Top 50 Films of the 21st Century


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My top 50 films of the 2000's.

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1
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003,  PG-13)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
A fantastic conclusion to the trilogy, Return of the King hits all the right notes for me. The battle of Pelennor Fields is huge as it should be and the competition of Gimli and Legolas is continued. Shelobâ??s lair is every bit as spine tingling and tense as I had hoped. The only qualm I have is the extended version did not add much of any good scenes for me, which leaves the theatrical version as the definitive version for me. Another great aspect this film had was the opening scene and good background on Gollum / SmĂ©agolâ??s character. It was a surprisingly great way to start the film. One of the best endings ever to as it offered a near full conclusion to the trilogy. Beautiful.
2
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World 2003,  PG-13)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Peter Weir who really impressed me with his utilization of Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, crafted an amazing high seas war film with heart, and even a bit of naturalism. Headed by the amazing Russel Crowe, the cast of this ship based film is amazing including Billy Boyd, and Paul Bettany. They all seem at ease together, they mesh like a crew and even show that superstition that was prevalent at those times. It is the relationship between Bettany as the ship?s learned surgeon, and Crowe as the veteran captain that lends a lot of stability and meat to the film. I love the concerts they have every now and then it fits in with the excellent mix of classical and classical sounding music that underlies the film. This probably would have had a shot at Best Picture had it not come out the same year as Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It is an excellently crafted masterpiece that is visually beautiful, wonderfully acted, and exudes a strong sense of sea know how. Weir's best film just ahead of Gallipoli.
3
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001,  PG-13)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The highly anticipated beginning to the trilogy delivered in gold. Although the film never quite lived up to my imagination as I read the novel many times over, it did the novels justice in as much as a filmmaker can hope to. Peter Jackson solidified himself as a director with this film and the subsequent parts. Everything about this film is praiseworthy from the acting in which I would include casting, editing, visual effects, and all that artistry. It was a stunning achievement and one I have enjoyed watching again and again. The extended version is even better.
4
Cidade de Deus (City of God) 2002,  R)
Cidade de Deus (City of God)
The personal and bloody tale of the City of God, one of the most dangerous places in Rio de Janeiro, where this kid Rocket growing up in the rough neighborhood keeps getting dragged into the violence despite his aspiration to stay away and get out. The film chronicles a lot, but not all through Rocket?s eyes as he watches to rivals whom he knows go up the ladder of the horrible system shooting up anyone and everyone. The filmmaker gets you in the action and even incorporates a lot of Rocket?s photography into the film itself telling some of the action in an interesting photographic way. It is a harsh vision of a bloody district and it grabbed a hold of me from start to finish refusing to let go.
5
The Passion of the Christ 2004,  R)
The Passion of the Christ
The toughest film for me to grade, this film has a lot of emotional pull for the character it portrays and for that aspect it is a resounding success for me in it?s portrayal of Jesus giving more of a personal touch than most films about him do. But on the other hand, the film is unflinchingly violent showing the sacrifice in all its bloody glory which is definitely not for all tastes and for that it is harsh affair to watch. That is what makes it hard to watch because it is not an enjoyable film in one sense, but emotional draining. Controversial as it is I consider it one of the best films about the Christ.
6
X2: X-Men United 2003,  PG-13)
7
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) 2007,  PG-13)
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
I had heard a lot of praise about this film before hand and was expecting a kind of typical tearjerker, but not quite the experience I got. It was a sad moving film, but the way it was crafted blew me away. The cinematographer, the man behind the work on Saving Private Ryan, takes you behind the eyelid of this man trapped in his own body with little way of expressing his desires. It may seem slow and bit strange at first, but the beauty of the film is that it does not keep you strapped there, but lets you flow through both his memories and his dreams which are all quite beautiful. The performances by the people around him are also fascinating and in some cases heartbreaking as is the case with Max Von Sydow in one of his best roles since The Seven Seal as the heart broken father. This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, not quite sure who it will hold on the small screen, but on the big screen it was mesmerizing.
8
The Incredibles 2004,  PG)
The Incredibles
Pixar managed to lead the pack of 3D animated films early and each of their films I found to be quite original and fun, but this infusion of superheroes with their incredible talent for tweaking stories ever so well has remained my far and away favorite. This is how in my mind the great Fantastic Four comic franchise should have been transferred to the screen instead of the shallow film we got awhile back. The Incredibles deals with family issues and quarreling in a way that gets through to both adults and children it is wonderful. Being a student of animation myself I found this film to be an incredible achievement with its ability to use human like forms and animate them so well. Brad Bird who not only directed this, but provided the incredibly hilarious voice for Edna Mode created a wonderful family of supers that we can love and feel for their rather different problems. It was also wonderful to here that jazzy smooth score by Michael Giacchino.
9
Batman Begins 2005,  PG-13)
Batman Begins
I thought after Batman & Robin, a franchise with truly great potential was buried, but then came the rumors and then the reality that an actual good director was undertaking a revitalization of the franchise. And boy what, a revitalization it was. Christopher Nolan gave the dark knight a perfect building block that none of the other films had been able to give. Nolan actually gave a serious look and personal feel to the hero and his origins. Most all of the Batman films have been obsessed with his origins each trying to give it their own take and I believe Nolan hit it on the nail. Bale dons the mask and fits the role of Bruce Wayne as well. Nolan also surrounded Bale with a A-list of actors including the great Michael Caine, the gentle giant Liam Neeson, and even underrated Gary Oldman. I never thought Oldman would make such a brilliant Commissioner Gordon. The film has grown on me after each viewing. I don?t even miss Danny Elfman?s brilliant score from the original with James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer?s brooding score.
10
Howl's Moving Castle 2005,  PG)
Howl's Moving Castle
I must say Hayao Miyazaki certainly has excelled these past few years pumping out quite a few masterpieces. This one is one of two his that have captured my imagination and cracked my list. The animation of this film is stunningly beautiful and the voice work phenomenal. What I always find amazing about each of these is the fantastic stories which are told, but each with a completely different style of their own.
11
Pan's Labyrinth 2006,  R)
Pan's Labyrinth
Guillermo Del Toro has his masterpiece in this film as he melds harsh reality with fantasy as a little girl Ophelia is forced to create her own fantasyland where she is the princess so she can triumph over her current situation. The creatures are fantastic both menacing and welcoming from the mischievous Pan to the little fairies. The atmosphere is great and film beautiful from start to finish. One of the most haunting scores I have heard with that little lullaby. Definitely not one for all tastes with its unflinching violence, but a beautiful film nonetheless.
12
Letters from Iwo Jima 2006,  R)
Letters from Iwo Jima
What I consider Clint Eastwood?s masterpiece as a director. It is a harsh look at the Iwo Jima conflict from the eyes of the Japanese soldiers dug in on the beach without outside aid while they are overwhelmed by the American troops. A great companion piece for Flags of Our Fathers which does a better job of focusing than that film which is more fractured trying to bite off a bit more tackling a familiar subject. This film instead turns things on its head taking thing from the opposite direction showing us our rivals as a nation showing their humaneness another film like Saving Private Ryan showing war as hell. Fantastic performances abound throughout the film.
13
Stranger Than Fiction 2006,  PG-13)
Stranger Than Fiction
Strangely funny, this perfectly paced film has a one Harold Crick, played pitch-perfect by Will Ferrell, running around trying to find this voice which insists is not him going crazy but a scarily correct narrator. I love how everyone seems to either look at his strangely or buys into like Dustin Hoffman?s off the wall professor. Emma Thompson is also in great form as the stuck writer who is stuck. She cannot figure how to kill her main character. This is a well cast and directed mellow comedy right up my alley.
14
Ratatouille 2007,  G)
Ratatouille
It is a great touching tale about a Rat trying to find his place in a big world one which doesn?t welcome a creature like himself. Touching and beautiful to behold this animation blows many of the animations recently out there out of the water proving once again the golden age Pixar is in.
15
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada 2006,  R)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The best modern western or western period as of late, Jones crafted a harsh film dealing partially with the immigration question, but more so with redemption. The best performance I have ever seen from Barry Peppers is in this film as the desperate and slightly cocky border patrol officer who makes a big mistake. Great story by Guillermo Arriaga as well as a offbeat score by Marco Beltrami making for a truly unique western.
16
Gladiator 2000,  R)
Gladiator
An epic tale of a slave once again challenging the principle ruler of Rome, but this character does not start off as a slave, but general turned into a gladiator and then hero. Russell Crowe is fantastic as the hardened Maximus who is asked not only to stop the man who killed his wife and son, but save an empire. Fantastic production with great actors abounding from Joaquin Phoenix to Richard Harris and Oliver Reed as well as a fantastic score by Hans Zimmer similar in some respects to the Pirates score which came later.
17
The Bourne Ultimatum 2007,  PG-13)
The Bourne Ultimatum
This final entry in the Bourne trilogy is heart throbbing action from beginning to end. Chalk full of fast moving camera action, great action sequences, and thrills. Damon is magnificent in this third turn as super agent Jason Bourne who finally uncovers and confronts his past and David Strathairn is a great challenge to him. It even has Julia Stiles and Joan Allen returning to help close out this fantastic series. Although one lingering question partially hurts the film. (you know the one involving Nikki)
18
Almost Famous 2000,  R)
Almost Famous
This was a recommendation that I really came to like a lot. I have only seen it once, but it was solid from the storyline of a boy running off on the road with a band to the superb cast. Crowe apparently did it from personal experience and it shows its is a great look at the wild ride that the road life of a band is. Billy Crudup is fantastic as the lead of the band and Patrick Fugit is great as the kid. Frances McDormand was great as the worried mother and Philip Seymour Hoffman has a good role as the guy who gives the kid a shot at journalism at the beginning.
19
Good Night, And Good Luck 2005,  PG)
Good Night, And Good Luck
Stark photographically in its use of black and white, the film very much is a straight drama of Edward R. Murrow?s work against the panic and fear created by McCarthyism and the red scare. David Strathairn is fantastic as Murrow throwing out those radio monologues with a good strong face and voice as well as puffing a lot of cigarettes throughout the film. Clooney not only directed this very well, but has a good supporting role. The start of Downey Jr. return to the big game, that and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
20
The Bourne Identity 2002,  PG-13)
The Bourne Identity
Although my brother claims this did not stand up well at all to the novel, I found this fast paced action thriller to be fantastic. Matt Damon flourishes as the amnesia stricken living weapon. The action is gritty and realistic and action packed from start to finish. It also features a great supporting cast with Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, and Brian Cox. While the Supremacy did not quite match the greatness of this film, the final film more than makes up for that film?s short comings.
21
Spirited Away 2001,  PG)
Spirited Away
Miyazaki scores with this highly imaginative animated film about a highly shy girl thrown into a world of weird creatures where she is forced to break out and show here true inner power. It?s touching and fantastically drawn and features a fantastic score by Joe Hisaishi, Miyazaki?s regular composer an alternate version of John Williams. Great voice work in the English version too which really makes for a good cross-over culturally.
22
Brick 2006,  R)
Brick
It felt like The Maltese Falcon or some film-noir story was transplanted with all its slick lingo into a high school environment, a weird update that works. This was my first introduction to Joseph Levitt-Gordon and a great one. He plays a strong detective like character running around trying to solve what looks like a murder. It is twisted and weirdly fun.
23
Traffic 2000,  R)
Traffic
Previously I had only been familiar with Soderbergh?s work like Ocean?s Eleven and the sequels, but a year or two back I saw this and was tack back by the grittiness of his work on this film. The different color tints may seem a bit strange and overly stylistic at first, but it adds a good sense of where one is in the different strains of the story be it the drug dealing husband, the Mexican drug cartel or the disintegrating family. It?s a large cast and each are well cast turning in strong performances.
24
World Trade Center 2006,  PG-13)
25
Hotel Rwanda 2004,  PG-13)
Hotel Rwanda
Don Cheadle?s best performance to date is in this film as the hotel manager who attempts to turn his hotel into a haven for as many people as possible when the world goes mad and war comes knocking on his doorstep. It?s nice taught drama with a splash of the sense of time and a few horrifying images of death. It may be scaled down, but its still powerful.
26
Gone Baby Gone 2007,  R)
Gone Baby Gone
Wow, just wow?I did not expect Ben Affleck to be such a potent film director. His acting was just mediocre at best for me so I avoided this because of that, a little biased on that count. Nevertheless, he proved me very wrong. He crafts a fascinating tale of a detective hired to find a missing child whose mother is a cokehead. It seems a bit offish at first why he would take this job, but the pleas of the sister are quite convincing. With the whole police force looking it looks like he is not needed, but as it turns out he is the key to it all. Things are not what they appear at all and that slowly becomes apparent despite best intentions. What drew me in so well to this film was the main character played brilliantly by Casey Affleck. He is soft-spoken, but seemingly confident and yet humanly afraid. His sense of right and wrong is what I liked most though. It was such a sincere performance. Add to that a great story full of gray areas through which this character has climb and it stands as one of the best of the year.
27
Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs) 2002,  R)
28
Paradise Now 2005,  PG-13)
Paradise Now
Powerful film dealing quite effectively with the subject of terrorism and giving both sides a pretty good look as far as one culture goes, not showing the two-sides of the conflict as in the two parties involved, but the difference of opinion of one group. These two guys volunteer to do a suicide bombing, but in the middle of preparing and even doing this they not only have moral conflicts, but the whole plan nearly gets shot. Not a pretty subject by any means, but a timely one.
29
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind 2004,  R)
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Not precisely up my alley, but exquisitely done with the memory flashbacks being infused with a weird fantasy sense. The performances are what make this one so great especially Jim Carrey, in arguably his best role, and Kate Winslet. It?s a fascinating idea and just goes in such a great direction. I was surprised to see the strong cast in this outside of those two there are Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and even Kirsten Dunst.
30
Road to Perdition 2002,  R)
Road to Perdition
Before I saw American Beauty I saw this harsh and fascinating graphic novel adaptation. I didn?t have a clue of the source material before watching, and am still a bit surprised that was the original material. The film focuses on Hank as the big gun of an operation which is like the mafia with its family feelings. Something goes wrong and his solid and protected world is turned upside down especially harsh for his son. Daniel Craig, Paul Newman, and Jude Law are supporting and quite great all around.
31
Pride and Prejudice 2005,  PG)
Pride and Prejudice
I was never expecting the newest adaptation of the famed Jane Austen novel to so good, but it really surprised me with not only the beauty with which the cinematographer captured the countryside, but also the fantastic performance Keira Knightley delivers for this film. Featuring the best music of the three version, the A&E and 1940, I felt is was snubbed at the Oscars. The music added a great sense of culture and beauty to the film which went hand and hand with the incredible cinematography. Only complaint is the few too many shots of Elizabeth.
32
Minority Report 2002,  PG-13)
Minority Report
Spielberg?s finest film currently from this decade, this harsh science fiction adaptation takes an intriguing look at crime. It explores the possibilities of being able to see the future and the errors of having a system which can be tampered with. Cruise gives one of his best performances as the distraught head of the pre-crime team who finds himself betrayed and on the lame trying to figure out who it is he is to murder. Max Von Sydow turns in a menacing performance as well capturing some veterans luck in his landing the role.
33
Zodiac 2007,  R)
Zodiac
This is by far David Fincher?s best work. This is a film on the level of All the President?s Men because like that film it is basically a dramatizing of the events. The case is never solved, but that doesn?t mean it doesn?t have a satisfactory ending. The film?s pacing is thrilling and never lags as we, the audience, are bombarded with information, evidence. It is wild and will have your head spinning, but the best thing the film does is it keeps you in suspense from the start to the closing credits.

The film opens with the first, discovered, murder and then shortly afterward with the second murder. They are fast and brutal. Fincher wants us to believe and be afraid of this killer, the Zodiac. It works and each scene that is brought up in this fashion, somewhere away from one of the main character, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr., has us on the edge of our seat anticipating that death, but Fincher is yanking our chain now, or at least some of the time. He has us expecting a death/murder, but he teases us with perfectly formed conclusions which achieve naught and slowly we are being drawn into this obsession which has grabbed each of the three main people involved in attempting to solve the Zodiac case.

Obsession is the name of the game here. Each character becomes so enraptured in bringing this malicious killer to justice that they don?t care for their own safety and spiral downward, until they either destroy themselves or are taken off the case. This same thing was done quite well for the first part of Brian DePalma?s Black Dahlia, but unlike that film it doesn?t make the mistake of trying to solve the case with some Hollywoodized ending or one where the murder is brought to justice. While the final scenes, offer a sense of closure they aren?t definite.

Each of the characters is fleshed out nicely before they spiral downward and apart. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, the newspaper cartoonist who happens to be knowledgeable about code breaking, he goes to the library. Graysmith is a single father at the beginning who doesn?t drink, smoke, or do much of anything out of the ordinary. He?s a basic boy scout, which he admits to. Mark Ruffalo plays Inspector David Toschi, the man officially on the case from the beginning when it moves to San Francisco jurisdiction. He?s a soft spoken man with a veteran?s approach to case and newly wed. Finally Robert Downey Jr. plays Paul Avery, the newspaper reporter who becomes the other great authority on the case along with Graysmith and Toschi. At first together, and later separately these men taken on the haggard look of a Zodiac victim, meaning, they have unshaven faces, drooping eyes, and a major obsession with the case. They may not realize they have become victims, but they truly have in destroying their lives to take down this killer. Only their efforts may not have been in vain, but then we will never know for sure.

The film is a fantastic docudrama which thrills, and plays with your mind as you too become an obsessed with bringing down the Zodiac who you thoroughly despise by the end of the film. The final shot with Graysmith is almost triumphant feeling after the fear and destruction witnessed for the 158 minutes the film runs. This film has set a high benchmark for the rest of the film of 2007.
34
The Prestige 2006,  PG-13)
35
Apocalypto 2006,  R)
Apocalypto
An edge director, Gibson still has a very strong and visceral style which conveys a simple story with epic and visceral feelings. It?s like one giant ride from start to finish and it?s both intimate and foreign.
36
Spider-Man 2 2004,  PG-13)
Spider-Man 2
I have been a fan of the comic book long before any of the films came out and I will say I enjoyed the first Spiderman, but this sequel blew me away. It carried so much of the tradition of the comic with the fighting feeling like it came straight from the pages and was fleshed out into 3D surrounding. Case in point would be the building fights between Doc Ock and Spiderman or the train fight. I also loved the character development of the villain he became quite more personal with redeeming qualities unlike the purely crazed and almost two-sided Green Goblin. Alfred Molina did a phenomenal job. I look forward to the well set-up sequel and hope they don?t overreach themselves.
37
Catch Me If You Can 2002,  PG-13)
Catch Me If You Can
One of Spielberg's goodies. I loved Hanks performance and Leonardo DiCaprio's performance. Christopher Walken is perfect as the dad. A very fun film. John Williams jazzy music is fantastic. The beginning credits are fun.
38
Runaway Jury 2003,  PG-13)
Runaway Jury
A nice slick courtroom drama / thriller this one has a very strong cast with Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman going at it for the first time ever in the same scene. John Cusak and Rachel Weisz are also key and the film is quite satisfying.
39
Enchanted 2007,  PG)
Enchanted
The first musical in a longtime that has clicked for me, just all around I loved it. Not much to say other than how refreshing it was to see a fun musical in this day in age.
40
A.I. Artificial Intelligence 2001,  PG-13)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Dang it Spielberg always surprises me and I thought this movie would disappoint me big time it turned out to be a nice tearjerker. It?s a sappy story which I thought was unusual from what I figured a mix of Kubrick and Spielberg would be, but then it made sense since Kubrick wasn?t around to push his vision. It may have a its share of plot holes, but the fantastic performance of Osment and the deft direction of Spielberg blew me away all the way.
41
The World's Fastest Indian 2005,  PG-13)
The World's Fastest Indian
I wasn?t expecting such a great charismatic performance from Hopkins when I went to see this, but the practically genuine sincerity of his character and his goal drew me in for a truly enjoyable ride.
42
Insomnia 2002,  R)
Insomnia
A fantastic remake of a solid foreign film, this fascinating early Nolan feature features a strong dramatic performance from Robin Williams as well as a disturbing performance from Al Pacino. Strong editing as is Nolan?s staple add to the great intensity of the film.
43
A Beautiful Mind 2001,  PG-13)
A Beautiful Mind
One of Crowe best performances is as the brilliant yet highly unstable mathematician Nash. Solid all around and a no less deserving Best Picture winner had it not been up against a certain film.
44
United 93 2006,  R)
United 93
I saw a jumbled mess the first time I watched it and then found the beauty the second time around. Not a pleasant film by any means, but a harrowing reconstruction.
45
Cinderella Man 2005,  PG-13)
Cinderella Man
Sentimental to be sure, but well executed and featuring well defined performances from the ever solid Crowe. Zellweger is decent as well, but is a bit much at times while Giamatti steals the show when he can.
46
Munich 2005,  R)
Munich
A hard hitting film from Spielberg which is highly serious as oppose to his previous entry. It is brilliant in its look at the fuzzy line, but gets a bit carried away near the end.
47
Luther 2003,  PG-13)
Luther
A bit of different pick with this kind of stilted look at Luther with the passionate Joseph Fiennes. I guess I liked it for its understatedness. It?s not really powerful, but a kind of muted look at Luther. The most intensity of performance actually comes from Molina who is a bit on the overacting side.
48
Kingdom of Heaven 2005,  R)
Kingdom of Heaven
A very solid historical epic, the film may not have a great star, but Orland Bloom gives it a go and pulls out a winner as far as I am concerned. Scott can do these things quite well.
49
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002,  PG-13)
50
O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000,  PG-13)
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Guess not one of The Coen?s favorites here, but I think it is their best film of the ones I have seen. It?s fun and quirky and I will never forget Dapper Dan.

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