Note: This is part four of a look at my favorite films of the past 10 years.
20. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
From start to finish, I laugh and laugh and laugh at this Coen Bros. film. It’s full of instantly quotable lines (“Why, it’s a geographic oddity” comes to mind), and the KKK sequence is perfect filmmaking – it frightens and haunts before giving way to absurdity.
19. Mystic River
Director Clint Eastwood’s dark tale about friendship and loyalty set in Boston provided a showcase for its actors. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won the awards, but the rest of the ensemble more than holds its own. Everything comes together – acting, writing, directing, cinematography, musical score – to create one of Eastwood’s best efforts.
18. No Country for Old Men
The Coen Bros. appear again, this time leaving out any traces of comedy (even Javier Bordem’s ridiculous haircut comes off as scary) in this look at the poor choices that men make and the evil that exists in this world.
17. Minority Report
Steven Spielberg’s summer box office hit was billed as an action/science fiction movie, but really it’s a closer look at religion, particularly the idea of predestination. Do we have control over our actions, or does God control us? Does free will exist? This movie demands multiple viewings, and not only does it hold up each time, it improves.
16. Spider-Man 2
Superhero movies shouldn’t be filled with the depth and drama Sam Raimi brought to this sequel, but I dare you to watch the runaway train scene and not feel the weight of the world on Spider-Man’s spandex-covered shoulders.
15. Shrek 2
Bigger and funnier than the first Shrek, without as many barbs tossed at Disney, Shrek 2 is the rare example of a comedy sequel that improves upon the original.
This movie essentially comes down to one phrase: “At my signal, unleash hell.” With that, star Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott took the sword-and-sandals genre and updated it for today’s audiences. We were entertained, were we not?
Steven Spielberg makes his final appearance on this list with one of his masterpieces, a closer look at the aftermath of the 1972 Olympic massacre. He lets drama and tension unfold like an old pro, toying with our emotions until we can barely take it anymore.
12. Black Hawk Down
The 1990s gave us Saving Private Ryan, but Ridley Scott’s true-story recount of a battle with Somalian warlords is a more gripping tale of the confusion of war.
11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
From a technical standpoint, this is one of the decade’s masterpieces. Everything comes together in this ridiculously inventive look at love and loss and the lengths we’ll go to in order to heal ourselves from heartache.