The 20 Most Impressive Movies Of The Last 20 Years

by zadsam | created - 30 Sep 2010 | updated - 01 Oct 2010 | Public

Movies that may be, or may be not, shocking or controversial in some way

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1. Irreversible (2002)

Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

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51 Metascore

Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.

Director: Gaspar Noé | Stars: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia

Votes: 98,020 | Gross: $0.75M

I guess I will never forget this movie. I don't know whether that is good or bad, I just know that I witnessed a terrible execution with a fire distinguisher and a horrible, cruel, sick-making rape. This movie is a masterpiece and one of the most horrible horror/mind-fucks I have ever seen. Not recommended for those who have not a strong stomach or nerves.

2. Kids (1995)

Unrated | 91 min | Drama

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A day in the life of a group of teens as they travel around New York City skating, drinking, smoking, and deflowering virgins.

Director: Larry Clark | Stars: Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloë Sevigny, Sarah Henderson

Votes: 64,451 | Gross: $7.42M

Kids drinking, using drugs, fucking, stealing, and much more. For 90 minutes. Boring? No. Shocking? Yes. Because of the semi-documentary approach, 'Kids' is disturbing and realistic. An eye-opener.

3. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

R | 118 min | Drama, Fantasy, War

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98 Metascore

In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

Director: Guillermo del Toro | Stars: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú

Votes: 533,850 | Gross: $37.63M

The movie looks beautiful, like some innocent fairytale, but it is not. Watching this movie is like going into a hot bath that gradually gets colder and colder and there is no way to escape. Not controversial, but quite shocking. A movie you will not forget that easy.

4. Saw (2004)

R | 103 min | Crime, Horror, Mystery

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
46 Metascore

Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they're pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.

Director: James Wan | Stars: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, Ken Leung

Votes: 333,508 | Gross: $56.00M

Either love them or hate them: the 'Saw' movies. I love them and I watched every one of them. Just like with every franchise, the first one is the best. An absolute cultclassic among the horror movies, very bloody and sadistic.

5. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

R | 99 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

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Two girls have an intense fantasy life; their parents, concerned the fantasy is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent

Votes: 53,818 | Gross: $3.05M

A subtle Peter Jackson: yes, it is possible. However he still uses a lot of special effects, the movie slowly crawls underneath your skin, until it gives you a huge uppercut at the end. Psychological very disturbing, with a brilliant cast, script and director.

6. Goodfellas (1990)

R | 146 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

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89 Metascore

The story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco

Votes: 832,673 | Gross: $46.84M

This movie is the perfect example of an epic movie. It can be described in just three words: go see it. When you buy this movie in the Netherlands, the package does not say anything about the movie itself. So again: go see it.

7. Surveillance (I) (2008)

R | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

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31 Metascore

Two FBI agents attempt to clarify the murders occurring in a desolate region. They approach the witnesses of the latest incident with the help of the local police. All of them hide something and all have wildly different stories to tell.

Director: Jennifer Lynch | Stars: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Caroline Aaron

Votes: 15,681 | Gross: $0.03M

Not much people liked this movie, but I did. Sadistic? Yes. Violent? Sure. Maybe a bit over the top sometimes? Absolutely. Nevertheless I really think this is a good movie. Disturbing, sexy, violent and an awesome surprising twist at the end.

8. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

R | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

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79 Metascore

After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn

Votes: 762,490 | Gross: $2.83M

'Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?' After I saw Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs', I knew I found a new favorite director. 'Kill Bill' was more cartoonish, 'Reservoir Dogs' was grim and very hard boiled. Small talk combined with cruel bloody violence: Quentin Tarantino is the man for this mix.

9. Se7en (1995)

R | 127 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

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65 Metascore

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Andrew Kevin Walker

Votes: 1,177,507 | Gross: $100.13M

There are seven sins. One of them is not watching this film. Graphic and bloody, from a director who made a lot of commercials and videoclips before he made 'Alien 3' and this masterpiece. All he needed was a brilliant script and there you have it: the perfect combination between visuals and content.

10. Fight Club (1999)

R | 139 min | Drama

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66 Metascore

An insomniac office worker, looking for a way to change his life, crosses paths with a devil-may-care soapmaker, forming an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier

Votes: 1,546,045 | Gross: $37.03M

And there he is again. This one had a lot more violence than 'Seven' and went much deeper into madness. However 'Seven' is a damn good thriller and has some guts, it is just childplay compared to 'Fight Club'.

11. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

R | 81 min | Horror, Mystery

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81 Metascore

Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez | Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard, Bob Griffin

Votes: 206,575 | Gross: $140.54M

First, this is not a real documentary. Second, that does not freaking matter. This movie is horryfying, scary and... Well... Very frightening. One of the few times I was actually scared by a film.

12. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

R | 102 min | Drama

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68 Metascore

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Votes: 653,905 | Gross: $3.64M

Do not watch this if you do not like depressive movies about dreams that are shattered, people who drown into their own desperation, and a lot of drug use. If this does not bother you and you want to watch a movie with guts, then this is something for you.

13. Funny Games (2007)

R | 111 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
44 Metascore

Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.

Director: Michael Haneke | Stars: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet

Votes: 78,443 | Gross: $1.29M

I'm not someone who puts a remake into a list, but I must admit that I liked the remake more than the original. It just looked much better, I do not know why. Haneke said that if you are able to watch this movie until the end, you needed this. I saw this movie twice... When you saw much 'Saw'-like movies, I recommend this one. Trust me, you will see 'torture porn' very different after 'Funny Games'. Haunting and disturbing.

14. Wild at Heart (1990)

R | 125 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

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52 Metascore

Young lovers Sailor and Lula run from the variety of weirdos that Lula's mom has hired to kill Sailor.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, J.E. Freeman

Votes: 69,558 | Gross: $14.56M

Since I'm a huge fan of David Lynch (why does he not direct anymore??), I just wanted to put his films from 1990 in this list. Not really controversial, perhaps a bit shocking, but definitely impressive.

'Wild at Heart' is a strange, but one of Lynch's most accessible movies, along with 'Blue Velvet', 'The Elephant Man' and 'The Straight Story'. There is some heavy violence there and some explicit sexual scenes, but nevertheless very impressive.

15. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

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83 Metascore

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Jeanne Bates

Votes: 271,856 | Gross: $7.22M

This is cinema. An intelligent, multilayered script, beautiful visuals, very strong acting and a dazzling plottwist in the middle of the movie. One of Lynch's masterpieces.

16. Lost Highway (1997)

R | 134 min | Mystery, Thriller

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52 Metascore

After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, John Roselius, Louis Eppolito

Votes: 110,759 | Gross: $3.80M

After you figured out 'Mulholland Drive', try this one. It uses the same structure as 'Mulholland Drive', but then the other way round. You got it...? It does not matter, for 'Lost Highway' is a dark movie that takes you into the derailed mind of a man who is lost into his own madness.

17. Inland Empire (2006)

R | 180 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

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72 Metascore

As an actress starts to adopt the persona of her character in a film, her world starts to become nightmarish and surreal.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux, Karolina Gruszka

Votes: 46,820 | Gross: $0.75M

I never did drugs, so I do not know what a trip is like. I only read about it, and now that I have seen 'Inland Empire', I think I also know how it looks like. You like to be challenged? Go see this one.

18. Pulp Fiction (1994)

R | 154 min | Crime, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
94 Metascore

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis

Votes: 1,508,404 | Gross: $107.93M

Controversial? Perhaps. Shocking? Not really. Revolutionary, crazy, cartoonesk, violent, funny and brilliant. That is 'Pulp Fiction'. If you did not see it already, do it right now! And then see it again!

19. Magnolia (1999)

R | 188 min | Drama

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77 Metascore

An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Votes: 259,100 | Gross: $22.46M

If you talk about an epic movie which is as well a musical with an awesome cast and a dazzling script, you talk about 'Magnolia'. It is impossible to tell what it is about, so do not waste your time and see it for yourself!

20. Pi (1998)

R | 84 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

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72 Metascore

A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart

Votes: 154,868 | Gross: $3.22M

'Eraserhead' was too old for this list, so I took another film which could be described as a 'cyber update' to 'Eraserhead'. Coincidentally, it is also a film by another favorite director of mine: Darren Aronofsky. I like all his films (yes, that is including 'The Fountain'), and this one is his debut. What it is about? A guy who believes he found the key to 'unlock the universal patterns found in nature' (according to IMDB). Or something like that. Anyway, the film is surrealistic, strange, paranoid, but most of all: the product of a genius. I do not know whether it is controversial, but it is shocking and impressive.