I’ve been reading the AV Club’s seminal Inventory for the past month or so, and it’s really brought out the worst in my inner compulsive list-maker. Yesterday, I even ranked my top ten favorite mustards. That’s right. I have a problem.
Anyway, one of the few productive things that came out of this spurt of list compositions is my first definitive list of the best movies of the Years of our Lord, 2000 to 2009. It’s over a year later than when most critics made this list, but it took me until now to be satisfied with one. I’ve also done a “last five out” section, which I’ll open with. Hopefully some people can enjoy this list so I don’t just feel blogosphere-masturbatory for making it. Behold, and note that some massive spoilers await:
Last five out (no order):
Up, dir. Pete Docter, 2009
The Prestige, dir. Christopher Nolan, 2006
Best in Show, dir. Christopher Guest, 2000
The Last King of Scotland, dir. Kevin Macdonald, 2006
V for Vendetta, dir. James McTeigue, 2005
All of those films exhibited a great many strengths but had one, or perhaps two, flaws just glaring enough to be demoted from the top ten. They’re all borderline masterpieces, though, and I had to shout them out. Now, for the actual top 10:
10. The Devil’s Rejects, dir. Rob Zombie, 2005
Best performance: Bill Moseley as Otis Driftwood
Best scene: The closing scene, wherein the gang winds down the long highway to their inevitable demise to the strains of “Free Bird.”
Best line: “Boy, the next word out of your mouth better be some brilliant fuckin’ Mark Twain shit, because it’s definitely getting chiseled on your tombstone.”
Highlight: Zombie’s unbelievable Leone-inspired cinematography, with a special mention for the brilliant 30 Days in Hell making-of doc that accompanies the DVD release.
9. Good Night, and Good Luck, dir. George Clooney, 2005
Best performance: David Straithairn as Edward R. Murrow
Best scene: Murrow’s condemnation of TV as a mere entertainment medium before an audience wanting him to say the opposite.
Best line: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.”
Highlight: The brilliant integration of archive footage of Sen. McCarthy effectively digging his own political grave.
8. Million Dollar Baby, dir. Clint Eastwood, 2004
Best performance: Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald
Best scene: The euthanasia request, followed closely by the euthanasia itself.
Best line: “If I was thinking straight, I’d go back home, find a used trailer, buy a deep fryer and some Oreos. Problem is, this the only thing I ever felt good doing.”
Highlight: Eastwood’s willingness to set up a traditional boxing movie for its first two-thirds then turn it on its head with the powerful, depressing final reel.
7. Memento, dir. Christopher Nolan, 2000
Best performance: Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby
Best scene: The powerful moment where Leonard realizes the truth of his situation and makes a conscious decision to kill Teddy
Best line: “Remember Sammy Jankis.”
Highlight: The odd sequencing of scenes, and Nolan’s playfulness with time.
6. The Dark Knight, dir. Christopher Nolan, 2008
Best performance: Heath Ledger as The Joker
Best scene: The opening bank heist
Best line: “Why so serious?”
Highlight: Nolan forcing everyone to reevaluate the potential of the comic book movie with his mind-bogglingly smart direction.
5. Gangs of New York, dir. Martin Scorsese, 2002
Best performance: Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting
Best scene: Amsterdam’s assassination attempt on the Butcher, and the ensuing mayhem.
Best line: Gotta cheat, because it’s basically everything that comes out of the Butcher’s mouth, but to pick one: “Votes, you say? They vote how the archbishop tells them, and who tells the archbishop? Their king in the pointy hat what sits on his throne in Rome.”
Highlight: Scorsese’s division of the film into two long, distinct acts, united by tone and characters but divergent in plot.
4. No Country for Old Men, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007
Best performance: Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh
Best scene: The coin toss in the gas station.
Best line: From that scene, “Call it.”
Highlight: The way the Coens maintained their directorial identity while going so, so much darker than usual.
3. Inglourious Basterds, dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2009
Best performance: Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa
Best scene: The opening twenty-minute The Good, the Bad and the Ugly callback.
Best line: “That’s a bingo!”
Highlight: Tarantino’s embrace of what he’s paying homage to, unseen since Once Upon a Time in the West.
2. There Will Be Blood, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007
Best performance: Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview
Best scene: The ending. Dear God, the ending.
Best line: “I drink your milkshake!”
Highlight: Anderson’s sweeping shots of Old West vistas that seem to insist that the film is a Western even when it isn’t.
1. Mulholland Dr., dir. David Lynch, 2001
Best performance: Naomi Watts as Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn
Best scene: Tie between two, both of which are in my five favorites ever: the “man behind Winkie’s” scene and the Club Silencio scene.
Best line: “This is the girl.”
Highlight: The total fruition of David Lynch’s aspirations, some thirty years in the making. Best film of the decade and one of the best ever.