The Top 15 Movies of the Decade

Well, since everyone and their mother who has a blog is now listing their top 10 movies of the decade, I thought I’d throw my narcissistic hat into the ring. Though, I’m sticking with 15 choices instead of ten…because…you know…just because…

The following movies are the ones I liked most over the last ten years. There may have been better movies (or more likely, ones I just never got a chance to see), but these just happen to be the ones I thought of first when making this list. That being said, I could write this list hundreds of times and it would probably come out slightly different each time. Compiling ten years of film into fifteen rigid choices is neigh near impossible…like attempting to beat the third level of Battletoads on the NES. So, excuse me If I left off your favorite movies. To be honest, you’re probably wrong anyway.

15. Cinderella Man
Ron Howard’s Best Movie, and sadly it’s often just overlooked. I remember that when this came out in the summer of 2005 it was collectively ignored by pretty much everybody. Well, I’m doing my part to give this movie the props it deserves. The fight scenes are expertly filmed and the story is inspiring ( in that not-cheesy, but still warm-fuzzy kind of way). I’m always a sucker for a good underdog story, and if it’s about boxing, even better (that’s the Rocky fan in me). Cinderella Man just hits all the right notes. Plus, Paul Giamatti gives a stellar supporting performance. Per usual, Oscar got it all wrong.

14. Children of Men
If you have any doubt that Alfonso Cuarón is currently one of the greatest directors working today, just check out this movie. Moralistic without ever being preachy and action-packed without ever feeling stupid, Children of Men is the thinking man’s sci-fi film. Performances are strong (strengthening my ever-growing man crush on Clive Owen) and the visuals are top-notch. Just wrap your mind around this narrative technique: nine-minute tracking shots. Gimmicky? Probably. Awesome? Hell yeah. The apocalyptic future has never looked so good.

13. Wedding Crashers
I feel like this movie shouldn’t of worked—the original script was a vanilla studio comedy and the director’s previous film was Shanghai Knights. But, sometimes in the world of movies things just fall into place. Wedding Crashers turned out to be one of the funniest comedies of the decade, fueled by an ad-libbing cast, sharp timing, and a great cameo by Will Ferrell. Not to mention, this is the best thing Vince Vaughn has done since Swingers. Seeing Isla Fisher half-naked didn’t hurt either.

12. The Prestige
Up until the Prestige, no one had really made a good “magic” movie. Which is shocking, because the concept of turn-of-the-century magicians is ripe for cinematic possibilities. Then, Chris Nolan made the Prestige in 2006 and things got good. Full of narrative twists and awesome visual set-pieces, the Prestige is a magic trick in itself. When you watch, all you can think is: how the heck did he do that?

11. Y Tu Mamá También
So can you tell I like Alfonso Cuarón? This movie, shot in 2001 in Mexico is ostensibly a teenage sex-comedy. In reality, it’s a story about class-differences and the sometimes chaotic, traumatizing process of growing up. Sound too serious? Don’t worry…there are a lot of phallic jokes and nudity in there just to keep the kids happy.

10. George Washington
2000’s George Washington is a rarity for me—it’s a movie I like despite being essentially plot less and slow-moving. David Gordon Green’s simple, but incredibly poetic film captures a feeling of youth, want, and the desire to be more than what our sometimes meager situations present to us. Gorgeous and transcending, I say without any reservation that George Washington is a masterpiece that should be viewed by anybody even remotely interested in the art of film.

9. The Dark Knight
So rarely do highly publicized and hyped movies ever meet my expectations. This one did.  ‘Nuff said.

8. Mean Girls
Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen! Tina Fey’s Mean Girls is a perfect amalgamation of comedic chops and terrific storytelling. This film alone is proof that Tina Fey is one of the smartest people in the entertainment industry right now. Not to mention, it’s nice to remember a time when  Lindsay Lohan didn’t look anorexic-thin and like she was about to go on a coke binge. Ahh…memories!

7. Knocked up
Knocked Up is a comedic opus that deserves to be recognized on the same level as the more artsy-fartsy dramatic fare.  Judd Apatow has crafted a one-note-premise movie into something that manages to feel anything but one-note. There’s a real story here filled with real characters (and hilarious moments). Kudos also need to be given to my other man-crush, Paul Rudd. Homeboy just has such soulful eyes…

6. Punch Drunk Love
I’m a big believer that sometimes the best dramatic actors are actually comedians.  Punch Drunk Love proves that theory with an exceptional performance from the man-child himself, Adam Sandler. This is a movie about loneliness, love, awkwardness, and bottled rage. Those things may not sound like they mesh with each other, but director Paul Thomas Anderson weaves them together into a narrative that is deceptively simple, yet surprisingly deep.

5. Requiem for a Dream
Yeah, I know…it’s stylistic to the extreme, but that’s why I like Requiem for a Dream. Director Darren Aronofsky doesn’t hold any punches, he just sort of throws all of his ideas at the wall. Some stick. Some don’t. But, the important thing is that they are big, bold ideas from a filmmaker who is confident in his own aesthetic and vision. That takes guts and it puts the movie on a new level. Plus, it’s has arguably the most iconic musical score of the last decade as well.

4. Almost Famous
Director and writer Cameron Crowe manages to capture sentimentality and nostalgia in a way that is simply unmatched by other filmmakers. I didn’t grow up in the 70s and listen to the music that the movie pays homage too, but I still get these characters and the situation they’re in. Beautifully shot, but even more beautifully written, Almost Famous is the type of movie that makes me love cinema.

3. Memento
Director Chris Nolan manages to get another movie on my list with 2001’s Memento. Rarely do I buy into movies that mess with cinematic structure. However, Memento gets its weirdness just right. Great suspense film. Even better ending.

2. The Incredibles
To be honest, I could easily have put other Pixar flicks on this list (Finding Nemo, Up, Cars, etc), but The Incredibles slightly wins out. Not only is the story and animation great, but the overall subject of super heroes just gets my geek-sense tingling.  This is the best Fantastic Four movie that never was. Kudos, Brad Bird.

1. Big Fish
Some movies just hit you. Big Fish hit me. Hard. I’m sure it’s an odd choice for some…I’m sure that people will call me crazy and ill informed, but few movies have affected me as strongly as this one. Whimsical, beautiful, heart-breaking, and a warm father-son relationship…what’s not to like? This is a movie about the magic of storytelling. And, for aspiring narrative filmmaker it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Alright, folks…there’s my list. There’s a slew of others I’m sure that I’m forgetting…but hey, condensing things down to fifteen is a challenge. Feel free to tell me how much of an idiot I am in the comments. I’m always a fan of a good internet fight.

Ivan Kander

Filmmaker and motion designer, Lucky 9 Studios