23. King Kong (2005, Jackson)
22. Hot Fuzz (2007, Wright)
21. Let the Right One In (2008, Alfredson)
20. The Royal Tenebaums (2001, Anderson)
19. The Wrestler (2008, Aronofsky)
18. The Departed (2006, Scorsese)
17. Children of Men (2006, Cuaron)
Probably this decade's most persuasive view of the apocalypse, Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of P.D. James's novel envisions a humanity incapable of reproducing and living out its final days by tearing itself apart in pointless conflict. Cuaron's long-take aesthetic creates an incredibly immersive and terrifying Britain of constant danger that unfortunately doesn't look much different from present-day war-zones in Africa and the Middle East. Into this world, a child is born, and the weight of it all shall be on his shoulders.
16. Finding Nemo (2003, Stanton)
Pixar had made brilliant films before, but this is the point where the studio cemented its all-time great status. Nemo is beautiful in a way so far only surpassed by Wall-E (and parts of Tangled) among CGI films, and its story is still the most moving to me of all Pixar features. There are moments here I still can't think of without a lump in the my throat (the tragic beginning, the sojourn in the whale's mouth, Marlin's sad swim away from the Sydney harbor). Plus I still laugh at the kiddie humor.
15. Mystic River (2003, Eastwood)
Eastwood's finest film since Unforgiven (narrowly edging A Perfect World), this titanically acted drama is a profound meditation on the ways time can change people and break down relationships. Anchored by the finest performance of Kevin Bacon's career (who underacts while his co-stars overact), there were few more wrenching films this decade.
14. O Brother Where Art Thou (2000, Coen)
The most purely enjoyable of all the Coens' films. A hilariously unique adaptation of The Odyssey that draws from Preston Sturges-style comedies, classic American literature (particularly Huckleberry Finn and The Grapes of Wrath), and early-20th century bluegrass and gospel music, in a wild, allusion-filled journey through a mythological Depression-era South. It also features one of the Coens' finest casts, wittiest scripts, and most hopeful views of human nature.
13. The Prestige (2006, Nolan)
12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, Dominik)
This haunting evocation of the last days of the West's most famous outlaw can be seen as a synthesis of the disparate influences of John Ford, Terrence Malick, Henry King, and Robert Altman, with a historical didacticism reminiscent of Ken Burns. It has many ancestors, yet there is still else nothing quite like it. As others have pointed out, the film (aided by the magnificent performances of Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck) maps the moment at which legend fades into mere celebrity. Perhaps a bit too long, it would still be worth a look for its musical score and cinematography alone, both among the best of the decade.
11. The Incredibles (2004, Bird)