10. Almost Famous (2000)
Every Cameron Crowe film is, in one way or another, about romance, rock & roll, and his romance with rock & roll. This power ballad of a movie also happens to be Crowe’s greatest (and most personal) film thanks to the golden gods of Stillwater and their biggest fan, Kate Hudson’s incomparable Penny Lane.
9. Lost in Translation (2003)
Six years later, we still have no clue what Bill Murray whispered into Scarlett Johansson’s ear. And we don’t want to. Why spoil a perfect film?
8. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Raunchy Hollywood comedies — and Steve Carell’s chest hair — would never be the same after Judd Apatow’s 2005 hit. Who knew you could aim for the heart and below the belt at the same time?
7. Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuaron’s dystopian film reminded us that adrenaline-juicing action sequences can work best when the future looks just as grimy as today.
6. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baz Luhrmann’s trippy, pop-cultural pastiche is an aesthetically arresting ode to poetry, passion, and Elton John. In fact, it’s so good, we’ll forgive him for Australia.
5. WALL-E (2008)
Conventional wisdom crumbled in the face of imagination when Pixar made the decade’s unlikeliest megahit out of a melancholy, semi-silent movie about a lonely, music-loving robot.
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
Every great hero needs a great villain. And Christian Bale’s Batman found his in Heath Ledger’s demented dervish, the Joker.
3. Gladiator (2000)
A sword-and-sandaled Russell Crowe duked it out with tigers, blood-thirsty warriors, and a nefarious Roman emperor (Joaquin Phoenix) in this Oscar-winning blockbuster. Were you not entertained?!
2. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Everyone called it ”The Gay Cowboy Movie.” Until they saw it. In the end, Ang Lee’s love story wasn’t gay or straight, just human.
1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
Bringing a cherished book to the big screen? No sweat. Peter Jackson’s trilogy — or, as we like to call it, our preciousssss — exerted its irresistible pull on advanced Elvish speakers and neophytes alike.
For more Bests of the Decade, see the Dec. 11 issue of Entertainment Weekly.