countdown//TOP 50 FILMS OF THE DECADE (20-1)

Here they are. The TOP 20!

Let me know what you think (agree/disagree) and how you might change it!

20. FINDING NEMO (2003)
Pixar proved to be the animation force to be reckoned with after producing films like this. Following a rather terrifying beginning, a small clownfish named Nemo gets swept away by a human and taken to Sydney. With the help of a fellow fish named Dory (voiced by Ellen Degeneres...who steals the show completely), Nemo's father searches high and low through the big, gigantic ocean. With incredible visuals, a hilarious cast of creatures, and a touching end, there's no doubt Finding Nemo isn't one of the greatest animated films of all time.

19. THE DEPARTED (2006)
Martin Scorsese has been on top of his game all decade, but none of his projects were quite as good as this crime drama. Sporting a who's-who cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, and Vera Farmiga, The Departed is a sleek look into corrupt police and Irish mafia in a Boston suburb. DiCaprio has never been better, and Nicholson proves why is one of Hollywood's best players. One of the best choices for a Best Picture Oscar this decade.

18. BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001)
Before the art of war-cinema took on the current Iraq conflict, a few films were released based on other recent US military actions, like this underrated gem about a group of US soldiers deployed into Somalia to disrupt a drug lord's business, and rescue two captured lieutenants. Starring Josh Hartnett (one of the decade's most promising young actors, who has disappeared in recent years), the film's gritty look at military exercises was just right to make you root for America, whether you agree with the politics behind it or not. Funny thing is that it was directed by Englishman.

The first of the quirky/artsy indie films to take Hollywood's heart, and go on to be a top contender for the Best Picture prize at 2007's Academy Awards. The little-film-that-could debuted at Sundance and enjoyed a nice box-office success due to critical acclaim and word-of-mouth on social networking sites, another first for the film industry. Following a dysfunctional family from Arizona, as they travel to California, the film's subtle humor and clever dialogue was only helped by the outstanding cast, including an adorable Abigail Breslin, who received an Oscar nod at the age of 10. Thanks to this film, we've been able to really enjoy successes like Juno and (500) Days of Summer.

16. GLADIATOR (2000)
Easily one of the crowd favorites from the past decade, Ridley Scott's epic tale of a Roman general (Russell Crowe) who comes to Rome as a gladiator to avenge the death of his family. As the corrupt prince, Joaquin Phoenix pulls his first great role of the decade. Crowe is also outstanding as the gladiator, earning him his first Oscar. The film went on to win Best Picture, deservedly so, and has stayed in people's minds as one of the great films of our time. The thing that helped is Scott's style of storytelling, mixed with the cinematography of John Mathieson, and the brilliant way of using the two to enhance the story even more, not becoming overkill (which happens a lot now).

15. MONSTERS, INC. (2001)
They've shown up once again on the list. Pixar is the king of animation. But it's not necessarily the animation that gets this choice so high on the list. It's the clever story/script. Probably one of the best original screenplays of the decade, Monsters, Inc.'s story follows a group of rag tag monsters whose job consists of sneaking into children's rooms at night and scaring them, providing power for Monstropolis, the town in which the monsters live. As our heroes, Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) are the original bromance of the decade. And cute little Boo melts your heart the entire film, as the little human who sneaks into Monstropolis. AS far as animation goes, you can see every single one of Sully's fluffy hairs move when he moves...incredible.

The definitive love-it-or-hate-it movie of 2009, Spike Jonze rendition of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book is a movie made for adults who were fans of the book as children, not children of 2009. Though kids I know equally liked it, a lot of people have put pressure on it not being a true family film. I agree. The monsters are kind of scary. The story is kind of outrageous (a kid gets mad at his mom and runs away, ending up in a land of monsters, where he is crowned king and can do whatever he likes). Parents even wrote in arguing that their children took the story wrong and were now being disrespectful. But, if you really understand the story, it's about the magic of imagination and how that, as a child, it's important to develop that skill. Plus the film boasts a crazy/awesome soundtrack by the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O. It's the definitive hipster film of the decade.

13. THE PIANIST (2002)
Though not as successful as Schindler's List was in to 90's, The Pianist is one of the most moving war movies of the decade, and definitely the top Holocaust film. Adrien Brody stole critic's hearts, and audiences alike, as the piano player Jew trying to make it through the Nazi torment. Roman Polanski's direction is top-notch, and the grim, dreary look of the Warsaw ghetto is so heavy, it adds to the already weighted feelings we get when the word Holocaust is mentioned. This movie also gave us one of the most memorable Oscar moments when Adrien Brody gave Halle Berry a kiss when he received his award. Polanski also won, but couldn't attend the ceremony.

The most controversial film of the decade is also one of the highest-grossing film of all time (as well as being the top rated-R film in history), Mel Gibson's masterpiece follows the last week of Jesus' life on Earth. From being arrested, to being tried, and then his ultimate torment to the cross (including a brutal whipping). Jim Caviezel is incredible as Jesus, even mastering the dead language of Aramaic. Due to it's controversy, the true filmmaking was ignored. Gibson's mastery as a director (a la Braveheart) is even better here, most likely due to his heart being into it. Also, led the Academy to change the rules of Foreign Films, creating the current Foreign Language Film category (meaning the film can come from the US, as long as it's not in English).

11. UNITED 93 (2006)
As far as movies go that captivated audiences, this is one of the tops. Probably because of the nature of the topic, and the release of this movie only 5 years after September 11, but I've never been more terrified and emotional watching a movie. And, even though we all know the outcome of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, I still fight with the passengers of the plane every time I watch the movie, hoping for a better ending. Paul Greengrass should have gotten the Oscar for this one.

10. PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006)
Not only was this the best foreign-language film of the year, but easily the best fantasy film. Following a girl's escape into an incredible fantasy world from the terrors of fascist Spain in 1944. With incredible visuals and amazing effects, Guillermo del Toro's fairytale is not only terrifying, but captivating.

9. BABEL (2006)
Once again the ensemble drama is effective, as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's tragedy of three stories in different parts of the world, and how they are connected, is still as moving as the first time I saw it. Brad Pitt gives the best performance of his career so far, and Cate Blanchett shows her chops. But the real acting gem in this film is a toss up between Rinko Kikuchi, as a deaf teen in Japan, and Adriana Barazza, as the Spanish housekeeper who takes the two American children of her house to Mexico for her son's wedding, and ends up getting caught up in a run for the border. The orchestration by Gustavo Santaolalla on the film's soundtrack is just as captivating as the moving images on the screen.

Another underrated film of the decade, Alfonso Cuaron (another great Spanish director of the decade) creates an incredible look at an era of the world that could happen. Set in 2027, when the youngest person in the world is killed at 18 (women haven't been able to give birth since he as born), an illegal alien who has crossed the border into England is pregnant. Clive Owen leads the great ensemble cast (and a beautiful Julliane Moore) through a fast-paced sci-fi thriller. The best thing here is the long frames, literally filling a 15 minute portion of the movie, with lots of action, and never once cutting.

7. CRASH (2005)
The king of ensemble dramas, and the first true independent film to win Best Picture, Crash was a movie release full of awards controversy, as it bested Brokeback Mountain. It was also one of the most-talked about films of the decade, for it's honest and blunt look at race relations in L.A. With a stellar cast, including Sandra Bullock, Ludacris, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillipe, and Terrence Howard (making his first real mark on Hollywood), the movie was a box-office success and opened the door for other similar films to be respected. It was also director Paul Haggis' second year in a row at the top of Hollywood, having just ridden on the success of Million Dollar Baby.

6. JUNO (2007)
Thanks to Little Miss Sunshine, Jason Reitman's little film festival hit Juno soared at the box office and into everyone's hearts, making the Best Picture shortlist. As the titular Juno McGuff, a high schooler who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby to adoptive parents (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, both perfectly cast), Ellen Page gives a star-turning performance and steps into an Oscar nod. Michael Cera, as the baby's daddy, shows he has no reason to complain about being typecast as the nerdy/boy-next-door. As a newcomer screenwriter, Diablo Cody deservedly won the Oscar for her witty/current/hilarious script.

5. MOULIN ROUGE! (2001)
Baz Luhrman's third film is definitely the best of his Red Curtain Trilogy (including Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet). Telling the story of love through music, Luhrman's fast-paced and colorful style is perfect. Using modern music, with a tale set a hundred years ago, the story is perfect, especially when it gets to the stellar "Come What May". Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman aren't shabby singers, either. If I had a say, I think this choice would have made more sense as a Best Picture that year, instead of the already-forgotten A Beautiful Mind.

The most upsetting thing about this movie is that it didn't get the credit it deserved at the Oscars. Though it was set to be a box office stunner even before Heath Ledger's untimely death before the film's release, the movie smashed records and almost beat out Titanic as a worldwide success. Ledger's death only helped boost it's notability, and rightfully so. His Joker was frightening and perfect. Christopher Nolan, one of the best directors of all-time, directed this follow-up to Batman Begins and officially reignited the Batman franchise, and proved that all superhero movies don't have to rely solely on effects and flashy colors.

3. WALL-E (2008)
Pixar's greatest achievement to date, Wall-E is also the definitive sci-fi movie of the decade. Masterfully creative and animated, the film follows a robot left on the earth to cleanup after the humans destroyed it. The humans, however, have lived on a gigantic spaceship, and gotten really fat. When plant life shows up on earth, and a fellow robot named Eve shows up to take it back to the ship, Wall-E gets sucked into an adventure in space, trying to beat out technology and get the humans back to earth. Set to the tune of old favorites like Louis Armstrong, and a clever little side-story involving Hello Dolly and Wall-E's search for true love, the film is a genius commentary on the world we live in and where we are headed.

2. MEMENTO (2000)
Christopher Nolan's first masterpiece, Memento is a compelling thriller, told out of order, following Guy Pearce and his search for his wife's murderer. With some incredible twists and amazing performances, the movie proved that you don't have to have huge names and a big time director to make an incredible movie. Can't say too much or I'll give it away.

Michel Gondry took a complicated scenario and created an incredible movie-going experience. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as two star-crossed lovers who decide to get their relationship erased in a new procedure, the movie speaks on if forgetting bad experiences is better than living through them. Carrey gives an incredible performance in a role he doesn't normally fill, and Winslet was Oscar-nominated for her turn. I hated this movie the first time I saw it. It was too confusing and complicated, but every time I see it, I notice something new and I realize just how well-made it truly is. No doubt that the movie experience is not only unique, but mesmerizing and thought-provoking, while still being entertaining...exactly what movie-watching should be.

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