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From 2000 to 20: Black Sheep’s Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

It’s pretty self-explanatory, folks. The decade ended a couple of weeks ago and after careful consideration and a little assistance from my Flickchart obsession, I have whittled down what I consider to be the 20 best films of the last decade. It was certainly not easy and there are so many titles that won’t be mentioned below that truly stood out as well but 10 years is a long time, people. And that means a lot of movies. If you’re narrowing them down to 20, some titles are just not going to fit. And we will call those titles losers because that is what they are. (Sorry 2009, not a single entry from your year managed to make the cut.)

And now for the winners. Black Sheep’s favorite films of the last decade are … (click on any highlighted title for review)

NUMBER TWENTY … WALL-E … Directed by Andrew Stanton … 2008

The last decade was very good to Pixar but according to the world of WALL-E, not so good for humanity. This little robot still warms my heart every time I see him and Pixar gets mad respect from me for constantly pushing themselves when they could so easily coast if they wanted to. Robots can teach us a lot about love if we just listen.

NUMBER NINETEEN … ADAPTATION … Directed by Spike Jonze … 2002

If Nicolas Cage is playing twin screenwriters – one a Hollywood hack and one a tortured artist; and Meryl Streep is playing an unsatisfied writer who gets lost in the exotic world of orchids, thieves and pollen snorting, you know you’re dealing with the crazy mind of screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman and the visual eccentricity of Spike Jonze. This is a beautiful story about getting bogged down in the details.

NUMBER EIGHTEEN … ONCE … Directed by John Carney … 2007

This tiny little modern musical, where music doesn’t just happen spontaneously but rather just exists constantly in the world of these musicians swept the hearts of the world and of the cast itself, as lead actors, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova found love while making it. While their love is never that easy on screen, their real chemistry and beautiful songs leave you wanting to see it a lot more than just once.

NUMBER SEVENTEEN … KILL BILL VOLUME 1 … Directed by Quentin Tarantino … 2003

This was a very welcome return to form for one of the most decadent directors of our time. Tarantino makes so many calculated moves in his work and every time he pulls them off, we marvel. Uma Thurman, in an underrated performance, embarks on a tale of revenge that is completely impossible to predict but disturbingly satisfying. Tarantino’s martial arts experience certainly helped him fashion this into a contemporary masterpiece.

NUMBER SIXTEEN … HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH … Directed by John Cameron Mitchell … 2001

It isn’t so often that you come across a film that takes on a topic as out there as a transsexual rock star who had a botched sex change operation in order to leave East Berlin only to find the wall come down shortly afterward. Director/Star, John Cameron Mitchell makes Hedwig such an unforgettable character by showing us the human side underneath all the wigs and makeup.

NUMBER FIFTEEN … THE PIANIST … Directed by Roman Polanski … 2002

This last entry may never have made the list if I didn’t see it again recently. The hardships endured by Adrien Brody, a pianist, and his family during the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland is subtly told by Roman Polanski, a man whose own family history must have made making this extremely tumultuous. Hopefully, his catharsis was as strong as the one he captured on film.

NUMBER FOURTEEN … FAR FROM HEAVEN … Directed by Todd Haynes … 2002

Todd Haynes is a favorite of mine. He isn’t afraid to be different and he isn’t afraid to talk about being different while ironically trying even harder to blend in to the 1950’s aesthetic where this story takes place. Julianne Moore, an actress often overlooked by the Academy, should have won for her performance as Cathy Whitaker, a housewife whose husband (Dennis Quaid) has eyes for other men and whose own eyes have fallen for her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert). It is a beautiful exercise in restraint.

NUMBER THIRTEEN … THERE WILL BE BLOOD … Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson … 2007

What more can I say about this modern American masterpiece other than what I just wrote in my review from a couple days back? I will just applaud; Anderson for becoming the director he always could; Daniel Day-Lewis for proving why he is the best living actor; Paul Dano for showing incredible promise; Jonny Greenwood for adding an unexpected level of disturbance with his score; and Robert Elswit for making it all look so good. They struck something alright!

NUMBER TWELVE … THE DARK KNIGHT … Directed by Christopher Nolan … 2008

I have mad respect for this film because effort and ambition go a long way with me. Christopher Nolan pushed the boundaries of comic hero movies so far with this Batman caper that he managed to reach the masses. It was tricky and twisted and it took us on flights we have never experienced on film before. The haters can go on hating this one all they like. No matter what they say, this will always be the film that killed Heath Ledger in my eyes and he went out blazing.

NUMBER ELEVEN … MOULIN ROUGE! … Directed by Baz Luhrmann … 2001

This modern musical is a visual explosion of colour, excitement and love. While it may not be entirely original in its story, it is very much so in its imaginative execution. Repurposing old pop songs and giving new meaning to already meaningful words was a delight for viewers because they could so easily relate to the sentiment. This film celebrates and honours some of the most beautiful values around. Love, above all else.

NUMBER TEN … IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE … Directed by Wong Kar-Wai … 2000

This Hong Kong film from one of the most masterful directors of the modern era is an intense exercise in restraint. Beneath its exquisite exterior, two lonely lovers imagine what it would be like to be with each other, which they both desperately want but do not say. Imagining alternative realities makes it tricky to stay strong in the present one and the aching passion that exudes from both the performances and the aesthetic is intoxicating.

NUMBER NINE … THE SQUID AND THE WHALE … Directed by Noah Baumbach … 2005

As a child of divorce, I’ve never really felt that affected by the dissolution of my parents’ marriage. This honest look at divorce though explores what happens when the center of everything you know is suddenly gone and the rules of gravity no longer apply. Noah Baumbach’s touching screenplay and sensitive direction allow for so many brilliant individual moments, which in turn allows each of the players, including Jeff Daniels’ best work, to act selfishly for the first time in their lives and love it.

NUMBER EIGHT … UNITED 93 … Directed by Paul Greengrass … 2006

It took five years for Hollywood to tackle what happened in 2001 directly. Paul Greengrass took the schizophrenic film approach he applied to the latter Bourne movies and applied it to a day that was infinitely more chaotic. Unknown actors make up the passengers on the flight in question and subsequently, instead of egotistical performances, we are left to focus solely on the fear, the emotions and the heroism that sprung from these ordinary people. This is a tool for healing.

NUMBER SEVEN … LOST IN TRANSLATION … Directed by Sofia Coppola … 2003

When I first saw this film, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed. It was a lesson in learning how to cut through the hype to see the film for what it truly is. This quiet film about feeling lost and drifting through a world that makes no sense is still timely today. The relationship between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson is so delicate and always just outside of reach, but watching them find solace and understanding in each other when there is none around them gives hope to all.

NUMBER SIX … MILK … Directed by Gus Van Sant … 2008

Something happened to gay cinema in the last decade. It became about so much more than just being gay. And while Harvey Milk is undeniably an activist for the gay community, the film itself also shows all the other facets of his life that make him a complete human being. I watched this film and wept because I knew so little about the history of the gay rights struggle and then wept some more when I saw how the struggle still forges on today.

NUMBER FIVE … TRAFFIC … Directed by Steven Soderbergh … 2000

Every time I see this movie, I am impressed with how complex it is without pandering to anyone in order to make it more accessible. Yes, the cast itself invites a wider audience but the caliber of the combined talent is what drives home the futility and the ongoing need for the War on Drugs. Soderbergh attacks such a wide canvas and does it in such a deliberately colorful fashion; I am still in awe that he was able to tie it all together so perfectly.


Ang Lee understands love. Or at the very least, he understands how to convey the otherworldly connections it makes between the people who fall into it. This dreamlike martial arts adventure is about honour, love and kicking some serious ass. It is a whimsical dance that mesmerizes and enchants the viewer while drawing them in to the difficulties loyalty places on sharing love. It even has a random segue about a girl and her comb. It is as much a testament to the beauty of love as MOULIN ROUGE! is.

NUMBER THREE … NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN … Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen … 2007

This is the definitive Coen Brothers film. Much like P.T. Anderson did the same year with THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the Coen Brothers abandoned what they knew about filmmaking and ended up making their best work by pushing themselves into unfamiliar territory. Aside from the introduction of an iconic antagonist, Anton Chigurgh (Javier Bardem), this film is a subversive cat and mouse game that is consistently sharp and unexpected. It is on many levels a practice in perfect filmmaking.


I can’t say that I’m a big fan of much of Gondry’s work but this mind fuck about whether it is better to have loved and lost than to have ever loved at all is the most thorough exploration of the topic I know. As Jim Carrey has Kate Winslet erased from his memory in response to her having done the same to him, he quickly realizes that, while the memories may be tainted, their initial beauty gave him a joy that should never be forgotten. Ignorance is not bliss, my friends. It is just a lack of true appreciation.

NUMBER ONE … BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN … Directed by Ang Lee … 2005

Anyone who knows me is likely not the least surprised to see BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN at the top of my decade list. This is a film that spent months being tossed around the media as “The Gay Cowboy Movie”, and even though it had so many of the right elements in place – Ang Lee as director, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, as the cowboys – it had the potential to ruin any chance gay cinema would have to grow going forward if it got it all wrong. Instead, Lee hit every note perfectly. What it actually became was a film with an unexpected universal appeal that would open doors for future gay characters to be so much more than just gay. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN stands as my favorite film of the decade and my favorite piece of gay cinema of all time.

Thank you for remembering the last ten years in film with me. Here is to the next ten!


  1. Nice selection.

  2. Thank you. I toiled.

  3. You’re the first reviewer to place “Milk” and “The Pianist” on a best of the decade list, but I’m happy to see both. “Milk” is Sean Penn’s crowning achievement — that’s hard to say considering he’s, you know, SEAN PENN — and “The Pianist” may be one of the best movies made about the Holocaust that I remember seeing. Adrien Brody is great, but what I really love is the way Polansky gives us a small focus — one guy instead of so many nameless victims — and a main character that is not a saint, but a regular person.

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