cinema. Scorsese is still at the top of his craft, and this film finally got him that long-awaited Oscar. I cannot help but think he has at least one more coming his way. He can do no wrong, and this only reaffirms that truth.
3. Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003 & 2004). These films provided one of my all time favorite film-viewing experiences. Seeing a Tarantino film is always amazing, but this saga is just an awesome and affectionate send-up to the spaghetti western genre. Its tale of revenge is classic, but never have I seen a movie so in love with its story and characters. It features some sequences of vintage Tarantino dialogue, but most of the film is a bloody brilliant tale of vengeance and settling old scores. The music in the film is terrific, as it always is with Tarantino flicks. The back-story and nonlinear screenplay make this film different from any other of its kind. There are tons of people who claim that Volume 1 is the better film. While it is absolutely incredible, Volume 2 surpasses it in every way. This is because the characters are so much more developed, and it boasts terrific performances from stars Uma Thurman and David Carradine. Basically, it calms down and lets the story breathe. It is the perfect end to a wonderful action saga, and it totally holds up even on a ridiculous amount of viewings. Apparently QT is has drafted a screenplay for a third film in this series, which is set to be released sometime in the next few years. I’m all over that.
2. Sideways(Alexander Payne, 2004). This is the only movie I can think of that I need to watch periodically just to satisfy my thirst for it. It has everything that a great film should have. It has flawless performances. It has the most interesting and real characters of any film of the decade. It has huge laughs and deeply dramatic moments. This is all accredited to Alexander Payne’s extraordinary screenplay. Its mass knowledge of all media, as well as its brilliant insight into relationships and people, make for the most touching and blissful movie-going experience imaginable. The more I watch this film, the more it moves closer and closer to being my all time favorite. The first time I saw it, I thought it was really well done and interesting. But upon a few additional viewings, these characters seemed even more authentic, which opened up entirely new layers of the story. So if you have seen it once or twice and liked it, then keep watching. There is no more satisfying film experience or representation of real life you will ever see.
1. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000). This is the most entertaining film I have ever watched. The first time I saw it, I ended up watching it an additional six times in the following week. I just cannot get enough of it. The screenplay is so perfect and personal. The characters are genuine and unforgettable. After a couple viewings, these characters really feel like your friends, ones that you need to visit every once in a while. The film is in love with everything about music. It romanticizes the experience of being on the road and touring with a band, but not to the point that it does not feel genuine. The characters are so well-written, especially Lester Bangs and Penny Lane, arguably two of the best characters of the decade. Its music, both original and soundtrack, are flawless. The film is edited perfectly, yet the 40 minute longer uncut version almost seems essential for any fan of the film, adding in subtle character development points into every scene. Never will this film get unappealing, out of style, or boring. It is simply entertainment at its absolute finest and a film that has an appeal that stretches beyond any barrier. It has gotten to the point where I can simply think about any part of it, and I will instantly have a smile on my face. There is nothing like it. It is the best film of the decade, and possibly the most captivating and enjoyable one ever made.

Top 10 overview:
Actor/Actress most represented: Chiaki Kuriyama (2; Battle Royale, Kill Bill)
Oscar nominations: 24 (2 for Best Picture; The Departed, Sideways) wins: 6 (1 for Best Picture; The Departed)
Genre breakdown:
                Drama: 3
Comedy-Drama: 1
                Crime: 2
                Action/Adventure: 2
                Music: 1
David Lynch: 1
Original Screenplays-Adapted Screenplays: 6-4
Domestic films-Foreign films: 8-2
Highest Rotten Tomatoes rating: The Wrestler (98%)
Lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating: Little Children (80%)
Highest box office: The Departed ($289,847,354)
Lowest box office: Memories of Murder ($229,652)
Highest IMDb rating: The Departed (8.5/10)
Lowest IMDb rating: Far from Heaven (7.4/10)

And there you have it. Thoughts? Your favorites of the 2000s? Most controversial choice on my list? Let me know!

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