First of all, this is my list of the best films of the 2000s… so far.
1) Gladiator (2000)
2) The Passion of the Christ (2004)
3) Cast Away (2000)
4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
5) Spider-Man 2 (2004)
6) Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) [Special Extended Edition]
7) Signs (2002)
8) X2: X-Men United (2003)
9) Shrek 2 (2004)
10) Pirateas of the Carbbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
11) The Bourne Identity (2002)
12) Shrek (2001)
13) Spider-Man (2001)
14) X-Men (2000)
15) What Women Want (2000)
16) Million Dollar Baby (2004)
17) Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
18) Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King (2003)
19) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
20) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
21) Finding Nemo (2003)
22) King Kong (2005)
23) The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
24) Bruce Almighty (2003)
25) Ice Age (2002)
26) A Beautiful Mind (2001)
27) Wedding Crashers (2005)
28) The Incredibles (2004)
29) The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
30) Batman Begins (2005)
31) The Departed (2006)
32) Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
33) Saw (2004)
34) Love Actually (2003)
35) Walk the Line (2005)
36) The Ring (2002)
37) Sin City (2005)
38) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
39) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
40) Rocky Balboa (2006)
41) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
42) Finding Neverland (2004)
43) Road to Perdition (2002)
44) Blow (2001)
45) Ray (2004)
46) The Prestige (2006)
47) Crash (2005)
48) Ratatouille (2007)
49) Troy (2004)
50) Catch Me If You Can (2002)
51) Casino Royale (2006)
52) The Others (2001)
53) Cars (2006)
54) Cinderella Man (2005)
55) Swordfish (2001)
56) The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
57) Children of Men (2006)
58) Atonement (2007)
59) Black Hawk Down (2001)
60) A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
61) Happy Feet (2006)
62) Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
63) Collateral (2004)
64) The Holiday (2006)
65) Little Miss Sunshine (2007)
66) Apocalypto (2006)
67) The Score (2001)
68) About a Boy (2002)
69) National Treasure (2004)
70) How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
71) Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
72) Open Range (2003)
73) Night at the Museum (2006)
74) The Mummy Returns (2001)
75) The Aviator (2004)
76) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
77) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
78) Sweeney Todd (2007)
79) Borat (2006)
80) The Mexican (2001)
81) The Simpsons Movie (2007)
82) Chicago (2002)
83) The Terminal (2004)
84) Seabiscuit (2003)
85) Pan’s Labyrinth (2007)
86) Jarhead (2005)
87) Inside Man (2006)
88) We Were Soldiers (2002)
89) The Last Samarai (2003)
90) Thank You for Smoking (2006)
91) Windtalkers (2002)
92) Wall-E (2008)
93) The Notebook (2004)
94) The Italian Job (2003)
95) The Illusionist (2006)
96) Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
97) Iron Man (2008)
98) Knocked Up (2007)
99) Juno (2007)
100) The Dark Knight (2008)
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Charlotte’s Web (2006)
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
28 Days Later (2003)
In Bruges (2008)
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Nativity Story (2006)
Ghost Town (2008)
I wrote an article recently that revealed to my readers just what I thought of the 1990s in the history of film. It was basically one of the greatest decades for film in my opinion. In my article, 100 Greatest Films of the 1990s, I listed movies like Titanic, Braveheart, Dances With Wolves, Forrest Gump and even Pulp Fiction among the best of that decade. Obviously, this is not going to be everyone’s opinion. But I don’t know if I explained one of the things I wanted to say clear enough. And that was the way I compared the 1990s to the Golden Age of filmmaking.
The Golden Age of filmmaking to me was from 1925 to 1942. Practically two decades of great films that made us want to live inside the movies, experience what these great characters were experiencing in celluloid. I’m much too young to have been there to see those classics the way audiences experienced them upon their release. But, I’ll be willing to bet that was the true power of the Golden Age of filmmaking. In other words, audiences didn’t go to the movies to think as much as to feel. And I believe that was the true strength of films from 1970 to 2000.
I remember, I once heard that blockbusters ruined the second Golden Age of filmmaking. I say, who ever said that had it backward. Blockbusters signified the second coming of the Golden Age. Audiences were once again going to movies to experience a life outside of their own. Logically, this kind of thinking made a lot of sense for auidiences back in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. We were going through the Great Depression. Most of the men in America were soon going off to fight in WWII. The world was going through some massive and troubling changes.
However, given the fact that we were going through a depression or fighting a massive war that would forever change the face of the planet, it really doesn’t make much sense that the second Golden Age would start in 1972. But if you take into account how the country and perhaps, the world was fighting itself for changes and equally by that time, it makes a lot of sense. After Vietnam, the people demanded changes. Some people have a very hard time dealing with change.
So in a way, audiences welcomed a throwback to simpler times. The Godfather started it all. Despite my own personal feelings toward the movie, movie audiences loved and love every second of The Godfather. It was the first film in decades that could be quoted like Humphrey Bogart’s famous line, “We’ll always have Paris.” Then we got one hit after another.
After The Godfather came The Exorcist. It was the first of its kind. Sure, we can easily call it lame by today’s standards. In the horror film department, Saw is much more unsettling to audiences today. But, The Exorcist was one of the first horror movies to break all of the rules.
Then we all got a gem of a film. A little, unknown filmmaker by the name of Steven Spielberg was offered the screenplay of a killer shark off the New England coast. It was called – you guessed it – Jaws. This was the first “blockbuster” film. By that, I mean it broke the $100,000,000 record. However, given the fact that it affected audiences as powerfully as it did, everything from The Godfather to Jaws to American Beauty can all be called blockbusters.
Rocky came next. It was a low-budget masterpiece that got audiences off their feet, cheering on this “nobody” on screen. The film was made to look and feel real. And Rocky does look and feel more real than many films that they strive so hard to make realistic. But, the fact that Bill Conti’s amazing score and Stallone’s brilliant writing can get audiences to cheer on a character that they’ve never actually met, a person that doesn’t actually exist, speaks volumes.
George Lucas broke even more records than Steven Spielberg with that 1977 film you might have heard about called, Star Wars. Once again, John Williams showed us that his compositions are the best in film history. And even though it is set in space and features Wookies and Ewoks, Star Wars proved to be just as timeless as anything in the Golden Age.
Then, throughout the 1980s, we were bombarded by blockbusters. Some proved to be timeless masterpieces like The Terminator, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens, The Untouchables, Die Hard and dare I say it, The Abyss. Some were average blockbusters that had great potential, but were never intended to be masterpieces. I know how much fun it is to watch The Goonies or Beverly Hills Cop or The Karate Kid or even Escape from New York for that matter. But, those movies don’t compare to some of the others listed above. Not in my opinion. Some of those movies are unfortunately the reason people frown upon the films of the 1980s.
Suddenly by 1990, the throwback to the Golden Age was really coming into focus in my opinion. Stars that were introduced in the ’80s like Tom Hanks, Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Meg Ryan, they never shined brighter than they did in the ’90s. For Swayze and Moore, it was Ghost. For Hanks, it was Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. For Meg Ryan, it was Sleepless in Seattle. At the beginning of the 1990s, we were also introduced to another brilliant actress that would be crowned queen of the romantic comedy.
Miss Julia Roberts found a place in Hollywood when she was cast in the title role of Pretty Woman. Oddly enough, the film had aged so strangely by the end of the decade, I always thought it was an ’80s movie. But, no, Pretty Woman came out the same year Kevin Costner showed audiences just what he could do when he directed and starred in Dances With Wolves.
For more of my thoughts, check out the article, 100 Greatest Films of the 1990s. As for this article, I’m here to express my feelings about the movies after the second coming of the Golden Age. This is about the movies from 2000 on.
By the end of the 1990s, we had just seen the greatest ship made in 1912 sink in the most spectacle historical romance since Gone With The Wind in a year of other masterpieces that just couldn’t hold a candle to it. A little known brlliant actor by the name of Kevin Spacey showed us how suburban life can be confusing and disturbing and also beautiful. Tom Hanks had just taken us on a hike through WWII with the help of Steven Spielberg. These were some truly great films to end this truly great decade of filmmaking.
In 2000, we got a new kind of blockbuster hero with Russell Crowe in Gladiator. This was the one of the few truly great films of the 2000s. Not only was Gladiator the greatest film director Ridley Scott had made since Alien, but it also marked the beginning of the end of the second Golden Age.
Now, I’ve come to the reason for this article. The two Golden Ages of Hollywood or filmmaking were all about characters and their stories. Master director James Cameron knew this long before Titanic. That’s how he could punch out one great timeless classic after another. Critics said his movies were too deeply involved in technology. The Terminator was too machine-like or Aliens was too weapons-oriented or T2 was too effects-oriented. However, they obviously didn’t see the same movies the audiences were seeing. I remember going to see Titanic for the first time. The audience, from young to old, men and women were jazzed about seeing or experiencing this new James Cameron movie.
Audiences will let Hollywood know if they don’t like something. It will be seen in the box office receipts. And with the exception of one film, each of James Cameron’s movies, from The Terminator to Aliens to Terminator 2 to True Lies to Titanic were all big hits, some more than others. After almost every one of his masterpieces or even Steven Spielberg’s masterpieces, we’ve seen a lot of copycats. Raiders of the Lost Ark would forever change the look and feel of adventure films. T2 practically set the bar for the style of action films in the 1990s. And The Terminator could arguably be responsible for the subsequent action films of the 1980s. It would take almost a full decade and the help of Jurassic Park for T2’s groundbreaking use of CGI to take hold. Without Titanic, we wouldn’t have the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The shot of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukator “flying” on the bow of the ship has yet to be dupicated in terms of its awesome power.
After Titanic, this visionary filmmaker stopped making movies. Ever since then, filmmaking has almost taken a turn for the worst. Despite some great intentions, modern filmmakers almost seem lost as to the use of effects and style. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was profound in terms of photo-realistic effects. Don’t get me wrong. I can definitely see why people raved about those movies. But the pacing was off, character development got bogged down somehow. Everything important in the story became secondary to this remarkable CGI effect that is Gollum. That’s probably why my favorite of the trlogy is still The Fellowship of the Ring in which Gollum doesn’t really make much of an appearance.
Well, to properly analyse the latest downfall of the second Golden Age, we really have to look back at the first downfall of the original Golden Age. Hollywood changed filmmaking forever by giving us widescreen films. As time went on, Hollywood thought audiences wanted wider, bigger and more dazzling movies. Here and there, there were a few greats; such as, Ben-Hur, The Sound of Music, Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments and The Longest Day. But nothing else really came close to measuring up to those timeless classics of the Golden Age. Hollywood cared more about the look of the film than their characters and stories. Did they realize during the chaotic creation of Cleopatra with Liz Taylor that this film didn’t have the substance to hold audiences in their seats for 4 hours? No.
On the other hand, you’ve got the stylish “art” films that were giving actors a better working environment. In such movies as On The Waterfront, All About Eve, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Hustler, actors could throw their hearts and souls into their characters. It was a great time for deep, dark acting and storytelling. But that’s all they were. They weren’t something you would want to pop into the machine, and get swept off into another world like Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz. They were just there. Just like the epic Hollywood films, these “artsy” films had style, but not much else to bring audiences back. Obviously, the biggest Golden Age film to influence this kind of filmmaking was Citizen Kane.
The irony is that Orson Welles knew that his character of Charles Kane and his story came first over the style of the film. Those folks in the 50s and 60s – most of them – never figured this out.
I will say this for the 50s and 60s, it was a time when one filmmaker was able to shine the brightest. Alfred Hitchcock punched out a constant number of blockbuster masterpieces. In spite of the beautiful photography in Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo and even Psycho, the one thing Hitchcock knew was how to keep his audiences engaged in his characters and their stories. They were all brilliantly crafted to scare, thrill and entertain. Then, we could get down to the other brilliant aspects of the movies.
Today, it’s not widescreen, it’s CGI or should I say, the misuse of CGI that’s hurting the quality of Hollywood films. Each character is written to have the same personality as the character in this other film. We only buy into these poor attempts to enlighten us because this CGI effect looks different than this one. And I realize movies like the Harry Potter films are sort of an exception, but seriously, how profound of films are they? Does any one of them stand out?
It’s not dark and brooding character actors shouting at each other, it’s a real mess of clashing styles. One minute, Gangs of New York is called great art. Then came Good Night and Good Luck. Then it was No Country for Old Men. Each of these films look and feel very different. But nothing about them were all that powerful to me. Babel was just confusing to me and to a lot of people in the audience as a matter of fact. The “great”, unusual style of No Country in which it ends just when it’s about to get somewhere actually pissed off audiences. These folks really should take lessons by watching Pulp Fiction. Now, there’s a blockbuster masterpiece with groundbreaking style and terrific storytelling.
So, we’ve really gone backward to the time when style meant more than characters and their stories. Since James Cameron seemingly retired, we haven’t seen any real master filmmakers pop out of the woodwork. And by the way, Cameron returns to filmmaking with Avatar in 2009.
Now, it can be argued that modern movies are important, because they have messages that reflect modern events. I’m talking about movies with anti-terrorism themes have been vibrant since 9/11. The films like The Kingdom, Charlie Wilson’s War or even the more recent, The Dark Knight are riddled with these messages. I’m talking about movies that honor the men and women fighting terrorism like such movies as The Valley of Elah. But there have been so many anti-war films over the years, it doesn’t seem right to declare one superior to the others simply because it’s about the war on terror.
And if you look for these great messages in every movie before 2000, you’ll find them. What is terrorism? It is an act of creating terror in the general population. I know this is a bad example, but you can find these terror themes in movies like Independence Day. At least in that film, it can’t be insulting to a certain group of people. It’s about aliens creating terror. If you want to watch a movie that unintentionally promotes a war on terror, watch True Lies (1994). If you want a great anti-war film, watch Bridge on The River Kwai or Saving Private Ryan.
Finally, I have a hard time remembering one scene or one line of dialogue from any film that’s come out in the last 9 years. Nothing was so spectacular that it froze in my memory. There has also been nothing so wonderfully entertaining or compelling that I don’t mind watching it over and over again. But, what can I say, I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. So, perhaps I’m just being bias. Or… perhaps not. How well can you remember a famous line from a movie lately?