Features

Top 50 Films of the Decade

Flicks’s team of critics and our critical friends from NZ Herald, 95bFM, Real Groove, Christchurch Press and TV3 got together and tallied our votes for the best films released between 2000 and now. These are the glorious results…


50. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

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Was it the blonde Afro, the overbite, the charmless way he answered the phone? Whatever it was about Jon Heder’s portrayal of the uncoolest kid in school, it brought serious new competition to the canon of nerd cinema. Napolean’s gang were just as memorable: Pedro, his Mexican best mate who ran for school president, Deb, advocate of soft-focus photography, Kip the unlikely lothario whose girlfriend is twice his size. Just add day-glo setting, cringe-worthy pacing and memorable quotes for comedy gold. Flippin’ sweet! -Rebecca Barry


49. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

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Was this is the finest concluding movie in a trilogy ever? Rather than over-egging the pudding or looking like it had run out of steam, 2007’s Ultimatum was the culmination and crescendo of all that had gone before. Having already completed Supremacy, director Paul Greengrass’s documentary approach to the action-movie was more honed this time around, while Tony Gilroy’s screenplay gave loyal fans what they’d been waiting for, Bourne’s chance for revenge on his masters. Breathless, unrelenting and utterly engrossing. -James Croot


48. Whale Rider (2002)

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Before Keisha Castle-Hughes took her clothes off for that angel movie she was cute enough to eat as a heartbroken Maori girl who just wants granddad to love her. Niki Caro’s spiritual and moving adaptation of the Witi Ihimaera novel – essentially a tale of female empowerment – brought out the sensitive soul in anyone who watched it. When you weren’t blubbering at Paikea’s rejection, you were taking in the beauty of her coastal village and rooting for her ultimate triumph. An emotional whale of a film. -Rebecca Barry


47. Sunshine (2007)

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Danny Boyle’s criminally overlooked 2007 sci-fi thriller took a plot that in synopsis sounds like something from the bombastic likes of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich – a team of scientists encounter problems while on a space-bound mission to restart the sun with a nuclear bomb – and injected it with levels of thoughtfulness most examples of the genre sorely lack. An unlikely ensemble (including Kiwi Cliff Curtis, in fine form) sustains the drama in a very human manner, but the film more than delivers on the epic grandeur, helped along by pristinely beautiful special effects. -Dominic Corry


46. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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The word ‘powerful’ is used to describe films far too often, but truly deserving of it was this masterpiece from filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler). This was a very moving, intense and at times horrific examination of addiction and how it destroys love. For me, this was filmmaking at its finest. If I ruled Hollywood, Requiem for a Dream would have been showered in Oscars in 2001: Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Lead Actress for Ellen Burstyn’s amazing performance. -Dan Rutledge


45. Pineapple Express (2008)

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This hilarious action-comedy from the Apatow factory is an unashamed pothead movie filled with dope jokes and side-splitting dialogue. It marked Kiwi audiences’ first exposure to the great Danny McBride and James Franco’s triumphant return to comedy. Judd Apatow had a hand in many of the 00’s biggest comedies, but Pineapple Express took the hash cake for its heady mix of violent action scenes, performances and homoerotic buddy story combined with the more subtle, deft hand of director David Gordon Green. -Dan Rutledge


44. The Descent (2005)

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Caving is already a freaky past-time, what with all that darkness, claustrophobia and eye-level spiders. It was bad enough when a team of female spelunkers decided to explore a stretch of uncharted Appalachian tunnels. So when director Neill Marshall added ugly, sightless cave monsters to the mix, he upped the terror quotient and created a highly original horror flick that played literally on our deepest fears. -Rebecca Barry


43. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

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From the the stop-frame animated underwater creatures, to the wonderful deadpan gags, to the Seu Jorge/David Bowie soundtrack, there were plenty of stylistic strokes of genius to enjoy here. But it was Bill Murray, staring out glumly into the abyss with a red cap and Papa Smurf beard, who was at the heart of The Life Aquatic. It was a tour-de-force of Murray’s talents – only he could be a juvenile, ignorant, shallow, disenchanted sad-sack and still be a movie’s hilarious hero, let alone top your imaginary dinner guest wish-list. On top of all the attention to detail and charm writer/director Wes Anderson poured into the film, it was also a crack up and remains his funniest film yet. -Paul Scantlebury


42. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

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Part one of a two part, 247 minute homage to kung fu and samurai movies, Kill Bill was the story of one woman’s bloody quest for revenge told, like most Tarantino films, in titled chapters and non-chronological order. While it didn’t quite meet his high standards in the dialogue department, it made up for it with the fight scenes (especially the climactic Showdown at House of Blue Leaves). Kill Bill was a very fun action epic, filled with some of the most kick-ass sequences of the decade. -Dan Rutledge


41. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

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Although he had already written and directed three movies when The Squid and the Whale was released in 2005, Noah Baumbach was perhaps best known as Wes Anderson’s co-writer on The Life Aquatic. But with this hilarious and discomforting semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale, Baumbach marked himself as an auteur with something fresh to offer in a genre crowded with clichés. Jeff Daniels plays the fallible patriarch of a fractured New York family including Jesse Eisenberg and Laura Linney, and all three put in amazing performances. Their characters’ actions are often ugly, but they’re never less than absolutely empathetic. -Dominic Corry


40. Grizzly Man (2005)

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Well known for capturing human obsession at its most extreme in both dramas and documentaries, Werner Herzog found a perfect example in the reformed alcoholic, paranoid, child-like Timothy Treadwell. The result was 100 minutes of compelling cinema, as Grizzly wove heartbreak, horror and plenty of humour (some of it possibly unintentional – the local coroner’s two-cents worth had to be seen to be believed), into a fascinating story of a man who seemed to act as if “he was working with people in bear costumes, rather than wild animals”. -James Croot


39. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

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This French art-house drama followed the true story of Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who, after suffering a paralyzing stroke at the age of 43 , blinked out his memoir with his left eye. Sounds like an excruciatingly painful watch, doesn’t it? But it couldn’t be further from the truth with this personal, unsentimental, and sensory experience. Beautifully shot in a fragmented, dream-like way to highlight inner psychological nightmares and imaginations, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly proved to be an immersive, life-affirming work of art. -Andrew Hedley


38. The Pianist (2002)

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This film marked one of the first times we heard that cool sound effect when there’s an explosion and the character hears the resulting ringing in his ears throughout the next scene. Great idea! Exiled director Roman Polanski’s brilliant true account of a Polish Jewish musician struggling to survive in World War II Warsaw saw Adrian Brody get rid of his apartment, sell his car, ditch his television, and lose 14kg in preparation for his role as Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman. Still, his self-inflicted torture allowed him to snog Halle Berry whilst picking up an Oscar – Brody was the youngest ever winner of a Best Actor award at twenty-nine. -Andrew Hedley


37. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

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This indie classic had a heart of gold and a skin more scaly and dysfunctional than your own brood. Just about every character in this tale about a wannabe pageant princess has a prominent flaw that only makes them more endearing, particularly Alan Arkin as the heroin-snorting granddad and Toni Collette as the over-worked mother. Bursting with slapstick and a dark, subversive humour, it was part messed-up road trip, part satire of what it means to be a loser in a winner’s world. -Rebecca Barry


36. Momento (2000)

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The film that everyone was talking about in 2000 and one that had a profound influence on the structure of some many thrillers since. Guy Pearce has never been better than here, playing a man who is suffering from short-term memory loss while trying to find his wife’s killer. Christopher Nolan, probably the most consistent director in Hollywood in the resulting decade, announced his arrival with an audacious premise – the story was delivered in short, bite-size chunks, backwards – that kept audiences guessing and completely enthralled at the same time. Made M. Night Shayamalan’s twists look clunky. -James Croot


35. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

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A harrowing masterpiece. Shot in that cold, clinical documentary style that European filmmakers always do best, it was a horrifying story of an illegal abortion performed in 1987 during Romania’s brutal communist dictatorship. The relentless dedication to documentary-style realism meant the film was devoid of music or fancy camerawork – it simply put you in the picture with the actors. There was nothing ‘feel-good’ about it, but this was an exceptional piece of filmmaking to be marvelled at. -Dan Rutledge


34. District 9 (2009)

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The genius of Neill Blomkamp’s debut feature (which Peter Jackson helped shepherd into existence) is that the thinking behind it wasn’t revolutionary. It took a pretty familiar premise – aliens come to earth in a big spaceship – and just by nudging it ever so slightly to one side, created one of the freshest and most original films of the decade. Blomkamp’s background in special effects contributed to the flawless CGI, and the creature and tech design blew all other recent sci-fi films out of the water. Plus there’s a remarkable degree of pathos, and some awesomely nasty humour, all on a modest budget. It’s been a long time since one film made the possibilities of genre cinema seem so wide open. -Dominic Corry


33. The Science of Sleep (2006)

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After his brilliant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, French ‘cinemagician’ Michel Gondry decided to write his own script, based on personal experiences. Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is an aspiring artist and inventor who struggles to distinguish between his dreams and reality. When he moves back to Paris and falls for his beautiful neighbour (Charlotte Gainsbourg), he starts to become overwhelmed by his dream life and finds it hard to tell it apart from his reality. Gondry’s insistence on using low-fi in-camera effects gave this touching tale a tactile DIY feel, as is it had been assembled from cardboard boxes and pipecleaners. -Andrew Hedley


32. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Simon Pegg’s deadpan take on the George Romero classic of a similar name spoke volumes about his British countrymen. When zombies come to life and start wreaking havoc, he and his video-gaming best mate are almost too blasé about life to notice. In fact it takes near-apocalypse for his character to appreciate his lot as he goes off in pursuit of his long-suffering girlfriend with a cricket bat for protection. A bloody good parody that poked fun at cinema’s funniest monsters. -Rebecca Barry


31. The Incredibles (2004)

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Pixar’s stylish 2004 blockbuster was their first film to feature human characters as its focus, and marked a turning point in the maturity of the stories they were telling. Taking inspiration from Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, Alan Moore’s Watchmen and American domestic sitcoms of the 1950s, it told the tale of a couple of married superheroes, long since retired due to the outlawing of superheroics, who are forced back into the game when an old nemesis resurfaces. In addition to offering healthy amounts of humour and an impressively complex family dynamic, writer/director Brad Bird proved conclusively that animated CGI action scenes can have all the tension and thrills of live action cinema. -Dominic Corry


30. Amelie (2001)

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Despite enough sweetness to rot your teeth and come with an insulin warning, this slice of French whimsy became a worldwide hit and deservedly so. It might have been a gossamer thin story about a woman who likes to do good, but this was probably the triumph of style over substance in the noughties. Not only did director Jean-Paul Jenet (Delicatessen) deliver a sumptuous visual feast of flights-of-fancy but he also unearthed a genuine star in the pixie-ish, gamine Audrey Tautou. And if it all got too much, you could always just close your eyes and listen to Yann Tiersen’s eclectic and ethereal score. -James Croot


29. A History of Violence (2005)

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David Cronenberg’s searing thriller, about a small-town family man who may or may not be hiding from a criminal past, built up the tension with such excruciating precision, it was almost unbearable. Viggo Mortensen’s amazing, inscrutable lead performance personified Cronenberg’s thorny linking of sex and violence, projecting vulnerability and masculinity in equal measure. Stellar supporting turns from Mario Bello, William Hurt and Ed Harris helped to create an instant classic – a modern-day western filled with devastatingly violent set-pieces and chillingly observed character dynamics. -Dominic Corry


28. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

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An incredibly beautiful fantasy film, this has been Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s only martial arts film to date. Lee brought with him a big budget and an elegance that Wu Xia kung fu films had not previously been blessed with. Crouching Tiger has been imitated many times since, including the inferior, but still great, Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Driven by exceptional performances from Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh, this was moving, romantic, filled with brilliant fight scenes and, to reiterate, incredibly beautiful. -Dan Rutledge


27. Irreversible (2002)

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There is no denying that Irreversible was not an easy watch. A 10-minute rape scene and a murder pushed the endurance and sensitivity of even the hardiest of filmgoers, while the film’s initial low-frequency background noise (similar to the noise produced by an earthquake), strobe lighting effects and a camera constantly in motion were designed to disorientate and disarm the viewer (with, in some cases, stomach-wrenching results). However, it is precisely this manipulation of the audience rather than actors or characters that made Irreversible such a triumph of style and extremely riveting. A provocative and powerful piece of cinema. -James Croot


26. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

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Putting aside notions of breaking down barriers regarding mainstream perception of “gay” movies, Ang Lee’s film about the tortured relationship between two closeted sheep-herders was simply a beautifully-constructed, devastatingly affecting love story in the most classic sense. Heath Ledger got most of the kudos as the buttoned-up Ennis Del Mar, but Jake Gyllenhaal was equally layered as the more gregarious Jack Twist. Amazing cinematography, a subtly mournful score, and a raft of fine supporting performances all added up to a heart-breaking wonder that hurt so good. Plus, Anne Hathaway got her cans out. -Dominic Corry


25. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

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Overshadowed by the fellow countrified double-whammy of There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men at the 2008 Oscars, Andrew Dominik’s film is my pick for the finest western in more than a decade. Brad Pitt, at his laconic and charismatic best, produced 160 minutes of his finest work, while Casey Affleck shone in the true anti-hero role. Elegantly shot and lovingly, languorously paced, the film also boasted one of the most evocative and best soundtracks of the decade by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. -James Croot


24. Apocalypto (2006)

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Mel Gibson followed up his his mad pet project, The Passion of the Christ, with this insanely crazy and brutally violent epic vision that was like nothing we’d seen before. It follows a young man called Jaguar Paw who is captured by an invading force and taken to an insane (there’s that word again) Mayan city. His wife and child, however, are stuck down a hole back home and he does everything in his power to escape his captors and race back through the jungle to save them. Mel’s noble quest for authenticity saw Apocalypto spoken in the ancient Maya language and starred a cast of unknown Mexican & Native American actors. -Andrew Hedley


23. Spirited Away (2001)

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For many years now, the cartoon world has been dominated by two legends: Pixar Animation Studios and Hayao Miyazaki. The latter’s most acclaimed work to date is Spirited Away which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003, a victory that put to rest the argument that CGI solely represented the future of the medium. Miyazaki peppered his story of gods, ghosts and humans with a few morals: gluttony is dangerous, hard work reaps rewards and respect for your elders will get you far. – Daniel McClelland


22. Battle Royale (2000)

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Only the unflinching insanity of Japanese cinema could produce something that sounded so wrong, but played so right. In the future, the government attempts to control juvenile delinquency by dumping a class of teenagers on a remote island, where they are forced to kill each other with a variety of objects while wearing exploding neck braces. It’s a testament to director Kinji Fukasaku’s propulsive skills that the whacko premise never stopped you from being right there with the kids as their raw survival instincts kicked-in, and hierarchical teenage power games came to the fore. -Dominic Corry


21. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Tarantino had talked about his men-on-a-mission in World War II film for years and finally delivered it in 2009. It was worth the wait. Set in an alternate World War II, it chronicled the ultimate Jewish revenge on the Third Reich, partly through the medium of film itself. The film marked a return to form for Tarantino in terms of its cracking dialogue and sequences that ratcheted tension higher and higher before delivering beautifully satisfying payoffs. Easily one of 2009’s most flat-out entertaining films. -Dan Rutledge


20. WALL-E (2008)

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WALL-E was a tremendous accomplishment for Pixar Studios. Teeming with detail, visually dazzling, and conceptually audacious with little dialogue, this original science-fiction tale served as a warning to mankind. Opening on a desolate Earth, 700 years after mankind has vacated for greener pastures. WALL-E is a small robot left behind to clean up. What really struck was the elegiac tone. There was something deeply melancholic about this vision of a post-apocalyptic Earth that even an optimistic ending couldn’t diminish. -Andrew Hedley


19. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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The editor of Film Comment said in awe of The Royal Tenenbaums: “I have never seen moments like these in any other movie”. This aptly observed the movie’s sense of revelation for fans. If Wes Anderson’s earlier films (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore) didn’t do it already, Tenenbaums – the storybook-like tale of a family yearning for past glories – heralded the arrival of an original voice in film comedy. -Paul Scantlebury


18. Pan’s Labyrinth (200)

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In 1944, Spain was in the midst of a World War and a guerilla-led rebellion against its dictator. While these many horrors go on around her, a young girl is drawn into a more mystical landscape. Here she encounters fairies and fauns who urge her to perform a series of tasks to help keep her family safe. Guillermo del Toro’s grown-up fantasy was showered in praise after its release and went on to win three Academy Awards. The make-up and effects work, which used as little CGI as possible, set a benchmark that has yet to be topped. -Daniel McClelland


17. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

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Having reinvented Shakespeare for the MTV generation in the 1990s, Aussie director Baz Luhrmann single-handedly breathed new life into the musical genre with this eye-popping, toe-tapping spectacle in 2001. Dizzying and dazzling, Luhrmann married high-melodrama, lavish set design and costumes to fabulous renditions of 1970s and ’80s staples from the likes of Queen, Elton John and The Police. Nicole Kidman proved she could sing as well as act, while Ewan McGregor cemented his reputation as one the world’s versatile leading men. Inventive, ingenious and sometimes just plain insane but always entertaining. -James Croot


16. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

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After the pleasant, heart-warming diversion that was 1999’s The Straight Story, David Lynch, weaver of the alluring nightmare, unveiled his most disconcerting film yet in 2001. In a star-making performance, Naomi Watts played a young ingénue who comes to Hollywood with big dreams, and encounters… um, let’s say “the stuff dreams are made of”. The plot resisted explanation beyond that, but what followed was one the scariest, sexiest and dread-inducing films of the decade. A treatise on Hollywood’s tendency to crush young souls? An unrestrained journey into a lurid, jealous mind? Or simply a tender, tragic love story between two women? Whatever the case, it was damn good cinema. -Dominic Corry


15. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

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If you’re adaptating an ancient Greek poem – in this case, The Odyssey – you should do it with humour and old-timey country tunes. O Brother’s soundtrack was so good that it won the Grammy award for Album of the Year and sold several million CDs. Sweetening the deal further, the Coen brothers made sure their film looked as good as it sounded. Using cutting edge technology, they bathed the American South in such stunning autumnal yellows that their technique was quickly mimicked by many of the coming decade’s masterpieces. – Daniel McClelland


14. The Lives of Others (2006)

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Reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1970s classic The Conversation, Others mixed fascinating procedure (the scenes setting up the bugging equipment were a highlight) with superbly subtle but gripping human drama and a dash of paranoid, political thriller. Cinematographer Haden Bogdanski’s work was stunning with his use of fish-eye lenses, grey landscapes and light and dark the perfect accompaniment to the action on screen, making the audience complicit in the surveillance. And at the film’s centre was a powerfully understated and amazingly nuanced performance from Ulrich Muhe. A terrifically taut, teutonic masterpiece. -James Croot


13. Let the Right One In (2008)

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Vampire movies were great for a long time, then in the ’90s they turned to shit, and these days have been defiled by the Twilight phenomenon. Let the Right One In was a beautiful Scandinavian antidote to all that awfulness. It was a dark, gothic love story about a vampire girl and a bullied boy. A strange mix of romance and beauty, blood and death, this very European vampire tale warmed your heart in places and shocked you with its horror in others. -Dan Rutledge


12. Zodiac (2007)

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Despite its title, David Fincher’s film was less about the San Francisco-based killer and more about those trying to stop him. Even more surprising was how the cops ended up playing second-fiddle to increasingly obsessed newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and disintegrating investigative reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jnr). A well-acted, fantastically executed, fascinating study of how all consuming an ongoing story can be. And even though many audience members knew the outcome it was hard not to be swept along. -James Croot


11. Adaptation (2002)

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A troubled screenwriter writing an adaptation written by a troubled screenwriter writing an adaptation. Charlie Kaufman’s insanely genius script, based on Susan Orlean’s novel The Orchid Thief said as much about the writer’s own neuroses and anxieties about Hollywood as it did the character’s, played with compelling self-loathing by Nicholas Cage. Spike Jonze expertly oversaw acting talents Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Chris Cooper as they flirted with the psychedelic borders of a seriously labyrinthine script. -Rebecca Barry


10. Children of Men (2006)

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In 2006, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) had proved himself a master of a variety of genres, but few could’ve predicted he would deliver such a kick-ass sci-fi action flick, one that redefined what such pictures are capable of. Clive Owen was the reluctant protagonist in a grim near-future where no children have been born for many years. His calamitous journey through England to deliver an important package to safety allowed Cuaron to stage multiple bar-raising action set-pieces while never losing sight of the hopefulness at the film’s core. A rare genre-film-with-a-conscience that never felt pious. -Dominic Corry


9. The Dark Knight (2008)

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Superhero movies have grown up dramatically over the decade and The Dark Knight is already, rightly, regarded as one of the best ever made. Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece had all the chases, fights and explosions that are expected of the genre but there was also a dark seriousness underlining it all that was just unthinkably cool. The film will be remembered for many things including its amazing IMAX sequences, the box office records it broke and, of course, the unhinged, haunting performance of the late Heath Ledger. -Dan Rutledge


8. Lost in Translation (2003)

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Before Scarlett Johansson became a pouty A-lister peddling perfume she was the perfect wide-eyed ingénue, stuck in Tokyo with no one to talk to. Enter Bill Murray as a washed up actor in a similarly sad rut and you’ve got the trappings of a classic indie. Their unlikely friendship could have turned creepy in the wrong hands but director Sofia Coppola beautifully honed in on the irony of loneliness in the city, of finding salvation with a stranger, no matter their life story. -Rebecca Barry


7. Donnie Darko (2001)

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While he’s yet to live up to the promise displayed here, Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult hit is one of the most self-assured debuts in cinema history. It told the mind-bending story of the titular teenager (played with doltish charm by a fresh-faced Jake Gyllenhaal), who is plagued by blackouts and bizarre visions that may involve time travel. Effortlessly jumping between coming-of-age drama and big unwieldy sci-fi ideas, Donnie Darko managed to feel both frighteningly universal and intensely personal. It was also heavily informed by the ’80s setting, which provided a dynamite soundtrack and invoked beneficial comparisons to the great Spielbergian fantasy films of the era. -Dominic Corry


6. City of God (2002)

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A gritty yet fun and romantic crime epic, City of God is absolutely exhilarating. Set in a notorious slum of Rio de Janeiro, the film shone a spotlight on the hardships of being born into poverty and hammered home this brutality again and again with the perils of drugs, gun-toting pre-teens and other hideous forms of violence. But beneath the viciousness was a surprising amount of tenderness and hope – despite the subject matter, City of God managed to ultimately be an uplifting experience. -Dan Rutledge


5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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A completely unique oddball romantic comedy, written by the inventive Charlie Kaufman and directed by French low-fi innovator Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine used a wacky premise – a couple undergo a scientific procedure to erase their memories of each other after things turn sour – to explore the tentative joy of a new relationship. Featuring career-best performances from Jim Carrey as the shy Joel and Kate Winslet as the free-spirited Clementine, Eternal Sunshine is best remembered for the army of visual tricks Gondry uses to convey the emotions of the mind. This was the love story of the decade. –Andrew Hedley


4. Old Boy (2003)

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Korean filmmaker Chan-Wook Park has been one of the decade’s biggest revelations and Oldboy is his finest work. Adapted from a Japanese manga, it was a twisted tale of revenge that kept you enthralled from the first frame to the last. When the film’s intrigue was masterfully transformed into realisation in the final section, it was easily one of the decade’s greatest ‘wow’ moments. There are also some amazing action sequences littered throughout the running time, all to the sounds of a breathtaking score. Oldboy is a work of pure genius. -Dan Rutledge


3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

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17 Oscars, billions in box office and three films that made us proud to be New Zealanders. Sure you had to like fantasy but the great thing about Peter Jackson’s films was that they made Mr Tolkein’s work accessible to your average Kiwi while nary a complaint was heard from the usually obsessive fan boys. It also provided a showcase for our landscape and actually, more importantly, our talented designers and craftsmen who are now an essential part of Hollywood movie making. -James Croot


2. There Will Be Blood (2007)

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P.T. Anderson’s instant classic was at once a sprawling epic and a tightly focussed character study about the rise of Daniel Plainview (the intensely brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis), an ambitious miner who transforms himself into a powerful oil tycoon against the epic canvas of turn-of-the-century California. Anderson described this as a horror film and the unsettling feel was enhanced by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, who provided an experimental score, full of urgent strings and mechanical percussion. As for that final scene… we’ll never drink milkshakes the same way again. Slow yet mesmerizing, this was cinema used to its full potential. -Andrew Hedley


1. No Country for Old Men (2008)

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The best film of the decade saw the mighty Coen brothers return to form with their adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel, following a hunter (Josh Brolin), who discovers dead bodies, a stash of heroin and $2 million in cash on the Rio Grande. But woe betide anyone in his shoes, because a ruthlessly terrifying hitman called Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a maniac with a page-boy haircut and a pneumatic air tank, is hot on his heels. The Coens ramped up a Hitchcockian sense of tension, peppering the soundtrack with tiny details; a key turning in a lock, the click of a light switch, the minimalist beep of a radio transmitter. Thoughtful, abstract, beautiful, and absolutely thrilling, No Country was an intelligent modern western. Despite being set in 1980, its contemporary concerns of escalating violent crime resonate deeply at the end of the 2000s. As Tommy Lee Jones’ quietly bewildered Sheriff Bell says, “I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard.” Brilliant. -Andrew Hedley


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