It's finally come to the end of the first decade of the 21st century and every film writer out there has been putting together their "best of" lists to celebrate/commemorate the last 10 years. So I thought I'd jump in with my own list, one which I've tired to make with an equal precedent given to both the technical best films and my personal favourites.
So without further ado, here's the first part of my list of the top 25 (yes, I've listed that many) movies of the decade, 2000-2009. Enjoy.
It seemed that with both Se7en and Fight Club back in the 1990s, director David Fincher had hit his peak. Panic Room followed in the early 21st century, which was an entertaining (and very rewatchable) feature, but nothing more. Then, in 2007, came Zodiac, a film so detailed, so intricate and so unflinchingly against type for a serial killer movie – the "anti-Se7en" if you will – that it stands up as one of Fincher's best.
Instead of concentrating on being a thriller about the search for a serial killer to ultimately find out who it is, Zodiac chooses instead to focus its whole 150-minute runtime on the process of trying to catch the serial killer, the impact it has on the life of everyone involved and the obsessions to "get the job done" that sometimes grips the police involved in the investigation.
A wonderful piece of modern filmmaking that merges CGI seamlessly with the real world, to create the '60s and '70s that's as realistic as possible without actually going back in time with a camera. The performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo are great, but it's the quieter, more subdued performance of Robert Downey Jr. that really stands out.
This is one that in decades people will look back on and realize it should have been lauded with more praise and awards than it got (not a single Oscar nomination, FYI – disagraceful).
24. Inland Empire
Much like Fincher's Zodiac above, this is surreal filmmaker (both in terms of his films and him personally) David Lynch's misunderstood masterpiece. Mulholland Drive in 2001 may have seemed to some people as confusing and head-twisting as he could go, but with Inland Empire he took things to a whole other level.
Shot digitally (a first for Lynch) and running for a mammoth three hours, it makes as much as sense as the talking TV show rabbits within. The film is a flurry of crazy and off-beat storylines that intertwine and yet veer away from one another at every turn. A story where you're not ever sure who anyone is (they may just be the same one with a different name, or from a different world…) or even how one scene connects to the one that came before.
But that's part of what makes it so great. It may appeal more – if only – to a die-hard Lynch fan (and I've read even some of them who absolutely loathed the film) of which I'm one, but even if you've never seen one of his movies, it's a visceral, powerful and entirely unpredictable experience that I promise – for better or worse – you will be thinking about for weeks afterwards. It's a film that seemed to want to do something with the medium of film that just hadn't been done before, which is maybe why it's such a breathtaking experience to take in.
It's one of those modern movies that makes me want to go back to it time and time again (in the very same way that Mulholland Drive does), and each and every time I get something different out of it. A truly mesmerizing performance from long-time Lynch collaborator, Laura Dern, and a once again hypnotic score from Lynch veteran, Angelo Badalamenti. It all adds up to one of the most unforgettable films I've ever seen.
23. Children of Men
Alfonso Cuaron's harrowing Children of Men paints a future where the human race has mysteriously lost the ability to pro-create, leading those left on the planet the last there will ever be. That is until a young women is found to be pregnant, and Clive Owen's Theo Faron sets out to protect her on her way to scientists who can help save humankind.
It's a simple yet daunting premise, and Cuaron gets every ounce of emotion out of it without getting overly preachy or sentimental. Everything feels real and "in the moment," with unique action scenes – particularly one five-minute long single camera shot scene involving all manner of pandemonium happening all over the place – that will truly stand the test of time.
Although well received upon it release, it appears only now – when everyone is putting out their "best of the decade list" – that it's getting the true recognition it deserves. A bleak but wholly inspiring film for the ages.
I have a feeling this will be one of the most contended films on this entire list, simply because a lot of people don't like how thick writer/director Paul Haggis lays on the social commentary about racism. But even if I can see where they're coming from, I still think if you look past that it contains some of the most powerful scenes of the decade, as well as some of the best acting from an excellent ensemble casting that includes the likes of Terrence Howard, Matt Dillon (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars) and Sandra Bullock, the latter proving here she isn't just fodder for ditsy romantic comedies.
The film will probably be most remembered for being one of the most controversial Best Picture winners of the last 10 years, beating out favourite Brokeback Mountain back in 2006. I personally think it thoroughly deserved the honour, not just because Brokeback Mountain was overrated and didn't even deserve to be nominated (although I still liked it), but to me it's simply one of the most impacting movies of the 21st century so far.
21. Inglourious Basterds
The most recent of the movies on my list, Quentin Tarantino's latest is a tour de force of performances, characters, memorable scenes (for all sorts of reasons), expertly crafted tension and, of course, the filmmaker's trademark witty and addictive dialogue. Who knew that even during wartime the latter would work so seamlessly?
Perhaps the most memorable thing about Inglourious Basterds – probably the only thing that's a shoe-in for an Oscar win come next year – is the performance of Christoph Waltz as the cunning Col. Hans Landa. His opening scene with the French dairy farmer is arguably the best Tarantino has ever written, setting the tone and pace for the following two-plus hours. Waltz is jaw-droppingly good in the role, conveying wit, humour, slyly evil intentions and even (as Nazi colonels go) likeability all at once, often in more than one language (he speaks four in total, that we see in the movie).
We've known Tarantino as the resurrector of seemingly dead/dying movie careers (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction being a prime example), but with Waltz he's taken a largely unknown Austrian TV actor and put him on the worldwide movie map. I bet his phone has been overloaded with calls to be the villain in every movie going. I predict we'll see him in a future James Bond flick, mark my words…
Beyond Waltz, Inglourious Basterds is a heck of a lot of fun, even if the buckets of violence promises by the trailers isn't as plentiful as you understandably might expect. Brad Pitt is the best he's been in years, French actress Melanie Laurent is a revelation as the young Jewish woman, Shosanna, living in hiding, and even Eli "Hostel" Roth manages to be worth watching as The Bear Jew. As far as I'm concerned Tarantino hasn't put a foot wrong since he started directing in 1992, and Inglourious Basterds is another fantastic film to add to that list.