For the fifth and final part in this list of my 150 Favorite Films of 2000-2015 (that isn’t Lost in Translation) comes the final 30 films from 30 to 1. Before we go into that list, here is a list that I posted of150 more films from that period that unfortunately didn’t make the final cut. It was hard enough to put in 150 films but the past 15 years in cinema brought in a lot of great films. Here are the final 30:
30. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Love stinks as this film ponders what happens if heartbreak wants someone to get rid of memories of the person they just broke up with. That is what Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman came up with in this whimsical yet evocative tale of heartbreak and love. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as the two both play against type, the film explores the importance of love as Carrey’s Joel character would be inside his head realizing how much Winslet’s Clementine means to her. With a strong supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson as well as gorgeous visuals by Ellen Kuras. The film is truly one of the most inventive and charming love stories ever told.
29. Under the Skin
In this adaptation of Michael Farber’s sci-fi novel comes one of the most unusual yet enchanting sci-fi films of the 21st Century. While it does have elements of the Walter Tevis novel The Man Who Fell to Earth that was famous adapted in 1976 by Nicolas Roeg that starred David Bowie. Jonathan Glazer and co-screenwriter Walter Campbell would create something that was very different as it played into an alien who pretends to be a woman as she would lure men into a trap in Glasgow, Scotland as she would eventually discover humanity and the world they live. Starring Scarlett Johansson in what is a performance for the ages, the film is a keen study into the world of what an alien would encounter as the film would also feature a chilling score by Mica Levi, Johnnie Burns’ intricate sound design, and the ravishing photography of Daniel Landin.
28. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
After a period of making very dramatic-heavy yet morose films about death, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu would make a big change as his fifth film would explore a film actor’s attempt to make a comeback through a stage play as he contends with ego, disappointment, and impending failure. Shot in a very continuous one-shot shooting style with the aid of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the film plays into a man trying to escape his past as a film star who was famous for playing a superhero. Starring Michael Keaton in the performance of his career, it’s a film that plays into a sense of madness as it features a great ensemble that includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, and Lindsay Duncan as it is one of the most adventurous and intriguing studies of art and the will to suffer for it.
27. Dogtown and Z-Boys
The world of documentaries in the 21st Century covered a lot of things from the world of Formula One racing, animal attacks, musicians, the environment, art, and all sorts of crazy subjects. Yet, it is Stacey Peralta who would create a documentary that doesn’t just explore the world of skateboarding in the 1970s but also reveal his role in revolutionizing the sport along with a group of surfers-turned-skaters known as the Z-Boys. Featuring narration by Sean Penn, the film plays into the way skating culture when from a simple fad in the early 60s into the extreme sport that would take the world by the storm from the 1980s and beyond. Most notably as Peralta would incorporate a soundtrack that adds not just a sense of visual poetry to the skating but also into the sense of excitement where the Z-Boys took down the skating champions of the 60s like vermin.
26. Laurence Anyways
Most filmmakers by their third film would try to refine their craft or do something challenging. What Xavier Dolan did in his early 20s with his third film would create not just one of the most boldest love stories ever made but also a film that would subvert the ideas of gay-straight love affairs. While it is a simple story about a man who decides to become a woman and the woman who is supporting this decision. It is one that is filled with a lot of complexities in terms of its study of characters as Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement would bring a lot to their respective roles as Laurence and Fred. A film that is also unafraid to be style over substance in terms of its colorful visuals and a mesmerizing soundtrack. The film is truly a landmark film for not just gay/lesbian/transgender cinema but also in the way romantic films can find new ideas.
Another strange love story which involves a man and an operating system would turn out to be one of the finest and most touching films of the 2010s. From Spike Jonze comes the story of a man who is going through a divorce falls in love with this operating system who has something that is unexpected in machines which are emotions. With Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role of Theodore and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of the OS named Samantha, the film is very moving as it transcends the concept of sci-fi as Jonze and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoyetema would go for something is strikingly exotic in its visuals where it would feel futuristic but also very present. Along with a supporting cast that includes Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt along with a soundtrack that features music by Owen Pallett, Arcade Fire, and Karen O.
24. American Splendor
The 21st Century saw the rise of comics and graphic novels not only come to life on the big screen but it would also pave the way for stories that weren’t about superheroes being told. Among them is the late Harvey Pekar whose titular series of comics would play into his daily struggles as a hospital file clerk as Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman would tell his story in a strange mix of documentary and dramatization. With the real Pekar and his wife Joyce appearing in the film as themselves, the film would also feature Paul Giamatti in a break-out performance as Pekar in the dramatic side of the film with Hope Davis as Joyce. It’s a film that isn’t just very comical at times but also very touching to see how much Pekar’s work managed to touch the common individual proving that even ordinary stories have something to offer for everyone.
23. The Social Network
In this dramatic telling of the founding of Facebook comes one of the most provocative stories about the rise of a few people who started this little idea that would change the world yet would come apart by greed and betrayal. From director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin comes this very unique story that plays into not just the founding of Facebook but also how its founders would screw each other over along the way. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, the film plays into a group of guys that started something from their own dorm while there’s others who felt their idea was stolen. Add the eerie score music by Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor and collaborator Atticus Ross comes a film that marks as a tremendous tale of greed and power.
In the second part of Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance trilogy comes a film that doesn’t just reinvent the revenge film. It would be an exploration into loss and how the past can sometimes never run away from anyone. Starring Choi Min-sik as Dae Su, the film doesn’t just reinvent the idea of action cinema but also in how brutal the violence can be as well as be displayed in a manner that is stylistic but also filled with terror. Most notably the sequence where Dae Su battles a group of men with only a hammer as it adds to the intensity of the violence. The film would also feature one of the most fucked-up twists ever created in cinema as it remains one of the most shocking moments in cinema as well as its aftermath. It is also the film that doesn’t just bring visibility to Park himself but also South Korea as the country would emerge as a country that had new ideas to tell.
21. Never Let Me Go
In this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel comes one of the most unusual but heart-wrenching sci-fi films of the 2010s. Directed by Mark Romanek and adapted into script by Alex Garland, the film plays into the lives of those whose fates have already been sealed as it is told in three different decades as three young people are tasked to become organ donors for a futuristic dystopia. Featuring a cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson, and Charlotte Rampling. It’s a film that plays into those that try to see if they can have a life outside of their fates but also see if they do mean anything to a world that is very complicated.
20. Gone Girl
From novelist Gillian Flynn comes one of the most fucked up love stories ever made as it’s about a guy who meets a girl. They fall in love and get married but things go wrong as the guy then notices his wife has gone missing and is then accused of killing her. Helmed by David Fincher, the film isn’t just one of the director’s darkest films but it’s also one of his funniest as it’s a mixture of mystery and satire where it makes fun of media coverage and all sorts of things. While it has a great ensemble cast led by Ben Affleck that would also include Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and Patrick Fugit. The real star is Rosamund Pike as Amy as the woman who is supposedly killed by her husband as she is probably one of the greatest characters in film.
19. Holy Motors
Returning from what had been a long hiatus from the cinema despite a short film and a few minor projects in the 2000s, Leos Carax would return with a bang in what is one of the most surreal yet fascinating portraits about cinema itself. Starring longtime collaborator Denis Lavant comes this strange story in which Lavant plays a man who inhabits many characters to fit into an environment where it’s playing a CGI character, a musician, a singer, or some raging lunatic named Merde. It’s a film that doesn’t just play as a tribute to cinema but also into how whimsical it is as it’s a film that refuses to play by any kind of rules or flesh out any kind of convention as it is a tremendous accomplishment from Carax.
18. Pan's Labyrinth
For anyone that believes fairy tales is for children would think twice as Guillermo del Toro would make something that is far more complex and broader for an audience that was looking for something different. Set during the final days of the Spanish Civil War, the film revolves around a young girl whose love of fairy tales and books has her encountering a fantasy labyrinth world that could help her in the real world. A mixture of horror, war, and children’s fantasy, del Toro’s film is a chilling yet enchanting story that manages to bring so much yet features an air of innocence that is rarely seen in films. Especially for a film that is very dark and not in the English language as it is a major achievement for international cinema.
17. In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-Wai’s 2000 film is probably one of the most exotic and gorgeous love stories ever told as it is part of an informal trilogy that began with 1991’s Days of Being Wild and 2004’s 2046. Yet, it is a film that stands on its own as it revolves around two people who learn that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. Starring Tony Leung Chui-Wai and Maggie Cheung, the film plays into two people coping with heartbreak as they ponder how to confront their spouses while spending time of their own. Featuring the dazzling art direction, lush costumes, and sumptuous editing of William Chang, the lush cinematographer of Christopher Doyle and Mark Li Ping-Bin, and a hypnotic soundtrack. The film isn’t just a major highlight in the career of the Hong Kong filmmaker but also a film that says so much about the theme of love.
16. The New World
Though the script was written back in the late 1970s, Terrence Malick’s dramatic account of the founding of Jamestown in the early 1600s is a film like no other. Relying on historical facts and legends, Malick would recreate a period in time where America was a new land but one that was also unstable. Starring Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, and then-new comer Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas, the film showcases a world where a young woman is entranced by the new visitors but also the ways of an old world. Marking Malick’s first collaboration with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, the film has a look that is intoxicating as well as compelling to play into people trying to live together despite their difference. Though there’s three different cuts of the film, they all manage to tell the same story as it plays into Malick’s mastery in the art of storytelling.
15. Almost Famous
Before Cameron Crowe was a screenwriter and filmmaker, he was a young journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s where he would use his experience to create a film where a young kid goes on the road with his favorite band to write a piece on them. With a cast that includes Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Billy Crudup, Zooey Deschanel, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as the famed music critic Lester Bangs. The film plays into a period where a young kid experience the world of rock n’ roll at a time when he was fun and wild before the age of corporate rock. It’s a film that is very musical as well as very touching as it is Crowe’s crowning achievement.
14. There Will Be Blood
Following a period of making films set in cities and presented in a certain style, Paul Thomas Anderson would take a five-year break between films where he would adapt Upton Sinclair’s Oil! into this intense story of greed and power. Set in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the film plays into a silver-miner who would find oil in Southern California as he would do whatever it takes to have complete control. Featuring Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Daniel Plainview as it is a role filled with terror and chew-scenery, it is a film that recalls not just the works of Terrence Malick on a visual scale but also John Huston and Old Hollywood. Featuring an eerie score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and lush visuals by Robert Elswit, the film is a tremendous feature that would mark a new era for Anderson as a master filmmaker.
13. 24 Hour Party People
Whereas lots of films about music or music scenes tend to talk about things that happened or dramatize everything. What Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce does is say “fuck it” to the rules and go for something that is truly off the wall in the story about the rise and fall of Factory Records. Starring Steve Coogan as Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, the film plays into events that involved bands like Joy Division/New Order and the Happy Mondays as they would make Factory Records a key music label for British indie music. The film would also have these moments that are crazy where Wilson often narrates the film as he would claim he is just a supporting character in this story and then at one point would have the camera get a shot at the real Tony Wilson. It’s a film that is truly Mancunian in every sense of the word as it is funny and has a great soundtrack to boot.
12. I'm Not There
The 2000s saw a lot of musical bio-pics on many performers like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash to great success but it would eventually become parody as studios tried to create stories on anything and anyone. For someone like Bob Dylan, a straightforward bio-pic on the music legend wouldn’t work at all as Todd Haynes and co-screenwriter Oren Moverman did something that broke away from convention to create a film that captures the spirit of Dylan. Having one person as Bob Dylan would be impossible so Haynes created an idea where six different people played Bob Dylan in his different incarnations. Marcus Carl Franklin, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere would each play different variations of Dylan yet it is Cate Blanchett that would steal the show as the Dylan who goes electric, cause chaos, introduce the Beatles to marijuana, and all sorts of crazy shit. The result isn’t just a film that is essential to fans of Dylan but also what a bio-pic should be in terms of what to tell and what not to tell.
11. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noe’s 2009 film is probably one of the most visually-sprawling yet out-of-this-world film that is really indescribable. While it is a simple story about an American drug dealer who gets killed after a deal gone wrong where he would have an out-of-body experience in the afterlife as he watches what is happening around him. The film is just this strange yet hypnotic film where the camera is always constantly moving around as it plays into something where the audience is the ghost. It is also filled with dazzling visuals courtesy of Benoit Debie that captures the city of Tokyo at his most vibrant. Especially as Noe was willing to see how far he can go as he would also play into the sense of grief as well as bring in a lot of existential themes for a film that refuses to define itself as it is easily the greatest mind-fuck of the 21st Century.
From the novel by James Sallis comes a film that wouldn’t just be a breakthrough for one of Denmark’s finest talents but would also serve as a major stepping stone for its lead actor. Helmed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling in an untitled character, the film plays into the life of a Hollywood stunt driver who works doing stunts by day and works as a hired getaway driver for robbers at night. The film plays into a man who plays by his own rules as he would become attached to a new neighbor and her son as he strives to protect them following a botched robbery that involves her husband. It’s a film that is played with such style and features an amazing ensemble cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and a mesmerizing performance from Albert Brooks as a crime boss. It also would include lovely visuals, eerie moments of violence, and a hypnotic soundtrack that would captivate listeners.
9. The Wrestler
The world of professional wrestling in the world of cinema is often seen in either eerie documentaries about the good and bad as well as comedies that often portray wrestlers and wrestling fans as buffoons. What Darren Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert D. Siegel create is a touching story of a once-famous professional wrestler who deals with a fading career as well as health issues and regrets. Starring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson comes a man who deals with a near-fatal health scare as he deals with not just his estranged daughter but also a fading career with no future. It is a film that is told with a sense of realism as well as showcase the life after being in the spotlight. Even as Aronofsky allows Rourke to present a vulnerability that was rarely seen from the actor as the result wouldn’t just be one of Aronofsky’s best films but also a comeback for Mickey Rourke.
After having made a name for himself in the 1980s and 1990s as he arrived into the 21st Century with lots of acclaim and clout. The rest of the 2000s would be a period of difficulty for Lars von Trier as he would end that decade with what is truly his most controversial film to date. The first in a trilogy of films that explored the world of depression, the film revolves around a couple going into a forest to cope with the loss of their child as the man tries to analyze his wife and her fears. What would happen would be a descent into Hell as the film would showcase uncompromising elements of sex and violence as it features amazing performances from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in roles that have them do all sorts of things and in uncomfortable situations. While the film does serve as a visual tribute to the works of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, the film is quintessential von Trier in terms of his willingness to push buttons.
7. The Tree of Life
A project whose genesis dated back in the late 1970s, Terrence Malick’s fifth feature film would be his most personal as it played into the life of a family in 1950s Texas. Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Tye Sheridan, and Laramie Eppler as the O’Briens with Sean Penn as an older version of the eldest son Jack. While it would have a story that is simple, it is presented in a very abstract narrative that includes this intoxicating sequence about the Creation of Earth that features dazzling visual effects work from Douglas Trumbull. Along with the ethereal photography of Emmanuel Lubezki and an inspired use of classical music, the film isn’t just one of the most daring films of the 21st Century but also one of the most spiritual films to ever be shown in the cinema.
From Pixar and director Andrew Stanton comes a film that may be sci-fi in its story and setting but it is a whole lot more than that. Set in a futuristic world where Earth is now a dump and the only thing that is living is a robot that was supposed to be turned off and his pet cockroach. Upon meeting a robot named EVE who is trying to find life on Earth, the film becomes a love story with elements of silent comedy until the story moves into outer space where it becomes something much broader. It’s a film that is really a game-changer of sorts in the world of animation in not just for its technical front in terms of its photography and look but also in how it can stray away from conventional narrative and do something more. Especially as Stanton would also explore the dangers of consumerism and technology in the world of humanity where it would take a robot to wake them up and have them return home.
5. Mulholland Dr.
What was supposed to be a TV pilot would end up becoming David Lynch’s most surreal yet evocative film to date. While it maybe inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona in its themes of identity, the film is the second part of a Los Angeles trilogy that began with 1997’s Lost Highway and concluded with 2004’s INLAND EMPIRE as it explores not just the dark side of Hollywood but also the strange beauty of the city. While it is a story where a wannabe actress arrives to Los Angeles where she meets an amnesiac woman at her aunt’s apartment, it would become so much more as well as twist in its third act that blurs the idea of reality and fiction. Armed with gorgeous visuals, an eerie soundtrack that includes a devastating cover of Roy Orbison’s Cryin’, and a breakthrough performance from Naomi Watts.
4. Ghost World
With the world of comic books and graphic novels being very popular as they would turn into feature films in the 2000s. One film managed to stand out for not just being different but also for telling a story that wasn’t about comics nor was it about superheroes. Instead, it’s the story of two teenage girls whose friendship would diverge following a prank on a loner in whom one of the girls befriend. Helmed by Terry Zwigoff and written by the novel’s writer Daniel Clowes, the film explores not just a young woman going through growing pains but also deal with the expectations of post-high school life. Featuring an amazing soundtrack and a great cast that includes Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Illeana Douglas, and Steve Buscemi. The film is further proof that stories based on comic books can be about the ordinary person including a young girl.
From the short story of Mary Gaitskill comes a story about a shy young woman who finds herself through sadomasochism by working as a secretary for an obsessively-compulsive lawyer. Helmed by Steven Shainberg comes this very sensitive yet quirky film that stars Maggie Gyllenhaal in her breakthrough performance as this young woman from a dysfunctional home life who finds not just sexual but emotional fulfillment from the demands of her boss. Featuring an equally great performance from James Spader as the tormented E. Edward Grey is a film that proves to be one of the finest and offbeat love stories of the 2000s. Especially as it also finds a way to make sadomasochism playful and fun without the need to say anything provocative and bit. After all, it’s a love story with an edge and some spanking.
Sofia Coppola’s fourth feature film marks a turning point for the filmmaker after a trilogy of films that revolved on alienated young women. By stripping things down to its barest essentials, the film is an exercise in minimalism as it explores the life of a Hollywood film star who goes through an existential crisis while getting a visit from his young daughter. Starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning comes this touching tale of a father and daughter spending time together in the Chateau Marmont where Dorff’s Johnny Marco character ponders the life of decadence he had been living in as well as his failures as a father. Featuring mesmerizing yet naturalistic images by the late Harris Savides as well as a moody soundtrack that defies convention. The film would become another example of Sofia Coppola’s mastery as a filmmaker.
1. Morvern Callar
From the novel by Alan Warner comes one of the most entrancing yet odd dramatic films ever created. Helmed by Lynne Ramsay, the film would be this intriguing tale of a woman who finds her boyfriend dead of a suicide as she would become detached and later puts her own name into a manuscript he written. Played by Samantha Morton, the titular character is an unconventional protagonist who is trying to deal with what had happened as well as figure out the decisions she has made in her life. Masterfully composed with unique usage of music that would play into Morvern’s state of mind. The film is a provocative story about death and a woman’s way of coping as well as trying to find herself in a world that is often complicated and with rules.
Well, that is all for the 150 Favorite Films of 2000-2015 (that isn’t Lost in Translation). Hope you all enjoyed it or bitched about it. Let’s see what will happen in a few years from now.
Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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