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Take Twenty

The best (mostly American) films of the '00s.



20. “The Departed” (2006, Martin Scorsese) With the help of an outstanding ensemble cast, Scorsese delivers the undisputed top cop movie of the decade, a worthy complement to his earlier masterpiece “Goodfellas.”

19. “You Can Count on Me” (2000, Kenneth Lonergan) The Rosetta Stone for the hope-affirming indie dramas that proliferated in the 2000s. Its stars, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney (opposite a young Rory Culkin), would repeat similar roles in similar movies throughout the decade, but never quite this effectively. The imitators are legion.

18. “Atonement” (2007, Joe Wright) Contemporary filmmaking is so boundless, creating whole worlds and creatures out of thin air, we sometimes take the current industry's more earthbound accomplishments for granted. Wright's thwarted lovers (James McAvoy and Kiera Knightly) create an emblem for the wasteful destruction wrought by war, but the movie is also simply, strikingly gorgeous.

17. “Broken Flowers” (2005, Jim Jarmusch) Who guessed when Bill Murray was creating over-the-top goofballs for movies like “Caddyshack” and “Stripes” that 20 years later he'd distill his comic persona into the bitterly laconic Don Johnston, begrudgingly “checking in” on five former girlfriends while in search of a secret son? Jarmusch might not have been the first to bring out this side of the actor, but his own austere style works it into an unforgettable pressure-cooker of middle-aged ennui.

16. “The Road” (2009, John Hillcoat) Too often even supposedly true stories in the movies arrive with a polish of wishful thinking. Not true of this admirably spare adaptation, which imagines what people would really resort to if left to their own devices by global catastrophe.

15. “The Dreamers” (2003, Bernardo Bertolucci) Unrepentantly pretentious, but for a good cause: Bertolucci's film, about an American abroad (Michael Pitt) who meets a beguiling brother and sister (Eva Green and Louis Garrel), is a celebration of cinema, including Garbo, Bardot, Groucho and Godard, its backdrop the artistic, social and political upheaval of '60s Paris.

14. “The Squid and the Whale” (2005, Noah Baumbach) Baumbach's comic look at a family going through divorce feels more refined the more you watch it, each character a memorable individual rather than a type. The filmmaker's “Margot at the Wedding” is equal as a dysfunctional-family routine, just not as endlessly watchable.

13. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004, Michel Gondry) The nature of memory and desire is revealed through brilliant nonlinear storytelling and fanciful movie magic. 
12. “Sideways” (2004, Alexander Payne) Movie realism doesn't have to involve battles and explosions to be frightening. This slice of contemporary life of aging singles is so unflinchingly candid it's easy to ignore the sad futility and fear boiling below the surface comedy.

11. “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson) Adam Sandler's entire wasted career is redeemed in Barry Egan, the repressed heterosexual in this comic drama about a man who struggles to exert his will. Anderson's use of color, light and sound is as fantastically distinct as his disturbed but well-meaning character.

10. “Adaptation” (2003, Spike Jonze) Provoked the first nomination for a fictional screenwriter in the history of the Academy Awards, for Donald Kaufman, fictional brother of real-life Charlie, the writer who brazenly inserts himself (Nicolas Cage) into the screen adaptation he's been hired to write.

9. “Y Tu MamA­ TambiAcn” (2001, Alfonso CuarA3n) “Amores Perros” may have introduced Mexican filmmaking to the aughts, but this story about a couple of impish high-school grads (Diego Luna and Gael GarcA-a Bernal) embarked on a weekend getaway with an older woman (Maribel VerdA§) smashed through with its tale of a dying person taking one last gasp of life.

8. “The Aviator” (2004, Martin Scorsese) Scorsese's biopic about billionaire playboy Howard Hughes should have been the film that won him his long-awaited Oscar. With many attributes, from a bold attempt at replicating period color processes to the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and costars, this is the kind of sturdy, exciting entertainment more mainstream movies should strive to imitate.

7. “The New World” (2005, Terrence Malick) As much as other films of the decade examined our modern circumstances from a contemporary perspective, Malick's last film excavates the underlying frailty of human imagination and sympathy in this contemplative rediscovery of an American foundation myth.

6. “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” (2001, Steven Spielberg) Spielberg's futuristic fairytale questions what it means to be human with an eye toward our possible evolutionary fate. Haley Joel Osment turns in the child performance of the decade as a mechanical boy trying to become real, with Jack Angel's voice work as a sidekick named Teddy in its own way as endearing as Cliff Edwards' Jiminy Cricket.

5. “There Will Be Blood” (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson) The capitalist (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the clergyman (Paul Dano): the two principal figures striving, alternately in concert and in contention, for souls and their coin behind the veil of the American dream in Anderson's visually stunning epic of salesmanship and the destruction left in its grasping wake at the turn of the last century.

4. “Mulholland Dr.” (2001, David Lynch) Sometimes the dark prince of the phantasmagorical soap opera is being so literal the results just look surreal, as in the more direct jabs Lynch takes at the entertainment industry in his most artistically successful film since “Blue Velvet.”

3. “Brokeback Mountain” (2005, Ang Lee) It broke through not only as a semimainstream, Hollywood-produced story about life in the closet, but also in the most mythically American of film genres, with a performance by Heath Ledger as the imploding Ennis Del Mar that is one for the ages.

2. “About Schmidt” (2002, Alexander Payne) “You devoted your life to something meaningful.” So claims the best friend at the retirement party for actuary Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), who spends the rest of this hilarious satire of middle-America painfully realizing from the wheel of a gigantic RV that it might not really be true.

1. “Birth” (2004, Jonathan Glazer) Booed at its Venice premiere, Glazer's psychological thriller is a hypnotic story about a widow (an exceptional Nicole Kidman) and an uncanny little boy (Cameron Bright) who insists he's her dead husband. From the evocative opening tracking shot of a black human silhouette running against a snowy backdrop to its unsettling conclusion, the film is a powerful, rhythmic combination of narrative and expressionistic elements, itself spellbinding.

… and the rest of the best:

21. “Bright Star” (2009, Jane Campion)
22. “Lost in Translation” (2003, Sofia Coppola)
23. “Paranoid Park” (2007, Gus Van Sant)
24. “Margot at the Wedding” (2007, Noah Baumbach)
25. “Closer” (2004, Mike Nichols)
26. “The Pianist” (2002, Roman Polanski)
27.  “Sexy Beast” (2001, Jonathan Glazer)
28. “Gangs of New York” (2002, Martin Scorsese)
29. “The Wrestler” (2008, Darren Aronofsky)
30. “The Saddest Music in the World” (2003, Guy Maddin)
31. “The Virgin Suicides” (2000, Sofia Coppola)
32. “Ghost World” (2001, Terry Zwigoff)
33. “Children of Men” (2006, Alfonso CuarA3n)
34. “La Vie en Rose” (2007, Olivier Dahan)
35. “Vera Drake” (2004, Mike Leigh)
36. “Two Lovers” (2009, James Gray)
37. “Capote” (2005, Bennett Miller)
38. “Saraband” (2003, Ingmar Bergman)
39. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004, Wes Anderson)
40. “Gosford Park” (2001, Robert Altman)
41. “No Country for Old Men” (2007, Joel & Ethan Coen)
42. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (2007, Andrew Dominik)
43. “Before Night Falls” (2000, Julian Schnabel)
44. “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” (2006, Ken Loach)
45. “Match Point” (2005, Woody Allen)
46. “Best in Show” (2000, Christopher Guest)
47. “Revolutionary Road” (2008, Sam Mendes)
48. “Synecdoche, N.Y.” (2008, Charlie Kaufman)
50. “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003, Peter Weir)
51. “Cast Away” (2000, Robert Zemeckis)
52. “Vanilla Sky” (2001, Cameron Crowe)
53. “Monster” (2003, Patty Jenkins)
54. “The House of Mirth” (2000, Terence Davies)
55. “The Bourne Identity” (2002, Doug Liman)
56. “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001, Wes Anderson)
57. “Burn After Reading” (2008, Joel and Ethan Coen)
58. “Bowling for Columbine” (2002, Michael Moore)
59. “In the Cut” (2003, Jane Campion)
60. “Memento” (2001, Christopher Nolan)
61. “A History of Violence” (2005, David Cronenberg)
62. “Marie Antoinette” (2006, Sofia Coppola)
63. “Magnolia” (2000, Paul Thomas Anderson)
64. “In the Mood for Love” (2000, Wong Kar-Wai)
65. “High Fidelity” (2000, Stephen Frears)
66. “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (2000, Jim Jarmusch)
67. “The Cat's Meow” (2001, Peter Bogdanovich)
68. “Palindromes” (2005, Todd Solondz)
69. “Russian Ark” (2002, Alexander Sokurov)
70. “Scotland, PA” (2002, Billy Morrissette)
71. “The Lady and the Duke” (2001, Eric Rohmer)
72. “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” (2005, Martin Scorsese)
73. “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006, Larry Charles)
74. “Eastern Promises” (2007, David Cronenberg)
75. “The Queen” (2006, Stephen Frears)
76. “Tideland” (2006, Terry Gilliam)
77. “The Kid Stays in the Picture” (2002, Brett Morgen)
78. “Team America: World Police” (2004, Trey Parker)
79. “The Proposition” (2005, John Hillcoat)
80. “Batman Begins” (2005, Christopher Nolan)
81. “Downfall” (2005, Oliver Hirschbiegel)
82. “Zodiac” (2007, David Fincher)
83. “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” (2005, Michael Winterbottom)
84. “The Brown Bunny” (2004, Vincent Gallo)
85. “Bubble” (2005, Steven Soderbergh)
86. “Wendy and Lucy” (2008, Kelly Reichardt)
87. “Black Hawk Down” (2001, Ridley Scott)
88. “Fay Grim” (2006, Hal Hartley)
89. “Wassup Rockers” (2006, Larry Clark)
90. “The Man Who Wasn't There” (2001, Joel Coen)
91. “Shadow of the Vampire” (2000, E. Elias Merhige)
92. “2 Days in Paris” (2007, Julie Delpy)
93. “24 Hour Party People” (2002, Michael Winterbottom)
94. “We Own the Night” (2007, James Gray)
95. “The Lives of Others” (2006, Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck)
96. “Elephant” (2003, Gus Van Sant)
97. “Amores Perros” (2001, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
98. “Alpha Dog” (2007, Nick Cassavettes)
99. “Solaris” (2002, Steven Soderbergh)
100. “Brick” (2006, Rian Johnson)


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