If instead of having 10 Best Picture nominees for 2009, the folks running the Oscars had decided to do a Ten Best list for the decade about to end, I doubt that many '09 movies would be on it. And last year didn't offer many legititmate contenders, either. It's not just the economy that's been in a recession lately.

But overall, the first decade of the new millennium has delivered plenty of first-rate motion pictures, including Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, for my money the greatest movie serial of all time (sorry 'Star Wars' fans, but George Lucas' dreadful second trilogy tainted the franchise). It is also the decade in which computer-generated animation was perfected and which saw the resurgence of better-than-ever 3D.

I've been producing Decade Top 10 lists since the end of the Sublime '70s and would rank the current one third, behind the '70s and '90s and ahead of the woeful '80s. But all of the movies on my Double Ought list, and my second string of choices for Best Animated Features, are destined to become classics. If instead of having 10 Best Picture nominees for 2009, the folks running the Oscars had decided to do a Ten Best list for the decade about to end, I doubt that many '09 movies would be on it. And last year didn't offer many legitimate contenders, either. It's not just the economy that's been in a recession lately.

But overall, the first decade of the new millennium has delivered plenty of first-rate motion pictures, including Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, for my money the greatest movie serial of all time (sorry 'Star Wars' fans, but George Lucas' dreadful second trilogy tainted the franchise). It is also the decade in which computer-generated animation was perfected and which saw the resurgence of better-than-ever 3D.

I've been producing Decade Top 10 lists since the end of the Sublime '70s and would rank the current one third, behind the '70s and '90s and ahead of the woeful '80s. But all of the movies on my Double Ought list, and my second string of choices for Best Animated Features, are destined to become classics.

Best Movies of the Double Oughts (2000-2009)

almost famous kate hudson10. 'Almost Famous' (2000)
Cameron Crowe's best film to date made good use of his memories as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone magazine. The movie made a star of Goldie Hawn's only daughter, Kate Hudson, and reminded us of how great an actress is Frances McDormand, who received the third of her four Oscar nominations for her portrayal of the young reporter's harried mother.


no country for old men javier bardem9. 'No Country for Old Men' (2007)
The Coen brothers have made a career of genre-hopping and their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's contemporary Western is one of the best of their remarkable collaborations.


adrien brody the pianist8. 'The Pianist' (2002)
Adrien Brody's Oscar-winning portrayal of a Jewish musician trying to survive the Holocaust in Poland was one for the career books, but the Oscar for fugitive director Roman Polanski was excessive largesse for the unrepentant pedophile. If the movie were released this year, with details of Polanski's1977 rape of a drugged 13-year-old model being recalled thanks to his arrest in Switzerland, I doubt that the voters would have been as forgiving. Still, the movie is what it is, a heart-wrenching story of a man's will to live.


Warner Bros.7. 'The Dark Knight' (2008)
A better movie than Oscar winner 'Slumdog Millionaire' by miles didn't even get nominated, a slight that prompted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to double this year's number of Best Picture nominees. It's the best written and directed of all the Batman movies and the posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Heath Ledger was quite simply an award for one of the greatest portrayals of a screen villain ever.


paul giamatti sideways6. 'Sideways' (2004)
The movie that made pinot noir almost as popular as pink zinfandel also made an unlikely star of Paul Giamatti, playing a cranky oenophile traveling through California wine country with a skirt-chasing buddy (Thomas Haden Church) who wouldn't know a pinot from a pine nut.


heath ledger jake gyllenhaal brokeback mountain5. 'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)
If conservatives had been compelled to watch Ang Lee's moving melodrama about modern-day cowboys in love, most of those failed gay marriage bills might have passed. In any case, its heterosexual stars -- Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger -- confounded 'experts' who predicted a pox on their careers, which amounts to at least one victory for common humanity.


sean penn mystic river4. 'Mystic River' (2003)
I could include two other Clint Eastwood movies on this list -- 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Letters from Iwo Jima -- but I don't want to get too greedy on his behalf. I'll just say that for a septuagenarian throughout the decade, no one had a better record of high-quality work. This film, adapted from Dennis Lehane's novel about three life-long friends thrown into turmoil by a random murder, features three of the decade's greatest performances, from Oscar-winner Sean Penn, nominee Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon.


crouching tiger hidden dragon3. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000)
I introduced Ang Lee's martial arts love story at a pre-release screening for a film club in upscale Scarsdale, NY and came away happy the audience hadn't brought tomatoes with them. One guy reacted so angrily to my prediction that the film would receive multiple Oscar nominations and break box office records for a foreign language film that I was looking for the closest exit. Where are you, ya-hoo?


chicago2. 'Chicago' (2002)
Just watched this for the umpteenth time the other night and I may watch it again as soon I finish this list. Who knows why one musical claims your soul while others leave you cold? I admit to an affection for dark comedy and this yarn about a pair of murderous femmes fatale and the slick shyster who gets them off in 1930s Chi-Town is wickedly dark. The music, written for the stage by John Kander and Fred Ebb and expanded for the movie, never ages and the performances of non-dancers, non-singers Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere are almost pitch-perfect.


1. 'Lord of the Rings Trilogy' (2001-2003)
Made during one long production shoot in director Jackson's home country of New Zealand and released as back-to-back-to-back Christmas presents, this stunningly imaginative and faithful adaptation of J.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth masterpiece ranks as the most ambitious and most accomplished film series ever undertaken. Each of the movies -- 'The Fellowship of the Ring' (2001), 'The Two Towers' (2002) and 'The Return of the King' -- was as good as the one before or after it and fans coughed up more than $1 billion to see them in the U.S. and Canada.




Best Animated Features
The Double Oughts is easily the greatest decade for animated features, and not only because of Pixar and its rivals in the perfected process of computer-generated imagery. There were also great stop-motion animated features ('Chicken Run,' 'Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of Were-Rabbit'), stop-frame animation ('Tim Burton's Corpse Bride'), motion-capture ('The Polar Express,' 'Disney's A Christmas Carol') and traditional hand-drawn animation ('Spirited Away,' 'The Triplets of Belleville').

Here are my favorite animated five from the Double-oughts:

walle5. 'WALL-E' (2008)
Pixar's most daring feature stars a speechless robot who, while going about the business of cleaning up a post-apocalypse earth, falls in love with another robot meaningfully named Eve.

4. 'Shrek' (2001)

The sequels are pale reminders, but Dreamworks' first CGI romance/adventure about a hexed princess and a goodhearted ogre is perhaps the best animated feature released by someone other than Disney.

3. 'Spirited Away' (2001)
With this Oscar winner, Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki put to rest the notion that computer animation would put conventional brush-stroke animators out of business.

2. 'Happy Feet' (2006)

What can I say, this non-Pixar CGI cartoon about a penguin who can't sing but can dance like Savion Glover gave me the best time I had a theater in this decade.

1. 'Ratatouille' (2007)
Not the most exhilarating of Pixar's CGI films, but its tale of a Parisian sewer rat who fulfills his dream of becoming a great chef had the most compelling story.
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