I SUSPECT that you are sick of lists. Alas, it is the way of things: The weather's shitty, everybody's stressed about the holidays, critics are bored with December's glut of Oscar contenders, and dashing off a top 10 is all that most writers can be bothered to do.
And yet: Here's one more list. This isn't a top 10 of 2009, though; nor does it declare the best films of the decade. (Note the absences of Oldboy, City of God, There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love, No Country for Old Men, In the Mood for Love, Zodiac, Grizzly Man, Talk to Her, Volver, Donnie Darko, The Hurt Locker, Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, The Royal Tenenbaums, and, most likely, your favorite movie, which you are no doubt incensed to see overlooked.)
No—this is just a collection of 35 of the decade's most significant films, regardless of quality or box office gross. From the high- to the middle- to the lowbrow, the '00s had a slew of noteworthy films that continued cinematic traditions, laid new groundwork, and offered some delightful surprises along the way. Like Freddy Got Fingered! Remember that? Good times, good times.
Saw and The Passion of the Christ (2004)—The dawn of torture porn.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and Juno (2007)—As dictated by Newton's Fourth Law (AKA "The Austin Powers Effect"), otherwise likeable films that are fine in small doses become infuriating when they enter mainstream culture.
Memento (2000) and The Dark Knight (2008)—In which Christopher Nolan redefined thrillers and superhero blockbusters.
The Room (2003)—Decades after the glory years of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tommy Wiseau accidentally revived the cult movie experience.
Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, 28 Days Later, and Full Frontal (2002)—The first wave of the digital cinematography revolution, led by George Lucas, Danny Boyle, and Steven Soderbergh.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)—Hey, those gay people America's so scared of? Turns out they're alright!
Wall-E (2008)—Pixar flourished this decade, with Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), and Up (2009). Wall-E was their best. That's saying a lot.
Shrek (2001)—Catching wind of Pixar's success, mediocre franchises like Shrek and Ice Age shamelessly cashed in.
Spirited Away (2001), Persepolis (2007), and Waltz with Bashir (2008)—Thanks to filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki, Marjane Satrapi, and Ari Folman (Pixar deserves a fair amount of credit, too), American grownups finally started taking animation seriously.
Trapped in the Closet (2005) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)—When aliens discover the remnants of human civilization, they will be confounded. Bewildered. Stunned. Possibly angered.
Avatar (2009)—A special-effects revolution as significant as 1977's Star Wars and 1993's Jurassic Park—not to mention a film that, at long last, justified the use of the heretofore-gimmicky digital 3D.
Jackass: The Movie (2002) and 1 Night in Paris (2004)—In which videos of people doing stupid shit became mass entertainment.
X-Men (2000)—The superhero film that kicked off Hollywood's affinity for spandex, leading to Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005), Iron Man (2008), and etc., and etc., and etc.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)—Quentin Tarantino's obsessive remixing of Hollywood and Hong Kong's forgotten detritus reached its exhilarating apex.
Fahrenheit 9/11 and Team America: World Police (2004)—In which current events became pop entertainment. (Also, puppets pooping on each other. CINEMATIC LANDMARK.)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)—The only bigger comedic touchstone of the decade is how disappointed everyone was with Brüno.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006)—In which Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro made it okay for grownups to admit to liking wizards and dragons and shit.
Twilight (2008)—Never underestimate the cultural influence of sexually unsatisfied middle-aged women.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)—The return of the R-rated comedy. The beginning of the Apatow Dynasty.
Adaptation (2002) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)—Charlie Kaufman's mind-twisting scripts alone would be significant; the fact they introduced many to directors Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry... well, enough said.
Bubble (2006)—Steven Soderbergh's improvised drama was released simultaneously in theaters, on television, and on DVD—a then-unheard of delivery method that hasn't quite caught on. Yet.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)—In which the potential of original content for the web was finally realized.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)—A reminder that no matter what decade we're in, and no matter how much the language of cinema evolves, fat dudes falling down will always be funny.