For better or worse, every decade has a couple of unique characteristics that serve as a convenient description for the period as a whole. The ’70s had disaster movies and the explosion of auteurs like Scorsese and Coppola. The ’80s had Spielberg, John Hughes, and the rise of the cheap slasher film. The ’90s were all about the indie explosion (and more disaster movies). What will history remember about the 2000s? If I had to guess, I’d sum it up in four words: Attack of the Fanboys.
Take a quick look at the top ten grossing movies of the decade (using worldwide box office numbers): There are four “Harry Potter” movies, two “Lord of the Rings” movies, two “Pirates of the Carribean” movies, “The Dark Knight,” and “Shrek 2.” And don’t forget the three “Spider-Man” movies, the two “Transformers” movies, the last two “Star Wars” movies, “300,” or “Iron Man.” Put them all together, and you have one mondo pile o’ fanboydom, right there. The first movie on the list to feature an original screenplay is Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” at #15, which brings us to the unofficial subtitle for the 2000s: The Decade When Everyone Ran Out of Ideas.
Ah, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There were some original ideas out there, and on the flip side, some of those fanboy movies made as much money as they did because they were phenomenal pieces of work. As we continue our series of reflections on the decade that was, I submit to you for your
snarky dismissal approval, my top ten movies of the 2000s.
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
I’ve still only seen this movie once, but so much of it is still imprinted in my mind. The final fight between Frodo and Gollum. Samwise kicking orc ass while carrying Frodo at the same time. That hellacious battle of Minas Tirith. And then, just when you think that Peter Jackson will let you take a breath, he unleashes another horrific shriek from those damn Fell Beasts. Yes, I admit that when Sam and Frodo had their tearful goodbye at the movie’s end, I wanted to scream, “For God’s sake, just kiss him already!” But there is a reason this movie won every single Academy Award it was nominated for. It’s an extraordinary piece of work.
9. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
What began as an innocent look at the classic video game circuit slowly morphed into a tale of David vs. Goliath proportions, as unknown Donkey Kong wizard Steve Wiebe encountered a political shitstorm that would give Machiavelli pause. Billy Mitchell is my pick for movie villain of the decade, and worse: he’s real.
8. WALL·E (2008)
Only Pixar could turn a story about a lonely robot into the most heartfelt movie Hollywood’s made in years. The fact that this didn’t win a single Academy Award for its sound work is disgraceful.
7. Hot Fuzz (2007)
There’s no other way to say it: this movie makes me giddy. Self-aware without being self-congratulatory, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost deliver a smart and sincere love letter to American action movies while getting their Michael Bay swerve on at the same time. And you’ll never hear the words “for the greater good” the same way again.
6. The Prestige (2006)
Not to be confused with “The Illusionist” – which, for my money, was vastly inferior – Christopher Nolan’s tale of dueling magicians is an embarrassment of riches, from the characters to the scenery to the dangerous game of ‘top this’ that Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale perform up until the bitter (and I mean bitter) end.
5. Kill Bill, Vol. II (2004)
“Kill Bill Vol. I” was an orgy of blood, and enjoyable though it was, I’ll take the level-headed back half of the story any day of the week, which shows the Bride fighting to give her daughter the childhood she deserves – a normal one. This also contains one of the biggest ‘holy shit‘ moments of the decade when the Bride squares off with Elle Driver
4. Children of Men (2006)
Forever redefining the possibilities of a tracking shot – twice. How this movie failed to find an audience or the love of its peers is positively lost on me.
3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
If there is a more devastating movie about addiction than this, I haven’t seen it. Darren Aronofsky perfects that quirky blend of hyper-editing and sound – I love when he shows the sun before cutting to Ellen Burstyn and friends tanning, and all you hear is the sound of eggs frying – while coaxing four unforgettable performances from his leads. If this doesn’t scare the loved one in your life off of drugs, nothing will.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The heart wants what it wants. There is no arguing or reasoning with it, and even if you could erase someone from your memory, odds are you’re going to fall for them all over again, so don’t bother fighting it. What a perfect backdrop for Michel Gondry to work his bizarro magic.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Fanboy wet dream or not, “The Dark Knight” is the superhero movie to end all superhero movies. Whip-smart, ruthless (he killed Rachel Dawes!), and relentless, “Knight” is literally a breathtaking experience. And God help Christopher Nolan when it’s time to hash out a follow-up; from here, I’m not sure it’s even possible.