Top 10 Films Awards – 2000s

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The 2000s are no more. Our top 50 of the decade has been finalised – let the retrospective investigation of the period begin.

What did cinema in the 2000s leave us? What were the trends? How did cinema progress? What directors established themselves? What directors committed career suicide?

What are your lasting memories of cinema in the 2000s?

The following awards are given based on Top10Films’ Top 50 Films of the 2000s:

Best Year:
1st place – 2000 (8 films)
2nd place – 2005 (7 films)
3rd place – 2007 & 2006 (6 films)

Best Director:

christopher nolan, best director 2000s, dark knight, prestige, batman begins, memento

1st Place – Christopher Nolan (4 films)
2nd Place – Alexander Payne (2 films), Michael Winterbottom (2 films), Paul Thomas Anderson (2 films), Peter Jackson (2 films)

Best Genre: Comedy-Drama (12 films)
When it comes to genre the rather indefinable comedy-drama wins out. What is comedy-drama or as it is sometimes known ‘Dramedy’. It isn’t straight-forward comedy or drama – it’s funny and uplifting but downbeat and dark in equal measure. Like Hithcock said – “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out”. Comedy-Drama, I think, is life with the funny bits left in.

Best Country:
1st Place – USA (35 films)
2nd Place – UK (10 films)
3rd Place – New Zealand (4 films)
More an indication of my viewing habits throughout the decade than anything else. I have seen many non-English language films (several from mainland Europe, and many from east Asia) but must see more.


The following awards are based on the votes of the Top10Films judging panel (the judging panel is made up of Dan Stephens, his superhero alter-ego The Fiend, and five of his eight split personalities – the other three aren’t film fans):

Best Character:

best characters 2000s, patrick bateman, wikus, gay perry, jack, sideways, bad santa

1st Place – Patrick Bateman (“American Psycho”, played by Christian Bale)
2nd Place – Wikus Van De Merwe (“District 9”, played by Sharlto Copley)
3rd Place – Gay Perry (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, played by Val Kilmer)
4th Place – Jack (“Sideways”, played by Thomas Haden Church)
5th Place – Willie (“Bad Santa”, played by Billy Bob Thornton)

Best Performance:

2000s best performances film

1st Place – Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”, as The Joker)
2nd Place – Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”, as Daniel Plainview)
3rd Place – Sam Riley (“Control”, as Ian Curtis)
4th Place – Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”, as Eli Sunday)
5th Place – Christian Bale (“American Psycho”, as Patrick Bateman)

Most Memorable Moment:

sideways, top10films, paul giamatti, wine

“Sideways” – For me, the best scene of the decade occurs in Alexander Payne’s masterpiece “Sideways”. Paul Giamatti’s Miles and Virginia Madsen’s Maya discuss the virtues of wine. In what is a perfectly mannered moment between the two, Payne sees their discussion of wine as a metaphor for life itself. It is one hell of a moving moment, delivered so subtly by the actors. It concludes with Maya saying, “I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.”

Best Action Sequence:

ocean's eleven, best film 2000s, top 10 films,

“Ocean’s Eleven” – nothing comes close to the entire casino heist sequence.

Funniest Moment:

sideways, funniest moment, paul giamatti, top 10 films

“Sideways” – deciding to fake an accident Miles unwillingly allows Jack to put a brick on the accelerator peddle of his car in order to crash it into a tree. Unfortunately, as the driverless car sets off, the steering wheel inadvertently turns sending the car past the tree, through a fence, and into a ditch.

Scariest Moment:

city of god, scariest moment, 2000s, top 10 film,

“City of God” – so many to choose from but the one that remains so memorable is the sequence depicting the children being forced to be shot in the hand or foot. And then the consequences which follow.

Best first ten minutes:

there will be blood best film 2000s

1st Place – “There Will Be Blood” (Nothing really compares to this graceful, beautiful, wordless opening sequence that sees the beginnings of one man’s lifelong obsession to purge nature to fill his own pockets. Anderson’s glorious panoramic views and Jonny Greenwood’s haunting score add to the almost surreal yet riveting first few minutes.
2nd Place – “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” (Jackson crams lots of back story and a huge great war into the first few minutes of the film – what a start to this epic)
3rd Place – “Unbreakable” (M. Night Shaymalan sucks his audience into the film with the mysterious birth of an unusual child)
4th Place – “District 9” (It’s Independence Day in South Africa!)
5th Place – “The Dark Knight” (fast-moving, perfectly composed; a bank heist to rival the best)

Best Ending: (spoiler alert):

gran torino clint eastwood film, best ending, 2000s, top 10 films,

1st Place – “Gran Torino” (Walt Kowalski’s heart-wrenching sacrifice)
2nd Place – “There Will Be Blood” (a fitting closure to the greed and self-absorbed obsession of two of the decade’s most memorable characters)
3rd Place – “The Prestige” (Nolan knows how to do twist endings – did you see this coming)
4th Place – “Memento” (Another twist, another Nolan movie. At the end, we find out what the beginning was all about in this reverse chronology movie)
5th Place – “Unbreakable” (More twisty goings on, this time with M. Night Shyamalan)


Top 50 Films of the Decade (2000 to 2009):
Fantastic Voyages: There Will Be Blood
David H. Schleicher: There Will Be Blood
Paste Magazine: City of God
Wonders In The Dark: Far From Heaven
Movie Mobsters: The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Anomalous Material: Mulholland Dr.
Andrew at the Movies: Children of Men
Let’s Go To The Movies: Million Dollar Baby
Times Online: Hidden
Film Junk: The Wrestler
Supercords: City of God
Alternative Chronicle: City of God
Too Much Cinema: Memento
Cinema Door: Almost Famous
Earl’s Blog: The Dark Knight
Movie Retriever: The Lord of the Rings
Cinematic Passions: Closer
Notes of a Film Fanatic: Mulholland Dr.
Crash Landen: Adaptation
Cinema Autopsy: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Cinemascope – No Country For Old Men
Too Much Cinema: Memento
Movie Hole: Almost Famous
The Joshua Centre: Almost Famous
No Cure For That: The Royal Tenenbaums
The Movie Examiner: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy
Good News Film Reviews: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy
We Are Movie Geeks: Kill Bill Vol 1
Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies: Inglorious Basterds
Mo’ Better Blogging: Match Point
Magic Lantern Film Blog: Almost Famous
No Cure For That:The Royal Tenenbaums
Average Film Reviews: The Royal Tenenbaums
PB and J Strike Back: (no order listed)

Anomalous Material: Top Female Performances of Decade
Anomalous Material: Top Male Performances of Decade

If you would like me to link to your top films of the decade list (whether it is a top 10/20/50/100 or whatever) please drop me an email. Click the ABOUT link at the top of page for email address.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Will Reply

    Gotta agree with There Will Be Blood’s opening being number one! One of my favorite parts of that film. The rest of that list is great as well, though I don’t particularly remember the opening to Unbreakable. Will have to watch that one again.

    I would flip Heath and Daniel Day-Lewis in the acting list myself. To me that Daniel Day-Lewis performance will stand the test of time as one of the best ever. Heath’s will too, but in a lesser sense I think.

    Here’s hoping that Nolan’s Inception kicks off the new decade with a bang. I’ve been avoiding everything so that it’s all new when I see it.

  2. Avatar
    Aiden R. Reply

    Man, I am falling head-over-heels in love with your site today.

    – Totally agree about Nolan, he’s the best working director out there right now. What’d you think of Insomnia?

    – Love the Best Character list, but I think I’m the only person out there who thought Wikus was a complete dickhead.

    – Love love LOVE that you threw Sam Riley into the Best Actor mix. Dude is a dead ringer if there ever was one.

    – Really hard to argue with that scene from Sideways as the most memorable of the decade. Phenomenally written.

    – Would give best ending to Memento, but who am I to knock Gran Torino, Clint is a god amongst men.

    Well done, good sir.

  3. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Will It was tough deciding the order between Ledger and Day-Lewis – the two stand out performances of the decade for me. I went with Ledger as you see but on another day it could have been Day-Lewis. I think, for me, Ledger stood out because I had never seen him deliver such an accomplished, powerful and unique performance. I’ve seen Day-Lewis constantly give great performances – he always adds to every film he’s in, and, like Depp, fully immerses himself in the role. But Ledger, who has given good but not outstanding turns in 10 Things I Hate About You, A Knight’s Tale, and The Brothers Grimm for example, really showed there was a lot more to him. I suppose that’s the bittersweet nature of his Joker character. That he passed away so young shouldn’t really come into the decision of whether he or Day-Lewis delivered the best performance of the 2000s, but it does creep in there.

    @Aiden Cheers Aiden, I’m going to save that quote!

    I can’t say I’m particularly fond of Insomnia. It isn’t a bad film and it’s better than most, but Nolan is at his best when he’s working with his own material. I think I’m right in thinking Insomnia is the only film to date that Christopher Nolan has made from someone else’s screenplay.

    Sam Riley is great in Control isn’t he. Have you seen Sean Harris as Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People? That’s another good attempt at bringing the late singer to the screen.

  4. Avatar
    Aiden R. Reply

    It’s been a while since I last saw 24 hour party people, but Harris didn’t seem to stick out the same way Curtis did. Just another reason to go revisit that kickass movie.

  5. Avatar
    Encore Entertainment Reply

    Thought provoking list, I’d probably disagree with 90% but I like seeing what your thoughts are. What an excellent breakdown.

    (PS. what’s up with the absence of females?)

  6. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Encore It’s symptomatic of the period that no female performances/characters stood out for me. I just don’t think there are enough good roles for women out there. That’s not to say there haven’t been some significant performances during the 2000s, but there’s just not enough room above to feature them. I think Imelda Staunton has stood head and shoulders above every other woman during the 2000s but she’s had to take roles like the one in Three and Out that pass by the wayside.

    Of course, I mustn’t let director Kathryn Bigelow go unmentioned but she does take her time between movies. Then again, I’ve been singing her praises since Near Dark (

    Just so that I don’t lose all credibility with my female readers, Virginia Madsen does feature prominently in my most memorable scene.

  7. Avatar
    Encore Entertainment Reply

    Dan you’ve inspired me to do a similar list (all in due time, 2 months of no school ahead). Even though I pretended that those 33 posts I did way back recapping the decade were all I planned on, I don’t think I can resist.

  8. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Encore – Excellent, I look forward to reading it, Andrew. I don’t think there can be too many articles/lists/ etc., about the 2000s. After all, for many of us in our early to middle twenties, it is the first full decade in film we’ve been able to fully appreciate from the perspective of living throgh it. I have great memories of the 1990s but I was a kid the entire time.

  9. Avatar
    Castor Reply

    Can’t disagree with most of your picks although we can definitely see your love for Sideways once again 😉 Great post. Also thanks for the links Dan. Retweeted!

  10. Avatar
    Encore Entertainment Reply

    They shall be coming directly (yes, as in more than one), and you’re right about recapping 00s. It is my first real movie decade.

  11. Avatar
    Corey Reply

    For the most part, I agree with your list of best endings…although I think Memento would be #1 on my list. And I’m probably going to catch some flack for this, but I think the ending of No Country for Old Men is one of the decade’s best as well. Most people hated it, but I thought it was the perfect ending for that film, as well as one of the most unique endings I’ve ever seen.

  12. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Thanks for the comment Corey. “Memento” ran a close race with the rest but for me it was “Gran Torino” that stood out. But you’re right that Nolan knows how to end his movies perfectly. I actually liked The Prestige’s ending just that little bit more than “Memento”.

  13. Avatar
    rtm Reply

    Awesome post, Dan! Totally agree with you about Nolan, he’s probably the only contemporary director whose work hasn’t disappointed me. I just listed my ranking of his Top Five Films, but my list might change after I see Inception. I quite like Insomnia actually.

    I love how you include Wikus as Best Character! I dedicated a whole post on Sharlto Copley on my blog (which IMDb featured also) because I was blown away by his performance. I agree with Bale in AP also, though the movie was hard to watch for me… won’t see that one a second time!

    I like the ‘First 10 Minutes’ Category, and I agree with D-9 and Unbreakable. I love the first 10 minutes of Gladiator, but that was in 1995.

    Lastly, I’ve been curious about the movie Control. Even more so now that you include Sam Riley here.

  14. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @rtm: I think we’re going to see big things from Copley. I watched Inglorious Basterds for the second time last night and a part of me thinks I should have included Hans Landa in the top 5 characters.

  15. Avatar
    mark Reply

    On Encore Entertainment’s comment vis-a-vis lack of females, I think Nicole Kidman deserves something of a mention for Dogville. Despite being from Oz I’m not a big fan of her work (as accomplished as it might at times be), nor generally of other Aussie actors in Hollywood films. It is annoying, for example, that Cate Blanchett and Judy Davis had to be southerners in Benjamen Button and Naked Lunch respectively (is that the only international accent Aussie thespians can do conviningly?), just as there was a strange lack of depth in the characters of Guy Pearce in LA Confidential and Hugh Jackman in Swordfish. As for Russ Crowe, I don’t know if I would have thrown Oscars(R) at him – and he is great in Body of Lies … but let’s face it – like Peter Jackson, he is a Kiwi.

    Having said that, Kidman is fantastic in the Von Trier film – possibly because her peculiarly Australian aloofness is, in fact, one of her strengths.

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