Join us in our decade-based film retrospective, as we delve backwards all the way from 2009 to 1910. Most decade-based best movie lists grant you a whooping 50-100 entries, which makes perfect sense given all the years you have to take into consideration. But what if you were defining a decade in just ten films? Showcasing the very best of its cinematic offerings? Which movies would you recommend to somebody who might only watch ten movies from a given decade? First off, it’s the Noughties.
The Noughties, for anyone who is still confused by that term (although I doubt anybody is), is the years 2000 through 2009. And although there will always be a nostalgic clamoring for the golden days of cinema – a time when all ideas seemed fresh and groundbreaking, and sequels and franchises were a little less… everywhere - the Noughties have proven themselves a spectacular era of filmmaking, albeit a decade somewhat lacking in identity.
There has been innovation, of course, what with the rise of digital filmmaking, James Cameron’s Avatar, and Pixar’s string of acclaimed masterpieces. This decade, too, saw the rise of the superhero film, a subgenre which continues to dominate the box office with relentless force (and shows no sign of slowing down). And yet both independent and studio films have continued to find audiences in projects of all shapes and sizes. Here’s what we’ve come up with, although everybody’s list is sure to be completely different.
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10. The Dark Knight (2008) (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Though his first Batman effort Batman Begins indulged in its hero’s comic book roots far more willingly, Christopher Nolan took the caped crusader into Michael Mann territory for his critically-acclaimed follow-up. The Dark Knight, a serious picture with a black heart, came to redefine the genetics of the comic book adaptation and transformed the scene for future filmmakers – audiences relished the realistic tone and politically-minded atmosphere. It was Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, however, that snapped up most of the attention, and deservedly so.Previous Next
9. Zodiac (2007) (Dir. David Fincher)
David Fincher is renowned for his dark visuals and clinical shooting style, both of which come together flawlessly in the director’s second serial killer picture. His characters, tasked with investigating a string of San Francisco murders we know they will never solve, are brilliantly-realised, and the film is drenched in a wonderful, uneasy atmosphere. Truly, the faux-70s have never looked better on film than they do here. Some complained Zodiac was somewhat frustrating in its length, but that frustration only serves to help you better identify with the movie’s characters – characters who refuse to let go.Previous Next
8. The Incredibles (2004) (Dir. Brad Bird)
The Incredibles is undoubtedly one of most entertaining animated films ever made, especially if you’re an adult with a grasp on nerdy popular culture. Brad Bird, writer, director and Pixar regular, firstly uses his movie as a portrait of modern family life, and cleverly assigns his characters superpowers that match their personalities and situations. Yet it never feels forced, the characters are genuine, and the story is so tightly spun that there’s barely a moment to breath. The action sequences are phenomenal, yes, but The Incredibles manages so much more than explosions and laser beams: it is perhaps the best superhero film ever made because it doubles over as one of cinema’s best stories about the family unit.Previous Next
7. No Country For Old Men (2007) (Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)
Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s also brilliant novel, No Country For Old Men feels like a movie out of all time and place. A relatively simple story told by simple means, the Coen Brothers chose to use a minimal amount of music and clean, precise shots to tell the story of an Average Joe pursued by a terrifying embodiment of evil. Javier Bardem, of course, took most of the attention for his performance as the hitman tasked with finding Josh Brolin, but there isn’t a performance (or note, for that matter) out of place. When the movie ends with Tommy Lee Jones’ melancholic “…and then I woke up,” you really do feel like the whole experience has been the sum of a strange kind of dream.Previous Next
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (Dir. Peter Jackson)
New Zealander Peter Jackson pulled off the impossible when he successfully transformed English novelist J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into cinema’s best film trilogy. Crafting each movie with an emphasis on action (and less on campy characters like Tom Bombadil), Jackson re-captured the magic of the epic fantasy movie – and none better than the first entry in the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, in which nine unlikely companions set out on a dangerous quest to destroy a potentially dooming artifact. This is the tightest and most re-watchable entry in the series, helped by its character relationships and relentless stream of eye-popping set pieces.Previous Next
5. Lost In Translation (2003) (Dir. Sofia Coppola)
Sofia Coppola’s dreamy, otherworldly sort of-romance pairs a career-best Bill Murray with Scarlett Johansson, and gives them room to consider their lives amidst the lights and surprises of Tokyo, Japan, with a little bit of flirting thrown in for good measure. Lost In Translation is flawless in its pacing, never pushing its characters into places they wouldn’t naturally go. Murray, a film star with his best years behind him, finds solace in Johansson’s newly-married Charlotte, and together they take in the sights and sounds of life at a speed that seems just right. Coppola’s script is slight but never lacking: for what it’s worth, Lost In Translation is the defining romantic comedy of the 21st century.Previous Next
4. Spirited Away (2001) (Dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
There is no denying that Hayao Miyazaki is a true master of his field, having produced some of the best and most visually-astounding animated features of the last two decades. And yet Spirited Away is the film that defines him best as a director – a beautifully-rendered, Alice in Wonderland-like story about the innocence of youth and the boundaries of imagination. Miyazaki’s theory: that there are no boundaries, and it’s all here for you to see. Spirited Away‘s true genius lies in its universal appeal, however, as this is one piece of work that simply exits in a place of timelessness. Truly magical.Previous Next
3. City Of God (2002) (Dir. Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund)
This highly personal, achingly raw portrait of life in the Rio de Janeiro slums is an astounding slice of world cinema: City of God tells the story of Rocket, a wannabe photographer who must deal with a dangerous existence that consists of teenage psychopaths and daily drug busts. The film has a unique visual flair, scenes of genuine tension and heartache, and focuses on dozens of characters with an enviable ease. And still City of God only ever seems completely realistic, an honest portrait of a life most of us will never know.Previous Next
2. Children Of Men (2006) (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
In crafting a futuristic Britain in which there are no children (and no children are being born worldwide), Alfonso Cuaron transformed his film into a masterpiece the moment he decide to focus on the attention to detail. Because Children of Men‘s world is so fully-realised and so believable that it’s like looking directly into the future. There are political and theological themes running through the core of Children of Men that add to its credentials as a picture of weight, but as an exercise in modern movie-making, action cinema, and technical innovation, it’s an accomplished masterpiece.Previous Next
1. There Will Be Blood (2007) (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Daniel Day-Lewis’s Daniel Plainview has already earned a deserved reputation as one of cinema’s great antagonists, but it’s important not to forget that this character would not have been possible without the world he inhabits – and what a world. Paul Thomas Anderson took the idea for There Will Be Blood from Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, but that proved as a mere jumping-off point for a story that appears to have been made for the cinema. There Will Be Blood is full of bold ideas, a spooky, unnerving atmosphere, and honest characters who refuse to play caricatures. It is a real movie, a movie for audiences who love the craft of cinema, and the possibilities that it offers to its most talented filmmakers: uncompromising, difficult, daring, epic, There Will Be Blood is absolutely the best motion picture to emerge from the noughties.
Next time: The Nineties get our top ten film treatment, stay tuned.Previous