The Mixed Tape

Nolan’s Favorite Films of the Decade by Nolan Wilson Goff

-by Nolan Wilson Goff-

The decade is drawing to a close, and after seeing the last few films of this decade, I am ready to put my list out there for all to see. The following is a list of my favorite films of the past decade. It is not a “best of” list, nor does it include all Academy Award winners. Trust me, you won’t find The Dark Knight on this list *ahem* (to everyone who thinks it is the best film of the decade, your wrong).

Here’s a list of five (in no particular order), and a few that barely missed the cut.

Elephant (2003) Directed by Gus Van Sant

No other film this decade contains the thematic depth of Van Sant’s Elephant.  Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palm d’or, Elephant is a little known indie filmed loosely based on the events of the Columbine school shooting. Using only non-actors and location shooting, Van Sant crafted a story greatly inspired by the Italian neo-realist movement of the 1940s. Featuring mesmerizing minute long shots, Van Sant’s selective framing emphasizes the importance of what is in the frame, and more importantly, what is left outside of the film frame. What lies outside of the frame is at the thematic heart of this haunting portrayal of this American high school. This film requires multiple viewings.

Atonement (2007) Directed by Joe Wright

Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, Atonement is a near replica of a classic Shakespearean tragedy. Atonement paints a beautiful, tragic picture of lost innocence and forbidden love.  Told through the lens of multiple perceptions and vantage points, Wright fashions a story told with great detail, using scale to emphasize the relationships of the characters to the world in which they live.  Atonement features three principle characters, each of which are beautifully developed to their fullest extent.  With Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography, the film highlights one of the most beautiful tracking shots in history, as James McAvoy ventures across the beach at Dunkirk. The shot lasts for nearly five minutes.  The film also has one of the best scores in history, courtesy of Dario Marianelli. The tragic performances of Knightley and McAvoy, and even Saoirse Ronan, wrench the hearts of viewers, and Wright proves that he is one of the true auteurs today. If you love the film, watch the director’s commentary. One of the best I’ve ever heard.

Mystic River (2003) Directed by Clint Eastwood

Why is Clint Eastwood so good at tackling simple stories, in such extraordinary ways? Mystic River is Eastwood’s best film. It features the astounding performances of Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, and the Oscar winning performance of Sean Penn. In this film, Eastwood explores the fears that trigger mankind’s emotions.  How does a father react to the murder of his daughter? How does a man erase his painful past? Eastwood pursues these themes with great attention to the world of these three childhood friends. Eastwood captures this distinctively American tale in ways that few American filmmakers have.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Directed by Danny Boyle

Jai Ho! Every aspect of Danny Boyle’s Best Picture winning romance astounds me. The performances. The beautiful cinematography. The perfect score. The flawless screenplay. Boyle’s versatility resulted in one of the most unconventional love stories to ever grace the silverscreen. I have never walked out of a movie theater with the feeling that I had after seeing Slumdog Millionaire. Simon Beaufoy’s adapted screenplay is perhaps the most deserved adaptation Oscar ever given, as he transformed a good book into a epic, sweeping romance.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) Directed by Ron Howard

Two things I love about this film: the time-period and the characters. This is a distinctively American story, in a different category as the aforementioned Mystic River. Howard shows the world of the genius John Nash (Russell Crowe) with the kind of class that Jay Gatsby would be proud of. What mesmerizes me though, is when this class, glitz, and glamour melts away to reveal the portrait of a man who is devastatingly brilliant.  Crowe (who was snubbed for the Oscar) is accompanied by the Academy Award winning performance of Jennifer Connelly, who compassionately portrays Nash’s wife, a woman who reveals her every vulnerability to help her husband. The screenplay follows a conventional story, until master screenwriter Akiva Goldsman plunges audiences around a very different turn.

Honorable Mention:

Matchstick Men

Requiem for a Dream

The Painted Veil

Brokeback Mountain

No Country for Old Men

Moulin Rouge!


What are your favorite films of the decade?


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I think your top 5 are greeeaat picks. I’m a little surprised with some in your honorable mentions.

Comment by Preston

I like your choices. I haven’t seen all of them but the ones that I hav seen are excellent!

Some of my favorites from the decade are…

Finding Neverland
Secret Window
Brokeback Mountain
Blood Diamond
The Good Girl
The Passion of the Christ
The Departed
The Beach
Inglorious Bastards
The Patriot
Sin City

Comment by Tyler Conrad

Brokeback Mountain
The Pianist
City of God
Spring Summer Fall Winter…Spring
Almost Famous
4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days
There Will Be Blood
Trouble the Water

Comment by Ben

Hmm Interesting list Nolan. All verry good films, nice to see Atonement which I feel is very underrated.
Here are some of my favs:
The Lives of Others
Moulin Rougue
Muhullond Drive
Requiem for a Dream
Mean Creek
The Village
Before Sunset
28 Days Later

Comment by Andy

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