with all due respect to the following films that just missed my list: a history of violence, the incredibles, before sunset, children of men and mulholland drive... the following is my top ten films of the 2000's (2000-2009).
10. watchmen (2009) - based on the acclaimed graphic novel, this film by zach snyder (dawn of the dead, 300) is one of the more stylish films you will see. it got very mixed reviews, mostly negative, though it was more beloved by fans than by critics. the opening sequence is a sight to behold and the film's slow, deliberate pace works in its favor. if you are a fan of comic books this movie is a must-see.
9. the departed (2006) - a remake of the hong kong film, infernal affairs, this boston gangster film is classic martin scorsese (mean streets, goodfellas, gangs of new york). no one could have made this movie better than him and with the great cast (damon, dicaprio, baldwin and nicholson) this movie is pure entertainment from start to finish. the departed also got scorsese his first and long overdue oscar win for directing.
8. brokeback mountain (2005) - based on a short story by annie proulx, director ang lee (crouching tiger, hidden dragon) and cinematographer rodrigo prieto capture the serene beauty of wyoming in this romantic drama that ultimately and unjustly lost out to crash for best picture at the oscars. one of the best romantic films of all-time, heath ledger gives a heartwarming yet brutally honest performance that will make you realize the price some people have to pay for true love.
7. the dark knight (2008) - arguably the greatest comic book movie ever. christopher nolan (the prestige, inception) takes on the greatest of super hero themes in this follow up to batman begins - what choice is a hero left with when confronted with the sort of enemy that knows no limits? heath ledger, again, gives a oscar-worthy performance as the joker, an enemy so vicious because he has no motivation except to bring chaos to the world. nolan tightened up his storytelling and his action directing to make this one of the best films of the decade.
6. spirited away (2001) - hayao miyazaki (princess mononoke, howl's moving castle, ponyo) is a legend in the world of animation. his films are some of the most imaginative around and i can't think of another film that makes me feel so much like a kid again. the sense of adventure and self-discovery in his movies is unparalleled and that's taking into account the pixar catalog. a breathtaking film, spirited away is a masterpiece that should be viewed by children and adults alike.
5. crouching tiger, hidden dragon (2000) - ang lee makes his 2nd appearance on this list with this film based on early 20th century chinese pulp stories. in order to appreciate the depth of this movie, you need to have some knowledge of the wuxia kung-fu film genre. lee, with this film, is able to explore the nature of wuxia character archetypes (think honor above all else) to create a story of tragedy that, like brokeback mountain, results in an impermissible romance. visually stunning and action packed, lee perfectly directs every scene resulting in an epic tale of tragic love.
4. the assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford (2007) - based on the book by ron hansen, it's absolutely necessary to credit both the director, andrew dominik (chopper), and cinematographer, roger deakins (almost all the coen brothers movies, wall-e, kundun) for this gorgeous piece of film-making. slow and deliberate, some would say to a fault, i find this movie to be captivating and alluring. the film seduces you and pulls you into the story of robert ford, a young, brash admirer of the infamous jesse james, who eventually kills james by shooting him in the back. casey affleck was nominated for an oscar for his role as robert ford and brad pitt gives maybe his best (and most subdued) performance ever as jesse james.
3. city of god (2002) - based on the book by paulo lins, director fernando meirelles (constant gardener) makes one of the dirtiest films (in a good way) ever made. reminiscent of early scorsese, city of god is raw, ambitious and is an earnest depiction of youthful gangster life in the cidade de deus neighborhood of rio de janeiro. of all the films i have listed in this post, there is none i would recommend higher than city of god. it's a powerful film that everyone should view at least once, if not several times as i have.
2. the royal tenenbaums (2001) - fucked up family? check. great soundtrack? check. idiosyncratic behavior? check. what more can modern, liberal, highly-educated elites ask for in a film? my favorite of wes anderson's films (bottle rocket, rushmore, the fantastic mr. fox) and co-written by owen wilson, the royal tenenbaums tickled every one of my funny bones. the characters were perfectly imagined on paper and realized on the screen and the story was uncomfortably awkward, yet heartwarming. oh, and did i mention the soundtrack?
1. no country for old men (2007) - no other filmmakers could have adapted legendary writer, cormac mccarthy's book any better. the coen brothers (fargo, big lebowski, true grit) do a great job bringing mccarthy's pages to life while adding in their own brand of humor and absurdity. the acting by jones, brolin and especially javier bardem is simply amazing. and the cinematography by roger deakins (jesse james) makes the film a visual tour de force. balancing themes of free will, fate, chance, morality and nihilism, this film is more about the themes than it is about the characters or the plot. the film tries to ask the viewer, through sherrif ed tom (tommy lee jones), how are we to make sense of a world without order and rules, a world always moving towards chaos, rather than away from it? the coen brothers have been trying to explore this question in some form through absurd humor and violence since the 80's. no country would win them their first best picture oscar.
my favorite scene from no country for old men