Isaac’s “Top 25 Must See Movies of the Decade” (2000-2009)

January 13, 2010

In developing ‘My Top 25 Movies of the Decade’, I knew there was no way I could rank my movies from 1st to 25th.  Any attempt would be futile.  How do I pit my favorite comedy against my favorite Pixar? Kudos to my friends who were able to achieve this, but for me it wasn’t possible. I instead organized them by year of release. Not only does this relieve the pressure of ranking each one, but emphasizes the time and context of its release.  I also included a number of honorable mentions to round out what I could not cover with just 25 titles.  (Also, just because I enjoyed and recommended it does not mean that it is appropriate for all ages.)

I know that this list is completely subjective. It is not the ’25 best ever’, it is simply my favorites and recommendations. Chances are, there are a couple films here that you disliked or were greatly disappointed in. But know this, I chose each and every one for a reason. Perhaps my review will bring something to light, some theme or value you might have missed before. In the end, these are just my recommendations. My goal is to champion movies worth remembering, challenge you to see something new, and recommend some great movies you might have missed.

1. Memento (2000)

Before Batman Begins and The Prestige, Christopher Nolan got warmed up with Memento. A rather under-watched film, Memento is the mystery thriller of a man who can’t make new memories. Most writers would consider this premise to be captivating enough, but Nolan doesn’t stop there. Oh no, he puts all the scenes in reverse order. When each scene begins, you have no context for what is going on just as the main character has no memory of what has come before. Nolan effectively simulates memory loss for his entire audience. The intriguing plot and unique storytelling lands Memento solidly in my list for the top 25 movies of the decade.

2. 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.”
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t like Gladiator. Okay, maybe you could find someone, but who’d want to waste all that time looking for one of those jerks anyway? With phenomenal casting, directing, CGI, blood, gore, and epic storyline, Gladiator had it all. Enya had everyone humming along and Hans Zimmer proved that he was just warming up for the decade. Even at ten years old, Gladiator still stands shoulder to shoulder with any historical epic.

Honorable Mention: The Patriot (2000)

I decided that one historical epic was enough in this slot, but The Patriot is a great film and deserves to be mentioned. It is a stirring story with some great work by Mel Gibson. Not to mention the epic patriotism.

3: Battle Royale. (2000)

This Japanese movie is completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen. That’s probably because it was deemed too have too much ‘teen violence’ for American audiences. The premise is pretty basic: A dystopian future where an uninspired teen culture is ‘taught a lesson’ through the Battle Royale program. The program is simple; the young teens are taken to an island, given basic survival gear and a random weapon, then forced to kill each other off until only one is left standing. The result is a surprisingly engaging, terribly low budget, crazy unique film. I would liken it to a modern Lord of the Flies showcasing the competitive extremes of the Japanese student culture. It is still my favorite film to watch on Halloween, and still chills me everytime. I could have mentioned better foreign films like City of God, Pan’s Labyrinth, or Son of Rambow, but the sheer uniqueness of Battle Royale lands it a place on my top 25.

4: The Lord of the Rings (2001, 02, 03)

The Lord of the Rings is pretty much the best trilogy ever conceived. Tolkien’s world is so illustrious that Middle Earth feels like an actual place you could visit with a time machine. Many tried to adapt this to the screen with no results worth mentioning. Then came Peter Jackson with Weta workshop, leaving the motion picture world forever changed. The characters, the sets, the graphics, all are breathtaking on screen. Peter Jackson is probably the only person in history capable of making such a successful film trilogy out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

5: Spider-Man (2002)

One of my favorite Superhero movies. Love the character, love the message, love the story. If you can remember back before Spider-Man, Superhero movies were usually cheesy, under-budgeted jokes. Superman IV, Batman & Robin, the men in tights got no respect. But then came Spider-Man. With a big budget and ample vision, Peter Parker forever raised the bar for Silver Screen superheroes. And can anyone forget Uncle Ben saying “With great power comes great responsibility” ?

Spider-Man sequels:

Spider-Man 2 was an incredible sequel. Doc Ock was great, Peter was great, everything was perfect. It even had a good message about the sacrifice that comes with great responsibility. Then Spider-Man 3 had to come along and ruin it all. I actually have some grace for that film, perhaps if they had saved Venom for a 4th film, or at least not killed Eddie Brock, then it wouldn’t have been so rushed. Oh yeah, and that Peter Parker as the cool/emo dancer has to go.

6: Signs (2002)

Signs is probably the only ‘horror’ flick that made me think just as much as it scared me. It’s amazing how M. Night Shyamalan can use a simple thing like a dog growl or door slam to make you jump out of your seat and scream like a little girl. The film is masterfully crafted. But people don’t really remember Signs for the scares, (though I was scared of cornfields for awhile. And I live in Iowa, so I basically couldn’t go outside), people remember Signs for the story. Signs is a film about faith, destiny, and providence. I really don’t want to spoil anything with this one, just know that it comes highly recommended from me.

Honorable Mentions: Unbreakable (2000), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006).

M. Night Shyamalan is a very talented storyteller. Sure the masses got tired of his style and his really twisted endings, but some of us still love him. (ok, except for The Happening, that was pretty miserable). Unbreakable and The Village (yes, even Lady in the Water) are very good and beautiful films. I would feel incomplete if I did not recommend them as well.

7. The Bourne Identity (2002)

In 2002, The Bourne Identity breathed the much needed life back into the body of espionage films. Sure there were some classics like Heat, but at this time the Bond films were lifeless, MI2 was terrible, and we needed something good. Bourne burst on the scene and delivered plot, character, action, and intrigue. High octane car chases, hand to hand combat, pumping soundtrack and MacGyver tricks, Bourne had it all. Jason Bourne finally gave us a reason to care, to think, and most of all, to be emotionally invested in the hero. Sequels came out in ’04 and ’07, steadily pumping the franchise with more action and significantly less plot. My disappointments with the later films aside, The Bourne Identity was quite the trip back in 2002.

Honorable Mention: Minority Report (2002)

I really wanted to give this spot to Minority Report but I just had to go with the original Bourne movie. Minority Report is an excellent science-fiction film that keeps you guessing until the very end. In retrospect, I get much more excited about the stuff in Minority Report than I do Bourne. I think Minority Report has stood the test of time much more than our secret agent friend. But, alas, someone has to win and the other just gets mentioned. So here you go Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, Minority Report was thrilling, haunting, and unforgettable. And someone at college still has my DVD, jerk.

8. The Last Samurai (2003)

This is one of the only films where Tom Cruise stops being himself. Instead, he transforms into a conflicted American officer struggling with guilt and alcoholism. The Last Samurai is beautiful representation of a historical time of turmoil in Japan. A lot of stirring themes here: colonialism, east meets west, codes of honor, virtue, and redemption. You begin the film hating the Samurai, and in the end you want to be one. [spoilers] The end battle is one I will remember for the rest of my life. There is an incredible scene with the machine guns firing on the charging Samurai. The Samurai are warriors who have dedicated their entire lives to their craft. Everything within them has trained to be a Samurai, not just as a warrior, but as a way of life. And all of these lives, all those years of dedication, are taken away by two soldiers turning a crank. A crank. The power of that scene is absolutely incredible and brings me to tears every time.[/spoilers]

9. Tears of the Sun (Director’s Cut) (2003)

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
Released less then two years after 9/11, this film addresses US responsibility in foreign conflicts. Tears of the Sun tells of a Navy Seal team charged with extracting an American doctor during the Nigerian conflict. When the doctor won’t leave her indigenous patients, the Seals are forced to choose between duty and humanity. Needless to say, this is a serious war movie about the horrors committed against civilians in Nigeria. Tears of the Sun is brutal. It is gory and it is horrific. You can almost smell the dirt and blood. But Tears is not an anti-war film like Platoon, it is pro-military involvement. It acknowledges that mankind is capable of incredible evil, and good men must stop them. Good men cannot afford to be pacifists, they are needed far too much.

Honorable Mention: Munich (2005)

I originally wasn’t going to give Munich a place here, but upon further reflection I just had to. I hated Munich the first time, but I got around to seeing it for a second time and started to grasp what Spielberg was after. I finally bought it, and a third viewing held me absolutely spellbound. Munich begins with the premise that governments cannot afford to be pacifists, but asks how a nation is to respond. And what toll does that take? Munich is a beautifully crafted film. Eric Bana is awesome as the lead man,and his character progression is truly memorable.
“We’re Jews. We’re supposed to be righteous. If I lose that… that’s my soul.”

10. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)

Forget the Pirate hype. Forget the teenagers, forget the silly costumes at the premiers, the swooning over Depp and Bloom, and especially forget those wandering sequels. Pirates of the Caribbean is a great movie. These playful characters transported us to a world full of quips, treasures, thrusts and parry’s, poppets, and rum (or not rum). Hans Zimmer also produced one of the most popular (and most pirated, ha) soundtracks around. Jack Sparrow truly is a wonderful character. His entrance on the sinking boat is one of the greatest scenes of the decade.

11. The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles is, in my opinion, a perfect family movie. It uses it’s source material so well, and yet makes a wonderful parody at the same time. (Not that there’s literal source material, I’m speaking of comics and soundtracks and action/adventure stories in general. With a special nod to Superman and X-Men). There’s really something here for everyone. The powers of each character support their personalities and role in a team. The father (strength) struggling to find his identity in an unfriendly world. The mother (flexibility) trying to encourage her husband and juggle her kids. The addition of invisibility by the teenage girl and speed with the boy adds a great level to the film. Not to mention some great messages about family, identity, and responsibility. It also addresses the cultural idiom “everyone is special.” To which the son responds “that’s just a way of saying no-one is.” The film subtlety answers that question, everyone is special because everyone has a calling and purpose to fulfill.

Honorable Mention: Wall-E (2008)

Wall-E is one of the most wonderfully entertaining family movies I have ever seen. It was difficult for me to choose between this and The Incredibles (or all of Pixar, for that matter). In the end I had to reward the Superhero team, but everyone’s new favorite robot deserves a mention as well. Wall-E is a treasure from beginning to end.

12. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

I went through a “zombie phase” when I was in high school. Videogames like Resident Evil, movies like Dawn of the Dead, you get the picture. Then Shaun of the Dead gave me the perfect mix: zombie, character, romance, and comedy. Not only is Shaun of the Dead a parody of it’s genre, it is a zombie movie itself. The story is full of laughs and stock characters, but by the end develops a totally unexpected emotional depth. It took me by surprise the way Ferris Buellers Day Off did many years ago. The side splitting comedy, zombie spoof, and great ending lands it in my top 25.

13. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
This is probably the most meaningful movie I have ever witnessed. Considering all the years I have been to church, how many Good Friday services I have sat through, one would think I’m used to the Crucifixion story. One would think pretty much everyone who goes to church has nothing left to learn here. But the truth is, this is our faith story. Mel Gibson took the most talked about event in history and brought it to a level our generation has never experienced. Someone described the film to me as “it’s like watching someone beat up your dad”.

Some have criticized Passion for solely featuring the brutality Christ suffered, I think they’re missing the point. This is not a film to guilt people into going to Church. This is about Jesus Christ, who in his incredible love and mercy suffered for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Honorable Mention: Luther (2003)
Luther is a very powerful film for me, and I wanted to make sure it had a place here. Martin Luther’s courage in taking on the Catholic Church is truly a remarkable moment in history. TIME Magazine voted Martin Luther the 3rd most influential man of the millennium. I was very pleased to find Luther not only watchable, but enjoyable, unlike the many other “Christian themed” movies that came before it.

14. Serenity (2005)
It’s hard for me to summarize my thoughts on Serenity, the science fiction film born of the fantastic TV Series Firefly. Except maybe this: Joss Whedon is a genius and Fox should burn to the ground for canceling the opportunity of a lifetime.
When Firefly was canceled, there was a huge fan outcry demanding a conclusion to the series.  Joss Whedon made the film Serenity to tie up some loose ends and more or less give the fans the conclusion they desired.  Firefly had the potential to be the greatest Science Fiction show of the new millennium.   It had an incredible internally consistent galaxy to play with, clever storylines (rare for Sci-Fi lately), and a talented cast of fully developed characters (practically unheard of). Most Science Fiction relies on space battles or unique aliens to drive their series, but not Firefly. Their ship had no weapons and never met a single alien. The “Warp-Drive” behind Firefly’s success was the characters. Asking people to choose their favorite between Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds usually results in “Ah, I can’t! Why would you do that to me!?” Joss Whedon and the crew of Serenity certainly left an impact, and we miss them.

15. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008)

To truly appreciate the new Chronicles of Narnia movies, you need to have experienced the BBC series as a child. I have respect for BBC, because they attempted to bring C.S. Lewis’ wonderful stories to life for kids. That is admirable. But in 2005, as an adult, I saw one of my favorite books once again brought to life. Sure there were some disappointments. Children actors, poorly CGI’d wolves, script weaknesses, it’s a PG family movie based on a book for kids, not Lord of the Rings.

Whether you’re younger than Lucy or older than Mr. Tumnas, C.S. Lewis’ world is a place of magic and wonder. WETA workshop and others worked very hard on the creatures, colors, costumes, all bringing it to life for a new generation. The battle sequence from the first movie still thrills me just as much as it did on the big screen five years ago. And more importantly, Liam Neeson’s voicework behind Aslan brings Christ to a new generation.
“Of course he’s not tame, he’s a Lion! But he is good.”

16. Cinderella Man (2005)
I gave this movie to my parents for Father’s/Mothers’s day, and it’s been a family favorite ever since. I thought no-one could ever challenge Rocky in boxing films, but Cinderella Man does just that. The true tale of a Depression era family struggling to stay on their feet is moving, Braddock’s boxing story is gripping, and the payoff is spectacular. Jim Braddock maintains a level of integrity which is all but lost in our society. Yet, despite all hardships, through courage and determination, this Cinderella Man wins it all.

Honorable Mention: Gran Torino (2008)
I knew Cinderella Man would have a place as the “heartwarming story”, but I couldn’t get through this list without mentioning Gran Torino. It nobly tackles heavy themes like racism, gang violence, culture and immigration, but at it’s heart it’s a story of redemption. Gran Torino teaches that anyone, anyone, can be redeemed.

17. V for Vendetta (2006)
“Remember remember, the 5th of November.”
Like it did with many famous buildings in London, V for Vendetta blew me away. Once this guy in a Guy Fawkes mask delivered a lengthy introduction featuring words beginning with the letter V, I knew I was in for a ride. V for Vendetta is thrilling from beginning to end. The characterization top-notch, the action superb, the plot and pacing par to none. V for Vendetta is also one of the most quotable movies I have seen, (except for Princess Bride, of course). V is such an interesting character, and his path to justice is one worth pondering. I later purchased the graphic novel and gave that a read-through as well. I like both, for very different reasons. I think the ending of the film is very powerful and I wouldn’t have it conclude any other way.

18. Casino Royale (2006)
Let’s get one thing straight: I used to hate James Bond movies. Sure, back in the day Goldeneye was worth a rental, but as a whole they had more predictability than Saturday morning cartoons. Every story was the same: We begin with James Bond carrying out some sort of explosion packed mission that loosely ties in with the rest of the movie. After the jazzy original song and silhouettes of naked women, Bonds head back to headquarters to flirt with Moneypenny and get emasculated by M. Q gives 007 a bunch of gadgets, (arguably the most hilarious part of the movie), which usually involve something ridiculous like exploding toothpaste, radioactive lint, a yo-yo chainsaw, and yes, who could forget, the bagpipes equipped with flamethrower and machine guns. Armed with these silly gadgets and a PPK, Bond meets his beautiful “contact” whose feminine name will probably remind you of anatomy or sexual positions. After some misadventures, Bond seduces her and then either A: She is killed by the villain and Bond swears vengeance, or B: She was working with the villain all along. (oh, the plot twist!) Somewhere along his adventure, Bond encounters a second woman who posses a unique skill, (usually a scientist or other expert) who also falls in love with Bond but miraculously lives to the end of the movie. Bond blows up the villain in some silly fashion and drinks a toast, (shaken, not stirred) to his new girlfriend. Who, for some reason, will not be featured in the sequel.

Lacking character development, intrigue, and basic elements of good storytelling, this silliness went on for 44 years. I went into Casino Royale expecting a similar experience, but the feel of the film was so different that I had to see it twice to get a handle on everything new they did. It was a reboot, yet they kept previous elements of the franchise: the beautiful girl, the awesome cars, the pumping action scenes and espionage plot. Primarily, Casino Royale is the very first time I connected to James Bond. Daniel Craig did an incredible job handling the sleek, suave, and violent man that is 007. But Craig also had an emotional level to his character that we’d never seen before. Instead of cliché expectations about bondgirl death and betrayal, we wondered how in the world Bond was going to get out of that chair and save his girl. Casino Royale brought a level of character development, cohesion, and raw emotion to 007. It is an incredibly successful reboot, giving Bond a reason to be… James Bond.

19. Superman Returns (2006)
I know I’m putting myself in the minority by giving Superman Returns a place in my top 25 over X2 or Iron Man. While those are certainly good films and are known by everyone to be good superhero movies, I think Superman Returns was incredibly successful even though the mass populace didn’t agree. After a long trip to the lost remains of Krypton, the Man of Steel returns to Earth to find Lois Lane with a son, a fiance (sort of), and finally having won her desired Pulitzer prize on a story titled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”. Lex Luthor finds a way to recreate Krypton on Earth, and things get pretty complicated. After a display of enormous power, Superman is forced to sacrifice himself on the behalf of Earth. Any Superman fan knows that this is a well crafted story for our Big Blue, one obviously crafted by a big fan of Superman, writer and director Bryan Singer. Superman Returns addresses a modern Man of Steel, one with god-like powers, an estranged relationship with his home planet, conflicted romantic, and a champion of Earth. Superman is finally brought to screen in full glory: lifting incalculable weight, flying to incredible heights, stopping bullets with his eyeball, and a fantastic white-knuckled scene with a plummeting aircraft. This is not the Christopher Reeve movies, this is the god-like superhero of the comicbook fans. Superman flies, and you really, really believe it. There is a lasting beauty and wonder about this film that is absent from the darker superhero films like Batman. The extraction of the Krypton continent was breathtaking, not only a computer generated feat, but a beautiful image to behold. Singer brought a wonderful mix to Superman, his character, his power, and the iconic imagery of the Man of Steel. Remember the scene where Superman catches the globe off of The Daily Planet? That beautifully crafted scene dramaticises everything we love about Superman. He carries the world on his shoulders.
Returns also addresses Superman as a Messiah figure. Most authors shy away from this feature of Superman’s character, but Bryan Singer drove it home. Sent by his father to be a light for mankind, Superman makes the ultimate sacrifice for his (sometimes rejecting) adopted planet.
I recognize that Superman Returns lacked a certain “spark” of excitement needed for a Superhero movie to make it at the box office. Perhaps if Bryan Singer had been allowed to make his sequel Man of Steel, (featuring a villain who trades punches with Superman), Superman Returns could be viewed as the character driven prequel to a truly epic finale.

Honorable Mention: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
With the box office failure of Superman Returns and the film contract expiring for Big Blue, it looks like Superman may be absent from the big screen for a long time. Thankfully, DC is producing a string of Animated Superhero films, the most notable of which being Public Enemies. Based off of the action-packed graphic novel of the same name, Public Enemies is a resounding success for Superman and animated features alike. Perhaps we’ll see a more successful Man of Steel in this venue than on the big screen.

20. Apocalypto (2006)
Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the man knows good storytelling. Director of Apocalypto, Gibson set out to tell the classic “chase scene” story without all the 21st Century bells and whistles. The ancient Mayan world he transports us to is a beautiful and haunting one. The attention to detail is remarkable, from the internally consistent world to the dialog spoken entirely in the ancient Mayan language. The scope of the film encompasses many themes, the passing of an era, our relationship to the earth, slavery, body piercing as a fashion statement… but it boils down to one very human element: family. It’s about a man trying to save his family. And this basic human drive delivers one of the most adrenaline pumping chase scenes ever created.

21. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
The western lives. And not only is it alive and well, it can give a good lickin’ too. 3:10 to Yuma has all the classic figures of the iconic Western. The gang of outlaws, the farmer struggling to get by, the wise-cracking veterinarian, horseback rides, Indian attacks, gunfights, it’s all here. But we also get the character development of a Hollywood drama. An evil man finding values while a good man compromises them, a battle of wills, and some sweeping character arcs leading to an epic finish. 3:10 to Yuma is a great film, and sure to turn even Western haters into sympathizers.

22. Stardust (2007)
I hope that whoever marketed Stardust got in big trouble, because this film flew under everybody’s radar. A truly remarkable film. It’s not perfect, it’s not spotless, but it is just so much fun. A classically told tale of an English youth who is transported to a world of magic, witches, unicorns, and most of all, stars. Stardust is very difficult to fit into one genre or another. Based off the book by Neil Gaiman, it’s a hint of Narnia, a teaspoon of good old fantasy, and a cup of Princess Bride. Stardust is truly a delight to behold, and is up in my top ten date movies of all time.

23. The Dark Knight (2008)
“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A Dark Knight.”
Graphic Novel authors like Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Jeph Loeb have been doing wonderful things with Batman since the late 1980’s, and now Hollywood has finally caught on. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are a result of that epiphany. The Dark Knight is pure Batman. No camp, no cheese, no flashy tights, no Robin (thank heaven), just Batman in all his glory. But Dark Knight isn’t just about Batman, it’s about Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon, and the Joker. The main story arc covers the pact made between Batman, Gordon, and Dent to bring down the crime lords of Gotham city. Focusing on one of the three would have been insufficient, as Joker’s impact is the catalyst for a haunting conclusion.

There is so much I could say about The Dark Knight that it’s best left unsaid here. Less is more. If you want to delve into the source material behind Begins and Dark Knight, pick up Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, and The Long Halloween.

24. Star Trek (2009)
“This is not your fathers Star Trek.”
I used to be a huge Star Trek fan. Though I was too young to remember some of it, I have taken in nearly every episode of every series. That is quite a feat. So now that I’ve revealed my history with Star Trek, you need to know how much I loved this movie. J.J. Abrams breathed fresh air into a dying franchise by resurrecting its most classic and beloved characters. Each character is handled respectfully and with care, but Abrams isn’t afraid to take liberties either. It’s obvious that each actor put a lot of work into taking things from the original series, but also jumped on board with this fast paced film. The mix brings depth and empathy to our favorite bunch of space travelers. It’s a different Star Trek, but it’s still the characters we know and love.

One of the things that sold me on the recreation was this quote by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. Abrams not only made a fantastic film, but he updated Star Trek for a new generation, fulfilling the dream of the original writer.

“Even if Nimoy never plays Spock again, I think it would be wonderful years from now to see Star Trek come back with an equally talented new cast playing Spock and Kirk and Bones and Scotty and all the rest as they say tomorrow’s things to tomorrow’s generations…” Gene Roddenberry

and last but not least….

25. Avatar (2009)
Avatar is absolutely breathtaking. If you haven’t seen it in 3D yet, go now, you won’t get another chance to see it the way it’s meant to be seen.
Avatar is one of the most significant visual achievements I have ever experienced. It is beautiful. Not just pretty, but amazingly, inspiringly, mind-blowingly beautiful. The host of Pandora creatures is fantastic. This is a wonderfully crafted world, full of colors and creatures just waiting to be encountered. Be prepared to see almost 3 hours of the most beautiful CGI ever created. By the end you’ll wish you were a 10 foot tall blue alien.

The casting is perfect. From Sam Worthington to Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang is one beast of a Colonel. The story is a little cheesy at times, but easily forgivable given that it’s a sci-fi adventure.

As for the message, I had trouble with it at first. If you’re not watching carefully, it runs a little bit like Pocahontas: the evil Americans bulldoze the peaceful Indians, the Indians were in perfect communion with nature. And then it’s just, ‘Blah blah, humans are bad, the planet is going to reject you, this is probably Al Gore’s new favorite movie.’

I think there’s something deeper here and I no longer have big problems with it. And here’s why: peace with nature is good. Union with nature is good. That was God’s plan, wasn’t it? (Creation vs. Evolution debate aside, let’s just speak theologically for a minute). Didn’t God intend for man to be in harmony with nature, not at odds with it? For Adam and Eve to live in the Garden of Eden, to rule over the animals? To live in, work on, and care for the land? To run with the dinosaurs and soar on pterodactyls? I believe He did, but since humanity rejected that plan the world has suffered, and now we are shackled to our sins. Avatar is a vision of Eden. It is a glimpse of what we could have had. A race of people that truly cares for the animals and rules over nature. They even have a tree of life.

The comparison isn’t perfect and breaks down in certain areas, but it’s a lasting thought in my mind. It beats viewing this as a Pocahontas remake.  There have also been a notable amount of depression cases related to Avatar.  Fans are depressed and feeling inadequacy with earth and with being a human being.  They talk about wishing Pandora was real, and longing to interact with nature on such a personal level.   Avatar has awakened in thousands a yearning for Eden.
So keep your shallow “anti-colonialism” tale, I’ll take my fascinating look into the beautifully crafted world of Pandora.


31 Responses to “Isaac’s “Top 25 Must See Movies of the Decade” (2000-2009)”

  1. Jon Says:

    This is ok. I disagree with a few movies on this list. “Coraline” was the best kids movie of the decade, this is NOT up for debate. That and “Passion of the Christ” was basically a snuff film, nothing less. Death is always ugly, no need to make a two hour movie of it based on the medieval passion plays meant to incite violence against Jews. More proof that Mel Gibson is a crazy racist.

    And you include movies that are completely inconsistent with your views on morality and life. One of the main themes of “V for Vendetta” is the acceptance of homosexuality and the questioning of societal norms. Same with “Serenity,” “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe.” Would you agree with a pastor saying this?

  2. Isaac Says:

    hmm, I disagree a little bit with you about Serenity. Sure, one of the characters says: “I don’t care what you believe, just believe.” But the rest of the film firmly states that believing the right and just thing is important. Think about “the Operative” character, he believed with all his heart, but the film clearly places him in the wrong. I don’t think Serenity is promoting moral ambiguity.

    Yeah, I agree with you on V for Vendetta. There’s a thin line there. The government is being unjust, obviously, but I don’t agree with some of their statements about homosexuality and religion.

    I didn’t see anything racist about Passion of the Christ. Well, except that it was pretty anti-Roman. But since the Roman Empire doesn’t exist, people have to blame someone else. Anyone who is putting the guilt on one racial group or another clearly missed the point of Passion, the guilt is aimed at *you*, and *humanity*.

  3. Jon Says:

    “Coraline” is still not up there. NOT ON ANY of your lists. I had to read them to believe it.

  4. Isaac Says:

    haha. yeah… I missed it, and I really got to see it. I read the book though, thought it was pretty cool.

  5. Erik Says:

    Well, so how do I get one of these?

  6. Hi, just today discovered this blog but I have to admit that it seems sweet. I totally agree with you. Have a nice day, keep up the nice work and I will definitely keep reading.

  7. Fortress Guy Says:

    This is a careful weigh-in for we at the Fortress. There is so much we agree with Issac about that dwelling on differences in taste are pointless. That said, we will offer a couple comments on two properties.

    While Firefly was unique, we did not find the universe as consistent as you. Sometimes we felt there was a certain “coldness” to the show. However, the bounty hunter episode was gold.

    Serenity took itself rather seriously, and in our opinion did not deliver — whatever it was Whedon was trying to deliver. We are not sure it was sci-fi he had in mind. We wonder how such a property would have fared, if at all without his name attached?

    Superman Returns does have some of the deep meanings in its subtext. The meanings you often find and that have merit. However they could not save that non-superhero movie. Superman is not Hancock, he is not Shaq’s “Steel”.

    If one is going to make a Superman movie relaunch (and cash in on the superhero movie craze) at least try to have him punch one thing during the two hours. That sounds shallow, but its Superman we are talking about.

    In the end, however deep or true the themes, it is still a movie that has to entertain. Superman should not be the test case for arthouse trials.

    PS – We liked The Patriot and The LotR series was an accomplishment (although may have had some pacing issues. While we had some problems with Star Trek, that was a great Roddenberry quote you included.

    • Isaac Says:

      thanks for your feedback! As I joked before, “as iron sharpens iron, so one movie blog sharpens another”. Your comments are greatly appreciated.
      I’m afraid you’re right about Superman. No matter how many times I defend it, it just didn’t work for 99% of the population.

  8. April Says:

    you did a really good job with this. and to the other responses, coraline is NOT better than these movies. I read the book and it had a chill factor, but it was just to fake

    • Isaac Says:

      Thanks April! I enjoyed the book too but the movie didn’t do too much for me… Different strokes for different folks.

  9. Steven Says:

    Some of the movies on your list deserve a spot but for the most part I disagree with it. You have far too many big brainless blockbusters and not too many groundbreaking films.

    The only movies you have on here that seriously belong are Memento, The Lord of the Rings, Shaun of the Dead, Casino Royale, and The Dark Knight. The rest I would completely disagree with.

    You are missing most of the best films of the decade!

    For example:

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Mulholland Drive
    Donnie Darko
    Requiem for a Dream
    Children of Men
    District 9
    Synecdoche, New York
    No Country for Old Men
    Gone Baby Gone
    Eastern Promises
    A History of Violence
    Pan’s Labyrinth
    Lost In Translation
    Inland Empire
    The Wrestler
    and many many more!

  10. AmyLat Says:

    I’m sorry people who love this movie, but Lost in Translation is by far the worst movie I have ever seen, when it ended i wanted to shoot my self for wasting 2 hours.

    I very much agree with Isaac, specifically on Russell Crowe’s movies

  11. Isaac Says:

    I fail to see how V For Vendetta and Gladiator are brainless blockbusters. Oh well, different strokes for different folks…

    I like a lot of the films you suggested (haven’t seen all of them), and would (mostly) agree that they deserve recognition. That’s the trouble with picking only 25!

  12. hansen Says:

    Hey, I usually dont comment, but for this i would like to make an exception… I think your list had some interesting movies that one usually does not see on other lists…
    keep up the good work..

    ps – v for vendetta is a brainless blockbuster — ha u must be a bureaucrat in a parallel contempoary world where orwells depictions are in practice

  13. Isaac Says:

    Thanks Hansen, I try to be unique.

  14. vish Says:

    were the hell is JUNO dude?????

    • Isaac Says:

      Juno is a great film, and one I definitely considered putting on here. It just didn’t quite make the cut. Especially after I saw Gran Torino.

  15. aaron Says:

    thank you very much for putting together such a thoughtful list, some of these i’ve seen and some i’ll be checking out per your recommendation, well done!

  16. rzgar Says:

    i think you have missed to put one of the best movies there. dont you forget about training day man
    ps- american gangster is one of the best too. but thanks for the list with two of Nolans movie in it

  17. sunny Says:

    Where. The. Hell. Is. Inception????

  18. Isaac Says:

    Well, the problem with that is, I’d have to watch a bunch of Romantic Comedies. … not exactly my favorite. But if you want a few of my favorites off the top of my head, there’s While You Were Sleeping, Sweet Home Alabama, Mr. Deeds. – Enjoy!

  19. Bryan Says:

    The only thing I disagreed about in this is Avatar. I believe this should have been high. Not only because it has the best CGI ever but also because the stories deepness. I felt like I could relate to the characters and I got mad when they got mad. But oh well this list was in your opinion and not my own.

    • Isaac Says:

      Bryan, remember that I didn’t rank these by quality, but by release date. I greatly enjoyed Avatar, and I’m glad that it came out in 2009 so I could put it on this list.

  20. happy Says:


    • Isaac Says:

      I love Equilibrium, its a fantastically entertaining action/sci-fi movie. However, it is very similar to V for Vendetta in themes, and I thought that putting both on here would be redundant.

  21. Rain Says:

    If Mel Gibson will die someday, people will
    appreciate the masterpiece that Gibson created. Apocalypto is the movie of the century.

  22. appu Says:

    I agree wit “The village”, “lady in the water”. tnx man. i was wondering what to watch.

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