My brother James and I see eye to eye on most things cinematic, so putting this list together wasn't too difficult. That being said, choosing the top 50 films of this past decade is quite the undertaking for any movie fanatic, and we were no exception. The occasional disagreement slowed the overall process down a bit (James has yet to understand or appreciate the brilliance of 25th Hour while I still haven't seen Exiled), but after some organized bouts of cyber-squabbling, we were able to come up with our final 50 picks. A few quick disclaimers before diving into the festivities: With the exception of the number one spot, there is no particular order to the choices, which I've decided to list alphabetically. Also, neither James or I claim to have seen every film that has been released during the past ten years - various list-heavy entries such as Mulholland Dr. and There Will Be Blood somehow eluded one if not both of us, so this is me basically saying that the following is merely our personal two cents rather than a truly comprehensive list. Now, with that out of the way, please enjoy and feel free to comment with thoughts on our choices, as well as picks of your own.
- Jeff S.
#1: Match Point (2005, Woody Allen)
There was little to no discussion on this one - both James and I immediately agreed that Match Point was this decade's film to beat. Allen's masterpiece essentially gives a giant middle finger to all conventional themes of fate and morality by presenting audiences with the notion that perhaps we all live in a godless universe where there is no rhyme or reason, where evil doesn't necessarily go punished, and where one can get away unspeakably heinous acts if they're smart or simply lucky enough. Masterfully directed, brilliantly paced, and expertly acted, Match Point has continued to stun on each of my repeated viewings, proving itself as a film where every moment is to be savored. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and see it - movies with balls this big don't come around very often. - Jeff S.
Raising the stakes on his own Crimes and Misdemeanors in thematic terms of religion and morality, Woody Allen’s Match Point is the closest the aughts came to giving us a perfect movie. Fronting the deeper elements in the film is a pitch-perfect melodrama dealing with love, class, fidelity, family, and more than anything else, luck. A haunting soundtrack of opera selections provides the icing on the cake. Horrendously overlooked on other “best of” lists, Match Point is the greatest film of our young millennium. - James S.
#2: 2046 (2004, Wong Kar-Wai)
The highly anticipated science fiction non-sequel to In The Mood For Love is not so much about science fiction as it is regret, remembrance, and melancholy. 2046 is supposedly a place where people go who can't forget (about lost loves). In a sense, Wong Kar-Wai had to make this film to truly get over In The Mood For Love. - James S.
#3: 25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee)
Although a lot of viewers, usually white audiences, tend to overrate it (few things irritate me more than when people say 25th Hour and Do The Right Thing are the only good Spike Lee movies), this is a solid addition to the director's already-impressive filmography. It's one of the first movies to not only acknowledge the events of September 11th (rather than look the other way, sweeping America's current circumstances under the rug), but also to skillfully incorporate the tragedy into its plot. By the way, watch the club scenes in the second half with a good sound system - you'll thank me later. - Jeff S.
#4: Amores Perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu)
One of the more stunning director debuts of the decade, Amores Perros shows how a plot of separate threads revolving around a central event can still result in gripping, visceral, and poignant cinema. My favorite segment is the middle one, when the dog gets stuck under the floor. - James S.
#5: The Aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese)
Essentially Raging Bull with planes instead of fists. Gets better after each viewing. Now show me all the blueprints. - James S.
#6: Bamboozled (2000, Spike Lee)
An proper example of Spike Lee's in-your-face controversy done well, his story of modern-day minstrelsy (largely in the media - television, specifically) is thought-provoking, purposely uncomfortable to watch, and frighteningly ahead of its time, especially when you consider 2003's Chappelle's Show and the public's reaction to it. - Jeff S.
#7: Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku)
Battle Royale is perhaps the cult classic of the decade, and it also doubles as a master’s course in game theory. Taking a plot basically composed of teenagers killing each other with varied weaponry, Fukasaku uses material that most would’ve played for camp value and plays it straight, with fantastic results. - James S.
#8: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007, Sidney Lumet)
A total sucker for "shit hits the fan" movies, how could I not love Before The Devil Knows You're Dead? This story of a simple jewelry heist gone horribly wrong is like seeing a train wreck in slow motion, and watching the lives of the two protagonists go spiraling down the toilet made for one of the best films I'd seen in a while. - Jeff S.
#9: A Bittersweet Life (2005, Ji-woon Kim)
One part ridiculous, balls-out crime/action extravaganza, one part Buddhist parable. The synthesis of the two is what makes A Bittersweet Life so unforgettable. Oh, and Lee Byung Hyun is cooler than God. - James S.
#10: Blow (2001, Ted Demme)
Although it owes a bit too much to Goodfellas, this rise-and-fall true crime story is alive with style and energy to spare. - Jeff S.
#11: Brokeback Mountain (2005, Ang Lee)
Much more than its restrictive "gay cowboy movie" label would lead you to believe, Brokeback Mountain's tale of a strained and somewhat doomed relationship easily transcends its characters' sexualities. Forget The Dark Knight - this is easily Heath Ledger's finest performance. - Jeff S.
#12: Casino Royale (2006, Martin Campbell)
Shedding Die Another Day's more questionable antics, Daniel Craig's rugged debut as 007 delivers some of best action sequences in the entire franchise. - Jeff S.
#13: Catch Me If You Can (2002, Steven Spielberg)
An overlooked masterpiece of the decade and of Spielberg's career, perhaps because of its seemingly fluffy subject matter. Catch Me If You Can is a superbly crafted paen to ambition and the pre-Kennedy assassination 60s, and is also frequently hilarious in a low-key Spielbergian way. Tom Hanks is great as the stuffy foil, DiCaprio puts his boyish looks to good use, and even gets some drinks spilled on his Italian knit cotton vest. - James S.
#14: Children Of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuarón)
Children Of Men grabs you by the throat from the opening sequence and refuses to let go. A dystopian vision wrapped inside a chase film, it jams so much detail, backstory, and food for thought in every frame you barely notice El Chivo's once in a lifetime, bravura cinematography. - James S.
#15: City Of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles)
Dripping with style that actually enhances the storytelling rather than detract from it, City Of God is one of the best directed films I've ever seen. Forget the millennium - it might even crack my top ten, period. - Jeff S.
#16: Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' On Heaven's Door (2001, Shinichirô Watanabe)
There isn't enough room to describe the brilliance of the television anime, so let's just say Knockin' On Heaven's Door is a superb entry into the Cowboy Bebop series. Spike Spiegel confirms his place among the coolest characters ever (a combination of Bruce Lee, Han Solo, and Cool Hand Luke), and ridiculous action sequences and jazzy riffs abound. - James S.
#17: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee)
Ang Lee's wuxia, passion project showed me that martial arts films could be more than just cool action, silly camerawork, and funny voice dubs. Everything in this film still holds up ten years later, from the cinematography and fights to Zhang Ziyi's beauty. - Jeff S.
#18: The Darjeeling Limited (2007, Wes Anderson)
Critics overlooked The Darjeeling Limited because it was too similar to Wes Anderson's other features. That's the same reason I loved it. Jason Schwartzman and music by Satyajit Ray are always nice touches, but Adrien Brody acts everyone else out of the water. - James S.
#19: District 9 (2009, Neill Blomkamp)
Neill Blomkamp's original take on alien invasion not only delivers an effective allegory for South African apartheid, but also some stunning action sequences to boot. District 9 came out of nowhere during summer 2009, blowing nearly every other movie that season out of the water. And with only a 30 million dollar budget (chump change, by Hollywood standards)! - Jeff S.
#20: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry)
Charlie Kaufman's arguably best finds a perfect partner in Michel Gondry's homemade directing. Attempting to move beyond a lost love is something everyone has to deal with, and the science fiction notion of memory erasing literalizes that concept. Too bad that Jim Carrey didn't know that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. A mind-bender in only the best sense of the word. - James S.
#21: Exiled (2006, Johnnie To)
Johnnie To hits his stride and makes a bid for filmmaker of the decade with this and Sparrow. The quintessential Eastern Western, Exiled is the heroic bloodshed film everyone was waiting to come out of Hong Kong since John Woo left in 1992. - James S.
#22: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009, Wes Anderson)
Despite the aesthetic makeover and prior source material, Fantastic Mr. Fox unmistakably looks and sounds like a Wes Anderson film - a very good thing. The stop-motion work exhibited here feels both vintage and fresh at the same time, proving that when it comes to animation, there's more than one way to skin a cat. - Jeff S.
#23: Gangs Of New York (2002, Martin Scorsese)
Although initially a slow burn, I find myself returning to Scorsese's epic history lesson over and over again. The generic "you killed my father" revenge plot is, in the end, wisely trivialized and sidestepped in favor of more important issues (the 1863 New York draft riots), greatly elevating the film as a whole. - Jeff S.
#24: Hero (2002, Zhang Yimou)
Zhang Yimou dabbles in wuxia while cinematographer Christopher Doyle creates a painting with nearly every shot - Hero is poetry in motion. - Jeff S.
#25: High Fidelity (2000, Stephen Frears)
This refreshingly honest film about relationships (both the falling in and out of love) is told from a largely male perspective and exposes the subculture of music snobbery/elitism in the process. A perfectly balanced blend of both comedy and drama, High Fidelity is infinitely rewatchable. - Jeff S.
#26: House Of Flying Daggers (2004, Zhang Yimou)
Yimou's second wuxia film is packed with more plot twists than you can shake a stick at, but it all plays out well, engrossing the audience without overwhelming or confusing them. The cinematography we've come to expect from a Yimou movie is in full effect. - Jeff S.
#27: The Incredibles (2004, Brad Bird)
Brad Bird's finest film of his still-young career. Outrageous action scenes and gorgeous animation bolster this Randian ode to individualism. - James S.
#28: In The Mood For Love (2000, Wong Kar-Wai)
Wong Kar-Wai reinvented his own stylistic conventions as well as our notions of what a love story can be with In The Mood For Love. Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and a sweltering vision of 1960s Hong Kong left me frustrated, nostalgic, and amorous all at the same time. Dangerously close to stealing Match Point’s #1 spot on this list. - James S.
#29: Lost In Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola)
Sofia Coppola's love letter to the city of Tokyo contains one of the most complex portrayals of a relationship I think I've ever seen. The beautifully ambiguous ending cements it as an all-time classic. - Jeff S.
#30: Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan gives the seemingly contrived technique of telling a story backwards purpose by making the protagonist amnesic. Thus the audience is forced to become amnesic as well. One of the best of the decade if only for its ingenuity and boldness. - James S.
#31: Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg)
The future presented here is not only a wonder to behold, but also relatively plausible. With an intelligent plot supplementing the onscreen action, Minority Report serves as further proof that Spielberg is the master of the modern blockbuster. - Jeff S.
#32: Munich (2005, Steven Spielberg)
Anyone that still accuses Spielberg of not offering "difficult" films and forcing "happy" endings obviously hasn't taken in Munich. It tackles messy political and philosophical issues while doing its best imitation of a 1970s thriller. As in reality, no punches are pulled and solutions don't come easy. Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, and Mathieu Kassowitz all give tremendous performances. - James S.
#33: My Blueberry Nights (2007, Wong Kar-Wai)
Wong Kar-Wai's poetic musings on life and love translate surprisingly well to the U.S. in this tale of a woman trying to find out how you "say goodbye to someone you can't imagine living without". The answer is simple, as it turns out, but the story of how she reaches this conclusion is effectively told. - Jeff S.
#34: The Namesake (2006, Mira Nair)
Overlooked adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s heartfelt novel on family and the immigrant experience. Mira Nair’s restrained direction lets the material speak for itself. - James S.
#35: No Country For Old Men (2007, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
Redefines the notion of a "taut" thriller. Javier Bardem trades in his normal magnetism to portray death with a bowl cut. - James S.
#36: Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park)
Forget the hammer scene, the “dental” scene, and the octopus scene. The ending of Oldboy made me want to curl up into a fetal position and sob. - James S.
#37: Ong-Bak (2003, Prachya Pinkaew)
Our introduction to the limb-shattering, wall-bouncing, elbow-crashing, martial arts madness that is Tony Jaa. Practically a real life Spider-Man, Jaa is first in line to pick up the torch from an aging Jackie Chan, and one needs look no further than Ong-Bak to understand why. Horse replaces bird, indeed. - Jeff S.
#38: Ratatouille (2007, Brad Bird)
Ratatouille is a thesis on art and egalitarianism disguised as a kid's movie. The scene where Anton Ego is transported back to his childhood is priceless. - James S.
#39: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson's style solidified. Masterfully composed shots (some of the director's best) and a staggering attention to detail make this family of eccentrics worth visiting again and again. - Jeff S.
#40: Shattered Glass (2003, Billy Ray)
Watching this compulsive liar's world slowly come crashing down is deliciously entertaining, and one of the millennium's most absorbing film experiences. Peter Sarsgaard's performance knocked me on my ass. - Jeff S.
#41: Sin City (2005, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller)
Pioneering the recent trend of "strict" comic book adaptation (where nearly every panel and line of dialogue is faithfully recreated), Sin City is a groundbreaking achievement, as well as relentlessly entertaining. Cemented my man-crush on Clive Owen. - Jeff S.
#42: Small Time Crooks (2000, Woody Allen)
The most purely hilarious Woody Allen film of recent memory. Woody takes a classic heist plot and turns it upside down, when his wife's bakery front earns them millions. Slapstick, one-liners, and Woody's anti-bourgeois streak take over from there. - James S.
#43: Sparrow (2008, Johnnie To)
A tale of four Hong Kong pickpockets and the woman who bewilders them told via the French New Wave. Every shot immaculately composed, Sparrow is a cinematic breath of fresh, crisp air. - James S.
#44: Spider-Man 2 (2004, Sam Raimi)
With Spider-Man's origin story out of the way, Sam Raimi delves deep into the man behind the mask, absolutely nailing the character of Peter Parker. That combined with a better villain, better action, and better drama makes Spider-Man 2 the best superhero flick to come out since the Superman movies (to which Raimi's Spidey owes a great deal, it should be said, but this is openly acknowledged and worn on the films' sleeves). - Jeff S.
#45: Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
Miyazaki's imagination knows no bounds in this film that could be viewed as a child's worst nightmare. - Jeff S.
#46: Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005, George Lucas)
Watching this for the first time was like a crippling punch to the stomach, but I wouldn't have had it any other way - Revenge Of The Sith is every bit as dark as everyone hoped it would be. With the previous two installments basically acting as an extended setup to the events in this film, the stakes were definitely high and fortunately for us, Lucas knocked it out of the park. Pulling no punches, this is the chapter where shit truly hits the fan in a galaxy far, far away, and some of the sextet's most powerful moments are delivered in the process (as well as the best lightsaber dual, by far). You'll want to pop in Episode IV: A New Hope immediately after watching just to pull yourself out of the funk it puts you in (and to appreciate the seamless transition between the two trilogies). - Jeff S.
#47: Tetro (2009, Francis Ford Coppola)
Directing his first original script since 1974’s The Conversation, Francis Coppola travels to Buenos Aires to give us a stark black and white masterpiece on family, art, and of course, rivalry. The more I think about Tetro, the more disturbed I feel. I can’t wait to revisit it on DVD. - James S.
#48: Two Lovers (2008, James Gray)
James Gray updates Dostoyevsky's short story White Nights to Brighton Beach and searches for "authentic emotionality." Simple and devastating. One of the few modern movies that doesn't feel the need to wink at or condescend to its characters. A true gem. - James S.
#49: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008, Woody Allen)
Don't call it a comeback, because Woody never left. Deftly mixing humor and pathos, Vicky Cristina Barcelona offers great insight into passion vs. pragmatism. That is until Penelope Cruz shows up about halfway into the film and lights the screen on fire. - James S.
#50: War Of The Worlds (2005, Steven Spielberg)
Edge-of-your-seat entertainment at its finest, War Of The Worlds is the result of when an actual artist helms an alien invasion picture, as opposed to hacks of the Roland Emmerich variety. Spielberg creates an unnerving sense of dread in nearly every frame of this top-notch blockbuster - the fact that he made both it AND Munich in the same year is nothing short of astounding. - Jeff S.