And the five greatest films of the decade are …
5 Hidden (2005)
A bewildering puzzle of a film, as well as a disturbing and gripping thriller, Michael Haneke dissects both bourgeoisie society and cinematic voyeurism in his greatest film to date. Mysterious videotapes sent to the home of TV host Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), contain endless footage of the outside of their house filmed from a hidden static camera, ultimately forcing Georges to confront terrible secrets from his past. Not only a tragic personal story of a man stalked by his past, Haneke also offers a scathing attack on a self-satisfied intellectual class who share and deny a buried collective guilt, explicitly referring to the massacre of Algerians in 1961, but the idea applies on a more general level. Hidden sustains its incredible disturbing tension throughout, so that when one particularly horrible scene arrives, it is all the more shocking. An extraordinary multi-layered thriller, with a final subtle twist in its tail.
4 Let The Right One In (2008)
A stunning romantic horror film, Let The Right One In is such a richly moving work that any genre pigeon-holing does it a disservice. This is technically and emotionally superb filmmaking, with Tomas Alfredson’s delicate capturing of time, place and character absolutely pitch perfect. In a bleak snow-drenched suburb of 1980′s Stockholm, introverted 12-year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) finds salvation from his bullying schoolmates when he develops a friendship with his young neighbour Eli (Lina Leandersson), who is actually a vampire over 200 years old. Like warm red blood melting through crisp white snow, this film will thaw any hard heart with its strange and poetic central friendship. By turns sensitive and shocking, Let The Right One In is a beautiful and frightening work of nuanced genius, where every detail matters.
3 Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Hurrah for David Lynch. Without his skewed psychological dreamscapes the cinema would be a far duller place. There’s something about Lynch’s unique off-kilter aesthetic that keeps me riveted to the screen, even in muddled but brilliant films like Lost Highway and Inland Empire, but with Mulholland Dr. he succeeds in making a work so unremittingly captivating that it doesn’t matter when none of it seems to make any sense. Of course, half the fun on repeated viewings is trying to work it all out (clue – it’s literally a film of two halves). If you thought Billy Wilder nailed feverish Hollywood noir with Sunset Boulevard, this menacing and surreal response to that film presents warped Tinseltown paranoia at the level of a carnivalistic nightmare. Mulholland Dr. is a monumental piece of intoxicating cinema, ranking with The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet as David Lynch’s third out-and-out masterwork.
2 Lost In Translation (2003)
A beautiful and totally charming tale of the unlikely friendship formed between an ageing movie star and the young wife of a celebrity photographer, both caught at emotional crossroads in their lives. Bonding over a shared sense of alienation and culture shock, a poignant relationship blossoms within the hotel’s sterile interiors. The couple’s final inaudible words together leave the audience floating with possibilities, but the impact is simply breathtaking. With career best performances from Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, an irresistible shoegaze soundtrack, and exquisite direction from Sofia Coppola, Lost In Translation is simple, sweet and so effective. Appropriately enough, this is a film to fall in love with and to lose yourself.
And The Film Of The Decade …
1 There Will Be Blood (2007)
So here it is, a film so devastating in its ambition and execution that no other came close to claiming the top title. The film’s many great aspects are all too clear when compared against other great cinematic jewels – There Will Be Blood offers a complex character dissection similar to Citizen Kane, it has the same themes of destructive greed as The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, the same bold visionary style of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the same sprawling social commentary as The Godfather etc. In summary, this is one hell of a film. Channeling John Huston with frightening skill, Daniel Day Lewis’s tour-de-force performance as Daniel Plainview fully realises the character’s remarkable descent into evil. From a penniless wreck crawling over miles of hills with a broken leg to an insane ageing millionaire prowling madly around his empty mansion, the character arc of Plainview is truly terrifying. With this film, Paul Thomas Anderson cements his reputation as America’s greatest modern auteur. From its no-nonsense opening title to its closing dedication to Robert Altman, There Will Be Blood is an astonishing, mad, surprising, thematically rich, visually audacious masterpiece.
Look out for the next 100 Films Of The Decade list which will be published in January 2020.
70 Wonder Boys (2000)
An unfinished novel, a murdered pet, a pregnant lover, an unstable student and a coat worn by Marilyn Monroe on her wedding day are just some of the elements that make up Curtis Hanson’s wonderful comic drama Wonder Boys. In his finest screen role, Michael Douglas plays Professor Grady Tripp, a lecturer suffering from a seven-year bout of writer’s block as well as a failed marriage. The supporting cast is excellent, particularly Toby Maguire as the darkly enigmatic student with a fixation for Hollywood suicides. A charming, witty and engaging portrait of troubled characters all looking for resolutions to the trappings of marriage, education, emotional trauma and creative impasse.
69 Eastern Promises (2007)
A British midwife (Naomi Watts) gets mixed up with London’s Russian mafia in David Cronenberg’s riveting crime thriller. Reunited with the director after their success with A History Of Violence, Viggo Mortensen continues to show his brilliant range as Nikolai, the driver of a powerful mafia boss hiding a dangerous secret. With Cronenberg’s typical flair for startling gory violence (notably during an incredible fight sequence in a Turkish bath) and an impressive plot twist, Eastern Promises is a brilliantly constructed and electrifying slice of cinema.
68 Hunger (2008)
Making an impressively assured switch from Turner Prize-winning art to award-winning cinema, first time director Steve McQueen brings the harrowing events of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strikes to the screen in this frighteningly honest depiction. At the centre of Hunger is a 17-minute one-camera take (and the longest single shot in mainstream cinema) of a priest trying to convince strike leader Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) to call off the protest, giving the film a rich political discourse amidst the graphic prison sequences. This is an unflinchingly brutal drama, certainly not an easy or pleasant watch, but powerful and important filmmaking.
67 Babel (2006)
The ambitious cinema of Alejandro González Iñárritu may seem to overreach itself with its grandiose themes of universal suffering, but there’s no denying the minute-by-minute dramatic punch of his films. Taking the multi-narrrative single-location style of Amores Perros and 21 Grams and transplanting it to an international stage, Babel presents four interlocking stories of personal tragedy set across Morocco, Japan, United States and Mexico. The Tower of Babel association is clear enough, since each story is built around misunderstandings caused by language barriers, particularly the moving tale of confused death-mute Japanese teenager Chieko. Babel‘s power lies in its sheer determined bravado.
66 Coraline (2009)
Another stunning animated gem from stop-motion maestro Henry Selick, following The Nightmare Before Christmas and James And The Giant Peach. Based on Neil Gaiman’s fantasy-horror novel about a girl who finds a passage to an almost identical world in a strange old house, Coraline spills over with imaginative concepts and design. Revelling in delicous dark comedy and an occasional almost-inappropriate nakedness (you’ll know the scene), the 3-D technique only added extra visual novelty to an already faultless 2-D animated fantasy.
65 The Piano Teacher (2001)
Along with Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke is perhaps the last great European aueteur of cinema, having built up an imposing body of work, often bleak and alarming but always significant. Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, The Piano Teacher continues Haneke’s trend for grim visceral horror. Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) teaches piano at the Vienna Conservatory and lives with her oppressive mother (Annie Girardot), but after being seduced by one of her students she starts to unleash a dangerous and uncontrollable desire. Disturbing, demanding and overlong, but well worth the effort for those who can take it.
64 The Departed (2006)
In his remake of Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, Martin Scorsese adds an extra hour of screen time and again dissects the American gangster scene to present a typically epic portrayal of mobsters and informants in the Massachusetts State Police. Winning Best Film and Best Director Oscars may have seemed like compensatory awards for decades of Scorsese’s Academy losses, but that really belittles the achievements of this excellent crime thriller. The ridiculously starry cast includes Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Scorsese’s favourite 21st century lead, Leonardo DiCaprio. Violent epic grandeur and his best film since Goodfellas.
63 American Splendour (2003)
One of the great portraits of creative anguish, American Splendour is quite unlike any other biopic. Paul Giametti plays underground writer Harvey Pekar, who reflected the poignant monotony of his own life through the comic book series American Splendour whilst being treated for cancer. The real Harvey Pekar also appears throughout in the flesh and in animation, commentating on the film’s inaccuracies. Amusingly, Pekar’s actual appearances on the Letterman show are seamlessly spliced into the dramatic reconstructions. With its floating jazz score, bleak humour and off-kilter structure, American Splendour is a beautifully sad jewel of a film.
62 Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The remarkable international success of Danny Boyle’s triumph-against-adveristy tale mirrors the film’s own ascending underdog status and somehow tapped into a global aspirational mood during a world financial crisis. But Slumdog Millionaire is no gentle ride and certainly not the ‘feel good movie’ labelled by advertises. In fact, it’s a tough, uncompromising film that only allows a feel good ending after subjecting the viewer to all the pain, suffering and heartache of it’s struggling protagonist. For a film with a comparatively low-budget, a bleak tone, a harsh subject matter and recurring subtitles, Slumdog Millionaire‘s international acclaim, particularly at the Oscars, only reaffirms the film’s great aptitude for dramatic storytelling.
61 Donnie Darko (2001)
‘Harvey on acid’ may sound like a trite IMDB review title, but it’s perhaps the best way to describe Richard Kelly’s strange soporific fantasy. Devilishly blending science-fiction mystery, college drama and dark comedy, the varied meanings and interpretations of Donnie Darko are still well up for debate, but thankfully the film is smart and witty enough to withstand repeated viewings needed whilst attempting to make sense of it all. Or maybe it’s just more fun not to make sense of things, afterall where’s the feeling of wonder in fully comprehending everything? Definitely the weirdest and coolest of the US indie new wave.