DISCLAIMER 1: As you would surely know if you've ever made such a list, judging/enjoying an entire decade is a very personal thing and also a hopelessly ephemeral process. The movies would be in a different order if the list were made on another day. And decades take years to settle. I didn't know with 100% certainty when the 1990s ended that The Piano, Heavenly Creatures and Boogie Nights would cement themselves as my definitive trinity for that time frame but they did.
Awards for 2009 begin tomorrow or thereabouts.
DISCLAIMER 2: I'm leaving out documentaries because -- personal thing -- I can't compare them to narrative features very well. Just not a trick I'm good at performing. But if you must know my favorite documentary of the decade is Grizzly Man with a sly wink towards The Gleaners and I and a shout out to Trouble the Water.
DISCLAIMER 3: I've decided to combine trilogies and two-parters (if i love them) because I am lame (sorry Robert!) and you should know ahead of time. This affects their final rank in every case though not in a positive way.
100 Burn After Reading dir. The Coen Bros (2008)
When the Coen Bros are feeling misanthropic I prefer their full throttle satires to their seriocomic efforts (I can't love A Serious Man. I tried) And because the actors seem to be having a blast going deliciously big.
99 Away From Her dir. Sarah Polley (2007)
We'd been away from her (Julie Christie) too long. Polley must direct again.
98 Match Point dir. Woody Allen (2005)
97 Vicky Christina Barcelona dir. Woody Allen (2008)
Because Woody used to deliver classics. And he almost did it again... twice!
96 Jesus Son (1999, released in 2000)
Because even "Fuckhead"(s) need love. Samantha Morton sure can shimmy.
95 Monsters Inc dir. Pete Docter, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich (2001)
A genius concept executed with Pixar panache.
94 The House of Mirth dir. Terence Davies (2000)
The inexorable downfall of Lily Bart still haunts me. You could blame that on the rich source material but this is real cinema: the gilded age tableaus, the musical interlude over the water, and the stomach turning malevolence of one Laura Linney (way scarier than she was in Mystic River)
93 The Painted Veil dir. John Curran (2006)
Because sometimes those movies that get buried at the tail end of December and are completely ignored by just about everyone including that 13" shiny gold guy are way better than you could possibly expect them to be. Naomi Watts is the best she's ever been in a film not directed by David Lynch.
92 Låt den Rätte Komme In (Let the Right One In) dir. Tomas Alfredson (2008)
I despair that Hollywood is foolish enough to remake it. I'd wish them good luck (because boy will they need it) but I don't feel particularly generous about this urge of theirs.
91 Monster House dir. Gil Kenan (2006)
Because right from its bratty first frames its hilarious, inventive and golden with nostalgia.
90 The Triplets of Belleville dir. Sylvain Chomet (2003)
The theme song is still stuck in my head 7 years later.
89 The Others dir. Alejandro Amenábar (2001)
I still chuckle thinking of Nick's description of Nicole Kidman's hit performance... "ceramic befuddlement" (teehee)
88 Junebug dir. Phil Morrison (2005)
Amy Adams is bliss but so is the rest of the movie. My favorite scene: George singing at church and his wife's silent stunned curiousity. Morrison must direct again.
87 The Squid and the Whale dir. Noah Baumbach (2005)
Pitch perfect performances elevate this already exquisite example of the riches that talented filmmakers can mine from their own backstory.
86 Michael Clayton dir. Tony Gilroy (2007)
The kind of expertly judged mainstream movie Hollywood ought to be making a lot more of. Bonus points: If there were only five nominees for Supporting Actress in the decade, Tilda Swinton would still look awfully win-worthy in the shortlist.
85 The Departed dir. Martin Scorsese (2006)
Repeat viewings don't diminish its potent plot turns and they actually improve the performances... particularly amping up the slipperiness of Matt Damon and the pain in Leonardo DiCaprio's eyes. And how many remakes can claim to be better than the original, anyway? Not too damn many. What's more: Infernal Affairs wasn't exactly a mediocrity.
84 No Man's Land dir. Danis Tanovic (2001)
I still think about that ending.
83 In Bruges dir. Martin McDonagh (2008)
Because it's a trip to see a great playwright transfer so well to filmmaking. And because Colin Farrell guilt-ridden hitman hurts so authentically without diminishing the funny.
82 8 Femmes (8 Women) dir. François Ozon (2002)
Love that curtain call finale. Take another bow, ladies.
81 The New World dir. Terrence Malick (2005, released in a different version in 2006)
Because I've only seen it once, don't know which version that was, but still vividly remembering touching the grass, feeling the water and blinking in the sunlight from my theater seat. And, finally, marvelling that there were two New Worlds when one was already enough.
80 Demonlover dir. Olivier Assayas (2002, released in 2003)
As icy and diabolically mysterious as Summer Hours is warm and practically forthcoming. How does Assayas do it? And can he keep on doing it?
79 Une Liaison Pornographique (An Affair of Love) dir. Frederick Fonteyne (1999, released in 2000)
There aren't as many intelligent, sexy, absorbing relationship movies as there should be. At least the French still make them. Merci!
78 Temporado de Patos (Duck Season) dir. Fernando Eimbcke (2004, released in 2006)
A true original and one that rewards the patient viewer. So many movies that cost 500 times as much don't give half this much pleasure.
77 Zodiac dir. David Fincher (2007)
Fincher's obvious affinity for obsessive haunted analytical men makes me worried for him. Do you think he'll be tearing his hair out while drinking himself to oblivion for years trying to solve the mystery of Benjamin Button being his most popular film and the only one Oscar ever cared for (even though it's nowhere close to his best)?
76 Un Conte de Noël (A Christmas Tale) dir. Arnaud Depleschin (2008)
I would so give Catherine Deneuve my bone marrow, wouldn't you? Desplechin's rich, thick anecdotal, testy, restless, mysteriously moving scrapbooky-cinemathing about the Vuillard family and their dying mother is so generous that I can shove nine-plus adjectives into this sentence (just did!) and still come up short in describing its arsenal of moods, feelings and detours.