The 100 Best Movies of the 2000’s: 40-31

31. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008)

Benjamin Button

Many people were quick to point out that Benjamin Button was extremely similar in structure to Forrest Gump, perhaps because they were written by the same writer.  However, I would argue that Button is a better film, largely by virtue of having a better director, one who knows that in order to elicit tears, my heartstrings don’t have to be pulled, they have to be broken.

The tragic story of a man aging in reverse, Button is a movie about Time and the things we do with it.  I’m not an easy person to make cry in a movie, but the finale of this film reduced me to a gibbering mess, which I’m only a bit ashamed to admit.  Also, Cate Blanchett is adorable in it, and Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt, so there’s something for everybody!

30-21 are comin’ atcha soon!

34. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)


Look, we all know Gladiator is awesome.  It’s got cool battle sequences, it’s beautiful, and it has one of the best villain performances of the decade, courtesy of Joaquin Phoenix (I totally had to look up how to spell his first name) as a the creepy, jealous emperor determined to destroy Maximus at any cost.  It is also responsible for my penchant for screaming ‘ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?’ and any and all opportunities, which I’m pretty grateful for, and my family is pretty annoyed about.

33. Black Swan (Darren Aaronofsky, 2010) and 32. The Wrestler (Darren Aaronofsky, 2008)

The Wrestler/Black Swan

I know, I know, I’m cheating by writing these up together.  But they really are companion pieces, which even Aaronofsky has admitted are meant to be watched back-to-back.  Apparently they originally began as one film, about a wrestler and ballerina that fall in love, before he decided to split them up.

Both stories about someone who throws themselves into their art so heavily that it destroys them, they feature similarly powerful central performances, and build to a similarly downbeat ending.  The Wrestler is a slightly better film, but that is perhaps largely due to how much Mickey Rourke was able to relate to the role.  He plays a broken-down has-been so convincingly, and while Natalie Portman is also great, her performance is a tad bit less raw and real.  Which is, like, fine, cause she has a sex scene with Mila Kunis.  So it pretty much balances out.

36. Up (Pete Docter, 2010)


The top forty or so of this list is filled with Pixar movies, for one very simple reason.  They are simply better at telling stories than pretty much everyone else.  Up is a classic, rollicking adventure story that managed to make its entire audience cry in the first ten minutes.

Full of fleshed-out characters, exciting chase sequences, and a touching relationship between its two leads, Up is everything a kid’s adventure movie should be. It appeals perfectly to adults, without having to sacrifice any of its hilarious animal sidekicks.  It doesn’t hurt that it is visually gorgeous, creating a lush jungle setting that feels utterly alien.  

35. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)

Life Aquatic

Continuing Wes Anderson’s tradition of making films about lovable assholes, The Life Aquatic is a very strange film that many people consider to be one of his lesser movies.  If you haven’t seen it in a while, however, I very much recommend giving it another watch.  There’s a lot of weird, great stuff in here, all of it rooted in the strange Wes Anderson version of pain and regret.

It’s easy to fixate on the whimsical-but-dark tone, or the stop-motion fish, but also worth noting is the phenomenal performance by Bill Murray as a man who is just not very good at having a family, who has just found out he has a sun.  Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of his quest to blow up a shark with dynamite, so take that for what you will.

38. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Let the Right One In

A Swedish film about a young boy and a girl vampire that fall in love, Let the Right One In is anything but your typical vampire movie.  Shot in a gorgeous, surreal style, it somehow manages to capture both the creepy tone of a vampire film AND the giddy rush of young love, without either one diminishing the other.  In turns gory, sweet, scary, and adorable, Let the Right One In works largely because of the brilliant performances by it’s two young actors.  Building to a climax so beautifully staged it almost had me cheering in the theater, this is definitely a film to check out.  I’ve heard that the American remake, Let Me In is also pretty good, but you know, whatever.

37. Fish Story (Yoshihiro Nakamura, 2009)

Fish Story

You’ve never heard of Fish Story, largely because it never got a US release.  However, it has recently popped up on Netflix, and dear lord is it amazing.  The story of how an obscure Japanese punk song from 1975 ultimately saves the world in 2012, Fish Story is a textbook crowd pleaser, with combining comedy, drama, action, and heart over five stories set in five time periods, and eventually coming together for one of the most satisfying climaxes I’ve ever seen.  (I know, I know.  ‘Satisfying climax.’ Very funny.)  Also, the song that the film derives it’s title from is awesome and catchy, which it has better be, ‘cause we have to hear it like thirty times.

Alright.  Are you guys ready for movies 40-31?  No?  Too bad, cause here they are!

Get caught up:

40. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)

High Fidelity

Based on an equally exceptional book, High Fidelity follows Rob, who after breaking up with a girlfriend decides to revisit his past failed relationships, all while managing a failing record store and his two inept employees, Barry and Dick.  High Fidelity dared to ask the that timeless question: “What came first?  The music or the misery?  Am I miserable because I listen to pop music, or do I listen to pop music because I’m miserable?”

The greatest breakup movie ever made, High Fidelity spoke to an entire disillusioned, music-loving, list-making generation of misanthropes.  It also served as an introduction to Jack Black for many people, which you are probably either really grateful for or really upset about.  Either way, it made an impact.

39. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)


The world didn’t know it, but it was just waiting for this badass eighties-influenced cowboy/gangster car-chase arthouse movie to come along and kick its ass.  Following your standard ‘lone cowboy rides into town, gets involved in some crazy shit, falls for a girl, then rides out’ format, Drive contains a lot of scenes of people staring longingly at each other, punctuated by short bursts of sudden, shocking violence.  It also has a terrifying villainous turn from Albert Brooks, playing WAY outside his wheelhouse as a Jewish gangster that just loves to cut fools.