Ed note: Chuck’s best films of the decade list continues here. Note, once again:
This is in no way intended to be a definitive list of the best films of the last 10 years. Undertaking such a project would be foolhardy and arrogant. No, this is simply my list on what I feel were the most significant movies made from 2000-2009 and is intended as nothing more than one critic’s opinion, as well as a starting point for further discussion of this topic. Post your own list, defend films I did not mention, and weigh in on what you feel were those movies that made an impact when they were released and continue to resonate.
Borat: If there’s a sacred cow that can be skewered, Sascha Baron Cohen is the man to do the job as he proves in this faux documentary about a clueless European who sets out to discover America. Most of the situations Cohen puts himself in are real, as unsuspecting subjects are lampooned right and left. Wonderfully offensive.
Children of Men: Alfonso Cuaron’s look at a world on the brink of extinction features not only one of the great tracking shots in film history but provides a moving reminder of the power of hope in the midst of nearly complete despair.
Stranger than Fiction: One of the smartest films of the decade, this existential tale focuses on Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) who comes to find out that he’s a character in a troubled novelist’s (Emma Thompson) latest work and that he is slated for death. This post-modern movie yields great gifts as it reminds us it’s never too late to start living your life.
United 93: Paul Greengrass’ unflinching look at the unfolding terror of 9/11 aboard the title flight is almost unwatchable at times it’s so realistic. However, to turn away from it would not do justice to the passengers who faced death on their own heroic terms.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: Striking to look at, it’s no wonder the script to this film appealed to its star Brad Pitt as it is about the lose of identity when fame consumes you. James’ assassination did not come at the hand of Ford, rather it occurred when his name first appeared in a newspaper. Haunting and timely, this intelligent film is destined to have a long shelf-life.
Dan in Real Life: Peter Hedges’ film about a widower (Steve Carell) who inexplicably finds love while dealing with his three daughters is an unexpectedly funny and moving tale of healing, redemption and emotional courage. That it is also a great look at the frustrations of parenting is gravy.
Knocked Up: Judd Apatow strikes again as he looks at a clueless man-child (Seth Rogan) who finds himself thrust into adulthood when he finds out he’s about to be a father after a one-night stand. Apatow’s formula of mixing laughs with life lessons is perfected here to great effect.
Ratatouille: Those folks at Pixar keep churning out the classics with this tale of a rat who wants to be a chef in Paris only to find his plans thwarted in every direction. Fast-paced and funny, the film’s theme of being open to new things and all that life may present you resonates long after the last morsel of this film is digested.
There Will Be Blood: P.T. Anderson’s version of Citizen Kane features a powerhouse performance by Daniel Day Lewis as a turn-of-the-century oil man who allows himself to be consumed by his avarice. Unforgettable, this film features one of the great film scores from Jonny Greenwood and an ending you won’t soon forget.
The Dark Knight: Sure, it’s the greatest superhero film ever made. Yeah, it has Heath Ledger in a performance for the ages. But what will make this film last is its representation of what America has become in the post-9/11 era. Justice never looked so murky and chaos has never been so chilling.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Heartbreak and vulnerability are personified by Jason Segel as a sad sack who’s been dumped by his actress girlfriend (Kristen Bell) yet finds the courage to go on after he meets a free spirit (Mila Kunis) in Hawaii. The only thing I want to say is, I want to see the Dracula musical!
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days: This harrowing film from Romania puts the issue of abortion right in the audience’s lap as it looks at one woman’s attempt to have the procedure in the 1960s, when it was considered illegal. With the help of her friend, she succeeds but the cost is far too great in this unforgettable, disturbing film.
In Bruges: Hilarious, violent, funny, and intelligent, this tale of two hit men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) in exile deals the cost of redemption as while raising serious questions about Christianity and the purpose of tourism. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If not, rent it now.
Role Models: Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott star as overgrown boys who get a wake-up call when they’re forced to mentor two troubled kids. Great fun, properly poignant and a tribute to KISS. What more could you ask.
The Visitor: Richard Jenkins stars in this powerful indictment of 9/11 paranoia as it examines the friendship between a lost middle-age man and an illegal alien from Syria. Heartfelt in its examination of the abuse of the Homeland Security Laws where all immigrants are concerned, this is a moving and timely film that should not be ignored.
The Hangover: The rare comedy that succeeds in building a head of steam throughout its running time, this no-holds bar look at a weekend in Vegas gone wrong for four friends is just flat-out hilarious. I’ll let others look for a deeper meaning here. I’m too busy laughing.
The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow plunges us into the center of the Iraq War as we follow the day-to-day pressure a bomb-defusing squad must endure. With edge-of-your-seat tension from the start, this powerful film is a tribute to the sacrifice our soldiers make as well as an indictment of those who would needlessly put themselves in harm’s way.
I Love You, Man: Paul Rudd and Jason Segal star in the ultimate bromance as a man on the verge of being married allows himself to find his inner-child.
Precious: This harrowing look at domestic abuse features a powerhouse performance from newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as a teen with two babies who seems helplessly trapped in a cycle of abuse. That the film can convince us there is a ray of hope for this young woman is due to the actress’ moving performance and the deft direction of Lee Daniels.
Up: Pixar finishes the decade it helped define with this tale of a lonely widower who decides to find out what the world has to offer before it’s too late. Visually stunning and moving, the film reminds us that the greatest adventures are often in our backyard and the best travel companion is usually near by.
Up in the Air: George Clooney delivers a deft performance as a displaced man whose job consists of traveling about the country so that he can fire people for corporations too cowardly to do it themselves. Clooney’s Ryan Bingham is displaced, adrift in our hyper-drive lifestyle that makes true human connections nearly impossible and as such, he is an everyman we all can relate to in this timely and quietly moving film.