60. Collateral (2004)
Collateral is the kind of high concept thriller I salivate over. A charistmatic hitman – Tom Cruise in the middle of an early 2000s hot streak – forces a timid cabdriver, Jamie Foxx just before his Oscar glory, on an all-night ‘assignment.’ Foxx’s cabbie just wants to get out alive, but interestingly Cruise won’t let him go without trying to teach his driver how to ‘man up’ in life. Michael Mann shoots LA in stunning HD and keeps the action moving crisply. Aside from his electric leads, the supporting players are all up to par as Mark Ruffalo and Jada Pinkett Smith give subtle, moving performances. Perhaps it’s predictable in the way that even the best genre movies are (just guess if Foxx gains confidence and fights his tormentor/teacher), but for the “Silence of the Lambs in a taxi” it’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good.
Double Feature: Drive
59. Borat (2006)
Technically, Borat isn’t the whole title of the film. I’m too lazy to print it, but I’ll point out that when even the title of a movie is a joke, you’re in for a treat. Borat takes the mockumentary format and blows it up, somehow managing to document a surprising amount about America by testing us with the world’s worst journalist. It reaches Jackass-level irreverence, but manages to tell enough truth about Americana to excuse the naked wrestling. Nowadays, Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance has been so imitated that it’s easy to forget how good it is; the dude goes to the extra-mile and then some. Racism, xenophobia, sexism – you name it – has never seemed so ridiculous.
58. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
How weird is it the Napoleon Dynamite is an iconic film? Like, it went from cult classic, to normal classic, to just plain old news. Part of the pop culture wallpaper. People have it in their DVD collections like the way they have Shrek and National Treasure. Napoleon Dynamite is a film arguably ahead of its time yet simultaneously a quaint indie. It’s a film for the Adult Swim generation, perhaps, but is too slow-paced to really fit in with our current clip-based fads. Notice, I’m skirting around the issue of what the film is actually about. I suppose the important thing to mention isn’t the plot, or even the bizarre sense of humor, but the fact that it made middle-America seem funny. Like really funny without being insulting and without being overly endearing. I suppose the point of the film is that folks are real weird, and that’s fine. We’re all just trying to get by.
57. Insomnia (2002)
This is the lowest Christopher Nolan film on the list, but that’s not really a knock to it. Nolan’s first studio film is a remake of a moody Scandinavian flick with themes tailor-made to his interests. Al Pacino plays a detective sent to investigate terrible murders in an eternally sunny Alaskan town. Trouble is Pacino shoots his partner. The story focuses both on whether or not Pacino fired on purpose and the extent that it even matters. Pacino’s got a lot of skeletons in his closet, and this case might just be his chance at redemption. I recommend it for slow burn for a rainy afternoon.
When to watch: When you can’t sleep, dummy!
56. Starsky and Hutch (2004)
Movies like this are why I even bother to make a list in the first place. At first glance, Starsky and Hutch seems like your average mid-2000s mediocre comedy. It’s got Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, with Vince Vaughn as the villain and a Snoop Dogg cameo. Ha. But Todd Philips (post Old School, pre-Hangover) directs this zany, lovingly crafted homage to the 70s crime show. Stiller and Wilson are at the height of their powers, and their supporting team gives them plenty of chances to shine. Philips nails the period soundtrack and the mix of nostalgia/ridicule that we feel for the seventies. The film shares DNA with Anchorman in that regard, though it keeps the plot much more grounded, allowing for a satisfying narrative experience rather than just a series of sketches.
Best Snoop Dogg Scene:
55. Iron Man (2008)
There have been enough words written about how Iron Man started the age of Marvel and modern superhero movies to give Shakespeare a hand cramp. So I’ll be brief. Frankly, the film doesn’t hold up very well, but what film doesn’t have its issues when you’ve seen it 10,000 times? Iron Man survives because of its legacy but also it’s unreal turn by Robert Downey Jr. and the crisp, fun style that defines the Marvel style.
54. American Gangster (2007)
Ridley Scott is somewhat of a British Scorsese, if not quite as accomplished. Like our New Yorker, he’s produced a stunning array of films in different genres from science fiction to historical epic. For American Gangster, he finally told a years-spanning crime story of the ilk that we’ve come to expect from Scorsese. People mainly come to Scott’s movies for his scope and visuals, and while American Gangster has the visual feel of a Friedkin or Lumet 70’s crime flick, this film contains some of his finest performances. Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington are the flawed and charismatic characters that can justify a bloated runtime and a meandering plot. It’s not as flashy as Goodfellas or Scarface or many of its cohort, but American Gangster is realistic and sensitive to human emotion. I’ll take that any day.
Double Feature: Training Day
53. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
There aren’t too many foreign films on this list, but Kung Fu Hustle is no stuffy French drama or Korean horror joint. It’s a bizarre riff on the hero’s journey about a wannabe-criminal turned kung fu master filled with incredible action sequences that defy description. Even when physics warp like an animated film, the actor’s total commitment to the world building keeps it cohesive. In a post-Matrix world, this action comedy uses the advancements in special effects for good and raucous effect.
52. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)
I am the Spongebob generation. The show debuted in 1999, just as my peers were old enough to be properly enslaved by the boobtube. And it hooked us. Despised by those who don’t understand its mix of surreal, irreverent, and silly humor, Spongebob nonetheless remains a cultural icon. At the height of popularity, the creators released a movie about Spongebob and Patrick hitting the road to save their home. Over the course of their journey, the movie deals with their arrested, er, adolescence, as well as the power of friendship and much more. Like the best kids entertainment it has a message without beating you over the head: You can be responsible and be yourself. Unfortunately, like the worst kids entertainment, I’m sure adults couldn’t stand it, even though there are a few jokes for their benefit. I’ve since seen the movie countless times and even watched its recent sequel, but I will never forget the affirmation of singing along to “Goofy Goober Rock!”
As you requested:
51. Kung Fu Panda (2008)
This is the second animated film and the second kung fu based film in this set of 10. I’m sure you noticed. Now, when Kung Fu Panda came out, it’s important to note that Dreamworks was mainly coasting on the success Shrek. Instead of going to Pixar route, making animated movies about small worlds made big, Dreamworks continued to establish their brand as big worlds told big! Kung Fu Panda has the same message as just about every kid’s film ever, but it also has a top-five turn by Jack Black, beautiful animation, and best of all a sense of fun. Like Spongebob above, the re-watch value of this film is off the charts.
The Facts: 2004 dominates this group.
50. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
I’m proud to say that this “sports” movie about competitive Dodgeball has become a certified classic in the years since its release. For a widely appreciated comedy, it’s awfully weird – Steve the Pirate, anyone? – even if it is also plain crass at times. To this day, people are quoting “Cotton” the nonsensical announcer and asking if you know the 5 D’s Dodgeball. I know I do. Dodge, duck dip, dive, and…dodge.
Learn from Patches himself:
49. The Patriot (2000)
Ah, Mel Gibson. In this decade, one of Hollywood’s most charismatic stars tanked even after directing the fabulously profitable Passion of the Christ, and the well-received Apocalyptic. Meanwhile, The Patriot will play endlessly on TNT and bring him royalties to buy plenty of Foster’s* tall boys. It’s the best (revisionist) history of how ‘Murica whupped British ass with guerilla warfare, so it deserves every rewatch it gets.
*Foster’s is Australian for beer.
48. Hellboy (2004)
Hellboy reminds people that there were bright spots in the glut of bad superhero movies that came out before Iron Man/Dark Knight changed the game. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why. Rather than a cumbersome origin story, Hellboy – not a well known hero by any standard – tells the story of the Rasputin and his dastardly plans to unleash the apocalypse. Yes, that Rasputin. The film mixes derring-do, jokes, and genuinely creepy monsters to crowd-pleasing effect. Not surprising that Oscar winner Guielrmo del Toro was the one to pull it off.
Double feature: Big Trouble in Little China
47. Sex Drive (2008)
Sometimes it’s the small ones that have all the heart. On paper, Sex Drive rips off Road Trip, this time about a virgin crossing the country just to lose his cherry. In reality it’s so much more. Although it didn’t connect well with audiences, it has the simultaneous mix of profanity and sweetness that made American Pie work, with an added bonus of truly committed performances. Clark Duke announces himself as a comic star and James Marsden shatters his pretty boy persona.
Be warned that the most available version seems to be the unrated one, which inserts random nudity, and purposefully bad editing. For the fans only.
46. Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Begins as a title sums up the plot quite handily, and in recent years it’s formula has only been solidified: watch the origin of your favorite hero over the course of an entire movie, as opposed to just the first act like in Spider-Man. Compared to The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins tends to fall in the cracks, but clearly it’s influential. Not only does it sport some of Nolan’s classic nonlinear editing, it also contains the biggest emotional heft of the series. Batman Begins shows Bruce Wayne dealing with the grief of returning to the home he’s abandoned, and realizing the best way to honor his parents is to rebuild it. Think on that.
45. Old School (2003)
Luke Wilson gets divorced, starts a fraternity, mischief ensues. At the center of this comic all-star bonanza (Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Piven, Snoop-a-loop!), is in fact an incredibly empathetic performance by Wilson. His straight man turn keeps his the lid on this otherwise bonkers tale. Several years before Judd Apatow started his reign of bromance, Todd Philip’s gave his crass crack at male bonding, masculinity, and good ole fashioned partying.
Drink Everytime…you hear Blue, aarmuffs, Frank the Tank, streaking, fraternity, bread maker
44. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream should be required in high school health class. It shows the darkest possible outcomes of trying drugs in the clearest possible way. Seriously, don’t do drugs. Please don’t. Honestly, if you start doing drugs, watch this and you’ll quit. Requiem is as scary as any horror film, and as stylish as the best. I’m sweating just writing about it. Damn you, Aronofsky. This movie can’t be unseen!
When to watch: When you want to die a little inside.
43. Gladiator (2000)
Believe it or not, there were a lot of people who thought this swords-n-sandals epic would fail. Russell Crowe was still an unproven star, and even though Ridley Scott was established, who wanted to watch stolid gladiator movies? Sure enough, Scott injected a burst of kinetic energy into the old Hollywood genre. Combined with Hans Zimmer’s unbelievable score, the tale of patricide and revenge got audiences flowing into our movie-theater Coliseums.
Quote dat sh*t: My name is Maximus – gives me chills.
42. Meet the Parents (2000)
Following the huge success of the There’s Something About Mary, Ben Stiller had a lot to live up to. Teaming up with Robert DeNiro of all actors, he proved that he could rock the silver screen. While the title is simple enough, it fails to capture the insanity of the film and its’ surprisingly dark turns. This movie goes from groans, to winces, to sheer panic, ultimately making for a unique and very memorable experience.
Cause I like Owen Wilson:
41. Shrek (2001)
I’ve already reference this monster film on several occasions thus far, and for good reason: What is the 2000’s without Shrek? Perhaps the comedy about a salty ogre and his fairy-tale misadventures has lost some good will in recent years with the glut of films and spin-offs, but at the time, it was genuinely exciting. It’s cited as the type of animation that adults and kids can enjoy and it still remains an important barometer. I suppose we must ask why the film works at its core. Sure, it has the re-watch of Kung Fu Panda, the fun of Spongebob, the creativity of Wallace and Gromit, but the real win here is the character work. Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona – these are all solid characters as odd as that is to say.
The Facts: 2000 comes in strong.