Home > Film > Films of the Decade: 10-6

Films of the Decade: 10-6

10. Gladiator (2000): My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next. Few lines make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as much as this one. Gladiator actually succeeds at doing that quite frequently. This is an exceedingly powerful revenge tale that takes place at the end of the Golden Age of Rome, an age that was, according to Edward Gibbon, unparalleled. As far as historical epics go, Gladiator is unparalleled. Though try as they might in the upcoming Robin Hood, it will be immensely difficult for Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe to match the beauty and grandeur of their first masterpiece.

9. Memento (2000): This is the film where Christopher Nolan has so eloquently decided to diagnose his audience with Anterograde Amnesia, the very disease that the lead character suffers from. Although plenty of directors had messed around with time before, I am not aware of anything quite like this prior to the release of Memento. The reason for this, I would guess, is not because it had never been thought of before, but because no one thought it could work. The idea seems absurd: Nolan has quite literally taken a sequence of chronological scenes and played them in reverse order. But what sort of story could merit such a jarring form? How about a story about someone with a memory disorder? Brilliant. Content beautifully blended with form equals winner.

8. Kill Bill (2003) (2004): I would want to kill Bill too if he did to me what he does to the lead character, __________ (Uma Thurman), in this Quentin Tarantino homage-to-the-70’s kung-fu extravaganza. Once you meet him, however, Bill doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. He is actually quite likeable and the more you get to know him, the more you become surprised (as surprised as __________) that Bill would be capable of such an evil act. That is what I have come to expect from Tarantino: characters that are as unpredictable as the plot itself. Another thing I have come to expect from a Tarantino film is style. And let’s just say he delivers. Featuring an atom bombs worth of style—whether in its violence, its colors, its writing, or in its characters—Kill Bill is a gourmet feast for the eyes and for the ears.

7. The Dark Knight (2008): The Dark Knight is a comic book movie, right? Then how come it doesn’t feel like one? Probably because Christopher Nolan has done such a remarkable job at meshing comic book content with the classic crime-drama formula. His dedication to creating a gritty, nasty, brutally real world pays off wonderfully, delivering one excellent film that just so happens to be about Batman. It also contains one of the greatest opening sequences I have ever seen on film. And, of course, I don’t think I need to comment too extensively on Heath Ledger’s performance. Much has already been said about it. But I will say this: when AFI releases an updated version of their top 100 heroes and villains list, they would do well to place Ledger’s Joker toward the top. He gets my vote for the greatest performance of the decade.

6. The Departed (2006): A fast paced crime-drama, The Departed gives us an entangled web of complex relationships that sets us up for one hell of a ride. A grungy kid from the back streets of Boston is hired to work undercover for the cops by infiltrating the Irish Mob while the Mob sends one of their own—a well-groomed, trustworthy, officer—into cop land. Both sides know there’s a rat. Both attempt to weed him out. But how? Blood. Sweat. And laughs. Yes, laughs. All of it taking place in Irish Catholic Boston, accents and all. This is Scorsese at his best.

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