So, my favourite films of the last 10 years…
I told myself I wasn’t going to do this, but after hearing the epic job that the Filmspotting guys did, it inspired me. I went through lists from other reviewers & critics as well as my own reviews and ratings on Facebook.
Some of these films are here because of the impression they made upon me when I first saw them, some for their daring or originality, some for their sheer re-watchability. I’m sure on a different day the order might get shuffled around, but I think the Top 10 are all fantastic, and well worth your time. To be honest, the other 30 are all pretty flippin’ fantastic too.
40. Juno… great characters – especially the supporting cast (I Heart Allison Janney), with some wonderful scenes, and (controversially?) I really loved the animation.
39. El Orfanato (The Orphanage)… 1-2-3 knock-on-the-wall… don’t turn around, don’t turn around…
38. The Incredibles… as ever with Pixar, a tremendously realised world, with a fantastic family dynamic. The simplest story filled with wonderful detail.
37. 28 Days Later / 28 Weeks Later… you might say it’s wrong to combine these, but I love these re-thinking of the ‘zombie’ genre. Kinetic, unsettling, shocking, bloody.
36. Shaun of The Dead… from the outrageous to the sublime. A wonderful British comedy that’s only this low on my list because I am so completely familiar with it, and with Spaced, that helped inspire it.
35. Team America: World Police… hilarious. Puppet Porn. MATT DAMON. I’m so rone-ry. So wrong it’s very, very right.
34. Wall-E… the first third of this film would be in my Top 5. It’s beautifully moving like almost nothing else I’ve seen. But while the space station is still terrific, it’s not something I love to revisit…
33. Training Day… IMHO Denzel Washington’s career-best performance as The Bad Cop. He tears up the screen, chews it around and spits it out.
32. Grizzly Man… a fantastic Werner Herzog documentary. It’s so natural, beautiful and surprising that I don’t want to say more for those who’ve not seen it.
31. Oldboy… wowzers. A blistering Korean film with a twisted story, occasionally gut-wrenching action sequences, a hammer, toothbrush, octopus and probably the worst hotel room ever.
30. Pan’s Labyrinth… a magical fairy tale set against the rustic brutality of the Spanish Civil War. Hard to describe its thrilling fantasy and sense of threat, so I won’t.
29. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly… another magical tale, told with astonishing honesty and verve from inside the main character’s head. A tour de force of acting and directing.
28. A History of Violence… Viggo Mortensen is outstanding in this fable of redemption and renewal.
27. Son of Rambow… boy, this touched some nerves for me, about the joys and insecurities of growing up in the 1980s.
26. Lord of The Rings (yes, all of it)… I know this is a bit of a cheat, but this captivated me far more than the original books did. The visual effects and depth of imagination to create Middle Earth are unmatched.
25. Donnie Darko… one I need to revisit, but which really messed with my mind when I first saw it. Unlike almost anything else, at times moving, funny, tragic.
24. (Odishun) Audition… The first half is a very measured, almost gentle exploration of a widower’s hesitant attempts to start a new relationship. The second half definitely isn’t, and the last 15 minutes are almost unwatchable.
23. Where The Wild Things Are… despite the source material, this definitely isn’t for kids. But it is a beautiful depiction of childhood, alienation and dislocation. Spike Jonze’s designs are wonderful and the lead performance by Max Powers is just wonderful.
22. [Rec]… a truly frightening Spanish horror film. Shot entirely with hand-held cameras in often pitch-dark interiors, this assaults the senses in a rapidly escalating fashion, all leading up to the terrifying final scene, which makes the end of The Silence of The Lambs feel like Mary Poppins.
21. Dogville… Lars von Trier continues his abuse of his female leads. This time it’s Nicole Kidman, who gives a great performance in this set-less destruction of the American Homeland myths. Paul Bettany leads a very strong supporting cast. It’s an intimate and disturbing portrayal of cruelty and vengeance.
20. United 93… Paul Greengrass recreates the events that are almost too terrible to recreate. The immediacy of the direction, the lack of any known stars and the true-to-life dialogue makes this almost unbearable. A really important film.
19. Der Untergang (Downfall)… forget the myriad Youtube spoofs of ‘that scene’. Instead, marvel at Bruno Ganz’s astonishing performance as Hitler, and shudder at the claustrophobia within the final days of The Third Reich.
18. Children of Men… perhaps the best depiction of urban violence and war I’ve ever seen. There are several bravura sequences of extended tracking shots, including one starting inside a car before going outside. Clive Owen is tremendous in the dystopian near-future that is all the more alarming for feeling so close to today.
17. No Country for Old Men… a brilliant depiction of my second-favourite Cormac McCarthy novel. Violent, nihilistic, brutal. Tommy Lee Jones is wonderful as the quiet but despairing soul at the heart of the violence.
16. Amelie… this left me grinning from ear to ear. I simply love its fantastical whimsy and style. Filled with a terrific cast of characters, it’s led by Audrey Tatou who has created a heroine unlike any other. Gorgeous.
15. Away From Her… a masterclass in acting from Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. Moving beyond words, it traces the sacrifice and loss that comes with Alzheimer’s.
14. Finding Nemo… my favourite animated film bar none. I must have seen this with my daughters more than 40 or 50 times, yet every scene is still funny, the plotting and characters are wonderful, the voice work from Ellen Degeneres, Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush and others is perfect. Just brilliant.
13. Let the Right One In… a vampire film unlike anything else. Glacial in tone, almost silent for long stretches, it traces the coming-of-age-relationship between two teenagers, except one of them isn’t a teenager. Punctuated by extreme acts of violence, it’s a wonderful and disturbing love story.
12. Brokeback Mountain…worth it for Heath Ledger’s final scene alone, this is a gorgeous portrayal of illicit and repressed love. Ang Lee has explored this theme many times, but never quite as well as this.
11. The Bourne Ultimatum… I’d like to double-team this with The Bourne Supremacy, but in fact I slightly prefer this. Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass reinvented the action thriller with Jason Bourne, which in turn stimulated the James Bond back into life with Casino Royale.
10. Memento… (alongside L.A. Confidential) Easily Guy Pearce’s finest hour, he dominates every frame in this fractured, impossible tale of grief and its aftermath. I left the cinema desperately trying to unravel the twists, and on each reviewing it still surprises right to the final scene.
9. Once… a simply beautiful love story, made on a shoestring budget. It’s full of beautiful, poignant scenes, natural performances and wonderful music.
8. Punch-Drunk Love… Perhaps my biggest surprise, certainly this high up the list. It stars Adam Sandler, for goodness sake! But he is fantastic here in this gem from P.T.Anderson, probably my favourite director of the last 10 years. There’s a clip here…
7. In Bruges… definitely the funniest film in my Top 10. This is easily Colin Farrell’s greatest performance, strangely moving as the hitman on the run. He has amazing chemistry with Brendan Gleeson, and it’s as profane as they come. Midgets. Drugs. Hookers. Gay Beer. Fantastic.
6. Man On Wire… a marvellous, charming, thrilling documentary about a lunatic. Philippe Petit is brave, visionary and ever-so-slightly mad. This is a terrific piece of work.
5. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of The Fireflies)… a devastating story of children beset by war. Brother and Sister are orphaned and abandoned, forced to fend for themselves in the dying days of World War II. There are moments of magical beauty, but their innocence and optimism seems doomed (to our adult eyes) from the start, and the final section of the film left me broken and empty, sobbing like a child. I’d love to raise the courage to watch it again, but I’m not sure I could stand it.
4. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind… another one I’d love to review, as it’s been years since I was dumbfounded by the brilliant performances of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, by the imagination of Michel Gondry’s direction and Charlie Kaufman’s story, and the all-enveloping sensual experience of this marvellous film. It’s a gorgeous story about love and memory, and to me begins to unravel the secrets of the human soul. Not bad, eh?
3. Cidade de Deus (City of God)… Perhaps the most breathtaking of these films, this brutal tale of life in Rio’s favelas starts at a breakneck pace and never lets up. The cast are virtually all first-time actors, and this only adds to the naturalistic realism. It’s at turns terrifying and shocking, again with a constant sense of threat and vulnerability.
2. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)… Perhaps my favourite performance of the entire decade, Ulrich Muhe is simply stunning in this bleak yet heartwarming story set amidst the creeping terror of the East German Stasi in the 1970s. As a surveillance officer whose empty life becomes defined by observing and recording the minutiae of the lives of other people, his silences and face speaks louder and more movingly than any dialogue.
1. There Will Be Blood… As I have two young children, it’s a sadly rare treat to go to the cinema. So when I saw this on the big screen, maybe it made an even bigger impact. But to me this is almost perfect cinema. It’s both massive and yet personal in its scope, tracking the rise and fall of American Capitalism through the astonishing character of Daniel Plainview. Daniel Day Lewis gives a towering performance that is as big and all-encompassing as Ulrich Muhe’s is quiet and almost anonymous. The cinematography is gorgeous, with a tremendous opening sequence without any dialogue; only the pure physicality of digging for oil by hand, and Jonny Greenwood’s amazing score. So much about this film is unlike anything else. There is so much to immerse yourself in, a truly multi-sensory experience.