A best of the decade list is an incredible thing to consider. The Aughts were ripe with imagination and originality. The past ten years also came jam packed with many new visionary directors that changed the cinematic landscape forever. Yet, at the same time, it was also a decade wrought with remakes, rip-offs, ten-year late sequels, and films based on preexisting toy properties, comic books, and amusement park rides. George Lucas offended almost everyone by dusting off his Star Wars mythos and adding copious amounts of CGI to it. And Batman, a caped figure in tights who last flourished in the trippy sixties, managed to crawl head and shoulders above the rest at the box office to be crowned king. Thus proving that the so-called "geek" or "fanboy" truly ruled the silver screen over the course of this tumultuous past decade.
Today, we look at the ten films that ruled the box office these last ten years. These were the films that audiences countrywide picked to represent the Aughts. And if there's one thing they all have in common, it's a catchy theme song. From "Na-na-na-na-na, Batman!" To, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!" To, "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can!" To, "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Rum!" They all had us humming with electricity after leaving the theater. We'll also look at the Aught Blog Critic's choice for that same year in question. This was a decade full of angry green men, caped crusaders, pirates, giant robots, wizards, vampires, and Jedi. Did we have fun? You betcha! Did we learn anything new? Not so much. Here is the decade in review:
Audiences Pick for 2000? Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Directed by Ron Howard, this family favorite pulled in $260 million at the box office, becoming the first big hit of the new decade. Forget Y2K, all anyone seemed to care about in 00 was the painful make-up process Jim Carrey had to endure while taking on this furry green role of a lifetime. It certainly paid off, as the film became a massive phenomenon. Based on Dr. Suess' children's book and holiday TV special of the same name, the Grinch became a fully fleshed out image of evilness turned warm-hearted Christmas cad. To this day, it remains a true holiday classic and one of Ron Howard's best films of the decade.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2000? Unbreakable. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, his follow up to the Sixth Sense went on to earn $95 million at the box office. While we would hear the phrase "redefines the comic book genre" throughout the rest of the decade, this was the first and only film to truly earn that dubious distinction. Bruce Willis starred as an everyman who slowly comes to the realization that he has super powers. More a human drama than a true superhero flick, Unbreakable has stood the test of time and remains M. Night Shyamalan's best film to date.
Audiences Pick for 2001? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Directed by Chris Columbus, this first entry in the decade long running franchise topped the charts with $317 million. It was the first film to bring Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his Hogwarts pals into the fleshy world of real life. It was both an audience and critic favorite alike, proving that author J.K. Rowling's imaginative world of wizardry and witchcraft was no mere fluke. While other films in the series would prove to be as artistically profiecent, this first entry still stands as the most exciting and enchanting of the bunch.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2001? Moulin Rouge. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, this rousing look at life in 1899's Paris earned $57.3 million at the box office. It single handedly revived the cinematic musical, breathing new life into a once dead genre. Utilizing contemporary song and dance numbers, and shot through with a swimming pool full of adrenaline, this was the most energetic and romantic movie seen all decade. While many others attempted to duplicate its winning ways, no other musical of the Aughts managed to shine this brightly. Starring Ewen McGregor and Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge has locked itself into history books as one of the best musicals of all time.
Audiences Pick for 2002? Spider-Man. Directed by Sam Raimi, this juggernaught broke every box office record in the book, eventually earning $403 million to become one of the biggest films of all time. Raimi, utilizing new CGI computer technology, managed to do what many before him had failed at achieving. He made Spider-Man swing through New York with a realism that was unprecedented. And he ushered in a new age of comic book movies that remain as popular today as they ever did. Starring Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, this first in a still running series remains the best of the bunch, and taught us all that true love rests at the spine of every great story ever told.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2002? Barbershop. Directed by Tim Story, this small ensemble comedy went on to gross $75 million at the box office. A parlor style look at life inside a barber shop, this one film single handily reinvented black cinema and cleared a path for the future success of Taylor Perry. Centered on Ice Cube's Calvin Palmer, Story built his film around one day in the life of an average African-American family man struggling against the day-to-day existence we all share. It spoke to an audience that had been neglected in the past, and spawned both a sequel and a spin-off. Today, it remains as fresh and topical as it did eight years ago, and stands as a testament to what black cinema can achieve in the box office mainstream.
Audiences Pick for 2003? The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Directed by Peter Jackson, this final chapter in J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit trilogy proved to be the most exciting and heart-stopping film of the year. Jam-packed with sweeping vistas and jaw-dropping battle sequences the likes of which have never been seen before or since, this third film proved to not only be an audience favorite, but also an Oscar winning master-epic that put Peter Jackson on the map as the most talented and visionary director of our times. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King remains to this day one of the greatest action adventure films ever made.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2003? Kill Bill Vol. 1. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, this follow-up to Jackie Brown nabbed a hefty $70 million at the box office. After a five-year absence from the silver screen, Tarantino returned refreshed and ready to fight. He decided to duckpress all of his favorite genres into one epic kung fu masterpiece, and while the sum of the parts has been created from preexisting ideas, the whole turned out to be quite original in both style and spirit. Split into two separate parts, Vol. 1 was everything a true Grindhouse fan could hope for in a movie. The fight scenes were incredible, the dialogue was magnificent, and the Uma Thurman's performance as The Bride was legendary. This is hands-down one of the funnest films of the decade and probably the most often watched DVD of the past ten years.
Audiences Pick for 2004? Shrek 2. Directed by Andrew Adamson, this follow-up to the original smash hit brought in an astounding $441 million at the box office. Despite the first Shrek being an incredibly funny poke at fairytales, this sequel pulled out all the stops, topping itself with a climax that had to be seen to be believed. It also introduced the world to Antonio Banderas' beloved Puss 'n Boots. Pushing the limits of storytelling, and redefining our childhood tales for a new age, Shrek 2 was a magical hit with both parents and children, and still stands as the best film in this particular series run thus far.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2004? The Passion of the Christ. Directed by Mel Gibson, this look at the final hours of Jesus Christ's life went on to earn $370 million at the box office. Each and every frame of film has been meticulously constructed by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, giving it an artistic aura not seen in any other thematic work this decade. Beautiful and violently raw, Gibson showed the true and realistic plight of Christ without ever flinching from its harsh visuals. Gibson's modern day masterpiece is a brutal experience, and a powerful one that has connected with people of all religions. Here at the end of this decade, it remains the best religious film ever constructed for mainstream audiences.
Audiences Pick for 2005? Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Directed by George Lucas, this third and final chapter in the prequel trilogy went on to earn $380 million at the box office. Finally listening to some of the criticisms aimed at his first two prequels, Lucas decided to make a movie that was more for the fans than anyone else. We finally got to see the climactic lightsaber battle between Obi Wan Kenobi and his Padawan learner Anakin Skywalker. This film also brought back fan favorites Chewbacca, C3PO, and Yoda. We got to see the birth of Darth Vader, as well as the birth of Luke and Leah. While it's not the best Star Wars flick ever made, it's certainly the best of the prequels, and remains an exciting adventure that will be enjoyed by audiences for ages to come.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2005? The Forty Year Old Virgin. Directed by Judd Apatow, this R rated comedy went on to earn $109 million at the box office. With the PG-13 rating dominating the early part of the Aughts, Apatow created a smart and intelligent adult sitcom that revolved around real human themes and emotions. In one fail swoop, he proved that an R rated comedy could still cash in at the box office. This one flick kick-started far too many careers to count, including Paul Rudd's, Steve Carell's, Seth Rogen's, and Jane Lynch's. Not to mention creating a brand name out of the last name Apatow. While many similar films have followed in its footsteps, no other comedy has meant as much to this decade as The Forty Year Old Virgin.
Audiences Pick for 2006? Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Directed by Gore Verbinski, this second film in the hugely popular Pirates franchise pulled in an astounding $423 million to become one of the biggest films of all time. The first film was a left-field surprise smash that went onto make a marquee star out of indie darling Johnny Depp. Here, he reprised his beloved and iconic role as Captain Jack Sparrow, proving that the first film was no small fluke. Possibly the most action packed film of the decade, this was the Empire Strikes Back of the entire series. It introduced new characters, reestablished old ones, and left us wanting more with the greatest cliffhanger of the Aughts. It has to be the all-time best film ever based on an amusement park ride, and it ushered in a new era of pirates.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2006? The Departed. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this Oscar winning remake earned $132 million at the box office. Based on the Hong Kong trilogy Infernal Affairs, the film finally brought Scorsese the recognition he so deserved, while also proving to be his best and most thoroughly realized work of the decade. Centered on Boston Cops and the Irish Mob, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio went head to head as gangster and police moles attempting to ferret each other out. Intense and action packed, it was the most breathlessly anxious film released this decade. To this very day, it will still leave you sweating in your pants.
Audiences Pick for 2007? Spider-Man 3. Once again directed by Sam Raimi, this third and final Spider-Man outing of the decade went on to earn $336 million dollars at the box office. With the origin story out of the way, Raimi was capable of centering more of his story on Peter Parker's struggles as a lover, hero, and human being. Tired of the responsibility that come with a superhero suit, Parker ditched his red and blue spandex only to be consumed by an evil symbiot that eventually lead to the birth of the greatest Spider-Man foe ever: Venom. Though action packed, the film still remained true to its romantic roots, thus creating most unique and heartfelt action dramas of the decade.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2007? Superbad. Directed by Greg Mottola, this Judd Apatow produced comedy went on to earn $121 million at the box office. It also proved to be the funniest film of the entire decade. Earning more laughs per minute than any other film made in the last ten years, Superbad redefined vulgarity and the use of profanity for laughter's sake. It also upheld its human relationships, centering itself on the true bond of friendship. It's a one of a kind movie miracle that doesn't happen very often. And it's still heralded as the greatest teen flick of all time, besting even John Hughes' epic entries in the genre.
Audiences Pick for 2008? The Dark Knight. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this behemoth went on to earn $533 million at the box office, not only becoming the biggest movie of the decade, but also the second highest grossing film of all time. A follow-up to Nolan's 2006 Batman Begins, this one film single-handedly redefined the fantasy genre forever. Christian Bale gave as good as he got as the caped crusader, but it was Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker that truly made this the best comic book tale ever captured on film. It is a flawless exercise in storytelling and character development, and will be worshipped by fanboys for decades to come.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2008? Gran Torino. Directed by Clint Eastwood, this small human drama went on to earn $148 million. While Eastwood would continue to create many masterpieces throughout the decade, this was his most subtle and powerful work. He also proved himself to be one of the most legendary actors of all time with his performance as Walt Kowalski, a bitter Korean War Vet that befriends a Hmong teenager, eventually giving the kid his prized 1972 Gran Torino. With an ending that surprised us all, and a thoughtful and lean story, this was one of the greatest dramas created this past decade, and it serves as one of Clint Eastwood's best films of all time.
Audiences Pick for 2009? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Directed by Michael Bay, this juggernaut sequel smashed up the box office with a whopping $402 million. While critics were quick to complain about its bombastic ways, audiences fell immediately in love with this tale of a boy and his robot. Bigger, faster, and way more explosive than its predecessor, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen managed to squeeze nearly every single aspect of filmmaking and storytelling into its two and a half hour running time, making it one of the most epic visual experience of all-time. While it may not be the best film of this past decade, it certainly stands head and shoulders above the rest as being the biggest and loudest movie of the Aughts. All things considered, that is quite an achievement in itself.
Aught Blog Critic's Pick for 2009? District 9. Directed by first-timer Neill Blomkamp, this Peter Jackson produced sci-fi epic went on to earn $115 million at the box office. After Blomkamp and Jackson's plans for a big screen adaptation of Halo fell through, they focused all of their energy on this massive kicker. District 9 proved to be one of the most exciting and original sci-fi masterworks produced this decade. With its tale of aliens landing in Johannesburg, Blomkamp was able to criticize apartheid while also upholding the dynamics of kick-ass cinema. It's a breathless, non-stop thrill ride that deserves to be remembered as not just the best film of 2009, but also the most exciting film of this past decade.