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10 Best Movies of the Decade

The ballsiest performances, craziest effects and most unforgettable lines (“I drink your milkshake”) of the decade.

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A History of Violence

Is Canadian director David Cronenberg the most unsung maverick artist in movies? Bet on it. I could have picked 2007's Eastern Promises to prove my point. But I'm going with 2005's A History of Violence — both films starred Viggo Mortensen at his best — because it just slammed me with its subversive wit. Things look normal in the small town where a reformed hit man (Mortensen) runs the diner and runs home to his hot wife (Maria Bello). Then the past shows up. Cronenberg knows violence is wired into our DNA. His film showed how we secretly crave what we publicly condemn. This is potent poison for a thriller, and unadulterated, unforgettable Cronenberg.

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Mulholland Drive

There was no better movie this decade to get lost in — with or without controlled substances — than David Lynch's dark, dazzling mood piece about an amnesiac (Laura Harring) and a wanna-be actress (Naomi Watts) who link up to solve a murder in the city of bruised angels. Smart viewers didn't worry about negotiating the plot. They just surrendered to his film's visionary daring and swooning eroticism. OK, some just got off seeing Watts and Harring rub titties. But as identities shifted and the world was thrown out of balance, Lynch cemented his rep as a cinema poet. You can still discover a lot about yourself watching Mulholland Drive. It grips you like a dream that won't let go.

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Children of Men

I thought director Alfonso Cuarón's film of P.D. James' futuristic political-fable novel was good when it opened in 2006. After repeated viewings, I know Children of Men is indisputably great. A hypnotic Clive Owen starred as a resistance leader pinning his hopes on the last pregnant woman on Earth. Is it possible to capture the terrible absence of a world without children? Cuarón did it. No movie this decade was more redolent of sorrowful beauty and exhilarating action. You don't just watch the car ambush scene (pure camera wizardry) — you live inside it. That's Cuarón's magic: He makes you believe.

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There Will Be Blood

Two years after first seeing There Will Be Blood, I am convinced that Paul Thomas Anderson's profound portrait of an American primitive ? take that, Citizen Kane ? deserves pride of place among the decade's finest. Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best and ballsiest performance of the past 10 years. As Daniel Plainview, a prospector who loots the land of its natural resources in silver and oil to fill his pockets and gargantuan ego, he showed us a man draining his humanity for power. And Anderson, having extended Plainview's rage from Earth to heaven in the form of a corrupt preacher (Paul Dano), managed to "drink the milkshake" of other risk-taking directors. If I had to stake the future of film in the next decade on one filmmaker, I'd go with PTA. Even more than Boogie Nights and Magnolia ? his rebel cries from the 1990s ? Blood let Anderson put technology at the service of character. The score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood was a sonic explosion that reinvented what film music could be. And the images captured by Robert Elswit, a genius of camera and lighting, made visual poetry out of an oil well consumed by flame. For the final word on Blood, I'll quote Plainview: "It was one goddamn hell of a show."

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