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My Favorite 25 Movies of the 2000s – Part 1

Movies - by - February 1, 2010 - 22:32 UTC - Be first to Comment!

Of all the lists, this is probably the one that is hardest for me, as I had a good idea of what the sports moments and video games would be, but for movies, where I started really becoming an avid watcher in college, it was pretty tough to pare down my list of finalists. In fact, after going through the movie lists from all 10 years in the decade, I had 82 movies that I picked out and had to get down to 25. The list I had at the end was about right for me. Mostly comedies (and well-known and accepted ones at that), but at the same time, I was happy with how the list turned out. I know that there are plenty of avid movie watchers who have fringe films or indie films or are horror buffs or what have you, but I’m someone who just wants a movie that when I look back on it, I said, “I enjoyed it.” I enjoyed all the movies on this list for entirely different reasons. I don’t have anything you’d probably see at Sundance or Cannes, but I liked them all the same. Actually, I take that back. I have one or two.

For the record, the final movie cut off the list was “Howl’s Moving Castle,” which is extra tough because I watched it again yesterday and it’s an awesome movie. Roger Ebert calling it one of Miyazaki’s “worst” is pretty pretentious on his part, I believe. I understand people have a high standard for Miyazaki films and the movie he did before that, “Spirited Away,” (which I have unfortunately not seen yet; it’s never on any movie channel, yet you’ll see “Yes, Man” 50 times a month) is considered his greatest achievement, but I thought it was an awesome movie with a really neat story. It also is the first movie with what I delightfully call the “Christian Bale” voice, where he goes all deep and gruff when he feels cornered. This would be the inspiration for his voice for Batman. And yes, I laughed out loud when I heard it. One of my favorite animated features from the decade, but not high enough that it got into my favorite 25. So without further ado, here we go:

25. High Fidelity – 2000

We start off the list with one of my favorite movies from my time between the end of high school and college, which is about right considering that I just started getting more into music and also just started branching out into different genres of movies outside of your normal slapstick comedies, Disney movies and Pixar movies. Looking back at it, this actually became the template for John Cusack’s movies later on in the decade, as he really didn’t play a role outside of this one (then again, one could say that he’s had basically the same role since “Say Anything,” but I digress) but I liked this movie mainly because as far as your typical coming-of-age stories, this one is believable in the sense that I end up giving a damn about his character at the end of the movie.

I also like Jack Black more than others and he was really good in this. He was annoying, but it fit the character, as opposed to him being annoying just for the sake of being annoying. I’m also a sucker for lists (duh) and I liked a lot of the lists they came up with (and the arguments spawned from them). There’s also something about Tim Robbins playing a seedy character in the movie (like he does in “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny”, which also JUST missed the list) and the scene where they discuss how he’d be dealt with upon entering the store is a favorite of mine. It’s also a really good ending, and the song that plays over the credits is probably my favorite Stevie Wonder song: “I Believe When I Fall In Love With You (It Will Be Forever)”.

This gets on the list mainly because it was one of the first movies that kinda molded how I got into movies as I got through the decade. I bought this and the TV Series “Undeclared” at the same time (with the latter being on a complete recommendation without even seeing it and ended up being one of the best purchases I ever made) and quickly became a favorite. It’s also one of the better “romantic comedies” for guys, but at the same time, there’s some pretty awesome dialogue, music and some really good performances. In my opinion, not the worst start to the list.

24. Best In Show – 2001

“This Is Spinal Tap” is probably the greatest mockumentary of all time, and is the movie that turned Christopher Guest into a household name in comedy. It’s amazing to think that almost 20 years after the fact, that he would come out with a movie that is incredible in the same vein to my generation that didn’t grow up with “the curse of the drummer”, “Mini-Stonehenge” and “Turn it up to 11!”

Everything is tongue in cheek, everything is done in a meticulous manner that makes you pay attention to the dialogue and what it all boils down to is that every part is pitch perfect. You have the unassuming good old boy, the gay couple, the ditzy woman with a butch dog trainer that eventually become a couple, the uptight owners who are way too into it and, of course, the couple that’s just happy to be there: a guy with ridiculous teeth that might be more unassuming than Guest’s character, and her wife, who before she was married, slept with basically every male character in the movie.

But the winner of the great characters in the movie is, without a doubt, the color commentator by the name of Buck Laughlin played by Fred Willard, who steals the show with irreverence and frankness that is absolutely some of the greatest comedic dialogue I have ever heard spoken in a movie. His shtick about comparing the dog show to a baseball game and the hilarious anecdotes…they absolutely get me rolling every time I see the movie. It’s really an incredible role and it was nailed beautifully. Guest would make a couple more movies of this ilk in the decade, but they didn’t come close to this, his finest since “Spinal Tap.”

23. Meet the Parents – 2001

The best movie that DeNiro had been in since “Casino” and it’s tough for me to choose between Stiller’s role in this, “Zoolander” (Which barely misses this list, as well) and “There’s Something About Mary.” The story of Gaylord “Greg” Focker as he goes to his girlfriend’s parents’ house for the first time hits all the right notes in the nightmares that come from trying to impress who you hope will be your future in-laws.

There are plenty of memorable scenes, but the one that always makes the movie for me every time I see it is the dinner scene. I’m pretty sure it was the scene that everybody in the movie saw and made them want to take part in it. From Jack’s poem to his deceased mom, to Greg saying Jewish grace and finally ending it with him popping the cork, breaking the urn and Jinxy pissing in the ashes…it’s incredible. I remember hearing my dad laughing at that so hard he was coughing a minute later.

It was a movie that just came out of nowhere. It was kind of like “40-Year-Old Virgin,” where you saw the previews, thought “This could be funny,” and then were blown away by just how funny it was. It also showed that DeNiro was more than someone who could play a gangster in Martin Scorsese movies. He really nailed the role of Jack, and stole every scene he was in. “The Circle of Trust,” his take on “Puff the Magic Dragon,” making Jinxy the ring bearer, all of it was gravy. It’s another movie that benefits from a recent re-watch, but some movies you just don’t forget about, and this is definitely one of those movies.

22. Wedding Crashers – 2005

Pretty much from beginning to end, a movie that brings the laughs and doesn’t stop. Beyond the basic premise, the movie that touches on everything from love at first sight, to proper etiquette at the dinner table, to learning from the best that every played the game, it’s a tour de force of comedy. Vince Vaughn is at his asshole best who falls in love thanks to the incredible tenacity of the woman he selects as his prey and Owen Wilson plays the plucky underdog who
finds love unexpectedly and will stop at nothing to keep him from marrying the devious Sack, played by Bradley Cooper.

The jokes have been recounted over and over again, and I don’t think I can list them all here without it taking me all night, but between the Rules of Crashing, the phenomenal opening montage, Christopher Walken, “That’s what Maryland does, baby! Crab cakes and football!”, the gay painter, the alcoholic priest, one of the best cameos ever…it goes on and on.

I think what keeps it from being higher is that compared to other movies on the list, it kinda dies a bit in the middle, but it shouldn’t take away from the entirety of it, a movie that truly hits so many good notes that you could write a song about it.

21. The Hangover – 2009

A cast of virtual no-names to the mainstream movie world (although the three main characters were all great stand-up comedians who had their moments in other movies and TV shows) but like most great films, it’s not so much the star as it is the ensemble, and this ensemble had some absolutely incredible moments in a movie directed by the same guy who helped make “Old School” so memorable.

It’s a gimmick movie of sorts, but the gimmick works very well. Awesome characters (Zach Galifinakis made himself a career out of his role) and some truly wacky stuff, but what I loved about it all is that while some of the stuff is truly incredible, a lot of it isn’t THAT out of the ordinary, although they do hit on a lot of the cliches you’d have in Las Vegas if you blackout.

It gets on this list thanks to a true standby from yours truly: Seeing it in the theater more than once. It’s also a movie that has a great ebb and flow, and has some truly incredible scenes, most notably the rooftop speech, everything in the morning, the meeting in the desert, and everything involving Mike Tyson. It’s not the first comedy of its kind, but it’s definitely one of the best.

20. Up – 2009

Pixar could have each movie it made in the 2000s on this list if I really wanted to (it has three of them) but we’ll start here with its most recent, a movie that, like most Pixar movies, hits all the right notes in the scope of human emotions. The first 10 minutes of this movie is one of the best montages I’ve ever seen, and if you weren’t at least misty eyed by the end of it, I don’t know if you have a heart, honestly.

The movie in its entirety tells one of the coolest and most original stories that Pixar ever came up with, and has some of their best characters. The best in this movie for me is Dug: a golden retriever that reminds me of my very own, Rudy. Plus, where else are you going to get a battle between two geriatrics like you do at the end of this one?

It’s rewarding, it’s memorable, it’s moving and probably most of all, it’s engaging. You feel for the characters and you want to see them all succeed with their various problems. I once again tip my hat to Pixar for taking such an incredible premise and once again turning it into magic. I went through the Walt Disney Museum in December and saw all these movies that Walt helped create when he first started out, and thought about how lucky I am to be in a time where Pixar, much like Walt Disney did over 60 years ago, is making movies that will live with people in this generation to be passed on to the generations to come. John Lassiter, much like his hero, is turning out to be one of the greatest creative minds of all time.

19. Cidade de Deus (City of God)- 2002

One of the most breathtakingly emotional movies I’ve ever seen, the story of a young boy named “Rocket” growing up in one of the most dangerous places in the world, the slums of Rio de Janerio, Brazil and telling the unbelievable truths that wouldn’t be believed otherwise. It’s filled with shocking moments from beginning to end. It can be hard to watch at some points, and thanks to those emotional moments, it tells a story that sticks with you for a long time to come.

It was a cast of unknowns, with almost everyone having never acted in a movie before, but that didn’t stop them from playing some unbelievable roles. Little Ze, the leader of the main gang in the movie, plays a ruthless boss, someone who isn’t even 18 yet, but holds control over nearly the entire “City of God” region. He kills and rapes without a conscious thought at all, and is quick to turn others against themselves to get what he wants.

The first time I watched it, I prepared myself for a movie that I knew was going to be uncomfortable to watch and emotionally draining, but after watching it, the only thing I could think about was how much the entirety of the movie sticks with you. I didn’t think of the good parts or the bad parts, but how the movie took me on a ride like few others have. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie, regardless of language, that stayed with me like this one did, and that alone should tell you just how highly this movie is held in regard. It’s almost beyond description at points.

18. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan – 2006

Of all the movies on the list, this is probably the one movie that upon first viewing, you come out of saying, “Well, I never expected that.” I knew about Sasha Baron Cohen with “Da Ali G Show” and while the goofiness of his Kazahk newscaster was apparent, I had no idea he would take it as far as he did. And as he did it, it became a phenomenal coagulation of comedic genius, an opportunistic view on the American lifestyle, and a performance that couldn’t be duplicated (even though he tried to with “Bruno.”). How good was it? While it was #1 in box office its first weekend, it actually GAINED money in its second weekend, a rare feat in this day of age for Hollywood.

From the beginning, you saw that all bets were off. In five minutes, he wore shorts that were way too short for his hairiness, a man thong that was beyond the boundaries of good taste, he made out with his sister, and then rode off in a car that was being pulled by a mule with a teenager behind the wheel smoking a cigarette. And he was just getting started.

What followed was a movie that toed the line between farce and a twisted reality show. Borat’s interactions with everyday Americans were incredible. While he mainly made fun of people from the south, its pretty apparent that the message he was trying to get across, that prejudice is still very much alive in the United States, is only an underlying message to his antics. Nevertheless, it’s one of the great modern sociological experiments, and Cohen’s performance, which I think has been taken for granted even if it isn’t necessarily an “award-winning performance”, is one of the better single performances of the decade.

17. Step Brothers – 2008

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are an incredible comedic duo. Their performance in “Talladega Nights” is more widely recognized, but to overlook this movie is just stupid. Playing a couple of overgrown 40-year-olds who haven’t moved out of their respective parents’ houses, the two suddenly become stepbrothers when their parents get married, and must learn to live with each other. Shenanigans ensue.

The beauty of this movie, for me, is that both Ferrell and Reilly just destroy every scene they are in together. It’s weird to think that the movie gets better and better as it goes on, but good lord, I don’t think the movie ever comes down from that initial high of their first fight (complete with Ferrell’s nuts on Reilly’s drum set). That fight, the job hunt, the dinner scene with Ferrell’s brother, PRESTIGE INTERNATIONAL (Boats ‘N Hos will probably be one of my fantasy baseball team names), the sad break up, and, of course, an ending that can only be explained in four words: The Catalina Wine Mixer.< br />
It’s sophomoric, it’s low-brow at points, but it’s a movie that I enjoyed from beginning to end, and for this list, it’s all I really need.

16. Good Night, and Good Luck – 2006

The story of Edward R. Murrow’s attack on the McCarthy era reign of terror is one of the best introspective pieces of historical cinema that I’ve ever seen. Besides the pitch-perfect performance of David Straitham as Murrow, it was a well-structured movie that brought forth a lot of important issues in journalism that have been, for the most part, deemed archaic by today’s journalistic world.

As a broadcaster, I’m sure I won’t touch the excellence of Murrow in his heyday, where he became, along with Walter Kronkite, a pillar of journalistic excellence, but at the same time, watching a movie like this makes you realize the importance that the media plays in society. While the role has changed a great deal since Murrow’s day, the movie shows that just as McCarthy got people riled up with his “Red List” of Communist sympathizers, Murrow was able to shoot down the blanket accusations with a fervent stare into the camera. The movie being shown in black and white only amplifies a simpler time in our country’s society.

My favorite piece of trivia about the movie is that audience feedback from advanced screenings said that the actor that played McCarthy was far too over the top and was unbelievable. This was, of course, before they found out that the footage of McCarthy was REAL. If anything, the way it was shot, the tone, the direction, the movie brings you in to one of the most remarkable times in U.S. history and makes you believe you’re a part of the time period. It’s hidden amongst some of the more well-received movies in the past decade, but it stands out to me as one of the best movies about journalism ever produced.

15. Hustle & Flow – 2005

Like most people, I was drawn to this movie because I was a young black man from Memphis who was hustling and pimping just to get by, and found a love for rapping that I hope would give me my big break.

Yeah, I can’t keep that joke up at all. This is a top flight performance from Terrence Howard as D-Jay, and a really well crafted movie to show the growth of his character. It’s not so much that he grows up and goes straight, but that he realizes that he needs to take care of himself and stop cutting corners. When he stands up to Ludacris at the end for pissing all over his demo, his place in society turns out to be what it always had been, but that by doing things his way, he figured out exactly how to succeed in a world where he had to take everything that was given to him, regardless of how petty it was.

I was really happy to see the movie as critically acclaimed as it was, mainly because it’s a movie that doesn’t really have a big draw. Anthony Anderson was the biggest name in the movie, and he didn’t exactly have a big role under his belt. It’s not necessarily a one man show (Anderson and DJ Qualls are awesome in their roles, as are D-Jay’s girls) but at the same time, Howard took a role that turned him into a big-time actor in Hollywood. He would help make “Crash” an Oscar winner and took a top role in “Iron Man,” but it was this role that got him much well deserved notoriety.

14. Old School – 2003

It was the movie that started it all. There had been movies before with big-time comedic actors in years previous, but this movie ushered in the era of “The Frat Pack.” Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell brought a new brand of comedy to the fold, one that would serve as template for movies like “Wedding Crashers,” “Anchorman” and “Step Brothers.” An irreverent premise if there ever was one, three guys facing a mid-life crisis decide to form a fraternity for the every man. Like many other movies on this list, shenanigans ensue.

The moments are numerous. The corralling of the pledges in a black van set to “Master of Puppets,” the first ritual of trust, Mitch-A-Palooza, Frank the Tank, Frank streaking, the trip to the psychologist, Mitch hooking up with his boss’ daughter (who happens to be in high school), the establishment of the fraternity, the birthday parties, Craig Kilborn playing a complete asshole of a boyfriend in his final movie role, Frank singing “Dust in the Wind,” Cheeeeeeeeeeeeese, the fraternity decathlon, and, of course, the coronation of the frat at the end of the movie.

For a 19-year-old kid coming into his college years, this was my “Animal House.” It’s the movie that will stick with me until my kids get into college, and is almost like a rite of passage for movie watching in my generation. Hell, this was the first movie that I thoroughly enjoyed that I sat down with my dad and watched. That’s how important this movie was to me.

13. The Incredibles – 2004

The second Pixar movie on my list, this was the best movie I had seen Pixar make yet when I first saw it. It was almost like a comic book from the 50s. Espionage, adventure, action, excitement, a phenomenal blend of James Bond and Superman, mixed in with the Fantastic Four and, of all things, early sitcoms.

While not as emotional or heartwarming as the other Pixar movies, this movie accomplishes that “cool” factor that many people believed Pixar hadn’t achieved. People enjoyed the fun fares of their previous films, and understood that they were all striking to make movies that both children and adults could enjoy and relate to, but this was something that really hadn’t been done under the Disney/Pixar banner. DreamWorks and other animation studios were trying to get in on the animated action genre, but it only took ONE Pixar movie for them to perfect it.

If anything, this showed that in the vast imagination at the studios in Emeryville, that even with the stories of family woe, childhood longing and a search for guidance in their lives, that they had a story full of wonder and amazement that took you on a ride like few other live-action movies could. Not only is it one of the best animated movies of the decade, but it’s one of the best action movies of the decade as well, and stands out amongst Pixar’s greatest achievements.

12. Tropic Thunder – 2008

The Robert Downey, Jr. Show. He had been nominated in “Chaplin” and had been one of the best American actors of his generation before drugs took him down, but his comeback in 2007 was nothing short of incredible. He became the center of attention for one of the best comic book origin stories ever made (more on that in Part 2) but it was this role, where he played a blonde haired, blue eyed Australian who goes blackface to play a role in a war epic, that absolutely floored me.

People talked about the Tom Cruise cameo (and rightfully so), but damn it all if Downey didn’t make the movie for me. My first time through, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t enjoy it so much that I would call it a great movie. It took my Uncle Jim and a second viewing to truly understand the movie’s greatness. We marveled at Downey’s performance, and loved the bit roles (Brandon Jackson, Danny McBride and Jay Duchamel were awesome, along with a surprisingly good Chris Farley impersonation from Jack Black and Ben Stiller playing the straight man to the goofiness around him), as this movie suddenly became a tour de force of comedic moments that just wouldn’t stop.

Unlike some of the other movies on my list where there memorable scenes that stand out, this movie is all about the dialogue. All of the roles are basically parodies of the actors who play them, and it’s what they say and how they say that draws you in. In fact, there’s so many things parodied that you really need to stop and think about all the thought that goes into each scene. It’s without a doubt a great piece of comedy, and Downey’s performance is one of
a kind.

11. The Departed – 2006

It’s not Scorsese’s best, not by a long shot. But that’s saying a lot considering that for the fact that it’s a remake of a Hong Kong classic (one of the rare times that Scorsese goes in that direction) it turns out to be a pretty great movie on its own. It’s DiCaprio’s movie to mold, and he’s pretty awesome in it, but the scene stealer is not Jack Nicholson. It’s instead Mark Wahlberg, who owns his role as the only straight cop in the movie.

It’s got all the usual Scorsese quirks. It’s got the quick cut cinematography (You gotta think Michael Bay was a Scorsese fan). It has the classic rock soundtrack. It has the crazy amounts of violence, masochistic behavior, inordinate amounts of cussing, sexual debauchery, a return to a public adult movie theater for the first time since Taxi Driver…but at the same time, it’s such a well crafted movie that you can’t help but notice that for all the usual Scorsese quirks, that those quirks have made some of the best movies in American history.

It’s a great mix of everything that Scorsese does best, and features an all-star cast the likes of which hadn’t been seen in a very long time: a great mix of the old guard of Hollywood (Nicholson, Sheen, Baldwin) and the new guard (DiCaprio, Damon, Wahlberg). It shouldn’t have been the movie that netted Scorsese his first Oscar ever, but it’s still a great movie nonetheless.

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