How do you sum up a decade in just ten movies? That's easy: you can't. Not when the first ten years of a new millennium saw the flowering of such established talents as Clint Eastwood, The Coen Brothers, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Mike Leigh, Guy Maddin, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Pedro Almodóvar, the flowering of the Mexican cinema renaissance (with such gifted filmmakers as Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón), the arrival of Jason Reitman, Noah Baumbach, and other exciting new voices, right up through Lena Dunham.
Having scanned my own ten-best lists since 2000, I have chosen ten movies that represent a panoply of significant (and varied) achievements: these pictures spoke to audiences when they were new and still resonate today.
Could I expand the list tenfold? Easily. I enjoyed just thinking about such films as You Can Count on Me, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Croupier, Cast Away, Amores Perros, Startup.com, No Man's Land, Songcatcher, Talk To Her, About Schmidt, The Pianist, Road to Perdition, American Splendor, My Architect, The Barbarian Invasions, The Station Agent, Whale Rider, Big Fish, The Motorcycle Diaries, Sideways, The Sea Inside, Million Dollar Baby, Downfall, A History of Violence, Brothers, Syriana, The Squid and the Whale, The Queen, Little Children, Flags of Our Fathers, Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Waitress, No Country for Old Men, Into the Wild, Away From Her, Grindhouse, Once, Enchanted, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, There Will Be Blood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Frozen River, Up in the Air, The Hangover, Up, District 9, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King's Speech, The Town, and The Ghost Writer.
But that wasn't the task at hand. I was asked to find ten films that mattered, and represented the decade just past. Here they are. (If you want to know what I think of the current crop, or the year winding down, go to www.leonardmaltin.com)
Leonard Maltin is the editor of the paperback reference Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, which is now available as an app from iTunes. He holds court at www.leonardmaltin.com.