Narrowing an entire decade’s worth of films into a single top ten list is no easy feat, but after a month of debate more contentious than a session of Korean parliament, our staff finally reached something of a consensus. The choices below reflect not just the divergent tastes of our editorial staff but also the remarkable variety of quality films released between 2000 and 2009, a decade in which independent films found mainstream success, comic book flicks earned critical acclaim and animated movies approached high art.
Behold, the Top 10 Movies of the Decade!
This fantastically beautiful-to-look-at romantic comedy from France’s Jean-Pierre Jeunet has the kind of charm, beauty and intelligence that you hope for when you go to the theater for a little love story. For the few yet to see it, Amelie tells the story of an adorable waitress (Audrey Tautou) who decides to change the lives of her Parisian friends and neighbors while dealing with her own isolation. The film was a commercial and critical success whose influences can be found in everything from ABC’s recently canceled Pushing Daisies to Travelocity’s traveling gnome.
Animated films have always been good family fun: aimed at the kids, acceptable to the adults. But this decade they began to get smarter and smarter, until Pixar climaxed with an environmentally conscious sci-fi tale complete with the kind of cutesy characters you’d expect from Disney. With no dialogue, the film’s introduction accomplished more than many others in the genre can with narration and CGI spectacle….now that’s brilliance.
Christopher Nolan elevated Batman and the comic-book-film genre to new heights by taking the material deadly serious. With a sharp script that reflected the morally ambiguous age in which we live, dazzling set-pieces that captured the scope of almost 70 years of stories, and an Oscar-winning turn from Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime, Nolan painted a masterpiece on the largest canvas possible. This was the decade of superhero cinema, and The Dark Knight is the unquestioned champion of the lot.
7. Best in Show
In Best In Show, mockumentary specialist Christopher Guest both pays respect to and ridicules the dog-show circuit; opening a window into the lives of those whose priorities lie with their pooches. The humor is incredibly intelligent and the actors adapt accordingly to their crazed characters, culminating in one of the funniest films of the (brief) millennium.
In a decade devastated by out-of-control oil prices, acclaimed filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson took a risk by telling a unique story about the origins of the controversial business. That risk paid off with two Oscars and impressive box office returns. Though the film may ultimately be remembered for Daniel Day-Lewis’ tour-de-force performance as a morally vacant industrialist, There Will Be Blood came complete with thought-provoking dialogue, wondrous cinematography and a chilling original score. This is a searing character study of a man who was too cunning for his competitors and too stubborn for his own good.
Filmmaker David Lynch had been screwing with audiences’ minds for years by the time 2001 came around. His ninth feature, Mullholland Dr., is a dark and twisted journey through the subconscious – an exploration of desire, philosophy and, most prominently, a very disturbed protagonist. Employing every element of film – from sound and color to point-of-view and chronology – to tell his distinctly noir tale, he created a work of art.
It was the trilogy to end all trilogies. Peter Jackson concluded his epic adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s seminal literary series with an unrivaled combination of blockbuster filmmaking and passionate storytelling. The Return of the King offered everything its predecessors did: stunning visuals, multidimensional characters and an unrestrained narrative that respected Tolkien’s unique vision and included all of the author’s classical themes (and many endings!). This is one of the rare instances where a film franchise ends better than it began.
Judd Apatow gave the American comedy a much-needed makeover with his many credits this decade. Lest you’ve forgotten, this 2005 hit, perhaps his crowning achievement, followed a motley crew of electronics-store salesmen on a quest to get their new buddy laid for the first time. Exposing assumptions of 21st-century sexuality and addressing the awkwardness and cruelty of the dating game, Apatow and co-writer/star Steve Carrell blended raunchy comedy and touching, heartfelt moments in almost perfect proportions, garnering critical praise and major coin.
The Coen brothers are no strangers to drama (see Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing), but until this Academy Award-winning opus, they were generally known for their bizarre brand of comedy. With No Country, they took a trip to the dark side, bringing Cormac McCarthy’s tense tale of criminal activity in rural Texas to captivating reality. It is a truly re-watchable film, one that reveals hidden agendas and new revelations to its viewer with each screening.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This marvel of the moving image explored the deepest and darkest corners of conventional relationships with brutal honesty while redefining the art of storytelling. Eternal Sunshine was both polarizing to and celebrated by the masses, but those who were able to follow its labyrinthine narrative walked away with introspective insight into their own lives and were rewarded with a virtually flawless film.