The Twenty Best Films of the Last Decade

Jan 1, 2010

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The Bottom Line My selections as the 20 best films of the past decade.

This list has been mulling around in my head for quite some time now.This past decade was a mix. Most of the films released I hardly wanted to see, but there were those very few that I not only sought out but raved over and that stand out to me as great testaments to what cinema should be and can be. I have scoured books and movie sites trying to make a final decision as to the films that would make my cut as the top twenty films released in the first decade of the 21st century. And so, without further ado, and to welcome everyone into the new year and a new decade, in no particular order here are my selections as the top twenty films of the 2000s...

1. Hotel Rwanda-2004

A powerful drama, this film was gripping as the first major motion picture release that dealt with the genocide taking place in Rwanda. Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo  lent their brilliant talents to what is one of the most impactful films of the past decade.

2. The Hours-2002
A magnificent period piece,  this film weaves together the intricate links between the lives of  women across different generations. Querying into the lives of such figures as Virginia Woolf , The Hours is a compelling study of the social constraints built around gender and the ways in which social mores over the course of history have  often worked to the detriment of women, particularly those who sought to live full lives and reach their greatest potential.

3. Chicago-2002
This beautiful and macabre musical from 2002, is one of the greatest recreations of the jazz era ever produced on screen. Chicago, the film version offers up such a vivid depiction of the dark and sinister social mores that were at play in the urban life of the early part of the 20th century in America. The glorification of violence, the idol worship of murderers and other representatives of the underworld, the universal embrasure and glamorization of the macabre--all packaged up and delivered with dazzling wardrobes,  incredible jazz, and porcelain cigarettes- this film is hands down one of the best films made in the last decade. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, and Renee Zellwegger are truly amazing as they render absolutely captivating performances.

4. Precious-2009
Just released a few months ago, this film adapted from Sapphire's novel, Push, has already had a huge impact in the film industry. Rendering what is definitely one of the mosts heartbreaking stories ever set to film, Lee Daniels, Oprah, and Tyler Perry must be highly commended for bringing this incredible film into being.  Gabourey SIdibie, Mo'nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz all serve up incredible performances in this film. Oscar nominations are deserved all around. This  is truly one of the best films that I have seen in a long time. It deserves the highest of accolades.

5. Dreamgirls-2006
In 2006, this incredible film burst out onto screen. Thirty years in the making, the incredible Broadway play starring Jennifer Holiday made its way to film and launched one of the brightest careers to date- that of Jennifer Hudson. This film, and its impact, are truly watershed. It brought one of the greatest contemporary stories- that of the rise and fall of the Supremes to life on the silver screen. This film, in a major way, truly incorporates  the stardust, the magic,  and the legend that is Dreamgirls into the American fabric of mythmaking and storytelling.

6. The Great Debaters-2007
Coming onto the screen at a crucial time, in 2007, The Great Debaters is one of those iconic films built around a legacy of truth-telling and truth-speaking that has long existed in Hollywood. This incredible offering from Oprah and Denzel Washington details the story of the Wiley College debate team-the best Black collegiate debate team during the 1930s that beat the  Harvard debate team and thus settled themselves into history.  Expounding on the fine arts of rhetoric and debate, this film touches on such powerful social issues as class politics, racial politics, war, poverty, and social justice, offering some of the most subtle and powerful critiques of the Bush administration in a major hollywood motion picture. Jurnee Smolette, Nate Parker, Denzel Washington, Denzel Whittaker, and Forest Whittaker all come together,  deliver incredible performances and make this one of the best films of the decade.

7. Ray-2004
A tribute to the legacy of the then recently deceased Ray Charles, Ray stands as one of the best biopics to make it to screen. Detailing the life of Ray Charles from his boyhood in Florida to his rise to fame as one of the greatest singers in the world, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, and Sharon Warren all deliver oscar-worthy performances.

8. Rent-2005
My cousin and I went to see Rent when it first  came out in the theatre there in downtown Chicago. Immediately after we came out of the show, we both said, simultaneously, " I could go see that again." Rent truly is one of the most thrilling films ever. Adapted from the award winning broadway play and based on Puccini's La Boheme, Rosario Dawson, Idina Menzel, Tracie Thomas, Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel, all come together to make this one of the best feel good films ever brought to screen.

9. The Devil Wears Prada-2006
I chose this film not only for its sophisticated look at the fashion industry (replete with killer wardrobes for both Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway), but also because it provides a captivating character study on the part of Meryl Streep's character and offers up a compelling narrative in terms of the choices women in particular are forced to make in terms of their personal lives and their careers. 

10. Sicko-2007
Though I truly was not considering documentaries for this list, I believe that Sicko must be recognized as one of the top films of this decade. This film, more than any other social vehicle, has explored and exposed to a wide audience the injustices, inconsistencies, and failures of the healthcare system in the United States. Everyone should be encouraged to watch this film and take from it some information that might help them to navigate the murky waters of healthcare reform.

11. Far From Heaven-2002
I chose Far From Heaven for several reasons. Firstly, it is one of the best period pieces I believe ever produced, definitely one of the best produced in the past decade. More importantly, however, this film, more than most others, drives to the core of this country's still inadequate conversations surrounding the culture of the 1950s and the ways in which it fostered repression with regards to the lives of women, minorities, and individual expression. Julianne Moore and Dennis Haysbert offer up superb performances in what is one of the most commendable films of the past decade.

12. Donnie Darko-2001
One of the earliest social commentaries of the decade, Donnie Darko is praiseworthy because of its brutally honest depictions of personal interactions the politics of personal relationships and individuality, and the politics of suburban life as they exist in the latter half of the Twentieth Century and the early Twenty-First century. Drew Barrymore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake Gyllenhaal, and the filmmakers here all must be commended for bringing this epic film to life.

13. Goodnight and Goodluck-2005
This film makes the list as one of the best of the decade because of its stark depiction of the culture and politics of the McCarthy period. Equipped with an incredible score, the amazing voice (and presence) of Dianne Reeves, and the vision and foresight of George Clooney, Goodnight and Goodluck serves as a lessonbook on McCarthyism and the dark days when Fascism stood at the door of America. Released in 2005 in the midst of the Bush administration and its criminal activities, Goodnight and Good Luck served one of the best rejoindersto the Bush regime and its nefarious policies.

14. Slumdog Millionaire-2008
Another watershed film, the best of Bollywood finally made its way to Hollywood and American and worldwide cinema.  I know few people who could not rejoice in the magnificence that was slumdog millionaire. Exposing the lives of the underclasses of India, this film provided nothing less than an amazing love story, a compelling drama, and an amazing journey through the lives and experiences of India's forgotten youth.

15. Bulgarian Lovers-2003
One of my favorite films of all time, this amazing film details the whirlwind love affair between a Spanish diplomat and a Bulgarian refugee as one takes advantage of the other in what ultimately becomes a reckless experiment in love, lust, and sex. In Spanish, the film is colorful, captivating, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

16. Fat Girl-2001
I first saw this film in the theatre when it first came out in 2001.  After the film, I left the theatre absolutely afraid with the hairs standing up on the ends of my arms. Fat Girl, is a dark look at the life of an unloved and abused overweight preteen in France. In French with subtitles, one cannot watch this film and not be affected by it.
17. Bamboozled-2000
Spike Lee's earliest offering this past decade, Bamboozled succinctly examines and exposes the ways in which Afro-Americans have been devalued and exploited by Hollywood and American culture at large. Jada Pinkett Smith offers up an oscar-worthy performance here as the gun-wielding avenger of integrity. This film should have recieved universal recognition for its brilliant commentary and compelling story.

18. The Pianist-2002
I did not select this film simply because I find Adrien Brody to be one of the most beautiful men in the world. The Pianist is a moving retelling of the holocaust, built around the true experiences of a gifted pianist, one of Poland's most famous musicians before the war. I chose this film as one of the best movies of the 2000s because its vivid and brutally realistic depictions of the depravity of Europe during World War II and under the Nazi regime. The scenes of Brody's character alone in the midst of all of that utter ruin are truly among the most compelling  scenes ever to make it to film. This is a highly recommendable film.

19. Frida-2002
Kudos must be given to Salma Hayek for fighting to bring this beautiful, incredibly human film to life and to the screen. Salma Hayek shines as Frida Kahlo and together with Alfred Molina and the rest of the assembled cast, recreate two of the most beautiful stories in history--that of the romance between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and, even more amazingly, the life of Frida Kahlo herself. Everything about this film is exquisite. From its excellent cinematography to the gripping performances of Hayek and Molina, this film definitely stands as one of the best of the decade.

20. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-2008
The story in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of those gripping tales that grabs an audience and takes it on a whirlwind journey leaving  every viewer to walk away from the film breathless and totally captivated. This ingenious look at the life of a man and his time--through the lens of one who is old even when he is young is one of the most thrilling and  heartwrenching films to make it to screen in a long time. Brad Pitt is truly commendable here as is Taraji P. Henson in their respective roles as Benjamin Button and Queenie. Everyone who watches this film will be touched and utterly romanced by this story of love and adventure told over the span of one man's  lifetime and based in the murky waters of New Orleans.

Other films considered for this list:
The Last King of Scotland

Miracle of St. Anna
The Davinci Code
Mona Lisa Smile
A Home at the End of the World

Their Eyes Were Watching God
and Babel

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Member: Brandon Wallace
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