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10 Under 10: The most notable movies in the last 10 years

Posted Friday, August 10, 2007 at 2:32 PM Central

by John Couture

You know when you're in the shower and a moment of inspiration strikes you? Well, this morning such a thought popped into my head seemingly out of nowhere and I'm about to share it with you. Don't worry, this is still a family site.

I was thinking that with all the lists out there that supposedly rank the top 100, 250 or whatever movies, they always seem to shortchange movies released in the recent past. So, either Hollywood is spending millions upon millions of dollars on dog crap (which sure, is debatable) or people who fill out lists have a phobia about comparing recent films against those that have stood the test of time.

Of course, this thought might have also come from the fact that I recently (finally) got around to watching Clerks X, the amazing 10th anniversary DVD of Kevin Smith's directorial debut. Or, it could've come from the realization that this site is nearly 10 years old and that makes me aware of my own rapidly approaching mortality.

But enough of the morose talk of death and destruction, this is a time to embrace everything wonderful that film has delivered in the last decade. The rules were simple, all movies released theatrically from January 1, 1997 until the present were eligible. We picked the 10 best of this surprisingly massive amount of movies.

The one thing that surprised us the most was just how difficult it was to come up with a top 10 list. My colleague and I actually struggled, fought and, at times, promised mythical first-born children to secure the list. One look at the movies that didn't make the cut (L.A. Confidential, Boogie Nights, Kill Bill, Spider-Man, Titanic, etc.) and you'll either think that we're horrible at making lists or come to appreciate just hard it was to pick only ten movies.

It should be pointed out that we used a pretty relaxed criteria in selecting the list. Basically, we wanted a list of the top 10 movies that blew our socks off in the last ten years. It's every intangible in the book and no one factor was weighed more importantly than the others.

While we have newfound respect for those list makers working for David Letterman, we're thinking of making this a regular Friday feature. Also, what's a good list without some witty banter back and forth? Towards that end, we're giving you a direct line to tell us what you think. Simply click here and unleash the hounds on us. Be forewarned though that we do reserve the right to publish your comments in future articles and mock them incessantly.

Enough foreplay, on with the show!

  1. The Big Lebowski - The Coen brothers were certainly filmmakers that shaped the 1990s with their unique visual style and penchant for telling quirky tales. The Big Lebowski is no exception and I will admit that I still don't quite grasp its brilliance. But, hey man, it's got annual festivals all across the country and even on the other side of the pond. You don't trust me? Check it out yourself. Who would've thought a simple movie about mistaken identity and the passion for bowling would have resonated with so many people. Even if I don't get it, I am aware enough to know that this film is probably THE cult hit of the last decade.
  2. The Incredibles - There's probably no greater stamp of the last ten years on film than the rise of the animated feature. No longer is animation thought of as purely a playground for the kiddies. Films such as Shrek demonstrated that animated movies could capture the imagination of the young as well as the attention span of those a little (or a lot) older. In choosing a movie in the last decade that personified the impact of animation, we decided to recognize the Pixar film The Incredibles. Not only has Pixar been responsible for the majority of the successful animated films, but they've yet to have a bomb. In The Incredibles, Pixar teams up with legendary animation guru Brad Bird to present a movie that not only plays well for families, but also crosses over to the single adults. Bird even voiced the fashionista Edna Mode in the flick.
  3. The Blair Witch Project - Is there a movie on this list (or released in the last ten years) that has made a bigger impact on film as whole? I think not. The beauty of this little, crappy arthouse film is that it literally changed Hollywood's marketing strategies over night. It was the first film that completely embraced the Internet and utilized a viral marketing campaign that truly blurred the lines between reality and fiction. The movie itself might not hold up (I've only seen it once, yes, at a crappy arthouse theater.) but its legacy is simply beyond reproach. And to this day, not a single Hollywood property has come close to replicating The Blair Witch Project's successful campaign. If there's one person in Hollywood that is continually pushing the envelope in this regard today, it would be J.J. Abrams. Lost and Cloverfield are great examples of truly harnessing the next generation of entertainment.
  4. X-Men - This one was another tough one to nail down. Enter the first-born child wagering. Now granted, Tim is the comic book geek, not I, but we both agreed that there had to be at least one comic book adaptation on the list. It seems that every other movie released these days is based on a comic book or graphic novel, so there's no denying the fact that this genre deserves representation. I argued for Spider-Man and unwittingly learned way too much about the whole comic book feud and why it was such a landmark move for the Marvel universe to leap into the movies with X-Men. I still don't know what side of the war I'm on, but I do know that with X-Men and Spider-Man, Marvel is getting my vote, but DC is finally starting to get it with the recent re-imaginings of their original big screen duds, Batman Begins and Superman Returns. [edit: Apparently, my fuzzy brain wasn't clear on this point and I've incurred the wrath of all the Christopher Nolan fans out there. I meant that the recent movies Batman Begins and Superman Returns are better than the earlier incarnations. I mean seriously, bat nipples? I actually really dug both of these new movies and can't wait for The Dark Knight]
  5. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King - While it might be hard to justify the inclusion of a movie whose pivotal scene revolves around a diminutive human-like creature tossing a band of gold into a volcano, but I mean this is The Lord Of The Rings after all, arguably the second most influential trilogy of the decade. This series of films and the final chapter was everything that it was supposed to be. It's not often in this business when people get it right the first time, but Peter Jackson and company did just that. This movie had it all, including about 20 endings too many, but when time passes, much like Star Wars or The Godfather, this one will be the movie everyone points to for this trilogy, despite probably not even being the best movie in its own collection.
  6. Fight Club - Sure, this is an unabashedly male choice, but what can we say, we're men. Just as you won't find any Erin Brockovichs or Bridget Joneses on our list, you can pretty much guarantee that there would be one testosterone driven selection. And for as far as testosterone goes, this movie takes the cake. But beyond all the sweaty guys beating up on one another, this is a movie in which two unique voices (author Chuck Palahniuk and director David Fincher) come together and deliver silver screen magic that is sadly in short supply these days. Perhaps the more interesting legacy of this film is that it gave men back their manhood. When terms such as metrosexual became widespread, men started to believe that this was the way of the future, but Fight Club proved that being a John Wayne man was ok too.
  7. Donnie Darko - In the realm of movies to see while half-baked, this movie is near the top of the list. The funny thing is that regardless of your state of mind, this movie still resonates as an amazing ride that shocks and pleases you until the end. Is it dark? Sure. Is it bizarre? You bet. But, it's also one of the more interesting and intriguing movies that you will ever see. The movie introduced the world to Jake Gyllenhaal for better or worse and really laid the groundwork for brain-teasing movies such as The Butterfly Effect. Donnie Darko is one of those subversive films that become hard to classify other than a killer kick butt movie that demands repeat viewing.
  8. The Sixth Sense - M. Night Shyamalan didn't invent the surprise shock ending, but he just might have perfected it in this "out-of-nowhere" smash hit. Of course, the whole major plot twist became his trademark and now, for better or worse, it's his burden to bear. Of course studios loved The Sixth Sense because it succeeded where many had failed before it, it actually forced people to shell out their hard-earned bucks to see it again at the theater. It really is two different viewing experiences and there's a part of me that is jealous that I will never again be able to watch the movie without knowing that Bruce Willis is dead. The movie still holds up once the big secret is revealed, but it's just not quite the same experience. But the fact that it still holds up is a testament to Night as a filmmaker.
  9. Memento - You know a movie is good when you can watch it over and over again and each time you see it, you find little things that you've never caught before. In this movie, the attention is definitely in the details, which is ironic given that the protagonist can't seem to remember anything. Memento destroys all film conventions by not only moving the plot backwards and forwards at the same time, but it tells the story through the eyes of the most unreliable character that film has ever seen. At the end (or the beginning), we're not quite sure what really happened and we're not quite sure exactly what went on for the 90 previous minutes, but we know that it was an awesome display of cinematic genius. The viewer is left to fill in their own blanks to make their own conclusions. And ultimately, isn't that what movies are supposed to do, to generate a conversation?
  10. The Matrix - Interestingly enough when we put together our list of movies the only thing that we both agreed upon was that The Matrix was the top movie of the last decade. And really, is there any real debate on this point? Sure, the sequels didn't live up to the unreasonably high expectations of this movie, but few seldom do. This movie defied logic and defied explanation. It probably single-handedly advanced special effects in movies itself ten years into the future. But beyond all the fancy special effects and whatnot, this movie simply oozed cool. In the same way that James Dean oozed cool in the 1950s, The Matrix oozed cool on the screen. It also had a great epic story set both in the present and a post-apocalyptic world. When I saw The Terminator in 1984, this is the future that I imagined when I closed my eyes.

Sneak Peek: Next week we look for some movies to cool off this hot Summer!