feature: top 10 films of the decade (2000 – 2009)


10 years is a long time in cinema. I had a look at my IMDb.com vote history and I saw around 60+ films in 2009 – significantly down on previous years – but still, more films than I can remember off the top of my head… So when it came to making a top 10 films of the decade list I’ve had to rely on the films I’ve rated. Generally I try to vote on all films I see though so it should be fairly complete. Besides, if I can’t remember them (and I didn’t rate them on IMDb) then they can’t have been that great, right?

In the end putting together the list has actually been easier than I thought it would be. Well… to a certain degree. Picking five or six was easy enough but the others were a bit more difficult. Some great ones just missed out on the top 10. It was a tough decision to take Snakes on a Plane out and others like 28 Days Later I left out because there were better films that I liked for similar reasons.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that these were the best films of the decade or the greatest made films or the films with the best acting or anything. They are just my top films!

Anyway here we go, nicola-t’s top 10 films 2000-2009. As always, I welcome comment – What were your top 10 films of the decade?

Oh, the scores in brackets are my IMDb ratings.

10. When The Last Sword Is Drawn (2003) When The Last Sword Is Drawn poster

When The Last Sword Is Drawn is a Japanese film based loosely on historical events. It tells the story of two Shinsengumi samurai in the… well to be honest, I’m not entirely sure when it’s set so I’m going to say ” in ye olden times”. I think it’s actually around the mid 1800s though. That’s neither here nor there though. It’s not on the list because it’s historically accurate or because it’s got great costumes or because it won Best Picture at the Japanese Acadamy Awards. It’s on the list because it touched me. It is a great story about honour, pride, loyalty and family and if you like that kind of thing you should watch it.

If I’m being honest it’s probably slightly longer than necessary but I forgave it that because I enjoyed it that much. (9/10)

9. The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001-2003) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy poster

They had to appear somewhere! I do honestly think that these three films are some of the greatest films ever made. I was a big fan of The Hobbit when I was younger but I had never got around to reading The Lord of the Rings until I heard they were making the films. I felt I had to read them before the films came out just in case they were crap (the films or the books really). I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed the books and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the Middle-Earth of the films looked just like how I had imagined them.

Avatar has been out a few weeks at this stage and many reviewers, including me I’ll admit, have been saying that Avatar is a game-changing event in cinema. That may be… but The Lord of the Rings films blew the whistle to start it. (9/10, 10/10, 9/10)

8. Capturing The Friedmans (2003) Capturing the Friedmans poster

I guess since this is a documentary and not a feature film some may say that it shouldn’t be in the list. Then again it’s my list and it’s close enough to a film as far as I’m concerned so here it is, at #8.

Andrew Jarecki was planning to make a documentary on children’s birthday party entertainers when he stumbled across this story of The Friedmans. He had been interviewing a popular clown called David Friedman when he found that David’s father Arnold and brother Jesse had been tried and convicted of abusing many children in computer classes in Great Neck, Long Island in 1987. Obviously this was a more interesting story. More interesting still because whether or not is actually happened seems to be up for debate.

It really is a fascinating documentary. The Friedmans had hours and hours of home video footage from the time, chronicling their family life amidst this scandal. Jarecki uses this footage plus filming of his own to tell the story of this family and of the how the accusations affected them. Well worth a watch. (8/10)

7. Children of Men (2006) Children of Men poster

This is one of those films which is exactly the kind of film I like. I mentioned in my brief article about The Road that I love dystopian fiction. If you’ve got a dystopia in your story then I’m probably going to like it, one man’s struggle, collapsing society… I’m all over it. I certainly can’t think of a post-apocalytic/dystopian story that I didn’t like anyway… So Children of Men is exactly that. I think it was about 5 mins in when I was thought “yes, this is exactly what I want in a film”… I was theirs for them to lose and they didn’t. Great film.

Course, it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone likes this kind of story, some people think the collapse of society is unrealistic, some don’t like science fiction. Fair enough, I loved it. I should really go and buy the DVD… (9/10)

6. The Notebook (2004) The Notebook poster

Ok… this might be a bit of a contentious one… but I don’t care damnit! I loved this film.

I actually only saw it last summer (2009). I’d heard so much about it over the years, from other people of the female persuasion, and I’m a bit of a sap so I thought I’d take a Saturday afternoon on my own and give it a watch. I didn’t know anything about it though aside from the fact that it’s a romantic drama (not usually my kind of thing) and that it’s a bit of a tear-jerker. I was not disappointed.

I wouldn’t want to build it up too much though, a lot of people had tried to build it up for me and the fact is that, even if you are a sap (like me) and you do love romantic dramas (unlike me), you might not like it if you’re looking for too much. I wouldn’t want someone to go in expecting too much, it’s not a perfect film and the fact that I rather fancy Ryan Gosling did help. But that said, I did think it was great, it’ll stay with me for a long time and it totally deserves to be on this list. (9/10)

5. Moulin Rouge! (2001) Moulin Rouge poster

This is one of the oldest films on my list and I was actually very surprised to find that it was this old. If you haven’t seen it then there isn’t really much I can say about it. I presume you haven’t seen it for a reason, may be you don’t like musicals or something and if you don’t then fair enough. I do like musicals though and this one is a sweeping love story set to some great music and helmed by an excellent actor and actress.

Being a great story sweeping story isn’t enough for me though and in this case I really think the cinematography, costumes and art direction make it stand out. Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet gave us an idea of what to expect however in Moulin Rouge! he outdid himself. A classic. (10/10)

4. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Honestly one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. In fact it may be the funniest film I’ve ever seen. I don’t care how much of it was true, how much of it was exaggerated, how much was put on or who knew what when. I laughed my ass off and that’s all that matters to me.

Oddly enough though, the funniest part of Borat’s travels for me is not in the film. It’s one of the deleted scenes on the DVD. Have a look through if you’ve never watched the extras and if you don’t have the DVD, buy it! (9/10)

What is-a this?

3. City of God (2002) City of God

Probably one of the finest straight up stories I’ve ever seen.

I think I’ve said this more than a few times in my blog but basically, I don’t tend to rate films that are just good stories very highly. For me there has to be a reason that a film is a film. I want the film makers have to give me a reason that I’m watching this story as opposed to reading it or just hearing about it. Then again, there are some stories that are just that good they don’t need anything extra. The Shawshank Redemption is one and this is another.

City of God tells us the story of two kids in the flavelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and how easy it is to fall into a life of crime and gangs. (10/10)

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Kate Winslet poster

It’s hard for me to think of something to say about this film. It really is one of my favourites. It asks an important but unanswerable question. If you could erase the memories of the most painful things that ever happened to you, would you… when it’s those things that make you who you are?

I was a fan of Michel Gondry before this film. He had made some of the most inventive, imaginative music videos I’d ever seen and often all with camera tricks as opposed to CGI (though as I understand it, he has no problem with computer graphics and uses them as well). I think my three favourites videos of his are “Fell In Love With A Girl” by The White Stripes, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” also by The White Stripes and “Let Forever Be” by The Chemical Brothers. Youtube doesn’t really do them justice though and if you’re interested there’s a great DVD compilation of his music video work that’s well worth picking up.

That’s fairly irrelevent I suppose but it should give you an idea of why I was really looking forward to this film when I heard about it. I thought I was going to see a cool visual feast. What I saw much more than that. I found this film very emotional. I think it’s an incredibly relatable story and, while the whole notion of selectively erasing memories is straight out of science fiction, it is far far from a science fiction story. If anything, it could be a universal story…

…anyway, I liked it. (10/10)

1. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) The Royal Tenenbaums poster

Not only is The Royal Tenenbaums my top film of the decade, it’s also my current favourite film of all time. In the years since seeing this I’ve seen all the other films Wes Anderson has made… but for me, this is still the best.

I love Anderson’s style and in this film everything just works together. The casting is perfect. The music, the set design, the cinematography, the art direction, the blocking… it all just slots together. Everything in it works to tell the simple story of a man who is estranged from his family and wants to win them back.

Like Eternal Sunshine, it’s hard for me to come up with something to say about the film without sounding like a raving maniac so I’ll leave it there. Suffice to say… (10/10)

So there you have it.

Well not quite. There are two recent films that I’ve seen on other people’s top 10 lists that I haven’t see myself. So if you’re annoyed that The Lives of Others or Let The Right One In has been excluded then it’s just that I haven’t seen them. I do intend to soon though!

I also have to get some honorable mentions in here… these almost made it or were pushed out by other, better films that I thought of later. In alphabetical order.

28 Days Later… (2002) – excellent horror film; populariser, if not pioneer, of the “fast zombie”; great suspense and use of music.
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)- much much better than I had been led to believe; another great story but it did meander a bit.
Atonement (2007) – fascinating story; stellar performance from Saorise Ronan, I’m really looking forward to The Lovely Bones.
Big Fish (2003) – Even though it’s not my favourite Tim Burton, if I’m being honest it may be his best.
Crank (2006) / The Spirit (2008) – I’ve put these two in because they are two of the maddest films I’ve ever seen and enjoyed and that has to be recognised. Bonkers.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1. (2003) – a triumph of style over substance.
Memento (2000) – In my opinion, Christopher Nolan‘s best film. Interesting… very interesting.
Saw (2004) – another excellent horror film but very different from 28 Days Later…; sure it’s gory but if you’re up for it then don’t let that get in the way of seeing a well thought out plot (just don’t look for the same in the follow ups…)
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – this one got bumped from the top 10; still, it’s probably the best horror/comedy I’ve seen.
Snakes on a Plane (2006) – when before has a title promised so much and managed to deliver? yes, there were snakes and yes, they were on a plane. Genius.
Spirited Away (2001) / WALL•E (2009) – it’s a toss up for the best animated film of the decade; both beautiful but in different ways.

Ok, so that really is it folks. Thanks for reading!


  1. comment-avatar
    Boston Tea BaggerJanuary 5, 2010 - 1:35 pm

    That’s some fairly contentious stuff…..but it should be. Too many of these sort of lists have nothing to do with whether the reviewer personally enjoyed the movie or not, but this does not apply to this list. You left out the Coen brothers, Wang Kar Wai, and a load of others, but there is nothing there that is truly awful except those 3 films about walking. Not a bad list.

  2. comment-avatar
    BillTJanuary 6, 2010 - 4:10 pm

    What’s wrong with films about walking?

  3. comment-avatar
    BryanFebruary 9, 2010 - 8:22 pm

    I really like your list too and it actually contains some movies that aren’t on hundreds of similar top tens of the decades. Really like the Children of Men, Borat, and Moulin Rouge picks. I’m still not sure why people love Eternal Sunshine so much – I guess I should watch it again and try to figure it out. Did you see Lovely Bones yet? Heard it was an utter disappointment.

  4. comment-avatar
    Nicola-tFebruary 15, 2010 - 12:00 am

    Hi Bryan,

    I really did love Eternal Sunshine… I’m trying to think of a way to explain why but I can’t really. I do believe that everyone sees films in a different way depending on their own experiences though so I certainly have no problem accepting that not everyone will share my point of view on a film. In fact I’d be very suprised if anyone saw any film exactly like I did!

    As for Lovely Bones, I have seen it. I really must finish the review of it. It’s not coming out in Ireland till Friday 19th Feb though so I only really have to publish it this week…

    I wouldn’t call it an utter disappointment but then the fact that I didn’t finish the book probably has a lot to do with it. I do think it’s a great story (and by extension one I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t seen the film) but I can’t say it’s a great movie by any means… I think it would be simplest to say that Jackson got the balance very wrong. He got it right in Heavenly Creatures but not here… it’s a pity because I think it did have the potential to be a great film.

    Have you seen it yet?

  5. comment-avatar
    John BraineMarch 20, 2010 - 8:21 am

    Hi there. Like your blog. I meant to do a list like this and maybe it’s not too late. I’d have to have Donnie Darko and Mulholland Drive at the top of mine. But City of God and Eternal Sunshine would definitely be in there.

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    […] has to offer and includes both news and reviews. Here you can get an idea for her interests from this top ten of the decade and anyone who puts a Michael Gondry film in their top two is alright in my […]

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    DanJuly 6, 2010 - 10:44 am

    Nice top 10 of the 2000s! Some great films – many that feature in my own top 50. I wasn’t as much of a fan of The Royal Tenenbaums as most but I know it has a lot of devoted fans. Eternal Sunshine and City Of God are very high on my list too. Great to see Children of Men on there too.

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    […] Blogging: Match Point Magic Lantern Film Blog: Almost Famous No Cure For That:The Royal Tenenbaums Average Film Reviews: The Royal Tenenbaums PB and J Strike Back: (no order […]

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