My talented, dedicated, and extremely handsome Everyview Editor Clay casually listed his Top 5 Movies of the last decade, and it really got me thinking. Mainly because, as great as those 5 movies were, I don’t believe they are the finest achievements of the last ten years. Adaptation would be a little farther back, most likely in the 15-20 range. United 93 and Oldboy are both fine movies, but the fact that I never want to rewatch those films really effects my impression of them. And No Country For Old Men? It wasn’t even the best film of 2007!
Now, these are not my favorite films, necessarily. They are the films I think are the BEST of the last decade, overall. The ones that are destined to stand the test of time, and in twenty years, will be films people still watch and identify as a “classic”. It’s very hard to narrow down to 5, by the way. Especially when covering 10 years.
Honorable Mention: Gangs of New York (2002)
I cannot believe the mixed reactions this film garnered in its release year. That said, it was still nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, as well as a slew of other awards that year. People argue that it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, that it wasn’t the sum of its parts, etc., and I think that’s a bunch of bullhockey.
You have Daniel Day-Lewis giving one of the legitimately epic performances in film history. You have Leonardo DiCaprio launching his adult career with a breakout performance. You have one of the most legendary directors behind the camera. It literally has something for everyone (except maybe children, if you want to raise a pussy).
Where the movie succeeds most though, is in its structure. It’s a complex movie to be sure, but to sit back and dissect it, it really opens your eyes to its brilliance. You have a character, a city, and a country, all in their formative years. They are young, naive, but capable of development and change. You have major issues with each that affect their evolution, even deter it for periods, but they continue to emerge stronger on the other side.
Honorable Mention: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Some movies are panned by people before they’re even given a chance, and this is one of them. Everytime I tell someone that I saw the film in theaters, TWICE, and own the DVD, I’m met with a look of surprise. How could a straight, seemingly normal college aged male willingly watch a movie about… LOVE?
Brokeback was a dynamo as soon as it was greenlit. The early buzz generated by the movie was universally positive, as Director Ang Lee genuinely crafted a modern day Romeo and Juliet (only with two dudes.) The story of two young ranch hands who fall in love on a mountain is actually fairly timeless, if you can get beyond the fact that they both have penises.
The movie launched Heath Ledger into what turned out to be a criminally short period as a superstar, garnering him an Academy Award nomination (and what should have been the first of two wins, IMO). The cinematography is flawless, and the movie leaves you with one of the most bittersweet feelings you’ll ever experience…but damn what a journey.
Honorable Mention: Juno (2007)
I have never fallen in love so quickly in a movie theater. This movie is 100 minutes of sheer bliss, and it’s the movie that thankfully brought Ellen Page to the masses. Her performance as the preggo Juno enthralled me so much that I kept frequenting the movie theater over and over again just to be kept in her brilliant trance. The script won the Academy Award, and I know it’s hip to bash it after the fact, but I thought it was incredibly fun, interesting, and unique.
5. Children of Men (2006)
This might, no IS, the most underrated, under appreciated, and criminally under seen film of the decade. Director Alfonso Cuaron crafts a beautifully tragic film about one man’s struggle to protect the last pregnant woman on Earth. Literally, the fate of mankind lays in his quest.
Clive Owen unassumingly delivers one of the most subdued, textured, and remarkably deep performances of the decade. He quietly demands your attention, and even as you discover that he too is a flawed man, his journey to protect an unborn child is his life’s redemption.
The film is brilliant from a directorial standpoint, as Cuaron not only creates a post-apocalyptic environment, he forces us to live inside it. The film has murky, grimey feel, and it’s not out of place. Instead of a future with flying cars and retinal scanning, we get a film where the world is very much like our own, except here, the stakes seem a little higher.
There isn’t much that can be said about this film that anyone who has seen it hasn’t already said, thought, or heard. It’s a genuine masterpiece that slowly pieces together an epic jigsaw puzzle slowly but with great pacing. It’s a movie that flies by because you’re mind is racing and heart is pounding the entire time, as you start to assemble the truth in your mind. But even when it’s revealed, who the hell knows what happened?
3. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Rarely do films that are seemingly based around a single performance live up to expectations. Other scenes without the main character seem to fall flat, or lack context, power, or energy. This is not one of those films.
A turn of the century movie about oil prospecting in California might not sound like the most sexy synopsis of all-time, but the movie is really about one thing, and one thing only. Daniel Day-Lewis. DDL puts on an absolute freaking acting clinic, and I have never seen a performance so flawless in my entire life. Hell, I was ready to bestow that on him after I watched the trailer for the first time. He is absolutely mesmerizing, and in a movie that clocks in at well over two hours, it’s a testament to his talents that not once was I ever able to look away from his brilliance. The intensity of the role is second to none, but there is also some very dark comedy embedded within teh film, and the entire runtime I was enthralled.
Not only is Day-Lewis’ performance a once in a lifetime pleasure, but the cinematography in the film is flawless as well. It’s epic and sweeping, and really has the look of an old film, without being too grainy or trying too hard to be that way. The music within the film is haunting, jarring, and dark. Performed by Jonny Greenwood (guitarist from Radiohead), some of the music is still able to chill me to the core after dozens of viewings. Paul Thomas Anderson directs the film with great control, and at all times he makes bold and magnificent choices behind the camera that collectively add up to a great film.
2. The Prestige (2006)
A lot of people don’t understand my absolute adoration of this movie. It’s a film that always seems to get the “good not great” mantra stuck to it, and I for the life of me cannot understand the menial response for such a brilliant film. A film about dualing magicians that manages to be about more than the one-upsmanship displayed by the confident magicians, it ends up being a tale of love, loss, science, and desire.
It’s driven by a number of excellent performances, but it’s the script that shines in this film. It sets the entire film up within the first five minutes, but by the time the end credits roll the ride has still been just as surprising as if they’d waited the entire film to reveal the set-up. Absolute brilliance, and Nolan’s direction is near flawless.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
What else can be said about this film? It is a legitimately flawless film, and one that blends audiences together with such ease that it ends up being the perfect storm. There is something for the comic book nerds, the action film lovers, the acting afficianados, the special effects junkies, the crime film fans, this film literally brings it all.
And, perhaps most impressively, is that this film is one that while based on characters created in a comic book, never feels like a comic book film. You don’t have the cheesy dialogue or the garish costumes. This film exudes top level class all the way across the board, from Christopher Nolan’s phenomenal work directing such an epic film, to the most truly iconic film performance of the decade in Heath Ledger.
Ledger’s The Joker in mind, body, and soul, and there isn’t one frame of celluloid with him on it that isn’t fantastically memorable. He literally commands your attention in every single shot. He’s maniacal and insane, and he’s full of fun dialogue, and he never once lets you rest on your laurels. You literally believe that this guy is capable of whatever the hell he wants, and for a film like this, it’s exceptional work.
The film is more Heat than traditional Batman, and it’s not a bad thing. The way storylines evolve and characters respond to events, it is all around the finest film of the decade. I don’t know of anyone who could say a bad word about the movie and sound legitimate. Even if you disliked the film (insane) then you would at least have to recognize the absolute unquestioned brilliance of the entire thing. And for a movie where expectations were absolutely sky high, to actually exceed them is a thing we should all be thankful for.
(I understand if anyone wants to call me a Nolan fanboy. I’ll embrace that tag with glee.)