As I begin to catch the plethora of best of the decade lists, it occurs to me that one is perhaps somewhat obligated to come up with such a beast. But, as is the case whenever list time comes around, I am reminded that I really despise best movie lists. Whether it’s best of the year, decade, or all time, such lists don’t make a lot of sense to me.
The more entries in the list, the less sense they make. But, at least they provide some reflection on some good films.
What really caught my attention when going through some best of this decade lists was the improbable love for 2009. Whether the list was 10, 100, or something in between, it seemed that every list gave some 20% or more of the decade’s honors to 2009.
Something about that doesn’t sit right with me. I’ve always been of a mind that a list of the best movies in a decade is something that should be put together several years after that decade ends, not the next day. There is something about having films too fresh in your mind that doesn’t move you to putting together a list that, in my opinion, really makes a statement about the best in a decade. Of course, this is probably true about the best films in a year as well, but in that case you have little choice in the matter.
To illustrate the point, witness the number of Oscar and other award winners and nominees that are not on even the longest lists of best films of the decade. If you have a list of the fifty best of the decade, how are the 10 best yearly films not included?
In order to keep myself grounded, in a list I’m nevertheless putting together right now, 2009 films are not eligible to be on this list. In a few days I’ll have a list of the best of 2009, and if I revamp this list at some later date, some of those might end up here, but for now, I don’t feel I have the right perspective on things.
Also, simply as a note on the list, 2008 was the year of people really loving films that didn’t do anything for me. Thus, don’t be surprised to find them missing.
This is a list of 75 of my favorite films, and there’s one more thing that will set this list apart from the norm – I can really make no sense out of trying to rank films past a certain point, and deciding on some reasoning behind a movie being number 45 vs. 49 is just crazy to me.
Therefore, the first 60 are simply in alphabetical order.
The final 15 are ranked, but I don’t stand behind the order too seriously. I can live with the order, but if you want to say that number 9 should be higher (or whatever), I don’t really have an argument for or against.
By the way, how much I have to say about any films is up in the air. We’ll have to see. And, when it gets to the final 15 I’m leaving you on your own. Please check the title links for info, trailer, possibly my reviews so that you know something more if you need to, but I’m leaving them to stand on their own – some of them will be able to stand on their own according to no one’s estimation but my own, but that’s just too bad. And, you’d think Audrey Tautou and Christopher Nolan paid me a lot of money, but they didn’t.
Let’s get started.
75. About a Boy
Director – Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
One of the more surprising character studies you’ll find, with sharp and clever performances all around. Perhaps its strongest quality is its somewhat bizarre rewatchability. A man who is anything but, finding attachment thrust upon him despite his best efforts, the story pulls so much of life together, and then, brilliantly, just leaves it sitting there.
74. About Schmidt
Director – Alexander Payne
A man watches the clock tick away the last few minutes of a workday, much like millions of people do day in and day out. Before long, life pulls him up and forces him to look around, and he realizes that watching that clock tick away a certain moment here and there is all he’s ever done. Moving closer to the end of everything, he looks around at life with a perspective that can actually manage some focus now, and wonders, “What the hell was that?” Nicholson is absolutely brilliant.
73. Best in Show
Director – Christopher Guest
If you have the right sense of humor, this may be the funniest movie ever. A semi-improv feature from the Christopher Guest set that includes Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind, the no holds barred approach of this one makes it stand out to me as the best. Tearing apart the ridiculous nature of the hopelessly shallow – dog shows will never be the same.
72. Billy Elliot
Director – Stephen Daldry
While some may find this one a bit on the cheesy side, the visual style, dance, and thematic approach leave it almost in the realm of fairy tale. Moreover, the child acting is amazing, and it delivers the story so strongly that it is nearly impossible to dismiss the emotion. A young boy follows his sometimes awkward and frenetic gift of dance for the release and escape, even though it’s likely to result in a cuff to the ear if his father sees him. It’s a touching and powerful tale about being true to yourself, mostly because it never bothers to really say anything about the subject at all.
71. Blow Dry
Director – Paddy Breathnach
A crazy indie spectacular about a hair-cutting competition… sort of, that almost defies you to keep watching at some points, but has you hooked. Among the “quirky character” British favorites genre which includes such titles as The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine, Alan Rickman carries this light treasure well and has some solid support. Fun and fabulous, it’s the kind of oddity you could watch every other weekend and never tire of it.
Director – Doug Liman
While some may choose to honor other titles in the series, after repeat viewings of all of them, I still find this one the most interesting. The origin is best able to carry through an entire film, and I like Liman’s vision for the thing. However, the rest of the series stays surprisingly strong and all are quite good.
Director – Christoph Gans
One of the wildest bits of adventure in many a year. A throwback in the best sense, this one is similar in theory to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but focusing on a slightly different genre.
As surprising as it might sound, if you’ve seen it, it’s a lot more than just a fun, crazy adventure with wolf-beasts and bizarre conspiracies. Yes, it has grandiose fight scenes, monsters, and eerily evil baddies like an updated spin on King Solomon’s Mines, but it also has a superbly adept visual style and a complex (and, yes, silly) allegory.
Director – Andrew Jarecki
A disturbing and wonderfully insightful, accidental documentary, the film was supposed to be about party clowns in New York City. Things took a different turn when the person apparently widely considered the best of the best had a childhood that was more intriguing than The Nanny Diaries meets clowns.
The story of the Friedmans involves accusations of sexual abuse with children who came to the Friedman home for computer classes. As straightforward a position as we seem to be involved with there, the police investigation apparently consisted largely of brow-beating children and parents endlessly until they relented and accused Friedman. It’s hard to tell what part of the story makes you need a shower more, and this is possibly the only documentary I’ve ever seen that presented an unbiased viewpoint.
Director – John Lasseter co-director – Joe Ranft
Pixar can do no wrong, but this is one my favorites. With a wide array of characters, a solid story, and a great tribute to Route 66 (and the general idea that some things lost to progress oughtn’t be), Cars is a classic for the ages.
66. Children of Men
Director – Alfonso Cuaron
In a dystopic (kind of) future, the human race is on the brink of extinction. War, chaos, turmoil, and the fact that no one has been able to get pregnant in more than 18 years throw the world to the very edge of everything. Suddenly, a woman turns up pregnant, and the race is on to figure out what to do, and how to guard the secret. Clive Owen is as perfectly odd and layered as he was in Croupier, but mostly the talents of Cuaron shine here as he is able to lead you by the nose with an amazing sense of what to put on the screen, and how and why.
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