Top 20 films of the ’00s: 15-11

Let the list times roll.

15. Let the Right One In (2008)

As you probably already know, I saw this superb Swedish horror-drama earlier on this year and absolutely loved it. Loved it so much, in fact, that I though it should definitely feature on this list. Forget all that angsty Twilight malarkey, this is the vampire film of the last decade. Telling the tale of 12-year old Oskar who’s just moved to a quiet Swedish village, and the been-twelve-for-3-centuries Eli, Tomas Alfredson creates an ambience that few films can rival, the cold air nipping at your through the screen, the crisp crunch of boots on snow wonderfully rendered. Following the central pair – both unbelievable first-time performances, may I add – as Oskar is bullied and Eli is devoid of friendship, it might seem like a twee tween love story. But Let the Right One In is far from it. Some moments, when Eli must feed for example, are not sugar-coated at all, blood gushing onto snow. The scene which gives this film its title, where Oskar makes Eli enter his flat without permission only for her to start bleeding out of every pore, is truly chilling, and the chemistry between the main twosome is delightful. By the end, you probably won’t want to be a vampire, but you will most likely want one as your mate.

14. Oldboy (2003)

A revenge film in the classic mould, Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy is probably about as unrelenting as a film can be. Min Sik-Choi’s Oh Dae-Su has been locked up for 15 years for no reason, without explanation or motive, and is one day released, to be told that he must find his captor in five days. Cue a one-man army with more drive than a thousand Stallones and more natural charisma than even Steven Seagal (I know, I didn’t think it possible either). As he unravels the mystery of his imprisonment, he does some quite frankly batshit stuff, literally hammering his way through huge groups of gangsters and, infamously, eating a live octupus (which Min actually did for the scene). His tender connection with chef Mido is charming and gentle, but Oh’s acts of violence, though we root for him throughout, are tremendously brutal. The film’s climax, one of the most sinister and harrowing of all time, only adds to the brilliance of this Korean masterpiece, and it’s clear to see that the Far East can still produce some of the best, and most utterly fucked-up, cinema in the world.

13. 25th Hour (2002)

Edward Norton. Spike Lee. Brian Cox. Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Rosario Dawson. With talent like this, 25th Hour should be a modern classic, right? Right indeed. Following Norton’s soon-to-be-incarcerated Monty Brogan on his last day before he gets sent for porridge, Lee’s film has some of his hallmarks – angular camerawork, great evocation of real feeling – and also features a leading man at the height of his powers. Coming off the back of mega-indie-hits Fight Club and American History X, Norton was completely in his prime, and Lee gets the best out of him, Hoffman (in his pre-Oscar winning but equally superb days), Cox and Dawson as the people who love Monty the most, only to watch his life gradually slide toward the shitter. Cox stands out as his embattled, embittered father James, and his monologue over the film’s finale is heart-rendingly honest and believable. Monty’s “fuck you” speech to himself is the movie’s most famous sequence, but Lee (and screenwriter David Benioff) surround it with equally magnificent scenes, making 25th Hour unforgettable for its honesty, pluck and craft.

12. Zoolander (2001)

Some people, I know, will have a fit at this choice, but if you don’t like it, make your own list. I know that Ben Stiller’s 2001 film doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of There’s Something About Mary for many, but for me it’s his finest hour and one of the best comedies of the last decade. The plot is brilliantly ludicrous, as male model Derek Zoolander (Stiller) loses his pride and work to new mega-star Hansel (Owen Wilson) and becomes the obsession of evil designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell, never better). It sounds like a steaming pile, I know, but the sheer idiocy of Zoolander makes it brilliant. From the great central conceit that neither of these two models are exactly oil paintings, to the classic self-wedgie walk-off scene, to some of the most quotable comedy in years (“I was bulimic.” “You can read minds?”), it’s been sadly overlooked. Everyone involved knew this was a completely out-there comedy and they all just have a great time with it, endlessly criticising their own celebrity whilst taking shots at every cliché in the book in the process. And I bet you thought I was too stupid to know what a eugoogly was.

11. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

The film that kick-started the career of a director, Guillermo Del Toro’s twisted fairytale remains one of the best fantasy films of recent years, whilst also delivering a chilling commentary on the savagery of the Spanish Civil War. The titular labyrinth, we see, may-or-may-not be imagined by young heroine Ofelia, but features beasties that would haunt any kid’s nightmares for years. The Pale Man, the horrifying creature with eyes in his hands, and Fauno who sets quests for our protagonist, are awfully scary, and this is not a kids’ film by any means. Del Toro’s involvement in The Hobbit was given to him essentially off the back of this picture, and it’s not hard to see why. A mixture of horror, drama, historical epic and fairytale, Pan’s Labyrinth doesn’t skimp on the violence (we see a poor bugger get his face smashed in with a bottle at the merciless hands of Captain Vidal) or story, and the film’s tragic denouement will leave more than just the kids needing a Kleenex.

Tune in on Saturday as the top 10 begins…

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3 thoughts on “Top 20 films of the ’00s: 15-11

  1. Interesting list, Luke, but – and I kind of hate myself for picking this particularly tiny nit – but I don’t think Pan’s Labyrinth ”kick started” Guillermo del Toro’s career.

    He’d already made two big budget blockbusters – Blade II and Hellboy – both of which had been well-received and quite successful, and had been known to arthouse audiences for years thanks to Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone.

    I don’t deny that it is his best film, and certainly the one that made the majority of people sit up and take notice, but it was more the film that took him to the next level as a film maker, rather than the film that kickstarted his career.

    God, that’s pedantic.

  2. Well Ed, yes it is.

    But your point is well-made nonetheless. I suppose I used the turn of phrase because it kickstarted his career in my mind certainly, not having really been familiar with him beforehand. I honestly had no idea he’d done Blade II! I should have probably used a different phrasing, it was a bit off-target I’ll confess.

  3. Pingback: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – makes a lasting impression « Odessa & Tucson

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