Top 30 Films of the Decade

The end of 2010 will mark the first decade of the new millennium. And what a decade it has been. The rebirth of 3D, films made on bigger budgets than ever before, characters and stories incredibly even bigger. It can then be quite daunting looking back and trying to find the greatest of the greats. But fear not oh ye film lovers, movie buffs and cinema inhabiters – here are the Top Thirty Films of the Decade for your enjoyment:

30. Into The Wild (2007)

Sean Penn directs Into The Wild, the incredible tale of Christopher McCandless who, having given up his worldly possessions and his family’s expectations, hikes his way to Alaska in search of himself. Based on true events, the film creates a fantastic sense of awe and inspiration as Chris draws closer to his goal; interlaced with poetic beauty and true sadness. Emile Hirsch, in the lead, definitely proves his acting calibre as his portrayal wrenches at the heartstrings.

Best Part: “…how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong.” Epic!

29. Wall-E (2008)

There haven’t been too many animated films in the last decade that can say they come close to the Disney classics. To put that in context, films like the Lion King or Little Mermaid were classics because of the underlying message each of them carried. Invariably animated films now will focus on humour alone, not a bad thing, but for those of a Disney generation we want a little more. Enter Wall-E. Incredibly funny, seriously witty and best of all – endearing. The message is clear even without something silly like dialogue.

Best Part: Wall E finally getting to hold hands with someone.

28. Children of Men (2006)

Films have always enjoyed portraying a grim future for humanity. None grimmer than Children of Men. In the year 2027, Mankind has lost the ability to reproduce, more the conception part than the naughty part thank goodness, and humanity can look forward to fading away into the dust. But wait, Clive Owen will save us! Brilliantly filmed, excellent cast and top class story.

Best Part: The opening sequence – filming ingenuity at its best!

27. 25th Hour (2002)

Not many film makers had the guts to use 9/11 as a backdrop so soon after the event. And to do it properly. Spike Lee wasn’t too concerned as far as I can see but that’s because he had a great story to tell and he told it in great fashion. 25th Hour details the last “free day” of a convicted drug dealer before going to prison and is situated in a post 9/11 New York. Edward Norton, supported by Rosario Dawson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin and Barry Pepper, rides at the helm and delivers a performance that conjures both sympathy and anger, and ties in the rest of the film perfectly depicting the entire scope of life New York has to offer.

Best Part: Norton’s rant in the bathroom.

26. The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Forest Whitaker may have been John Travolta’s mate in Phenomenon and in *cringe* Battlefield Earth, but he wasn’t anyone’s pal in the role that has now truly defined him; as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. The film, along with Whitaker’s portrayal of Amin, is scary and shocking – provoking nausea and intrigue simultaneously. Not a film for those with a weak stomach nor squeamish, but definitely one that will be remembered as a look into a particularly dark chapter of Africa.

Best Part: Whitaker’s dialogue with McAvoy at the airport shop.

25. Snatch (2000)

“Ya like dags?!” Oh yes of course, you’re talking about dogs. Guy Ritchie’s classic British gangster film that looks at the seedy underbelly of unlicensed boxing, mobsters, an un-killable Russian, a diamond and Brad Pitt beating the hell of of people. Still his best work. Still an absolute classic.

Best Part: “All he’s gotta do, is stay down. [Pitt smashes opponents face]. Now, we are f*****.”

24. Sunshine (2007)

Definitely the most underrated scifi film of the decade, Sunshine is one of Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s finest films. It follows the crew of the Icarus 2 as they make their way toward our dying Sun, in the hopes of being able to restart the fading star with a miniature Big Bang. Extremely intriguing and possessing some of the most tragically beautiful moments, the film sucks you in like a black hole and spits you out like a supernova.

Best Part: Capa’s jump – goosebumps!

23. In Bruges (2008)

Essentially one of the funniest and darkest films with an existential twist. Ray (Colin Farrel) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are two British hitmen laying low in the Belgian town of Bruge following Ray’s botched first job. Along their path they meet a racist dwarf, some manky hookers, the hot french girl from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Ralph Fiennes. In his funniest role to date. The film is excellent in portraying each character uniquely and offers some of the most hilarious dialogue ever – and manages to comment on existence. Cheers!

Best Part: “You’re an inanimate f****** object!”

22.V for Vendetta (2006)

The creators of The Matrix, the Wachowski Brothers, had a lot to make up for after putting the second and third films on screen. Even though featuring epic action. But they certainly delivered as the writing pair behind V For Vendetta. The film is brilliant, hinting at John Hurt’s previous role in 1984, and depicts a Britain firmly under the boot of tyrannical law. Scarred by the acts of the terrible government, V (Hugo Weaving) sets out to right the wrongs in this world of Big Brother with the help of a bald, but still very sexy, Natalie Portman.

Best Part: V introducing himself.

21. The Last Samurai (2003)

If you, like me, grew up knowing that the only thing almost as awesome as Batman were samurai, you sat around for a long time waiting for a film even to come close to Seven Samurai. Incredibly it came in the form of Tom Cruise. The Last Samurai gave audiences a colourful and rich glimpse into the world of the rising sun, and into the lives of the samurai. From their drastic opinions about defeat, to the raging torrent of emotions lying just under the surface – the film was accessible and immersing, pretty much everything you want from an epic.

Best Part: Katsumoto finding the perfect cherry blossom.

20. Batman Begins (2005)

See, I told you. Samurai are almost as awesome as Batman. Try then, if it isn’t too much, Batman… and Ninjas. Batman Begins showed the world who Bruce Wayne truly is and what makes him tick. Taking a realist and gritty angle to the series, director Christopher Nolan won over fans in their droves with this great adaptation and started one of the most successful franchises in cinema history. With The Dark Knight Rises just around the corner, you can’t miss out on this one.

Best Part: Bale’s training on the frozen lake with Neeson.

19. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine is offbeat at best. Maybe even too quirky. But that doesn’t stop this film from being one of the funniest and most endearing of the last ten years. A family of misfits, including suicidal Steve Carrel and inappropriate Gran-dad Alan Arkin, travels across country to attend a junior beauty pageant and along the way each must deal with their personal problems. Hugely entertaining and surprisingly meaningful, Little Miss Sunshine is fantastic.

Best Part: The dancing at the end.

18. Reqieum for a Dream (2000)

Few films can manage to capture gross interest while at the same time provoke incredible feelings of discomfort. Darren “The-Fountain-Was-Awesome-Too” Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream takes your brain, slides it along a line of heroin before bashing it into the wall. In a good way. Although the two might be the same thing anyway. The story follows four people, sexy Jennifer Connelly and legend Jared Leto among them, and the addictions they struggle with, from drugs to vanity to television shows – and culminates in possibly one of the grimmest endings to a film ever. Makes The Wrestler look like a family film.

Best Part: The ending hip-hop montage.

17. District 9 (2009)

As a South African, I take pride in the fact that I like prawns. They’re great to eat, useful when fishing and fantastic when in an argument with an Australian. Got another shrimp there Bruce? But my views on prawns changed substantially after watching District 9. I realized that prawns were people too. District 9 is a fantastic scifi film in its own right, but also in terms of what its trying to comment on. Apartheid South Africa, the bouts of xenophobia in recent years, Wikus van der Merwe (Shartlo Copley) and his “fokken” prawns are memorable and entertaining due to both message and performance.

Best Part: “Fokken prawns!” and because my mate Neale says it so well “No it’s katfood!”

16. Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The late Stieg Larsson and his Millennium Trilogy have captured audiences from around the world. The story of Lisbeth Salander is just too engaging not to. And The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is by far the best film of the three, the third having just been released here in the UK, and the most powerful in terms of Larsson’s writing. It’s worth mentioning that the novels, and films, have a grounding in reality as Larsson wrote them with a real life Lisbeth in mind, who was a victim of rape. Gritty and hard, intricate and absorbing, the story of Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) is one you can’t tear your eyes away from.

Best Part: Lisbeth getting payback as she tattoos her “guardian”.

15. Gladiator (2000)

“There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.” You know what that is? That’s what I tell myself whenever I need to psych myself up for running after the bus when I’m late. It also happens to be one of the best lines in film to date. Gladiator, by director Ridley Scott, depicts Maximus, former general of the Empire of Rome, and his rise to fame in the Colosseum. He tackles tigers, fellow gladiators and ultimately – the emperor who destroyed his life. Russel Crowe is brilliantly powerful in probably his most famous role and commands attention on screen. Not that he had to worry; he had me sold after chopping the piggy-gladiator’s head off before shouting “Are you not entertained?!” Why yes actually Mr. Crowe I am, thank you for asking.

Best Part: Maximus getting his vengance – in this life and not the next.

14. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Enchanting is the word that springs to mind when thinking about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Director Ang Lee’s film catches the eye with epic scenery and an engrossing story, and tantalizes the brain at the sheer awesome nature of the fight scenes. While some people now days might criticize it for being a little over the top in terms of the characters jumping around and flying through trees, that magical quality is kind of what makes it so special. And makes me jealous as well.

Best Part: Every fight scene. And Ziyi Zhang.

13.Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Remember The Next Karate Kid? Hilary Swank played the lead in that, and did the cool kick thingy from big rock to small rock. Yeah now you remember! Well take that, multiply it by the amount of muscle she picked up for Million Dollar Baby, and you’ll have the exact value of great this film is. Clint Eastwood’s dynamic masterpiece shows off the female boxing world in all its glory and grit. Swank puts in the performance of a lifetime, for which she won an Oscar, and the heart numbing ending is enough to send even the hardest of viewers to the deck.

Best Part: Seeing Swank fight her way into Eastwood’s respect.

12.Donnie Darko (2001)

Ever had a trippy experience? And by that I mean have you ever been punched in the brain by something you’ve seen unfold in front of you? Well if you haven’t, watch Donnie Darko. Unless you’re still recovering from Requiem for a Dream, then maybe wait a bit before you do. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his imaginary friend Frank, the giant bunny rabbit, take you on a ride unlike any other through the suburban world of time travel, portals and existentialism. It might not be up everyone’s alley, but the unique nature of the film is more than enough to warrant it as one of the best films of the decade.

Best Part: [Donnie]: “Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?” [Frank]: “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?”

11. Inception (2010)

Okay, I’m going to be honest. I saw Inception at the cinema five times. Not in the UK mind you, I’m not made of money. The reason I saw it five times is well…it’s quite possibly my favourite movie of all time. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is because Christopher Nolan has two others here already and I didn’t want to seem like I was stalking him. Read your mail Chris, it smells of me. *Cough* my apologies. Inception is a masterpiece of creativity, exquisite filming and killer performances. The thought of being able to break into someone’s mind and plant an idea is awesome and the many clever sequences within the dream are gorgeous. References to Tolstoy, mythology and Nolan giving the audience the choice of choosing a desired ending – I can’t think of anything about Inception that isn’t great.

Best Part: “Paradox”. And the “kick” Ariadne rides at the end.

10. Inglorious Basterds (2009)

While not historically accurate in many ways, Inglorious Basterds is definitely the best film depicting WWII in the last ten years. A la Tarantino no less. Brad Pitt and his basterds ravage through Nazi Germany, scalping soldiers and in general causing havoc for the Third Reich. Much to Hitler’s displeasure of course. The film is hilarious and dark, and contains possibly one of the most intimidating performances by an actor to date in the form of Christoph Waltz. Just watch the opening sequence and wait for Tarantino to go close up on him as he completely changes from the charming officer to devilishly great hunter. So good!

Best Part: Christoph Waltz. And quite possibly the best line in cinema “Say aufwiedersehen to your Nazi balls”.

9. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Pan’s Labyrinth is something different. Something refreshing really. Something awesome. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) plays a young girl who finds herself entangled with a mystical world during the 1940’s. Her innocent imagination is starkly portrayed in contrast to some of the grim natures of the other world and it’s something that makes the film so special. It’s an adult film with a classic children’s book feeling. Besides that, its incredibly well shot and the imagery used is impeccably poignant. It might be a little creepy at times, but its awesome from start to end.

Best Part: Ofelia finding…nah too many spoilers – let’s just say the ending.

8. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)

Imagine living your life backwards. Being born old and then ageing back to youth – it would probably rank right up there with weirdest experience of the week. Fortunately you can see the incredible story behind such a person in The Curios Case of Benjamin Button. Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt star in this feature, directed by David Fincher, yeah the legend himself, and is an absolute stroke of genius. I didn’t particularly find the story to be the impressive part, it was how it all panned out on screen that made it memorable. Watching Benjamin (Pitt) as a young “old” man turn into this old “young” boy was very vivid and so visually perfect you have to see it to understand.

Best Part: Seeing poor “old” Benjamin wanting to play in the retirement home.

7. Up (2009)

I rented Up to watch with my parents, another riveting Friday night really, because I’d heard it was really funny. What I didn’t realize was that I was about to watch quite possibly one of the most touching films ever. From the outset its quite clear that while it’s intended to appeal to children, the brunt of Up‘s message is really only aimed at adults. It follows Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner) and his lifelong dream of journeying to South America, on which he picks up unlikely companions in a boy scout, a talking dog and a big-ass bird. Completely beautiful and epically memorable!

Best Part: Every time the dog speaks and the incredibly heartfelt first opening sequence.

6. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Having already touched on the genius that is Danny Boyle with Sunshine – here is his second of the list. Slumdog Millionaire. The public reception of this film, which was freaking huge, is testament to what a great film it is. Jamal (Dev Patel) is in the hot seat on India’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and he’s doing a fantastic job as well, but how? The film details his harsh experiences growing up, ultimately helping him with each question in the show, and forming the backbone to this, essentially, romantic love story. The success and greatness of the film wouldn’t have been possible without a terrific story and Slumdog Millionare is watertight.

Best Part: “D.  It Is Written”

5. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Coming in at the highest spot for an animated film is How To Train Your Dragon. Why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. Meet Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the only Viking not to be built like a brick outhouse, who because of his diminutive size and ability to create disaster has been asked not to kill dragons like the rest of his village. However, using his ingenuity, he manages to catch the fearsome Night Fury but he immediately realizes he doesn’t want to kill dragons like the rest of his colleagues. After freeing Toothless, and helping him fly again, Hiccup and his dragon become pals, winning the girl and saving the day. But don’t let the simplicity of that statement make you think this film is straightforward. It has a superb message and burrows its way into your heart like only a dragon and his plight could do.

Best Part: Toothless and Hiccup flying together for the first time.

4. Harry Potter

It’s difficult to put down which of the Harry Potter‘s is best. They’re all good, especially the darker ones, but rather than try I’m just going to slap the entire series down. Which has now close on spanned ten years. Multiple directors, characters that have changed from annoying little kids into hardcore charm throwing wizards and witches, just the amount of time and effort put into creating these adaptations makes it worthy of recognition. To top it all off, they’re pretty cool movies too. No matter who you are, what you enjoy – Harry Potter is entertaining. Something a lot of films forget they need to be.

Best Part: Far too many, but most notably – Harry using Petronas Charm to save Sirius, Voldemort and Dumbledore fighting at the Ministry of Magic, Dumbledore throwing fire around after nibbling the Horcrux. Oh and Emma Watson.

3. Lord of the Rings

I don’t think there has or will ever be a fantasy series as engrossing as The Lord of the Rings. Yes you might say that it fits into a far too specific niche to be so high on the list but just like Harry Potter, you’re doomed to enjoy it. You might even say you’re…Mount Doomed. *Raucous laugher*. Genius. And even if Hobbits aren’t your thing, it was filmed with the huge potential for disaster, it could have become the flop of the ages if done incorrectly, it nevertheless stunned audiences for its immersing atmosphere and tremendous story.

Best Part: Fellowship: Arwen and Aragorn on the bridge in Rivendell. Two Towers: Gandalf and Eomer’s charge. Return of the King: Gollumn the “ever-annoying” burning in Mt. Doom.

2.The Dark Knight (2008)

Coming in at number 2 is The Dark Knight. The best justification I can give you for that is well…it’s The Dark Knight. It made over a billion dollars at the box office and remains to this day one of the greatest films, not only of the last decade, of all time. It has everything, a great story, terrific cast, an awesome director – just absolutely everything. Including the late Heath “The Joker” Ledger’s incredible performance, which I might add, is possibly one of the most frightening and legendary depictions of any character to date. From the first five minutes of the film, it’s clear whose leading the charge and Ledger doesn’t drop the tempo for one second; you’re terrified yet completely captivated and sitting patiently for him to do something. With a pencil or without one. I have no doubt that everyone who saw The Dark Knight will never forgot the chill that ran along their spines when the Joker films the “Batman”. LOOK – AT – ME! Gah, just got a bout of goosebumps thinking about it.

Best Part: “How bout a magic trick?”

And the Number One Film of the Decade is…

1.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Does that shock you? It does?! How dare you! Well if you’ve seen the film you’re probably not too surprised. If you haven’t, once you’re done reading this, go out and rent it. You won’t be disappointed. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet form the leads in this, the number one film of the decade, and play a couple who have their respective memories of each other erased in the wake of their relationship failing and their inability to deal with it. We’re taken on a ride through Joel’s (Carrey) consciousness as he then tries to fight off and escape the deletion of his memories, realizing he actually truly treasures them. I know that might sound corny, even a little far fetched, but the way this is shown is excellent and highly artistic; making Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ultimately immensely beautiful and unforgettable.

Best Part: Joel and Clementine’s dialogue in the crumbling beach house.

And that’s that! The decade has flown by with hundreds of movies whizzing past into the annuals of cinema history. Stories of love and horror, tales of heroes and heroines, nobles and beggars, worlds far beyond imagination and gritty streets found everywhere – the Top 30 Films of the Decade, the first of the new millennium, you’re awesome and you always will be!

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