So my mini-series of Top 10’s is about to come full circle as I take you through my choices of Top 10 films from 2000-2009 (or The Noughties, as the decade has come to be known).
Going into compiling this list, I knew that it would be the hardest one of all to compile. There are a lot of films from this decade that I haven’t seen and probably should have, largely due to the fact that I don’t go to the cinema as often as I should. I was even thinking of leaving out the 00’s completely. But I thought I’d press on and finish what I’ve started. So I apologise in advance because I know this list is going to come under fire.
10. The Departed (2006)
This film was Martin Scorsese’s biggest commercial success, grossing close to 300 million dollars worldwide. It boasts an impressive cast list: Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo Di Caprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone… the list goes on. And the film itself doesn’t disappoint. Billy Costigan (Di Caprio) is a Boston cop undercover within the city’s Irish crime syndicate headed up by Frank Costello (Nicholson), and Colin Sullivan (Damon) is his opposite number working for Nicholson who has infiltrated the police department. It’s a thrilling race against time as they both try to uncover each other’s identity. One thing that I find refreshing is that it’s one of the only U.S. gangster films I can think of which doesn’t centre on the Italian mafia which is a nice change. (The other one which springs to mind is Scarface).
9. Donnie Darko (2001)
And we go from one film which was a huge box office success to one that was a financial loss on it’s first release, falling just short of breaking even. However, despite it’s initial lack of success, the film developed a huge cult following which led to the release of a special director’s cut in 2004. This film is strange. I won’t even begin to try and explain it because I don’t fully understand it myself. But despite it’s confusing nature it left me with the feeling of being entertained, which is all you can ask from a film really. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled teenager who is plagued by visions of some freaky guy in a rabbit suit, who tells him the world will end in 28 days. The young Gyllenhaal plays a good part and deservedly goes on to bigger things. One of the films high points is it’s soundtrack: Ecco And The Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon” being one track that instantly springs to mind when you think of this film, but it also includes songs from the likes of Tears For Fears, Joy Division, INXS, and even Pantera (Although the latter are credited as “The Dead Green Mummies”).
8. The Bucket List (2007)
Here we have a heartwarming tale of friendship and the partnership of two of the greatest living actors in Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Once again, The Jack makes his second appearance on one of my lists. This film received mixed reviews, among them was notable criticism over its portrayal of cancer sufferers from Roger Ebert, a former cancer patient himself. However, I found the film incredibly hard to dislike. The unlikely friendship between mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman) and eccentric billionaire Edward Cole (Nicholson), develops as the two men find themselves diagnosed with the same type of terminal cancer and decide to write a list of things to do before they kick the bucket (hence “The Bucket List”). Since watching the movie, I have written my own.
7. Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
Yes, I know. This is a pretty safe choice and maybe a bit of a predictable one. But it’s hard to find flaws with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s classic novel. Of course, people will and have done just that. But a lot of it is nitpicking – the portrayal of Middle Earth was pretty reminiscent of the mental pictures the book painted for me personally when I read it (and I made a point of doing so before I saw the movie). The soundtrack was decent, Viggo Mortensen was excellent as Strider / Aragorn, the battle scenes were well-worked, and on the whole it was pretty true to the first volume of Tolkien’s Middle Earth trilogy. The two sequels were excellent as well although the “Path Of The Dead” segment in the last volume was for me one of the high parts of Tolkien’s entire trilogy, and I was a tad disappointed that it didn’t get more attention in the movie. On the whole though, you’ve got to give credit to Jackson for a fine adaptation.
6. This is England (2006)
This Is England is a gritty drama focusing on the lives of a group of skinhead adolescents in the early 1980s. Initially highlighting the divide between the new wave of traditional skinheads (whose 60’s counterparts had thier roots in predominantly black culture ie: reggae and ska music) and the birth of a new skinhead subculture of white supremacy and racial prejudice, this film succeeded in capturing a lot of the cultural elements of the early 80’s and creating an underlying tension which feels very real. But the show is stolen by young actor Thomas Turgoose, whose performance as the film’s lead Shaun was outstanding. Shaun, who has just moved to a new town, is mourning his father who was killed in the Falklands conflict, and befriends the leader of a group of non-racist skinheads (Woody, portrayed by Joe Gilgun), who takes Shaun under his wing. Shaun confides in Woody and is eventually accepted into the group. However, things take an unexpected turn when Woody’s former friend Combo, a skinhead with violent tendencies and racist views, is released from prison and seeks leadership of his former group, creating a divide within the clique, and Combo brainwashes the naive Shaun into joining a white nationalistic movement. Although racial hatred is displayed throughout, actual on-screen violence is limited to only a handful of scenes which serves to focus on Shaun’s story and seperate the film from other more blood-heavy offerings of it’s ilk such as Romper Stomper and American History X. Ultimately, a dark film which creates a real unnerving atmosphere but a must-see none the less.
5. Kill Bill (2003)
I saw this film for the first time only last week. I’d heard so much about it, but it definitely lived up to all of it’s hype. Kill Bill is one movie divided into two ‘volumes’, meaning that 2004’s Kill Bill Volume 2 is not a direct sequel. However I’ve only seen the first part, so I’ll only concern myself with that. It’s Tarantino at his finest, and contains a lot of trademark Tarantino elements: the non-linear storyline and over-exaggerated violence to name but two. One thing which really impressed me about this film was the manga / anime segment which tells the background story of one of the film’s main antagonists, O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu), which was a unique approach. The fight scenes are over the top, and the exaggerated manner in which an unnatural amount of blood sprays out just about every time somebody is cut during the film gets a bit repetitive, but if you like samurai / martial arts films with a hot, pissed off femme fatale out for revenge at any cost, you will be entertained.
4. V For Vendetta (2005)
And onto another tale of revenge. I may get stick for including this film so far up the list. But this one is something of a personal favourite of mine. An adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (Which I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t read), this film has an interesting but dark and disturbing plot which never fails to deliver. Set in a dystopian United Kingdom in the near future, now run by a totalitarian government called “Norsefire”, it tells the story of the vigilante simply known as “V”, played by Hugo Weaving although you never see the actor’s face, and his fight against the government’s Nazi-esque regime accompanied by his accomplice Evie Hammond (Natalie Portman). Whoever was in charge of casting got it spot on when choosing Stephen Fry for the role of Gordon Deitrich. Despite a poor reception from hardcore fans of the comic, and even it’s author Alan Moore’s subsequent removal of his name from the project, for me this remains a great watch and excellent piece of cinema in it’s own right.
And I can quote the entire “V-Alliteration” speech off by heart. Don’t ask me why.
3. Saw (2004)
Imagine waking up in a dingy bathroom with your leg chained to a pipe and no idea how you got there. Opposite you is another man in the same predicament. You find a tape recorder with a message in a distorted voice, telling you what you must do in order to survive the ordeal. You start to discover clues around you and that you have more in common with your cellmate than you think. On the wall is a clock. The clock is ticking. You have six hours to negotiate the riddles placed in your surroundings and free yourself at the expense of the man across the room. Let the games begin…
I’m a HUGE huge fan of the entire SAW series. Now on it’s 6th instalment and with a 7th one approaching in October, it has become a bit of a joke among movie fans for its longevity and even die-hard fans of the first two or three movies have given up on the remainder of the series. The truth is, SAW spins a very deep, intertwining and cryptic web of characters and thier individual back-stories as it follows the exploits of the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell), who is diagnosed with cancer and decides to spend the remainder of his life testing the fabric of human existence by devising sick and twisted games whereby the victims (often perpetrators of violence themselves), find themselves in sometimes ironic “tests” whereby they have the chance to save thier own lives, but ultimately at a price.
The first SAW film centres on one such trap, in which two men are each faced with the task of killing the other in order to survive. This film really gets inside your head and forces the question: “What would you do??” The various ways that Jigsaw finds to test his victims are increasingly sick but even on the 6th film still show no signs of exhausting thier originality. But it’s just as much about the psychological aspect for me, if not more. Say what you like about the franchise; maybe they should have stopped at Saw 3 or even earlier. But I’m already looking forward to number 7 (which is going to be in 3d and possibly the last one ever), and it’s gonna be one hell of a game.
2. Spirited Away (2001)
I’ve already come under fire for the lack of animated films so far in these Top 10 lists. First of all, I don’t claim to be an expert on animated films. I’m not really a fan of the whole Disney / Pixar thing, but I am aware that animation does not begin and end with those two big names. Japanese anime is something I’m really starting to get into, however, and Spirited Away is a brilliant example of the Japanese style of animation and a film that everybody will like.
It follows the enchanting story of a young girl, Chihiro, who while moving to a new town with her parents, wanders into a mysterious world inhabited by spirits. The evil sorceress Yubaba has turned Chihiro’s parents into pigs, and it is up to Chihiro to find a way to save them and herself. To do so, she is forced to take a job in working at a large bath-house run by Yubaba. Assisted by a boy named Haku, who is also in Yubaba’s service, Chihiro discovers the many strange and magical aspects of her new surroundings.
Spirited Away is an adventure in itself and you really feel captivated and sucked right in to the esoteric world the story creates. Overall, I’d highly recommend it to anybody – you’ll watch it again and again.
A Brazilian film in Portuguese with English subtitles. This is an adaptation of the 1997 novel of the same name and follows the lives of the many inhabitants of Rio De Janeiro’s City of God neighbourhood through the eyes of Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), an aspiring photographer. Rocket sees it all; the day-to-day struggles of the street kids in the favelas and their beginnings in small-time crime right up to thier escalation among the most feared gangsters in the city. Whilst Rocket is surrounded by temptations to join the gang culture, he instead turns away from that life and focuses on his dream of becoming a photographer, even when his brother is killed by a rival gang member.
City Of God is an amazing piece of cinematography and depicts a face of Rio not normally shown to outsiders which is surprisingly true to reality. The way the storylines are intertwined is really creative, as the stories of characters who make only a minor appearance early on are explored in further detail as the movie progresses. This is truly one of the great films.
So, this concludes my Top 10 films of the so-called “noughties” and the series as a whole. Who knows, in ten years’ time if the site’s still going I may look back and do a Top 10 films of the next decade (whatever that may be called – ‘The Tens’ or something). But until then, I hope you enjoyed this Top 10 mini-series and as always, please leave comments. All feedback is welcome.