Top 50 Best Films of the Decade (Noughties)
Boy, this one’s a toughie. After weeks of deliberating, IndieLondon delivers its countdown of the finest movies of the Noughties, from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, to Paul Greengrass’ superlative Bourne movies, through works by Clint Eastwood, Pixar, Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese.
So, which films made it – and which will you be screaming about that didn’t?
50) Road To Perdition
49) An Inconvenient Truth
48) The Visitor
47) Knocked Up
45) Ocean’s 11
44) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
43) This Is England
42) Letters From Iwo Jima
41) The Descent
40) In The Bedroom
39) Man on Fire
38) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
36) Goodnight, And Good Luck
35) Lost in Translation
33) In The Loop
32) Pixar’s Up
31) Miami Vice
30) King Kong
27) City of God
25) Let The Right One In
24) In Bruges
23) The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
22) The Departed
21) (500) Days of Summer
20) The Station Agent
18) Crash (Paul Haggis)
17) Gran Torino
16) No Country For Old Men
15) The Hurt Locker
14) Mystic River
13) The Orphanage
10) Bad Santa
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox
What’s the story? A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, embarks on a new relationship and the security boss discovers their plot.
Why so good: Terry Zwigoff’s movie is a politically incorrect, unrelenting black comedy that serves as a perfect antidote to the more traditional overdose of schmaltz that accompanies this time of year. Thornton was pitch perfect as the bad Santa in question, ‘borrowing’ people’s homes, using kids, shouting at them in malls and appearing drunk. Even his attempt to find a belated salvation didn’t really ring true. But his ensuing mis-adventures have to rate among the funniest of the decade, simply by virtue of their jaw-dropping nature.
9) House of Flying Daggers
Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
What’s the story? Set in the year 859, a police captain breaks a beautiful but blind member of a rebel group out of prison to help her rejoin her fellows, but soon finds himself falling in love with her.
Why so good: Zhang Yimou’s breathtaking martial arts movie represents the pinnacle of a genre that began with Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and included Yimou’s own Hero. It features some genuinely jaw-dropping sequences, including an early dance sequence and a flight from horsemen that combined ballet-like precision with crunching brutality. What’s more, it engaged on an emotional level by virtue of the love story underpinning it.
8) Kill Bill: Volume 1
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, David Carradine
What’s the story? After waking up from a lengthy coma, an assassin named The Bride seeks revenge on the assassination team that betrayed her – a team she was once part of.
Why so good: Quentin Tarantino re-established himself as one of the most exciting directors of his generation with Kill Bill: Volume 1, a brilliantly-realised homage to the likes of Sergio Leone and the Asian kung-fu films of the Seventies, which makes graphic, heavily-stylised violence seem like an art form. Littered with cool references, fantastic dialogue and amazing set pieces, Kill Bill represents Tarantino at his very best.
7) United 93
Starring: JJ Johnson, Khalid Abdalla, Polly Adams.
What’s the story? A real-time account of the events that took place on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to foil the terrorist plot.
Why so good: If the events of 9.11.2001 remain some of the most defining moments of the decade, then United 93 has to rate as one of its defining movies. Accused of coming “too soon” prior to its release, the film flew in the face of expectation by emerging as an honest and fitting tribute to the bravery of the passengers on board the plane, as well as an honest and accurate account of the events that took place on the ground and in the air on that fateful day. It’s harrowing, thought-provoking, brave, provocative and sensitive filmmaking that absolutely, positively had to be seen by anyone with their eye on current events.
6) District 9
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, William Allen Young
What’s the story? In present-day South Africa, an extra-terrestrial race that’s been forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is unwittingly exposed to their biotechnology….
Why so good: Neill Blomkamp burst onto the world stage with his breathtaking sci-fi movie, having been given his shot by producer Peter Jackson. The ensuing film cleverly combined issues of racism, human rights violations and his own country’s history of Apartheid with exhilarating action and genuine emotion. What’s more, it contained a killer final scene. In science fiction terms, few films even came close to its brilliance this decade – except Duncan Jones’ Moon, which also shone by virtue of its technical achievement and emotional quality.
Starring: (The voices of) Sigourney Weaver, Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight.
What’s the story? In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot with a big heart inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.
Why so good: Andrew Stanton’s movie is undoubtedly one of the bravest animated family films you’re ever likely to see. Virtually dialogue-free for the first half of proceedings, it’s also an achingly poignant study of loneliness and love that is as heartbreaking (at times) as it is uplifting (at others). A deserved Oscar winner, Wall-E underlined Pixar’s sustained ability to marry high intellect with powerful emotion on an effortlessly crowd-pleasing scale.
4) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen.
What’s the story? The former Fellowship of the Ring prepare for the final battle for Middle Earth, while Frodo & Sam approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.
Why so good: It’s damn near impossible to choose which of Jackson’s Rings trilogy is the best – The Fellowship of the Ring established the franchise was in great hands and contained some terrific sequences, The Two Towers combined superb battle sequences with stirring emotion, but The Return of The King ensured the saga was rounded off with the utmost style. True, the final few minutes did seem interminable, but the grand moments really delivered and provided a fitting climax to one of the best cinema trilogies of all time. It’s Oscar domination that year was mightily deserved.
3) Pan’s Labyrinth
Starring: Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez.
What’s the story? In fascist Spain, 1944, the inquisitive young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
Why so good: Having dazzled mainstream viewers with Blade 2 and Hellboy Mexican director Guillermo del Toro returned to his root for this masterclass in adult fantasy. Drawing on inspirations such as Grimms’ fairytales, Alice In Wonderland and some of the imagination of Jim Henson, as well as the work of Spanish painter Goya (in particular, his gory creation Saturn Devours His Children), and his earliest efforts, del Toro created a film that confronts the horror of war and fascism within the cleverly constructed confines of a fantasy adventure.
2) The Bourne Ultimatum
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn.
What’s the story? Amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne continues in his quest to discover the truth about his past, while dodging new, superior assassins.
Why so good: Paul Greengrass entered the Bourne franchise with 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy and shook up the action genre with its keen mix of high intellect and jaw-dropping action. He surpassed even those high standards with Ultimatum, a film that brought the franchise to a satisfying finale and genuinely exhilarated from beginning to end. Matt Damon continued to excel as the amnesiac assassin, while the set pieces – which ranged from London’s Waterloo train station to the rooftops and streets of Tangier and, finally, a thumping car chase in New York, raised the bar for the genre as a whole. It remains to be seen whether a fourth movie can maintain the momentum of the first three chapters.
1) The Dark Knight
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Sir Michael Caine
What’s the story? Following Batman’s emergence as Gotham’s unlikely saviour, the city finds itself on the brink of a new era. Organised crime is on the back foot, thanks to the dedicated triumvirate of Batman (Bale), Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and committed new DA Harvey Dent (Eckhart), and there is a renewed sense of hope about the future. But just when they’re on the brink of a major breakthrough a new threat arises in the form of criminal mastermind The Joker (Ledger).
Why so good: Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins was unquestionably THE event movie of 2008. It was a blockbuster with intelligence and spectacle that boasted powerhouse performances from just about everyone involved. The late Heath Ledger stole the show as The Joker, but Nolan’s film worked on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin. The British filmmaker didn’t so much redefine the comic book genre, as reinterpret it as a sweeping crime saga to rival the likes of Heat and The Godfather. In doing so, he didn’t forget to throw in some sensational set pieces and a climax that lived up to the ingenious nature of the plotting that came before it.