1. American Beauty (2000)
I need to watch this film again (I saw it four or five times early in the decade) and see if it still has the hold over me it had then. It is, by turns, a beautiful and savage look at suburban life.
2. The Science of Sleep (2007)
A film with the atmosphere of a dream in the best possible sense; Stephane pursues his neighbour Stephanie and his artistic ambition in a world with all the distortions and twists of dreams.
3. The Virgin Suicides (2000)
I love this film’s evocation of the 1970s and of adolescence. It is a film of rare beauty, humour and drama.
4. Synecdoche (2009)
A sad film about death and art, and a play which consumes the world.
4a. LATE ADDITION : A Serious Man (2009)
A comic film about suffering and the meaning of life, sharply witty.
5. I’m Not There (2007)
The lives of Bob Dylan told in myth; strange and wonderful.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Would you erase all the memories of a failed romance if you could? Crazy and beautiful at the same time.
7. Me, you and everyone we know (2005)
A film about awkward people in love; quirky and warm with splendid dialogue.
8. Donnie Darko (2001)
I don’t pretend to understand it, but it’s a startling, inspiring journey with Donnie, an authentic and brave teenager.
9. Amazing Grace (2007)
The most mainstream of the films on this list, an inspiring biopic of William Wilberforce’s fight against slavery.
10. Amelie (2001)
Every second person’s favourite film is genuinely brilliant, a whimsical, exploration of the meaning of life.
11. Adaptation (2002)
Charlie Kaufman for the third time in this list; he was meant to adapt The Orchid Thief, a conventional non-fiction narrative, but instead he wrote a script about the whole idea of ‘adaptation’ and a writer battling to write the script for The Orchid Thief.
12. Atonement (2007)
A classy adaptation of one of my favourite books, retaining much of the tragedy and drama; also visually stunning.
13. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
Director Michael Winterbottom has crafted a brilliant postmodern biopic of Tony Wilson and his involvement with Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays.
14. The Quiet American (2002)
An excellent adaptation of the Graham Greene novel; a sombre exploration of colonialism and personal ethics.
15. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
The Coen brothers’ film noir about a barber who gets himself in over his head. The first time I watched, it was an all time favourite, but it had less impact on repeat viewings.
16. Death at a Funeral (2007)
The funniest film I saw all decade.
17. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
As good as the hype – an energetic, pulsing thriller-drama.
18. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Two teenage boys go on a holiday with a married woman.
19. Palindromes (2004)
An awkwardly funny and disturbing film about abortion and paedophilia; I don’t think I’m brave enough to watch it again.
20. Memento (2000)
A crime film about a man with no short term memory, with a very effective narrative innovation.
21. Storytelling (2001)
I love the creative writing class scenes early in this film; a shocking and funny film about ‘fiction’ and ‘nonfiction’ from Todd Solondz (Palindromes).
22. Pan’s Labrinyth (2006)
A violent fable set in wartime Italy.
23. Match Point (2005)
The only Woody Allen film of the decade I liked, and I speak as a fan; a kind of Dostoveskian drama.
24. As It Is In Heaven (2004)
A heartwarming Swedish film about a composer who goes back to his small home town; I saw it in a tiny seaside cinema in NZ on our honeymoon.
25. Team America (2004)
A puerile, hilarious satire on the international politics of the decade from the South Park creators.
26. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
A kind of J.D. Salingeresque look at a crazy family from Wes Anderson.
27. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
A nasty thriller/ family drama brilliantly executed by octogenarian director Sydney Lumet; you’d need to be in the right mood to enjoy this.
28. Mullholland Dr (2001)
I don’t know what to think of David Lynch’s nightmares; there was a time I lived by them.
29. He Died With A Felafel In His Hand (2001)
A funny Australian look at share houses.
30. The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman as he should be; epic filmmaking at its best.
A strong contender for the number one place – Fight Club – was released in November 1999, just outside the decade. It was still playing at cinemas well into 2000 when I finally saw it. American Beauty was released in 1999 in the USA, but not until January 2000 in Australia. Some arbitrary decisions, then.