The past 15 years in cinema has been a wild yet thrilling year that saw so many great films. In honor of these past 15 years, I present a list of 150 films of these 15 years that I love starting from 150 to 121.
150. Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s eerie yet evocative documentary about Timothy Treadwell and his love of grizzly bears is certainly one of the strangest yet finest films of the 2000s. Only a filmmaker like Herzog could find the soul within the story of a man who was either delusional or trying to do something right. Yet, it is told with a sense of irony along with an eerie moment where Herzog listens to the tape of what happened the day Treadwell and his girlfriend at the time were killed by a bear. It’s a moment where Herzog makes a decision as a human being rather than a filmmaker as it relates to the contents of that audio tape where it among one of the finest moments in film.
149. A Serious Man
Joel and Ethan Coen’s re-telling of the famous story of Job is one of the most intriguing studies of man coming to terms with loss and neglect. Set in the late 1960s where the Coen Brothers go back to their days as children in a Jewish community in Minnesota. Featuring a breakthrough leading performance from Michael Stuhlbarg, the film is a comical take on the story of Job that plays into the idea of existence and faith. Especially as it plays into a world where old ideas of 1950s morals mixed in with the new age of drugs and chaos of the 1960s as the scene of Stuhlbarg’s son meeting a rabbi while being high is a fucking hoot.
148. Blue Valentine
Love stinks and Derek Cianfrance’s film is an example of how things can seem to go right early on until marriage and responsibility arrives where love can’t conquer all. Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, the film has a unique narrative that moves back and forth from a time where these two people meet and fall in love to a time where they cope with responsibility and raising a family as they couldn’t be more apart. It’s a film that plays into the world of marriage while not being afraid of being tough and real that many films wouldn’t go into.
147. American Psycho
Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel is certainly one for the ages as it is the film that marks Christian Bale’s arrival into the public stratosphere. A film that is wild in terms of sex and violence while being a study of a man driven by his own image, desire to succeed, and willingness to conform in the world of Wall Street. It is also one that manages to be very funny in a sick yet darkly-comical way in the way Bale talks about the brilliance of Huey Lewis and the News before killing Jared Leto with an axe or chasing Cara Seymour with a chainsaw while being completely naked.
146. Wet Hot American Summer
“You taste like a burger. I don’t like you anymore”. A comedy that wasn’t initially appreciated upon its release yet it was the film that would be not just a very smart and off-the-wall spoof of sorts of camp movies but this was different. Notably as it features members of the comedy troupe the State along with then-newcomers Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks while Paul Rudd would reinvent himself as the go-to guy for bro-based comedy. It’s a film that is extremely silly but it has a lot of heart and characters to love.
145. Guardians of the Galaxy
In the age of superhero films where a lot happens and things get taken too seriously, this film from Marvel is anything but serious. What happens when you bring in a human named Star Lord, two aliens, a talking raccoon, and a plant-like creature named Groot to save the universe? A lot of strange things can happen yet it’s a film that manages to bring in something for everyone while being armed with one hell of a music soundtrack. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to be fun while having all sorts of things audiences want in a blockbuster film and more.
The late Brazilian Formula One racer Ayrton Senna is an icon to the world of Formula One racing as it is told with great style by Asif Kapadia using only existing footage and rare home movies of Senna without any new interviews. It’s a documentary that doesn’t just transcend the conventions of a sports documentary but manages to be so much more as it plays into the man’s life and the tragedy of his death during a race. At the same time, it shows a man who was really humble and was a true people’s champion as it is a rare film that manages to do so much to a man who just wanted to be a good racer.
143. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
In an age where the documentary genre was being popularized and sensationalized in the era of Michael Moore and post-9/11 turmoil, Errol Morris would bring the genre back to Earth with one of his most chilling films of his career. Talking with the former Secretary of Defense during the 1960s under the administration of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the film is a study into the fallacies of war with McNamara revealing many things that proved to be true in the wake of the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. Notably as it plays into some of the things that McNamara did where the idea that history is written by winners is actually not true since there is a whole lot more to the idea of history.
142. In America
Jim Sheridan’s very personal tale of an Irish family coming to America to start a new life in the wake of tragedy is definitely one of the most moving stories of the 2000s. Largely told from the perspective of Sarah Bolger’s character as one of two young girls living with her family in New York City’s section of Hell’s Kitchen. The film isn’t just a unique exploration into the world of immigrants searching for the American Dream but also a moving story about family and hope in the Land of Opportunities.
141. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Peter Weir’s 2003 adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s series of adventure novels is among one of the most ambitious and under-seen films of the past 15 years. A story of comrades and strategy, the film features Russell Crowe in one of his finest performances of his career as well as a strong supporting performance from Paul Bettany where the two men play into the ideals of what it takes to chase a French warship in the middle of the sea. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, it would’ve been a boring story but Peter Weir makes it far more engaging as it features sumptuous images from Russell Boyd’s cinematography and evocative sound design.
140. Memories of Murder
Bong Joon-Ho’s murder mystery definitely defies convention as it plays into the real-life events of a series of murders that happened during the 1980s that remains unsolved. While it’s a film that features two mismatched partners working together to solve this crime, it’s a film that plays into what these two men would do to solve this case as it also about the sense of terror that looms over these killings. It’s a film that is suspense at its finest as well as a film that doesn’t play by the rules as it focuses on what men try to do to make things right in a world that is very complicated.
The film that would make Christopher Nolan a major name in cinema would be in the form of a neo-noir film told backwards. It’s a film that plays into the idea of memory and intrigue where Nolan would play with conventional narratives while fleshing out top-notch performances from Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano. Armed with dazzling images and moments that play into what is real or what is fiction into the mind of a man with no sense of memory. The result is an inventive and thrilling film that would pave the way for one of cinema’s most unique visionaries.
138. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s wuxia epic is definitely one of the most visually-beautiful films ever created. A film that would revive the genre and introduce to a new audience, Lee’s story is a mixture of love and honor as well as lots of swordfights and sprawling images. Lee would create something that had a lot at stake in terms of a sword that a thief has taken while a master tries to lure the thief into giving her a sense of honor as it is one of Lee’s finest films.
John Cameron Mitchell’s sophomore feature is certainly one of the most daring films of the 2000s. Notably as it told the story of various people trying to find fulfillment through sex whether it’s gay, straight, or anything while Mitchell also took major risks in making a film with un-simulated sex. Films like that would attract attention but Mitchell and his cast would find more to say about people trying to find love or some kind of connection no matter how complicated things are.
136. Monsoon Wedding
Mira Nair’s story of a family wedding is definitely one of the richest films to come out of India in terms of its visual beauty and study of family. Led by Naseeruddin Shah, the film is truly an exquisite yet whimsical tale about a group of people dealing with an upcoming traditional wedding as well as family secrets. At the same time, it is a film where a man copes with changes in his family as well as the ideas of tradition in a world that is ever-changing where he would eventually find a balance between the two worlds.
135. High Fidelity
Stephen Frears’ adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel is an exploration into the world of a man coming to terms with himself following a break-up. Featuring a career-defining performance from John Cusack, it’s a film that isn’t just for people who love music and record stores at a time when there were record stores. It’s a film about love itself where Cusack’s character deals with failed love affairs and the fact that he needs to grow up. It’s also a film that has a fucking great soundtrack.
134. Letters from Iwo Jima
The second of Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima story would have him create one of the most unlikely films made by an American filmmaker. Refusing to believe that history is written by winners, Eastwood’s film tells the battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese as they struggle to defend an island as well as retain some sort of honor. Led by Ken Watanabe, the film is a compelling portrait of war as it reveals that the Japanese are just human like everyone else while they deal with the methods of war as Watanabe’s character is a man of the old school.
133. The Proposition
For anyone who thought the western was dead in the 21st Century were in for a rude awakening when John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave decided to bring it back from the dead. This time around, it would be set in their native Australia where a criminal is asked to retrieve his far more crazed brother as it is one of the darkest and most dreary westerns ever created. Most notably as it is set in an unforgiving landscape where it is as if the western had suddenly emerged from Hell.
132. Meek's Cutoff
Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist take on a historical incident during the Oregon trail in 1845 is a strange yet exhilarating film that doesn’t just subvert expectations of the western genre. It’s also an unlikely feminist feature that marks Reichardt’s second collaboration with Michelle Williams as it plays into a group of settlers reaching towards Oregon led by an eccentric guide where Williams’ character is among the small band of woman who feel left out in making decisions. Especially where she is the one who suspects that something isn’t right and that they’re going nowhere as it is a very unlikely feminist film that manages to say something without being heavy-handed.
131. The Grandmaster
Following a period that saw the Hong Kong director part ways with one of his greatest collaborators and make an ill-fated film in America that drew criticism from fans and critics. Wong Kar-Wai came back with a vengeance in his unconventional bio-pic of sorts of the kung fu master Ip Man. In its original 130-minute Chinese cut, the film is filled with dazzling visuals and a sprawling narrative that refuses to play by the rules as it a Wong Kar-Wai film in the purest form in terms of its gorgeous visuals and dramatic tension.
130. Pride and Prejudice
Joe Wright would arrive to the cinema with one hell of a debut film in an inspired adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. With Keira Knightley in the role of Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew McFayden as Mr. Darcy, the film is a period drama that features a lot of humor and drama that is expected in these adaptations but with a sense of liveliness that isn’t seen very often. Most notably as Knightley and McFayden are supported by a great ensemble that includes Donald Sutherland, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Brenda Blethyn, Judi Dench, Kelly Reilly, and Jena Malone that would give Wright a chance to arrive to the world of cinema with a bang.
129. The Avengers
“Enough! You above all are beneath me! I am a god you dull creature and I refuse to be bullied by some…” “Puny god”. The mega-superhero film audiences were waiting for as Joss Whedon’s take on the comic book series that brings such characters as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Incredible Hulk together to face off against the bad guys. It is a film that isn’t just pure entertainment but also with brains that manages to make these characters far more interesting and giving the audiences reason to root for them. Most notably the Hulk as Mark Ruffalo would steal the show as Bruce Banner and the Hulk as he would bring that character to life in a way that makes everyone goes nuts.
Alexander Payne’s adaptation of Rex Pickett’s novel is an ode of sorts to 1960s Italian cinema where it revolves around two guys going on a road trip to the California wine country before one of them gets married. A film filled with existential musings on the world as well as comments about wine and women. The film isn’t just one of Alexander Payne’s funniest films but also one of his most endearing thanks in part to the performances of Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh along with why Pinot Noir is better than Merlot.
Pedro Almodovar is a god in the world of cinema as his third collaboration with Penelope Cruz is their best so far as it also marks a reunion between Almodovar and Carmen Maura following a fifteen-year break. A film that plays into two sisters and one of their daughters wondering if their mother has really died while it has all sorts of mystical things about death. It’s also a film about secrets and redemption as it is set in the land of La Mancha were Almodovar is from as it’s a film that isn’t just personal but also worldly where Almodovar manages to infuse something that everyone can relate to that involves farts.
126. Paranoid Park
Gus Van Sant’s skateboarding drama marks not just another high point in the director’s career but it is also a film that plays into a young boy coping with death as well as growing up in Portland’s famed Burnside Skatepark. Adapting Blake Nelson’s novel wouldn’t just allow Van Sant to use mostly non-professional actors to capture a sense of realism but also infuse it with the dazzling visuals of Rain Kathy Li and Christopher Doyle to capture something poetic in the world of skateboarding that isn’t seen very often in films. Even as Van Sant would stray conventions and use the music of Nino Rota to help tell the story.
Michael Haneke’s chilling tale of guilt and voyeurism is one of his most unsettling films to date. Most notably as it plays into a man and his wife receiving strange videos shot outside their home. It is a film that is an intriguing study of guilt and dark secrets that could destroy a man and his family while he attempts to find some redemption only to be confronted by his own past. It is a film that would also feature one of the most talked about endings ever in film and certainly one that’s been interpreted for so many years.
Richard Linklater’s 12-year project that chronicles the life and growth of a young boy is certainly one of the boldest achievements in cinema. With the aid of regular collaborator Ethan Hawke as well as Patricia Arquette, his daughter Lorelei, and Ellar Coltrane as the boy in the film. Linklater’s film is an experience that isn’t seen very much in American cinema where it plays into a boy’s life as he endures not just the frequent absences of his father but also the ill-fated marriages that his mother would have and growing pains that many would deal with during that period in life.
123. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s World War II dream project is definitely one of his most magnificent films of his career. Especially as it is infused with lots of humor from Brad Pitt’s attempt to speak Italian with a Southern accent to the breakthrough performances of Christoph Waltz as the charismatic Nazi officer Hans Landa and Melanie Laurent as the Jewish movie theater own Shoshanna. It’s a film filled with gratuitous violence as well as lots of warped humor, it is truly a balls-to-the-walls film that isn’t afraid to subvert the ideas of history and do whatever it takes to get everyone in believing that killing Adolf Hitler is cool.
122. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s seventh feature film marked a change of sorts for the director in not just making a film that largely focused on the adventures of children. It’s also his first period film as it’s set in the early 1960s where a young girl and a boy scout run away together prompting the girl’s parents, a local sheriff, and a scoutmaster to find them. It’s a film that has a lot of elements that is expected from Anderson in terms of dazzling visuals and quirky characters but it is also one of his most accessible films to date.
121. Under the Sand
Francois Ozon’s fourth feature film wouldn’t just mark the return of one of cinema’s great actresses in Charlotte Rampling but it would also introduce her to a new generation of filmgoers. The film is an exploration of death where Rampling’s husband in the film goes missing where he is presumed dead as she copes with his loss but also tries to move on. Even as she takes on a new lover while dealing with the idea that her husband is still alive as it’s a dark but exotic film.
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© thevoid99 2015