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Best of the Decade (2000-2009)

Originally written in January 2010.


1. The Fountain (2006)

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

3. Gladiator (2000)

4. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)

5. The Hours (2002)

6. The Incredibles (2004)

7. Pride & Prejudice (2005)

8. Spirited Away (2002)

9. Sleuth (2007)

10. Shopgirl (2005)


1. HUGH JACKMAN: Considering no one knew his name in the ‘90s, Hugh Jackman sure had a hell of a decade starting right at the top of 2000 with X-Men, and hasn’t stopped since. As both Wolverine and the grieving husband of the decade (The Fountain and The Prestige), nobody brought it to us quite as consistently as Hugh. (Of course, we’re all politely looking away from his television misadventure, Viva Laughlin.)

2. HEATH LEDGER: The Dark Knight (with bonus points for Brokeback Mountain). Not because he died, because he was amazing. And what a loss it is to all of us that it was his last full performance. He had nowhere to go but up.

3. JOHNNY DEPP: Pirates of the Caribbean . . . and just about everything else he chose to appear in through the last ten glorious years of his stellar career. He well deserved to be named Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Decade.

4. KATE WINSLET: Eternal Sunshine, Little Children, Revolutionary Road, The Reader . . . I mean, I might as well just sit here and list her entire catalogue of IMDb credits from this decade. She did not deserve to be left off of Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainers of the Decade list . . . so how about we bump her to the top of the Actresses of the Century list instead?

5. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS: There Will Be Blood. I have tried to wrap my head around this movie ever since I first saw it. I think I get a little closer to the full 360-degree wrap with each subsequent viewing, but it only took one viewing to realize that Daniel Day-Lewis was unleashing the best performance of his career.

6. LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I don’t think anyone’s left their teen-beat days behind them quite this effectively since . . . well, Johnny Depp. Between Revolutionary Road, The Departed, The Avaiator and Blood Diamond, it is impossible to choose a single best performance from one of this decade’s most dependable performers.

7. DAME MAGGIE SMITH: Gosford Park. Delightfully nasty, incredibly bitchy and all- around amazing. I’ve seen Gosford Park about twenty times now, and her performance cracks me up every single time. The comedic performance of the decade didn’t come from Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn or anyone else in the comedy frat pack. It came from a 67-year-old British woman who could act them all under the table.

8. CATE BLANCHETT: I’m Not There. The Talented Mr. Ripley and Elizabeth were just appetizers getting our palettes nice and whet for what Cate had in store for us this decade. Her varied performances as a Russian arch villain, the late great Katherine Hepburn, and every 15-year-old boy’s fantasy teacher proved that she’s every woman. So it’s ironic that her best performance in the last ten years was when she played a man.

9. RALPH FIENNES: In everything. Every. Single. Thing. Just like last decade. Just like next decade. Just like always. If forced to select just one, it would be The Constant Gardener. But don’t force me.

10. DENZEL WASHINGTON: Training Day. Badass is the new Black.

11. BRAD PITT: Babel. Another performer who left his pretty boy days firmly back in the ‘90s, Pitt delivered a lot of solid work this decade, but nothing quite so moving and so realistically worn out, terrified, and broken as this.

12. RUSSELL CROWE: Gladiator. For the last time this decade, I’ll admit it: yes, I was entertained.

13. MERYL STREEP: The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl never had a bad decade in her entire career, and she has done a number of wonderful things this decade. Rather than rattle off a list of every other movie she appeared in over the last ten years, I decided to just pick the biggest, brightest, bling-iest gem from the treasure trove she had to offer.

14. VIGGO MORTENSON: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. If Stuart Townsend has ever managed to make himself watch one of these movies, I’m sure even he secretly agrees that the part of Aragorn really was meant for Viggo Mortenson. Shame on the Academy for not giving him the nomination he deserved for his solid, old-school heroism and undeniable new-school vulnerability. (Plus, bonus points for A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.)

15. BRUCE GREENWOOD: Thirteen Days. No one has ever done JFK like this. If you discount Cate Blanchett’s artistic interpretation of Bob Dylan, this would obviously be the best portrayal of a real person any actor did this entire decade.

16. JACKIE EARLE HALEY: Little Children (with bonus points for Watchmen and being one of two watchable things in All The King’s Men). No Bad News for this guy this decade.

17. AUDREY TAUTOU: I don’t think anyone this decade has so many solid movies to their credit as Audrey does. Great performances, yes. But a lot of the times the movies themselves weren’t that terrific. The DaVinci Code aside, Audrey has a knack for selecting fantastic scripts, which she is then fantastic in. Her latest is Cocoa Avant Chanel but her greatest is A La Folie . . . Pas Du Tout, otherwise known as He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.

18. CHRISTOPH WALTZ: Inglorious Basterds. Let’s hope this isn’t his last dance for American audiences.

19. DANNY HOUSTON: A tie between The Proposition and 30 Days of Night. Whether he’s playing a monarch or a remorseless killer (or an insatiable vampire monarch/remorseless killer) the bastard son of John Houston proved that acting chops run on all sides of the family. Though he seems to be best at playing the kind of cold-hearted bastards who can be counted upon to make believable movie villains in any genre of picture, the truth is that he is a consummate performer who is consistently under valued and underrated. I hope that in the next decade his people will find a starring vehicle for him that finally brings him the awards, the accolades and the A-list status that his talent and good looks demand.

20. ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: Tropic Thunder. If someone had told me last decade that at the end of this decade I’d be lauding a blackface performance from a man who spent most of the ‘90s with his face planted firmly in white, I’d have told them they’ve gone full retard.

21. AMY RYAN: Gone Baby Gone. This is one performance that never felt like a performance. I believed her every single second that she was onscreen and never once thought that I was watching an actress.

22. JENNIFER HUDSON: Dreamgirls. For putting the power back in powerhouse performance and the force into tour de force.

23. GIUSEPPE CRISTIANO: An Italian child actor who delivered an incredible performance in 2003’s Io Non Ho Paura (I’m Not Scared) as a child who discovers that his entire neighborhood, including his own family, are guilty of kidnapping a boy his age.

24. TILDA SWINTON: From The Deep End to Vanilla Sky, as an androgynous angel in Constantine or the White Witch in Narnia, and finally her with Oscar winning role in Michael Clayton, Tilda has seriously done no wrong this decade.

25. AARON ECKHART: Thank You For Smoking. And thank YOU for acting! (Bonus points for The Dark Knight.)


1. Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Memento)

2. Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Lust/Caution, Brokeback Mountain)

3. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy)

4. Hayao Miyazaki (Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Ponyo)

5. Ridley Scott (Gladiator, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, Blackhawk Down)

6. Martin Scorcese (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed)

7. Marc Forester (Stranger Than Fiction, Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace)

8. Steven Spielberg (Munich, A.I., War of the Worlds, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report)

9. Mira Nair (The Namesake, Vanity Fair)

10. Zach Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen)


50. Dead Man’s Shoes (2006, U.K.) — Sorry Oldboy fanboys. THIS was the revenge flick of the decade.

49. Slumdog Millionaire (2008, U.K.) — A gorgeous Indian fairy tale brought to you by the least likely filmmaker imaginable for this brand of relentless optimism.

48. The King of Kong (2007) — Utterly pathetic, in the best possible way.

47. Best In Show (2000) — Christopher Guest’s crew of hysterical mockumentary makers all reached their zenith with this insidery look at dog shows and the people who subject both themselves and their pets to that madness.

46. Prime (2005) — It depresses me that more romantic comedies can’t be this good. This smart. This well-cast. This believable. Then maybe, just maybe, the entire genre wouldn’t be ghettoized to the “chick flick” status that has basically become a synonym for “garbage.”

45. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not / A La Folie . . . Pas Du Tout (2002, France) — I don’t believe I saw a single movie this entire decade with a twist that packs a gut-punch like the one halfway through this magnificently creepy movie.

44. Little Terrorist (2004, India) — A short film Academy Award contender about a boy who went after his ball. From such simple concepts are complex statements made.

43. Bowling For Columbine (2002) — Not just a red state smack down, but a searing indictment of our gun-crazy culture from its origins to its disastrous consequences.

42. Secretary (2002) — One of the most romantic films of the decade, hands down.

41. Far From Heaven (2002) — This excellent film stands not only as an homage to the great Douglas Sirk melodramas of yesteryear but as a modern glimpse into the 1950s America that Leave It To Beaver left out.

40. Hero / Ying Xiong (2002, China) — Not just the best of the CTHDimitators, but a glorious color-drenched odyssey all its own.

39. 300 (2006) — Not just the best of the Gladiator imitators; it broke new ground all its own. Also the best graphic novel adaptation of the decade, hands down.

38. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) — If I ran the world, Shane Black would make more movies. There would be a law.

37. The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) — A thoughtful, beautifully lit meditation on the power of fame and the nature of infamy.

36. Stranger Than Fiction (2006) — Great performers and a truly moving script easily make this one of the most overlooked movies of the decade, along with one of the best.

35. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) — This decade brought us a lot of kid’s adaptations, both great and small. Misses abounded (take The Golden Compass — please). But somewhere between Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket and a bunch of moping vampires this adaptation managed to soar above them all and was brought to screen without losing an ounce of what made the book such an enduring part of thousands of childhoods.

34. Coraline (2009) — If there is another animated film this mesmerizingly creepy, I don’t know what it is. Leave it to the man who brought us The Nightmare Before Christmas to bring us another bizarre, frightful world filled with hidden wonders and not so hidden terrors.

33. The Descent (2005, U.K.) — I’ve been caving before, and I’d bet any money that there is no scarier sport on the face of the earth (or below the face, to be technical). When your lights go out, it is black on black. You can’t imagine how dark it is until you’re there. Try to picture being in a place where you can’t verify how far your hand is from your face, where there’s zero difference between having your eyes open and having them closed. I was pissing my pants waaaaaaay before the creatures showed up. As far as I’m concerned this would have been one of the decade’s scariest movies even without the hungry things lurking in the darkness. When you’re trapped 500 feet below the surface of the earth, your grave is already dug for you. This is the scariest movie I have ever seen in my entire life.

32. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) — The greatest acting performances of any chick flick this decade, thanks to Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. Oh, and Ann Hathaway’s wardrobe puts in a fine performance too.

31. Caché / Hidden (2005, France) — France can’t hide its sordid racist past any longer. A film that sneaks up on you, then clubs you on the back of the head. When you wake up, you’ll never see France the same way again.

30. Thirteen Days (2000) — Worth seeing just for the sake of watching Steven Culp and Bruce Greenwood resurrect the Kennedy brothers onscreen for you. Worth seeing for anyone born in the 1970s or later who perhaps doesn’t truly realize that for thirteen days Americans honestly believed that the end had arrived, and with good reason. Worth seeing to be reminded that Kevin Costner is actually a solid, riveting performer. Hmmm. There seem to be a lot of reasons to see this movie, and yet most people haven’t.

29. Babel (2006) — Holy backlash Batman. Remember how overrated everyone said this movie is? They were mistaken.

28. Match Point (2005) — A Woody Allen movie unlike any other Woody Allen movie. No neurotic New Yorkers yammering away, no Woody Allen desperately trying to convince you (and himself) that he’s a talented actor and an alluring man to whom grown women are attracted. Just solid storytelling and fantastic acting.

27. In Bruges (2008, U.K.) — Coal black comedy with equal parts heart and violence, and three uncannily great performances. Let’s hope Martin McDonagh makes more movies in the next decade. A lot more.

26. I’m Not Scared / Io Non Ho Paura (2003, Italy) — Featuring one of the two best child performances of the decade.

25. Apocalypto (2006) — Not a very PC movie to be a fan of. Impossible not to be a fan of.

24. Talk To Her / Hable Con Ella (2002, Spain) — Pedro Almodóvar’s greatest film of the decade also happens to be the greatest film he’s ever made. Anyone in film school should be seeing this in Directing 101 for decades to come.

23. Children Of Men (2006) — Beautifully gritty, gorgeously grim. Great performances, great direction and a great concept. I could go on, but you get the idea: one of the greatest of the decade.

22. The Incredibles (2004) — As poignant a commentary of our modern obsession with celebrating mediocrity and marginalizing superiority as anything else I’ve seen. That it also happens to be the best comedy of the decade is purely a bonus. And it’s one of only two movies on this list which I feel truly demands a sequel.

21. Avatar (2009) — What a way to end the decade, with a glimpse of what the next one has in store. This is the future of filmmaking. It seems Jim Cameron hasn’t met a decade he couldn’t put his stamp on.

20. Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2002, Japan) — The stuff that movie dreams are made of.

19. Amélie / Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001, France) — Some people might not agree that this frothy French puff pastry of a film is really one of the best of the decade. As the French would say, “Chacun voit à sa porte.” Of course, they’re much more forgiving than I am. I say anyone who leaves this one off the list is out of his head — or missing his heart.

18. Monsters, Inc. (2001) — Sometimes I feel like a Twilight Zone character when I mention this movie to people and get their funny looks. It’s as if there’s some alternate reality where I’m the only one who has even seen this movie and therefore the only one who realizes that it’s one of the best animated movies of all time. Maybe one day others will join my reality, but there’s certainly no hope of me going back to theirs. This film SHOULD have gotten the inaugural Best Animated Feature Oscar that went to Shrek. It WILL get the place on this list that it deserves.

17. The Departed (2007) — ‘Fraid it’s sacrilege, but true: the remake is better than the original. Not just one of Martin Scorcese’s best pictures but one of the best acting ensembles of this decade, or any other.

16. Little Children (2006) — A perfect storm of a great script, great acting and great direction. There is literally nothing wrong with this movie, and the same goes for every movie ranked above it.

15. Pan’s Labyrinth / El Laberinto Del Fauno (2006, Mexico) — This demented fairy tale features the second best child performance of the decade.

14. The Prestige (2006) — Christopher Nolan is to our generation what Hitchcock and Spielberg and Coppola once were to their own. He simply does not seem capable of making a bad movie, so we’ll just have to make do with all the great ones he keeps delivering.

13. Brokeback Mountain (2005) — It’s a shame that so many people’s prejudices will prevent them from experiencing one of the greatest love stories of this, or any generation.

12. Persepolis (2007, France) — A masterpiece, plain and simple. I can’t remember any other movie I saw this decade where I was this disappointed when the film came to an end. The idea of doing a graphic novel adaptation in the exact style that the author used to create it wasn’t new — 300 did it the year before. But to tell a woman’s story so simply and beautifully with such gorgeous black and white 2D animation, to bring more light and understanding to the Iranian regime than any CNN broadcast ever has, and to do it with such warmth and humor . . . that was something new. And the results were something spectacular.

11. The Namesake (2006) — I’ve never seen another film tell the story of multiple generations so fluidly, seamlessly and beautifully as what Mira Nair accomplished with this criminally overlooked film. As a director she had a wonderful decade and this was her greatest film. I’m sure we’ll get more from her in the decades to come and I look forward to seeing her top herself over and over again.

10. Gladiator (2000) — The movie that set the tone for the decade, and that everyone else spent the next ten years trying to duplicate, from the wailing-woman score to the hand in a field of wheat and the slo-mo battle scenes. The kind of movie our grandchildren will be watching the way we watch Spartacus and Ben-Hur.

9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Wo hu cang long (2000, China) — Same deal. Often imitated. Never duplicated..

8. 7:35 de la Mañana / 7:35 in the morning(2003, Spain) — An Academy Award nominated short film about a man determined to finally get up the courage to speak to the woman he sees every morning in the coffee shop, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

7. Wall-E (2005) — A silicon soul and a beating human heart allowed Wall-E to replace E.T. as the single cutest non-human character of all time in one of the most moving movies of the decade.

6. The Constant Gardener (2005) — I have only seen this movie once this decade, and it has never left me. Just thinking about it stuns me as much now as it did that day in the theater, when the credits started rolling and I couldn’t even move. Neither could anyone else in the theater. Not just another great love story in a decade that brought us so many, but also the most devastating movie of the decade, bar none.

5. Gosford Park (2001) — This one is a climber. Over the last nine years, I have rented this movie at least once a year. I did it without really thinking about it. When it finally dawned on me to just buy it, I would up watching it almost every night for two weeks. I’m not sure when it finally dawned on me that it was one of the best films I’ve ever seen and not just a movie I enjoy watching over and over again. But once something is known, it can’t be unknown, and that’s why this flick isn’t budging from its spot on this list.

4. Howl’s Moving Castle / Hauru no ugoku shiro (2005, Japan) — A move hasn’t had this kind of an impact on me since I first saw The Little Mermaid as a little girl. I spent a lot of childhood hours wishing I could be Ariel, and I’ll admit now that I’ve spent a lot of adulthood hours wishing I could be Sophie. Every time I watch it, it carries me away. It’s a Miyazaki masterpiece, and it’s also the second-best animated movie of all time.

3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) — No point in separating these three movies, really. Once you’ve seen them in their uncut glory on the extended DVDs, it really hits you that this was one story, and one movie. It just got released in three parts. So epic that it makes the word “epic” look weak, this twelve hour odyssey is not only the greatest fantasy flick ever captured on celluloid but it’s also the greatest book adaptation of all time.

2. The Dark Knight (2008) — As others have pointed out, this is NOT a comic book movie. It is a great movie. There are plenty of reasons why. One of the few blockbusters this decade that deserves every hard-earned dollar. And probably one of the last major motion pictures we’ll ever get whose action sequences do not depend on computer generated special effects. It truly is the end of an era.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) — The greatest romance of the decade with the best screenplay of the decade and the best concept of the decade. It also just happens to be one of the greatest movies ever made.

It is hard to believe how many utterly crappy movies I have sat through in the last ten years. It’s more than a week’s worth of my life down the drain, time I will never get back. Here are the movies this decade that were so bad their stink will carry them into next decade. Movies I hated so much that I resent their very existence. It was hard to narrow it down, but here they are: the worst of the worst.

10. Dracula 2000 (2000) — Hi Gerard Butler, nice to meet you! Don’t worry buddy, you are going to make two good movies this decade. Exactly two.

09. Godzilla 2000 (2000) — A sure sign of suckery in the year 2000 was a filmmaker’s need to add “2000” to the title. And why not? It sounds so hip, so futuristic . . . and so ten years ago.

08. Darkness (2002) — This is standing in for a lot of stupid-ass “horror” movies that tried to follow in the footsteps of The Ring by generating some PG-13 scares and some big-ass box office. Epic. Fail.

07. 27 Dresses (2008) — Another stand-in movie, representing all the god-awful “romantic” “comedies” I sat through this decade. Trying to find a great rom-com is like oyster-diving in raw sewage, and this was one of the smelliest entries in the last ten years.

06. Suicide Club (2002, Japan) — People who think J-Horror is overrated have a poster child for their cause in this nonsensical little blood-soaked turd.

05. Ocean’s Twelve (2004) — Did I ever tell you how glad I am that I paid money to watch movie stars on vacation, literally playing themselves?

04. TIE: Spider-Man 3 & Ghost Rider (2007) — This decade has presented us with a lot of ridiculous comic book adaptations, and 2007 alone was ripe with superhero stinkbombs, but none smellier than these twin turds.

03. The Black Dahlia (2006) — The L.A. Confidential wonderboy stumbled big time with this hideous little “mystery.” The only mystery here is why no one seemed to realize how truly awful this movie was going to be.

02. Battlefield Earth (2000) — This one made its bid for status as the worst of the decade (if not all time) early into the 2000s, and it was four years before another flick climbed high enough on the turd mountain to top it . . .

01. Beyond The Sea (2004) — Apparently Kevin Spacey spent many years of his life trying to get this biopic off the ground. It was a labor of love, they say. He directed it, wrote it, starred in it, and probably cooked every day for craft services. Unfortunately his singing is the only thing in this movie that doesn’t reek to high heaven. And sadly the only way this terrible, terrible film could have been salvaged is if someone else had written it, directed it, and starred in it. In a way, this movie is also a stand-in, for every other awful Kevin Spacey flick I’ve sat through in the last ten years. The man has not made a single great — or even moderately GOOD — movie since 1999. I could have just as easily substituted The Life of David Gale or Pay It Forward or 21 for this one. If he doesn’t straighten up and fly right in the next decade, Spacey’s obituary will end with his work from the ‘90s.

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