Movies of the Decade

Movie guru Richard Crouse says edgy times make for edgy movies. Even so-called “kids’ movies” had a dark hue — check out his picks of the best of the millennium, so far…..

The decade that gave us Mel Gibson’s drunken rant, the greeting “Wassup,” and the Nintendo Gamecube also gave us more than 5,400 North American theatrical releases. It was the decade that introduced Borat, reintroduced documentaries to multiplexes, saw the star system wither and die and proved there is an audience for subtitled films. It was also the decade that Hollywood firmly embraced recycling. Sure Leo DiCaprio and George Clooney each drive a Prius and are likely strict about Blue Box use, but that’s not what I mean. The last 3652.42199 days have seen more remakes, reboots and sequels than ever before. Weeks went by when it seemed if there hadn’t been one hundred years of cinema to pillage for ideas there’s be no new movies at all, but pop culture is a forgiving beast and many of the retreads did huge business, and a few of them even made it on to this list.

The list.

Boiling down the last ten years to a best-of-the-aughts roll call is tough. First I eliminated anything directed by Uwe Boll and added everything made by Pixar. That lefwall-e.jpgt 5,382 movies to
wade through, and soon enough the movies of the 00s began to paint a picture for me of the last decade, a portrait of how the filmmaker’s art can not only mould but also interact with the time in which it is made.

The aughts were fraught with anxiety–9/11, global warming, the war in Iraq, a financial meltdown–and the movies certainly reflected the edgy feeling of unease that wove itself into the fabric of the decade. From the tension of The Hurt Locker to There Will Be Blood’s jaundiced look at America’s wealth and the revenge fantasies of Quentin Tarantino there were jangled nerves to spare at the bijou. Even children’s movies took a dark turn. WALL-E, the Pixar post apocalyptic masterpiece disguised its dark story of a world wasted away with a charming romantic interlude between two robots.

It was the decade that offered up torture porn and rebooted horror franchises long thought to be dead and buried. Is it a dearth of originality that brought back Halloween, Freddy and Jason or a sign of the times? Likely it’s a bit of both, but it’s interesting to note that horror made a comeback unseen since the last time the world was at war.

Edgy times make for edgy movies.

The big news at the beginning of the decade was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, parts one through three. Released just months after 9/11 the classic story resonated with audiences hungry for a showdown between good and evil.

Also post 9/11 was Donnie Darko, director Richard Kelly’s strange fantasy about a young man who dreams that the world will end in 28 days. Written and filmed before the Twin Towers came down, it nonetheless struck a chord with prescient dialogue such as Katharine Ross’s line, “If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule. There would only be you and your memories.”

The end of the world seemed to preoccupy filmmakers and audiences in the aughts. Post apocalyptic stories ranged from ecological disaster tales to robot overlord warfare to Children of Men’s (2006) intriguing story of an anarchic world in which humans can no longer procreate.

Senseless violence was also celebrated on celluloid. In No Country for Old Men (2007) the Coen Brothers showcased a remorseless serial killer, so depraved he tossed a coin to decide who lives and who dies.

Ditto The Dark Knight (2008), a rare summer blockbuster with equal parts brain and brawn, that gave us a tour-de-force performance by Heath Ledger as The Joker. He’s a cackling bad guy who guffaws, “See, I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite and gunpowder…”

, the 2007 crime movie starring Robert Downey Jr was even more unsettling. Unlike other retellings of the famous San Francisco thrill killer (like Dirty Harry) this time, just like in real life, they don’t catch the bad guy.

Of course it wasn’t all sturm and drang, there were romances and kid’s movies and musicals released in the last decade but even the decade’s most popular comedies were edgier offerings than in previous years. Call it the naughty aughties if you like, but films like The Hangover and The 40 Year Old Virgin (plus anything else with Judd Apatow’s name in the credits) pushed the limits of vulgar humor to new, and often hilarious, plateaus.

The aughts are over, but the unsettled feeling they ushered in likely won’t disappear on New Year’s Eve. Several of the bigger titles already announced for 2010–The Book of Eli, Inception, a new Nightmare on Elm Street–promise to reestablish a sinister outlook on the new decade.


1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

2. The Lord of the Rings films (2001, 2002, 2003)

3. Eastern Promises (2007)

4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

5. Away From Her (2006)

6. The Dark Knight (2008)

7. Almost Famous (2000)

8. Wall-E (2008)

9. Lost in Translation (2003)

10. Caché (2005)

11. Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)

12. The Wrestler (2008)

13. Memento (2000)

14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

15. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

16. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

17. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

18. District 9 (2009)

19. No Country For Old Men (2007)

20. Amores perros (2000)

21. Oldboy (2003)

22. Mulholland Dr. (2001) / Inland Empire (2006)

23. The Lives of Others (2006)

24. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

25. Rachel Getting Married (2008)

26. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

27. Avatar (2009)

28. In the Mood for Love (2000)

29. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

30. The Hurt Locker (2009)
31. Finding Nemo (2003)

32. City of God (2002)

33. Morvern Callar (2002)

34. Sideways (2004)

35. Far From Heaven (2002)

36. Adaptation (2002)

37. The Bourne Series (2002, 2004, 2007)

38. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

39. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

40. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

41. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

42. Fahernheit 9/11 (2004)

43. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

44. Team America: World Police (2004)

45. Children of Men (2006)

46. American Splendor (2003)

47. Before Sunset (2004)

48. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

49. The Fog of War (2003)
50. Grizzly Man (2005)

51. Zodiac (2007)

52. Hunger (2008)

53. United 93 (2006)

54. Traffic (2000)

55. Superbad (2007)

56. Ratatouille (2007)

57. Metallica, Some Kind of Monster (2004)

58. Let the Right One In (2008)

59. Downfall (2004)

60. Bad Education (2004)