The 00’s were a great decade for film, and each of us are charged with the task of picking the ten best of the bunch. Not surprisingly, we picked “The Wrestler” as the best film of the decade — a movie that is powerful, dynamic and overlooked. However, we have very different taste on the rest of our picks.
10. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Odd that a kung-fu movie would make the list, but to look at it like that is being shortsighted. This film broke ground for action with spectacular fight sequences that boggled the mind and kept us at the edge of out seats. It also wove wonderful love stories with characters the director was patient enough to develop with wise and subtle story lines. This is a cerebral film wrapped in a candy, action-packed outer layer.
9. Passion of the Christ: Mel Gibson may be a anti-Semitic jerk, but this movie has none of that, despite protests. There’s a reason this movie is one of the highest grossing of all time — and it’s not just because the world is largely Christian. This is filmmaking at its boldest. It takes guts to release a film in Aramaic, a dead language. It is the story of how a man is brutally tortured — whipped, beaten, stoned, and, ultimately, crucified. That’s it. That’s the movie. Not easy to watch, but inspiring. Gibson got this one right.
8. Dark Knight: This is a Batman movie wrapped in Christopher Nolan’s pulpy, noir take on the classic comic book character. We follow Batman in his quest for the Joker, played so wonderfully by Heath Ledger. This is one of the best comic book films ever made because it is not afraid to be dark and as realistic as you can when your protagonist is dressed like a bat.
7. Up: In Pixar’s best effort we follow a widower as he escapes life in a senior home by strapping a million balloons to his house and floating off to remote jungle. Sound silly? Well, a little boy gets caught up by being on his porch when the house lifts off, and they meet a talking dog while searching for a rare bird. This does sound ridiculous, but this film has a soul and heart that is rarely seen in any film, let alone animation. This is a wonderful, heartwarming story of growing up, growing old, and growing as a person.
6. Inglorious Basterds: This is a chilling, fun, horrifying, realistic, fantasy. I know I completely contradicted myself, but Quentin Tarentino lays a masterful film together that combines several stories into one amazing, jarring piece of film making that challenges and entertains us.
5. Spirited Away: Hayao Miyazaki is a master story teller and director. There’s no way around it. And in this coming-of-age fantasy story, we follow a girl through an incredible world where we see creatures and characters that could only be born from the imagination of Miyazaki. Animation is an often-overlooked genre that people don’t take seriously. There was immeasurable care and effort placed into this movie and it shows in the detail and rich characters that inhabit a beautiful world.
4. United 93: A real time account of the events on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers foiled the terrorist plot. When I first heard about the movie, I thought it might be too soon — the film came out in 2006. This movie was heartbreaking from the moment it started. We all know how the story ends. But what we don’t know is the heroic details in between, which is what Paul Greengrass portrayed so wonderfully in his Academy Award-nominated direction. There is no heroic monologue by a Hollywood star that rallies the passengers. This is a movie with unknown actors who portrayed real people in the way they really behaved under terrifying circumstances.
3. No Country for Old Men: Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande. Josh Brolen plays the lead of a man hunted for finding the money of drug dealers and Javier Bordem, in his Academy Award-winning role as the villain, Anton Chigurh, is the inhuman bounty hunter tracking him down. The movie combines suspense, action, and smart characters in a film that deserved its best picture award.
2. The Departed: Two men from opposite sides of the law are undercover within the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia, but violence and bloodshed boil when discoveries are made, and the moles are dispatched to find out their enemy’s identities. This is one of those rare films where the casting is perfect, the writing is exquisite and there may not be a better director alive than Martin Scorsese. Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, and Jack Nicholson combine to make the movie inexplicably intriguing, dynamic and believable.
1. The Wrestler:This is the best movie of the decade and it also includes the best performance of the decade. Mickey Rourke is superlative as the aged wrestler Randy “The Ram,” a man who has spent his life seeking the love of strangers. He meets and falls for an aging stripper, played wonderfully by Marisa Tomei, who also performs for a living. Randy has a daughter he’s lost touch with that he is trying to mend ties with, and he struggles because of his selfish personality. His character has two sides — one very sweet, playful, endearing and fun, the other, a self-obsessed man who spends his free time in tanning beds, shooting steroids to keep his figure, and shaving his armpits. Rourke’s performance ranks among the best ever. He took on the emotional dynamics of The Ram’s life — he is broke, living in a trailer park always in the shadow of his former fame, but also a sweet and likable man. At the same time, Rourke had to become a professional wrestler, battering his body while making it look like he’s a man whose been doing this for 30 years. This is an exceptional movie with exceptional performances.
10. King of Kong:A fistful of Quarters: Top ten of the decade? A documentary about who wants the high score from an 80’s arcade machine? Yes, it really is that good. This mesmerizing and extremely fun documentary follows the exploits of Steve Weibe, a school teacher and father that goes against the greatest coin op gamer in history for the world record in Donkey Kong. It’s a true life Rocky story that inspires more than it ever should.
9. Downfall: The final days of Hitler’s bunker told through the eyes of his closest confidants. Bruno Ganz’s performance of Hitler was snubbed by the academy but not here. It is my pick for the acting performance of the decade just in front of Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood.
8. Mulholland Drive: Easily the best work of David Lynch’s career. It has that haze where everything feels like a touchab;e dream. The revelations at the end are like a book in that they reveal many interpretations of the same events depending on the viewer. Classic!
7. No Country For Old Men: At its most basic level, a perfect film. No wasted time whatsoever. Every moment has to do with the progression of the story and characters. It’s also one of the most suspenseful films I have ever seen due to the incredib;e action and oscar winning(deservedly so) of Javier Bardiem.
6. Inglorious Basterds: The best film of 2009 is also Tarantino’s best film since 1994’s Pulp Fiction. A perfectly cast Brad Pitt leads a renegade force into war torn France to take on the Nazi with bloody and sometimes hilarious results. The climax is worth the ticket price alone. This is filmmaking at its best!
5. Dark Knight: The best film of 2008 and one of the best crime thrillers ever made. It features one of the great performances in cinema history where Heath Ledger redefines what can be don a screen villian. He’s the best since Hannibal Lecter graced silver screens almost 20 years ago.
4. United 93: Paul Greengrass’s “Was it released too soon?” film follows the tragic flight that crashed over Pennsylvania and the brave passengers that fought back to save lives while sacrficing their own. It reminds us just how brave and amazing human beings can be when faced with the worst circumstances imaginable. You’ll be gasping for breath by the time the credits roll with tears in your eyes.
3. Lord of the Rings: I am including all three films as once since that was Peter Jackson and Tolkien’s vision. These could have turned into a disaster. For decades, Hollywood couldn’t figure out how to bring Lord of the Rings to the big screen without going massively overbudget and having to comprimise the story because of the massive scale it required. But, Jackson not only took the material and ran with it but the series has the record for st nomination for a film series. A monumental achievement in filmmaking.
2. The Departed: One of the greatest crime films ever made and finally earned legendary director Martin Scorsese his first Best Director and Best Picture winner about 30 years too late(He should have won Best picture and Director for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas in their respective years). Incredible performances by the entire ensemble particularly DiCaprio who comes into his own as one of the best of his generation.
1. The Wrestler: My top pick for film of the decade goes to Aranofsky’s The Wrestler. It’s an absolute gem of a film highlighting the career performance of Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Taylor as he comes to the crossroads in his life with both his professional and personal life. It’s a stunner of a movie that should be experienced by everyone.