– as this is a summation of an entire decade, i opted for twenty-five films as opposed to ten.
– one film per director.
– this list was made as intuitively and quickly as possible.  i’m not going to bother listing possibly egregious/potentially regrettable omissions.  feel free to point them out and i’ll respond accordingly.
– the order of 11 – 23 is pretty arbitrary, though there is some semblance of a progression that’s sort of indicative of my taste.

the list.

25. judd apatow’s the 40-year-old virgin, adam mckay’s anchorman: the legend of ron burgundy, larry charles’s borat: cultural learnings of america for make benefit glorious nation of kazakhstan,  jeff tremaine’s jackass 1 & 2, robert ben garant’s reno 911!: miami, jay chandrasekhar’s super troopers, trey parker’s team america: world police
, and ben stiller’s zoolander
is this cheating?  a.o. scott suggested that the pervading subject of american comedy this past decade was male immaturity.  in order as listed: the best movie judd apatow will ever make; juvenile humor at its most nonsensical; the most ingenious subtitle in cinema history; glorious exhibition of willful retardation; achieves sublimity by way of the moronic (the motel panorama scene); the underestimated, under-appreciated masterpiece of the highway patrol movie; shameless schoolyard vitriol posing as political satire; because it’s one of terrence malick’s favorite movies, and it’s crazy funny.

i love dumb comedies.

24. peter jackson’s lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring
the best and only great film of the trilogy.  (the two towers is bad and return of the king relies too heavily on the catharsis of closure)  the closest movies have come to matching the grandeur and mesmerizing artifice of classic hollywood epics.

23. pedro almodovar’s talk to her

indulgence becomes almodovar.  his most sumptuous and felt melodrama, as emotionally engrossing as preposterous as its story is.

22. terry zwigoff’s ghost world

“dear josh, we came by to fuck you, but you were not home. therefore, you are gay.”  the best comic book movie of the decade, or ever for that matter.  understated, hilarious and deeply melancholic.

21. pete docter & bob peterson’s up

pixar’s finest hour.

20. jonathan demme’s rachel getting married

“i prayed for you!”  demme’s humanist cup overfloweth.

todd haynes’s far from heaven
haynes responds to two of his major influences–douglas sirk and r.w. fassbinder–with a masterful third iteration of all that heaven allows.

bela tarr’s werckmeister harmonies
an elegiac and bizarre cosmogony, and somewhat of a microcosm of tarr’s magnum opus satantango.

17. joel coen’s a serious man

bleak and hilarious, steeped in the coens’ strange and oft misunderstood brand of humanism.  “just look at that parking lot.”  

16. david gordon green’s george washington

absolutely exquisite film about childhood.  green does malick better than anyone who’s grasped at the hem of the master’s garment.  does cinema get more lyrical?  (yes, but the bar is pretty damn high at this one.)

apichatpong weerasethakul’s tropical malady
one of the most singular films from one of the decade’s most singular film artists, joe (the director’s alternative, easier-to-pronounce-for-white-folk name).  unorthodox, unprecedented, unforgettable.

14. guy maddin’s brand upon the brain!

same as 15, but for guy maddin.

robert altman’s the company
the pinnacle of his late career, altman’s true final masterpiece–a prairie home companion is more of an encore–takes the form of this formidably fluid and uncanny paean to human physicality and inseparability of life and art.  malcolm mcdowell is incredible.

12. lee chang-dong’s oasis
at once a challenging, novelistic heart-wrenching love story and scathing social commentary, oasis is korean cinema’s greatest contribution to the form.   one of the most compassionate films i’ve ever seen.  the two central performances are of must-see caliber, as is the movie.

11. emir kusturica’s life is a miracle
the day robert altman died, this is the film i chose to console me without having seen it.  the assumption was that, like his other films, emir kusturica’s at-that-time latest would do nothing short of elate, about which i was more than correct.  life is a miracle is as joyous and cathartic as anything kusturica has created, and earns its title not by way of saccharine sentiment but an intense joie de vie. unfortunately the film was never distributed in the u.s.

10. lars von trier’s dogville
self-proclaimed god’s gift to film lars von trier continues his quest for cinematic immortality with this decidedly eloquent, brechtian damnation of not just small town america but humanity at large.  this may be the last time the quality of the film matches the reach of his egomaniacal ambition, but dogville is von trier’s most confrontational masterpiece.

claire denis’s 35 shots of rum
for my money, claire denis is the filmmaker of the decade.  i’m rarely as excited about a filmmaker’s new work as i am about hers.  with 35 shots of rum, denis achieves a lucidity that, even for her, is superlative.  intimate, sublime, profoundly simple, denis’s most pleasurable film.

8. wong kar-wai’s in the mood for love
wong kar-wai’s most elegant and mature work.  at the end of his review of the film, ed gonzalez concedes that, “in the mood for love is ravishing beyond mortal words” and indeed, words are failing me here.  at the moment i can do little more than claim my love for this film.

7. paul thomas anderson’s punch-drunk love
superficially, there will be blood may be the more impressive feat but it’s this, the strangest and flightiest of romantic comedies that represents fanboy favorite paul thomas anderson’s greatest achievement to date, trading in his penchant for multi-charactered tapestries and virtuoso showmanship for a more acute, concentrated offering, so endearingly off-kilter, pathos-ridden as it is full of bizarre laughs.  barry egan is one of my all-time favorite characters.

6. terence davies’s the house of mirth

a masterful, visually arresting adaptation of an edith wharton novel, a classic tale of feminine struggle, disillusionment, and suffering within patriarchal victorian society and culture.  its formal prowess, precise execution, and overall excellence (especially in the performances) announces the house of mirth as a truly great and major work by film’s heartbreaking end.

5. michael haneke’s code unknown
incendiary, dauntingly ambitious, audacious both in its narrative experimentation and choice of subject matter, michael haneke’s code unknown is etched in my mind as one of the boldest films of the last ten years, one that polarized viewers but for me is entirely successful.  the film is comprised of sustained takes capturing incredibly tense and uncomfortable scenes that all cut just before what seems would be a pivotal moment.  this mounting of tension without any resolve makes for a truly riveting experience, paying off in a revelatory and powerful end sequence.  this film left me speechless.

4. edward yang’s yi yi
generous and sprawling, in the grand tradition of eastern family dramas.  given his untimely death, this turned out to be yang’s last film, and it’s a more-than-ample swan song to his legacy, as it is yet another indispensable taiwanese fiction with substantive universal pertinence.  try not to cry at the end of this film.

3. richard linklater’s before sunset

i left this film glowing, assured that i’d just seen one of the most beautifully nuanced, near-perfect romances of all time.  if this and its predecessor before sunrise are bottles of wine of the same vintage, before sunset is aged to perfection (whereas before sunrise is nice but uncorked too early).  the prolific texan’s best film, no small claim for the man behind waking life and slacker.

2. terrence malick’s the new world

history as mythic poetry brimming with malick’s characteristically ravishing imagery.  each viewing of this visionary film is unique but always breathtaking and moving.  i met this film with two-and-a-half years of anticipation and impossibly high expectations and the new world still blew me away, and continues to do so every time i revisit it.  malick’s is a film for the senses, an embarrassment of riches in the way of intellectual, emotional, and even physical stimulus.  an ineffable, dream-like movie.

1. david lynch’s mulholland drive

THE apotheosis of the decade and the film that started my addiction to cinema.  after seeing it for the first time, i obsessed about it for weeks, resorting to watching the trailer repeatedly to see the film’s images and hear its sounds in an attempt to relive the experience.  mulholland drive requires submission but not passivity, and those up for engaging with it are infinitely rewarded with no less than a glimpse at the expansion of the medium’s potential.  an utterly captivating surrealist masterwork.