The 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000-2009)

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40. The Departed (2006)
Director:   Martin Scorsese  
Writers: William Monahan, Felix Chong, Alan Mak
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Whalberg, Alec Baldwin
Studio: Warner Bros.
At times truly funny and at others brutally violent, Scorsese’s latest ambitious gangster flick spends equal time exploring the deceitful inner workings of the Boston Special Investigation Unit and it’s pro-crime counterpart, the Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson)-led Irish mafia.

39. Spirited Away (2001)
Writer/Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Stars (U.S.): Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki perfectly exemplifies what happens when adults never lose their childlike curiosity and sense of wonderment. Beautifully animated, it’s the crowning achievement in his filmography thus far, a dreamlike (and at times, frightening) adventure about a young girl who discovers an alternate reality filled with some rather fantastical inhabitants. (And, in typical Miyazaki form, an epic battle between good and evil). There’s a strangeness to the wonder, and there’s beauty in the most nightmarish corners. A Disney film like no other, Spirited Away is a triumph for the imagination.—Jeremy Medina

38. Donnie Darko (2001)
Writer/Director: Richard Kelly
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, James Duvall, Mary McDonnell
Studio: Newmarket
Richard Kelly was just 25 when he got funding for his first full-length feature, Donnie Darko, but it became a cult classic, thanks to mind-bending twists and a gigantic talking bunny named “Frank.”

37. Billy Elliot (2000)
Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer: Lee Hall
Stars: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis
Studio: Universal Focus
On the surface, Billy Elliot appears to be the archetypal tale of an outsider who is driven to follow his own path at all costs. But this story of a boy from depressed, working-class England who mortifyingly discovers that ballet is his life’s ambition, is saved from cliché by Stephen Daldry’s slightly quirky, at times witty, and deeply sympathetic portrayal of the pain of finding one’s voice in adolescence. The tearjerker caused such an impact worldwide, it was made into a Tony award-winning musical scored by none other than Elton John.—Emily Riemer

36. Millions (2004)
Director:   Danny Boyle  
Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Stars: Alexander Nathan Etel, Lewis McGibbon
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Danny Boyle is a gifted director with a range seldom (if ever) seen—from the frenetic druggie movie Trainspotting to the zombie thriller 28 Days Later, from the science fiction of Sunshine to Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire. But Boyle’s best work to date was the family film Millions. He brings the energy, creativity and vibrancy that are his hallmarks to the most fully realized and satisfying story he’s committed to film. Boyd and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce imbue a simple tale of found money and family loss with a degree nuance and sophistication rare even in art films, let alone family fare. In Millions, idealism and fantasy meet gritty reality in an inspiring tale that deals with life’s complications before transcending them. —Tim Regan-Porter

35. Junebug (2005)
Director: Phil Morrison
Writer: Angus MacLachlan
Stars: Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Celia Weston
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Phil Morrison’s debut is marked by strong sense of place, genuine feeling and a delicate, non-denigrating humor. Set over one long, intense weekend, the story details how the seductive presence of Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) challenges the mores and affects the fragile equilibrium of a Southern family whose dynamics and socioeconomic makeup are most particular. Deliberate pacing and contemplativeness—qualities associated with the South—inform the movie, which boasts sharp characterization, crisp dialogue and meticulous attention to physical locale. And Amy Adams gives one of the best performances of the decade.—Emanuel Levy

34. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Michael Arndt
Stars: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
If the key to comedy is timing, then Little Miss Sunshine proves that what’s true for performers is also true for filmmakers. Mom, Dad, two kids, Grandpa, and Uncle Frank—a suicidal college professor recently spurned by his lover—sit down for a chaotic dinner scene that pops like syncopated jazz, setting the tone for a warm, funny that somehow includes Friedrich Nietzsche and Marcel Proust in a story about a road trip and a beauty contest. All the adult actors, save Carell, had played dramatic parts in the past; their versatility is critical, and Carell proves more than ready to join their ranks.—Robert Davis


33. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)
Writer/Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine
Studio: Miramax
With Kill Bill, Tarantino managed to pay homage to all the kung-fu films, spaghetti westerns and exploitation flicks he grew up with. The four-hour epic was split into two films filled with Uma Thurman violently, unrelentingly serving up revenge.—Josh Jackson

32. Ratatouille (2007)
Writer/Directors: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Stars: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Peter Sohn, Brad Garrett, Ian Holm
Studio: Walt Disney Studios (Pixar)
While consistently fun, many of Pixar’s film’s succeed by taking an obvious universe impossible to really capture with live action—anthropomorphizing toys, fish, monsters, cars, etc.—and crafting a solid story around it. But Ratatouille is anything but predictable: a rat (Patton Oswalt!) who dreams of becoming a chef. With The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, Bird has carved his name, not just among the animation greats, but the storytelling masters.—Josh Jackson

31. Gosford Park (2001)
Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Michael Gambon, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi, Hellen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bob Balaban, Clive Owen
Studio: USA Films
Robert Altman’s ambitious murder mystery aptly demonstrates his signature style of filmmaking. He assembles a large cast of superb actors and allows them to act out their roles, in some cases even improvising, while the cameras roll. The result is an Agatha Christie-whodunit meets a post-modern exploration of the dying class system in England. Not unlike the British Sam Mendes’ treatment of American suburbia in American Beauty, no one but an outsider can so acutely skewer a culture’s idiosyncrasies as Altman does here. And only this famed “actors’ director” could have attracted such an illustrious and talented cast, who can make the tautly written lines sing and the emotionally fraught scenes hum with intrigue and tension.—Emily Riemer

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