The CW ranks the 10 greatest films of the decade

Peterson Hill

Seeing as this is the first decade that I have been old enough to truly understand the power and impact of film, this was a difficult list to put together. In the end, though, this is a list of the films that speak to me, and hopefully speak to those who seek them out.

I love movies that remind me that film isn’t a passive medium. Film isn’t meant to just entertain us. Even the best blockbusters are reaching to tread deeper waters. There is a reason that people prefer “The Dark Knight” to films like “Transformers 2”. Films are meant to rattle us and sometimes take us out of our comfort zone.

It broke my heart to leave off films like “Adaptation”, “City of God”, “Brokeback Mountain”, and “The Wrestler”. And, to tell the truth, this list changes every day for me.

Nothing is ever certain with film. I will feel differently about all these films in twenty years, not because they have changed, but because I have. Isn’t that what great art is for?

1. “There Will be Blood”- This is the story of a hardened, weary man who exists to make money. Not because he wants money, but because he hates all men and wants no one but himself to succeed. With all the money he buys himself a large house that he can wander through like a ghost inhabiting his castle. When you hate all men, the most painful of all relationships is that which you have with yourself.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” is an unequaled masterpiece of the decade. This unflinching portrait of one man’s self-destruction features the performance of the century by Daniel Day-Lewis.

2. “The Hurt Locker”- Is there a lonelier job than walking in an empty, trash-strewn alley toward a bomb with the very men who put it there watching in anticipation to see whether or not it will be your death? Can anything be more isolating than the sound of the breath reverberating in the large plastic helmet of a suit that won’t do a thing to save your life? Kathryn Bigelow captures this job with a realist tension. Her bare-fisted, white-knuckled action picture has a palpable sense of dread and suspense. You can chew the tension in this perfect film. Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie give piercingly good performances in a film bound to be remembered as one of the greatest and most honest depictions of war to ever grace the screen.

3. “No Country for Old Men”- The Coen Brothers’ best film of this decade is just as good as their wonderful “Fargo” from the 1990’s. There isn’t a spare piece in this lean and muscular film.

The acting is pitch perfect all around, but Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is a villain for the ages. Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin are wonderful as the two men who have to deal with the complete evil of this man.

The Coens have been the only ones who have translated America’s best writer, Cormac McCarthy, from the book to the screen while making a film that is as good as his literature. From the sound of a light bulb faintly being unscrewed to a pool of blood expanding, the Coens and cinematographer Roger Deakins paint film’s most haunting and vivid portrayal of pure evil.

4. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” – This proves again that the best westerns are magnum opuses of the myths that filled the haunting and imposing land in front of them. This is an elegiac and mournful western that meanders and takes time to tell the story.

Andrew Dominik fills the screen with the beautiful cinematography of the great Roger Deakins while letting his actors, especially Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell, soak up the screen with their individual stories. Dominik shows that he may very well be the next Terrence Malick with this haunting and prophetic epic.

5. Pan’s Labyrinth- Guillermo Del Toro has crafted a lasting world that bridges between imagination and reality. In the heart of the Spanish Civil War, a little girl with a big imagination is caught on the not so far outskirts of the battle.

As the war grows more violent and fearsome, so does the world she has envisioned. He creates an uncompromising of the dangers of these two worlds. Both are dangerous and true to the honesty of those threats. Each could be a movie in itself, but the inclusion of each heightens the other. The story is a timely and metaphorical journey through violence and our strategies of coping with it.

6. The Departed- There is no director on the planet, besides P.T. Anderson, that is Scorsese’s league. He takes the simple story of two men on opposite ends of the law who find themselves on the wrong side, and they each slowly begin to realize the existence of the other.

He fills this story of betrayal and mystery to the brim with his signature Catholic guilt and sharp editing and directing. Scorsese has always been one of religious identification in his work. This movie proves once again that the most passionate and interesting works come from those who align themselves with Judas instead of Jesus, the betrayer instead of the savior.

7. Mystic River- This is Clint Eastwood’s finest film of the decade, slightly better than his masterful “Letters From Iwo Jima.” A tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, The story tracks the crime in the present that will be eternally linked with one in the past.

This is Eastwood’s best film since his breathtaking “Unforgiven.” Filmed on the gritty location streets of Boston, a feeling of anxiety and guilt permeates every corner. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon turn in career-defining work as the three childhood friends who never really left the cellar where one of them was trapped.

8. Up – In the decade of Miley Cryus, I am eternally grateful for the wit, craft, and humanity of Pixar. Their latest by Peter Docter is their triumph. “Up” spans a marriage and the sad demise we will all have before moving gracefully into the formation of a friendship that is seven decades apart.

All of this is anchored by the best cinematic composer working today, Michael Giacchino.

The film is about the adventures we take and the lives we lead. From the small memories of sitting on a curb and counting cars to the act of sharing our lives with another person, Pixar will break your heart just to show you that there is something there to break, so you had better use it.

9. Minority Report- Steven Spielberg’s dynamic and thoughtful science fiction thriller is more about ideas than the action in the foreground. With his trusted cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg paints a terrifying vision of the future.

As in his best films, Spielberg juggles high drama with intense action. He reminds us with this film that character can’t be substituted for special effects. He also reminds us that the best science fiction teaches us something about ourselves.

10. Traffic- This is Soderbergh’s finest work, dealing with the war on drugs as seen from all angles. Each story is as involving as the last, and each tells an intricate and important story of how the drug war isn’t futile, but it is a war that will never be won.

In the decade of interweaving stories, this one stands above the rest. The stories exist in a realistic and organic was that no other films have been able to do as well. Soderbergh doesn’t preach to us. He restrains his film with a sense of dread and sadness. He knows this war isn’t winnable, but in the end, what war ever is? Only this time, the casualties are our lives.