Our brand new writer, Chris Inman, has not only provided the world with his top five movies of 2009, he now furnishes you lucky people with his top twenty movies of the decade. A couple of controversial more recent choices are included and should be debated immediately, but otherwise it’s a bloody strong list that will definitely find one followers amongst the existing MOD clan who will thoroughly agree with the winner.
Onwards then, and look our for more articles to come from Chris in the very near future as he kicks off his tenure with us in earnest.
20. Zatoichi (2003)
One of Asia’s finest directors/actors delivers his greatest work with this adaptation of the story of the blind swordsman. A film that is extremely violent, but also very beautiful in parts (the stand-out scene is the sword battle in the rain; one of the truly amazing scenes in cinema). Being a Takeshi Kitano film, it’s also mental, take for instance the ending scene which is the entire cast doing a dance scene!
19. Kill Bill 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)
This might be a bit of a cheat, but it was originally intended as one long movie, so I am having it! QT takes a generic kung-fu plot – the main character is left for dead, recovers and plots her revenge, and adds as many nods to 70’s martial arts films as he can muster. Make no mistake, this is one man who loves his kung-fu flicks. From the Bruce Lee jumpsuit, the lashings of blood and roles for David Carradine and Sonny Chiba, this is a much better homage than Grindhouse.
Looking at the cast, Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, they have been in some absolute stinkers, it’s amazing that they work so well in the movie and that QT has managed to create such an iconic movie that has become a massive part of pop culture.
18. 28 Days Later (2002)
The kick up the arse the zombie horror genre needed! This film did away with the slow, stumbling zombies of past movies and introduced us (well, me at least!) to the sprinting, semi-intelligent undead. The idea of people rising from the dead as the result of a virus isn’t anything new, but the long, lingering shots of a desolate London help make this an action-packed masterclass in jump scares and tension building. The opening scene in 28 Days later is so ambitious and works well as a background for the situation the main character is in.
According to IMDb, this film was called 29 days later in the USA. How’s that work then? Did he have a lie-in? Anyway, I digress; this is the most inventive horror film in a long time…… and it features some bloke who was in Hollyoaks so deserves to be in the list for that basis.
17. Bourne Identity (2002)
This is up there with Die Hard for best all-out action masterclass (although Die Hard does edge it!). Any doubts that Matt Damon wouldn’t be able to convince as an action hero were quickly extinguished with this tale of an amnesiac trying to piece together his past. Doug Liman manages to breath new life into the action genre – Bourne’s methods of dealing with attackers is methodical, the polar opposite of most action movies, where he just seems to be aiming to break bones in the quickest time possible. Without this movie, Casino Royale would have been a completely different film, and when one of the most well known characters in movie history has to up his game as a direct result of Bourne Identity, you know it’s something special.
16. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Researching this, it seems that this film is in a lot of people’s best films of the decade. Darren Aronofsky’s tale of four people dealing with their addictions is an absolute heartbreaker and probably contains the saddest, most depressing ending of all time. I am a big Aronofsky fan and would have trouble choosing my favourite, but this probably just edges it over Pi for it’s exploration into the self-destruction of each of these characters. If you asked anyone who liked this film whether they would watch it again, most would probably say no, but it’s a film that has to be seen at least once – just lock away any sharp objects!
15. In Bruges (2008)
I’ll be honest, I am not Colin Farrell’s biggest fan by a long way. Before seeing this movie, I had only liked him in an episode of Scrubs. But it seems like this role was made only for him, his character is loud, obnoxious and wow, he loves a bit of swearing! The differences between Brendan Gleason and Farrell’s characters is what makes this film so amazing, but don’t label this a buddy movie. There are some amazing shots of Bruges and it is often hilarious – “Two manky hookers and a racist dwarf. I think I’m heading home”. While obnoxious, it’s easy to show sympathy to Farrell’s character, especially when you find out why he has been sent to Bruges, but it never lets you forget that these are hitmen you are feeling sorry for.
14. Gladiator (2000)
This is an epic in every sense of the word. The sheer scale of Rome in this film on release is unbelievable and even though the CGI is started to look a little dated, the story is strong enough to carry it. Nearly all of my favourite movies seem to be revenge movies (maybe I should have put Taken in here!), and the main plot of this movie is about a former warrior exacting revenge on the man responsible for the slaughter of his wife and child, and it’s stuffed with enough bite to make it a classic. Ridley Scott has managed to create a film that doesn’t shy away from showing the darker side of the Roman Empire – this is definitely not a romanticised version of Rome. The whole city looks grimy, there are tales of incest, hangings and mob mentality. Great central performances and a strong supporting cast manage to escalate this above the generic CGI blockbuster.
13. The Prestige (2006)
Christopher Nolan has yet to make a bad film (and Inception looks like it could be amazing), and this film shows the directors ability at adaptations. His retelling of Christopher Priest’s tale of a dangerous rivalry between two magicians is a fine example of how he can take a story and develop it into his own. He pays great attention to the characters and the movie is full of subject matter references (the two main characters initials spell ABRA; a reference to a fictional wizard from the inspiration for The Dresden Files) and the acting is first-rate from Jackman, Caine, Bale and Perabo in particular.
The film centre around the three stages of a magic trick and whilst The Prestige is the title of the film, equal attention needs to be given to “The Pledge” and “The Turn”. You want to take in every little detail of this movie to see whether you can unravel the secret to the trick and when the secret of the trick is revealed, it is a revelation.
12. Oldboy (2003)
Chan-wook Park’s second film in the Vengeance trilogy is without doubt, the finest of the three. It is full of unforgettable scenes (the “hammer” scene is brilliantly brutal, the “Octopus” scene is a genuine talking point for film fans) and as you reach the end of the movie, you realise you have just been hit with one of the biggest gut-punches in cinema. It’s rare when an Asian film is successful that an American remake isn’t on the cards, but I think even Hollywood realises they cannot make a film that is a fraction as good as this.
11. The Dark Knight (2008)
What can I say about this film which hasn’t been said already? Nothing, so it’s cliché central around here!
This could have failed in a monumental, Waterworld-esque way, with the sheer avalanche of hype it received long before its release. Bale’s acting is average, it could be guilty of being slightly overlong and trying to cram too much into the story, but the pros far outweigh the cons.
One of the greatest acting performances by the late Heath Ledger (deservedly bagging a posthumous Oscar, another stunning performance by Gary Oldman and effortless scenery buffet by Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine help this film surpass Batman Begins (a fantastic film to begin with).
Christopher Nolan has managed to turn Batman from a camp superhero, to a trouble human being struggling to come to terms with his responsibility as a protector of a city. He also gives the Joker a transformation into an unpredictable nutjob in make-up. As opposed to Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Nolan’s Joker is genuine someone to be afraid of – he’s unpredictable, clever and with little regard for his own life.
10. Donnie Darko (2001)
I am an absolute sucker for films that don’t dumb things down and require my complete attention throughout the story. I also love a nice bit of strange in a film (whether it be Herzog, Lynch or Kitano), so this film ticked all the boxes from the off. I mean what more could you want, a man in a giant bunny outfit, a jet engine crashing into a house, and Patrick Swayze?! Jake Gyllenhall is an absolute revelation in this film, doing a great job of portraying this strange, trouble kid trying to deal with the coming of the end of the world.
I make no claims of completely understanding everything in this movie, but I absolutely love it for what it is – a beautifully dark, intelligent thriller. Just don’t mention the sequel!
The troubled hero that Nolan has brought to the series works so well, it has become a staple of nearly every superhero movie since its release. And imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. The best adaptation of a comic book franchise to date.
9. Almost Famous (2000)
A star studded cast ( Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Philip Seymour Hoffman) help to bring Cameron Crowe’s coming of age story to life. Featuring easily the greatest soundtrack in cinema history, one of the most instantly recognisable scenes of the decade ( the Tiny Dance scene aboard the tour bus) and a great script. Despite some of the less than savouring events that happen within the film, it feels totally real and makes you wish you had been growing up during that era.
You do wonder where the $60 million budget went (I can only presume mainly on music rights), this is a great intimate story of a young man chasing love during a pivotal time in music history.
8. Moon (2009)
This film managed to reach the heady heights of number 2 in my top 5 films of 2009, mainly down to two fantastic performances by Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. This low budget sci-fi thriller about an astronaut on the moon coping with the last few days before he goes home is funny, sad, intriguing and a host of other positive adjectives! It’s very rare for a film with the majority of screen time assigned to one character to be so well liked by critics and the public alike (you probably have realised by now there is no Phonebooth in my list!) and yet the basic premise is so intriguing that you are gripped to the film throughout.
7. Let the Right One In (2009)
This was my favourite movie of 2009 (technically made in 2008, but not on general release in the UK until 2009). This tale of two young outcasts is one of the strangest romantic films you will ever see. While the main plot is essentially the friendship between these two children (in the loosest term), it features issues of paedophilia, extreme violence and a back story involving a serial killer and it’s effect on a small town. The script is sharply written, the acting by the two young leads is PHENOMENAL and there are some genuine scenes of brilliance, the two most notable being the scene in the hospital and the ending.
The absolutely terrible piece of CGI does it’s best to ruin the tension in this movie, but it is quickly forgotten amid the understated scenes of vampirism. It’s a film you see at the cinema and as soon as you get home, pre-order the dvd.
6. Avatar 3D (2009)
Remember the feeling you got when you first saw the T-Rex in Jurassic Park? Or the liquid metal effects in Terminator 2? Take that feeling and times it by a thousand!
This is without a doubt a jaw dropping, unlike anything you have ever experienced, powerhouse of cinema. From the first time you see Sam Worthington floating towards his locker, to the final battle between the Na’vi and the military, this film is incomprehensively wonderful.
Lets be honest the story is hardly original and Sam Worthington won’t be winning the Best Actor Oscar anytime soon, but it is secondary to the sensory overload you experience. The “hippy” mentality of the film that has been slagged off so many times on the internet (most of which haven’t actually seen the film), but I believe it’s been very well done and it is at the very least relevant in today’s climate.
Pandora is this vast, vibrant paradise and you really do feel at times like you are actually experiencing this first hand, this is no small part down to the fantastic use of 3D, where the gimmicky “look out, something is heading for your face!” is replaced with a more subtle approach- the 3D is used to give depth and scale to a scene and to add atmosphere (the ash falling down after a military attack is astonishing).
Do yourself a favour watch this film in 3D, ignore the internet naysayers and experience the greatest blockbuster film ever made.
5. The Lives of Others (2006)
I have to admit, going into this movie, I knew nothing about the plot, had never heard of any of the actors, and despite having seen a large amount of foreign films, I can’t recall another German film….Ever! With that statement of shame out of the way, I now have to tell you why this film is number 5 in my greatest films of the decade and hope you trust my judgement.
For those who don’t know the plot, it follows Captain Weisler, an interrogator in the Stasi who lives and breathes his job. Through jealousy or suspicion, he decides to bug the premises of a trusted artist and his actress partner. To give anymore away would spoil the plot.
For starters the acting in this film is outstanding and the character arc seems very realistic. You get to watch this transformation of a character from a cold, emotionless puppet of the Stasi, through to him acquiring voyeuristic tendencies, before he finally starts caring about the people he is watching and listening to for most of the day. My favourite thing about this film is the things that are implied or never explained. Weisler is a loner and so shares very little dialogue with any other characters and there is no monologue either, so a large majority of our opinion of him are based from the emotions (or lack of) he expresses or through his actions. Even at the beginning when Weisler is this blank slate, you can tell that he believes in what he is doing as right and that he loathes the corruption within the Stasi.
Despite me having seen this film only recently and the fact that I went into it completely blind, it’s a tad hypocritical to say ” You MUST see this movie”, but so what I am selfish – you MUST see this movie!
4. Battle Royale (2000)
A user on a movie website summed this movie up succinctly – “A brilliant movie. Punches you in the face and balls”.
This film wastes very little time in giving you the background of the film then throwing you into the action. Before you have even been introduced to the class of school children, one of them is dead. The film manages to juggle out-of-nowhere scenes of horrific violence with a great story. Japanese politicians shocked at the increase of crimes committed by youths pass a controversial bill whereby a class chosen at random are taken to an island and have to fight for their own survival by any means necessary. Failure to comply results in an exploding neck bracelet, if at a set time the children are in a certain random location, the neck bracelet goes off. The only chance of survival is to be the last person standing,
Apart from an intriguing story line, there are some great little touches Kinji Fukasaku adds to the plot. Children are assigned a weapon at random ( some get an Uzi, one a crossbow, one a cooking pan) and the bleak story is injected with little sections of black humour throughout. Very quickly the battle becomes smaller; most children are picked off within minutes of being released onto the island.
The action is fantastically played out, the acting is first rate (once again Takeshi Kitano steals the show) and there are a host of messages about politics, friendship and human nature wrapped up in lots of black humour and bloody battles.
3. The Fall (2006)
Quite simply, this is the most beautifully shot, non-CGI film of all time. Filmed in a total of 28 countries over 4 years, and it is absolutely full to the brim with original ideas. The story is a delight – an injured stuntman tells a story to a young girl and the majority of the movie is her visualisation of his words. The effort Tarsem put into this film is breathtaking, no CGI, the number of locations, the fact the actress who plays Alexandria had very little knowledge of English (the trouble she has with words is genuine, and she actually believed that Lee Pace was a real life paraplegic). This film is a masterpiece from start to finish and anyone who isn’t affected by the emotions involved in this film must be dead inside. Roy’s (Pace) interest in telling the story to Alexandria is completely selfish and as Alexandria’s attachment to the story grows, we come to realise that Roy is not planning a happy ending.
Admittedly this is a love it or hate it film, but for those that love it it is one of the greatest stories ever told and a genuine miracle of a movie.
2. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Of all the films in my list, this ranks as both the most pleasantly surprising and perfectly paced of the lot. Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut is an absolutely astonishing piece of film making. The story is low key, but he contrasts it so well with the sheer scale of the desert his characters are passing through. To explain all the little things that make this film truly fantastic would take an eternity.
The story follows Pete (Jones) who has kidnapped the killer of his Mexican immigrant friend Melquiades. He forces this Border patrol man to accompany him with the corpse of Melquiades across the desert to Mexico to fulfil Melquiades last wish – to be buried in his home town and the town where his family lives.
Apart from it being so well paced, what helps make it so good is that Tommy Lee Jones makes it so there are no particularly good guys or bad guys, every character in this movie is either essentially good but has done some terrible things, or essentially bad but not beyond redemption. There are a number of utterly inspiring scenes, most notably Levon Helm’s three minute stealing of the movie as an old blind man living in the desert.
This is one of those films that deserves so much more recognition than it gets and it genuinely feels like Tommy Lee has been waiting all his life to direct this movie. He also won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 for his role as Pete and it’s easy to see why. It is the greatest western since Unforgiven.
1. Primer (2004)
I hate to admit it, but this film is unlikely to be in all but a small amount of people’s top 20, which is a huge shame. This is one of the most intelligent and complex science fiction films ever. It demands a hell of a lot of attention but, my word, it pays absolute dividends to anyone that does. This story of a small group of engineers who accidentally create a time machine is a truly original movie. First and at the moment only time director doesn’t dumb down anything, using jargon that is difficult to anyone in the field to understand, and the ending is open ended, so those who like there films all tied up at the end are in for disappointment.
This film is one hell of an achievement, it was created for $7000 but manages to never look cheap and also does a good job of shifting most of the attention towards the moral implications of what Abe and Aaron are using the time machine for. Full of double crossing, this is a mind melting film exploring greed, friendship, trust and mistrust.
This is one massive mindf**k of a movie, and while some draw comparisons with Timecrimes, in my opinion Primer is vastly superior and a much better exploration of time travel.