Best of the Decade: Film (Take One)



Steven Spielberg (above) is one of our Directors of the Decade. So is Alfonso Cuaron (below).
  • Steven Spielberg (above) is one of our Directors of the Decade. So is Alfonso Cuaron (below).

We'll have our year-end-list picks for 2009 in an upcoming print edition of the Flyer, but first we wanted to look back at the entire decade in movies.

In this five-post series, Flyer film writers (Chris Herrington, Greg Akers, and Addison Engelking) will list our favorite films, filmmakers, performances, scenes, and moments of the decade.

(We will each post our personal Top 25 lists for the decade in the concluding posts. But I'm counting down my Top 100 on Twitter. You can follow me at @ChrisHerrington.)

We're especially fond of the scenes and moments. In homage to the "Moments Out of Time" series Film Comment magazine used to publish to celebrate each year in film, we've meditated on what we remember most about movies of the aughts and came up with a list of roughly 100 moments that we think capture some of the best of what being a filmgoer meant over the past 10 years.


We'll lead off each of these five rather lengthy posts with 20 or so memorable moments/scenes and conclude each with additional lists. This one features our picks for the decade's most overlooked or underrated films and the decade's definitive filmmakers.

We hope you enjoy reading it, because we sure had fun putting it together:


The symphony of confusion, panic, and excitement that crosses Seth Rogen's face when he realizes Katherine Heigl isn't leaving the club with her sister, but is instead staying with him: KNOCKED UP. (CH)

Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor reinvent the split-screen as an erotic dance in DOWN WITH LOVE. (AE)

The heroine (Audrey Tautou) becomes an anonymous do-gooder as her unsuspecting quarry (Maurice Bénichou) finds a box from his childhood and is reduced to tears in a flash of memory in AMELIE. (GA)

Discovering that Betty Elms — and Naomi Watts — can really act: MULHOLLAND DR.'s magnificent audition scene. (CH)

Naomi Watts' coming-out party from Mulholland Dr.:

The look of competing emotions on the face of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) after he has chased a woman with a chainsaw and dropped it on her from the top of a stairwell in AMERICAN PSYCHO. (GA)

Family members with umbrellas plunge into the rain in flanks, like a giddy version of a Kurosawa battle scene, MONSOON WEDDING finally earning its title. (CH)

Will Ferrell takes a horse tranquilizer to the neck, OLD SCHOOL. (AE)

Frank the Tank, in Old School:

Various Appalachian locals sing “O Death” in SONGCATCHER. (GA)

The brutal thud of skin on tile: The savage bathhouse knife fight in EASTERN PROMISES. (CH)

Forget The Blind Side, here’s a great Memphis football moment: Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) returns home and finds out how much things have changed: “So, let me get one thing straight here … We have a pro football team now, but they're in Nashville?” CAST AWAY (GA)

An outdoor cantina. A jukebox. Three bottles of beer. One bottle of tequila. Two drunken teens. And Maribel Verdu dancing back to the table. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN's dizzying peak in one unbroken shot. (CH)

The "cantina scene" from Y Tu Mama Tambien (abbreviated and not subtitled, but the best we could find):

The cheesy narration setup comes to brilliant fruition as Will Lyman does play-by-play of Brad (Patrick Wilson) seeking a return to glory playing pick-up football in LITTLE CHILDREN. (GA)

"Wait...wait...wait" Agatha (Samantha Morton) holds John Anderton (Tom Cruise) in the middle of a mall courtyard just long enough for balloons to hide him from the pre-crime police officers in MINORITY REPORT. (AE)

Japanese soldiers are cornered in caves as bomb blasts on the surface announce the footsteps of the awakened American military giant in LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. (GA)

Underground, in Letters From Iwo Jima:

Eleven uninterrupted minutes of fucking, flirting, arguing, and lying around. Real sex — and real love — in LATE MARRIAGE. (CH)

Virginia Madsen describes a pinot noir, SIDEWAYS. (AE)

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) turns his head to look out the window and Celine (Julie Delphy) reaches up to stroke his hair, only to pull her hand away before he notices. Time running out in BEFORE SUNSET. (CH)

Before Sunset ("moment" at the 5:30 mark):

One airplane shoots at another one, and the spent shells jingle their way at and past the camera, in the cinematic aerial dogfighting marvel of DARK BLUE WORLD. (GA)

Grizzled veteran Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn) instructs his charges on the fives Ds of dodgeball — dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge — in DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY. (CH)

The child Li’l Dice (Douglas Silva) becomes a killer in a motel bloodbath — and laughs joyously — in CITY OF GOD. (GA)

Mob boss Richie Cusack (William Hurt)'s reaction when former diner owner-turned-unstoppable-assassin Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) arrives at his mansion, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. (AE)

Coming home to roost, A History of Violence:

The triptych opening credits of Mike Leigh's HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. (CH)

Huck (Eric Bana) and L.C. (Robert Duvall) duel in a one-on-one gambling jag in a coffee shop, a lifetime of broken trust between them, in LUCKY YOU. (GA)

(Note: These lists exclude films that will make our overall Top 25 of the Decade lists.)


1. Keeping the Faith (2000)
2. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
3. Gran Torino (2008)
4. Lions for Lambs (2007)
5. Brick (2005)
6. Hulk (Ang Lee version, 2003)
7. Breach (2007)
8. American Psycho (2000)
9. Dogville (2003)
10. The Way of the Gun (2000)


The Rules of Attraction (2002)
Mission to Mars (2000)
Murderball (2005)
Chaos Theory (2007)
In America (2003)
Bobby (2006)
Down With Love (2003)
War of the Worlds (2005)
X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)
Twilight (2008)


Black Snake Moan (2007)
The Family Stone (2005)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
In Her Shoes (2005)
The Prestige (2006)

All the Real Girls (2003)
Alexander the Last (2009)
Come Early Morning (2006)
Junebug (2005)
Raising Victor Vargas (2002)



Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento, The Prestige, Batman Begins)
Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Death Proof)
Steven Spielberg (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Catch Me if You Can, Munich, Minority Report)
Clint Eastwood (Mystic River, Gran Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima)


Steven Spielberg (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, The Terminal)
Mike Leigh (All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky)
Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox)
David Lynch (Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire)
Johnnie To (Exiled, Triad Election, Sparrow)


Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy [2000 Memphis release], Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, All or Nothing)
Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men)
Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. 1&2, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds)
David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Spider, Eastern Promises)
Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, The Informant!)


Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Add a comment