erik lundegaard

The Best Movies of the Decade

I began this decade with my first professional movie review, of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's “The Flowers of Shanghai,” published in The Seattle Times on January 28, 2000, and am ending it with amateur—that is, non-paid— reviews on my Web site. Kind of sums up the decade. More and more of our activities are moving online, for which we're getting paid less and less. Or nothing.

But it means I've been writing about movies for 10 years now—first with The Seattle Times, then with MSNBC, and with sidetrips to MSN, The New York Times (Op-Ed), and The Believer—and yet I'm still wary of compling a list of the best films of the decade. I know if I'd done something similar 10 years ago I would've left off what I now consider my two favorite films of that decade—“The Thin Red Line” (1998)  and “The Insider” (1999)—because, even by December 1999, I hadn't seen either one. That's the main reason the movies below aren't listed in any particular order. I want a discussion more than anything. Maybe I'm hoping that, in that discussion, something better will shake loose.

Each poster is linked to a good review or analysis of that movie. Many of the links are self-serving (they're mine) and many are not (Roger Ebert, Scott Foundas, David Edelstein). Warning: The New York Observer seems to have a problem with paragraph breaks. Or Andrew Sarris does.

Some of the movies below make it because they're just fun (“Kung Fu Hustle”; “X-Men 2”; “Riding Giants”). Some make it because I happened to fall in love with certain scenes (the “Me and Julio” montage in “Tenenbaums”; the silent film in “Talk to Her”). The best work slowly and leave us with a kind of existential amazement (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”; “Spring Summer Autumn Winter...and Spring”; “L'Heure d'ete”). Interesting to note: there's only one best picture from the Academy in the bunch: “No Country for Old Men.” Meanwhile, if I had to choose my best picture of the decade, I'd probably go with Roman Polanski's “The Pianist.” Thus far.

A lot of war here. The decade began with “Black Hawk Down,” a sober tale of attempted nation-building in Somalia in 1993, and it ends with “The Hurt Locker,” a sober tale of attempted nation-building in Iraq in 2004, and in-between we got cartoons and superheroes. How have we changed? “Black Hawk Down” was releaed into 3,000 theaters, was no. 1 at the box office for three weeks, and it made over $100 million domestically. “The Hurt Locker” never rose above 535 theaters and never made more than $13 million domestically. Apparently we don't want to know about it anymore. Not when we can watch giant space robots battling each other for the primacy of our sun.

But that's the bad stuff. Here's the good. Discussion welcome.

Posted at 10:27 AM on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 in category Movies - Lists  


Mister B wrote:

From the above, I've seen:

Up, Spiderman 2, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children Of Men, X-Men 2, Casino Royale, Zodiac, and The Dark Knight and all of them, in my opinion, were very, very good movies.

The next decade could use a lot more of the same.

Comment posted on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 at 04:09 PM

Tim wrote:

As is the case with Mr. B, there are a bunch of those I haven't seen (yet). Some are in my Netflix queue, others I hadn't even heard of. Nice to see "About a Boy" in the mix; that was one of the rare films that equaled its literary source material.
Comment posted on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 at 06:34 PM

Uncle Vinny wrote:

I'm too much of a scaredy-cat to watch Cache.

Thanks for linking to the NYT story... I didn't know you'd written an op-ed for them, how cool!
Comment posted on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 at 06:47 PM

Andy E. wrote:

Oh great Erik, now you've made me waste all morning thinking about this!
Of the ones I've seen in your list would definitely agree with Diving Bell, Brokeback, Pianist, Amelie, Children of Men, History Boys, Man on Wire, (loved that one)and the Lives of Others.
Some of my favorites in no particular order:
Master and Commander
Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon
Whale Rider
The Station Agent
In the Bedroom
Touching the Void
Monsoon Wedding
Hot Fuzz (liked even better than Shaun of the Dead)
Spellbound (documentary about spelling bees)
Comment posted on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 at 08:25 PM

Andy E. wrote:

Oh, better add Memento and Lost in Translation to that list...
Comment posted on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 at 08:40 PM

Erik wrote:

That's definitely the problem (and the fun) with doing something like this. The impossibility of it. And the "Oh yeah, that one" quality of it.

Andy, forgot about "Spellbound." Loved that doc.
Comment posted on Wed. Dec 09, 2009 at 09:26 PM

MyriamGP wrote:

Good list Erik. Also serves as a reminder of all the movies on my List that I still need to see.
My 10 Best of the Decade would also include:
My Neighbor Totoro
Lord of the Rings (whole trilogy)
Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon
The History of Violence
The Bourne Identity
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 08:42 AM

Ross wrote:

Some of my favorites that didn't make your list:
Hot Fuzz
Fellowship of the Ring (by far the best of the LOTR movies)
The Incredibles
District B13
Chocolate (200
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 08:55 AM

Erik wrote:

As you can probably tell, I was never a big LOTR fan, but I almost included, among the posters shown, Crouching Tiger, Bourne and The Incredibles. All good or great movies.

Myriam, isn't "Tortoro" from 1988? Either way, I should see more (or one) of Miyazaki, since everyone raves.

Ross, thanks for the Tony Jaa shout-out. And hadn't even heard of "Chocolate" (200.

Of the Simon Pegg stuff, I almost included "Shaun of the Dead," which wasn't just a parody but one of the smartest takes on modern life I've seen.
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 09:46 AM

Mike wrote:

Loved Roger Dodger, but even as a fan of superhero movies (as can be seen below) I have never enjoyed a single scene of the X-Men movies.

My tops, though I only see about ten movies a year:
War of the Worlds
The Incredibles
Batman Begins/The Dark Knight
Iron Man
No Country for Old Men

Zodiac and Munich feel like a set to me -- the era, the based-on-a-true-storyness, the woolly plots that sort of unravel toward the end (but are nevertheless totally compelling) as a symptom of what the protagonist is experiencing.
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 09:51 AM

Mike wrote:

Yeah, I think I'd add the Bourne trilogy as well.
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 09:52 AM

MyriamGP wrote:

Erik, good lord yes, Totoro is indeed from 1988! D'oh! I didn't have a kid until 1999, and didn't see Totoro until about 2003. I foolishly assumed it was new-ish. Yes, though, you should see some Miyazaki!
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Rob Smolund wrote:

I would add one more to the list, The Visitor.
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 11:16 AM

Josh Karp wrote:

Lives of Others may be the best movie of the decade.
Comment posted on Thu. Dec 10, 2009 at 08:13 PM

Daniel Davenport wrote:

If I think about the best movies of this decade, I always turn to what I think of as the "great autumn" in which the following were released: Broken Flowers, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Munich and Constant Gardener. For me, all of those, except possibly Broken Flowers, should make the list. If I were to remove an equal number as I have added (3), they would be The Wrestler (for Capote), Milk (for Good Night and Good Luck), and Casino Royale (for Constant Gardener). So much for my two cents.
Comment posted on Fri. Dec 11, 2009 at 04:21 PM

Hopscotch wrote:

So hard to grasp the entire decade. One thing to admit is that our opinions change over time. The way I feel about Almost Famous in 2001 is different from now. Same movie, but you know life changes our opinions.

United 93 is the the movie of the decade for me. No film came close to the impact that movie did to me in a theater.

And the best movie year would be 2007: Diving Bell, No Country, Ratatouille, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Into the Wild, Bourne Ultimatum, Juno, Knocked Up, Superbad, Hot Fuzz and Zodiac.
Comment posted on Fri. Dec 11, 2009 at 05:01 PM
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