Best Films Of 2000: What, No "Gladiator"?

Jul 15, 2003 (Updated Jul 17, 2003)

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The Bottom Line 10 best films, 10 runners-up. What else is there to know?

It’s always good to take the easy option isn’t it? As the proverb goes, if at first you don’t succeed do something else instead. So here I am, suffering from a bout of writers block so immense one could use it to climb out of a particularly large ditch, should one be inclined to accidentally fall into such a thing. Not that I’d recommend that type of thing, the view isn’t anything to write home about. But unfortunately that’s the situation yours truly currently finds himself in. The writers block I mean, not the ditch scenario. Be warned, the last time I went all list crazy I followed them up with a review of Red Dragon, and we all know how that turned out.

So until, God willing (or as he prefers to be known Vormancian), I finally get round to posting my reviews for My Little Eye and The Hole you’ll just have to put up with this highly inconsequential list of all things great in the film world during Y2K. It’s been a weird list to compile, given that my two favourite films released here in the UK in 2000, American Beauty and Fight Club, are officially 1999 releases (yes, that does mean that you can expect a list for that year sometime in the near future, no doubt) while three of the films listed here didn’t actually make it into the mainstream until 2001. The chronology is all over the place here, really, a bit like said writers-block related ramblings from myself.

So now you’ve been warned. Peruse, discuss and inevitably disagree the following 10 films and appreciate the huge amount of time I’ve devoted into making my decision: at least 15 seconds per film.

10. Final Destination
Look, get off your high horse. Don’t judge me for loving something so addictively amusing, an unashamedly contrived horror flick that owes as much to Chaucer as it does Craven. Directed with suitably relentless verve by X-Files veteran James Wong, the result offers a plethora of jumpy moments that require all levels of belief to be put on hold, some brilliant horror in-jokes, the most frightening aeroplane crash ever captured on celluloid, and Seann William Scott having half of his face sliced off. For that alone, it’s simply unmissable.

9. Unbreakable
Ghosts, superheroes, aliens… M. Night Shyamalan has an uncanny ability of being able to take the most child-like of situations and give them a supernatural, adult-based spin. Revolving around the premise of good versus evil and brilliantly shot in comic book storyboard style, using Philadelphia as its Gotham city setting, Shyamalan’s idea of mixing mundane realism with sci-fi and the supernatural is one of the freshest seen for a while. Sure, it’s predictably scripted and cheesily melodramatic in parts but it easily beats out The Matrix in the ‘best comic book film not actually adapted from a comic book’ stakes.

8. High Fidelity
Bridget Jones for the lads, the story of a compulsive Top Five list-maker and owner of cruelly elitist record store Rob Gordon (John Cusack), who traces through his most distressing heartbreaks after splitting from long-term girlfriend Laura. As an insight into male affairs of the heart, it's typically depressing and disappointing, and while it’s hardly groundbreaking, any film that helps us men to identify with someone that makes them feel better about their own inadequacies has got to be a winner.

7. X-Men
Let’s put this simply: no X-Men, no Spider-Man. No Hulk. Nothing. Bryan Singer’s big budget debut revived the comic book genre after Joel Schumacher had done everything in his powers to completely smash it into submission with the criminally awful Batman And Robin. In fact, given the failure rate of comic book to big screen transitions, it’s all credit to Singer that he managed to turn his own take on the Marvel favourite into one of 2000’s most genuinely entertaining event movies. Sure, it’s all very consciously set up for franchise possibilities (which were superbly explored in this years follow-up), but blends its awesome visuals with a bunch of memorably quirky characters and a pleasing tongue-in-cheek feel, all bundled into a sensibly slender running time which never allows the movie to outstay its welcome.

6. Snatch
Tittersome title it may have, but Guy Ritchie’s second foray into the world of the UK’s East End gangsta world builds on the potential shown in Lock, Stock... and delivers a mind-bogglingly complex tale of deceit, diamond smuggling and pikey brawls. The humour is a little saggy in parts and some of the ensemble cast are inevitably lost in the mix, but the topsy-turvy storyline is never anything less than compelling. Standout turns from Brad Pitt as the ‘harder than a coffin nail’ gypsy Mickey and a seething Alan Ford are matched only by Ritchie’s hyperbolic editing and keen eye for farce. An all-swearing, all-shooting cockney treat.

5. Ginger Snaps
Every straight male out there knows how temperamental their other halves can get when it’s “that time of the month”. Dramatic mood swings, a tendency to bite your head off just for whistling and the need for chocolate. If that’s all that goes on during Rag Week then thank your lucky stars that your missus doesn’t suffer the same fate as the titular Ginger Fitzgerald who, upon beginning her first ever period, gets severely chomped by a werewolf and begins her own metamorphosis into a snarling, blood thirsty lycanthrope. On the surface, it’s the bastard offspring of The Fly and The Howling, but dare to delve deeper and it’s a metaphor for the agony of the biological shift from adolescence to adulthood, a rebellious stance against orthodoxy, and a bitter pastiche of the banality of urban life.

4. Dancer In The Dark
Sick of films that depict the world as a wonderful, lovely place? Best get a copy of Lars von Trier’s Cannes winner then. God it’s depressing, the tale of a blind woman struggling to raise money to help fund her son’s sight retrieval operation. Sounds like the stuff of a hackney soap opera, but Trier’s brutal musical, though difficult watch, findsa raw intensity and bleakness to accompany its seven show-stealing musical numbers.

The bravery of the director is matched by his partner in crime, Björk. In the musical genre, renowned for its over-the-top, mugging, Björk never hits a false note, injecting Selma with a wistful vulnerability and gentle optimism that invades the heart. Owing little to her fruit loop musical persona, it’s a performance that takes the potentially embarrassing to the truly memorable. And it has an ending that will haunt you for a long, long time.

3. Battle Royale
A class of high school kids. An isolated island. Loads of weapons. Kiddie carnage? With films like this, it’s a shock that society hasn’t broken down already, right? Tish and pish. This is a grandiose Lord Of The Flies for the 21st century, where fat little shits get crossbow bolts through their necks for their troubles and a roomful of cliquey teenage girls vent their bitchy jealousy on one another with semi-automatics. It’s bloody, it’s fun... hell, it’s just bloody fun. And if you want to gloss it up, you shut up the right-wing naysayers out there by pointing out that it’s an essay on adolescent angst and teenagers’ distrust of adult authority figures.

2. Amores Perros
Life at either end of Mexico City’s social spectrum is stripped bare by a single car crash, during which a man in love with his brother’s wife, a crippled model, and a ragged assassin cross paths. Alejandro González Iñárritu slashes into the heart of a city driven by passion and violence and delivers a chaotic, hard-hitting and undeniably truthful depiction of what love really can do to a person, no matter what level it’s on. Iñárritu makes the brave decision of delaying crucial plot points for over an hour, but the individual stories, which weave in and out of each other with true-life untidiness, are so gripping you’ll go along with them until everything becomes clear.

1. Memento
Originally acclaimed upon its release, Christopher Nolan’s brain-frazzling classic has recently been on the receiving end of hindsight related criticism. True, some of the continuity is a little wobbly, and as the film moves from action to plotting and concerns itself with upping the levels of paranoia, you'll be left scratching your head trying to decipher the twists within twists within twists. If you unravel it, it won't fit back in the plot (why doesn’t Teddy tell Lenny the truth about John G and Sammy Jankis earlier/later on in the film?) but to these people I offer a stern death threat: stop being so anal you sad no-lives.

This is cinema at its most intricate and spellbinding, blended with some dazzling visual trickery. Guy Pearce, as the memory-bereft Leonard Shelby whose personal mission in life is to find his wife’s killer, gives one of the most fascinating, magnetic and flawless performances of the modern era, no mean feat given that he’s on-screen 99% of the time, Nolan’s story tracking his every move and working the various sub-plots and bit-parts around his actions. The more the film progresses the more sinister it becomes, until the final reel revelations give way to a truth far darker than you ever imagined. Whoever thought Anterograde Amnesia could be so unforgettable?

Just failing to make it across the finishing line:

Almost Famous
Dark and mysterious, and pissed off. But fluffy with it.

Girls slapping each other silly. Realistically.

Nurse Betty
Renée Zellweger goes all loopy on us. Which is nice.

O Brother Where Art Thou?
Coen brothers in bizarrely plotted and visually delightful film shocker!

Pitch Black
The film that introduced Vin Diesel to the world. Regardless, it’s difficult to hate.

Road Trip
Low-class entertainment delivered in high class fashion.

The film that introduced Colin Farrell to the world. Hallelujah!

What Lies Beneath
Robert Zemeckis goes all Hitchcock on our asses.

Wonder Boys
Best ensemble cast performance of the year. Including that dog.

You Can Count On Me
Beautiful. End of.

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