Brave New Worldview – 30 Science Fiction Films of the 21st Century

A decade into the 21st Century and we have arrived at the future. The promise of Tomorrow. But instead we have looming energy crises, endless middle east conflict and more disappointing, we have no flying cars, Heck, for all the bright and clean future promised in 2001: A Space Odyssey, none of the real companies used as brands in the film even exist anymore. Even moving from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s, nobody makes DeLoreans (although they occasionally sell on Ebay), but cloning and tablet computing (as promised by Star Trek: The Next Generation) have more or less come to pass in this century. It is not the gizmos or the distopian aesthetics, that have brought Science Fiction into the new millennium, but the questions it asks of people or society in a future time or place and how they reflect on our own times. There have been a surprising number of excellent science fiction films to come about in the past decade that do this and do this well. After the 80s and 90s were more or less defined as CGI test-beds and blockbuster multiplex fodder, it is nice to see we are in a bit of a high point for lovers of ‘harder,’ ambitious science fiction. The films that tackle ideas in a significant and sophisticated way has actually risen dramatically even as cheap digital effects and mega-budgeted event pictures have also increased the number of bad films that are bad fantasy with science fiction trappings. If it seems there are fewer smart science fiction pictures out there, it is more a signal-to-noise issue than a reality.

Below are over two dozen science fiction pictures that are worth your time. Fans of their respective franchise may cry foul on the lack of Star Trek or Serenity, but really those films are about the characters and plots and not really about the loftier ideals of science fiction. In an attempt to quickly go through the list, I will offer up the general idea of the film and how it relates to the ideals of science fiction, namely exploring the consequences of the fictional part of the science in a way that it relates to the real world.

 
 

In the interest of talking about the films, it should be noted that *SPOILERS* are sprinkled through out the list.

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Andrew’s Favorites of the Decade

Late to the party as usual, but if anyone wants to stomach one more top ten (100 actually, just to be difficult), then here are my favorite films from the past 3650 days. Enjoy… or not.
 
 

10. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle – 2002)

The first movie I remember seeing that takes the zombie/virus sub-genre and amps the tension up to 11. A gorgeous looking film filled with beautiful scenery and fabulous, artful camera work. Yet it still manages to be raw, grainy and really scary (or at least intense as all hell). I’ve watched this movie more times than any other film on my top ten and it never ceases to delight and amaze. Also world, meet Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris.

9. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk – 2003)

One of the many great films from Korean director Kim Ki-Duk. Sticking with his usual formula of extremely minimal dialogue, he says all he needs to with allegory and parable. Though slightly surreal in its vivid beauty and strange way of life, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring is easy to relate to and is as touching and endearing as it is warm.

8. Sideways (Alexander Payne – 2004)

Probably the best of the so called, “hangin’ out movies” – at least for guys in their late twenties and thirties. One last road trip before marriage, while being “free” is something special. It’s even more special if you’re hanging with Paul Giamatti in one of his finest and nuanced roles. A difficult guy to understand and be around, next to the good looking party animal. Quite the odd couple spending a week in wine country is just too much fun to ignore. Throw in great dialogue and the likes of Virginia Madsen and this is a solid gold 2 hours.

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Jonathan’s Films of the Decade

Since everyone else is doing it and I always fall victim to peer pressure, I’ve decided to grace the public with my favorite films of the decade. Knowing the influence that my voice has in the world and on the elite film critic circles, I took this endeavor with the utmost seriousness. In the past months, I quit my job and retreated into complete solitude in order to spend countless hours watching films, scientifically analyzing them, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol to come up with this highly desired list. It is by no means flawless – on any given day, I could produce a much different list depending on my mood – but after careful consideration, I have come up with what I consider to be the definitive eleven films of the past decade. Some may be surprising, some not so surprising, but they are all movies that have stayed with me long after I’ve watched them and movies that after numerous viewings have had the same (if not more) impact on me as the very first time that I watched them. Enjoy.

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Dave’s Films of the Decade


I wasn’t going to bother posting my top ten of the decade at first, because I was struggling to pick and order them, and to be honest being such a noob to the site I got a little nervous airing some of my favourites so soon without selecting some little known, deeply intellectual indie films (pathetic I know). However, seen as the lists have been flooding in now, I felt like I should join in, no matter what my choices might be. My top ten isn’t obscure or controversial by any stretch (bar maybe one title), but I can’t fault these films, so here goes. I didn’t want to order them as such though, so I’m going to be boring and put them in alphabetical order. In my opinion, any film that can be judged as ‘best of the decade’ is clearly thought of in the highest regard, so why split hairs with which one is slightly better than the other?

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Jandy’s Top Films of the Decade

How to narrow down an entire decade of films down to just ten? It’s pretty much an impossible task. I made a short list of fifty, and even that left off loads I wanted to include. And now that making that list is already a few weeks in the past I’m starting to second guess how I ordered them. But I chose to let stand what’s here – so let’s just say here are ten films from the past ten years that blew me away, stuck with me, and that I love dearly. Too many of them are obvious choices, but I’ve made my peace with that.

10) 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007; dir: Cristian Mungiu)

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9) Brick (2006; dir: Rian Johnson)

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Kurt’s Tops O’ The Decade

It appears to be list day. The Row Three best of the decade was a strange and varied consensus, namely that few lists looked alike over the 10 year span.

I don’t think it is possible to rank these films; simply here they are:

In The Mood For Love
Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World
25th Hour
There Will Be Blood
Enter The Void
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The New World
Birth
The Prestige
Miami Vice

And 10 More:

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Bob’s 10 Best Films of the Decade

EternalSunshine1

 

As we continue to roll out our individual lists of our favourites from the past ten years (following our overall list of the best of the decade as chosen by all of the RowThree contributors), I felt I should follow Rot’s list since we share not a single title. Kate Winslet does appear in both our number 1 choices though – so we found some commonality there…

 

10. You, The Living (2007, Roy Andersson)

Find enjoyment in life where you can and make the most of it. Because time is ticking. Out on DVD in Region 1 next week!

9. The Incredibles (2004, Brad Bird)

Though it’s even more fun to watch Pixar’s multi-hued wonders with kids next to you, it’s by no means a requirement. I had to include at least one them in my list and could have chosen randomly from their productions so far, but I return to The Incredibles the most often due to its great characters, solid story and incredibly fun and well-realized action scenes.

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Rot’s 10 Best Films of the Decade

Little Children

As promised, we’re trickling out each of our individual lists to coincide with, or better qualify, our overall list of the best of the decade as chosen by all of the RowThree contributors.

I will kick off theses individual lists with my own:

1. Little Children
2. The New World
3. When the Levees Broke
4. Rachel Getting Married
5. Waking Life
6. 25th Hour
7. Mammoth
8. Bloody Sunday
9. Inland Empire
10. In the Bedroom

Who is the director of the decade?

An interesting question was posited to me the other night and one I actually didn’t have to think about too hard to come up with my own personal answer. After proclaiming Jack White as the musical artist of the decade, someone asked me who I thought was the director of the decade. Without batting an eye I said, “The Coen Brothers.” After a little bit more contemplation I came up with a few other contenders for that title which I’ll get to in a second. But it’s hard to argue against Joel and Ethan Coen; is it not?

Seven quality films released from 2000 to 2009 (plus a great segment in the 2007 anthology picture, Paris je’taime). Those seven films have garnered eleven Oscar nominations and four wins. This doesn’t even include the Oscar nominations A Serious Man will almost certainly receive this year; likely including a best picture nod. If you take any stock in The Golden Globes, the Coens films in the past ten years have collectively received twelve noms and three wins. Not to mention the countless commendations they’ve received from various critics choice awards and entertainment ceremonies. Adding weight to all of this is 2007’s No Country For Old Men; which, beyond its deserved Oscar win for best picture, many fans and critics consider to be one of the top films of the decade (if not the top film).

So based on sheer number of films, quality of said films, recognition and awards, coupled with the uncharted amount of entertaining BTU’s of joy per theater, it is really hard (and I actually think incorrect unless I’m forgetting about somebody) to argue against this duo as the directing/storytelling masters of the decade. And for this exercise maybe irrelevant, but if you tack on the entire history of The Coens work (or even just the two films prior to the start of the millennium) it’s even more obvious as to how prolific these guys actually are and continue to be.

So let’s throw out The Coens for a second. If they weren’t around, I think the conversation could get much more interesting and individual directors could be a little bit more difficult to defend or choose from. First of all, if the director didn’t release at least 3 films in those ten years, you’d almost have to throw them out. I mean sure, Terrence Mallick’s The New World is certainly a masterpiece. But in terms of affecting a decade, his mark is but a smudge of greatness on a canvas of great film making. Not only does there have to be three or more films released, but they should all be consistent in quality and marksmanship if you will.

I’ve picked out a handful of said directors that meet this criteria. I’m not claiming these guys (yes, all guys) to be the only ones deserving to be talked about here and I’m not ranking them in any order. Rather, I’m throwing out some suggestions of persons that meet the above criteria and worthy of being labeled as the director of the decade.

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