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Dramas of the Decade

Movies, Year-End, Reader Lists | December 10, 2009

Top 13 Dramas of the Decade

Check out our list to see how it compares with our readers' list.

We asked you all to submit your own lists of the Top 13 Dramas of the Decade, and we received an enthusiastic response. While you agreed with many of The Top 13's choices, there were a few significant differences. You thought we snubbed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Pan's Labyrinth, and Good Night, and Good Luck, and didn't think that Sexy Beast, Million Dollar Baby, or A History of Violence belonged on The Top 13. Plus, you thought we significantly underrated There Will Be Blood and overrated Munich.

We already told you why we like most of the movies on this list, so we'll let the reviewers elaborate. But for your new picks, we'll let you know why we think you made good choices.

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City of God

1

City of God

2001

The Washington Post It's Fernando Meirelles' astonishment City of God, about life and death - well, mostly death - in what used to be called slums. In short, it's a trip to Hell and back, and testimony for embittered cynics of all that a movie can be. Houston Chronicle City is an incredibly assured, compelling and often sardonically funny piece of filmmaking. Chicago Sun-Times Breathtaking and terrifying, urgently involved with its characters, it announces a new director of great gifts and passions: Fernando Meirelles.

No Country for Old Men

2

No Country for Old Men

2007

The New Republic The result is a masterpiece, a film by turns harrowing and contemplative. There are moments when it is difficult to stay in one's seat. USA Today What unfolds is much more than a drug deal gone bad. The Coen brothers have fashioned a wry and riveting hybrid of a drama, Western, crime thriller and action film that is as powerful and thought-provoking as it is genre-bending. New York Post . . . the first movie I've seen in a very long while that deserves to be called a masterpiece. . . . Even in one of Hollywood's best seasons in years, No Country for Old Men works as high art and a rousing genre entertainment. Go see it.

There Will Be Blood

3

There Will Be Blood

2007

Rolling Stone Day-Lewis and Anderson - a huge talent with an uncompromising gift for language and composition — are out to batter every cliché Hollywood holds dear. There Will Be Blood hits with hurricane force. Chicago Tribune . . . reminds us that the greatest screen performances don't settle for capturing one trait, a dominant emotion or an easy way in. The very best of them are symphonies of paradox, forcing us to reckon with the ramifications. . . . This is what Daniel Day-Lewis achieves in director Paul Thomas Anderson's majestic crackpot of a film. Associated Press Someday, we're probably going to look back at There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's epic about greed, lies, manipulation and insanity, and call it his masterpiece.

Children of Men

4

Children of Men

2006

San Francisco Chronicle. . . Cuarón's run for freedom, with a riveting story, fantastic action scenes and acting so universally solid that even the dogs perform masterfully under his direction. But technique is what makes the film exceptional, and a dark horse candidate for best movie of the year. Entertainment Weekly Thrilling, important, and invigoratingly bleak, Children of Men is one of the very best movies to come out in 2006. New York Magazine It's a wow, though. The director and a battery of credited screenwriters have twisted P. D. James's 1992 novel into a relentlessly dire chase picture with double crosses and an explosive final battle between the military and the fugees.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

5

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

2004

The second feature-length film from noted French music video auteur Michel Gondry, this terrific, non-linear comedy-drama tells the story of Joel, played by Jim Carrey in unquestionably his best performance, who undergoes a medical procedure to erase the memory of his ex-girlfriend, Clementine, played equally well by Kate Winslet. Much of the film takes place in Joel’s head while he is unconscious undergoing the procedure. Gondry won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, along with his writing partners on the film, Charlie Kaufman, known for writing and directing classics like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, and French performance artist Pierre Bismuth.

The Departed

6

The Departed

2006

The Wall Street Journal Here, though, his mastery is complete. This is the movie that Scorsese fans have been yearning to see for a very long time, and it's a crowd-pleaser in the bargain. New York Daily News Martin Scorsese has returned to the gritty, violent mob drama that has always been his strong suit, and the result - The Departed - is his best film since 1990's Goodfellas. Philadelphia Inquirer Freed from iconic figures and weighty themes, Martin Scorsese, in The Departed, gets to riff and rock. And the audience gets a huge, bloody, profane entertainment in the bargain.

Requiem for a Dream

7

Requiem for a Dream

2000

The New York Times People may find it infuriating precisely because it's so intimidating, and it may leave you shaken. Be warned: it's a downer, and a knockout. . . . Mr. Aronofsky draws astonishing performances from his actors. Detroit Free Press Conveys, visually, sonically and dramatically, the siren call of addiction like no other movie has. Los Angeles Times You really have to be up for - and open to - this most harrowing of films that dazzles with Aronofsky's acute command of his medium and of his actors, from whom he demands the utmost and then some. . . . But Aronofsky is so compelling, so visionary a filmmaker, he keeps us riveted to his film.

Memento

8

Memento

2000

Washington Post Memento is so assured and daring, you're almost petrified the picture's going to mess up, make some kind of boneheaded move. You're sitting there, rooting for this thing not to fall off its conceptual high wire. But hallelujah, it keeps its balance; and you're exhilarated from beginning to end. Entertainment Weekly Memento, which may be the ultimate existential thriller, has a spooky repetitive urgency that takes on the clarity of a dream. The New York Times Mr. Nolan demonstrates a supercharged cinematic intelligence. He's clearly excited by the way the medium can manipulate time and information, folding straightforward events and simple motives into Möbius strips of paradox and indeterminacy.

Slumdog Millionaire

9

Slumdog Millionaire

2008

Denver Post Watching Slumdog Millionaire, it's easy to believe director Danny Boyle has been working toward this brilliantly woven masterwork with each entertaining and diverse tale he's delivered. Los Angeles Times The best old-fashioned audience picture of the year, a Hollywood-style romantic melodrama that delivers major studio satisfactions in an ultra-modern way. The Arizona Republic This film is a delight. . . . Boyle balances things carefully at the end, staying true to the themes of sacrifice and romantic optimism he has developed throughout. No pain, no gain, as they say - and Jamal experiences plenty of both. Slumdog Millionaire, like its central character, is all the richer for it.

Pan's Labyrinth

10

Pan's Labyrinth

2006

Written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who is currently working on a two-part film of The Hobbit with Lord of the Rings triology director Peter Jackson, Pan's Labyrinth is a visually stunning tale full of frightening and magical creatures. The story, told through the eyes of a little girl, Ofelia, is about her fears during World War II in Spain. Winner of three Academy Awards (for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Makeup), this film used not only makeup, but also animatronics and computer generated imagery to create the amazing creatures that inhabit Ofelia's imagination.

Donnie Darko

11

Donnie Darko

2001

Washington Post Written and directed by Kelly, Donnie Darko is a new generation's The Graduate, a film about suburban angst that doesn't provide easy answers to its own conundrums. Entertainment Weekly Kelly, the 26-year-old writer-director of this excitingly original indie vision, shares more artistically with Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson than he does with Spielberg or John Hughes, but the point is, he's out on his own here. He swings big - with flair. Salon.com Donnie Darko is a stunning technical accomplishment that virtually bursts with noise, ideas and references, but it's fundamentally a gracefully crafted movie that's about human beings and not images.

Munich

12

Munich

2005

The Boston Globe Simply stated, Munich is Steven Spielberg's return to seriousness and his finest film in years. You can take it as both a stunningly well-made international thriller and a drama of deepening moral quicksand. Philadelphia Inquirer Munich ricochets all over the place, but it hits its target dead-on. CNN The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a visceral, emotionally exhausting work that dares to ask questions - and gives no easy answers - regarding the horrifying events that occurred at the 1972 Munich Olympics and their aftermath. . . . Munich is a great film - and an important one. It's a brave work from a top-notch filmmaker, and one of the best films of the year.

Good Night, and Good Luck

13

Good Night, and Good Luck

2005

This fantastic historical film depicts in period appropriate black and white the conflict between U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and television news pioneer Edward R. Murrow over McCarthy's bizarre efforts to expose purported Communist sympathizers in the United States. Co-written and directed by George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck was filmed in color on a grayscale set and then color corrected to black and white. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. And although David Strathairn lost out on the Oscar to Philip Seymour Hoffman for his work in Capote, Strathairn's performance as Murrow was stunning.

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Comments Leave a comment

tloveisready ★★

Hard to argue with most of these, but I still think there's no way slumdog belongs on this list and there are a lot of smaller films that have been overlooked in favor of big-budget oscar machines.

5:28 AM   Dec 10, 2009

jason ★★

What's with the Slumdog Hate? That movie was absolutely brilliant. Unless you can't tolerate a happy ending, or something.

9:09 AM   Dec 10, 2009

tloveisready ★★

I thought Slumdog, although decidedly good, was vastly overrated. I just saw City of God for the first time too, and I thought it was excellent. Not sure if it deserves #1, but it was right up there with most on this list.

9:30 AM   Dec 10, 2009

ajay ★★

I feel that the people who didn't absolutely adore Slumdog are the ones who saw it late into its theater run. So many movies get ruined for people by too much good hype. That said, I like how Sigur Rós' "Hoppípolla" is featured in two of these trailers (Children of Men, Slumdog). Most cinematic band ever.

12:45 PM   Dec 10, 2009

jason ★★

Good point Ajay. I think I feel as strongly as I do (in a positive way) because it was something of a surprise to me how good it was (despite positive reviews, I hadn't heard much word-of-mouth) and I probably enjoyed it, in the theater on the first viewing, more than any movie I've seen but Pulp Fiction.

10:46 AM   Dec 11, 2009

stillathreat ★★

Pan's Labyrinth is visually stunning. But I don't think it belongs on a best of the decade list. That said, can't wait for The Hobbit films.

2:56 PM   Dec 10, 2009

Catalyst 

Pan's Labyrinth was a garbage.

7:01 PM   Dec 10, 2009

Andrew_vb 

Tlove is absolutely right. I'm surprised not to see Crash on this list too, the only movie worse than Slumdog to have won best picture this decade. Slumdog is a bloated hollywood movies that tries to tack on the foreign aspect in order to make it more than it is.

11:20 AM   Dec 28, 2009

Sura 

Pretty much everything I would want to see on the list is here! Well done :) Though I would have liked to see Y Tu Mama Tambien make the top 13

9:14 PM   Jan 04, 2010

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