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The Best Films of the Decade: 2002

Fireworks2002.jpgThe films of the decade continue here on Filmstalker with the biweekly updates and we've moved nicely onto 2002. I've actually decided to leave the voting for the previous years open until the voting is closed on 2009, so there's plenty of time to catch up.

Remember once we've looked at the films we've seen this year, I'll gather the votes together, write them up, and we'll have one final vote for the best of the decade, and that's going to be rather surprising I would think.

Okay, let's get moving with the best films of 2002.

As I've said before this is made up from various different sources and different lists of box office figures, public voting, awards, etc., then it drops down to the ones in that list I think should go into our voting and the almost-rans.

Let's look at 2002. I have to say when I started looking I started getting worried, the lists weren't looking too healthy until I got well into the year and the figures.

28 Days Later...
The best of the year? I don't really think so but I suspected that a lot of you would want to see this film on the list. It did give zombie films a good kick in the bum, and it had some great style to it, but I don't think it was a stunning film and subsequent viewings haven't held this film up to the same level that people put it on when they first saw it. It's probably not helped either by the poor films since.

The Bourne Identity
Now here's a film that really sparked off a franchise and a very annoying habit, shaky-cam. That aside though it did for the spy film what 28 Days Later... did for the zombie genre. Another kick up the bum dished out. Bourne Identity was fast paced, intense and carried some great action sequence and wonderful locations as well as giving Matt Damon a superb role that has has given him the opportunity to lead in his very own franchise, a franchise that could just survive two director changes and multiple writers. I just with Franke Potente had survived a little longer, yes I have a crush.

Bowling for Columbine
The world had heard a fair amount from Michael Moore before this film, but it was this one that brought him to a major audience, highlighted a terrible event, and shamed some people that really needed shamed - it was after this film my hero worship for Charlton Heston was destroyed. Another film that gave its genre a good kick in the bum, that's three already, for documentaries were never this entertaining nor were they this powerful and compelling, cue Kirby Dick some years later. This is a powerful, compelling and emotive film, and I remember telling people afterwards how they need to see this film. Well deserving of being in this list.

Bubba Ho-tep
Now I know a lot of people haven't seen this film in comparison to some of the others on the list, but I have to say that this was one of the best films that I'd seen this year. When I watched the film for the first time I was surprised, not by the bizarre story line of two elderly men who believe they are Elvis and a black JFK, or the supernatural story of a Mummy sucking the life out of the dying residents of the care home, or the superb performance from Bruce Campbell, no it was the insightful and moving portrayal of how we think of elderly people in care homes. This film brought across some of the emotion and heartfelt messages that more drama based films have failed to. It does pack a powerful emotional punch as well as delivering an entertaining and rather bizarre film. Elvis lives.

The hugely successful stage show made a fantastic move to the big screen with some surprising performances from Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, Taye Diggs, John C. Reilly, Dominic West, Christine Baranski, Colm Feore, Mya, Lucy Liu, and on and on. The film won six Oscars and did well at the box office, and it had a big hand in the resurgence in film musicals, and why not considering some of the set pieces and performances?

Cidade de Deus (City of God)
I have a confession to make. I've still not seen this film, even after The Constant Gardener, of which I was not a fan, City of Men and Blindness from the same director Fernando Meirelles. This film sparked off the television series Cidade dos Homens (City of Men) and another film of the same title. A big film that had quite an impact for City of God and for the director who was then noticed by Hollywood.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind The possibly true, the possibly not true, memoirs of the game show producer Chuck Barris who claims to have been a hitman for the CIA at the same time, "and for ten points, what's the most painful way to die?". True or not it featured George Clooney fighting to get out of his ER typecasting, and doing really well in the role and as director, and a superb Sam Rockwell as the lead character. It also featured Drew Barrymore and a surprise performance from the young Michael Cera as well as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jerry Weintraub, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer, Richard Kind, Akiva Goldsman and the man himself, Chuck Barris. Cast and truth aside, the Clooney directed film from the Charlie Kaufman screenplay, adapted from Barris' book is a film that deserves a little more notice.

Gangs of New York
It feels I should only say Martin Scorsese for this film, but then there's another big cast list of mentions to be given, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson and Eddie Marsan. The film takes place in a turbulent time of American history, a history that is filled with turbulent times, and sees rival gangs fighting for the city as well as the country fighting each other. Some strong performances the film was nominated for ten Oscars, but it never won one, should it have?

Wow. This is one hell of a film. It's a turbulent ride featuring some blistering performances from two of the leading French talents, the stunning Monica Bellucci and the superb (and stunning too) Vincent Cassel, an actor I adore. The film is one of the most disturbing I've seen, mainly for the terrifyingly real and upsetting subway scene and the opening violent meeting between a fire extinguisher and a face. The film tells the story of a couple from their days of happiness to the terrifying closing chapters in reverse, with amazing power and terrific film-making style.
Gaspar Noé wrote and directed this film, and frankly we should see more of him on the big screen. Disturbing, but well worth watching.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Another huge budget and hugely cast film, and the second in the faithfully adapted and truly amazing trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. How could you not include this in the best films of 2002, and you know that the third one will be coming up too. Peter Jackson's defining moment...so far.

Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs)
Most will know this as The Departed (Filmstalker review), the American remake which was itself really well done, but the original is equally as good, if somewhat lacking in a few areas, it still spawned a trilogy and took the notice of Hollywood, enough notice to remake it in superb style. The original is a damn good film itself and is well worth watching.

One Hour Photo
I love this film and I love the excellent performance from Robin Williams. He's superbly creepy, and a surprisingly good actor with all the comedy stripped away, something we also saw this year in Insomnia. Here though, Mark Romanek really delivers a powerful film with William's performance at the centre, and I just don't understand why this film didn't receive more notice.

Road to Perdition
I like it when Tom Hanks pushes his performance away from the norm, and here we not only get Hanks doing it, but also Jude Law, and to a degree Paul Newman. Jennifer Jason Leigh and the superb Ciarán Hinds also star in this tense mob thriller. A great film that only won one Oscar. One more than Gangs of New York though and a great follow-up to American Beauty.

I know this is going to be an unpopular choice, but I'm a fan of M. Night Shyamalan and this film delivers a powerful, tense, story that concentrates on a big event but on a small, insular level, something that I've seen done a number of times to great effect, and here it's no different. Throw in a couple of strong performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson and Signs is a great film. There's a superb scene that's reminiscent of the scene in John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, the video footage of an uncertain event, part of something bigger, something unknown, and a not completely certain reveal. Signs is worthy of people's unbiased notice.

I'm not sure if Spider-Man really does deserve a place in this list if it wasn't for the fact that it has become one of the stronger superhero film adaptations in a sea of adaptations that range from pitiful poor to absolutely incredible. It's arguable where it lies on that list, but I'd suggest it's definitely up the top five. It's a good film too, with a strong cast, and bringing in Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin and J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson was a stroke of genius. Great casting, and another faithful adaptation.

Ying xiong (Hero)
This film is lovely, in every way. The characters, their relationships, the visual style and the story. It's a wonderful film that's really well conceived and manages to capture your imagination and emotion at the same time. Did I say how gorgeous it looks, and those closing sequences when the stories come together, it just makes for superb watching. Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang and Donnie Yen give passionate performances, and Daoming Chen as the King. Wonderful cinema.

So that's the big list of films to vote for, now here's the obligatory list of the films that almost made the voting list. Remember if you still want to vote for one of these drop it in the "Other" section on the voting panel. Oh and I couldn't refrain from writing something about a couple of these titles.

Adaption, Catch Me If You Can, Dirty Pretty Things, Ice Age, Insomnia, Lost in La Mancha, Minority Report, Narc, The Pianist, The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Rules of Attraction, Solaris, Whale Rider, Y tu mamá también...and a few more that I'd just like to say a few words on...

Dog Soldiers
Hey look, I'm Neil Marshall, I write great dialogue and can put together a great fun horror film. Plus I've cast Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd and located the film (although not shot) in Scotland. Well done you.

Ônibus 174 (Bus 174)
This documentary blew me away with how powerful it is and how well it brings you to sympathise with the main character, who is a real life child of the streets who has taken hostages at gunpoint on a bus. How could you sympathise with them? Well as the story mixes the real life footage of the incident with the past of the character and the lives the street children live in Brazil, it does just that. It draws you in, so that come the climactic moments the emotion is strong. José Padilha does a superb job in the film, and he went onto make the equally strong Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad).

Panic Room
Unfairly criticised, especially since it's a David Fincher directed film. I really like this film, and a strong performance from Jodie Foster.

The Ring
This was a bit of a revelation. Hollywood can remake a foreign film and do it well, really? Who would have thought they could have injected creativity, style and caught some of the subtlety and effect of the original. Gore Verbinski pulls it off and Naomi Watts and Brian Cox give strong performances to boot.

We Were Soldiers
Randall Wallace brings a superb film that has some insanely powerful scenes of just how terrible the battles were for the first soldiers to fight in the Vietnam war. That first major battle is insane and I think a surprising role for Mel Gibson. Superb.

That said, none of them are in the final voting list, unless you put them in. So get voting.

In the meantime, see the Best Films of 2001 and 2000 right here on Filmstalker.



28 days later should win this hands down, for me anyway. Then lotr would be a close second, both were amazing movies and are 2 of the few movies i've gone to see twice at the cinema.


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