By Roger Moore
How do you begin to pick the best movies in an evolutionary-revolutionary decade of film? In 10 years, the movies went digital (and not just the cartoons). Great talents emerged, greater talents reached their zenith, new genres were born, new ways of telling stories materialized. Here are 10 that I make the time to watch again, that “changed things,” or the likes of which we may never see on a big screen again.
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003): It’s disheartening to think that we may never see a historical action epic like this again. Peter Weir channeled his inner David Lean for this throwback classic, the only film of its kind and caliber to come out of Hollywood since “Titanic.”
“Memento”/“Amores Perros” (2000): The “puzzle picture” genre was perfected and launched pretty much at the same time in Christopher Nolan’s told-out-of-order thriller about a man (Guy Pearce) with short-term memory loss on a mission of revenge, and in Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu’s Mexican street-life thriller.
“Finding Nemo” (2003): Other parents will back me up on this. This is still the Pixar film that holds up best under repeated viewings. “Nemo” set the bar so high — in terms of story, performance, look and box-office expectations. “Nemo,” an epic, heartfelt quest tale starring a clown fish, is the best film in computer-animated history.
“Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004): The “essay” documentary was invented by others (Ross McElwee, “Sherman’s March,” 1986). But the passionate, political point-of-view jeremiad came of age during the 2004 presidential election, when Michael Moore made a movie that said a lot of things that enraged half the country, and invigorated the other half.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004): The sensibilities of writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry eccentrically collide in the best romance of the past 10 years, a movie of poignant longing and love, wistfully remembered. No matter what memory scrubbing science may come up with, even the pain is worth hanging onto after a romance goes wrong. Kate Winslet was a romantic spitfire to end all spitfires and Jim Carrey will never, ever be better in a serio-comic role.
“Bloody Sunday” (2002): For my money, Paul Greengrass was THE director of the decade. His nervy, political thrillers, with their pacing, their passion, their seizure-inducing editing, set the tone for what action looks like on the big screen.
“Millions” (2004): If the dazzling warmth and humanity of Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” took you by surprise, that’s only because you missed his earlier kids-coping-with-adult-dilemmas piece, this gloriously life-affirming child’s view of money, magic and innocence. “Slumdog” is an embraceable epic. “Millions” was more intimate, just as thrilling and every bit as emotional.
“300” (2006): “Sin City” gave us the whole green-screen sets, lurid comic-book movie look, first, back in 2005. But turn that technique loose on an epic battle, with epic heroes and history filtered through comic book genius Frank Miller and you have the best comic book/graphic novel adaptation. Ever.
“The Departed”: Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winner isn’t his all-time best film, but it is still a riveting, ticking-clock thriller that gave birth to a new genre — the cell-phone thriller.