Best Movies of the Decade, Part 1: Honorable Mention
Let me first admit that I have not seen most of the films that came out this decade. Instead of watching a great deal of studio productions, I delved into some odd foreign fare, ranging from bizarre Japanese films to the new wave of European horror spearheaded by the French. Most of these films, though interesting, would not warrant inclusion on a “Best of the Decade” list. Partially as a result of watching these types of movies, I missed some of what would be critically acknowledged as the classic films of the 2000’s.
I say all of this to clarify what follows. The list below is not definitive by any means; it is merely the best of what I happened to see during the past ten years. During that time I managed to watch a great deal of truly classic films, though the majority of them have been made over the past 70-80 years. This list will focus only on those films made from 2000-2009.
There is a difference between films I enjoy watching and films that stick with me through the years. I’ve found that Avatar [review here], while enjoyable, is not a movie I dwell on more than its media presence (and box office gross) demands. Others, like Spoorloos [review here], I find myself contemplating long after I’ve seen them, even if they aren’t the most dazzling and technically proficient films. The latter is the type of film included on the following list.
Below are the films from the past 10 years that merit Honorable Mention. My Top 10 Films of the Decade will follow at a later date.
Visitor Q (2001)
Visitor Q is a unique film, even by Takeshi Miike’s standards. He discards every convention and taboo that has ever faced cinema, and the result is an absolutely insane film. Several former roommates, with whom I have watched the film, will not forgive me for inflicting it upon them. I don’t believe it to be Miike’s best work (I prefer Fudoh: The New Generation and Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha) but it is one of the most unforgettable. If you can get past the painful opening sequence, you will find Visitor Q to be a supremely crazy, weird movie. Random violence, lactation, and other strange behavior make it a singular experience, and not one that I suggest everyone watch.
The Incredibles (2004)
As far as Pixar films go, The Incredibles is very near the top. Endlessly enjoyable, with memorable characters and honest family interaction, the film also excels as an action/adventure/superhero movie. It’s the type of film I don’t mind watching over and over again. It is very funny, too, but in the intelligent Pixar way, and has characters worth caring about.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
I was initially upset that someone would dare make another zombie film using George Romero’s not-quite-patented “…of the dead” title. My fears melted away as the film spun its web of romantic entanglement in the larger context of a zombie apocalypse. The film is genius on so many levels, with hints, subtle and blatant, to the inspiration that the filmmakers so obviously adores. Edgar Wright’s direction is stylish and pertinent. Better still, the film turned me on to one of the great television series of our time, “Spaced.”
There Will Be Blood (2007)
There Will Be Blood is technically proficient, some might say perfect. The staging, the directing, and the acting all come together in service of an epic story of greed. It failed to involve me emotionally, but much like Citizen Kane I found myself amazed at the actual production. Perhaps on repeat viewing it will have a more profound emotional impact. Nevertheless, it is still P.T. Anderson’s best work since Magnolia [review here].
Minority Report (2002)
Watching this for the first time in the theater was a revelation. It was an exciting science fiction film that touched on some deeply philosophical concepts. The question of predestination versus free will is explored in a marvelously entertaining fashion. With age and additional insight into film history, I can understand that it is not a particularly original film. It has some other flaws, too, and uses product placement in an interesting fashion. Regardless, it is still a greatly enjoyable film that provides some thought provoking moments and is well worth re-watching.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon shifted the way martial arts films were treated, some might argue for the genre’s detriment. Artistic and thoughtful, the movie eschews chaotic action for operatic ballet. The fight scenes are still sensational, but wrapped in a spiritual and philosophical shell. The romance is tragic and moving; all of these elements together create a great film.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
This spiritual sequel to Shaun of the Dead shifts the parody/homage film from zombies to buddy cops. It showcases more mature filmmaking on the part of Edgar Wright and still packs as many references to other genre flicks as it can, but it all feels natural, part of the scenery. I still prefer Shaun of the Dead due to my personal penchant for zombies, but Hot Fuzz is an hilarious and worthy follow-up for Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg.
The best film from 2005 is Steven Spielberg’s Munich. The film thoughtfully explores the terrorist attacks on the 1972 Munich Olympics, a tragedy that turned eyes around the world toward the struggle between Israel and Palestine. The movie gives consideration to both sides, painting the Isreali revenge squad tasked with removing the terrorists as little better than the Palestinean terrorists who committed the atrocity. One especially moving scene shows the reaction of a Palestinian family watching the television announce that their loved ones, the terrorists, are dead. Few films or filmmakers can so successfully tackle such a delicate subject with the finesse it requires.
The Wrestler (2008)
Mickey Rourke’s triumphant return to acting proved to be a difficult and emotional challenge. In Darren Aronofsky’s followup to The Fountain Rourke plays a man who has lost everything, including his health. Steroids and hope enable him to pursue a few final fights in the ring, but his time has passed. The strength of the film lies in the depth of the main characters, played by Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Their emotional romance and struggle with life is heart breaking, as is Rourke’s attempt to reconnect with his long-lost daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). The Wrestler is an accomplished movie, an insightful character study and a film that will leave your eyes brimming with tears.