Best of the Decade: Movies

It’s sort of scary to think about, but this decade is going to be over pretty soon.  I don’t even know if we know what to call it yet.  The 2000’s?  The double zeros?  Whatever the case, I’ve been thinking about making a few lists to pick out what I’ve enjoyed the most over the past ten years.  I’ll do a few more of these as the year draws to a close, but wanted to start out with movies.

10. Batman Begins – Yes, I’m totally picking this over the Dark Knight.  The sequel may actually be a better film technically, and in terms of script and performance.  But Batman Begins was the first movie of the decade that showed that a comic book movie can be taken seriously.  Instead of showing a campy origin story like Spider-man did earlier in the decade, it did everything to make you believe that Batman could be real.  Without that context, Dark Knight couldn’t have happened.  Nor could a lot of comic book movies in the second half of the decade.

9. Sunshine – This also gets my vote for most underrated movie of the decade.  Before everyone was kissing Danny Boyle’s behind because of Slumdog Millionaire, he made a pitch perfect SciFi film that was unlike anything ever seen until Moon with Sam Rockwell came along.  Although it sort of delves into another genre altogether in the third act, it stays true to an awesome and challenging thesis that does what SciFi used to and should do…make you think.

8. Napoleon Dynamite – You either love this movie or hate it, there is no other movie I can think of that has no middle ground like this does.  And I love it.  If Trapper Keepers, slap bracelets, and Nickelodeon shows will always remind us of the 90’s, Napoleon Dynamite will always remind us of the 2000’s.  It’s both a surreal and eerily accurate picture of what it’s like to grow up in this decade as someone who doesn’t fit any social norm, which often happens.  And it’s one of the most funny movies I’ve ever seen because of it.

shaun-of-the-dead7. Shaun of the Dead – One of the reasons that Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies of all time is because it masterfully intertwines two genres that you’d never think could co-exist.  The same goes here, who ever thought you could make something out of a romantic comedy and a zombie movie?  Shaun of the Dead also gets my vote for the best written movie of the decade for being such an Everlasting Gobstopper of comedy gold and quotable scenes.

6. Catch Me If You Can – Before there was Mad Men, there was this.  Over the past year or so, I’ve heard so many gush about how Mad Men is the best TV show to nail an era and a certain vibe.  It’s only ripping this off.  Catch Me If You Can is an elaborate heist movie full of about three different genres that intertwine perfectly, but it also has the coolest production design of the decade.  It’s also really representative of the sort of experimental stuff that Speilberg has pulled off so well in the past six or seven years.

5. Kill Bill Vol. 1 – If Pulp Fiction made such an impact on filmmakers or film fans back in the early 90’s, the Kill Bill films did the same for me this decade.  On paper, the scenario and factors of this movie make it seem as if it’s destined for cheese.  And admittedly, it is pretty cheezy after all.  But in paying homage to those kind of movies that preceded it, Tarantino made something that oozes new school character and that looks and feels wholly different than most anything in movies this decade.

4.  Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? – So maybe another movie from the Coen Brothers won anOscar load this decade, but I still believe that this was far better.  If you look at their entire movie catalog, you can easily see that they always want to try something different every time.  A different soundtrack, a different genre, different setting.  Sometimes it comes across as comical or perhaps parodic, but Oh Brother is absolutely spot on.  It nails the region and era that it’s set in, while keeping a somewhat surreal feel to it.

And having lived nearly all my life in an area just an hour’s drive away from the location of the movie, I can tell you that it certainly struck a chord.  The characters are all caricatures of someone we all know, and the back story of a depression-reaked South saved by the TVA is one we all understand well.  And that’s not to mention the insanely popular soundtrack that everyone in The South is issued a copy of at birth.

3. Good Night, And Good Luck – Even though this movie was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, it’s somewhat fallen out of pop culture memory in the following years.  I really think that once this movie ages, it will be appreciated as a hugely impactive social and political statement that could only be made in a movie.  It put the right metaphor in the public consciousness at the precisely right time in order to make people think about current political implications in light of historical ones.  I trust that once more time passes, history won’t be kind to the kind of behavior that this movie admonishes but will be kind to the movie itself for drawing attention to it.

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2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – If you knew me at all, you would have known that one of these would make it this far up such a list.  If you’d asked me a few years ago witch Rings film was my favorite, I would have said The Two Towers without hesitating.  But as these movies have aged along with me, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Fellowship of the Ring is byfar the best of the trilogy.

If you can remember reading up about Peter Jackson’s trilogy before it was released, you’ll remember the skepticism.  An odd filmmaker from a place nobody remembered who had made some weird movies that nobody had really seen was going to make three whole movies out of the most wildly popular fantasy book series ever.  It seemed like a ridiculous proposal destined to fail.  But Fellowship of the Ring was released and left everyone’s jaw agape.  It was masterfully adapted, and seemed as if was a classic that had been in existence for years the first day it was in a theater.  The following two movies were perfect continuations of the story, but it was Fellowship of the Ring that paved the way.

1. Wall-E – If anything, this decade was owned by Pixar.  Back in the 90’s, they made what were generally seen as smart family films.  But after Monsters Inc made them four for four, after Finding Nemo made insane amounts of money, and after The Incredibles earned a lot of geek cred, it was becoming obvious that pure film gold was being developed in Emeryville.

Wall-E is the absolute crown jewel in the Pixar library.  You can go back to read my review of the movie that I wrote when it was released to see how much I gushed about it then, and I honestly still feel the same way now.  You can read that if you’d like, but I’ll sum it up by saying Wall-E is without a doubt my favorite movie of the decade.  There are guys in their forties who remember seeing Star Wars in the theater for the first time, and I’ll always remember being seated at the end of the movie and finding myself absolutely paralyzed with shock at how amazing Wall-E was.

Honorable Mention: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – It’s really unfair for me to go about comparing any Star Wars movie to anything else.  Not because they are necessarily better than other movies release along with them, but because they’re ingrained as a part of culture for me more so than existing as films.  But even so, Revenge of the Sith was clearly the best of the bunch.  While anyone who existed before the prequels won’t want to see any of them existing so high up a list, it’s impossible to not deny them the impact that they’ve had on younger generations or on the geek community as a whole.

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