My Favourite Movies of the Decade
Ten years. A lot of movies. This is it. My first ever comprehensive list of an entire decade's worth of cinema. Approximately five thousand movies were released in the past ten years. I didn't see quite that many, but I still saw quite a lot. I think this Top Fifty list really covers my varying tastes in modern cinema quite well. I hope you find some favourites here and I hope you find some potential new ones. The list is broken down into five pages, each with their own Top Ten, all of it counting down to number one. You can navigate through the five pages using the Next and Previous buttons at the bottom of the pages. So here we go. Let's get started.
50. Knocked Up
Judd Apatow's decade may have concluded on a sour note when his laughably awful tearjerker Funny People bombed at the box office, but for a good chunk of the decade, Apatow was the new king of comedy. His lovably goofy, sweetly heartfelt feature directorial debut The 40-Year-Old Virgin was the sleeper hit of the 2004 summer season and that movie's success led to a huge number of hits that arrived with Apatow's name slapped on the product. When considering my favourite movie to bear the trademark Apatow brand, there may be lots to choose from, but I have to look no further than Apatow's sophomore directorial effort, the hilariously entertaining Knocked Up. Starring Seth Rogen as an aimless pothead who accidentally impregnates a driven career woman (Katharine Heigl, doing a wonderful job of bringing some maturity to the silly tone), Knocked Up covers all of the usual Apatow bases: an unusual romantic pairing (Rogen and Heigl), a solid supporting cast (led by Paul Rudd and Apatow's wife Leslie Mann), loads of raunchy humour, and a big, giant, huggable heart.
49. Tokyo Gore Police
Movies didn't get a whole lot more demented than this one over the past ten years. This science fiction/comedy/action/gorefest hybrid is about a futuristic Tokyo that is overrun with evil mutant people who can grow disgusting, fleshy weapons in place of severed body parts. Yeah, it's strange and completely off its metaphorical rocker, but it's also a freakishly entertaining tale bathed in enough blood to make a surgeon feel uncomfortable. For anyone who has ever gotten some crazed pleasure from watching gore be confidently combined with humour, Tokyo Gore Police is a must-see. For anyone who doesn't like the sight of blood (or fleshy arm cannons, for that matter), this is a must-avoid.
48. The Protector
Thai martial arts superstar Tony Jaa and Thai filmmaker Prachya Pinkaew collaborated on two movies during this past decade. The first was the eye-popping kick to the head titled Ong Bak and the second was this brutal explosion of fury. As good as Ong Bak is, it's a light appetizer compared to the absolute insanity that is The Protector. Like so many great martial arts superstars before him (such as Jackie Chan), Jaa performs all of his own stunts without wires or any kind of support that might save him from, you know, dying. But unlike Chan, Jaa doesn't play any of his scenes for laughs. While some of the movie's rather silly attempts at drama may inspire a few chuckles, Jaa himself is a one-man wrecking crew who could probably kill someone with a paperclip. A plastic paperclip. Jaa is devastating once he gets moving and Pinkaew's surprisingly ambitious directing proves to the perfect match for Jaa's skills. This movie is a blast, but the clincher (the main reason it's on this list) is a four-minute fight sequence presented in one long, continuous shot. It is an astonishingly exciting marriage of fighting prowess and technical creativity.
47. Tell No One
This terrific French thriller about a man (Francois Cluzet) who receives a mysterious email message from his wife (Marie-Josee Croze) eight years after her supposed death is truly heart-pounding entertainment. Part mystery, part reality-grounded action flick, Tell No One is a wonderfully exciting tale of one man's obsessive search for the truth. Cluzet's performance is extremely believable and the danger that meets him at every turn provides his journey with some meaty conflict. Director Guillaume Canet knows how to really ratchet up the tension and, as the movie powers its way to the revealing conclusion, the excitement only grows with impassioned intensity.
46. The Five Obstructions
You can always count on Lars Von Trier to do something interesting with a camera. The result may be maddening, controversial, ridiculous, or downright brilliant. In some ways, The Five Obstructions could be seen as all of those things, but it all adds up to a film experiment that stands entirely on its own. Adopting a documentary approach for much of the movie, The Five Obstructions follows Von Trier himself as he approaches a legendary Danish filmmaker (and major influence for Von Trier) named Jørgen Leth with an intriguing proposition. Back in the beginning of his career, Leth made a short film titled The Perfect Human. Von Trier's idea is to challenge Leth to remake The Perfect Human five different times, each with its own set of "obstructions." For example, one version requires Leth to edit the film every twelve frames, which equals half a second in real time. Leth has to transform the choppy mess into something coherent. Amazingly, Leth not only accepts the challenge, but he manages to excel with most of the new versions. Sometimes, Von Trier feels that Leth has broken the rules and he confronts him about it. The chemistry and conflict between these two passionate filmmakers is reason enough to see The Five Obstructions, but Leth's five inventive remakes should seal the deal.
45. A History of Violence
Filmmaker David Cronenberg brings his unique sensibilities to this finely tuned thriller about a man whose past comes back to haunt him when he plays the role of a hero in a café shootout. Viggo Mortensen is incredible in the role of protagonist Tom, while Ed Harris and William Hurt have a great time playing a pair of exceptionally nasty villains. Cronenberg has spent much of his career dabbling in the gory, gruesome corridors of the sci-fi and horror genres, but he proves to be the perfect fit for this tale of small-town America flipped upside down. The story unfolds at a slow and brooding pace before unleashing an explosive conclusion that greatly benefits from Cronenberg's honed style.
44. A Scanner Darkly
The literary work of extremely influential science fiction author Philip K. Dick has been transformed into an incredible movie approximately once every decade. In the 80s, it was Blade Runner (adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). In the 90s, it was Total Recall (adapted from the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale). In the past decade, it was A Scanner Darkly (Paycheck was the silly Dick adaptation of this decade). Director Richard Linklater uses a similar process to the one he employed for his dreamscape picture Waking Life, which essentially results in live-action images being "painted over" in post-production to produce a visually unique animation style. The process lends a specific beauty and sense of visual wonder to A Scanner Darkly, which tells the tale of a drug-addicted cop (Keanu Reeves) whose personality has been split in two by a very dangerous new drug that is sweeping the nation. The story is darkly imaginative and Linklater moulds Dick's inspired ideas into a cinematically spectacular experience.
43. Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi spent the majority of the past decade making Spider-Man movies, two of which were really good. The franchise proved to be massively successful and Raimi was finally considered an A-list director who could deliver a gigantic hit. But to close out the decade, Raimi ditched the webslinger and returned to his hilariously off-kilter horror roots. Evoking a similar style to the one that made him famous in his Evil Dead trilogy, Raimi mixes comedy and horror into one deliciously demented package with Drag Me to Hell. Alison Lohman goes for broke in the lead role of Christine, a young loan officer who becomes the victim of a dangerous curse when she denies an old woman an extension on her loan. Christine discovers that the curse will send her kicking and screaming down to Hell after three days of supernatural torture on Earth, so she begins to search for a way out. Raimi digs into his old dusty bag of tricks and pulls out all the stops in this crazed marriage of bodily fluid exchanges, creaking noises, and confidently defined camerawork. Drag Me to Hell is a real treat for horror fans and a reminder that Raimi hasn't lost his ability to make us laugh and squirm in the same moment.
42. The Departed
Martin Scorcese's best movie of the decade and a robust showcase of charismatic performances. Returning to the gangster genre after his good, but largely bloated biopic The Aviator, Scorcese teamed up with screenwriter William Monahan to remake the Chinese action-thriller Infernal Affairs and the result was this crackling piece of entertainment. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as an undercover cop working within a Boston gang and Matt Damon as a member of that gang who goes undercover as a cop, The Departed is stuffed with juicy plot twists and solid acting. DiCaprio is brilliant in his lead role, but he receives a heavy load of excellent supporting work from Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg. Scorcese is in great form here, directing with an energetic flair that is all his own.
41. Infernal Affairs
This movie ranks one notch higher on the list than The Departed because it laid the groundwork for Scorcese's scorcher and because it is a great movie in its own right. Tony Leung is incredible as an undercover cop who manages to infiltrate the Triads of Hong Kong, where he attempts to hide his true identity directly under the nose of crime boss Hon Sam, played to perfection by Eric Tsang. Alan Mak co-wrote Infernal Affairs with Felix Chong and co-directed the movie with Wai-keung Lau and all three of them work wonderfully together to craft an impressive tale of a man losing his grip on his own identity. Anyone who enjoyed The Departed, but has not yet seen this gritty original, will find lots to love here. A smart, engaging thriller from start to finish.