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My Top 50 Movies of the Decade…

Alright here it is, my top fifty films of the decade. I’ve decided to stop complaining about Donal Clarke’s list in the Irish Times and just let rip myself. There’s more than a few crazy choices down there, but – after a week in the works – I’m happy with it. I doubt that a lot of other people will be.

Like the Oscars, but... you know, better...

The Rules

I live in Ireland: so films released outside the decade here (for example, The Road), can’t make the cut, unfortunately. But they are just early contenders for the next decade’s collection.

This is MY list: I’m an idiot. I’ll concede that. Some of these choices looked weird even to me when I wrote my first draft, but the ones that remained on the list remained there because I liked them. Not because they were objectively “good cinema” (how can you objectively measure that), but because they stuck with me after watching them. I’m sure I’ve made a few stupid choices, feel free to let me know below. It’s obviously more suited to my own personal taste (which I like to think is broad), but I can tell you what it is relatively short of right away: slashers and mind-trips. And the awards-fare is generally at the lower end of the list. But I like to think I have a reasonably open and cultured pallet.

I haven’t seen everything: aka the list will be dynamic; I would love to set this in stone – but I haven’t seen every film this decade yet and some of them might be better than some (or all) of the films on this list. If that happens, I will add them, bumping off whatever is number 50.) at the time. However, since most of my crazy choices are near the top, that shouldn’t bother too many people. That and the fact I’ll keep an audit trail down the bottom of the article, stated what was added and what was removed. This is to take account of the fact that I am not a professional, and the decade isn’t over yet.

Everyone likes trivia: or the part where I tease you before you read the list;

  • there’s no Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro on the list; there’s no Steven Spielberg either;
  • there are two Robert Downey Jnr. films, but probably not the ones you’d expect;
  • there is only one Irish film which made the cut, but more Colin Farrell than I expected;
  • despite being the decade of the super-hero, there are only three comic book super-hero films on the list – there are two additional graphic novel adaptations thrown in for good measure, though;
  • there are no vampires on the list (not even sparkling ones), but there are some zombies;

50.) The Good, The Bad & The Weird

It’s a Chinese Western! How brilliant is that, just as a concept? It’s at once a fitting tribute to Sergio Leone and a brutal deconstruction of his work (which was itself a deconstruction of the class Western – it’s complicated). Featuring a fantastic cast, soundtrack and a keen directorial eye, this film may have to wrestle with No Country For Old Men for the title of “best Western of the naughties”, but it’s damn good. Actually, let’s just stick ‘traditional’ in there. We’ll let No Country for Old Men have the ‘revisionist’ thing.

49.) Downfall

Yes, it’s a little long, but it’s also damn compelling viewing with wonderful central performances. I think the movie should have ended at the bunker, as by that stage the film has explored most of what it set out to. It’s a surprisingly poignent and almost impartial look at the final days of the Third Reich. While a rudamentary knowledge of history prevents the viewer from feeling even pity for Hitler, the film does succeed against the odds in making him seem three-dimensional. For a man whose name is forever linked with hatred, genocide and the most costly war of all time, that’s quite an accomplishment.

48.) Gladiator

A swords-and-sandals epic, but a glorious one. There’s no slow-mo, no glorification of bloodletting. The plot is straightforward and Russell Crowe is a classic hero in the matinee idol mold. It’s by no means a complicated or insightful film, but it is epic Hollywood production at its best. The fact that we can all still recite the “husband to a murder wife, father to a murdered child…” line is a testament to just how finely it can produce a swords-and-sandals epic.

47.) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

I was not as hugely awed by these films as everyone else was. I will concede that bringing them to the screen in a first place was a task of mammoth proportions, and the work of everyone is to be commended, but I was not completely bowled over. As such, it should come as no surprise to anyone that my opinion diverges with the accepted wisdom of fandom on which is the best film of the trilogy. I quite like middle installments of trilogies, as they don’t have to worry about set up or provide the mandatory happy ending – they are, in a way, the freest part of storytelling. And here we see that in action. As a series which is surely among the most visually impressive of the decade, the storming of Helms Deep is perhaps the most visceral experience of the entire collection. The film also introduces Gollum, who is one of the definitive creations of the decade and also showed us just what motion-capture could do. This is the movie where all the stops have been pulled out, and – in my opinion – it is the finest of the trilogy.

46.) Crash

Racism. Los Angeles. Intersecting stories. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this movie really has no new message to sell, and no new way of selling it. But creativity and originality certainly aren’t everything in Hollywood. Sometimes a good story well-told is enough. That’s the case here. A huge ensemble pieces together a tapestry of the prejudice at the heart of American society. It very consciously attempts to avoid the obvious ham-fistedness of other message-based films and – while it doesn’t always succeed – it is certainly the better for the attempt. As harsh as fans of Brokeback Mountain may be on the film, it deserved the win.

45.) A History of Violence

David Cronenberg was on fire this decade. I really enjoyed Eastern Promises, A History of Violence was perhaps the high-point of the decade for him. Eschewing his traditional craziness and going with a relatively straight-forward (if not simple) story of identity told in a restrained way really worked – much better than I anticipated. And, though William Hurt picked up the film’s only acting nod, both Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen were equally deserving for their portrayals.

44.) Little Miss Sunshine

When I write this blog, I’m not sure if I can generalise from my own experiences. But I think that everybody has some form of messed up or complicated family. If you don’t, trust me – this film captures the experience very well. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them, sometimes it’s the little things – like making a beauty pageant – that really matter. The fact that it has a fantastic cast on top form (yes, even Steve Carrell) just makes things sweeter – as does the honest examination of the child-beauty-pageant circuit in the US.

43.) Tropic Thunder

“I don’t read the script, script reads me.”

It’s sharp, it’s witty, it’s funny and it features two of the funniest performances of the year from Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jnr. It’s doing stuff we’ve seen dozens of times before, but in an entertaining and surprisingly innocent manner. While it doesn’t pack as many laughs per minute as Zoolander, it’s still one of the comedies of the decade.

42.) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Certainly one of the most influential films, for better or worse. The fact that it gave us Bullet-Proof Monk would indicate it’s for worse. In all seriousness, it is one of the most visually distinctive films of the decade and certainly one that holds up. A modern fairy tale. Though the image of sword-weilding combatants gliding through the air in slow motion may have been somewhat dated by countless imitations, there is something timeless about the original.

And it’s not the only fairy tale on this list.

41.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Worth it to witness the start of Robert Downey Jnr’s career revival alone, this is a smart and sophisticated comedy which takes three burnt out stars (Downey, Kilmer, Bernsen) and makes them hip and happening again. The fact that there’s a pop-conscious and stream-of-consciousness narration from Downey certainly isn’t a bad thing.

40.) Team America: World Police

Probably the best thing that the South Park guys have ever done. And that’s saying something. A wonderful spoof of the entire political spectrum and of Michael Bay’s approach to action movies as a whole, it manages to actually be more than just a sum of its parts. Plus everything’s better with puppets. It’s profane, it’s offensive, it’s over-the-top, but it’s also brillaint. Durka durka mohammed jihad indeed.

39.) Sin City

Visually arresting – quite simply no film this decade looked as distinct as Sin City. An adaptation of Frank Miller’s seedy underworld stories set in the entirely fictional and over-the-top Basin City, it’s a ridiculously macho noir world populated with convicts looking for directions, stripping students and yellow bastards. Robert Rodriguez offers a fantastically engrossing realisation of this world, with little splashes of colour here and there. Indeed, it’s probably the most visually impressive movie of the decade, even taking the roving high definition vistas or the fantastic work of Pixar – perhaps even the most distinctive visual design of the past ten years. Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen providing incredibly self-serious monologues didn’t hurt none either.

38.) Burn After Reading

A comedy about intelligence in modern society, I think that history may be kinder to this film than the initial reviews were. Featuring an all star cast, it’s a sort of light and fluff companion piece to the Coen Brothers’ undisputed masterpiece of the decade, No Country For Old Men.

37.) Spider-Man II

Other movies this decade transcended the four-panel origins of their stars, but this movie revels in them. Yes, X-Men and the original Spider-Man kicked off the trend which made this decade the decade of the super-hero, but nobody realised the cartoon craziness like Sam Raimi here. From the wonderful creepiness of Doctor Octopus’ sentient tenticles (check out the surgery scene, during which Raimi seems to have rediscovered the youthful glee of the Evil Dead films) through to the finale twisted warehouse on the docks, perhaps this movie offers an even better union of gothic fantasy and super-hero melodrama than Batman Returns. The story is light, breezy and fun – a wonderful reminder of what the genre can be when it isn’t trying to up its street cred or intelligence quota. Forget Watchmen, this is the closest you will see to an actual comic book brought to life in unashamedly bright four-colour glory. Any film which can spare a few moments to give us J.K. Simmons prancing around his office in tights is well worth the time.

36.) Infernal Affairs

The movie so good it’s on this list twice. Though Scorcese would adapt the American version of the tale, the original Chinese film has much more of a Michael Mann thing going on, with big urban skyscrapers and themes of macho isolation being the order of the day. It’s a wonderful modern noir told in Hong Kong, but don’t be attracted by any of the sequels or prequels or spin-offs – go for the best, the original. Or the remake. That either.

35.) Intermission

The best Irish movie of the decade, it’s Pulp Fiction in Dublin. A reminder that the country consistently produces top-class talent, it’s a weird and wonderful prism through which suburban life can be viewed. Impressive.

34.) Casino Royale

Bond is back. And blonde. Martin Campbell saves the franchise. For the second time. No ludicrous death traps. No ridiculously over-the-top odds. Just a trained killer trying to survive in a job with a very short life expectency. Though influenced by the Bourne movies, Casino Royale feels like a Bond film – unfortunately I’m not sure the same can be said of the sequel Quantum of Solace. Daniel Craig is a no-nonsense Bond for the naughties, who manages to combine most of the best elements of the Bonds before him. I think it’s too early to describe him as “the best Bond since Connery”, but he manages to bring the character’s necessary arrogance and anger to the screen without sacrificing the charm. And it was the first film I saw with the better half, so it’ll always have a place in my heart.

33.) Gone Baby Gone

Another Ed Harris supporting performance worth its weight in gold – and one of the few movies this millennium to showcase Morgan Freeman to his full potential. It’s odd that Ben Affleck should prove so adept behind the camera, but this gritty noir film works on its own terms even before it confronts the viewer with a compelling ethical dilemma. This one-two punch storytelling style calls to mind Clint Eastwood’s work on Million Dollar Baby, but it’s the much more interesting film of the two – both in the story it tells and the issue it presents. Good one.

32.) Anchorman

I think this film codifies comedy in the naughties. Everyone is familiar with Ron Burgandy, and there’s no coincidence that it launched the careers of both Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell (as well as giving Christina Applegate’s career a long-overdue shot in the arm). This has all the charm and charisma of the man-boy films which Hollywood churned out by the bucketful in this decade, but without the same exhaustion and “same old same old” attitude that films like Step-Brothers can’t help but create these days.

31.) Phone Booth

Joel Schumacher instantly makes up for any missteps he might have made in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin – well, almost. It’s a fantastic premise which owes more than a passing resemblance to something that Alfred Hitchcock might have done in the past and – unlike countless imitators over the years – it completely lives up to the master. It helps that it’s also the source of one of my all-time favourite alternative movie theories: the phone booth itself is a confessional and Keifer Sutherland is an angel. Think about it.

30.) Zoolander

I’ve always liked screwball comedies and there’s just something ridiculously innocent about this film about a “really, really, incredibly good-looking” model. It’s sweet and innocent fun, and perhaps a hark-back to simpler times. Any movie which uses Relax to trigger a Manchurian Candidate-style brainwashing trip can’t be all bad. It may seem an odd choice – to both you and to me – but when it popped into my head I only had to count the number of times I had watched it to justify its position on the list.

29.) One Hour Photo

Robin Williams came a long way in this decade – with roles like this and Insomnia. Unfortunately, he also made stuff like R.V. – Runaway Vacation and Man of the Year, so maybe these things need to be balanced. He’s at his best here in this wonderful little psychological thriller which just keeps ticking and ticking, turning the pressure up until things explode near the climax. He manages to make Sid at once pathetic and oddly sympathetic (and, when necessary, creepy) in a wonderful way which suggests the depths of dramatic talent he has hidden beneath the rubber face. Hopefully we won’t have to wait a decade to see it again.

28.) 28 Days Later

Remember when I said earlier that this was the decade of the super-hero? I lied. It’s the decade of the zombie. Here still-indie-favourite Danny Boyle takes the zombie movie and works his magic on it. I don’t care if they aren’t technically zombies – “the infected” is the euphemism of choice here – it is a zombie film, in the same way that The Road is a zombie film, even without zombies. Arguably a stronger successor to the classic Romero zombie movies than his own work in this decade, the film dares to look at what happens after the apocalypse. Plus, it introduced the concept of running zombies – which really invigourated the on-line zombie debating community. Seriously though, the movie is a compelling straight-up monster movie, but also a chilling examination of human nature.

27.) Mystic River

Clint Eastwood turned out a whole heap of solid films over the course of the decade, but this was probably the high point. A fascinating urban drama about the lives of three kids and an incident which shaped them, it’s also a compelling look at how children are treated in our society, and the dread and fear which surrounds what can happen to them. That the film features a ridiculously talented ensemble – both leading and supporting – is but icing on the cake.

26.) Apocalypto

Mel Gibson has had a… controversial decade, but I loved this compelling little chase movie, calling to mind Hollywood period pieces of old. A story about societal collapse, it features some beautiful staging, great set design, a fantastic score and some interesting ideas – but it works best as exactly what it is: an old-fashioned chase movie, the kind they don’t really make anymore. The minimal amount of dialogue (subtitled) helps create the impression that this is a kenetic piece, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front.

25.) Batman Begins

A stunning realisation of the Batman mythos on the  big screen, this film defined the comic book movie as a genre which could handle big ideas and present them with serious gravitas. While, ultimately, this was a mixed blessing – seriously, who wants a darker and edgier Superman film? – it illustrated that complex movies could be constructed from comic book fare. But, more than that, it also offer perhaps the most intimate look at the inner workings of the mind of a super-hero – daring to ask ‘why?’ Christain Bale is Bruce Wayne and he is Batman, and this movie works best as an examination of the psyche of a man who dresses up like a rodent to fight crime. It was impressive that a director of the talent of Christopher Nolan could be convinced to make a Batman film – it’s even better that he gets it.

24.) Battle Royale

I think this was the decade that eastern cinema broke mainstream over here. The nineties had more than a fair share of cult hits, but this decade they were fully embraced by film audiences. Battle Royale is a fascinating concept well executed, an unashamedly over-the-top. Thank god they never made that American remake we’ve been hearing about. The original should be good enough. It’s also iconic and more than a little bit shocking. No wonder it’s Quentin Tarantino’s favourite film of the decade.

23.) Shaun of the Dead

The film that introduced us to Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, it’s a wonderfully affectionate take on the classic zombie movie (and yes, they amble, so don’t worry, purists). Perhaps the best elements of the film centre on how completely oblivious the population probably would be to an impending zombie apocalypse as military trucks drive through town, or people dismiss huffling groaning forms as hungover drunkards looking for shelter. There’s a lovely energy about the film which is perhaps the best British comedy of the past ten years.

22.) Juno

It’s like if Joss Whedon wrote romantic comedy dramas with witty and down-to-earth strong female leads using all the slang and beeing, like, totally boss. I know that the film has generated quite a bit of backlash since the initial release, but it’s still a film that is brutally honest and cynical enough about the imperfect side of life to garner a wide smile when it offers a glimpse of magic. It’s unashamedly feel-good stuff, which is quite something for a movie about teenage pregnancy.

21.) The Mist

I imagine this will be a giantly divisive choice, but I loved this movie. Scary movies are hard to do. Scary movies with legitimate allegorical content are even harder to do. Frank Darabonte is great here as he looks at the uglier side of human nature as a mist descends upon a crowded convenience store. Sure, some of the special effects might not be the best, but turn on the ‘director’s cut’ (which is literally just the same film in black-and-white) and those problems become insignificant. It’s actually a stunningly effective imitation of those classic “monsters at the gate” style stories we saw in the fifties and sixties. (In fact, the film owes a huge debt to The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, a classic Twilight Zone episode.)

20.) Coraline

Another fairytale here from Henry Selick, the guy you don’t know as the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, because Tim Burton stamped his name all over that film. Here we have the story of imaginative little girl Coraline who discovers a dream world within her own house. It’s truly beautiful, whether you watch in in 2D or 3D, but I’ll always remember it as the film which sold me on 3D. Even regardless of this, it’s a fascinating adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s work and perhaps an indication that The Sandman may not be impossible to film.

19.) Memento

The film that introduced us to the Nolan brothers. Specifically Christopher, who is probably the greatest single talent to emerge this decade (and certainly with the most dynamic career trajectory). The plot – a man who can’t make new memories – is fascinating, and the movie is structured as a twisted reflection, snaking backwards so the audience has as little idea as Leonard about what has just happened. Utterly fascinating stuff, which still manages to impress on repeat viewings.

18.) Frost/Nixon

Another film I enjoyed far more than most others, this is a fascinating period piece, a wonderful demonstration of Ron Howard’s skill and perhaps the most perfect ‘college’ movie ever made. But wait, says you – a concerned reader – that wasn’t a college movie, it was about Richard bloody Nixon! And you would be right. But consider the fact that the story follows a young manwho suddenly discovers a massive amount of freedom that comes from moving away from home for an extended period of time. He should be working hard towards the end goal, but instead he wastes his time going out and partying and being distracted. Eventually, the night before the big exam – when it looks like failure is upon him – he sits down and crams like he’s never crammed before. He even finds something new which nobody else had noticed before, earning him the grudging admiration of the authority figure who had challenged him. That sounds like a college movie to me, at least in structure. It doesn’t mean it’s not a damn-fine movie featuring fantastic performances and enough history to satisfy nerds like me.

17.) Doubt

Meryll Streep, where were you? We’ve missed you so long! Plays are tough to adapt for the big screen, so it’s a miracle that this worked so well. In fairness, as nice as the music and the costume and set design are (skilfully calling to mind the intended period with minimal effort), it’s the four leading performances which nail it. Each one of those four deserved their Oscar nomination. I don’t think there’s been anything similar since all the speaking parts in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? received nods (of course, not all the actors here got nominations, but the big ones did). An interesting and complex film (I’m still not sure if Father Flynn is guilty or not), it’s a fascinating adaptation.

16.) Pan’s Labyrinth

I don’t think I’ve ever seen fantasy so brilliantly realised. Del Toro would bring some of this to his charming Hellboy films, but they lack the raw beauty found in this charming story of the Spanish Civil War and girl’s escape from normal life. Doug Jones in particular deserves credit for creating not one but two visually fascinating characters.

15.) Moon

It’s interesting how many films got on this list by emulating genres that Hollywood had all but forgotten about, from film noir to socially-conscious horror. Here Duncan Jones throws together the most fascinating science-fiction drama since perhaps Gattaca, as we follow Sam in his final days before he returns home from a mining expedition on the moon. The mind plays tricks up there, and we’re not sure what’s real or what isn’t. What is fascinating about the film is not the central twist, but that film refuses to sensationalise it – instead it uses that surprise as a springboard for all manner of interesting discussion and ideas.

14.) Training Day

Actors playing against expectations. That seems to be the key to at least a good movie. here we follow Ethan Hawke on his first day with seemingly psychotic cop Denzel Washington. Washington is impressive here as a cop who lives among the dregs of humanity. The film remains surprisingly ambiguous on the character – he is undoubtedly morally bankrupt, but he’s at least pragmatic. His harsh justice suits the world as he sees it, a world where order is only enforced down the barrel of a gun. It’s a shame that nobody involved in the film has done anything to this standard since.

13.) (500) Days of Summer

Underneath it all, I’m a sap. I like romance. I have faith and hope. So, in theory, I should enjoy romantic movies. And I do – when the right one comes along. In a decade filled with ridiculously insulting fare like The Ugly Truth or 27 Dresses, it’s nice to see a creative approach to romance that doesn’t aim to attract its audience based on the lowest common denominator or stereotypical conceptions of what its audience wants (it seems men want filth and women want to believe that men can and should be changed). It’s frank, it’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s sad and it’s incredible.

12.) In Bruges

A fantastic little film, this – which crept up on me. Perhaps the closest we’ll ever get to capturing Irish humour on the big screen. It features fantastic performances from all three leads and deserved a whole heap more of attention than it ended up getting. It also reminded us that Colin Farrell could act, which shouldn’t be a surprise given how often he appears on this list – but, more often than not, we need to be reminded.

11.) No Country For Old Men

The world is a cruel place, full of bad people. It’s gritty and unrelenting. It’s shocking. It’s also utterly compelling and fascinating. It’s probably not the best work from the Coens, but it’s certainly up there. It’s a fascinating examination of the end of an era – with the suggestion that it has always been like this. It’s a hard world populated with hard people, each as rugged and scarred as the landscape. Sure Anton Chigurh may track his quarry with a homing beacon, but he’s the spiritual descendant of any number of Sergio Leone antagonists. Bitter, cold and ultimately terrifying.

10.) There Will be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis is a national treasure. We should build him a monument. Despite delivering a performance which – in any other hands – would seem hammy and over-the-top, his Daniel Plainview is a fantastically realised creation, an embodiment of the greed and corruption of oil, the black gold. It’s a fascinating and harrowing story of his life, and it’s stunningly brought to life through inspired direction. The oil rig fire is surely an iconic image of this decade, as it illuminates Daniel, covered in the black stuff (no, not Guiness). Equally impressive is the way that the film seems to suck you into this great past, with epic vistas and nice period touches. Crucially, it’s the examination of human greed which sets this movie up so well.

09.) The Incredibles

The best movie adaptation of Watchmen this decade. Sorry, Zack. Seriously, though – how do Pixar do it? These are family movies, not kids movies. Using the notion of superheroics to explore the midlife crisis of one Mr. Incredible, the film isn’t afraid to tackle complex and mature themes (his ‘playing away from home’ isn’t exactly a subtle metaphor), but in a charming way. It’s never heavy-handed and it’s never forced. These guys love what they do, and it shows through every frame of their work. Every single frame.

08.) Sunshine

Another controversial choice, but sometimes you gotta go with your gut. Having done horror, Danny Boyle moved on to science fiction. What we ended up with as a surprisingly realistic, visually stunning saga. It’s one of the few movies on this list which truly demands High Definition in order to soak everything in. It’s the little things, like the honest composition of the ships crew, or the way they provide food and air which sells the movie. A lot of work went into this. Boyle might not have succeeded in creating our generation’s Alien, but he came pretty close.

07.) Inglourious Basterds

Not the best decade for Quentin Tarantino. The effect of Kill Bill was significantly weakened by splitting it up. Deathproof was a movie even he gave up on half-way through, despite its charms. And then we end up with this wonderful post-modern war film. As you can imagine from the premise (a Quentin Tarantino war film), it’s quite unlike any film you’ve ever made. Perfectly balancing seriousness with a sly humour, the film succeeds as his best film since Pulp Fiction. The ending alone is masterful.

06.) The Dark Knight

There’s very little to be said about this movie that hasn’t been said. Allegory. Action movie. The best damn superhero picture ever. It’s all true. It would deserve a place on this list even without a fantastic performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker, but his manic performance – at once scene-stealing and incredibly subtle – elevates the film. But lets have a moment for Gary Oldman’s exhausted honest cop James Gordon, a quiet and restrained perfromance which anchors the film (and has gone relatively unnoticed).

05.) Finding Nemo

It is – as with most Pixar films – a deceptively simple story. But it’s also incredibly emotionally honest and sweet and – above all – charming. Albert Brooks hasn’t been this good in… quite a while, and he singlehandedly anchors (pardon the pun) the film. The fact that I think the sub-aquatic world Pixar crafted may be their most beautiful creation (only slightly more beautiful than Wall-E in space) is just a little bit extra.

04.) The Departed

So good it’s on the list twice. Scorcese. Boston. Jack Nicholson being nasty again. It’s as good as you might imagine, while getting career-best performances out of its two leads in this fantastically well-crafted tale. the supporting cast is dynamite, but Scorcese sacrifices the coldness of the original film to focus on the humanity of the two undercover agents at work here. I’m just hoping Shutter Island is half as good.

03.) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Jim Carrey is underrated. Of course, it doesn’t help if – like Robin Williams – he punctuates more impressive experimental roles like this with films like Yes Man. Here he manages to hold his own with Kate Winselt, which is no small feat. It’s a fascinatingly high-concept sci-fi film (if you could erase all the hurt of a break-up, would you?) which isn’t afraid of the fact that the questions it asks might not have easy answers. The talent involved is all top notch and it might just be the quirkiest film of the decade.

02.) The Prestige

A magic trick in movie form, it offers perhaps the best articulated reason for my love of movies which I have ever heard. The perfect companion piece to The Dark Knight, it stands carefully and strategically engineered to function as a complex psychological trap. While The Dark Knight throws reason by the wayside and plows ahead on pure emotional energy (as the Joker seeks to almost metafictionally dismantle the conventional cops-and-robbers plot itself), The Prestige is a trick birdcage, all designed to lead the audience down a carefully prepared route to the crowning moment – the prestige itself, in the parlance of the film. Like all truly great twist-based stories, it’s a film which rewards repeat viewings and offers something new each time.

SPOILER! Take, for example the question of whether Angiers was “would be the man in the box or the man in the prestige”. On closer inspection it’s moot. Either way the original is dead. If he was the man in the box, he was drowned. If he was the man in the prestige, he was shot in his own studio on the first attempt. SPOILER!

“Are you watching closely?”

01.) Collateral

It was a tough choice picking the best movie of the deade, and there were a whole range of great choices (some, you will suggest, not even on my list). I think that nostalgia really defines how we look at directors who have been making films for decades – like Spielberg or Scorcese – to the point that we devalue their more recent work. I love Michael Mann. Despite the disappointment of Miami Vice and Public Enemies, I think he is possibly one of the best directors at work today. And I think his filmography is incredible – Heat is probably one of the best crime films of the past twenty-five years. However, I think Collateral might just be my favourite of his films. It’s a perfect encapsulation of all his themes, superbly acted by both leads (that Tom Cruise didn’t secure an Oscar, let alone a nomination, is a crime that Vincent himself couldn’t have carried off), it’s the most stunning proof of concept of Mann’s increasing obsession with digital cinema. It’s a movie informed by its city, evoking Los Angeles even though it never really dwells upon it. We don’t feel like tourists, we just feel like temporary residents.

It was tough to pick a single film – and tough to order all of the films like this – but I think I made the right call. Or maybe I’ll look back on this list in a few years and sigh with embarassment.

I don’t know.

14 Responses

  1. that is a cracking list Darren, can tell its a personal one as it doesnt have all the usual guff near the top.
    i do love Collateral, although it does tail off slightly towards the end. good to see Incredibles so high, and nice to see The Mist in there
    really good list. will be reading this a few times

    • Yep, it seems like spaces 10-20 were reserved for awards darlings. It’s actually amazing how many of 2007’s Best Picture nominees made it on to the list. But I was actually quite surprised at how odd my top ten ended being – I just moved stuff around until I was sure and ended up with a completely different list than the first draft.

  2. You included “Tropic Thunder” AND “Zoolander”? Oh, be still my heart! I am thoroughly and completely charmed.

    It also thrills me to see that “The Departed” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” ranked so highly — these are two that get better every time I watch them.

  3. Great list of films I found some of them really interesting. : )

  4. Darn good #2, sir.

  5. “The mist”! I loved that movie as well. It wasn’t the best horror film of the decade though… that would be drag me to hell or the dawn of the dead remake
    “The best movie adaptation of watchmen”… hehe, that was funny, never though about it that way.
    Great list!

  6. It’s late and I want to go to bed, but I couldn’t help starting this. Was tempted to print it off and take it to bed with me (wait… did I just cross the line? Heck I don’t care, the line is a dot to me anyway. Plus I don’t have a printer). Will have to be read again but generally I agree… but not in that order. Except The Incredibles, well played.

    • Yep, I think this is very much a “me” list, which I suppose is kinda the point of these things.

  7. Interesting choice. I love “Collateral.”

    • Yep. I like to be a little controversial. Not a lot, but enough so that I can surprise people sometimes.

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