My Favorite Movies of the 2000's Decade

I don’t really have any specific criteria for which movies are or are not my favorites. For me, the most important test of a movie is whether or not it’s entertaining or enjoyable to watch. Even unpleasant subjects can be approached in such a way that I like where they take me. But many of the so-called best movies of all time can’t even pass this simple test. In order for a movie to be great, it must first be good. What difference does it make if ‘Memento’ tells its story backwards when it can't even get me to care about what's happening on the screen? Gore Verbinski re-spun the same tired old blockbuster formula with ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ and the result there was magic.

The list, by the way, is a work in progress. There are five (hard to find) movies left that I would like to see before I consider it to be complete.

These are ranked in order.
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Almost Famous (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour. (122 mins.)
Director: Cameron Crowe
“ A perfect movie. No other movie that I’ve seen captures the mood and the atmosphere of a time and place as completely as this one does with the rock scene in the early 1970’s. Director Cameron Crowe does what I hear other filmmakers only talk about doing; he transports you into the world he recreates, as if you’re riding the bus with the band. Watching this movie makes me feel like I lived through the 70’s rock scene. It’s Crowe’s semi-autobiographical story of his experiences as a young rock journalist, and he hasn’t forgotten a single minute detail of what he saw and heard in that time. There is not an inauthentic element to the movie. I agree with the general consensus that the sing-along to Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ was the best scene in this movie, which is filled with great scenes. Kate Hudson has mostly survived on mediocre romantic comedies in the years since this was released, but she is luminous here. This is the movie whose ‘Director’s Cut’ actually lives up to the hype director’s cuts usually get. And the DVD’s feature commentary, in which Crowe and his mother dominate the conversation, sets the standard by which all other commentaries should be judged. ” - Notspartacus
The Dark Knight (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the Dark Knight must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice. (152 mins.)
“ Out of all the movies of the decade, this was probably the best surprise. I was never a big fan of the Batman universe, but this is an epic masterpiece. It’s unlike any other superhero movie ever made. Given that it’s about a billionaire vigilante running around dressed like a bat, people have maybe made too much of the ‘gritty realism’ I kept hearing about. I prefer to think of it as the first superhero movie in which the heroes and villains are real people inhabiting their world, and dealing with the real-life consequences of their actions. The struggle between order and chaos – or good and evil, if you like – is at the center of the plot. The Joker is more like a force of nature than a character, delighting in the impossible choices that he makes other characters face throughout the movie. He pushes all of the good guys to their breaking point, and some of them do break. Each of the major players represents a different interpretation of individual ethics. Of course, this will be remembered largely as Heath Ledger’s swan song, and he deserves the praise he’s gotten for it. As written by the Nolan brothers, the Joker was made to be one of the most captivating screen villains in history. And while I don’t think he went above and beyond, he certainly lived up to an insanely ambitious character. ” - Notspartacus
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
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. (147 mins.)
Director: David Lynch
“ One good measure of a great movie is the question of whether or not it rewards repeat viewings. This one is so good, and so complex, that it actually demands them. Like most of David Lynch’s work, it needs to be seen multiple times just to be fully absorbed. But with this one, he’s at the top of his game. (Also, it includes one of the sexiest scenes in the history of cinema.) I’ve always loved Lynch’s signature movies; they’re like bad dreams set to simmer, always unsettling, but never quite reaching nightmare level. Watching over and over again to figure out what’s going on, and how it’s all connected, is always the best part of a Lynch movie, and it was never more fun than in this one. Lynch himself has referred to his movie as “a love story in a city of dreams.” He’d intended it to be a TV series, like Twin Peaks before it. That idea was rejected, and I don't know if it freed him up to add in scenes that weren't appropriate for television, or constrained him so that he only had two hours to tell his story. However he feels about it, this is the best work by my favorite director. ” - Notspartacus
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play. (124 mins.)
Director: Charlie Kaufman
“ It might scare some people away to call this one of the most cerebral movies I’ve ever seen. But I don’t care. Until this movie, Charlie Kaufman was just the best screenwriter in Hollywood. But this film reveals him to be a completely capable director, and given the subject matter in this case, he may be the only one who could have done justice to his own screenplay. It’s difficult to tell exactly where this movie detours from our reality. It doesn’t really play like a dream, but certain aspects of the world as we know it are altered within this world. The most notable of these is the 20 years spent in the rehearsal and the always-under-construction set for the play that ends up never having an opening night performance. ” - Notspartacus
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara. (107 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
“ If you don’t know, Robert S. McNamara is most famous for being the Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and for being the man most responsible for the Vietnam War. This is basically just an interview conducted by director Errol Morris – interspersed with archive footage – and he takes McNamara to some very uncomfortable places. The reality of it - and the ominous soundtrack - makes this one of the most haunting movies I’ve ever seen. McNamara’s most shocking admission is the acknowledgement that, following World War II, had the US lost against the Japanese, he and a handful of others would have been tried as war criminals. ” - Notspartacus
The Station Agent (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
When his only friend dies, a man born with dwarfism moves to rural New Jersey to live a life of solitude, only to meet a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman dealing with her own personal loss. (89 mins.)
Director: Tom McCarthy
“ This movie is about a little person (midget, dwarf, etc.) who goes to live at a train station he inherits somewhere in New Jersey, and the people he meets in his first few months. Those are a grieving mother who’s lost her young son, and separated from her husband and an energetic 20-something Italian man who’s caring for his ailing father. There is also a young librarian who shows a great deal of personal interest in her new neighbor. This movie is quiet and deliberate, kind of an antidote to the effects-laden blockbusters that make the biggest waves in the box office. All of the main characters are dealing with different kinds of pain in their lives. And by the end, the three at the center of the story all seem to be holding one another up. ” - Notspartacus
21 Grams (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician, a grieving mother, and a born-again ex-con. (124 mins.)
“ This is one of only two movies this decade that made me cry. (And more than once.) The lives of three different characters – played by Benicio del Toro, Naomi Watts, and Sean Penn – intertwine, as each is pushed to the limits of what a person can endure. It’s hard for me to say whether the fragmented time line does the movie justice. I guess it’s meant to keep you thoroughly involved while trying to put the different pieces in their places. ” - Notspartacus
The Best of Youth (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An Italian epic that follows the lives of two brothers, from the 1960s to the 2000s. (366 mins.)
“ I saw this one just recently. It reminded me a lot of ‘Forrest Gump,’ but instead of a single (not-too-bright) individual, it centers on a whole family, and instead of America, 1955-1980, it deals with the ebb and flow of Italian history and culture from about 1965 to 2005. The six-hour runtime was intimidating before I watched, but the story was so engrossing that, when it was over, I wanted more. The movie had many emotional highs and lows as the characters went on their journeys, including a reunion that brought me to tears. ” - Notspartacus
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Goaded by his buddies, a nerdy guy who's never "done the deed" only finds the pressure mounting when he meets a single mother. (116 mins.)
Director: Judd Apatow
“ This is the funniest movie of the decade. Judging from the title, I initially thought it was gonna be heavy in mean-spirited humor. But it was surprisingly sweet and earnest, and, like all great comedies, endlessly quotable. For a while in the late 90’s, Hollywood comedies went above and beyond in their use of end credits, until they had run out of good ideas. But I love what they did with the end credits here. ” - Notspartacus
Before Sunset (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse's book tour. (80 mins.)
“ I didn’t see the original until after the sequel came out, and I instantly fell in love with both of them. It doesn’t include a twist, but this one has the coolest ending in movie history. Maybe they could have done more with the city of Paris as a backdrop – as they did with Vienna in the first movie – but I thought the way they used it added to the realism of the situation, that these are real people inhabiting a messy world that doesn’t necessarily cater to their dreams. ” - Notspartacus
A Serious Man (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern physics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking meaning and answers amidst his turmoils, he seems to keep sinking. (106 mins.)
“ This was the movie that really opened my eyes to how much I can love a well-made dark comedy. The Coen brothers are masters of the genre, and “Fargo” and others notwithstanding, this is my favorite of their dark comedies. It seems almost to be a modernized retelling of the biblical story of Job. In the upper Midwest in the late 1960s, a middle aged family man named Larry Gopnik suffers through an extraordinary onslaught of indignities, too many even to list. His efforts to deal with tremendous adversity seem to be undermined at every turn, very much as if God is deliberately stacking the deck against him. And the difficulties keep getting worse, up to and including the movie’s final scene… ” - Notspartacus
The Century of the Self (2002 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
A documentary about the rise of psychoanalysis as a powerful means of persuasion for both governments and corporations. (235 mins.)
“ I may be cheating to call this a “movie.” It’s actually a 4-hour BBC documentary miniseries. It takes an in-depth look at the psychological techniques used in advertising and politics in America and England throughout the 20th century. That may seem dry and boring, but they use lots of fascinating examples of the ways in which the government uses psychology on the masses to get permission to do what they want to do. And it works much the same in advertising. What intrigued me the most was that you could see the ebb and flow of history and of the prevalent trends in different timeframes in connection to the ways psychology was used on the masses. ” - Notspartacus
Ghost World (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives. (111 mins.)
Director: Terry Zwigoff
“ This is a quirky movie about people who make their lives on the fringe of society. And it has nothing at all to do with ghosts. Based on a graphic novel, it tells the story of two girls, best friends and rebellious outcasts, who just graduated high school. They meet a middle aged man, played by Steve Buscemi, who pretty much represents to them the future of the path they are taking. One balks, and starts to conform, and the other, in a perfectly fitting but inexplicable ending, continues down the path, not knowing where it will take her. ” - Notspartacus
The Ring (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone in a week of viewing it. (115 mins.)
Director: Gore Verbinski
“ If the primary purpose of a horror movie is to scare you, then I consider this to be the best horror movie ever made. I remember walking out of the theatre (in the only advance screening of my life) with my hands shaking, and needing 15 minutes to compose myself. But I can understand how some people weren’t scared by this movie. I’m not sure how they did it, but Samara’s unnatural movements were, for me, the most unnerving part, and I can see how that wouldn’t affect everyone the same way. ” - Notspartacus
United 93 (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A real-time account of the events on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on September 11th, 2001 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers foiled the terrorist plot. (111 mins.)
Director: Paul Greengrass
“ This is the second movie of the decade that made me cry. I wondered, after 9/11, if they could make a film that treated the subject respectfully. Well, they did it with this one. The choice to cast only unknown actors was the best move. There is no attempt at hammy overacting. I’ve known of people who tried to dismiss the heroism of the passengers, and others who managed to overstate what they did. Obviously, we don’t definitively know what happened on that plane, but we do know that that was the view from the cockpit in the final moments. ” - Notspartacus
In Bruges (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be. (107 mins.)
Director: Martin McDonagh
“ This is a surprisingly complex and paradoxical movie. Somehow the darkest parts are the ones that make you laugh the most, while much of the drama is light and cheery. After an assassination goes bad, two Irish hit men are forced to hide out in a medieval Belgian tourist town. Their bizarre adventures, and the quirky people they meet in town, give this movie a wholly unique feel. It’s difficult to compare it to any other movie. I think it’s the best black comedy since Dr. Strangelove. ” - Notspartacus
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Two Boston area detectives investigate a little girl's kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally. (114 mins.)
Director: Ben Affleck
“ This is a thriller about the kidnapping of a little girl in a lower class Boston neighborhood, and the private investigators, working alongside the Boston PD, who try to piece things together. The twist ending, one of my favorites, is not exactly as mind-blowing as ‘The Sixth Sense,’ but is astonishing in its implications. It doesn't force you to re-examine the movie; it forces you to re-examine your own priorities. ” - Notspartacus
State and Main (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A movie crew invades a small town whose residents are all too ready to give up their values for showbiz glitz. (105 mins.)
Director: David Mamet
“ David Mamet has been called the Quentin Tarantino of the stage, due largely to his mostly male-dominated plays, their criminal underworlds, and the witty, tough guy dialogue. He hasn’t directed many movies, but this is my favorite. It has enough of those elements to be recognizable as a Mamet film, but it also shows a surprisingly sweet side. A film production crew descends on a quaint, slow-paced small town in New England, and before production even begins, they wreak havoc. The sharp contrast between the two groups is the great underlying theme to this searing critique of Hollywood’s excess and sense of entitlement. ” - Notspartacus
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with. (108 mins.)
Director: Michel Gondry
“ I originally thought this would be a new kind of romantic movie, with the main characters intentionally giving themselves amnesia as a plot device to make things more interesting for the audience. But there are so many characters, all with their own agendas, that it quickly became for me another Charlie Kaufman script that explores the difficulties of life, and the pros and cons of the various choices we make. Also, there was one scene, involving Kirsten Dunst's tertiary character, that didn't quite fit into the movie, but is among the best deleted scenes in any DVD's Special Features. ” - Notspartacus
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding. (95 mins.)
“ Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood’ may be a ‘better’ movie, but this was more entertaining for me. Adam Sandler’s standard on-screen persona, angry man-child, was taken out of the immature comedy framework and placed into this romantic drama. The movie is VERY loosely based on a true story, in that there really was a man who found a loophole in a marketing ploy and bought lots of pudding in order to rack up frequent flyer miles. But that was just the quirky backdrop; the rest of the story was all Anderson’s invention. Sandler’s evil sisters, his toilet plunger business, his romance with Emily Watson, the four blonde brothers, and trips to Hawaii and Utah add up to a completely original story. ” - Notspartacus
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate "Captain" Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor's daughter, from Jack's former pirate allies, who are now undead. (143 mins.)
Director: Gore Verbinski
“ Some movies can serve as morality tales, make you laugh, or have socio-political overtones. But with this one, you just sit back and enjoy the ride; it’s a whole lot better than the one at Disneyland. By now, everyone in the world knows about Johnny Depp’s bizarre Captain Jack Sparrow. With a cast full of talented actors, he effortlessly walks away with the movie. One thing I’ve realized since, though, is that this is pretty much his only great trick. He rode the success of this movie to superstardom, after which he has done virtually nothing remarkable, certainly nothing as impressive as his performance here. ” - Notspartacus
Up in the Air (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Ryan Bingham enjoys living out of a suitcase for his job traveling around the country firing people, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a potential love interest and a new hire. (109 mins.)
Director: Jason Reitman
“ George Clooney plays an interesting character – sort of a free agent who flies around the country firing people at various different companies because their bosses are too cowardly to do it themselves. He’s never seen any reason to settle down; he rents out a single room in somebody else’s apartment, and he rarely stays there. But the road is his home; he mostly lives out of his suitcase. Then, a new recruit, fresh out of business school, proposes to his agency that they save money on airfare by conducting the firings over the internet. Seeing that his whole lifestyle is on the line, he goes on the offensive and rips her proposal to shreds. But she’s no fading violet; she goes on the road with him, and learns the ropes quickly. But I’m not doing the movie justice; all of this happens early. The movie is much more layered and complex than that. It shows him trying – and failing – to connect with family, and meeting a fellow road warrior who will coordinate her schedule with his for ‘no-strings-attached’ bedroom antics. Then, to his surprise and hers, he begins to fall for her. But I’m still not doing the movie justice. In the end, the movie looks with clear eyes at the negative aspects, in microcosm, of a capitalist empire on the decline. ” - Notspartacus
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius. (127 mins.)
Director: Sam Raimi
“ This was superior to its predecessor on every level – a cooler villain, more developed characters, a deeper and more interesting plot, and the fight on the train was one of the most exciting actions sequences of all time. ” - Notspartacus
Spirited Away (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts. (125 mins.)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
“ Maybe the best animated movie ever made, this is certainly the best that Miyazaki has produced. If you don’t know who Miyazaki is, try to imagine combining Hitchcock, Kurosawa, and Spielberg into one filmmaker. That is how big he is in the animated film community. A young girl in Japan ventures, with her parents, into an abandoned amusement park, and stumbles through a magical world filled with motley characters. If you recognize the plot of Alice in Wonderland, there are lots of thematic similarities, but this is its own dream. ” - Notspartacus
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend's ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son. (95 mins.)
Director: Kurt Kuenne
“ One of the most devastating movies I’ve ever seen, made that much worse because it’s a documentary and everything in it is true. You don’t watch this movie hoping to have a good time. YOU DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE HOPING TO HAVE A GOOD TIME. If you have any capacity for crying, you will probably cry. I suppose the title does enough to hint at what happens, so I will leave it at that. ” - Notspartacus
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor. (103 mins.)
Director: Shane Black
“ This movie is probably not as clever as it seems, but I really liked it. Exploding with sharp, self-referential dialogue, it rarely takes itself seriously, but manages to maintain the excitement of the mystery all throughout. It is to noirish crime thrillers what ‘Scream’ is to teen slasher flicks. It manages to make fun of its genre while at the same time honoring it. ” - Notspartacus
Runaway Jury (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer. (127 mins.)
Director: Gary Fleder
“ I used to watch a movie three or four times when I rented it, even if it was only mediocre. Somewhere along the way, once became enough for most of them. Then came ‘Runaway Jury.’ This is the last movie I watched three times on the first day I saw it. John Cusack is perfectly cast as the ‘nice-guy-with-a-hidden-agenda.’ Most literary adaptations – like ‘No Country for Old Men’ – just show that the story works best in novel form. But this works on a variety of levels, as courtroom drama, as suspenseful thriller, as character study, and the blatant political overtones raise interesting questions. ” - Notspartacus
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while he must deal with his bizarre family life back home. (96 mins.)
Director: Jared Hess
“ I guess this was a fluke, but I thought it was hilarious. It’s another endlessly quotable comedy. It spares noone in its mean-spiritedness, but the best comedy needs a victim, or it doesn't work. ” - Notspartacus
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son. (92 mins.)
Director: Jason Reitman
“ This is a fascinating examination of the question of just how important our freedom is to us, and how far the tobacco industry will go to keep selling us their products. ” - Notspartacus
Adaptation. (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean for the screen. (114 mins.)
Director: Spike Jonze
“ All of Charlie Kaufman’s last three screenplays – ‘Eternal Sunshine,’ ‘Synecdoche’ and this one – made it high on my list. This one includes the last great performance(s) by the talented sellout, Nicolas Cage. Taking wild creative leaps in the process of almost completely abandoning its source material, Susan Orlean’s ‘The Orchid Thief,’ it expands to include the screenwriter – and his fictional twin brother, Donald – in the plot. Kaufman is the greatest storyteller of this generation of filmmakers. Which brings us right along to . . . ” - Notspartacus
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them. (107 mins.)
Director: Joel Coen
“ The Coen brothers, as a team, are probably the second greatest storytellers of this generation. And I consider this to be their best work of the last 10 years. For those who don’t know, this is a retelling of Homer’s mythological epic, ‘The Odyssey,’ with the action moved to the American South in the 1930’s. The colorful mix of characters, led by George Clooney’s Ulysses Everett McGill, populated one of the most interesting movies of the decade. And, ‘Almost Famous’ notwithstanding, this has the best soundtrack of the decade. ” - Notspartacus
The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A retired legal counselor writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past unresolved homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his superior - both of which still haunt him decades later. (129 mins.)
“ There’s been a slew of good Spanish language movies in recent years, and here’s my favorite of the bunch. It involves justice, politics, love, and regret, and shows the characters making fitful choices trying to right old wrongs. ” - Notspartacus
The White Ribbon (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. Who is responsible? (144 mins.)
Director: Michael Haneke
“ I have become a bad movie goer. Here is a movie that demands (and possibly rewards) repeat viewings. I watched it and observed that it would be nice to watch it again. And then I returned it to the video store. It’s the story of many bizarre and often horrible events unfolding in a fictional German village just before the start of World War I. Supposedly, all the major events in the movie actually happened somewhere in Germany around that time. The movie is a puzzle, and it never lets you know who is responsible for everything that takes place. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the children in the movie belong to the generation that gave rise to the Nazis. The movie could be saying that these children were enabled into atrocities by apologist parents. Or, it could be that the parents were behind the events, and the children simply followed in their footsteps. All of this is oversimplifying, of course. And yet, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Obviously, this movie demands more discussion than I am able to engage in here. ” - Notspartacus
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep. (102 mins.)
“ This has got to be the most effective anti-drug movie ever made (while at the same time, I’m sure it made some people desperately want to try drugs). I’ve heard it described as ‘the best movie you never want to see again.’ The intertwined descents of four different characters into their own separate hells is terrifying to watch, and yet mesmerizing – like the ultimate train wreck. ” - Notspartacus
Tape (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Three old high school friends pass the time in a Michigan motel room dissecting the painful memories of their high school years. (86 mins.)
“ I can’t see a clear, common thread running through Richard Linklater’s films. He also directed ‘Before Sunset’ (#9), which bears no resemblance to this one, although both place Ethan Hawke at the head of a very small cast. The whole movie takes place in a cheap, cramped hotel room, and only three people appear on screen. Without giving anything away, this is about a rape which may or may not have happened years earlier – but probably did – and three people confronting their own past in different ways. ” - Notspartacus
In the Mood for Love (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs. (98 mins.)
Director: Kar Wai Wong
“ Here is the story of a love affair that never was – due to timidity and a sense of propriety more than anything else. The movie makes lots of use of bright and vivid colors to create a dreamy, nostalgic beauty that permeates the whole mournful narrative. The characters, neighbors who discover that their spouses are cheating with one another, begin to spend a lot of time together. They convince themselves to be better than the cheating spouses, even as it’s clear they are falling in love. But they both hesitate, both refuse to make themselves known, and their opportunity for happiness slips away. ” - Notspartacus
The Departed (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston. (151 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
“ So, Martin Scorsese decided to remake the Hong Kong movie, “Infernal Affairs” (#196). It’s pretty faithful, really, but his technique elevates everything about it. And it doesn’t hurt that he got some of the best actors in Hollywood to play in his version. Leonardo DiCaprio is an undercover cop infiltrating the Boston mob, while Matt Damon is an undercover mafia lieutenant who’s been planted in the Boston PD. In other words, this movie is made up of so many twists that you really can’t tell who’s honest and who’s corrupt. In the end, everybody’s corrupt. And everybody is only out for themselves. ” - Notspartacus
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Paul Rusesabagina was a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. (121 mins.)
Director: Terry George
“ Very similar in theme to “Schindler’s List,” it’s a sad commentary that this movie depicts events which happened while that movie was still in theaters. In 1994, Paul Rusesabagina used every tactic at his disposal to save the lives of about 1,200 Rwandans from the genocide that was taking place outside his hotel and all over the country. ” - Notspartacus
Sin City (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption. (124 mins.)
“ Violence and chivalry in a comic book world. Everything a reasonably intelligent 14-year-old boy could ever want in a movie. ” - Notspartacus
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional. (132 mins.)
Director: Clint Eastwood
“ Clint Eastwood is my favorite living American icon. It seems, now, like the first 60 years of his life was just a warm-up. “Million Dollar Baby” – released when he was 74 years old – is the best movie he has directed. It’s ostensibly a boxing movie, but it goes so much deeper that the boxing almost seems like an afterthought, or an arbitrary plot device. Or it would seem like that if the movie wasn’t so perceptive about the details of the sport. And that’s part of what makes it such a great movie. It uses the world of women’s boxing as a jumping off point into the real story – an emerging father-daughter relationship and an unbearable choice that they are ultimately faced with. ” - Notspartacus
Gosford Park (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
The lives of upstairs guests and downstairs servants at a party in 1932 in a country house in England as they investigate a murder involving one of them. (131 mins.)
Director: Robert Altman
“ One of Altman’s best. This is a movie I can watch over and over. It’s a large ensemble story that deals with a murder at an English country manor. But it’s really about the interplay between “upstairs” and “downstairs,” the wealthy aristocrats and their servants in England’s early 20th Century fiercely class-based society. ” - Notspartacus
Caché (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A married couple is terrorized by a series of surveillance videotapes left on their front porch. (117 mins.)
Director: Michael Haneke
“ Somebody is sending a menacing message to a family living in Paris. Videotape recordings of their comings and goings are left on their front porch. They are also receiving anonymous phone calls and childish drawings of a somewhat disturbing nature. No explicit threats are made, but it’s enough to make anybody uncomfortable. This movie also has maybe the most ingenious use of the camera I’ve seen. It begins by forcing us to question the chronology and perspective of everything we see. That becomes significant, as the events seem to be interspersed with flashbacks of a child with blood on his face. And that may be the key to the movie. The movie is about guilt, but many of the major questions remain when the credits roll. Although some answers are implied in the final shot. ” - Notspartacus
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
In Shanghai, China in the 1940s, a wannabe gangster aspires to join the notorious "Axe Gang" while residents of a housing complex exhibit extraordinary powers in defending their turf. (99 mins.)
Director: Stephen Chow
“ I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that takes itself less seriously than this one, and still manages to be good. It’s a bizarre mix of genres: Kung Fu, comedy, and frantic live-action cartoon. ” - Notspartacus
There Will Be Blood (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A story of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness, focusing on a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business. (158 mins.)
“ In one of the better horse races in recent Oscar memory, I thought this was better than “No Country for Old Men.” I think people were reaching to try and view it as a specific skewering of the modern oil industry. (For that, I’d recommend ‘Syriana,’ #93.) It’s more of a one-sided attack on capitalism in general. ” - Notspartacus
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Devastated Peter takes a Hawaiian vacation in order to deal with the recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know, Sarah's traveling to the same resort as her ex - and she's bringing along her new boyfriend. (111 mins.)
“ Another in Judd Apatow’s successful string of comedies, this one wasn’t as aggressive as “Superbad,” and I count that to its credit. It has grown on me. I liked it the first time I saw it, but thought some parts (like the rock opera) were too corny. Somehow, though, it has gradually become one of my favorite comedies of the decade. ” - Notspartacus
The Lives of Others (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives. (137 mins.)
“ There are echoes here of the Bush administration’s hope to find WMD’s. It takes place in East Germany during the 1980’s. Members of the secret police begin spying on a faithful party member, a playwright, suspicious of his true loyalties. After several months with no hint of anything, one of them has become obsessed, not so much with finding guilt as with the day to day details of the playwright’s life, and that of his mistress. That is the setup. The increasing intensity, and the release of pressure with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of Germany, make this a great movie, and a brilliant document of recent world history. ” - Notspartacus
Junebug (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A dealer in "outsider" art travels from Chicago to North Carolina to meet her new in-laws, challenging the equilibrium of this middle class Southern home. (106 mins.)
Director: Phil Morrison
“ It’s entirely too easy to fall in love with Amy Adams. Even in a supporting role, she is the center of the movie. She plays the pregnant young wife of an embittered husband in a southern family. They live with his parents, when his older brother – who’s had success in Chicago’s art scene – comes to visit in a working vacation with his girlfriend. ” - Notspartacus
Snatch (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond. (104 mins.)
Director: Guy Ritchie
“ Far and away the best rip-off of ‘Pulp Fiction,’ complete with interwoven storylines, a colorful underworld, a renegade boxer, conversations about pigs and dogs, and an intensely idiosyncratic soundtrack. ” - Notspartacus
Lost in Translation (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (102 mins.)
Director: Sofia Coppola
“ Like many people I knew, I didn’t think much of this movie when it first came out. “Nothing happens,” we all said. But having recently watched it again 10 years later, I see the beauty of it. I think it’s the rare sort of movie that can only appeal to those with a certain kind of emotional maturity (which I definitely did not have in my 20s). It’s about loneliness and ennui and displacement, and two drifting spirits who find solace in one another. (I have a strong feeling that I will only appreciate this even more in another 10 years.) ” - Notspartacus
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America. (138 mins.)
Director: Peter Weir
“ This was one of my biggest surprises on the list. I don’t usually care for period pieces or movies about naval warfare, but they managed to make this both an exciting adventure on the high seas and an intriguing character study. ” - Notspartacus
A History of Violence (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A mild-mannered man becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core. (96 mins.)
“ This movie is a lot deeper than it seems at first glance. It says a lot about situational ethics, about how any idyllic setting is benefitting from the protection of somebody risking their life somewhere else in the world. It’s rare, though, for the exact right person to be in the middle of such a paradise. And that’s where the movie gets its depth. ” - Notspartacus
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A look at what goes on backstage during the last broadcast of America's most celebrated radio show, where singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty, a country music siren, and a host of others hold court. (105 mins.)
Director: Robert Altman
“ I watched it when it first came out, having never heard the long-time radio broadcast. I enjoyed it anyway, simply as another great Robert Altman subcultural portrait with an incredible ensemble cast. And on that ground, I think it stands firm. But in the intervening years, I have occasionally listened to Garrison Keillor’s show, ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ not religiously, but enough to appreciate all the little injokes that had gone right by me before. And having watched the movie again recently, I enjoy it significantly more than I did the first time. I became aware, though, as I watched, that the actors are much more polished than those in the radio show, and I think the movie suffers somewhat from that. The ‘rough around the edges’ feel is mostly gone. Also, I wonder how the production must have gone with two men like Robert Altman and Garrison Keillor working together. Who was in charge? And did the other one let him take the reins? ” - Notspartacus
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her. (95 mins.)
Director: Marc Webb
“ Here’s a sort of romantic movie which dissects a doomed relationship from a fragmented form of hindsight. It’s nice to see both Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel playing leads. This movies breezes through about a dozen different genres and styles of filmmaking to go with Levitt’s mood. He plays a hopelessly romantic guy who falls for a girl named Summer, and then gets his heart broken as it gradually becomes clear that she hasn’t fallen for him. And in the final scene, when he’s been through his mourning phase, he meets Autumn. Get it? See, because she comes after Summer. Do you get it? ” - Notspartacus
Superbad (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry. (113 mins.)
Director: Greg Mottola
“ The movie’s major drawback, in my opinion, is that it contains the most excessively gratuitous use of foul language I’ve heard in a movie. It’s been a few years for me, but are high school teachers now so stripped of authority that their students can swear in front of them? ” - Notspartacus
Mystic River (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
With a childhood tragedy that overshadowed their lives, three men are reunited by circumstance when one has a family tragedy. (138 mins.)
Director: Clint Eastwood
“ The wounds go deep in this movie. Three boys, adolescents, are friends growing up in a tough Boston neighborhood in the 1970s. A man pulls up in his car and accuses them of breaking the law. He seems to be a cop and drives away with one of the boys. This is Dave (Tim Robbins), and he experiences many days of torture before escaping. The movie fast-forwards to the present, in which Dave and his two childhood friends have all taken their own paths. One became a cop, one a some-time criminal, but Dave, just grew up … broken. Then the teenage daughter of Sean Penn (the criminal) turns up dead, and Dave seems to know something about it. The cop (Kevin Bacon) is assigned to the case. And so, in the most tragic of circumstances, the three old friends are reunited. The movie, of course, takes many twists and turns from there. But it’s not trying to outwit the audience with shocking developments as much as showcase how tragedy seems to perpetuate itself. ” - Notspartacus
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In Mexico, two teenage boys and an attractive older woman embark on a road trip and learn a thing or two about life, friendship, sex, and each other. (106 mins.)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
“ This is a very mature movie. Not mature in the sense that a disclaimer comes on at the beginning that it’s for mature audiences – although that’s true, too. This is a movie, like “Lost in Translation” (#52), that can only be appreciated by a mature mind. I definitely didn’t appreciate it when I took it off the new release section in Blockbuster Video. It involves a road trip with two college-age men and an attractive older woman in Mexico. If your mind goes to some kind of sex fantasy, well, that’s exactly what the two men seemed to have in mind. The woman, however, has her own ideas and agenda. Then there are the asides, like sketches in the margins of a book. The movie will stop itself and a narrator will tell little stories unrelated to the plot, but which have their own commentaries. This might be the aspect that elevates the movie from good to great. For me, anyway. ” - Notspartacus
The Informant! (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
The U.S. government decides to go after an agro-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president-turned-informant Mark Whitacre. (108 mins.)
“ It’s kinda difficult to know what to make of this movie. Matt Damon plays an upper management executive at a corporation who blows the whistle to the FBI on his company’s wrongdoings. But it gradually becomes clear, in oddly hilarious ways, that there was little or no wrongdoing, except on the part of Damon’s character, who fabricated lies upon lies to divert attention to his coworkers. It’s a weird movie, but has some of the best conceptual humor in any movie I’ve ever seen. ” - Notspartacus
Memories of Murder (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
In a small Korean province in 1986, three detectives struggle with the case of multiple young women being found raped and murdered by an unknown culprit. (131 mins.)
Director: Joon Ho Bong
“ Rarely, especially in Hollywood movies, does a movie center on an investigation into a serial killer without some kind of happy ending in which the cops catch the killer. But this is Korean cinema, known for its dark themes. Somebody in a rural area is killing teenage girls. Two big city cops are sent to investigate, and spend much of the movie with the killer just out of reach. Every time they think they’re getting close, their lead vanishes. The final scene, which takes place years later, only continues the maddening cycle of failure, as the now-retired detective realizes that, yet again, he just missed catching the killer. ” - Notspartacus
Donnie Darko (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident. (113 mins.)
Director: Richard Kelly
“ This movie grabbed me and shook me from the first moment I saw it. (Having never heard of it, I walked in as a hypnotic Jake Gyllenhaal was stabbing at a watery barrier that stood between himself and a giant demonic rabbit.) But in the years since, it has lost some of its luster in my eyes. Much of what originally seemed to be filled with hidden meaning turned out to be a well-disguised veneer, just the false appearance of substance. I seem to be taking a negative view; this movie works very well as what it is, but I just don’t think it’s as good as it initially seemed. ” - Notspartacus
Crazy/Beautiful (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
At Pacific Palisades High, a poor Latino falls hard for a troubled girl from an affluent neighborhood. (99 mins.)
Director: John Stockwell
“ I was crushing on Kirsten Dunst for a few years after this movie. She plays the pampered, spoiled, troubled daughter of a powerful politician in Southern California. And she falls in love with a driven, over-achieving Mexican guy at her school. But it’s not all that simple. Her father is not an absentee, disconnected from concern over his own daughter’s welfare. Her boyfriend, Carlos, is not some simplistic Mexican stereotype. And she, even as she’s drowning and crying for help, is not just a ditzy princess. What could be melodrama, instead, engages you and makes you care about all of these people. ” - Notspartacus
Monster's Ball (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
After a family tragedy, a racist prison guard reexamines his attitudes while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner he executed. (111 mins.)
Director: Marc Forster
“ Not unlike “21 Grams” (#6), this movie portrays characters stretched to the limits of what a person can endure, and ultimately find comfort and strength in one another. Both dealing with the loss of one family member and their difficulties with another, Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry are initially drawn together by tragedies. Their bond is tested, though, with the insertion of blatant and aggressive racism in a style that most resembles a corny melodrama. Actually, the whole plot of the movie is melodrama, but very well done. (Sidenote: If you watch the sex scene carefully, you’ll see things that can only happen if there’s real penetration.) ” - Notspartacus
Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A group of over-achieving Asian-American high school seniors enjoy a power trip when they dip into extra-curricular criminal activities. (101 mins.)
Director: Justin Lin
“ This is the story of a bunch of overachieving Asian-American high school students who begin a life of crime on the side. They use their stereotypes as the ‘model minority’ to literally get away with murder. But as well done as the movie is, all of that was kind of irrelevant to me. This one made my list because it has my favorite female movie character of all time – Stephanie Vandergosh. ” - Notspartacus
Amélie (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love. (122 mins.)
“ This was just too sugary for me. I loved it the first time I saw it, of course, but time has not been kind to memory of this movie. It had too much fluff. And yet, it’s still this high on my list. If it had felt more substantial, it may have made the top 10. Amelie is a cute little French woman who does cute things in an effort to help out other cute people. She succeeds in some and fails in some others. ” - Notspartacus
The Corporation (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance. (145 mins.)
“ This is a documentary that claims the average corporation’s behavior is in line with that of a psychopath. While it makes some excellent points, this movie, like so many other political documentaries, is too one-sided in its condemnation of its subject – in this case, capitalism. I doubt the filmmakers would be willing to allow for a favorable view of any aspect of a free market economy. ” - Notspartacus
No Country for Old Men (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande. (122 mins.)
“ I’m gonna go ahead and say it: the book was a whole lot better than the movie. I know that's almost always true, but it's rarely this true. And it took the experience of the movie for me to realize that the story works best in novel form. But in the Coen brothers’ capable hands, it’s still one of the better movies of the decade. Sure, the ending was un-cinematic, but this is still a gripping thriller. There are three primary characters, played by Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, and Javier Bardem. While reading the book, it occurred to me that they are a three-headed monster representing different aspects of the rising spirit of our age. But some important parts of the background of the Tommy Lee Jones character were removed in order to streamline the movie, and I think that really takes away from the impact of the story. Again, the ending was anti-climactic, and that only underscored for me that the story works best as a book. ” - Notspartacus
Gran Torino (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a Hmong teenager who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino. (116 mins.)
Director: Clint Eastwood
“ Eastwood’s character represents the sort of tough guy – flaws and all – who’s been virtually driven to extinction in America. He is the ultimate anachronism in early 21st century America, a mean, racist, unapologetic bigot, too stubborn to admit how out of place he is. He seems to be defending a mindset and a way of life that is all but extinct in this country. My biggest complaint about this movie is the actor who plays the Hmong boy next door. He just cannot act. And, finally, my dad suggested a near-perfect alternative that would have vastly improved the final shot of the film. As the end credits roll, we see the kid roll along Lake Erie in Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Instead, as my dad suggested, they should have had the kid show up in the car at a work site, on a crew, building a house. ” - Notspartacus
Unbreakable (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A man learns something extraordinary about himself after a devastating accident. (106 mins.)
“ M. Night Shyamalan’s career seems to be in free fall since his extraordinary early success with “The Sixth Sense.” It even seems trendy to hate him now. I heard people claiming they hated “The Last Airbender” before it even came out. I know that people are split about this movie – some love it, some hate it. And this seems to be the last of his movies with such a positive response. But this is a movie that makes me want to see the sequel. I just wonder if Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson would even takes his calls now that he’s become box office poison. Probably. Those guys are workhorses. So the question then becomes: Will Shyamalan be willing to go back into this world and take a look at what the characters have done since the first movie? ” - Notspartacus
Antwone Fisher (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Antwone Fisher, a young navy man, is forced to see a psychiatrist after a violent outburst against a fellow crewman. During the course of treatment a painful past is revealed and a new hope begins. (120 mins.)
“ This story is so inspiring that it strains credibility. It’s about a young man who was raised in one of the most atrocious environments that a child would be faced with. It’s hard to believe that such a person could, in the end, come out clean. That, by the way, is exactly what I didn’t like about “Slumdog Millionaire.” But here, it's somehow believable. ” - Notspartacus
Monster (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer. (109 mins.)
Director: Patty Jenkins
“ It’s rare for the song from a movie to grab me so much, especially one I’ve already heard hundreds of times. But the ironic use of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the end of the movie really hit home for me. The desperate life of Aileen Wuornos, and the fact that she never in her life had a chance or anything to believe in, is a terrible tragedy. And it’s heartbreaking to watch her, even as she does horrific things, on her descent ever deeper into despair. ” - Notspartacus
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation. (120 mins.)
Director: Ang Lee
“ Like ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Amelie,’ this one hasn’t worn well in my memory in the years since I first saw it. Still, it is a beautiful movie. The dreamlike imagery of warriors flying through the air makes this one of the most dazzling visual spectacles in movie history. And the beautiful/tragic love story is heartbreaking. (Also, I can still remember the audience’s laughter when my friend, Scott, yelled at the screen during one scene: “JUST CUT THE DAMN BRANCH OFF!”) ” - Notspartacus
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Neo and the rebel leaders estimate that they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams. (138 mins.)
“ I know what you’re thinking. ‘How could anybody like one of the Matrix sequels?’ But I loved this one. To me, it was a near-perfect extension and expansion of both the action sequences and the philosophical explorations begun in the original. (For the record, I think the third one is where it all fell apart.) ” - Notspartacus
The Band's Visit (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town. (87 mins.)
Director: Eran Kolirin
“ A man walks from the front of his van to the back, pulls out a large ball and puts it in the front, and then drives away, revealing an eight-man band, standing there. As the title suggests, they are the center of the movie. And as that carefully framed shot hints, they inhabit a world that seems designed to crush them. The whole movie seems to be about people struggling against the indignities, disappointments, and loneliness of life. The band, after arriving in the wrong town, meet a few locals – including a sexy waitress – and spend a night visiting with them. It’s not quite a dark comedy; the events of the movie aren’t so devastating. What we see is more of a ‘slow burn’ sort of degradation, a lot like life. (I know a little Arabic, enough to know that the Arabic alphabet does not have a letter P. I’m not an expert, but I’m guessing that plays into the fact that they went to Betah Tikvah instead of Petah Tikvah.) ” - Notspartacus
Death Proof (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Two separate sets of voluptuous women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans. (113 mins.)
“ The reason I have placed this one so high is because, even though the first hour was only slightly more exciting than watching paint dry, my patience was rewarded when the movie culminated with the greatest chase scene of all time. (The nagging question: If Lee – the cheerleader – was put up as collateral for the car, and the car was totaled, what happens to Lee?) ” - Notspartacus
American Gangster (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East. (157 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ Strip away the heroin trade and the murders and this movie could serve as a step by step tutorial in building and managing an international business in a global economy. I question how historically accurate it is, but the portrait it paints is fascinating – a discreet, low-key drug kingpin who built an empire by undercutting the competition with a more potent product and escaped detection by law enforcement for several years. Until the day he decided to be flashy. The movie would have us believe that it all came crashing down because he had ringside seats and wore a fur coat at a heavy weight title fight. The story we see is fascinating, but it strains credibility. ” - Notspartacus
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron. (178 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
“ (I'm actually using the first as a marker for the whole trilogy.) These, of course, were entertaining to watch, although a bit overrated. My big gripe with them is that director Peter Jackson removed all evidence of Tom Bombadil, my favorite character in all of fiction. So I have given his epic trilogy a single place on my list, with a much lower ranking than many others would give. That’ll show him. ” - Notspartacus
Everything Is Illuminated (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A young Jewish American man endeavors to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village, that was ultimately razed by the Nazis, with the help of an eccentric local. (106 mins.)
Director: Liev Schreiber
“ A young American man takes a surreal journey to eastern Europe to learn of his own background, specifically to visit the village of his grandfather, a Ukrainian Jew who survived World War II because a local woman saved his life. The young man also hopes to find the woman. He has two tour guides who help him in his travels, a Ukrainian man about his age who is like a much funnier and less offensive version of Borat, and the man’s grandfather, who looks with excessive interest at the young American visitor. The road trip in search of the village becomes like a dream, and, in the end, as the tagline and the title suggest, "the past illuminates everything." ” - Notspartacus
Bully (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A pack of naïve teenagers conspire to murder a mutual friend, whose aggressive demeanor has proved too much. (108 mins.)
Director: Larry Clark
“ Based on the true story of seven Florida teenagers who conspired to kill a bully, this movie’s last scene is the part that really got into my head. Watching their collective meltdown in the courtroom, the way their loved ones looked on in horror at the backstabbing, accusations and counter-accusations, the image of each kid from before their crime with the sentence they received for the murder listed on the screen, or the repeated song lyric, "under the big bright yellow sun," it struck me as one of the most powerful endings I’ve ever seen. ” - Notspartacus
Whale Rider (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize. (101 mins.)
Director: Niki Caro
“ This is one of the most accessible kid’s movies I’ve ever seen. Though it’s best suited for children, any person of any age can enjoy it. Set in New Zealand, it’s about a modern tribal girl’s struggle to claim her destiny in the face of her grandfather’s misogyny. Although the plot has been done many times before, the way the story unfolds is completely engrossing. ” - Notspartacus
25th Hour (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term. (135 mins.)
Director: Spike Lee
“ I’ve seen theories of this as an analogy for the events of 9/11, with the different characters representing different countries of the world. What I read seemed to be strained and over-reaching, but maybe it was exactly right. Anyway, it’s about the last day of freedom for a man who’s going to prison for drug dealing. That’s a deceptively simple breakdown, and director Spike Lee does a lot with it, including numerous plot threads on the periphery. And yet, what I remember most vividly is the scene that deviates from the plot, with bulldozers and construction crews cleaning up the rubble of the World Trade Center twin towers. ” - Notspartacus
The Dreamers (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A young American studying in Paris in 1968 strikes up a friendship with a French brother and sister. Set against the background of the '68 Paris student riots. (115 mins.)
“ One of the sexiest movies I’ve ever seen. And that’s pretty much the reason I’m including it. It is about three movie-loving friends – including the smoldering Eva Green – who’ve locked themselves into their own inbred world in a Parisian flat as 1960’s French revolutionaries rage in the streets outside. ” - Notspartacus
Gladiator (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an emperor's corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (155 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ A lot has been made of the similarities between this and "Braveheart." And it’s a legitimate comparison. Both are semi-historical period epics; both involve violent revolution in pursuit of individual liberty; both are heavy with Christian symbolism. Not to take anything away from this one, but I preferred the other. On the other hand, I definitely prefer the way the Christian symbolism was placed between the lines in this movie. ” - Notspartacus
28 Days Later... (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary. (113 mins.)
Director: Danny Boyle
“ A man wakes up in a hospital. Nobody is around. He gets up and walks into the hallway. Every room is empty. There are no doctors, no nurses, no patients. He walks the streets, wondering what has happened. He finds small clues in the headlines of newspapers strewn on the vacant street. Luckily, he meets a group of humans before enemies find him. These are the opening scenes of an extraordinary re-imagining of George Romero’s old zombie movies. The major change, of course, is that the zombies can run, and are a lot more aggressive. But I loved the realistic human interactions in the face of an unbelievable scenario. ” - Notspartacus
Primer (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there's something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they've built, wrestle over their new invention. (77 mins.)
Director: Shane Carruth
“ A complicated story with an unknowable number of layers, it involves four (or two?) engineers who discover that they’ve accidentally invented a time machine. They never mention time travel in so many words, though, instead speaking in dense and sometimes impenetrable scientific language. It’s difficult at times to know what’s going on, though it’s clear that it doesn’t take them long to start using the machine for questionable purposes. In the end, it appears that they’ve tried to one-up each other so many times that they can’t even keep track of it anymore. ” - Notspartacus
Batman Begins (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from the corruption that Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it. (140 mins.)
“ I was never a big Batman fan. I went through the motions of watching the Tim Burton movies, followed by the Joel Schumacher movies. ‘Batman & Robin’ so thoroughly destroyed Batman’s marketability that nobody would be able to touch the franchise ever again. Or so I thought. Only eight years later, Christopher Nolan reinvigorated Batman, while simultaneously kicking off an entire cinematic movement towards gritty realism. In the years since, gritty realism has become so commonplace that it’s now a cliché. But I digress. Even after watching this one, I still didn’t realize how completely it turned the tide. That didn’t happen until I saw “The Dark Knight.” That gave me a heightened respect for Nolan’s vision, and forced me to re-examine this movie to see all the depth I’d missed the first time around. ” - Notspartacus
Shrek 2 (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Princess Fiona's parents invite her and Shrek to dinner to celebrate her marriage. If only they knew the newlyweds were both ogres. (93 mins.)
“ I don’t know why, but this one just worked better for me than the original (#108). It definitely contains my favorite moment in the series. Shrek and company storm the castle as the Fairy Godmother sings the 80’s cheese classic, “Hero.” ” - Notspartacus
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same. (153 mins.)
“ Somewhere along the way, I heard somebody describe Christoph Waltz’s Nazi as “droll.” That was probably my favorite description of any movie character ever, partly because it’s so unexpected for a villain and partly because it’s so accurate. Whatever stereotypical notions we have of Nazis, droll is not included in them. And yet that’s what he is. Even as his conversations gradually get tense, his demeanor remains charming and friendly. The rest of the movie, the revenge fantasy that sloppily unfolds in the theater, was brilliant Tarantino. ” - Notspartacus
Munich (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Based on the true story of the Black September aftermath, about the five men chosen to eliminate the ones responsible for that fateful day. (164 mins.)
“ This is supposedly a true story about Israel’s response in the aftermath of the killing of Israeli Olympians by Palestinians in Munich, Germany, in 1972. A group of non-warrior types, just average men with specific talents, were then hired by the Israeli government to execute the individuals responsible for the deaths. And this is their story. It took my dad to illuminate for me the relevance of the World Trade Center in an intense scene near the end. It’s a stretch to link the two events, but the question of “where does it end” is given a great deal of poignance. Anyway, Spielberg uses the Twin Towers to much more powerful effect in this movie than in “AI.” ” - Notspartacus
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescue Palpatine from Count Dooku. As Obi-Wan pursues a new threat, Anakin acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy. (140 mins.)
Director: George Lucas
“ Lucas managed to semi-redeem himself after the mess that the series had devolved into. (And then he allowed it to reach an even lower point when they made that god-awful animated crap.) I was especially surprised by just how dark he took it. The first time I watched it, I was tempted to call it a horror movie. Regardless, THIS was the Star Wars prequel we’d been waiting for. ” - Notspartacus
Death at a Funeral (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Chaos ensues when a man tries to expose a dark secret regarding a recently deceased patriarch of a dysfunctional British family. (87 mins.)
Director: Frank Oz
“ Dark comedies have quickly become one of my favorite genres, and this is among my favorites. The best of them grow on me gradually, as this one did. I guess there’s no spoiler in saying that all of the movie’s events take place during a funeral. The interplay between the decedent’s two sons, his widow, a mysterious blackmailer, a drug dealer, a hypochondriac, a heartsick loser, the uninterested woman he blindly pursues, and a grumpy old man with intestinal issues bring about a rapid-fire series of events that I couldn’t help but love. While it has enough slapstick elements, the kinds of things that transpire make it much too dark to view simply as lighthearted slapstick. ” - Notspartacus
Irreversible (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
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. (97 mins.)
Director: Gaspar Noé
“ I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH how difficult and unpleasant this movie is to watch. I’ve seen a lot of the most painful and agonizing movies ever made – well-crafted, but hard to sit through – but this outdoes all the rest by a longshot. It has two unblinking scenes of such brutality that I behaved like a child during the scariest parts of a horror movie. I even watched one of them on fast forward, and still covered my eyes. In spite of all of that, or, more likely, because of it, I’m including the movie on this list by virtue of the fact that it’s one of the most effective movies I’ve ever seen. ” - Notspartacus
Serenity (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The crew of the ship Serenity try to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their members who is telepathic. (119 mins.)
Director: Joss Whedon
“ A great sci-fi adventure flick based on a cult TV series called “Firefly.” I never saw the show, but I know its popularity made this movie possible. As an outsider, I can say that the movie was excellent on its own terms, while at the same time – and probably not accidentally – encouraging us to watch the show to understand the backstory. If, like me, you loved the original Star Wars trilogy, then I think it’s safe to say that you will at least like “Serenity.” Unlike Star Wars, however, there is a comfort and a settled feeling to the movie; the actors had already lived in these characters, and none of their performances needed forcing. Luke and Leia and Han always seemed like they knew they were saving the galaxy, and occasionally posed for posterity, just in case someone was watching (which we were). But these people really seem like they’re flying by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go. ” - Notspartacus
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living. (99 mins.)
Director: Edgar Wright
“ Kinda like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (#22), this movie does that intricate tightrope walk, balancing homage and parody. It’s a mashup of zombie movies and slacker comedies. For these characters, the zombie apocalypse really gets in the way of valuable drinking time. (Sidenote, with a SPOILER: Maybe it was just me, but I couldn’t buy them keeping the fat guy alive at the end, after he’d turned into a zombie. I realize that I may be taking ‘missing the point’ to a new level, but that part just didn’t work for me.) ” - Notspartacus
The Pledge (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A retiring police chief pledges to catch the killer of a young child. (124 mins.)
Director: Sean Penn
“ This is a serial killer movie with unusual depth. While it may play as a cat and mouse film, it’s really about a man holding ever tighter onto his identity, even as it slips away from him. Jack Nicholson here reminds me a lot of Gene Hackman in “The Conversation, except that, in my opinion Nicholson’s downward spiral is more poignant. He is smart and capable and follows a solid hunch. But in the end, the question of whether he’s right or not fades away and becomes an irrelevant afterthought, and all that’s left is his descent into madness. ” - Notspartacus
The Others (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted. (101 mins.)
“ The only really good rip-off of “The Sixth Sense.” This is a ghost story that takes place in England just after World War II, but, due largely to the lack of electricity, it feels like it’s set some time in the 1800s. Nicole Kidman has two young children in an isolated country home. She has three gothic servants, who’ve just recently arrived and are still learning the rules. But there is something wrong in the house. Presences seem to be hiding around corners and through doors, they begin seeing and hearing strange things without explanation. The movie slowly raises the suspense, keeping the secret hidden until the big reveal. ” - Notspartacus
Bad Santa (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot. (91 mins.)
Director: Terry Zwigoff
“ The most un-kid-friendly holiday movie I have ever seen. Billy Bob Thornton plays a professional thief who gets his big score once every year by playing a department store Santa Claus. He is among the most loathsome characters in movie history. The way he behaves, he could legitimately be arrested on 10 occasions a day. He is permanently drunk, he cusses at the children sitting on his lap, he has sex with women in the dressing rooms while on his break. He can no longer function in his job; his long-time partner in crime (played by Tony Cox), a midget who plays Santa’s elf is ready to ditch him. Oh, and this is a comedy. If it doesn’t sound appealing, the movie doesn’t like him any more than we do. In its way, it’s one of the most courageous movies I’ve ever seen. Essentially, it works through its sheer, unwavering audacity. ” - Notspartacus
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum. (114 mins.)
Director: Peter Mullan
“ A terrifying portrait of Catholic repression of women in Ireland in the 1960’s, it tells the story of a number of young women who were essentially imprisoned in convents for such crimes as flirting with boys, homosexuality, and being raped (yes! For being raped!). There, they endured exhausting mental and physical torments. Many were driven to insane extremes by their circumstances, turning on one another, as prisoners will. And these prisons existed in Ireland for over 100 years. ” - Notspartacus
Fantasia 2000 (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
An update of the original film with new interpretations of great works of classical music. (75 mins.)
“ I saw this movie in OMNIMAX. Not IMAX, OMNIMAX. In all honesty, it’s probably not as good as the position I’m giving it on this list. But I’m placing it as high as #95 because it was such singular and powerful cinematic experience. By luck, we had near-perfect seats right in the middle of the theater. We leaned back and were engulfed in another world. The movie was shot onto a dome above us, and I could turn my head to see parts of it to my extreme right or my extreme left. Never before or since have I felt so much like I was in the movie. The animation, of course, was dazzling, a worthy update of the original ‘Fantasia’ movie. ” - Notspartacus
Broken Flowers (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers. (106 mins.)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
“ My fondness for Bill Murray only keeps growing. I consider him one of the greatest living actors. This is a Jim Jarmusch movie, of course, but with Murray’s deadpan energy at the center, it works better than many of Jarmusch’s other movies. Murray plays an aging Don Juan, which he’s tired of people telling him. Just as his latest mistress leaves him, he gets a letter in the mail. Some anonymous person informs him that he has a 19-year-old son who may be looking for him. And so, with the help of his neighbor (really, the whole thing is his neighbor’s idea), Murray goes on an extended road trip, flying all over the country looking for all the women who may potentially be the mother of a son of his. ” - Notspartacus
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A woman assists her friend in arranging an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania. (113 mins.)
Director: Cristian Mungiu
“ A story of one of the most irresponsible and deliberately clueless adults I’ve ever seen in a movie. In Romania in the 1980s, a young woman is pregnant and trying to get an abortion. But even as she goes through with it, she has to be dragged kicking and screaming into every choice she makes. But that’s not really true. Others make her choices for her, and she just lets her life happen to her. The whole movie, for me, builds up to the last five seconds, in which another character looks straight at the camera, and I feel like we’re sharing a thought that I’ve been thinking the whole time. ” - Notspartacus
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years. (134 mins.)
Director: Ang Lee
“ I hesitated for a long time before I got around to watching this one, but I can easily say that the wrong movie (“Crash”) won the Best Picture Oscar that year. That’s not surprising, I guess. The Academy almost always goes for uplifting and inspirational endings, and this just doesn’t have it. (Okay. “Crash” had a big mixture, but a whole lot more ‘uplift’ than this one.) ” - Notspartacus