This is the third installment in my Best 40 Movies of the Decade series of posts. The feedback so far has been pretty positive, but I wonder if that is because readers think I’m going to put their favorite films in the last 20! I decided last night that after the final post, I’ll include a list of other films that didn’t make the top 40 cut, but are five stars nonetheless. So let’s get going and start with #20, about a family of superheroes…
#20 The Incredibles
Pixar’s first “people” movie was a great combo of the superhero and super-spy genres – the movie feels like Casino Royale meets Spiderman meets Toy Story. Funny throughout, The Incredibles was one of two nearly perfect animated movies that Brad Bird make this decade.
“That’s a nice!” is perhaps the best movie line of the decade. As it stormed into theaters catching an unsuspecting American audience almost completely off-guard, Borat provided us with something that we haven’t had in a long time at the movies – a great comedic talent completely owning both the movie and the audience. I just hope that Borat’s prostitute sister appreciates how great a talent her brother is. (p.s. the extra scenes on the DVD are amazing as well – “What’s this?”)
#18 Gran Torino
For any other director, Gran Torino would be enough to put them on a list of the best directors of the decade, but for Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino solidifies one of the best runs of any director in any decade (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers, Changling, and probably the upcoming Invictus are all spectacular films). What makes this one special, however, is that in addition to directing, Eastwood turns in the best performance of his career. If it hadn’t been for Sean Penn also turning in the best of his career in Milk the same year, I believe Eastwood would have finally won a best acting Oscar.
#17 The Aviator
Although I assume most people would probably say that The Departed was Scorsese’s best movie this decade, as I’ve already said, I consider Infernal Affairs a tic better than The Departed, and The Aviator well beyond both. The Aviator is a different kind of Scorsese movie – it almost has a Spielberg feel to it – but that also makes it one of his freshest films. DiCaprio (who certainly was the best actor of the decade that didn’t win any kind of major awards) and Blanchett as Kate Hepburn are very enjoyable to watch, the flight scenes are done with such skill that it makes you wonder what else Scorsese is capable of.
#16 Hustle & Flow
Without a doubt the coolest movie of the decade was Hustle & Flow. Cool as in Dr. Dre cool. It’s a movie that needs to be heard as much as seen, one that you need to watch with your DVD player hooked up to a surround system – turned up to full blast.
#15 Maria Full of Grace
With all due respect to City of God, I felt Maria Full of Grace was the best movie to come out of South America this decade (with The Motorcycle Diaries, my #30 movie, the second best). This movie felt so real without banging us over the head, with themes that are central to understanding the entire Western Hemisphere, while showcasing a great new acting talent in Catalina Sandino Moreno.
The best science fiction movie of the decade (though honestly, there wasn’t a ton of competition), Serenity is probably also the best TV to film adaptation ever (although The Brady Bunch Movie was pretty good too). Part western, part sci-fi epic, Joss Whedon’s Serenity fills lots of holes left from the TV series Firefly while standing firmly on its own merits.
#13 American Splendor
The most droll film of the decade was also Paul Giamatti’s best work – funny, sad, depressing and inspirational all at once. A technical marvel of a film as well, with great integration of the comic into the film. Also, American Splendor is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen that breaks the 4th Wall rule.
#12 Lost in Translation
Bill Murray is one funny dude. He’s also an underrated actor – at least he was until this role, one he should have won an Oscar for. Scarlet Johansson also launched her career with in this movie about what about how being in a place so foreign can help us find out new things about ourselves.
#11 United 93
The best film to date about 9/11, and probably the best simulated documentary ever made. Not for the faint of heart (I know people who simply won’t watch it), but an entirely compelling film.
The rest of the movies on the list: