The Telegraph picks the decade’s Top 100

Posted by · 2:03 pm · November 6th, 2009

Fahrenheit 9/11I’ve lately been immersed in a marathon of DVD viewing and re-viewings, catching up on films that slipped through the cracks and reassessing former favorites — all in preparation for my own year-end “Best of the 2000s” list.

It’s a process that has resulted in some unexpected fringe challengers (“Longing,” an underexposed work of New German Cinema, won’t leave me alone), as well as some shifted perspectives (Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Distant,” which I adored on first viewing six years ago, burned a little less brightly second time around). Nat Rogers is currently doing similar homework at the Film Experience, on a year-by-year basis.

At this stage, I have only a faint idea of what my list will eventually look like, but I’m already fairly sure that it will have little in common with the Top 100 of the decade that has just been unveiled at The Telegraph. Compiled by the British paper’s three critics, including IC friend Tim Robey, it’s an interesting and occasionally perplexing list.

They state upfront that their aim is to represent the decade’s “pick ‘n mix” culture, though the headline promises the decade’s “Top 100 movie masterpieces.” “Mamma Mia!” and “Saw,” both in the top 20, may fit the former description, but “masterpieces” they ain’t. Then again, popularity or influence aren’t the principal criteria either, as the list includes such obscurities as “Los Angeles Plays Itself.”

Whatever the system of selection, the result, you may or may not be thrilled to hear, is that Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is the film of the 2000s.

(More, including the Telegraph’s Top 20 films, after the cut.)

Freely acknowledging that the film isn’t the decade’s (or even Moore’s) best, the Telegraph team explain its #1 position as follows:

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this film, a modestly funded political documentary that was shunned by its Disney backers but went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes, coin more than $220 million around the world, and boost the emergence of politically liberal, agenda-driven multiplex fare such as Supersize Me and An Inconvenient Truth.

A speculation: might the accessible and populist fashion in which it marshalled its denunciation of George Bush’s 2000 “electoral theft”, to say nothing of the scorn it poured on American neo-conservative support for the “War on Terror”, have helped create or at least re-identify a large chunk of the non-traditional constituencies who were later tapped successfully by the Obama campaign team?

The list features several 2009 titles, including “Up” (#25), “Star Trek” (#27), “District 9” (#45), “Antichrist” (the only Lars von Trier selection, which I take particular issue with, at #76), “The Hurt Locker” (#78) and, er, “Avatar” (#100), a selection that sums up the exercise’s cheerfully schizo nature.

But hey, one should never take such lists too seriously, and this one is more fun than most. Check out their entire selection here; their Top 20 is listed below.

1. “Fahrenheit 9/11” (Michael Moore, 2004)
2. “Brokeback Mountain” (Ang Lee, 2005)
3. “The Incredibles” (Brad Bird, 2004)
4. “There Will Be Blood” (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
5. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (Peter Jackson, 2001)
6. “Memento” (Christopher Nolan, 2001)
7. “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (Larry Charles, 2006)
8. “Amores Perros” (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, 2000)
9. “The Passion of the Christ” (Mel Gibson, 2004)
10. “Slumdog Millionaire” (Danny Boyle, 2008)
11. “The Lives of Others” (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
12. “Amelie” (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
13. “West of the Tracks” (Bing Wang, 2003)
14. “Saw” (James Wan, 2004)
15. “Before Sunset” (Richard Linklater, 2004)
16. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Michel Gondry, 2004)
17. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
18. “Mamma Mia!” (Phyllida Lloyd, 2008)
19. “Capote” (Bennett Miller, 2005)
20. “Lost in Translation” (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

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42 responses so far

  • 1 11-06-2009 at 2:13 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Um…pretty bad list. Borat in the top ten?

    Thank you for trying….

  • 2 11-06-2009 at 2:16 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’d take “Borat” over a couple of other titles in that Top 10, actually.

  • 3 11-06-2009 at 2:28 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    good god thats a dumb list, can we wait for the decade to end before we have to hear this nonsense

  • 4 11-06-2009 at 2:28 pm

    Brent said...

    They Shoot Pictures Don’t They

    That is all.

  • 5 11-06-2009 at 2:42 pm

    Al said...

    If Moore’s film doesn’t render the list absurd, Avatar being on it certainly discredits the entire publication as an entity.

    I’m not an Avatar hater, nor fanboy. The film simply hasn’t been seen yet.

  • 6 11-06-2009 at 2:47 pm

    AdamL said...

    Worst. List. Ever.

  • 7 11-06-2009 at 2:47 pm

    Jim T said...

    I think the Avatar placing at no100 makes sense since even if it proves to be terrible, it has some elements that make it unique and I think it is fair that it is included at no100 since we haven’t seen it yet. They had to either ignore it or take into considerations what they knew about the film. I think they made the best choice.

    I really like the titles in the list. Thanks Guy.

  • 8 11-06-2009 at 2:54 pm

    Jim T said...

    Offtopic: I love “Jude” so I am interested in this movie by the same director . This is a promo trailer. for anyone interested

  • 9 11-06-2009 at 3:16 pm

    Chris138 said...

    I stopped taking this list seriously once I saw Mamma Mia! in the top 20… fucking ridiculous.

  • 10 11-06-2009 at 3:36 pm

    John K said...

    Bad enough that “Lost in Translation” barely makes the Top 20. But “Mamma Mia!” above it? The list immediately becomes meaningless.

  • 11 11-06-2009 at 3:40 pm

    John K said...

    I mean, I hate Bush as much as the next sane American, but that doesn’t make “Farenheit 9/11” the best film of the decade. Some perspective is in order.

    However, I will admit that I can get behind about 8 or 9 films on the list – it’s just the other films that are incomprehensible.

  • 12 11-06-2009 at 3:46 pm

    James D. said...

    Any list without The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in the top five is irrelevant. I am flexible on every other film in my developing list, but that has to be there.

  • 13 11-06-2009 at 4:00 pm

    Brent said...

    Amen James D.

    God, that film gets better every time I see it.

  • 14 11-06-2009 at 4:03 pm

    Matt said...

    Borat is in the Top 10, that’s all I need to know about what this list thinks about art versus incoherent trash.

  • 15 11-06-2009 at 4:03 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m afraid my list is going to be irrelevant then, James.

    (Not that I don’t have a lot of love for the film.)

  • 16 11-06-2009 at 4:16 pm

    Benito Delicias said...

    with Mamma Mia there (not in the top20, but on the list at all) the list becomes irrelevant…

    Even if they listed The Incredibles as #3…

  • 17 11-06-2009 at 4:46 pm

    SHAAAARK said...

    The real invalidator of the list is Skumdog at 9. Ridiculous. I hope the fans eventually come to realize it’s just popcorn entertainment, and not actually a great film.

  • 18 11-06-2009 at 5:11 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    My top 100 of the decade will also be irrelevant according to James.

  • 19 11-06-2009 at 5:38 pm

    Cameron said...

    Look like a laundry list of films to see made by someone who knows very little.

    Mamma Mia?! Really?

  • 20 11-06-2009 at 5:48 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    They state multiple times that the list is not simply about quality and Mamma Mia is the highest grossing film of all time in the UK. Makes sense.

  • 21 11-06-2009 at 8:25 pm

    red_wine said...

    I have no problem with taste at all. People like what they like. But Avatar! Boo! This is totally ridiculous. I bet even after being seen, it doesn’t merit consideration.

    Jim T, how can you defend its inclusion.

  • 22 11-06-2009 at 9:48 pm

    Colin said...

    People, this list is not about taste. They chose the most politically/socially significant movies of the decade, not the greatest cinematic masterpieces. If you read their descriptions for each movie more carefully, you’d realise that they think Mamma Mia! is “indifferently sung” and “clumsily directed”.

  • 23 11-06-2009 at 10:11 pm

    Dan said...

    James, that’s just stupid.

    I, for one, am embarrassed to have my #1 film of the decade, Fellowship of the Ring, surrounded by so many silly films! But I’m very pleased with Brokeback Mountain at #2. I’d probably do #1 FOTR, #2 BBM, actually.

  • 24 11-06-2009 at 11:58 pm

    R.J. said...

    Moulin Rouge! at #40? No way, it has a spot in my top 10 for sure.

  • 25 11-07-2009 at 12:16 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Avatar. Lol.

    R.J., Moulin Rouge has some insurmountable issues that keep me from watching it beyond the first 15 minutes.

  • 26 11-07-2009 at 3:19 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    As Chad says, I think many of you are confusing this with with a “best” list. I’m only puzzled by the slightly mixed messages sent in the intro, which does specify “masterpieces.”

    “it’s just popcorn entertainment, and not actually a great film”

    Not necessarily with relation to “Slumdog,” but there are a lot of problems with that statement.

    Cameron: I know Tim. I can assure you that he and his colleagues do not “know very little.”

  • 27 11-07-2009 at 4:35 am

    Chris said...

    I find the list actually quite bearable. None of their top 10 would be on mine, and “Fahrenheit 9/11” in my opinion is not the decade’s number one, whatever the criteria are, but it could have been so much worse.

    The most surprising omissions I’d say are “Finding Nemo”, “Children of Men”, “This is England”, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Wallace and Gromit”, which I thought would have made such a list in the UK. Anybody else glad there’s not a single mention of Clint Eastwood on it?

  • 28 11-07-2009 at 4:47 am

    Jim T said...

    red_wine, I think that the technological novelties alone are enough to make Avatar a film that offers something that no other film does. That is one of the criteria of this list.

    The ommision of “Finding Nemo” annoys me a lot more. Even if they disagree with me that it is better that “The Incredibles”, it HAS made more money. Perhaps they thought the Incredibles story is more original than Nemo which you could say has something from Little Mermaid although it really doesn’t.

  • 29 11-07-2009 at 4:58 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Chris: Check out the full Top 100. “Pirates of the Caribbean” is at #31 and “Children of Men” is at #77.

  • 30 11-07-2009 at 5:07 am

    red_wine said...

    Finding Nemo is actually a bad miss. Specially if they want to catch the zeitgeist through this list. Its not a favorite of mine but it has as much critical cache as Wall-E and Up and is by far the most successful Pixar to date box-office wise.

  • 31 11-07-2009 at 5:16 am

    Saoirse said...

    Slumdog Millionaire is the only film in there that won the Oscar for best film .

    It won 8 oscars , actually .

  • 32 11-07-2009 at 5:20 am

    Jim T said...

    Unless you’re talking about the top 20, Gladiator also won best Pic.

  • 33 11-07-2009 at 5:50 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Crash,” “The Departed” and “No Country for Old Men” are also in the Top 100.

  • 34 11-07-2009 at 6:18 am

    Chris said...

    Oh, I checked the list twice actually, so strange I missed to see them… which, again, makes the least even better.

  • 35 11-07-2009 at 8:18 am

    John H. Foote said...

    I have a book coming out in 2011 entitled The American Cinema of the New Millenium (2000-2009) and selcting the one hundred films for the book was a nightmare — have to include junk like “Mamma Mia” because it represented a certain type of film that sparked massive box office, though I would rather write about pictures like “Lost in Translation” and “There Will Be Blood” — to explore a decade I found I had to look at ALL the films, box office, cult and the great ones and delicately make those choices — well send through the one hundred I chose — in no order of preference by rather by year and pat heed to the title of the book — AMERICAN!!!

  • 36 11-08-2009 at 11:31 am

    tim r said...

    Ugh. As one of its three compilers, I am SO glad some of you savvy folks saw through the disastrous way this list was presented online. Whoever added that standfirst describing this as a list of “top 100 movie masterpieces” (they certainly had nothing to do with compiling it) will get a piece of my mind the next time I see them. It makes us all look like morons.

    From the moment it was commissioned, this was intended STRICTLY as a “defined the decade” list, regardless of qualitative considerations. Go back and re-read it in that light, recover from the horror of “Saw” and “Mamma Mia!”‘s inclusion (Guy’s right to single these out, but they aren’t the only ones: I personally loathe “Slumdog”, for instance) and I hope it then makes a little more sense. Though I’d much rather have been allowed to submit a list of personal favourites (and will probably follow up with one, on my blog, which will include all of about ten films from the current list), this Telegraph one was put together purely with an emphasis on importance/cultural impact, not critical preference.

    Some of you worked this out. Well done for reading between the lines, guys (and Guy). In the meantime, I’ve petitioned to get that idiotic “masterpieces” tag taken off it as soon as the online editor wakes up tomorrow. Right now, I’m afraid to say I could cheerfully throttle him.

  • 37 11-08-2009 at 11:37 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Oh dear. I’d like to think your brief become pretty clear when one combs through the list itself, but some people have rather taken it at face value!

    I did get what you were going for … the “perplexing” dig was a bit of a tease.

  • 38 11-08-2009 at 11:47 am

    tim r said...

    Oh, not at all — I wouldn’t say I even fully agree with the list under its correct brief, because we had to barter it out between the three of us. It needs to be seen as quite a UK-centric selection too, as I’m sure you worked out — hence “Slumdog” and “Mamma Mia!” figuring so highly. Meanwhile, I have no idea why “Capote” (which I admire enormously) is in the top 20, for instance. Hey-ho. The lesson is: do your own list. Trying to compile one by consensus is a recipe for disaster, particularly with that pesky subbing…

  • 39 11-08-2009 at 4:01 pm

    Paul M. said...

    It’s a shame there’s no mention of “Revolutionary Road,” “Zodiac,” “Notes on a Scandal,” “Paranoid Park,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Sexy Beast,” “Best in Show,” and “I’m Not There,” which will probably all be in my top 100…

  • 40 11-08-2009 at 4:36 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Tim: Glad to hear you say that. “Capote” was actually one of the inclusions that puzzled me most, much as I like the film. (I do hope you negotiated yourself a couple of your favourites in exchange for “Slumdog” … I know how much that must have hurt you! Still, at least you dodged “Button,” eh?)

    Needless to say, I look forward to your list a lot more.

  • 41 11-09-2009 at 7:09 pm

    Marvin said...

    Brokeback Mountain, Before Sunset and Lost in Translation are al very well deserved inclusions. They are all in my top 10.

  • 42 11-09-2009 at 7:13 pm

    Marvin said...

    I didn’t go thru the whole list, did they include Gosford Park or Yi Yi?