It hadn’t really occurred to me that it was the end of the decade until I started seeing all these end-of-decade lists. As you might guess, the end of decade lists that most interest me are the top movies. Particularly intriguing about this decade’s lists is that most of the films are crystal clear in my memory. The 2000s saw mostly my 20s, and it wasn’t until I was at least 20 that I was able to pinpoint just exactly what types of stories and storytelling I liked. This was also the first full decade when I could grasp all subject matters at hand and know, really and truly, if I personally liked a film, not just liked it because I was supposed to like it, encouraged by critics or friends.
So lots of critics have these lists and no two are even remotely similar, except that a Romanian film about abortion (that I have not seen) called 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days is on just about every list. Most critics are also starting their lists with the disclaimer that their 10 films are not necessarily THE BEST films of the decade, because how could you measure such a thing? No, they are just 10 good films that earned a spot in their blackened critic hearts.
I’ve mentioned before that I prefer modern films and most know that I prefer, as Shaun likes to call them “slice of life” movies. (Though it sounds much more derogatory when he says it.) This idea of creating a list of films from the decade that struck a chord within me was too good to pass up. Of course I haven’t seen nearly as many films as professional critics, but my taste isn’t nearly as wide either. I think the following films represent my tastes pretty well. And as always, please feel free to comment and add your own films to the list, or tell me if I encouraged you to seek out a particular film and what you thought of it. (Sorry, no refunds.)
So if you enjoy lists, then enjoy the list below. If you don’t enjoy lists, then I recommend avoiding the internet for the next few days.
Honorable mention to this year’s Star Trek film. If the second half of the movie had been as good as the first, it would have made my list for sure. It gave me a new respect for science fiction by creating characters I really, really liked. I know Star Trek has been around for generations but this was the first time it proved to me that it wasn’t just a bunch of geeky nonsense.
My favorite sequel was Before Sunset (2004), a film that was made ten years after its predecessor (Before Sunrise), with the story picking up ten years later too. Just a really neat conclusion to an open-ended film.
10) Garden State (2004)
This one probably sounds cliché because it was meant to speak to people around my age, my generation. And it did. This film was not what I was expecting but I loved it all the same. Life is a roller coaster and the characters in this film are determined to experience the ups and downs as part of a full existence, instead of just riding off into the xanax-covered sunset.
9) There Will Be Blood (2007)
I saw this film shortly after I saw No Country for Old Men and I couldn’t figure out why No Country won the best picture Oscar (except that Hollywood has no taste). The most off-putting thing about There Will Be Blood is the title, which makes it sound gorier than the unassumingly-monikered No Country. Blood is actually more a story about family. Not a happy story, mind you, but a very good one. A lot of people are calling this film a modern-day Citizen Kane. I wonder if it will hold up.
8) Juno (2007)
Funny and poignant and you can’t say that about too many teen pregnancy movies.
7) The Station Agent (2003)
Talk about a slice of life film. When his only friend dies, a man with dwarfism moves away to live his life in solitude in a small town, only to be befriended by a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman dealing with her own problems. Just an exquisite story that never hits a false note, and the performance by Peter Dinklage as the main character is outstanding.
6) Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
The only film I’ve ever seen wherein I felt like I was reading a novel. A great novel. This is the most literate film on the list, including those that were adapted from novels.The characters and the plots and the beautiful language are things that are never seen on the big screen making this a truly innovative and fresh film.
5) Wonder Boys (2000)
A movie about writing and redemption and figuring stuff out. Like the best Nick Hornby novels, the characters in this film start out desperate and downtrodden but end up on a note of glimmering hope. One of the only instances in which I can definitively say I liked the film better than the book.
4) The Lookout (2007)
This film is an unstoppable force. First of all, it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. This movie has great characters and an intricate plot. It artfully walks this fine line between being a bank heist movie and a slice of life movie. I loved the bank heist part. I loved the slice of life part. Like The Station Agent, this was a smaller film so if you haven’t seen it, run out and watch it now.
3) Almost Famous (2000)
This film is a love story about music. Like the main character, I too waa a young person enamored with rock ‘n roll but who was never really going to be a part of that scene. Every detail of this movie is pitch perfect. I actually prefer the 2 hour, 40 minute director’s cut of this movie to the two hour theatrical release. It’s got everything… Music, romance, travel, humor, peril, and an Oscar-worthy performance by Kate Hudson. Why, oh why, when she is this good an actress does she make crap film after crap film? Almost Famous was her first and best performance.
2) High Fidelity (2000)
2000 was a great year for music movies. This is film about music, love, lists and life. I was champing at the bit to see High Fidelity when it came out, and I can’t remember if I saw the film or read the book first. I think I actually read the book first. This is an instance where they monkeyed with the novel ever so slightly by changing the location from London to Chicago, but didn’t lose any of the book’s magic. In fact, they added some magic of their own and for my money, both the film and book are equally good. If you know how much I love Nick Hornby, you know that’s saying something. (Incidentally, I’ve yet to see this year’s Nick Hornby penned film An Education, but I fully expect it could bump one of the other films off this list.)
1) Lost in Translation (2003)
Hands up, who saw that one coming? I love all the films on this list but Lost in Translation is an exquisite masterpiece. It’s the most controversial film on this list because you either loved it or hated it and if you hated it, you probably think I’m crazy. But this film just spoke to me. It was the first film since Bambi that made me cry. The characters in the film…I know who they are and I love them with all my heart. And this is a film that’s quiet and subdued and just lets you experience it rather than performing for you.