10. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). Peter Wier authentically takes us back to the early 1800's in a film that balances swashbuckling action with fascinating takes on sciences and philosophy. Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany are excellent foils, and surprisingly, the fireworks come more from their clashes on war and science than the action itself.
9. Lord of the Rings: The Followship of the Ring (2001). The odyssey begins in an epic fashion. We're introduced to the characters we'll follow for the next 2 movies, and thankfully, FOTR does more than just set-up those next 2 films, like most introductory movies in a trilogy tend to do. Put simply, FOTR made the year-long wait between LOTR movies almost unbearable. That's how good it was.
8. Black Hawk Down (2001). Ridley Scott turned in the most accurate portrayal of modern war in this adaptation of the book, based on the 1993 incident in Mogadishu, Somalia. At times its exhausting, and confusing, since most of the cast looks similar in their buzzcuts and fatigues, but it all lends itself to the cluster-fuck that is modern warfare.
7. Brokeback Mountain (2005). Yeah, I did it. I've included "that gay cowboy movie" on this list. You know why? It deserves to be here. At times it's shocking, especially for heterosexual males, but before long, it becomes a tragic love story. It could really be about any couple, gay or straight, and that's credit to director Ang Lee, who doesn't hover on the gay subject matter. Instead, he makes the film more about forbidden love and loss. It also doesn't hurt to watch as Heath Ledger transforms from teen heartthrob to brilliant character actor right before our eyes.
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Director Ang Lee showed stubborn American audiences what they were missing by ignoring foreign-made movies. CT,HD contains some of the most beautifully filmed and choreographed action scenes of all time.
5. Gladiator (2000). Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe relaunched the epic sword-and-sandal genre with much success. The fact that scenes from Gladiator are played at football stadiums across America is proof that the movie struck a chord, especially with men. The underdog Maximus is one of the most iconic characters of the decade, and Jaoquin Phoenix's douche bag villain, Commodus, is a worthy foil to Crowe's tragic hero.
4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). Brad Pitt turns in his most impressive acting job to date, and Casey Affleck proves he's the Affleck sibling with all the talent in director Andrew Dominik's epic bio-pic about the outlaw Jesse James. Dominik's straight-forward directing style gives the film and its characters a timeless feel, and the dialog, also written by Dominik, is flawless and authentic.
3. There Will Be Blood (2007). Paul Thomas Anderson's complex character study of selfish oil tycoon Daniel Plainview elicited the best performace of the 2000's (Daniel Day-Lewis). The soundtrack, by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, is the film's other equally as impressive highlight.
2. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2004). Kill Bill, much LOTR is one big movie. However, Quentin Tarantino wisely decided to split the film in two, right when the tone shifted from epic Kung-Fu flick to Spaghetti Western. The second half of the film is slower-paced than the first, and somewhat anti-climactic, but the first-half is action packed and features one of the best action sequences ever captured on film (House of Blue Leaves). I didn't think QT had it in him to do action like this. I was wrong.
1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003). Peter Jackson's trilogy reaches its high-point in the epic finale. The Oscars waited for this film to be released to bestow it with Best Picture, and deservedly so. The trilogy was made all at once and are essentially different chapters in the same movie. In an era of bloated special effect-laden films, Jackson remembered that humanity is more important than "wow", and it's the biggest reason why ROTK is the best film of the decade.
Contenders: The Departed, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Memento, No Country for Old Men, Zodiac.