101. Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003)
Tim Burton captures the magic of a great novel while instilling it with his own unique style and visual zest. The image above is one of many insane, but beautiful, ideas that Burton captures - right on for a story about the power of story telling and imagination. Ewan McGregor is the perfect leading man for this sort of story as he works to derive fact from fiction in the stories he grew up hearing from his father. The ending, as well, strikes a perfect note.
100. State of Play (Kevin Mcdonald, 2009)
Almost entirely overlooked in its theatrical release thanks to a horrid marketing campaign, Kevin Mcdonald's follow-up to Last King of Scotland is an incredibly well acted and tense thriller. Ben Affleck is at his best as a smarmy senator with some baggage. Russell Crowe finds a motivation and purpose in his performance that stands with his best work in The Insider, L.A. Confidential and Gladiator. Helped by a witty script from Tony Gilroy (the Bourne movies, Michael Clayton), the movie also serves as a fitting reminder to the power of the print media in a time when newspapers are forced out of business at a frightening rate. Good supporting turns from Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges and Jason Bateman all help make for one of the best thrillers of the decade.
Fun fact: Originally Brad Pitt and Edward Norton were attached to play the Crowe and Affleck roles - I can't imagine the movie being nearly as effective with that combination.
99. Marley & Me (David Frankel, 2008)
This is a movie that, by all rights, should have been unbearable. But, thanks to a fun script, great acting and effective direction, the movie becomes a great symbol of why people love pets. The movie is not simply the 'crazy dog flick' the previews suggested, but rather is a study of a family growing through life and how a dog is a part of that. Career best performances from both Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston help make the film incredibly emotionally effective. Wilson and Aniston make for a believable and likable couple who deal with the struggles of life in ways that make sense. [Spoiler] One scene of particular note is following the miscarriage of the family's first attempt at a child. When the young couple returns home and Mrs. Grogan (Aniston) is understandably devastated, habitual hellion Marley provides the perfect support she needs. Sensing her sadness the dog simply rests his chin on her knee and sits with her, calmly, lovingly. It's the perfect encapsulation of why human beings love pets. [End spoiler]
98. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008)
Benjamin Button tells the story of the life of a man born as a child in the body of an old man whose body ages backwards - more importantly it tells the story of the love of that man's life. Everything about the movie is gorgeously constructed. From the subtle and effective CGI to the evocative score by Alexandre Desplat, Benjamin Button is one of the most sumptuous experiences of the decade. But at its core is a touching love story that manages to overcome a potentially unsettling premise. Pitt and Blanchett are well paired as the time-crossed lovers and Fincher's direction creates the perfect tone.
97. Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
Director Danny Boyle reunites with his 28 Days Later... writer, Alex Garland, for this science fiction-horror movie. Tasked with preventing the Sun from expiring, a team of 8 astronauts is launched into space as a last hope. A strong multinational cast, including Michelle Yeoh, Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Rose Byrne and Mark Strong, is led by the stellar performance of Chris Evans. Known for likable but unremarkable performances in movies like Fantastic Four, Cellular and Push, Evans does truly great work here as the rather unhinged engineer of the space shuttle Icarus. Of even more note are the stellar visuals: presented with a budget of under $40 million Boyle and cinematographer Alwin Kuchler create some startling and impressive space imagery.
96. 8 Mile (Curtis Hanson, 2002)
While the movie is also responsible for one of the best rap songs of the decade, Lose Yourself, it also serves as a hell of a good character drama. Coming off of the stellar Wonder Boys and L.A. Confidential, Curtis Hanson's choice to make a rap drama, including the acting debut of the controversial Eminem, was somewhat curious. But Hanson brings great performances out of his actors, particularly Eminem who, despite the autobiographical underpinnings of the work, actually acts. There is genuine emotion behind his performance, particularly in the scenes with Brittany Murphy. The two strike a believable chemistry. Finally, the rap 'battles' are every bit as exciting as the game scenes in most sports movies.
Runner-Up: Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006)
Runner-Up: Open Water (Kentis, 2004)
Runner-Up: Cinderella Man (Howard, 2005)
Runner-Up: Tigerland (Schumacher, 2000)
Runner-Up: Best in Show (Guest, 2000)
Runner-Up: Letters from Iwo Jima (Eastwood, 2006)
Runner-Up: Saw (Wan, 2004)
101: Big Fish (Burton, 2003)
100: State of Play (Macdonald, 2009)
99: Marley & Me (Frankel, 2008)
98: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, 2008)
97: Sunshine (Boyle, 2007)
96: 8 Mile (Hanson, 2002)