Bryce’s Ten Best Films of the Past Ten Years

Bryce Zabel, Editor-in-ChiefEverybody seems to be out with their Top Ten. This year it’s a two-fer. You can go with “Top Ten of 2009” or “Top Ten of the Decade.”

I say go for the Top Ten of the Last Ten. Now, keep in mind that virtually everybody is going to see this differently and no one will agree. That’s the fun. My criteria, in scanning the films from the past decade, was not about what was “important” or “critically acclaimed” or even “big box office.” I just asked myself which films I enjoyed watching the most and, if a friend was over and wanted to see one of them again on the home theater’s big screen, could I truly enjoy seeing it again?

I even ranked them, although that was a little bit harder. And, I’ll state this in advance, I know you’re going to freak out when you get to #1 but, like I say, this is subjective, it’s my list, and sometimes it’s just about how a movie hits you. That’s the magic. The films are different. We’re different. Everybody likes things differently than the next guy. Here goes…


#10 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

This is the small film that re-defined the “road picture” and touched a lot of people’s hearts in the process. You ended up caring about all the characters, the performances were authentic, and the story was quirky and unexpected. And, of course, there was the van…

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

#9 – Up in the Air (2009)

It’s possible that this film won’t wear as well as I think it will. Maybe it’s a slight little trifle that only reflects its moment in time. But when I saw it recently, I found it substantial, moving and surprising. It made the list and not just because Clooney’s at his best.

Up in the Air (2009)

#8 – Almost Famous (2000)

The music is powerfully evocative, the moment-in-time quality is fantastic, and the script is wonderful. If you didn’t happen to live through the 70s, this will remind you that there was life before disco. And, yes, we did listen to “Tiny Dancer” and it was as good then as it is now.

Almost Famous (2000)

#7 – Avatar (2009)

The story goes into stereotyped action overdrive in the third act and that’s a shame because there is so much going on inside this film that is so wonderful. It’s more than eye-candy, though, it’s a film event that actually delivers an extremely credible alien landscape, inhabitants and culture. Great film and a piece of history.

Avatar (2009)

#6 – Downfall (2005)

I love a good World War II film (although I did not share anyone’s enthusiasm for “Inglourious Basterds”). This film, made by Germans, dares to go places that nobody has gone to, specifically seeing Hitler as a real dude. That made him exceptionally scary to me.

Downfall (2005)

#5 – Love Actually (2003)

Some people share my passion for this film, some people don’t. It has become our family’s favorite Christmas film (and, based on our Movie Smackdown poll, it looks like it’s about to de-throne “It’s A Wonderful Life”). That’s because it has heart and feels relevant, and goes beyond the Christmas spirit to a deeper humanity. And it’s funny!

Love Actually (2003)

#4 – Shattered Glass (2005)

Back in what seems like another lifetime, I won some awards for investigative journalism. I had to bust my ass to get them because breaking real stories is not easy. That’s why this film is so compelling, knowing the pressure that Stephen Glass was under to deliver something spectacular to his employers and watching him cross the moral line into making it up.

Shattered Glass (2003)

#3 – The Dark Knight (2008)

If the Motion Picture Academy had their ten nomination rule last year, then this film would have been nominated. I think it should have made the short list anyway. I actually thought this was the Best Picture of 2008. That doesn’t make me a fanboy but it does make me a guy who appreciates great story, compelling characters and intense filmmaking.

Dark Knight (2008)

#2 – United 93 (2006)

In my opinion, this is a holy film that people should watch more than once, preferably every year near the anniversary of 9/11. If politics and endless debate over the War on Terrorism has you questioning what the fuss was all about, this will wipe that away. The fuss was about mass murder here at home by religious fanatics who wanted to kill Americans, as many as possible.

United 93 (2006)

#1 – Cast Away (2000)

This film just works for me. I know a lot of people who criticize its structure and nit-pick lots of the creative decisions. Yet I believe this is the best realization of the Robinson Crusoe story you’re likely to see, told through the eyes of Tom Hanks’ Everyman in a way that makes it incredibly real and a great, great “what if.” Watch it again. Make me happy.

Cast Away (2000)


Honorable Mention, Comedy/Romance: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Lost in Translation, Adaptation, Meet the Parents, Shrek, The Royal Tenenbaums, Juno, High Fidelity, Superbad, Sideways, (500) Days of Summer

Honorable Mention, Sci-Fi/Fantasy: District 9, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Primer, The Road

Honorable Mention, Comic Book: Superman Returns, Batman Begins, The Incredibles, Spider-Man 2, Watchmen, Iron Man, X-Men

Honorable Mention, Drama:  The Lives of Others, Gladiator, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, The Prestige, Slumdog Millionaire, Casino Royale, Blackhawk Down, Erin Brockovich, The Bourne Identity, Master and Commander, The Departed, Wonder Boys, Memento, There Will Be Blood

Several of our other critics are getting set to do this with their own lists — Sherry Coben, Beau DeMayo, and Mark Sanchez to name a few. They will likely be completely different in their opinions.

In any case, the comment section is open. You’re certainly welcome to blister me for having the Worst Taste in the Entire World if you want, but it would also be cool if you told us what your favorite film from the past ten years was/is and why.  Fire when ready.


About Bryce Zabel 199 Articles
Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, writer/producer and fast-food cook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of Movie Smackdown. While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. He's also a member of the Directors Guild, creator of five primetime network TV series, and author of a new non-fiction book about UFOs.
Contact: Website

9 Comments on Bryce’s Ten Best Films of the Past Ten Years


  1. Hey Bryce, haven’t been home for the last week or so, I’ll have a shot at my own list when i get to the computer at home on tuesday. Hope thats okay! Love the list, by the way!!!


  2. Gonna have to say, interesting list.
    “Castaway” has me really surprised, although recently rewatching this summer I was surprised by it. “Downfall” and “Love Actually” are two welcomed — and well-placed — inclusions. Who doesn’t get a little throat-lumpy when Emma Thompson tells Alan Ritchison that he made her look like a fool. Love it!


  3. Very interesting list with some surprising choices. I haven’t seen all those films. I’m gonna have to put them on my Netflix list.


  4. Those are all really good movies, Bryce, although I haven’t seen Shattered Glass (yet). I don’t think Castaway would have made my top 10, though. No room from Brokeback?


  5. I am so glad to see, “Love Actually” on your list. I thought it was such a good movie!


  6. Your #1 pick surprises me, too, Bryce. I love the film, too, and interestingly enough, my daughters were younger when it came out on DVD and could watch it over and over because the piece is so visual and appealed to their senses. They were mesmerized by Hanks on the island. I can still make my older daughter cry just by yelling, “Wilson!”


  7. Bryce — the margaritas and mojitos have totally clouded my brain. I´ll hopefully be able to do a list next December…….but for the record, just put me down for Best Film of the Decade —– drumroll, please —– BUBBA HO-TEP! Yes, I remain loyal to the low-budget, independent arena.


  8. Wonderful list. Two of your “honorable mentions” are in my own top ten — Gladiator and Master and Commander (oh, I’m sensing a pattern here).


  9. Great list Bryce!!

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