The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Best of the Decade: Movies That Moved Us

10 min read


1.“There Will be Blood”
Finally, this movie is No. 1 on somebody’s list. Granted, it’s an insignificant list put together by amateurs, but it makes me feel good.
Daniel Day Lewis brings Daniel Plainview, the black-hearted, greedy Texas oilman to life the way only he can. From beginning to end, Lewis makes you squirm in your seat under Plainview’s stare and forces the audience to sympathize with his greed and relentless pursuit of money and oil at whatever expense.
Plainview’s greed is rivaled only by the guilt he feels for neglecting his family and faith. Throughout the film, Plainview duels with the local preacher Eli Sunday, played by a wonderful Paul Dano. As the two duel throughout the movie, each actor brings out the worst in each character, which is exactly why this movie works so well. There are no heroes. In the end, everyone loses except the family Plainview decided to ignore.
“There Will Be Blood” may not have been the most adrenaline-pumping film of the decade, but it was certainly one of the most important, which is why it occupies the top spot on this list.  (Aaron Richardson)

2.”Pan’s Labyrinth”
From Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a spectacular film set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Completely in Spanish, the movie focuses on a little girl, Ofelia, who is caught between believing in magical creatures that surround her and the terrible reality facing her in her new home. The contrast between what Ofelia visualizes as whimsy and the graphic violence occurring in the war in reality makes for a fantastically stunning story.
By not sparing the brutality, and at the same time creating a mythic reality traveled through by Ofelia, del Toro’s film is nothing less than shockingly real. The most rewarding aspect of the tale is that the viewer is left to their own devices to determine what they believe truly happened amid the evidence shown through the eyes of Ofelia and her less-than-believing adult counterparts.  (Brendan Oudekerk)

3.“Paris je t’aime”
“Paris je t’aime” gave audiences exposure to a new way of story-telling through the eyes of an onlooker in several distinct and separate events in the lives of its characters. A diverse mix of 18 brief skits, seemingly dissimilar from one another, are flavored by a multitude of talented directors with their own unique style. With a surprisingly star-studded cast, the movie certainly exudes a high level quality in which familiar faces are given new roles in which to show their talents. Simplicity and heart-warming reality are the main themes in the majority of film. A roller coaster ride of emotions in a variety of genres are all joined together by the theme of love. The best part is that there is certain to be at least one tale in the assorted mix that you will be sure to love. (Brendan Oudekerk)


1.“American Psycho”
Sure, there were scarier horror flicks made in the last decade.  But no movie blended comedy and horror into a haunting corporate-culture satire quite like director Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ psychological-thriller novel, “American Psycho.”  The byproduct of a market-driven, brand-conscious generation, “American Psycho” is as scathingly funny, as it is brutally horrifying.  Christian Bale’s desensitized portrayal of Patrick Bateman, a narcissistic, modern-day Jekyll and Hyde, was spot-on in detailing an insanity masked by expensive bachelor pads, designer suits and business cards.
When Bateman launched into a verbose lecture on the musical importance of Huey Lewis and the News’ after luring a date back to his apartment, the immediate reaction was to laugh.  That all changed, of course, when Bateman pulled the nail gun out of the closet. (Ryan Marr)

2.“28 Days Later”
Somehow Danny Boyle managed to take a ridiculous genre and make a great movie out of it. “28 Days Later” is the first zombie movie that ever really explored what such a crisis would mean to the people who survived. Whereas movies like “Dawn of the Dead” gained more widespread notoriety and box office earnings, “28 Days” made the zombie movie something more than a campy horror flick.
In “28 Days,” Boyle created not only a fantastic action and horror film, he added a human element that most other zombie movies completely lack. Couple that with some truly horrifying zombies and an exploding gas station or two, and we have a winner.
Beyond a real plot and great action scenes, the camera work in “28 Days Later” should be the envy of any horror film. From the opening scene in which the main character walks through a completely deserted London, to the hectic climax in an abandoned mansion, Boyle and his team got everything right.
By comparison, “28 Days Later” makes all other films in its genre look weak. With all due respect to George Romero, nothing quite stacks up after “28 Days Later.” (Aaron Richardson)

3.“The Ring”
One of the most terrifying psychological horror movies around, The Ring wins spot No. 3 on our list of best horror films. Packed with disturbing and mysterious murders, a freakish orphan with jet-black hair, and haunting cinematography, “The Ring” delivers in every way. A remake of the 1998 Japanese film entitled “Ringu,” “The Ring” dares to explore the unknown and mysterious workings of pure evil, rather than center around the violent killings of most horror movies.
After watching a videotape that kills its viewers after seven days, a newspaper reporter (Naomi Watts) must race against time to uncover the origins of the tape before all hell breaks loose. Ironically, the movie’s plot remains cut into confusing pieces, and viewers remain unable to solve the entire mystery of the videotape. However, The Ring encourages its viewers to come to their own conclusions concerning the plot, rather than derive cheap, gory thrills. (Paulina Kosturos)


1.“The Dark Knight”
Let’s just start off with the fact that this movie had the highest midnight box office gross of all time before a preteen vampire romance ravaged the numbers last week.
This rollicking action/adventure has one of the best opening scenes I’ve seen in years. Who didn’t gasp with excitement when the Joker first revealed his face after orchestrating a daring bank robbery and murdering all of his accomplices?
I’m not one to knock Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, or Gary Oldman, but it’s Heath Ledger who makes this movie incredible. Whether it’s his maniacal laugh as Batman kicks the tar out of him, or his childlike toddle away from a hospital he has just demolished, Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is hands-down one of the most chilling villains of the decade. (Katie B. O’Connor)

2.“The Departed”
As if “Raging Bull,” “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver” and “Good Fellas” weren’t proof enough that Martin Scorsese deserved at least one Oscar, “The Departed” conclusively proved that the man was a deprived genius. “The Departed” had what all the others did in spades. The plot twisted and turned like never before, the characters were more deeply entwined than in any of his previous films and “The Departed” had the best cast of any of them by far.
With all due respect to previous Scorsese casts, they can’t hold a candle to Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and, as if those weren’t enough, Martin Sheen. Sorry Ray Liotta, there’s just no room for you here. “The Departed” captured the gritty, unapologetic genius that is Martin Scorsese more effectively than anything else he’s directed. What’s more, it made any other movie that came out in 2006 look like “Bambi.”   (Aaron Richardson)

3.“Inglorious Bastards”
Considered to be the ultimate brainchild of veteran director Quentin Tarantino, the film was in development for years before he could decide on a satisfying ending.
“Inglorious Bastards” is an underdog story following a group of Jews attempting to seek revenge on the Nazis for the awful horrors committed against their people. Like most of Tarantino’s previous movies, plot is driven by suspenseful uneasiness and gory violence. However, this isn’t your typical Tarantino slasher flick. The film has many well-cast roles in which the director attempted to match actors who would be capable of authentically handling the language requirements. The result is a genuine delivery that is tough to beat.      Besides, who doesn’t like to see the Nazis get what they had coming anyways?  (Brendan Oudekerk)

In a decade where Pixar was the Kanye West of animation studios, Dreamworks still captures a lopsided crown with the endearing un-fairy tale, “Shrek.” Back in 2001, America fell in love with a green, misanthropic ogre who challenged us to reconsider what “true beauty” is.
A rare well-executed adaptation of a children’s book, “Shrek” was the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and rightfully so. Founded on the voiced brilliance of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, “Shrek” has enough fart jokes for children and enough satirical pop-culture references to keep adults from eyeing their pager instead of the movie screen. The eclectic soundtrack, which featured a little too much Smash Mouth, reminded the public just how good covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” can be.
In parodying classic fairy tales, “Shrek” has become one itself. The moral of the story resonates without being preachy or cheesy; no matter how ugly you are, “happily ever after” is a possibility for everyone.  (Susannah Clark)

The most recent Disney/Pixar masterpiece to tug at heart strings young and old, “Up” is the only movie on these lists that will have you crying in the first three minutes. But once tears from the tragic opening montage are wiped away, “Up” sets its viewers forth on an unforgettable cloud-penetrating ride.
“Indiana Jones” meets “Tuesdays with Morrie,” the unlikely comradery between a curmudgeonly elderly man and a doe-eyed boy scout shows us all that a “spirit of adventure” defies aging better than any bottle of Oil of Olay anti-wrinkle cream. “Up” is also the first and only Disney movie to succeed in making talking animals actually funny—a feat once thought to be unattainable. (Susannah Clark)

Finally, an animated movie that isn’t just for kids. And I don’t mean in the way that Ellen DeGeneres was hilarious to people of all ages in “Finding Nemo.” WALL-E’s environmentally-conscious message about our unsustainable way of life is a brilliant way to educate children while they’re being entertained. What is hilarious to children is a wake-up call to the parents who accompany them. Do we really want to be fat blobs hovering around on recliners too obsessed with media to even notice the people around us? Of course, the love story between robots WALL-E and EVE is absolutely charming, especially the part when they first hold “hands.” Overall, the positive message of rebirth, love and life makes this one of the best animated films of the decade.  (Katie B. O’Connor)


Even if you generally don’t like this brand of absurd comedy, “Zoolander” is a standout in its own right. As one of the most quotable films of the past decade, it started out the new millennium right with a new brand of comedy.
The film follows Derek Zoolander through the rough and tough underworld of male modeling, something those of us on the outside know little about. Zoolander must stop a sinister plot to brainwash male models into being trained assassins along side of his younger and in-your-face counterpart, Hansel.
The plot itself remains fairly unimportant but the hilarious escapades and mannerisms of Zoolander stands out. The movie is extremely relevant to a superficial industry that values beauty over all else while remaining fantastically ridiculous. And besides, haven’t you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?    (Brendan Oudekerk)

2.“Little Miss Sunshine”
This is one of the few movies where a star-studded cast isn’t simply a device to mask a poor plot structure. Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear and Steve Carell all give brilliant performances as the unorthodox parental figures for little Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin).
Despite all of their crises and idiosyncrasies this family manages to cling to the very thin thread that is holding them all together. The most touching moment of the film is when seven-year-old Olive comforts her older brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) by simply resting her head on his shoulder. What really makes this film great is the details. A heroin-addicted grandfather who justifies his addiction by yelling “I’m old!” was enough to win Alan Arkin an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. However the cement of “Little Miss Sunshine” is the family dynamic. Teamwork is key, especially when pushing a VW Bus. (Katie B. O’Connor)

3.“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Only the Cohen Brothers could remake Homer’s “Odyssey” into a depression-era tale about three hobos trying to go home. Yet somehow, the genius minds behind “The Big Lebowski” and “Fargo” made the connection seem totally natural. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” manages to do appropriate service to the original Odyssey while adding classic Cohen Brothers humor to the mix.
What makes the movie great, however, is its old-timey, American soundtrack. To set the atmosphere, the Cohens went to great lengths to build the definitive collection of music from the era to push the movie forward. Without the music, the movie wouldn’t be what it is.
As always, the Cohens put together a great story, great cinematography and an all-star cast to make one of the funniest and most-poignant films of the decade.  (Aaron Richardson)