In just a few weeks, one decade will end, and a new one will begin. Some people call this decade the ’00s, while other have labeled it the 2000s. Just as this decade has no definite name, it also has no definite filmmaking form. Rather, it was a jumble of different styles and different visions, some very good, and some very bad.
Some might want to be pessimistic, and say that this decade showed the decline of quality film. Sure, there were two hour toy commercials like “Transformers” and death porn like the “Saw” and “Final Destination” series. Then there were the horrible comedies like “Gigli” and “Norbit.”
But forget the bad for now, because this is the time to look at the good stuff. And yes, there was a lot of good stuff. A new brand of comedy was released that mixed raunchy with sweet. There were thrillers that matched the brilliant, taut suspense of a film from the 70s. The directing pioneers of the decade mastered the new form of digital film, and made epics more alive than ever. This was the decade sometimes defined as the “Me Generation” and the decade that kicks off an entire century. And yes, it showed promise for the next 90 years to come. Here now, are the 10 best films made from 2000-09:
1. There Will Be Blood (2007)- Epic films come and go, but this is one that truly stays. What’s often best remembered about the film is Daniel Day-Lewis’ towering performance that emanates the loneliness and devilish insanity of the character. One can’t forget Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction, which made two and a half hours feel like one, and the past feel just like the present. Here’s a film that shows the moral as immoral, and the immoral as evil beyond any form imaginable. Here’s a film that provides 18 dialogue-free minutes and still manages to be exciting. Most importantly, here’s a film that deserves to be called a work of genius, the absolute best film of the decade, and a model of good filmmaking for years to follow.
2. Kill Bill (Vol. 1&2) (2003/04)- After years off the job, Quentin Tarantino returned to the big screen with this brilliant love letter to B-movie cinema. This two-part film is one-part over-the-top violence, one-part philosophical conversation. Mainly, “Kill Bill” is a perfect piece of Tarantino’s fantasy world, a uniting of the cultures of the east and west. It is an imagined land where samurais wander the west and cowboys are trained by kung fu masters. Moviegoers are lucky Tarantino opened this piece of his world to us.
3. Children of Men (2006)- Rarely has the future seemed so present. Alfonso Cuaron brings to life the story of a hopeless future that finds hope in the world’s last pregnant woman. Despite a tepid response upon its original release, “Children of Men” is a cult classic in the making. Its meaning goes beyond the surface, and its shocking violence and daring use of long shots are nothing short of groundbreaking. Simply put, it deserves to be ranked with “A Clockwork Orange” and “Blade Runner” as one of the bleakest, most convincing dystopias ever created.
4. No Country for Old Men (2007)- The Coen Brothers’ dead serious, existential look at fate and old age is a crime thriller like few have ever made. Despite the fact that the script is taken nearly verbatim from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, the always reliable Coen Brothers still managed to incorporate their own trademark style into every single frame, from their quirky characters to their dry wit. For long, intense silences, and the audacity to leave the viewer with no easy answers, “No Country” simply can’t be beat.
5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)- This very dark comedy about the rise and fall of a dysfunctional family manages to be funny and sad at the same time. It incites the kind of laughter that stays with you for days through witty dialogue and quirky characters. “Tenenbaums” shows off director Wes Anderson’s brilliant mind, who was able to not let the overshadowing set pieces distract from the story and instead use them, in every tiny, precise detail, to show a family too obsessed with material items and the past to move forward and forgive themselves.
6. American Psycho (2000)- This twisted, brilliant film about a seemingly flawless 1980s Wall Street banker (Christian Bale) who moonlights as a serial killer is a Kubrickian outlook on man’s dark side. Its ironic glorification of violence turns it into a wicked parody of the glorification of violence in American pop culture. There are scenes that are downright creepy, while others make you laugh when you probably shouldn’t be. This film established Bale as one of the best actors working today, and his utterly convincing performance has already put the name Patrick Bateman in the ranks of great movie psychos like Norman Bates and Travis Bickle.
7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)- Only someone as well-respected as Quentin Tarantino would be allowed to revise the history of World War II by way of a man named the Bear Jew. This unorthodox war flick feels more like a Spaghetti Western than “Saving Private Ryan,” guided more by Mexican standoffs and revenge stories than meditations on the horrors of war. “Basterds” not only represents Tarantino’s love of movies, but also his ability to make long stretches of dialogue seem just as tense and exciting as any action sequence.
8. City of God (2002)- Call it the original “Slumdog Millionaire,” minus the uplifting endnote. This brutally realistic look at gang life in a slum of Rio de Janeiro rightfully earns its place as one of the greatest crime films. “City of God” isn’t just remembered for its bleak social commentary, but rather its unforgettable imagery. Whether it is a gunfight or a chicken running through the streets, each frame is teeming with heart-racing energy. Even in a world constantly shattered by violence, life goes on.
9. Almost Famous (2000)- Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical coming of age story about an aspiring rock journalist following an up-and-coming rock band is just one of those rare films that hits no false notes. Its characters are complex, emotional human beings, and the film perfectly replicates both the sights and sounds of the 1970s. Only someone who knows this much about music could make a film like this. In the process, Crowe truly reminds the viewer of the amazing effect just a little bit of music can have.
10. Superbad (2007)- This decade, the Apatow gang would change comedy forever. While Apatow himself doesn’t direct here, his brand of humor is felt throughout. “Superbad” defines this teen generation like no other film before it, creating a coming-of-age story that is sometimes too funny to handle and at other times uncomfortably realistic. It wasn’t raunchy for the sake of being raunchy, but rather raunchy for the sake of being real. Plus, its dialogue is free of Hollywood conventions and rather smart and free flowing, like everyday conversation.
Honorable Mentions: Pan’s Labyrinth, The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, The Lord of the Rings, Mulholland Dr., Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Room