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The Deca of the Decade (AKA My Top Ten Movies of the Decade)

(Originally posted 2009-12-21 at 13:48:00 on Banter of a Mumak.)

I just saw a ‘Top Movies’ of the decade list and I disagreed with it so thoroughly I thought I’d make one of my own. Now, for those of you who know how time is actually kept, you’re aware of the fact that the decade would actually be 2001-2010, but for the sake of this list I’m doing it as 2000-2009 (the ‘Naughties’, if you will). I want to look at movies that I don’t just think are the best of the decade, but actually made an impact on movies in general.

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but just as a disclaimer: I’m not a critic, so I’m not an ‘authority’ on movies and I haven’t seen *every* movie of the past 10 years, but I sure have seen a lot so hopefully my opinion is rounded enough.

The Deca of the Decade

10. The Dark Knight (2008)

This is at the bottom of the list not because it’s the worst of these movies (if I was going by enjoyment alone I would have put it way higher), it’s at the bottom for one reason, because this movie has probably experienced more hype than is good for a movie to have. People treat it like it’s the second coming of film, and that in turn makes a lot of people start to resent it. Eventually that hype will die down and people will be able to take another look at it and be able to judge it without bias.

Why is it on the list at all? Because it has probably changed movies forever, and not just super-hero movies. A lot of movies recently have had a much darker view of the world, some people call this more realistic, others just call it emo. Call it what you will, The Dark Knight pushed the boundaries of that farther than before and made the viewer feel as though there really was no happy end in sight, nothing to live for or hold onto – until the end anyway. I mean, that’s what I got out of it, maybe you felt differently.

It’ hard to tell, because it’s such a recent movie, but I’m sure we’re going to see movies get a whole lot darker because of this movie.

[Edit: I actually do believe Batman Begins is what began this trend towards darker movies, but The Dark Knight really perfected it.]

9. 28 Days Later (2002)

This movie changed the horror genre (and specifically the zombie genre. Get over it Danny, you made a zombie movie). The look was grittier than people were used to, the zombies were faster than people had seen before. It managed to make a very poignant message about today’s culture, of course that’s the great thing about zombie movies. Many fantastic movies were made thanks to the success of this, like Shaun of the Dead, but this movie also caused some downright horrible movies to be made, like Land of the Dead. Either way, this was ground-zero for the reemergence of zombies into popular culture, which has grown to its tipping point (the other day I saw a book of zombie Christmas carols).

8. Kill Bill (2003-2004)

This is not my favourite Quentin Tarantino movie, but when it came out in 2003 it certainly changed the industry. I don’t think a film like this had ever been made before. It took a dozen different genres, different filming techniques, styles and film stock and completely different film mediums [and threw them together]. In all honestly it shouldn’t have worked as a film (or two), but it did. Most people tend to like Volume 1 more for all the action, but Volume 2 is the one that really struck a chord in me. After seeing the first one I didn’t think the second one could have so much heart, but it did. I was really blown away by how good Tarantino could be.

I wouldn’t really say it’s changed movies, which is why it’s pretty low on my list, but it certainly brought all these different genres to people’s attentions. I think the frat boy to Japanese film ratio doubled after this movie came out.

7. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

Comedy was never the same again. ‘Judd Apatow’ has become more of a genre than a director. This isn’t my favourite of all their movies, but it is the one that started it all. When I was watching it for the first time I knew it was fucking hilarious and that I had never seen a movie quite like it before (I think Christopher Guest and co. made movies like this before, only all of their movies have a documentary style). The magic of Judd Apatow has started to wane, but you can’t deny that the second half of the Naughties was dominated by him and friends thanks to this movie.

6. Up (2009)

I say ‘Up’, but what I mean is ‘Pixar’. This decade belongs to them. I could make a list consisting of nothing but their movies and I doubt anyone would disagree with me. They completely changed what animation was in the 90s. Every movie of theirs gets better, and at the moment that’s why Up is my favourite of theirs. Finding Nemo needs to be mentioned though, because that’s the movie that really cemented Pixar’s status in the film world. I think everyone kept expecting their movies to start lacking, but that movie showed they were not only improving, but they could make your heart melt with fish for crying out loud! Up is an insane roller-coaster ride of emotions. You’ll bawl in the first ten minutes, laugh hysterically in the middle and then shed tears of happiness in the last ten minutes.

5. Casino Royale (2006)

No offense Pierce, but James Bond was going downhill. This movie completely revitalized the 40-year-old franchise and reinvigorated action movies to boot. Who knew watching people play poker could be so damn interesting? I’m not entirely sure what level of popularity poker was at the time, I know it was big, but this movie certainly helped people’s interest in a card game. This is also one of the movies I was talking about before that tried to take the more realistic approach. The violence was just that much more violent, it felt painful, and the characters had real emotional reactions to seeing and committing these acts. Quantum of Solace tried to recapture that lightning in a bottle, though it didn’t work quite as well. Hopefully the next Bond movie will take what worked is Casino, leave behind what didn’t work in Quantum, and make an even better Bond film in the next decade.

4. Banlieue 13 (District 13 – 2004)

Meet the movie that made parkour (also called ‘free running’) mainstream. A lot of you might not have seen this movie because it’s French, but you probably have seen Casiono Royale (see #5) and Live Free or Die Hard which incorporated parkour into some on its action scenes. If you thought those short scenes were cool, then you’ll be blown away by this movie. I know I was. There is a sequel, though I haven’t seen it, but it couldn’t do more to change action movies than the first one did.

[I have since seen the sequel, which is the most annoying, non-sensical cash-grabbing disappointment I have ever seen.]

As an honourable mention to action movies which completely changed action movies, Tony Jaa’s movies took martial arts and sort of flipped them on their heads, however I think Banlieue had more of an effect because for an action movie to be any good nowadays parkour gets incorporated somehow.

3. Memento (2000)

I wanted 2000 to be included just so I could mention this movie. I’m not entirely sure if it had a very large effect on films, but I don’t care. This movie is just mind-bendingly good. It will blow you away. The entire thing is shown out of sequence, two parallel stories are being shown, one in colour and one in black and white, both with the same character. One’s moving forward and the other backward and… I honestly can’t tell you more than that because it might ruin it for you. This is script-writing at it’s best. If you haven’t seen it, shame on you! You won’t find a better psychological thriller in this decade or any other.

2. The Fall (2006)

I will be genuinely surprised if you’ve seen this movie, let alone heard of it. I don’t even think it was released theatrically in Canada, which is sad because it’s so stunning to look at it would have been incredible on a big screen. I was hooked on this movie just from the trailer, and I wasn’t disappointed. Everything about this movie is just perfect to me. The visuals are beyond compare and the actors feel like they are these characters (especially Catinca Untaru, whom I believe they just kept a camera on and let her do whatever she wanted). It’s storytelling at it’s best, and it should be because the entire movie is about storytelling. I found this movie by accident and it has since been my missions to get everyone to watch it. It may not change films, but it will change you.

And the number one movie of the decade is:

1. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

Okay, does this one really shock anybody, really? They might just be my favourite movies of all time. Every movie that came out after The Lord of the Rings was affected by it. For starters, it changed how movies are made. The dedication they gave to these movies was insane. They created an entire world peopled with different cultures and they created every little detail. So much work just went into the pre-production it’s mind-blowing. The special effects were completely revolutionary, which is something people seem to have forgotten after only six years, but things like CGI fire had never been done (well, never done properly before, they had to write a programme to make the fire move like real fire – that’s not the only programme they had to write either, they were inventing this stuff as they went) and having a CGI character (Gollum) was completely new territory at the time. In every movie the action and visuals got more incredible. I remember walked out of The Two Towers and thinking the battle of Helm’s Deep was the most stunning battle I had every seen on film – only the have the battle of Gondor a year later make Helm’s Deep look like two kids fighting in an alley with sticks.

So many movies have tried to emulate it. If there’s a medieval battle in a movie, you’ll be able to find about ten shots which are almost taken frame for frame from Return of the King. Movies like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass were made directly because of the success of the fantasy genre (although without the same results). Not just movies were affect, New Zealand’s tourist industry went through the roof and all the people involved with the movie went to instant stardom.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve already written more than enough for this entire list. Either, these are my picks for the top ten, I know I missed a lot, but such is the nature of these lists. What do you guys think, what are your favourites?

About Elise Haskell

I am an English major at York University.

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