Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ben's Top 25 Movies of the Decade

At last! I know I'm a little late to the party with this... but frankly, I think it's better this way because while other lists that were published in late December/early January have already been forgotten, my humble list can now swoop in and pick up the slack! Muahahaha!

Seriously, though, the past decade -- the '00s, the Aughts, whatever you want to call it -- was, to say the least, a wild rollercoaster ride in all facets of life, and movies were no exception. It was a decade of superheroes and sequels. We welcomed back old icons and discovered new ones. We saw the return of the movie musical. We were invaded by Japanese horror flicks and crappy Americanized remakes. We witnessed the dominance of Pixar, the rise of Miyazaki, and both the sad dissolution and triumphant resurrection of traditional Disney animation. We rode the Hogwarts express, trekked through Middle Earth and expanded the Star Wars galaxy. We watched the Twin Towers fall and the U.S. go to war, followed by a slew of movies about those topics from a myriad of perspectives -- some good, some bad, some satirical, some painful to watch. I saw a grand total of 1,095 different movies on the big screen from 2000 through 2009. Allow me to let that number sink in for a moment...... yowza. Now, after all that, here are the movies that have entertained me, thrilled me, devastated me, filled me with awe, made me laugh, cry and fall in love more than any others. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you my Top 25 Movies of the Decade.....


The greatest of the "ass-kicking Jews" sub-genre, this is an examination of what happened after a group of Palestinian terrorists murdered several Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Loaded with intensity and moral ambiguity, it is as much a cautionary tale as it is a story of vengeance. Tremendous performances, taut script, impeccable filmmaking... it's Spielberg at his dramatic finest. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2005.)


Edgar Wright's zom-rom-com masterpiece. Hilarious, deliciously gory, surprisingly poignant... it's got everything you could possibly want from a zombie thriller, buddy flick and romantic comedy all in one. (P.S., you've got red on you....)

One of the best superhero origin stories ever. Bruce Willis is great as an everyman who comes to realize that he has real-life superpowers -- and Samuel L. Jackson is a perfect foil as his polar opposite (read: arch-nemesis) who is cursed with brittle bones but superior intellect. The film is a study of superhero mythology and the relationship between hero and villain, and M. Night Shyamalan's deepest and most masterful work (and, unfortunately, his last great film before his rapid decline began).

The general who became a slave... the slave who became a gladiator... the gladiator who defied an emperor... the epic that KICKED ASS. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe give us insane gladiator battles, all sorts of Roman political intrigue, fantastic performances -- yes, I am indeed entertained!

Judd Apatow's big screen directorial debut is still his best. What could have been just another dumb, mindless sex comedy is brought it to a whole new level thanks to an incredible cast, eminently quotable dialogue, and Apatow's uncanny ability to wield both hilarious R-rated dialogue & hijinks and an innate sweetness that sets it apart from the rest.

One of the most under-appreciated movies of the decade, Paul Thomas Anderson gives us this bizarre but fascinating character study starring Adam Sandler as a troubled soul whose life is transformed and given meaning when he finds love. It's like a deeper, more complex version of a typical Adam Sandler character, which is kind of amazing in itself. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2002.)

Another highly underrated film, this movie tackles the never-ending battle of the sexes. Campbell Scott is fantastic as a cynical misogynist who thinks he knows how the world works and agrees to show his naive nephew the ropes... only to have his night take a dark turn as his preconceptions about women and life are turned upside down. (It's also worth noting that this movie features Jesse Eisenberg doing the "Michael Cera/so-awkward-it's-cute" thing about a year before anyone had even heard of Michael Cera.)

The movie that clearly defined Wes Anderson's trademark style (oft-copied by others with far less success throughout the decade), and one of the great dysfunctional family movies ever. Poignant and devastating as well as funny and quirky, and supremely well-cast... it's the best "Wes Anderson Film" we've been blessed with so far.

(2004 / 2008)
I have to cheat here and give props to both of these films, which rise above and beyond the vast crop of comic book/superhero films of the decade. SPIDEY 2 is the pinnacle of that series and a perfect storm of greatness from Raimi & Co., providing everything you could possibly want in a Spider-Man film. And Jon Favreau clearly has his finger firmly on the pulse of geekdom with his triumph... though Robert Downey Jr, in the role he was born to play, had a little to do with it, too!

The Coen Bros.' deepest and most personal work, this is the story of a man who experiences non-stop misfortune while trying desperately to make some sense of it all and come to terms with his own morality, spirituality and good old fashioned Jewish guilt. Devastating, gripping, funny, poignant and easily the most entertaining ride through a downward spiral of despair that I've ever had. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2009.)

We've all felt directionless or stagnant at some point in our lives, and Sofia Coppola illustrates those feelings perfectly, not just on an emotional level, but by literally putting Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in the heart of one of the craziest and most surreal cities in the world. Fantastic script and top-notch performances... not to mention the greatest opening shot in movie history.

Yet another triumph based on a Phillip K. Dick story, and another notch in Spielberg's sci-fi cap. It's a remarkably vivid, fast-paced vision of a future in which murder can be predicted and stopped before it happens. It's also a reminder that while Tom Cruise may have turned into a thetan-obsessed lunatic, he has also given us some pretty kick-ass movies over the years.

Guillermo del Toro's adult fairy tale, set during the rise of Spanish fascism in the 1940's, about a little girl who creates a fantasy world in order to escape from -- and cope with -- the brutal reality that surrounds her. Filled with incredible imagery, memorable characters, and powerful performances, it is as thought provoking, terrifying and heart-wrenching. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2006.)

The State and friends give us their take on the '80s summer camp teen sex movie genre, and the result is sheer genius. It's one of the funniest and most quotable movies of the decade, and a clear reminder that there is none higher than The State. This movie also marked the beginning of my man crush on Paul Rudd, which has only gotten stronger over the years. Now finish up them 'taters, I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters....

Really, I could probably find a way to include ever Pixar movie of the decade in this list... but this one is particularly miraculous on so many levels. On the surface, it's a superhero story with a twist -- and a brilliant one at that. In fact, I'd go as far as to rank it one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. But above all, it's a story about the ups and downs, the triumphs and pitfalls, the love and sheer power of FAMILY.

This outrageous take on Homer's ODYSSEY, set in the deep south in the 1930s, tempered with nods to other literary and cinematic works, and brought together by a hilarious script, memorable characters and a fantastic soundtrack, is a work of mad genius that only the Coen Bros. could deliver. George Clooney is in perfect slapstick mode as the charismatic leader of a trio of chain gang escapees who embark on a series of wild misadventures and encounters with bizarre characters. This is right around the time that Clooney really started to show the range of brilliance that has since turned him into one of the best, coolest, full-fledged movie stars of our time.

A story of love and nostalgia and indecisiveness and making Top 5 lists of all kinds... at the risk of turning this blog into a confessional, this movie is as close to being a story of my life as any. John Cusack is awesome as Rob Gordon, who, while going through a difficult breakup, decides to rank all of his ex-girlfriends and track them down as a self-cleansing exercise. Amazing. I love the Nick Hornby novel, too, but this is one rare instance where the movie is even better. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2000.)

Baz Luhrmann single-handledly revived the movie musical with this insane, vivid, wildly over-the-top spectacle. A tragic tale set in 1899 Paris, during the height of the bohemian revolution, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as star-crossed lovers, incorporating contemporary pop songs in all sorts of crazy ways... this movie is sheer madness, but in the best possible way. When I first saw this movie at the Ziegfeld Theatre, people were so caught up in the story, the music, the colors, the overwhelming excess and beauty of it all, that they were literally leaping from their seats and swooning in the aisles... it was awesome.

Quite possibly the most quotable comedy of all time, this movie is goes so far past the realm of ridiculousness that it becomes a work of sheer genius. Produced by Judd Apatow, directed by Adam McCay, and written by McCay and Will Ferrell, this is like an ode to the '70s, Walter Cronkite and women's lib, all mixed up into 100 minutes of insane hilarity. Ferrell has never been better, and the supporting cast is perfect, too (especially Paul Rudd, the only actor to appear in three movies on this list). I love lamp!

Paul Thomas Anderson's epic, chilling, awe-inspiring character study of an turn-of-the-century oil man and his dealings with ambition, family and what happens when one completely loses his sense of humanity. From its gritty opening sequence to explosive ending, this is a devastatingly perfect movie in every way, and definitive proof that Daniel Day-Lewis is the absolute greatest actor alive today. I drink your milkshake! (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2007.)

Pixar's greatest masterpiece in a decade full of masterpieces. The first act, set in a fully-realized dystopian future, is virtually dialogue-free -- but still says more than most talkfests we'll ever see. Then it goes off in a completely unexpected direction and gets even better. This movie is, all at once, a triumphant sci-fi epic, cautionary tale about the dangers that humanity faces as we lay waste to the planet, and of course, love story -- the relationship between old, broken-down WALL-E and sleek, futuristic EVE is one of the decade's greatest and most heartfelt romances. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2008.)

I somehow missed this movie when it was originally in theatres and finally watched it towards the end of 2007 on DVD. I was only half paying attention because I was, ironically, busy compiling my top 10 list for the year... and the next thing I knew, I was watching in awe as Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed "Falling Slowly." In the movie, their characters were struck by the fabled "thunderbolt" at that very moment... and in real life, so was I. Few movies (and music) have ever captured my heart and dominated both my DVD player (and iPod) the way this one did and continues to do. Realistic characters and situations and incredible music that will make you swoon -- I am still obsessed with this movie to the point where I have since seen Glen & Mar perform twice at Radio City Music Hall.

Charlie Kaufman had already asserted himself as a wildly original and fascinating screenwriter earlier in the decade, but he really sealed the deal with this masterpiece, which illustrates the true, raw, often destructive power of love -- that is to say, while you may be able to erase someone from your mind, the heart does not forget. Kaufman's brilliant, mind-bending script, Michel Gondry's amazing, dreamlike (and occasional nightmarish) visuals, and incredible performances from Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet (not to mention Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson), all add up to a love story that is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. A true work of art. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2004.)

(2001 to 2003)
The greatest cinematic achievement of the decade, hands down. Peter Jackson managed to not only turn Tolkien's seemingly-unfilmable magnum opus into a movie, but did it so perfectly, so magnificently, so memorably, that it still boggles the mind. Jackson & Co. had their fingers so perfectly on the pulse of the source material that it's almost as they opened the pages and sprinkled the characters, settings, and overall feel of the book onto the screen. This trilogy was so huge that by the time the third installment rolled around, my anticipation level was so high that it actually equaled my excitement for the Star Wars prequels -- which, coming from me, is high praise indeed. (NOTE: THE RETURN OF THE KING was my #1 movie of 2003.)

...and finally....

Simply put, this movie is pure bliss, love and happiness in movie form. The story, the characters, the music (Fun Fact: Yann Tiersen's soundtrack is the most-played album on my iPod, because I used to listen to it every night as I drifted off to sleep), the vibrant colors, the magic and whimsy of Paris, and of course, the cutest of the cute, Audrey Tautou in her defining role... the mere thought of this movie brings a smile to my face. Amelie Poulain represents the dreamer in all of us and the unending belief that while happiness and love may be elusive, they DO exist. This movie is sheer perfection, one of my very favorite movies of all time, and the clear choice for my most beloved movie of the past decade. (NOTE: This was my #1 movie of 2001.)


Other Noteworthy Titles (in alphabetical order):

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. About a Boy. About Schmidt. Adaptation. Almost Famous. American Psycho. An Education. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. Atonement. Avatar. The Aviator. Bad Santa. Batman Begins. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Best in Show. Borat. The Bourne Trilogy. Bowling for Columbine. Brick. Bring It On. Brokeback Mountain. Broken Flowers. Burn After Reading. Capote. Cars. Casino Royale. Cast Away. Catch Me If You Can. City of God. Closer. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Dancer in the Dark. The Dark Knight. The Departed. District 9. Doubt. Drag Me To Hell. The Dreamers. El Crimen del Padre Amaro. Elegy. Elf. The Emperor's New Groove. Enchanted. Eurotrip. Everything is Illuminated. Fanboys. Fantasia 2000. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Far From Heaven. Final Destination. Finding Nemo. Finding Neverland. (500) Days of Summer. Flags of Our Fathers. The Fountain. Frost/Nixon. Gangs of New York. Ghost World. The Girl Next Door. Gone Baby Gone. Good Night and Good Luck. Gosford Park. The Hangover. Happy Feet. Hard Candy. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The Harry Potter Series. Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The Hills Have Eyes. Hot Fuzz. Hotel Rwanda. The Hours. The Hurt Locker. In America. In Bruges. In the Bedroom. Inglourious Basterds. Irreversible. Jesus Camp. Juno. Kill Bill. King Kong. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Kinsey. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Knocked Up. Kung Fu Panda. Lars and the Real Girl. The Last King of Scotland. L'Auberge Espagnole. Letters From Iwo Jima. Lilo & Stitch. The Limits of Control. Little Children. The Lives of Others. Love Actually. The Lovely Bones. Malena. Man on Wire. March of the Penguins. Maria Full of Grace. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Match Point. Mean Girls. Memento. Michael Clayton. A Mighty Wind. Milk. Million Dollar Baby. The Mist. Monsters Inc. Moon. Mulholland Drive. Napoleon Dynamite. National Treasure. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. No Country For Old Men. Ocean's 11. Old School. Orphan. Paranormal Activity. Paris, je t'aime. Persepolis. The Pianist. Pirates of the Carribean Trilogy. Precious. The Prestige. The Princess and the Frog. Ratatouille. The Reader. Requiem for a Dream. Revolutionary Road. Road Trip. Rocky Balboa. The Rules of Attraction. Russian Dolls. The Saw Series. The School of Rock. The Science of Sleep. Seabiscuit. Sideways. The Simpsons Movie. Slumdog Millionaire. Speed Racer. Spellbound. Spider-Man. Spirited Away. The Squid and the Whale. Star Wars: Epsode III - Revenge of the Sith. Step Brothers. Superbad. Superman Returns. Super-Size Me. Swimming Pool. Synecdoche, New York. Talk to Her. Team America: World Police. Transformers. Tropic Thunder. 21 Grams. The 25th Hour. 28 Days Later. United 93. Up. Up in the Air. Vanilla Sky. A Very Long Engagement. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Watchmen. Winged Migration. The Wrestler. Zodiac. Zoolander.


And now... my top 10 WORST films of the Aughts....

10. THE ROOM (2004) -- The product of Tommy Wiseau's madness would be the #1 worst if it wasn't so damn entertaining. But it's still fantastically bad in every way a movie can be bad.
9. ALEXANDER (2004) -- They say that the director's cut of this steaming shitpile is much better... but I say you can't polish a turd.
8. BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000) -- Scientology sucks, and movies about Scientology starring prominent Scientologists are even worse. Just... wow.
7. THE HAPPENING (2008) -- M. Night Shyamalan is the only filmmaker to have a movie in the Top 25 and Bottom 10. This was the final nail in his coffin as far as I'm concerned, but it's another one that would have been ranked lower had it not spawned the hilarious SNL skit with Andy Samberg lampooning Mark Wahlberg's laughably bad performance.
6. FIREWALL (2006) -- A sad, pathetic conglomeration of every "family in peril" movie Harrison Ford has ever made. So remarkably bad, you almost forget that it stars a man who was once responsible for some of the greatest characters in movie history. Sigh.
5. GUN SHY (2000) -- All I remember about this movie is that Liam Neeson had a farting problem. That pretty much sums it up.
4. HALLOWEEN (2007) / HALLOWEEN II (2009) -- If I was above the law, Rob Zombie would be one of the first people I'd punish severely for doing what he did to one of the all-time great slasher films. The first one is a travesty, and the sequel is, incredibly, even worse.
3. TIPTOES (2003) -- Holy... shit. I just watched this movie on DVD tonight, and it is being added to this list mere moments before posting. Matthew McConaughey as a regular-sized person from a family of dwarfs. Kate Beckinsale as his pregnant, freaked out girlfriend. Gary Oldman digitally transformed into a dwarf. Lots of other dwarfs, including Peter Dinklage as a French Marxist. Material that tries to be PC but ends up making fun of dwarfs half the time. Unintentional hilarity. Unintentional ridiculousness. I cannot believe this movie actually got made and I hope that all involved are sufficiently ashamed of themselves!
2. HANNIBAL RISING (2007) -- One of the greatest, most purely evil movie villains of all time, Hannibal Lecter, is demystified, overly-humanized and completely ruined in this unnecessary, god-awful origin story. Samurai training, really??
1. THE LOVE GURU (2008) -- My most reviled movie of the decade is a wretchedly unfunny piece of crap. There's no other way to put it... it's just flat-out NOT FUNNY to the point of being embarrassing, not just for Mike Myers, but for those of us who gave him the benefit of the doubt and sat through it. It's so mind-numbingly bad that I can't imagine him ever recovering. It saddens me to say that Mike Myers, creator of such beloved classics as Wayne's World and Austin Powers, is dead to me.

I was going to end this with my usual "random movie thoughts" -- you know, "Most Overrated," "Biggest Guilty Pleasure," etc. -- but, eh, I've written enough already. And with that, we can officially close the book on the '00s and look forward to what goodness, horror and craziness the next decade has to offer. So... what do you think? Agree/disagree? Am I worthy of calling myself a movie buff or have I completely lost my mind? I'm sure I accidentally left some good stuff out of that massive list of noteworthy titles... what are they? Comment, comment, comment! And to paraphrase my grandfather, the late, great Tony Sarnicola, "May the best of the Aughts be the worst of the Two-Thousand Tens!"


  1. i think i have probably seen about 40 movies in the theatre this deacade, but i am happy to see many of my faves (LOTR trilogy, high fidelity, we hot, anchorman, + a few others) have made the cut. i guess, at this point, i should go see Amelie, eh?