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Film

The decade's best in film

Our critics pick the tip-top of the last 10

Miyazaki’s Spirited Away
Carrey in Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
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Published 1/6/2010

JEFF MEYERS

If the '70s were under the influence of angry cynicism and artistic rebellion, the rah-rah '80s an era of blockbuster egos and muscular populism, and the '90s consumed by ironic navel-gazing and fear of technology, how do we summarize the aughties? Virtual reality, the fragmentation of the psyche and a need for family ruled the hearts and minds of Hollywood's best filmmakers, themes echoed in my 10 best films of the decade list. Sure, I cheat a bit by clumping the work of certain directors (and studios) together, but the influences, entertainment and artistry they created were real, providing the last decade with cinema that excited and challenged in equal measure.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Inventive and moving. It's the first paranoid, anti-social, screwball romantic comedy of the new millennium. Still waiting for the others.


2. Head On/The Edge of Heaven

German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin is creating the edgiest, most emotionally moving cinema today. His ruthlessly sensitive examinations of multiculturalism prove that art easily trumps commentary.


3. Spirited Away 

My fear is that the wonderful Hayao Miyazaki may have his greatest masterpiece behind him. Gorgeous, fantastical, humane and uniquely otherworldly, it's a movie truly for children of all ages.


4. Pan's Labyrinth

This haunting, eye-popping fantasy offered the most ironically hopeful ending of the decade. Boundless imagination, emotional depth and political acuity come together in Guillermo del Toro's most masterful effort. 


5. High Fidelity 

The perfect latchkey mix tape of unmotivated idealism, pop culture wit, and jaded romanticism — delivered without condescension or spite. And Stephen Frears egoless direction proves the perfect fit.


6. There Will Be Blood/Punch Drunk Love

Paul Thomas Anderson delivers on the promise of his '90s debut, maturing into a fascinating and ambitious filmmaker who understands the iconic language of film.


7. Nobody Knows/Still Walking 

You can't beat Japan's Hirokazu Koreeda for human intimacy and insight. Attuned to the wordless ways people communicate their desires and fears, his films immerse you in the small personal dramas that define us all.


8. Memento/The Prestige/The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan emerges as the most intellectual pop filmmaker of the decade with his thematically layered examinations of human obsession.


9. The Incredibles/Ratatouille/Finding Nemo/Wall-E /Up 

It may be the first time a studio has been granted the auteur title but it's well deserved. With a succession of blockbuster critical hits Pixar, the house that John Lasseter built, has become the gold standard for not only computer-animated fare but popular cinema in general (Cars aside).


10. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

Visually stunning, emotionally stirring and slyly political, Peter Jackson reminds Hollywood how to deliver a truly epic movie-going experience. 

For a list of Meyers almost-rans, go to his post on the B-roll blog.


COREY HALL

This wild, depressing and ultimately exhilarating decade has been too messy to be contained. Its start found a nation that wanted to keep the shiny goodtime millennium party going, but found itself engaged in moral shadowboxing, conflicts that played out in the movie theater, with major mainstream films reaching heights of complexity and richness not regularly seen in 20 years, and I had an aisle seat for all of it.

My very first professional film review was published in May of 2000, for the slightly less-than-classic Chan-Wilson buddy western Shanghai Noon, enjoyable fluff, but you never forget your first. 

I'd been in love with movies my entire life, obsessively making lists and staying up all night for obscurities on late-night cable, but actually getting paid to watch and think about movies all day was a pure joy. Of course, there's something altogether different about loving movies, and being forced to sit through yet another Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson flop in the dead of February. Still, this is an undeniably great gig, and while the bad ones sting, the good ones stay forever. The following are the ones that stuck with me.

25. Michael Clayton 

24. Punch-Drunk Love 

23. 40-Year-Old Virgin 

22. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and ... Spring

21. Once 

20. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

19. The Fog of War 

18. House of Flying Daggers 

17. No Country for Old Men 

16. Grizzly Man 

15. Bowling for Columbine 

14. The Class 

13. Still Walking 

12. Tie: Old Boy and 4 Months, 3 weeks and 2 Days 

11. The Incredibles 

10. The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson's best film applied his fussy, funny, literary deadpan to a fractured family striving to reclaim the greatness inside, fueled by the unfiltered genius of Gene Hackman, in what's proved to be one of his last great roles. 


9. Kill Bill 

Tarantino's florid, overwhelming, blood-splattered orgy of cartoon violence was both a master class on the history of exploitation cinema and a shockingly modern expression of the decade's angst-y need for vengeance.


8. Spider-Man 2 

The superhero movie perfected, Sam Raimi offered pure popcorn bliss about a flawed very modern hero swinging higher than anyone could hope. 


7. Up in the Air 

An instant classic, and ultimate proof that this is George Clooney's world, we just live in it. 


6. Ghost World 

Maybe the best comic-book adaptation ever, with a tremendous lead performance by Thora Birch (Where the hell did she vanish to?) as instant indie-rock chick icon Enid Coleslaw. Writer Daniel Clowes bottles up that heartbreaking moment when friendships shatter and adolescence finally, irrevocably slips away. 


5. Pan's Labyrinth 

Magical realism never looked so good, in Guillermo del Toro's shockingly creative and brutally harsh fairy tale. 


4. Spirited Away 

Hayao Miyazaki's unbelievably fluid and achingly lovely animated fantasy rearranged my mind in ways nothing else could.


3. Lost in Translation 

Bill Murray's shining achievement in a career so brilliant it makes my head hurt, Sofia Coppola's wispy little meditation on fleeting romance and blocked creativity almost seemed like a beautiful little throwaway at the time. But it's wonderful, melancholy longing lingers in your heart and we'll forever wonder: "What the hell did he whisper in her ear?"


2. There Will Be Blood 

P.T Anderson's stark anti-western was the most potent cinematic statement of the decade about rampant destructive wages of greed, and as an insanely driven oil baron with soul-dead eyes, the masterful Daniel Day-Lewis drank everyone's milkshake. 


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

The intentionally twisty narrative and archly sci-fi premise of this most intimate of love stories gave some critics fits, but gave this one true movie rapture. The absurdist genius of Charlie Kaufman was finally, fully realized in a marriage with Michel Gondry's inventive, transporting visuals. Neither has ever been quite this good apart, which helped enforce the theme that true togetherness is always worth the pain and hassle of relationships. Likewise, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet were never better, and their impulsive, sad and beautiful intimacy was trapped forever in never-fading imagery that buried itself deep inside your skull.

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