countdown//TOP 50 FILMS OF THE DECADE (40-31)

I couldn't help it. Here's the next ten. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for the rest!

40. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)
With the most original screenplay of 2009, this little film became a big hit when it opened wide toward the end of summer. With a star-making turn by Zooey Deschanel and the best work yet of indie-film king Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the quirky anti-romantic-comedy follows two young lovers' tumultuous relationship from day 1. The catch is that it is shown out of order. With an incredible soundtrack to boot, this film is already a classic from the 00's.

39. 28 DAYS LATER (2002)
Before Slumdog Millionaire won Danny Boyle a few gold men, his biggest hit wit critics and audiences was this terrifyingly brilliant work of art. Set 28 days after an epidemic (swine flu?) wipes out most of Great Britain and the world, the movie actually makes you feel the eery aloneness of our hero, played by Cillian Murphy. But, just when the fear of being alone is enough to drive you mad, you realize the dead are walking. The scariest zombie movie I've ever seen, 28 Days Later still makes me jump every time I watch it. Cudos to Boyle for not relenting to the slashporn of scary films today. I believe this is why 28 Days Late and it's sequel will still be terrifying for years to come.

38. WALK THE LINE (2005)
Whatever happened to Joaquin Phoenix? Oh yea, he turned weird. Thankfully it was after this incredible performance as Johnny Cash. Even more incredible than the film was Reese Witherspoon's performance as Cash's wife/singing partner June Carter Cash. Witherspoon lost herself in the character and deservedly won her first Academy Award. With the soundtrack accompanying it, this is the best biopic in recent years.

The Coen Brothers have been around for a while. But, just when you think they are a thing of the past (Fargo), they whip out another hit. Before No Country for Old Men took home the gold, this little movie should have been in the running after it was released in 2000. Starring Coen Bros.'s favorite George Clooney, plus an all-star supporting cast including John Goodman and Holly Hunter, the movie is a retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey", set in the deep south during the 1930's. Full of gospel folk music and the KKK, the movie is American cinema at it's best.

Every once in a while a small movie comes around that people will never forget. Ok, so this isn't really a small hit. It was a huge box office success, thanks to Ben Stiller's most-of-the-time clever comedy, and it's sequel did even better business. It's a simple "man proposes to wife, then meets her family" story, until he actually does meet them and practically ruins any chance of ever being in good with the family. Robert de Niro is perfect as the father-in-law to-be.

35. COLLATERAL (2004)
It's been a while since Tom Cruise put out a great performance. The "most famous movie star in the world" has shied away from producing anything less than multi-million budgeted movies over the past decade (save Vanilla Sky). This gritty thriller by Michael Mann put his name back in the awards circuit. As a hit man, he also showed that it's kind of cool seeing him as the bad guy. And in the "year of Jamie Foxx", Foxx showed his chops as the innocent taxi driver forced to take Cruise around L.A., and subsequently getting sucked into the game himself. Plus, Mann always has killer music in his films.

34. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)
The other zombie movie from England is a masterpiece in its own right. One moment it's poking fun at the horror-genre, the next it's actually kind of terrifying. Much like Love Actually mixed comedy with drama, Shaun of the Dead mixes comedy perfectly with horror, and British comedy at that! Star/writer Simon Pegg also made a name for himself, as the movie has now spawned a huge following.

33. CAST AWAY (2000)
Tom Hanks. Beach. Volleyball. That's pretty much all you see in this epic from Robert Zemeckis that follows Hanks' FedEx plane crash in the ocean, and him wash up on the shore of an uncharted island, alone. Hanks gives one of the best performances of his career, literally holding the whole movie on his shoulders. The sheer fact that he had to lose so much weight, and gain it back is a great example to how important the art is to performers. Plus, I never thought I'd ever have feelings for a volleyball. Poor Wilson!

32. THE OTHERS (2001)
One of the best twists in recent movie memory occurs at the end of this movie. I never, ever expected it. Plus, Nicole Kidman gives an incredible performance as a wife of a soldier during WWII. She lives in a huge manor, with her two children who are photosensitive, meaning they can't be in the daylight at all. When a strange group of people reply to an ad for help around the house, the real terror begins. Another film that didn't get the awards attention it should have.

31. INTO THE WILD (2007)
Directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild tells the true story of Chris McCandless, who gave up everything after graduating from Emory University and went on an expedition across the US to the Alaskan wilderness, leaving behind money, family, friends, everything. Emile Hirsch stands out as one of the better performances of the decade with his turn as McCandless. Supported by a cast including Hal Holbrook, Kristen Stewart, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden, and William Hurt, the movie's moving cinematography and intriguing script are just minor gems to the ultimate masterpiece Penn gives us. It's even more haunting when you remind yourself that it's a true story.

So, what do you think so far? Looking good? Let me know!

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