the 50 most awesome movies of the 2000s: 50-41
Sep 9, 2011
Popular Products in MoviesThe Bottom Line This list is afraid of me; I've seen its true face.
As I write this, Epinions informs me of a few things: one, the last time I wrote anything for this site was in December of 2009. Two, that something was, in fact, my first draft of this list, which attempts to count-down the best movies of the 2000s. (I'll leave that particular botched attempt up, although one should not consider it canonical.) Three, this site doesn't have quite the traffic it used to and I'm okay with that--- lists like this are vanity projects anyway.
So this here is a list that I find, well, mildly definitive. It's a little light on obscure foreign fare for many tastemakers' liking. It's a little heavy on genre filmmaking for many tastemakers' liking. And I have a tendency to group together movies with one listing as a way of cramming more recommendations into one compact list; fortunately, I have consulted with my collaborator, who is also myself, and we've determined that it's okay to do so in certain instances. Either way, that 50 in the title should be taken with a grain of salt. Additionally: even though two years have passed since "best of the decade" lists were relevant, I'm restricting this to 2000-2009. I have some decorum, after all, and besides they'll get their chance to shine in 2019.
So, on to what you came here to see: a bunch of awesome movies, and why you should probably see/like them!
50. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008, Tomas Alfredson)
Gloomy and brooding in a way that "Twilight" films only hope to sanitize for the Hot Topic crowd, "Let the Right One In" may not inspire many "Team Oskar" t-shirts, but it doesn't need to; it's not that kind of movie. It's a doomy vampire yarn centered on a chaste romance between pallid youngsters, one of whom sucks blood, but there are a few things preventing "Right One" from turning into a lost-in-the-shuffle bid for vampire chic: namely, a pair of astonishingly accomplished performances by children, a somber, wintry atmosphere (seriously, no film has embodied the rare adjective "wintry" like this since, I dunno, "The Shining"? maybe "Fargo"), and a large dollop of dread that eradicates any hint of the sparkly vampire ideal. In Alfredson's movie, vampires aren't simply theoretically dangerous; amidst all the puppy-love, we're doled out a few brutal reminders that, yeah, vampires can have feelings, but they can also pop your head off like a Barbie and chuck it into a swimming pool.
49. ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004, Adam McKay);
STEP BROTHERS (2008, Adam McKay)
Adam McKay excels at movies about man-children. In "Anchorman", he casts a quartet of men as overgrown babies who feel like everything is obliged them, simply because they want it and they'll stamp their feet if they don't; "Step Brothers" treads similar territory with a darker vein of familial trauma and deeply-felt dysfunction. That's my justification for grouping these two together, although, honestly, it could just as easily be because they're both crazy funny. "Anchorman" rightfully holds a place in the hearts of many as a dedicatedly screwball affair, so zany and defiantly non-sequitor that it hits all pleasure centers even as it defies all logic. "Step Brothers" is significantly less revered, and maybe that's because the idea of broken family as comedy fodder is a little less palatable than a film like "Anchorman" jabbing at easy targets like the absurdity of sexism, but it's a testament to the film that it can be as funny as it is without sacrificing any of the pathos. The fact that, unlike any number of comedies ("Wedding Crashers", just to name one) that forsake the funny for the serious before swooping in to bring the comedy back in the 11th hour, "Step Brothers" remains insidiously funny even when it's at its most uncomfortable speaks to its status as forgotten classic. They're both hall-of-fame hilarious, either way.
48. TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007, Michael Dougherty)
Like a big, gift-wrapped treat for horror lovers, it was a suspenseful ride to "Trick ‘r Treat"--- after a few crackerjack trailers, horror fans were left to wonder if it'd actually see the light of day--- but worth every moment. Not since "Halloween" (the greatest horror movie of all time, unless you're a person who thinks otherwise and are therefore incorrect) has a film so thoroughly embodied the spirit of the holiday at hand; like Carpenter's milestone, it's easy to detect a crisp chill in the autumn air, to feel brown leaves swirling around your feet, to imagine ghostly things going bump in the night, lit only by the glow of the jack-o-lantern... But "Trick ‘r Treat" doesn't simply edge by on ambience. It's also a delightful series of vignettes, the kind of horror film that's hard to mess up but hasn't been perfected; it cherry-picks every little thing we love about horror (the sly humor, the air of the supernatural, the slowly-settling creep-outs) and bundles it into an entirely neat little package. For tingling the spine as easily as it tickles the funny bone, "Trick ‘r Treat" is bound to remain a late-October classic for years to come.
47. RATATOUILLE (2007, Brad Bird)
One of the greatest success stories of the 2000s was Pixar's leaps-and-bounds artistic growth, the studio's transformation from a particularly innovative and funny peddler of kid-friendly fare to, simply, a standard-bearer for quality in animation and, honestly, in sheer film craft alone; "Ratatouille" introduced a deeper level of sophistication to the studio. It's set in Paris and shot like a wistful French romance, full of shots of an inviting, pregnant full moon; it stars snarky and intellectual standup Patton Oswalt as a rat with big dreams; it's named after a French stewed vegetable dish, and not an easily-pronounced character name, just to show you that "Ratatouille" doesn't pander to the 8-year-old set. What we get in "Ratatouille" isn't simply a disarming sophistication that other animation studios don't even dare to try; we also get one of the most heartfelt examinations of the artist's soul ever put on film, a film packed to the gills with the sheer joy--- and pain--- of the creative process.
46. THE HOST (2006, Joon-ho Bong); SIGNS (2002, M. Night Shyamalan)
Invasions on film proved a little more interesting in the 2000s; at their worst, they simply followed the tried-and-true format of "wanton destruction before tide-turning reversal; also things blow up", but at their best, the invasion movies of the 2000s took a deconstructionist tack, or at least examined what their story looked like in the micro. "The Host" delivers the large-scale thrills that any "monster emerges from sea, wreaks havoc on townspeople" movie should, firing on all cylinders as an exemplary genre film while excelling in the smaller moments, piling on suspense and heartbreak, deepening its wellspring of viewer investment with each new layer it introduces. It's masterful, to put it simply, and it sweetens the pot with some sharp social commentary and an undercurrent of startlingly subversive humor. Meanwhile, "Signs" not only marked the last gasps of relative sanity for director Shyamalan and star Mel Gibson (and, arguably, co-star Joaquin Phoenix); it was the grand return of an alien-invasion flick that thrillingly, finally, operated with the heart, dread, and sheer cinematic finesse of the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". I recall vividly being sandwiched into a small theater on opening weekend to watch "Signs" shoulder-to-fat-shoulder with strangers, wondering why I even bothered going to the movies anymore; by the time the credits rolled, I had my answer. Genre filmmaking at its finest; and yeah, it tackles big questions of faith and family, but more importantly, it's a ruthless exercise in suspense and humor, a sweaty-palmed, heart-thudding genre film with something new around each corner.
45. RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (2008, Jonathan Demme)
It took a rewatch of "Rachel Getting Married" to figure out that I secretly loved it; it's certainly a peculiar little movie, episodic in nature, often lingering verite-style on long patches of inaction or devoting too much (I thought) time to one particular set-piece. But somewhere in the wake of that first viewing, "Rachel" unveils her charms like a new bride; this is a movie simply teeming with life, and vitality, and a bit of heartbreak. Anne Hathaway's performance is easily her most regarded yet (and with good reason--- she's a titan here, a brittle, tightly-coiled bundle of neuroses and self-destruction that vacillates between histrionics and arm's-length detachment), and it doesn't hurt her cause any that she's surrounded by an astonishingly naturalistic troupe of performers. Her co-stars are people first and foremost, playing characters that earn their volcanic anger and embittered outbursts and crushing sadness by virtue of being deeply real and recognizable. Dialogue overlaps and bumps into itself like real conversation. It's a master-class of the written word and the actor's craft, really, and sometimes that's all a movie needs to be great.
44. A SCANNER DARKLY (2006, Richard Linklater)
Stylized, nightmarish, surreal--- there are no shortage of buzzwords to convey the feel of Richard Linklater's second attempt at roto-scoping, a technique that essentially morphs actors into two-dimensional cartoons onscreen (his first, the aimlessly existential "Waking Life", left me cold). But paired with a Phillip K. Dick story in all of its Phillip K. Dickish glory, Linklater's vision comes to life, even makes sense--- this winding, multi-layered tale of an undercover cop meeting his match at the hands of a futuristic wonder-drug causes the skin to crawl and the mind to race, and it doesn't hurt that it's deeply and profoundly funny. And if the sci-fi roots are a little too weird for you, or the political salvo too not-so-subtle, there's always a spectacularly neurotic Robert Downey Jr. performance (right in the thick of his career upswing) to sink your teeth into.
43. DISTRICT 9 (2009, Neill Blomkamp)
Arriving as it did with a viral advertising campaign that played its cards close to the vest, "District 9", like 2007's excellent "Cloverfield", ran the risk of simply not being able to justify all that excitement and mystery; but if the 2000s (surely the best decade for great films since the 1970s) took every opportunity to utilize its genre exercises as scathing mirrors to society, "District 9" was sci-fi's zenith as allegory, as commentary, and, hell, as entertainment. "District 9" works like gangbusters, and it's for any number of reasons; it could be that melee-level camerawork that places you squarely into the action instead of forcing you to the side, it could be that even as it dissects the nature of racism and classism like a curious science-fair project it still manages to satisfy on its basest and most surface-oriented levels, or it could be that in newcomer Sharlto Copley, director Blomkamp finally found an actor worthy of carrying the intellectual and visceral weight of a film like "District 9" on his scrawny shoulders. More likely, though, it's all of the above; superior entertainment, and food for thought to boot.
42. IN THE BEDROOM (2001, Todd Field)
Given the plot of Todd Field's remarkable "In the Bedroom", it's easy to imagine it, in lesser hands, turning into a tawdry thriller; there's malice in this bedroom, and murder, and revenge, but Field takes a cue from Andre Dubus (the author of "Killings", the basis for this film) and chooses to go a more sobering route. The particulars of the plot indicate something along the lines of "Death Sentence" or "The Brave One"--- two of the decade's more superior entertainments, to be sure, and I mean that unironically--- but in the script's reality, Field is less concerned with actions, and more concerned with motivations. Characters deliberate here; they don't lash out immediately out of righteous vengeance or dispatch transgressors with a quip, they take time to stew on what's just happened and what the correct course of action is. And, in the process, the film truly unravels grief and the toll that grief takes on a family; Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson take center stage here for a masterful take on the slow-burn horror of real-life loss, and they deserve a lifetime of Oscars for doing it.
41. THE INCREDIBLES (2004, Brad Bird); WATCHMEN (2009, Zack Snyder)
It's easy to forget that "The Incredibles" and "Watchmen" are, quite literally, different takes on the same exact story; "The Incredibles" is day-glo entertainment, a giddy, gleaming, entirely thrilling take on the superhero myth, while "Watchmen" systematically breaks down that myth, coating its city streets (and the hearts of several of its protagonists) in an inch-think layer of grime, keeping its action sporadic, and sweetening the pot with some unspeakably graphic violence. But both gamely--- and sometimes shockingly--- deconstruct identity crises and, at their core, tell the same tale; namely, the hero's struggle to stay relevant long after the general public has agreed on his sell-by date. "The Incredibles" is often wistful in the same way that Pixar's best have been for ages--- "Ratatouille" builds a whole film on that adjective, and the "Route 66" sequence in the underpraised "Cars" is a movie unto itself--- but provides game, rollicking entertainment and laughs to spare, culminating in a hero-versus-baddie climax that puts a forceful smackdown on each and every superhero film in its wake for sheer earned spectacle. "Watchmen" doles out its action in fits and spurts, climaxing in an unbearably tense (and psychologically weighty) Mexican standoff, but it's not, ultimately, about action. "Watchmen" is a drama, and treats its material as such; and, as an aside, the lack of a supporting actor nomination for Jackie Earle Haley should be treated as a crime against genre film and humanity as a whole. He's a force of nature here, a wiry, jaded, profoundly scary little man, leaking pure menace from every pore.
Well, there's your first installment. Stay tuned for more!