12. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2001)
“A movie told backwards? No way!’ is probably similar to something I said when first heard about this movie. Memento was my first major exposure to nontraditional form in film, and boy, am I glad. It also introduced me and many others to Christopher Nolan, who I love, as evidenced by the presence of five of his films on this list.
Memento is a puzzle of a movie, which the viewer pieces together more and more of on each viewing. The backwards-chronology could have easily felt like a gimmick in the hands of a lesser director, but here it feels essential to the telling of Lenny’s (Guy Pearce) story.
11. District 9 (Niel Blomkamp, 2009)
Every once in a while, a groundbreaking Sci-Fi film comes along that changes the genre. We had Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, and now, District 9. While looking gorgeous for it’s $30 Million budget, and being a brilliant allegory for Apartheid and racism, District 9 primarily succeeds as a perfect sci-fi adventure film, telling the story of Wikus (Sharlto Copley), who goes from racist coward to tortured hero over the course of the film. It was the first film for both Blomkamp and Copley, which is almost unfair, as both of them manage to out-perform people who have been doing this for years. District 9 is exciting, moving, and most importantly, totally new.
Only ten movies left! Check in tomorrow for the last ten!
14. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
If you haven’t seen In Bruges, go watch it right now. It’s okay, I’ll wait. You back? Wasn’t that GREAT? In Bruges, more than perhaps any other film I’ve seen, bounces back and forth between laughs and tears with such dexterity that it may as well be in Asian gymnast. The humor is dark as can be, of course, but the film has a distinctly Irish temperament that keeps it from ever getting bogged down in its weighty subject matter. In addition to a perfect script, it’s got a great leading performance from Colin Ferrell, who I have never ever liked in anything until this movie. If you’re a fan of Medieval European cities, hitmen, or midgets getting karate-chopped, this is the film for you.
13. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
I don’t think I’ll be able to type about this one for very long, for the same reason that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch it again. Because it’s so, so, so sad. Seriously, this movie put me into a deep, existential funk for like two weeks. After watching it (alone at 1 AM) I crawled off to bed and pondered the meaningless of existence for a while. Seriously. It’s sad.
It’s also crazy. Containing a plot so complicated that even I’m not sure what happened in the last thirty minutes or so, it’s more the feelings and emotions that count. Written by the singularly brilliant Charlie Kaufman, who has two more films in the top ten of this list, Synechdoche, New York voices questions about the world that you didn’t even know you always wanted to ask.
16. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)
When I went to see Michael Clayton, it was because whatever I had wanted to see was sold out, and it was the next best thing. I went in expecting lots of dry lawyer-speak, and honestly, expecting to be kind of bored. Fortunately, the dialogue was so snappy and well-delivered from the very first line, that my anxiety soon disappeared.
In addition to it’s excellent script, Michael Clayton is a great Acting Movie, with three totally brilliant performances by George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton. Wilkinson especially is phenomenal as a bipolar attorney who freaks out during a deposition, causing fixer Michael (Clooney) to have to clean it up.
15. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Martin Scorsese is the undisputed king of the Gangster genre, so when he returned to it after a lengthy hiatus, needles to say, expectations were high. It helped that it was a remake of the excellent Infernal Affairs, and it also helped that he put together a brilliant cast, containing Leonardo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Whalberg, Jack Nicholson, and Martin Sheen.
DiCaprio and Damon star as a cop undercover as a gangster and a gangster undercover as a cop, respectively. The cat and mouse game being played between the two of them is wonderfully intense, culminating in a bloodbath (or two) that you have to see to believe.
18. The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius, 2011)
My favorite movie of 2011, The Artist is a delightful ode to Silent Film and the Golden Age of Hollywood. Adorable and almost insufferably pleasant at points, it is not afraid to visit some dark psychological places, all through the sheen of old-timey silent feelgoodery. More than that, it is not afraid to play with it’s format, and in doing so, say some wonderful things about speech, communication, and entertainment.
There’s also a dog that is so cute you will freak out, and the main girl (Berenice Bejo) has the single greatest smile I’ve ever seen on a human. You will melt. Seriously.
17. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
Many people, understandably, have Wes Anderson Fatigue. If you’re not a fan of pastel colors and whimsy, that’s a totally valid reaction to have to his work, but I feel that his wildly original voice more than makes up for the excessive cuteness. And of all his films (which, for the record, I enjoy every single one) Royal Tenenbaums is, unquestionably, his masterpiece.
In telling the story of Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), a man who fakes cancer to spend time with his estranged children, Wes Anderson uses a wide variety of screwed up characters to make all sorts of great points about family, love, and how awesome that instrumental cover of ‘Hey Jude’ is. It may also break your heart a bit along the way, which is always a plus.
Now we're really nearing the end! The next ten were magnificent movies who just didn't quite make it to the top ten, but make sure to check back tomorrow when we reveal the best of the best. Without further ado here’s 20-11!
Get caught up:
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 100 – 91
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 90 – 81
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 80 – 71
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 70 – 61
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 60 – 51
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 50 – 41
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 40 – 31
- Top 100 Movies of the 2000s: 30 – 21
20. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2009)
To those who still thought of Bill Murray as the Caddyshack goofball, his performance in Lost in Translation must have come as quite a surprise. A quiet, melancholy performance, Murray never gets a big, showy outburst scene where he tells how he feels. Instead, we are left to discern his emotions through his actions, as he befriends and falls for a lonely young newlywed.
The film presents a great portrait of an American ill-at-ease in Japan, which I’m sure is a crazy-ass place, and it also served as an introduction to Scarlett Johansson for many, which is something I will always be eternally grateful to it for.
19. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
Inglourious Basterds was Quentin Tarantino’s opus, the film he’d been planning and working on for over ten years. The story of a group of badass jews killin’ nazi’s, Inglourious Basterds has one of the most oddly sophisticated and original scripts I’ve ever seen. Broken up into a short number of very long scenes, it strikes a brilliant balance between tense (the opening scene, the tavern sequence, Landa’s lunch with Shoshanna) and gloriously madcap (the HUGO STIGLITZ moment, that absolutely insane ending). Very few filmmakers can get away with revising history as extensively as Tarantino has here, but at this point, we’ve almost come to expect things like that from him.