As 2009 winds down, listmaking winds up. Not just for the year, but for the DECADE. I’ve already made my list of the decade’s best albums, but now it is time to evaluate the best in my personal favorite media form: Movies. I spent weeks compiling a list of every film I loved that came out in the 2000s, and then spent a few days narrowing it down to 100. I will countdown my picks over four posts, starting today with the first 25 and ending on my birthday, December 3, with the top 25. Enjoy!
100) Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005): Though Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) was great, Flowers is Jim Jarmusch’s best film of this decade. A gorgeously made road movie with a fantastic cast (Bill Murray, Julie Delpy, Tilda Swinton, Jesica Lange, Chloë Sevigny), Flowers is an open-ended mediation on love, regret, and America.
99) My Best Friend (Patrice Leconte, 2007): One of the best movies about male friendship I’ve ever seen, and one of two films by French director Patrice Leconte on this list.
98) Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001): More than just an eye-popping demonstration of the then-new rotoscope animation technique, this talky film is brimful of ideas and 21st century philosophical chitchat.
97) Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004): One of the best comedies of the decade for so many reasons… A truer film about forty-something wine snobs was never made.
96) Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2002): Sam Mendes’ follow-up to American Beauty provided a striking, moody take on Chicago crime land. Tom Hanks and Paul Newman share some memorably subtle moments (the piano scene!) and Conrad Hall’s photography is among the decade’s best.
95) The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009): The fist (only?) great film about the current Iraq war. It’s white-knuckled, impressively acted, and refreshingly apolitical.
94) The Village (M. Night Shyamalan, 2004): Though most of us saw the end coming, this film wins on style and acting alone. Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix have amazing chemistry.
93) The King of Kong (Seth Gordon, 2007): One of the best documentaries of the decade, this film about competitive arcade gaming has all the best elements of comedy, drama, even thriller… not to mention plenty of insights into human nature.
92) Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006): The reboot of the James Bond franchise was fresh, stylish, and one of the best action films of the decade.
91) Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005): This surprisingly mature adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic featured great acting, beautiful visuals, and some memorably elaborate single-take tracking shots.
90) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008): An exquisitely rendered, peculiar mediation on the fact that our lives—whether lived forward or backward—are lived in time.
89) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron, 2004): The best of the Harry Potter blockbuster franchise, which has defined the decade more than any one movie brand.
88) Friday Night Lights (Peter Berg, 2004): Though I might suggest that the TV show is even better, the film that preceded it was pretty dang good. Best sports movie of the decade.
87) Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004): Yes, it’s ridiculous. Ridiculously classic. So many catchphrases—and even Ron Burgundy’s way of speaking—have become incorporated into the comic parlance of our generation.
86) Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, 2007): One of the most underseen and underrated films of the decade. Herzog and star Christian Bale are at their best in this twisted, unsettling, strangely beautiful Vietnam war film.
85) Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006): Yes, it’s true that most everyone hated this movie. But most films that are truly great are truly loathed by many. This film managed to summarize its moment so well for me—in an appropriately messy, kitschy, pomo sort of way.
84) Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002): Scorsese’s ode to New York/meditation on violence was more than just a mind-blowing showcase for Daniel Day Lewis. It’s a bloody good historical epic with some fierce filmmaking behind it.
83) Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003): This Columbine-inspired art film didn’t offer any easy answers (or easy questions) about teenage violence. And yet as a stylistic exercise and abstract mood piece, it was revelatory.
82) Ocean’s 11 (Steven Soderbergh, 2001): What’s an indie film icon like Steven Soderbergh doing directing a popcorn remake of a rat pack classic? Reinventing Hollywood A-list blockbusters, that’s what.
81) The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006): Though it’s almost too perfect, The Queen must be acknowledged on this list. Not only is it a spot-on character study (aided by Helen Mirren’s astonishing performance); it’s also a fascinating exploration of media, celebrity, and politics in the tabloid era.
80) The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2003): Say what you will about this controversial film, but you have to admit that it’s something to behold. Mel might have been a smidge more restrained, but overall—and divorced from all the politics and religious commercialization of it—this is a film of impressive artistry.
79) About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, 2002): Jack Nicholson’s best recent performance was in this fantastic comedy/drama from Alexander Payne. It’s a wonderfully melancholy film with extremely poignant moments and a great “trails west” Americana vibe.
78) Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009): This John Keats romance film definitely ranks in the top ten on the decade’s “most beautiful to look at” list. But it also has ideas and painfully true insights about love and loss, adding to the visceral impact of the well-lensed images.
77) The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004): One of Pixar’s standout classics in the last decade; It’s a film that thrills, inspires, and just makes you feel great about life.
76) Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007): Sean Penn’s film version of the amazing book by Jon Kracauer perfectly captures its outdoorsy, existential spirit. It’s a strikingly earnest film with an adventurous pulse most of us can resonate with.