Your Christmas/Hanukkah list

Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream is a haunting film about the power of addiction from acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrester, The Fountain, Pi), which shows how dangerous and delusional the pursuit of the American dream can be. The film follows four characters through three seasons of their lives as their drug addictions spiral out of control, and it becomes more distressing, traumatic and spine chilling to the film’s heart-stopping climax. Clint Mansell provides the panic-driven soundtrack, which lingers in memory long after the film’s end. Ellen Burstyn received an Academy Award nomination for her performance while the film won twenty other awards at festivals. A must-see of the Noughties! Flossie Topping

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), The Return of the King (2003)

Setting the precedent at the start of the decade for the series epic, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy not only revolutionized special effects by digitally altering the appearance and performance of an actor in a lead role, but redefined the adapted fantasy epic, bringing it into the mainstream and into the class of blockbuster. It created a context in which The Harry Potter Series, The Chronicles of Narnia, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even Twilight, could be made. If the 1970s gave birth to the blockbuster sequel, the 2000s gave birth to the blockbuster series. And the series are about to get longer: Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro have been collaborating on the prequels to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit is expected in theaters 2011.  Taylor Brittany Lockhart-Lang

City of God (2003)
Based on the factual novel by Paulo Lins, Fernando Meirelles’s film captures the shocking existence of children in the Brazilian favelas. Forgotten by the wealthy and powerful, ignored by the police and exploited by gang corruption, the slum children are driven to acts of incomprehensible violence. The film’s style is comparable to that of Scorsese’s crime classics, such as Goodfellas and The Departed, due to hyperkinetic action, black comedy, and exhilarating visual panache. However, the film is grounded by its true-life origins, demonstrated superbly through a largely non-professional cast recruited off the streets. Meirelles deliberately casts no judgment on how crime is the only way of survival in the moral and economic wasteland of the slums, adding to the poignancy of the action. The result is an example of cinema at its most powerful. Josh Carter

The Pianist (2002)
Roman Polanski’s unforgettable adaptation of the autobiography of Jewish-Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman won 11 awards, including the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or and Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor. Adrien Brody gives an outstanding performance as Szpilman – a talented musician in occupied Warsaw, saved from extermination by moments of great fortune and unfaltering determination. He is portrayed not as a hero, but as a bewildered man lucky to escape the cruel ends faced by millions of his fellow Jewish Poles. Often alone, Szpilman is accompanied through destruction and desolation by Chopin ballades, driving him on as he fights for his survival.  Minnie McIntyre

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Eternal Sunshine tells the story of love-torn Joel (Jim Carey) as he partakes in an experimental brain procedure to rid himself of the memories associated with this ex-girlfriend, Clemetine (Kate Winselt). Though despite his harboured resentments, during the procedure Joel acknowledges his love for her and desperately tries to save his good memories from being erased. The film is the perfect synergy of mainstream and art-house cinemas as it challenges the perspective of a very relatable topic. Its director, Michel Gondry, successfully creates a dream-like atmosphere that is both aesthetically and emotionally beautiful. Quirky as it may be, Eternal Sunshine can be appreciated by all.  Charles McNeill

Caché (2005)
One of the most critically acclaimed films of the decade, but relatively unknown to the average cinema-goers, was 2005’s Caché (Hidden)—a low-budget French film directed by the master of everyday horror, Michael Haneke and stars Julliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. Terrorized by graphic drawings and videotapes surveying their residence, a couple’s world is shaken as the hidden truths of their pasts are revealed. Renowned for his gritty and unflinching look at reality, Michael Haneke depicts personal guilt and shame within a narrative of tension and suspense. The film, which contains one of the most shocking scenes in recent cinema, is by far one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking films made this decade. While some may be frustrated by its ambiguity, Caché demands its audience think for themselves. Charles McNeill

Into the Wild (2007)
Based on the novel by Jon Krakauer and adapted for the screen by Sean Penn, Into the Wild is a classic tale of adventure. Disillusioned by the materialistic trappings of modern society, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to donate his life savings to charity, ditch his car and head for the Alaskan wilderness. If this is a “coming of age” story, it is certainly a more serious and meaningful offering than its contemporaries Superbad and more recently Adventureland. Real life frequently proving more poignant than fiction, this film came closer than most to drawing a tear. Still not seen it? Head to the video shop now to right this wrong!  Ross Dickie

The Dark Knight (2008)
Last year’s sequel to the 2005 franchise reboot Batman Begins continued the saga of Christian Bale’s costumed crime-fighter to rapturous popular and critical acclaim. It may be a cliché to assert that the film draws from the post-9/11 zeitgeist, but the scenes of panic in a besieged American metropolis cannot fail to resonate, while Heath Ledger’s justly lauded Joker is a terrorist in the purest sense. Not an allegory, but a distillation of contemporary fears that has left an indelible mark on popular culture. Of course, key to the impact of Ledger’s Joker and the film as a whole is the script, written jointly by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, which achieves a complexity, and even an occasional lyricism, not normally present in a summer blockbuster. This achievement is reflected in Hans Zimmer’s contribution to the score, arguably among his most restrained, and most effective, compositions. Of course, The Dark Knight is not a perfect film. Among other issues, the last act outstays its welcome, and Christian Bale’s bat-growl is an acquired taste. Yet through its surprising depth, and its undeniable appeal, the film rises above its minimal flaws to become one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of the decade.  James Williamson

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire took the world by storm in the winter of 2008. This film, which at one point seemed headed straight to DVD without a theatrical release, ended up winning eight Oscars and seven BAFTA’s. When a boy from a Mumbai slum wins the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” he’s arrested and charged with cheating. The subsequent confession and flashbacks of Jamal’s past that provide both the film’s narrative and its emotional and cultural heartbeat. The film instantly connected with worldwide audiences, making ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘Slumdog’ among the most popular Hollywood buzzwords of the year and therefore warranting its place as one of the best films of the decade. Uday Singh

Up (2009)
Up is the most critically acclaimed of the slew of critically acclaimed films released by Pixar this decade, and in 2009 was the first animated films to open the Cannes Film Festival. Like the studio’s blockbusters Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E Up tells a sweet, funny tale of unlikely friendship through stunning, meticulously detailed animation. What makes Up stand out is the addition of 3-D, which studios have resurrected in this spectacle-obsessed decade from its heyday in the mid-fifties. Directed by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, the duo behind Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., Up is as enjoyable for children as it is for adults. The heart-wrenching opening silent sequence— which details the hero’s childhood and childless, but happy marriage in only four minutes—will have you in tears, and you’ll laugh out loud at the inept antics of the talking dog Dug. Squirrel! Katie Meyer

Honourable Mentions:
Big Fish, Donnie Darko, Juno, No Country for Old Men, Persepolis, Irreversible, Superbad, Adventureland, Sideways, The Royal Tenenbaums, Bowling for Columbine, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Hangover

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