Top Ten Favorites of the Decade!
Inspired by A.O. Scott’s and (slightly less so) Michael Phillips’ Top 10 Films of the Decade lists on At the Movies, we decided to count down our own favorite films of the aughts. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments. Or don’t. That’s okay, too.
Today’s list brought to you by Sarah G.
10. FRIENDS WITH MONEY (2006) – Nicole Holofcener writes and directs quietly funny movies about women, family, and relationships, topics that are a minefield of melodrama and cliché, without resorting to either. Like her previous offerings (Walking and Talking  and Lovely and Amazing ), this one gives us glimpses into the lives of women dealing with the confusion and occasional indignity of life as best they can. Her characters are recognizable, flawed, and likeable, and I want to be friends with all of them. (Call me, Catherine! We’ll have lunch!) This one makes my list over the also great Lovely and Amazing due entirely to Frances McDormand’s hilariously angry portrayal of a woman going through an unusual personal crisis.
9. THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005) – Judd Appatow’s many gifts to us this decade is a familiar topic around here. This happens to be my favorite. It launched Steve Carrell into mega-fame, and includes hilarious performances from a pre-overexposure Seth Rogan, the always delightful Paul Rudd and Jane Lynch, and my make-believe best friend Catherine Keener. (Seriously, Catherine, call me!) I’ve seen it 4 bajillion times and can quote the whole thing. I could watch the speed-dating scene on repeat for days and never tire of it.
8. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001) – I’d have liked to put Rushmore (1998), Wes Anderson’s breakout movie and possibly my all-time favorite, on this list, but this one is a good second. Anderson’s preciousness is dialed up pretty high here, but the cast manages the material perfectly and the screenplay co-written by Owen Wilson offers a satisfying mix of oddly funny and sweetly sad. Did you just call me Coltrane?
7. 28 DAYS LATER (2002) –These are not the shuffling, drooling undead that plagued your parents’ zombie pictures. These bitches are fast and scary. I wish Danny Boyle had been recognized for this effort instead of the sweet but toothless Slumdog, because it’s such an unusual accomplishment to create a great-looking, well-made, believable, compelling genre film like this one is.
6. GRINDHOUSE (2007) – I’m talking about the full Grindhouse experience: both movies with trailers in between, not the (also good) director’s cut versions of each film that were released on DVD when the Weinsteins* panicked and tried to wring some money out of what was always going to be a niche, art house-type picture. Anyway, this was probably the most fun I had in a theater all decade long. Recommended beverage pairing: whiskey flask.
*Side topic: How many good things have the Weinsteins managed to misunderstand and fuck up this decade? So many things.
5. WALL-E (2008) – Pixar’s track record is basically untouchable, and this is the studio’s greatest achievement. Beautifully animated, touching, and funny, this movie challenges its audience (young and otherwise) with its gorgeous and emotional dialogue-free first act. Director Andrew Stanton manages to deliver Important Lessons (Stop littering, you gross people! Get off your asses, fatties!) without a hint of condescension or sap. Get up right now and go hug your toaster oven. He has feelings and he loves you.
4. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) – Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece examines the intersection of fantasy and horror through the eyes of a child. The creatures that live in a little girl’s alternative reality are mesmerizing and frightening, but not any more so than the very real people that occupy her family life. The effects and photography are probably the best things my eyes have ever looked at.
3. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) – Excellent acting here by Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway, but I think we all know that the weight and beauty of this film lies in the career-making performance of Heath Ledger. The photography is stunning, and the story-telling manages to be subtle and real despite the highly dramatic content. This heartbraking movie demands silence and stillness until the very end.
2. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) – Again with the flawless performances from the talented cast! Most of the acting praise was given to Javier Bardem for his super scary assassin character, with good reason, but after many (many, many) repeat viewings, it’s Tommy Lee Jones I love the most. I would like him to narrate my entire life, please. The Coens managed to stay true to Cormac McCarthy’s novel while infusing the source material with their own brand of dark hilarity, and multiple Oscars ensued.
1. ZODIAC (2007) – What’s this, two Jake Gyllenhaal movies in the top three, you say? I’m as surprised as you are. Ridiculously underrated, I’ve probably watched this movie 100 times. Unblinkingly strong acting here from everyone in the great ensemble cast. Gyllenhaal whined a bit about David Fincher’s meanie methods, but he should have been thanking him for inspiring a performance that more than holds up to those of his costars, patented Always Awesome Actors™ like Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. Fincher’s seamless use of CGI to place the action in San Francisco in the 1960s and ‘70s is gorgeous and unique. Let’s all pretend Benjamin Button never happened – this is the Fincher movie that should have been recognized by the Academy.
Honorable mentions: Almost Famous, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Brick, The Dark Knight, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Knocked Up, Mysterious Skin, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Station Agent, Superbad, There Will Be Blood