Best of Decade - Top 50 movies of the 2000's

It has been a great decade. Life in one decade is quite different from another but the 00's or noughties as some would like to say it. It goes with movies too. The decade which just ended had a huge diversity in the way it unfolded. The word blockbuster was redefined and the BO expectations were re adjusted to a level way up north. A major part of this was the re emergence of the superhero movies. Superheroes never really had it good outside the comics and on kids' channels but the emergence and success of Spiderman paved way for a decade full of heroes. Then there were the animation flicks which laughed their way to box office and critical success at the expense of all those people who thought they were just for kids. They have an amazing potential and next decade will be even better. And finally I should also call upon the Independent film circuit to honour them for being so brave and resilient in the face of the studio moguls spending hundreds of millions on every other flick. As like in any other decade it is the independent small budget (comparably) ones which actually deliver on the potential of cinema but this time round they had help from digital technology which has become affordable and thrown the fencing between producers and consumers in to the recycle bin. The youtube generation can deliver the punch as well as the studios. You have heard of
Paranormal Activity, haven't you? 15000$ budget & 100 million$+ gross. It was good film making coupled with brilliant marketing. This is just the beginning to all such breakout movies.
We do not know how next decade is going to pan out. What will the movie watching experience be? Will theaters still hold their pull or are we going to just be addicted to Netflix? Will Avatar truly revolutionize the industry and will 3D reach our homes and be a part of it as they predict? But we do know how the last one has panned out for movies. Here in this article I try and capture the 50 best movies of the last decade ie 2000 to 2009. These lists are tough, especially when they spread across such a long time and across the world. So
though inherently flawed I try my best to keep a level head and chalk out the decade's finest.

(update: highlighting and minor sentence and position changes)
 How did I make this list? After perusal of extensive ratings on my vote history on IMDB, reading of various lists all over the web, I took into consideration the quality of film making, my personal favourites, cultural and overall impact of the movies. Then the movies were microscopically weighed against each other and rankings in this list were determined. Ask me after a couple of years and it might be different. Such is the case with all lists.

There are more blockbusters than I expected. Of course there might be many more movies out there definitely deserving a place in this but I havent seen them yet. Sure will do someday and maybe a decade down the line I can make this list really, really comprehensive.

50. Love Actually(2003)
This is a tie between two very different romantic movies. One is an outrageous mix of several stories, some sweet, some bitter but all wonderful. One of the best ensembles cast of the decade.

 Undoubtedly the contender for the sweetest movies of the decade. The latter is quaint independent movie capturing the life of two lost musicians who aren't exactly romancing each other. This movie took the industry by storm showcasing the power of the small movie.

49. Persepolis (2007)
Marjane Satrapi's digs into her own life and puts out a bildungsroman graphic novel of a young girl from Iran. The movie is unabashed story telling which has compelling visuals which seem pretty straight and simple.

48. High Fidelity (2000)
This movie should be hung on the walls of every rom com writer and shown how much character depth one can create in any movie regardless of its target audience. John Cusack and the music talk form the core of this movie.

47. Seabiscuit (2003) / Last Samurai (2003)
These two demonstrate the power, a legend can hold on screen. Brilliant captivating tales of 'beings' rather than just persons out of their element striving to achieve and make that difference for themselves and others. Get me every damn time.
The ideal recipe for a blockbuster. Take a Disney ride, wrap it in a brilliant story, get Johnny Depp to do the swagger and take the audience on a thrilling ride. You earn a ton of money. Redo it to earn billions!

Technically it is a simple bollywood film made with good film making values. But it changed the whole industry and influenced a new generation of filmmakers, paving way for a new Bollywood.

45. Casino Royale (2006)
Roger Moore almost killed Bond. Brosnan though made a really good Bond was part of some bad movies. Daniel Craig who is a brilliant actor steps and gives Bond a 21st century's typical makeover. Grim, troubled and flawed is the way to go.

Depp again this time with Kate Winslet delivers a magical movie about the making of a magical play, Peter Pan.
Maqbool (2003)
Vishal Bharadwaj’s take on Macbeth with a mafia twist surprised me beyond belief. Seldom have I seen a movie from the subcontinent being so majestic, dark and uncompromisingly intense and not once stooping down to please every man in the hall.

43. Sunshine (2007)
Sci Fi had been relegated to anonymity till the end of the decade after the disastrous Star War prequels. Among Danny Boyle's finest work this movie works wonders for a scifi geek.
42. Iron Man (2008)
When everyone is going dark and gloomy, Iron Man takes a comicbookish lighthearted yet somber at times approach to what is the most exciting new franchise. It had the Wow factor.

41. Cidade de Deus (2002) ie City of God
Loved by almost everyone and topped several lists like these. It is a compelling tale of 2 boys growing up in violent Rio but I dint find it jaw droppingly or devastatingly great.

Mr. & Mrs. Iyer (2002) 
A beautiful movie capturing a story of two very different individuals thrown together during a journey amidst communal strife. Several years since I have seen it but can  still vividly remember its finesse and intensity. One of my favourite Indian movies of all time.

40. Monster's Inc (2001)
Toy Story and Bug's Life were good but this movie marks the beginning of Pixar's imaginative genius coupled with compelling story telling. And of course it had Mike!

39. La science des rêves (2006) ie The Science of Sleep
How far and well can you capture all those weird and fascinating things in your mind? It is one of the toughest things to capture it on screen and Michel Gondry with such panache that for me it is truly enviable!!

38. In Bruges (2008)
Simple Premise, good plot, very good location, great cast and one fantastic movie. In Bruges has got everything a good movie needs and it makes you laugh, think and pulls your heartstrings effortlessly.
One of the most underrated movies of this decade. George Clooney directs this masterful piece of work capturing the battle between Edward R Murrow and Senator McCarthy. Among the best lead performances on this list or this decade if I may say by David Strathairn.

36. Ying xiong (2002)
Hero Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon paved way for movies like this but Hero was the gamechanger personally because it showcased the brilliance the Chinese harboured. Arguably the most beautiful film on this list!

35. Crash (2004)
Paul Haggis does a Innaritu but only better. It showcases the life of an average American and his/her insecurities magnificently. It is so good in doing so it should be preserved as a snapshot of personality of a post 9/11 American in the history archives.

This is here on this list because of Internet and shows yet again that movies aren't stars, sets and sauce. Fantastic plot in a minimalist setting with a tight screenplay is all one needs! Must must see!

33. Lucía y el sexo (2001) ie Sex and Lucia
Love, sex and more sex. That's all you see if you flip through. But it is a gut wrenching evocative tale of love, relationships, loneliness, guilt, regret, desire and of course lust.

32. Children of Men (2006)
Though not a new concept, 2009 was the year of dystopian future for man. But this did it much earlier and so much better. Clive Owens and Julianne Moore add that good acting touch in this vivid Alfonso Cuaron movie which most Sci-Fi flicks usually fall short on.

31. Star Trek (2009)
In a decade of blockbusters, Star Trek is the defining one. It is fun, it is smart, it is tight and it is well executed. JJ Abrams reboots a franchise almost deemed dead and makes it so good it is unbelievable.

30. Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Though the Identity launched this remarkable anti-bond spy and Ultimatum sealed him as one of the best heroes of our generation, for me Supremacy as the name loudly suggests is where he prevails. And also it has my fav movie car chase of ALL TIME.

29. United 93 (2006)
Paul Greengrass again! Just after wowing the world with his shaky cam in Bourne Supremacy takes up a very ambitious project and delivers undoubtedly the best 9/11 movie. It is good on so many levels!

28. Moon (2009)
Sci-Fi generally equates high costs, loud backdrops and operatic sequences. Moon takes the manual, shoves it in the trash and shows the world what truly sci fi is: An exploration of humanity in a world different from ours!

27. Prestige (2006)
When not making Batman movies, Christopher Nolan makes heady, heavy and hammering movies of struggle and ambition. Prestige is a classic thriller, Mr Hitchcock would be proud of.

26. V for Vendetta (2005)
Wachowski driven Alan Moore hero who inspires the rebel in everyone of us. This movie has brought a strong icon into mainstream popular culture who has given a voice to millions of people while entertaining and wowing them. Few have done this so far!

25. Waking Life (2001)
Richard Linklater goes on a tizzy trip exploring so many issues in life and their meaning. This dreamy affair is a cerebral overload and visual delight and exploits the medium in a uniquely new way.

24. Donnie Darko (2001)
Another very cerebral movie which has sunk into pop culture and largely derives from it to. A multi dimensional premise with the focus on the protagonist's psyche. 'American Beauty' in Sci-Fi if I may.

23. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Africa is raged by civil War and it's as good as a hell hole but some acts of courage stand out as one man becomes the Oskar Schindler to his people taking mammoth risks on his own life and family.
22. El laberinto del fauno (2006) ie Pan's labyrinth
Guillermo Del Toro makes an astonishing tale of fantasy set in Fascist Spain. It is a beautiful, innocent and at the same time cruel. What you get is a mixed bag of reactions!

21. Le scaphandre et le papillon (2007) ie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The protagonist is paralysed and can move nothing but his left eye! He lets his mind do the living and writes a book and. It is a beautiful essay of imagination and courage.

20. The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger of course played a great part as a Joker but the reason this movie stands apart is because of the almost unconquerable levels of darkness and brooding it achieves. Nolan finishes rewriting the tone for Superhero movies with what he set out to do in Batman Begins.

Charlie Kaufman and his introspective, self deprecating and worldly life reflecting genius! This movie is a grand painting of words and ideas on celluloid.

18. Amelie (2001)
This is a delightful French movie everyone adores because it is simple, beautiful and yet very enigmatic.

17. Das Leben der Anderen (2006) ie The Lives of Others
This best foreign language film Oscar winner set in communist East Berlin. It is a shocking and stirring tale for which I don't have enough words for.

16. Before Sunset(2004)
A sequel to Before Sunrise is bound to have expectations! This movie maintains the spirit of its predecessor and takes it up a notch in the way it has been made. If you observe the whole movie is one sweeping capture of conversation!

15. Atonement (2007)
Ian McEwan's novel is wonderfully brought to screen. This is a gem lost in a year of heavyweights. The super long shot at the beach and the unsettling typewriter soundtrack are just two examples of its brilliance.

14. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
A movie which can leave one scarred or corrected. It explores the lives of 4 drug addicts and physically, mentally and socially captures their pain and makes you feel it!
Paul Thomas Anderson's grand tale of an Oil Man his ambition, life and battle with faith is a masterpiece. You know it when you watch it, it shouts so at you. Daniel Day Lewis is my best actor of the decade for his grand role.

12. Gladiator (2000)
Ridley Scott's magnum opus of Maximus Decimus Meridius has been a defining movie of my generation. Tale of a powerful leader yet a simple man who has been wronged told well doesn't go wrong, it becomes a cult!

11. Shrek (2001)
Along with Monster's Inc Shrek moved animation to the next level. What made Shrek so special was its wittiness and smart story telling. The combination of oh so many fairy tale characters to weave one to rule them all was a masterstroke. The pop cultural references including that of Matrix were epic!

10. Old Boy (2003)
This was one of my early foreign language films and I was left astounded. Not only does it leaves a bitter taste, It is a violent and revolting story one cant place themselves in brilliantly told.
9. Man on Wire (2008)
My fav documentary of all time ceases to be one and becomes a compelling tale of a marvelous feat. Couple with a brilliant Michael Nyman soundtrack you are damped with anticipation though you already know the result. Just Wow!
8. Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003)
The Bride is on a roaring rampage. She roars and rampaged and got bloody satisfaction. That about sums up Tarantino's blood and gore filled, style driven action extravaganza.
7. Fa yeung nin wa (2000) ie In the Mood for Love
Set in Hong kong of the 60's this beautiful tale is an exploration of love, loneliness and the longing. Amazing score and brilliant cinematography make this movie an instant classic.
Michel Gondry meets Kaufman with Kate Winslet at hand and Jim Carrey gives what maybe the best performance of his career. It is a story about inseparable love wrapped with imagination!

5. Vals Im Bashir (2008) ie Waltz with Bashir
It is a psychedelic trip down the memory lane of an Israeli ex-serviceman in the Lebanese war. It is so fantastic that I was tripping on it and waltzing to its tunes!

4. LOTR Two Towers (2002)
LOTR, the whole trilogy as one would stand here but it is the second movie where it truly achieves greatness. The battle at Helmsdeep and Isengard just shook me away.
3. The Fountain (2006)
Arronofsky said his first movie Pi was an exploration of mind, Requiem was of body and Fountain of soul. Watching this movie was a spiritual experience. The soundtrack was so powerful I can recollect the visuals! It is a movie par excellence.
2. Wall E (2008)
The first 40 min of the movie changed it all. When animation movies had set into a fantasy stereotype with animals and objects doing extraordinary things, along came Wall E. With his adorable traits and mighty heart he awakens a world unknown to animators and humans!

1. Memento (2000)
A great movie is an enigma. A mastery over your story, its characters and the way they unfold to your audience. For the audience it is a challenge and Nolan brings out the greatest one among all. Arguably the greatest screenplays ever this movie set out to be emulated a million times by story tellers in their own petty way.

Do chip into let me know what you thought should have made it to the list and what shouldn't have.

p.s:This article first appeared in the magazine I write for called Avant Garde Life. I have made a few additions here.

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ElmerFuddnavis said...

Nice list.. well researched. Spot on with the rankings of fountain, LOTR, memento, Bashir, man on wire, rwanda, darko, bourne, bruges, sunshine, neverland, once and high fidelity.

BUT... Iron Man didn't impress moi that much... it was good, but not so much so that it rubs shoulders with City of God or Memento in the list of 50 greatest films of the past ten years

Wall E is great... but i still prefer other Pixar films like Nemo and especially Ratatouille.

Moreover u've been too harsh on desi fillums... good on mentioning DCH and Macbeth, but there still are a dozen brilliant hindi, marathi, tamil, kannada movies - like Natarang, the Gowarikar twins, Hazaaron Kahwishein, yuva, rdb, firaaq, kanchivaram, zubeida etc etc. No telugu movies though - they suck.

PS: There is a gaping hole in this post the size of Namitha's arse - you haven't mentioned any Hayao Miyazaki movie :P

Aneesh@RCB said...

I can't believe Kill Bill was from the 2000s. Feels like it was made in the mid-90s.

Seabiscuit is the one I really have to watch though. Lots of catching up to do.

Vemana said...

@elmer fudd
Thank you! As I said TDK fans wont appreciate the light heartedness of Iron Man so much :P I believe it brought in a light heartedness and flair which was much needed in Superhero movies which were getting darker by the day.

I love Wall E as much as the original pixar movies like Toy Story. Nemo and Ratatouille undoubtedly really good couldnt fit them in top 50.

City of GOd is another movie I saw loooong back and it did make an impact but not so strong that it would float to the top of the list. The problem with desi films is I havent seen enough. They are difficult to get my hands on especially the non tel/hindi ones.. I should watch them and yes some might eventually crawl into this list.Not a fan of yuva, hazaaron kwahishein and dont like lagaan so much these days. I like firaaq and was even contemplating RDB, Swades , Johnny Gaddar but again couldnt accomodate them all

@aneesh Kill Bill was so much fun and I am lucky to have been able to catch both vol in theatre. Once there was a hyderabad where they actually screened good hollywood films w/o much delay :(

chaitanya kumar said...

Well, it would be great if you can edit the piece and add a para on two on the process of choosing these movies. How did you pick em out of hundreds youve seen and appreciated.

I understand that a lot of effort went into this so your readers deserve to know the thinking behind, otherwise this would be just another list where people end up commenting on what movies were missed out and why some are up there.

Otherwise, the list looks great. As Elmurfudd said, if you have delved into indian cinema, then you didnt give it much thought. Or otherwise, a separate top 10 in each genre/B,H,T-wood et al is in the offing soon I hope:)

Great read :)

Vemana said...

@chaitanya A separate 10 in each genre would be a difficult one to do for a decade. Maybe soon we could work on an all time list for each genre.

About the process the para was there in the last. Guess people miss it at the end. So moved it up to before the starting of the list and highlighted the same.

ElmerFuddnavis said...

Ok off the top off my head - you've left out 'Spirited Away', 'Amelie', 'Hurt Locker', 'The Fall', 'Minority Report', 'Bowling for Columbine', 'Pianist', 'Into the Wild', 'Infernal Affairs', 'Sin Nombre', 'Apocalypto', HP Azkaban, Red Cliff and a little movie named Avatar .... but yeah there are dozens more which i can't think of right now... and desi films of course

Unknown said...

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ι ƒєєℓ єχυℓтαηт αѕ 80 ρєя¢єηт σƒ мソ ρєяѕσηαℓ ƒανσяιтєѕ σƒ тнє ∂є¢α∂є нανє мα∂є ιт ιη тσ тнє ℓιѕт,
тнσυgн ι нανє тσ ¢αт¢н υρ ѕσмє σƒ тнє мσνιєѕ. αƒтєя ℓσтѕ σƒ ¢σηѕι∂єяαтισηѕ αη∂ ¢αℓ¢υℓαтισηѕ
υ мιgнт нανє мα∂є тнιѕ ℓιѕт вυт ∂σωη тнє ℓιηє ι вєℓιєνє тнαт ѕσмє σƒ ιη∂ιαη & ємσтισηαℓ σηє'ѕ
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нανє gσт υ'я ƒяєє мιη∂ ραѕѕєѕ ωнιℓє ѕσмє σƒ тнєм αяє ѕιттιηg συт ℓιкє ∂υ¢кѕ ωαιтιηg ƒσя αη єηтяソ! ソα ιяση мαη
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ιη тнєιя ѕυвנє¢тѕ. ι нσηєѕтℓソ ƒєєℓ мσνιєѕ ℓιкє яєqυιєм ƒσя α ∂яєαм, тнєяє ωιℓℓ вє вℓσσ∂ ∂єѕєяνєѕ мσяє вєттєя ρℓα¢є
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ιт'ѕ νєяソ ¢σℓ∂!
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тнє ωαソ ωє ѕєє тнιηgѕ...α тяυєℓソ ƒαѕ¢ιηαтιηg ℓιѕт gσт αℓℓ тнє вєѕт ѕнσтѕ σƒ тнє ∂є¢α∂є...кυ∂σѕ!

Keshav Ram Narla said...

Excellent list. I must come back to strike off the ones i'm yet to watch.

Seeing a 2-liner story description for each movie would have helped a lot.

Thanks for the hard work.

Dan Stephens said...

Great list. Nice to see recognition of Man On Wire - a film I certainly considered for my own top 50: