What a decade we’ve had with over 6,000 films released over the past 10 years. Filmmakers have not shied away from the difficult issues and events that have happened over time with films that tackle America’s war on terror, homosexuality and stereotypes throughout the years. Hollywood has morphed into a politically correct society, which has forced writers and directors to push the boundaries of their own storytelling to create memorable pieces of work.
Here are our Top 10 Films of the Decade…
Firstly honorable mentions to films that didn’t quite make it onto the list: Brokeback Mountain, The Departed, Russian Ark, Waltz With Bashir, In The Loop, Up, Children Of Men, The Bourne Trilogy, Casino Royale, Michael Clayton, Juno, The Hurt Locker, Gladiator.
Please note that this list is only based on the films that I have seen during the decade. I realize I’ve missed out on quite a few so keep that in mind.
10. Once (2007)
Made for a mere $180,000, Once is a charming little film from Ireland and is a musical in very sense of the word. The two main characters are played by Glen Hansard (The Commitments) and Marketa Irglová, who are musicians by trade as opposed to actors. So it’s no surprise that the film takes off without a hitch thanks to its songs, written and performed by the two leads. The best track is “Falling Slowly”, which is performed during a small show with Hansard on the guitar and Irglova on the piano. That scene alone is the embodiment of the film, and gives you the real sense that their characters belong together.
Dir: John Carney
9. Finding Nemo (2003)
Throughout the decade, Pixar has been at the top of their game creating the best-animated features with the most heartwarming stories. Back in 2003 they released Finding Nemo, an engaging story about a father fish trying to reconnect with his son and face his personal demons at the same time. It’s compelling, sincere, yet comedic, which is why it became such a hit for the studio.
Pixar always manages to come up with original characters, that never patronize their audience. They always make sure that their films are fun pieces of family entertainment. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Finding Nemo is still the highest grossing G Rated film ever made, with a box office total of just over $850 million, not to mention it won the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Typical Pixar.
Dir: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Albert Brooks
8. Memento (2000)
After his first feature film Following (1998), Christopher Nolan directed Memento, a story about a guy who suffers from short-term memory loss. Throughout the entire film he’s trying to figure out who killed his wife while balancing his affliction. The masterstroke of this film is its narrative structure, it’s told backwards. Under the direction of Nolan, each scene truly interlocks with one another. Every thing in Memento only serves the plot and nothing else.
The film is held together with a fantastic lead performance by Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), and thanks to his work we believe in his character whole-heartedly. While on his journey to find the killer, he adds a much needed sense of dry humor to the proceedings. The film was made for $4 million, and was distributed by Newmarket films, who took a risk on it themselves after studio heads didn’t see any potential in it. But the risk paid off as the film grossed $30 million and set the career of Christopher Nolan on a righteous path.
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss
7. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
This is quite possibly one of the most underrated films of the decade. Firstly the title, yes, it does give away the ending but it’s a clever title because you want to know why he killed him and it sets up the psychosis of the character Robert Ford, as played by Casey Affleck. The film makes bold statements about the nature of celebrity worshipper as Ford walks a fine line between admiration and obsession.
Brad Pitt shouldn’t be left out because he gives one of his best performances in a long time as the increasingly disorientated Jesse James. Even though it’s mesmerizing to watch, its not as good as Affleck who is in a completely different league. Andrew Dominik takes a page out of Terrance Malick’s book for using wide, open and alienated landscapes as characters, and metaphors for people’s lives. It is a beautiful film to look at, photographed by Coen’s regular Roger Deakins, who gives his mystifying edge to the entire picture, a “looking life through the spectrum” feel to the film that is absolutely captivating.
Dir: Andrew Dominik
6. United 93 (2006)
Only someone with Paul Greengrass’s talent could pull off a film like this. Back in 2006, the director’s film United 93 was already amidst controversy, with trailers being pulled from theatres and people condemning it even before its release. The film is a sober account of that day, it doesn’t sugar coat anything, it plays it straight and doesn’t trip into sentimentality. Using unknown actors was key to the film because we had to believe what was going on. We were right there with them from the start and with no backstory, we met those passengers for the first and last time.
No doubt this is a horrifying film to watch, you want a happy ending but you know you aren’t going to get it. That’s a testament to Greengrass’s filmmaking, he treats the material with honor and respect making sure that it isn’t exploited in any way. This is certainly the most important film of the decade without a doubt and undeniably Paul Greengrass greatest work.
Dir: Paul Greengrass
5. Man On Wire (2008)
This is the best documentary that this decade has ever produced. James Marsh said that he saw this as a heist movie, and boy was he right. Based on the book that Phillipe Petit wrote, this documentary tells the story of how he managed to walk across the top of both World Trade Center towers with a tightrope in 1974. The result was magnificent, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout this film, even though I knew the end result. It was a good decision to include Petit in the film, because he gives his zest and energy, and we get swept away by his boyish charms and enthusiasm.
What is really good about the film as well is that it doesn’t mention 9/11 once; it is more of a memoriam to what the towers stood for during that time, freedom and pushing the boundaries, which is a fitting tribute to the landmarks. Currently, on Rotten Tomatoes it is the best-reviewed film ever made with 143 positive reviews out of 143, it has a 100% Critic approval rating and it won the Best Documentary Oscar in 2008. Not bad.
Dir: James Marsh
4. Zodiac (2007)
This is essentially All The Presidents Men and JFK combined and is undoubtedly David Fincher’s best film to date. Zodiac, has the darkness and violence of Se7en, the paranoia of The Game and the claustrophobia of Panic Room, which makes one memorable experience at the cinema. Based on the Zodiac investigation, which spans over 40 years, still unsolved, it’s essentially a police procedural movie. The film focuses on the investigation and not the Zodiac killer himself, which makes it gripping to watch.
We want to know who the Zodiac killer is, but that question is never answered. This is a serial killer film without the serial killer, but the throughout the story, the presence of the killer’s is always noted especially in the basement scene. It is unfortunate that the film didn’t do great business at the box office or during awards season, but lets hope that it will emerge to the public domain.
Dir: David Fincher
3. There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Academy has been unfair towards Mr. Anderson, he has been nominated 3 times for Best Screenplay and has got nothing in return. This film, which unfortunately lost to No Country For Men at the 2007 Oscars, is one of the most important films of the decade. It asks many questions about religion, war, oil, politics and ownership of land, but holding the story together is a majestic performance by Daniel Day- Lewis.
Beautifully shot by Robert Elswit, who paints the vast landscapes as if it was the end of the world and the oil machines are made to be like monsters. Lets hope for Mr. Anderson’s next project, the Academy will give him his long deserved Oscar. The first silent 20 minutes in this film are a lot more engrossing and thought provoking than Wall-E‘s silent 40 minutes. Yeah, I said it!
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan raised the bar for comic book films with Batman Begins, then 3 years later he set the standard with The Dark Knight. Nolan created a classic thriller within the comic book genre. A sprawling 150-minute crime epic talking about the nature of heroes and villains, escalation, privacy and public domain set the box office on fire. The key to the film is the performance of Heath Ledger’s Joker. It was a match made in heaven between character, actor and director, that came together beautifully.
Even the most pessimistic of us will agree that the premature death of Ledger contributed to the film’s success, which earned $1 billion worldwide and 2 Oscars. But you still can’t take away Nolan’s achievement, which was to make an intelligent action thriller based on comic book material.
Dir: Christopher Nolan
1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
This might be cheating by naming 3 films as the best of the decade, but the only way to look at The Lord Of The Rings is as a whole 12-hour experience. Each film cost $150 million, 3 years of pre production, 274 days of principal photography, and 3 years of postproduction took to produce the best trilogy ever created. It does help when the film’s make a combined total of $2.7 billion in worldwide gross and pick up 17 Oscars including Best Picture and Director. These films brought back the Hollywood epic by using thousands of extras, massive special effects, and gigantic battle scenes, without losing the focus of the characters.
We care about the hobbits, elves and humans and they are all played with credibility by its cast. These films have created the most memorable battle scenes in recent years, look at the battle of Helms Deep, Minas Tidith and Mines of Moria. The director is the real star of the trilogy, because he stayed faithful to the book, and made the films interesting and thrilling to watch.
Dir: Peter Jackson
What do you think of our top picks? What films do you think are missing from the list?