82. Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005)
Admittedly, in order to fully appreciate Serenity, it helps to be a fan of Firefly — Joss Whedon’s short-lived space-western, axed by Fox before its time. Effectively serving as the series finale that the show never got, Serenity does a great job of wrapping up the plots from the series, while also providing a fun, high-stakes adventure for the crew against an awesome new villain.
Also, Lucas had endless money and churned out shit like Episode I, while Whedon was able to film a quality sci-fi epic in Los Angeles for only thirty million dollars. If that doesn’t give hope, I don’t know what will.
81. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)
I have a friend who hates this movie, because he saw it immediately after a massive breakup. He will never watch it again, but if pressed, he’ll admit that it’s totally hilarious. That should tell you how good a job this film does of balancing its out-there humor and its heart. It’s a movie that has a lot of things to say about relationships and says them through Russell Brand singing a song called ‘Inside of You.’
Stoller and Brand’s follow-up/Spin-off Get Him to the Greek is also great, but it doesn’t have the breezy wit of Sarah Marshall. Part of this is Segal’s central performance, which strikes just the right balance of buffoonery and honest sincerity. He’s also naked a few times, which everyone knows is hilarious.
Check in tomorrow for numbers 80-71!
84. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
The middle part of a trilogy, especially one with as many expectations built in as Lord of the Rings, is tricky; you don’t have the benefit of introducing us to your cast, or giving us the climax of the story, so it can easily feel unimportant compared to the other two installments. After dividing up the Fellowship at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, however, The Two Towers does an excellent job of giving us several wonderful adventures through a fully-realized world.
This is also where we get to spend some time with Andy Serkis’ Gollum, which is easily my favorite performance in the trilogy. Were there any justice in the world, he would have picked up an Oscar nod for this.
83. The Matador (Richard Shepard, 2005)
After seeing Pierce Brosnan as smooth, charming James Bond for so many years, it was jarring to see The Matador, where he plays a sleazy, drunk, past-his-prime hitman. However, the defiance of our expectations about what Brosnan is capable of is exactly why the performance works as well as it does. Throw in Greg Kinnear as a nerdy guy who has recently lost his son, and you get one of the strangest, darkest buddy comedies in ages. The film is super dark, but it manages to find such a grounding in the friendship between Kinnear and Brosnan that it ultimately finds a strange, almost uplifting tone. Not many people saw this one, but I can’t recommend it enough.
86. Closer (Mike Nichols, 2004)
Stage plays are difficult to adapt into films because, by their very nature, they are sedentary and not action-driven, or if they are action-driven, much of it tends to occur off-stage, or in this case off-camera. Closer is a brilliant and heartbreaking looking at four people and their complicated relationships, as they dig deeper and deeper at each other.
Natalie Portman is phenomenal as an adorable stripper with lots of secrets, and Clive Owen is great as a pervy dentist named Larry. An emotionally challenging movie, but one of the best made in recent years about relationships.
85. X-Men 2 (Brian Singer, 2003)
‘The Greatest Superhero Movie Ever Made’ is a bold claim, but X-Men 2 certainly takes a run at it. By pitting the mutants against a vengeful, angry human played by the wonderful Brian Cox, the film’s message of tolerance blends perfectly with awesome action scenes and displays of mutant power.
Not to mention, the final fight features Wolverine and Lady Deathstryke stabbing each other, like, hundreds and hundreds of times and being fine. And there’s really no where else that you’re gonna see that besides an X-Men movie. It’s also got one of the coolest opening scenes ever, with Nightcrawler staging a one-man assault on the White House. Awesome.
88. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003)
When Pirates first came out, nobody expected great things from a film based on a theme park ride. However, the movie had a secret weapon up its sleeve: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow — the iconic, swaggering, consistently drunk hero that paved the way to two shitty sequels and a countless number of terrible impressions from your friends. But at the time, no one had ever seen a character like Captain Jack, who was so cool and funny that he even made Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly palatable. And that’s no easy feat.
87. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical look at music and journalism, Almost Famous defies expectations. By showing us the inner workings of a rock band through the eyes of a fresh-eyed twenty-something journalist, Crowe simultaneously builds up and dispels the mythos of the rock band, portraying its members as Rock Gods who are still unflinchingly human. The film originally contained a scene where the main character played ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for his mom that lasted the entire length of the song. While this was understandably cut, it should give you some idea of this movies dedication to it’s subject matter.
It also has that famous and awesome scene where everyone sings ‘Tiny Dancer’ on a bus.
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90. Tropic Thunder (Ben Stiller, 2008)
Parody is a difficult thing to get right. Too light a touch and people may not realize what you are parodying, too heavy of one and you end up with something like Epic Movie. In Tropic Thunder, however, director/star Ben Stiller got it just right, crafting an homage to and parody of war films that is a hilarious and exciting war movie in its own right.
Not to mention, this movie has balls. At no point is it afraid to ‘go there.’ This is the movie that put Robert Downey Jr. in blackface, and not only did it not offend people, but he got an Oscar nomination for it. He also taught the American movie-going public a valuable lesson: You never, ever, go Full Retard.
89. Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002)
Gangs of New York often feels like Scorsese trying to have his cake and eat it too, but man is it a tasty cake. (Shut up. I’m not good at metaphors.) Anchored by a brilliant, villainous performance by Daniel Day Lewis as a character that you know you’re supposed to be scared of because his name is Bill the Butcher, Gangs of New York is a violent, glorious opus to the heydays of American crime.