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The 25 best movies of the decade 2000-2009

This was my first decade reviewing movies full-time, which means I saw a lot of films in the last 10 years (more than you, probably). That made compiling this list much harder than I anticipated. I was originally going to keep it to 10 movies, then 20, but finally had to go with 25 (+1). That was the number I was most comfortable with in terms of what got left out.

Here's the list, in descending order:


25) Talk To Her (Hable con ella) (2002): Out of all the latter-period Pedro Almodovar masterpieces, this one was the best, with Volver a close second.


24) Finding Nemo (2003): I'm a sucker for all things Pixar (except Cars; sorry, Oliver!), but Finding Nemo is the one that remains as fresh today as it did seven years ago - the textbook definition of timeless.


23) Dancer in the Dark (2000): In deciding between this and Dogville, I opted for Dancer in the Dark for the same reasons so many people hate it: Bjork's caterwauling, the discordant musical numbers, the last half-hour in which director Lars Von Trier puts you through such an emotional wringer you almost grow to hate him. Being shamelessly manipulated never felt so good.


22) Requiem For a Dream (2000): I have vivid memories of having to attend a screening of Darren Aronofsky's soul-wrenching drama about drug addiction the same night the last episode of the first season of Survivor was airing and not being happy about this at all. By the time the movie was over, missing Survivor didn't  matter quite as much. Another memory: I was sitting next to this huge (like 6'5) tough guy at the screening who was so pummelled by the film, he started groaning when Aronofsky began to turn the screws. And kept turning. And turning.


21) Zodiac (2007): The more you watch director David Fincher's recreation of the hunt for the San Francisco Zodiac killer, the more you become like the newspaper cartoonist played by Jake Gyllenhaal: Completely obsessed.


20) Almost Famous (2000): "The only true currency in this bankrupt world ... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).


19) Inglourious Basterds (2009): Quentin Tarantino's talky World War II fantasy is the most recent film on this list, and it is too early to tell how the movie will weather the years. My guess: It will become a classic.


18) In the Mood for Love (2000): The art of the mood film, amped up to delirious extremes.


17) The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005): The funniest comedy of the last 10 years gets funnier every time I watch it.


16) Match Point (2005): Woody Allen's first film in exile - on par with his best work from the 1970s - reawakened the director's spirit and creativity. Naysayers complained they liked this story better the first time he told it (in Crimes and Misdemeanors), as if filmmakers aren't allowed to revisit themes from different angles. Someone should inform Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Steven Spielberg and John Ford of this, pronto.


15) Cache (Hidden) (2005): It takes a while - or better yet, a couple of viewings - to fully appreciate the depth and complexity of director Michael Haneke's rich stew about the human instinct to repress the past in order to shun responsibility, all wrapped up in a corker of a thriller. Also: Best closing shot of the decade, which put the answer to the film's central riddle right in front of your face - literally - but many people still didn't see it.


14) Elephant (2003): Gus Van Sant's ethereal meditation on the Columbine shootings was less about the particulars of that tragedy and more about the sensation of high school - the sights, sounds, rituals, emotions.


13) Amores Perros (2000): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu took the interlocking structure of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and used it for something far graver and more dramatic.



12) The Dark Knight (2008) / Spider-Man 2 (2004): How do you like your comic-book movies: Dark and brooding or bright and bouncy? Either way, these two superhero epics proved there is serious populist art to be had from those funny pages. (OK, so I cheated with this one. I just couldn't decide.)


11) Spirited Away (2001): The great Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece is a work of pure unbridled imagination. One of the hardest movies I've ever had to review, because the magical spell Miyazaki weaves defies description.


10) Million Dollar Baby (2004): "Frankie, I've seen you at Mass almost every day for 23 years. The only person comes to church that much is the kind who can't forgive himself for something." - Father Horvak (Brian F. O'Byrne) to boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood).


9) City of God (Cidade de Deus) (2002): Fernando Meirelles beat Martin Scorsese at his own game with this exhilarating - and terrifying - look at life in the most dangerous slums of Rio de Janeiro. The rare kind of movie that is once seen, never forgotten.


8) Brokeback Mountain (2005): I happened to be interviewing Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in a hotel suite at the Toronto Film Festival when director Ang Lee burst in, clutching the Golden Lion statuette the movie had just won a day before at the Venice Film Festival. The three men traded hugs, congratulations and somewhat relieved smiles: They had a hunch, but until that moment, they still didn't know they had made a masterpiece.


7) There Will Be Blood (2007): "I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people ... There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money [so] I can get away from everyone." - Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the performance of the decade.


6) Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) (2006): The fantasy genre came of age in this decade, demanding to be taken seriously with Peter Jackson's momentous Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Guillermo Del Toro's story of a little girl who disappears into a magical, terrible world to escape her dreary reality outdid even Jackson's phenomenal achievement in sheer imagination, adventure and drama.


5) The Departed (2006): Martin Scorsese has made weightier, more important films, but he's never made a better movie-movie - a more absorbing entertainment than this cops-and-robbers drama that dared to stomp on all the rules of the genre. Even if you had seen the Hong Kong original this film was based on, The Departed made every other crime drama of the decade seem lightweight and trivial.


4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): "This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon." "I know." "What do we do?" "Enjoy it." - Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) in the love story of the decade.


3) No Country For Old Men (2007): How do you make sense of a crazy, violent world that seems to have lost its bearings? The melancholy answer - according to Cormac McCarthy and Joel and Ethan Coen - is you can't.


2) Adaptation (2002): In turning Susan Orlean's seemingly unfilmable book The Orchid Thief into a film, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze built a cinematic hall of mirrors that gave me a profound, brain-tickling thrill unlike any movie I had ever seen. Adaptation got loopier and nuttier as it went along, but Kaufman and Jonze never lost control of their one-of-a-kind contraption. Here, truly, is a movie like no other.


1) Mulholland Dr. (2000): If you believe that movies, at their best, are the equivalent of dreaming with your eyes wide open, then there was no more hypnotic reverie this past decade than David Lynch's poisonous ode to Hollywood, the city of - yes - dreams. Reshaped from an unaired TV pilot into a Moebius strip of a film, Mulholland Dr. was beguiling, sensual, terrifying and elusive. Every time you watch it, it feels like a slightly different movie. In dreams, Lynch waits for you.


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I never got why Finding Nemo was such a big deal (Up and The Incredibles are both far more entertaining), and Spiderman 2 is FDO (for dorks only), and Million Dollar Baby is the most overrated movie of the century, but overall not a bad list. I'd move stuff around (Mulholland DRive might be on the list but surely wouldn't be no 1.) and I would add Gladiator - HOW DID YOU LEAVE THAT OFF??? - but I have few quibbles beyond that.


BTW happy to see Adaptation on there. I loved that movie. It's genius.

David O.


It's David Ovalle. You forgot about Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.


Rene Rodriguez

David, I am renting that sucker TONIGHT.

Capitan Justicia


I thought 'City of God' was the best film of the decade, but I'm glad to see it on your top ten list. I thought it was pretty cool how you ranked 'The Dark Knight' and 'Spider-Man 2' the same, I still can't decide which of those is the greatest comic book movie ever. I wish I would have seen 'Y Tu Mamá También' on your list also, I thought it was better than 'Amores Perros'.


What about Lars Von Triers's Antichristo!!!!!!!!! That film is one of the best films of all time!

Other major misses- The Prestige, The Fountain!

And PS-you didn't have to put No Country for Old Men, please There will Be blood was MUCH better. And finding Nemo? you should have picked Pixar's best movie, "Up" or even their second best "Wall E",

Anywya, other picks were good, daring (particularly Mulholland Drive at the top, but for what you said you were right), MAtch Point could have been higher.


Pretty awful list. This decade has been very underwhelming for movies. I mean it since like 03 most movies have SUCKED. Can't compare it to the 90's....Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, American Beauty, Cruel Intentions, Reservoir Dogs, Ace Ventura, Analyze This, A Bronx Tale, Silence of the Lambs, Office Space, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Big Lebowski, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, There's Something About Mary, American Pie, Home Alone, Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, The Fisher King, Carlito's Way, Heat....Have I made my point yet?

Fan of the blog

sin city, baby!!!!!


In the Bedroom? Sissy Spacek was incredible and robbed of the Oscar (that was this decade, right? If not, nevermind!)
Borat? Maybe it's just me but 5 minutes of that made me laugh more than all 90 or so of 40 Year Old Virgin or anything made by those people put together.
Spider-Man 1 made me giddy with delight because after all these years, someone finally got Spidey right on screen. Great as Spider-Man 2 was (and awful as 3 was) that feeling of joy for a fan could not be stronger than that first taste.
Loved Finding Nemo.
Loved Million Dollar Baby.
What? No Mamma Mia!
Jus' kiddin'


I like the fact that most of my top ten are on the list. Amores Perros was my favorite film followed by City of God, Almost Famous, Mulholland dr, Traffic, Memento, Sin City, Dark Knight, Mystic River and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Capitan Justicia

Does anyone else think the second act of the '40 year-old virgin' is weaker than the first act and that the film begins to drag a bit?

Btw, even though 'The Dark Knight' and 'Spider-Man 2' are fantastic, on second thought I still think the epic 'Superman: The Movie'' is the greatest comic book movie of all time.


Mulholland Drive is not the best movie of the decade. It is the best movie ever.

And that includes the future.

No Downfall (Der Untergang)?

I nodded my head to Elephant, There Will Be Blood, City of God and Cache.

Get Requiem for a Dream out of there--it is molasses.

Capitan Justicia

Yesss....the 'Downfall' was amazing! I also think it should have been on that list. Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Hitler was frightening and too realistic for comfort.

I also think Requiem for a Dream should not be there, it's just a movie that junkies would love.


David Lynch is a cup of tea I con't care for. I'd add Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men. Same director but so what, these are turning points in both Mexican and internationalist cinema.


requiem for a dream is not a movie junkies would love. It is a disturbing and accurate look at something that has been ignored for a longtime back in the states and continues to be to this day. it is a masterpiece and one of the best movies ever made, out of hundreds of hundreds, and only a couple of them are even on this list. it is not a movie to love. anyone who has a feeling for love for that movie is just....well there isn't anyone. there is nothing to love about that movie, it is an extremely disturbing movie, but it is still brilliant cinema and a story all around us that we should stop over looking in our own lives and neighborhoods.


Mr. Rodriguez,
I think you may have overlooked these:
The Incredibles
Slumdog Millionaire
The Hangover
Lives of Others
28 Days Later
Maria Full of Grace

Also, I think The Departed was way overrated. Scorsese should have won for Raging Bull. Gran torino was a more interesting story than Million Dollar Baby. And the only good thing about Inglorious basterds was Christoph Waltz...an awesome villain.


Requiem is undiluted pathos. I've been a junkie in Brooklyn too. I never felt the need to be a walking allegory.

I have to exclude the dextroamphetamine-addicted mom from that: she was amazing.

No chemical tragedy has rung so true as Sid and Nancy.


Are you kidding me?? WHERE'S KILL BILL???


I have been a movie-goer for over fifty years and I have not seen anything better than the GODFATHER. One of the best, if not the best of all time.



I agree with Rick. The Godfather = G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time).


Rene - Thank you for this list! I never realized it, but I love that you love to be so uncomfortable in the movies!
The only swap I'd make is Kill Bill for IB, but I'm no expert (like lots of these commenters - Gladiator?! WTF, people?!).

Rene Rodriguez

I don't get the "Gladiator" thing either, Justin. I mean, I liked that movie and all. But settle down now.

And Rick: I agree with you, sir, re "The Godfather." Nothing comes close (except maybe for "The Godfather Part II"). I doubt anything ever will.

As for the absence of "Kill Bill," I'm more of a "Basterd" type.


very good list, rene. well done. I specifically appreciate the positioning of 'no country for old men' and 'in the mood for love.'

I also felt that 'zodiac' was always very underrated. there's something addictive about that movie.

lastly redo this list in five years and might 'inglorious basterds' and perhaps 'up in the air' make some moves?


somebody actually had the nerve to rip on this list and then add frickin' WATERBOY to their list of the best movies. you gotta be kidding me! adam sandler can't act his way out of paper bag. don't completely agree the list by any stretch, but everything on it is certainly better than trash like waterboy. agree with momento, gladiator, the incredibles, lord of the rings and traffic. how about casino royale and blackhawk down.
not fair to compare anything to the godfather, that's as good as cinema gets.
happy new year!

Lazaro Mezquia

Me personally don't like must of the movies on your list, but we agree on one thing there is no movie better than The Godfather,I saw inglorius last night and it was good but top 25 come on be for real, I could name 50 movies better than that.
Every one has different opinion on how they watch and or interpret a particular movie,I respect yours, but must of the time I dont agree with your comments. Happy New Year

Chris Jones

Did someone actually mention Analyze This for the 90's.



Seriously? David Lynch has not done a good film since Blue Velvet. He has tried, but has not done so.


Wow. I agree w/ No. 1, Lynch's trippy limo ride of a film that turns itself inside out.


sure doesnt compare with the bang of star wars...


Yeah, Mulholland Drive. Good statement
putting it at number one. Lynch worked out all ideas right this time that didn't quite succeed in Lost Highway. And nice to see your defending of Match Point as the great movie it is - that one has been ignored by most other "Best of 2000s" list because of some kind of irrational backlash against Allen's movie, which was well-acclaimed at its first release.


I went to see Irreversible back in 2002 after reading your review and I'm not sure if it's one of the top 25 of the decade, but it's definitely one of the most memorable. I will never forget people walking out of the theater out of shock during the subway scene.


Rene, I'm making it a point to watch each movie on your list which I haven't seen yet. Last night I started with Mulholland Dr. Not a very good movie, if you ask me. After watching your #1 pick for the decade I'm having second thoughts of going thru with this. I had the feeling it was more of a "B movie" rather than a "hypnotic reverie" as you so eloquently put it. The movie was slow, seemed like it would drag our forever. And the acting? Let's just say that I've seen better, much much better.


@ Pat
There should be some reason Mulholland Drive is included in about EVERY list of the decade's best movies all over the net. It may seem a little tiresome to tell somebody who didn't like a movie that "he just didn't get it.", but I think that this is simply the case here: You just didn't get it...
Lynch movies will never be everyone's cup of tea.


Got a chance to watch "Adaptation" earlier this evening and I must way that I enjoyed it. I thought it was much better than your #1 movie. Nicolas Cage was terrific. This is definitely one of the decade's top films.

Rene Rodriguez

Happy to hear that, Pat. I absolutely love that movie, but you already knew that. Aren't you happy you didn't stop with "Mulholland Drive"?

Do you know what which one you are watching next?


What a boring list! no love actually! no pursuit of happiness! no avatar! no hangover! no ocean series! no days of summer! very borin n il go 2 sleep!

Ian Smyth

Completely disagree with the Dark Knight with Spider Man 2...The Dark Knight was a masterpiece and Spider Man 2 was...meh...it doesn't even get into this list.

Rene Rodriguez

I couldn't decide which one I like more, so I put them both in. Which is cheating, I know.


Where's Wes Anderson? For my money, there wasn't a better film in the 00s than The Life Aquatic.



A Prophet
Lucky Number Slevin (F'in awesome)
The Royal Tennenbaums (spelling?)
The Man Who Wasn't There

Fight Club (obviously)

The Nines (gets bad reviews but pretty good)
Southland Tales (same case as The Nines)

a khan

what about
a beautiful mind
pride n prejudice
or any of the lord of the rings triology
or even bourne triology
pirates of carribien curse of black pearl
the curious case of benjamin button
the reader n lots more
what is there will be blood doing at no 7


what about the great Iranian films, of Panahi, Majidi, Kiarostami etc?

Zaviar Wun

For what it's worth, Mulholland Dr. is a greater film than the Godfather. The former completely owns it's beguiling narrative layers and doesn't shrift on cryptic sensuality and elusiveness (even while telling what emerges as a remarkably straightforward love and disillusionment story, as literalized through the Hollywood dream factory) while the latter leans too heavily on its contrived universality and ham-fisted handling of the immigrant experience in America. Whoever thought that equating a mob family as a microcosm for specifically-20th century moral bankruptcy was an audacious parallel, needs to revisit some of the pulpier (and admittedly, sometimes hokier) gangster films of the 30s and 40s for a crash course.
Which is to say, your number one makes a lot of sense.
Also, someone above mentioned the lack of Iranian masters. Though Kiarostami is the richer artist (anyone whose filmography includes 90's masterpieces like Close-Up, Through the Olive Trees and the recent Certified Copy, easily earns his place in the canon), I'm inclined to say Panahi had the more rewarding decade for his films (compare Offside to Five Dedicated to Ozu or Crimson Gold to Ten and you'll see what I mean).

Zaviar Wun


hey,where's +1 movie.i only see 25 movies in here.


SOOOOOO SOOOOOO TRUE PAT!!! Where is Kill Bill? THat is one of the best movies ever made! Actually, maybe anything by Quentin Tarantino. But definitely Kill Bill!

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