I’ve been wanting to do this list for a long time. Thing is, I felt there was a lot of films released between 2000 and 2009 that I wanted to see first. So have I seen all those films? Well…no. There is still a lot of films from last decade that I haven’t seen, but I can’t wait forever. Anyway, this list is not the best films per say, rather my personal favourites. I know there’s gonna be some questionable choices. Basic rules, any film released between January 1st, 2000 and December 31st, 2009 could technically make the list. Anyway, without further ado, my list.
25. Burn After Reading
Release Date: September 12, 2008 (US)
Written by: The Coen Brothers
Directed by: The Coen Brothers
Starring: George Clooney, Francis McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt
Comedies from the Coen brothers are really hit or miss with me. While I love The Big Lebowski, films like O Brother Where Art Thou and Raising Arizona don’t do a lot for me. I wasn’t really sure how I would react to Burn After Reading. Not only did I enjoy it, I was flat out shocked by how much I enjoyed it.
The story is kind of complicated. The basic summary is two employees (Brad Pitt and Francis McDormand) of a health club find a disc from a CIA analyst’s wife and assume the disc contains classified information. What they don’t know is the CIA analyst (John Malkovich) was recently fired and all the disc contains is his personal memoirs. Amidst all this, there is also theft, an affair, and even murder.
The real treat of the film is watching all the characters interact with each other. Every character is hilarious and interesting and all the actors do a great job. This really is an ensemble cast. On top of your main players, you have a lot of great supporting roles from actors like Richard Jenkins. But my favourite character is J.K Simmons as a C.I.A superior frequently monitoring the situation. Every time he was on screen I was laughing and even though he didn’t have as much screen time as the other characters, he never has a dull moment and stole the show when he was on. It’s also incredible how the Coens managed to take such a complicated story and made it really easy to follow. This to me has all the ingredients of a great comedy. Fun characters, sharp, witty dialogue, and an unpredictable story. The sad thing is this was the first film from the Coen brothers after their Academy Award winning No Country For Old Men, and as a result, was looked at as a disappointment. Bottom line, whether you’re generally a fan of the Coen brothers comedies or not, Burn After Reading is a great film.
24. The Bourne Identity
Release Date: June 14th, 2002
Written by: Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Chris Cooper, and Clive Owen
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like the Bourne films. Everyone from casual film goers to hardcore film buffs seems to love this film series and it’s easy to see why. These are awesome films. It was hard to choose just one considering how consistent the trilogy was, but in the end, I went with The Bourne Identity.
The film opens with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) floating unconscious in the ocean until being rescued by a ship of fishermen. Upon waking, Bourne finds he has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything about himself (not even his name.) He arrives in Switzerland and starts to try to piece together his past. He ends up meeting a young woman, Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), and ends up teaming up with her. Meanwhile, Bourne is being chased by the C.I.A group he was once apart of, lead by Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper). As the movie goes, Bourne continues to try to discover his past while taking out C.I.A operatives sent to take Bourne down.
One of the most talked about aspects of the Bourne films is the action. The action is shot in a “shaky cam” style which you either love or hate. I love it, and it’s used effectively here. The fight scenes are just great. But to me, the best aspect of the film (and the series as a whole) is Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Bourne is a great character and Damon brings a lot to the role. The film also does a good job of putting the audience in Bourne’s shoes. You feel his confusion and frustration and you want to see him find answers. The rest of the cast is all great as well. While most feel The Bourne Ultimatum was the best of the series, for me, the mystery, the intrigue, and the originality makes The Bourne Identity my favourite film of the series.
23. Batman Begins
Release Date: June 15th, 2005
Written by: David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, and Cillian Murphy
Thank god for Batman Begins. Love it or hate it, I don’t think anybody can deny it saved Batman’s film reputation after the cinematic bomb Batman and Robin. Batman Begins brought the caped crusader back to his dark roots (where he belongs) with an engaging story and an almost flawless cast.
More so than any other Batman film, Begins studies the characters origins and beginnings in more depth. From the murder of his parents, to his travels around the world, to his training with Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows, and finally his return to Gotham City, the film shows the journey from Bruce Wayne to Batman. When Bruce (Christian Bale) returns to Gotham, crime has taken over the city and it becomes his goal to stop crime. This includes stopping crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) and Arkham Asylum psycho-pharmacologist Dr. Jonathan Crane A.K.A The Scarecrow (Cillian Muprhy). All while romancing his child hood sweet heart Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes).
One of the best elements of the film is it’s cast. Bale leads with his performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman and for my money is the best live action Batman we’ve seen. Most of the supporting cast here is great as well. Old familiar characters like Alfred Pennyworth and James Gordon are back this time updated with great performances from Michael Caine and Gary Oldman respectively. Lucius Fox makes his first film appearance played by Morgan Freeman. Freeman is great as usual. The villains in the film are all balanced, threatening, and interesting in their own ways. Another of the film’s many strengths is the atmosphere created by Christopher Nolan. Gotham City really feels like a bleak, hopeless place and it makes Batman’s struggle feel that much harder. On top of that, the film has good writing with some solid dialogue and interesting, fleshed out, story and characters. Despite my praise, this is easily the most flawed film so far. Katie Holmes performance is terrible and the action scenes are messy and poorly handled. But still, Batman Begins is a great film that helped elevate the comic book genre. It’s a shame the film is often forgotten and left in the shadow of it’s own sequel, The Dark Knight. Believe me, Batman Begins stands on it’s own two feet.
22. The Incredibles
Release Date: November 5th, 2004 (US)
Written by: Brad Bird
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Jason Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson
I generally don’t like to compare animated films to live-action films. I respect both, but I always have trouble comparing the two because my standards of the two are very different. With that said, Pixar studios had a hell of a decade and it be wrong to not have one of there films on the list. It wasn’t a tough call. The Incredibles is easily my favourite animated film of the last ten years.
The movie tells the story of the Parr family. They’re you’re regular, everyday, normal family with one interesting twist. They all have super powers. Basically in the film’s world, a portion of people are born with super powers. Anyway, the mother and father, Helen and Bob (Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson respectively) are former super heroes and because they both have super powers, those traits are inherited by their kids (though they all have different and unique powers). Back before they were married, Helen and Bob were super heroes known as Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible. But after several lawsuits by citizens directed at super heroes, the government has decided to outlaw super heroes. Basically all super heroes just have to hang up their tights and live normal lives. So Bob and Helen instead have to focus on raising their family. While Helen has accepted that her days as a super hero are over, Bob still has trouble adapting. But the rise of a new threat from Bob’s past forces him to come out of retirement.
This film works as a super hero film, as well as a spoof of super hero films at the same time. They take a lot of clever shots at the genre. It’s one of those rare films that finds a perfect balance of action and comedy. The action here is better then in a lot of comic book films. The thing that makes it great is some of the innovative stuff they do with the super powers, especially Elastigirl’s ability to stretch her limbs. But the true heart of the film lies in the chemistry between the family members. Not only is the dialogue between them funny, but it’s well written. It sounds like how families actually speak to each other. I also have to give it up to the supporting cast. Jason Lee makes for a great, unique villain and Sam Jackson has a brief yet memorable role. Many people would say Pixar’s best film would be Finding Nemo, Wall*E, or Up. I will say those are good films (except Nemo), but none of them hold a candle to The Incredibles.
21. Clerks II
Release Date: July 21st, 2006
Written by: Kevin Smith
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trever Fehrman, Jason Mewes, and Kevin Smith
I know I’m probably gonna get a lot of flack for this, but I stand by my choice. I love this film. I will note here that I am a fan of Kevin Smith films. His movies are just my type of humor. The original Clerks is, to this day, Smith’s most beloved film. When Smith announced he was making a sequel, fans were skeptical and thought Smith was just going back to the well. Thankfully, they were wrong.
Clerks II takes place about ten years after the original. At the beginning, the Quickstop Dante and Randal (Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson) work at is burned down. So, the slacker team has to find a new job. They end up getting work at a Mooby’s restaurant (a fictional fast food chain). So even after all this time, Dante and Randal are still working a dead end job together. But things are about to change with Dante moving to California with his fiance (Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), leaving Randal alone in Jersey. There’s actually a lot of drama between Dante and Randal, as well as Dante’s boss Becky (Rosario Dawson), who he secretly has a thing for. And of course a lot of really dirty jokes. Not to mention the on screen duo of Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith).
As a fan of the Smith film universe (or the View Askewniverse), I gotta say, this has everything I could want. Many worried a sequel would just rehash the story from the first and use the same jokes. But Clerks II actually takes the characters to new places. There’s some emotional scenes here, especially towards the end between Dante and Randal. This works especially well because you really love these characters. All the characters are really likeable. From old favourites like Dante and Randal to newcomers like Becky and Elias (Trevor Fehrman), you care about all these people. What’s more, is the movie is really funny. I could watch this movie again and again and it’ll still be funny time and time again. Many people criticize Smith’s visual style, or lack there of. Personally, this has never bothered me because the type of movies he does aren’t visually driven as much as they are dialogue driven. And personally, I love Smith’s dialogue. Clerks II has everything a great comedy needs to have and then some. Not only is the film funny and filled with memorable characters, but it’s also surprisingly emotional and in a lot of ways can be considered Smith’s best film. Not a film for everyone, but I’m proud to call it one of my favourites all the same.
That’s all for now, Part II on the way shortly.