There’s only one thing critics love more than anything, and that’s compiling lists of favorite films. An end-of-the-year list is fun, but an end-of-the-decade list? Now that’s something worth waiting for.

There’s only one thing critics love more than anything, and that’s compiling lists of favorite films. An end-of-the-year list is fun, but an end-of-the-decade list? Now that’s something worth waiting for.

So here, without any further ado (and any possible additions, like “Up in the Air” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel”), are my favorite films of the past 10 years.

A few notes: They’re not in any order, except the top three picks are my three favorites. Also, these aren’t necessary the “best” movies, and they’re definitely not the most “critically acclaimed.” They’re just the ones I enjoyed the most, responded to most strongly and am most eager to watch again (and again and again).

1. “Mulholland Dr.” (2001): This story of a would-be actress (Naomi Watts) trying to solve a mystery in Hollywood was originally planned as a TV series, but director David Lynch turned it into something otherworldly and unforgettable for the big screen. It’s a puzzle you can spend a lifetime trying to solve, and it’s also an unnerving, mesmerizing movie experience. As a bonus, Watts gives one of the best performances of the decade.

2. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004): What if you could erase the memory of a painful breakup. Would you? Should you? Those are the questions writer Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry ask in this mind-bending love story. The surreal elements and reverse timeline heighten the emotional power, and by the time Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey reach the beginning of their time together — and the end of their relationship — the effect is devastating.

3. “Zodiac” (2007): If “Mulholland Dr.” was magical and “Eternal Sunshine” was emotional, then “Zodiac” was intellectual — and bracingly so. Director David Fincher used every trick in his box (and used them subtly) to depict the search for San Francisco’s Zodiac killer. You have to be patient and pay attention, but if you’re willing to make the effort, the rewards are astonishing. Walking out of the theater, I was grateful movies this good are still made.

4. “American Splendor” (2003): The story of Cleveland comic book writer Harvey Pekar is told using actor Paul Giamatti, new footage of the real Pekar, vintage footage from “Late Night with David Letterman” and animation bringing Pekar’s comics to life. What’s surprising is how all those elements come together to tell a moving story about an average guy living an average life. Forget all those clichéd Hollywood biopics and see what can really be done with the form.

5. “Children of Men” (2006): Like the best science-fiction movies, Alfonso Cuaron’s downbeat epic is driven by ideas, not special effects. In the near future, the world is childless and humanity is going mad in the face of impending extinction. The setting is terrifying but believable, and several set pieces — including a car chase and a running battle — rank with the best action scenes in years.

6. “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (2000): If George Clooney wasn’t such a nice guy, he’d be unbearable. Good looking, good actor and, as he first proved with this movie, he’s a darned talented director, too. The twisted story of Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell, excellent) combining his game show career with CIA assassinations is told in surreal, surprising ways. So many movies are boring and stupid, it’s a real thrill to see one jam-packed with ideas and imagination.

7. “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004): The most pure fun I had at the movies this decade. Stephen Chow wrote, directed and stars in this action comedy that tosses in everything then manages to come together in an ending that has real emotional punch and moments of visual poetry. Endlessly rewatchable and utterly entertaining.

8. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004): This was a great decade for zombie movies, but writer/director Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg topped ’em all with comedy. Shaun (Pegg) is an average British slacker who has to contend with a full-scale invasion of the living dead. What sets “Shaun” apart is that it manages to be funny and thrilling, sometimes in the same scene.

9. “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001) and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004): It was tough choosing between Wes Anderson’s two best movies of the decade, so I didn’t try. Both feature Anderson’s usual excellent production design, dialogue and casting, and both focus on guys who need to grow up a bit. And I know it just arrived in (and left) theaters, but I almost put Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” on this list, too, for the same reasons.

10. “Inglourious Basterds” (2009): Quentin Tarantino had a busy decade with a pair of “Kill Bills” and half of “Grindhouse,” but he really knocked one out of the park with this twisted take on World War II. A brilliant study in tension and a thrilling revenge drama, it featured a career-making performance by Christoph Waltz as savvy Nazi Col. Landa, an amusing turn by Mike Myers (of all people) and one of the most satisfying endings in years. It’s Tarantino’s best movie since “Pulp Fiction” — and it might be even better.

Will Pfeifer writes about DVDs for the Register Star on Saturdays. Contact him at wpfeifer@rrstar.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movieman/. See video reviews at go.rrstar.com.

And the rest ...

Naturally, I couldn’t limit my list to a mere 10 films. So here are a few others worth remembering:

Runners Up: “Adaptation,” “Synecdoche, N.Y.,” “The Dark Knight,” “Unbreakable,” “American Psycho,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Punch Drunk Love,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Kill Bill” (both parts), “The Prestige,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “Memento,” “Almost Famous,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “The Incredibles,” “Lost in Translation,” “V for Vendetta,” “The 25th Hour,” “Old Boy,” “Martyrs,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler,” “The Aviator,” “Cowards Bend the Knee,” “My Winnipeg,” “Let the Right One In,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”

Documentaries: “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” “Anvil: The Story of Anvil,” “The Fog of War,” “Not Quite Hollywood,” “Bowling for Columbine,” “Capturing the Friedmans,” “Crazy Love,” “DiG!,” “Man on Wire,” “Touching the Void,” “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” “The Filth and the Fury,” “Confessions of a Superhero”

Comedies: “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” “Idiocracy,” “Superbad,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Hot Fuzz”
 

Favorite scenes of the decade

A few memorable moments from the movies of the 2000s:

The swimming pool scene in “Let the Right One In.” (If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.)

Mr. Incredible discovers Syndrome’s horrible plan to eliminate the world’s superheroes in “The Incredibles.”

The interrogation scene with the three detectives and Arthur Leigh Allen in “Zodiac.”

The Club Silencio scene in “Mulholland Dr.” So beautifully made it’s almost otherworldly.

The Joker’s disappearing pencil trick in “The Dark Knight.”

The battle scene at the end of “Children of Men.” I won’t say what brings everything to a dead stop, but it makes perfect sense.

Clementine says “This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon,” in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

The opening credits of “Watchmen.”

At the end of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” when Ben Stiller tells Gene Hackman “I’ve had a rough year, Dad,” and Hackman says, “I know you have, Chassie.”

The boys build bunk beds in “Step Brothers.”

The battle between The Bride and the Crazy 88s in “Kill Bill.”

John Cusack spies something across the street in “1408,” then turns around …
 
Do you have a question for Movie Man Will Pfeifer? Send it to wpfeifer@rrstar.com. Put “Fire at Will” in the subject line, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Please include your full name, city of residence and daytime phone number (which isn’t for publication).

Make room in your collection
Some new DVDs out Tuesday:

“9”: Not to be confused with “Nine,” the musical, or “District 9,” the science-fiction movie. This is the animated film about dolls in a postapocalyptic world.

“Diagnosis: Death”: I’m no doctor, but that seems like a diagnosis that would be pretty easy to make.

“Glee, Vol. One: Road to Sectionals”: The first chunk of Fox’s surprise hit musical TV show gets collected on DVD.

“Jennifer’s Body”: Remember when Diablo Cody was the hottest thing in screenwriting after “Juno”? Well, she wrote this movie and all that buzz stopped immediately.

“Paranormal Activity”: Supposedly one of the scariest movies ever made, this is one that might be even more terrifying if you watch it at home.

“The United States of Tara, Season One”: Toni Collette plays a woman with multiple personalities in this Showtime series that won praise from critics — and mental-health professionals.

And CDs:
Downhere, “Ending Is Beginning”: If you’re a fan of this Canadian band, don’t worry. Singer Jason Germain says, “We’re not ending as a band, not by any stretch.”

Rhett Akins, “People Like Me”: Come to think of it, you don’t see many people name their sons “Rhett” these days.

Bee Gees, “Mythology” (4 CD boxed set): If you think the only thing the Bee Gees ever recorded was that soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever,” this boxed set should serve to educate you.

Various artists, “One Hit Wonders” (boxed set): I don’t know what songs are included on this set, but I’d say there’s a decent chance Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” is among them.

Sources: dvdtalk.com, tophitsonline.com