The Best of the Aughts, Part I

I have picked up the gauntlet and in response to my sister, I have come up with a list of what I believe the best films of the Aughts are (the Aughts, in case you wonder, are how I refer to the years of 2000 through 2009). The order of the movies is more or less how I want it- I could have spent hours poring over the list, nitpicking until I had come up with the "perfect" order. But instead, this is basically the way I see it. My list will undoubtedly differ from those of history, but hey, them's the way it is and this is my list. So strap in, grab a bag of peanut M&M's and here....we.....go:

20. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) - I believe Will Ferrell merits a spot among the great comedic actors of history. Like him or not, he more than any of his peers has the ability to take any role and make it funny. Of his numerous film roles in the last ten years (IMDB says there are 25), Talladega Nights is his best (Elf was a very close second). Rarely have I laughed so much at a movie, and continue to laugh as much many viewings later. Not only is the movie itself a fantastic and intelligent satire of the NASCAR culture that for some reason has gripped large portions of rural America, but Ferrell himself plays the role of an idiotic and childishly self-centered driver to perfection, and John C. Reilly as Ricky Bobby's sidekick is hilarious. Memorable scene: family prayer over a dinner of KFC and Taco Bell.

19. Saw (2004) - The horror movie genre is hurting. Badly. There is no shortage of attempts to make the scary movie of the year, but almost always they fall far short (see Beckie's entry for some of the exceptions to this growing rule). So why Saw? Because it uses the most disturbing tool to get audiences feeling squirmy: the mind. You thought I was going to say "blood," didn't you? Oh, there's plenty of that, mind you, but what I'm talking about is how Saw gets you thinking: the antagonist puts people in situations designed to make them appreciate life. How? They have to choose to free themselves from torturous devices, often by mutilating part of themselves. The alternative? Death. Plain and simple. Very disturbing, yes, and that's why it was awesome (thought not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach). Memorable scene: A character tries to use an old hacksaw to cut through the handcuffs that bind him, only to realize the saw is only sharp enough to cut through bone.

18. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - I have Sarah to thank for this entry. She tried to get me into Muse and failed. She tried to get me to watch Sweeney Todd and succeeded. Granted, I love Tim Burton movies so it didn't take a huge amount of effort. But when you consider the story of the psychopathic barber, could it be done any other way than Burton's? I've only seen it once and am not so familiar with the music, so it's not like I sing the songs in my head at work. But wow, what a piece of eye candy. With a master stroke, Burton creates the world of Sweeney Todd in dark and almost monochrome tones, then tears it up with the vivid red blood that Todd exacts from those who have crossed him. The story itself is fantastic, and casting of Depp as the barbarous barber was spot on (who knew the man could sing?). Memorable scene: the shave-and-a-haircut throw-down between Sweeney Todd and Adolfo Pirelli (entertainingly portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen).
17. Star Trek (2009) - If you know me, you know this one pretty much had to make the list. Here's why: the Star Trek franchise is one of the longest-running in entertainment history, yet each installment fizzles out at the end of its run. By the time each of the Star Trek TV series came to its end, the plots were recycled and getting more and more outlandish (if there is an exception, it would be Deep Space Nine). As to the movies, while the Kirk/Spock movies ended on the highest note, the Next Generation crew movies got worse and worse; Nemesis had its fun parts, but overall it was pretty bad. Interesting it is, then, that the man to whom Trekkies looked to revive Star Trek out of its mostly-dead state was a man who has never been a Trekkie. J.J. Abrams and his fellow Lost producers felt there had been enough exploration of the characters' post-TV series lives. So they went for a prequel, one that was driven by adventure and action and time travel (almost a requirement for a Star Trek movie), with enough nods to the Star Trek series and movies to keep fans happy. Most fans, anyway. Naysayers are dumb. The cast? Flawlessly chosen. Memorable scene: so many to choose from...I'll go with Kirk beating a test program Spock designed (a healthy bit of Trek lore history with this one as well).

16. Mystic River (2003) - There were several descent crime dramas in the last ten years, so this one took some thinking. I decided on Mystic River because compared to the other candidates (Gone Baby Gone, Traffic), this one had the best acting and the best story. Powerful performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins command a great cast all around, and the movie portrays Boston to be exactly how I imagine it: dirty, grimy and full of degenerates. None of the characters is what you'd call a "hero," and none of the bad guys are what you'd call "villains." Watch it to understand what I mean. Memorable scene: how it ends. Again, watch it to understand what I mean.

15. Shaun of the Dead (2004)- If judged by movies, the last decade could very well be called "The Undeadies." Zombies and vampires took the box office by storm, sometimes with great results (28 Days Later, so I've heard), sometimes not so much (The Vampire's Assistant, anyone?). Where Shaun of the Dead triumphs is that it has literally everything a zombie movie needs: hundreds of mindless undead wandering in their risen stupor hungering for brains, and the one way to kill them: bash in their heads. More than that, however, is that this movie is HIGH-larious. It's British humor, granted, so it's a bit different, but this movie is laugh-out-loud funny, thanks largely to Simon Pegg, who plays the titular hero. And not in the stupid way (spoof flicks like "Epic Movie" and "Not Another Date Movie," I'm looking at you). Genuinely one of the most entertaining movies I didn't see in theaters. Memorable scene: anything with Shaun's roommate Ed (played by Nick Frost).

14. Casino Royale (2006) - Like the aforementioned Star Trek, this was a reboot of a series with a long history. James Bond was introduced to movie-goers back in 1962, and unfortunately it took almost 45 years for someone to finally get it all right. There were bright spots and dark spots in the franchise, but as someone who has seen every Bond film, I was never fully satisfied until Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is the best James Bond ever. Ever. So he doesn't have the dark hair that every other Bond did. He played the role infinitely better. The plot was better (read: believable), the action was awesome (read: jaw-droppingly cool), and the "Bond girl" was atypical (read: sexy while being intelligent). Add to that the best opening song/sequence of any Bond flick (courtesy of Chris Cornell), and you have the perfect 007 package. Memorable scene:
Bond chasing a bad guy parkour-style. Seriously, YouTube it and be wowed.

13. Cinderella Man (2005) - A fairly reliable formula for a successful movie goes like this: inspirational real-life sports story + A-list actor + inspirational music = quality film. It often works. Sometimes the movie becomes an instant classic (Remember the Titans, Hoosiers); sometimes they get overlooked (Glory Road, Miracle). I'm not sure where Cinderella Man ranks in relation to the annals of movie history, but for me it deserves a place at the top, because the story is very personable. I think people are better able to relate to boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) than the heroes in many other sports movies. Most folks have never been on a tiny-town basketball team playing against vastly-bigger schools, and fewer and fewer people can remember the integration of black people into white schools and thus onto white sports teams. But I venture to say most if not all fathers can feel Braddock's pain as he fights both in and out of the ring, in the latter case struggling to keep his family together as crippling poverty creeps into their lives. Crowe plays Braddock perfectly, Paul Giamatti is a classic, and I can even stomach Renee Zellweger's screechy Jersey accent because of the fantastic job she does playing Braddock's wife. Memorable scene: Giamatti's Joe Gould realizes the right-hand-dominant Braddock has unknowingly developed a killer left punch.

12. Minority Report (2002) - As crazy as he is in real life, Tom Cruise remains to this day a talented and very entertaining actor. Combine that with the genius of Steven Spielberg and a great dystopian story by Philip K. Dick, and you have a thrill-ride worth any top sci-fi movie list. It's a classic storyline- the future is awesome, until suddenly there's something very wrong with this perfect future. Where Minority Report stands out is the "whodunit" element that is the engine driving the plot. Yeah, there's something wrong with the perfect future, but who or what made it so? On top of that, there's the whole philosophical debate of fate versus choice: are our
futures predetermined, or do we have control? It's cerebral enough for the smart person, yet simple enough for everyone else. Memorable scene: Tom Cruise's escape through a shopping mall.

11. The Bourne Identity (2002)/Supremacy (2004)/Ultimatum (2007)- This one may be the eyebrow-raiser on my list, but I think I can justify it. It's a well-known conception that sequels are rarely as good as the original, and "part III's" are typically even worse. One reason that may happen is if there is a directorial change somewhere in the mix. This trilogy is one of the exceptions. Doug Liman did The Bourne Identity, and Paul Greengrass took on Supremacy and Ultimatum, yet would you have noticed without that knowledge? I don't think you would. The style, the storytelling, everything is uniform from one movie to the next. And you can't tell me action movies won't be using Jason Bourne as the gold standard when choreographing fight scenes. I mean, come on, the guy kicks trash with a pen! And a magazine! And a freaking washcloth (skip to the 4:00 minute mark)!!! He is the action hero of the decade, pen-impaled hands down. For these reasons, the trilogy makes the list.

Dude, a freaking MAGAZINE!

Okay, that's part I. I apologize for being long-winded, but if you know me, you know long-windedness is ingrained in me. Part II will come along soon.


Beckie said…
Well, we clearly have some similar tastes, so I applaud you. And eagerly anticipate the rest of the list.

It must be said that while Saw was a great movie, the following were ridiculous...(not that I didn't watch them, but I was properly ashamed of myself afterwards).

And Talladega Nights is a good Will Ferrell choice.
You may notice that the first Bourn movie came out the same time as a Bond movie. Guess which one did better in the box offices. Also guess which action star dropped all the fancy gadgets and learned some killer hand to hand combat?

Hurry with the rest of the list

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