Generation Film’s Top 20 Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

20. In the Mood for Love- Wong Kar Wai has established himself as a fine example of a romantic filmmaker, expressing visually and verbally the longing for something that is almost there in such great works as Chung King Express and 2046. His best work in the last decade has been the potently beautiful In the Mood for Love, which New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell described as “dizzy with a romantic spirit that’s been missing from the cinema forever.” Every detail is paid attention to in this romanticized depiction of two people suspecting both of their spouses of cheating, and the final product is emotionally resonant and visually delectable.

19. Let the Right One In- The most riveting and hauntingly original film about vampires is Thomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In which puts all other ridiculous attempts at the genre, such as Twilight, to shame. Alfredson’s feature film debut is as frightening as it is touching while following a young boys developing relationship with a 12 year old vampire named Eli. Let the Right One In is a horror film that transcends its genre’s fixation on blood and gore and allows for vast character development, a unique visual presentation, and a fascinating new look at the vampire genre.

18. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- It was a wise choice for Michel Gondry to direct Charlie Kaufman’s bizarre and heart warming script for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Gondry’s touch of the surreal and his knack for exploring the imagination and the subjective mind made this film what it was and accentuated the poetry and relationship nostalgia of Kaufman’s writing. The paradox between pain and memory are shown here as something special to hold onto whether or not it lasted or ended up the way you wanted it to presenting a message that is lasting as well as touching.

17. The Wrestler- Mickey Rourke returned to his acclaimed acting talents in a tour de force performance as a wrestler lost in the tide of changing times in Darren Aronofsky’s passionate film The Wrestler. This emotional and gritty presentation of someone struggling to have a life outside a faded passion is done in such a subtle and expressive way that it’s practically a visual poem of struggle and doing what you love. Aronofsky is known for dabbling in surrealism and high concepts but toned it down for a simplistic yet deep film that will stay with you for a long while after viewing.

16. The Hurt Locker- Kathryn Bigelow’s psychologically complex and kinetically constructed action suspense drama about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team in 2004 Iraq will define how we view modern warfare in the cinema. Exploring the varying perspectives of soldiers alongside the disturbing yet realistic placing of improvised explosives in the Middle East and its psychological effects makes The Hurt Locker a defining moment for art house and action cinema.

15. Memento- Christopher Nolan made a name for himself with the riveting psychological thriller Memento about an insurance agent trying to find his wife’s killer without the use of memory. This innovative thriller, sequenced backwards for engaging and confusing effect, works on the level of an intricate novel adding incredible detail, either in the tattoos or in the framed position of the shots, to the already mind twisting story. What’s unique about the film is that as it unfolds it gets even more confusing and convoluted and it’s intended to keep you in the dark until that final moment of realization.

14. Spirited Away- Hayao Miyazaki makes animation a thrilling experiment for the imagination to come to life in a forum where there are basically no limitations. Amongst his vast array of spectacular stories such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki’s Spirited Away stands as one of his most original and witty tales. It rivals the weak and generic films of the 3D era by giving two dimensional films the originality and experimentation the forum deserves.

13. The Lives of Others- One film that came out of Germany was a thrilling tale about East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall as the communist secret police listened to people’s conversations and flagged potential enemies of the state in the film The Lives of Others. As the director nuances his film’s delivery through an unlikely protagonist we are entranced in the voyeurism of watching other people’s lives and the consequences that come from such an invasion of privacy. The Lives of Others is a gripping drama that will show you the realistic world of fear that many endured under the communist totalitarian rule of East Germany.

12. Letters from Iwo Jima- Clint Eastwood had quite the decade with many critical acclaims for Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby but his most underrated work was the Japanese war drama Letters from Iwo Jima. Showing a realistic portrait of the varying Japanese soldier perspectives in Imperial Japan and the strategy and dedication of defending an almost useless island was a gripping and emotional tale that rivals any war drama in quality and clarity. Eastwood is a masterful director and this film showed his talents at an entirely different level than was ever expected.

11. Slumdog Millionaire- Director Danny Boyle had an amazing decade with numerous acclaims and films that showcased his talents as a genre jumping extraordinaire with his science fiction thriller Sunshine, children adventure tale Millions, and his horror masterpiece 28 Days Later. However, Boyle’s talents and abilities were finessed and accumulated into a daring and emotive project about a boy growing up in the slums of India and how destiny and love intertwined in the end. While a great deal of over praise was given to the film it still stands as a technical marvel and a well balanced story that is emotional, thrilling, and inventive.

10. Requiem for a Dream- Requiem for a Dream is a riveting film from Darren Aronofsky that is a spiraling tragedy of four individuals caught in their vice of drug addiction. This visually enthralling film explores the technical brilliance of editing while being equally expressive in its characters and story. There is no doubt that this film will haunt any viewer in its extremely potent message.

9. Oldboy- Chan-wook Park’s second installment of his vengeance series entitled Oldboy is a shocking and engaging mystery thriller about a man trying to find the person who imprisoned him against his will for 15 years but more importantly needs to know why. It is visually and technically experimental but its stories twists and turns are unique and will disturb you long after the film ends.

8. Pan’s Labyrinth- Guillermo Del Toro’s unprecedented imagination came to life in this extremely dark fairy tale about a young girl escaping mentally from her unfortunate circumstance under the watch of her new step father, a captain for the fascist army in Spain. Taking an incredibly Grimm-esque approach to child hood storytelling, with ominous creatures and morally corrupt characters, Del Toro makes successful use of puppetry and unique make up designs to reflect the exploration of a tormented child’s imagination.

7. The Incredibles- One studio that had an incredible decade filled with quality work, including Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, and Up, was the animation studios known as Pixar. However, Brad Bird’s unique interpretation of a family of super heroes in The Incredibles was inventive and deeply emotive with a family that is familiar yet, of course, special. Playing around with a many of super hero attributes makes this an incredibly humorous film but at the same time the family, with all of their various familiarities, makes it reverberating film for all who know the love of family.

6. Children of Men- Science fiction had some minor gems throughout the decade, including this years Moon by newcomer Duncan Jones, but Alfonso Cuaron’s bleak film Children of Men about the slow and inevitable extinction of the human race brought high concept back to the diminishing space opera drivel that was beginning to take over the genre. Not only was there a unique contemplation on the existence of man and their significance but the film as a whole questioned whether or not we should be saved based on moral and humanitarian reasons. Visually mournful and technically enthralling, the film exposes it’s bleakness as something to be contemplated and felt rather than ignored.

5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly- the experimental French film The Divingbell and the Butterfly was a paradoxically surreal and realistic interpretation of the real and documented mental struggles of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby in his paralyzed state. This unique depiction of escaping into the imagination when that is all that is left was a freeing and inspirational film about how life doesn’t end once the body ceases to function in its normal state. Exploring a point of view in paralysis with only the use of thoughts and blinking for communication was done beautifully by director Julian Schnabel and will awe audiences for years to come.

4. There Will Be Blood- Paul Thomas Anderson delivered a riveting character study on a man and his lust for power through an exceptional spellbinding performance from Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. The film ponders a great deal between the power of persuasion through money or religion and the abuses they obtain for personal gain and the film is methodically paced for the inevitable clash between the two personality giants within the film. Beautifully shot and reflectively acted, There Will Be Blood will be a cinematic marvel for years to come and will be contemplated and interpreted in great detail.

3. No Country for Old Men- the Coen Brother’s existential neo-western No Country for Old Men is an intricately paced and highly conceptual reflection of the changing times for law and order. Roger Ebert called the film, “a masterful evocation of time, place, and character,” and the film portrays an ambiguous moral world and characters in such a pristine way that one can only marvel at a film that can handle such delicate and timeless subject matter in a flawless way. It is a reflection on morality while at the same time a methodically paced action-thriller that will entertain and surprise you with its narrative clarity.

2. City of God- there is probably no other film that is more celebrated in the last decade than Fernando Meirelles’ City of God that paints an exquisite portrait of modern day Brazil following two different paths of two young boys. City of God balances the complexities of societal, economic, and cultural struggles in an immensely poor region of the world which inevitably makes this film a triumph in hopefulness and realistic reflection. This film can be described as unforgettable and after witnessing its grandeur it is undeniable how honest this film really is in comparison to many of the unexplored examples of trash throughout Hollywood today.

1. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring- Peter Jackson’s multi-million dollar gamble on adapting the epic novels of J.R.R Tolkien about the adventures of a hobbit in a vast imaginary world known as Middle Earth was well worth the effort as it reinvented the epic for the modern era. While The Fellowship of the Ring was the series most developed tale the trilogy in its message, delivery, and technique remains a marvel of epic storytelling bringing in depth characters and a visually unique tale with beautiful detail to life and works as a continuous piece in all of its parts put together.

Honorable Mentions: 28 Days Later, Gladiator, The Royal Tenenbaums, Punch Drunk Love, The Departed (Infernal Affairs), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Amores Perros, 21 Grams, The Proposition, and Batman Begins

11 Responses to “Generation Film’s Top 20 Films of the Decade (2000-2009)”
  1. Cool. I just watched No Country for Old Men, so I agree with you there, and Spirited Away was one I also watched in the last few days. A lot of movies on this list are on my “To-Watch” list.

    I assume you’re not a fan of The Dark Knight…?

  2. octavarium08 says:

    I actually am not a fan of the Dark Knight, it was a convoluted story almost to the point of being a film and 1/2, it seemed unfinished in scope. It was a fairly good movie but was blown way out of proportion through its positive attributes. I could go on and on about it but the simple answer is that it was good but not amazing as most people seem to think it is.

  3. Rob Greco says:

    Very impressive list. I have seen all of them except; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, In the Mood for Love, & Let the Right One In. I will definitely have to check those three out.

    I noticed you only chose to include two ‘best picture’ winning movies (unless LOTR was the trilogy). Any particular reason for that?

    More Honorable Mentions: A Beautiful Mind, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, & The Fountain.

    • octavarium08 says:

      There is a reason behind my refusal to include best picture winners because usually the Academy gets it wrong. The Academy is an incredibly biased organization filled with an aging population that views films more on the entertainment/in your face political message more so than being innovative, fresh, and courageous.

      Luckily the last couple of years the academy has got it right with No Country for Old Men and Slumdog Millionaire (although there are valid arguments in favor of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Most experimental and intensely original films are not usually recognized by the politics and close mindedness of the academy awards. Hopefully Up in the Air will not win this year and it goes to the deserving picture The Hurt Locker, but with the Academy any atrocity is possible.

  4. Juan Carlos says:

    Slumdog sucked and so did the Lord of the RIngs, all three of them. However, No Country and letters from Iwo Jima are very good selections, so you are list is half-way right.

    • Rob Greco says:

      @_@ .. Really now? I guess I can understand not enjoying Slumdog Millionaire, but unless you’re a fantasy hating nerd basher (aka bro-jock) you must have respect for LOTR.

      • Juan Carlos says:

        I am far from being a nerd basher. I just don’t think the movies are that interesting. I actually couldn’t wait to leave the theater when I saw the two towers. However, I do love sci-fi and Star Wars in particular.

    • james scott says:

      Really? Lord of the rings suck? Can you give some reason why you dislike that film?

  5. I think No Country for Old Men is too high up on the list – I mean, it’s full of gaping inconsistencies and pure coincidences that would otherwise break the plot, but it creates minor holes.

    Spirited Away was miles better.

  6. Broudy says:

    Great list! Was glad to see LoTR was #1 and royal tenebaums was mentioned honorably.

  7. james scott says:

    Great list. Lotr is my favorite film of all time

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