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 tried to make with equal weight given to both the technical best films and my personal favourites.
So without further ado, here's the second part of my list of the top 25 (yes, I've listed that many) movies of the decade, 2000-2009. Enjoy.
20. American Psycho
Director Mary Harron's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' controversial novel, American Psycho, is one that I didn't immediately "get." But upon rewatching it I found so much in it to love, from the stunning performance of Christian Bale as the self-obsessed, psychotic Patrick Bateman (I think this was the time people started to take notice of him) to the sardonic, sharp dialogue that puts it firmly onto the list of "most quotable movies."
On the surface the film may seem self-indulgent or pretentious, but that's part of the point; it examines that very society during the 1980s, the certain Wall Street businessmen who cared more about how their hair looked than the well-being of those around them. It's a sometimes gory film but Harron only takes it as far as it needs to go, and in fact reins it in from the overly explicit stuff that can be found in the source novel.
The film is a fascinating exploration of the life and mind of one disturbed individual living in a society where vanity is king. The ending could be interpreted in two distinct ways, and personally I prefer the more ambiguous one. But either way you look at it, American Psycho is just a great film, and one of my favourites of all time.
19. The Dark Knight
I don't think I'd be safe from fans as a film writer if I didn't include Christopher Nolan's mega blockbuster success The Dark Knight on my top movies of the decade list. But that's not the reason I'm including it. The film really does deserve its place on a list like this as not only is it "great for a comic book movie" but it ranks up there with the best movies to come out in the last few years.
Nolan did what everyone thought was impossible — he topped Batman Begins in pretty much every way. Everything is so well done, from the extremely competent direction, the quotable yet realistic dialogue and the complex story, to the well written characters, the on-edge score and the brilliant performances. The highlight of the latter is, of course, the performance of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker, for which he won the posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (the second person in history to do so, after Peter Finch). It was such a tough character to pull off, one that I didn't think could be done in any other way than the campy way Jack Nicholson portrayed him in Tim Burton's Batman. But I think you'll agree Ledger pulled it off, giving us one of the best villains ever put to screen.
The Dark Knight is a tour de force, one that proves that comic book movies don't have to be throwaway fun but can actually be genuinely great films in their own right. It's not perfect – there are some issues with how they utilize the Two-Face villain, and the last half hour that feels slightly tacked on – but the problems are minute compared to what is so good about the rest of it.
18. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
I am struggling to think of many other films this past decade that left me feeling so overwhelmed and as if someone had punched me hard in the gut than Christian Mungiu's Romanian film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. It's an unflinching and entirely unsentimental film that doesn't manipulate your emotions and yet makes you feel all kinds throughout, nonetheless. Fantastic performances from the lead actresses, particularly Anamaria Marinca, bleak yet beautiful cinematography, and an unnerving tone that doesn't exactly make it feel "enjoyable."
But sometimes movies shouldn't be just enjoyable, but should offer worthwhile experiences that, even if they don't inspire hope or provide anything resembling entertainment, are affecting and memorable. It earned an initial reputation for being "the Romanian abortion film" but it's so much more than just that rather undermining title. It's certainly a tough film to sit through but I think it's worth doing so because it's one of the most rewarding watches in ages.
17. The Descent
Hands down the scariest film of the last 10 years, Neil Marshall's The Descent is a masterpiece of horror, combining almost unbearable tension and nervousness with well done gore. It has a unique selling point in that it has an all female cast (except for one man for a few minutes at the beginning), and the characters are well-written, strong women instead of secondary characters as we so often see in movies.
I've seen the film at least a dozen times and it still gets me every time, which is quite amazing considering all the surprises are known. But that's a testament to how good of a film it is, when it can still shock and make you scared every single time you watch it. It's easily my favourite horror film since The Shining.
16. Kill Bill Vol. 2
Many people, if they have one of the Kill Bill movies on their list, will choose Vol. 1, but I've always found Vol. 2 to be the better of the two. The first is very stylized and probably more "fun" than the second, but this one I find to be more affecting, "weighty," and overall more rewarding.
Where Vol. 1 was an ode to the martial arts films (not least with the yellow and black outfit that Uma Thurman's vengeful Bride wears in the end showdown), Vol. 2 is an homage to the spaghetti Western that writer/director Quentin Tarantino loves so much. This is especially evident with the inclusion of music by legendary composer Ennio Morricone, which helps to give it an epic feel.
Originally Tarantino originally meant for his Kill Bill saga to be one big four-plus hour movie, but pressure from the studio (they didn't think people in this day and age would sit through that long of a movie) led to it being split into two volumes. The second of those volumes is my favourite of the two (even though I still love the first), and one I think is a highlight of the decade.