A completely subjective list, but these are my picks for the best movies of 2000-2009:
10. Amelie (2001)
This is one of those movies that is easy to forget about. It’s light and airy, and it’s quite charming. But it also says a lot about romance, love, and the power each of us have to change the lives of those around us through simple, small acts. Audrey Tatou is absolutely amazing, and the score is one of the most imaginative soundtracks of the past 40 years.
9. Cars (2005)
Pixar’s story about a lost car and a small town is a celebration of America’s road culture–and the small towns that once dominated its landscape. A film that celebrates the racing world while at the same time saying we should all slow down a bit, it’s a bit contradictory. But it’s beautiful, fun, and the song “Our Town” by Randy Newman and sung by James Taylor is a highlight. Perhaps it wouldn’t score so highly if we didn’t drive through the same part of the country the summer the film was released.
8. A Mighty Wind (2003)
A mockumentary about a reunion of various 60’s folk artists, this film by Christopher Guest is actually one of his “sweetest” films. Rather than making fun of the characters, Guest involves the audience in their quirks and makes you actually care about them–instead of just laughing at them. However, there are PLENTY of laughs and one-liners that are priceless. And the music, performed by the most talented (and underpaid) actors in Hollywood, is spot-on perfection.
7. Unbreakable (2000)
M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to “The Sixth Sense” is a far superior film. A film about the true origins of superheroes, and asking the question–“What if they were real?”–it features powerhouse performances by Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson. Dark, brooding, yet full of hope, it is the director’s best film, because it’s NOT all about the twist ending. (Although there is quite a good one.)
6. Up (2009)
Pixar’s latest film is perhaps one of their most unlikely successes: an unlikely trio of heroes (an 80 year old widower, a boy scout, and a crazy bird) combined with a most imaginative story and striking visuals make the film a true delight. And the film says more about marriage, the power of dreams, and what it means to truly love another, than most films aimed at adults. Easily the best film of this year.
5. Gladiator (2000)
The movie that relaunched the sand and sword epic, and did it in a powerful way. Russell Crowe is amazing in the movie, and its battle scenes, gladiator fights, and crowd scenes are epic to behold. But what makes the movie so memorable is the fact that it says so much about manhood, standing strong, and fighting for what is right. Much like “Braveheart” before it, the film speaks to the man of today by showing us a man of yesterday we can all aspire to be like.
4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The rare sequel that is actually better than the original film, it’s also rare because it’s a big summer blockbuster that actually says something. A film about the quest for identity, to discover who we are, Peter Parker’s story becomes a great picture of our own: who are we? Who do we intend to be? And we are called to a greater purpose. The characters are better developed, Doctor Octopus is a much better and intriguing villain, and the sight of Spidey soaring through New York are still top notch.
3. Moulin Rouge (2001)
Baz Luhrmann’s dynamic musical was a tour-de-force of filmmaking, directing, editing, and art direction. Starring the usually non-singing Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman, this is a truly post-modern film, combining and celebrating the musicals of the past, while bringing new life and energy through creative conceptual energy. Gitchee gitchee ya ya da da, indeed!
2. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
It’s not the best film of all-time, but man has its influence been huge. A celebration of nerdy people, a commentary on teenage culture, and one of the most quotable films of all time (“Your mom goes to college.” “Vote for Pedro.” “My lips hurt real bad!” “Girls like guys with skills.” And many more!), the movie is one of those love it or hate it pieces. I happen to love it, and it’s one of those movies I can watch over and over again.
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2000-2004)
Alone, they are probably the greatest films of their respective years. Taken together, Peter Jackson’s film versions of what Tolkien called “unfilmable,” are easily the greatest film of the past decade. Beyond the special effects, sweeping spectacle, and amazing score by Howard Shore, there are rock-solid performances that take what could be an overwhelming melange of fantasy, war, and death, and turn it into a powerful, moving, and altogether human story. It’s a triumph of film-making we are unlikely to ever see again in our lifetime, a combination of the epic storytelling of years gone by with cutting edge technology–and a story that remains powerful, moving, and triumphant.
Runners Up: Big Fish, Meet the Robinsons, The Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Batman Begins, Pearl Harbor, The Patriot, The Passion of the Christ, Enchanted, and The Incredibles.