I was bummed after seeing Clash of the Titans because the movie just didn’t work for me (although Medusa was cool). It was a total thumbs down. After expressing my disappointment, my wife said it seemed I never liked any movie we saw in a theater. To defend myself against this heinous accusation I shall list all my favorite movies of the last decade. My only question is: where are all the love stories? I haven’t seen a great love story since Sabrina and Far and Away.
Of course, I haven’t had time to see all the movies made in the last ten years. So if you have some favorites not listed here, post them.
Top 10 Movies: 2000 – 2009
10. A Beautiful Mind (2001, PG-13)
John Forbes Nash, a mathematician, thinks he’s broken the code for a terrible Soviet conspiracy plot, but the real truth turns his world upside down. It’s full of mystery, suspense, and love. Russell Crowe gives a brilliant performance as Nash. Furthermore, the film is based on the the true story of John Forbes Nash, Jr., a Nobel Laureate in Economics.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, PG-13)
Swashbuckling adventure, a curse, and lots of humor. Probably the best pirate movie ever made. The next two movies fell flat for me, but this one was simply amazing.
8. Gladiator (2000, R)
Another Russell Crowe film. A corrupt prince betrays a Roman general and murders his family. They general is captured and made a slave to fight as a Gladiator. I was so drawn into the story that at one point in the movie theater I had to restrain myself from shouting out at a suspenseful moment.
7. The Last Samurai (2003, R)
Nathan Algren, a former US soldier in America’s west, drowns his regrets in alcohol. He becomes a military advisor in Japan, but is captured by the enemy. He learns from the enemy samurai, but does he become a new, better man? This one has Tom Cruise in it. I enjoyed it immensely.
6. We Were Soldiers (2002, R)
From the IMDB: “In a place soon to be known as The Valley of Death, in a small clearing called landing zone X-Ray, Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and 400 young fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, all troopers from an elite American combat division, were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The ensuing battle was one of the most savage in U.S. history. We Were Soldiers Once And Young is a tribute to the nobility of those men under fire, their common acts of uncommon valor, and their loyalty to and love for one another. The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.” This is an incredible story. Mel Gibson and the others give an outstanding performance. I wept at their courage.
5. Spiderman-2 (2004, PG-13)
The first Spiderman stank. Sorry. It stank because the villain was too cartoonish. The third one stank as well. This one, however, oh baby. Peter Parker’s personal life is falling apart, he’s losing the one thing in life that would make him happy (yes, a girl). Furthermore, he begins to lose his powers just as he has to battle a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius, who becomes Doctor Octopus (aka Doc Ock), after an accident causes him to bond psychically with mechanical tentacles that do his bidding. Loved this. Drama, gosh wow super-heroism, and a heart.
4. Ice Age (2002, G)
Another hilarious animated tale with heart. Set during the Ice Age, a saber tooth tiger, a sloth, and a wooly mammoth find a lost human infant and try to return him to his tribe. Of course, the saber tooth tiger was sent to lead the others into a trap. Sid the sloth is one of the best characters to come along in a long time. You’ll love this show. Again, another show I can watch over and over again.
3. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000, G)
I saw the previews to this and thought D-U-M-B. But it is one of the best films ever. Animated. Hilarious. Emperor Kuzco’s ex-administrator Yzma wants to kill him and rule. She turns him into a llama instead, and her not too bright side-kick doesn’t quite finish him off. Now the selfish emperor is on the run and needs to regain his throne. But the only person who can help him is the guy whose home he’s going to bulldoze. But that doesn’t capture the half of it. The characters are wonderful. Me and the kids watch this three or four times a year and still don’t tire of it.
2. The Incredibles (2004, PG)
A family of undercover superheroes tries to live a normal suburban life but is forced into action to save the world. This is Pixar’s best film. Every one of these characters is interesting. The family dynamics are real and often hilarious. There’s suspense, drama, and gosh-wow. Imagine James Bond as a family man. I LOVE this movie.
1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy: Lord of the Rings (2001, PG-13), The Two Towers (2002, PG-13), The Return of the King (2003, PG-13)
For those readers who aren’t familiar with this, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular series written in the last 50 years. His three books spawned a whole new genre. It is, in fact, the genre I currently write in. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh did an amazing job bringing the beloved epic fantasy to the screen. There’s heroism, suspense, and wonder galore. These movies transport you to another world, immerse you in it, and leave you wanting more.
Casino Royale (2006, PG-13)
I gave up on James Bond years ago. This is Bond like you’ve never seen him. Loved this. The next Bond, The Quantum of Solace, fell totally on its face. But Casino Royale is the real deal–action, spy, and poignant love story all wrapped up in one.
Luther (2003, PG-13)
The story of the early 16th century German monk Martin Luther who, sick of Church materialism, begins the Protestant Reformation. I knew very little about Luther. This movie was an eye-opener.
Matchstick Men (2003, PG-13)
Nicolas Cage is a phobic con man who learns he has a teenage daughter. He plans another con, but things start to fall apart. In the end, well, let’s just say it was a heart-breaking, then absolutely satisfying.
Seabiscuit (2003, PG-13)
Based on the true story of the undersized Depression-era racehorse whose victories lifted the spirits of the nation. This story is full of heartbreak and redemption. About not giving up on broken things. Loved it.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008, R)
A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.
Walk the Line (2005, PG-13)
This tells the story of country music legend Johnny Cash. It starts from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis. It shows how he fell to drugs, and how he climbed back out again. Marvelous performances and story.
A Better Way to Rate Movies
Life is too short to waste it on movies that offend instead of uplift.
I have found over the years that the MPAA movie ratings are lousy at helping me avoid dreck. They’re okay as a rough guide, but they don’t give me enough information to make a good choice. Furthermore, the MPAA often rates a movie mature for elements I don’t find offensive and not for others I do. Luckily, there are other places that rate movies. The one that I’ve found most helpful is KidsInMind.com.
The folks there give movies separate ratings on three things: sex/nudity, violence/gore, and profanity. But they don’t just present some mysterious number. They also list exactly what’s in the movie. What this does is give you the information you need to make a wise decision. By looking at movies that made me uncomfortable in each of those three areas and comparing scores, I soon pegged my acceptable KidsInMind levels.
KidsInMind doesn’t tell me anything about the quality of the story or movie-making. But I can look at other reviews for that kind of stuff. What it does well is help me avoid movies with content I know I will find objectionable. Of course, I still look at the MPAA rating, but before I go see a movie or order it on Netflix, I check the KidsInMind ratings. It’s not perfect, but in almost every case it works like a charm. The only downside to the site is its five gazillion popup ads. But it’s a small price to pay for good information.