After many websites (including Papiro & Mint) set up a its of the best movies of the 2010 decade, many critics decided to gather around to name the best movies of the 2000s . Unlike Papiro & Mint’s article A Decade In Film: 10 Years in 100 Films, I’ve decided to name only the 25 best movies of the 2000 decade. That’s not only to make this article shorter, but also because I believe such decade didn’t have as many good films as the one after it, resulting in a very fine list with only the best of the best. Here they are:
25. “Atonement (2007)” by Joe Wright
Probably one of the most visually striking films of the decade, Atonement is a war drama based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name that was brought to light by the incredible direction of Joe Wright. It’s not only a beautifully devastating film, but also a movie that seems to be getting better with time, with remarkable performances by James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. If you haven’t watched Atonement or haven’t revisited recently, make sure to do it!
24. “Ratatouille (2007)” by Brad Bird
The 2000s were definitely a decade of animations and Ratatouille isn’t the only title that you will find on this list. Being one of Pixar’s best movies, this adorable, beautiful and absurd tale about a mouse helping a human to cook, shows that no matter who you are, you can do whatever you set your mind to.
23. “Fish Tank (2009)” by Andrea Arnold
Andrea Arnold’s second future can be seen as a millennial version of the British New Wave movement for portraying the suburban life of a teenage girl who loves to dance and ends up falling in love for her mother’s boyfriend. More than a coming of age love story, Fish Tank is a cool, raw and intense exercise of female desire, resulting in an astonishing film from the 2000 decade.
22. “A Prophet (2009)” by Jacques Audiard
Being one of the most critically acclaimed French films of the decade, A Prophet is an outstanding prison crime-drama that mixes elements of films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather in a naturalistic and modern version reminiscent of the nouvelle vague. With an incredible mise en scene by Jacques Audiard and Tahar Rahim’s performance, the film won multiple César Awards such as Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Cinematography, among other prizes.
21. “Elephant (2003)” by Gus Van Sant
Coming out four years after the Columbine high school shootings, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant is still remarkably relevant for addressing the same issues that we face today, which is gun control. On this realistic and contemplative film, we follow the lives of several teenagers moments before a school shooting which is more concerned in raising questions than answering them. A beautiful film about a disturbing event that shouldn’t be forgotten.
20. “The Piano Teacher (2001)” by Michael Haneke
One of my favorite Michael Haneke films, The Piano Teacher is a crazy and cold drama about a piano teacher who starts a sadomasochistic relationship with one of her students. Based on the dark and intense novel by Elfriede Jelinek and staring Isabelle Huppert in one of her best performances, The Piano Teacher is already a classic for its shocking and passive violence shown in a psychologically disturbing and yet beautiful way.
19. “The Child (2005)” by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Winner of the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, this is also one of the best Dardenne brother’s films by telling the story of a poor Belgium couple who find themselves in absurd and dangerous situations after having their first child. With an extremely naturalistic mise en scene and a short duration, The Child is one of the many proves that modern cinema don’t need much to achieve excellence.
18. “Dogville (2003)” by Lars Von Trier
A movie that can be considered ahead of its time and that it seem to get better each year that passes, Dogville is one of Lars Von Trier’s magnus opus with a monumental cast formed by Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Stelan Skarsgard, Ben Gazza, John Hurt, Chloe Savigny, Udo Kiner and many others. Shot entirely on stage with only drawings on the ground, this three hour epic is an exercise of imagination and contemplation of the worst impulses of human’s nature, shown in a simplistic and groundbreaking format.
17. “The Pianist (2002)” by Roman Polanski
Winner of the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and several other Academy Awards, The Pianist is one of the best and most brutal movies about the holocaust ever made. I’m not sure why we don’t talk more about this movie but it’s undoubtedly a classic, featuring a haunting performance by Adrien Brody in one of Roman Polanski’s best pictures.
16. “Amélie (2001)” by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
One of the decade’s favorites, Amélie is so perfect in its own world that is almost impossible to hate it. With a very unique script, cinematography and production design, the movie embraces the peculiarities of a romanticized Paris so well that it’s already a must-watch classic. Not mentioning Yann Tiersen’s musical score, which is probably the best and most beautiful movie soundtrack ever made.
15. “Billy Elliot (2000)” by Stephen Daldry
Being one of my favorite films of all times, Billy Elliot isn’t just an outstanding underrated film, but one of the movies everybody should watch when you are a teenager. It’s an amazing coming of age story about following your dreams, set in a poor family background involving politics, sexuality and family. As Jamie Bell says, it’s a character that has grown bigger than him and it’s out there for the world to see and learn from him. And what incredible lessons we can learn from Billy!
14. “Code Unknown (2000)” by Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke has dealt with a lot of current subjects in his early movies, like The Seventh Continent is about the conformity of globalization and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance is about the quotidian violence in our everyday life. In Code Unknown, the Austrian director talks a lot about the tensions of society and the violation of personal space by telling a story that is almost divided in small scenes that suddenly ends. More than that, the way Haneke builds his film is as violent as the themes he portrays, making Code Unknown into an underrated masterpiece and one of the decade’s bests.
13. “Let the Right One In (2009)” by Tomas Alfredson
It’s interesting to remember that this child vampire movie was released on the same year as Twilight. While one was based on a teenage romance by Stephenie Meyer’s book, the other was based on a horror story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, evolving murder and pedophiles. And even though Let the Right One In is a story with elements of horror, it’s also a story about overcoming bullying, falling in love for the first time and standing up for one self. The way Tomas Alfredson brought this story to life was so refreshing inside of the genre that it became of the best surprises of the 2000 decade.
12. “Finding Nemo (2003)” by Andrew Stanton
I was 10 years old when Finding Nemo came out and it had a huge impact on me. Not only me but everybody else, from kids to adults, making the film one of the most successful animations of all times. Not much else to say, except that is one of the best animations ever made and already a must-watch classic.
11. “Up (2009)” by Pete Docter
Being the third animation of the list, I dare to say this is Pixar’s best film to date. By telling the story of an old man who literally wishes to fly his house to another country in memory of his deceased wife, the movies focuses on the life lessons shared between an old man and a kid in the most absurd and beautiful possible way.
10. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)” by Michel Goundry
Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry proved themselves to have an outstanding partnership with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie that is told and shot in a unique and strange way, combining Kaufman’s creativity and Gondry’s video-clip influences in a story about a man who hires a company to erase someone form his mind and decides to cancel the treatment in the middle of the procedure. With incredible performances by Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kristen Dunst and Mark Ruffalo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the decade’s most different and unique films.
09. “Inglorious Basterds (2009)” by Quentin Tarantino
At the end of Inglorious Basterds, the character of Brad Pitt turns to the camera after taking Hans Landa’s scalp and says that this is probably his masterpiece. This can also be seen as a message from Tarantino to the audience (or maybe himself), that Inglorious Basterds is his masterpiece, and he couldn’t be more right. The direction, pacing and storytelling in so on point and absurd here that is impossible not not enjoy the film. Especially because of what he does with Hitler at the end, resulting in a beautiful and brutal homage to cinema that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is as well-made as any Hollywood classic.
08. “Requiem For a Dream (2000)” by Darren Aronofsky
Would Requiem For a Dream be made today? Probably not. But the way Darren Aronofsky delivers this story about three kids from L.A who ends up destroying their lives because of drugs is so unique and intense that made the number of people going to Film School increase. Some people may not like Aronofsky nowadays but his early films are so powerful and interesting that we can’t ignore that Requiem For a Dream was a big sensation when it came out. It’s also so shocking and violent that you may not want to watch it again, but we can’t deny of its power and influence in cinema’s history.
07. “The Dreamers (2003)” by Bernado Bertolucci
This film may not deserve this position on this list but since it’s my favorite movie of all times and it’s an article written by me, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to suck it up. Based on Gilbert Adair’s novel of the same name, Bernardo Bertolucci makes a very unique movie about three enfants terribles who spend time playing sexual and degrading games with each other, resulting in both an homage and critique to the nouvelle vague movement and the events of may 68. Also, there probably ain’t better trio in the same movie than Louis Garrel, Eva Pitt and Michael Pitt.
06. “Donnie Darko (2001)” by Richard Kelly
Being one of the biggest cult horror movies of all times, Donnie Darko became a classic for its dark subjects and theories of what actually happens in the end of the movie. More than that, Richard Kelly makes a surprising job by bringing this disturbing world to life in his directorial debut with only 23 years old. The giant rabbit that tells Donnie the world will end, Donnie’s twisted personality, the theories of time travel and the confusing conclusion is one of the many things that makes Donnie Darko so special.
05. “Dancer in the Dark (2000)” by Lars Von Trier
Being the second Lars Von Trier movie of the list, Dancer in the Dark is not only the best movie of the Danish director so far but also one of the best movies of the 2000 decade entirely. Shot in Dogma style with an incredible performance by Bjork, this strange and brutal musical about a woman who is loosing her sight is probably one of the most devastating films ever made.
04. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001) by Peter Jackson
I’ve always thought The Lord of the Rings were great films but it was only after I re-watched all of them a couple of years ago that I rediscovered them and realized how The Fellowship of the Ring is such a perfect movie. It may deal with a fantastical world full of monsters and creatures, but what Peter Jackson did here is a thousand times better and more important than what James Cameron did with Avatar or what any director did with the Harry Potter series (and I love Harry Potter more than Lord the Rings). The truth is that The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a movie especially made for this medium, that opens the 2000 decade with such splendor and with so much relevance that we can already consider a masterpiece of film history.
03. “Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)” by Béla Tarr
It’s surprising to remember that Werckmeister Harmonies was released on the year 2000. Béla Tarr creates a movie so poetic, hypnotic and mysterious that we could say it could have come from the 60s or 80s. Based o the novel by Lásló Krasznahorkai, the film follows the story of the a mysterious circus that excites a small Hungarian town with their main attraction, which is a huge whale. The arrival of this circus, however, have strange consequences between the locals, resulting in a beautiful, haunting and hypnotic film that reminiscent the works of Andrei Tarkovsky.
02. “There Will Be Blood” (2007) by Paul Thomas Anderson
I remember when this movie came out and it was the only thing people talked about. I was very young when I first watched it and the film grew on me as the years passed. Now we can clearly say that There Will Be Blood is one of the best movies of the 21st Century so far, with so much power and relevance that it will be used as references in the years to come. After all, it was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a filmmaker who keeps delivering one movie better than the other since this masterpiece came out.
01. “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)” by Cristian Mungiu
I first watched this movie on a Movie Ethic class on college and I remember that people left the room because they couldn’t face the images that appeared on screen – which is kind of funny, considering there are more explicit films on this list. But 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days is so realistic, brutal and honest that it doesn’t need much to get the point across. This is the story of a woman trying to get an abortion in a country that such practice is considered illegal and ends up falling into an abusive and repelling situation. What happens in the film and what is shown is so relevant that is impossible to stop thinking about this movie and the conversations we should be having. It’s such a powerful and brutal piece that I can’t think of another movie to consider it as the best of the 2000 decade.
Honorable mentions: Before Sunset (2004) by Richard Linklater; Wall-E (2008) by Andrew Stanton and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) by David Fincher.