This month marks the second anniversary of Filmic, and to mark the occasion I’m announcing my list of the twenty best films of the decade (2000-2009). I’ll reveal my choices over the course of seven days, starting with #11-20 in alphabetical order, and finishing with a ranked countdown of the top ten.

Today, the first five films I consider among the decade’s best:

'The Constant Gardener'

Year: 2005
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Writer: Jeffrey Caine (from the novel by John le Carré)
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy

Why it’s one of the best: Following his sensational 2002 feature debut, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles chose this as his first English-language film and invested it with just as much visual intensity and storytelling fervor. The screenplay’s elegant non-chronological structure first follows Tessa (Rachel Weisz, Oscar-winner), a relentless advocate for African rights who is murdered for her activism, and then her husband Justin (Ralph Fiennes), who gradually discovers who she was and what he really stands for. It leads to one of the decade’s best closing scenes, a searing release of righteous anger over crimes perpetrated by businessmen and politicians at the highest reaches of power.

'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

Year: 2004
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer: Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, Pierre Bismuth
Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo

Why it’s one of the best: Charlie Kaufman has developed a reputation for mind-bending screenplays (Being John Malkovich; Adaptation; Synecdoche, New York). This one is his best. Working with director Michel Gondry, who contributes tenderness and visual inventiveness to their eccentric story, Kaufman explores human relationships at the height of his wisdom. He shows how badly his central characters — Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) — hurt each other, but following them through Joel’s consciousness as his memories of them are erased, he shows us with offbeat metaphysical beauty how priceless our experiences are. We should no sooner forsake our bad memories than we would forsake our good ones.

'The Fall'

Year: 2008
Director: Tarsem
Writer: Tarsem, Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis (from the screenplay Yo Ho Ho by Valery Petrov)
Cast: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell

Why it’s one of the best: Visually, there’s never been a film quite like it. Director Tarsem, who began as a music video director before making an eye-popping feature debut in 2000 with The Cell, used exhaustive location scouting, cinematography, editing, and music to create his captivating fantasy-scape, which represents the imagination of a young girl (Catinca Untaru) coerced into aiding the suicide attempt of an injured stunt man (Lee Pace) convalescing in a Los Angeles hospital in the 1920s. It’s a triumph of old-fashioned, pre-green screen, pre-CGI filmmaking, and through the performances of Untaru and Pace generates an emotional effect to match its spectacle.

'Grizzly Man'

Year: 2005
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog

Why it’s one of the best: I watched Grizzly Man when it aired as a special presentation on the Discovery Channel, where in spite of incessant, intrusive commercial interruptions I was bowled over by its study of the fascinating, tragic Timothy Treadwell, a self-anointed conservationist who believed he was loved and trusted by the bears he advocated for in the Alaskan wilderness, but his reckless naivete about nature led the deaths of him and his girlfriend at the hands of the very creatures he sought to protect. Made with archive footage Treadwell shot himself and Herzog’s interviews with his surviving friends and family, the film shows remarkable insight into a man grasping desperately for purpose. There’s a moment where Herzog listens to an audio recording of Treadwell’s horrible last moments. He doesn’t let us hear it, and the owner, a friend of Treadwell’s, has never listened to it, but the mere suggestion of it rattles the soul.

'Kill Bill'

Year: 2003-2004
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu

Why it’s one of the best: Told in two parts, Tarantino’s four-hour epic is a splendid pop-culture smorgasbord, combining incongruous influences — spaghetti western, martial-arts, anime, and the kind of exploitation film he would imitate again later in his Grindhouse entry, Death Proof — in a giddy, adrenaline-rushing ode to cinema. Holding it all together and elevating it above simple escapism is its central character, the Bride, an action hero for the ages played by Uma Thurman in a performance of fearsome physicality, winking humor, and raw emotionality. Consider her in a great scene late in Volume 2, crying on the floor, outpouring relief, regret, and joy all at once.

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