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fave films of the 00s

“We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.” — Umberto Eco


Twenty slots, twenty-five films. How did I do it? Simple, I cheated.

  1. No Country for Old Men (2007). About halfway through my first viewing, I knew this was one of the best movies I’d ever seen, technically and thematically. Three or four rewatchings later, I still find new things to admire and think about. Dammit, I want to watch it again right now!
  2. Cowards Bend the Knee (2003), Brand Upon the Brain (2006) and My Winnipeg (2008). I don’t think individually any of these three Guy Maddin films would place this high (though My Winnipeg would make the top ten — it’s a straight-up masterpiece), but as a group, they make up a kind of alternate-universe cinema that branched off from our timeline circa 1928 but kept developing for another 80 years, and became something strange and pretty damn entertaining.
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Funny, original and endlessly clever, this film reaches for emotions no other film has, and succeeds. I love the holy living fuck out of this movie.
  4. Grizzly Man (2005). Werner Herzog uses the vast amount of footage shot by Timothy Treadwell to tell not only the story of Treadwell’s life and death, but to give the most clear and profound presentation of his own ideas about nature, folly and filmmaking to date. The end result is a kind of conversation between two slightly-unhinged philosopher filmmakers, one living and one dead.
  5. Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). Easily my two favourite straight-up comedies of the decade. Also marks the strongest big-screen debuts of the decade, by writer/director Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg, who wring humour and pathos out of the most unexpected places.
  6. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Eli: “I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum.” Royal: “Me, too. Me, too.” Yeah. Me, too.
  7. Oldboy (2003). I can’t argue that it’s a perfect film, but it packs so many brilliant scenes and ideas into its running time that really, who cares? This would make my list for the hammer fight alone. Or the squid-eating scene. Or the rooftop freedom-in-a-suitcase scene.
  8. Inglourious Basterds (2009). I truly do not understand why the critical response was only mildly positive instead of enthusiastic. I predict that in ten years, conventional wisdom will place this alongside Pulp Fiction, and nobody except a few contrarians and haters will bat an eyelid.
  9. 3-Iron (2004). South Korean movie about two lovers who never speak, not to each other and not to anyone else. Probably the gentlest, most joyful film imaginable about loneliness and nihilism.
  10. WALL·E (2008). Aside from Cars, every Pixar film has been either great or a masterpiece, but I give WALL·E mad props for it’s silent first half : the cinematic equivalent setting the bar even higher than usual and then vaulting over the mofo blindfolded just to show they could.
  11. The Dark Knight (2008). The first real “graphic novel” movie, as opposed to a “comic book” movie gets right everything I still enjoy about superhero funnybooks — an utter unwillingness to condescend, a deep love and respect for the mythology, and a good half-dozen Crowning Moments of Awesome, all built on a framework of black-and-grey morality.
  12. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  13. Zodiac (2007)
  14. Children of Men (2006). The politics are so heavy-handed it could have been a Red Dawn for liberals, but it’s so goddamn passionate and articulate that it never devolves into eyerolling territory.
  15. American Psycho (2000)
  16. The Fountain (2006). Even liking this movie seems to set me apart from pretty much everyone else, and I’m not sure how well it will stand up to repeat viewings, but I walked out of the theatre absolutely loving it, and thinking it is possibly the most beautiful movie I’d ever seen. Since then, it has only grown in my mind.
  17. Battle Royale (2000). “So a classroom full of Japanese schoolkids are put on an island and forced to fight until only one is left alive. But it’s way better than it sounds!” Trying to convince people to watch this ends up being either a really, really hard sell, or a disturbingly easy one.
  18. Donnie Darko (2001). Richard Kelly’s embarrassing commentary tracks, “director’s cut” and subsequent work have convinced me this is a kind of accidental masterpiece, more subtle, mysterious and poignant than he ever intended. But hey, that’s art for ya.
  19. Spirited Away (2001)
  20. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). The eleven purest hours of cinema I ever expect to see.
  21. thefountain

    And thirty more! You lucky, lucky people!

  22. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
  23. Ghost World (2001)
  24. Lost in Translation (2003)
  25. The New World (2005)
  26. The Incredibles (2004)
  27. Capturing The Friedmans (2003)
  28. Songs from the Second Floor (2000)
  29. The Departed (2006)
  30. Primer (2004)
  31. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring (2003)
  32. Adaptation (2002)
  33. City of God (2002)
  34. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
  35. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
  36. Fog of War (2003)
  37. Let the Right One In (2008)
  38. Man on Wire (2008)
  39. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
  40. The Proposition (2005)
  41. A History of Violence (2005)
  42. Clerks II (2006)
  43. The Hurt Locker (2009)
  44. Together (2000)
  45. Twilight Samurai (2002)
  46. Wendy and Lucy (2008)
  47. Collateral (2004)
  48. A Serious Man (2009)
  49. Serenity (2005)
  50. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  51. Last Life in the Universe (2003)


And a few more I considered, but ultimately cut from the top 50. I really spent an embarrassing amount of time on this whole thing.

4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (2007)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
American Splendor (2003)
Amélie (2001)
Apocalypto (2006)
Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner (2001)
Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (2009)
Before Sunset (2004)
Brick (2005)
Caché (2005)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005)
The Descent (2005)
The Fall (2006)
Ghost Dog (2000)
Ichi the Killer (2001)
In The Mood For Love (2000)
Into the Wild (2007)
Iron Man (2008)
Juno (2007)
The King of Kong (2007)
Knocked Up (2007)
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
Memento (2000)
Miami Vice (2006)
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Once (2006)
The Orphanage (2007)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
School of Rock (2003)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
The Wrestler (2008)
Yi Yi (2000)


  1. Let’s see – I’ve seen 14.3 of your top 20, and 36.3 of your top 50. Presumably in part because we saw them at the same time, or some of your tastes rubbed off. Mostly, I think our tastes overlap so severely that I’ll just leave the remaining ones on my “to watch” list. (Okay, except Battle Royale.)

    I could quibble about the rankings, but let me instead add a few standouts that didn’t make your lists:
    – Silent Light
    – Superbad
    – Babel
    – Persepolis

    And perhaps just point towards my own list o’ film reviews –

    Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink
  2. Tyson wrote:

    Aren’t you going to be embarrassed when Avatar comes out this month and becomes the best film of the decade/century?

    Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  3. Silent Light is a film I’m particularly interested in seeing, and from the sound of it could be a contender for my list. I liked Superbad and Persepolis, but they were never really in the running.

    And did you know the Avatar thing really did happen? London calling came out in December 1979. Rolling Stone placed it as the #1 album of the 80s in 1989.

    Friday, December 11, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  4. Ritchie wrote:

    Nicely done on the list here, Eric. I’ll have to try to check out the ones I missed. I’m not keeping up with David, I’m only at 13/20 (or less, if you count that I didn’t bother watching the whole LoTR trilogy).

    Only thing I’ve seen recently which I would add is Moon, next to Primer.

    Friday, December 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  5. andy wrote:

    eric, awesome list, as always! i need to second david’s addition of babel. that movie had a incredibly strong emotional impact on me, as did all of iñárritu’s movies. and i will quibble a tiny bit about the rankings. i’d likely move city of god, lost in translation and mulholland drive into the top ten, possibly into the top three slots. but whatever, it’s a great list, and i missed a few on there (unsurprisingly not that many, given our taste overlap), which i will try to grab soon… happy holidays!

    Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  6. Thanks for the feedback, guys. Looks like I may have to check out Babel! I’m not a fan of 21 Grams, and I’d totally dismissed Babel as a “we are all connected” message movie along the lines of Crash (the non-Cronenberg), so I gave it a miss when it came out.

    Lost in Translation was really hard to place, and I moved it around a lot on my list before giving it its current home. I love Bill Murray in this movie with a passion normally reserved for bacon itself, but rewatching it, holy crap, does that film ever have some clunky, boring scenes.

    Monday, December 21, 2009 at 1:57 am | Permalink