My Top 100 Films of The Decade…Part Four

When I started this list I was really pumped about it…but then somewhere along the way it became equivalent to a homework assignment, and being the master procrastinator I am I’ve been putting this off.  However, a friend of mind got on my case so I buckled down and banged out the blurbs for movies 40-21…so here they are…part four of my five part list…part five will be up…well…whenever the hell it’s up

Here are the links for parts 1 through 3
Films 100-81
Films 80-61
Films 60-41

#40 Love Actually (2003)

Starring: Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Alan Rickman Director: Richard Curtis

Go ahead, call me a sap, I don’t care because this is a great movie.  If you try and tell me you don’t like it I’ll call you a liar to your face.  This movie is funny, heart wrenching and heart warming all at the same time.  Set during Christmas time in London, Love Actually follows the lives of various people who are all searching for, well, love.  This movie could have so easily been a massive cheese fest but the writers and director Richard Curtis completely pull it off.  The ‘R’ rating was a wise choice because all the players can act real without having to tone down their actions.  Hugh Grant is his usual quirky funny self as the English Prime Minister and the rest of the cast plays their parts well.  Special nod to the main child actor, Thomas Sangster who plays a love sick kid who has just lost his mother.  The final 20 minutes of this film are guaranteed to get some kind of emotional reaction out of even the coldest heart.  Just a great feel-good film.

#39 Inside Man (2006)

Starring: Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster Director: Spike Lee

This is one of those flicks that you don’t expect to be good.  It seems like the kind of movie that Spike Lee phones in just to get a paycheck…not so.  Inside Man is one of those rare gems that works on every level.  It’s basically Ocean’s 11 but realistic.  What I love about this movie is the fact that it’s very unpredictable.  It starts off as just a regular bank heist, but then it jumps to the aftermath.  You begin to get clues as to what took place from the witness testimony.  This might be Clive Owen’s best film to date…he was great in Closer but this is his first chance to just be completely badass.  Kind of like Javier Barden in No Country For Old Men.  I feel like Inside Man was Owens’ coming out party…just a solid movie with a great ending that I could watch again and again.

#38 The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris Director: Kevin Reynolds

I’m not a big reader…my favorite book is Ender’s Game…a sci-fi book that has yet to be made into a movie but honestly should be if producers want to get rich.  That said…The Count of Monte Cristo is one of those few movies that actually made me want to read the book it was based on.  It’s such a classic revenge story, and it’s told so well that you can feel the words of Dumas.  The character are amazing…Caviezel and Pearce are perfectly casted, and it’s great that Richard Harris was able to be in another great film before he died.  The production values are perfect and Reynolds brings that timeless feeling to the narrative.  It’s a simple story that is made to feel epic, it’s just one of those movies that was executed flawlessly.  I would be hard pressed to find someone who would say that the book was definitely better than the movie.  The book is a classic, but the film adaptation absolutely does it justice.

#37 The Wrestler (2007)

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood Director: Darren Aronofsky

Aronofsky is a strange cat.  He’s made some crazy films…Pi, Requiem For A Dream which brought us Jennifer Connelly going ass to ass.  The Wrestler though is by far his best film.  Aronofsky finally figured out that the audience wants to like the main character.  In his other films his leads have been pure scum or completely unidentifiable.  Nobody cared about Jared Leto in Requiem…we just felt depressed afterwards.  However, Aronofsky was able to make Randy “The Ram” relatable and sympathetic.  We want the man to succeed.  Of course Aronofsky adds his trademark rawness to the flick, and we also get Marisa Tomei looking flawless in her 40s.  The Wrestler is one of those great films that is raw, unflinching, and completely engrossing all at the same time.  It is not a film you will easily forget, and possibly never forget.

#36 The Bourne Identity (2002)

Starring: Matt Damon, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox Director: Doug Liman

Matt Damon is bad ass? Wait what?  I wouldn’t have believed the guy who starred in The Talented Mr. Ripley could pull off a government assassin but somehow Damon was up to the challenge.  I was still in film school when this movie was in the script phase and I was hearing nothing but bad things.  I heard, and I’m quoting, “This might be the worst script in the history of film”  well obviously that didn’t come to pass since this film turned out to be the beginning of a highly successful franchise.  Now I know that many trilogies have been sub par…Twilight, Saw, the most recent Star Wars, but the Bourne franchise got off to an amazing start.  The scenes with Damon starting to remember his training and disarming police and guards almost subconsciously are some of the best adrenaline pumping scenes of the last decade.   The film never feels gimmicky either, it’s one of those rare movies whose subject matter is completely implausible but at the same time you never realize it while watching.  Credit Damon and Liman for pulling off a great spy flick without showing the strings.

#35 The Departed (2006)

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio Director: Martin Scorsese

The best Boston crime drama of the decade, The Departed brings in an all star cast and one of the world’s greatest directors to create a film that succeeds on almost all levels.  The acting, brilliant…the direction, perfect…the script, average.  The one thing that keep this film from being in the top 10 is the fact that it’s not the easiest movie to follow, or relate to.  For example, one of the best movies ever made is The Shawshank Redemption, at no time during that movie are you asking what’s going on…in The Departed however I am pretty sure most people don’t completely know what’s happening in the final scene.  Yeah after a second viewing you can grasp the entirety of the narrative but great movies don’t require a second time through.  The overall production (acting, editing, sets, costumes, etc) is second to none…yet just like Gangs of New York the story suffers from being too clever for its own good.  Sometimes a simple timeless story without the whistles and bells (any Pixar film) works better than throwing a ton of great actors and drama together and hoping that masks an average story.  The most recent example is Cameron’s Avatar…visually brilliant, production values through the roof, yet the story leaves a lot to be desired, while I could see I was watching a great film in The Departed…I never felt it…you have to do more than impress my eyes and ears to be one of the greats, The Departed never rises to the top…another great movie that never realized it’s potential.

#34 Blow (2001)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta Director: Ted Demme

Ironically Ted Demme, the director of this film, died after playing a charity basketball game and cocaine was found in his system.  That however, does not diminish what may be remembered as Johnny Depp’s first mainstream role.  Before Blow, Depp was in films like Fear and Loathing, and Chocolat…some may consider Sleepy Hollow as his introduction to the A-List but I disagree.  Blow was Depps’ coming out party, this was his first critically acclaimed and publicly hailed film.  Sure it didn’t win any major awards, but I would bet that this DVD is in most people’s collections.  There is a history of films flying under the radar then later finding a following.  Braveheart only made 75 million at the box office, The Shawshank Redemption made 28 million, yet 2 Fast 2 Furious made 127 mill…so the popularity of films when they are released means nothing.  Blow is one of those great films that slowly builds a fan base, it’s a movie I can throw in my DVD player at any time and be completely entertained from start to finish.  I will confidently say that it will be remembered as one of the greats, even if Penelope Cruz was nominated for a Razzie award…good thing she now has an Oscar to shove in their faces.

#33 Super Troopers (2002)

Starring: Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Ok, we’re starting to get into the territory where my personal favorites are going to reveal themselves.  If I wasn’t a failed film major with a pretty good understanding of what makes a great film I would most likely have Super Troopers ranked much much higher.  I love this movie, this was the movie I would quote before I even started quoting movies.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “I’m as sober as a bird,” or “Shut up Farva” or even better, “I don’t want a large Farva, I want a god damned liter of cola!”  I could literally fill up this entire paragraph with nothing but Super Trooper quotes from off the top of my head.  I know this movie inside and out, I’ve probably never seen any other comedy more.  Sure it’s technically flawed, but there is something to be said for a film that you can watch over and over and still laugh your ass off.  For my money there is not a funnier opening sequence in existence than the opening to this movie, because it taught us all a very important lesson, “you can’t own the water, god, it’s god’s water”  Yes…yes it is.

#32 Seabiscuit (2003)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper Director: Gary Ross

Another personal favorite that I would have ranked higher if I didn’t know any better.  Seabiscuit is a feel good movie through and through.  What makes it a great one is that it’s able to get an emotional reaction from the viewer without being manipulative.  There are no tricks or gimmicks to make you feel what you feel, just a great story.  Now I have to admit something…I cry during films.  I’m pretty much at the whim of the filmmakers in terms of emotion.  Now I don’t sell out, the film has to be quality for me to tear up, but Seabiscuit is one that gets me every time.  Credit Gary Ross’ direction and the score for most of it, but at the same time this movie wouldn’t be anything without the performances.  Tobey and Bridges are great, but special kudos go out to Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Banks for bringing the heart.  The characters are real, the narrative is clear, and the final sequence is so perfectly written and shot that it ranks among my favorite endings to a film…ever.

#31 The Prestige (2006)

Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine Director: Christopher Nolan

How in the name of god could I have The Prestige ranked higher than The Dark Knight?  I mean seriously they are both starring Christian Bale and Michael Caine and they are both directed by Christopher Nolan.  The Dark Knight is the second highest grossing film of all time (533 million domestic) behind only Titanic (and maybe third in a couple weeks behind Avatar) and The Prestige only made a meager 53 million.  Obviously I’m missing something…actually no I’m not, The Prestige is a better film.  Why?  Well for one it doesn’t rely on one single performance, everyone in this film brings something to the table.  Unlike TDK it is a story driven film, the narrative is the star.  There aren’t any flashy visual effects, just a mystery and a few great actors doing their thing.  You’ll begin to notice a trend in my final 30 films.  Very few are special effects movies, and even the ones that are, the effects take a back seat to the story.  The Prestige is a perfect example of substance over style.  The movie succeeds because it doesn’t try to be something it’s not.  It’s a compelling story with great characters, it could have easily turned into a Harry Potter type magician showdown but instead it stays grounded and lets the actors do the heavy lifting.  Give me a great script and solid actors over a limitless budget every time.

#30 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow Director: Wes Anderson

Multiple viewings required.  Even I didn’t know what to make of this film my first time through.  It was offbeat, a little weird, nothing really made any sense…alas it was my first Wes Anderson film and if there is ever a director with a learning curve it’s him.  A Wes Anderson movie is a different animal, there are directors with their own style, but Anderson has his own reality.  When I first saw this film I dismissed it as just another pompous independent film taking itself too seriously.  Well, I’m glad I didn’t stick to that assumption because it was completely wrong.  This is one of those movies that you either love or hate, and if you love it then consider yourself lucky because you have discovered something most won’t.  The subtlety of this movie is where the meat is, you have to actively participate as a viewer in order to enjoy it and I love that.  There are so many movies that just let you lean back and turn off, and I love those movies, but every now and then I want a film with layers.  The Royal Tenenbaums is a fully realized world that comes to life through the details, The Gypsy Cabs, the elaborate back stories for the characters, it’s an alternate reality that begs you to explore it.  Every time you watch it you’ll pick up something new…that’s quality in my eyes.

#29 Russian Ark (2002)

Starring: Sergei Dontsov, Leonid Mozgovoy Director: Aleksandr Sokurov

I guarantee none of you have seen this remarkable film unless you know me personally and I physically sat you down and forced you to watch it.  A director says action, the scene begins, a man wonders through a museum and time itself and experiences hundreds of years of Russian history, he is traveling through time, at least he thinks he is.  He wonders through halls full of thousands of extras, elaborate dances, military formations, he meets figures of antiquity, Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, his journey allows him to see things people can only imagine, this goes on for over an hour and a half…oh did I mention the camera is still rolling and hasn’t stopped once?  This film is one continuous shot, there are no cuts, there are no edits, the camera starts and thousands of people have to be perfect for over 90 minutes or else they have to stop and do it all over again.  The shear feat of pulling this off would be worthy of mention but they also managed to create a haunting, beautiful, out of body experience in the process.  One of those movies that begs to be seen, at least once, and makes you wonder if someone can make something this great in one single shot why can’t other films be just as good when they get to use multiple.

#28 Cinderella Man (2005)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti Director: Ron Howard

Here’s another one that makes me weep like an infant.  Honestly, emotional sports movies are my friggin kryptonite, I need a lead shield to protect me from them.  Just like Seabiscuit this is another all time great underdog feel good movie.  What makes this movie great, I mean really great is that even though it’s as predictable as a sunrise it still works.  We all know how it’s going to turn out, but it doesn’t matter.  We want Braddock to win, you root for the guy like you did Rudy, it’s on that level.  Add to the inspiration the performance from Giamatti and you can see why he was nominated for the supporting actor Oscar.  This is a movie that I throw in the DVD player whenever I need a pick-me-up…it works every time.

#27 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom Director: Gore Verbinski

“Hey I have an idea…you remember that casually stupid Disneyland ride with the pirates?  You do?  Well what if we turn that into a feature length movie?  Hello?  You still there?”  That’s probably how the pitch for this flick should have gone, whoever decided this was a good idea shouldn’t ever have to work another day in his life.  Talk about your all-time gambles.  I actually went on the ride when I was a kid…I hated it…it was so dumb… “Yo ho Yo ho, a Pirate’s life for me” again and again, non stop…I’m honestly surprised people don’t kill themselves on that ride….anyway, this movie was awesome.  Credit Johnny Depp for actually being nominated for Best Actor for this, that just shows he operates on an entirely higher level then everyone else.  Not only was this film fun as hell, it was well made…I mean really well made…it miraculously avoided being cheesy, the production values were top notch, it had Keira Knightly (always a plus), I actually cared about the characters.  I think I may have gone to see this 4 times in the theatres…and I usually never do that, I think this movie hit me right in my comfort zone…witty dialogue, great action, hot chick, great characters…it’s too bad the two sequels sucked so bad…but at least we got this one.

#26 Batman Begins (2005)

Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes Director: Christopher Nolan

The best Batman film ever made, fact.  Batman Begins was the reboot to end all reboots.  Casino Royale did an admirable job trying to reinvent the Bond franchise but for my money Begins is the example for how reboots are to be done.  Now I really like Tim Burton’s original…Nicholson played one hell of a joker, but it was always too cartoony for me, sure it was cool but I never really bought it.  What Batman Begins did was make the caped crusader cool, made him real, made him believable.  Batman was always just Burce Wayne in a suit, sure you knew his parents were killed but that was about as far as his motivation went.  Begins illustrates his backstory in vivid detail.  This is the same reason I love the show Smallville, superheroes are nothing without their backstory and their reason for being.  As someone who never read comic books I had relied on films to give me that information, and until Batman Begins I never realized just what drove the man.  You add to the great story seemless action sequences and a great villain and Batman Begins becomes, in my opinion, the best comic book adaptation film of all time.

#25 Sunshine (2007)

Starring: Cillian Murphey, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis Director: Danny Boyle

Sometimes all you need is a great idea.  Sunshine is the story about a group of scientists who are on a mission to reignite the Sun which is dying and threatening all life on Earth.  This was one of those films that was never really given a chance, it’s definitely not for everyone, but for someone like me this is why I watch movies.  Sunshine is slow, methodical, creepy, breathtakingly beautiful, and lasting.  You will not forget this one, it sticks with you.  Many people cite the ending as the downfall of the film, claiming it becomes a cheap horror flick.  While I certainly understand this argument, I don’t agree.  The ending, at least for me, is a commentary on our own humanity.  Yeah that sounds preachy but it’s really not, I view the final 20 minutes of the film as an illustration of the power of the mind to be corrupted, about how easily we can forget what makes us human when thrown into extreme circumstances.  This film is a must see for anyone who loves great science fiction.

#24 Rescue Dawn (2007)

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies Director: Werner Herzog

A long time ago Christian Bale began his acting career playing an abandoned child forced to live in a Japanese internment camp during WWII.  Decades later his career comes full circle and he returns to captivity in Rescue Dawn, the true story of pilot Dieter Dengler and how he survived as a P.O.W. during the Vietnam war.  This is Bale at his best, he completely embraces the role and you can see it in his face.  He’s not just some actor wearing a costume repeating memorized lines, he is Dengler.  The movie is very low key, there are no massive firefights or special effect sequences, it is a simple story of survival.  It’s this simplicity that elevates the film, it lets the actors do the work.  Not many films have the guts to do this, they love to disguise the story and the performances with loud noises and explosions, but Herzog allows you to engulf yourself, to concentrate on what’s important, and that is the men and their ordeal.

#23 Sin City (2005)

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba Director: Robert Rodriguez

Before 300, or Watchmen there was Sin City, the first of the graphic novel adaptations, and in my eyes, the best.  I had never seen a movie like this, it can be described as pure style.  It’s one of the coolest movies I’ve ever seen visually, and it’s also a bloody good time.  It’s raw, unapologetic, and completely bad ass.  It was the rebirth of Mickey Rourke as a bonefied movie star and it also contains Jessica Alba in chaps grinding a stripper pole with a whip.  Honestly, can you ask you anything more?  Oh and I forgot to mention Frodo Baggins, I mean Elijah Wood, playing a homicidal cannibal…anything goes in Sin City.

#22 Beerfest (2006)

Starring: Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

There are very few people out there that would rank Beerfest as the 22nd best movie of the last 10 years, and you know why?  They’re wimps!  Everyone loved this movie and those who claim not to are liars, or cannot relate to it.  And I’m glad to say I don’t know one single person who doesn’t love this flick, probably because the only people I know are boozehound bar residents but so what? My point stands.  I have probably seen this movie more times than any other, mostly because this flick was my pregame ritual before I would go out for the night.  There is no better way to get amped up to party then to hang out with a few friends and watch Beerfest while downing a few dozen beers.  This is the ultimate college flick and that’s strange because it has nothing to do with college, just America dominating the rest of the world in the drinking games we all played growing up.  Sure at its core it’s a raunchy semi-slapstick comedy, but any movie that I can watch over 30 times and still not get bored with is doing something right.

#21 Star Trek (2009)

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana Director: J.J. Abrams

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a Star Trek nerd.  Not a full blown Trekker mind you, I can’t tell you how many decks the Enterprise has or how the warp core works but I grew up with Kirk, and Spock, and then Picard and Riker.  The Star Trek universe is a great place to escape, to think about what could be.  However, the last few movies have been mediocre at best, but then came J.J. Abrams, the young wonder boy of the entertainment industry.  Not only has he created my favorite t.v. show of all time (Lost) but he’s one hell of a director as well.  This version of Star Trek drastically recreates the mythology by creating an alternate universe.  It follows Kirk, and Spock and the original Enterprise crew from childhood through Star Fleet to how they assumed their positions on the most famous space ship of all time.  What’s great about this film is that it has humor and heart, it’s not all photon torpedos and phasers, you become involved with these characters lives.  It’s a long the lines of Casino Royale and Batman Begins in terms of being a reboot, but it’s also much more fun.  The action sequences are done with an artists touch, and the way the whole thing is edited together provides a level of gravitas absent from most other Trek films.  My favorite sci-film of the decade because it balances all its elements to create an incredible film.

Final 20 Films

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6 Responses to “My Top 100 Films of The Decade…Part Four”

  1. imbalderimsicker Says:

    def thought Blow would be higher but the ending is very depressing and casually ruins the whole movie, itd be better if he got away with everything. and the departed was sick but fucking TBS or whoever has ruined it for me by playing it like 3x a day for the past 3 years

  2. Dan Says:

    Where do I find your top 20 of the decade?

  3. Top 100 Films Of The Decade: Top 20 « The Loon Says:

    […] 100-81 80-61 60-41 40-21 […]

  4. My Top 100 Films Of The Decade…Part Three « The Loon Says:

    […] Films 40-21 Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)My Top 100 Films Of The Decade 2000-09The Best Films of 2009’Poseidon Adventure’ director Ronald Neame diesRumor: Kane and Lynch movie loses original director? […]

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